Category Archives: Plants in Christ’ Ministry in Perea & Judea

Lent, A Time of Celebration

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In orthodox churches, Lent is the 40 days before Easter. Lent is a time of reflection and repentance; therefore, tends to be a solemn time for Christians.

Lent begins with Ash Wednesday which in 2017 is March 1. We will get ashes as a reminder that we are repentant sinners who don’t deserve what Christ did for us. During Lent my church has a Wednesday noontime service and Wednesday evening service to help us to reflect on Lent. We tend to be more about what we can do extra in Lent than what we can give up.

When we walk into the church on Wednesday noon, seeing the blooming Lenten rose makes me smile and tends to calm me.

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This beautiful flower starts blooming about February in Roanoke, VA (Plant Zone 7) when the ground is still frozen. The Lenten rose is present during Lent, hence its name. This evergreen plant is in the Helleboros genus, and like most Helleboros grows best in a shade garden.  It is resistant to both deer and voles, long-lived, and provides exquisite blooms at a time when flowers are a scarce delight. Once established Lenten rose is drought tolerant but grow best when the soil is evenly moist. Water well during extended dry periods. I have mine on a soaker hose with a timer during the summer. Lenten rose flowers are creamy yellow as the one above or a dark magenta color.

Reflection: What do you plan to do “extra” to celebrate (and it is a celebration) of Lent?

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February 27, 2017: carolyn a. roth; all rights reserved.

 

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Annointed with Nard

Spikenard flowerThe story of a woman anointing Christ’s head with perfume is in Matthew 26:1-3 and Mark 14:3-11.         

All four New Testament gospel writers recounted Christ being anointed with perfume by a woman. Luke’s gospel described an event set in Galilee early in Christ’s ministry. The other gospel writers identified the location as Bethany of Judea and the time frame shortly before Passover and Christ’s crucifixion. Both Matthew and Mark described Christ eating a meal in the home of Simon the Leper’s home. Because the meal was at his home, probably Simon was cured of his leprosy; possible Jesus cured him at some earlier point in time.

As Jesus reclined at the table, a woman entered the room with an alabaster jar of expensive perfume made of pure nard. She broke the jar seal and poured the perfume on Christ’s head.  Some of the other guests were indignant and asked why the nard was used for this purpose.   They said, “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.”  The value of the nard was worth a year’s wages, e.g., about 300 denarii, in Jesus’ time and equal to about $2,000 today.  

Aware of their indignation and questions, Jesus told the mutterers to leave the woman alone. He explained that what the woman did was beautiful. Then, Jesus said that wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, the story of the woman anointing him would be told in memory of her. The disciples only realized later that the woman anointed Jesus for his burial.

John (John 12:1-8) told a story similar to the one recorded by Matthew and Mark; however, in John’s account the dinner occurred in Lazarus’ home with Martha serving the meal. Lazarus’ sister, Mary, poured nard on Christ’s feet, not his head, and wiped his feet with her hair. The fragrance of the perfume filled the entire house.  John recorded that it was Judas Iscariot who objected to Mary using the nard to anoint Christ rather than selling it.

Nard or Spikenard

Spikenard roots (Primrose Laboratories)The nard of the New Testament was Nardostachys jatamans, also known as spikenard. Nard did not and does not grow naturally in Israel.  Most likely, prepared nard was transported to Israel via trade routes with entry through the port of Elath. Nard is a perennial herb that grows from 4-24 inches tall. Each plant has a long tap root and 2-7 rhizomes however plants may have as many as 12 rhizomes.  The roots and rhizomes are used to make nard. In the Roman Empire, nard was the main ingredient in a perfume called nardinum.  Supposedly nard was an ingredient in the Israelite Temple incense. 

Symbolism: Trustworthy

The nard used to anoint Christ’s feet has sometimes been associated with sacrifice with authors arguing that purchase of the nard was a sacrifice on the part of the woman who anointed Christ.  Another perspective of the symbolism is “trustworthy.” The Greek word for spikenard is pistikŏs which means trustworthy in the sense of genuine or unadulterated.  In the story of the woman anointing Christ for burial, the nard was pure nard, it was unadulterated. The woman’s love for Christ was so genuine that she bravely entered a room where a meal was served for “men only.”  She humbled herself to anoint Christ. The woman saw Christ as trustworthy. She did not expect Christ to reject her offering or expel her from the room.  Christ – God the Son — is always a trustworthy when individuals seek 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: Carolyn A. Roth, 12/13

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Climbing a Sycamore Tree

???????????????Luke recorded the episode of Christ, Zacchaeus and the sycamore tree in Luke 19:1-10.

