Category Archives: Plant Parables

Laughter of Fools

Bible Reference: Ecclesiastes 7.6

Possibly, Ecclesiastes was written by Solomon, one of his offspring, or a learned teacher in the Israelite assembly.  Within Ecclesiastes, the writer referred to himself as “Teacher.” One saying the Teacher wrote was, “Like the crackling of thorns under the pot, so is the laughter of fools. This too is meaningless” (Ecclesiastes 7.6 NIV).

Israelite cooking fires were located in outer courtyards or inside homes. The time of year influenced where the fire was located.  In hot weather, the cooking fire was outside the home. In cooler or cold weather, the fire was located inside the home to give heath. Many poorer Israelites cooked over a simple hole in the ground surrounded by rocks (a fire pit). Wealthier Israelites had ovens, either inside the home or in the courtyard.

In ancient Israel, wood was the primary fuel used for cooking; however, in Ecclesiastes 7.6, thorns fueled fire. Thorn bushes burn faster and with less heat than dense wood, i.e., oak, olive. Many times when thorns were collected and burned, green branches were present at the base, even when the thorn bush appeared dry on top and in the middle. When burned, green branches emitted a crackling sound. Thorns, as fuel, made the point of the Teacher’s saying: The laughter of fools is like a short-lived fire fueled by thorns, not dense wood. A fool’s laughter, although perhaps loud, doesn’t last very long. It is relatively valueless or meaningless.

In ancient Israel, wood was the primary fuel used for cooking; however, in Ecclesiastes 7.6, thorns fueled fire. Thorn bushes burn faster and with less heat than dense wood, i.e., oak, olive. Many times when thorns were collected and burned, green branches were present at the base, even when the thorn bush appeared dry on top and in the middle. When burned, green branches emitted a crackling sound. Thorns, as fuel, made the point of the Teacher’s saying: The laughter of fools is like a short-lived fire fueled by thorns, not dense wood. A fool’s laughter, although perhaps loud, doesn’t last very long. It is relatively valueless or meaningless.

The thorn plant of Ecclesiastes is the Sarcopoterium spinosum. Other names are the thorny burnet and prickly burnet.9,10 On the female flower, ovaries are set in four-or-five joined sepals so that female flowers resemble a covered pot. These flower pots are numerous on stems. When the female flower is young, it is green, and turns red-orange at maturity and rusty brown as it dries.  In the heat of a fire, the flower “pots” produce a small explosive sound when they pop open. The sound resembles crackling. On the thorny burnet, thorns grow up to four inches. Individuals who harvest and prepare the thorny burnet for fuel and other purposes have a high chance of being scratched by thorns.

In Ecclesiastes 7.6, the meaning of thorny burnet was futility. Futility implies an action that has no use or purpose.3 Synonyms are ineffective, pointless, and vainness; an  antonym is useful. Although a thorny burnet fire can snap, crackle, and pop, and be pleasing to the ears, the sound adds little to the heat.

Paul identified several ways and situations where man’s thoughts were futile, i.e., useless and ineffective. Two points seem particularly important today.  First, God is revealed through his creation, yet unrighteous men neither glorified God, nor give him thanks. Instead their thinking becomes futile and their foolish hearts  darkened. They exchanged worship of the immortal God for worship of man-made images such as birds, animals,  and reptiles. Most men and women in the twenty-first century don’t worship animals, but, sometimes, they hang onto the words of men/women rather than focusing on God’s instruction for life.

Writing to the Corinthian church, Paul stated that “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sin” (1 Corinthians 15.17 NIV). Redemption of our bodies, eternal life in Christ, depends on a risen Lord. When I was in college, The Passover Plot.11 was required reading for anyone trying to be intellectual.  The book argued that Jesus and disciples implemented an elaborate ruse to have Jesus declared Messiah. Jesus never died on the cross. He was taken from the cross and hidden by close associates. Then, Jesus reappeared three days later to fulfill Jews’ expectations for the Messiah.

The problem with The Passover Plot’s argument is the lived experiences of individuals who saw both Jesus’s death and his resurrected body. Evidence of Jesus’s death comes from eye-witness accounts of non-believers as well as believers. In his resurrected body, Jesus appeared at least eleven times to over 500 people.

My reading The Passover Plot allowed me to appear intellectual when I discussed arguments against Jesus’s death during my college years. Yet, my arguments were as the crackle of thorn bushes in a cook fire—not of much value. Recently, I read another book, None Like Him.12 The author said that God is self-sufficient. That means that God doesn’t need my arguments for or against his existence. The phenomenon of Jesus’s death and resurrection may confound the wise, but, that doesn’t make it any less real. My take away message from reading both books, one futile and one valuable for Christian growth, is that reading and believing commentaries on the Bible should never take the place of reading (and believing) God’s word.

