Tag Archives: Bible Plants

Old Age Plant

Bible References: Ecclesiastes chapter 12.

The caper plant is a relatively obscure Bible plant, identified only in Ecclesiastes. Ecclesiastes was written by a Jewish sage who named himself, “Teacher.” In poetic and allegorical form, the Teacher elaborated how age takes its toll on a man, reducing him to feebleness. One piece of advice was “remember your Creator in the days of your youth before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, ‘I have no pleasure in them’” (Ecclesiastes 12.1 NIV).

A characteristic of old age is reduced desire or appetite for sex, food, and other stimulation. In Hebrew the word for desire is ҆ abȋyôwnâh, which translates as caper berry.6 The caper berry is an   appetite stimulant and aphrodisiac; yet, desire (caper) fails to have an effect on a man whose powers are exhausted or worn out.

The caper berry is the Capparis spinosa, known as the common caper. Caper bushes are evergreen and tolerate drought.  A rule of thumb is that the caper plant grows wherever the olive tree grows. In Israel, the  caper berry clings to cracks and crevices of rock piles and abandoned walls. It grows between rocks of the Western (Wailing) Wall in Jerusalem.

The caper bush is a sprawling, spiny, evergreen shrub that typically grows three-feet tall, and spreads (horizontally) by semi-prostrate branching as much as six-to-ten feet. The caper bush develops a pair of sharp hooked spines at the base of each leaf stem. When capers and caperberries are harvested, hands are easily scratched and clothing can catch on hooked spines.

The caper plant produces several edible products. Both the  caper and the caperberry are used in cooking. Capers are unopen buds of the caper bush. The commercial caper is an immature flower bud that is pickled in vinegar or preserved in granulated salt. The taste of capers  has been described both as sharply piquant and peppery mustard. Caper buds are used to garnish food (pizza, fish), and are added to pizza sauce.

While capers are immature flower buds of the bush, caperberries are fruits the bush produces once buds have flowered and fertilized. Caperberries are about the size of a grape or olive and often harvested with stems attached. They are cured in vinegar just like capers. Caperberries (cornichon de câpres) are the semi-mature caper fruit and are used as a condiment. I’ve read that young caper shoots can be eaten as a vegetable; however, I don’t remember ever eating one.

The symbolism of the caperberry is desire. A desire is a wish, craving, or longing for something or someone. Synonyms are yearning, wanting, and needing.3 The Teacher made the point that with old age desires were blunted or reduced. Contemplating this passage, leads me to believe that some desires may be reduced so that we have an opportunity to concentrate on other desires.  It’s possible that the intensity or urgency of sexual desires are muted. We become less adventurous (I no longer desire to paraglide). That doesn’t mean that overall desire is lost as much as desires change or are re-focused. Decades of living allows us to acquire experiences and knowledge. An Israelite proverb is “desire without knowledge is not good” (Proverbs 19.2 NIV).

God doesn’t view age as a deterrent to usefulness. Not until Abraham was seventy-five years-of-age did he leave Haran in response to God’s call.  Moses was eighty-years-old when God appeared to him at Mount Horab.

Desires can cause problems for individuals. Cain’s offering of fruit was unacceptable to God. Cain became angry and his face downcast. God loved Cain, so he explained that a suitable sacrifice would be accepted. Then, God warned Cain that sin was crouching at Cain’s door and “desired” to have Cain. Cain’s fruit, grains, or vegetables weren’t what God wanted in a sacrifice. Perhaps, God wanted the best or first fruits from Cain’s harvest and the best wasn’t what Cain offered to God. Perhaps, God wanted an animal sacrifice, similar to Abel’s offering. More probably, God just wanted Cain to acknowledged that all he reaped was from God. God told the Israelites, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgement of God rather than burnt offerings” (Hosea 6.6 NIV).

Saint John counseled Christians that things of the world – the desires of the flesh and of the eyes and the pride of life – aren’t from God  The world is passing away along with all desires; but, whoever does the Lord’s will abides forever.

Reflection: In this poem on old age, the Teacher described the elder as being afraid of many things. Many of us are afraid of things in the world, i.e., muggings, burglary, taxes. I’m afraid of the toxic political climate. Yet, the world is temporal and guaranteed to pass away. Further, God promised to fulfill desires of those who fear him.

