Tag Archives: Bible Plants

Narcissus — Connect with Memory

Bible Reference: Isaiah 35.1-2.

Multiple types of narcissus (daffodils) are present in the twenty-first century because horticulturists developed many cultivars. The narcissus that grows in Israel is the Narcissus tazetta, commonly referred to as a daffodil. Neither words, narcissus nor daffodil, are present in the Bible; however, botanists and Bible scholars proposed that the narcissus was referenced twice:

  1. The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. “Like the crocus it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy” (Isaiah 35.1-2 NIV). Although the NIV Bible translates the flower in this reference as crocus, other Bible translations referred to the plant as narcissus.
  2. Solomon’s bride said that she is the Rose of Sharon (Song of Songs 2.1). In Hebrew, she named herself ha’bazlith or bazlith (bazluth), meaning “she is pealing,” or she has many layers, literally layers of an onion-like flower bulb which would be the narcissus.

Most of us know what a daffodil looks like. They grow in USA gardens and are for sale in stores in late winter and early spring. The Bible daffodil was a different variety than the beautiful yellow blooms that we plant or purchase. The Narcissus tazetta has white or cream-colored petals (usually six) surrounding a central orange-yellow cup. Often, bulbs are planted in the fall before the first frost.

Bulbs grow underground and while they may appear similar to an onion bulb they lack the classic onion odor. The bulb is the deadliest portion of the narcissus plant because it can be confused with the wild onion and because the bulb contains the highest concentrations of a toxic chemical, lycorine. Eating any part of narcissus can cause nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. Although never reported in humans, more severe problems, such as low blood pressure, drowsiness, and liver damage were reported in animals that ate large amounts of narcissus, particularly bulbs. The narcissus bulb contains a second poisonous chemical, oxalates, which are microscopic and needle-like. When ingested, oxalates cause severe burning and irritation of the lips, tongue, and throat.

Before I started to research the Bible narcissus, I was unaware of the relationship of the narcissus/daffodil flower to the Warsaw Jewish Ghetto Uprising in 1943. Uprising-commander, Marek Edelman placed daffodils at the foot of the Warsaw Ghetto Fighters Monument each year until his death. The monument was created in 1948 to remember the brave people (Jews and Poles) who fought and mostly perished in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. Narcissus paper pins and fresh flowers are part of a campaign to “Connect through Memory.”

Today, the symbolism of narcissus is “new birth.” The great Christian theologian and author of over fifty books, John Piper23 averred that “new birth” has three parts. What happens in new birth isn’t:

  1. About getting new religion, but, getting new life. Obtaining new birth is acknowledging your inability to live without a Savior.
  2. Merely affirming the supernatural Jesus, but, experiencing the supernatural in Jesus yourself. I think of the supernatural within as the Holy Spirit that begins with new birth.
  3. Improvement of the old human nature; but, creation of a new nature (the nature we were meant to be) in each of us. We are forgiven and cleansed by the indwelling Spirit of God.

Reflection: Clearly, having a rebirth through Jesus Christ should move self-worship to God-worship. That movement is a process. It doesn’t happen all at once and it doesn’t happen if we aren’t intentional about making it happen. If you want to be more intentional about putting God front-and-center in your life, what could you do? Is attending church necessary? Is attending church all you need to do? Ponder what would happen if each resident of the USA made an intentional effort to worship God rather than himself/herself.

Copyright December 19, 2019; Carolyn A. Roth

Please visit my website for more information on Bible plants: www. Carolyn Roth Ministry.com.

Crocus in the Desert

White and purple crocus flower | GardenersPath.com

Bible Reference: Isaiah 35.1.

The Bible named both crocus and saffron, an edible spice of crocus. Currently, true crocus doesn’t grow in Israel. The flower named “crocus” that grows there has harmful effects. Here’s what the Bible says about crocus and saffron:

“Your plants are an orchard of pomegranates with choice fruits, with henna and nard, nard and saffron” (Song of Songs 4.13-14 NIV).

“The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice and shout for joy” (Isaiah 35.1 NIV).

