Category Archives: Plants & the Life of Moses

Plants and the Life of Moses includes entries about Moses and the bulrush cradle, the burning bush, the 10th plague (bitter herbs), the bitter waters at Marah and the mangrove, manna and the coriander seed, and Israelites’ desire for vegetables (the onion).

Truth or Fiction: The Burning Bush

R. sanguineus

References: Exodus Chapters 3 and 4.

From the time he was weaned through approximately age 40, Moses lived in royal splendor as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. In that time he received an excellent education that included content on history, culture, Egyptian religion, leadership, and military tactics and arms. Despite these benefits, Moses knew that he was not an Egyptian. He was an Israelite and his people were slaves in Egypt.

As an adult, Moses went to where some Israelites were working at slave labor. Seeing an Egyptian overseer beating an Israelite, Moses killed the Egyptian and hid the body. The next day Moses went to the same location and saw two Israelites fighting. When he tried to break up the fight, one man asked Moses, “Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?” (Exodus 2:14). Hearing these words, Moses became afraid; he realized others knew he murdered the Egyptian. Shortly thereafter, Pharaoh learned of the murder and attempted to kill Moses.

Precipitated by these events, Moses fled Egypt and traveled to Midian. Midian was located east of the Sinai Peninsula and outside Egyptian influence. In Midian Moses met Jethro, a Midian priest, whose name means “friend of God”. The Midianites were offspring of Abraham and his second wife Keturah (Genesis 25:1–4). In Midian Moses married Jethro’s daughter, Zipporah (Exodus 2:21). Moses became a shepherd for his father-in-law’s (not his own) sheep (Exodus 3:1). After about 40 years in Midian, Moses led the sheep to the west side of the Midian desert, arriving at Mount Horab in the Sinai Peninsula.

There the angel of the Lord appeared in flames of fire within a bush. Moses noticed that although the bush was on fire, it was not consumed by the fire. Deciding to take a closer look at the strange phenomenon, Moses made his way toward the burning bush. When God saw Moses approaching the bush, he called to Moses from within the bush and told him to come no closer. God instructed Moses to take off his sandals because Moses was standing on holy ground. Then God introduced himself to Moses, naming himself the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. At this introduction, Moses hid his face, afraid to look at God.

Talking from the burning bush, God told Moses that the Israelites were suffering severely under the slave masters in Egypt. God shared that he planned to rescue them from the Egyptians and lead them to a land of milk and honey. To this point, Moses was probably nodding his head and agreeing with God’s plan. Then, God stunned Moses by saying, “So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt” (Exodus 3:10).

Immediately, Moses started questioning his qualifications to be the leader God described. God’s response was to continue telling Moses to go back to Egypt. In Egypt, Moses was to notify the elders of Israel first and then Pharaoh that the Israelites were to be permitted to leave Egypt. God warned Moses that Pharaoh would oppose him; but, God himself would work wonders to compel Pharaoh to set the Israelites free.

Moses tried several ways to evade being the highly visible leader that God demanded. One of Moses’ fears was that he was “slow of speech and tongue” (Exodus 4:10). God told Moses that his brother Aaron, a Levite who spoke well, would be Moses’ speaker. Convinced by God to be the Israelite leader, Moses returned to Jethro where he took his wife and two sons and started for Egypt.

Rubus sanctus

The Burning Bush (Rubus sanctus).

The nature of the burning bush is a source of debate among botanists and Biblical scholars. Some believe that the burning bush was not a bush, but a figurative representation of a supernatural phenomenon. Others contend that God spoke through a natural bush. The opinion of Jewish scholars and botanists is that the burning bush was the blackberry bush, Rubus sanctus. Other names for the R. sanctus, are the Rubus sanguineus and the holy blackberry. Most likely the R. sanctus originated in the eastern Mediterranean region of Iran or Turkey. It is a perennial shrub that grows as a large thicket near water sources, e.g., in oases, on wadi banks, and in moist fields. The plant has no central stem; instead it produces long thin branches which can reach 5 – 6 feet in length. Branches have spiked thorns that bend downward. If a person reaches into the plant to pick the fruit, he will feel nothing; however, when he withdraws his hand, thorns will fasten into the flesh like sharp teeth.

Jewish writers drew a parallel between blackberry thorns and the movement of the Israelites in and out of Egypt. When the Israelites entered Egypt, they did so with little notice. In contrast when they left Egypt, the entire country knew of them because of supernatural events and battles associated with their exodus. Generally the blackberry flower is pink. New blackberries are green. As they ripen, they turn red then black. Fully ripe blackberries are plump, firm, and fully black. Never pick blackberries before they are ripe as they will not ripen off the shrub. Blackberries also propagate by vegetative regeneration; for example, re-growth occurs from the perennial root stalk, from the root stem tips, and from root fragments.

Symbolism: God Reveals Himself

Rubus sanctus is a symbol of God revealing himself to man. “Reveal” means to make known something that was secret or hidden and to open up to view. Synonyms of “reveal” are “disclose” and “tell”. In the entire Old Testament nowhere does God reveal more about himself to one man than in the passage of the burning bush. In fact, this passage is sometimes called the “Mosaic revelation of God about himself.”

Some of the truths that God revealed about himself were:

• God revealed to Moses that he was the God of Moses’ ancestors: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God remembered Moses’ ancestors and the promises he made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob from more than 400 years ago.

• God revealed to Moses that he heard the cries and saw the agony of the Israelites’ slavery in Egypt. God was not limited to one land area such as Haran or Canaan where he appeared to Moses’ ancestors; rather God heard the cries of his people wherever they were. The Bible does not identify that the Israelite cries were in the form of prayers, but, God heard them.

• God revealed to Moses that he was going to take action on behalf of the Israelites. God cared about his chosen people so much that he was willing to intervene in history to help them.

• God revealed to Moses that he had a plan to see that his promises to Moses’ ancestors were realized. God is a God of specifics and details. Part of that plan was for Moses to act as the leader of the Israelites before Pharaoh.

• God revealed to Moses that he knew the opposition that Moses would face from Pharaoh. God knows the hearts of men; he knew Pharaoh’s pride and stubbornness.

• God revealed his power to Moses. God was able to take other forms, in this instance he was talking to Moses from a burning bush. God revealed his power by telling Moses that the “supposed” power of the gods of the greatest nation on earth, Egypt, would be no obstruction to God’s will and plan.

