Tag Archives: Carolyn Roth Ministry

Parable of Famine Bread

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Bible Reference: Ezekiel chapter 45

Heart of the Story: Ezekiel offered a parable of the famine that would come on Jerusalem

Back Story: Ezekiel was both a prophet and priest. He was taken to Babylon when King Nebuchadnezzar took Judah’s King, Jehoiachin, and 10,000 captive from Jerusalem to Babylon (597 BC). At that time, Nebuchadnezzar established Zedekiah as puppet king over Judah. After ruling for about five of six years, King Zedekiah rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar. He ceased paying tribute and turned to Egypt for military assistance to throw off Babylonian rule. Subsequently, Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Jerusalem. After about 18 months, the wall around Jerusalem was breached.

When Nebuchadnezzar and his army started for Judah, Jerusalem was flooded with refugees fleeing the countryside. The influx was so great that private homes, inns, and the temple courtyard were crammed with people. The poor set up tents in the streets or lay down wherever they found an empty space at night. People and noise were everywhere; smoke billowed from cooking fires. Although the situation was dire, it got worse after the Babylonians arrived. No additional food supplies entered Jerusalem. Human and animal refuse couldn’t be removed. Filth and stench were everywhere.

In Babylon beside Chebar River, God instructed Ezekiel to act out the siege of Jerusalem. The first action parable used a clay tablet to depict the Babylonians besieging Jerusalem. The second had Ezekiel lying on his left followed by lying on his right side. The third parable encompassed grains and legumes to make bread and to bake the bread.

Parable of Famine Bread: Some scholars advocated that Ezekiel 4:9-16 were two separate parables rather than one. I am describing them as one parable because they encompassed preparing and eating bread.

Here’s is God’s direction to Ezekiel: “Take wheat and barley, beans and lentils, millet and spelt; put them in a storage jar and use them to make bread for yourself. You are to eat it during the 390 days you lie on your side.”

Verse 9 describes substances that Jerusalemites will use to make bread during the siege of Jerusalem. Normally, bread was made from one type of flour, i.e., wheat, barley, millet or spelt. Legume flour was not common made into bread, however, when individuals lived in extreme poverty, beans in particular and occasionally lentils could be made into flour and used to prepare bread. Mixing flour from several sources demonstrated the extreme scarcity of flour that would occur during the siege. Scholars disagree whether the mixing of different flour sources in one vessel was a defilement (Deuteronomy 22:9), but all agree that dietary laws were compromised for the Jerusalemites.

“Weigh out twenty shekels of food to eat each day and eat it at set times. Also measure out a sixth of a hin of water and drink it at set times. Eat the food as you would a barley cake; bake it in the sight of the people, using human excrement for fuel.” The LORD said, “In this way the people of Israel will eat defiled food among the nations where I will drive them.”

Then Ezekiel responded to God: “Not so, Sovereign LORD! I have never defiled myself. From my youth until now I have never eaten anything found dead or torn by wild animals. No unclean meat has ever entered my mouth.”

“Very well,” God said, “I will let you bake your bread over cow manure instead of human excrement.” 

These three verses identified how Ezekiel was to bake the multi-flour bread. During the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem, inhabitants would have to bake their bread over human excrement; therefore, God told Ezekiel to do the same. When Ezekiel objected God allowed him to bake his bread over cow manure. Jerusalemites didn’t have the luxury of using animal dung for baking. Near the end Jerusalem siege, no animals were alive in the city. All had been slaughtered and eaten. Human excrement was the primary source of cooking fuel.