In this Song of Songs’ passage the Groom lauded his Bride by comparing her to sweet-smelling flowers and fruits. Despite the Groom’s charming description, I resonate more to Isaiah’s description of the desert blooming with crocus (plural croci). In my Bible (NIV), the title of this Isaiah chapter is “Joy of the Redeemed.” That’s me—I have been redeemed from my previous sinful, self-centered life by God. Instead of thorns, thistles, and weeds, I burst forth as a crocus blooming in the desert.

The name “crocus” is often used to describe two unrelated plants. The true crocus belongs to the iris family of plants. In Israel, another plant, colchicum (Colchicum troodi, C. tunicatum), is a crocus relative. The confusion between the true crocus and colchicum is fostered by laypersons naming colchicum as “autumn crocus.” Appendix A, Table 3 contains the differentiating characteristics of crocus and colchicum.

The true crocus includes popular spring-blooming varieties that mark winter’s end, fall-blooming species, and saffron crocus (Crocus sativum) used in cooking. The saffron crocus blooms in autumn. Saffron is an expensive spice; over 90% of saffron is produced in Iran.

Early spring saffron crocus

Several varieties of colchicum grow in Israel. The colchicum (autumn crocus) bulb contains a poison (colchicine).22 Colchicine poison symptoms include burning in the mouth and throat, fever, abdominal pain and vomiting, and ultimately kidney failure. These symptoms can progress to multiple organ failure. There isn’t a specific antidote for colchicine poison; rather, symptoms are treated, i.e., anti-emetics for nausea and vomiting and intra-venous fluids for kidney failure. If patients don’t die, recovery starts in six-to-eight days.

Reflection: Prevention of colchicine poison is better than treatment. What in your life is poisonous? More importantly, how can you not plant or nourish poison in your own life? Would increasing your service to God be valued in your community? In the USA?

Copyright 12/18/2019; Carolyn A. Roth

Please visit my website for more information on Bible plants: http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com

Sowing Weeds

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Christ’s Parable of  Weeds in a Wheat Field is in Matthew 13:24-30.

Christ was seated by the Lake of Galilee when he told The Parable of the Weeds (Matthew 13:1).  The parable is one of six parables that Christ used to demonstrate the nature of the kingdom of heaven. Here is the parable: A farmer planted good wheat seeds in his field. “Good” wheat seeds meant that contaminants, e.g. weeds, wild oats, and chaff, are absent from the wheat seeds. At night the farmer’s enemy sowed weeds or tares among the wheat. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, so did the weeds. The weeds were intermingled with the wheat.

A servant told the owner about the weeds. He asked the owner if he and the other servants should pull out the weeds. The owner said “No” and explained that when the servants pull out the weeds, they could inadvertently pull up the wheat. The farmer understood that weed and wheat roots planted near each other intertwined. If weeds are removed, wheat roots and stems would be pulled up or damaged. The farmer directed the servant to let both wheat and weeds grow together until the harvest. Then, the servants could go through the fields, pull and bundle the weeds, and burn them. Wheat would be harvested and taken into the owner’s barn.

The parable demonstrated the growth of the kingdom of heaven from its original planting, through growth, to harvest. The field is the world. God, the owner, sowed good seed; individuals who were destined to follow him. The devil, the enemy, sowed weeds into the field; individuals who were against or indifferent to God’s teachings. The servants are God’s angels.  God refused to allow the angels to remove the weeds from the world because the lives (roots) of rejecters and followers are intertwined, just like the roots of weeds and wheat. 

Harvest represented the second coming of Christ. At that time, the angels are free to remove the weeds.  God rejecters will be collected like the weeds they are. They will be bundled and burned.  Then, the angels will gather God’s followers. These good plants will be brought into the storehouse of God.

Weeds, Darnel

The weed referred to in the Parable of the Weed was most likely the Lolium temulentum. This weed is also known as darnel and poison ryegrass. The darnel is indigenous to the Mediterranean region including the Middle East. Darnel infests wheat fields and other cultivated land and spreads as a contaminant of wheat. It is widely distributed in Israel to include Mediterranean woodlands and shrublands, shrub-steppes and deserts to include extreme deserts. Even a few darnel grains can adversely affect crop Lolium temulentum var. arvensequality. Darnel seeds are poisonous to people and livestock.

