Tag Archives: Bible Parables

God as a Gardener book

New book will be available for sale in August from Tate Publishing. Illustrations are original and in color. Maria Lin is the illustrator and a very talented and spiritual woman.

God as a Gardener

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/



Good and Bad Figs


Bible Reference: Jeremiah 24:1-7

In the years prior to Jeremiah’s parable of the two baskets of figs, Judah’s King Jehoiakim was murdered. His son, Jehoiachin, succeeded his father to the throne. After ruling three months and ten days, the eighteen year-old king surrendered when Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem. This grandson of godly King Josiah, his mother and wives, capable fighting men, and the most skilled artisans and craftsmen were taken captive (597 BC) to Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar made Jehoiachin’s uncle, Zedekiah, the vassal king in Judah. In earlier prophecies, Jeremiah foretold both Jehoiakim’s murder and Jehoiachin being taken captive to Babylon.

In the parable of the two baskets of figs, God gave Jeremiah a vision that included a parable and its interpretation:

Then the Lord asked me, “What do you see, Jeremiah?”“Figs,” I answered. “The good ones are very good, but the bad ones are so bad they cannot be eaten.” Jeremiah 24: 3-4 NIV

In contrast to the good figs, the outcome for the bad figs was dire. The bad figs were King Zedekiah, his officials, and other survivors in Jerusalem. God was going to send sword, famine, and plague on the people who remained in Judah. Indeed, during the siege of Jerusalem, residents suffered famine and pestilence. When they Babylonians broke through the Jerusalem walls thousands of Jerusalemites were murdered. Even though God banish the survivors to foreign kingdoms, God’s planned to make them abhorrent to people of every kingdom on earth.

fig leaf & fruit

How Figs Grow

Figs were identified in written records as early as 9000 B.C. in the area of Jordan. The average fig tree grows about twenty feet tall and develops a spreading canopy. Tree roots spread far beyond the tree canopy searching for water. Some fig trees are damaged by temperatures that drop to 30 degrees Fahrenheit. Perhaps, the bad figs in Jeremiah’s parable were damaged by a late frost.


Jeremiah’s prophecy of the good and bad figs came true. When Jehoiachin arrived in Babylon, he was placed in prison. There, he remained 37 years. When Nebuchadnezzar died, his son Evil-Murdock became king over Babylon. King Evil- Murdock released Jehoiachin from prison, gave him an allowance, and a favored place at the king’s high table for meals. Seventy years later after Jehoiachin’s captivity, his grandson, Zerubbabel, led the first 50,000 Jews who left Babylon and returned to Jerusalem. God considered the exiled Jews as good figs.

Meanwhile in Jerusalem, King Zedekiah rebelled. Nebuchadnezzar returned to Jerusalem, laid siege to the city, killed King Zedekiah, and conquered Jerusalem and the surrounding towns. Nebuchadnezzar assigned Gedaliah, a politically-moderate Jew, as governor of Judea. Gedaliah established his capital at Mizpah. Ishmael, a member of Judah’s former royal family, killed Gedaliah and the Babylonian soldiers garrisoned at Mizpah. Jews not killed feared that Nebuchadnezzar would be furious at governor Gedaliah’s murder. They fled to Egypt for safety. Not too many years later, Nebuchadnezzar invaded Egypt; in the invasion his army killed most of the Jews who fled there. Thus, the bad figs were destroyed.


Most Americans resonate to New Hampshire’s state motto: “Live Free or Die.” Yet, God told the Jewish exiles to submit to their Babylonian captors. When they did so, they were good figs. What was God’s rationale for declaring the captives “good?”

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: November 21, 2015; Carolyn A. Roth



Balaam’s Aloe Tree Parable

Agarwood tree

The parable of the aloe and cedar trees (Numbers 24:5-7) was included in an oracle; it was spoken. This third oracle given by Balaam named two trees – the aloe and the cedar. In this entry the aloe is emphasized.

Back Story

When the Moabites saw Moses and the Children of Israel approach their country, they were afraid the “horde’ was going to destroy the land, i.e., cut trees for firewood, consume pasture lands needed for their own livestock. Moab wanted to turn the Israelites away from their land. The problem was that Moab didn’t have an army to fight against the Israelites. Until recently, Moab was subject to the Amorites. Moab was only freed when the Israelites conquered of King Sihon and the Amorite army.

In an effort to combat the Israelites, the Moabite king, Balak, sent for the most the renowned seer/diviner in the known world—Balaam. King Balak planned for Balaam to curse the Israelites. In ancient times people believed that cursing a person or people could influence their outcome. God allowed Balaam to go with the Moabites; however, God warned Balaam that he could only speak the words God gave him.

Parable of Aloe Tree

What followed was Balaam offering five oracles, each of which blessed the Israelites. The one parable that included plants compared the Israelites to aloes and cedars planted by God in watered land:

How beautiful are your tents, O Jacob, your dwelling places, O Israel!
Like valleys they spread out, like gardens beside a river, like aloes planted
by the LORD, like cedars beside the waters. Water will flow from their
buckets; their seed will have abundant water. Their king will be greater
than Agag; their kingdom will be exalted.” — Numbers 24:5-7 NIV

Aloe Tree’s Interpretation

In contrast to the aloe of the New Testament which came from an herbaceous plant, Old Testament aloe came from a tree. The Old Testament aloe tree was the eaglewood tree (Aquilaria malaccensis also known Aquilaria agallocha). Likely, Old Testament traders brought its wood from India. Aquilaria species have adapted to live in different habitats, e.g. rock, limestone, sand, well-drained slopes and ridges, and land near swamps.

Aloe is made from agarwood of the eaglewood tree. Only about 10% of mature trees produce agarwood. The fragrant oleoresin that permeates the heartwood of some eaglewood trees is produced in response to a fungal infection. Once the fungus establishes itself on the tree, it turns the woody trunk into a deep brown color. The darker the heart wood, the more valuable the wood. Trees over 50 years old produce the best agarwood. Agarwood is harvested, cut into small pieces, and burned. The result is a distinct aroma described as being a cross between sandalwood and balsam. Linens packed with pieces of agarwood take on the smell of the agar in the same manner as linens packed in a cedar chest take on the smell of cedar.


Balaam heard traders’ descriptions of the majesty of the aloe-producing tree. Something in or about the Israelite encampment resonated with description Balaam heard of the uprightness of the tree. These Israelites came to adult hood as free men and women. They stood upright. They live in the dry, rugged Sinai. They were used to standing upright, looking off into the distance for the first sign of danger to their families or for signs of water and food.

Balaam was smart and knew his craft well. He knew the Israelite history. He knew how they left Egypt. He knew about their 40-year trek in the wilderness. Possibly Balaam compared the 50 years it took the eaglewood tree to produce mature agarwood (aloes) with the 40 years the Israelites wondered in the desert coalescing into a cohesive nation. Another comparison could be that just as only 10% of eaglewood becomes agarwood and sweet smelling aloes so too of all the peoples in the known world, God touched the Children of Israel for his own. This small nation was unique in being God’s chosen people.

Reflection: The spiritual interpretation of Balaam’s parable is: what God has declared blessed, man shouldn’t curse. The opposite is also true, what God has declared as sinful, damaged, and depraved, man can’t declare as valuable and good.

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, 2015; Carolyn A. Roth