August Newsletter

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Volume 2, Issue 8.pub

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

Good News in Nature

Good News in Nature centers on plants in the 4 Gospels. With few exceptions, the plants are ones that Jesus used in his ministry. At this time, it is available on Amazon/Kindle in electronic format.

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

Need your Help

Colleagues,

If you didn’t have a familiarity with plants, you would not be enrolled to receive my blog. I need a favor:  Would you please send me an email (carolynrothministry@gmail.com) naming the top 10 plants that you believe influenced/swayed/impacted Christian thought?

Thank you in advance for considering this question and answering it.

Carolyn

Frustrating Pharisees and Herbs

Reference: Matthew 23.1-32

Matthew is the only gospel writer who recorded the seven “Woes” which was part of Jesus’s teaching in the Temple Courtyard during Holy Week (Matthew 23.1-32). The first day of Holy Week, Jesus triumphantly entered Jerusalem and the second day he cleared the Temple of money changers. The third day was a day of controversy and parables.

This day must have been challenging and exhausting for Jesus.  Group after group, i.e., Sadducees, Pharisees, lawyers, teachers, and Herodians, came forward to challenge Jesus. They attempted to trip him up so that they could condemn both him and his answers. At one point during their challenges, Jesus spoke seven “Woes” in which he condemned both the Pharisees and scribes. As we read these 32 verses, we hear the agony that Jesus felt at the blindness of the spiritual leaders of Israel.  Jesus was so frustrated that he named them “hypocrites.”

In the fourth “Woe,” Christ told the Pharisees and scribes that they tithe on the herbs mint, dill, and cumin; but, neglect the more important parts of the Law that have to do with justice, mercy, and faithfulness. He advised them to practice justice, mercy, and faithfulness while tithing on the herbs.

Tithing with herbs dates back to Mosiac Law. When herbs produced to sell; Mosaic Law required Jews to tithe on them. “You shall tithe all the yield of your seed that comes from the field” (Deuteronomy 14.22 ESV). Tithing meant that the grower gave 10% of their money and/or crops to the Lord, which usually went to the Temple (Leviticus 27.30). Importantly, when Jesus spoke to the Pharisee, he didn’t tell Pharisees that tithing on growing herbs was wrong. Just the opposite, Jesus reinforced the need for God’s people to tithe. At the same time, Jesus instructed listeners that loving God and seeking justice were the greater good.

Cumin

When Jesus identified tithing herbs to the Pharisees in Jerusalem, he named cumin; however, Jesus didn’t list cumin in an early message when he used herbs in his reprimand to the Pharisees.  That Jesus used cumin in an exhortation to urban dwellers suggests that urban dwellers use different herbs than rural ones. Further, cumin was closely aligned with Persian and Indian cuisine. Conceivably, Jerusalemites many who had ancestors who were returnees from the Babylonian captivity were more familiar with the herb cumin.

Cumin (Cuminum cyminum) is an annual flowering plant from the parsley family. Seeds are used Asia, Mediterranean, Middle East, and Mexican dishes. Ground cumin is an essential spice in curry powder. Ancient Greeks used cumin as a table-side condiment, similar to the way we use a salt shaker. Several different varieties of cumin exist with the most common being black and green cumin used in Persian cuisine.

Cumin is sown in the spring from seed in rows two feet apart in fertile, well-draining soil. Cumin plant care requires a long, hot summer (three to four months) with temperatures around 85 degrees Fahrenheit (F) during the day. United States plant zones are 5-10. Sow shallowly, about ¼-inch below the soil surface. Keep the seeds moist during germination. In cooler climates, start seed indoors four weeks prior to the last spring frost.  Transplant outdoors when temperatures routinely exceed 60 degrees F. or higher. Cumin has small white or pink flowers.

Harvesting cumin is time consuming because it is largely done by hand. Cumin seed is harvested by hand. Seeds are harvested when they brown — about 120 days – and are then dried and ground. Ideally, cumin seeds are harvested in the morning when the herb is most pungent.

