Tag Archives: Bible Plants

Cleansed with Soap Plant

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Bible References:

“Although you wash yourself with soap and use an abundance of cleansing powder, the stain of your guilt is still before me,” declares the Sovereign LORD (Jeremiah 2:22, NIV).

“But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap” (Malachi 3:2, NIV).

The context for Malachi’s words on a launderer’s soap was prophecy about the coming Messiah begins with the coming of his messenger (John the Baptist) who would appear before Christ. Messiah’s coming was not warm, gushy and love, love, love. Malachi wrote that Messiah would put individuals on trial (3:5). He would sit as a refiner who removes impurities from precious metals. Messiah would remove impurities from his people’s thoughts and behavior. No longer would people be dirty. Messiah would be like a launder who washed clothes to remove all dirt.

Probably soap was used in some form as far back as prehistoric times. When used with water, soap, reduces the water’s surface tension to attract dirt and oil away from skin or other materials such as clothing.  How?  Soap acts as a “surfactant” which means it helps water to soak in, rather than remain in tight droplets.  Soap works by attaching itself to dirt and suspends the dirt molecule until water rinses it off, carrying away both dirt and soap away from the fabric.salsola-kali-fr-sweeds

Bible women and launders washed clothes with a strong soap, then place the clothing upon a rock and beat them with a stick to remove dirt. Intuitively, it seems to me that launders and house wives would destroy the fibers in clothes if they used strong soap, followed by a rock and a stick; however, in Bible times often cloth was coarser and perhaps more sturdy than the fine fabrics we have today.

The Hebrew word for soap was most often borith, properly a vegetable alkali, obtained from the ashes of certain plants, particularly the Salsola kali (saltwort), which abounds on the shores of the Dead Sea and of the Mediterranean. In early times soap-like substances were extracted from plants such as soapwort, soap root, soap bark, yucca, horsetail, fuschia leaves, and agave. These plants often found flourishing on riverbanks or near lakes.

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Russian Thistle

Russian Thistle (Salsola kali) is an annual plant that can grow to two feet tall. It is in flower from July to   September. Flowers are primarily pollinated by the wind. Salsola kali grows best in sandy soil and medium loam as long as soil is well drained. It grows in very alkaline and saline soils. In the United States it grows in states that abut oceans and the Gulf of Mexico. It cannot grow in the shade. The ashes of the burnt plant are used for making glass and soap. The ashes can also be used as a cleaner for fabrics. Synonyms are prickly saltwort, windwitch.

Symbolism

Logic suggests that the symbolism of Salsola kali (Russian thistle, prickly saltwort) should be clean or cleansing. When I think of cleansing my first thought goes to when I confessed my need for a Savior and was cleansed from my sins. Wow, doing that made me feel good. I was “saved” from my sins. In my childish world view, I believed that I would not sin any more. When I did sin by disobeying my parents, thinking “bad” words, or saying mean things about people, I concluded that in reality I was not “saved.”  Being saved didn’t take with me. Perhaps I needed to do it again. Maybe I was just too awful to be saved once for all times and I needed to be saved every year or even every couple of months.

Thank God, little girls read their Bible, mature, learn.  Now, I know that I am once and for all “saved.” But this side of heaven, I am going to continue to sin. I am made up of a spiritual self that I received in the form of the Holy Spirit when I was saved. I also still have my physical or old self so I continue to sin.

God gave me a way to get rid of my continued sins. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9, NIV). Look! Look! God is going to wash and purify us from our sins.

Reflection: Do you feel clean after a shower or bath? Do you feel clean after confessing your sins to Christ?

Copyright January 20, 2017; Carolyn A. Roth

If you want to learn more about plants in the Bible, visit www.CarolynRothMinistry.com

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Cyclamen Crown

Cyclamen persicum

The beautiful cyclamen (Cyclamen persicum) is often called Solomon’s crown. Although not identified in the Bible, cyclamen grow freely among rocks and on rock walls in Israel. It is native to the eastern Mediterranean region. During the Christmas season, cyclamens are a popular gift, possibly because they are associated with the Holy Land.