Reflection: What are you spending your time doing that isn’t of much value? Let me assure you that it didn’t take me more than a second to come up with several time-wasters in my life. How can you, more importantly, how are you going to eliminate these time-wasters from your life? If you spent more time promoting Christ’s message, how would that benefit the USA?

Copyright April 4, 2019. All rights reserved.

Mustard Trees and Seeds

Jesus seemed to like the tiny mustard seed; he used it to illustrate faith in several settings. One teaching found in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, illustrated how the Christian Church would grow. Here’s how Mark recorded Jesus’s words about growth of the Church:

What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade (Mark 4.30-32 NIV).

This illustration described the growth and expansion of God’s kingdom on earth, i.e., growth of the Christian Church. Although the Church began in a small province of the Roman Empire, it grew larger than the mightiest empire on earth.

Another time Jesus used the mustard seed in an illustration, he was in Caesarea Philippi. Jesus wasn’t with disciples when a man asked them to heal his son, possessed by a demon. Disciples were unable to heal the son. Jesus arrived and ordered the demon to leave the boy (Matthew 17.14-21).  After Jesus expelled the demon, disciples asked him why they couldn’t heal the man’s son.  Jesus responded that they had too little faith.  He told them that if they had faith the size of a mustard seed, they could say to a mountain, “Move from here to there” and the mountain would move (Matthew 17.21 ESV).  Jesus’s point was that nothing is impossible with sufficient faith, even when that amount of faith is as small as a tiny mustard seed.

Mustard Tree

In scientific communities, the mustard tree is the Salvadora perisica, commonly called the toothbrush tree.6 Indigenous to Persia (Iran), the mustard tree could have been brought into Palestine by traders. Alternatively, returned Jewish exiles may have brought  mustard tree seeds from Persia and planted them in gardens and fields. The mustard seed grows best in hot, arid climates; high humidity stunts tree growth. The mustard tree is an evergreen that can grow to twenty feet. Often, mustard trees have many branches that start to grow from the tree trunk low to the ground. The mustard tree can grow as wide as tall. Mustard trees reach full size in a few years.

Spread of Christianity

Like branches of a mustard tree, Christianity spread throughout the Roman Empire and into India and Ethiopia. In a few centuries, Christianity went from unheard of, to being outlawed, to the official religion of an empire. Mustard trees were used for shade because of their low-growing branches. Similarly, people from all nations took refuge under the canopy of Christianity. Unlike thorn trees (Ziziphus spina-christi), mustard trees have no thorns to  deter individuals from resting beneath them. Although wild animals sometimes fed on tree shoots, many branches grew high enough that predators couldn’t reach birds that nested in them.

Warning?????

In Jesus’s teaching about the mustard tree, birds settled in its branches. Some Bible commentators interpreted this clause as a warning to keep the early Christian church pure. In Old Testament scriptures, the phrase “birds of the air” was sometimes used to symbolize demonic forces. From this perspective, Jesus warned disciples to beware that Satan would attempt to encroach on the kingdom of God.

Certainly, Jesus warning became reality. In the first few centuries of the Christian church, Jews (Judaizers) advocated that newly converted Christian could be justified only by observing Jewish laws, i.e., circumcision, adherence to Jewish dietary laws. The Gnostics claimed they possessed elevated knowledge, a “higher truth.” The higher knowledge was acquired, not from the Bible or apostles’ teachings, but, from a higher mystical plain of existence. Individual with this special knowledge, for example, Jezebel in the Thyatiran church, believed they were elevated above other Christians because of their deeper knowledge (Revelation 2.18-25).

Not Really

At times, Bible scholars concluded that the black mustard (Brassica nigra) plant was the source of the mustard seed that Jesus referred to in teachings that used the mustard seed. Very likely, the true mustard tree was the Salvadora perisica.

Many powerful men attempted to stop the spread of “The Way,” the early name for the Christian church. The Jerusalem Jewish leadership tried to stop it when they arrested Jesus and turned him over to Pilate for crucifixion. King Herod attempted to stifle apostle’s teachings when he killed the apostle James and had Peter arrested. Paul was beaten, confined to house arrest, jailed, and finally murdered; however, Paul’s letters, many written while he was confined or jailed, were important to the spread of  the good news of Jesus in the Gentile world.