Considering the attributes that God revealed about himself makes me glad that God is on my side. At the same time, I feel overwhelmed that God who is all powerful (omnipotent), all knowledge (omniscient), and always present (omnipresent) claimed me for his child. It is understandable that Moses hid his face in God’s presence – he doesn’t want God to see him and he was afraid to look on God. What am I going to do when God reveals himself totally to me?

Reflection: How will you respond when you are face-to-face with God, when God is revealed fully to 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 3, 2015: Carolyn A. Roth

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Moses’ Bulrushes in U.S.

Papyrus

Read the account of Moses and the bulrush cradle in Exodus chapter 1 – chapter 2:10.

Jacob and his family (70 members in all) settled in the Goshen area of Egypt in about 1876 B.C.   Moses was born about 350 years later.  In the interim years, the Israelites becoming so numerous that Goshen was filled with them. A new pharaoh came to power who did not know the history of Joseph helping Egypt.  Feeling threatened by the number of Israelites living in Egypt, the new Pharaoh made them slaves.  He ordered the Hebrew midwives to kill all Israelite newborn males.  The midwives worked around Pharaoh’s edict and the numbers of Israelites continued to grow.  Still determined to reduce the number of Israelites, Pharaoh ordered that every Israelite male infant must be thrown into the Nile River where the infant would die.

When Moses was born to an Israelite family, his mother was determined to keep him alive. She crafted a cradle made from bulrushes and coated it with bitumen (tar-like substance) to make it water resistant.  Moses’ mother placed him in the cradle and put the cradle among Nile River reeds. Moses’ sister, Miriam, was tasked with guarding the baby in the cradle.  Guarding the cradle was dangerous; predators, e.g., wild animals, crocodiles, and snakes, lived in and around the Nile River reeds.

Pharaoh’s daughter came to the Nile River to bathe and saw the cradle floating among the reeds.  She sent a slave girl to get the cradle. When Pharaoh’s daughter opened the cradle, she recognized a Hebrew baby.  Feeling compassion for the baby, Pharaoh’s daughter decided to make the baby her son. At that time Miriam stepped forward. Miriam asked Pharaoh’s daughter, if should obtain a Hebrew woman to nurse the baby.  When Pharaoh’s daughter agreed, Miriam went home and returned with Moses’ mother.  Pharaoh’s daughter directed her to nurse Moses until he was weaned. In ancient times, it was common to nurse infants for two to three years.  Probably, Moses’ mother nursed him the maximum time possible.  After Moses was weaned, Pharaoh’s daughter took him and Moses became her son. In the Hebrew language, Moses meant “drawn from the water,” while in Egyptian Moses meant “son of” or “born of.”

The Bulrush Cradle

The bulrush cradle was made from the Cyperus papyrus, a stately aquatic reed also called the Nile papyrus.  The reed is  indigenous to Africa and other countries around the Mediterranean Sea. For optimal growth, reeds need full sun. Throughout Africa many swamps, shallow lakes, and stream and river banks are dominated by papyrus reeds; however, in Egypt the papyrus plant is now rare.  In Israel there are only limited papyrus reeds, generally in tended gardens. In ancient Egypt, the bulrush had multiple uses. The reed was renowned as the source of ancient Egyptian paper called papyrus.  In Egypt, references to papyrus paper occurred as early as 3100 B. C. Bulrushes were excellent pens because air-spaces in the stems could hold ink. Papyrus reeds were used to make boxes and baskets because they were light weight. Giant stems were buoyant, therefore, used in construction of reed boats, cradles, and bed mattresses.  Today in sub-Saharan Africa, mothers craft reed or wooden cradles for newborns that they call a Moses’ Basket.

For the first time this year, local nurseries were selling the Cyperus papyrus. I bought several for the church Bible garden. They were a great hit especially with the children.  I planted them in part sun and part shade and watered them frequently. Unfortunately they are an annual but perhaps they will regrow next year if I mulch their roots this fall.

Symbolism of the Papyrus: Absorb

The symbolism of the bulrush reed is related to its ability to absorb. The Hebrew word for bulrush is derived from the Hebrew word gâmâ’ which means “to absorb.” Moses’ cradle was made of porous bulrushes which absorbed air; thus, it was buoyant and floated and saved Moses’ life.  In the English language, the meaning of absorb is to take in and make part of an existent whole.

The body of Christ is the world-wide universe of believers who have God’s spirit living in them (I Corinthians 12: 12-13; Ephesians 1:25; Colossians 1: 24). When we accept Christ as our lord and savior, we automatically become members of the body of Christian believers. Then, ideally we affiliate with and are absorbed into a local body of believers.  Being absorbed into a local body of believers takes several intentional steps.  First, we need to find other Christian believers.  Second, we need to open ourselves to fellow Christians so we can absorb the essence of Christ-likeness in them. Third, we need to willingly give the Christ in us to others.

God tells us “not to give up meeting together” (Hebrews 10:25); but where do we find members of the body of Christ? Generally, we find them in a Bible-believing church. Finding a Bible-believing church can begin with exploring church websites. Most churches describe their doctrine and beliefs on their website; believers can ascertain if a church’s doctrine is congruent with the Holy Scriptures.  After evaluating a church’s doctrine and beliefs, believers can attend the church.

When we moved to Roanoke, we started looking for Bible-believing churches.  After prayer, receiving friends’ recommendations, and evaluating church web-sites, we decided to visit several churches.  Some were large, others were small. One met in a movie theater on Sunday mornings; another in a large century-old stone church.  Some churches we eliminated after one visit; however, generally we made several visits to each church. Not limiting ourselves to churches in our present denomination was a big step. It was hard to act on our belief that we were members of the body of Christ, rather than members of a certain denomination. Finally, with continued prayer we agreed on a church that promoted Christian growth and development in an inclusive body of believers.

Making an effort to be absorbed into the Church’s body of believers is work.  In addition to Sunday church, we attended Sunday morning Bible School. Attending Bible school was important because we heard the teacher’s point of view and that of congregates who participated in discussions. We joined ministries that used our spiritual gifts and talents.  My husband and I noted repeatedly that congregates “knew their Bible” and applied it to situations encountered in meetings and ministries. We participated in a number of one-day mission/community outreach activities where we interacted with more church members.

Not every individual slides automatically into fellowship with others in the church. My husband is outgoing and is comfortable in just about any setting.  I’m just the opposite; I prefer to stay at home, have my personal devotions, journal, and meditate.  At one time I felt inadequate because I was introverted. Now I realize that God does not require us to change our personality (I Corinthians 12:12–30). Within the body of Christ, there is room for individual differences. What God expects is for each of us be absorbed into a body of believers (Hebrews 10:25).

