Tag Archives: Bible Study

Wasting or Trusting????

Spikenard flowerThe story of a woman anointing Christ’s head with perfume is in Matthew 26:1-3 and Mark 14:3-11.         

All four New Testament gospel writers recounted Christ being anointed with perfume by a woman. Luke’s gospel described an event set in Galilee early in Christ’s ministry. The other gospel writers identified the location as Bethany of Judea and the time frame shortly before Passover and Christ’s crucifixion. Both Matthew and Mark described Christ eating a meal in a home.

As Jesus reclined at the table, a woman entered the room with an alabaster jar of expensive perfume made of pure nard. She broke the jar seal and poured the perfume on Christ’s head.  Some of the other guests were indignant and asked why the nard was used for this purpose.   They said, “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.”  The value of the nard was worth a year’s wages, i.e., about 300 denarii, in Jesus’ time and equal to about $2,000 today.  

Aware of their indignation and questions, Jesus told the mutterers to leave the woman alone. He explained that what the woman did was beautiful. Then, Jesus said that wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, the story of the woman anointing him would be told in memory of her. The disciples only realized later that the woman anointed Jesus for his burial.

John (John 12:1-8) John’s account of the dinner occurred in Lazarus’ home with Martha serving the meal. Lazarus’ sister, Mary, poured nard on Christ’s feet, not his head, and wiped his feet with her hair. The fragrance of the perfume filled the entire house.  John recorded that it was Judas Iscariot who objected to Mary using the nard to anoint Christ rather than selling it.

Nard or Spikenard

Spikenard roots (Primrose Laboratories)The nard of the New Testament was Nardostachys jatamans, also known as spikenard. Nard did not and does not grow naturally in Israel.  Most likely, prepared nard was transported to Israel via trade routes with entry through the port of Elath. Nard is a perennial herb that grows from 4-24 inches tall. Each plant has a long tap root and 2-7 rhizomes however plants may have as many as 12 rhizomes.  The roots and rhizomes are used to make nard. In the Roman Empire, nard was the main ingredient in a perfume called nardinum.  Supposedly nard was an ingredient in the Israelite Temple incense. 

Symbolism: Trustworthy

The nard used to anoint Christ’s feet has sometimes been associated with sacrifice with authors arguing that purchase of the nard was a sacrifice on the part of the woman who anointed Christ.  Another perspective of the symbolism is “trustworthy.” The Greek word for spikenard is pistikŏs which means trustworthy in the sense of genuine or unadulterated.  In the story of the woman anointing Christ for burial, the nard was pure nard, it was unadulterated.

The woman’s love for Christ was so genuine that she bravely entered a room where a meal was served for “men only.”  She humbled herself to anoint Christ. The woman saw Christ as trustworthy. She did not expect Christ to reject her offering or expel her from the room.  Christ – God the Son — is always a trustworthy when individuals seek him.

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: Carolyn A. Roth, 2/18

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Joyful Peppermint

Bible Reference: Luke 11:37-44. 

At the end of a day of teaching, a Pharisee invited Jesus to his house to eat. Christ entered the house and reclined at the table. The Pharisee was surprised that Jesus did not wash his hands before the meal for two reasons. First, most foods were eaten with the hands. Second, although not a Mosaic Law, Jewish hierarchy advocated a procedure for hand washing before meals. Knowing what his host was thinking, Jesus admonished him, saying that Pharisees clean the outsides of dishware while they disregard the insides which are full of greed and wickedness. Pharisees’ tithe on mint, rue, and garden herbs, but neglect justice and the love of God. Christ admonished the Pharisees to practice justice and love as well as tithing.

The Book of Law required that Jews tithe. Tithing meant that they gave 10% of their money and/or crops to the Lord which usually went to the Temple (Leviticus 27:30). Mint and rue were herbs produced by farmers and other agriculturists for commerce; therefore, Mosaic Law required Jews to tithe on them. Importantly, when Christ spoke to the Pharisee, he did not tell the Pharisee that tithing on mint production was wrong. Just the opposite, Christ reinforced the need for God’s people to tithe. At the same time, Christ instructed the Pharisees that loving God and seeking justice were the greater good.