In Israel, cyclamen begin to blossom in November and continues through March-April. In Upper Galilee cyclamen bloom even into early May. Leaves are heart-shaped and dark green with white mottling. In Israel, flowers are generally white or vivid pink; however, they can also be lavender. The blossom (6-9 inches tall) rises from a single stem. The bloom can last an entire month. Flowers are reminiscent of orchids.

Growth Patterns

Generally, cyclamen grow from corms (small bulbs), but with enough patience, they can be grown from seeds. In the United States, cyclamen are winter hardy in zones 9–11. Recently, florists have developed smaller cyclamen (2-4 inch tall blossoms) that are hardy in zones 5-8.  Last fall, I purchased and planted three of the hardy cyclamen corms in St. John Church Bible Garden. I was hoping that they would grow in the spring but none of them made it through the winter..

Owners generally keep cyclamen in a cool, semi-shaded area on a porch or balcony during summer and bring them inside during winter. If cyclamen are planted outdoors, they need a semi-shaded area, composted soil, and plenty of moisture.

Reflection: The more I read about Solomon, the worse I feel about him. He had so much going for him; however, he succumbed to worship of his wives’ gods. We need to be sure that we never slowly drift (like Solomon) to worship of a god other than God.

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 December 8, 2014, Carolyn A. Roth; all rights reserved.

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Captured by Seaweed

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Reference: Jonah 2:5

The story of Jonah is about disobedience and redemption. Most children know that Jonah disobeyed God when God told him to go to Nineveh and preach repentance to the city. Jonah didn’t want to go there, so he got on a ship bound for Tarshish in the opposite direction from Nineveh. Jonah believed that if he left the land of the Israelites, he could escape God.

A huge storm occurred in the Mediterranean Sea. Even the experienced sailors were frightened. They decided to cast lots to see who had disobeyed their god and brought the storm on them. The lot fell to Jonah. He admitted that he was disobeying God and recommended that the sailors throw him overboard. Reluctantly, the ship’s sailors threw Jonah overboard. Once Jonah was off the ship, the storm abated, and the ship proceeded on its way.

A large fish swallowed Jonah. Jonah’s prayed and called out to God while he was in the belly of the giant fish. Later Jonah wrote about the experience (Jonah chapter 2) so we read what happened to him and what he thought. Jonah described how the sea waters closed over him and sea weeds wrapped around his head.  Jonah noted that he was at the roots of the mountains in the ocean suggesting that he fell to the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea.  Jonah remained in the belly of the fish three days. Then, the fish vomited up Jonah onto dry land. (Ugh, I bet he was slimy). The land was on the eastern side of the Mediterranean Sea, not all that far from Nineveh. When Jonah went to Nineveh and preached repentance, the Ninevehites repented.

Sea Weed

The Bible referenced seaweed only once (Jonah 2:5, NIV). Although the New International Version translated the plant that wrapped around Jonah’s head as seaweed, other sources translated it as “weed” (ESV) or as “eelgrass” (Douglas & Tenney, 2011). I have a problem with the translation of eelgrass because eelgrass is generally confined to tidal water and grows out to a water depth of 35 feet.  A close reading of Jonah chapter 1 suggested that the ship Jonah was on was away from land and out into the Mediterranean Sea when the storm hit.

My research indicates that the seaweed referred to by Jonah may have been the Macrocystis pyrifera also known as brown seaweed. It is a marine alga and known as the Sequoia of the sea because it can grow 45 meters (about 147 foot) in length.  It grows in the Mediterranean Sea. The stalks are thin and readily float through the waters. It could have easily wrapped around Jonah’s neck. Currently, it is eaten as a good source of minerals.

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Symbolism:  Captured

Perhaps the type of plant is not as important as what it symbolized. The sea weed captured Jonah. Capture means catching, winning, or gaining control by force. Capture is exactly what the seaweed did to Jonah. He was captured so that the giant fish could swallow him.

I have been captured, or caught, by Christ and I am so glad. Now, I have to stop struggling and let God control my life.  The problem, or perhaps not so much a problem, is that God won’t control me by force. Bummer, I wish God would just “make” me do the right things. But, He doesn’t operate that way. I have to willingly give my life to Him.  That is really difficult for me to do because I have been used to controlling my own life and future.  You know:  “I am a self- made woman.” “I can do it myself.”

