Category Archives: Plants in Creation & Eden

Creation encompasses plants from Day 3 of Creation through the expulsion of Adam and Even from the Garden of Eden (Genesis Chapters 1 – 3).

St. Mary’s Thistle

Thorns and thistles were an original consequence of Adam and Eve’s sin. The Bible used thorns and thistles as symbols of desolation and a description of a wilderness environment. In almost every Bible instance when thistles were identified, the desolation and wilderness were the result of mankind’s continued sin. Frequently, mankind turned from God and worshiped foreign (man-made) idols.

Some thistle seeds have feathery growths. When blown by the wind, feathery seeds float over a wide region. For the most part seeds remain dormant; however, after rain, they germinate and grow rapidly. Although many thistles produce beautiful flowers, farmers and gardeners rarely want them in a field or a garden. Thistles are an invasive species.

Bible  Reference: Genesis chapter 3

Which thistle grew first after God cursed the ground? It’s impossible to know. Today, Holy Lands are largely arid, with many thistle species. Sun and burning heat dominate landscapes. Once-cultivated areas are an ideal growth environment for thistles.

Assuming that the Garden of Eden was located east of Israel where the Tigris and Euphrates joined, the first thistle grew in that area where Adam and his offspring lived after being expelled from Eden. One thistle present in this region and in Israel for thousands of years is the Silybum marianum, also named the blessed milk thistle and St.  Mary’s thistle. Once established, milk thistles form two-to-six feet dense clumps. On the milk thistle, flowers are red-purple and have spiny sharp leaves (bracts) directly under the flower base.  Milk thistle leaves are attractive. They are large, with white veins. When leaves are cut or torn, a milky substance is released.7,10

For thousands of years, the milk thistle has been used in folk medicine to treat liver, cancerous, and psychiatric disorders; however, there’s no reliable science validating the efficacy of milk thistle to treat these conditions. Milk thistle plants displace desirable forage plants, such as grasses. Because milk thistle accumulates nitrogen, it  can be lethal if eaten by livestock.

Fully mature milk thistle seeds are glossy, brown-to-black,  with an umbrella-like appendage. When released, seeds blow over a wide region.  A single flower head can produce 100–200 seeds.  Seeds can lay dormant on/in soil up to nine years, then germinate after a rainfall. Milk thistle is an annual or biennial plant. When I planted seeds in the church Bible garden, milk thistle grew two years then died. In the subsequent years, milk thistle didn’t regrow.

Sometimes I create an environment for thistles, rather than for flowers, to grow in my life. In the past, I have taken on major projects at home, church, or job. Like Adam and Eve, I’ve sweated over these projects, expending tremendous energy and time. Despite my efforts, some projects failed completely or partially—thistles resulted rather than beautiful flowers.

Looking back on these projects, I know that, more often than not, thistles were a consequence of my disobedience. I let pride combined with my desire to “do it my way” block listening to God, whether he was instructing me through another individual, his word (Bible), or my conscience.  I grope, sometimes even groan, trying to find my way toward God. I want to obey his word and submit fully to him.

Reflection: Think of times in your life that you  tried to reach God, but you couldn’t get to him. You felt like your life was filled with thistles; everything growing in your life was wrong. What did you do? Did it work? If not, propose to yourself other options to try when you find yourself in similar circum- stances in the future.

Copyright April 4, 2019; All rights reserved.

Zillah, wife and plant

Bible Reference: Genesis chapter 4.

In Genesis chapter four, we read about the offspring of Cain. The chapter provides a contrast to chapter five in which the offspring of Seth is outlined. In the offspring of Cain, Lamech, a seventh-generation grandson of Adam, had two wives simultaneously.  This is the first time that plural wives were identified in the Bible.  Lamech’s second wife was named Zillah. One source identified that Zillah was a third cousin of Lamech. Zillah birthed at least two children: Tubal-Cain, who forged tools from bronze and iron, and a daughter named Naamah.

