Tag Archives: Bible Study

Flowering Rush and Legacy

“Can reed flourish where there is no water? While yet in flower and not cut down they wither before any other plant” (Job 8.11-12, ESV).

In this verse Bildad, one of Job’s friends recommends to Job that he repent of his sin. Then, God will forgive Job and restore his losses. Typical of wisdom literature, Bildad uses an analogy from nature to illustrate the vulnerability of the wicked. Bildad is sure that Job did something wicked for God to give Job all the disasters that occurred in his live. The flowering rush is primarily a Mediterranean plant. Its presence in Job suggested that his home country possibly had rivers or lakes.

Flowering Rush

The flowering reed in Job 8.12 is the flowering rush (Butomus umbellatus). The word butomus comes from the root words bous (ox) and temmo (cut). The temmo portion of Butomus is an allusion to the sharp leaf margins of the flowering rush. Some writers put this rush in the sedge family known for its cutting leaves. The flowering reed produces flowers April to August. Inflorescence contain 20-25 flowers. The flower itself has three large pink petals.

Flowering reeds grow rapidly in wet lands. They can reach a height of 15 feet. At the same time, the flowering rush is vulnerable, dependent on a constant supply of water. The merest drought results in death. Like most reeds, Butomus umbellatus produces rhizomes. Rhizomes break from the parent plant and migrate to new sites where they take root and grow.

Symbolism

In Bildad speech to Job, he makes use of a characteristic of flowering rush which suggests that he had studied the plant. Flowering rush rhizomes can move from their original site leaving no trace of their presence. Bildad cautions Job that if he does not repent despite his previous wealth and influence, Job will pass from existence leaving no trace of his presence.

Reflection

Most of us want to be remembered. We want to leave something that makes an impact on the earth when we are gone. Some individuals have children. Others write books, design buildings, or determine to be great politicians. What do you want to leave as your legacy?

Copyright July 22, 2018; Carolyn A. Roth

Visit my website to purchase books on Bible plants: http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com

Too Late for Healing Aloe

Joseph of Arimathea was a prominent member of the Jewish council who believed that Jesus was the Messiah. Boldly, Joseph went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’s body. After confirming with a Roman officer, that Jesus was dead, Pilate released Jesus’s body to Joseph. Along with Nicodemus, Joseph took Jesus’s body from the cross. They wrapped the body in linen stripes and 75 pounds of mixed aloe and myrrh. The Jewish burial custom of using spices in burial linens was associated with covering the smell of the decaying body.  Scholars suggested that because aloe had little odor, aloes were used to “fix,” or hold the scent of the myrrh. Based on my knowledge of aloe plants, I have another proposed reason for  aloes in the linen grave cloths. Aloe gel is moist and slightly sticky. Perhaps, aloe gel didn’t so much “fix” the myrrh aroma in the linen cloths as hold them together and onto the body of the deceased.

The aloe of the New Testament is the Aloe vera (Aloe barbadensis, Aloe vulgaris medicinal aloe). Some sources identified aloe as the oldest medicinal plant. Certainly, it figures prominently in ancient Egyptian medicine. In Israel, aloe grows as far south as Kibbutzim Lotan and Ketura in the Arava Desert near the Gulf of Aqaba. Old and New Testament aloe are from different species of plants. In contrast to New Testament aloe which is an herbaceous plant, Old Testament aloe comes from a tree. The Old Testament aloe tree was the eaglewood tree (Aquilaria malaccensis, A. agallocha). Likely, Old Testament traders brought aloe wood from India.

Currently, aloe is used to reduce the pain of burns and scrapes. When aloe is harvested for its medicinal gel, older leaves are harvested because they contain more gel. I keep an aloe plant in my home. When I get a burn, I slice off a piece of aloe and rub the fluid on the burn, which takes the pain away.

Isaiah wrote these prophetic words about Jesus, “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace” (Isaiah 53.5 ESV) Jesus’s body was dead; therefore, aloes couldn’t heal him; aloes couldn’t take away the sting of his death. Aloe couldn’t heal Jesus’s wounds. The healing aloes in Jesus’s burial cloth exemplified Jesus’s healing of mankind, not himself.

After Jesus’s resurrection some individuals in Judea and the Roman Empire accepted healing from him. They accepted Jesus as Messiah, as the promised Savior of the world. Other individuals weren’t willing to be healed. Some couldn’t comprehend that a man would die for their sins. Others simply didn’t believe that they were all that bad; why would someone need to die for their few sins? For still others it was easier to continue their same religious observances, i.e., make an animal sacrifice or give a little money into a treasury, than to accept a new way of thinking. These individuals often want to cover over the smell of their sin rather than be healed of that sin. The rationale and rationalizations that individuals used 2,000 years ago for not accepting healing from Jesus are the same ones that individuals use today.