Reflection: What about you? Are you willing to let God capture you? Will you willing and totally yield to God?

Copyright: January 5, 2017; Carolyn A. Roth

Please visit my website for other information: www.CarolynRothMinistry.com

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What does God require?

Jim Forney posted this photo along with the question from Micah 6:8. Take a look at God’s answer.

Zestful Life in God

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Bible Reference: In Revelation chapter 18, cinnamon is mentioned as a valuable spice.

The Story:  When John wrote Revelation, he prophesied the end of Rome and the Roman Empire. At the same time, John was writing under the direction of the Holy Spirit; therefore, his writings could refer to world systems which operate today or in the future. From this perspective Revelations 18 could predict a future collapse of the commercial-economic systems of the world from the perspective of world leaders, merchants, and individual involved in commerce on the seas.

These verses demonstrated the inter-connections of politics and trade, with an immediate application to shipping. All countries are connected by shipping, e.g., the United States gets oil from the Middle East, clothing from China, and ships food to African countries and coal to Asia. The fall of naval commerce will have national and worldwide effects. Within each country, individual jobs and buying power will be cut. Taxable income will be reduced, national debt will increase, and banks will fail. Private industries, e.g., the health care industry which consumes about 15 percent of the U.S. gross national product, will be curtailed severely. Eventually, governments will collapse.

John prophesied that when commerce failed, there would be no cargoes of cinnamon and spice. Most of us could get along without spices; it is difficult to imagine why cinnamon was mentioned in a list of valuable cargo items. Yet, in the Biblical world, the cinnamon trade was huge. Tons of cinnamon used for rituals, medicine, and everyday purposes. Egyptians used cinnamon in embalming potions. Cinnamon was a key ingredient in the Tabernacle anointing oil (Exodus 30:23-25). Medically, cinnamon was used to reduce inflammation, promote menstruation, and stimulate the urinary tract. Along with other perfumes, cinnamon was used to perfume bed linens and clothing (Proverbs 7:17). Cinnamon was used to mask smells. In the first century Pliny wrote that the market price for an Egyptian pound (350 grams) of cinnamon was over 1000 denarius or about 2.5 years wage for a typical Hebrew worker.

Cinnamon 

Bark, Cheekwood Garden

The Bible cinnamon was Cinnamomum zeylanicum, also known as Cinnamomum verem. Cinnamon is an aromatic tree bark used as a spice. The cinnamon tree was native to Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) and the southeast coast of India. Today, all commercial cinnamon grows in plantations. The cinnamon tree does not grow naturally in Israel; however, in 2012 the Jerusalem Botanical Garden we saw small specimens in the Conservatory.

The cinnamon tree is a small, bushy, and evergreen. It grows 30-40 feet tall, often with wide spreading branches. Young branches, or shoots, are crimson often with dark green and orange spots. As bark matures, it turns pale brown (ash). Mature bark is rough to the touch because it is covered with raised dots, scales, and points. Cinnamon trees are harvested in their third year of growth. After two years, the tops of trees are pruned. The third year, small shoots appear. These shoots are stripped and the thin inner bark is peeled from the tree. During the peeling process, the inner bark curls into the “stick” shape associated with cinnamon.

Symbolism: Spice, Zest

Arguably, cinnamon is synonymous with spice; certainly cinnamon is the definitive spice. The archaic meaning of spice is a small portion or quantity, a dash; or something that gives zest, i.e., to food or life. In the end times, commerce will cease. An imported product, cinnamon will be unavailable for cookery and for perfumes that scent candles, potpourri, and individuals. This dash or bit of zest will be absent from our individual lives. Christians may or may not be in the world when the commerce-economic systems fails; however, to Christians having or not having cinnamon, luxury items, or even the basic necessities of life is not as important as having Christ. Christ is not just a small portion, or dash, of spice in Christian lives. Christ is omnipresent. For Christians, Christ is their world view.

Reflection: Is your life zestful?

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 8, 2014, Carolyn A. Roth.

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Praising God – Algum wood

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The use of algum wood when Solomon built the Temple is recorded in two places:  1 Kings 10:11-12; and 2 Chronicles 9:10-11.