Thought: How we absorb and are absorbed into the body of Christ can take many forms.  What form is your absorption taking?

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, 2014: Carolyn A. Roth

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Onions Depict the Universe

???????????The Israelites’ complaints that there were no vegetables in the Sinai Desert are recorded in Numbers chapter 11:4-34 and Psalm 78:17-33.

After the Israelites built and dedicated the tabernacle, they left Mount Sinai and restarted their journey to the Promised Land.  After about three days travel, the community started complaining. The complaints began with people the Bible called, “the rabble”.  The rabble was non-Israelites who joined the Israelite exodus so they could escape Egypt.  Hearing the rabble complain, some Israelites began to complain.  The substance of the complaints was:   1) if only we had meat to eat; 2) we remember the fish, cucumbers, melons, leaks, onions, and garlic we ate in Egypt at no cost; 3) we have lost our appetites; and 4) we never have anything to eat but manna.

When Moses heard people of every family wailing, he was troubled.  When God heard the complaints and wailing, he became exceedingly angry.  God was angry because he graciously provided the community –both Israelites and non-Israelites — with bread from heaven (manna).  Rather than thanking God, the peoples spurned the manna; thus they spurned God.  Moses was so amazed and troubled by the people’s complaints that he asked God, “why me?”  Essentially, Moses wanted to know what he did to warrant carrying the burden of these people.  Ironically or completely frustrated, Moses noted that he did not conceive or birth the Israelites.  He asked God, how was he to “nurse” them along to the Promised Land? Where was he going to get meat to feed them and stop their wailing?  Moses admitted to God that the people (all 2 million of them) were too heavy a burden for him.

God heard both the people’s complaints and Moses’ distress and responded to each; however, God chose to respond to one person’s (Moses’) genuine distress before responding to complaints from the two million member community.  God worked with Moses to appoint 70 Israelite elders to share the burden of leading the people.  Then, God rained down enough quails on the camp to last the Israelites for 30 days.  Avidly, the Israelites collected the quails and prepared them.  As they began to eat the meat, God’s anger burned against the people for spurning him.  He sent a severe plague and killed the people who craved food other than manna.

The Egyptian Onion Plant

The vegetables identified in Numbers 11:5 were the most extensive list of vegetables given anywhere in the Bible.  The listed vegetables were eaten in Egypt, not Canaan or Israel.  Vegetables available in Egypt and Israel were not always the same genus and species.  The Bible onion is the Allium cepa, also called Egyptian onion; it is the common garden onion found in the United States.  Onions were eaten in Egypt over 4000 years ago.  For the slaves and workers who built the pyramids, onions were everyday food.  Reportedly, nine tons of gold was paid for onions and garlic to feed these pyramid builders. Onions are one of the hardiest of all garden vegetables and are cultivated for their bulbs and leaves.  Most home gardeners replant onions started in greenhouses; but on a large scale, cultivated onions grow from the onion plant’s small black seed.  Onions are a biennial plant; often they die in the second year after flowering. Bulbs can be eaten fresh, e.g. in salads, and used for cooking, e.g., stews.  Cutting the bulb horizontal at the diameter reveals that onions grow in concentric layers; the larger the onion, the more layers

Symbolism: Universe

Ancient Egyptians regarded the spherical bulb of the onion as a symbol of the universe. Egyptians believed that the spheres of heaven, earth, and hell were concentric, like layers of the onion.  Western society believes the universe is both the world of human experience and the cosmos.  It includes phenomena both observed and postulated.  When something is universal, it exists or operates everywhere and under all conditions. The Book of Hebrews declares that the universe was formed through Christ at God’s command (Hebrews 1:2; 1:3).

God tried to help the Israelites comprehend that he was the God of the universe. He demonstrated power over the physical world by bring 10 plagues on Egypt so the Israelites could have their freedom.  God provided water from rocks and bread from heaven. He assured the Israelites that he would make them whole, e.g., physically and mentally (Exodus 15:26). Spiritually, God gave the Israelites his holy law to live by. He directed them to build a tabernacle where he would dwell among them.

Despite these demonstrations of God’s control over all things, many Israelites did not accept him as their God and the God of the universe.  Instead, the Israelites spurned what God offered them, wailing and complaining about his offering of food from heaven.  Every time I read, think, and write about the Israelite’s behavior, my first reaction is to shake my head.  I wonder how they could spur the God of the universe.  How could they complain so much?  Yet, complaining was not a behavior unique to Old Testament Israelites.  Writing from prison to the church at Philippi, Paul caution: “Do everything without complaining or arguing, so you may become blameless andpure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in whichyou shine like stars in the universe” (Philippians 2:14-15).

My default behavior used to be complaining in many situations. Then, I asked myself what kind of a representative am I for Christ when I complain so much?  Complaining and shining like a star for Christ are incompatible.  Christ created my situations so that I could mature in my Christian walk.  Complaining did not add value to my life; in fact complaining devalued me and most assuredly devalued God.  When I complained, I spurn the God of the universe in the same way that the Israelites spurned him.

Reflection.  Changing our default behavior from complaining to praising takes time and effort; but it pleases the God of the universe.

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 September 27, 2011; carolyn a. roth

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Manna Resembled Coriander Seed

Coriander ground and seedsThe story of manna which was white like coriander seed is in Exodus chapter 16 and Numbers chapter 11.

When the Israelites were first feed with manna they were in the Desert of Sin, located on the western side of the Sinai Peninsula.  The Israelites left Egypt about one month earlier and were traveling 10 – 15 miles per day.   In the desert of Sin the “whole community” grumbled against Moses and Aaron because there was not enough food to eat. The grumbling included (Exodus 16:3): 1) If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt; 2) In Egypt we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted; and 3) You have brought us out into this desert to starve the entire assembly to death.

Clearly, the Israelites were romanticizing their time as slave laborers in Egypt. The primary foods for slaves were grain, beer, and vegetables such as onions, leeks, cucumbers, and melons.  The poor and slaves were permitted to eat fish caught from the Nile River. Rarely, if ever, did Egyptians give meat, e.g., beef or lamb, to slaves.  Meat was reserved for very wealthy Egyptians.

The Lord heard the grumbling and told Moses that he would provide bread from heaven (manna) for the Israelites so they could see God’s glory. Characteristics of manna along with specific instructions for gathering it are outlined in Sidebar 3. When God provided the manna to the Israelites, he planned to test them to determine if they followed his instructions for gathering the bread.  Moses told the Israelites that when they grumbled, they were grumbling against God not against him for it was God who brought them out of Egypt.

