Tag Archives: God as a Gardener

Cumin – Poison or spice????

Bible References: Matthew 23.1-32; Isaiah 28.24-28.

Matthew is the only gospel writer who recorded the seven “Woes” which were part of Jesus’s teaching in the Temple Courtyard during Holy Week. This day must have been difficult and exhausting for Jesus. Group after group, i.e., Sadducees, Pharisees, lawyers, teachers, and Herodians, came forward to challenge him. They attempted to trip him up so that they could condemn both his answers and him. At one point during challenges, Jesus spoke seven “Woes” in which he condemned both  Pharisees and scribes.

In the fourth “Woe,” Jesus told Pharisees and scribes that they tithe on herbs—mint, dill, and cumin; but, neglect the more important parts of the Law that have to do with justice, mercy, and faithfulness. He advised them to practice justice, mercy, and faithfulness while tithing on herbs. Notice, Jesus didn’t tell Pharisees that tithing on grown herbs was wrong. Just the opposite, Jesus reinforced the need for God’s people to tithe. At the same time, Jesus instructed listeners that loving God and seeking justice were the greater good.

When Jesus identified tithing herbs to Pharisees in Jerusalem, he named cumin (Cuminum cyminum). Cumin was closely aligned with Persian cuisine.  Jerusalemites, many who had ancestors who were returnees from the Babylonian captivity, were familiar with cumin. Ancient Greeks used cumin as a table condiment, similar to the way we use a salt shaker.

Harvesting cumin is time-consuming because it is largely done by hand when seeds turn brown. Seeds are dried, then ground. Supposedly, cumin seeds harvested in the morning are  most pungent.

Cumin is safe when eaten in foods in normal amount. In larger amounts, cumin may slow blood clotting and make bleeding disorders worse. In individuals with diabetes mellitus, cumin can lower blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia). Cumin consumption isn’t recommended if a woman is pregnant or is breast-feeding a child. Cumin is an essential oil; however, as an oil cumin can cause skin irritation and blisters, spasms, and seizures.

Although Jesus identified cumin in the New Testament, cumin was mentioned in the Old Testament in the Poem of the Plowman (Isaiah 28.24-28). In that poem, Isaiah said that a farmer plows soil, scatters seeds, and threshes crops. Each type of seed, i.e., barley, spelt, caraway, cumin, requires its own type of soil, sowing method, and threshing technique to get an optimal harvest. The order of these three actions comes from God. They can’t be completed in a different sequence and still obtain an optimal harvest.

As I read that God taught farmers millennia ago how to plant and harvest something as small as cumin, I wondered if today God teaches computer programmers how to write detailed software programs, scientists to extend cryogenic science, and engineers to develop nuclear propulsion engines. Isaiah would say, “Yes.” All knowledge comes from God, whether it is planting a crop or engineering a rocket.

It takes about four months to grow cumin plants. If you want the delicious taste of fresh cumin in food, the wait is worth-while. Growing as a Christian, growing in Jesus, is time-consuming. As I look backward over my life, I can see Christian growth. Importantly, I know that I can’t take credit for that growth. God taught farmers how to plant cumin, even though it has the potential to be harmful. God planted me and assists me to grow. Yes, I have the potential to be harmful; but, I also have the potential to be tasty.

Reflection: I have a jar of cumin in my spice cabinet, but rarely use it.  I also have cumin essential oil. This is the first time I realized cumin was potentially dangerous. What in your life is dangerous to your spiritual well-being that here-to-fore you never thought about? Which of your behaviors are dangerous to your country?

To learn more about Bible plants, visit my we website: http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com

Narcissus — Connect with Memory

Bible Reference: Isaiah 35.1-2.

Multiple types of narcissus (daffodils) are present in the twenty-first century because horticulturists developed many cultivars. The narcissus that grows in Israel is the Narcissus tazetta, commonly referred to as a daffodil. Neither words, narcissus nor daffodil, are present in the Bible; however, botanists and Bible scholars proposed that the narcissus was referenced twice:

  1. The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. “Like the crocus it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy” (Isaiah 35.1-2 NIV). Although the NIV Bible translates the flower in this reference as crocus, other Bible translations referred to the plant as narcissus.
  2. Solomon’s bride said that she is the Rose of Sharon (Song of Songs 2.1). In Hebrew, she named herself ha’bazlith or bazlith (bazluth), meaning “she is pealing,” or she has many layers, literally layers of an onion-like flower bulb which would be the narcissus.

