Tag Archives: Ezekiel

Ezekiel’s Bread

Millet berries, flourThe story of Ezekiel making bread from legumes and grains is told in Ezekiel chapter 4.

Ezekiel was a prophet and priest. About five years after he was deported from Jerusalem, God called Ezekiel to proclaim a message of judgment against the Jewish nation.  Much of the judgment focused on Jerusalem as the political, religious, and social hub of the nation. Ezekiel acted out the siege of Jerusalem in a series of symbolic acts. In the first, Ezekiel drew besieged Jerusalem on a clay tablet. In the second symbolic act, Ezekiel laid bound on his sides for 430 days representing the years of Israel’s and Judah’s sin.

Ezekiel’s third symbolic act about God’s judgment on Jerusalem represented famine. God told Ezekiel to bake a single cake of bread to eat every day. The bread was to be made from wheat, barley, beans, lentils, millet, and spelt. Taken together the grains and legumes were to weigh 20 shekels, equivalent to about 8 ounces. With the bread Ezekiel should drink about 22 ounces (1.4 pints) of water.

While some of these legumes and grains were mixed together to make bread, it was unusual to make bread from all six of them. Several Old Testament scholars reported that the poorest people of the land combined the grains and beans with camel’s milk and oil to make bread; but poverty was not the issue in besieged Jerusalem  (Ezekiel 7:18-21). The problem was that basic foods were so scarce in Jerusalem that people did not have enough of one type of grain, e.g. barley, to make bread. People scoured for any grain or legumes available to make a loaf of bread.

God ended his instructions to Ezekiel on how to prepare the bread by explaining the symbolic meaning of Ezekiel’s activity.  God would break the supply of bread and water to Jerusalem. He would do this so that the Jewish people in Jerusalem would “waste away because of their sin” (Ezekiel 4:17, NIV-SB, 2002). The famine stricken Jerusalemites would be appalled at the sight of each other.

Millet

Most likely the Biblical millet was Panicum miliaceum. Supposedly a head of millet produces about 1000 seeds, thus the name miliaceum. Other names include the common millet and in the United States, the broom corn millet. Millet was one of the earliest cereal grains domesticated.  In Mesopotamia, millet dated back to 3000 B.C. No early traces of millet were found in Israel; millet was listed in only one of three Israeli plant databases studied.  Millet is the 6th most important gain in the world and helps feed 1/3 of the world’s population. The fruit is the millet seed. Each ripe cluster contains a multitude of seeds enclosed in a round, hard hull. Hulls are various colors from white through black and are removed via threshing.  The bran or seed coat is always creamy white. Millet is a gluten-free seed that has been described as tasting mildly sweet with a nut-like flavor.  Besides being cultivated for human food, millet is also used for bird and poultry seed.

Symbolism: Famine

Millet occurs once in the Bible, as one grain that Ezekiel used to make bread (Ezekiel 4:9).  P. miliaceum, the smallest of all cereal grains, symbolizes famine which kills millions of people.  Almost every time famine was seen in the Promised Land, it was God’s punishment for Israel’s sins. Often famine resulted from God withholding rains; but sometimes there were other causes of famine. For example, during the time of the prophet Joel, God used locust to create famine in Judah.The famine that God showed to Ezekiel occurred when the Babylonian army encircled Jerusalem, destroyed the produce of the land, and ensured that no one could get in or out of the city.

Although the Babylonians besieged Jerusalem, the famine was God’s punishment on the Jews because they rejected him and worshipped idols. God told Ezekiel that 1/3 third of Jerusalem’s population would die of pestilence or famine, 1/3 would be killed by the sword, and 1/3 would be scattered to the winds with the sword pursuing them (Ezekiel 5:12). God foretold cannibalism in Jerusalem saying that fathers would eat their sons and sons eat their fathers (Ezekiel, 5:10).

