Category Archives: Plants & the Ancient Fathers

Plants and the Ancient Fathers encompasses plants associated with Job, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph. In all cases the symbolism of the plants are described.

Hand Me Downs

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Initially I was just going to post this cartoon by Dave Coverly. I felt sorry for Cain having to wear only a fig leaf apron. Then I got to thinking about “hand me downs.” Most of us — at least in my generation — wore hand me downs from siblings, cousins, or friends. Looking backward, that doesn’t seem optimal because it meant we were too poor to buy clothes. That was definitely true for my family — we were major poor.

But, now the idea of “hand me downs” doesn’t see all that bad. I love hand me downs in that I love the traditions that came from the apostles. Those traditions which were handed down in the New Testament church are for real. No wrapping an idea up in 21st century political correctness but the reality of Christ’s birth, crucifixion, and resurrection.

Reflection: Let’s give a shout out to the church traditions handed down from the apostles.

Copyright: January 10, 2017; Carolyn A. Roth

If would want to learn more about plants in the Bible check my website: http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com

 

 

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Pistachios in Canaan — the Best

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Bible Reference:  Genesis 43:11

I admit it, I have a new addiction. It is pistachios. There is always a container setting on the counter in the kitchen. Most times when I go there, I stop and open several shells and eat the nuts.

In the Bible, pistachios are mentioned only once. Jacob told his sons to take them as a gift to the man (Joseph) in control of the Egyptian food supply. The background of the story was that Jacob’s sons made a previous trip to Egypt to buy food after a famine hit Canaan. There, Joseph (the same Joseph that the brothers sold into slavery) met with his brothers; but they failed to recognize him.

Joseph told his brothers that he would sell them additional food if Benjamin came with them when the brothers returned to Egypt. Jacob was reluctant to allow his youngest son to leave Canaan and go to Egypt with the older brothers. In Jacob’s mind, Rachel’s first son (Joseph) was dead and he had only Benjamin’s Rachel’s youngest son left alive.

Judah persuaded Jacob to allow Benjamin to accompany the brothers to Egypt lest the entire family starve. Jacob gave Judah the direction to take pistachios to Egypt to give to the man in charge of selling food. Jacob identified pistachios as one of the “best products” of Canaan.

Pistachios

Pistachios are a two-sided small greenish seed that grows in a whitish-brown hard shell. Pistachio trees (Pistacio vera) were cultivated in Israel for 4000 years. The modern pistachio tree, P. vera, was first cultivated in Bronze Age Central Asia (Uzbekistan).

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Pistachio trees are a desert plant and highly tolerant of saline soil. Trees can survive temperatures ranging between −10 °C (14 °F) in winter and 48 °C (118 °F) in summer. They grow poorly in high humidity. Pistachio tree are susceptible to root rot in winter if soil is not free-draining. Long, hot summers are required for proper ripening of the fruit.

Symbolism: Best

Remember in grade school you learned that something could be “good, better, or best?” Pistachios were one of the “best” products of Canaan. According to the dictionary “best” means “excelling all others.” Over time, I’ve learned that I cannot be “good” in my own strength. Believe me I tried – hard! Further, I should not compare myself with other Christians and attempt to be “better” than they. There was always someone “better” than me.

Instead, I should work at being the “best” Christian I am capable of being regardless of what others are doing or where they are in their walk with Christ. God wants me to be the “best” Christian “me” that I can be.

Reflection: How do you evaluate your Christian walk?

Copyright November 7, 2016; Carolyn A. Roth

I love studying plants in the Bible, even the relatively uncommon ones. If you are interested in learning more about Bible plants, check my website www.CarolynRothMinistry.com. I have a store where you can purchase books on Bible plants.

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A Trade and a Traitor

 

Jacob and Esau

Esau traded his birthright for lentil stew; read the story in Genesis 25:19-34.

The great patriarch Abraham was 100 years old when his son Isaac was born (2066 B.C.). At about 40 years of age (2026 B.C.), Isaac married Rebecca. Initially, Rebecca was barren; however, after 20 years (2006 B.C.), she gave birth to twin boys. Esau was the firstborn and Jacob was born second. In ancient near east cultures, the law of primogeniture prevailed (Deuteronomy 21:17 notes, NIV Study Bible, 2002). This law allocated a double portion of the father’s wealth to the first born son. It included that the eldest son would be the next head of the family or clan. As the first born son, Esau would have been the ancestor of the Messiah.