In the process of building the Temple, Solomon wanted algum wood, also known as almug wood (Mock, 2003).  Algum wood was not available in Israel and possibly King Hiram of Tyre did not have the quality of wood that Solomon had in mind.  Solomon determined to send ships to Ophir to obtain the algum wood.  Solomon had a fleet of ships built at Ezion Geber near Elath.   Elath was a harbor on the southern tip of Israel located on the northeastern Red Sea.  King David is believed to have established his southern most defensive line at Elath.  In modern Israel, Elath is at, or near, the city of Eilat, situated on the Gulf of Aqaba.  Evidently Israelites were not adept sailors because Solomon contracted with Hiram to use Tyre sailors to serve on Israelite ships (1 Kings 9:27).

Scholars are not sure where Ophir was located; however, the Bible recorded that only once every three years did ships return from Ophir (1 Kings 10:22).  The ships from Ophir carried gold, silver, ivory, apes, and baboons in addition to algum wood.  Most likely, Ophir was located in India or the far-east.  Some writers suggested that Ophir was located in Arabia or western Africa; however, these areas would not have taken three years for a round-trip from Elath.

During Solomon’s reign, more algum wood was imported than ever seen previously in Israel.  Algum wood was used to make stairs and banisters for the Temple and royal palace complex.  It was used extensively in the stringed instrument section of the Temple, e.g., in harps and lyres (Mock, 2003).  The musical instruments were so beautiful that they were a marvel in Judah.  The almug tree yields heavy, fine-grained wood that is notably black on the surfaces yet polishes to a rich ruby or garnet color.  In addition to being strong, it is antiseptic which makes it impervious to most insects, e.g., termites, as no insects will live inside the wood.

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Algum Trees and Wood

The algum tree of the Bible was from the Pterocarpus santalinus known as red sandalwood, Red Saunders and Red Sanders.  Sandalwood is native to southern India and does not naturally grow in Israel.  The algum is a deciduous tree between 33-65 feet tall.  The red sandalwood is considered endangered because its natural habitat in India is subjected to human encroachment. The algum tree has a number of useful products.  The hard, heavy heart wood can be used for carpentry and for fence posts.  Bark and stems are made into a red dye which gives a deep ruby red color to silken and woolen clothes.  Currently, the dye is used as a brightening substance in tea mixtures and a coloring agent in toothpaste.

algum-wood

Symbolism:  Praise

The symbolism of the algum trees used in the Temple was praise.  The harp and lyre, made with algum wood, were used to praise God (Psalm 33:1-3).  After having a magnificent Temple built to worship God, it is natural that Solomon spared no effort or expense when it came to having musical instruments crafted to praise God.  In contrast to worship which is done with words and actions, praise is expressed with words.  Praise expresses approval, esteem, and perfection; praise is a commendation and a statement of value and merit (Merriam-Webster, Incorporated, 2002).  Everything that has breath should praise the Lord (Psalm 150:6).  The challenge for Christians is why, when, where, and how we should praise God.

For the Israelites 3000 years ago and for Christians today, the why of praise is clear.  First, we praise God because he tells us to do so; e.g., “let everything that has breathe praise the Lord” (Psalm 150:6).  Second, we praise God because he deserves to be praised.  The Psalmist (48:1) wrote that the Lord is greatly to be praised, and that he is good and his mercy endures forever (136:1).  John averred that God was worthy to receive praise, e.g., glory, honor and power, because he created all things and all things exist through God’s will (Revelations 4:11).  Third, we praise God because it benefits us to do so.  Praising God gets our thoughts off of ourselves and our problems and sets them on God.  When we praise God, we are reminded of how powerful he is and that we are his special people whom he loves.  When the Temple was dedicated with prayers and praise, the entire assembly offered praises to God (2 Chronicles 5:13-14; 7:1-3).   God’s response was to send fire from heaven to consume the sacrifices.  His glory filled the temple in the form of a cloud that was so dense that the priest could not enter the temple and perform the services.

