Swaddling Cloths

When Mary returned to Nazareth from visiting her cousin Elizabeth, her betrothed, Joseph, decided that the couple should leave for Bethlehem. Emperor Caesar Augustus ordered that all men must go to their home town to register for tax purposes. Joseph was of the lineage of David and his home town was Bethlehem.

When Mary and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem, Joseph’s family’s homes were packed. Inns were filled with other returned Bethlehemites. Joseph’s kin told him that he and Mary were welcome to sleep in the barn. Mary gave birth to her first-born son, Jesus in this barn environment. As was the custom in the Ancient Near East culture, Mary wrapped Jesus in swaddling cloths (Luke 2:7), Swaddling cloths were narrow band of cloths wrapped around newborn children to restrain and quiet them. A mother’s womb was snug and warm; these cloths mimicked the womb. Newborns have fingernails, so the cloths would have prevented the newborn Jesus from scratching himself has he wiggled around.

The swaddling cloths Mary wrapped Jesus in were probably made from cotton. Because of their poverty, Joseph and Mary likely were unable to afford linen cloths. Often pictures of Jesus wrapped in cloths at his birth depict the cloths as white; however, likely the cloths were gray or brown as the cotton was unbleached. Perhaps, swaddling cloths that Mary used were several colors because they were cast off rags. Have you ever cared for a newborn? They both urinate and have small bowel movements. Likely, Mary knew this newborn characteristic and used cloths that could be changed separately on Jesus’s lower body.

The cotton cloths were probably from the Gossypium herbaceum plant, also known as Levant cotton and Arabian cotton. Cotton plants were domesticated in India about 3000 B.C. and grew in Mesopotamia at least from 1000 B.C. In the 7th century B.C. cotton was present in the Arad Valley in Palestine. Possibly, returned Jewish exiles brought cotton cloth and cotton plants back with them from Persia.  G. herbaceum isn’t the same species of cotton grown in present-day Israel, nor the species grown in the United States. When cotton plants are irrigated, most flower mid-to-late summer. Large, showy, solitary blooms have five petals (1-2 inches long). Flowers are yellow (occasionally white) at first, then fade to a soft red or pink. The cotton plant fruit is called a boll. When ripe, the boll splits and a mass of fine white filaments or fibers exude.  The white fibers are the cotton of commerce. Seeds are present in the white fibers. In ancient times seeds were separated from fibers by hand, then the fibers woven into cloth.

Luke recorded that Mary wrapped Jesus in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger. Most photographs showed this manger made from wood, filled with straw, and elevated off the barn floor. The Nazareth Exhibit in the Museum of the Bible showed a contrasting scenario. There, the manger was hewed out of an approximately two by one-foot stone. The interior of the manger was rough. The Bible never recorded that the manger was filled with straw before the newborn Jesus was laid in it. Swaddling cloths could have been the cushion for the newborn Jesus.

Luke’s story of Jesus being wrapped in swaddling cloths symbolizes Jesus as the lamb of God.  It was in the Bethlehem area that newborn lambs were birthed for Temple sacrifice. Because the lambs had to be unblemished, often shepherds wrapped them lambs in swaddling cloths. As these lambs were fed by their mothers, they were kept unblemished.

Please visit my website to learn more about Bible plants and my ministry: http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com

Copyright May 28, 2018; Carolyn Roth

Christmas Holly = Holy

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It’s Christmas, it’s Christmas. Time for holly. These pictures are of the beautiful American holly tree (Ilex opaca) that grows in southeastern United States. This one is in the St. John Church Bible Garden. It is evergreen. These picture were taken on December 12 when the temperature is freezing at night. My friend told me that he goes out in the church garden, cuts springs from the holly trees there, and uses them for garland in his home. I think that this holly tree is happy to be used in this way.

Don’t confuse this tree with the holm tree in the Bible. That tree is an evergreen oak (Quercus ilex). Both species take their name from the pointed leaves.

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If you want to grow holly trees you need a male and a female. Only the female tree produces the beautiful red berries.

