Tag Archives: Israelites

Solomon’s Crown

Cyclamen persicum

The beautiful cyclamen (Cyclamen persicum) is often called Solomon’s crown. Although not identified in the Bible, cyclamen grow freely among rocks and on rock walls in Israel. It is native to the eastern Mediterranean region. During the Christmas season, cyclamens are a popular gift, possibly because they are associated with the Holy Land.

In Israel, cyclamen begin to blossom in November and continues through March-April. In Upper Galilee cyclamen bloom even into early May. Leaves are heart-shaped and dark green with white mottling. In Israel, flowers are generally white or vivid pink; however, they can also be lavender. The blossom (6-9 inches tall) rises from a single stem. The bloom can last an entire month. Flowers are reminiscent of orchids.

Generally, cyclamen grow from corms (small bulbs), but with enough patience, they can be grown from seeds. In the United States, cyclamen are winter hardy in zones 9–11. Recently, florists have developed smaller cyclamen (2-4 inch tall blossoms) that are hardy in zones 5-8.

Owners generally keep cyclamen in a cool, semi-shaded area on a porch or balcony during summer and bring them inside during winter. If cyclamen are planted outdoors, they need a semi-shaded area, composted soil, and plenty of moisture.

Reflection: Solomon didn’t do anything to become king except be one of King David’s sons; yet, he may be the best known of all Israel’s kings. What did you do to deserve your designation as God’s son or daughter and Christ’s brother or sister?

Consecrated for God

Acorus calamus King Hezekiah directed the priests and Levites to re-consecrate themselves and reopen God’s Temple.  This story is told in 2 Kings 18:1-2 and 2 Chronicles chapter 29.

King Hezekiah was 25 years of age when became king of Judah.  He reigned 29 years (715-686 B.C.).  He father was Ahaz but unlike Ahaz, Hezekiah did what was right in God’s eyes.  Isaiah was at his most influential during Hezekiah’s reign.  During Hezekiah’s reign, the Northern Kingdom fell and its inhabitants were dispersed through Assyria.

Hezekiah was distinguished by his absolute confidence in God even under duress.  Immediately after being crowned, King Hezekiah began religious reform.  His purpose was to make a covenant with God so that God’s fierce anger would be turned away from the kingdom of Judah (2 Chronicles 29:10).  In the first month of his kingship, Hezekiah reopened and repaired the Temple doors.  He gathered the priests and Levites and instructed them to purify and consecrate themselves.  After the priest and Levites were consecrated, they clean out the Temple.  Unclean furnishing and idolatrous items found in the temple were dumped into the Kidron Valley.  Over a 16-day period, the priests purified the Temple and consecrated its altars and furnishings.  The sacred anointing oil was used in the consecrations.

After the purification and consecrations, King Hezekiah provided bulls, rams, lambs, and goats as a sin offering for the people of Judah.  While the offerings were made, Levites played music on cymbals, harps, and lyres and sang in the manner prescribed by King David.  King Hezekiah, city officials, priest, Levites, and the entire assembly knelt down and worshipped God.  After the sin offerings, the assembly brought sacrifices and thanks offerings to God.  So many offerings were presented that the priest could not skin all of the animals.  They had to enlist the Levites to assist them until more priests could be re-consecrated.  Thus, Temple worship was reestablished under King Hezekiah.

When the Tabernacle was built, God prescribed ingredients to be used in the anointing (purifying and consecrating) oil.  Five ingredients were named:  myrrh, cinnamon, fragrant cane, cassia, and olive oil.  The anointing oil was sacred and used only for anointing the priest and the Temple furnishing and accessories.  In Chapter 4, cassia was described as an ingredient for the anointing oil in the Tabernacle.  In this chapter, fragrant cane will be described as an ingredient in the Temple anointing oil. Isaiah (43:24) mentioned fragrant cane (calamus) declaring that the people of Judah no longer brought cane to God, probably meaning in the incense of sacrifice.

Fragrant Cane Plant

Most botanists and religious scholars associate the Biblical fragrant cane with the Acorus calamus variety calamus., called  sweet cane and calamus. Although fragrant cane is a Bible plant, in 2012 it was not found in two popular Israeli plant databases:  Online Flora of Israel and Wild Flowers of Israel.  Probably most fragrant cane used in the Temple anointing oil came from India. It is found in moist soils and shallow water in ditches, marshes, river edges and ponds, marshes and ditches.    Viewed from the top of water or moist soil, fragrant cane that looks like numerous plants may be a single interconnected rhizome (root). Although leaves and stems can be harvested, the rhizome is used to make perfumes and sacred oils (Motley, 1995).  Fragrant cane is very expensive.  During the reign of Henry VIII, Cardinal Wolsey was accused of extravagance because he importing fragrant cane reeds at extravagant expense.

