Having trouble with wineberry

Reblogged from Mortal Tree posted on July 20, 2016.

Wineberry (Rubus phoenicolasius) fruits on second year canes, this year being the third year my canes have been old enough to fruit but haven’t. The first two years late frost killed the second year canes (very frost sensitive), the later canes for that year coming up strong.

A dead cane and a live one coming from the same root.

This year frost wasn’t to blame. Leaves grew, buds grew, and I was very excited to finally get fruit. In the heat of summer, after growing some very promising looking buds, they are shriveling up and dying without handing over a single druplet. The first year canes look fine.

The same cane with buds a few months earlier.

They’re even in the really happy guild where I have had success getting fruit from the apple (fruiting again this year) and turnip rooted chervil, among others. From what I’ve read about its culture, this site should be kind to it. It’s an invasive species here in several states, although not in my area (yet). I would prefer to not wait until it intoduces itself as a weed in my area to finally get some fruit.

There is an especially good article here about the wonderful production it maintains in shade. Flavor is supposed to be very good too. I have yet to come across information about it being finicky and never making a solitary fruit.

I have very few theories what the problem could be accept some strange disease which I have yet to find the name of.

I find the canes’ furry red spines rather attractive as a winter and spring interest, and the canes’ premature deaths make more mulch for the guild without my giving any attention to pruning. So why not keep them in hopes some year they will decide they’re ready to fruit? Until then, I thought I’d start the conversation about what seems to be a rare problem.

Reblogged from Mortal Tree, June 20, 2016.

 

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Summer Interlude

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Summer Interlude

Ivy and honeysuckle climb
forbidden picket fences,
alabaster butterflies alight
upon the foxgloves,
lavender fields are fragrant
in the silver glow
of summer twilight —

I watch the seasons dance
upon your face,
feel the temperate breezes
heal
our winter-charred arms —

youth returns
if only for a fleeting moment
when amethyst and beryl,
topaz and peridot
explode
against the sapphire sky
of your smiling eyes —

I catch
diamonds and meteors
into the willow basket
of my daily bread.

D. G. Vachal © 2016

From Liliessparrowsandgrass.com

Siberian iris

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Such a “Little Devil”

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This small shrub is called a “Little Devil Ninebark”  (Physocarpus opulifolius). I bought it last year at the local Veteran’s Administration (VA) nursery because of its name and to help out the VA; I’m a veteran. I am not sure why it has the nickname Little Devil.  Nothing about it is devilish. It came through out Virginia mountains winter and is blooming again this year (Plant Zone 7). Blooms start about July and last into fall. The are a delicate pink. Little Devil is a good plant if you want fall blooms in your garden.

We have our Little Devil planted in semi-shade and it still does well. Supposedly it gets to about 4 feet tall; however, mine is about 30 inches. I have to admit I cut it back this summer because shoots appeared to be growing way taller than I desired. It was not harmed by my pruning.

I have no idea where the name “Little Devil” came from for this cute little flowering shrub.  By calling a plant a “Little Devil” or a child a “little imp” we trivialize their actions and moves the words into our common speech. When we do that, they become something common — perhaps we even give a half smile when we say the words.

Although there are perhaps demons/devils that have more power than others,  devils are devils. They are out to harm humans, particularly Christians. The Bible says our enemy the Devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). We are to resist the Devil and not to give him a foothold in our lives.

Reflection:  How do you resist the Devil? Do you even want to resist him or would you rather negotiate with him?

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 July 8, 2016; Carolyn A. Roth

 

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Weary Cedar

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This is a Alaskan Yellow Cedar (Compressus nootkatensis, Pendula). I took the picture at the Botanic Garden in Washington, DC last summer. The branches and needles appear to be sagging, but, this is the trees actual shape. It is receiving the right amount of water.

Some days I just don’t look like I’m sagging, I am sagging! I’m tired and if one more person asks me to do something, I am going to explode. Repeatedly, I ask God if He gets tired. I always get the same answer back, “No, I am not tired; I am God.” Can you imagine a being that never gets tired? Who sees and hears all of us, all the time?