When the Israelites first saw the bread on the desert floor, the wondered what it was.  The word manna is derived from Hebrew words, mân hû’ meaning “what is it.” The bread or manna that God provided was white like coriander seed and looked like bdellium.  The bdellium plant was described in Chapter 1, Creation and Plants. The coriander plant and seed will be described as part of the discussion on manna.

Before moving to a description of the coriander plant, the question needs to be answered on whether or not manna was provided directly from heaven or was it derived from an earthly plant or substance.  Some scholars suggested that the Biblical manna was exuded from a tamarisk tree (Tamarix gallica or Tamarix mannifera) after it was pricked by an insect (Coccus manniparus). Others have identified the manna of Exodus 16 as an alga called Nostoc and the manna of Numbers 11 as lichen from the Lecanora genus. The challenge is that these options do not meet the criteria associated with God’s provision of manna to Israel. Manna fell 40 years wherever the Israelites traveled, e.g., on the Sinai Peninsula and for a short time on the Jordan plain in Canaan.  Manna never fell on the Sabbath, the day God set aside for Israel’s rest.  Nomads who lived on the Sinai or traders who crossed the Peninsula in the same 40 year period never reported seeing manna.  None of these arguments adequately override the Biblical account that manna was bread from heaven provided by God.

The Coriander Plant

 The botanical name of the plant that produces the coriander seed is the Coriandrum sativum; it is a member of the parsley family of plants and sometimes called Chinese parsley.   Its origins is most likely the Eastern Mediterranean or Asia Minor.  In ancient times coriander plants grew wild in Egypt and Israel. Coriander has been used to enhance the taste of food for more than 5000 years ago. Today, in the Middle East coriander seeds are used to flavor bread as apparently God used it to flavor the desert manna.  Plants are annuals and should be planted each year.  They prefer all day sun; but will grow in partial shade.  Coriander grows best in dry climates and suffers during humid, rainy weather.  The coriander is delicately branched and can reach a height of 2 – 3 feet with a 1 – 2 foot spread.  Over time stems fall to the ground and send up new shoots.  Today’s coriander plant produces brown seeds; however, in Numbers11:7 manna was described as white like bdellium.  Perhaps in ancient times, coriander seeds were white.  Coriander seeds grow in round, yellowish-brown pods. Seeds can be ground into a powder using a pepper mill, or home electric or hand grinder.  Ground coriander has a pleasant, aromatic smell.

Symbolism: Sufficiency

A number of authors have proposed the symbolism of manna. Suggestions included a) revealing Israel’s need for healing; b) foreshadowing the coming Messiah and Christ, the bread of heaven. and c) the institution of the Lord’s Supper and a type of Eucharistic bread. All of these suggestions are excellent; however, MacDonald’s (1995) proposal that manna symbolized sufficiency seemed particularly appropriate in the Israelite situation.  God supplied hungry Israelites with coriander-like manna.  This unique substance was sufficient – necessary, desirable, and enough – to take care of their hunger.  God wanted to demonstrate to the Israelites that he was capable of meeting their need for food and by extension all of their needs. Essentially, God was saying to them – my food is sufficient for you and I am sufficient for you.  At the same time, God tested the Israelites to see if they would follow his instructions for gathering the manna he provided.  Some Israelites followed God’s instructions while others did not. Those who disobeyed God suffered the consequences, e.g., food with maggots and no manna to eat on the Sabbath.

The manna symbolized Christ’s sufficiency to meet every need of his people. St. Paul would agree that Christ is able to meet all our needs. Paul had a thorn in his flesh that tormented him (2 Corinthians 12:7-8). Three times Paul asked Christ to take away the cause of his torment.  Christ answered Paul saying, “My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9.  Christ gave Paul grace to deal with his torment, a better solution than removing its cause. Human weakness provides an opportunity for God to display his divine power.

Having never lived in servitude, most of us have difficulty understanding the behavior of the Israelites in the manna story. Possibly they felt a sense of entitlement because God brought them out of Egypt into the desert. Perhaps they were weary being a dependent people and did not want to rely on anyone even God. Maybe they grabbed the manna when it appeared each morning not trusting that it would be there the next day.  Whatever their thoughts, we can contrast them with Paul’s response in accepting God’s grace to deal with his torment. Paul accepted his situation and trusted that God’s grace was sufficient for him (2 Corinthians 12:9–10).

Reflection.  Have you ever thought about God’s sufficiency? Do you live as if you believe God is sufficient (ample, plenty) to meet your needs in any and all situations?

Sidebar 3 Characteristics of Manna

Characteristic Description and Reference
Where did it come from? When the dew settled on the camp at night, the manna also came down (Numbers 11:9). When dew was gone, manna was there (Exodus16:14).As sun grew hot, manna melted away (Exodus16:21).
   
What did Israelites say when flakes appeared on ground? When Israelites saw substance on ground, they said, “What is it?” (Exodus16:15).
   
Appearance of manna Thin flakes like frost on the desert floor (Exodus16:14).  It was white like coriander seed (Exodus16:31, Numbers11:7). Looked like resin (bdellium) (Numbers11:7).
 
How was it gathered? Gathered by hand in the morning (Exodus16:21).  Day 1 – 5, gather 1 omer*/person (Exodus16:16, 21). If retained overnight on Days 1 – 5, became full of maggots and began to smell (Exodus16:20). Day 6 gathered 2 omer/person; 1 omer for day 6 and 1 omer for day 7 (Exodus 16:22-23, 29).  Manna could be retained overnight on Day 6 (Exodus16:17). No manna provided on Sabbath (day 7) (Exodus16:25-26).
 
Preparation for cooking Ground in a hand mill; or crushed in a mortar with pestle (Numbers11:8).
Preparation for eating Cooked in a pot –possibly gruel (Numbers11:8).  Made into cakes – probably baked or even fried in olive oil.
Taste of manna Tasted like wafers made with honey (Exodus16:31). Tasted like something made with olive oil (Numbers11:8).
Aroma or odor No information provided.
How long was manna provided to Israelites? Manna stared: 16th day of 2nd month after Israelites came out of Egypt.  Israelites were camped in Desert of Sinai, Sinai Peninsula (Exodus16:1, 13). Manna ended: 16th day of the 14th month after leaving Egypt. Israelites were camped at Israelites were camped at Gilgal on the plains of Jericho, Canaan (Exodus16:35; Joshua 5:10-12). How long was manna provided:  40 years (Exodus16:35).

*An omer is equivalent to about two quarts, dry measure.