Mint, the Plant

The mint that grew in the Holy Land was Mentha longifolia, sometimes known as Mentha spicata L., wild mint, and horsemint. The large mint family, Lamiaceae, has 250 genera and 6,700 species; species names are often confused and confusing. Probably, M. longifolia originated in the countries of the Mediterranean Basin; however, South Africa claims it as indigenous. Mint thrives in most soils as long as soils are moist. If mint plants are propagated to secure a specific aroma, it is best to cut a piece of the original root (rhizome) and plant it. Virtually any part of a root will grow into a new plant.   When mint is planted for its essential oils, full sun is optimal; however, it will grow in partial shade. Wild mint tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure; it is not frost tender. In Israel, wild mint is found in Galilee, the central mountains and valleys, and south into the Northern Negev Desert and Aravah Valley. 

 Symbolism: Happiness, Joyful

The Greek word for mint is hēduŏsmŏn which is derived from hēdista meaning very gladly and kauchaŏmai, which means joy and rejoice. These two Greek words denote happiness and joy. Both words are appropriate for mint which medicinally relieves headaches, aids digestion, and is used to cover unsavory tastes and smells (Plants for a Future, 2012).

King David associated righteous behavior with gladness, happiness, and joy (Psalm 68:3). When Pharisees tithed on their income to include the relatively unimportant herb mint, they acted rightly. If they lived in strict adherence to the Mosaic laws, the Pharisees could have been happy, joyful people; yet, I could find no place in the Bible where the Pharisees were described as happy or joyful. Is it possible that righteous behavior does not lead to happiness? Was David wrong to associate righteousness with joy? Or was there something wrong about the righteousness of the Pharisees?

William MacDonald (1995) succinctly summarized why Pharisees were not happy and joyful.  They were externalists; which means the Pharisees were punctilious about small details of the ceremonial law, i.e., hand washing. At the same time, they neglected the greater commandments to love God and their neighbors (Matthew 22:37-40). They emphasized the subordinate and overlooked the primary laws of God. Happiness and joy cannot come when God or his primary commandments are ignored. Happiness comes from loving God and striving to please him in all things. Joy comes from doing good to others. 

Reflection. Christ said, whatever you do to the least man, woman or child, you do to me; and whatever you do not do to the least man, woman, or child you do not do to me (Matthew 25:40, 45). Christ is the “least” man, woman, or child.  

Copyright January 31, 2018; Carolyn A. Roth

Plant Parable: Spiritual Adultery

An Old Testament parable of a green tree is one of the Bible’s miniature parables (Hoses 14:8). It is brief, and some would say obscure. Hosea spoke the parable of the evergreen tree to the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Today, we read the parable and visualize the majesty of a green tree, similar to the beloved Christmas tree in our churches and homes.

The prophet Hosea implored the Northern Kingdom to repent so that God could heal their waywardness. Hosea averred that Israel’s disloyalty to God and idol worship was spiritual adultery. Because Hosea came from the Northern Kingdom, he knew every pride and perversion of royalty and common citizen alike. Yet, Hosea spoke of God’s love, mercy, and forgiveness. On Jesus’ birth-day, he came with love, mercy, and forgiveness.

Hosea assured Israel that foreign countries, despite their earthy powers, couldn’t save them. God alone can save Israel. After assuring the Israelites that God can and will heal Israel, Hosea offered a parable:

Ephraim shall say, What have I to do any more with idols?
I have answered (him) and will regard and watch over him; I am like a green fir (cypress tree); with Me is the fruit found (which is to nourish you) (Hosea 14:8 AMP)

Symbolism

The spiritual interpretation of God as an evergreen cypress tree is that man-made idols aren’t immortal; they aren’t even alive. They are statues, man’s creations. Some have ears; but, they can’t hear. Some have mouths; but, they can’t speak. Having a head isn’t the same as having a brain or a mind. Worshiping idols is spiritual adultery against God.

Immortality, including long life for an individual or a nation, comes only from God. Perhaps, nowhere in the Old Testament is God’s caring so forthrightly and succinctly presented as here in Hosea. God told Israel that he, not an idol, answers them and looks after them. He is like a green cypress tree. From God comes Israel’s fruit, i.e., both their food and their righteousness.

Hosea 14:8 is the only place (that I know of) where God compared himself to a living organism. At times, the Bible writers recorded that God is enduring like the mountains, the soil, and the ocean. In Hosea, God liken himself to something alive, as he is alive. That living organism was a tree with a lovely smell and which was disease-resistant. Although ancient people used the cypress tree to symbolize immortality, God doesn’t just symbolize immortality; he is immortal. This immortal God chose to come to earth, born in a baby and live as a man, so mankind could have immortal life with him in heaven.

Reflection: An immortal life isn’t up to you or me. We are guaranteed immortality. The question is where will each of us spend our never-ending life.