God doesn’t get tired of me talking to him, nor even asking him for things. God wants me to depend on him.

Reflection: It is okay to depend on God; in fact He wants it that way.

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 16, 2015; Carolyn A. Roth

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Daylilies

Mortal Tree

Daylilies (Hemerocalis fulva) are edge plants, growing on the edges of woods and roads, looking like a grass but not quite, sitting on the edge of good ground cover standards.


They grow in massive colonies along the roads, but don’t entirely exclude grass. If  they did, they are a little too tall to plant most perennial vegetables between. 

At the same time, they are a perennial vegetable themselves. In their home country of China, daylilies are prized for their buds and second day dried flowers called ‘golden needles.’


For me they’re easily available. If the roadcrew digs out the roadside ditches they are already dug for me. I just steal the big clumps to take home and divide.

Easily available and easily grown you could just throw them on the edges of the food forest and harvest the flowers not giving a care about what grows between them. They don’t…

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Parable: Trashy Thorns

Rhamnus_lycioides_leaves

The Hebrews author inserted a short two-verse parable (Hebrews 6:7-8) to foster readers’ intuitive understanding of more difficult Christian doctrine identified in verses 4-6. He must have believed that an agricultural parable of the land producing crops versus thorns and thistles was an illustration that even the most urban reader of the first century would understand.

Hebrews was addressed to Jewish Christians, but had great applicability to Gentile readers. For centuries biblical scholars believed that Paul wrote the letter to the Hebrews. Within the past five hundred years other writers, i.e., Barnabas and Apollos, have been postulated. Who wrote Hebrews is not as important as its message.

Immediately prior to the parable of productive versus non-productive land, the writer reprimands readers because they were slow to learn (Hebrews 5:11-14). He wants them to become more mature in their faith, moving beyond learning or relearning elementary teachings about Jesus and Christianity to more mature doctrine (Hebrews 6:1-2).

What follows in Hebrews 6:4-6 is a series of statements that includes some of the most hotly contested beliefs among Christian scholars, not to mention among Christian denominations. The writer asked: if an individuals who has rejected Christ after he has been enlightened and shared in the blessings of the Holy Spirit be brought back to repentance?. He goes on to say, that these believers—who have fallen away—crucify Jesus all over again and subject Jesus to public disgrace.

Then, the writer provided this parable to illustrate his point:

Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.                                                       —  Hebrews 6:7-8 NIV

Notice that the subject of the parable is the land – not rain, nor a farming process, not a crop, nor even a farmer, but land. The land receives rain and does something with the rain. In one instance the land responds by producing a useful crop. In other words, the land produced grains, trees, herbs, etc. that gave the farmer food for his family. Possibly, the crop was abundant enough so some could be sold and provide food security for an entire community. Other land responds to the rain by producing thorns and thistles. This land is worthless to that farmer. It is in danger of being cursed; in the end it will be burned.

Thorns Rhamnus_lycioides_branch

 Thorns were first mentioned in Genesis as a way God cursed the ground when he expelled Adam and Eve from Eden. Thorns grew on the acacia tree in the Sinai desert and on Jotham’s thorn tree in the Promised Land.  Isaiah warned Ahaz that the land around Jerusalem would become thorn infested because of his disobedience. In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ asked if people can pick grapes from thorn bushes. As these exemplars show, many thorn producing trees and plants were mentioned in the Bible.

The Mediterranean buckthorn (Rhamnus lycoides) is a slow growing thorn bush common in the Mediterranean Basin where Jewish converts lived in the first century Christian church. The buckthorn is an unattractive shrub that doesn’t normally grow in cultivated gardens or fields. It actually likes to grow in poor soil that is gritty and highly eroded. Along with the thistle, the buckthorn is the last species to disappear when livestock over-grazed an area.