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 September 16, 2011; carolyn a. roth

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Did the Mangrove Tree De-Salt Water?

Saltcrystals_on_avicennia_marina_var_resinifera_leavesThe incident of the Israelites’ complaints against Moses at Marah is in Exodus 15: 23-27.

The events that preceded “Moses and Mangrove Trees” included the Israelite exodus from Egypt and the destruction of Pharaoh’s army. Now, the Israelites were safe from pursuit and ready to head for the Promised Land. Moses led the Israelites southeast from the Red Sea into the Desert of Shur on the Sinai Peninsula (Exodus Map, 2002, p. 107). For three days the Israelites traveled on foot through the desert until they reached Marah.  At Marah, the Israelites expected to find fresh water; instead the water was bitter. We are not told in what way the water was bitter; but, it could have had high concentrations of salt.  If the Israelites drank the water, they would have become dehydrated and died.

Probably, the Israelites were foot sore, hot from traveling through the desert, and feeling the effects of an adrenaline let down after their escape from Egypt.  Some were becoming aware of their situation: they had no homes and they were in the desert. There was no source of food and there no potable water to drink.  The Israelites grumbled against Moses saying, “What are we going to drink?” (Exodus 15:24). Likely, Moses was asking the same question, “What are we going to drink?”  The difference between the Israelites and Moses was that Moses cried to God with the problem.  God answered Moses by showing him a piece of wood and directed Moses to throw the piece of wood into the bitter water.  The result was that the bitter water became sweet and drinkable.  In this verse the Hebrew word for sweet is mâthaq, which is a primitive Hebrew root word meaning “to suck” or “to relish” (Strong, 2010). The water did not turn sweet to the taste as with a sweetener added, but sweet in the sense of drinkable, and the Israelites relished it.

At Marah God made a decree and law for the Israelites.  God was aware that the newly freed slaves were feeling lost.  Possibly they were even afraid of him.  He was a new God to many. After spending generations in Egypt, possibly many of the Israelites were more familiar with the Egyptian pantheon.  This new God was unbelievably powerful. He overcame the greatest nation in the region to set them free.   Now, at Moses’ cry, God turned bitter water into drinking water.  In these circumstances, it was normal for the Israelites to feel stunned, awed, and frightened.  So God acted to reassure them. God said that if a) they listen to him, b) do what is right in his eyes, c) pay attention to his commands, and d) keep his degrees, then he, God, would not bring on them any of the diseases he visited on the Egyptians. God concluded by telling the Israelites “I am the Lord who heals you” (Exodus 15:26, New International Version Study Bible, 2002).

The Mangrove Tree

Although there have been many books written on plants in the Bible, few authors suggested that the wood Moses threw into the water at Marah was from an actual tree. Of those authors, only Rabbi Louis Rabinowitz in Torah and Flora (1977) identified a possible source of the wood – a mangrove tree.  The Avicennia marina is a species of mangrove tree that grows on the Sinai Peninsula near the Gulf of Aqaba and Red Sea. It is called the gray or white mangrove because of the color of its bark.  The gray mangrove is both a pioneer and a relict species. Pioneer because it will be the first mangrove species that populates an area. Relict because it remains in an area after other mangrove species are extinct.  The gray mangrove  uses two mechanisms to extract salt from sea water.  First, leaves have special salt glands that are among the most active salt-secreting systems known.  Second, mangroves concentrate salt in the bark and in older leaves which carry salt with them when leaves drop. In normal circumstances, the process of trees extracting salt from water would take days; however, God was in the process as he was in the burning bush that was not consumed.  When God is present, natural processes can become supernatural.

Symbolism: Healing

 The mangrove wood healed the bitter water at Marah. This symbolism mirrored what God told the Israelites at Marah, “I am the Lord, who heals you” (Exodus 15:26) Healing means to make sound or whole; to mend an undesirable condition; and to restore to original integrity.  If Israelites needed to be healed, then they were in some way unsound or un-whole. Probably, the Israelite’s unwholesomeness was related to their perception of themselves as slaves. In Leviticus 26:13, God reminded the Israelites “I …brought you out of Egypt, so you would no longer be slaves to the Egyptians; I broke the bars of your yoke and enabled you to walk with you head high.” Only three days out of Egypt with generations of slavery behind them, most Israelites were not walking with heads held high. Very likely the Israelites still believed they were no more than property, their opinions were worthless, and they could not take care of themselves.  God was more than willing to heal them from these negative self images.  In fact, God wanted to make them a cohesive and great nation who would capture and occupy all of Canaan.

To be healed, individuals must first recognize how and when they are sick and then want to be restored to health.  In the four gospels we read many examples of Christ healing physical, psychological, and spiritual illnesses. Today, Christ wants to heal whatever is unsound or un-whole in us. We can respond positively to Christ or be like the Israelites who did not seem to understand that they were sick.  In Exodus 15:26, God told the Israelites explicitly what they should do to be healed; however, in the Sinai journey many failed to carry out the requirements for healing.  Likewise, Christ demonstrated in Matthew chapter 9 how we can be healed. First, we need to have Christ forgive our sins (verse 3). Then, we need to follow Christ (verse 9).  Finally, we need faith that Christ can heal us. In verse 22, Christ told the woman who had been subject to bleeding for 12 years, “Take heart daughter, your faith has healed you.”

This morning my husband and I were taking our morning walk. Bruce asked me what I was studying.

My response was, “Healing; last night I read all of the verses in the Old Testament about healing.”

“What did you learn?” Bruce asked.

“All through the Bible, time after time, God wanted to heal the Israelites; but they would not respond to him” I replied.

“I guess they were not much different than we are today” Bruce replied.

Silently, I walked along thinking; finally I agreed, “I guess you’re right.”

 Reflection.  God wants to heal all of your undesirable conditions.  Are you willing to turn to Him and be healed?

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 September 5, 2011; carolyn a. roth

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Endive, Bitter Herb in 1st Passover

Cichorium endiva Ch 3 MosesRead the account of Moses and the Plague of the First Born described in Exodus chapters 11:1 – 12:36.

After his encounter with God at Mount Horab, Moses returned to Egypt. Following God’s direction, Moses met with Aaron and the Israelite elders. Then, Moses met with Pharaoh and asked Pharaoh to allow the Israelites to go into the desert to worship God.  Pharaoh’s answer was an emphatic “no”; he was not going to allow the valuable Israelite slaves leave Egypt. As a result of Pharaoh’s pride, stubbornness, and manipulative behavior, God visited 10 plagues on Egypt.  Two plagues – the 7th and 10th plague — have direct relevance to plants. The seventh plague was a severe rain storm that involved thunder, lightning, and hail. The hail caused the barley and flax to be destroyed. The wheat and spelt were not destroyed because they ripened later. These plants – barley, flax, wheat, and spelt – will be described in later chapters of God as a Gardener.