Most of us don’t have experience with famine to the point of cannibalism. In fact, most of us have never been seriously hungry. Looking ahead, however, this scenario may be different.   Christ warned his disciple that near the end of the ages, famines and earthquakes would occur in various places (Matthew 24:7, Mark 13:8). Even though we live in the United States with an abundance of food, we should not assume that our country will be exempt from the famine that Christ foretold. At the end of the ages, famine will not be restricted to sub-Saharan Africa or parts of southwest Asia.

In Revelations chapter 7, John recorded that the Lamb opened seven seals. Many scholars interpret the opening of seals as prophecy of what will occur on earth during the Great Tribulation. Opening the fourth seal set free a pale horse (Revelations 6:7-8) with a rider named Death. Hades followed Death. Death and Hades were given authority over ¼ of the earth. They were allowed to kill with the sword, famine, pestilence (epidemic disease), and wild beasts.  These disasters echo the punishment that God inflicted on Judah, whom he selected from all the races, nations, and tribes of the earth as his Chosen People.

Reflection. God punished Jerusalem and the Jews with famine. What does the future hold for you, our nation, and our world?

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 November 14, 2012; carolyn a. roth

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Persimmon Prophecy, It could happen to us

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“The men of Rhodes traded with you, and many coastlands were your customers; they paid you with ivory tusks and ebony” (Ezekiel 27:15, NIV). Ezekiel chapter 26 is named “The Prophecy Against Tyre” and Chapter 27 “The Lament over Tyre” (Ezekiel chapters 26 and 27, NIV).

The most outstanding sailors in the ancient world, the Phoenicians built Tyre. It was an important commercial center located on the eastern side of the Mediterranean Sea. Tyre encompassed both a mainland city and an island city one-half mile offshore. Both parts were well fortified.

Probably, you remember the name Tyre because King Ahab of the Northern Kingdom of Israel married a daughter of the king of Tyre. The princess was named Jezebel, she was a Baal worshipper. After conquering Jerusalem, Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Tyre. The siege lasted 13 years. Although the Babylonians captured the mainland city, they were unable to capture the island city. Alexander the Great used lumber and construction materials from the main city of Tyre to build a causeway to the island fortress about 332 BC.

Ebony Tree

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The Ebony tree is the Diospyros ebenum (or D. ebenaster). The ebony tree is a hard, heavy, durable, close-grained wood that when polished will show a glistening shine. Ancient Greeks and Roman’s loved ebony because it could be made into beautiful furniture. Ceylon ebony wood was in such high demand that this tree species was threatened with extinction. In 1994 the World Conservation Union included Ceylon (Sri Lanka) ebony tree in the Red Book so that trees could not be readily harvested. Laws in both Sri Lanka and India prohibited international trade of the wood. The tree produces a persimmon-like fruit.

As you may suspect, we don’t have a Diospyros evenum in our church Bible garden. We do have a Diospyros virginiana. It is a persimmon species commonly called the American persimmon.  In the United States, the tree grows wild. Native Americans cultivated it for its fruit and wood since prehistoric times. The American persimmon tree grows 66 feet tall in well-drained soil. In summer, this species produces fragrant flowers. To obtain fruit you need a tree that produces female flowers and tree that produces male flowers. We have only one tree at this time, but I am considering getting another. Most cultivars set fruit without pollination. Insects and wind are primary pollinators. Typically fruiting begins when the tree is about 6 years old. The fruit is round or oval and usually orange-yellow, sometimes bluish, and from 0.79 to 2.4 inches in diameter. In the U.S. South and Midwest, fruits are referred to as persimmons. Often you will see persimmon jelly in fine stores.

Application

The great general Nebuchadnezzar was able to conquer Jerusalem, but not the island city of Tyre even after 13 years of trying. This bit of history caused me to suspect that if God had not abandoned Jerusalem it wouldn’t have been captured.