Then, God  said to Ezekiel “Son of man, I will cut off the supply of food in Jerusalem. The people will eat rationed food in anxiety and drink rationed water in despair,”    Ezekiel 4:9-16, NIV Online

Interpretation of Parable of Famine Bread: God interpreted the action parable for Ezekiel and for us. The interpretation was that God would cut off the food supply for Jerusalem. Once the Babylonians arrived no food or refuse passed in and out of the city walls. Many people inside Jerusalem starved to death or died from disease. Often the dead could not be buried and remained where they died. Mothers killed and ate their children. Ezekiel’s action shouldn’t be interpreted as sympathetic magic where something done to a model or person has a similar act in reality. True, Ezekiel’s famine bread foreshadowed the starvation behavior of the Jerusalemites; but God, not Ezekiel, caused both the prophet’s actions and of people living in Jerusalem during the siege.

In a larger context, the siege of Jerusalem was a prophecy about judgment. The people of Judah sinned so long and to such a degree that God removed his protect around Jerusalem. When Ezekiel acted out the parables of the siege of Jerusalem, God still dwelled in Jerusalem temple. Before the Babylonian siege, Ezekiel recorded that God’s presence left both the temple and Jerusalem (Ezekiel chapters 10 and 11 NIV).

The Broad Bean

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The Book of Ezekiel is one of the most detailed and well-known references to grains in the Bible; but, we also learn, or relearn, that Israelites dried and crushed legumes (bean and lentils) into bread flour. For a plant in the parable of the famine bread, I have chosen to describe the bean. The bean was the Vicia faba, also known Vicia vulgaris, the broad bean, and the faba bean.  Beans were one of the oldest cultivated plants, at least 6000 years. Their origin is North Africa or the Middle East.  The bean grows in all types of soil as long as the soil is well-drained. Although not drought-resistant, beans are hearty enough to live through mild frosts. In the Middle East, beans remain one of the most important winter crops. Broad beans can grow in semi-shade as well as strong sunlight, but they do not tolerate maritime exposure.

Looking Outward and Deeper

The Babylonians laid siege to Jerusalem in 588 BC. About 18 months later the Jerusalem walls were breached. Nebuchadnezzar had no more patience with the rebellious Jews or his puppet king, Zedekiah. He had Zedekiah killed and the Jerusalem temple and major buildings destroyed. The wall around Jerusalem walls razed. Jews not killed by famine and plague were killed by the Babylonian soldiers. Only the poorest Jews were allowed to remain in Judah.

Reflection:  God said “The day is coming, when I will send a famine throughout the land—not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord” (Amos 8:11, NIV).  Do you believe this promise from God will occur in the USA?

I love studying about Bible plants. Do you? If so, please check my website for more information: http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com

Copyright August 23, 2016; Carolyn A. Roth

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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

Job’s Tears

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.

Job’s Tears

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.

Application

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

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Linen Death Shroud

First century Palestinians made clothes from linen and cotton in addition to using animal hides and fleece.  Both linen and cotton were made from plants, with linen the more valuable material.  Linen was used almost exclusively for wrapping bodies of dead individuals. Israelites didn’t cremate their dead. Rather, they interned them in a cave or crypt.

According to Mosaic Law, a dead body had to be buried or entombed the day the individual died or was killed, so the land wasn’t defiled (Deuteronomy 21.23). At the same time, two other Mosaic laws were applicable: First, a man couldn’t work on the Sabbath. Preparing a body for burial was work. Second, an individual who touched a dead body was ceremonially unclean for seven days (Numbers 19.11). Devout Jews internalized these law; thus, Joseph of Arimathea asked Governor Pilate for the body of Jesus as soon as Jesus died. Because Jesus died at about 3:00 p.m. and because the Sabbath begun about 6:00 p.m., Joseph had a three-hour window of opportunity to prepare and intern Jesus’s body. Joseph and his helper, Nicodemus, both devout Jews, knew that they would be unclean for seven days because they touched Jesus’s dead body.

Nicodemus supplied 75 pounds of aloes and myrrh to infuse Jesus’s grave cloths. While Jesus lived, his clothes were made from cotton or wool. Linen would have been a luxury item for an itinerate rabbi (Luke 16.19).  After his death, I don’t believe Jesus cared if he was wrapped in linen cloths or simply cotton rags, as his mother used for swaddling cloths at his birth.