Copyright: July 2, 2019; Carolyn A. Roth

Burning Bush Plant

Bible Reference: Exodus chapter 3.

Under a death sentence in Egypt, Moses fled to Midian. There, he married and became a shepherd for his father-in-law’s flocks. After about forty years in Midian, Moses led a flock to the west side of the Midian desert, arriving at Mount Horab in the Sinai Peninsula.

Moses noticed that a bush was on fire, but the bush wasn’t consumed by the fire. Moses walked toward the burning bush. From the bush, God called and told Moses to come no closer. God instructed Moses to take off his sandals because Moses was standing on holy ground. Then, God introduced himself to Moses, naming himself the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Speaking from the burning bush, God told Moses that Israelites were suffering severely under slave masters in Egypt. Then, God stunned Moses by saying, “So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt” (Exodus 3.10 NIV).

The Plant

The burning bush is a source of debate among botanists and Biblical scholars. Some believe that it wasn’t an actual bush, but a figurative representation of a supernatural phenomenon. Others contend that God spoke through a natural bush. The opinion of some Jewish scholars and botanists is that the burning bush was the blackberry bush, Rubus sanctus (R. sanguineus), named the holy blackberry.

The blackberry bush is a bramble. The plant produces long, thin branches which can reach five-to-six feet in length. Branches have spiked thorns that bend downward. When individuals reach into the bramble to pick fruit, they don’t feel thorns; however, when they withdraw hands, thorns fasten into flesh. Initially, black berries are green. As fruits ripen, they turn red, then black. Fully-ripened blackberries are plump, firm, and black.

The Meaning, Symbolism

Sanctus is a symbol of God revealing himself to mankind. “Reveal” means to make known something that was secret or hidden, and to open up to view.3 Synonyms of reveal are disclose and tell. In the entire Old Testament, nowhere does God reveal more about himself to one man than in the burning bush passage. In fact, this passage is sometimes called the “Mosaic revelation of God about himself.”

Some of the truths that God revealed about himself were:

1. God was the God of Moses’s ancestors, i.e., Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God remembered Moses’s ancestors and promises he made to them more than 400 years earlier. God doesn’t forget.

2. God heard cries and saw the agony of Israelites slaves in Egypt. God isn’t limited to one land area, such as, Haran or Canaan, where God appeared to Moses’s ancestors. God hears the cries of his people wherever they were. The Bible didn’t identify that Israelite cries were prayers, but, God heard them.

3. God was going to act on behalf of Israelites. God cared about his chosen people so much that he was willing to intervene in history to help them.

4.God had a plan to see that his promises to Moses’s ancestors were kept. God is a God of specifics and details. Part of that plan was for Moses to be the Israelite leader.

5. God knew the opposition that Moses would face from Pharaoh. God knew Pharaoh’s pride and stubbornness. God knows the hearts of each individual man and woman.

6. God takes other forms. In this instance he talked to Moses from a burning bush. God revealed his power by telling Moses that the “supposed” power of the gods of the greatest nation on earth, Egypt, would be no obstacle to God’s will and plan. Appearing in a burning bush demonstrated God’s power to Moses.

Reflection: Pondering attributes that God revealed about himself, makes me glad that God is on my side. At the same time, I feel overwhelmed that God who is all powerful (omnipotent), all knowledge (omniscient), and always present (omnipresent) claimed me for his child. I understand why Moses hid his face in God’s presence. He didn’t want God to see him and he was afraid to look on God. What are you going to do when God reveals himself totally to you?

Copyright: July 1, 2019; Carolyn A. Roth

Bachelor’s in the Bible

This is a flower grown from seeds on my back porch. It is called a Bachelor’s button (Centaurea cyanus) and cornflower. Although it grows in Europe and the United States, I am not sure if it ever grew in the Middle East. Its colors are purple, blue, and pink.

I have been attempting to name bachelor’s in the Bible. In the Old Testament, Abel may have been a bachelor. Definitely, Jeremiah was a bachelor.