The NIV Study Bible (2002) labeled the 10th, and final plague sent on Egypt as “The Plague of the Firstborn.”  The 10th plague was the death of the firstborn of every man and animal in Egypt with the exception of those of the Israelites. To keep the death angel from entering Israelite homes, God required the Israelites to slaughter a lamb or goat and place the animal’s blood on the sides and top of their door frames. That same night, the meat of the slaughtered animal was roasted.  Then, the meat, bitter herbs, and unleavened bread were eaten.

God told the Israelites to eat bitter herbs with their meal to remind them of the bitterness they experienced in Egypt. Originally a free people living in Egypt, the Israelites experienced bitterness when they were enslaved by the Egyptians. During these years of servitude they were worked brutally making bricks, planting and harvesting crops, and pumping water from the Nile River into fields for irrigation (Deuteronomy11:10). Common practice was for Egyptian taskmasters to whip Israelite slaves. The Israelites must have experienced terrible bitterness when their newborn sons were taken from them and thrown into the Nile River to die. They were powerless to stop these murders. The final way bitter herbs symbolized bitterness was related directly to the death of Egyptian first born sons. The death of Egyptians’ first-born sons was the price of Israelite freedom.  Pharaoh’s resolve to keep the Israelites was not shattered until his son was killed. Individual, family, and national freedom through death of children – even children not their own — would have been a source of bitterness for the Israelites.

In Egypt bitter herbs included endive, chicory, dandelion, and wild lettuce. The type of bitter herb used in the first Passover meal may have varied among families.  Exodus 10:15 recorded that “nothing green remained on tree or plant in all of Egypt” after the eighth plague, the plague of the locust. Possible some families stored one type of bitter herb, while other families had another bitter herb available to them.

The Endive Plant

 In this chapter, endive, Cichorium endivia, is used as an example of a bitter herb. In early Greek translations of the Bible, the word “endive” was used in place of “bitter herbs.”  Although the origin of endive is lost from history, the first wild species may have grown in Turkey and Syria.  Probably, endive  was native to India, China or Egypt.  Endive grows best in full sun to partial shade and needs regular watering. Very hot weather makes endive tough and bitter.  Endive tends to rot in cold, damp weather and does not tolerate frost.  In Egypt, endive grows in January. Usually endive can be recognized and differentiated from other lettuce and/or greens by its appearance. It grows in a rosette pattern which is a cluster of leaves in crowded circles or spirals. Endive leaves are about five to six inches long and bright green in color. Endive produces attractive light blue flowers which grow on stems that stand above the leafy foliage. Endive is used almost exclusively in raw salads. Its slightly bitter flavor is often more appreciated by Europeans than Americans. Adding a sweet or oily salad dressing can balance the bitter taste.

Symbolism: Bitterness

The symbolism of bitter herbs including endive is clear from the name – they refer to bitterness. Bitterness is something intensely distressing or disturbing to the mind (Merriam-Webster Incorporated , 2005). Bitterness is an expression of severe pain, grief, or regret.

Writing to the Ephesians (4:31), Paul told them to get rid of all bitterness.  Yet, God wanted the Israelites to eat bitter herbs at the annual Seder meal during Passover to remind the Israelites of their bitterness in Egypt.  How are we to reconcile putting off all bitterness with God’s direction to the Israelites to remember their bitterness annually?

I think there is a difference between remembering a bitter occasion as a precursor to celebration of a better life, versus remembering bitterness to the point that it leads to resentment of God, situations, and people. Certainly, God did not tell the Israelites to hate or resent the Egyptians. Rather, the Seder meal which included bitter herbs was a meal celebrated the Israelite exodus from Egypt.

Remembering bitterness (of pain, grief, and regret) disturbs our minds. Bitterness supplants the peace Christ designed to rule our hearts and minds (Philippians 4:7).  Our bitterness grieves the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30-31).  Can we remember bitterness as an object lesson, but not allow it to control our lives? In his book Total Forgiveness, R.T. Kendell (2007) suggested that forgiveness was the answer to bitterness. He identified four parts to this forgiveness:

Step 1, we need to forgive whomever and whatever situation caused the bitterness in us. The Israelites needed to forgive the Egyptians for enslaving them.

Step 2, we need to forgive ourselves for contributing to the situation that caused bitterness. The Israelites needed to forgive themselves for remaining in Egypt for 400 years, well after the famine in Canaan was over.

Step 3, we need to forgive God.  Saying we must forgive God seems odd and almost improper. Does the created forgive the creator?  In this situation forgiveness means we need to acknowledge our bitterness toward God for letting us get in a devastatingly painful situation.  I think that some Israelites blamed their bitterness on God. After God led them out of Egypt, probably some cried “Where were you when my son was murdered? If you would have freed us sooner, my son would be alive.”  The reality is that we do blame God for some, or even much, of our bitterness. If we want to get rid of bitterness toward God, we need to tell God our feelings, tell God we forgive him, and really mean it.

Step 4, we need to ask God’s forgiveness. Without bitterness in our hearts, we can confess our sinful feelings of bitterness toward God and ask his forgiveness.

From time to time, we may still remember the bitter situation; however, the pain of it will be gone or go away over time. For years I had bitterness in my heart over a situation. I tried a number of ways to get rid of it, to no avail. Then, I read Total Forgiveness and implemented the four steps of confession and forgiveness that Kendall recommended. Now, I am free of the bitterness of this situation. Thank you, God.

Reflection: The past cannot be changed, but the future is whatever you want it to be. Is there bitterness in your life that needs attention?

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 26, 2011; carolyn a. roth

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Moses Encounters a Burning Bush

R. sanguineusRead the story of Moses and the Burning Bush in Exodus Chapters 3 and 4.

From the time he was weaned through approximately age 40, Moses lived in royal splendor as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.  In that time he received an excellent education that included content on history, culture, Egyptian religion, leadership, and military tactics and arms.  Despite these benefits, Moses knew that he was not an Egyptian.  He was an Israelite and his people were slaves in Egypt.

As an adult, Moses went to where some Israelites were working at slave labor.  Seeing an Egyptian overseer beating an Israelite, Moses killed the Egyptian and hid the body.  The next day Moses went to the same location and saw two Israelites fighting.  When he tried to break up the fight, one man asked Moses, “Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?” (Exodus 2:14).  Hearing these words, Moses became afraid; he realized others knew he murdered the Egyptian.  Shortly thereafter, Pharaoh learned of the murder and attempted to kill Moses.