One Bible scholar11 wrote that first century Jews wrapped the corpse’s body with a wide long cloth beginning at the feet and ending with the head.  This perspective contrasts with John’s description of Lazarus, when he came out of the grave. John wrote that when Lazarus came out of the grave, his hands and feet were bound with perfumed linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth (John 11.44). Logic suggests that Jesus was wrapped for burial in the same manner as Lazarus.

The gospel writer, John, identified that Jesus was wrapped in linen cloths, not in a linen cloth. As I pondered the proposal that Joseph and Nicodemus buried Jesus in a single piece of linen, I remembered 30 years ago when I practiced nursing. Part of the care of a deceased body in the hospital was wrapping it in a single sheet of cloth and tying this “shroud” around the body. Only then, was the body transported through the hospital halls to the morgue. Perhaps, Jesus was wrapped in strips of linen cloths, then wrapped in a shroud.

In New Testament Greek, words for linen (bussos, sindōn) generally, translated as “fine linen.”1 Fine linen cloth was associated with coverings in the tabernacle and with Israelite priests’ robes. The ancient Hebrew word for fine linen, was shêsh. Shêsh denotes a type of linen of peculiar whiteness and fineness.

 In the ancient Near East, the flax plant (Linum usitatissimum, was used to make linen.  In Biblical times, flax was the most important fiber crop. Although flax may have originated in Mesopotamia, it was extensively cultivated in Egypt and less so in Palestine.  In Egypt flax grew along the sides the Nile River, particularly the Nile Delta region. In Egypt and the Middle East, flax was planted in the early winter and harvested in the spring. Egypt exported linen cloth and linen threads to Palestine in the first century.

The flax plant has a single stem that grows up to 4 feet tall.  The fiber is in the stem.  Initially, the stem is green, but turns yellow as the plant ripens and readies for harvest. When flax plants were harvested for fiber, mature plants were pulled up by their roots. Harvested plants were allowed to dry, then retted.  Retting is a process of soaking flax to separate the fiber from the woody tissue (straw).  Fibers were spun, then woven into linen cloth. Ancient people dyed some linen threads.

Have you ever wondered why each of the gospel writers recorded something about Jesus’s body being wrapped in grave cloth/cloths? Wouldn’t it have been easier to stop with Jesus’s death?  We are given all the detail about Jesus’s body being wrapped in linen grave cloths and then possibly in a shroud so that we believe absolutely that Jesus died on the cross. His corpse was treated the way all dead Jews were treated.

Reflection: Will it matter what you are wrapped in at your death?

Copyright July 8, 2018; Carolyn A. Roth

Destroyed Vineyards

This September 2015 photo shows the Cremisan Monastery and vineyards in Bethlehem. The winery uses local grapes to make fine wines at the site of an ancient church and also hosts tours. Local Palestinian Christians and Muslims work together in the vineyards. (Kevin Begos via AP)

Bible References: Psalm 88:8-13; Isaiah 5:1-6   

Introduction: Do you want your heart to break? Then, read these two parables about the Israelites rejection of God. The first is contained in Psalm 80. The second, in Isaiah, is called The Song of the Vineyard. Although written at two different times in Israelite history and by two different men, both parables are a cry of anguish from God directed to his chosen people. These parables identify God as the gardener and Israelite as his vineyard.

Back Story: After the death of King Solomon, the Israelite kingdom divided (c. 930 BC). The Northern Kingdom, called Israel, included 10 tribes. The Southern Kingdom was known as Judah. At times Judah included both the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. At other times, Benjamin seemed more aligned with the Northern Kingdom. Levite towns were located in both Israel and Judah.