Most of us know what a daffodil looks like. They grow in USA gardens and are for sale in stores in late winter and early spring. The Bible daffodil was a different variety than the beautiful yellow blooms that we plant or purchase. The Narcissus tazetta has white or cream-colored petals (usually six) surrounding a central orange-yellow cup. Often, bulbs are planted in the fall before the first frost.

Bulbs grow underground and while they may appear similar to an onion bulb they lack the classic onion odor. The bulb is the deadliest portion of the narcissus plant because it can be confused with the wild onion and because the bulb contains the highest concentrations of a toxic chemical, lycorine. Eating any part of narcissus can cause nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. Although never reported in humans, more severe problems, such as low blood pressure, drowsiness, and liver damage were reported in animals that ate large amounts of narcissus, particularly bulbs. The narcissus bulb contains a second poisonous chemical, oxalates, which are microscopic and needle-like. When ingested, oxalates cause severe burning and irritation of the lips, tongue, and throat.

Before I started to research the Bible narcissus, I was unaware of the relationship of the narcissus/daffodil flower to the Warsaw Jewish Ghetto Uprising in 1943. Uprising-commander, Marek Edelman placed daffodils at the foot of the Warsaw Ghetto Fighters Monument each year until his death. The monument was created in 1948 to remember the brave people (Jews and Poles) who fought and mostly perished in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. Narcissus paper pins and fresh flowers are part of a campaign to “Connect through Memory.”

Today, the symbolism of narcissus is “new birth.” The great Christian theologian and author of over fifty books, John Piper23 averred that “new birth” has three parts. What happens in new birth isn’t:

  1. About getting new religion, but, getting new life. Obtaining new birth is acknowledging your inability to live without a Savior.
  2. Merely affirming the supernatural Jesus, but, experiencing the supernatural in Jesus yourself. I think of the supernatural within as the Holy Spirit that begins with new birth.
  3. Improvement of the old human nature; but, creation of a new nature (the nature we were meant to be) in each of us. We are forgiven and cleansed by the indwelling Spirit of God.

Reflection: Clearly, having a rebirth through Jesus Christ should move self-worship to God-worship. That movement is a process. It doesn’t happen all at once and it doesn’t happen if we aren’t intentional about making it happen. If you want to be more intentional about putting God front-and-center in your life, what could you do? Is attending church necessary? Is attending church all you need to do? Ponder what would happen if each resident of the USA made an intentional effort to worship God rather than himself/herself.

Copyright December 19, 2019; Carolyn A. Roth

Please visit my website for more information on Bible plants: www. Carolyn Roth Ministry.com.

Rooted in God 2

Rooted in God 2

Description: Like us, plants groan under the impact of sin in the world. They wait in eager expectation for a new earth to be revealed.

Most people are unaware that the Bible mentions over 125 different plants. Yet, Holy Scriptures contain no excess information or “filler.” Every scripture is given by God’s and is valuable for instruction in holy living. Whether a fruit tree, cereal grain, or thistle, each plant has a purpose in Bible stories.

Plants had meanings in ancients’ lives, and that meaning extends to Christian lives of 21st individuals. We can learn, or perhaps refused to learn, Godly lessons from Bible plants.

Where to Purchase: www.Amazon.com or  www.CarolynRothMinistry.com.

Recommendation: This is a fun-to-read, educational book ~ a delightful surprise! Carolyn combines her vast knowledge as a Bible scholar and Master Gardener to enrich familiar Bible stories with background history as well as with fascinating facts about the often overlooked plants that are mentioned in these stories. She then adapts her plant messages to challenge the reader to examine their own life and faith. Thank you, Carolyn, for making all these unexpected connections for our benefit. – Kathy Dudley

 

Captured by Seaweed

macrocystis-pyrifera-1

Reference: Jonah 2:5

The story of Jonah is about disobedience and redemption. Most children know that Jonah disobeyed God when God told him to go to Nineveh and preach repentance to the city. Jonah didn’t want to go there, so he got on a ship bound for Tarshish in the opposite direction from Nineveh. Jonah believed that if he left the land of the Israelites, he could escape God.