Precipitated by these events, Moses fled Egypt and traveled to Midian.  Midian was located east of the Sinai Peninsula and outside Egyptian influence.   In Midian Moses met Jethro, a Midian priest, whose name means “friend of God”.  The Midianites were offspring of Abraham and his second wife Keturah (Genesis 25:1–4).  In Midian Moses married Jethro’s daughter, Zipporah (Exodus 2:21).  Moses became a shepherd for his father-in-law’s (not his own) sheep (Exodus 3:1).  After about 40 years in Midian, Moses led the sheep to the west side of the Midian desert, arriving at Mount Horab in the Sinai Peninsula.

There the angel of the Lord appeared in flames of fire within a bush.   Moses noticed that although the bush was on fire, it was not consumed by the fire.  Deciding to take a closer look at the strange phenomenon, Moses made his way toward the burning bush.  When God saw Moses approaching the bush, he called to Moses from within the bush and told him to come no closer.  God instructed Moses to take off his sandals because Moses was standing on holy ground.  Then God introduced himself to Moses, naming himself the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  At this introduction, Moses hid his face, afraid to look at God.

Talking from the burning bush, God told Moses that the Israelites were suffering severely under the slave masters in Egypt.  God shared that he planned to rescue them from the Egyptians and lead them to a land of milk and honey. To this point, Moses was probably nodding his head and agreeing with God’s plan. Then, God stunned Moses by saying, “So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt” (Exodus 3:10).  Immediately, Moses started questioning his qualifications to be the leader God described.  God’s response was to continue telling Moses to go back to Egypt.  In Egypt, Moses was to notify the elders of Israel first and then Pharaoh that the Israelites were to be permitted to leave Egypt.  God warned Moses that Pharaoh would oppose him; but, God himself would work wonders to compel Pharaoh to set the Israelites free.

Moses tried several ways to evade being the highly visible leader that God demanded.  One of Moses’ fears was that he was “slow of speech and tongue” (Exodus 4:10).  God told Moses that his brother Aaron, a Levite who spoke well, would be Moses’ speaker.  Convinced by God to be the Israelite leader,  Moses returned to Jethro where he took his wife and two sons and started for Egypt.

 The Burning Bush (Rubus sanctus)

Rubus sanctusThe nature of the burning bush is a source of debate among botanists and Biblical scholars.  Some believe that the burning bush was not a bush, but a figurative representation of a supernatural phenomenon.  Others contend that God spoke through a natural bush. The opinion of Jewish scholars and botanists is that the burning bush was the blackberry bush, Rubus sanctus. Other names for the R. sanctus, are the Rubus sanguineus and the holy blackberry. Most likely the R. sanctus originated in the eastern Mediterranean region of Iran or Turkey.  It is a perennial shrub that grows as a large thicket near water sources, e.g., in oases, on wadi banks, and in moist fields. The plant has no central stem; instead it produces long thin branches which can reach 5 – 6 feet in length.  Branches have spiked thorns that bend downward.  If a person reaches into the plant to pick the fruit, he will feel nothing; however, when he withdraws his hand, thorns will fasten into the flesh like sharp teeth.  Jewish writers drew a parallel between blackberry thorns and the movement of the Israelites in and out of Egypt.  When the Israelites entered Egypt, they did so with little notice.  In contrast when they left Egypt, the entire country knew of them because of supernatural events and battles associated with their exodus.Generally the blackberry flower is pink. New blackberries are green.  As they ripen, they turn red then black. Fully ripe blackberries are plump, firm, and fully black. Never pick blackberries before they are ripe as they will not ripen off the shrub.

s. Blackberries also propagate by vegetative regeneration; for example, re-growth occurs from the perennial rootstalk, from the root stem tips, and from root fragments.

 Symbolism:  God Reveals Himself

Rubus sanctus is a symbol of God revealing himself to man. “Reveal” means to make known something that was secret or hidden and to open up to view (Merriam-Webster Incorporated, 2005).  Synonyms of “reveal” are “disclose” and “tell”.  In the entire Old Testament nowhere does God reveal  more about himself to one man than in the passage of the burning bush.  In fact, this passage is sometimes called the “Mosaic revelation of God about himself” (MacDonald, 1995).

Some of the truths that God revealed about himself were:

  • God revealed to Moses that he was the God of Moses’ ancestors:  Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  God remembered Moses’ ancestors and the promises he made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob from more than 400 years ago.
  • God revealed to Moses that he heard the cries and saw the agony of the Israelites’ slavery in Egypt. God was not limited to one land area such as Haran or Canaan where he appeared to Moses’ ancestors; rather God heard the cries of his people wherever they were.  The Bible does not identify that the Israelite cries were in the form of prayers, but, God heard them.
  • God revealed to Moses that he was going to take action on behalf of the Israelites.  God cared about his chosen people so much that he was willing to intervene in history to help them.
  • God revealed to Moses that he had a plan to see that his promises to Moses’ ancestors were realized. God is a God of specifics and details. Part of that plan was for Moses to act as the leader of the Israelites before Pharaoh.
  • God revealed to Moses that he knew the opposition that Moses would face from Pharaoh.  God knows the hearts of men; he knew Pharaoh’s pride and stubbornness.
  • God revealed his power to Moses. God was able to take other forms, in this instance he was talking to Moses from a burning bush. God revealed his power by telling Moses that the “supposed” power of the gods of the greatest nation on earth, Egypt, would be no obstruction to God’s will and plan.

Considering the attributes that God revealed about himself makes me glad that God is on my side.  At the same time, I feel overwhelmed that God who is all powerful (omnipotent), all knowledge (omniscient), and always present (omnipresent) claimed me for his child. It is understandable that Moses hid his face in God’s presence – he doesn’t want God to see him and he was afraid to look on God.  What am I going to do when God reveals himself totally to me?  Often I think about the song by the Christian recording group “Mercy Me”.

 I Can Only Imagine*

I can only imagine What it will be like, When I walk By your side
I can only imagine What my eyes will see When your face Is before me.
I can only imagine When that day comes When I find myself  Standing in the Son.
I can only imagine When all I will do Is forever Forever worship you.
[Chorus:]
Surrounded by Your glory, What will my heart feel
Will I dance for you Jesus or in awe of you be still
Will I stand in your presence or to my knees will I fall
Will I sing hallelujah, will I be able to speak at all?
I can only imagine.
*( From: http://www.elyrics.net/read/m/mercyme-lyrics/i-can-only-imagine-lyrics.html)

Reflection: How will you respond when you are face-to-face with God, when God is revealed fully to 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 hppt://CarolynRothMinistry.com/

Copyright August 16, 2011, Carolyn A. Roth; all rights reserved.