Cypress Essential Oil (Supplied by Linda Sable, Wellness Advocate)

The crisp, fresh aroma of Cypress essential oil promotes vitality and energy, while topical application helps to invigorate the senses and ground the soul. Cypress works on the heart and mind, creating flexibility. These attributes make Cypress the oil of Motion & Flow. Its powerful properties include antibacterial, antiseptic, making it effective for topical application as well.

When used aromatically, Cypress livens up the spirit and mind. The aroma of this essential oil is clean, woody and herbaceous and is commonly combined with citrus oils. For example, when combined with lime the invigorating scent helps to boost the mood.  Aromatic use helps to transform feelings of being stalled into feeling of progression. Cypress is also used to reduce the appearance of oily skin and is great to incorporate into a massage.

Copyright November 11, 2017; Carolyn Adams Roth

Read more about Bible plants and my ministry at http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com

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Christmas Holly = Holy

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It’s Christmas, it’s Christmas. Time for holly. These pictures are of the beautiful American holly tree (Ilex opaca) that grows in southeastern United States. This one is in the St. John Church Bible Garden. It is evergreen. These picture 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 there, and uses them for garland in his home. I think that this 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 the 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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Poinsettia, Not a Christmas Flower

poinsettia image

 

 

 

 

The Poinsettia is known as the Christmas flower but wasn’t in Judea at the time of Christ’s birth. Poinsettia is native to Mexico where it was a symbol of purity to Aztec Indians. Joel Roberts Poinsett introduced the flower into the United States. While Ambassador to Mexico, he had poinsettia sent to his home in Greenville, SC. He distributed the flower to botanical gardens and to friends interested in horticulture.

Today, poinsettias occur in different colors, e.g., red, pink, white. There are mini poinsettias to large specimen tree size poinsettia. The poinsettia is not only the most popular Christmas flower, but the number one flowering potted plant in the United States.

Every Christmas, members of my Church can donate a poinsettia to decorate the altar.  I suppose the reason is the beautiful color of the plant — I’ve never heard any discussion about it being symbolic of purity.  In the future when I see a poinsettia at  the  church altar, I am going to think about the purity of the Christ child who came to earth.

If you received a poinsettia for Christmas, enjoy it.

Copyright December 20, 2013; Carolyn A. Roth

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Origin of the Christmas Tree

Contrary to popular belief, the Christmas tree wasn’t adapted from ancient European pagan beliefs. The Christmas tree had a more recent history than pagan practices of first-through-third centuries when pagan Germanic and Scandinavian tribes used the hawthorn or cherry trees or branches in their celebrations. Varieties of both hawthorn and cherry trees common to northern Europe were often deciduous, not evergreen, trees.

Most likely, use of Christmas trees started with medieval plays, popular from 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.

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 apple trees or decorated with apples to represent the forbidden fruit. While a Paradise tree that symbolized the Tree of Life was decorated with sweets; sweets round pastry wafers (cookies) symbolized the bread of the Eucharist. Because apple trees were deciduous trees and lost their leaves in winter, the tree evolved into being an evergreen tree.

Over time, the plays became raucous and were moved out of churches into public squares or town centers. Finally, when morality plays were suppressed altogether in the 15th-16th centuries, Paradise trees were moved into homes. Over time red balls substituted for apples, lights were added, and a Star of Bethlehem placed on the tree top.

Traditionally, the Christmas tree was set up on Christmas Eve and taken down on Twelfth Night, the Vigil of the Epiphany. Part of the reason keeping the Christmas tree up for only 12 days was to differentiate the Christmas tree from pagan trees, which often were planted in boxes and remained inside the home the entire winter months.

Christian scholars and historians aren’t sure when evergreen trees were first used as Christmas trees. 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.4

In 21st century United States, popular choices for Christmas trees are fir, pine, spruce, cypress, and cedar. Churches that understand that Christmas trees are distinct from pagan worship often include a 15–20 foot tree in their sanctuary. Below the evergreen tree are placed red poinsettia. What we think of as flaming red petals are poinsettia leaves. Poinsettias are a recent addition to Christmas decorations; but, perhaps, 100 years from now they will be part of Christmas traditions.

Reflection: Are you okay with having a Christmas tree in your home during Christmastide? What about having one in your church sanctuary?

Copyright 11/15/17: Carolyn A. Roth

http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com

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Christmas Aglaonema = Luck

Top aglaonema

At Christmas, aglaonema (Chinese evergreen, Firecracker) is an alternative to the poinsettia. It is less woody than the poinsettia and doesn’t have flowers; however, it is almost as colorful. Although there are over 40 types of aglaonema, red aglaonema is seen during the Christmas season. Red aglaonema’s foliage lasts longer than the typical poinsettia. 2014 was the first time, I saw aglaonema being sold in nurseries in the Roanoke area. It was even sold in K-mart and Lowes.

