Praising God – Algum wood


The use of algum wood when Solomon built the Temple is recorded in two places:  1 Kings 10:11-12; and 2 Chronicles 9:10-11.

In the process of building the Temple, Solomon wanted algum wood, also known as almug wood (Mock, 2003).  Algum wood was not available in Israel and possibly King Hiram of Tyre did not have the quality of wood that Solomon had in mind.  Solomon determined to send ships to Ophir to obtain the algum wood.  Solomon had a fleet of ships built at Ezion Geber near Elath.   Elath was a harbor on the southern tip of Israel located on the northeastern Red Sea.  King David is believed to have established his southern most defensive line at Elath.  In modern Israel, Elath is at, or near, the city of Eilat, situated on the Gulf of Aqaba.  Evidently Israelites were not adept sailors because Solomon contracted with Hiram to use Tyre sailors to serve on Israelite ships (1 Kings 9:27).

Scholars are not sure where Ophir was located; however, the Bible recorded that only once every three years did ships return from Ophir (1 Kings 10:22).  The ships from Ophir carried gold, silver, ivory, apes, and baboons in addition to algum wood.  Most likely, Ophir was located in India or the far-east.  Some writers suggested that Ophir was located in Arabia or western Africa; however, these areas would not have taken three years for a round-trip from Elath.

During Solomon’s reign, more algum wood was imported than ever seen previously in Israel.  Algum wood was used to make stairs and banisters for the Temple and royal palace complex.  It was used extensively in the stringed instrument section of the Temple, e.g., in harps and lyres (Mock, 2003).  The musical instruments were so beautiful that they were a marvel in Judah.  The almug tree yields heavy, fine-grained wood that is notably black on the surfaces yet polishes to a rich ruby or garnet color.  In addition to being strong, it is antiseptic which makes it impervious to most insects, e.g., termites, as no insects will live inside the wood.


Algum Trees and Wood

The algum tree of the Bible was from the Pterocarpus santalinus known as red sandalwood, Red Saunders and Red Sanders.  Sandalwood is native to southern India and does not naturally grow in Israel.  The algum is a deciduous tree between 33-65 feet tall.  The red sandalwood is considered endangered because its natural habitat in India is subjected to human encroachment. The algum tree has a number of useful products.  The hard, heavy heart wood can be used for carpentry and for fence posts.  Bark and stems are made into a red dye which gives a deep ruby red color to silken and woolen clothes.  Currently, the dye is used as a brightening substance in tea mixtures and a coloring agent in toothpaste.


Symbolism:  Praise

The symbolism of the algum trees used in the Temple was praise.  The harp and lyre, made with algum wood, were used to praise God (Psalm 33:1-3).  After having a magnificent Temple built to worship God, it is natural that Solomon spared no effort or expense when it came to having musical instruments crafted to praise God.  In contrast to worship which is done with words and actions, praise is expressed with words.  Praise expresses approval, esteem, and perfection; praise is a commendation and a statement of value and merit (Merriam-Webster, Incorporated, 2002).  Everything that has breath should praise the Lord (Psalm 150:6).  The challenge for Christians is why, when, where, and how we should praise God.

For the Israelites 3000 years ago and for Christians today, the why of praise is clear.  First, we praise God because he tells us to do so; e.g., “let everything that has breathe praise the Lord” (Psalm 150:6).  Second, we praise God because he deserves to be praised.  The Psalmist (48:1) wrote that the Lord is greatly to be praised, and that he is good and his mercy endures forever (136:1).  John averred that God was worthy to receive praise, e.g., glory, honor and power, because he created all things and all things exist through God’s will (Revelations 4:11).  Third, we praise God because it benefits us to do so.  Praising God gets our thoughts off of ourselves and our problems and sets them on God.  When we praise God, we are reminded of how powerful he is and that we are his special people whom he loves.  When the Temple was dedicated with prayers and praise, the entire assembly offered praises to God (2 Chronicles 5:13-14; 7:1-3).   God’s response was to send fire from heaven to consume the sacrifices.  His glory filled the temple in the form of a cloud that was so dense that the priest could not enter the temple and perform the services.