For answers to questions of when and where God wants his people to praise him, we can turn to the Bible.  The Bible tell us to praise God at all times (Psalm 34:1; Philippians 4:4), while we live (Psalm 63:3-4), and from the rising to the setting of the sun (Psalm 113:2-3).   Where should we praise God?  Should we praise God in church formal worship services or in prayer meetings?  What about when we have our devotions – is that the time to praise God?  Again, the Bible has the answer to “where should we praise God?  We should praise God in the house of the Lord and sanctuary (Psalm 134:1-2; Psalm 150:1).  Because Christian’s bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit, we are a sanctuary (I Corinthians 6:19-20); therefore, Christians can and should praise God in our bodies and in our spirits wherever we are (I Corinthian 6:19-20).

The answer to how we should praise God is sometime difficult for Christians and has been a basis for divisions among believers.  God tells us we should praise him with our whole heart and we should be glad and rejoice (Psalm 9:1-2).  We can praise him with the sound of trumpet, with tambourine, dance, stringed instruments, flutes, and cymbals (Psalm 150:2-5).  It is okay if we make a joyful shout when we come into his courts with praise and if we lift up our hands (Psalm 100:1, 4; Psalm 134:2).  Probably, God does not care is we sing traditional hymns with an organ or use contemporary praise music with keyboard and drums.  I believe that God hears both of these praise styles with a joyous heart.

Reflection:  In preparation for writing this section on praise, I spent part of the morning (while I was cleaning house) praising and thanking God for all he does.  It felt good at the time and my body and spirit still feels uplifted.  Try it and see what effect praising God has on 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 March 15, 2012; carolyn a. roth

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Persimmon Prophecy, It could happen to us

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

“The men of Rhodes traded with you, and many coastlands were your customers; they paid you with ivory tusks and ebony” (Ezekiel 27:15, NIV). Ezekiel chapter 26 is named “The Prophecy Against Tyre” and Chapter 27 “The Lament over Tyre” (Ezekiel chapters 26 and 27, NIV).

The most outstanding sailors in the ancient world, the Phoenicians built Tyre. It was an important commercial center located on the eastern side of the Mediterranean Sea. Tyre encompassed both a mainland city and an island city one-half mile offshore. Both parts were well fortified.

Probably, you remember the name Tyre because King Ahab of the Northern Kingdom of Israel married a daughter of the king of Tyre. The princess was named Jezebel, she was a Baal worshipper. After conquering Jerusalem, Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Tyre. The siege lasted 13 years. Although the Babylonians captured the mainland city, they were unable to capture the island city. Alexander the Great used lumber and construction materials from the main city of Tyre to build a causeway to the island fortress about 332 BC.

Ebony Tree

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The Ebony tree is the Diospyros ebenum (or D. ebenaster). The ebony tree is a hard, heavy, durable, close-grained wood that when polished will show a glistening shine. Ancient Greeks and Roman’s loved ebony because it could be made into beautiful furniture. Ceylon ebony wood was in such high demand that this tree species was threatened with extinction. In 1994 the World Conservation Union included Ceylon (Sri Lanka) ebony tree in the Red Book so that trees could not be readily harvested. Laws in both Sri Lanka and India prohibited international trade of the wood. The tree produces a persimmon-like fruit.

As you may suspect, we don’t have a Diospyros evenum in our church Bible garden. We do have a Diospyros virginiana. It is a persimmon species commonly called the American persimmon.  In the United States, the tree grows wild. Native Americans cultivated it for its fruit and wood since prehistoric times. The American persimmon tree grows 66 feet tall in well-drained soil. In summer, this species produces fragrant flowers. To obtain fruit you need a tree that produces female flowers and tree that produces male flowers. We have only one tree at this time, but I am considering getting another. Most cultivars set fruit without pollination. Insects and wind are primary pollinators. Typically fruiting begins when the tree is about 6 years old. The fruit is round or oval and usually orange-yellow, sometimes bluish, and from 0.79 to 2.4 inches in diameter. In the U.S. South and Midwest, fruits are referred to as persimmons. Often you will see persimmon jelly in fine stores.

Application

The great general Nebuchadnezzar was able to conquer Jerusalem, but not the island city of Tyre even after 13 years of trying. This bit of history caused me to suspect that if God had not abandoned Jerusalem it wouldn’t have been captured.