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Moses and the Bulrush Cradle

Cyperus papyrusRead the account of Moses and the bulrush cradle in Exodus chapter 1 – chapter 2:10.

Jacob and his family (70 members in all) settled in the Goshen area of Egypt in about 1876 B.C.   Moses was born about 350 years later.  In the interim years, the Israelites becoming so numerous that Goshen was filled with them. A new pharaoh came to power who did not know the history of Joseph helping Egypt.  Feeling threatened by the number of Israelites living in Egypt, the new Pharaoh made them slaves.  He ordered the Hebrew midwives to kill all Israelite newborn males.  The midwives worked around Pharaoh’s edict and the numbers of Israelites continued to grow.  Still determined to reduce the number of Israelites, Pharaoh ordered that every Israelite male infant must be thrown into the Nile River where the infant would die.

When Moses was born to an Israelite family, his mother was determined to keep him alive. She crafted a cradle made from bulrushes and coated it with bitumen (tar-like substance) to make it water resistant.  Moses’ mother placed him in the cradle and put the cradle among Nile River reeds. Moses’ sister, Miriam, was tasked with guarding the baby in the cradle.  Guarding the cradle was dangerous; predators, e.g., wild animals, crocodiles, and snakes, lived in and around the Nile River reeds.

Pharaoh’s daughter came to the Nile River to bathe and saw the cradle floating among the reeds.  She sent a slave girl to get the cradle. When Pharaoh’s daughter opened the cradle, she recognized a Hebrew baby.  Feeling compassion for the baby, Pharaoh’s daughter decided to make the baby her son. At that time Miriam stepped forward. Miriam asked Pharaoh’s daughter, if should obtain a Hebrew woman to nurse the baby.  When Pharaoh’s daughter agreed, Miriam went home and returned with Moses’ mother.  Pharaoh’s daughter directed her to nurse Moses until he was weaned. In ancient times, it was common to nurse infants for two to three years.  Probably, Moses’ mother nursed him the maximum time possible.  After Moses was weaned, Pharaoh’s daughter took him and Moses became her son. In the Hebrew language, Moses meant “drawn from the water,” while in Egyptian Moses meant “son of” or “born of.”

The Bulrush Cradle

The bulrush cradle was made from the Cyperus papyrus, a stately aquatic reed also called the Nile papyrus.  The reed is  indigenous to Africa and other countries around the Mediterranean Sea. For optimal growth, reeds need full sun. Throughout Africa many swamps, shallow lakes, and stream and river banks are dominated by papyrus reeds; however, in Egypt the papyrus plant is now rare.  In Israel there are only limited papyrus reeds, generally in tended gardens. In ancient Egypt, the bulrush had multiple uses. The reed was renowned as the source of ancient Egyptian paper called papyrus.  In Egypt, references to papyrus paper occurred as early as 3100 B. C. Bulrushes were excellent pens because air-spaces in the stems could hold ink. Papyrus reeds were used to make boxes and baskets because they were light weight. Giant stems were buoyant, therefore, used in construction of reed boats, cradles, and bed mattresses.  Today in sub-Saharan Africa, mothers craft reed or wooden cradles for newborns that they call a Moses’ Basket.

Symbolism of the Papyrus: Absorb

The symbolism of the bulrush reed is related to its ability to absorb. The Hebrew word for bulrush is derived from the Hebrew word gâmâ’ which means “to absorb.” Moses’ cradle was made of porous bulrushes which absorbed air; thus, it was buoyant and floated and saved Moses’ life.  In the English language, the meaning of absorb is to take in and make part of an existent whole.

The body of Christ is the world-wide universe of believers who have God’s spirit living in them (I Corinthians 12: 12-13; Ephesians 1:25; Colossians 1: 24). When we accept Christ as our lord and savior, we automatically become members of the body of Christian believers. Then, ideally we affiliate with and are absorbed into a local body of believers.  Being absorbed into a local body of believers takes several intentional steps.  First, we need to find other Christian believers.  Second, we need to open ourselves to fellow Christians so we can absorb the essence of Christ-likeness in them. Third, we need to willingly give the Christ in us to others.

God tells us “not to give up meeting together” (Hebrews 10:25); but where do we find members of the body of Christ? Generally, we find them in a Bible-believing church. Finding a Bible-believing church can begin with exploring church websites. Most churches describe their doctrine and beliefs on their website; believers can ascertain if a church’s doctrine is congruent with the Holy Scriptures.  After evaluating a church’s doctrine and beliefs, believers can attend the church.

When we moved to Roanoke, we started looking for Bible-believing churches.  After prayer, receiving friends’ recommendations, and evaluating church web-sites, we decided to visit several churches.  Some were large, others were small. One met in a movie theater on Sunday mornings; another in a large century-old stone church.  Some churches we eliminated after one visit; however, generally we made several visits to each church. Not limiting ourselves to churches in our present denomination was a big step. It was hard to act on our belief that we were members of the body of Christ, rather than members of a certain denomination. Finally, with continued prayer we agreed on a church that promoted Christian growth and development in an inclusive body of believers.

Making an effort to be absorbed into the Church’s body of believers is work.  In addition to Sunday church, we attended Sunday morning Bible School. Attending Bible school was important because we heard the teacher’s point of view and that of congregates who participated in discussions. We joined ministries that used our spiritual gifts and talents.  My husband and I noted repeatedly that congregates “knew their Bible” and applied it to situations encountered in meetings and ministries. We participated in a number of one-day mission/community outreach activities where we interacted with more church members.

Not every individual slides automatically into fellowship with others in the church. My husband is outgoing and is comfortable in just about any setting.  I’m just the opposite; I prefer to stay at home, have my personal devotions, journal, and meditate.  At one time I felt inadequate because I was introverted. Now I realize that God does not require us to change our personality (I Corinthians 12:12–30). Within the body of Christ, there is room for individual differences. What God expects is for each of us be absorbed into a body of believers (Hebrews 10:25).

Reflection: How we absorb and are absorbed into the body of Christ can take many forms.  What form is your absorption taking?

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 hppt://CarolynRothMinistry.com/

Copyright August 6, 2011, Carolyn A. Roth; all rights reserved.

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