For answers to questions of when and where God wants his people to praise him, we can turn to the Bible.  The Bible tell us to praise God at all times (Psalm 34:1; Philippians 4:4), while we live (Psalm 63:3-4), and from the rising to the setting of the sun (Psalm 113:2-3).   Where should we praise God?  Should we praise God in church formal worship services or in prayer meetings?  What about when we have our devotions – is that the time to praise God?  Again, the Bible has the answer to “where should we praise God?  We should praise God in the house of the Lord and sanctuary (Psalm 134:1-2; Psalm 150:1).  Because Christian’s bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit, we are a sanctuary (I Corinthians 6:19-20); therefore, Christians can and should praise God in our bodies and in our spirits wherever we are (I Corinthian 6:19-20).

The answer to how we should praise God is sometime difficult for Christians and has been a basis for divisions among believers.  God tells us we should praise him with our whole heart and we should be glad and rejoice (Psalm 9:1-2).  We can praise him with the sound of trumpet, with tambourine, dance, stringed instruments, flutes, and cymbals (Psalm 150:2-5).  It is okay if we make a joyful shout when we come into his courts with praise and if we lift up our hands (Psalm 100:1, 4; Psalm 134:2).  Probably, God does not care is we sing traditional hymns with an organ or use contemporary praise music with keyboard and drums.  I believe that God hears both of these praise styles with a joyous heart.

Reflection:  In preparation for writing this section on praise, I spent part of the morning (while I was cleaning house) praising and thanking God for all he does.  It felt good at the time and my body and spirit still feels uplifted.  Try it and see what effect praising God has on you.

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

Copyright March 15, 2012; carolyn a. roth





Vine and Branches

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

– John 15:5 (NIV)

This should challenge and relieve us at the same time. The challenge is that we are to remain in Christ. Fellowship with God is not just a morning or evening event that lasts a few minutes; it is a reality that we are to cultivate all day. The relief comes from the fact that when we do remain in Christ, the realities of God’s kingdom will fill the world around us. We don’t have to “make it happen”, we only need to focus upon Christ Himself, and He will make our path straight (David Whitehead, 2016).

Grass or Flower???


Bible Reference: 1 Peter 1:23-26

In Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, he included the parable of lilies adorning grass. In contrast to Jesus’s emphasis on flowers, Peter’s parable mentioned flowers, but focused on field grass. Peter encourages Christians to live a holy life because their physical life on earth is short and then comes a great reward. Belief and hope in Jesus means eternal spiritual life with him. Peter reminded Christians that they were born again through belief in the enduring Word of God. The enduring Word of God is Jesus (John 1:1-5). In his letter, Peter quoted almost verbatim from a parable given initially by the prophet Isaiah. Here is what Peter wrote:

All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.    — 1 Peter 1:24 NIV

Most scholars agree that Silas acted as Peter’s secretary and carried this letter to Christians in what is now inland Turkey. In his first letter, Peter draws comparisons between the transience of field grass and the brevity of mankind’s life. The transiency of life is a common theme in the Bible. Both King David and Isaiah compared man to grass which soon withers and dies away (Psalm 37:2; Psalm 103:15; Isaiah 40:6). This year, the Roanoke Valley received an overabundance of rain; it is December and grass is still green. Yet, I remember when I lived in San Francisco. Sometimes, I drove over the Golden Gate Bridge and traveled up Highway 80 into the Sacramento Valley. June through August, and even into September and October, the grass along the highway was brown and appeared dead.