In church on Sunday morning, we pray the “Prayers of the People.” Frequently, there are prayer requests for healing – surgery, diagnostic tests, cancer – from members of the congregation. I’m always surprised that congregates don’t offer more prayers for loved ones’ spiritual healing. My dear friend isn’t a Christian; I love him so much. From time to time, I ask congregates to pray that he comes to a saving knowledge of Jesus. I really should ask them to pray for him every Sunday. My friend needs the healing that only Jesus can give.

Reflection: Like the reason for aloe in Jesus’s burial cloths, do you attempt to stick close to Jesus? What excuse do you give for not accepting Jesus as your Savior now?

Copyright July 8, 2018; Carolyn A. Roth

Frustrating Pharisees and Herbs

Reference: Matthew 23.1-32

Matthew is the only gospel writer who recorded the seven “Woes” which was part of Jesus’s teaching in the Temple Courtyard during Holy Week (Matthew 23.1-32). The first day of Holy Week, Jesus triumphantly entered Jerusalem and the second day he cleared the Temple of money changers. The third day was a day of controversy and parables.

This day must have been challenging and exhausting for Jesus.  Group after group, i.e., Sadducees, Pharisees, lawyers, teachers, and Herodians, came forward to challenge Jesus. They attempted to trip him up so that they could condemn both him and his answers. At one point during their challenges, Jesus spoke seven “Woes” in which he condemned both the Pharisees and scribes. As we read these 32 verses, we hear the agony that Jesus felt at the blindness of the spiritual leaders of Israel.  Jesus was so frustrated that he named them “hypocrites.”

In the fourth “Woe,” Christ told the Pharisees and scribes that they tithe on the herbs mint, dill, and cumin; but, neglect the more important parts of the Law that have to do with justice, mercy, and faithfulness. He advised them to practice justice, mercy, and faithfulness while tithing on the herbs.

Tithing with herbs dates back to Mosiac Law. When herbs produced to sell; Mosaic Law required Jews to tithe on them. “You shall tithe all the yield of your seed that comes from the field” (Deuteronomy 14.22 ESV). Tithing meant that the grower gave 10% of their money and/or crops to the Lord, which usually went to the Temple (Leviticus 27.30). Importantly, when Jesus spoke to the Pharisee, he didn’t tell Pharisees that tithing on growing herbs was wrong. Just the opposite, Jesus reinforced the need for God’s people to tithe. At the same time, Jesus instructed listeners that loving God and seeking justice were the greater good.

Cumin

When Jesus identified tithing herbs to the Pharisees in Jerusalem, he named cumin; however, Jesus didn’t list cumin in an early message when he used herbs in his reprimand to the Pharisees.  That Jesus used cumin in an exhortation to urban dwellers suggests that urban dwellers use different herbs than rural ones. Further, cumin was closely aligned with Persian and Indian cuisine. Conceivably, Jerusalemites many who had ancestors who were returnees from the Babylonian captivity were more familiar with the herb cumin.

Cumin (Cuminum cyminum) is an annual flowering plant from the parsley family. Seeds are used Asia, Mediterranean, Middle East, and Mexican dishes. Ground cumin is an essential spice in curry powder. Ancient Greeks used cumin as a table-side condiment, similar to the way we use a salt shaker. Several different varieties of cumin exist with the most common being black and green cumin used in Persian cuisine.

Cumin is sown in the spring from seed in rows two feet apart in fertile, well-draining soil. Cumin plant care requires a long, hot summer (three to four months) with temperatures around 85 degrees Fahrenheit (F) during the day. United States plant zones are 5-10. Sow shallowly, about ¼-inch below the soil surface. Keep the seeds moist during germination. In cooler climates, start seed indoors four weeks prior to the last spring frost.  Transplant outdoors when temperatures routinely exceed 60 degrees F. or higher. Cumin has small white or pink flowers.

Harvesting cumin is time consuming because it is largely done by hand. Cumin seed is harvested by hand. Seeds are harvested when they brown — about 120 days – and are then dried and ground. Ideally, cumin seeds are harvested in the morning when the herb is most pungent.

Symbolism

It takes a lot of time (120 days or 4 months) to grow cumin plants and many plants to get ground cumin to garnish food. If you want the delicious taste of cumin in food, the wait and  effort is worth while. Growing as a Christian – growing in Jesus – is also time consuming; however, the growth is worthwhile as we become progressively more like him. Also, it is worthwhile to see our loved-ones grow in knowledge and love of Jesus.