In the New Testament: Jesus was a bachelor as was John the Baptist. Can you think of any other Bible characters who were bachelors?

Bachelor men and women contributed to the spread of Christ’s kingdom.

Reflection: If God has called you to an unmarried state in life, identify ways that you can honor God in your bachelorhood.

Copyright July 30, 2019; Carolyn A. Roth

Jointed Anabis, Desert Thistle

Bible References: Genesis 46.16; Numbers 26.15.

The Antabasis articulata is a plant in search of a home. It has been identified as both a thistle and an herb; yet, herb societies refuse to list it. Antabasis articulata doesn’t even have a well-known common name, i.e., the jointed anabis and berry bearing glasswort. I am going to put it in the thistle category, despite it not having sharp pointed projections of  more-notable thistle species. Israeli plant data bases and Hebrew scholars6,7 claimed that the Arabic word shenan is a cognate of the biblical proper name Shuni. Shuni was the third son of Gad (Jacob’s son) and head of the Shunite clan. This plant is an example of a plant named for a notable person, or possibly Shuni was named for the plant.

The jointed anabis is a desert plant found in northern Africa and nations that border the eastern Mediterranean Sea. In Israel, it is located south of Jerusalem in the arid En Gedi region. A number of Bedouin livestock (camels, goats) graze on the jointed anabis. The plant is used to cure at least one type of parasite that affects desert animals.  Bedouin women burn the plant and use ashes for laundry soap. The jointed anabis kills insects and repels rodents. Humans don’t eat this plant. More recently, the jointed anabis is being studied as a way to protect the liver from fibrosis and  to lower blood sugar.

In first year-or-two of growth, jointed anabis is green, but, soon becomes woody, dry, and brown. Stems are leafless. When young, jointed anabis resembles a succulent. Flowers are small and can be green, red, or yellow. Flowers appear in early winter when small amounts of rain falls on their habitat. The fruit is small and appears to grow as two flowers joined together. Each seed has small membranous wings which aids dispersion.

If I considered plants to grow on earth, the jointed anabis wouldn’t come to mind. It doesn’t seem to have any characteristics to recommend it. The jointed anabis is a reminder that inconspicuous individuals have a purpose in God’s creation.

Do you have anyone in your church that is consistently there, but is inconspicuous to most people? I think of two women in my church, both in their 60s, who I saw Sunday morning-after-Sunday morning  for about five years, but never talked to. In the past two years, I  made a point to get to know them. They are both sweet, caring individuals. One is a prayer warrior. The other has started to spend Thanksgiving with us. Both are fun and sincere. I love to spend time with them.

God has blessed me by putting both women in my life. But, I could have overlooked them in my routine of talking to other friends. God wants me and you to embrace individuals who don’t stand out in our world. These individuals are the sheep of Jesus’s pasture.

Reflection: Who is similar to a jointed anabis in your neighborhood, your job site, your church? Who are you and other congregates ignoring? What would Jesus do if he came to your church?

http://www.Copyright May 20, 2019; Carolyn Adams Roth

http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com

 

Good News in Nature

Published book on plants Jesus encountered and used in his ministry on earth.

Purchase at http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com or on Amazon.

Thistle Riddle

Bible References:  2 Kings 14; 2 Chronicles chapter 25.

The spotted golden thistle is part of a riddle that King Jehoash (Northern Kingdom, Israel, 798-782 BC) sent to King  Amaziah (Southern Kingdom, Judah, 796-767 BC). The background to this Bible narrative has two distinct parts. First, when King Amaziah planned a military campaign against Edom, he recruited 100,000 mercenaries from Israel. Warned by a prophet to not allow Northern Kingdom mercenaries to march with him, King Amaziah dismissed them. Despite being paid, soldiers were furious. Northern Kingdom soldiers knew that they lost out on plunder of Edom. In response they plundered and murdered in Judah while King Amaziah battled in Edom. Second, when King Amaziah returned to Jerusalem after a successful campaign against Edom, he brought back Edomite idols. Instead of destroying these false gods as Mosaic law required, King Amaziah bowed down and worshiped them.