This picture of a sycamore tree was taken in Jericho and is identified there as the actual tree that Zacchaeus climbed; however, it is much too young. It could be an offspring of the actual tree.

The setting for Christ’s interaction with Zacchaeus was Jericho, located 5 miles west of the Jordan River and about 15 miles northeast of Jerusalem. Herod the Great built a new city of Jericho south of the old city. Probably Jesus was entering the new city when Zacchaeus climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him. 

Zaccheaus was a Jew but functioned as the chief tax collector for the Romans. In the Roman Empire, tax collectors were responsible to collect and give so much money to Rome annually.  Money collected beyond what they turned over to Rome they kept. Many tax collectors, including Zacchaeus, were unscrupulous; they became very rich from overtaxing and defrauding the people in their tax districts. Jews assigned tax collectors to the category of “sinner” along with adulterers, prostitutes, robbers, etc.  Zaccheaus and his entire family were ostracized by Jews. 

Zacchaeus was a physically short man. Because he wanted to see Jesus, Zacchaeus climbed into a sycamore tree by the side of the road where Jesus was walking. To Zacchaeus’ surprise, Jesus stopped below the sycamore tree where he was perched, looked up, and started to talk to Zacchaeus. What Jesus said was shocking not only to Zacchaeus but to the crowd who was with Jesus. Jesus told Zacchaeus to come down from the tree immediately because he was going to stay at Zacchaeus’ house that day. The story of Zacchaeus is the only Biblical record of Jesus inviting himself to an individual’s house.  Zacchaeus climbed down from the sycamore tree and welcomed Jesus gladly.

When members of the crowd saw that Jesus went to Zacchaeus’ home, they muttered about Jesus wanting to be a guest of a known sinner; however, Jesus’ conversation with Zacchaeus brought about a radical change in Zacchaeus’ life.  Following their time together, Zacchaeus vowed that a) he would give 50% of his possessions to the poor and b) anyone he cheated, he would pay back fourfold.  Zacchaeus’ promise of restitution was more than the Hebrew law demanded (Exodus 22:4, 7; Leviticus 6:5; Numbers 5:7). Where Zacchaeus was controlled by greed, he was now controlled by love. Christ’s response to Zachaeus’ conversion was to declare that salvation came to Zacchaeus and his house.

Sycamore Tree

The sycamore tree that Zacchaeus climbed into was the Ficus sycamorus, also called the sycamore fig.  Some scholars argue that the Ficus sycamorus was the original fig tree in the Garden of Eden, not the Ficus carica.  In Israel, sycamore trees grow where underground water is shallow and is most prominent in the southern Israel because of construction and rapid development.     Under very favorable conditions, the sycamore tree may produce up to six crops per year.  In Bethlehem, we purchased a wrapped package of sycamore fruit at a road-side market. When unwrapped, the sycamore fruit were hard, salted, and made a tasty snack.  1-DSC00874

Symbolism: Regeneration    

In Israel, the sycamore tree symbolized regeneration.  Regeneration refers to someone who is spiritually reborn.  Zacchaeus had a spiritual rebirth thorough his discussion with Jesus in his home.  Levi, known as Matthew, was one of Christ’s original 12 apostles.  Like Zaccheaus, Levi was a tax collector (Mark 2:14).  When Christ called, Levi left his tax collector’s booth and followed Christ.  Possibly Zacchaeus knew Levi and wondered why his colleague who could become very rich collecting taxes would give it up for Christ.  After spending several hours with Christ, Zacchaeus no longer wondered because he too had a regenerated heart. Zacchaeus’ new heart did not cause him to follow Christ as did Levi’s.  Instead, Zacchaeus’ regenerated heart caused him to make restitution and change his life where he lived in Jericho. 

Reflection: I wonder if Zacchaeus did not have a harder task than Matthew???

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: Carolyn A. Roth, 10/13

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How will Christ Return?