Symbolism: Malice, Malicious

The enemy who sowed the weeds among the good wheat was malicious. His behavior was spiteful, mean, and malevolent.  He wanted to destroy the good wheat that the farmer was growing. An Old Testament proverb focused on maliciousness:  “A malicious man disguised himself with his lips, but in his heart he harbors deceit. Though his speech is charming do not believe him ….. His malice may be concealed by deception, but his wickedness will be exposed in the assembly” (Proverbs 26:24-27). The proverb also teaches us how to respond to a malicious man and his ultimate outcome.   

The New Testament is contains instruction to avoid malicious behavior (Table 12.1). Christ told his disciples that what goes into a man does not make him unclean (Mark 7:17-23). Rather, what is inside and comes out determines whether a man is clean or unclean. If a person’s heart is clean, good things will come out of them. Unfortunately, if a person’s heart is unclean, he will think and spew forth all kinds of unclean words, such as evil thoughts, malice, and deceit.  Similarly, an unclean heart produces unclean living, e.g., sexual immorality, adultery, theft, murder.   

St. Paul addressed malice and malicious talk repeatedly in letters to early churches and in letters to his young protégé Timothy. Notably, Paul and Peter were both writing to believers. These two saints were exhorting believers to set aside spiteful, mean, and malevolent words. Malice can be harmful to a church; e.g., Paul wrote that a potential deacon’s wife must “not be a malicious talker” (I Timothy 3:11). Despite man’s excellent traits, e.g., sincere, temperate, honest, if his wife is a malicious talker, then the man is disqualified to be a deacon. Believers – men, women, and children – must all be attuned to what comes out of their mouths.

Table 12.1, Directions to refute maliciousness

Speaker

Direction

Scripture

Christ to his disciples

These thoughts/behaviors make a person unclean: evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance, and folly

Mark 7:20-23

Paul to the Ephesus church

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.

Ephesians 4:31

Paul to the Colosse church

Rid yourself of these things: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.

Colossians 3: 8

Paul to Timothy about deacon’s wives

Wives of church deacons should be women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers, but temperate and trustworthy in everything.

I Timothy 3:11

Paul to Timothy

Paul warns that a man who teaches false doctrines and does not accept sound instruction is conceited and understands nothing.  He has an unhealthy interest in controversies, quarrels about words that end in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of corrupt minds.

I Timothy 6:3-5

Peter to Christians in Asia Minor

Rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of any kind.

I Peter 2:1

Reflection. In a way, it is good that the heart and our words are so closely aligned. Hearing our own malicious words can be a clue that there is something wrong with our hearts. Do you take the time to reflect on what you say?

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 June 6, 2013; Carolyn A. Roth

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Captured by Seaweed

macrocystis-pyrifera-1

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.

brown-kelp

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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Tumbleweed Action

Bible References: Psalm 83.13; Isaiah 17.13.

Two Bible citations named the tumbleweed. One was in Isaiah. There, Isaiah gave a prophecy (oracle) against Damascus. Damascus was the capital city in the kingdom of Aram. Isaiah noted that although the Arameans roared like surging water, when God rebukes them they are driven like a tumbleweed before the wind. Isaiah’s prophecy came true: Assyria defeated Arameans and overran their capital in 732 BC. Often, God used other kingdoms and nations as instruments of retribution.

Despite Isaiah being the most read and often most quoted Old Testament prophet, the tumbleweed description in Psalm 83 resonates with many Christians. This Psalm is a prayer attributed to Asaph; however, possibly he was the ancestor of the actual writer. The content of Psalm 83 indicates it may have been written in the years immediately before the Babylonian Exile. Psalm 83 is more an urgent prayer than a song. Asaph pleaded with God to treat Israel’s foes like tumbleweeds, a very unimportant landscape plant.