Despite many deterrents, the fledgling Christian church grew in numbers. Through Paul, Peter, and John’s letters, converts deepened their understanding of Jesus as Son of God. They came to understand the role of the Holy Spirit in individual lives and in the church. Jesus’s  mustard seed illustration came true in early centuries after his death and remains true today. Even with  anti-Christian rhetoric and entire denominations turning from God’s commands, continuance—even extension—of the church Jesus founded is inevitable.

Important for westernized societies is the answer to the question, “Where will Christianity spread next and/or grow even deeper roots?” Will it be in Greece, Rome, or Asia Minor where Christianity was first embraced? Perhaps, Germany and Great Britain, homes to great reformation thought? What about the United States, founded on principles of religious liberty? We need to pray that individuals in all nations experience Christian revival, so they can rest in the shade of God’s love.

Reflection: Will Christianity grow in your sphere of influence?

Copyright 10/03/2018; Carolyn A. Roth

Grapes from Thornbushes

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus averred that a man can’t gather grapes from thorn bushes. The second time that Jesus spoke of thorns in gospels was in the familiar parable of the sower and the seed. Most of us can recite this parable:

A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them.  Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them.  Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty (Matthew 13.3-8 ESV).

In the first century, many farmers scattered (broadcast) seed on top of the soil rather than plow soil, scattered seeds, then re-plowed soil to cover seeds.  The challenge with broadcasting seed is that seed falls various places, i.e., on a pathway, in thin soil, among thorns. Seeds sprouted and grew; but, thorns can surround good seedlings and choke their growth. Jesus’s interpretation of seed which fell among thorns is: “As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful” (Matthew 13.22 ESV).  

Thornbush

First century Palestine contained several types of thorns and thorn bushes. The Bible names several to them, i.e., Jotham’s thorn tree in Judges, crackling thorn bushes in Ecclesiastes, and Isaiah’s buckthorn (Rhamnus lycioides, R. palaestinus). In Israel, buckthorns grow in wood, shrub-lands, and the mountain vegetation of Mount Hermon.  The buckthorn is a slow-growing shrub, rarely reaching a height of six feet.

The Palestine buckthorn is evergreen.  It grows with a many-branched, tangled form, and velvety thorns.  Young stems are green; with maturity, bark turns gray. The buckthorn fruit is a small (1/4 inch), oval berry. Initially, the berry is green, but, turns black when ripe. Berries are poisonous to humans, but a good source of food for birds.

Symbolism: Trash

A Hebrew word for thorn is shayith1 which translates as trash, scrub, and thorn.  Trash is debris from plant materials, something worth little or nothing, and something thrown away. Trash is an excellent symbol for individuals who make a commitment to Jesus; then, quit living a Christian life because worldly cares choke their commitment. God’s judgment will fall on people who treat God and his laws as worthless, i.e., as if they are trash.  If individuals want to be something thrown away like trash, God will allow them to be this way (Romans 1.28).  God will give them over to a reprobate mind.

Reflection: How do you behave in a “trashy” manner?

Copyright: 10/2/2018; Carolyn Adams Roth

Separating Wheat and Chaff

Bible Reference: Matthew 3:12

In John the Baptist teaching, wheat referred to the kingdom of heaven. John the Baptist discussed separating wheat from chaff. According to John wheat will be taken into God’s storehouse while weeds and chaff are destroyed.

Wheat was the first grain identified in the Old Testament (Genesis 30.14); and one of seven species that Moses told Israelites that they would find growing in the promised land (Deuteronomy 8.8). Wheat was valued because of its high nutrition content. Although an important food source, growing, threshing, winnowing, and grinding wheat required effort.

John referred to Jesus when he said: “His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather and store his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire” (Matthew 3.12 ESV).  In ancient Judea, wheat was emmer or einkorn; not the wheat grown in Israel today, nor the wheat grown in the United States.

At harvest,  men cut wheat stalks with a sickle. Farmers with livestock cut stalks close to the ground to use stalks as animal fodder. Farmers without livestock cut stalks close to the seed head to minimize amount of threshing. Children gathered stalks into bundles and took  bundles to the threshing floor, a cleared and compacted parcel of ground up to 40 feet in diameter. Sometimes, one threshing floor served an entire village.

On threshing floors, farmers used an ox-drawn disc or threshing sledge to cut wheat stalks, but not crush grain (Isaiah 28.27-28). Threshing sledges were made of wooden boards with iron or stone projections on the bottom. The projections cut the stalks and allowed grain to separate and fall to the floor. Horses or oxen pulled sledges over grain stalks spread on the threshing floor.