Reflection:  Are you ever impatient with your growth or the growth of those you love? If you are, think of the alternative.

Copyright: June 19, 2018; Carolyn A. Roth

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

June 2018, Newsletter

Here is the link for CarolynRothMinistry, June Newsletter — https://mailchi.mp/aa537940e0b6/check-out-new-june-special

Consecrated for God

Acorus calamus King Hezekiah directed the priests and Levites to re-consecrate themselves and reopen God’s Temple.  This story is told in 2 Kings 18:1-2 and 2 Chronicles chapter 29.

King Hezekiah was 25 years of age when became king of Judah.  He reigned 29 years (715-686 B.C.).  He father was Ahaz but unlike Ahaz, Hezekiah did what was right in God’s eyes.  Isaiah was at his most influential during Hezekiah’s reign.  During Hezekiah’s reign, the Northern Kingdom fell and its inhabitants were dispersed through Assyria.

Hezekiah was distinguished by his absolute confidence in God even under duress.  Immediately after being crowned, King Hezekiah began religious reform.  His purpose was to make a covenant with God so that God’s fierce anger would be turned away from the kingdom of Judah (2 Chronicles 29:10).  In the first month of his kingship, Hezekiah reopened and repaired the Temple doors.  He gathered the priests and Levites and instructed them to purify and consecrate themselves.  After the priest and Levites were consecrated, they clean out the Temple.  Unclean furnishing and idolatrous items found in the temple were dumped into the Kidron Valley.  Over a 16-day period, the priests purified the Temple and consecrated its altars and furnishings.  The sacred anointing oil was used in the consecrations.

After the purification and consecrations, King Hezekiah provided bulls, rams, lambs, and goats as a sin offering for the people of Judah.  While the offerings were made, Levites played music on cymbals, harps, and lyres and sang in the manner prescribed by King David.  King Hezekiah, city officials, priest, Levites, and the entire assembly knelt down and worshipped God.  After the sin offerings, the assembly brought sacrifices and thanks offerings to God.  So many offerings were presented that the priest could not skin all of the animals.  They had to enlist the Levites to assist them until more priests could be re-consecrated.  Thus, Temple worship was reestablished under King Hezekiah.

When the Tabernacle was built, God prescribed ingredients to be used in the anointing (purifying and consecrating) oil.  Five ingredients were named:  myrrh, cinnamon, fragrant cane, cassia, and olive oil.  The anointing oil was sacred and used only for anointing the priest and the Temple furnishing and accessories.  In Chapter 4, cassia was described as an ingredient for the anointing oil in the Tabernacle.  In this chapter, fragrant cane will be described as an ingredient in the Temple anointing oil. Isaiah (43:24) mentioned fragrant cane (calamus) declaring that the people of Judah no longer brought cane to God, probably meaning in the incense of sacrifice.

Fragrant Cane Plant

Most botanists and religious scholars associate the Biblical fragrant cane with the Acorus calamus variety calamus., called  sweet cane and calamus. Although fragrant cane is a Bible plant, in 2012 it was not found in two popular Israeli plant databases:  Online Flora of Israel and Wild Flowers of Israel.  Probably most fragrant cane used in the Temple anointing oil came from India. It is found in moist soils and shallow water in ditches, marshes, river edges and ponds, marshes and ditches.    Viewed from the top of water or moist soil, fragrant cane that looks like numerous plants may be a single interconnected rhizome (root). Although leaves and stems can be harvested, the rhizome is used to make perfumes and sacred oils (Motley, 1995).  Fragrant cane is very expensive.  During the reign of Henry VIII, Cardinal Wolsey was accused of extravagance because he importing fragrant cane reeds at extravagant expense.

Symbolism: Clarity

The fragrant cane plant is associated with many different concepts to include vigor, purification, wisdom, and clarity.  The symbolism that reflects this Bible episode is clarity which includes focused perception, to free of confusion, and to make understandable.  Under Ahaz’s reign, some of the priests of God’s temple likely remained at home and only practiced their faith with family and close friends.  Others, like the priest Uriah (2 Kings 15:10-15), obeyed Ahaz and installed idol worship in the Temple.  Probably both groups felt some degree of confusion, guilt, resentment, and shame (Psalm 97:7).  These emotions would have clouded their thinking.

When Hezekiah became king, he required the priests to consecrate themselves in preparation for re-instituting worship of God in the Temple.  For the priests consecration meant that the sacred anointing oil was applied to themselves and possibly their clothes.  Then, the priests anointed each item in the Temple.  Being anointed to God’s service would have focused the priest’s thoughts on God.  Anointing the Temple furnishing and accessories over a 16-day period would have clarified the purpose and meaning of each item in the temple.  Finally, performing the sacrifices reinforced the priests’ understanding of their role in Temple worship. Use of the anointing oil promoted clarity in the priests’ perceptions.

