Tag Archives: Desire

Does Old Age Diminish Desire?

Capparis spinosa BushThe Teacher’s description of old age and diminishing desire is in Ecclesiastes 12:1-5.

The Teacher gave advice at the beginning of this teaching, then provided examples to support the advice. The advice is “remember your Creator in the days of your youth before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, ‘I have no pleasure in them’” (Ecclesiastes 12:1, NIV-SB, 2002). In poetic and allegorical form the Teacher elaborated how age takes its toll on a man, reducing him to feebleness. Read through the Table for an explanation of various diminished senses and abilities of old age and their accompanying fears.

Description and Interpretation of Old Age

Description Interpretation Verse
Keepers of the house tremble Arms and hands tremble perhaps with a neurological disease, e.g., Parkinsonism 12:3
Strong men stoop Back is bent, shoulders concave possibly from osteoporosis or arthritis 12:3
Grinders cease and are few Teeth cannot chew food because some teeth are lost and others possibly decayed 12:3
Those looking through the windows are dim Eyes are dimmed by cataracts, or near or far sightedness 12:3
Doors to street are closed Hard of hearing; cannot hear street noise or sounds of women grinding meal in the home 12:4
Men rise up at sound of birds No longer able to sleep; arises with first birds of morning 12:4
Songs grow faint Vocal cords no longer allow him to reach notes of favorite songs.  Voice is raspy 12:4
Fear of heights Afraid he will fall because he is unsteady 12:5
Fear of street dangers No longer able to defend his home from intruders 12:5
Almond tree blossoms Hair is white 12:5
Grasshopper drags himself along Unsteady gait and moves slowly perhaps holds onto furniture for support 12:5
Desire no longer is stirred Could be sexual desire, but more likely desire for food, entertainment, or company because his sensations are diminished, e.g. sight, taste, hearing, etc. 12:5

One characteristic of old age is reduced desire or appetite for sex, food, or other types of stimulation. In Ecclesiastes 12:5, the Hebrew word for desire is ʼabîyôwnâh which is translated as caper berry.

The Caperberry

The caperberry is the Capparis spinosa L., also known as the common caper. Probably it originated in dry regions of western or central Asia; but for millennia was present in the Mediterranean basin including Israel. The plant will grow in sand, loam, or clay soils as long as the soil is well-drained. The caperberry tolerates drought.  A rule of thumb is that the caperberry will grow wherever the olive tree grows. In Israel, the  caperberry clings to cracks and crevices of rock piles and abandoned walls. It can be seen between the rocks of the Western (wailing) Wall in Jerusalem.

The commercial caper is an immature flower bud that is pickled in vinegar or preserved in granulated salt. Caper taste has been described both as sharply piquant and peppery mustard. Capers are used to flavor pasta sauces, pizza, fish, meats and salads.  Caperberries (cornichon de câpres) are the semi-mature caper fruit. Along with young shoots and small leaves, caperberries are used as condiments. Young caper shoots can be eaten as a vegetable.

Symbolism:  Desire

The symbolism of the caperberry is desire. A desire is a wish, craving, or longing for something or someone. Other words for desire are want, yearn, and need. The Teacher made the point that with old age desires were blunted or reduced. Reflecting on this passage, leads me to believe that some desires may be reduced so that we have time to concentrate on other desires.  It’s possible that the intensity or urgency of sexual desires are muted, we may become less adventurous (I no longer want to paraglide), and we may even hear less well. That does not mean that desire is lost as much as re-focused. Decades of living allows us to acquire experiences and knowledge. An Israelite proverb is “desire without knowledge is not good (Proverbs 19:2, ESV, 2008). God does not view age as a deterrent to usefulness. Not until Abraham was 75 did he leave Haran in response to God’s call.  Moses was 80 when God appeared to him in the Sinai.

Our own desires can cause problems for us. Cain’s offering of fruit was unacceptable to God (Genesis 4:2-7). Cain became angry and his face downcast. God loved Cain, so he explained that a suitable sacrifice would be accepted. Then, God warned Cain that sin was crouching at Cain’s door and “desired” to have Cain. Cain’s fruit, grains, or vegetables were not what God wanted in a sacrifice. Perhaps God wanted the best or first fruits from Cain’s harvest, perhaps he wanted an animal sacrifice similar to Abel’s offering, or perhaps God just wanted Cain to acknowledged that all he reaped was from God. God told the Israelites, “I desire acknowledgement rather than burnt offerings” (Hosea 6:6, ESV-SB, 2002).