Symbolism

It takes a lot of time (120 days or 4 months) to grow cumin plants and many plants to get ground cumin to garnish food. If you want the delicious taste of cumin in food, the wait and  effort is worth while. Growing as a Christian – growing in Jesus – is also time consuming; however, the growth is worthwhile as we become progressively more like him. Also, it is worthwhile to see our loved-ones grow in knowledge and love of Jesus.

Reflection:  Are you ever impatient with your growth or the growth of those you love? If you are, think of the alternative.

Copyright: June 19, 2018; Carolyn A. Roth

Visit my blog at http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com.

Jesus Refused Gall

Poison hemlock (Conium maculatum)

When the Roman soldiers left the Praetorium with Jesus, they required him to carry the cross on which he would be crucified; however, Jesus was so weak from flogging and torture that he couldn’t carry the heavy cross through the Jerusalem streets. The soldiers forced Simon of Cyrene to carry Jesus’s cross through to Golgotha where the crucifixion occurred.

At Golgotha, the soldiers offered Jesus wine mixed with gall. After tasting the drink, Jesus refused it. When Roman soldiers felt pity for a prisoner before crucifixion, they added gall to a vinegar-wine drink and offered it to prisoners. The English word “gall,” in the New Testament, comes from the Greek word chole (Strong’s Concordance #G5521) which literally means poison. After tasting the drink, Jesus refused it.

Then, the soldiers used nails to pound Jesus’ hands and feet into the cross. Jesus continued to wear the crown of thorns. By Roman law, the soldiers were required to write the charges against the accused at the top of the cross so that all who passed by would know the reason for the crucifixion. The inscription on Jesus’ cross was, “The King of the Jews.” The Roman soldiers positioned the cross up-right into a hole in the ground so that Jesus hung from the cross. Two thieves were being crucified at the same time as Jesus, one on each side of Jesus. Jesus was crucified at the third hour of the day, or about 9:00 a.m.

Perhaps pity for the crucified sufferer was not the only reason Roman soldiers offered gall about to be crucified individuals including Jesus. Soldiers were required to guard the crucifixion site and men crucified there until the men were dead. The quicker a man died, the sooner the Roman soldiers could leave the site and return to their garrison.

Composition of  Gall?

Controversy exists among Christians and botanist about the source of the bitter substance added to the wine vinegar drink. One proposed substance include juice from the opium poppy which caused pain relief but also hallucination which could lessen the experience of dying by crucifixion. A problem with this drug was that the opium poppy didn’t grow in Israel. I just can’t imagine Roman soldiers paying for an exotic drug for a condemned prisoner.  Another drug was from the wormwood plant. Wormwood grew in Israel and had a bitter taste.  Wormwood was the basis for an alcoholic drink (absinthe) which could reduce feeling and contact with reality. Roman soldiers wouldn’t share alcohol with a condemned prisoner.

Perhaps, the best source of gall added to the vinegar wine drink was from hemlock (Conium maculatum).  Poisonous hemlock is a biennial shrub that grows in Israel. The poisonous hemlock is similar to wild parsley and wild carrots foliage. When farmers see the plant they immediately remove it. Animals and humans who eat the poisonous hemlock plant first become sedated then paralyzed. Finally, they die from respiratory muscle paralysis.  In first century Palestine, seeds and leaves of the poisonous hemlock plant were distilled into liquid and added to wine vinegar drink. The hemlock addition made the drink tastes bitter and it became poisonous. A crucified individual who breathing muscles were paralyzed died quicker than one not given poisonous hemlock.

What’s so important about a drink?

After a night of torture and walking through the streets of Jerusalem to Golgotha, Jesus was dehydrated and thirsty. Yet, Jesus refused the poisonous hemlock-infused drink for two primary reasons. First Jesus did not want to be sedated. He wanted to feel all the agony of the crucifixion which included his father (God) turning his face away from the sins of you and me that Jesus took on the cross. Second, prophets identified that Jesus would die by crucifixion, not poison (reference). If he drank the gall he would have died from poisoning not from the pain of crucifixion.

