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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.
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
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)
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
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.
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.
Rooted in God 2 is a significant revision of my first book Rooted in God. Because my original publisher closed, I had to revise and republish the book (bah humbug). Rooted in God 2 is a Bible study but it is different from the Bible studies church members often engage in. This study is indeed rooted in God. Its focus is mankind’s interactions with plants and the symbolism of those plants in Holy Scripture. There are study questions at the end of the 15 chapters.
You can purchase Rooted in God 2 at a substantially reduced price on my website: http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com. If you want to buy in bulk, contact me (email@example.com). I can reduce the cost of shipping for multiple books.
Reference: Book of Job
If anyone had the right to cry it was Job. He lost his children, wealth, and health. His beloved wife advised him to curse God and die. Instead, Job tried to figure out what he did wrong that God punished him with major losses. Job and his friends, who came to console Job on his many losses, adhered to the Near East philosophy that God gave success and a good life to an individual when he/she obeyed God. When individuals suffered reversals or bad things happened to them, God was punishing them for sins, either overt or covert. In reality, Job’s circumstances were not punishment from God.
An ornamental grass, Job’s tears plants (Coix lacryma-jobi) represent the biblical Job during the challenges he faced. Job’s tears seeds are small and pea-like. They begin as grayish green orbs and then ripen to a rich tan brown or dark mocha color.
Job’s tears plants are an ancient cereal grain. Most often Job’s tears are grown as an annual, but may survive as a perennial where frosts do not occur. Job’s tears ornamental grass makes an interesting border or container specimen that may get up to six feet tall. These wide arching stems add graceful interest to the garden. Job’s tear plants produces strings of seeds that resemble beads. These seeds make excellent natural jewelry and have a hole in the center that wire or jewelry thread passes through easily.
Job’s tears are easy to cultivate and plants start quickly from seed. They self-sow and germinate readily when planted in moist loam. It is possible to save the seeds for an early spring sowing. Remove the seed in fall and dry them. Store them in a cool, dry location and then plant in early spring when all chance of frost has passed.
When something bad or suboptimal happens to me, I always try to figure out why. I ask God, “what do you want me to learn from this happening?” I apply my reason to the suboptimal event. Candidly, I am resentful on Job’s behalf. Some part of me thinks it is not fair that God allowed Satan to kill Job’s children.
The problem or challenge that Job had and that I have is that I imagine God in my image. Consequently, I impose on God my limitations to include my limited thought processes. In reality, God’s thoughts are so much higher than mine that I should not even try to figure out what He is thinking when something occurs in my life. I don’t think it ever occurred to Job, his wife, or friends that God’s power was being played out in the spiritual realm.
Reflection: Are you willing to trust God with your spouse, children, health, job, etc.? If so, what would you do differently in your life?
Copyright: August 3, 2017: Carolyn A. Roth
Please check my website http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com
Crocosmia (Spitfire) is growing in St. John Lutheran Bible Garden. This plant was not identified in the Bible. I put it in the garden because I like it. The leaves are similar to those of an Iris, so I try to justify its inclusion on that basis. The flower is similar to an Israeli plant, the Chasmanthe floribunda, which is also called the African coneflower. But, enough of my justifications for including it in this blog on Bible plants.
The Spitfire cultivar is know for its beautiful orange flowers. They grow in plant zones 5 -8 as perennials. Spitfire prefers full sun but wet soil causes rotting of roots. I have them planted two places. One, where I rarely water and they are growing vigorously. Another place gets water regularly and the long leaves have turned brown and there are few buds. Probably, I should transplant them to a dryer garden.
Application: Have you ever thought about a Spitfire? In the Bible, the word spitfire is not used. According to the Webster dictionary, a spitfire is a quick tempered or highly emotional person. In the Old Testament, Samson would have qualified. By the New Testament, generally, the word most closely resembled a firebrand. Often firebrands were zealots. One of the apostles was called Simon, the Zealot. Paul was zealous in his preaching of God’s word.
Reflection: Probably, no one would ever call be a zealot, spitfire, or even firebrand. I don’t get highly emotional about much. That is not to say that being highly emotional doesn’t have its place. Can you names several things it is okay to be highly emotional about?
Copyright July 8, 2017; Carolyn A. Roth
Please visit my website at http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/
In Flanders fields the poppies grow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place: and in the sky
The larks still bravely singing fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the dead: Short days ago,
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved: and now we lie
In Flanders fields!
Take up our quarrel with the foe
To you, from failing hands, we throw
The torch: be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die,
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
Composed at the battlefront on May 3, 1915
during the second battle of Ypres, Belgium
By Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae
Remember singing this hymn as a child? I do and still love the words.
This butterfly is sitting on a thistle but he is safe. In the world there are thisles but we are safe in Christ.
God of grace and God of glory,
on your people pour your power;
crown your ancient church’s story,
bring its bud to glorious flower.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
for the facing of this hour,
for the facing of this hour.
“Lord, Let My Heart Be Good Soil”
Lord, let my heart be good soil,
open to the seed of your word.
Lord, let my heart be good soil,
where love can grow and peace is understood.
When my heart is hard, break the stone away.
When my heart is cold, warm it with the day.
When my heart is lost, lead me on your way.
Lord, let my heart, Lord, let my heart, Lord, let my heart be good soil.
Text: Handt Hanson, b. 1950, © 1985 Prince of Peace Publishing, Changing Church, Inc. Public Domain