Tag Archives: Gardeners

Ruth and Barley Grain

Hordeum vulgareRead the four chapters in the book of Ruth.

Ruth and barley  is the topic of the fifth plant included under Plants and the Promised Land. The book of Ruth described day-to-day life during a period of the Judges when there was peace between Israel and Moab. The book begins with Elimelech, his wife Naomi, and their two sons (Mahlon and Kilion) leaving Bethlehem and moving to Moab because there was a famine in Bethlehem. In Moab Elimelech died and Mahlon and Kilion married Moabite women; Mahlon married Ruth and Kilion married Orphah. After about ten years, Mahlon and Kilion died and Naomi decided to return to Bethlehem. Naomi encouraged both daughters-in-law to return to their Moabite family. Orphah did so; however, because of her love for Naomi, Ruth determined to remain with Naomi.

Naomi and Ruth returned to Bethlehem at the time of the spring barley harvest. To have bread, Ruth went to the barley fields and gleaned grain leftover from the harvested fields. Ruth gleaned in fields owned by Boaz, a wealthy kinsman of Elimelech. Aware of Ruth’s loyalty to Naomi, Boaz encouraged Ruth to glean in his fields where she would be safe. Boaz told his men to pull extra sheaves from their bundles for Ruth to pick up.

Ruth continued to glean in Boaz’s fields until the barley and wheat harvests were completed and threshing started. Boaz and his men often stayed at the threshing floor during the night. One night Noami instructed Ruth to go to the threshing floor and after Boaz was asleep to lie at his feet. Ruth did as instructed. During the night Boaz woke, found a woman at his feet, and inquired who she was. Ruth identified herself and told Boaz that he was a kinsman-redeemer. Under Levirate law (Deuteronomy 25:5-6) a kinsman-redeemer was the nearest male family member of a woman whose husband died. The kinsman-redeemer had the responsibility of marrying the widow. The couple’s first son took ownership of the dead man’s property; thus, land remained in the clan or tribe. Mahlon’s inheritance needed to be secured by a kinsman marring Ruth. The Bible described Boaz as present while the grain was threshed, even spending the night on the threshing floor (Ruth 3:7).  His presence at the threshing floor supports his character as a good steward of his land and crops.

Boaz told Ruth that there was a nearer kinsman-redeemer than himself; however, if that man would not meet the responsibilities of a kinsman-redeemer to Ruth, he would do so. Early the next morning Boaz sent Ruth away with a gift of a large quantity of barley. That same day Boaz asked the next-of-kin if he would redeem Elimelech’s land and marry Mahlon’s widow. The man declined saying that acting as kinsman-redeemer to Ruth might endanger his own estate. The role of Ruth’s kinsman-redeemer transferred to Boaz. Boaz married Ruth who conceived and gave birth to a son named Obed. Ruth was the great grandmother of King David and an ancestor of Christ (Matthew 1:1 – 16).

What is Barley?

Barley was a sustaining food source from earliest times.  Accepted theory is that barley was domesticated in the Fertile Crescent which encompassed Canaan and the Promised Land. The earliest remains of wild barley (Hordeum spontaneum) were discovered in Iran and Syria around 8000 B.C. Domesticated barley, Hordeum vulgare, has six rows of kernels per spike and dates from 7000 – 6000 B.C. Barley is a small grain cereal used for human food, livestock feed, and malting into alcohol. For Hebrews, barley was a food staple for several reasons. First, barley was less expensive to purchase than wheat (II Kings 7:1). Second, barley was drought resistant and tolerant of both alkaline and saline soils; therefore, could grow in the diverse habitats of the Promised Land. Third, normally barley took 90 – 120 days to ripen; however, it could ripen in as few as 60 – 70 days.

Symbolism of Barley:First Fruits

Barley is mentioned repeatedly as a food source in Israel; barley bread and cereal were primary foods of poor Israelites. The Midianites referred to Israelites as “cakes of barley” (Judges 7:13), a scornful term because barley was considered an inferior grain when compared to wheat. Even today Arabs use the term “cakes of barley” in reference to Israelites.

Barley is synonymous with first fruits. In ancient Israel, God’s annual Feasts revolved around the harvest cycle. The Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread occurred near the barley harvest in Abib, the first month of the Hebrew calendar. Israelites were required to present a sheaf of the first grain harvested to their priest. The priest waved the barley sheaf before God, a wave offering thanking God for providing the harvest (Leviticus 23:4 –14). The field that produced the first green barley ears provided the wave sheaf. Once the wave sheaf was offered, barley harvesting could begin elsewhere in the community.

Both Israel and Christians are God’s first fruits. Jeremiah (2:3) recorded God as saying that Israel was the first fruits of His harvest. In the New Testament, Christ who rose from the dead was identified as the first fruit of those who are asleep (I Corinthians 15:20). Christians have the first fruits of the Holy Spirit living in them (Romans 8:23).  At the final resurrection, Christians’ bodies will be redeemed by Christ and raised just as Christ’s body rose from the grave (I Thessalonians 4:13-18).

