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.

Myrrh Tree and Resin

Bible References: Genesis 37.25; Esther 2.12; Psalm 48.8; Proverbs 7.17; Matthew 2.11; Revelation 18.13.

Myrrh use was recorded throughout the Bible. In Genesis, Joseph was sold to Ishmaelites, who included myrrh in their caravan traveling to Egypt. Esther completed a twelve-month beauty treatment with myrrh before she was taken to King Xerxes. Myrrh perfumed robes of a king  and the bed of an adulteress. Myrrh was catalogued seven times in Song of Songs to describe the Lover, the Maid (Bride), and Solomon’s gardens. In Revelation, John listed myrrh as a commodity no one would buy after Rome fell.

Despite the various times myrrh was identified in the Bible, three times stand out: The earliest is in Exodus. Myrrh was a component of anointing oil used in the tabernacle. This same anointing oil was used in the Temple in first-century Jerusalem when Jesus taught there. Second, myrrh was a gift that wise men brought Jesus at his birth. There, myrrh symbolized the deity of Jesus; he was the Son of God. Also, myrrh represented “gifts.” God gave his son as a gift to mankind. Thirty-three years after Jesus’s birth, Jesus gave his life as a gift for mankind. In turn, the gift that Jesus wants from each of us is that we belief in him as risen Savior. When we belief in Jesus as Savior, we accept God’s gift of his son and Jesus’s gift of his life. Third and finally, myrrh was used in Jesus’s burial. Following Jesus’s death, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus wrapped Jesus’s body in linen saturated with myrrh and aloes. Then, they laid Jesus’s body in a tomb carved in rock.

The Myrrh Tree

New Testament myrrh was from a different plant than in the Old Testament. Most myrrh in the Roman Empire came from the Commiphora myrrha plant; however, in Israel the plant used to make myrrh was the C. abyssinica (C. habessinica, myrrh tree, Arabian myrrh, Yemen myrrh). Probably, the myrrh used by Nicodemus and Joseph was from the C. abyssinica plant, because it was readily available in Judah. The Hebrew word for myrrh is môr or môwr which means bitter because myrrh had a bitter taste.

Myrrh is a dried resin from myrrh trees. The myrrh tree is small, growing only up to twenty feet. The trunk (bole) can be as tall as thirteen feet. Myrrh trees have spiny branches and stems that grow at right-angles from stems. Stems end in sharp spines. Flowers are tiny and inconspicuous. One-or-two round fruits grow each stem; fruit are three-fourth to one-and-one-half inches long.

When myrrh resin is harvested, lateral cuts are made on tree trunks and larger branches. Aromatic gum resin seeps from cuts. When exposed to air, gum hardens forming irregular-shaped yellow or brown globules. Most sold myrrh has sharp-edges and is marble-sized.

Reflection: Because I am interested in Bible plants, I bought a few jars of myrrh resin. The myrrh smelled pleasant; however, I never tasted it. The myrrh just stays in the jar in my closet. I don’t use it to perfume my home. I guess, we could compare my myrrh to a Bible that just lies on a desk or even beside a chair. The Bible never gets opened.

Copyright July 1, 2019; Carolyn A. Roth

Zillah, Wife of a Murderer and Plant

Bible Reference: Genesis chapter 4.

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.

Although we know little about Zillah, we know that her husband was a murderer. He admitted to his 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 seventy-seven times. Contemplating Lamech’s words, readers aren’t sure whether he is bragging about his actions or admitting his wrong. Whichever Lamech was doing, most certainly  Zillah, reaped  consequences.

The Plant

Zillah was named after a spiny, woody shrub (Zilla spinosa) that grows in deserts, to include extreme desert, regions.7  Stems can grow up to five feet. The zilla grows as wide as tall, so that the plant 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 four-petal lavender, occasionally pink, flower. I imagine that Zillah was named after the lovely flower rather than after the spiny plant. Alternatively, Zillah could have been named after the rounded appearance of the Z. spinosa.

Symbolism, Interpretation

The website, Flowers in Israel,7 named Ezekiel’s brier as 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.

One word that encompassed the story of Zillah in Genesis and Ezekiel’s prophecy against Sidon is 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, injure and distress others with our words and behavior?

Reflection: A dear friend told me recently that a mutual friend’s words hurt. 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 words and 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: July, 1, 2019; Carolyn Adams Roth

Please see my website http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com to purchase about bad plants in the good book.

Jointed Anabis, Desert Thistle

Bible References: Genesis 46.16; Numbers 26.15.

The Antabasis articulata is a plant in search of a home. It has been identified as both a thistle and an herb; yet, herb societies refuse to list it. Antabasis articulata doesn’t even have a well-known common name, i.e., the jointed anabis and berry bearing glasswort. I am going to put it in the thistle category, despite it not having sharp pointed projections of  more-notable thistle species. Israeli plant data bases and Hebrew scholars6,7 claimed that the Arabic word shenan is a cognate of the biblical proper name Shuni. Shuni was the third son of Gad (Jacob’s son) and head of the Shunite clan. This plant is an example of a plant named for a notable person, or possibly Shuni was named for the plant.