Meaning of Aglaonema

Traditionally, aglaonema has been associated with good luck or something auspicious. The whole idea of luck troubles me. I couldn’t find the word “luck’ in the Bible, in Strong’s (2010) Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, or in Zondervan’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary (2011). Luck is ancient pagan concept. For me to say “Good Luck” to someone is denying that God is in control of their lives and they have to rely on capricious Lady Luck, whoever that is.

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Care for Aglaonema

Don’t refuse to purchase and enjoy a plant because superstitious individuals associate the plant with some idea or concept, e.g., luck, triumph, love. Buy it, and praise the Creator for the plant’s beauty. If you purchase an aglaonema, you do not want it to have direct sunlight. Rather, place it 6-10 feet from a window or glass door. It needs only 1-3 hours of indirect sunlight a day. Some nurseries identified that aglaonema were a good plant to place in an internal room, e.g., a bathroom or study because of the plants perchent for low-level lighting.

Water aglaonema when the soil is dry when you touch it with your finger. Never let aglaonema stand in water or dry out completely. Feed the plant about every two weeks to keep it looking optimal. Aglaonema doesn’t tolerate a temperature of less than 50 degrees Fahrenheit. You can set it out in a shaded area in the summer and in very warm climates plant it outdoors. USDA shows the plant as growing year around only in Florida.

Reflection: Consciously, I have tried to omit the words “good luck” from my vocabulary. Words that I substituted are “best wishes,” and “blessed.” Think about and respond to this blog with Godly hope/wishes to substitute in place of “good luck.”

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 27, 2014, Carolyn A. Roth, All rights reserved.

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Squill in Israeli Culture

This article was adapted from one written by the noted Israeli botanist: Prof. Avinoam Danin Published: January 17th, 2010 | Updated: 17/01/15

Squill should be regarded as a “regular” plant and not a “special” one because it is widespread and prominent in various seasons. It is found in all the 31 geographical districts of Israel and Jordan. It has many special “personal” features. It is one of the most prominent flowering plants in Israel and appears in many poems.

The plant was studied by Efrayim and Hanna HaReubeni, who saw in the plant many natural phenomena and close cultural links with the entire Middle East. In autumn, the sea-squill (Urginea maritima) terminates the growth cycle of a stem that started its development and leaf activity at the beginning of last year’s winter. It invites and hosts many insect pollinators in a season poor in flowers.

The plant’s name in Hebrew (HATSAV) is derived, according to HaReubeni (1941), from the similarity of the developing leaves as they sprout from the bulb at the beginning of winter, to the stone-cutters’ chisel. The word HATSAV in a Hebrew-Hebrew dictionary may surprise the reader (many are surprised at this): in addition to a plant, this word means a big jug or pitcher for storing oil or water. Think of the farmer plowing his field and uprooting a squill bulb with its leaves. He may hold the narrow part between the bulb and the leaves. The similarity between this and holding a jug by its “neck” is strong. The squill excels at developing large groups of bulbs (which will be called here “squill families”) and the development process of these “families” is poorly known to most people. Q

According to the Reubenis, the Hebrew name of the sea squill (HATSAV) derives from the sprouting leaves (left) which look like the chisel of the stone-cutter. In Hebrew-Hebrew dictionaries HATSAV is also a big jug or pitcher used for storing oil or water.

Squill sprouts after the summer drought dormancy. A few of the leaves are at the chisel stage, while others are already at the jug stage.

Symbolism:

Before I discovered the Israeli squill, I was ignorant (unknowing) of its existence and its characteristics. My ignorance didn’t harm or hurt the squill; it was still there and with the same characteristics. Many individuals in the world are ignorant about the Triune God. Their ignorance doesn’t mean He is not there or does not exist.  In this scheme of things, my being ignorant about squill has little impact on me or the plant. In contrast to the squill, if individuals are ignorant about God, their eternal destiny will be impacted. In reality, each of us has a responsibility to tell others of Christ as our Savior.

Copyright: Carolyn A. Roth, November 10, 2017

Please check my website for books about Bible plants to include parables illustrated by plants.

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Passion Flower and Fruit

Passiflora edulis commonly called passion flower, grows prolifically in Israel. It is a perennial vine with tendrils that help the vine to climb over trellis, fences, and sides of buildings. Passion flower is herbaceous and in colder climates dies to the ground. Supposedly, it grows in Plant Zones 5 – 9 in the United State. Passiflora edulis is thought to be drought tolerant and attracts butterflies therefore has the potential to be a popular plant. It grows in full sun to part shade.

