Tag Archives: Genesis

Obtuse Maple

Scripture: Genesis 30:37

The Story:

In New International Version Study Bibles (NIV) and in the English Standard Version (ESV) study Bible, Genesis 30:37 reads: “Jacob, however, took fresh cut branches from poplar, almond, and plane trees and made white stripes on them by peeling the bark and exposing the white inner wood of the branches.”  In contrast to these Bible translations, the Darby Bible (DBY) recorded the same verse as “And Jacob took fresh rods of white poplar, almond-tree, and maple; and peeled off white stripes in them, uncovering the white which was on the rods.” In Darby’s translation, the plane tree was translated as maple.

The Tree:

In present day Israel, only one type of maple tree grows, the Syrian maple (Acer obtusifolium, Acer syriacum). The Syrian maple is considered a Mediterranean tree. In Israel, it is present in woodlands, shrub-lands, and around Mount Herman. Most likely, Jacob would have had access to the Syrian maple tree if he opted to use it as he attempted to control the color of flocks. At the time Jacob was living in an area which today is most likely part of Syria. Looking at the photograph of young Syrian maples, it is easy to see why Jacob could have used the Syrian maple if he wanted spotted flocks.

In Latin, the word for maple is “Acer,” which means sharp, irritating, and pungent. Romans used the wood for spear shafts. The Latin word “obtusifolium” is translated as blunt, obtuse, or dull and folium as leaf.  Obtusifolium means this maple tree has a blunt leaf.

Leaves are green and in pairs on opposite sides of a stem. This tree sheds its leaves during summer months when weather is scorching hot in Israel. Flowers, which appear on the Syrian maple in April, May, and June are greenish cream. Flowers turn into seeds which are startling in their pinkish red color.

Symbolism:

 The more I learn, the more I could get confused about some of the technicalities of the Bible. For example, did Jacob use a maple or a plane tree? The answer is that the Bible was not written as a book for botanists (as much as I would have liked that). Rather, the Bible was written to disclose the Triune God. Studying God is a better use of our time than trying to figure out the exact species of tree used by Bible characters.

US Equivalent:

In the United States, the maple tree is the Acer saccharinum (Silver maple). This beautiful tree can grow to 100 feet tall. It has high wild-life value and is loved by birds, squirrels, fox, and other small mammals. In springtime, flowers appear before leaves and are a welcome harbinger of warmer days.

Reflection: When you read the Bible do you get bogged down in details such as the one in this blog, or are you able to concentrate on God and his Son’s redemptive work on the cross?

Copyright September 26, 2017; all rights reserved.

If you want to learn more about plants in the Bible consider purchasing my two books on Bible plants from my website: http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/

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Outside Eden: The Bdellium

Commiphora africana (2)Read Genesis Chapters 1 and 2.

On Creation Day 6 God planted a garden in the east in Eden (Genesis 2: 8-9).  Most scholars believe that the location of Eden “in the east” is in reference to Israel, where Genesis was probably written. In the ancient Hebrew language, Eden means “delight.”  The Garden of Eden was a place of pristine and abundant natural beauty.  All manner of plants were present. A river ran through Eden to water the garden. The Bible did not give the river a name.  After leaving Eden, the river formed the headwaters of four rivers: the Pishon, Gihon, Tigris and Euphrates.  It’s tempting to conclude that Eden was located near present day Iraq because rivers named Tigris and Euphrates are located in Iraq; however, these Iraqi rivers are probably not the original rivers named in Genesis.  The devastating flood of Noah’s time destroyed and changed the topography of the land.  Later peoples probably named the present day rivers Tigris and Euphrates in the same manner that early American colonists named American locations after sites in Europe, e.g., Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

The Bible described the Pishon River as winding through the land of Havilah, noted for its gold and aromatic resin.  The aromatic resin was bdellium, the first plant named in the Bible.

What is a bdellium?

Bdellium’s genus and species names are Commiphora africana. The generic name ‘Commiphora’ is based on the Greek words ‘kommi’ (gum) and ‘phero’ (to bear).  The bdellium is a deciduous tree indigenous to sub-Saharan African.  In 2012, bdellium did not appear in Israeli plant data bases.  Bdellium grows best in red or sandy clay and rocky ground to include from escarpments.  It leafs before or at the beginning of the wet season and loses leaves as the dry season begins.  If rainfall is sparse and interrupted, two crops of leaves may be produced.  Underground roots spread many feet around the tree in search of water. The bark is pleasantly scented and exudes a clear gum or resin.  Nomadic peoples use the bdellium tree for several purposes.  Roots of young plants have a sweet taste and are chewed.  Timber is used for stools, milk containers, spoons and on occasion for building houses. Bark is brewed for red tea.  Soft gum is eaten while hard gum is used to make arrows.  Fruit is chewed to prevent gum disease and stop toothaches.   In ancient Egypt women carried small pouches filled with bdellium pieces as a source of perfume.

Bdellium Symbolism

The Hebrew word for bdellium is bedôlach, derived from the word’s primary root, bâdal which means to separate, divide or distinguish from. The symbolism of the bdellium plant in the creation story mirrored the separation or differentiation of the Biblical Garden of Eden from the lands outside.  The Biblical Eden included beautiful plants and plants available for man to eat; it was all sufficient.  In contrast, the land of Havilah was noteworthy only for its gold and one aromatic resin-producing plant, bdellium.  None of the lands outside of Eden were described as attractive, lush, or food producing.

Living inside of Christ is like living in Eden.  With Christ our lives are beautiful, fertile and satisfying.  When we are outside of Eden — separated from Christ – our lives are bland, unproductive and we are left hungering for something that is not there.  That something is Christ. Sometimes I feel like I am simply smelling the aromatic bdellium in Havilah, rather than living in Eden.   I worry that I am separated from Christ; that I am not spending enough time with him or the right kind of time with him.

At those times I am reassured by Romans 8:35 where Paul asked the question, “Who will separate us from the love of Christ. Will trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?”  The answer Paul provided is as relevant today as it was to the Romans 2000 year ago.  Paul’s answer was, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:38-39).

Reflection: Nothing can stop God from loving us. What stops us from loving God. Remember is we love God, we obey him.

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 July 8, 2011, Carolyn A. Roth; all rights reserved.

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