Although we know little about Zillah, we know that her husband was a murderer. He admitted to his two wives that he murdered a young man for injuring him. Lamech averred that if God planned to take sevenfold vengeance on anyone killing Cain, then he, Lamech, should be avenged 77 times. Contemplating Lamech’s words, readers aren’t sure whether his is bragging about his actions or admitting his wrong. Whichever Lamech did, most certainly his  wife Zillah, reaped  consequences.

Zillah was named after a spiny, woody shrub (Zilla spinosa) that grows in desert, to include extreme desert, regions.7  Stems can grow up to five feet tall. The zilla grows as wide as tall so that the zilla appears rounded. Stem and spine color are bluish-gray. Fruit resembles chickpeas (garbanzo beans). When mature, the plant  loosens from soil. Winds blow it  across the desert similar to a tumbleweed in western United States.

In contrast to the overall unpleasant stems and spines, Zilla spinosa produces a lovely four-petal lavender, occasionally pink, flower. I imagine that Zillah was named after the flower rather than after the spiny plant.

The website, Flowers in Israel,7 included that the brier named by Ezekiel is the zilla plant: “No longer will the people of Israel have malicious neighbors who are painful briers and sharp thorns. Then they will know that I am the Sovereign LORD” (Ezekiel 28.24 NIV). Ezekiel’s complete prophecy against Sidon is in Ezekiel 28.20-26. Sidon was a  Phoenician city.  Originally, Sidon was included in the inheritance of the tribe of Asher, but Asher didn’t conquer it. Sidon  gloated when Jerusalem was destroyed by Babylon.

If I identified one word that encompassed the story of Zillah in Genesis and the prophecy of Ezekiel against Sidon, that word would be malicious. Malicious means a desire to cause pain, distress,  or injury to another.3 Maliciously, Lamech  injured a young man in the process of murdering him. Most likely, Lamech’s action caused distress to the young man’s family and distress to his wife, Zillah. Sidon’s gloat over Judah’s pain, injury, and distress was malicious. I can just imagine Sidonians rubbing their hands together and laughing when Jerusalem fell.

The take-away message from the Zilla spinosa is that beautiful flowers may occur simultaneously with spines which cause injury. Importantly, we can stop pondering how loved ones hurt us and reframe our thinking. How do we, although beautiful individuals, have the capacity to  injure and distress others with our words and behavior.

Reflection: A dear friend told me recently that a mutual friend’s words hurt her through what she said. At about the same time, the mutual friend shared that she was hurt by my dear friend’s words. I need to always look at my own behavior and make sure that I don’t cause pain, injury, or distress to others. Do you find it easier to criticize others than to take accountability for what you do?

Copyright: December 1, 2018; Carolyn Adams Roth

Back to Eden

Guest Blogger: Tom Breene

Once in a great while, I am inspired; rather compelled to write about what I see are the present and most urgent issues that we are facing as a race of people on the face of the earth.

In my humble opinion, it all began in the garden of Eden when Satan put a spin on what God told Adam and Eve about the forbidden fruit. Eve was so intrigued, (was won over so to speak) by this new way of understanding an idea, that she threw caution to the wind, accepted the words of this new creature, and partook of the fruit.  The next thing she did was to convince Adam of this bigger and better deal, and he too was won over to the dark side. I call this the (dark) side because on that day the focus of man was shifted from God to this new and persuasive being that promised a new reality based on his reality.

No longer could God be trusted to tell the truth about life, or to be trusted concerning the issues of life, because now the original man and women had made the first step (of many), away from the Author of life and into the hands of the deceiver. Their precious, innocent, loving relationship with the One who made them and who cared deeply for them, was replaced with the new reality of them having to pull up their bootstraps, (along with their rest and peace), and follow this new siren because (after all), he now had their best interests in mind (right?) They were now convinced that God wasn’t really telling them the truth; that He was just leading them along for His personal benefit, taking advantage of their trusting relationship in order to exploit them for His selfish purposes. Shoot, He didn’t really care for them; maybe He wasn’t even good. From now on they were going to have to look out for themselves because who else could they trust? Oh yeah, the new guy. He would show them the real way….but where was he now? Thus, the liberal, leftist progressive movement was born.