Orchard Grass

In Israel there were scores of grasses in the local flora. One of the most valuable native grass species was known as orchard grass. Orchard grass grew wild on hill sides and in shallow areas, in both sun and shade. Most likely orchard grass covered the large slopes where crowds set to listen to Jesus’s sermons and smaller areas where Jesus took Peter and other disciples for private talks. In Israel rains came October through March. In those months, grass was green and carpeted the hills. As spring progressed into summer, grass turned brown from the scorching heat of the sun and lack of rain. Grass and wild flowers dried and turned into brown straw.

Orchard grass is a perennial plant. That means that even through it dies in the summer, grass regrows the following year. Orchard grass produces a flower head called a panicle. Seeds are produced in the flower heads. Initially, seeds are green but turn brown as they mature; then, seeds drop to the ground. Although some seeds are carried away by the wind and others eaten by birds, most remain where they drop. Seeds enter the soil, germinate when it rains, and regrow the following year.


Peter told the Christians that they were born again with imperishable seed—the word of God (1 Peter 1:23). In the Bible, the Word of God is the living Christ. St. John wrote that in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God (John 1:1). Christians are born again by believing that Jesus is God’s son and savior of the world. In his physical body, Jesus died on the cross. Most living men and women will die unless Jesus returns to earth first. After physical death, Jesus rose from the dead. Individuals who believe in Jesus and who die physically will rise again. Why—because they are born again with the imperishable seed of belief in the Word of God (1 Peter 1:23).

King David, Isaiah, Peter, and Jesus made the point that life is transient by comparing man’s life with field grass. They were all correct that grass withers and dies and that physical life is transient; it withers and dies. At the same time, most field grass is a perennial. It withers and dies with the heat of the sun and lack of rain. Most field grass has a deep root structure and it produces seeds which germinate and grow.

Individuals who don’t believe that Jesus is the son of God die like field grass at the end of a season. In contrast, we, who are born by the Word of God, have physical lives that wither and die; but, we are perennials. Our root structure is firmly embedded in Jesus. We produce seeds of righteousness. We are going to live with Jesus even after our physical bodies wither and die. As Peter wrote, we are born again not of perishable seed but of imperishable seed (1 Peter 1:23).

Reflection: How do we get to be born again so that we never perish?  If you aren’t sure, read, ponder and explain: Romans 3:22-23, John 3:16, and 1 John 5:11-12. Do you need or want to take any action, or are you where you want to be?

To learn more about Bible plants and their application, go to my website: www.

Copyright September 27, 2016. Carolyn A. Roth




A little levity


Persimmon Prophecy, It could happen to us


“The men of Rhodes traded with you, and many coastlands were your customers; they paid you with ivory tusks and ebony” (Ezekiel 27:15, NIV). Ezekiel chapter 26 is named “The Prophecy Against Tyre” and Chapter 27 “The Lament over Tyre” (Ezekiel chapters 26 and 27, NIV).

The most outstanding sailors in the ancient world, the Phoenicians built Tyre. It was an important commercial center located on the eastern side of the Mediterranean Sea. Tyre encompassed both a mainland city and an island city one-half mile offshore. Both parts were well fortified.

Probably, you remember the name Tyre because King Ahab of the Northern Kingdom of Israel married a daughter of the king of Tyre. The princess was named Jezebel, she was a Baal worshipper. After conquering Jerusalem, Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Tyre. The siege lasted 13 years. Although the Babylonians captured the mainland city, they were unable to capture the island city. Alexander the Great used lumber and construction materials from the main city of Tyre to build a causeway to the island fortress about 332 BC.

Ebony Tree


The Ebony tree is the Diospyros ebenum (or D. ebenaster). The ebony tree is a hard, heavy, durable, close-grained wood that when polished will show a glistening shine. Ancient Greeks and Roman’s loved ebony because it could be made into beautiful furniture. Ceylon ebony wood was in such high demand that this tree species was threatened with extinction. In 1994 the World Conservation Union included Ceylon (Sri Lanka) ebony tree in the Red Book so that trees could not be readily harvested. Laws in both Sri Lanka and India prohibited international trade of the wood. The tree produces a persimmon-like fruit.