As Esau and Jacob grew up, Esau enjoyed spending time in the open country; he became a skilled hunter. In contrast, Jacob was a quiet man, often staying among the tents. Jacob envied Esau’s right of the first born. One day, Esau returned to camp after a time away in the open fields probably hunting. Esau saw Jacob cooking red lentil stew. Identifying that he was famished, Esau asked his brother for some stew. Jacob’s responded was that he would give Esau the stew only if Esau swore an oath to sell Jacob his birthright. Esau answered, “I am about to die, what good is my birthright?” and swore to sell his birthright to Jacob in exchange for lentil stew. Jacob gave Esau stew and bread. When Esau finished eating and drinking, he got up and left. The Bible concludes this story by saying, “so Esau despised his birthright” (Genesis 25: 34).

The Lentil PlantLentils & Lentil Stew

The red lentil is a type of small bean known scientifically as Ervum lens (aka Lens esculenta) and more recently the Lens culinaris. The lentil originated in the Middle East and central Asia. Wild red lentils were harvested by 9000 B.C. and domesticated as early as 7,000 B.C. Archeology excavations found a large storage of lentils in northern Israel dating about 6,800 B.C. Lentil plants grow well in sandy, loam, and clay soils that are dry or moist, but not wet. In rich soils the lentil plant becomes leafy and produces few pods. Lentil pods were harvested in August or September just as the pods began to turn brown. In ancient time lentil plants were harvested when the foliage was green, and then were laid out in a dry area. To maintain the lentil seed’s flavor, ancient peoples kept lentil seeds in the pod until they were ready to use them. In this way, lentil seeds could be retained two years before cooking or planting. Because lentil seeds have a high nutritional value, often nomadic peoples and traders carried them as a food source.

Symbolism: Nourishment

In this scene, the lentil represents nourishment. Nourish means to sustain or to furnish with something essential for growth, e.g., nutrients. When he returned to camp, Esau suffered severely from hunger (famished). Whether we realize it or not, men and women today are famished for someone to believe in and someone to trust. Jacob provided the nourishing stew that his brother needed for a price, however, Christ’s behavior to his human brothers and sisters is diametrically opposite. Christ invites us to come to him and live with him. Freely he nourishes us with himself and his words, e.g. “the one who feeds on me will live because of me” (John 6:57). We do not have to barter for salvation or for life with Christ.

At the same time that Christ nourishes us, he tells us to feed and nourish others. For example, Christ directed Peter, and through Peter all of us, to feed and nourish his lambs and sheep (John 20: 15 – 17). We are to nourish not only fellow Christians, but our enemies as well. Romans 12:20 is very explicit, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him. We should act intentionally to nourish others both physically and spiritually. We can provide physical nourishment by giving to and assisting at the local food bank, and rescue mission, or inviting others for a meal. Spiritually, we can nourish others by acknowledging their presence with a smile or hello when we walk by them; sending an email or card when we know someone is hurting; or dialing seven digits on the telephone and telling someone you miss them or care about them.

Thought: “The lips of the righteous nourish many” (Proverbs 10: 21). Are you nourishing others with your words or are people around you starving from want of a kind word? Do you nourish only when you get something in return, or do you willing feed your brothers and sisters?

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: March 9, 2016; Carolyn A. Roth

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Not so Plane Tree

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

References: Genesis 30:37; Ezekiel 31:8

The plane tree was used by Jacob in an attempt to influence the color of his flock of goats and sheep. Jacob’s story was elaborated several months ago in the blog titled: Crafty Characters and Poplar Tree. In the Bible, plane tree was mentioned only one other time and that was in Ezekiel 31:8.  Ezekiel prophesied against pharaoh, King of Egypt. Ezekiel compared the magnificence of the Assyrian Empire to the plane tree.

