Firmness of a Cedar

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This tiny deodor cedar grows in St. John Lutheran Bible Garden

Reference: Descriptions of cedar wood in the Temple are found in 1 Kings Chapter 5-7 and 2 Chronicles chapter 2-4.

In the fourth year (960 B.C.) of Solomon’s reign as king over a combined Israel and Judah, he started to build a Temple to God. Solomon’s father David averred that God gave him specific plans for construction of the temple (1 Chronicles 28:11-19). David relayed the construction plans to Solomon.

Several types of wood were used in the temple construction, e.g., cedar, pine, algum, and olive. The temple was decorated with plant motifs, e.g., pomegranates, lilies, palm trees, and gourds. The cedar tree and cedar will be described in this section. The temple was for worshiping God and to house the Ark of the Covenant (Testimony) and other holy furnishings. It was built in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, the site of the threshing floor that David bought from Ornan the Jebusite. The basic structure of the temple was approximately two times the size of the Tabernacle, 90 feet long, 30 feet wide and 45 feet high. A 30 feet wide and 15 feet long vestibule or porch was attached to the front of the temple. As with the Tabernacle, the entrance faced east.  The outside of the Temple was made of stone; however, the interior walls were made of cedar board covered with gold. The Temple was completed in 7 years.

Solomon contracted with King Hiram of Tyre to supply the cedar and pine logs from the forests of Lebanon. In exchange for the wood, Solomon provided Hiram’s court and servants with food during while the timber was cut and transported. In addition to the food and wine Solomon gave King Hiram for the wood, Solomon conscripted 30,000 laborers to cut and transport the wood from Lebanon (I Kings 5:13-14). These men were Israelites who were forced into labor. Every month a cadre of 10,000 men was sent to Lebanon; thus, each man was away from home one month out of three. The timber was transported by rafts from Lebanon at Joppa, the port for Jerusalem. Solomon conveyed the wood from Joppa to Jerusalem.

Cedar wood was and is used in edifices constructed to last centuries, even millennia. Cedar is durable, free from knots, and easy to work. The heart wood is a warm red and beautifully grained. Cedars exude a gum or balsam which gives the tree an aromatic scent in which people take delight. In contrast, most insects dislike the smell and taste; consequently, they do not attack the tree (Shewell-Cooper, 1988). Fungus is the most common cause of disease in plants. The cedar is resistant to fungal disease so dry and wet rot rarely occur. An expert botanist, Solomon knew the cedar’s characteristics and preferred them to trees more available to him in Israel, e.g., sycamore and box trees.

DSC00004 This cedar is growing in Israel.

The Cedar Tree

The scientific name for the Lebanon cedar is the Cedrus libani.  Cedars are an evergreen tree with trunk and older branches silvery and cracked. Leaves present as silvery-blue needles arranged in clumps on short spur-like projects from branches. The flower is a cone. Seeds germinate best in the cool temperatures of high hills and mountains. Cedars grow slowly and it takes centuries to produce a majestic cedar.

Symbolism: Firm

The Hebrew word for a cedar tree is ʾerez a word derived from the primitive root ʾâraz, meaning to be firm as in the case of a cedar tree (Strong, 2010). The cedar tree was firm because of its tenacious root structure, its long life in nature, its resistance to insect infestation, and its endurance as a building material. The adjective firm, means securely or solidly fixed in place; having a structure that resists pressure; and well-founded. The opposite of firm is weak or uncertain.

Fifty verses in the Bible address firm or firmness, 29 in the Old Testament and 21 in the New Testament. In the Old Testament two themes emerged in relation to firm. The first theme was that God is firm in his purpose (Job 36:5), plans (Psalm 33:11), love (Psalm 89:2), and statutes (Psalm 93:5). The second theme was that if God’s people stood firm, God would deliver them from their enemies, e.g., Pharaoh and the Egyptians (Exodus 14:13), Moab and Ammon (2 Chronicles 20:17), and from wicked men (Proverbs 12:7). At the same time, God warned Old Testament Israel, “If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all” (Isaiah 7:9). If Israel succumbed to the life style and pressure of surrounding nations and their faith became weak, then they would not stand as individuals or as a nation.

In four places in the New Testament, Christ said that if followers stood firm to the end, they would be “saved” or have “life eternal” (Matthew 10:22, 24:12-13; Mark 13:12-13; Luke 21:19). But, in the same verses Christ warned his followers that wicked/worldly men would hate them because these wicked men hated Christ. Christ described ways hate would become visible, e.g., brothers would betray brother and fathers their children, and children would rebel against parents. Until recently, when I read the descriptions of brother betraying brother or parents betraying their children, I always thought of Nazi Germany, Communist countries during the cold war, or Christians in China. More and more, I acknowledge hate and betrayal of Christians occurs daily in the United States. The result may not be that the life of a family member or dear friend is forfeited; but mental or spiritual death and physical illness can occur through betrayal and neglect after family members or friends embrace Jesus Christ.

Several Sundays ago, our Godly minister distributed a handout that said we live in a “post-Christian” society. A post Christian society is one in which the majority of individuals are not Christians. They do not follow the moral-ethical statutes and laws of God. We see evidence of this post-Christian modernism in efforts to remove the 10 Commandments from public buildings, eliminate prayer and after school Bible study from public schools, turn college religion courses into philosophy courses, and forbid Christian prayer before public meetings. I am very uncomfortable with the disconnection between our government and God’s gracious loving principles for our lives. Moving God from in our nation’s public life and symbols, means the United States no long affirms God and Christ. That leads us back to Isaiah’s warning to the nation of Israel, “If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand firm at all” (Isaiah, 7:9).

Prayer and Reflection: Help us to believe and act like we live in a Christian nation. Help us to stop being afraid to speak and write about Christ. Amen.  Ultimately, how we are forced to act can become what we believe.

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 12, 2015: Carolyn A. Roth

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