Tag Archives: Bible Stories

Grape, Vine, Vineyards

Bible References: John 2.1-12; Mark 12.1-12.

Jesus was familiar with symbolism of vines and vineyards. He knew that often when the Old Testament prophets referenced vine or vineyard, they spoke about judgment that God would bring upon disobedient Israelites. The grapevine didn’t elicit positive images to first-century Jews. The first time Gospel writers recorded an interaction with Jesus and the grapevine, he performed a miracle at Cana in Galilee.  Subsequently, several of Jesus’s teachings used grapevines, vineyards, and wine.

Very early in Jesus’s ministry, he and disciples were at a marriage feast. The feast was at the bridegroom’s home. Possibly, the groom was a friend or relative of Jesus’s family. Mary, Jesus’s mother, was there; she was concerned that all went well at the feast. Servants obeyed Mary’s directions. When the wine ran out, Mary told Jesus, clearly expecting him to do something. Although a little reluctant to become involved, Jesus turn water into wine and performed his first-recorded miracle. Jesus’s miracles pointed to him as Messiah and were designed to honor God.

God told Israelites that seven plants would be available to them in the promised land (Deuteronomy 8.8) The grapevine was one a plant. Vitis vinifera is the botanical name for the grapevine that grew in Israel.  In ancient Israel, grapevines were a principle crop because grapes could be eaten fresh, dried, or made into wine. Although the Negev was a popular area for wine production in ancient times, today, grapes and wineries are present throughout Israel.

When Jewish leaders began to oppose him, Jesus started to use parables to make points. One parable focused on a vineyard (Mark 12.1-12). A man planted a vineyard. He protected the vineyard by putting a fence around it and adding a watch tower. He dug a pit for the winepress. Then, the man leased the vineyard to tenants and left the country. After a season, the owner sent a series of servants to obtain the fruit (money) the vineyard produced. Tenants beat and/or killed each servant. Not once did tenants pay the owner what was due him. Finally, the owner said to himself:  I will send my beloved son, my heir, to collect what is due me. Surely, the tenants will respect my son; but, instead of respecting the owner’s son, they killed him.

After telling this parable, Jesus asked listeners what the vineyard owner should do. He gave an answer—the owner will destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others. In response to Jesus’s answer, religious leaders wanted to arrest Jesus. They knew that God was the vineyard owner who sent multiple prophets to claim the fruit that Israel should have produced. The Israelites/Jews beat or killed prophets.  They knew that Jesus’s parable meant that God was going to take the spiritual vineyard from Jews and give it to another people. Perhaps these same Jewish leaders started to think of killing Jesus this early in his ministry. Did they even imagine that by killing Jesus, they were killing God’s son?

Reflection: Do you ever act in a way that God wants to take his spiritual vineyard away from you?

Copyright: August 13, 2018. Carolyn A. Roth

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

Living in a Wild Olive Tree Booth

Wild olive

Wild olive

Nehemiah chapter 8 tells the story of the Jews cutting wild olive boughs to make booths for the Festival of Tabernacles (Sukkoth).

After Aharuerus’ death, Artaxerxes I (465-425 B.C.) ruled the Persian Empire.  His support for the Jews may have been related to a positive relationship with the Jew Mordecai, the chief official during Aharuerus reign.  In his 7th year as king, Artaxerxes aided the priest-scribe Ezra to return to Jerusalem (458 B.C.).  Ezra’s main contribution to restored Zion was interpreting and exhorting the Jews to keep the Mosaic laws.

Nehemiah was cup-bearer and personal confident of King Artaxerxes I.  When Nehemiah heard (circa 445 B.C.) that Jerusalem’s walls were not yet rebuilt, he grieved.  The first Jews had returned to Jerusalem over 90 years earlier.   Nehemiah secured support from Artaxerxes I to go  to Jerusalem and rebuild the city walls. Working almost day and night, the Jews rebuilt Jerusalem’s walls in 52 days (Nehemiah 6:15.).  Excavations showed the Jerusalem city wall built in Nehemiah’s time was about 9 feet thick.

After the city walls were rebuilt, the Jews assembled in Jerusalem.  At this time Nehemiah was governor and Ezra was chief priest.  Ezra read from the Book of Law.  Hearing God’s laws and statutes, the listeners became aware of their transgressions and began to weep.   Nehemiah told them to stop weeping and to celebrate the restoration of Jerusalem by feasting.  The following day, family heads met with Ezra to discuss the Law they heard read.  Part of the Law required that the people live in booths during the feast of the 7th month, the feast of Tabernacles or booths.  Ezra directed the people to go into the hill country and bring back branches to build the booths.  The types of branches were from olive and wild olive trees and from myrtle, palm, and shade trees.