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A Christmas carol is The Holly and The Ivy.

Reflection: When I see, or hear, the word holly, I always think of holy. God is holy–pure, just, kind, bright–and I am not. If I were holy, I would want to be like the colors of the holly tree, e.g., vibrant, pleasing to look at, even colorful. I would want people to look at me and smile, as I do when I look at a holly tree.

I love Bible plants along with their symbolism. If you want to learn more about them, read my two books: 1) Rooted in God and 2) God as a Gardener. You can purchase them from my website: Carolyn Roth Ministry at http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/

Copyright: December 13, 2015; Carolyn A. Roth

 

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Spiritual Christmas Gift

Good News in Nature

Good News in Nature, Examining Plants in the Gospels

This is my new book on Bible plants. The focus is plants in the four gospels. Most of these plants are about Jesus, the Christ. The book contains about 40 photographs.

You can purchase a paperbacks book from my website: http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com

If you want an electronic copy, you can purchase from Kindle (Amazon).

God Marching in the Balsam Trees

God using the balsam tree to give David victory over the Philistines is described in 2 Samuel 5:17-25 and 1 Chronicles 14:8-18.

When the Philistines discovered that DaPopulus euphraticavid was anointed king over Israel as well as over Judah, they went out in force to search for him.  During the seven years David was king over Judah at Hebron, the Philistines were not too concerned about his kingship.  For them the problem occurred when Israel (northern tribes) asked David to be their king.  The Philistines cities were in the lands of the northern tribes; they feared David would wage war against their cities.  The Philistines entered the Valley of the Rephaim, located on the border between Judah and Benjamin on the west and southwest sides of Jerusalem.  There they raided and plundered the inhabitants who were mainly Israelites.  David responded to the Philistine’s raids and at Baal Parazim David and the Israelites fought a battle with the Philistines.  The Philistines were routed.  When they fled, the Philistines abandoned their idols.  Following Mosaic law, David burnt the idols (Deuteronomy 7:5, 25).

Perhaps outraged by the previous defeat and David’s destruction of their idols, the Philistines raided the Rephiam Valley a second time.  David asked God if he should attack the Philistines.  God’s answer was “yes;” but David’s army should not go straight at the Philistines. Instead, the Israelite army should circle around the Philistines and attack them in front of the balsam trees.  The signal for the Israelite army to attack was the sound of God marching in the tops of the balsam trees.  The marching sound meant that the Lord went in front of the Israelites to strike the Philistines.

In the Rephiam Valley balsam trees grew in groves.  God made the wind blow through the tops of the balsam tree so that leaves rustling and branches rubbing against each other and created a sound like men marching.  The sound was so loud that the Philistine army thought that a huge Israelite army was advancing toward them.  Terrified they fled the valley.  David’ army pursued and struck down the Philistines from Gibeon to Gezar, a range of about 15 miles.  At the time of this battle, Gezar was not a Philistine city; it was held by the Egyptians (Joshua 10:33).  Apparently, the Philistine soldiers were so frightened that they fled to the powerful Egyptians for safety.  The episode concludes with, “so David’s fame spread throughout every land, and the Lord made all the nations fear him” (1 Chronicles 14:17).

Populus euphratica leavesThe Balsam Tree

The balsam tree is a species of aspen, most likely the Populus euphratica, which is believed to be native to Israel and Middle Eastern countries. The balsaam is also called the  Euphrates popular and salt poplar.  In Israel the tree grows throughout the country; it grows well in rocky and hilly soils and in brackish water. The balsaam tree grows as tall as 45 feet and has spreading branches.  On older branches bark is thick, olive green to gray-brown, and roughly striated.  Branches are bent and almost always forked.  The balsaam’s flower is called a catkin because it resembles a cat’s tail and droops from the stem.  In mid-summer, the P. euphratica produces a green to reddish brown fruit which is a 2-4 valve capsule.  Seeds are minute and enveloped in silky hairs which aid wind dispersal.