Saint John counseled Christians that the things of the world – the desires of the flesh and of the eyes and the pride of life – are not from God (I John 2:15-17). The world is passing away along with all of its desires; but whoever does the Lord’s will abides forever. In the poem on old age, the Teacher described the elder as being afraid of street dangers (Ecclesiastes 12:5). Many of us are afraid of things of the world, e.g., muggings, burglary, taxes. Yet the world is temporal and is guaranteed to pass away.

Reflection.  God fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cries and saves them (Psalm 145:19). List your top five desires. Was fear of God one of them?

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 March 23, 2013; carolyn a. roth

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Desire among a Walnut Grove

Walnut tree, JBGSolomon in his grove of nut trees is described in Song of Songs 6:1-12.

Solomon had an expert knowledge of plants (1 Kings 4:33).  He described plant life from the cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop implying he studied not only the most majestic of plants, but those of little economic significance.  He had a flower and an herbs/spice garden and a grove of nut trees.  In this Song of Songs entry, Solomon is speaking.   His words seem more reflective than addressed to the Beloved.

Solomon went down to the grove of nut trees to look at the new growth in the valley.  Possibly, Solomon was looking for the first signs of spring (Song of Songs 6:11 note).  Solomon wrote that while in the nut tree grove, “my desire set me among the royal chariots of my people” (Song of Songs 6:12, NIV-SB, 2002).  According to the NIV-SB notes, this verse is the most obscure verse in Song of Songs.  Yet, the meaning could be as simple as, the budding garden reminded Solomon of spring, a time of love.  With thoughts of love, Solomon accessed a chariot to speed to his Beloved.  Solomon was famous for his chariots which for him were a regular means of transportation.

The Walnut Tree

The nut trees in Solomon’s grove were most likely walnut trees. The species name is Juglans regia L., commonly called the Persian walnut.  Those of us living in England and United States call it the English walnut.  Controversy surrounds this walnut’s origin.  While some botanists claim it originated in the Carpathian Mountains of Europe, others assign its origin to the Himalayan Mountains of China and India.  In 2012, the walnut tree was not present in the three data bases allocated to the study of Israeli plants. The English walnut tree  grows well in temperature climates. When the tree matures, often the canopy is as wide as the tree is tall.  Walnut trees are valuable for their walnuts and for high quality wood used in the manufacture of cabinets and gun stocks.  The heavy green rind encasing the walnut can be steeped in boiling water to produce a rich brown dye.  In Jesus time, walnuts grew around the Sea of Galilee.  Walker (1979) proposed that Jesus’ coat was a rich brown, dyed by the leaves and nut of the walnut tree.

Symbolism: Fertility

In ancient times, the walnut symbolized fertility. Fertility is the manifold and copious ability to grow and develop, or to produce fruit.  This image of fertility is consistent with descriptions used in Song of Songs.  Details of the beauty and abundance of the land were provided; e.g., spice beds, flower gardens, and groves of nut trees.  At the same time, fertility in the sense of producing off-spring was revealed in the love and attraction between Solomon and his Beloved.  God planned for his people Israel to enjoy the land’s fertility — to eat its fruit and rich harvests (Jeremiah 2:7) and to produce strong children in the land.

In the Bible, fertility and abundance are linked with the presence of the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit causes the desert to become a fertile field (Isaiah 32:15) and Jacob’s descendents to spring up like grass in a meadow (Isaiah 44:3-4).  The Holy Spirit is the source of prophesies, dreams, and visions in men and women of all ages and rank (Joel 2:28-29; Galations 3:28-29).

My back garden is on a slope with good drainage. Over the past years, I planted several types of flower seeds and transplanted healthy nursery stock.  We installed a soaker hose to provide a regular water source in dry weather and fertilized the plants.  Yet, some plants did not flourish there.  After a particularly frustrating spring and summer, I decided to have the soil tested. To my surprise, the soil was alkaline (basic) in pH rather than neutral or acidic.  Most of the perennials e.g., rhododendrons, azaleas, and annuals that I planted preferred neutral to acid soil.  Plants do not flourish in the wrong type of soil. They remain the same size or even decline in size.  Some enter a vegetative state where few if any blooms are produced.

God wants us to be fertile like Solomon’s grove of walnut trees.  The Holy Spirit flourishes in us so that we produce fruit, such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control (Galations 5:22-23).

Reflection:  I was trying to grow flowers in the wrong type of soil.  How’s your soil?  Is your life’s garden a fertile place for the Holy Spirit to produce fruit?

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 February 8, 2012; carolyn a. roth

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