King Amaziah knew he had to respond to Northern Kingdom soldiers’ killing and plundering Judah while he battled Edom. King Amaziah sent a challenge to King Jehoash to meet him in battle. King Jehoash sent a riddle and a warning back to King Amaziah. The riddle was:

A thistle in Lebanon sent a message to a cedar in Lebanon, ‘Give your daughter to my son in marriage.’ Then, a wild beast in Lebanon came along and trampled the thistle underfoot (2 Chronicles 25.18 NIV).

Then, Jehoash warn Amaziah that because he defeated Edom, he was haughty and proud. King Amaziah was asking for trouble if he persisted in challenging King Jehoash.

The interpretation of Jehoash’s riddle was that he and the Northern Kingdom was a majestic cedar of Lebanon, while King Amaziah and Judah was an insignificant thistle. The demand, give to me your daughter in marriage, could have meant that  Israelite soldiers return plunder taken from Judah’s lands. Alternatively, this part of King Jehoash’s riddle was a further insult. In Old Testament times, a king  gave his daughter to another kingdom for marriage only if the two countries were equal in power. King Jehoash insulted King Amaziah by saying Israel was much more powerful than Judah, i.e., the Northern Kingdom was a cedar and the Southern Kingdom a thistle. King Jehoash would trample King Amaziah and Judah underfoot.

Despite King Jehoash’s warning, King Amaziah moved his army against Israel. A battle ensued where King Jehoash defeated King Amaziah. With King Amaziah of Judah a prisoner, King Jehoash proceeded to Jerusalem. There, Jehoash seized Temple gold, silver, and other valuables, the palace treasury, and hostages. King Jehoash had 600 feet of the Jerusalem wall destroyed. Despite King Jehoash’s victory, he allowed King Amaziah to live.

King Jehoash wasn’t a king who obeyed God;  he did evil in God’s eyes. Jehoash continued the idol worship started by the first king of Israel, Jeroboam I. King Jehoash wouldn’t have won the battle over King Amaziah, but for Amaziah’s sin of rejecting God and worshiping Edomite idols.

In Jehoash’s riddle, the Hebrew word for thistle is choâch or hoah and is associated with the Scolymus genus of plants.7 When Jehoash named Amaziah a thistle, possibly he was thinking of the spotted golden thistle, Scolymus maculatus. The spotted golden thistle was a common plant throughout Israel, growing everywhere except along the extreme Mediterranean seashore. Although occasionally cultivated, more often the spotted golden thistle is found in uncultivated lands and along paths and trails. In very hot temperatures, these thistles grow rapidly. Leaves (or bract) have tooth shaped margins tipped with spines and a white vein all around their outline

In this incident, the spotted golden thistle can be associated with several

concepts, i.e., pride, insult, and insignificance; however, in this story reject or rejection are the best symbols. Examples of rejection include Amaziah’s rejection of the 100,000 Israelite Kingdom mercenaries; Amaziah rejecting God in favor of Edomite idols; Jehoash’s willingness to excuse (or reject) Amaziah’s challenge; and Jehoash’s rejecting the sanctity of God’s Temple.

This Bible episode typifies the Northern Kingdom’s rejection of God. They rejected God’s decrees, the covenant he made with their fathers, and warnings he gave them through prophets. The Northern Kingdom rejected God by plundering his home, the Jerusalem Temple. Eventually, God rejected Northern Kingdom tribes as they first rejected him. God allowed Assyria to destroy the Northern Kingdom.

How do we, living in the twenty-first century, reject God? We do it by not setting aside time to spend with God every day, i.e., failing to have daily Bible study and prayer time. We make the decision to skip Sunday church services, identifying that we are just too tired after a busy work-week. We reject God when we reject other persons for whatever reason, i.e., they are just not our type, we have nothing in common with them, they are poor, they look disheveled.

Reflection: A couple of months ago I determined to start my day with God, reading the Bible and praying. I even identified which book of the Bible to read and contemplate one chapter a day. My good intention lasted about twenty-five days. Then, I defaulted to first making a cup of coffee and second checking what was new on my computer. I rejected God by not putting him first. How about you? Do you ever reject God? How do you start your day?

Copyright May, 6, 2019; Carolyn A. Roth

Punishment with Thistles

Bible  Reference: Judges 8.1-21.