Fast forward to the world we live in today. No one can deny the culture war that is raging. There seems to be two sides that are pitted one against the other. Both claim to have the truth on their side. Both claim that their truth is the real truth; but we all know that there can not be but one Truth. Therefore one side must be deceived.

I said there is a culture war. The present culture determines what we call politics. Politics is what determines power; and power is what determines the order in our society. The side that is in power determines the agenda, and so on and so forth.

So the battle rages still; and despite all that one may hear from the media and all the talking heads of today’s world about this issue, or that issue, and who said what, and who is right and who is wrong; it is a spiritual battle that we are experiencing. It is also a worldwide phenomena. This (new) leftist, progressive movement is nothing new. Like I said earlier, it all began so long ago. So no matter what you hear, there are only two choices, two sides. The one side still believes that there is a creator, a God who loves us, and who is GOOD, and who is still pursuing us to come back to Him and have that original relationship restored. That is the side who believes in the rule of law; who respects authority; who believes that God did not leave us without instructions on how to live a good life, and who believes that God provided a Way for us to be restored to our original state of relationship and purpose with Him. That is the side who doesn’t have to struggle to feel good about themselves, and say all the right things and speak with political correctness, and try to justify themselves by themselves and all their good intentions and thoughts and so on and so forth.

The other side doesn’t believe that there is order to the universe. They don’t believe in an all powerful loving Creator who is waiting to receive them. They don’t believe in the Spirit of Truth, but that there are many truths, and yours are just as good as mine. That truth is what you make it to be, and all that matters is that I respect yours and you respect mine. So I suppose that makes the author of truth to be man himself. Wow! Then I guess that makes man an idol to himself. Where, where do we go from here? Well, that means we have to solve all the problems of the universe in order to be FREE! Personal freedom at all costs! Isn’t that what all the noise is about? I want mine, you want yours, but things get in the way don’t they? Other’s agendas for instance; or other’s expectations of us. Or our own inability to figure everything out; the balancing act of trying to meet all the requirements of making that freedom work for us. That’s right; in order for my freedom to work, everyone else has to cooperate the way I think they should to make it a reality. It’s a fragile thing! People get angry when others get in the way. They start shouting, accusing others of faults and aggression; organizing marches and protests; even threatening violence.

Sound familiar? So, if history tells us anything, it may be that this is how wars get started. I don’t know about you, but I tend to believe that if mankind had the ability to make himself free and happy he would have done so by now. The left claims it is more compassionate, more loving, and has more of a passion to make everything fair for everyone; than anyone else. If the aim of the leftist progressive movement was to finally someday free mankind of all it’s fetters, and if it were even possible; how would that be fair to the billions of people that have lived and died before that time were to come? How can one keep going through life enjoying all the benefits and all the mystery; along with the wonder and beauty and living art of creation without seeking the One who made it?

In spite of all the rhetoric one might hear of who has the most passion, the most intelligence, and insight about what to do to fix all the problems of humankind today, they will all fall short; because we are not facing an intelligence problem, we are wrestling with a spiritual one. There is a spirit that is driving and influencing and powering the individuals of the left today, and I don’t have to tell you who he is. If history tells us anything, it reveals that it is possible for humans to be so deceived that they begin to call evil good and good evil. (consider the Nazis or read the first Chapter of Romans).

No matter how one colors it; no matter how one disguises it; what mankind is missing and what he needs the most is rest. The rest that the first pair had before they were deceived by the serpent. It’s time to admit you need a Savior. Not a superhero on the big screen. Not an idol like mother earth or the government, or even mankind itself. Look for the One who’s footprint is all around you. He has already done everything to make your rest possible. If you’re looking for freedom, you will never find it until your heart is captured by Christ. Receive and trust Him today.

