Cumin – Poison or spice????

Bible References: Matthew 23.1-32; Isaiah 28.24-28.

Matthew is the only gospel writer who recorded the seven “Woes” which were part of Jesus’s teaching in the Temple Courtyard during Holy Week. This day must have been difficult and exhausting for Jesus. Group after group, i.e., Sadducees, Pharisees, lawyers, teachers, and Herodians, came forward to challenge him. They attempted to trip him up so that they could condemn both his answers and him. At one point during challenges, Jesus spoke seven “Woes” in which he condemned both  Pharisees and scribes.

In the fourth “Woe,” Jesus told Pharisees and scribes that they tithe on herbs—mint, dill, and cumin; but, neglect the more important parts of the Law that have to do with justice, mercy, and faithfulness. He advised them to practice justice, mercy, and faithfulness while tithing on herbs. Notice, Jesus didn’t tell Pharisees that tithing on grown herbs was wrong. Just the opposite, Jesus reinforced the need for God’s people to tithe. At the same time, Jesus instructed listeners that loving God and seeking justice were the greater good.

When Jesus identified tithing herbs to Pharisees in Jerusalem, he named cumin (Cuminum cyminum). Cumin was closely aligned with Persian cuisine.  Jerusalemites, many who had ancestors who were returnees from the Babylonian captivity, were familiar with cumin. Ancient Greeks used cumin as a table condiment, similar to the way we use a salt shaker.

Harvesting cumin is time-consuming because it is largely done by hand when seeds turn brown. Seeds are dried, then ground. Supposedly, cumin seeds harvested in the morning are  most pungent.

Cumin is safe when eaten in foods in normal amount. In larger amounts, cumin may slow blood clotting and make bleeding disorders worse. In individuals with diabetes mellitus, cumin can lower blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia). Cumin consumption isn’t recommended if a woman is pregnant or is breast-feeding a child. Cumin is an essential oil; however, as an oil cumin can cause skin irritation and blisters, spasms, and seizures.

Although Jesus identified cumin in the New Testament, cumin was mentioned in the Old Testament in the Poem of the Plowman (Isaiah 28.24-28). In that poem, Isaiah said that a farmer plows soil, scatters seeds, and threshes crops. Each type of seed, i.e., barley, spelt, caraway, cumin, requires its own type of soil, sowing method, and threshing technique to get an optimal harvest. The order of these three actions comes from God. They can’t be completed in a different sequence and still obtain an optimal harvest.

As I read that God taught farmers millennia ago how to plant and harvest something as small as cumin, I wondered if today God teaches computer programmers how to write detailed software programs, scientists to extend cryogenic science, and engineers to develop nuclear propulsion engines. Isaiah would say, “Yes.” All knowledge comes from God, whether it is planting a crop or engineering a rocket.

It takes about four months to grow cumin plants. If you want the delicious taste of fresh cumin in food, the wait is worth-while. Growing as a Christian, growing in Jesus, is time-consuming. As I look backward over my life, I can see Christian growth. Importantly, I know that I can’t take credit for that growth. God taught farmers how to plant cumin, even though it has the potential to be harmful. God planted me and assists me to grow. Yes, I have the potential to be harmful; but, I also have the potential to be tasty.

Reflection: I have a jar of cumin in my spice cabinet, but rarely use it.  I also have cumin essential oil. This is the first time I realized cumin was potentially dangerous. What in your life is dangerous to your spiritual well-being that here-to-fore you never thought about? Which of your behaviors are dangerous to your country?

To learn more about Bible plants, visit my we website: http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com

Narcissus — Connect with Memory

Bible Reference: Isaiah 35.1-2.

Multiple types of narcissus (daffodils) are present in the twenty-first century because horticulturists developed many cultivars. The narcissus that grows in Israel is the Narcissus tazetta, commonly referred to as a daffodil. Neither words, narcissus nor daffodil, are present in the Bible; however, botanists and Bible scholars proposed that the narcissus was referenced twice:

  1. The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. “Like the crocus it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy” (Isaiah 35.1-2 NIV). Although the NIV Bible translates the flower in this reference as crocus, other Bible translations referred to the plant as narcissus.
  2. Solomon’s bride said that she is the Rose of Sharon (Song of Songs 2.1). In Hebrew, she named herself ha’bazlith or bazlith (bazluth), meaning “she is pealing,” or she has many layers, literally layers of an onion-like flower bulb which would be the narcissus.

Most of us know what a daffodil looks like. They grow in USA gardens and are for sale in stores in late winter and early spring. The Bible daffodil was a different variety than the beautiful yellow blooms that we plant or purchase. The Narcissus tazetta has white or cream-colored petals (usually six) surrounding a central orange-yellow cup. Often, bulbs are planted in the fall before the first frost.