As you may suspect, we don’t have a Diospyros evenum in our church Bible garden. We do have a Diospyros virginiana. It is a persimmon species commonly called the American persimmon.  In the United States, the tree grows wild. Native Americans cultivated it for its fruit and wood since prehistoric times. The American persimmon tree grows 66 feet tall in well-drained soil. In summer, this species produces fragrant flowers. To obtain fruit you need a tree that produces female flowers and tree that produces male flowers. We have only one tree at this time, but I am considering getting another. Most cultivars set fruit without pollination. Insects and wind are primary pollinators. Typically fruiting begins when the tree is about 6 years old. The fruit is round or oval and usually orange-yellow, sometimes bluish, and from 0.79 to 2.4 inches in diameter. In the U.S. South and Midwest, fruits are referred to as persimmons. Often you will see persimmon jelly in fine stores.


The great general Nebuchadnezzar was able to conquer Jerusalem, but not the island city of Tyre even after 13 years of trying. This bit of history caused me to suspect that if God had not abandoned Jerusalem it wouldn’t have been captured.

Tyre fell as Ezekiel prophesied or, more accurately, as God ordained.  This world is destined for destruction; then God will create a new heaven and a new earth (Revelation 21:2). Just as Ezekiel’s prophecy became reality, so will John’s revelation.

Reflection: No individual, city, or country can stand against God. I am okay with that fact. Are you?

If you are interested in learning more about Bible plants, see my website:

Copyright September 13, 2016; Carolyn A. Roth








God as a Gardener


Here is my newest book; it focuses on parables in the Bible illustrated by plants. The publisher is selling the book for $27.99 (gasp); however, I have a few copies that can be purchased directly from my website at $15.00 plus shipping, handling, and tax.  Website is



Beautifully Ugly


Isaiah chapter 34 is titled “Judgment Against the Nations” in the NIV Bible.  In God’s description of judgement against Edom, he says, “Thorns will overrun her citadels, nettles and brambles her strong holds. She will become a haunt for jackals, a home for owls” (Isaiah 34:13). The point that God is making is that Israel (and Judah) who trusted other nations for their defense rather than God would be overrun and destroyed. Equally true, the nations in which Israel put her trust would be overrun. Having thorns, nettles, and brambles overrun strongholds implies that people no longer living in these citadels and strongholds. If an individual were to enter these once well-populated, supposed secure areas, they would see jackals slinking around. At night owls that lived on rats and other rodents would hunt there.

Cotoneaster Bramble

Often the Bible bramble is a fast-growing, rough, and prickly shrub of the Rubus Family of plants. This Family contains blackberries and raspberries. Although both are good to eat, the bramble identified in Isaiah most likely was not one that produced any human food. They were just that – brambles that would have to be removed for people to live in the area.


This photograph of a bramble it one that grows here in the mountains of Roanoke. It is called the cotoneaster (Cotoneaster frigidus) and in the Rosaceae (think rose) Family. I first remember seeing it when I was fishing in the Appalachian Mountains near Paint Bank, Virginia. It grew as a very thick hedge 3-4 feet tall. However, my neighbor has two cotoneaster bushes in his front yard that are about 12 feet tall. He planted them both sides of his front walk.  We live here in the Roanoke Valley (Plant Zone 7 a).  Cotoneaster had its origins in China.

Cotoneaster flowers are light white or light pink and bloom in May in the mountains. It is September, and my neighbor’s cotoneaster still has beautiful flowers. I purchased two cotoneasters and Bruce planted them at church in our Bible garden. They will get afternoon sun. Hopefully, they will make it through our winter.

What we can learn

I didn’t receive any consolation or encouragement from Isaiah’s words. My thoughts were that the United States has put her confidence in politics, money, military; rather than God. We have even built strategic alliances with other nations, NATO, OAS, etc. Yet, look what happened to ancient Israel when she did that. Where are our heads both as individuals and as a nation?