The first Northern Kingdom king introduced idol worship, which was embraced by much of the population. After 200 years (c. 722/721 BC) Assyria conquered the Northern Kingdom. Most of its inhabitants were exiled throughout the Assyrian Empire. In the Southern Kingdom, Judah, descendants of King David ruled until 586 BC. Judah followed much the same path as the Northern Kingdom, albeit over a longer period of time. Judah turned from God to worship a myriad of idols. Jerusalem fell to the onslaught of the Babylonians and most of its citizens taken captive to Babylon.

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Interpreting Destroyed Vineyards: Isaiah declared, “The vineyard of the Lord Almighty is the nation of Israel, and the people of Judah the vines he delighted in. And he looked for justice; but saw bloodshed. God looked for righteousness; but heard cries of distress” (Isaiah 5:7 NIV). The spiritual interpretation for both Psalm 80 and Isaiah 5:1-6 is that there are consequences of sin. The consequence of Israel’s and Judah’s sins was that God abandoning them. God removed his protection from both kingdoms with the result that both was attack and ruined. In their pride both kingdoms forgot that God was their hedge. They believed that their armies were protection for their borders and for their populations.

In these two parables we glean another spiritual lesson: God’s judgment was proportional. After becoming a nation separate from Judah, Israel turned immediately to idol worship, e.g., Jeroboam set golden bull in Dan and Bethel and told his people that the bulls were the gods that brought them out of Egypt. Over 200 years, the nation’s population repudiated God almost completely. In response, God allowed the nation of Israel to cease to exist.

On the physical or natural level, the parables of destroyed vineyards included preparing and protecting a vineyard. Usually, ancient Israelites enclosed vineyards with fences. Often farmers dug a ditch around the vineyard. The earth from the ditch was thrown on the inner side of the ditch. Fence posts and thorny plants were placed on the berm. At other times, a wall of stones or sun-dried mud took the place of the earthen fence with its thorny plants.

God built a watch tower to protect his vineyard Israel; the watchman could see marauders coming from far away.  The vineyard was planted, “with the choicest vine” (Isaiah 5:2). Farmers traded for the best vines available or purchased the highest quality vines that they could afford.

As the vine grower devoted himself to the vineyard and grapes, God devoted himself to the Children of Israel. He did everything possible to select good vines, protect them, and promote good growth in them. When God anticipated a yield of good grapes from his vineyard, he got only bad grapes.  They produced disobedience, rebellion and idolatry. God is so disturbed that he asks: “What more could have been done for my vineyard than I have done for it?” (Isaiah 5:4 NIV).

Reflection:  The consequence of Israel’s and Judah’s sins was that God abandoning them. What do you think will be consequences of the United States of America’s rejection of Godly ways of living?

If you want to learn more about plants in the Bible, go to my website www.CarolynRothMinistry.com and check out my two books devoted to plants in the Bible. Ascertain what God wants us to learn from them.

Copyright July 31, 2016; Carolyn Adams Roth

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I Hate Consequences

 

The Word of the Lord

 Genesis 3.17-20: To Adam he (God) said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”

 Meditation

After Adam and Eve’s rebellion, the world, including plant life, became subject to death. Because of Adam’s disobedience, God cursed the ground. From that point to the present time the entire creation groans (Romans 3.22-23). Creation’s groaning will continue until the redemption of human bodies at the end of the ages.

After God cursed the ground, Adam toiled (worked, sweated) to raise vegetables and grow fruit to feed his family. As Adam and his offspring plowed and planted crops, some plants became weeds. The most troublesome weeds were thorns and thistles.

Scholars don’t know which thistle grew first when Adam tilled the soil. The milk thistle, called St. Mary’s thistle, is widespread around projected locations of the Garden of Eden and a likely candidate for the first thistle.

In the Genesis story, the symbolism of thistles is consequences. Consequences are the direct outcome of an action or its end result. Adam and Eve’s disobedience and rebellion against God’s direction to not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil resulted in consequences to their lives, to their livelihood, and to planet Earth.

When the serpent tempted Adam and Eve, they could have responded differently. What would have happened if Adam and Eve (as a couple) discussed possible consequences of eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil before they took the first bite of its fruit? Perhaps, they would have eaten the fruit; but, perhaps they would have decided not to eat the fruit as they contemplated alternative actions.

