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).

Thorns in the Tabernacle

Bible References: Exodus chapters 25, 35-38.

Acacia wood was the only wood used to build the Tabernacle.  Gold covered acacia posts and cross bars stabilized the acacia wood panels and held Tent of Meeting curtains in place. In the Tent of Meeting, the Table of the Presence (Showbread), the Altar of Incense (Golden Altar), and the Ark of the Covenant were built from acacia wood then overlaid with gold. Gold covered acacia poles were placed in gold rings on the four corners of each piece of furniture. When Israelites moved camp, poles were used to lift and carry structures and furniture.

In the Tabernacle Courtyard, the Altar of Burnt Offering (Bronze Altar) was built from acacia wood, then overlaid with bronze. Bronze-cast rings were placed half-way up the Bronze Altar at each corner. Bronze-covered acacia wood poles were inserted into the rings to carry the Bronze Altar. The Courtyard was rectangular (approximately 150 by 75 feet). Unlike the Tent of Meeting, no acacia wood panels or boards were used to construct Courtyard sides. Sides were made of linen; however, the linen curtains were attached to acacia wood posts (top and sides) with silver hooks.

When Israelites traveled from one camp to another, the Tent of Meeting and Tabernacle were deconstructed, then moved. God didn’t permit sacred furnishings and the Tent of Meeting to be transported on wagons or carts. He required that they be carried on shoulders of Levites. Acacia wood is beautiful, light, and practical indestructible. It was ideal for the multiple moves that  Israelites made prior to entering Canaan.

The Bible identified the wood used in the Tabernacle as shittah, which translates as acacia. The genus and species of  acacia tree used in the Tabernacle can’t be established with 100% accuracy. Over the years, several acacia trees were suggested as the wood source. In the early twentieth century, scholars suggested acacia wood was from the Mimosa nilatica. Supposedly, Israelites brought this wood out of Egypt.

Another scholar proposed that the Tabernacle acacia wood was from the Acacia tortillis, which grew in the Judean and eastern Negev Deserts. Jewish rabbinic writings asserted that acacia trees were cut by the patriarch Jacob and acacia wood taken into Egypt.8 During their approximately 450-year captivity, Israelites retained the acacia wood and left Egypt with it. Thus, when Moses asked for offerings to build the Tabernacle, Israelites offered their acacia wood.

Although Mimosa nilatica and Acacia tortillis could have been sources of acacia wood used in Tabernacle construction, many scholars favor the Acacia seyal tree. The A. seyal is indigenous to the dry desert-like climate of southern Sinai. It grows in stony soil at the base of hills. The A. seyal can grow at altitudes from 65–7000 feet and with annual precipitations as low as three-and-one-half to nine inches. The A. seyal tree grows up to thirty-feet tall and has a broad somewhat flat canopy.

Despite A. seyal plentiful presence on the Saini Peninsula, the tree had a drawback: The acacia tree has a pair of straight, light gray thorns at the base of each leaf. When Israelites cut down trees and fashioned boards (planks) for the Tent of Meeting and furniture they had to contend with these sharp projections. Further, when poles were created to carry the Tabernacle and courtyard furniture, sharp thorns had to be removed from poles.

The acacia wood used in the Tabernacle symbolizes the humanity of Jesus, while the gold overlay of the boards and poles symbolizes Jesus’s deity. Isaiah described the  Redeemer as a “a root out of dry growth” similar to the acacia tree growing out of arid desert soil (Isaiah 53.2 NIV).

As Christians, we know that Jesus was fully human. It was in his human strength that Jesus endured unbelievable torture and death on the cross.  Acacia wood is virtually indestructible, but, Jesus is fully indestructible.  In his human body, Jesus died once for all people—those present on the earth when he lived and individuals of all future times.  The indestructible Jesus rose after death and now sits at God’s right hand in heaven.  Burnt offerings on bronze-covered acacia wood altars are no longer needed for sins to be forgiven and for man to be reconciled to God.