Today, people are prone to lose clarity of thought.  We become anxious and distressed by what is occurring around us.  As I write this chapter, the United States is in the process of presidential elections.  Perhaps more than any other election, United States citizens are paying attention to what candidates say and do.  This attention can be good if it clarifies our thoughts on candidates’ stands on issues important to us.  At the same time, we need not get anxious about who to vote for or the decision-making process.  God’s desire is to have us free from all anxiety and distressing care (1 Corinthians 7:32)

When we accept Christ we are anointed with the Holy Spirit.  Christ’s anointing teaches us the truth on everything we need to know about ourselves and Christ, uncontaminated by a single lie (I John 2:26-27)  Now, Christ is our safe place – the place where perceptions, understanding, and clarity abide.  As we listen to candidates and persuasive leaders in any field, we need to remember and believe that Christ knows his sheep and they know him (John 10:1-6).  Christ’s sheep will not follow a stranger’s voice.  Christ sheep not only hear his voice but listen or obey his voice and words.  St. John recorded that when Jesus used this figure of speech, his listeners did not understand what he was talking about.

 Reflection.  How is your clarity?  Do you understand what Jesus was talking about in John 10:1-6?

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 September 9, 2012; carolyn a. roth

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Getting Anointed

Rolled CassiaThe anointing oil used in the Tabernacle is described in Exodus 25:6; 29:1-9; 30:22-33; 40:17; and Leviticus 8:1-13, 30.

When God instructed the Israelites to bring offerings for the Tabernacle, he included spices for the anointing oil.  Sacred anointing oil was a blend of four spices and olive oil. God was specific in the proportions of each: 500 shekels of liquid myrrh, 500 shekels of cassia, 250 shekels of fragrant cinnamon, 250 shekels of fragrant cane and one hin of olive oil.  The sanctuary shekel was equivalent to about 2/5th ounce.  Taken together the four spices weighed about 38 pounds.  A hin of olive oil was equivalent to about one gallon. The Tabernacle anointing oil was made by a perfumer and it was considered sacred.  If any person made perfume like it or put it on anyone other than a priest, they would be cut off from the Israelites.

The Tabernacle was set up on the first day of the first month in the second year after the Israelites left Egypt.  At that time the Tabernacle, its furnishings, the priests, and the priests clothing were anointed with the sacred oil and consecrated.  Anointing was done to set apart items and people to God’s service.  Consecration means “to make holy” for God’s service.  Leviticus chapter 8 called the process of anointing and consecrating Aaron and his sons “ordination.”  As it is used in Leviticus, ordination literally means “you shall fill his hands.”  Probably the meaning was that the priests will take into their hands the role/tasks of the priesthood given to them by God.

The Bible allocated many verses to Moses’ anointing and consecrating the Tabernacle and the priests.  The reason for these detailed descriptions is that God is holy and demands holiness from those who serve him.  The Bible detailed that Aaron and his sons were anointed and consecrated only after sacrifice and atonement were made for their own sins. They could not be anointed for God’s service until they were ritually clean. Outwardly Moses presided over the anointing of the Tabernacle; however, the Israelites understood that God, not Moses, made the Tabernacle and priests holy.

Cassia is used to represent the spices in the anointing oil.  It was probably brought with the Israelites out of Egypt.  Egyptians imported cassia from China and used cassia in the embalming process.  As the Israelites traveled throughout the Sinai Peninsula, they could have bought cassia from traders who crossed the Peninsula from Arabia to Egypt.  In the ancient Middle East, peoples so valued cassia that it was worth its weight in gold or ivory.

The Cassia Plant

The botanical name for the Tabernacle cassia is Cinnamomum cassia also known as C. aromaticum. Although cassia is in the same genus as the spice cinnamon, cassia is a different plant with a more pungent aroma.  Both fresh and fallen leaves emit the cassia aroma. Chinese cassia comes from the bark of the cassia plant. The tree is cut above the ground level 4 – 5 years after planting and every 3 – 4 years thereafter.  The bitter-tasting outer bark is removed leaving the inner cassia bark is dried in the sun. When the inner bark is dry it turns brown and curls into a hollow tube or quill. In the United States during the yuletide season, bunches (7 – 8) of cassia quills tied with a ribbon and sold in stores as cinnamon.  Cinnamaldehyde is the major (70 – 95%) component of cassia bark and responsible for the pungent odor of the bark and powdered cassia. Cassia powder is a reddish brown color in contrast to the tan color of cinnamon.