Consider ways that you rebelled against God, i.e., how you disobeyed his statutes. List alternative ways you could have behaved in some of these situations had you thought longer.

Reflection: What are some consequences you experienced from your rebellion against God?

Copyright: 5/16/2020

 

Rock rose source of onycha

Onycha is the most controversial ingredient used in incense when it was prepared for use in the tabernacle on the Sinai Peninsula. Originally, Bible scholars believed that onycha came from a shell fish that was common to the Red Sea area. The problem with this hypothesis was that Mosaic Law identified that all non-finned and non-scaled fish were unclean and should be considered detestable (Leviticus 11.10-11).

The Talmud stated that onycha (shecheleth) grew from a plant, most likely an exudate from a bush or small tree. According to Winifred Walker’s All the Plants of the Bible (1979), shecheleth is a form of rock rose (Cistus ladaniferus var.  creticus), which produces a resin called labdanum. The flowers of the rockrose bush are described as having petals with scarlet and black fingernail-shaped markings. Usually, rock rose produces labdanum annually, during the summer, to protect itself from the heat. When aged labdanum becomes more fragrant.   The fresh resin is a soft, sticky, and tar-like substance that is sweet, flowery, musky, and reminiscent of honey or ambergris with a hint of sweet leather. As labdanum ages it becomes hard and brittle.

I planted Cistus in the church Bible garden. The plant lived two winters but did not make it through the third winter (Plant Zone 7). When I checked for more plants at my neighborhood nursery, the manager told me that they no longer sold Cistus because it did not overwinter in the Roanoke climate.

Labdanum, the product of onycha, is produced to protect the flower from heat. My thought is that I can produce nothing to protect my body and mind from heat. Jesus give me protection from heat, from all stress, worry, tension, strain.

Reflection: “Who can stand before his indignation? Who can endure the heat of his anger?” Thanks be to God that Christians will never have to endure God’s indignation and anger. We got Jesus!!!

Copyright June 21, 2018; Carolyn A. Roth

Galbanum, Ingredient in Incense

The story of the Tabernacle incense is in Exodus 30:1–10, 34-38; Exodus 37:25-29; and Exodus 40:26-28.

When God listed offerings for the Tabernacle, he included spices for fragrant incense (Exodus 25:6).  Specifically, a perfumer was to blend the holy incense out of equal proportions of gum resin (stacte), onycha, galbanum, and pure frankincense.  The incense was to be salted and pure and sacred (30:35).  Several scholars have commented on what “salted” meant.  One idea was that salt was a preservative in the incense.  A second idea was related to the ancient’s belief that sharing salt between two people was considered to bind them in a covenant.  In the incense, the Israelites offered salt to God, which set Israel’s seal on the covenantal relationship that God offered.  Finally, directing the incense to be salted could have meant it was to be well prepared.The Tabernacle incense was to be “most holy” to the Israelites, and the Israelites were to consider the Tabernacle incense “holy to the Lord” (Exodus 30:36, 37).  Israelites then and in generations to come were to burn incense before the Lord (Exodus 30: 7-9).  The incense on the Altar of Incense was to thanks and praise God for his care and protection to a redeemed people. The Israelites were cautioned to not use the incense formula to make incense for personal use. If they did, they would be cut off from the Israelite people.

The question of the origin of the ingredients for the incense is an important one. The Israelites were in the Sinai Peninsula where these spices did not occur in nature. Most likely, the spices were brought with the Israelites out of Egypt; they were tributes from the Egyptians.  In particular, women would have fragrant, sweet-smelling spices and perfumes. The Bible noted that the Israelites gave an overabundance of materials for the Tabernacle construction.  That overabundance would have included incense spices as well as other construction materials.