Reflection: Maybe Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young were on to something when at Woodstock they sang the song that contained the refrain: “we are stardust, we are golden, and we got to get ourselves back to the garden”.

Author: Tom Breene, Copyright June 1, 2018.

The First Thistle

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Read Genesis Chapter 3 for the story of thistles and thorns on earth.

Prior to Adam and Eve’s sin, the earth contained only plants that were identified by God as good and desirable for man and animals to eat  (Genesis 1: 12, 29-30). When Adam and Eve stepped outside of God’s plan (sinned), the entire created world changed. One change was that God cursed the ground because of Adam’s disobedience (Genesis 3:17-19). No longer would Adam and Eve be caretakers of a sumptuous garden with all it produced. Rather, in sorrow Adam and Eve would be required to toil (work, sweat) for the food they ate. From God’s judgment forward, the soil would grow thorns and thistles as well as plants and trees for food. Cultivating the ground for desirable crops created an environment where certain native plants became weeds, of which thorns and thistles were the most burdensome (Gen. 3:18).

It is not possible to ascertain which thorns and thistles God was referring to when he cursed the earth with thorns and thistles (Gen. 3:13). Over 20 different words are used for thorny plants in Hebrew versions of the Bible. Today the Holy Land is a sunny, largely arid region with many species of thistle. Often thistles are covered with spiny projections which are protective in nature. Many thistle seeds have feathery growths. When blown by the wind, feathery seeds float over a wide region. Following rain, large crops of thistles grow rapidly.  Although some thorns and thistles are beautiful to the eye, gardeners rarely want them in a field or garden; thistles are seen as invasive weeds.

Milk Thistle

One thistle present in Israel for thousands of years is the Silybum marianum, or blessed milk thistle. Milk thistles have both spines and thorns. The milk thistle is adapted to dry, hot, sunny areas to include waste areas. In most areas milk thistle is considered an invasive, noxious weed. Once established, it forms large (2-6 feet) dense clumps that displace desirable forage plants.  Because of its size and spiny leaves, milk thistles interfere with grazing livestock.  Milk thistle accumulates nitrogen and when ingested can be lethal to livestock. Fully mature seeds are glossy, brown to black, with an umbrella-like appendage. When released, seeds blow over a wide region.  A single flower head can produce 100 – 200 seeds.  Seeds can lay dormant in the soil up to nine years, then germinate after a rainfall.

Symbolism: Consequences

When Adam and Eve sinned, the created universe including plants became subject to death (Romans 8: 19-23). Since that time all creation has been groaning together as if under the pains of labor (Vine, 1996).  In the Greek language, mâshash is the word for groan. Mâshash implies a sense of groping, feeling, and searching. Both man and plants are reaching out, groping, for the new heaven and earth when creation will be set free of its death sentence. For both man and plants, freedom from death will occur with the second coming of Christ and establishment of His kingdom on earth.

Man created an environment in which thorns and thistles evolved. Sometimes I do that — I create an environment for thorns and thistles rather than for flowers to grow. In the past I have taken on major projects at home, church or in my job. Like Adam and Eve, I have sweated over the projects, expending tremendous energy and time. Despite my efforts, some project failed completely or partially – thorns and thistles resulted rather than beautiful flowers.

Looking back on these projects, I know that more often than not weeds resulted because of my disobedience. I let pride combined with my desire to “do it my way” block out listening to God, whether He was instructing me through another individual, His word (Bible), or my conscience.  At the same time, I know that I am groping and sometimes even groaning – trying to find my way toward God. I really want to obey His word and submit fully to His plan for my life.

Reflection: What about you – are you obeying God? Do you let Him create beautiful flowers in your life; or, alternatively, do your actions produce thorns and thistles?