Psalm 83 takes the same form as several other psalms. First, the present situation is defined (verses 1-4). Second, the Lord is reminded how he gave victory to Israelites in similar situations in the past (verses 5-12). Finally, a specific request for help is outlined (verses 13-18).

Situation defined: God’s people (Israelites) were threatened by enemies. If God doesn’t defend them, they will be destroyed completely. The psalmist named ten nations who allied themselves against God’s chosen: Edom, Ishmaelites, Moab, Hagrites, Byblos, Ammon, Amalek, Philistia, Tyreans and Assyrians. Asaph pleaded for Israel’s safety in a way that made Israel’s circumstances God’s challenge. Asaph referred to Israel’s foes as God’s enemies, those who hated God and God’s people. According to Asaph, these ten nations formed an alliance against God.

Past victories from God: Asaph reminded God that he gave Israel victory over Canaanites (Jabin and Sisera) at the Kishon River. When the Midianites attempted to co-opt Israelites pastures, God gave Israel the ability to drive them out and kill their kings, Zebah and Zalmunna.

Request for help: Asaph pleads with God to destroy—blow away—enemy kingdoms who want to destroy God’s chosen people. Specifically, Asaph wrote, “make them like tumbleweed, O my God, like chaff before the wind” (Psalm 83.13 NIV).

The Plant

The Bible tumbleweed is identified as the Gundelia tournefortii, sometimes called a tumble thistle. Israeli botanists use the Hebrew name, galgal, while Arabs call it the a’kub.7 Although technically a thistle, the rolling nature of this moveable plant is key to both the Isaiah and Psalm reference. Tumbleweeds grow in wastelands and along roadsides from Mount Hermon and Golan in the north to the Negev hills and Eilat in the south. Tumbleweeds don’t grow well in the shade.

The tumbleweed fruit is a seed. After the fruit forms, thistle stems separate from roots. Because the tumbleweed is round, it rolls like a ball when driven by the wind. Seeds of dead fruits are dispersed by the rolling motion. Currently, young flower heads are removed and sold in Palestinian Authority markets where they supplement food of local people. Mature plants are used as camel fodder.

Symbolism of Tumbleweed

Action is the process of doing something in order to achieve a purpose.3 Synonyms are battle, and prosecute. God’s action was central in both places that tumbleweeds were named in the Bible. In Psalm 83.13 the psalmist pleaded for God to act, i.e., make Israel’s enemies like tumbleweeds in the wind. Isaiah (17.13) prophesied God’s action on behalf of Judah.

Asaph’s motivation for asking God to act on behalf of Israelites wasn’t only for the security of Israel, but for worldwide acknowledgement of God as the true God. Acknowledgment of God includes seeking God to learn about him, his teachings, and his commands.

Christians shouldn’t pray Psalm 83 against national enemies because Christianity is broader than national boundaries. Christians are the world-wide fellowship of believers. A Christian shouldn’t pray for the downfall of another. Christians can pray Psalm 83 against foes who act to destroy them and all traces of their faith.17 They can ask God to defeat these enemies’ plans in a way that persecutors seek and know God and accept Jesus as Savior.

A number of years ago, I was part of a large congregation attempting to buy our church property from the diocese. The diocese kept pushing the time back for final notification and sale closing. Church members became more anxious every day, then every hour. Quietly, our minister reminded us, “God is rarely early, but he is never late.”

Reflection: When we accept Jesus as our Savior, God accepts us as his children. That promise requires God to act on our behalf. Sometimes we want God, “to do something NOW!”  God’s action isn’t always according to our timetable.

Copyright July 13, 2019; Carolyn A. Roth

Christmas Holly = Holy

 

weary-world-rejoices

It’s Christmas, it’s Christmas. Time for holly. These pictures are of the beautiful American holly tree (Ilex opaca) that grows in the southeastern United States. This one is in the St. John Church Bible Garden. It is evergreen. These pictures were taken on December 12 when the temperature is freezing at night. My friend told me that he goes out in the church garden, cuts springs from the holly trees, and uses them for garland in his home. I think that the holly tree is happy to be used in this way.