Once blended, the incense was ground and used on the Altar of Incense (Golden Altar) and on the Table of the Presence Bread. Both of these structures were located in the Holy of Holies, Tent of Meeting. The Altar of Incense was located immediately in front of the veil separating the Holy of Holies from the Most Holy of Holies (Exodus 30:6). The Altar of Incense was so closely connected to the Most Holy Place that the writer of Hebrews mentioned that it was placed behind the veil separating the two rooms (Hebrews 9:4). No other incense was burnt on the Altar of Incense; nor were other types of offerings made on it, e.g., animal, grain, or drink. On the Altar, incense was burnt twice a day: in the evening when the chief priest lit the lamps (on the Lampstand) to burn throughout the night, and in the morning when the lamps were prepared (dressed) for the day.  Incense was also burnt on the Table of the Presence Bread.  On the Table, incense was place along each stack of Bread (Leviticus 24:5–9).  The incense was burnt as a memorial representing the 12 loaves of bread.  It was an offering made to the Lord by fire.

The Galbanum Plant

The plant described with the Tabernacle incense is galbanum which produces a resinous gum, also called galbanum.  The botanical name of galbanum is  also Ferula gummosa. Galbanum is a member of the same family of plants as carrots and parsley; it is native to central Asia particularly Iran. Galbanum was not known to grow in Israel; and in 2012 Israeli plant data bases do not list it. The Hebrew word for galbanum is chelbᵉnâh. The only place that chelbᵉnâh appears in the Bible is with spices used to make the Tabernacle incense. In England and the United States, the flowers were described as greenish white or yellow;  however, in Central Asia, flowers are a brilliant orange-yellow (Aitchison, 1887).  There are differing opinions about the gum odor and taste from pleasant odor and an acrid taste to strongly balsamic, pungent, and disagreeable or musky.  Whatever the odor of galbanum gum alone, when it was blended with the other three spices, the resulting Tabernacle incense was fragrant.

Symbolism: Fragrance

The symbolism of Tabernacle incense is three-fold.  In the Tabernacle, the incense symbolized a fragrance, or beautiful aroma, lifted to God in thanksgiving.  In the New Testament, the symbolism of fragrance is repeated in Christ’s redemptive work on the cross and in the work of the Church.  In contrast to Tabernacle incense that was burnt and rose up to God morning and evening, the sweet fragrance of the Church should rise continually to the Lord.  In his writings to a number of young Church congregations, Paul pointed out how Christ was and we are to be fragrant offerings and aromas to God.  For example, Paul told the Church at Ephesus to be imitators of Christ and to live a life of love in the same way that Christ loved us and gave himself as fragrant offering and sacrifice to God (Ephesians 5:1-2).

To God, Christians are the aroma of Christ among “those who are being saved and those who are perishing” (2 Corinthians 2:15)  To the saved, Christians are the fragrance of life.  To those who reject Christ, Christians and the gospel message are the smell of death (2 Corinthians 2:16, note, New International Version Study Bible, 2002).  Christians and the gospel message themselves are not evil-smelling or death dealing; but when nonbelievers reject the life-giving message of Christ, they smell death, not fragrant life.

When Paul wrote to the Philippians, he acknowledged their gifts saying he was amply supplied (Philippians 4:14-19).  Probably, the gifts include money as well as material goods such as food and clothing.  Paul identified the gifts were “a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God” (Philippians 4:18).  The gifts from the Philippians to Paul were not in atonement for sin.  Rather, they were gifts of thanksgiving and praise for Paul’s ministry and Christ’s gift of salvation.  The church members at Philippi set an example that church members today can follow in giving to the support of missionaries.

Reflection. When we apply the Bible to our lives, we are like sweet-smelling incense lifted up by a gentle breeze to God. What kind of fragrance are you giving off?