Symbolism: Anointing

Cassia and other substances of the anointing oil symbolize the work of the Holy Spirit, particularly the Spirit’s acts in the New Testament.  Christ told the people of Nazareth that he was anointed by the Holy Spirit to preach the gospel to the poor, to proclaim freedom for the prisoners, to give recovery of sight to the blind, to release the oppresses and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor (Luke 4:18-19.).  To the Church at Jerusalem and to the Gentiles at Cornelius’ home, Peter reiterated that God anointed Christ with the Holy Spirit and empowered Christ (Acts 4:24-28; Acts 10:38). Christ’s work on earth was completed through the anointing power of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit anoints believers for God’s work on earth just as the Holy Spirit anointed Christ’s for God’s work on earth.  Saint John declared that Christians have an anointing from the Holy One (1 John 2:20). Scholars are not sure whether “Holy One” refers to God or Christ; however, there is wide-spread agreement that anointing means the Holy Spirit. We Christian’s are anointed with the Holy Spirit when we accept Christ as our Savior.  At that time, the Holy Spirit enters into our body and mind and becomes a part of us.

Christ told his disciples before he left them that the Holy Spirit would come to them (John 16:5-15).  The Holy Spirit would convict them of sin and righteousness, console and guide them, be their advocate with God, and the revealer of all truth. According to Paul, the Holy Spirit gives gifts to Christians so the work of the Church in the world can be accomplished, e.g., administration, teaching, healing and distinguishing of spirits (1 Corinthians 12:8-10, 28).

Although God’s work here on earth is vitally important, the Holy Spirit anointed Christ and believers not just for work. In addition to anointing Christ with power for work, God anointed him with the oil of joy (Hebrews 1:9). The oil of joy was more valuable than the most important and valuable aromatic oils and cassia in the fragrant robes of the greatest king (Psalm 45:7–8). The reason God anointed Christ with the oil of joy was so Christ could give the joy to believers.  Isaiah wrote that Christ would bestow on believers a crown of beauty instead of ashes and the oil of gladness instead of mourning (Isaiah (61:10).  What a blessing to know that when we enter a personal relationship with Christ, we are anointed with the Holy Spirit and given the oil of joy and gladness.  Further, the Holy Spirit’s anointing presence allows us to bear fruit spiritual fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galations 5:22-23).

Reflection This morning, I heard a song that said, “You raise me up to more than I can be” (The Four Troops, 2010).  God does that through anointing Christians with the Holy Spirit.  What are you doing with your anointing?

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 October 16, 2011; carolyn a. roth

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Easter Symbols: Plant, Eggs

 

The Easter season last 50 days, from Easter morning through Pentecost eve. There are two preeminent symbols of Easter (besides the cross and empty grave): the lily and the colored egg. Here is the stories of both.

Easter Lily: On Easter morning at my church, the altar is surrounded by blooming Easter lilies. Even window sills in the sanctuary are filled with the white lilies. Many churches that decorate for the Easter service with Easter lilies allow members to buy (sponsor) the lilies as a memorial to friends and relatives or in honor of someone in the church or in their lives. After Resurrection Sunday, individuals can take the flowers home, or, as in our church, donate them to beautify the church grounds.

Although the Easter lily is the pre-eminent symbol of the resurrection of Jesus, most of us don’t know its origins and what we think we know is tradition or legend. For example, one legend is that lilies sprang up in the Garden of Gethsemane after Jesus prayed there during his final hours. Another is that after Mary died, white lilies were found at her empty tomb, despite lily flowers or bulbs not being placed there. The white petals represented Mary’s body and the golden anthers represented her soul.

Although Jesus named the lily of the field when he urged the crowd to not worry (Matthew 6:25-34), the lily of the field isn’t the resurrection lily found in our churches at Easter. A minor prophet, Hosea, identified the resurrection lily and associated it with chastity and innocence. Hosea lived in the final disastrous years of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Hosea averred that Israel’s idol worship was spiritual adultery (Hosea chapter 14).

Through Hosea, God said that if Israel repented, God would cause Israel to blossom like a lily (Lilium candidum). The formerly adulterous kingdom would once again become innocent. The lily is the most mentioned flower in the Bible. It signified hope, purity, and life everlasting. By his death and resurrection, Jesus assured believers that they can become innocent and pure and are guaranteed eternal life with him.

Easter Eggs: The custom of Easter eggs is thought to have originated in the Mesopotamia Christian community. At times, this community stained chicken eggs red in memory of Jesus’ blood. Also, the egg is an ancient symbol of the tomb where Jesus was buried. The shell of the egg is dead, as Jesus’ body was dead in the tomb. But in that tomb as inside the dead shell of an egg, there is the potential for new life to break out. On Easter morning Jesus walked out of the tomb and left it an empty shell. When Christians die, their body is an empty shell in the grave, but their spirit lives. The spirit goes to be with God forever.