Ezekiel said that “no cedar in the garden of God could rival it (Assyria) nor the fir trees equal its boughs; neither were the plane trees like its branches” (Ezekiel 31:8). Ezekiel was making the point that the Assyrian Empire was mighty – one of the mightiest empires to ever exist – yet it fell to the depth of Sheol (Hell). Mighty Egypt and Pharaoh would also fall.

Ezekiel was God’s prophet who was captured with the Jewish exiles and taken to Babylon. When Ezekiel gave this prophecy there were two mighty empires in the world: Egypt on the northeastern corner of Africa and Babylon in the area that is now Persia. Some governments and scholars thought Egypt was indestructible; yet, not too many years after the Babylonian Empire conquered Jerusalem, Babylonian soldiers conquered Egypt.

Plane Tree

Normally, the plane tree (Platanus orientalis), called the oriental plane tree, doesn’t grow in the United States. More often we see the Platanus occidentalis, called the American sycamore, the American plane tree, and occasionally the buttonball. The King James Version of the Bible translated plane tree as chestnut tree; however, the better translation is plane tree. In this blog, I am going to discuss the American sycamore (Platanus occidentalis), rather than the Oriental Plane Tree.

The American sycamore tree commonly grows from 70-100 feet tall; however it can grow as tall as 120 feet or more. It is one of the most massive trees east of the Rocky Mountains. Hardiness Plant Zones are 5-9 with occasional trees found in Zone 4. The canopy can grow 65-80 wide so American sycamore trees aren’t acceptable for planting in small areas. Growth rate is moderate and the tree can grow to 2 feet each year.

The American sycamore tree is handsome particularly when turn yellow-brown in the fall. The tree trunk and bark is distinctive with smooth, pale, and mottled bark that exfoliates. Although the plane tree prefers deep, rich, moist soil, it will grow in about any soil. Plane trees can withstand external pollutants and are ideal for urban landscapes, assuming the tree has space to grow.

Exfoliate

Exfoliate is an interesting word. It means to cast off in scales of thin layers. Sycamore trees cast off bark so the trunk and limbs of any significant size look smooth. I wish I could exfoliate in order to cast off some of my foibles and quirks; however, I do just the opposite. The parts of my character and personality that I want to get rid of, are just those parts that seem to cling. I wonder if trying to get rid of the un-beautiful parts of my being is part of Christian maturity, even becoming progressively more like Christ, e.g., sanctification.

Some days I want to rush forward toward Christ-likeness so I can become pure and clean. But total purity and cleanliness isn’t going to happen here on earth,  no matter how much I exfoliate the old and try to put on the new. I’m human, which by definition means that I will never reach perfection in this life no matter how much I exfoliate nor how smooth my skin becomes. Yet, God expects me to struggle as I move forward, as I move nearer to Christ. Do you ever become impatient with yourself and ask, “Why don’t you just make me righteous, God.”

Reflection: Ponder why God doesn’t make you do things to achieve the character here on earth that you will finally achieve in heaven. Do you think God wants us to fail?

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 February 20, 2016; Carolyn A. Roth

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Mellow Mallows

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Reference: Job 30:4

I have to admit that I am confused about the mallow plant. In Zondervan’s Bible dictionary, the mallow is synonymous with Atriplex halimus, also known as the salt herb, saltwort, sea orache. Zondervan describes mallow as a robust bushy shrub eaten as a vegetable with little nutritional value.

I purchased mallow seeds (several different types of seeds). Then, planted them in my home garden and in the church garden. Some I planted in the shade and some in mostly sun. At home one lonely seed came up and gave me this beautiful plant. Somehow it doesn’t look like a bushy shrub. This may be another example of early colonial American’s naming plants incorrectly or seed companies just labeling a plant incorrectly then selling them by that name.

At church, I had a bunch of plants came up all with large leaves but no flowers. If you want to see an accurate picture of the salt plant, use the search feature on this blog. Several years ago I wrote about salt plants in relation to Job.

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The point I want to make here is that there are a lot of counterfeits in the world. Many plants and items are mislabeled, e.g., as fun, as a religion. Many of these labels are not reality. As Christians, we have to discriminate between accurate (real) and “just a name.”

Reflection: Don’t settle for less than the real thing. Christ is really the Son of God and Son of Man.

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: February 2, 2016.

