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.

Abraham’s symbol of commitment

Tamarisk (2)When I looked back over my blog entries, this one was the most read. So I am re-posting it with a few changes.

Abraham  planted tamarisk trees at Beersheba. Read Genesis 21:22-34.

In about 2091 B.C., God directed Abraham to leave Haran and travel to Canaan. God told Abraham that in Canaan, the Promised Land, He would make Abraham the father of a great nation (Genesis chapters 12–17). When Abraham left Haran he was about 75 years old. He traveled with his wife Sarah and his nephew Lot.  After entering Canaan, Abraham pitched his tents between Bethel (on the west) and Ai (on the east).  With the exception of a brief time in Egypt, Abraham lived in this region for the next 14 – 15 years.

When Abraham was 99 years old, he had a visit from three angels (Genesis chapter 18). The angels announced that Sarah would give birth to Abraham’s son and that they planned to destroy Sodom for the depraved sinfulness of its people. Shortly after Sodom’s destruction, Abraham left the Bethel-Ai region and traveled south into the Negev Desert (Genesis chapter 20). He spent a short time near the city of Gerar (western Negev) where he met Abimelech, king of Gerar.  After Abimelech caught Abraham in a misrepresentation, Abraham left Gerar traveling south-east-east in the Negev Desert area.  After some days journey, Abraham camped. In this area Abraham and Sarah’s son, Isaac, was born (2066 B.C.) when Abraham was 100 years old (Genesis 21: 1 – 7).

With these events in mind, the Bible tells a short but important story called “The Treaty at Beersheba” in which Abraham plants tamarisk trees. The story begins with Abimelech, King of Gerar and his military commander’s arrival at Abraham’s campsite.  The purpose of Abimelech’s visit was to elicit an oath from Abraham that he would not “deal falsely,” but with kindness (friendship) toward Abimelech and his descendents. Willingly, Abraham gave Abimelech his oath. Then Abraham complains to Abimelech about a well that Abraham’s men dug and Abimelech’s servants seized. Abimelech expressed surprise – he did not know his servants had seized the well. Because Abraham wanted the well, he gave Abimelech seven ewe lambs in return for Abimelech’s oath that the well belonged to Abraham. The site became known as Beersheba, “the well of the oath.” After Abimelech returned to Gerar, Abraham planted a tamarisk, or a grove of tamarisk trees, at Beersheba. There Abraham called on El Ôlām, naming God the Eternal (forever, everlasting) God. The Bible recorded that Abraham stayed in the area a “long time” (Genesis 21:34).

Beersheba is the only place that the Bible recorded Abraham planting trees. Today there is still an ancient well located at, or near, this site called Abraham’s well and tamarisk trees grow in the area.

The Tamarisk Tree

Most botanists and Christian scholars are unanimous in their agreement that the trees that Abraham planted were the Tamarix aphylla. It is also called the athel pine, and athel tree.  The tamarisk is a commonly occurring tree in the Middle East and probably originated in semi-arid to arid northern Africa and western Asia. It is evergreen tree and can reach a height of 50 feet. The tree grows needles rather than leaves; Aphylla means “without leaves.” Often needles excrete salt on their surfaces which give the needles a white color. Because the T. aphylla excretes salt, it is sometimes called a “salt cedar.” The tamarisk tree provides shade and a pleasant coolness.  At night, moisture increases in the cool air. Water vapor adheres to the salt particles excreted on branches and needles and forms droplets. In the morning tiny droplets of water appear on the thin branches. As the morning sun warms the air, the water droplets evaporate and cool the tree and the shade below it. The water droplets are most plentiful after a humid night and generally evaporate before noon.

Symbolism: Commitment

Why did Abraham plant a Tamarix aphylla or a grove of T. aphylla at Beersheba? The answer could be as simple as Abraham was familiar with living in the high country of Canaan between Bethel and Ai where there were tall trees for shade, coolness and beauty. He wanted to reproduce this environment in his new home.  Another answer is that the tree was a memorial to the oath between himself and Abimelech. This reason doesn’t seem as likely because Abraham named the place Beersheba, meaning the well of the oath. This name Beersheba was a reminder or memorial to the oath between Abraham and Abimelech.