God called Gideon to lead Israelites when Midianites and allies invaded the Promised Land. The Midianites were marauders who swarmed across Israel stripping bare farm lands. Gideon was from the Israelite tribe of Manasseh and lived west of the Jordan River.  Gideon and 300 men routed a massive force (over 100,000 swordsmen) of Midianites near Morah.

Midianites fled south along the Jordan River. Some crossed the Jordan River near the Jabbok River. Gideon and his 300 men pursued them and came to the town of Succoth, in the tribal lands of Gad. Gideon told Succoth elders he was pursuing two Midian kings, Zebah and Zalmunna. Gideon asked the town for  food for his worn-out men. Gideon had every expectation of receiving help from this Israelite town. All twelve Israelite tribes had pledged to assist each other in the face of foreign threats.

Not only did the elders of Succoth refuse Gideon food, they were  insolent in their refusal. Elders told Gideon that he assumed a victory over Midianite kings which may not occur. Succoth wasn’t about to assist Gideon and his small army. Apparently, Succoth elders feared reprisal from Midianites. Stop reading and think a minute. Would you have been angry with the Succoth officials? Would you have been able to restrain yourself from attacking them verbally or physically? Would you have wanted to strike out at these elders? I am offended on Gideon’s behalf.

Hearing Succoth elders’ refusal, Gideon promised that he would return and punish them. Gideon proceeded with his main goal. Gideon and men routed 15,000 Midianites at Karkor and later captured both kings. Returning from battle, Gideon learned names of the seventy-seven Succoth elders, who had refused bread to his army. Then, Gideon went to Succoth, captured town elders, and punished them with desert thorns and briers.

Historical writers claimed that when thorns and briers were used as punishment, men were stripped of clothes. Thorns and briers were placed on both sides of their bared bodies. Then, heavy sledges (sleighs) were pressed on thorns and pulled across bodies so the skin was severely torn. Considering that Succoth elders refused food to the pursuing Israelite soldiers, they vigorously applied punishment to Succoth elders. Every time I read this story, I want to say, “You go, Gideon.”

In the episode of Gideon and Succoth elders, most likely thistles were the Syrian thistle (Notobasis syriaca or Cirsium syriacum). The Syrian thistle is native to Middle Eastern countries. It is an annual plant that grows in semi-desert areas. In Israel, it grows throughout the entire country including the desert south. Often, Syrian thistles are found in disturbed lands, i.e., sides of roads and construction sites. Leaves are deeply lobed and gray-green in color with white veins. Leaves have sharp spines on both leaf margins and apices (apexes). At times, leaves look more like spines than leaf blades. Flowers are purple and attractive.

At Succoth, the Syrian thistle symbolized retribution. Retribution is dispensing or receiving reward or punishment. Retribution is given or exacted in recompense for words or actions.3 Retribution is often confused with revenge, which means to avenge oneself usually by retaliating in kind.3 Although retribution and revenge are sometime confused, retribution includes justice.

In the United States, we have a judicial system where individuals stand trial for offenses against civil laws. The judicial system doesn’t exact revenge for persons who were harmed. Rather, the judicial system punishes individuals who break the law. Judicial punishment isn’t revenge, but, retribution because it includes justice.

I am fairly sure that if Gideon didn’t take retribution on Sukkoth elders, God would have repaid them for their fear and selfishness. Jeremiah wrote that God is a God of retribution and that God will repay in full.

The Old Testament stated that the Israelites weren’t to seek revenge or bear a grudge. They were to love their neighbors as they loved themselves. Neighbors included not only Israelites who lived near-by, but those who lived far distances, i.e.,  Succoth in the territory of Gad east of the Jordan River. Saint Paul directed New Testament Christians to not take revenge on those who persecuted them; rather, Christians are to leave room for God’s wrath. So much for my “You go, Gideon.”

Reflection: We don’t know what Gideon felt and thought when he punished the Succoth elders with thistles. Hopefully, he was exacting retribution, not revenge,  from them. There is no record that God was displeased with Gideon’s actions. What do you think—retribution or revenge?

Copyright May 2019; Carolyn Adams Roth