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Reeds and Revelations

Phragmites communis (2)

Bible Reference: Genesis Chapter 41.

Joseph’s (1915 BC-1805 BC) life was swayed by his dreams and the dreams of others. He alienated his brothers by telling them his dream in which they bow to him. Because of their jealousy, his brothers sold him into slavery when Joseph was 17 years old.

Joseph became a slave in a wealthy Egyptian household. Wrongly accused of molesting the owner’s wife, Joseph was sent to prison. During his imprisonment, Joseph interpreted a dream from the cup-bearer of Pharaoh.  Later when Joseph was about 30, Pharaoh had a dream that his advisers couldn’t interpret.

Joseph interpreted Pharaoh’s dream and gave God the credited for being able to do so. The interpretation was that seven years of over-abundance would be followed by seven years of famine in Egypt.  Pharaoh asked Joseph how Egypt could avoid the devastating effects of the famine.  Joseph suggested storing food during the seven years of over-abundance that could be used during the seven years of famine. The plan seemed good to Pharaoh. Pharaoh made Joseph second only to himself in power in Egypt and charged Joseph to implement the plan.

Egyptian’s belief included that after death they traveled through the underworld for 12 hours of night, eventually reaching the Field of Reeds. In the Field of Reeds the body was reanimated and rejuvenated.  The Field of Reeds was a natural extension of life in Egypt, e.g., Egyptians ate, loved, and worshiped there. Class distinctions remained, pharaoh remained pharaoh.  Pharaoh’s dream was located in reeds along the Nile River. It encompassed sleek, fat cows being eaten by ugly, lean cows.  Possibly pharaoh suspected that his dream impacted not only his country, but also his afterlife in the Field of Reeds.

The Egyptian Reed 

The reed that Pharaoh dreamed about was most likely the Phragmites australis, also known as the Phragmites communis and the Egyptian, common Reed.  Generally, reeds do not tolerate rapidly flowing water but are well adapted to both fresh and brackish water.  The Egyption reed is a tall perennial grass with central stalks called culms.  Usually culms grows to a height of 6–9 feet but have been known to grow 16 feet.  In the growing season, culms are green, but as winter emerges, stalks become dark yellow or brown. In the Middle East, flowers, called panicles, bloom at the top of the reed from July through December. Initially the flower is green or purplish, but becomes a warm sandy color as the plant matures. Flowers are large (6–16 inches) and showy  The Egyptian reed spreads by underground root (rhizome) root extension or when portions of the root or plant break from the main reed and move by water to a new location where they take root and grow.

Reeds grew along the Nile River bank and throughout the Nile delta and were a key economic asset to the ancient Egyptians.  Reed colonies were used in erosion control and provided wildlife habitats along the river and in the delta. In the warm season, the Egyptian reed provided high quality forage for both cattle and horses. The reeds upright growth made it easy for livestock to eat all of the leaves.  Reeds were used extensively for roofing materials on homes of the poor.  They provided lattices, fences, materials for weaving mats and carrying nets.  Reeds were cut and fashioned into pens; rope was made from the fiber of flower stalks.  Because they were straight, long, and durable, reeds were used as measuring devices.

Symbolism of the Egyptian reed 

According to Worcester (2009) reeds symbolized material or corporal (bodily) truth and knowledge.  Material or corporal truth is the lowest form of truth.  Corporal truths change with cultural norms, societal perspectives, and personal experiences.  In contrast to corporal truth, Divine truth is eternal and unchangeable. God is defined as the God of truth (Isaiah 61:16). Divine truth can be used as a measuring rod against which individuals in all ages and societies can evaluate personal thoughts, beliefs, and behavior.

In today’s world, God’s truth comes primarily from the Bible. As we grow spiritually, the Holy Spirit opens scripture passages in ever increasing depth.  For many years I have attended Bible studies, e.g., Genesis, The Acts of the Apostles. With each repeated study on a topic, I understood the characters and events in more detail.  I am able to comprehend more of God’s purpose in placing a story or event in the Holy Scriptures.

As individuals pray and meditate on scripture, they may receive insights and even revelations; but those insights and revelations never contradict the infallible Word of God.  We need to be very careful before we say, “God told me to do x or y.”  If we get personal revelations which we think are from God, we need to search the scripture to verify that the message is true.