Prayer: God, help me to plan and plant the garden of my life so that I am always obeying You. Help me to live so close to You so there are no spaces for thorns and thistles to spring up in my 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/

Copyright July 31, 2013; Carolyn A. Roth.

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Tree of Life

Read Genesis chapter 3 in an Amplified or New International Version Study Bible.

The Tree of Life was located near the center of the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2: 9) along with the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil. Although God told Adam that he could not eat from the Tree of Knowledge, God gave no prohibition against eating fruit from the Tree of Life (Genesis 2: 16). All trees in the Garden were attractive to the eye and/or good for food, so it is likely that Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the Tree of Life while they lived in the Garden. After Adam and Eve disobeyed, God reflected on their new found knowledge and its implication. God said: “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat and live forever (Genesis 3: 22).” Adam and Eve’s access to the Tree of Life was based on a proper relationship with God.

To prevent Adam and Eve from eating the fruit of the Tree of Life, God expelled them from the Garden of Eden. God placed cherubim (more than one) on the east side of the Garden to keep Adam and Eve from reentering Eden. The cherubim had a flaming sword that flashed back and forth to block the way to the Tree of Life (Genesis 3:24).

The Garden of Eden was destroyed before or during the great flood of Noah’s time when the topography of the land was changed; however, the Tree of Life was not destroyed. Rather, the Tree of Life was moved.  In the New Testament book of Revelation, John wrote about the Tree of Life in two different chapters. When speaking to the Church of Ephesus, Christ said, “to him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God” (Rev. 2:7). At that time the Tree of Life was located in paradise. Christ testified that paradise was an existent place when He said to the thief on the cross, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43. Paradise is the place of happiness and rest between death and resurrection (NIV Study Bible notes, 2002, p. 1618).

The Tree of Life is destined to return to earth. In the new Jerusalem a river of water will flow from the throne of God down the middle of a great street (Revelation 22:1). The Tree of Life is located on both sides of the river that flows from God’s throne. The Tree of Life will produce a different variety of fruit each month (Rev. 22:3). Christians who are victorious in overcoming evil (Rev. 7: 14) will eat the fruit of the Tree of Life (Rev. 7:14, 22:14). The leaves of the Tree of Life will be used for healing of the nations (Rev. 22:2).

Symbolism: Life

In the Hebrew of the Old Testament, the word associated with Life in the Tree of Life is “chay.”  “Chay” means alive, living thing, and life that lives and is contrasted with death. Because Adam and Eve disobeyed God, they forfeited eternal life on earth. Even though God banished them from the Garden of Eden, He remained their Father. He continued to interact with them and their children. God made a way for Adam and Eve’s offspring to be reconciled to Him and have a life that lives forever. The way is through His son, Christ, who died once for all mankind.

Just as God wanted a relationship with Adam and Eve, He desires a relationship with each of us. The question is whether or not we are willing to symbolically eat from the Tree of Life here and now. In the New Testament book of John, Christ told Nicodemus that, “flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit” (John 3: 5) and “whoever believes in him (Christ) is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son (John 3:18. The birth and death of Christ was the victory over Satan predicted in Genesis 3:15 which Christ explained, “for God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him (Christ) shall not perish but have eternal life (John, 3:16)

My earthly parents (Adam and Eve) were condemned to an earthly death, expelled from Eden, and barred from eating fruit from the Tree of Life, however, I am assured of eternal life. By accepting a relationship with Christ, I am no longer condemned to death; but will live in eternity.

Reflection. What about you? Where are you in the process and progress of your life? Is your future eternal death or eternal 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/

Copyright December 19, 2010, Carolyn A. Roth; all rights reserved.