Red eggs are given to Orthodox Christians after the Easter Liturgy. They crack their eggs against each other’s. I assume that these eggs are hard boiled otherwise the church could become a mess. The cracking of the eggs symbolizes a wish to break away from the bonds of sin and misery and enter the new life issuing from Christ’s resurrection. In some Christian churches, priests bless and sprinkle eggs with holy water.

In my family home, several days before Easter, mother boiled chicken eggs in their shells until the egg yolk was hard, removed the shells, and placed the eggs in red beet juice in a large jar. The juice permeated the white layer of eggs and turned them pink (red). As children, we had no idea of the significance of these “red beet hard-boiled eggs.” We just knew that they were always served with the Easter meal and tasted good.

April 10, 2018; Copyright Carolyn A. Roth. This post is from my new book: Connecting the Church Calendar, 101 Meditations for Church Season. Check it out at http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/

First Passover

Bible Reference:  Exodus chapters 11:1 – 12:36.

Moses followed God’s direction and asked to allow the Israelites to go into the desert and worship God. Pharaoh’s answer was an emphatic “no”; he was not going to allow the valuable Israelite slaves leave Egypt. As a result of Pharaoh’s pride, stubbornness, and manipulative behavior, God visited 10 plagues on Egypt.  Two plagues – the 7th and 10th plague — have direct relevance to plants. The seventh plague was a severe rain storm that involved thunder, lightning, and hail. The hail caused the barley and flax to be destroyed. The wheat and spelt were not destroyed because they ripened later. These plants – barley, flax, wheat, and spelt – will be described in later chapters of God as a Gardener.

The NIV Study Bible (2002) labeled the 10th, and final plague sent on Egypt as “The Plague of the Firstborn.”  The 10th plague was the death of the firstborn of every man and animal in Egypt with the exception of those of the Israelites. To keep the death angel from entering Israelite homes, God required the Israelites to slaughter a lamb or goat and place the animal’s blood on the sides and top of their door frames. That same night, the meat of the slaughtered animal was roasted.  Then, the meat, bitter herbs, and unleavened bread were eaten.

God told the Israelites to eat bitter herbs with their meal to remind them of the bitterness they experienced in Egypt.  Common practice was for Egyptian taskmasters to whip Israelite slaves. The Israelites must have experienced terrible bitterness when their newborn sons were taken from them and thrown into the Nile River to die. They were powerless to stop these murders. The final way bitter herbs symbolized bitterness was related directly to the death of Egyptian first born sons. The death of Egyptians’ first-born sons was the price of Israelite freedom.  Pharaoh’s resolve to keep the Israelites was not shattered until his son was killed. Individual, family, and national freedom through death of children – even children not their own — would have been a source of bitterness for the Israelites.

In Egypt bitter herbs included endive, chicory, dandelion, and wild lettuce. The type of bitter herb used in the first Passover meal may have varied among families.  Exodus 10:15 recorded that “nothing green remained on tree or plant in all of Egypt” after the eighth plague, the plague of the locust. Possible some families stored one type of bitter herb, while other families had another bitter herb available to them.

The Endive Plant

 In this chapter, endive, Cichorium endivia, is used as an example of a bitter herb. In early Greek translations of the Bible, the word “endive” was used in place of “bitter herbs.”  Although the origin of endive is lost from history, the first wild species may have grown in Turkey and Syria.  Probably, endive  was native to India, China or Egypt.  Endive produces attractive light blue flowers which grow on stems that stand above the leafy foliage. Endive is used almost exclusively in raw salads. Its slightly bitter flavor is often more appreciated by Europeans than Americans. Adding a sweet or oily salad dressing can balance the bitter taste.

Symbolism: Bitterness

The symbolism of bitter herbs including endive is clear from the name – they refer to bitterness. Bitterness is something intensely distressing or disturbing to the mind (Merriam-Webster Incorporated , 2005). Bitterness is an expression of severe pain, grief, or regret.

Writing to the Ephesians (4:31), Paul told them to get rid of all bitterness.  Yet, God wanted the Israelites to eat bitter herbs at the annual Seder meal during Passover to remind the Israelites of their bitterness in Egypt.  How are we to reconcile putting off all bitterness with God’s direction to the Israelites to remember their bitterness annually?