As I looked through the Index in my Bible, I found 17 verses in Matthew alone in which Christ said, “I tell you the truth” and then proceeded to direct his disciples or audience toward some action, to issue a warning, or provide some insight to life. Christ did not need to say, “I tell you the truth” because Christ is Divine and by definition cannot lie.  He used the words for emphasis or to get his listener’s attention.  The entire Bible is full of Divine truth.  There is no need for us to rely only on physical or corporal truth as we walk through life.

Reflection: From where do you get your truth? CNN, FOX, your local newspaper, your pastor, or the Bible?

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 October 15, 2015: Carolyn A. Roth

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Crafty Characters and Poplar Tree

White poplar limbs

Bible Reference: Genesis 30:25-43

Jacob was living in Paddan Aram with his father-in-law, Laban. Jacob married two of Laban’s daughters (Leah and Rachel). Laban was also Jacob’s uncle, the brother of Jacob’s mother Rebecca. Given these close relationships, in the Near East culture we could expect that Laban treated Jacob fairly; but, that was not the case. Continually, Laban changed his son-in-laws wages so that Jacob could acquire no personal wealth by increasing the size of this own herds.

After Rachel gave birth to Joseph, Jacob told Laban, he wanted to go back to Canaan. Laban requested Jacob to stay with him and asked Jacob what he wanted in return. Jacob agreed to stay with the stipulation that he be given every speckled or spotted sheep, every dark colored lamb, and every spotted or speckled goat. Any non-speckled sheep, lamb, or goat would belong to Laban. Always devious, Laban agreed to Jacob’s plan; but, immediately Laban took all the speckled livestock from his herds and moved them three days journey from remaining flocks. Laban’s planned to prevent speckled animals from being born so Jacob would work for no or minimal wages.

Jacob had another plan. He took fresh cut branches from poplar, almond, and plane trees. He made white stripes on the branches by pealing the bark and exposing the white inner wood. The branches appeared speckled – the dark colored bark contrasted with the white inner wood of the branch. When stronger females were in heat and came to drink, Jacob placed the peeled branched in the water troughs. The peeled branches were in front of the animals when they mated. The result was that the strong female birthed offspring that were speckled. In this way, Jacob grew exceedingly prosperous with huge flocks of sheep and goats.

Poplar Tree

Native to the Middle East including Palestine, the white poplar tree (Populus alba) grows well in moist areas to include along water courses. The white popular grows as tall as 60 feet; the trunk darkens with age but new shoots are white. Spring flowers are green on female trees and a bright crimson on male trees. The white poplar tree is attractive and fast growing. It is a good tree to grow between properties for privacy. Problems include brittle branches and persistent suckers requiring removal.

Crafty Characters

Both Laban and Jacob were crafty, i.e., they were deceitful, tricky, scheming, and devious. Laban agreed to give Jacob all the speckled animals for his wages. Then, immediately moved all speckled animals away from herds Jacob tended to that no speckled animals were available to breed. Jacob placed speckled branches in front of water troughs, believing that seeing the rods when they mated would cause the females animals to birth speckled offspring. Jacob’s scheme was superstitious behavior. Most definitely, the color of branches female livestock saw when they mated didn’t influence the color of offspring. It is true that the female stock produced a high percent of speckled animals. However, the reason was God’s intervention and his will and not Jacob’s conniving.

Do you admire Jacob? I don’t! He was a liar, showed partiality to his wives and children, condoned the rape of his daughter, and I could go on and on. But it really doesn’t matter what I think of Jacob. God decided to bless Jacob. God chose Jacob to be an ancestor of the Messiah in spite of Jacob’s character defects. At the same time, God didn’t condone Jacob’s behavior. Here are some Bible verses about crafty behavior:

“He catches the wise in their craftiness and the schemes of the wily are swept away” (Job 5:13). This verse was repeated by St. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthian church. Paul wrote, “For the wisdom of the world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: He catches the wise in their craftiness” (1 Corinthians 3:19). Paul encouraged Christians to grow and become mature in their faith so they are “no longer infants tossed back and forth by waves and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming” (Ephesians 2: 14). God averred that even in the church, crafty men would try to de-rail Christian belief.