I asked my minister, “Would it have made a difference to our redemption, if Christ died from poison rather than crucifixion?” In both, scenarios, Jesus was crucified and died. Pastor Mark believes how Jesus died was important. God required his pure, sinless son not to just die but to suffer. God’s plan wasn’t for Jesus to hang on the cross sedated; rather, Jesus was to be alert those six hours. When Jesus agreed to his Father’s plan to be the sacrifice for the sins of mankind, he knew that his Father, the perfect God, couldn’t look on sin; thus, God couldn’t look on Jesus when Jesus took on him sins of all mankind.

What way other than alert, could Jesus lead a thief crucified on one side of him to believe in himself as the Son of God? Remember, God isn’t willing that any individual should perish (reference). If only one sinful person lived on earth and were separated from God, Jesus would have suffered and died for that one person. Save

What would you have done?

From this passage in Matthew, we know what Jesus did – he allowed himself to be crucified without any chemical barrier between himself and his pain and ultimate death.  Now, after we knew what Jesus would do and did do, each of us must ask ourselves what are we going to do in response to someone who loves us so much?

If you want more information on Bible plants, visit my website http://www.carolynrothministry.com

Copyright may 28, 2018; carolyn a. roth

Cattail Abused Jesus

 Governor Pilate succumbed to the demands of the Jewish religious leaders and ordered Jesus crucified. He turned Jesus over to his soldiers to complete the crucifixion (Matthew 27.27-30). The company of soldiers stationed in Jerusalem likely was composed of diverse nationalities; however, probably none were Jews. The soldiers took Jesus to the Praetorium, a barracks area with a large court yard used for practice drills, i.e., sword, javelin. There, the soldiers gathered their entire company and proceeded to mock and torture Jesus.

One humiliation was taunting Jesus with the claim that he was a king. The soldiers were loyal to Rome and acknowledged no king but Caesar.

  • They stripped Jesus of his clothes and put a scarlet robe on him (Matthew 27.27-31). Some scholars contended that the scarlet robe was a cloak worn by Roman soldiers when they were at state functions.
  • They put a reed in Jesus’s hand. The reed symbolized the scepter (rod) carried by ancient rulers.
  • They spit on Jesus in parody of giving him a kiss which in ancient times was part of the welcome given a ruler or a person in authority.

The soldiers took the same reed used to mock his supposed kingship and struck Jesus on the head” (Matthew 27.30 ESV).  The soldiers scourged, or flogged, Jesus (Mark 15.15).

From Matthew’s gospel, readers conclude that the same reed was used to mimic a scepter and to strike Jesus on the head. In the ancient Near East, scepters had several designs to include a crook at the end, a left and right-sided division and design, and a simple narrow flute-type design (http://www.ancientegyptonline.co.uk/). In the Middle Ages Christians cattails in artwork of as an allusion to Jesus. Paintings by Flemish artist Sir Anthony Van Dyck (1599 – 1641) of Jesus’ mock trial have him with a cat-tail in his hand as a scepter.

Cattail

Roman soldiers had access to a number of different reeds that grew in Judea around Jerusalem. The reed that resembles an ancient Near East scepter and is sufficiently sturdy to use to strike an individual on the head is the cattail (Typha angustifolia also known as the Typha domingensis (Flowers in Israel.com). Not coincidentally, the cattail is very similar to a scepter (mace) used in ancient Egypt

Cattails are a perennial, growing to nine feet tall. Flowers, which give the plant their identifying characteristic are near the top of stalks and typically brown in color. Often flowers are described as resembling sausages. Flowers are present between January and June; consequently, cattails with the broad flower head was available for the Roman soldiers to use in torment of Jesus.

Cattails cannot grow in the shade. Cattail prefers wet soil and grows in water. Flowers are either male or female, but both sexes are found on the same plant. Flowers are pollinated by wind. Stalks which bear flowers are greenish and often appear lighter in color than leaves. Flower stocks are jointless and stiff; and could have easily served a dual purpose in the torment of Jesus, both a scepter and the  “reed” used to strike Jesus on the head.