If I allowed myself, I could get depressed; however, I must always remember two things: 1) God is sovereign and 2) God  expects me to do my part to promote him and his kingdom. In the Fellowship of the Ring, an elf says something to the effect, “we fight the long defeat” (Tolkein). Like the elf character, I must continue to fight; but ultimately, I fight the long victory.

Reflection: Why did Isaiah write this Chapter? How can we see it as victory?

If you want to learn more about Bible plants, visit my website:

Copyright September 12, 2016; Carolyn A. Roth







My beautiful niece (Andrea Adams) took this photograph of sunflowers in the evening. To my knowledge sunflowers don’t grow in Israel, I least I never saw them there. Doesn’t really matter; what is important is that God made this flower for us to marvel at its beauty. Have you ever wondered as you look at the beauty of creation, how individuals can disbelieve in God?

In the context of this beautiful photograph, I want to share something that makes me very sad: For years I was a college professor. One place where I taught for 10 years was filled with intelligent, articulate women. Yet, so many of them didn’t believe in God; some were actively hostile toward Him. Currently, I follow their lives and thoughts on Facebook. There is a popular Christian song that asks, “what if you are wrong?”

Reflection: When Christ comes again, he will separate sheep from goats, those who believe in him from those who do not. We are all going to live forever; the question is where?

Copyright September 8, 2016; Carolyn A. Roth


Flowing River


This beautiful photograph of a flowing stream was taken by Jim Forney, a friend at SJLC. What a talented, God-fearing man he is.


Parable of Famine Bread


Bible Reference: Ezekiel chapter 45

Heart of the Story: Ezekiel offered a parable of the famine that would come on Jerusalem

Back Story: Ezekiel was both a prophet and priest. He was taken to Babylon when King Nebuchadnezzar took Judah’s King, Jehoiachin, and 10,000 captive from Jerusalem to Babylon (597 BC). At that time, Nebuchadnezzar established Zedekiah as puppet king over Judah. After ruling for about five of six years, King Zedekiah rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar. He ceased paying tribute and turned to Egypt for military assistance to throw off Babylonian rule. Subsequently, Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Jerusalem. After about 18 months, the wall around Jerusalem was breached.

When Nebuchadnezzar and his army started for Judah, Jerusalem was flooded with refugees fleeing the countryside. The influx was so great that private homes, inns, and the temple courtyard were crammed with people. The poor set up tents in the streets or lay down wherever they found an empty space at night. People and noise were everywhere; smoke billowed from cooking fires. Although the situation was dire, it got worse after the Babylonians arrived. No additional food supplies entered Jerusalem. Human and animal refuse couldn’t be removed. Filth and stench were everywhere.

In Babylon beside Chebar River, God instructed Ezekiel to act out the siege of Jerusalem. The first action parable used a clay tablet to depict the Babylonians besieging Jerusalem. The second had Ezekiel lying on his left followed by lying on his right side. The third parable encompassed grains and legumes to make bread and to bake the bread.

Parable of Famine Bread: Some scholars advocated that Ezekiel 4:9-16 were two separate parables rather than one. I am describing them as one parable because they encompassed preparing and eating bread.

Here’s is God’s direction to Ezekiel: “Take wheat and barley, beans and lentils, millet and spelt; put them in a storage jar and use them to make bread for yourself. You are to eat it during the 390 days you lie on your side.”

Verse 9 describes substances that Jerusalemites will use to make bread during the siege of Jerusalem. Normally, bread was made from one type of flour, i.e., wheat, barley, millet or spelt. Legume flour was not common made into bread, however, when individuals lived in extreme poverty, beans in particular and occasionally lentils could be made into flour and used to prepare bread. Mixing flour from several sources demonstrated the extreme scarcity of flour that would occur during the siege. Scholars disagree whether the mixing of different flour sources in one vessel was a defilement (Deuteronomy 22:9), but all agree that dietary laws were compromised for the Jerusalemites.