Christ’s description of the coming Kingdom of God included an illustration of women grinding grain (Luke 17: 20-35).

In response to a direct question from the Pharisees, Christ described how the kingdom of God would come. Christ said: “Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left” (Luke 17:35). Christ provided a similar teaching on signs of the end times on the Mount of Olives (Matthew chapter 24). In the Olivet Discourse, Christ added that two women would be grinding grain with a hand mill; one would be taken and the other left behind (Matthew 24:41). The interpretation of Christ’s remarks is that a) his return to earth will be unexpected and that b) no matter how close two individuals, there is no guarantee they will have the same destiny. 

In the Bible, grains mentioned included wheat, barley, spelt, and millet. Wheat, barley, and millet were described in earlier chapters of this book. The grain spelt is arguably the grain that the women were grinding. Spelt was grown throughout the ancient world. In the Bible, it was first mentioned in the Seventh Plague that afflicted the Egyptians (Exodus 9:13-35). Writing from Jerusalem, Isaiah described the farmer planting spelt in the field (Isaiah 28:25). God directed Ezekiel who lived in Babylon to make bread from spelt as well as other grains and vegetables (Ezekiel 4:9). In Gardening with Biblical Plants, James (1984) claimed that bread from spelt was considered superior to bread from barley. Although spelt is not listed in Israeli plant databases it was a stable grain crop in biblical times. 

Spelt

Spelt FlourThe Biblical spelt was Triticum spelta also known as Triticum aestivum subspecies (variety) spelta. Despite past confusion, spelt is not emmer wheat; the two grains have different genetic structures. Spelt is winter hardy and planted in the fall for spring harvest. Spelt may yield more useable grain than wheat when both are grown at higher elevations. In biblical times, the hull was removed by hand, leaving the spelt kernel to be ground into flour. Women ground the spelt kernel into flour using a hand mill or a mortar and pestle. When stored in the husk, spelt remains fresh for a longer period of time than other grains. The spelt husk protects the kernel from pollutants and insects both in the field and during storage.   

Symbolism: Bristle, Stick Out

The Hebrew word for spelt is kuççemeth derived from kâçam which means bristle (Strong, 2010). When a person bristles, they stand up or stick out.  Christ told the Pharisees that as the people of Noah and Lot’s times did not expect destruction, neither will people expect Christ to return. Noah and Lot stood out from the people of their environments because of their righteousness (2 Peter 2:5-7).  Similarly, Christ’s followers stick out from the people on earth because of their righteousness. When Christ returns, his followers will be taken from the world. Christians will be remembered or “stick out” from individuals left in the world, because they will be absent. 

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: Carolyn A. Roth, 10/13

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Moving a Mulberry Tree

Christ reassured the apostles that with faith they could move a mulberry tree in Luke 17:1-6.

In the mulberry tree discussion, Christ outlined some responsibilities for his disciples.  One was to never lead another person into sin.  Christ told his disciples that it would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause another to sin. A second responsibility for a disciple was to rebuke a brother if he sins. The third responsibility was is to forgive a brother if he repents of sin and asks for forgiveness. Christians were to forgive a repentant brother even if the brother sinned and repented seven times a day. Seven times a day meant that repentance-forgiveness cycle was limitless. 

After hearing this teaching, Christ’s apostles must have felt overwhelmed with the extent of their responsibilities as followers of Christ. How could they live so blameless a life that they never caused another individual to sin? Did they have the courage to rebuke a fellow Christian when he or she sinned? How could they, simple men that they were, forgive and forgive and forgive?  In desperation, the apostles cried out to Christ, “Increase our faith!”  (Luke 17:5). 

Christ gave them a simple response – if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you can tell a mulberry tree to be uprooted and transplanted into the sea. With sufficient faith, the mulberry tree will obey. 

mulberry fruitThe Mulberry Tree

The mulberry tree is the Morus nigra also known as the sycamine tree. The tree is indigenous to Persia (Iran).  In Israel mulberry tree remains have been found from the late Iron Age. In modern Israel, mulberry trees grow wild and are domesticated from Mount Hermon in northern Israel to Eilat in the southern Negev Desert. During our stay at Kibbutz Lotan in the southern Negev Desert area in 2012, we saw a 25 foot tall mulberry tree which had been planted for its shade as well as its fruit.  After pollination female flowers ripen into .4-1 inch blackberry-shaped edible fruits. Ultimately, the berry becomes succulent, fat, and full of juice. Mulberry berries vary in color with the M. nigra tree producing black mulberries.