A huge storm occurred in the Mediterranean Sea. Even the experienced sailors were frightened. They decided to cast lots to see who had disobeyed their god and brought the storm on them. The lot fell to Jonah. He admitted that he was disobeying God and recommended that the sailors throw him overboard. Reluctantly, the ship’s sailors threw Jonah overboard. Once Jonah was off the ship, the storm abated, and the ship proceeded on its way.

A large fish swallowed Jonah. Jonah’s prayed and called out to God while he was in the belly of the giant fish. Later Jonah wrote about the experience (Jonah chapter 2) so we read what happened to him and what he thought. Jonah described how the sea waters closed over him and sea weeds wrapped around his head.  Jonah noted that he was at the roots of the mountains in the ocean suggesting that he fell to the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea.  Jonah remained in the belly of the fish three days. Then, the fish vomited up Jonah onto dry land. (Ugh, I bet he was slimy). The land was on the eastern side of the Mediterranean Sea, not all that far from Nineveh. When Jonah went to Nineveh and preached repentance, the Ninevehites repented.

Sea Weed

The Bible referenced seaweed only once (Jonah 2:5, NIV). Although the New International Version translated the plant that wrapped around Jonah’s head as seaweed, other sources translated it as “weed” (ESV) or as “eelgrass” (Douglas & Tenney, 2011). I have a problem with the translation of eelgrass because eelgrass is generally confined to tidal water and grows out to a water depth of 35 feet.  A close reading of Jonah chapter 1 suggested that the ship Jonah was on was away from land and out into the Mediterranean Sea when the storm hit.

My research indicates that the seaweed referred to by Jonah may have been the Macrocystis pyrifera also known as brown seaweed. It is a marine alga and known as the Sequoia of the sea because it can grow 45 meters (about 147 foot) in length.  It grows in the Mediterranean Sea. The stalks are thin and readily float through the waters. It could have easily wrapped around Jonah’s neck. Currently, it is eaten as a good source of minerals.

brown-kelp

Symbolism:  Captured

Perhaps the type of plant is not as important as what it symbolized. The sea weed captured Jonah. Capture means catching, winning, or gaining control by force. Capture is exactly what the seaweed did to Jonah. He was captured so that the giant fish could swallow him.

I have been captured, or caught, by Christ and I am so glad. Now, I have to stop struggling and let God control my life.  The problem, or perhaps not so much a problem, is that God won’t control me by force. Bummer, I wish God would just “make” me do the right things. But, He doesn’t operate that way. I have to willingly give my life to Him.  That is really difficult for me to do because I have been used to controlling my own life and future.  You know:  “I am a self- made woman.” “I can do it myself.”

Reflection: What about you? Are you willing to let God capture you? Will you willing and totally yield to God?

Copyright: January 5, 2017; Carolyn A. Roth

Please visit my website for other information: www.CarolynRothMinistry.com

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Poisonous weed in the Bible

Picture

(Black henbane)

Bible Reference: Hosea 10.5.

Hosea was a prophet in the Northern Kingdom, composed of the ten northern tribes of Israel that separated from Judah. Almost immediately these Northern Kingdom tribes began to worship idols. Hosea attempted to win them from their idolatry. Despite his words and those of other prophets, most individuals and kings of the Northern Kingdom ignored fair dealings outlined by Moses. Many acted dishonestly. Consequently, Hosea told them:

“They make many promises, take false oaths and make agreement; therefore, lawsuits spring up like poisonous weeds in a plowed field” (Hosea 10.5 NIV).

In Holy Lands, there are several other plants that are poisonous and grow in cultivated fields.  Israeli botanist, Michael Zohary, identified species of Hyoscyamus as poisonous plants. Hyoscyamus grows in very dry areas, such as in plowed fields in most of Israel.  In Israel, the most common henbane is golden henbane (H. aureus), which grows from between rocks on the Western Wall (Wailing Wall).

Hyoscyamus is a  small genus of flowering plants in the nightshade family, Solanaceae. The henbane plant is toxic to mankind if consumed, breathed, or contacted. The plant is deemed so poisonous that the smell of flowers can cause dizziness. If consumed in large quantities, henbane plants may cause extremely high blood pressure, coma, and convulsions. Because breathing the flower causes hallucinations, some cultures use henbane as a recreational drug.

(golden henbane)

When farmers see the henbane in a plowed field, they remove plants immediately. Because the henbane has characteristics of parsley, parsnips, and wild carrots, children have eaten it.