Tyre fell as Ezekiel prophesied or, more accurately, as God ordained.  This world is destined for destruction; then God will create a new heaven and a new earth (Revelation 21:2). Just as Ezekiel’s prophecy became reality, so will John’s revelation.

Reflection: No individual, city, or country can stand against God. I am okay with that fact. Are you?

If you are interested in learning more about Bible plants, see my website: www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/

Copyright September 13, 2016; Carolyn A. Roth

 

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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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Not so Plane Tree

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References: Genesis 30:37; Ezekiel 31:8

The plane tree was used by Jacob in an attempt to influence the color of his flock of goats and sheep. Jacob’s story was elaborated several months ago in the blog titled: Crafty Characters and Poplar Tree. In the Bible, plane tree was mentioned only one other time and that was in Ezekiel 31:8.  Ezekiel prophesied against pharaoh, King of Egypt. Ezekiel compared the magnificence of the Assyrian Empire to the plane tree.

Ezekiel said that “no cedar in the garden of God could rival it (Assyria) nor the fir trees equal its boughs; neither were the plane trees like its branches” (Ezekiel 31:8). Ezekiel was making the point that the Assyrian Empire was mighty – one of the mightiest empires to ever exist – yet it fell to the depth of Sheol (Hell). Mighty Egypt and Pharaoh would also fall.

Ezekiel was God’s prophet who was captured with the Jewish exiles and taken to Babylon. When Ezekiel gave this prophecy there were two mighty empires in the world: Egypt on the northeastern corner of Africa and Babylon in the area that is now Persia. Some governments and scholars thought Egypt was indestructible; yet, not too many years after the Babylonian Empire conquered Jerusalem, Babylonian soldiers conquered Egypt.

Plane Tree

Normally, the plane tree (Platanus orientalis), called the oriental plane tree, doesn’t grow in the United States. More often we see the Platanus occidentalis, called the American sycamore, the American plane tree, and occasionally the buttonball. The King James Version of the Bible translated plane tree as chestnut tree; however, the better translation is plane tree. In this blog, I am going to discuss the American sycamore (Platanus occidentalis), rather than the Oriental Plane Tree.

The American sycamore tree commonly grows from 70-100 feet tall; however it can grow as tall as 120 feet or more. It is one of the most massive trees east of the Rocky Mountains. Hardiness Plant Zones are 5-9 with occasional trees found in Zone 4. The canopy can grow 65-80 wide so American sycamore trees aren’t acceptable for planting in small areas. Growth rate is moderate and the tree can grow to 2 feet each year.

The American sycamore tree is handsome particularly when turn yellow-brown in the fall. The tree trunk and bark is distinctive with smooth, pale, and mottled bark that exfoliates. Although the plane tree prefers deep, rich, moist soil, it will grow in about any soil. Plane trees can withstand external pollutants and are ideal for urban landscapes, assuming the tree has space to grow.

Exfoliate

Exfoliate is an interesting word. It means to cast off in scales of thin layers. Sycamore trees cast off bark so the trunk and limbs of any significant size look smooth. I wish I could exfoliate in order to cast off some of my foibles and quirks; however, I do just the opposite. The parts of my character and personality that I want to get rid of, are just those parts that seem to cling. I wonder if trying to get rid of the un-beautiful parts of my being is part of Christian maturity, even becoming progressively more like Christ, e.g., sanctification.

Some days I want to rush forward toward Christ-likeness so I can become pure and clean. But total purity and cleanliness isn’t going to happen here on earth,  no matter how much I exfoliate the old and try to put on the new. I’m human, which by definition means that I will never reach perfection in this life no matter how much I exfoliate nor how smooth my skin becomes. Yet, God expects me to struggle as I move forward, as I move nearer to Christ. Do you ever become impatient with yourself and ask, “Why don’t you just make me righteous, God.”

Reflection: Ponder why God doesn’t make you do things to achieve the character here on earth that you will finally achieve in heaven. Do you think God wants us to fail?

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 20, 2016; Carolyn A. Roth

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