“Weigh out twenty shekels of food to eat each day and eat it at set times. Also measure out a sixth of a hin of water and drink it at set times. Eat the food as you would a barley cake; bake it in the sight of the people, using human excrement for fuel.” The LORD said, “In this way the people of Israel will eat defiled food among the nations where I will drive them.”

Then Ezekiel responded to God: “Not so, Sovereign LORD! I have never defiled myself. From my youth until now I have never eaten anything found dead or torn by wild animals. No unclean meat has ever entered my mouth.”

“Very well,” God said, “I will let you bake your bread over cow manure instead of human excrement.” 

These three verses identified how Ezekiel was to bake the multi-flour bread. During the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem, inhabitants would have to bake their bread over human excrement; therefore, God told Ezekiel to do the same. When Ezekiel objected God allowed him to bake his bread over cow manure. Jerusalemites didn’t have the luxury of using animal dung for baking. Near the end Jerusalem siege, no animals were alive in the city. All had been slaughtered and eaten. Human excrement was the primary source of cooking fuel.

Then, God  said to Ezekiel “Son of man, I will cut off the supply of food in Jerusalem. The people will eat rationed food in anxiety and drink rationed water in despair,”    Ezekiel 4:9-16, NIV Online

Interpretation of Parable of Famine Bread: God interpreted the action parable for Ezekiel and for us. The interpretation was that God would cut off the food supply for Jerusalem. Once the Babylonians arrived no food or refuse passed in and out of the city walls. Many people inside Jerusalem starved to death or died from disease. Often the dead could not be buried and remained where they died. Mothers killed and ate their children. Ezekiel’s action shouldn’t be interpreted as sympathetic magic where something done to a model or person has a similar act in reality. True, Ezekiel’s famine bread foreshadowed the starvation behavior of the Jerusalemites; but God, not Ezekiel, caused both the prophet’s actions and of people living in Jerusalem during the siege.

In a larger context, the siege of Jerusalem was a prophecy about judgment. The people of Judah sinned so long and to such a degree that God removed his protect around Jerusalem. When Ezekiel acted out the parables of the siege of Jerusalem, God still dwelled in Jerusalem temple. Before the Babylonian siege, Ezekiel recorded that God’s presence left both the temple and Jerusalem (Ezekiel chapters 10 and 11 NIV).

The Broad Bean


The Book of Ezekiel is one of the most detailed and well-known references to grains in the Bible; but, we also learn, or relearn, that Israelites dried and crushed legumes (bean and lentils) into bread flour. For a plant in the parable of the famine bread, I have chosen to describe the bean. The bean was the Vicia faba, also known Vicia vulgaris, the broad bean, and the faba bean.  Beans were one of the oldest cultivated plants, at least 6000 years. Their origin is North Africa or the Middle East.  The bean grows in all types of soil as long as the soil is well-drained. Although not drought-resistant, beans are hearty enough to live through mild frosts. In the Middle East, beans remain one of the most important winter crops. Broad beans can grow in semi-shade as well as strong sunlight, but they do not tolerate maritime exposure.

Looking Outward and Deeper

The Babylonians laid siege to Jerusalem in 588 BC. About 18 months later the Jerusalem walls were breached. Nebuchadnezzar had no more patience with the rebellious Jews or his puppet king, Zedekiah. He had Zedekiah killed and the Jerusalem temple and major buildings destroyed. The wall around Jerusalem walls razed. Jews not killed by famine and plague were killed by the Babylonian soldiers. Only the poorest Jews were allowed to remain in Judah.

Reflection:  God said “The day is coming, when I will send a famine throughout the land—not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord” (Amos 8:11, NIV).  Do you believe this promise from God will occur in the USA?

I love studying about Bible plants. Do you? If so, please check my website for more information:

Copyright August 23, 2016; Carolyn A. Roth