Bulbs grow underground and while they may appear similar to an onion bulb they lack the classic onion odor. The bulb is the deadliest portion of the narcissus plant because it can be confused with the wild onion and because the bulb contains the highest concentrations of a toxic chemical, lycorine. Eating any part of narcissus can cause nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. Although never reported in humans, more severe problems, such as low blood pressure, drowsiness, and liver damage were reported in animals that ate large amounts of narcissus, particularly bulbs. The narcissus bulb contains a second poisonous chemical, oxalates, which are microscopic and needle-like. When ingested, oxalates cause severe burning and irritation of the lips, tongue, and throat.

Before I started to research the Bible narcissus, I was unaware of the relationship of the narcissus/daffodil flower to the Warsaw Jewish Ghetto Uprising in 1943. Uprising-commander, Marek Edelman placed daffodils at the foot of the Warsaw Ghetto Fighters Monument each year until his death. The monument was created in 1948 to remember the brave people (Jews and Poles) who fought and mostly perished in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. Narcissus paper pins and fresh flowers are part of a campaign to “Connect through Memory.”

Today, the symbolism of narcissus is “new birth.” The great Christian theologian and author of over fifty books, John Piper23 averred that “new birth” has three parts. What happens in new birth isn’t:

  1. About getting new religion, but, getting new life. Obtaining new birth is acknowledging your inability to live without a Savior.
  2. Merely affirming the supernatural Jesus, but, experiencing the supernatural in Jesus yourself. I think of the supernatural within as the Holy Spirit that begins with new birth.
  3. Improvement of the old human nature; but, creation of a new nature (the nature we were meant to be) in each of us. We are forgiven and cleansed by the indwelling Spirit of God.

Reflection: Clearly, having a rebirth through Jesus Christ should move self-worship to God-worship. That movement is a process. It doesn’t happen all at once and it doesn’t happen if we aren’t intentional about making it happen. If you want to be more intentional about putting God front-and-center in your life, what could you do? Is attending church necessary? Is attending church all you need to do? Ponder what would happen if each resident of the USA made an intentional effort to worship God rather than himself/herself.

Copyright December 19, 2019; Carolyn A. Roth

Please visit my website for more information on Bible plants: www. Carolyn Roth Ministry.com.

Crocus in the Desert

White and purple crocus flower | GardenersPath.com

Bible Reference: Isaiah 35.1.

The Bible named both crocus and saffron, an edible spice of crocus. Currently, true crocus doesn’t grow in Israel. The flower named “crocus” that grows there has harmful effects. Here’s what the Bible says about crocus and saffron:

“Your plants are an orchard of pomegranates with choice fruits, with henna and nard, nard and saffron” (Song of Songs 4.13-14 NIV).

“The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice and shout for joy” (Isaiah 35.1 NIV).

In this Song of Songs’ passage the Groom lauded his Bride by comparing her to sweet-smelling flowers and fruits. Despite the Groom’s charming description, I resonate more to Isaiah’s description of the desert blooming with crocus (plural croci). In my Bible (NIV), the title of this Isaiah chapter is “Joy of the Redeemed.” That’s me—I have been redeemed from my previous sinful, self-centered life by God. Instead of thorns, thistles, and weeds, I burst forth as a crocus blooming in the desert.

The name “crocus” is often used to describe two unrelated plants. The true crocus belongs to the iris family of plants. In Israel, another plant, colchicum (Colchicum troodi, C. tunicatum), is a crocus relative. The confusion between the true crocus and colchicum is fostered by laypersons naming colchicum as “autumn crocus.” Appendix A, Table 3 contains the differentiating characteristics of crocus and colchicum.

The true crocus includes popular spring-blooming varieties that mark winter’s end, fall-blooming species, and saffron crocus (Crocus sativum) used in cooking. The saffron crocus blooms in autumn. Saffron is an expensive spice; over 90% of saffron is produced in Iran.

Early spring saffron crocus

Several varieties of colchicum grow in Israel. The colchicum (autumn crocus) bulb contains a poison (colchicine).22 Colchicine poison symptoms include burning in the mouth and throat, fever, abdominal pain and vomiting, and ultimately kidney failure. These symptoms can progress to multiple organ failure. There isn’t a specific antidote for colchicine poison; rather, symptoms are treated, i.e., anti-emetics for nausea and vomiting and intra-venous fluids for kidney failure. If patients don’t die, recovery starts in six-to-eight days.