The people built the booths on their roofs, in their courtyards, and in the square by the Water Gate; one booth was built by the Gate of Ephraim.  The entire nation became involved in building booths and living in them to commemorate their forefather’s 40 year wandering in the desert after leaving Egypt.  Nehemiah recorded that the Festival of Tabernacles was never before celebrated like it was at that time in Jerusalem

The Wild Olive Tree

In the past various Bible scholars translated the Hebrew êtz shamen as oil tree or pine tree; however, today most Bible scholars and botanists agree that êtz shamen is the wild olive tree. The wild olive tree is the Elaeagnus angustifolia, also known as the oleaster and Russian olive.  The oleaster was native to southern Europe and western Asia.  Dense stands are present in river bottoms where the water table is seldom more than two feet below the ground surface.  At the same time, oleaster is drought tolerant and indifferent to wind and heat. In Israel, oleaster is found in woodlands (e.g., around Mount Tabor), shrub-lands, and on Mount Hermon. In some parts of the United States, oleaster has naturalized and is considered an invasive weed. Oleaster is a thorny shrub or small tree. The oleaster tree has several uses.  It can be used to make booths for Jewish festivals.  The flower produces oil used to make perfume.  A gum from the plant is used in calico printing.  The hard, fine-grained wood of the trunk and branches is used for posts and beams and for wood carving.  The wood makes excellent fuel.  In some countries, to include Palestine, oleaster trees are pruned into hedges.

Symbolism: Security

Despite  building a secure wall around Jerusalem in a short 52 days, the Jews were aware that their security did not come from rocks and mortar.  Their security came from God.  As early as the days of King Solomon, the Jews had a proverb that described the source of their security: “He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for his children it will be a refuge” (Proverbs 14:26, NIV-SB, 2002).  Just as Old Testament Jews relied on God for their security, so do New Testament Christians.  Christians have a secure position based on Christ as savior and redeemer.  Still, St. Peter cautioned new Christians to be on guard so that they did not get carried away by lawless men (and women) and fall from their secure position (2 Peter 3:17-18).  In addition to guarding against erroneous teaching, Christians are to grow in the knowledge of Christ.

Over the past year, I spent time writing this blog, e.g., reading the Bible story where the plant is located along with its historical setting, researching the plant origins and characteristics, and prayerfully considering the plant’s symbolism.  Recently, I’ve become convicted about the time consumed by these activities – albeit Bible-centered activities.   They have taken from and taken over my God-focused time and my prayer time.  I think Peter would have included my deviation from God-focused devotions as a way to fall from a secure position in Christ.

Reflection:  Think over your activities, e.g., church related and possibly even Bible-study related.  Are any of them interfering with God-focused time?

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 2, 2016; Carolyn A. Roth

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Guiding the Young

When we lived up North in Pennsylvania and New York, winters were long. On television I watched the beautiful pictures of palm trees swaying on the beaches. Blue Skies and green blue ocean water made me dream of the days that I could live in Florida near eight of my grandchildren. 

Carol S. Snyder, Guest Blogger

Carol S. Snyder, Guest Blogger

Now, I am sitting here looking up at the palm trees around my house in southern Florida. The grandchildren make huts out of the palm fronds. We go to the market and get the man behind the counter to cut the top off the coconuts that fall from palm trees. We put a straw into the hole and drink luscious water! Then, he cuts the outside shell off the coconut and inside is another hard shell covering the real coconut. The water and the coconut fruit are always deep inside.

The Florida palm tree is a tall upright tree with green fronds growing at the top. It grows 40 – 80 feet tall. A palm tree can bear fruit for 100 years; the best fruit grows when the tree is old. It produces 100 pounds of fruit a year!

Florida coconut palm tree, fronds, coconut

Florida coconut palm tree, fronds, coconut

 In Bible times the stone inside the coconut was ground up for the camels to eat. The leaves of the palm tree were weaved into baskets, mats and bags. The trunk of the tree was used for fences and cages.

Let the palm tree teach us a lesson.  As we get older, we should get stronger in our witness for the Lord!  We experienced many burdens throughout our lives. We can show and guide younger generations how to trust the Lord to help them through difficult times in life: Stand straight, grow tall, and bear much fruit for God.

 Copyright February 27, 2014; Carol Snyder.

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