Tyre fell as Ezekiel prophesied or, more accurately, as God ordained.  This world is destined for destruction; then God will create a new heaven and a new earth (Revelation 21:2). Just as Ezekiel’s prophecy became reality, so will John’s revelation.

Reflection: No individual, city, or country can stand against God. I am okay with that fact. Are you?

If you are interested in learning more about Bible plants, see my website: www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/

Copyright September 13, 2016; Carolyn A. Roth

 

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Parable of Famine Bread

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Bible Reference: Ezekiel chapter 45

Heart of the Story: Ezekiel offered a parable of the famine that would come on Jerusalem

Back Story: Ezekiel was both a prophet and priest. He was taken to Babylon when King Nebuchadnezzar took Judah’s King, Jehoiachin, and 10,000 captive from Jerusalem to Babylon (597 BC). At that time, Nebuchadnezzar established Zedekiah as puppet king over Judah. After ruling for about five of six years, King Zedekiah rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar. He ceased paying tribute and turned to Egypt for military assistance to throw off Babylonian rule. Subsequently, Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Jerusalem. After about 18 months, the wall around Jerusalem was breached.

When Nebuchadnezzar and his army started for Judah, Jerusalem was flooded with refugees fleeing the countryside. The influx was so great that private homes, inns, and the temple courtyard were crammed with people. The poor set up tents in the streets or lay down wherever they found an empty space at night. People and noise were everywhere; smoke billowed from cooking fires. Although the situation was dire, it got worse after the Babylonians arrived. No additional food supplies entered Jerusalem. Human and animal refuse couldn’t be removed. Filth and stench were everywhere.

In Babylon beside Chebar River, God instructed Ezekiel to act out the siege of Jerusalem. The first action parable used a clay tablet to depict the Babylonians besieging Jerusalem. The second had Ezekiel lying on his left followed by lying on his right side. The third parable encompassed grains and legumes to make bread and to bake the bread.

Parable of Famine Bread: Some scholars advocated that Ezekiel 4:9-16 were two separate parables rather than one. I am describing them as one parable because they encompassed preparing and eating bread.

Here’s is God’s direction to Ezekiel: “Take wheat and barley, beans and lentils, millet and spelt; put them in a storage jar and use them to make bread for yourself. You are to eat it during the 390 days you lie on your side.”

Verse 9 describes substances that Jerusalemites will use to make bread during the siege of Jerusalem. Normally, bread was made from one type of flour, i.e., wheat, barley, millet or spelt. Legume flour was not common made into bread, however, when individuals lived in extreme poverty, beans in particular and occasionally lentils could be made into flour and used to prepare bread. Mixing flour from several sources demonstrated the extreme scarcity of flour that would occur during the siege. Scholars disagree whether the mixing of different flour sources in one vessel was a defilement (Deuteronomy 22:9), but all agree that dietary laws were compromised for the Jerusalemites.

“Weigh out twenty shekels of food to eat each day and eat it at set times. Also measure out a sixth of a hin of water and drink it at set times. Eat the food as you would a barley cake; bake it in the sight of the people, using human excrement for fuel.” The LORD said, “In this way the people of Israel will eat defiled food among the nations where I will drive them.”

Then Ezekiel responded to God: “Not so, Sovereign LORD! I have never defiled myself. From my youth until now I have never eaten anything found dead or torn by wild animals. No unclean meat has ever entered my mouth.”

“Very well,” God said, “I will let you bake your bread over cow manure instead of human excrement.” 

These three verses identified how Ezekiel was to bake the multi-flour bread. During the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem, inhabitants would have to bake their bread over human excrement; therefore, God told Ezekiel to do the same. When Ezekiel objected God allowed him to bake his bread over cow manure. Jerusalemites didn’t have the luxury of using animal dung for baking. Near the end Jerusalem siege, no animals were alive in the city. All had been slaughtered and eaten. Human excrement was the primary source of cooking fuel.