Jesus’s death and resurrection invites each of us to become a child of God. Christians “are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 1.10 NIV). Part of our work on earth is to be like acacia wood—virtually indestructible—as we walk out God’s plans for our lives.

God could have supplied trees without thorns for the Israelites to make boards for Tabernacle structures. Why did God have Israelites use a tree with thorns? One answer is that thorns on the acacia tree were to assist Israelites to realize that just because they were out of Egypt didn’t mean that all would be smooth in their lives. Their new world plants had thorns and projections that could/would pierce and puncture their skin.

Similar to Israelites on Sinai, Christian believers in the twenty-first century need to work with what is available in their world. In the Sinai, an acacia tree was available. In a world filled with diverse individuals, social media, and twenty-four-hour news television, Christians find thorns. At times thorns are other persons. Some days, I think that there are more thorns than flowers in my environment. Nonetheless God put me in this life to live and interact with what and who is in my environment. All of these interactions are designed to be for his glory.

Reflection: What are some items, events, people in your life that you need to learn to work with rather than avoid? Some people just have so many thorns (and, of course, I don’t)! How does learning to interact with thorny people enhance your spiritual life?

Rock rose source of onycha

Onycha is the most controversial ingredient used in incense when it was prepared for use in the tabernacle on the Sinai Peninsula. Originally, Bible scholars believed that onycha came from a shell fish that was common to the Red Sea area. The problem with this hypothesis was that Mosaic Law identified that all non-finned and non-scaled fish were unclean and should be considered detestable (Leviticus 11.10-11).

The Talmud stated that onycha (shecheleth) grew from a plant, most likely an exudate from a bush or small tree. According to Winifred Walker’s All the Plants of the Bible (1979), shecheleth is a form of rock rose (Cistus ladaniferus var.  creticus), which produces a resin called labdanum. The flowers of the rockrose bush are described as having petals with scarlet and black fingernail-shaped markings. Usually, rock rose produces labdanum annually, during the summer, to protect itself from the heat. When aged labdanum becomes more fragrant.   The fresh resin is a soft, sticky, and tar-like substance that is sweet, flowery, musky, and reminiscent of honey or ambergris with a hint of sweet leather. As labdanum ages it becomes hard and brittle.

I planted Cistus in the church Bible garden. The plant lived two winters but did not make it through the third winter (Plant Zone 7). When I checked for more plants at my neighborhood nursery, the manager told me that they no longer sold Cistus because it did not overwinter in the Roanoke climate.

Labdanum, the product of onycha, is produced to protect the flower from heat. My thought is that I can produce nothing to protect my body and mind from heat. Jesus give me protection from heat, from all stress, worry, tension, strain.

Reflection: “Who can stand before his indignation? Who can endure the heat of his anger?” Thanks be to God that Christians will never have to endure God’s indigation and anger. We got Jesus!!!

Copyright June 21, 2018; Carolyn A. Roth

Please check out my website: http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com

Galbanum, Ingredient in Incense

The story of the Tabernacle incense is in Exodus 30:1–10, 34-38; Exodus 37:25-29; and Exodus 40:26-28.

When God listed offerings for the Tabernacle, he included spices for fragrant incense (Exodus 25:6).  Specifically, a perfumer was to blend the holy incense out of equal proportions of gum resin (stacte), onycha, galbanum, and pure frankincense.  The incense was to be salted and pure and sacred (30:35).  Several scholars have commented on what “salted” meant.  One idea was that salt was a preservative in the incense.  A second idea was related to the ancient’s belief that sharing salt between two people was considered to bind them in a covenant.  In the incense, the Israelites offered salt to God, which set Israel’s seal on the covenantal relationship that God offered.  Finally, directing the incense to be salted could have meant it was to be well prepared.The Tabernacle incense was to be “most holy” to the Israelites, and the Israelites were to consider the Tabernacle incense “holy to the Lord” (Exodus 30:36, 37).  Israelites then and in generations to come were to burn incense before the Lord (Exodus 30: 7-9).  The incense on the Altar of Incense was to thanks and praise God for his care and protection to a redeemed people. The Israelites were cautioned to not use the incense formula to make incense for personal use. If they did, they would be cut off from the Israelite people.