Henbane has a long taproot; consequently, surface plowing, as was done in ancient Israel, couldn’t remove the entire taproot. Attempting to pull the henbane didn’t always have a positive result. Henbane tops break off when pulled from dry soil, but roots remain in the soil and regrow. Eradicating the poisonous henbane weed from a field was difficult in ancient Israel. Today, westernized gardeners and farmers rely on herbicides to kill the henbane plant.

Just as henbane continued to grow in a plowed field and had the potential to poison livestock and man, the effects of false promises and oaths haunted and eventually destroyed the Northern Kingdom.  In shorter than fifty years (c. 721 BC) after Hosea’s prophecy, the Northern Kingdom fell to the Assyrian army.

Reflection: The Hebrew word for henbane is shikkeron (shikrona). One definition of shikkeron is “intoxication.” Was there a message in naming the henbane “intoxication” that descendants of  Israelite immigrants into Canaan should have contemplated and applied to their lives in this “new world?” What message should we living in the United States take from a Bible plant named shikkeron?

Copyright 12/18/19: Carolyn A. Roth

Please visit my website for more information on plants in the Bible: http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com

Tumbleweed Action

Bible References: Psalm 83.13; Isaiah 17.13.

Two Bible citations named the tumbleweed. One was in Isaiah. There, Isaiah gave a prophecy (oracle) against Damascus. Damascus was the capital city in the kingdom of Aram. Isaiah noted that although the Arameans roared like surging water, when God rebukes them they are driven like a tumbleweed before the wind. Isaiah’s prophecy came true: Assyria defeated Arameans and overran their capital in 732 BC. Often, God used other kingdoms and nations as instruments of retribution.

Despite Isaiah being the most read and often most quoted Old Testament prophet, the tumbleweed description in Psalm 83 resonates with many Christians. This Psalm is a prayer attributed to Asaph; however, possibly he was the ancestor of the actual writer. The content of Psalm 83 indicates it may have been written in the years immediately before the Babylonian Exile. Psalm 83 is more an urgent prayer than a song. Asaph pleaded with God to treat Israel’s foes like tumbleweeds, a very unimportant landscape plant.

Psalm 83 takes the same form as several other psalms. First, the present situation is defined (verses 1-4). Second, the Lord is reminded how he gave victory to Israelites in similar situations in the past (verses 5-12). Finally, a specific request for help is outlined (verses 13-18).

Situation defined: God’s people (Israelites) were threatened by enemies. If God doesn’t defend them, they will be destroyed completely. The psalmist named ten nations who allied themselves against God’s chosen: Edom, Ishmaelites, Moab, Hagrites, Byblos, Ammon, Amalek, Philistia, Tyreans and Assyrians. Asaph pleaded for Israel’s safety in a way that made Israel’s circumstances God’s challenge. Asaph referred to Israel’s foes as God’s enemies, those who hated God and God’s people. According to Asaph, these ten nations formed an alliance against God.

Past victories from God: Asaph reminded God that he gave Israel victory over Canaanites (Jabin and Sisera) at the Kishon River. When the Midianites attempted to co-opt Israelites pastures, God gave Israel the ability to drive them out and kill their kings, Zebah and Zalmunna.

Request for help: Asaph pleads with God to destroy—blow away—enemy kingdoms who want to destroy God’s chosen people. Specifically, Asaph wrote, “make them like tumbleweed, O my God, like chaff before the wind” (Psalm 83.13 NIV).

The Plant

The Bible tumbleweed is identified as the Gundelia tournefortii, sometimes called a tumble thistle. Israeli botanists use the Hebrew name, galgal, while Arabs call it the a’kub.7 Although technically a thistle, the rolling nature of this moveable plant is key to both the Isaiah and Psalm reference. Tumbleweeds grow in wastelands and along roadsides from Mount Hermon and Golan in the north to the Negev hills and Eilat in the south. Tumbleweeds don’t grow well in the shade.

The tumbleweed fruit is a seed. After the fruit forms, thistle stems separate from roots. Because the tumbleweed is round, it rolls like a ball when driven by the wind. Seeds of dead fruits are dispersed by the rolling motion. Currently, young flower heads are removed and sold in Palestinian Authority markets where they supplement food of local people. Mature plants are used as camel fodder.

Symbolism of Tumbleweed

Action is the process of doing something in order to achieve a purpose.3 Synonyms are battle, and prosecute. God’s action was central in both places that tumbleweeds were named in the Bible. In Psalm 83.13 the psalmist pleaded for God to act, i.e., make Israel’s enemies like tumbleweeds in the wind. Isaiah (17.13) prophesied God’s action on behalf of Judah.