Israelites demonstrated their thanks for the harvest by giving first fruits to God. In the same way Christians are called to give the first fruits of their labors to God. I have heard that giving the first fruits of our labors to God is an Old Testament commandment not relevant to Christians living under grace. Yet, Christ himself lived under the law and said that he came to fulfill the law not abolish it (Matthew 5:17). Surely, first fruit sacrifices that the Israelites made under the law should be matched, or even exceeded, by Christians who live under grace.

I find it easy to give the first fruits of my money to God. I have a lot more trouble giving the first fruits of my time to God. I have so many things to do with my time; e.g., part time job, husband, house and garden. These activities do not sound all that time consuming when compared to demands of working women with children; yet, my days are filled. I have to consciously schedule church activities on my calendar. I need to agree with God that he deserves my time as much as He deserves my money.

Reflection: With all his wealth, God does not need anything from us. God’s commandment to give Him our first fruits (time, talent and treasury) was designed so that He can shower blessings on us (Malachi 3:10). Are you giving the first fruits of your life to God?

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: June 16, 2011, Carolyn A. Roth; all rights reserved.

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Lentil Stew Trade, a bad bargain

Lentils & Lentil StewEsau traded his birthright for lentil stew; read the story in Genesis 25:19-34.

The great patriarch Abraham was 100 years old when his son Isaac was born (2066 B.C.). At about 40 years of age (2026 B.C.), Isaac married Rebecca. Initially, Rebecca was barren; however, after 20 years (2006 B.C.), she gave birth to twin boys. Esau was the firstborn and Jacob was born second. In ancient near east cultures, the law of primogeniture prevailed (Deuteronomy 21:17 notes, NIV Study Bible, 2002). This law allocated a double portion of the father’s wealth to the first born son. It included that the eldest son would be the next head of the family or clan. As the first born, Esau would have been the ancestor of the Messiah.

As Esau and Jacob grew up, Esau enjoyed spending time in the open country and he became a skilled hunter. In contrast, Jacob was a quiet man often staying among the tents. Jacob envied Esau’s right of the first born. One day, Esau returned to camp after a time away in the open fields probably hunting. Esau saw Jacob cooking red lentil stew. Identifying that he was famished, Esau asked his brother for some stew. Jacob’s response was that he would give Esau the stew only if Esau swore an oath to sell Jacob his birthright. Esau answered, “I am about to die, what good is my birthright?” and swore to sell his birthright to Jacob in exchange for lentil stew. Jacob gave Esau stew and bread. When Esau finished eating and drinking, he got up and left. The Bible concludes this story by saying, “so Esau despised his birthright” (Genesis 25: 34).

The Lentil Plant

The red lentil is a type of small bean known scientifically as Ervum lens (aka Lens esculenta) and more recently the Lens culinaris. The lentil originated in the Middle East and central Asia. Wild red lentils were harvested by 9000 B.C. and domesticated as early as 7,000 B.C. Archeology excavations found a large storage of lentils in northern Israel dating about 6,800 B.C. Lentil plants grow well in sandy, loam, and clay soils that are dry or moist, but not wet. In rich soils the lentil plant becomes leafy and produces few pods. Lentil pods were harvested in August or September just as the pods began to turn brown. In ancient time lentil plants were harvested when the foliage was green, and then were laid out in a dry area. To maintain the lentil seed’s flavor, ancient peoples kept lentil seeds in the pod until they were ready to use them. In this way, lentil seeds could be retained two years before cooking or planting. Because lentil seeds have a high nutritional value, often nomadic peoples and traders carried them as a food source.

Symbolism: Nourishment

In this scene, the lentil represents nourishment. Nourish means to sustain or to furnish with something essential for growth, e.g., nutrients. When he returned to camp, Esau suffered severely from hunger (famished). Whether we realize it or not, men and women today are famished for someone to believe in and someone to trust. Jacob provided the nourishing stew that his brother needed for a price, however, Christ’s behavior to his human brothers and sisters is diametrically opposite. Christ invites us to come to him and live with him. Freely he nourishes us with himself and his words, e.g. “the one who feeds on me will live because of me” (John 6:57). We do not have to barter for salvation or for life with Christ.

At the same time that Christ nourishes us, he tells us to feed and nourish others. For example, Christ directed Peter, and through Peter all of us, to feed and nourish his lambs and sheep (John 20: 15 – 17). We are to nourish not only fellow Christians, but our enemies as well. Romans 12:20 is very explicit, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him. We should act intentionally to nourish others both physically and spiritually. We can provide physical nourishment by giving to and assisting at the local food bank, and rescue mission, or inviting others for a meal. Spiritually, we can nourish others by acknowledging their presence with a smile or hello when we walk by them; sending an email or card when we know someone is hurting; or dialing seven digits on the telephone and telling someone you miss them or care about them.

Thought: “The lips of the righteous nourish many” (Proverbs 10: 21). Are you nourishing others with your words or are people around you starving from want of a kind word? Do you nourish only when you get something in return, or do you willing feed your brothers and sisters?

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 April 9, 2011, Carolyn A. Roth; all rights reserved.

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