Reflection: Are you crafty? Do you scheme to get your own way with your spouse or at work? If you do, please don’t forget Job’s words (which Paul repeated). God knows when we try to get our own way by being sly or crafty. His words are – the schemes of the wily are swept away.

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 August 25, 2015: Carolyn A. Roth

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Feeling Tangled Up

Chaste Tree Flower

Photograph is Chaste tree flower in St. John Lutheran Bible Garden

Bible Reference: Genesis 22:1-19.

Isaac was the son that God promised Abraham and Sarah – the son through whom all the peoples of the earth would be blessed. When Isaac was about 16 years old, God commanded Abraham to take Isaac to the region of Mount Moriah and sacrifice him as a burnt offering.

Abraham didn’t hesitate or question God’s command. Early the next morning, Abraham, Isaac, and two servants started walking toward Mount Moriah. As Abraham and Isaac walked together, Isaac asked his father where the lamb was for the burnt offering. Abraham responded that God would provide the lamb.

When they reached Mount Moriah, Abraham built an altar, arranged wood on it, and bound Isaac on top of the wood. Abraham picked up his knife, prepared to slay Isaac. At the last minute, the angel of the Lord told Abraham to not kill Isaac. The angel commended Abraham for fearing God enough to sacrifice his son.

Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught by the horns in a nearby thicket. The thicket held the ram in place in much the same way that Isaac’s bindings held him on the altar. Just as Isaac didn’t struggle against his bindings, the Bible doesn’t indicate that the ram struggled to loosen its horns from the thicket. The ram was simply there, waiting for Abraham to see it. Abraham killed the ram and offered it as a burnt offering.

What is a Thicket?

Although Abraham, Isaac, and the ram played major roles in this Bible episode, so did the thicket. A thicket is a group of wild shrubs and occasional small trees which grow together to form impenetrable branches and roots. In thickets, trees rarely grow more than 10-20 feet tall. Often shrubs have thorns and vines entangle with them. Trees and shrubs that could have composed the Mount Moriah thicket were the chaste tree, prickly juniper, and myrtle.

Abraham’s planned sacrifice of Isaac on Mount Moriah was in approximately 2050 B.C. At that time, much of the Judean Mountains including Mount Moriah was tree covered; however, approximately 30-40 years earlier, a natural or manmade disaster (earthquake, flood, or fire) occurred. Thickets grow only in response to disturbances where large trees are destroyed.

In present day Israel, many wild trees and shrubs have been replaced by plants, e.g., flowers and domesticated trees; however, some thickets still grow where cultivated land was abandoned. An example is the Ramat Hanadiv Nature Park northwest of Jerusalem. When we hiked a park trail, we didn’t see a ram; however, cattle foraged the area. It was easy to image one reaching into the thicket for succulent leaves and getting its horns tangled in branches.

For wilderness hikers, a thicket can be a difficult landscape to traverse. Often when experienced hikers encounter a thicket, they don’t enter it; they go around the thicket. Trying to go through a tangled, thorn-infested thicket can result in loss of direction and damage to skin and clothes.

Symbolism

The Hebrew word for thicket comes from the word çâbak, which means to entwine in the sense of interwoven branches. In English, entanglement means to wrap or twist together and to ensnare. Often entanglements cause confusion. Imagine the confusing thoughts that Satan brought to Abraham’s mind during the three day walk to Mount Moriah; e. g., “Surely God doesn’t mean for you to sacrifice Isaac? A God that really loved and cared about you would never require you to kill your beloved son.”

In contrast to the ram entangled in the thicket, Abraham didn’t become entangled in Satan’s lies or become confused by his limited understanding of God and the situation. Abraham obeyed God, believing that God would keep his promise and Isaac would be the father of all nations.

Reflection: Think about a time when you were wrapped up, twisted, or entangled in a problem. Did God fit in anywhere? Knowing what you know now, how could you have involved God more?

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 24, 2015: Carolyn A. Roth

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Do you Want a Long Life?

Quercus calliprinos with Bruce

Abraham’s camp near the oaks of Mamre is identified in Genesis
14:13 and 18:1-8.