Symbolism: God’s people

Balsam trees are associated with the word “people.”  The word Populus in the name Populus euphratica is derived from the trees ancient Latin name arbor populi which means “the people’s tree.”  When God identified the Israelites as his chosen people, God told them that he would dwell with them, walk with them, and protect them (Leviticus 26:12; Deuteronomy 11:22-25).  In the Valley of Rephiam, God gave his chosen people victory through the sound of an army (people) marching in the tops of balsam trees.  Israel’s victory was so decisive that David’s fame spread to people of every land; the Lord made people of every nation fear David.

In the Old Testament, God took a people for himself who were of one race.  In the New Testament, Christ directed his disciples to take the good news of the gospel to all his creation (Mark 16:15).  Over 2000 years later, people of all races believe in him.  Despite Christ’s welcome and guaranteed love of all people, the Bible cautions, “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31).  What does such an ominous verse mean to people?

The writer of Hebrew’s elaborated by saying if people keep on sinning after they receive the knowledge of truth, no sacrifice for sin is left;  only a fearful expectation of judgment (Hebrews 10: 26-30).  The writer compared the Old Testament Jews rejection of the Law of Moses to an individual who rejects the truth of Christ after they know it.  His argument was if Old Testament Jews who rejected the Law of Moses died, then how much more will individuals who trample the Son of God deserve punishment?   The latter individuals insult the Spirit of grace because they show contempt for the blood of Christ who sanctifies them.  The Lord lives with his people, protects them, and loves them.  In addition, the Lord judges his people.

Reflection.  In the battle where God marched in the tops of the balsam trees, David counted on God rather than his army to protect the people of the Rephiam Valley and Israel.  In a later story, we learn that David took a census of eligible fighting men in Israel rather than trust God to protect the people (2 Samuel 24:10).  Do David’s actions have any parallels to our own life?  Do we believe that God will protect his people?

I love Bible plants along with their symbolism. If you want to learn more about them, read my two books: 1) Rooted in God and 2) God as a Gardener. You can purchase them from my website: Carolyn Roth Ministry at http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/

Copyright December 7, 2011; carolyn a. roth

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If I Die

Autumn in the Mountains

This is a sourwood tree. Amazingly, colored leaves seem to be only on one side.

When I look at this photograph, I see God’s glory in nature. Importantly, we are not to worship nature, but worship the creator-God of nature. Honestly, I do not believe that the beauty we see in nature or in each other are products of evolution. Do you?

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Leaves Fall, So Do I

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Leaves drop  from trees in the autumn season. We used to call them “fall leaves” because trees dropped them mid-to-late autumn or fall. At one time, children raked leaves; however, now leaves are blown onto a pile and vacuumed into a truck to be dumped in the land fill!

If leaves didn’t fall, then trees would have no space for new leaf buds  in the spring. Perhaps our lives are the same way, i.e, if parts of us don’t die and fall off,  there is no room for new growth.

I want my life to mature and grow. As Paul wrote — I want to move beyond consuming only milk, I want to be a meat-eater. I want to be able to ponder the weightier teachings of the Bible, not be stuck in basic teachings of Sunday School.

Reflection: Do you want new growth in your life? If so, what are you willing to let fall or give up?

Copyright December 01, 2018; Carolyn A. Roth

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November Newsletter, God as a Gardener

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Etch Pumpkin with Christian Symbols

 

Photograph by Jim Forney, Roanoke, VA

When pumpkins are carved, often a jack-o-lantern face is made in the pumpkin. Jack-o-lanterns are associated with Halloween, ghosts, and goblins. An alternative to carving a pumpkin is etching in which a Christian theme, fish, cross, or butterfly, is used. Etching or scraping removes the tough (usually orange) skin layer of the pumpkin and allows the lighter yellow “meat” of the pumpkin to show through. Pumpkin meat is boiled to make pumpkin pies.