Rejected by God

Photograph of a growing barley

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” – Genesis 4:6-7 (NIV)

God rejected Cain’s offering of grain, yet He accepted his brother Abel’s offering of a lamb. It is easy to see why Cain became angry, but that was because God’s preferences contrasted Cain’s inclinations. Yet God loved Cain so much that he tried to reason with Cain. What happens to us when our will is crossed by God’s will in Scripture? Do we get angry as well? Our reactions are more of an indicator of our heart than any inconsistencies on God’s part (David Whitehead).

Millet berries and flower

Bdellium in Eden

Commiphora africana light

Read Genesis Chapters 1 and 2.

On Creation Day 6 God planted a garden in the east in Eden (Genesis 2: 8-9).  Most scholars believe that the location of Eden “in the east” is in reference to Israel, where Genesis was probably written. In the ancient Hebrew language, Eden means “delight.”  The Garden of Eden was a place of pristine and abundant natural beauty.  All manner of plants were present. A river ran through Eden to water the garden. The Bible did not give the river a name.  After leaving Eden, the river formed the headwaters of four rivers: the Pishon, Gihon, Tigris and Euphrates.

It’s tempting to conclude that Eden was located near present day Iraq because rivers named Tigris and Euphrates are located in Iraq; however, these Iraqi rivers are probably not the original rivers named in Genesis.  The devastating flood of Noah’s time destroyed and changed the topography of the land.  Later peoples probably named the present day rivers Tigris and Euphrates in the same manner that early American colonists named American locations after sites in Europe, e.g., Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

The Bible described the Pishon River as winding through the land of Havilah, noted for its gold and aromatic resin.  The aromatic resin was bdellium, the first plant named in the Bible.

What is a bdellium?

Bdellium’s genus and species names are Commiphora africana. The generic name ‘Commiphora’ is based on the Greek words ‘kommi’ (gum) and ‘phero’ (to bear).  The bdellium is a deciduous tree indigenous to sub-Saharan African.  In 2012, bdellium did not appear in Israeli plant data bases.  Bdellium grows best in red or sandy clay and rocky ground to include from escarpments.  It leafs before or at the beginning of the wet season and loses leaves as the dry season begins.  If rainfall is sparse and interrupted, two crops of leaves may be produced.

Underground roots spread many feet around the tree in search of water. The bark is pleasantly scented and exudes a clear gum or resin.  Nomadic peoples use the bdellium tree for several purposes.  Roots of young plants have a sweet taste and are chewed.  Timber is used for stools, milk containers, spoons and on occasion for building houses. Bark is brewed for red tea.  Soft gum is eaten while hard gum is used to make arrows.  Fruit is chewed to prevent gum disease and stop toothaches.   In ancient Egypt women carried small pouches filled with bdellium pieces as a source of perfume.

Symbolism: Separation

The Hebrew word for bdellium is bedôlach, derived from the word’s primary root, bâdal which means to separate, divide or distinguish from. The symbolism of the bdellium plant in the creation story mirrored the separation or differentiation of the Biblical Garden of Eden from the lands outside.  The Biblical Eden included beautiful plants and plants available for man to eat; it was all sufficient.  In contrast, the land of Havilah was noteworthy only for its gold and one aromatic resin-producing plant, bdellium.  None of the lands outside of Eden were described as attractive, lush, or food producing.

Living inside of Christ is like living in Eden.  With Christ our lives are beautiful, fertile and satisfying.  When we are outside of Eden — separated from Christ – our lives are bland, unproductive and we are left hungering for something that is not there.  That something is Christ. Sometimes I feel like I am simply smelling the aromatic bdellium in Havilah, rather than living in Eden.   I worry that I am separated from Christ; that I am not spending enough time with him or the right kind of time with him.

At those times I am reassured by Romans 8:35 where Paul asked the question, “Who will separate us from the love of Christ. Will trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?”  The answer Paul provided is as relevant today as it was to the Romans 2000 year ago.  Paul’s answer was, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:38-39).

Thought: Nothing can stop God from loving us. What stops us from loving God. Remember if we love God, we obey 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 December 7, 2015; Carolyn A. Roth

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