Then, God  said to Ezekiel “Son of man, I will cut off the supply of food in Jerusalem. The people will eat rationed food in anxiety and drink rationed water in despair,”    Ezekiel 4:9-16, NIV Online

Interpretation of Parable of Famine Bread: God interpreted the action parable for Ezekiel and for us. The interpretation was that God would cut off the food supply for Jerusalem. Once the Babylonians arrived no food or refuse passed in and out of the city walls. Many people inside Jerusalem starved to death or died from disease. Often the dead could not be buried and remained where they died. Mothers killed and ate their children. Ezekiel’s action shouldn’t be interpreted as sympathetic magic where something done to a model or person has a similar act in reality. True, Ezekiel’s famine bread foreshadowed the starvation behavior of the Jerusalemites; but God, not Ezekiel, caused both the prophet’s actions and of people living in Jerusalem during the siege.

In a larger context, the siege of Jerusalem was a prophecy about judgment. The people of Judah sinned so long and to such a degree that God removed his protect around Jerusalem. When Ezekiel acted out the parables of the siege of Jerusalem, God still dwelled in Jerusalem temple. Before the Babylonian siege, Ezekiel recorded that God’s presence left both the temple and Jerusalem (Ezekiel chapters 10 and 11 NIV).

The Broad Bean

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The Book of Ezekiel is one of the most detailed and well-known references to grains in the Bible; but, we also learn, or relearn, that Israelites dried and crushed legumes (bean and lentils) into bread flour. For a plant in the parable of the famine bread, I have chosen to describe the bean. The bean was the Vicia faba, also known Vicia vulgaris, the broad bean, and the faba bean.  Beans were one of the oldest cultivated plants, at least 6000 years. Their origin is North Africa or the Middle East.  The bean grows in all types of soil as long as the soil is well-drained. Although not drought-resistant, beans are hearty enough to live through mild frosts. In the Middle East, beans remain one of the most important winter crops. Broad beans can grow in semi-shade as well as strong sunlight, but they do not tolerate maritime exposure.

Looking Outward and Deeper

The Babylonians laid siege to Jerusalem in 588 BC. About 18 months later the Jerusalem walls were breached. Nebuchadnezzar had no more patience with the rebellious Jews or his puppet king, Zedekiah. He had Zedekiah killed and the Jerusalem temple and major buildings destroyed. The wall around Jerusalem walls razed. Jews not killed by famine and plague were killed by the Babylonian soldiers. Only the poorest Jews were allowed to remain in Judah.

Reflection:  God said “The day is coming, when I will send a famine throughout the land—not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord” (Amos 8:11, NIV).  Do you believe this promise from God will occur in the USA?

I love studying about Bible plants. Do you? If so, please check my website for more information: http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com

Copyright August 23, 2016; Carolyn A. Roth

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Winnowing Wheat, Winnowing Us

Girl winnowing wheat

Bible Reference: Matthew 3:12

John the Baptist parable on winnowing described separating chaff from wheat:

His winnowing fan (shovel, fork) is in His hand, and He will thoroughly     clear out and clean His threshing floor and gather and store His wheat in His barn, but the chaff He will burn up with fire that cannot be put out. Matthew 3:13 The Amplified Bible.

John spoke this parable to foretell actions of the coming Messiah (Christ). John preached personal acknowledgement and repentance of sins followed by baptism—full body emersion—in water as an outward sign of repentance. The water of baptism washed sins away. John didn’t stop with his message of repentance and physical act of baptism. John exhorted those baptized to change their behavior and bear fruit consistence with repentance (Luke 3:8-14). When the baptized asked him what they should do, John’s answer wasn’t that they quit their jobs; rather in their lives and jobs, they should act honorably, treat others fairly, and share with the less fortunate. For example, John told men with two tunics to give one to the man who had none. Soldiers should stop accusing people falsely and extorting money from them.

John the Baptist spoke bluntly to the multitudes that came to him for baptism; but reserved his worst denunciations for the Jerusalem’s elite, i.e., Pharisees, Sadducees, and priests. He called them vipers (Luke 3:7). The fierceness of his words, suggests firsthand knowledge of their behavior. Perhaps, when he rotated through the Jerusalem temple as a priest, John saw the excesses, insincerity, and, yes, even corruption that infected the leaders of the Herodian-style Jerusalem temple.