I love Bible plants along with their symbolism. If you want to learn more about them, read my two books: 1) Rooted in God 2 and 2) God as a Gardener. You can purchase them from my website: Carolyn Roth Ministry at http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/

Copyright July 1, 2018; carolyn a. roth

Jesus Refused Gall

Poison hemlock (Conium maculatum)

When the Roman soldiers left the Praetorium with Jesus, they required him to carry the cross on which he would be crucified; however, Jesus was so weak from flogging and torture that he couldn’t carry the heavy cross through the Jerusalem streets. The soldiers forced Simon of Cyrene to carry Jesus’s cross through to Golgotha where the crucifixion occurred.

At Golgotha, the soldiers offered Jesus wine mixed with gall. After tasting the drink, Jesus refused it. When Roman soldiers felt pity for a prisoner before crucifixion, they added gall to a vinegar-wine drink and offered it to prisoners. The English word “gall,” in the New Testament, comes from the Greek word chole (Strong’s Concordance #G5521) which literally means poison. After tasting the drink, Jesus refused it.

Then, the soldiers used nails to pound Jesus’ hands and feet into the cross. Jesus continued to wear the crown of thorns. By Roman law, the soldiers were required to write the charges against the accused at the top of the cross so that all who passed by would know the reason for the crucifixion. The inscription on Jesus’ cross was, “The King of the Jews.” The Roman soldiers positioned the cross up-right into a hole in the ground so that Jesus hung from the cross. Two thieves were being crucified at the same time as Jesus, one on each side of Jesus. Jesus was crucified at the third hour of the day, or about 9:00 a.m.

Perhaps pity for the crucified sufferer was not the only reason Roman soldiers offered gall about to be crucified individuals including Jesus. Soldiers were required to guard the crucifixion site and men crucified there until the men were dead. The quicker a man died, the sooner the Roman soldiers could leave the site and return to their garrison.

Composition of  Gall?

Controversy exists among Christians and botanist about the source of the bitter substance added to the wine vinegar drink. One proposed substance include juice from the opium poppy which caused pain relief but also hallucination which could lessen the experience of dying by crucifixion. A problem with this drug was that the opium poppy didn’t grow in Israel. I just can’t imagine Roman soldiers paying for an exotic drug for a condemned prisoner.  Another drug was from the wormwood plant. Wormwood grew in Israel and had a bitter taste.  Wormwood was the basis for an alcoholic drink (absinthe) which could reduce feeling and contact with reality. Roman soldiers wouldn’t share alcohol with a condemned prisoner.

Perhaps, the best source of gall added to the vinegar wine drink was from hemlock (Conium maculatum).  Poisonous hemlock is a biennial shrub that grows in Israel. The poisonous hemlock is similar to wild parsley and wild carrots foliage. When farmers see the plant they immediately remove it. Animals and humans who eat the poisonous hemlock plant first become sedated then paralyzed. Finally, they die from respiratory muscle paralysis.  In first century Palestine, seeds and leaves of the poisonous hemlock plant were distilled into liquid and added to wine vinegar drink. The hemlock addition made the drink tastes bitter and it became poisonous. A crucified individual who breathing muscles were paralyzed died quicker than one not given poisonous hemlock.

What’s so important about a drink?

After a night of torture and walking through the streets of Jerusalem to Golgotha, Jesus was dehydrated and thirsty. Yet, Jesus refused the poisonous hemlock-infused drink for two primary reasons. First Jesus did not want to be sedated. He wanted to feel all the agony of the crucifixion which included his father (God) turning his face away from the sins of you and me that Jesus took on the cross. Second, prophets identified that Jesus would die by crucifixion, not poison (reference). If he drank the gall he would have died from poisoning not from the pain of crucifixion.

I asked my minister, “Would it have made a difference to our redemption, if Christ died from poison rather than crucifixion?” In both, scenarios, Jesus was crucified and died. Pastor Mark believes how Jesus died was important. God required his pure, sinless son not to just die but to suffer. God’s plan wasn’t for Jesus to hang on the cross sedated; rather, Jesus was to be alert those six hours. When Jesus agreed to his Father’s plan to be the sacrifice for the sins of mankind, he knew that his Father, the perfect God, couldn’t look on sin; thus, God couldn’t look on Jesus when Jesus took on him sins of all mankind.