Symbolism: Delay or Wise

The genus name of the mulberry is Morus derived from the Latin word mora meaning “delay” because the mulberry tree is the last tree to bud in the spring (Grieve, 1971). Because the mulberry waits until all possibility of frost is past, the mulberry tree has been called the wisest of all trees. When his disciples asked Christ to increase their faith, his response was that they could and would accomplish great acts with a small amount of faith. Wisely, Christ did not tell them that they needed a large amount of faith. At that point in their walk with Christ, probably the disciples did not have unswerving faith in Christ; they were still getting to know him and coming to the realization that he was the promised Messiah. Christ met the disciples where they were in their awareness of him.

Reflection. Name some ways you have grown in the intensity of your walk with Christ.

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: Carolyn A. Roth, 9/13

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Prodigal Son Eats Carob Pods

Carob Pod

The parable of the lost son eating carob tree husks is in Luke 15:11-32.       

Christ told the parable of the lost, or prodigal, son in response to the Pharisees and teachers of the law criticizing him for welcoming and eating with sinners. This parable was one of three parables that made the point that God searches for the lost, whether a lost sheep, coin, or person.  The parable of the prodigal son goes like this:

A father had two sons. The younger asked his father for his inheritance. After receiving his share of the estate, the young man went into another country and squandered the money on wild living.  After his money was spent, there was a severe famine in the entire country. With no money, the young man hired himself out to a citizen who sent him to the fields to feed pigs. The young man longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating; but no one gave him anything to eat. 

Sometime later the young man came to his senses and determined to go home to his father. He planned to tell his father that he no longer deserved to be called a son; he would gladly be treated like a hired man.

From a far distance, the father saw his son returning home. He ran to his son and hugged and kissed him. The son confessed to his father that he sinned and was no longer worthy to be called a son. Before the son could asked his father to treat him like a hired hand, the father called servants to bring a robe, a ring for his son’s hand, and sandals for his feet. The father ordered a feast to celebrate the younger son’s return.

During the celebration, the older son came home from working in the field. He learned his younger brother returned home and his father ordered a celebration. The older son became angry and would not enter the house. When his father came out to him, the older son complained that he served his father year after year, never disobeying him; however, his father never gave him an animal to hold a celebration with his friends. Yet, the younger son who demanded then squandered his inheritance came home and is greeted with a party.  

The father acknowledged the older son’s value saying you are always with me and everything I have is yours. At the same time, the father averred that they must celebrate the younger son’s return because “this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found” (Matthew 15:32).

Carob Pods

The pods that the younger son longed to eat were carob pods, the fruit of the Ceratonia siliqua.  Common names are carob tree, St. John’s bread, locust tree, and Egyptian fig.  Although the carob tree grows to 55 feet in the United States, in Israel carob trees are smaller. After pollination, long (up to 12 inches by 1 inch) pods develop.  Pods are filled with soft brown pulp and 10-13 flat, hard seeds. In May on Kibbutz Ketura in the southern Negev Desert, I gathered and ate a ripe carob pod. It tasted sweet and was fibrous. Carob pods are grounded into flour and used to make a cocoa (chocolate) substitute.  

Symbolism: Substitute

The carob plant can be associated with several concepts. The genus name of the carob tree, Ceratonia, is comes from the Greek word keras (κερας) meaning “horn,” the shape of the carob pod. Called poor man’s bread, carob pods and flour are also associated with humility. Certainly both horn and humility make sense in the parable of the lost son; however, so does “substitute.” 

As a noun substitute means a person or thing that takes the place or function of another. Used as a verb, substitute means to exchange, switch, and replace with.

Substitute is what the younger son did in this parable. He substituted his life as a valued son for a short life of flagrant living followed by feeding pigs. He replaced eating the best foods money could buy with longing to have carob pods to eat. He planned to ask his father to substitute life as a hired hand for life as a younger son.  From a Kingdom of God perspective, Christ substituted his perfection for our sin.  Christ was the perfect substitute for each of us, who would be lost and starving without him.