Reflection: Prevention of colchicine poison is better than treatment. What in your life is poisonous? More importantly, how can you not plant or nourish poison in your own life? Would increasing your service to God be valued in your community? In the USA?

Copyright 12/18/2019; Carolyn A. Roth

Please visit my website for more information on Bible plants: http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com

Rooted in God 2

Rooted in God 2

Description: Like us, plants groan under the impact of sin in the world. They wait in eager expectation for a new earth to be revealed.

Most people are unaware that the Bible mentions over 125 different plants. Yet, Holy Scriptures contain no excess information or “filler.” Every scripture is given by God’s and is valuable for instruction in holy living. Whether a fruit tree, cereal grain, or thistle, each plant has a purpose in Bible stories.

Plants had meanings in ancients’ lives, and that meaning extends to Christian lives of 21st individuals. We can learn, or perhaps refused to learn, Godly lessons from Bible plants.

Where to Purchase: www.Amazon.com or  www.CarolynRothMinistry.com.

Recommendation: This is a fun-to-read, educational book ~ a delightful surprise! Carolyn combines her vast knowledge as a Bible scholar and Master Gardener to enrich familiar Bible stories with background history as well as with fascinating facts about the often overlooked plants that are mentioned in these stories. She then adapts her plant messages to challenge the reader to examine their own life and faith. Thank you, Carolyn, for making all these unexpected connections for our benefit. – Kathy Dudley

 

What an Awful Name: Dove’s Dung

Bible Reference: 2 Kings 6.24-7.20.

The king of Aram, Ben-Hadad, mobilized his entire army and attacked Israel (Northern Kingdom) besieging its capital, Samaria. Probably, the attack occurred around 850 BC when Joram was king of the northern tribes.  Elisha was still the main prophet in the Northern Kingdom and remained in Samaria during the siege. The siege lasted so long that a famine occurred throughout the city. People were starving. Cannibalism occurred.  A donkey’s head sold for eighty silver shekels and a pint of seed pods for five shekels.

In the siege of Samaria, the writer used a pint of flower bulbs to demonstrate food scarcity.  A comparison is that in ancient Israel, the value of a male child, one month through five years-of-age, was five silver shekels, while the value of a female child was three silver shekels.

Many botanists and Bible scholars agreed that the cab was from the Ornithogalum umbellatum.  The popular name of this plant is the star of Bethlehem because the flower’s six petals are reminiscent of the star over Bethlehem at Jesus’s birth. Another name for this plant is “dove’s dung,” a distasteful name for a beautiful plant.  Most likely the name came from Hebrews viewing large fields containing the white star of Bethlehem flower in the spring.  From a distance, the small white flowers appeared like dove’s droppings.

Whether or not the star of Bethlehem plant was edible generated much discussion. Reading the arguments,  the noted plant scholar, Dr. James Duke, harvested a few bulbs from his lawn.14 After boiling them vigorously, he ate one.  To Duke, the bulbs tasted similar to soap and had a bitter aftertaste.  He added salt and found that the taste improved. Because Duke experienced some shortness of breath following the ingestion of only two bulbs, he concluded he would need to be near starvation to eat star of Bethlehem bulbs.

Figure 7.1, Ornithogalum umbellatum (Star of Bethlehem).

In the United States, the star of Bethlehem is sometimes considered an invasive weed, but, other individuals value the flower for its delicate beauty. Beauty and value depends on an individual’s perspective. I planted both white and pink star of Bethlehem bulbs in the church Bible garden. Plants multiplied through corm (small bulb) division; each year I have more star of Bethlehem flowers that grow in the garden.

Value is something intrinsically desirable.3  In several places, Bible writers presented perspectives on what was valued and valuable:

1. Moses regarded disgrace for the sake of God as more valuable than treasures of Egypt.

2. Israelite proverbs averred that kings value a man who speaks the truth.

3. A husband of a wife of noble character lacked nothing of value.

4. In Paul’s first letter to his beloved disciple Timothy, Paul reminded Timothy that “Physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things” (1Timothy 4.8 NIV).

God considers his people, both Israelites and Christians, valuable.  Jesus told disciples to stop worrying about what they would eat or drink by using ravens as an example.  Ravens are a fairly large, black bird with a shrill voice and aggressive manner. Normally, ravens aren’t considered attractive birds.  Ravens don’t sow or reap, nor do they have storerooms or barns; yet, God feeds them. Jesus reminded and reassured disciples that they were more valuable to God than birds, and that God would meet their needs.