Most gardeners and farmers do not view the Mediterranean buckthorn as attractive. Its form is tangled and many branched. Grayish stems are topped with thorny spikes. Small flowers are yellowish, inconspicuous, unattractive, and may appear in the winter. Fruit is small, initially green, but turns black when mature. Although birds like the fruit, humans find it bitter. It acts as a purgative and in large quantities is toxic to humans. Aphids are attracted to the Mediterranean buckthorn. If the buckthorn grows in a damp climate, it tends to develop fungal disease. Once aphids and fungus appear on plants, they often spread to more valuable plants in the area. Overall the Mediterranean buckthorn has no value for either man or livestock. Burning land that it inhabits is one strategy to get rid of it.

Symbolism – Trash

Throughout the Bible thorns don’t have a good reputation; often they symbolized desolation and devastation.  The Hebrew word for the thorn in Isaiah 7:23-25 is shayith which is translated as scrub, thorn, or trash (Strong, 2010).  Trash is debris from plant materials, something worth little or nothing, and something thrown away.  Trash is an excellent symbol for men and women who learned what Christ did for them, tasted the heavenly gift and goodness of the word of God, shared in the Holy Spirit and then turned back, or fallen away from the goodness of God. The outcome for these individuals is not the storehouse of God but a burning trash heap.

Reflection:  Consider the parable in this chapter.

  1. Will increasing the amount of rain that falls on the thorn-infested land, make the land more productive for crops?
  2. Will additional fertilizer add to the productivity of the land?
  3. What do you think God is going to do with the thorn-infested land?

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: June 20, 2016; Carolyn A. Roth

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Honeyberries

Not a Bible plants but interesting. Who knew.

Honeyberries

Mortal Tree

For all the enticing perfumes the genus Lonicera offers, and yet most species withholding their fruits as tiny and poisonous, it seems like the species that gives its energy to larger, non-poisonous fruit, taking away from the scented flowers would be amazing. That species is honeyberry.

Lonicera edulis/ villosa var. carulea, or blue fruited honeysuckle, is a small bush from three to six foot tall from boreal forests of Asia and Russia. Growing in such cold regions, its hardy to usda zone 2. Only issue can be getting two similar pollinating varieties. There are in general only two major categories -early and late blooming. Not too complicated.

I have several varieties in my food forest. The oldest, and best fruiting so far, ‘Tundra’ and ‘Berry Blue,’ I like a lot. The ones in good positions already give a decent handful of fruit every year, and started producing the spring after…

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Christians are Wild Olive Boughs

Olive Tree

Photograph of Olive Tree in Jerusalem.

Bible Reference:  Romans 11:16-24; Before you start to read this entry, please read the Bible reference.

Overview:  Despite Jewish Christians starting the Christian Church in Rome, Gentile Christians resisted accepting Jewish Christians into their fellowship. Paul’s letter to the Romans (about 71 AD) included a parable using cultivated olive and wild olive trees to illustrate Gentile’s proper response to their Jewish Christian brethren.

Historical Context: Initially, the church in Rome was composed of Jews who believed that Jesus was the Messiah. The Church in Rome wasn’t started by an apostle, but by Jews who returned from Pentecost in Jerusalem (Acts 2). Almost immediately, Jewish believers evangelized Gentiles. Then, Emperor Claudius banished all Jews from Rome. For 12 years the Christian church in Rome consisted of only Gentiles. When Nero became Emperor, he invited the Jews back to Rome, noting that they were good for business and trade. The problem was that Gentiles refused to allow Jewish Christians back into the Christian church in Rome. Perhaps, Gentile Christians concluded that Emperor Claudius’s rejection of the Jewish Christians meant that God also rejected them. Because Rome was the capital city of the Roman Empire, this discriminatory attitude had the potential to spread beyond Rome.

Paul focused his evangelistic efforts on the Gentiles, that is, individuals who weren’t Jews. He named himself the apostle to the Gentiles. Paul spent years journeying throughout the Roman Empire converting Gentiles and strengthening their commitment to Jesus as Christ (the Messiah, the son of God). In Paul’s letter to the church in Rome, Paul made it clear that the current parable was designed for Gentile believers (Romans 11:13). He wrote it to counter Roman Gentile’s arrogant belief that they were better than Jewish Christians. One basis for Gentile arrogance was that unlike Jews, Gentiles didn’t reject Jesus and lobby for his crucifixion. Further, the Gentile converts never denied that Christ rose from the dead as many Jerusalem Jewish leaders denied the resurrection.