Don’t confuse this tree with the holm tree in the Bible. That tree is an evergreen oak (Quercus ilex). Both species take their name from the pointed leaves.

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If you want to grow holly trees you need a male and a female. Only the female tree produces beautiful red berries.

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A Christmas carol is The Holly and The Ivy.

Reflection: When I see, or hear, the word holly, I always think of holy. God is holy–pure, just, kind, bright–and I am not. If I were holy, I would want to be like the colors of the holly tree, e.g., vibrant, pleasing to look at, even colorful. I would want people to look at me and smile, as I do when I look at a holly tree.

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 13, 2015; Carolyn A. Roth

 

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Origin of Christmas Tree

St. Andrew’s Catholic Church in Roanoke, VA; photograph by Jim Forney.

Contrary to popular belief, the Christmas tree was not adapted from ancient European pagan beliefs. The Christmas tree has a younger history than pagan practices of first through third century European tribes who Christian missionaries encountered. Pagan Germanic and Scandinavian tribes initially used the hawthorn or cherry trees or branches in their celebrations.

Most likely use of Christmas trees started with medieval plays popular in the early middle ages (476 AD) to the beginning of the Renaissance (c 1400 AD).  Initially called morality, miracle, and mystery plays, these plays began in churches and taught Bible lessons for everyday life; that is, the plays had a moral. Plays that celebrated Jesus’ birth were linked to the creation story, primarily because Christmas eve was the feast day of Adam and Eve (Tait and Tait, 2008). Over time, the plays became raucous and were moved out of churches into public squares or town centers.

In nativity plays, the Garden of Eden was symbolized by a Paradise tree. Paradise trees represented both the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and the Tree of Life (Holy Trinity Church). Paradise trees that symbolized the Tree of Knowledge were decorated with apples to symbolize the forbidden fruit; while Paradise tree that symbolized the Tree of Life were decorated with sweets.  Round pastry wafers (cookies), that symbolized the bread of the Eucharist, were placed on the Tree of Life. When morality plays were suppressed in the 15th-16th century, Paradise trees were moved into homes. Over time red balls substituted for the apples, lights were added, and a Star of Bethlehem placed on the tree top.

Traditionally the Christmas tree was put up on Christmas Eve and taken down on Twelfth Night, the Vigil of the Epiphany. Part of the reason for the short span of time the Christmas tree was in place was to differentiate the Christmas tree from pagan trees which often times had trees planted in boxes inside the home the entire winter months.

Christian scholars and historians are not sure when evergreen trees were first used as Christmas trees. Evergreen means having foliage persists as opposed to dropping annually. Evergreen trees retain their green or blue-green color throughout the year, rather than changing color according to the seasons. In cold, snowy, dark winters in Europe, evergreen trees were a sign of everlasting life with God.  By the end of the Middle ages, a common legend some Christian’s believed was that when Christ was born, near the shortest day of the year (December 25), every tree on earth produced new green shoots despite their ice and snow coverings.

In 21st century United States, popular choices for Christmas trees are in the fir, pine, spruce, cypress, and cedar genus. Firs (Abies) include the balsam fir, Fraser fir, and noble fir. Pine (Pinus) used as Christmas trees are the Eastern white pine, Scot’s pine, and mountain pine. With its bluish-gold needles, spruce (Picea) are a favorite Christmas tree. Spruce varieties used as Christmas trees include the Norway spruce, Colorado blue spruce, and (in the Pacific northwest) the Klamath mountain spruce. At times, the Arizona cypress (Cupressus genus) the eastern red cedar (Juniperus genus) are used as Christmas trees.

Frequently, churches that understand that Christmas trees are distinct from pagan worship include a 15 – 20-foot tree in their sanctuary. Below the evergreen tree are placed red poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima). What we think of as flaming red petals are actually the leaves of the plant. Poinsettias are a recent addition to Christmas decorations but perhaps years from now will be part of Christmas traditions.

Copyright 10/09/18: Carolyn A. Roth