Jesus attempted to teach individuals to think about and even change what they valued. He told a parable of a man who searched for just the right pearl.  When the man found the pearl of great value, he sold all his belongings and bought it. This parable can be compared to a person seeking truth and meaning in life.  Once they find God, all possessions become secondary in comparison to following God.

On another occasion, Jesus’s teaching on what was valued and valuable didn’t reassure listeners, i.e., Jesus taught about trust using a parable of a shrewd manager. The Pharisees who loved money were listening and sneering at Jesus.  Aware of their actions and hearts, Jesus said to them, “What is highly valued (i.e., money) among men is detestable in God’s sight” (Luke 16.15 NIV). Jesus likened the love of money to a master or a god.  He told his disciples that they can’t serve both God and money.

Reflection: I value my relationship with Jesus, my husband, my church, and my family. Who or what do you value? Who are you giving your allegiance to? God? The world? Money? What would increase service to God, and less service to worldly causes, look like in your life?

Copyright: 12/18/2019; Carolyn Adams Roth

Please visit my website for more information about Bible plants: http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com

Sowing Weeds

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Christ’s Parable of  Weeds in a Wheat Field is in Matthew 13:24-30.

Christ was seated by the Lake of Galilee when he told The Parable of the Weeds (Matthew 13:1).  The parable is one of six parables that Christ used to demonstrate the nature of the kingdom of heaven. Here is the parable: A farmer planted good wheat seeds in his field. “Good” wheat seeds meant that contaminants, e.g. weeds, wild oats, and chaff, are absent from the wheat seeds. At night the farmer’s enemy sowed weeds or tares among the wheat. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, so did the weeds. The weeds were intermingled with the wheat.

A servant told the owner about the weeds. He asked the owner if he and the other servants should pull out the weeds. The owner said “No” and explained that when the servants pull out the weeds, they could inadvertently pull up the wheat. The farmer understood that weed and wheat roots planted near each other intertwined. If weeds are removed, wheat roots and stems would be pulled up or damaged. The farmer directed the servant to let both wheat and weeds grow together until the harvest. Then, the servants could go through the fields, pull and bundle the weeds, and burn them. Wheat would be harvested and taken into the owner’s barn.

The parable demonstrated the growth of the kingdom of heaven from its original planting, through growth, to harvest. The field is the world. God, the owner, sowed good seed; individuals who were destined to follow him. The devil, the enemy, sowed weeds into the field; individuals who were against or indifferent to God’s teachings. The servants are God’s angels.  God refused to allow the angels to remove the weeds from the world because the lives (roots) of rejecters and followers are intertwined, just like the roots of weeds and wheat. 

Harvest represented the second coming of Christ. At that time, the angels are free to remove the weeds.  God rejecters will be collected like the weeds they are. They will be bundled and burned.  Then, the angels will gather God’s followers. These good plants will be brought into the storehouse of God.

Weeds, Darnel

The weed referred to in the Parable of the Weed was most likely the Lolium temulentum. This weed is also known as darnel and poison ryegrass. The darnel is indigenous to the Mediterranean region including the Middle East. Darnel infests wheat fields and other cultivated land and spreads as a contaminant of wheat. It is widely distributed in Israel to include Mediterranean woodlands and shrublands, shrub-steppes and deserts to include extreme deserts. Even a few darnel grains can adversely affect crop Lolium temulentum var. arvensequality. Darnel seeds are poisonous to people and livestock.

Symbolism: Malice, Malicious

The enemy who sowed the weeds among the good wheat was malicious. His behavior was spiteful, mean, and malevolent.  He wanted to destroy the good wheat that the farmer was growing. An Old Testament proverb focused on maliciousness:  “A malicious man disguised himself with his lips, but in his heart he harbors deceit. Though his speech is charming do not believe him ….. His malice may be concealed by deception, but his wickedness will be exposed in the assembly” (Proverbs 26:24-27). The proverb also teaches us how to respond to a malicious man and his ultimate outcome.   

The New Testament is contains instruction to avoid malicious behavior (Table 12.1). Christ told his disciples that what goes into a man does not make him unclean (Mark 7:17-23). Rather, what is inside and comes out determines whether a man is clean or unclean. If a person’s heart is clean, good things will come out of them. Unfortunately, if a person’s heart is unclean, he will think and spew forth all kinds of unclean words, such as evil thoughts, malice, and deceit.  Similarly, an unclean heart produces unclean living, e.g., sexual immorality, adultery, theft, murder.   