Olive Tree Grafting: In the parable of the in-grafted wild olive branch, Paul identified a) a root and branches (boughs) of a cultivated olive tree, b) a branch (bough) of a wild olive tree, and c) grafting a wild olive branch onto a cultivated olive tree. The original cultivated olive tree with its root and branches is the promises God made to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their offspring, the Jews. This root was solid and sure. Jews who believed in Jesus as Messiah were the original root and branches of the early Christian church. Branches broken off from the cultivated olive tree were Jews who refused to believe that Jesus was the long looked for Messiah. This was the majority of Jews who lived in Palestine and throughout the Roman Empire at the time. The wild olive branch equated to Gentile Christians who believed that Jesus was the son of God and followed his teachings. The interpretation of Paul’s parable in the eleventh chapter of Romans is that the Gentile believers were grafted into—became an integral, productive off shoot—of the Jewish faith.

Although Paul’s parable seems easy to interpret, it has nuances that are only made clear by understanding characteristics of both cultivated and wild olive trees and the grafting process in olive trees. Paul identified that a wild olive branch was grafted onto the root of the cultivated olive tree; however, olive growers rarely graft wild olive branches onto cultivated olive trees. In reality, just the opposite occurs: growers graft cultivated olive tree branches onto wild olive tree roots. Paul was aware of this normal grafting procedure; he wrote that his parable was contrary to nature (Romans 11:24).  Perhaps, Paul believed that making his point was more important than technical accuracy about olive tree grafting.

Horticulturists identify three reasons for tree grafting: 1) to propagate trees that don’t root well by cutting a shoot from the poorly growing tree and grafting it onto a healthy tree; 2) to obtain a stronger root system, and 3) to grow plants faster. Importantly, the root sustains the newly grafted branch; the newly grafted branch doesn’t sustain the root.

Interpretation: In Paul’s parable, all three reasons support grafting the newly converted Gentile believers into the roots of Judaism. Gentiles used the structures and traditions of the established Jewish faith as roots for their worship of Jesus. An example is the Jewish tradition of meeting weekly to hear and study God’s word. Using this Jewish tradition, new Christian church members fellow-shipped regularly and became more knowledgeable about their faith. Further, the Jews had sacred God-inspired writings. Knowing about and hearing Jewish scriptures (Old Testament) facilitated more ready acceptance of the New Testament gospel and letters. In these ways, the Christian faith grew stronger and faster and became a deeper part of Gentile convert’s lives. The new Gentile believers and churches acquired spiritual richness and fertility by being grafted into the deeply rooted, cultivated olive tree.

Although the cultivated olive tree formed the root and some branches of the olive tree in Paul’s parable, the in-grafted wild olive tree branch resonates with most of us. We are the wild olive branch. Today, Gentile believers form most of the body of believers in churches in westernized countries.

Wild olive trees are multi-trunked and often grow as wide as tall. Wild olive trees grow almost everywhere, e.g.,  brackish water and river bottoms where water level is seldom more than two feet below ground surface. They are drought tolerant and indifferent to wind and heat. The spreading growth pattern and diversity of growth sites of wild olive trees mirrored the growth of the new Christian church. Gentiles (non-Jewish) were almost everywhere in the Roman Empire. The Christian church appeared and thrived even in the most inhospitable environments.

The wild olive tree has deep taproot (central root) and well-developed lateral roots. As it looks for water, the wild olive sinks it main root deep into the soil, while spreading horizontal in search of nutrients. This diverse root system adds to the stability of the wild olive tree. About 80% of the United States population self-identifies as Christians. Like the wild olive tree, many have a root deep in their Christian faith. At the same time, they aren’t necessarily tied to one religious denomination. They spread horizontal roots in search of an optimal church family.