Asaph’s motivation for asking God to act on behalf of Israelites wasn’t only for the security of Israel, but for worldwide acknowledgement of God as the true God. Acknowledgment of God includes seeking God to learn about him, his teachings, and his commands.

Christians shouldn’t pray Psalm 83 against national enemies because Christianity is broader than national boundaries. Christians are the world-wide fellowship of believers. A Christian shouldn’t pray for the downfall of another. Christians can pray Psalm 83 against foes who act to destroy them and all traces of their faith.17 They can ask God to defeat these enemies’ plans in a way that persecutors seek and know God and accept Jesus as Savior.

A number of years ago, I was part of a large congregation attempting to buy our church property from the diocese. The diocese kept pushing the time back for final notification and sale closing. Church members became more anxious every day, then every hour. Quietly, our minister reminded us, “God is rarely early, but he is never late.”

Reflection: When we accept Jesus as our Savior, God accepts us as his children. That promise requires God to act on our behalf. Sometimes we want God, “to do something NOW!”  God’s action isn’t always according to our timetable.

Copyright July 13, 2019; Carolyn A. Roth

Stinkweed in the Bible! Really??

Bible Reference: Job 31.38-40.

Stinkweed was identified by Job. From what twenty-first century Christians can discern, Job was a contemporary of Abraham. Job lived in Uz. Uz was east of the Jordan River. Because Job was familiar with large sea creatures, he may have lived in the region of the present-day Gulf of Aqaba.

When introduced, Job is healthy, wealthy, and otherwise blessed with beautiful daughters and handsome sons. He worships God; all is right in his world. Then, in a short time, his children are killed and flocks destroyed. Later, his health deteriorates. Apparently, Job’s wife wasn’t harmed. We learn that these calamities were brought about by Satan. God allowed them in order to show Job’s dedication to him.

When friends visited Job, they contended that Job’s losses were from God in payment for Job’s sins. Job defended himself against their accusations. In Job’s final defense, Job concurred that calamities were from God; yet, Job  attempted to vindicate himself. Some of Job’s words focused on stewardship of his land:

If my land cries out against me, and all its furrows   are wet with tears,  if I have   devoured its yield without payment or broken the spirit of its tenants, then let briars grow instead of wheat, and stink weed instead of barley” (Job 31.38-40 NIV).

Some readers have questioned whether or not stinkweed is a specific plant. Both the New International Version Bible translation and the New American Bible19 used the word “stinkweed. Apparently, stinkweed was an identifiable weed that grew in grain fields. Alternatively, the English Standard Version Study Bible17 offered the translation as “foul weeds.” I contacted well-regarded botanists in Israel and questioned if Job chapter forty named a specific weed (stinkweed) or used the word “stink” as an adjective, i.e., foul, noxious, stinking. Those Israeli colleagues responded that in their opinions “stink” was a descriptor, more than a specific type of weed.

The Plant

In the King James Bible, stinkweed is translated as “cockle.” Cockle is the plant associated with stinkweed in the  Zondervan Illustrated Bible Dictionary. This dictionary averred that cockles grow in Palestinian grain fields.

The cockle is the  Agrostemma githago, Present day farmers and gardeners call the plant “corn cockle,” possibly, because it grows in corn and grain fields. The corn cockle is a weed which grew among grain crops for millennia. As you see in the image of the corn cockle, the flower is a beautiful pink and leaves a pleasant green. Possibly, cockles grew in Uz.

The entire cockle plant, especially seeds, contain poisonous compounds which spoil flour if they aren’t removed. When cockle-contaminated flour is eaten, flour products  taste bad and cause nausea, even death if eaten in large quantities. Corn cockle grows in dry fields and waste ground as well as in cultivated soil. Clearly, Job’s plowed furrows were a good place for corn cockle to grow. Whether translated as stinkweed or a stinking weed, corn cockle is an appropriate weed for identification with Job’s comments.

Reflection: The choices we make in our lives—to remove weeds or not—have long-term effects. Sometimes those effects are life-and-death ones. At other times, they are less dire. St. Paul offered a rule of thumb for early Christian decision making. He wrote, “let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than themselves” (Philippians 2.3).

Copyright July 13, 2019; Carolyn Adams Roth