What way other than alert, could Jesus lead a thief crucified on one side of him to believe in himself as the Son of God? Remember, God isn’t willing that any individual should perish (reference). If only one sinful person lived on earth and were separated from God, Jesus would have suffered and died for that one person. Save

What would you have done?

From this passage in Matthew, we know what Jesus did – he allowed himself to be crucified without any chemical barrier between himself and his pain and ultimate death.  Now, after we knew what Jesus would do and did do, each of us must ask ourselves what are we going to do in response to someone who loves us so much?

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Copyright may 28, 2018; carolyn a. roth

Cattails Abused Jesus

 Governor Pilate succumbed to the demands of the Jewish religious leaders and ordered Jesus crucified. He turned Jesus over to his soldiers to complete the crucifixion (Matthew 27.27-30). The company of soldiers stationed in Jerusalem likely was composed of diverse nationalities; however, probably none were Jews. The soldiers took Jesus to the Praetorium, a barracks area with a large court yard used for practice drills, i.e., sword, javelin. There, the soldiers gathered their entire company and proceeded to mock and torture Jesus.

One humiliation was taunting Jesus with the claim that he was a king. The soldiers were loyal to Rome and acknowledged no king but Caesar.

  • They stripped Jesus of his clothes and put a scarlet robe on him (Matthew 27.27-31). Some scholars contended that the scarlet robe was a cloak worn by Roman soldiers when they were at state functions.
  • They put a reed in Jesus’s hand. The reed symbolized the scepter (rod) carried by ancient rulers.
  • They spit on Jesus in parody of giving him a kiss which in ancient times was part of the welcome given a ruler or a person in authority.

The soldiers took the same reed used to mock his supposed kingship and struck Jesus on the head” (Matthew 27.30 ESV).  The soldiers scourged, or flogged, Jesus (Mark 15.15).

From Matthew’s gospel, readers conclude that the same reed was used to mimic a scepter and to strike Jesus on the head. In the ancient Near East, scepters had several designs to include a crook at the end, a left and right-sided division and design, and a simple narrow flute-type design (http://www.ancientegyptonline.co.uk/). In the Middle Ages Christians cattails in artwork of as an allusion to Jesus. Paintings by Flemish artist Sir Anthony Van Dyck (1599 – 1641) of Jesus’ mock trial have him with a cat-tail in his hand as a scepter.

Cattail

Roman soldiers had access to a number of different reeds that grew in Judea around Jerusalem. The reed that resembles an ancient Near East scepter and is sufficiently sturdy to use to strike an individual on the head is the cattail (Typha angustifolia also known as the Typha domingensis (Flowers in Israel.com). Not coincidentally, the cattail is very similar to a scepter (mace) used in ancient Egypt

Cattails are a perennial, growing to nine feet tall. Flowers, which give the plant their identifying characteristic are near the top of stalks and typically brown in color. Often flowers are described as resembling sausages. Flowers are present between January and June; consequently, cattails with the broad flower head was available for the Roman soldiers to use in torment of Jesus.

Cattails cannot grow in the shade. Cattail prefers wet soil and grows in water. Flowers are either male or female, but both sexes are found on the same plant. Flowers are pollinated by wind. Stalks which bear flowers are greenish and often appear lighter in color than leaves. Flower stocks are jointless and stiff; and could have easily served a dual purpose in the torment of Jesus, both a scepter and the  “reed” used to strike Jesus on the head.

Analysis

What a heart-breaking situation. The same individuals, i.e., soldiers, that Jesus came to save humiliated and beat him using a plant from God’s creation. As I internalize this event in the Praetorium, I imaging that I would be more hurt by the mocking than by the beating.

Reflection: Do you ever humiliate Jesus?

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copyright May 28, 2018; Carolyn A. Roth