The farmer separated wheat kernels from chaff (dirt, grain hulls) using winnowing. Winnowing consisted of throwing the threshed materials (chaff and grain) into the air with a fork or a basket. Wind separated valuable wheat grains from chaff. Because wheat kernels were heavier than chaff, they fell to the ground or back into the basket. The lighter chaff, dirt, etc., were blown away by wind. At times, farmers used fans to create air currents to separate chaff and other impurities away from valuable wheat kernels. Often, threshing floors were located on a hill top or side to take advantage of wind currents. Finally, the grain was gathered into jars or bins for storage; chaff was burned (Matthew 3.12).

John preached personal acknowledgement and repentance of sins followed by baptism—full body emersion—in water as an outward sign of repentance. Mostly, John baptized individuals in the Jordan River.  Figuratively, the water of baptism washed sins away. John didn’t stop with a message of repentance and physical act of baptism. John exhorted those baptized to change their behavior and bear fruit consistent with repentance (Luke 3.8-14).

Reflection: God doesn’t want any individual to perish. He gives each person time to repent.  Regretfully, individuals who don’t repent and trust in Jesus as their Savior are going to be pulled up, bundled, and destroyed.

Copyright: July 24, 2018; Carolyn A. Roth

Website: CarolynRothMinistry.com

Plant Parable: Spiritual Adultery

An Old Testament parable of a green tree is one of the Bible’s miniature parables (Hoses 14:8). It is brief, and some would say obscure. Hosea spoke the parable of the evergreen tree to the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Today, we read the parable and visualize the majesty of a green tree, similar to the beloved Christmas tree in our churches and homes.

The prophet Hosea implored the Northern Kingdom to repent so that God could heal their waywardness. Hosea averred that Israel’s disloyalty to God and idol worship was spiritual adultery. Because Hosea came from the Northern Kingdom, he knew every pride and perversion of royalty and common citizen alike. Yet, Hosea spoke of God’s love, mercy, and forgiveness. On Jesus’ birth-day, he came with love, mercy, and forgiveness.

Hosea assured Israel that foreign countries, despite their earthy powers, couldn’t save them. God alone can save Israel. After assuring the Israelites that God can and will heal Israel, Hosea offered a parable:

Ephraim shall say, What have I to do any more with idols?
I have answered (him) and will regard and watch over him; I am like a green fir (cypress tree); with Me is the fruit found (which is to nourish you) (Hosea 14:8 AMP)

Symbolism

The spiritual interpretation of God as an evergreen cypress tree is that man-made idols aren’t immortal; they aren’t even alive. They are statues, man’s creations. Some have ears; but, they can’t hear. Some have mouths; but, they can’t speak. Having a head isn’t the same as having a brain or a mind. Worshiping idols is spiritual adultery against God.

Immortality, including long life for an individual or a nation, comes only from God. Perhaps, nowhere in the Old Testament is God’s caring so forthrightly and succinctly presented as here in Hosea. God told Israel that he, not an idol, answers them and looks after them. He is like a green cypress tree. From God comes Israel’s fruit, i.e., both their food and their righteousness.

Hosea 14:8 is the only place (that I know of) where God compared himself to a living organism. At times, the Bible writers recorded that God is enduring like the mountains, the soil, and the ocean. In Hosea, God liken himself to something alive, as he is alive. That living organism was a tree with a lovely smell and which was disease-resistant. Although ancient people used the cypress tree to symbolize immortality, God doesn’t just symbolize immortality; he is immortal. This immortal God chose to come to earth, born in a baby and live as a man, so mankind could have immortal life with him in heaven.

Reflection: An immortal life isn’t up to you or me. We are guaranteed immortality. The question is where will each of us spend our never-ending life.

Cypress Essential Oil (Supplied by Linda Sable, Wellness Advocate)

The crisp, fresh aroma of Cypress essential oil promotes vitality and energy, while topical application helps to invigorate the senses and ground the soul. Cypress works on the heart and mind, creating flexibility. These attributes make Cypress the oil of Motion & Flow. Its powerful properties include antibacterial, antiseptic, making it effective for topical application as well.

When used aromatically, Cypress livens up the spirit and mind. The aroma of this essential oil is clean, woody and herbaceous and is commonly combined with citrus oils. For example, when combined with lime the invigorating scent helps to boost the mood.  Aromatic use helps to transform feelings of being stalled into feeling of progression. Cypress is also used to reduce the appearance of oily skin and is great to incorporate into a massage.

Copyright November 11, 2017; Carolyn Adams Roth

Read more about Bible plants and my ministry at http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com

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Grass or Flower???

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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.

Application

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. CarolynRothMinistry.com/

Copyright September 27, 2016. Carolyn A. Roth

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Parable of Famine Bread

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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

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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: http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com

Copyright August 23, 2016; Carolyn A. Roth

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