When Abraham was about 75 years old, God directed him to leave his home in Haran. Abraham traveled with his wife Sarah, nephew Lot, and servants to Canaan. Later, Lot separated from Abraham. Abraham moved his tents to the great trees of Mamre near Hebron where he remained many years.

When Abraham was 99 years old, he had three visitors; one was the Lord. The Lord revealed two things to Abraham. First, Sarah would give birth to Abraham’s son within the next year (Genesis 18:10). Second, the Lord planned to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah because of their extreme wickedness. Abraham’s nephew Lot and his family lived in Sodom.

Abraham was able to negotiate with God so that if as few as 10 righteous persons lived in Sodom, the city would be spared. The next morning Abraham went to a place that overlooked the plain cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham saw dense smoke rising from the plain. God was unable to find 10 righteous individuals in Sodom. Shortly thereafter, Abraham left Mamre and traveled into the Negev region where Isaac was born. At some point after Isaac’s birth, Abraham returned to the area of Mamre near Hebron.

Oak Trees of Mamre Quercus calliprinos (2)

The great trees of Mamre are Quercus calliprinos, called Palestinian oaks. Some Bibles translate oak as terebinth; however, the oak and terebinth are different trees. The Palestinian oak originated in the Mediterranean Basin. It is the most common tree found in the wildlife of Israel. Fine specimens grow the Biblical Landscape Reserve in Israel. Palistinian oaks propagate by producing acorns. Ripe acorns drop from trees and germinate in 1 week. Seedlings grow slowly. At one time the Palestinian oak was an important source of hard wood for ships, ploughs, yokes, canes. Bark was a source of tannin to dye skins and leather. Acorns were roasted and eaten during famine. The tribe of Dan made way-bread from acorns and took it to war.

Symbolism: Longevity

In the Bible, oaks were associated with power, strength, or longevity in the sense of long life. The great oaks of Mamre symbolized Abraham’s long life. A Palestinian oak near Hebron, called Abraham’s Oak, is thought to be over 850 years old.

God promised that he will be with his servants through life, even into their old age and gray hairs (Isaiah 46:4). God’s people don’t need to be concerned about aging, or what they will do in retirement. They can use Abraham as their model. God called Abraham to a new life and adventure when Abraham was 75 years old. Abraham lived 175 years. Following Noah’s death, the Bible documented that after the flood, only Isaac lived as long as Abraham.

An Israelite proverb is that the fear of the Lord adds length to life; but the years of the wicked are cut short (Proverbs 10:27). Perhaps the underlying logic of this proverb is as simple as individuals who fear the Lord live more prudent lives than do the wicked; therefore, they live longer. Whatever the cause and effect of the proverb, it is important and true because it is God’s word.

Reflection. Do you want a long life? How do you think a long life is related to fear of the Lord? Does fear of God have any place in how you live your current 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: February 22, 2015; Carolyn A. Roth; All rights reserved.

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Jacob’s Wives were Superstitious

Courtesy Sara Gold, Israel.

Courtesy Sara Gold, Israel.

Read Genesis 30:14-22.

The mandrake is associated with the patriarch Jacob, son of Isaac and Rebekah and grandson of Abraham. This event took place in Paddan Aram where Jacob was living with his mother’s brother, Laban (Genesis 29: 15 – 30: 13). Jacob’s two wives were the daughters of Laban. Leah was the first and older wife and Rachel the younger, second wife. Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah. At this time, Leah has birthed four boys and stopped conceiving children. Rachel has born no children. Jacob spent his nights with Rachel.

The story of the mandrakes began with Leah’s oldest son, Reuben, finding mandrake plants in the field and bringing mandrake roots to Leah. Rachel saw the plants and asked Leah for them. Resentful of Jacob’s preference for Rachel, Leah asked Rachel, “Wasn’t it enough that you took away my husband? Will you take my son’s mandrakes too?” Rachel responded by proposing a trade – Jacob can sleep with Leah that night in return for the mandrakes. Leah agreed. When Jacob came in from the fields, he was met by Leah who said, “You must sleep with me. I have hired you with my son’s mandrakes.” Leah became pregnant and bore Jacob a fifth son who was called Issachar. Then, Leah became pregnant with a sixth son (Zebulun) and later a daughter (Dinah).  Rachel did not become pregnant as a result of acquiring – and most likely using – the mandrakes from Leah.