Like the cultivated olive tree, the wild olive produces a drupe-like fruit; however, fruit is smaller than and not as tasty as olives from cultivated olive trees. In most countries, wild olives aren’t eaten. Generally, the fruit isn’t used to make olive oil. In Paul’s parable, a wild olive branch was grafted onto a cultivated olive tree; however, the wild olive branch would never produce the same olive that grows on a cultivated olive tree. Similarly, Christianity is a unique religion and doesn’t produce the same fruit as Judaism.

Despite the seeming lesser value of wild olive tree products than cultivated olive tree products, Paul’s parable didn’t mean that Jewish Christians were more valuable than Gentile Christians. Similarly, although Jewish Christians were represented by branches (more than one) and Gentile Christians by a single branch didn’t mean that there were more Jews than Gentiles in the Christian church at Rome. Probably, the opposite was true. Data aren’t available for the number of Jews who became believers in the early centuries after Christ’s death; but, by the early 21st century, the vast majority of Christians were Gentiles. Globally, less than one half percent of Jews self-identify as Messianic Jews; that is Jews who believe in Jesus as Messiah.

Summary:  Paul’s purpose in writing the parable of the in-grafted wild olive branch was to remind Gentile believers that the root of the Christian faith was in God’s covenants with the Jews, i.e., God promised to bless all nations through Abraham’s seed. When he reminded the Rome church about God’s promise, Paul’s wanted to encourage a fully integrated church. Paul wasn’t attempting to make the Christian church in Rome a sect of Judaism, nor was he advocating that Gentile Christians replaced the Jews in God’s favor.

Reflections: Is Christianity an inclusive or exclusive faith? In your church do you have tiers of individuals, i.e., some who are more important than others?

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: June 12, 2016; Carolyn A. Roth

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Living in a Wild Olive Tree Booth

Wild olive

Wild olive

Nehemiah chapter 8 tells the story of the Jews cutting wild olive boughs to make booths for the Festival of Tabernacles (Sukkoth).

After Aharuerus’ death, Artaxerxes I (465-425 B.C.) ruled the Persian Empire.  His support for the Jews may have been related to a positive relationship with the Jew Mordecai, the chief official during Aharuerus reign.  In his 7th year as king, Artaxerxes aided the priest-scribe Ezra to return to Jerusalem (458 B.C.).  Ezra’s main contribution to restored Zion was interpreting and exhorting the Jews to keep the Mosaic laws.

Nehemiah was cup-bearer and personal confident of King Artaxerxes I.  When Nehemiah heard (circa 445 B.C.) that Jerusalem’s walls were not yet rebuilt, he grieved.  The first Jews had returned to Jerusalem over 90 years earlier.   Nehemiah secured support from Artaxerxes I to go  to Jerusalem and rebuild the city walls. Working almost day and night, the Jews rebuilt Jerusalem’s walls in 52 days (Nehemiah 6:15.).  Excavations showed the Jerusalem city wall built in Nehemiah’s time was about 9 feet thick.

After the city walls were rebuilt, the Jews assembled in Jerusalem.  At this time Nehemiah was governor and Ezra was chief priest.  Ezra read from the Book of Law.  Hearing God’s laws and statutes, the listeners became aware of their transgressions and began to weep.   Nehemiah told them to stop weeping and to celebrate the restoration of Jerusalem by feasting.  The following day, family heads met with Ezra to discuss the Law they heard read.  Part of the Law required that the people live in booths during the feast of the 7th month, the feast of Tabernacles or booths.  Ezra directed the people to go into the hill country and bring back branches to build the booths.  The types of branches were from olive and wild olive trees and from myrtle, palm, and shade trees.