Have you thought about what you are substituting in your life for time with God? Is it your kids, spouse, career, or even activities at church. I look at celebrities and pundits — many have no discernible relationship with God. They are substituting glory here on earth for the glory of spending time with God in heaven.

Reflection.  Do you want the real thing or are you content with substitutes in your life?

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/

September 2, 2013; Carolyn A. Roth

Rue, the Protective Herb

Jesus’ regretRue chalepensis (2) over the priorities of the Pharisees is described in Luke 11:37-44.

This entry is part of the previous one where Jesus was invited to eat in a Pharisee’s home.  Mentally, the Pharisee host criticized Jesus because Jesus did not wash his hands before eating. To the Pharisee hand washing was important not because he was concerned about hygiene, but because he care about ceremonial purity. 

Knowing what the Pharisee was thinking, Jesus attempted to show him that preoccupation with externals had little to do with real religion. Christ declared, “Woe to you Pharisees because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue, and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God” (Luke 11:42). When Christ used the word “woe,” he was not calling down a curse on the Pharisees, being sly, or amusing. Christ’s “woe” was an expression of deep regret, an expression of the anguish he felt for these men. The Pharisees missed the point of God’s law. They had their priorities and their interpretation of God’s laws upside down and inside out. By this time in Jewish history, the Pharisees had the teachings of the Torah and the Old Testament prophets. They were aware that God did not require 1,000 rams, or 10,000 rivers of oil, or their first born child as a sacrifice (Micah 6:7-8). God wanted men and women to act justly, to extend mercy toward their brothers and sisters, and to love God.

Rue

The rue of the Bible is the Ruta chalepenis called African rue, common rue, and fringed rue.  Rue is native to the Middle East. In ancient Israel, rue grew wild; therefore, a tithe was not paid when the herb was used. In New Testament times, rue was grown in gardens, necessitating growers to pay a tithe on its sell. Rue can grow in almost any type of soil, but grows best in sand or clay loam. Young plants require average to moist soil; however, after plants are established they are drought tolerant.  Rue enjoys full sun. In Israel, rue grows in the northern and central parts of the country, but not in the Negev region. It can tolerate only low levels of salt; consequently, rue is not grown along the Mediterranean coastline of Israel. In ancient Egypt and Greece, it was used as to stimulate menstruation and to induce abortion. Currently, rue is used both as a condiment.  In natural medicine, rue is use as an anti-spasmodic and to strengthen eye sight. 

Symbolism: Regret, Regret

In English, its common name — rue – means regret. Historically, rue was regarded as a protective substance. It was one of the ingredients in mithridate, a substance used in ancient medicine and folklore as an antidote for every poison and a cure for every disease. Possibly the genus name Ruta is derived from “rhutos,” a Greek word meaning “shield” in view of its history as an antidote. Ostensibly, the Pharisees teachings were to act as a shield for the common citizen of Judea to protect them from any blasphemy against God and his commandments.  Instead, their man-made laws often made the Jews rue or regret their presence.

Repeatedly, the Bible – particularly Psalms – identified that God is our shield. A shield is defensive armor or someone who protects and defends. Paul instructed Christians to take up the shield of faith, a deep abiding confidence in God (Ephesians 6:16). He said that with the shield of faith, we can extinguish all of the flaming arrows of the devil. 

Reflection. Possibly Jewish citizens expected too much of the Pharisees. It is never good to rely on men or governments to shield or protect us. Who is your shield and protector?

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 20, 2013; Carolyn A. Roth

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Tithing on Mint, A Teachabe Moment

The experience of Jesus eating a meal with a Pharisee is described in Luke 11:37-44. 

At the end of a day of teaching, a Pharisee invited Jesus to his house to eat. Christ entered the house and reclined at the table. The Pharisee was surprised that Jesus did not wash his hands before the meal for two reasons. First, most foods were eaten with the hands. Second, although not a Mosaic Law, Jewish hierarchy advocated a procedure for hand washing before meals. Knowing what his host was thinking, Jesus admonished him, saying that Pharisees clean the outsides of dishware while they disregard the insides which are full of greed and wickedness. Pharisees, tithe on mint, rue, and garden herbs, but neglect justice and the love of God. Christ admonished the Pharisees to practice justice and love as well as tithing.