The jointed anabis is a desert plant found in northern Africa and nations that border the eastern Mediterranean Sea. In Israel, it is located south of Jerusalem in the arid En Gedi region. A number of Bedouin livestock (camels, goats) graze on the jointed anabis. The plant is used to cure at least one type of parasite that affects desert animals.  Bedouin women burn the plant and use ashes for laundry soap. The jointed anabis kills insects and repels rodents. Humans don’t eat this plant. More recently, the jointed anabis is being studied as a way to protect the liver from fibrosis and  to lower blood sugar.

In first year-or-two of growth, jointed anabis is green, but, soon becomes woody, dry, and brown. Stems are leafless. When young, jointed anabis resembles a succulent. Flowers are small and can be green, red, or yellow. Flowers appear in early winter when small amounts of rain falls on their habitat. The fruit is small and appears to grow as two flowers joined together. Each seed has small membranous wings which aids dispersion.

If I considered plants to grow on earth, the jointed anabis wouldn’t come to mind. It doesn’t seem to have any characteristics to recommend it. The jointed anabis is a reminder that inconspicuous individuals have a purpose in God’s creation.

Do you have anyone in your church that is consistently there, but is inconspicuous to most people? I think of two women in my church, both in their 60s, who I saw Sunday morning-after-Sunday morning  for about five years, but never talked to. In the past two years, I  made a point to get to know them. They are both sweet, caring individuals. One is a prayer warrior. The other has started to spend Thanksgiving with us. Both are fun and sincere. I love to spend time with them.

God has blessed me by putting both women in my life. But, I could have overlooked them in my routine of talking to other friends. God wants me and you to embrace individuals who don’t stand out in our world. These individuals are the sheep of Jesus’s pasture.

Reflection: Who is similar to a jointed anabis in your neighborhood, your job site, your church? Who are you and other congregates ignoring? What would Jesus do if he came to your church?

http://www.Copyright May 20, 2019; Carolyn Adams Roth

http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com

 

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

Alpha & Omega of Myrrh

Use of myrrh was recorded throughout the Bible. In Genesis (37.25), Joseph was sold to Ishmaelites, who included myrrh in their trade caravan. Esther (2.12) completed a 12-month beauty treatment, which included myrrh, before she was taken to King Xerxes. Myrrh perfumed the robes of a king (Psalm 45.8) and the bed of an adulteress (Proverbs 7.17). Myrrh was catalogued seven times in Song of Songs to describe the Lover, the Maid (Bride), and Solomon’s gardens. In Revelation (18.13), John listed myrrh as a commodity no one would buy after Roman fell.

Despite the various times myrrh was identified in the Bible, three  times stand out:

  1. The earliest is in Exodus. Myrrh was a component of anointing oil used in the tabernacle (Exodus 30.22-33). This same anointing oil was used in the temple in 1st century Jerusalem.
  2. Myrrh was a gift that the wise men brought to Jesus at his birth (Matthew 2.11). There, myrrh symbolized the deity of Jesus; he was the Son of God. Also, myrrh represented “gifts;” God gave his son as a gift to mankind. Thirty-three years after Jesus’s birth, Jesus gave his life as a gift for mankind. In turn, the gift that Jesus wants from each of us is that we belief in him as risen Savior. When we belief in Jesus as Savior, we accept God’s gift of his son and Jesus’s gift of his life.
  3. Myrrh was present at Jesus’s burial. Following the death of Jesus, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus wrapped Jesus’s body in linen saturated with myrrh and aloes (John 19.39). Then, they laid Jesus’ body in a tomb carved in rock.

Likely New Testament myrrh was from a different plant than in the Old  Testament. Further, different plant species were used to make myrrh in different countries. Most myrrh in the Roman Empire came from the Commiphora myrrha plant; however, in Israel the plant used to make myrrh was the C. abyssinica (C. habessinica, myrrh tree, Arabian myrrh, Yeman myrrh). Probably, the myrrh used by Nicodemus and Joseph was from the C. abyssinica plant. The Hebrew word for myrrh is môr or môwr which means bitter because myrrh had a bitter taste.

The Plant Product

Myrrh is a dried resin from myrrh trees. In present day Israel, pilgrims can view myrrh trees in the Biblical Landscape Reserve. The myrrh plant is a small tree that grows up to twenty feet tall. The trunk (bole) is as tall as thirteen feet. When myrrh resin is harvested, lateral cuts are made on the tree trunk or branches. An aromatic gum resin seeps from the wounds. When exposed to air, gum hardens forming irregular-shaped yellow or brown globules. The globules smell pleasant, but, taste bitter. Today, myrrh is sold by vendors in the bazaar in the old city of Jerusalem. Most the sold myrrh is sharp-edged, marble-size pieces.