The people built the booths on their roofs, in their courtyards, and in the square by the Water Gate; one booth was built by the Gate of Ephraim.  The entire nation became involved in building booths and living in them to commemorate their forefather’s 40 year wandering in the desert after leaving Egypt.  Nehemiah recorded that the Festival of Tabernacles was never before celebrated like it was at that time in Jerusalem

The Wild Olive Tree

In the past various Bible scholars translated the Hebrew êtz shamen as oil tree or pine tree; however, today most Bible scholars and botanists agree that êtz shamen is the wild olive tree. The wild olive tree is the Elaeagnus angustifolia, also known as the oleaster and Russian olive.  The oleaster was native to southern Europe and western Asia.  Dense stands are present in river bottoms where the water table is seldom more than two feet below the ground surface.  At the same time, oleaster is drought tolerant and indifferent to wind and heat. In Israel, oleaster is found in woodlands (e.g., around Mount Tabor), shrub-lands, and on Mount Hermon. In some parts of the United States, oleaster has naturalized and is considered an invasive weed. Oleaster is a thorny shrub or small tree. The oleaster tree has several uses.  It can be used to make booths for Jewish festivals.  The flower produces oil used to make perfume.  A gum from the plant is used in calico printing.  The hard, fine-grained wood of the trunk and branches is used for posts and beams and for wood carving.  The wood makes excellent fuel.  In some countries, to include Palestine, oleaster trees are pruned into hedges.

Symbolism: Security

Despite  building a secure wall around Jerusalem in a short 52 days, the Jews were aware that their security did not come from rocks and mortar.  Their security came from God.  As early as the days of King Solomon, the Jews had a proverb that described the source of their security: “He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for his children it will be a refuge” (Proverbs 14:26, NIV-SB, 2002).  Just as Old Testament Jews relied on God for their security, so do New Testament Christians.  Christians have a secure position based on Christ as savior and redeemer.  Still, St. Peter cautioned new Christians to be on guard so that they did not get carried away by lawless men (and women) and fall from their secure position (2 Peter 3:17-18).  In addition to guarding against erroneous teaching, Christians are to grow in the knowledge of Christ.

Over the past year, I spent time writing this blog, e.g., reading the Bible story where the plant is located along with its historical setting, researching the plant origins and characteristics, and prayerfully considering the plant’s symbolism.  Recently, I’ve become convicted about the time consumed by these activities – albeit Bible-centered activities.   They have taken from and taken over my God-focused time and my prayer time.  I think Peter would have included my deviation from God-focused devotions as a way to fall from a secure position in Christ.

Reflection:  Think over your activities, e.g., church related and possibly even Bible-study related.  Are any of them interfering with God-focused time?

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 June 2, 2016; Carolyn A. Roth

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Home in Jerusalem, A New Hope

Citrus medica, NK

The story of the return of the first exiles is told in 2 Chronicles 36:22-23 and Ezra chapter 1-3:6.

King Cyrus of Persia conquered Babylon in 539 B.C. One of his first acts was to decree that the Jewish people could go to Jerusalem and re-build the temple to their God. Cyrus returned to Sheshbazzar, a prince of Judah, articles from the first temple that Nebuchadnezzar brought from Jerusalem. In 537 B.C. a company of close to 50,000 individuals along with horses, mules, camels and donkeys arrived in Jerusalem.

Several months later, the Jews assembled in Jerusalem. The priests Zerubabbel and Jeshua built the Altar of the God of Israel. Despite the Jew’s fear of surrounding peoples, they sacrificed burnt offerings on the Altar according to the Law of Moses. Both morning and evening sacrifices were made. Then, following the Law of Moses they celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:33-43).

The Feast of Tabernacles also called the Festival of Sukkoth (booths) was a festival of joy, referred to in Jewish prayer and literature as the Season of Rejoicing (Rich, 2011). The significance of Sukkoth is two-fold:  a) reminder of the 40 years the Children of Israel wandered in the wilderness living in temporary shelters and 2) a celebration of the fall harvest. Sukkoth lasted seven days. During the seven days, or some part of the seven days, Jews built and lived in temporary shelters as their ancestors did in the wilderness.

Observance of Sukkoth involves Four Species of plants:

1)     citron, citrus fruit similar to a lemon, in Hebrew called etrog;

2)     a palm branch, in Hebrew called lulav;

3)     two willow branches, in Hebrew called aravot;

4)     three myrtle branches, in Hebrew called hadassim.