Analysis

What a heart-breaking situation. The same individuals, i.e., soldiers, that Jesus came to save humiliated and beat him using a plant from God’s creation. As I internalize this event in the Praetorium, I imaging that I would be more hurt by the mocking than by the beating.

Reflection: Do you ever humiliate Jesus?

Please visit my website to learn more about Bible plants: http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com

copyright May 28, 2018; Carolyn A. Roth

Swaddling Cloths

When Mary returned to Nazareth from visiting her cousin Elizabeth, her betrothed, Joseph, decided that the couple should leave for Bethlehem. Emperor Caesar Augustus ordered that all men must go to their home town to register for tax purposes. Joseph was of the lineage of David and his home town was Bethlehem.

When Mary and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem, Joseph’s family’s homes were packed. Inns were filled with other returned Bethlehemites. Joseph’s kin told him that he and Mary were welcome to sleep in the barn. Mary gave birth to her first-born son, Jesus in this barn environment. As was the custom in the Ancient Near East culture, Mary wrapped Jesus in swaddling cloths (Luke 2:7), Swaddling cloths were narrow band of cloths wrapped around newborn children to restrain and quiet them. A mother’s womb was snug and warm; these cloths mimicked the womb. Newborns have fingernails, so the cloths would have prevented the newborn Jesus from scratching himself has he wiggled around.

The swaddling cloths Mary wrapped Jesus in were probably made from cotton. Because of their poverty, Joseph and Mary likely were unable to afford linen cloths. Often pictures of Jesus wrapped in cloths at his birth depict the cloths as white; however, likely the cloths were gray or brown as the cotton was unbleached. Perhaps, swaddling cloths that Mary used were several colors because they were cast off rags. Have you ever cared for a newborn? They both urinate and have small bowel movements. Likely, Mary knew this newborn characteristic and used cloths that could be changed separately on Jesus’s lower body.

The cotton cloths were probably from the Gossypium herbaceum plant, also known as Levant cotton and Arabian cotton. Cotton plants were domesticated in India about 3000 B.C. and grew in Mesopotamia at least from 1000 B.C. In the 7th century B.C. cotton was present in the Arad Valley in Palestine. Possibly, returned Jewish exiles brought cotton cloth and cotton plants back with them from Persia.  G. herbaceum isn’t the same species of cotton grown in present-day Israel, nor the species grown in the United States. When cotton plants are irrigated, most flower mid-to-late summer. Large, showy, solitary blooms have five petals (1-2 inches long). Flowers are yellow (occasionally white) at first, then fade to a soft red or pink. The cotton plant fruit is called a boll. When ripe, the boll splits and a mass of fine white filaments or fibers exude.  The white fibers are the cotton of commerce. Seeds are present in the white fibers. In ancient times seeds were separated from fibers by hand, then the fibers woven into cloth.

Luke recorded that Mary wrapped Jesus in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger. Most photographs showed this manger made from wood, filled with straw, and elevated off the barn floor. The Nazareth Exhibit in the Museum of the Bible showed a contrasting scenario. There, the manger was hewed out of an approximately two by one-foot stone. The interior of the manger was rough. The Bible never recorded that the manger was filled with straw before the newborn Jesus was laid in it. Swaddling cloths could have been the cushion for the newborn Jesus.

Luke’s story of Jesus being wrapped in swaddling cloths symbolizes Jesus as the lamb of God.  It was in the Bethlehem area that newborn lambs were birthed for Temple sacrifice. Because the lambs had to be unblemished, often shepherds wrapped them lambs in swaddling cloths. As these lambs were fed by their mothers, they were kept unblemished.

Please visit my website to learn more about Bible plants and my ministry: http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com

Copyright May 28, 2018; Carolyn Roth

June 2018, Newsletter

Here is the link for CarolynRothMinistry, June Newsletter — https://mailchi.mp/aa537940e0b6/check-out-new-june-special