Reflection: The Greek word for myrrh is smurna, which translates “strengthened for.” At Jesus’s birth, the Magi brought Jesus a gift that symbolically strengthen him for his life on earth. Considering how Jesus was persecuted on earth, a gift that even symbolically strengthen him was a superlative gift.

Copyright 10/11/2018; Carolyn A. Roth

Flowering Rush and Legacy

“Can reed flourish where there is no water? While yet in flower and not cut down they wither before any other plant” (Job 8.11-12, ESV).

In this verse Bildad, one of Job’s friends recommends to Job that he repent of his sin. Then, God will forgive Job and restore his losses. Typical of wisdom literature, Bildad uses an analogy from nature to illustrate the vulnerability of the wicked. Bildad is sure that Job did something wicked for God to give Job all the disasters that occurred in his live. The flowering rush is primarily a Mediterranean plant. Its presence in Job suggested that his home country possibly had rivers or lakes.

Flowering Rush

The flowering reed in Job 8.12 is the flowering rush (Butomus umbellatus). The word butomus comes from the root words bous (ox) and temmo (cut). The temmo portion of Butomus is an allusion to the sharp leaf margins of the flowering rush. Some writers put this rush in the sedge family known for its cutting leaves. The flowering reed produces flowers April to August. Inflorescence contain 20-25 flowers. The flower itself has three large pink petals.

Flowering reeds grow rapidly in wet lands. They can reach a height of 15 feet. At the same time, the flowering rush is vulnerable, dependent on a constant supply of water. The merest drought results in death. Like most reeds, Butomus umbellatus produces rhizomes. Rhizomes break from the parent plant and migrate to new sites where they take root and grow.

Symbolism

In Bildad speech to Job, he makes use of a characteristic of flowering rush which suggests that he had studied the plant. Flowering rush rhizomes can move from their original site leaving no trace of their presence. Bildad cautions Job that if he does not repent despite his previous wealth and influence, Job will pass from existence leaving no trace of his presence.

Reflection

Most of us want to be remembered. We want to leave something that makes an impact on the earth when we are gone. Some individuals have children. Others write books, design buildings, or determine to be great politicians. What do you want to leave as your legacy?

Copyright July 22, 2018; Carolyn A. Roth

Visit my website to purchase books on Bible plants: http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com

Obtuse Maple

Scripture: Genesis 30:37

The Story:

In New International Version Study Bibles (NIV) and in the English Standard Version (ESV) study Bible, Genesis 30:37 reads: “Jacob, however, took fresh cut branches from poplar, almond, and plane trees and made white stripes on them by peeling the bark and exposing the white inner wood of the branches.”  In contrast to these Bible translations, the Darby Bible (DBY) recorded the same verse as “And Jacob took fresh rods of white poplar, almond-tree, and maple; and peeled off white stripes in them, uncovering the white which was on the rods.” In Darby’s translation, the plane tree was translated as maple.

The Tree:

In present day Israel, only one type of maple tree grows, the Syrian maple (Acer obtusifolium, Acer syriacum). The Syrian maple is considered a Mediterranean tree. In Israel, it is present in woodlands, shrub-lands, and around Mount Herman. Most likely, Jacob would have had access to the Syrian maple tree if he opted to use it as he attempted to control the color of flocks. At the time Jacob was living in an area which today is most likely part of Syria. Looking at the photograph of young Syrian maples, it is easy to see why Jacob could have used the Syrian maple if he wanted spotted flocks.

In Latin, the word for maple is “Acer,” which means sharp, irritating, and pungent. Romans used the wood for spear shafts. The Latin word “obtusifolium” is translated as blunt, obtuse, or dull and folium as leaf.  Obtusifolium means this maple tree has a blunt leaf.

Leaves are green and in pairs on opposite sides of a stem. This tree sheds its leaves during summer months when weather is scorching hot in Israel. Flowers, which appear on the Syrian maple in April, May, and June are greenish cream. Flowers turn into seeds which are startling in their pinkish red color.

Symbolism:

 The more I learn, the more I could get confused about some of the technicalities of the Bible. For example, did Jacob use a maple or a plane tree? The answer is that the Bible was not written as a book for botanists (as much as I would have liked that). Rather, the Bible was written to disclose the Triune God. Studying God is a better use of our time than trying to figure out the exact species of tree used by Bible characters.

US Equivalent:

In the United States, the maple tree is the Acer saccharinum (Silver maple). This beautiful tree can grow to 100 feet tall. It has high wild-life value and is loved by birds, squirrels, fox, and other small mammals. In springtime, flowers appear before leaves and are a welcome harbinger of warmer days.

Reflection: When you read the Bible do you get bogged down in details such as the one in this blog, or are you able to concentrate on God and his Son’s redemptive work on the cross?

Copyright September 26, 2017; all rights reserved.

If you want to learn more about plants in the Bible consider purchasing my two books on Bible plants from my website: http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/

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