I believe that Abraham planted the Tamarix trees as a memorial to his re-commitment to El Ôlām, the everlasting God. This interpretation is supported by events in time – Abraham now had the son that God promised, peace with his neighbors, and water for physical life in the dessert.  God kept his promises to Abraham; Abraham’s life is filled with blessings. God welcomes individuals who have sinned to turn to Him. In Ezekiel 18: 21- 22 we can read, “if a wicked man turns away from all the sins he committed and keeps all my decrees and does what is just and right, he will surely live; he will not die. None of the offenses he has committed will be remembered against him.” Ezekiel (520 – 480 B.C.) lived 1500 years after Abraham. Abraham didn’t have the benefit of Ezekiel’s instruction; but Abraham was aware that he had sinned by not believing that God would provide a son for him through Sarah and misrepresenting to Abimelech that Sarah was his sister rather than his wife. It is probably that when Abraham called on El Ôlām (Genesis 21:  33), he built an altar and offered sacrifices for his sins (Genesis 12:8). Then, Abraham memorializes his re-commitment to God by planting Tamarix trees.

We should not have to think deeply about committing our lives to God. There is ample evidence in the scriptures that God wants His people to be fully committed to Him; and God blesses both nations and individuals who commit to him. Samuel told the Israelites that they must first returned to the Lord and commit themselves to Him, and then God would deliver them from the hand of the Philistines (I Samuel 7:3). Psalm 37:5 reads, “commit your ways to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.”   Finally, Proverbs 16:3 instructs us to “commit to the Lord whatever you do and your plans will succeed.”  The preceding Bible verses are conditional statements, they are If – Then statements.  If nations and individuals commit to the Lord, then God will deliver them, and He will make their righteousness shine and their plans succeed. Notice — we must take the first step by committing ourselves and our ways to God.

The question is: Why don’t we commit — seriously commit — our ways to God? Do we simply forget to make these commitments? Do we think God doesn’t care about what we do or want to do? Do we think that we can do it ourselves?  Whatever the reasons for not committing our ways to God, they are not adequate or sufficient. God is very clear: if we want our plans to succeed, we must commit them to God.  Commitment doesn’t mean half heartedly saying to God, “I am going to do_____ (you fill in the blank) and I commit it to you.” Committing ourselves and our plans to God is more than a quick e-mail prayer. Real commitment means taking time to discern with God what His will for our lives entails. Do we stay in our current job or change? Is this the right person for me to marry? Do I buy this new car or get my current one repaired? Committing our ways to God often requires that we do not go with the moment; rather we pause, seek, and reflect on Biblical precepts before making decisions; and we commit the decisions to God.

Thought: “The eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him” (II Chronicles 16:9). Do you want to be strengthened by God?  What should you change in your life to make this happen?

I love Bible plants along with their symbolism. If you want to learn more about them, read my two books: 1) Rooted in God and 2) God as a Gardener. You can purchase them from my website: Carolyn Roth Ministry at http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/

Copyright: Carolyn A. Roth, 1/14

Save

Save

Disobedience Consequences

 

By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”– Genesis 3:19 (NIV)

Ruling and subduing the earth was given to us before the fall of Adam and Eve, but our rebellion against God turned that work into a drudgery. Now what was created to be satisfying takes a toll upon our body and our mind. Yet even in the curse of toil God gives Adam the perspective that there is more to this life than what we do. In other words, our dignity does not come from our work but from the breath of God that separates us from dust. Our value is far greater than our efforts, and the dust reminds us of a day when our labor will cease and we shall experience peace in a way that we only knew in the Garden of Eden (David Whitehead)

 

Save

Hand Me Downs

1-img025

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

Save

Save

Save

Pistachios in Canaan — the Best

pistachio-orchard-in-greece

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).

pistvera1c

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.

Save

Save

Save

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

Save

Save

Not so Plane Tree

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

Save

Mellow Mallows

DSC07038

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.

DSC07036

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.

Save