St. Paul addressed malice and malicious talk repeatedly in letters to early churches and in letters to his young protégé Timothy. Notably, Paul and Peter were both writing to believers. These two saints were exhorting believers to set aside spiteful, mean, and malevolent words. Malice can be harmful to a church; e.g., Paul wrote that a potential deacon’s wife must “not be a malicious talker” (I Timothy 3:11). Despite man’s excellent traits, e.g., sincere, temperate, honest, if his wife is a malicious talker, then the man is disqualified to be a deacon. Believers – men, women, and children – must all be attuned to what comes out of their mouths.

Table 12.1, Directions to refute maliciousness

Speaker

Direction

Scripture

Christ to his disciples

These thoughts/behaviors make a person unclean: evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance, and folly

Mark 7:20-23

Paul to the Ephesus church

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.

Ephesians 4:31

Paul to the Colosse church

Rid yourself of these things: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.

Colossians 3: 8

Paul to Timothy about deacon’s wives

Wives of church deacons should be women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers, but temperate and trustworthy in everything.

I Timothy 3:11

Paul to Timothy

Paul warns that a man who teaches false doctrines and does not accept sound instruction is conceited and understands nothing.  He has an unhealthy interest in controversies, quarrels about words that end in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of corrupt minds.

I Timothy 6:3-5

Peter to Christians in Asia Minor

Rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of any kind.

I Peter 2:1

Reflection. In a way, it is good that the heart and our words are so closely aligned. Hearing our own malicious words can be a clue that there is something wrong with our hearts. Do you take the time to reflect on what you say?

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 6, 2013; Carolyn A. Roth

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Captured by Seaweed

macrocystis-pyrifera-1

Reference: Jonah 2:5

The story of Jonah is about disobedience and redemption. Most children know that Jonah disobeyed God when God told him to go to Nineveh and preach repentance to the city. Jonah didn’t want to go there, so he got on a ship bound for Tarshish in the opposite direction from Nineveh. Jonah believed that if he left the land of the Israelites, he could escape God.

A huge storm occurred in the Mediterranean Sea. Even the experienced sailors were frightened. They decided to cast lots to see who had disobeyed their god and brought the storm on them. The lot fell to Jonah. He admitted that he was disobeying God and recommended that the sailors throw him overboard. Reluctantly, the ship’s sailors threw Jonah overboard. Once Jonah was off the ship, the storm abated, and the ship proceeded on its way.

A large fish swallowed Jonah. Jonah’s prayed and called out to God while he was in the belly of the giant fish. Later Jonah wrote about the experience (Jonah chapter 2) so we read what happened to him and what he thought. Jonah described how the sea waters closed over him and sea weeds wrapped around his head.  Jonah noted that he was at the roots of the mountains in the ocean suggesting that he fell to the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea.  Jonah remained in the belly of the fish three days. Then, the fish vomited up Jonah onto dry land. (Ugh, I bet he was slimy). The land was on the eastern side of the Mediterranean Sea, not all that far from Nineveh. When Jonah went to Nineveh and preached repentance, the Ninevehites repented.

Sea Weed

The Bible referenced seaweed only once (Jonah 2:5, NIV). Although the New International Version translated the plant that wrapped around Jonah’s head as seaweed, other sources translated it as “weed” (ESV) or as “eelgrass” (Douglas & Tenney, 2011). I have a problem with the translation of eelgrass because eelgrass is generally confined to tidal water and grows out to a water depth of 35 feet.  A close reading of Jonah chapter 1 suggested that the ship Jonah was on was away from land and out into the Mediterranean Sea when the storm hit.

My research indicates that the seaweed referred to by Jonah may have been the Macrocystis pyrifera also known as brown seaweed. It is a marine alga and known as the Sequoia of the sea because it can grow 45 meters (about 147 foot) in length.  It grows in the Mediterranean Sea. The stalks are thin and readily float through the waters. It could have easily wrapped around Jonah’s neck. Currently, it is eaten as a good source of minerals.

brown-kelp

Symbolism:  Captured

Perhaps the type of plant is not as important as what it symbolized. The sea weed captured Jonah. Capture means catching, winning, or gaining control by force. Capture is exactly what the seaweed did to Jonah. He was captured so that the giant fish could swallow him.

I have been captured, or caught, by Christ and I am so glad. Now, I have to stop struggling and let God control my life.  The problem, or perhaps not so much a problem, is that God won’t control me by force. Bummer, I wish God would just “make” me do the right things. But, He doesn’t operate that way. I have to willingly give my life to Him.  That is really difficult for me to do because I have been used to controlling my own life and future.  You know:  “I am a self- made woman.” “I can do it myself.”

Reflection: What about you? Are you willing to let God capture you? Will you willing and totally yield to God?

Copyright: January 5, 2017; Carolyn A. Roth

Please visit my website for other information: www.CarolynRothMinistry.com

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