I think there is a difference between remembering a bitter occasion as a precursor to celebration of a better life, versus remembering bitterness to the point that it leads to resentment of God, situations, and people. Certainly, God did not tell the Israelites to hate or resent the Egyptians. Rather, the Seder meal which included bitter herbs was a meal celebrated the Israelite exodus from Egypt.

Remembering bitterness (of pain, grief, and regret) disturbs our minds. Bitterness supplants the peace Christ designed to rule our hearts and minds (Philippians 4:7).  Our bitterness grieves the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30-31).  Can we remember bitterness as an object lesson, but not allow it to control our lives? In his book Total Forgiveness, R.T. Kendell (2007) suggested that forgiveness was the answer to bitterness. He identified four parts to this forgiveness:

Step 1, we need to forgive whomever and whatever situation caused the bitterness in us. The Israelites needed to forgive the Egyptians for enslaving them.

Step 2, we need to forgive ourselves for contributing to the situation that caused bitterness. The Israelites needed to forgive themselves for remaining in Egypt for 400 years, well after the famine in Canaan was over.

Step 3, we need to forgive God.  Saying we must forgive God seems odd and almost improper. Does the created forgive the creator?  In this situation forgiveness means we need to acknowledge our bitterness toward God for letting us get in a devastatingly painful situation.

I think that some Israelites blamed their bitterness on God. After God led them out of Egypt, probably some cried “Where were you when my son was murdered? If you would have freed us sooner, my son would be alive.”  The reality is that we do blame God for some, or even much, of our bitterness. If we want to get rid of bitterness toward God, we need to tell God our feelings, tell God we forgive him, and really mean it.

Step 4, we need to ask God’s forgiveness. Without bitterness in our hearts, we can confess our sinful feelings of bitterness toward God and ask his forgiveness.

From time to time, we may still remember the bitter situation; however, the pain of it will be gone or go away over time. For years I had bitterness in my heart over a situation. I tried a number of ways to get rid of it, to no avail. Then, I read Total Forgiveness and implemented the four steps of confession and forgiveness that Kendall recommended. Now, I am free of the bitterness of this situation. Thank you, God.

Reflection: The past cannot be changed, but the future is whatever you want it to be. Is there bitterness in your life that needs attention?

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 August 26, 2011; carolyn a. roth

Sacred Incense

Styrax officinalis, JBGThe story of King Uzziah and his prideful attempt to burn incense in the Temple is described in 2 Kings 15:1-7 and 2 Chronicles Chapter 26.

Uzziah inherited the crown of Judah when his father Amaziah was murdered.  He reigned for 52 years.  At the beginning of his reign, Uzziah did what was right in the eyes of God and God gave him many successes.  He won decisive battles over the Philistines, the Ammonites paid him tribute, and he added to the fortifications of Jerusalem.  Uzziah had a well-trained, well- equipped army of over 300,000 men.

With success, Uzziah became proud and unfaithful to God.  On one occasion, Uzziah entered the Temple and began to burn incense on the Altar of Incense.  According to Mosaic Law, only consecrated priests who were the descendants of Aaron could burn incense in the Temple.  Uzziah was holding the censer for burning incense when the chief priest Azariah and 80 courageous priests confronted him.  Azariah reminded Uzziah that even though he was king, he could not burn the incense.  Azariah demand that Uzziah leave the sanctuary.  As Uzziah began to rage against the priests, leprosy broke out on his body.

Azariah saw the leprosy and hurried Uzziah from the temple. When Uzziah saw his leprosy and was eager to leave the Temple.  From that time until his death about 10 years later, Uzziah lived in a house separated from the palace.  His son, Jotham, governed Judah.  Uzziah was buried near his ancestors in a field; however, he was not buried in the royal tombs because of the leprosy.

The composition of Tabernacle incense was fragrant spices – stacte, onycha, and galbanum – and pure frankincense all in equal amounts (Exodus 30:34, KJV, Scofield, 1945).  Very likely the same ingredients were used to make Temple incense during the first and the second Temple (Sirach 24:15, Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha, 1965; Rabinowitz, 1977).  The plant galbanum was described as an ingredient of the Tabernacle incense in Chapter 4.  In this section, stacte will be used in as the ingredient in the Temple incense.

Stacte, Styrax officinalis

Temple incense stacte comes from the plant Styrax officinalis.   In Israel, S. officinalis has several names to include stacte tree, Official Storax, and styrax.  Stacte is translated as gum resin (Exodus 30:34) in the New International Version Study Bible (2002).