In the United States, this passion flower is native in southeastern states. Although here in Virginia the Passiflora flower is purple, my friend in Missouri has a plant which looks identical and is named Passiflora incarnate and the flower is white. The fruit from the flower is named Maypops because it gives forth a popping sound when stepped on. Maypops are green in the summer and became yellowish in the fall. They are edible. When opened, the Maypop fruit is comprised of opaque, white, little balls. The little balls are juicy and taste like lemons. If used to make lemonade, the ade will taste like it has too much water. The taste of the maypops is very light.

Symbolism

Passiflora was a name given to this showy flower when it was first described by missionaries in South America (Brazil, Paraguay). These missionaries believed that they saw various aspects of the passion of Christ immediately before and after his crucifixion. The coronal threads were seen as a symbol for the crown of thorns; the curling tendrils as the cords of the whip used to scourge Jesus. The five stamen were identified with the wounds that Christ received at his crucifixion. The three large stigmas for nails on the cross (one for each of his hands and one where Christ’s feet were placed one on top of the other and a single nail hammered into both of them. The five petals and five sepals of the flower refer to the 10 “true” apostles. Neither Peter who denied Christ and Judas who betrayed him were considered “true” apostles.

Reflection

Before I read about the symbolism of the passion flower, I thought it was beautiful to look at, both in its purple and white colors. Now, I look at the plant and see the passion of Christ. Possibly, I was happier when I could just enjoy the beauty of a flower without attempting to see the various allusions to Christ’s passion in the flower’s beauty. What about you? Do you sometimes just want to enjoy the beauty of a plant and omit the deep symbolism of it?

Copyright: October 29, 2017; Carolyn Adams Roth

Please visit my website: www. CarolynRothMinistry.com to see books which contain plants in the Bible.

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Obtuse Maple

Scripture: Genesis 30:37

The Story:

In New International Version Study Bibles (NIV) and in the English Standard Version (ESV) study Bible, Genesis 30:37 reads: “Jacob, however, took fresh cut branches from poplar, almond, and plane trees and made white stripes on them by peeling the bark and exposing the white inner wood of the branches.”  In contrast to these Bible translations, the Darby Bible (DBY) recorded the same verse as “And Jacob took fresh rods of white poplar, almond-tree, and maple; and peeled off white stripes in them, uncovering the white which was on the rods.” In Darby’s translation, the plane tree was translated as maple.

The Tree:

In present day Israel, only one type of maple tree grows, the Syrian maple (Acer obtusifolium, Acer syriacum). The Syrian maple is considered a Mediterranean tree. In Israel, it is present in woodlands, shrub-lands, and around Mount Herman. Most likely, Jacob would have had access to the Syrian maple tree if he opted to use it as he attempted to control the color of flocks. At the time Jacob was living in an area which today is most likely part of Syria. Looking at the photograph of young Syrian maples, it is easy to see why Jacob could have used the Syrian maple if he wanted spotted flocks.

In Latin, the word for maple is “Acer,” which means sharp, irritating, and pungent. Romans used the wood for spear shafts. The Latin word “obtusifolium” is translated as blunt, obtuse, or dull and folium as leaf.  Obtusifolium means this maple tree has a blunt leaf.

Leaves are green and in pairs on opposite sides of a stem. This tree sheds its leaves during summer months when weather is scorching hot in Israel. Flowers, which appear on the Syrian maple in April, May, and June are greenish cream. Flowers turn into seeds which are startling in their pinkish red color.

Symbolism:

 The more I learn, the more I could get confused about some of the technicalities of the Bible. For example, did Jacob use a maple or a plane tree? The answer is that the Bible was not written as a book for botanists (as much as I would have liked that). Rather, the Bible was written to disclose the Triune God. Studying God is a better use of our time than trying to figure out the exact species of tree used by Bible characters.

US Equivalent:

In the United States, the maple tree is the Acer saccharinum (Silver maple). This beautiful tree can grow to 100 feet tall. It has high wild-life value and is loved by birds, squirrels, fox, and other small mammals. In springtime, flowers appear before leaves and are a welcome harbinger of warmer days.

Reflection: When you read the Bible do you get bogged down in details such as the one in this blog, or are you able to concentrate on God and his Son’s redemptive work on the cross?

Copyright September 26, 2017; all rights reserved.

If you want to learn more about plants in the Bible consider purchasing my two books on Bible plants from my website: http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/

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