The palm, two willow, and three myrtle branches were bound together and collectively known as the lulav because the palm branch was the largest plant. The lulav was placed in the right hand and the etrog in the left. Jews recited a blessing and waved the species in six directions (east, south, west, north, up, and down), symbolizing that God is everywhere. In ancient Jerusalem the four species were held while Jews processed around the Altar of the Temple.

The Citron

The citron of Sukkoth is the Citrus medica, also known as goodly fruit. The origin of the citron is not known; possibly it came from India. Seeds were found in Mesopotamia excavations dating back to 4000 B.C.  The original goodly fruit of Leviticus may have been a cone from the cedar tree; however, by the Restoration, the citron was the accepted goodly fruit.  Citron is acclimated to a wide variety of soils as long as soil is aerated. Citron is a small evergreen shrub or tree growing to a height of 15 feet. The economic life of the tree is 25-30 years. Larger fruit grow from branch cuttings than from seeds, therefore most propagation is done through cuttings. The fruit is about the size and shape of a lemon. The outer rind or peel can be smooth or rough with many ridges and indentations. When young, the fruit is dark green, but turns yellow with maturity (in about 3 months).  When fruit ripens on trees, citrons are aromatic and the inner peel is very tender. In comparison to other citrus fruits, citron pulp is drier, sourer, and less tasty. The main use of citron is in religious celebrations, e.g., The Festival of Tabernacles. Also, fruit peel is candied and used as a flavoring in cakes, pastries, and jams. Citron peel is used to produce citron water and may be used to flavor wine and vermouth.

Symbolism: Hope

In the past, citron had been associated with perfection and hope for fertility and abundance in the new agriculture year. When the returned exiles celebrated Sukkoth with the citron, they were hopeful. Once again, they were in the Promised Land; they hoped for a new future in Jerusalem.  The archaic or ancient definition of hope is desire accompanied by expectation that the desire would be fulfilled. Another word for hope is trust.

Prophets predicted the exile of the Jews because of their apostasy. These same prophets promised that God, not an earthly king, would restore the Jews to their home land. After 70 years of captivity, they were home and remembered God’s promises (Jeremiah 29:10-14). God said he would give them hope and a future. He was going to send rain; streams would run again on the dry land (Isaiah 44:3). God knew that newly returned exiles feared their neighbors, so he reassured them that all who raged against them would be put to shame and disgraced (Isaiah 41:11). The Festival of Tabernacles was a wonderful time to come together as a community,  praise God for his care, celebrate the abundance of the fall harvest, and hope – expectantly believe – in a prosperous future.

The returned Jews planned to rebuild the Temple. Having a new Temple would mean God dwelt in their midst. In contrast, New Testament Christians know that Christ lives in them; he is always in their midst. At the same time, they live in hope. Their hope is for eternal life, the redemption of their bodies when Christ comes the second time (Romans 8:23-25, Titus 1:2).

Paul wrote to the young churches about hope. He told the Romans that hope that is seen is not hope at all because no one hopes for what they already have (Romans 8:24-25). Rather we hope for what we do not have and have not seen. While we are hoping for eternal life with Christ, our attitude should be joyful (Romans 12:12). Many times people who are hopeful and yearn for something do not feel joy; they are anxious, restless, and cannot sleep at night. Yet, Christians do not have to experience any anxiety about life after death and redemption of our bodies. Our belief and trust —  our hope — for eternal life comes from God, who cannot lie (Titus, 1:2).

Christians live in hope, but still experience trials, temptations, and persecution. Paul wrote to the  Thessalonians, that he constantly prayed for their endurance inspired by hope in Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 1:3). St. Peter advised us to not be surprised by the painful trials we suffer as if something strange was happening to us (1 Peter 4:12). Rather hope in eternity with Christ helps us endure the present on earth, where we live as strangers.

Reflection.  “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).

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 May 18, 2016

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