Many westerners cannot make much sense of this story. What does the mandrake have to do with pregnancy? In early peoples, the mandrake was associated with the superstitious belief that it promoted fertility and conception in barren women. The mandrake root was consumed in very small amounts, cut into an amulet to wear on the body, or put beneath the bed. The Genesis story revealed that Rachel and Leah believed that mandrakes promoted conception. Both Leah and Rachel wanted children. Leah wanted additional children to win the regard and affection of Jacob.  Rachel wanted children to validate herself as a woman. Rachel was so desperate to have children that she was willing to have Jacob spend a night with Leah to get possession of the mandrakes.

We are not told whether Jacob believed that mandrakes promoted fertility; however, at this time Jacob spent his nights with Rachel knowing she wanted children. In earlier chapters of Genesis, the Bible recorded that Rachel told Jacob, “Give me children, or I’ll die” (Genesis 30:1 – 2). Jacob responded angrily asking Rachel, “Am I in the place of God, who has kept you from having children?” Jacob’s response can be contrasted with that of his father Isaac and his care for his wife Rebekah. When Rebekah was barren, Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of Rebekah (Genesis 25:21). The Lord answered Isaac’s prayer.  Rebekah became pregnant and gave birth to Esau and Jacob.  There is no record that Jacob prayed about Rachel’s barren state. Rather, many years later the Bible recorded that God listened to Rachel and opened her womb and she conceived Jacob’s 11th son (Genesis 30:22 – 24).

Mandragora autumnalisCharacteristics of the Mandrake Plant

The mandrake, Mandragora officinarum (AKA M, autumnalis) is a member of the Solanacea family that includes some poisonous plants (nightshades), but also important crop plants such as potatoes and egg plants. It is native to lands around the Mediterranean Sea. The mandrake grows best in stony wastelands and uncultivated fields and will not survive severe winters. The most notable segment of the mandrake and the portion associated with fertility and conception is the root. Mandrakes have large brown roots (similar to parsnips) that can run three to four feet into the ground.The thick root is frequently forked similar to two legs. The root can weigh several pounds. On the surface of the ground, the mandrake is a dark green color with a rosette of leaves which can grow up to twelve inches long and six inches wide. Mandrake flowers produce globular yellow to orange berries which resemble small tomatoes.

Application of the Mandrake

The Bible story of the mandrakes speaks to individuals today. It tells us that Rachel could not manipulate her fertility by believing in the superstitious power of a plant, e.g., the mandrake. It was God who gave Rachel fertility after she prayed to him. We do not know if Rachel’s fertility would have occurred earlier if her husband Jacob – God’s chosen man and the son of the patriarch Abraham   — would have prayed for her. We simply know that when Rachel finally turned to God, God responded by granting Rachel’s request for a son. What a son Rachel received! Rachel’s first son was Joseph, one of the greatest men of the Bible whose life is an example for every Jew and Christian.

Many of us engage in superstitious behavior. We read our horoscope every morning and think that it will tell us if we are going to have a good day. We  ask God questions. Then open the Bible expecting that God’s answer will be in the first passage we read. This type of question and answer behavior is superstitious and an attempt to manipulate God’s word to meet our immediate situation and needs. God answers prayers and the answers are based on principles and truths for our lives found in the Bible. Paul wrote (Romans 8:26 – 27) that we do not know what we should pray for, but that the Holy Spirit knows what we need. The Holy Spirit intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express so that our prayers will be in accordance with God’s will for our lives.

Thought:  I am sure that I have engaged in superstitious behavior and have tried to manipulate or end run God. I am equally sure and thankful that the Holy Spirit intercedes for me when I pray. Over time I have become willing to admit that I do not have the answers to every situation. More and more my prayers are simply, “Your will be done, God.” What about you?  Are you like Jacob’s wives trying by superstitious behavior or your own efforts to manage events and situations in your life? Or are you willing to wait prayerfully on God’s time and/or his will for you?

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 2014: Carolyn Adams Roth

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