Separating Wheat from Chaff

In ancient Judea, wheat kernels (seed, grain) were separated from the chaff (stalks, straw) on threshing floors. Generally, chaff was unusable except as fodder for livestock. The farmer separated the wheat kernels from the chaff using a process called winnowing. Winnowing consisted of throwing the threshed material (chaff and grain) into the air with a fork or a winnowing basket. The wind separated the valuable grains of wheat from the chaff. Because wheat kernels were heavier than chaff, they fell to the ground. The lighter chaff, dirt, etc., were blown away by the wind. At times, farmers used fans to create air currents to blow chaff and other impurities away from the valuable wheat kernels.

Application

When John the Baptists told the parable of winnowing wheat and chaff, the spiritual reality was that the coming Messiah (Christ) would distinguish or separate the righteous from the unrighteous. Christ would critically analyze peoples’ hearts, not pious actions that were outward displays for show. John said that sincere, righteous individuals – the wheat kernels—would be taken and stored in the farmer’s barn, i.e., heaven. In contrast, the chaff, those with pretend piety, will be forever burned.

Reflection: God is not going to accept any dirt, chaff or straw into his barn. Where does that leave you and me?

Check out http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com books on plants.

Copyright August 11, 2016; all rights reserved.

Living by God’s Rules

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Bible Reference:  Isaiah 28:24-29

The parable of the plowman is a two stanza poem. The first stanza focuses on plowing the ground for planting and the second on threshing a crop. The poem ends with praise to God and the interpretation is unfolded. Although Isaiah lived most of his life in Jerusalem, the content of Isaiah’s book demonstrates a sure knowledge of ways crops were planted, cultivated, and harvested.

The immediate context for the parable of the plowman begins in Isaiah chapter 28, verse 9. The country’s leaders mocked Isaiah; but, more importantly they mocked God. The leaders asked: Who is God to try to teach us? Are we babies? Are we newly weaned children? No! They were adults and didn’t need detailed instructions from God, i.e., “Do and do, do and do, rule on rule, rule on rule, a little here, a little there” (Isaiah 28:10 NIV). The rulers in Jerusalem boasted they entered a covenant with death and the grave; thus, when a foreign nation invaded them, they wouldn’t be touched (Isaiah 28:14-15).

According to Isaiah, reality for both Israel and Judah will be different. Neither country is prepared militarily or spiritually for foreign invasion, an invasion that God will allow in judgment for their rejection of him and his laws. In order to achieve security for their land, citizens had to recognize and abide by God’s rules. Unfortunately, in Israel and Judah both leaders and citizens rejected God and God’s requirements for national and personal holiness. There was little, if any, justice in either Israel or Judah. Kings and leaders, insulated by their wealth, had almost no understanding of the everyday lives of the poor in their nations.

caraway-seeds

Caraway Seeds

In The parable of the plowman, two herbs were named, caraway and cumin. Caraway is highlighted in this entry. The caraway plant (Carum carvi) is an herbaceous biennial that is only about eight inches tall in year one. Foliage is carrot-like. In the second year, caraway plants triple their size, i.e., about 30 inches tall. Stems are thick and foliage is feathery.  Tiny white flowers appear on the umbels. Flowering begins in May and can last all summer. Dry flowers yield small hard brown seeds– the caraway spice.

Symbolism: Maturity

The result of the sins of Israel and Judah was God’s judgement on each nation and its people. Just like it takes two years for caraway to yield a crop of caraway seeds, so did it take a while for both the Northern and Southern kingdoms to mature in their sin. At any time in this process if God would have seen national repentance he would have forgiven and people and healed it.

In the United States, we will shortly elect a new president. I hear so much rhetoric about the short-comings of each candidate. I don’t hear anything about national repentance.  I don’t hear any reflection on how our country is maturing in its sinfulness; yet, year after year our personal and national sin becomes worse. At the same time, fewer and fewer voices speak out about national sin.

Reflection: Would you say that we in the United States have national sin as the Northern and Southern kingdoms of Israel had national sins. If you said “yes,” what should you be doing about them?

If you want to get more information on plants in the Bible, please see my website: www.CarolynRothMinistry.com.

Copyright: July 31, 2016; Carolyn A. Roth

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