The origin of styrax is Eastern Mediterranean countries, from Italy through Turkey to include Israel.  Styrax is classified as a tree (52 feet in height); but often looks more like a good size shrub. The habitat is dry rocky slopes, in woods and thickets, and besides streams.  In Israel, the styrax tree is seen in the Judean and Samarian mountains and on Mounts Carmel and Herman as well as in the Upper Jordan and Northern valleys.  Because the styrax tree is deciduous, in autumn leaves turn yellow and drop and in spring new leaves sprout.  The styrax tree blooms April through June in Israel.  The entire tree is covered with flowers which look like snowdrops.  Styrax is an important honey plant.  Frequently, pollination occurs via insects, e.g., bees.  When the styrax tree stems and branches are wounded, a highly perfumed balsamic resin (gum) is exuded. The resin has been both described as smelling similar to a hyacinth.

Symbolism: Inspiration

The Hebrew word for stacte is nâtâph derived from the primary root nâtaph which means to ooze in the sense of to distill gradually or to fall in drops (Strong, 2010).  The figurative meaning of nâtaph is to speak by inspiration, e.g., prophesy.  As a nurse and as Master Gardener when I think of inspiration I think of breathing or oxygen taken into a human or a plant; but, the Bible has a different perspective on inspiration.  Inspiration is “God’s breathed out” word into the Holy Scriptures and into the words of the prophets (Renn, 2005).  Similar to the S. officinalis exuding gum resin (stacte), God exuded and exudes his message to the world.

As we talk about passages from the Bible, we often say as “David said in Psalm 51” or “as Paul wrote.”  We need to remember that the authors of the Bible wrote by the Holy Spirit.  The words of the Bible are not words of the author, e.g., David, Jonah, Paul; rather the words of the Bible are God’s words to the human race.  The Bible is God breathed and as such it is both divine authority and without error (Douglas & Tenney, 2011).

God inspired the words of the Bible.  “All scriptures is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” so that God’s people can be thoroughly equipped for all good works (2 Timothy 3:16, NIV Study Bible, 2002).  The Bible is a model for how we should live in this world. We can learn a new way of thinking and behaving from the Bible.

When we read the Bible, we take God’s inspired words into us — or not.  Christmas morning I sat in church listening to the epistle being read and thought how lovely the reader looked.  In retrospect, I asked myself “where was my head?”  Have you ever read the Bible while thinking of something else entirely?  I have. On those occasions, I doubt if I changed any part of myself as a result of my reading.

Reflection.  Allowing God to inspire us from his holy Word is an intentional process on our part.  How intentional are you being when you read The Holy Bible?

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 August 17, 2012; carolyn a. roth

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Camel Thorn, Persian Manna

References: Although there are no references to the plant “camel thorn” in the Bible as today’s Christians have a copy, Goodspeed substitutes “camel thorn” in a Ecclesiastes reference.

Camel thorn (Alhagi maurorum) is a type of legume native to the Mediterranean Sea Basin, extending into Russia. It has been introduced into Australia, southern Africa and western United States. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, currently, camel thorn does not grow east of the Mississippi River. In western United States, camel thorn is often identified as an invasive species.

At the same time, the flower is beautiful: a small, bright pink to maroon pea flowers and small legume pods.  In Israel, flowers bloom April – September, indicating that camel thorn is hardy because it grows in the heat of Israeli summers. Pilgrims to Israel will see if growing in woodlands, shrublands, steppe, and even into the desert. Because camel thorn appreciates a salty habitat, it can grow on the seashore. It grows best next to a source of water, such as an irrigation ditch.

Pods are brown or reddish and seeds are mottled brown beans. Camel thorn is a perennial with a massive rhizome system which may extend over six feet into the ground. New shoots can appear over 20 feet from the parent plant. Above the ground, the plant rarely reaches four feet in height. It is a heavily branched, gray-green thicket with long spines along the branches.

Uses: In folk medicine camel thorn has been used to treat glandular tumors, nasal polyps, and ailments related to the bile ducts. It is used as a medicinal herb for its gastroprotective, diaphoretic, diuretic, expectorant, laxative, anti-diarrhal and antiseptic properties, and in the treatment of rheumatism and hemorrhoids. I am not sure which parts of the plant are used in these treatments; however, I would be reluctant to take appreciable amounts internally. In the other hand, in the Qur’an, camel thorn is identified as a source of  sweet Manna, thus has been used as sweetener. Animals cannot forage eat the plant despite its ready invasion of grazing land. Despite being named after the camel, camels do not normally forage on this plant.

Reflection: Not all plants God put on earth can be used for food for either man nor animals. Do you ever wonder why God put them on earth? Perhaps, originally a plant such as camel thorn had a good used but with Adam and Eve’s sin, it was also corrupted. Saint Paul wrote that even creation groans under the weight of man’s sins.

Copyright: February 20, 2018; Carolyn Adams Roth

Visit my blog to learn more about plants: http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com