The question of the origin of the ingredients for the incense is an important one. The Israelites were in the Sinai Peninsula where these spices did not occur in nature. Most likely, the spices were brought with the Israelites out of Egypt; they were tributes from the Egyptians.  In particular, women would have fragrant, sweet-smelling spices and perfumes. The Bible noted that the Israelites gave an overabundance of materials for the Tabernacle construction.  That overabundance would have included incense spices as well as other construction materials.

Once blended, the incense was ground and used on the Altar of Incense (Golden Altar) and on the Table of the Presence Bread. Both of these structures were located in the Holy of Holies, Tent of Meeting. The Altar of Incense was located immediately in front of the veil separating the Holy of Holies from the Most Holy of Holies (Exodus 30:6). The Altar of Incense was so closely connected to the Most Holy Place that the writer of Hebrews mentioned that it was placed behind the veil separating the two rooms (Hebrews 9:4). No other incense was burnt on the Altar of Incense; nor were other types of offerings made on it, e.g., animal, grain, or drink. On the Altar, incense was burnt twice a day: in the evening when the chief priest lit the lamps (on the Lampstand) to burn throughout the night, and in the morning when the lamps were prepared (dressed) for the day.  Incense was also burnt on the Table of the Presence Bread.  On the Table, incense was place along each stack of Bread (Leviticus 24:5–9).  The incense was burnt as a memorial representing the 12 loaves of bread.  It was an offering made to the Lord by fire.

The Galbanum Plant

The plant described with the Tabernacle incense is galbanum which produces a resinous gum, also called galbanum.  The botanical name of galbanum is  also Ferula gummosa. Galbanum is a member of the same family of plants as carrots and parsley; it is native to central Asia particularly Iran. Galbanum was not known to grow in Israel; and in 2012 Israeli plant data bases do not list it. The Hebrew word for galbanum is chelbᵉnâh. The only place that chelbᵉnâh appears in the Bible is with spices used to make the Tabernacle incense. In England and the United States, the flowers were described as greenish white or yellow;  however, in Central Asia, flowers are a brilliant orange-yellow (Aitchison, 1887).  There are differing opinions about the gum odor and taste from pleasant odor and an acrid taste to strongly balsamic, pungent, and disagreeable or musky.  Whatever the odor of galbanum gum alone, when it was blended with the other three spices, the resulting Tabernacle incense was fragrant.

Symbolism: Fragrance

The symbolism of Tabernacle incense is three-fold.  In the Tabernacle, the incense symbolized a fragrance, or beautiful aroma, lifted to God in thanksgiving.  In the New Testament, the symbolism of fragrance is repeated in Christ’s redemptive work on the cross and in the work of the Church.  In contrast to Tabernacle incense that was burnt and rose up to God morning and evening, the sweet fragrance of the Church should rise continually to the Lord.  In his writings to a number of young Church congregations, Paul pointed out how Christ was and we are to be fragrant offerings and aromas to God.  For example, Paul told the Church at Ephesus to be imitators of Christ and to live a life of love in the same way that Christ loved us and gave himself as fragrant offering and sacrifice to God (Ephesians 5:1-2).

To God, Christians are the aroma of Christ among “those who are being saved and those who are perishing” (2 Corinthians 2:15)  To the saved, Christians are the fragrance of life.  To those who reject Christ, Christians and the gospel message are the smell of death (2 Corinthians 2:16, note, New International Version Study Bible, 2002).  Christians and the gospel message themselves are not evil-smelling or death dealing; but when nonbelievers reject the life-giving message of Christ, they smell death, not fragrant life.

When Paul wrote to the Philippians, he acknowledged their gifts saying he was not amply supplied (Philippians 4:14-19).  Probably, the gifts include money as well as material goods such as food and clothing.  Paul identified the gifts were “a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God” (Philippians 4:18).  The gifts from the Philippians to Paul were not in atonement for sin.  Rather, they were gifts of thanksgiving and praise for Paul’s ministry and Christ’s gift of salvation.  The church members at Philippi set an example that church members today can follow in giving to the support of missionaries.