Preparation

  • Purchase as many pumpkins as you have children. Buy 1-2 extra pumpkins in case of a major mishap with a pumpkin.
  • Clean the insides out of the pumpkin. .
  • On a piece of construction paper, draw the cross and fish; you need only their outlines. Both should be large enough so that when you cut them out of the paper they cover the side of the Make several size crosses and several size fish and try each size on your pumpkin. You want it large enough to be seen from about 12 feet. You can overlay a cross on the fish for more interest.
  • Using straight pins affix the cross and/or fish to the pumpkin.
  • Outline the fish and/or cross with a marker with a pointed nub. Remove the pins and paper. See the outline of the cross or fish on the side of the pumpkin.

Etching

  • Use a paring knife (with parental guidance) or the tip of a metal nail file to scribe (cut) along the marker lines. Use a tiny screw driver or metal manicure cuticle instruments to remove rind in the inside of the cross or fish.
  • Remember you are etching: you need only to remove the pumpkin skin, i.e. ¼ inch so that the lighter yellow pumpkin meat is seen below the rind.

Preserving your pumpkin

  • Coat all outside surfaces with vegetable oil or a mixture of water with lemon juice.
  • To keep squirrels away from your pumpkin mix 2 tablespoons of tobasco (hot) sauce in the water/lemon juice mixture.
  • If temperature drops to freezing, move your pumpkin indoors.
  • Inside you can cover with a damp paper towel and put pumpkin in grocery bag inside refrigerator.

Reflection: Etching a pumpkin creates an association in children’s minds between autumn and Christianity. Begin your etching activity with Bible verses on harvest, i.e., Exodus 23:19, Exodus 34:21; Matthew 9:37-38; Galations 6:9 and others. Taking time to discuss harvest including the meaning of these  verses and in the Harvest season.

Copyright: 10/30/2018; Carolyn Adams Roth

Pumpkins, Uniquely American

The beautiful orange pumpkin of autumn in the United States is the  Cucurbita pepo (L.). Pumpkins are native to North America, where they have been growing for about 5,000 years. Can you imagine the early settlers surprise when they saw this beautiful orange vegetable and learned that it was edible? As an aside: last weekend I went to my cousin’s home in Pennsylvania and had the best pumpkin pie I ever ate. When I compliment my cousin’s wife, she responded that the recipe was her Grandmothers.  Pumpkins remind American’s of traditions, pumpkin pie being one of them.

Although pumpkins did not grow in the Holy Lands, pumpkins are in the Cucurbitaceae family of plants which includes gourds and squashes. These two plant types grew in the Holy Lands. From my last post you know that gourds were present in Israel.

Pumpkins

If you want to grow pumpkins, all you need is pumpkin seeds and space. Pumpkins grow best from seeds. Pumpkin vines can grow up to 20 feet and grow optimally in a field or large space. Recently, I have seen articles on growing plants in containers using a trellis. Because I have not tried this technique, I can’t recommend.

It takes about 100 frost-free days for a pumpkin to reach maturity. When I plant pumpkins (or watermelons), I place it on a plant pedestal so that the pumpkin doesn’t flatten out or turn brown from laying on the ground.

Symbolism: Unique

Pumpkins are native to the United States (my country). I love that pumpkins are uniquely mine (as an American). One definition of unique is “distinct characteristic.” Christians, especially, Christians in the 21st century are unique. Most certainly they should have distinct characteristics the foremost of which is believing that Christ, the son of God, is the Savior of the world. At the same time that I believe in this unique aspect of Christ, I know that many individuals identify themselves as Christians but have not accepted Christ as their Savior.

What in the world am I to do about the dichotomy between people naming themselves “Christian;” yet not experience the real presence of Christ in their lives, of not accepting that they are broken and need a Savior? Every Christian (real Christian) has to answer that question for him/herself. I try to live a life that shows forth my love of Jesus and gratitude for what He did for me. I write about Christianity in my books and blogs. Most days, I don’t think I do enough to really thank Christ for being the unique son of God, coming to earth, and providing a way for my salvation for me.

Reflection: Does your life show any Christian uniqueness; that is, any distinctive characteristic of being in a personal relationship with Christ?   

Copyright 10/09/18; Carolyn Adams Roth