The Pharisees were a sect of the Jews that began in response to two events in Israel’s history.  First, when the Jews returned to Jerusalem from the Babylonian captivity, some of the laws outlined in the Pentateuch (Torah) seemed out-dated. The Jewish society had changed from the time Moses and the Children of Israel journeyed in the Wilderness. The Pharisees attempted to translate the original intent of the Mosaic laws into religious rules for Judean society in the centuries before Christ. The second event that gave rise to the Pharisees was the Jewish Hasmonean dynasty of the second century B.C. The Hasmoneans declared themselves both king and high priest, a decree and action that contradicted the Laws of Moses. Many Pharisees responded by becoming overzealous for the Law of Moses; they wanted a strict interpretation of the Laws. 

The Book of Law required that Jews tithe. Tithing meant that they gave 10% of their money and/or crops to the Lord which usually went to the Temple (Leviticus 27:30). Mint and rue were herbs produced by farmers and other agriculturists for commerce; therefore, Mosaic Law required Jews to tithe on them. Importantly, when Christ spoke to the Pharisee, he did not tell the Pharisee that tithing on mint production was wrong. Just the opposite, Christ reinforced the need for God’s people to tithe. At the same time, Christ instructed the Pharisees that loving God and seeking justice were the greater good.

Mint, the Plant

The mint that grew in the Holy Land was Mentha longifolia, sometimes known as Mentha spicata L., wild mint, and horsemint. The large mint family, Lamiaceae, has 250 genera and 6,700 species; species names are often confused and confusing. Probably, M. longifolia originated in the countries of the Mediterranean Basin; however, South Africa claims it as indigenous. Mint thrives in most soils as long as soils are moist. If mint plants are propagated to secure a specific aroma, it is best to cut a piece of the original root (rhizome) and plant it. Virtually any part of a root will grow into a new plant.   When mint is planted for its essential oils, full sun is optimal; however, it will grow in partial shade. Wild mint tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure; it is not frost tender. In Israel, wild mint is found in Galilee, the central mountains and valleys, and south into the Northern Negev Desert and Aravah Valley. 

 Symbolism: Happiness, Joyful

The Greek word for mint is hēduŏsmŏn which is derived from hēdista meaning very gladly and kauchaŏmai, which means joy and rejoice. These two Greek words denote happiness and joy. Both words are appropriate for mint which medicinally relieves headaches, aids digestion, and is used to cover unsavory tastes and smells (Plants for a Future, 2012).

Seemingly everyone wants to be happy. The writer of Ecclesiastes penned that he knew of nothing better for a man than to be happy and do good (Ecclesiastes 3:12). In the Old Testament, happiness resulted from many scenarios. Barren women were happy and rejoiced over the birth of healthy children, e.g., Sarah, Rebecca, Hannah. After hearing the wisdom of Solomon, the Queen of Sheba exclaimed that happy were the men and officials of Solomon who heard his wisdom (I Kings 10:8). The wicked Haman was happy that Queen Esther invited him to a banquet with King Ahasuerus (Xerxes) (Esther 5:9). Jonah was happy because a vine grew over his head screening him from the hot sun (Jonah 4:6). 

King David associated righteous behavior with gladness, happiness, and joy (Psalm 68:3). When Pharisees tithed on their income to include the relatively unimportant herb mint, they acted rightly. If they lived in strict adherence to the Mosaic laws, the Pharisees could have been happy, joyful people; yet, I could find no place in the Bible where the Pharisees were described as happy or joyful. Is it possible that righteous behavior does not lead to happiness? Was David wrong to associate righteousness with joy? Or was there something wrong about the righteousness of the Pharisees?

William MacDonald (1995) succinctly summarized why Pharisees were not happy and joyful.  They were externalists; which means the Pharisees were punctilious about small details of the ceremonial law, e.g., handwashing. At the same time, they neglected the greater commandments to love God and their neighbors (Matthew 22:37-40). They emphasized the subordinate and overlooked the primary laws of God. Happiness and joy cannot come when God or his primary commandments are ignored. Happiness comes from loving God and striving to please him in all things. Joy comes from doing good to others. 

Reflection. Christ said, whatever you do to the least man, woman or child, you do to me; and whatever you do not do to the least man, woman, or child you do not do to me (Matthew 25:40, 45). Christ is the “least” man, woman, or child.