Reflection. When we apply the Bible to our lives, we are like sweet-smelling incense lifted up by a gentle breeze to God. What kind of fragrance are you giving off?

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

Copyright July 1, 2018; carolyn a. roth

First Passover

Bible Reference:  Exodus chapters 11:1 – 12:36.

Moses followed God’s direction and asked to allow the Israelites to go into the desert and 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.  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 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

I Want Garlic!

Reference: Numbers 11:1-6

Story: After the Tabernacle was built and dedicated, the Israelites set out from the Mount Sinai area. Soon afterward, a group of individuals called “the rabble” began to complain about the hardships they encountered. Most scholars believe that the rabble were not Israelites; but opportunists who opted to leave Egypt when the Israelites slaves were allowed to leave. By this time, God was feeding the Israelites with manna.

One complaint by the rabble was that they craved food other than manna. Hearing the rabble complain, the Israelites joined their complaints. Both groups wailed and said:  If only we had meat to eat. We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost – also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never have anything but manna (Numbers 11:4-6).

In response, God did two things: 1) he gave the people quail to eat and 2) he killed all complainers. The Israelites buried them. The name of this place was Kibroth Hattaavah and it appears to be about 45 miles northeast of Mount Sinai.

Garlic was one of the foods that poor individuals and slaves ate in Egypt. In the United States, we use garlic as a seasoning or garnish, i.e., in stews, roasts, salads and on top of bread. Possibly garlic was more of a food staple in Egypt. I can imagine after over a year of eating manna, the rabble and some Israelites were tired of the monotony eating a relatively bland diet of manna. Thus, their complaints.

Growing Garlic: Garlic (‎Allium sativum) is easy to grow and produces numerous underground bulb. Plants are frost tolerant! Garlic can be planted early in the spring but bigger and more flavorful garlic comes from garlic planted in soil and allowed to overwinter there. Break apart cloves from bulb a few days before planting, but keep the papery husk on each individual clove. Plant cloves about one month before the ground freezes. Place cloves 4 inches apart and 2 inches deep, in their upright position (the wide root side facing down and pointed end facing up.

Mulch heavily with straw. In the spring remove the mulch after the last frost. Larger garlic bulbs will result if you cut off flowers that emerge in the spring. Over the summer fertilize with nitrogen especially if you see leaves turning yellow. Water every 3-5 days but do not let garlic stand in water.

Do not plant garlic cloves from the grocery store. They may be unsuited varieties for your area, and most are treated to make their shelf life longer. Obtain garlic cloves from a mail order seed company or a local nursery.

Symbolism and Application: Beyond its intense flavor and culinary uses, this “stinking rose” is an insect repellent and has been used for centuries as a home remedy. I believe that the symbolism of garlic is stink. The rabble in the desert stunk and their stink contaminated others, i.e., Israelites. Garlic acted as a bad apple that contaminated the bushel of apples because of its disease. The rabble stunk up or contaminated some true Israelites.

About 30 years ago I attended a certain church. By the time of this incident, I had been attending about 5 years. One night I received a telephone call from a relatively new church member. He began to tell me all the things that were wrong with the preacher. I listened and mentally I agreed with some things and some I disagreed with; however, I didn’t refute anything he said. At the end of his descriptions, he asked me to join a group who was trying to oust the preached. My answer was “No, thank you, I do not want to go this direction.” I always wondered why he joined the church if he disliked the pastor so much. There were plenty of other churches of that same denomination in the community.

Reflection: Garlic stinks and when eaten often causes bad breath. Christians who consume garlic-type foods can have bad breath when they witness to others.

Copyright: August 5, 2017: Carolyn A. Roth

Please visit my webpage (www.CarolynRothMinistry.com) and look at my blog on Bible plants to read more on plants in the Bible.

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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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