Symbolism: Clarity

The fragrant cane plant is associated with many different concepts to include vigor, purification, wisdom, and clarity.  The symbolism that reflects this Bible episode is clarity which includes focused perception, to free of confusion, and to make understandable.  Under Ahaz’s reign, some of the priests of God’s temple likely remained at home and only practiced their faith with family and close friends.  Others, like the priest Uriah (2 Kings 15:10-15), obeyed Ahaz and installed idol worship in the Temple.  Probably both groups felt some degree of confusion, guilt, resentment, and shame (Psalm 97:7).  These emotions would have clouded their thinking.

When Hezekiah became king, he required the priests to consecrate themselves in preparation for re-instituting worship of God in the Temple.  For the priests consecration meant that the sacred anointing oil was applied to themselves and possibly their clothes.  Then, the priests anointed each item in the Temple.  Being anointed to God’s service would have focused the priest’s thoughts on God.  Anointing the Temple furnishing and accessories over a 16-day period would have clarified the purpose and meaning of each item in the temple.  Finally, performing the sacrifices reinforced the priests’ understanding of their role in Temple worship. Use of the anointing oil promoted clarity in the priests’ perceptions.

Today, people are prone to lose clarity of thought.  We become anxious and distressed by what is occurring around us.  As I write this chapter, the United States is in the process of presidential elections.  Perhaps more than any other election, United States citizens are paying attention to what candidates say and do.  This attention can be good if it clarifies our thoughts on candidates’ stands on issues important to us.  At the same time, we need not get anxious about who to vote for or the decision-making process.  God’s desire is to have us free from all anxiety and distressing care (1 Corinthians 7:32)

When we accept Christ we are anointed with the Holy Spirit.  Christ’s anointing teaches us the truth on everything we need to know about ourselves and Christ, uncontaminated by a single lie (I John 2:26-27)  Now, Christ is our safe place – the place where perceptions, understanding, and clarity abide.  As we listen to candidates and persuasive leaders in any field, we need to remember and believe that Christ knows his sheep and they know him (John 10:1-6).  Christ’s sheep will not follow a stranger’s voice.  Christ sheep not only hear his voice but listen or obey his voice and words.  St. John recorded that when Jesus used this figure of speech, his listeners did not understand what he was talking about.

 Reflection.  How is your clarity?  Do you understand what Jesus was talking about in John 10:1-6?

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 September 9, 2012; carolyn a. roth

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Getting Anointed

Rolled CassiaThe anointing oil used in the Tabernacle is described in Exodus 25:6; 29:1-9; 30:22-33; 40:17; and Leviticus 8:1-13, 30.

When God instructed the Israelites to bring offerings for the Tabernacle, he included spices for the anointing oil.  Sacred anointing oil was a blend of four spices and olive oil. God was specific in the proportions of each: 500 shekels of liquid myrrh, 500 shekels of cassia, 250 shekels of fragrant cinnamon, 250 shekels of fragrant cane and one hin of olive oil.  The sanctuary shekel was equivalent to about 2/5th ounce.  Taken together the four spices weighed about 38 pounds.  A hin of olive oil was equivalent to about one gallon. The Tabernacle anointing oil was made by a perfumer and it was considered sacred.  If any person made perfume like it or put it on anyone other than a priest, they would be cut off from the Israelites.

The Tabernacle was set up on the first day of the first month in the second year after the Israelites left Egypt.  At that time the Tabernacle, its furnishings, the priests, and the priests clothing were anointed with the sacred oil and consecrated.  Anointing was done to set apart items and people to God’s service.  Consecration means “to make holy” for God’s service.  Leviticus chapter 8 called the process of anointing and consecrating Aaron and his sons “ordination.”  As it is used in Leviticus, ordination literally means “you shall fill his hands.”  Probably the meaning was that the priests will take into their hands the role/tasks of the priesthood given to them by God.

The Bible allocated many verses to Moses’ anointing and consecrating the Tabernacle and the priests.  The reason for these detailed descriptions is that God is holy and demands holiness from those who serve him.  The Bible detailed that Aaron and his sons were anointed and consecrated only after sacrifice and atonement were made for their own sins. They could not be anointed for God’s service until they were ritually clean. Outwardly Moses presided over the anointing of the Tabernacle; however, the Israelites understood that God, not Moses, made the Tabernacle and priests holy.

Cassia is used to represent the spices in the anointing oil.  It was probably brought with the Israelites out of Egypt.  Egyptians imported cassia from China and used cassia in the embalming process.  As the Israelites traveled throughout the Sinai Peninsula, they could have bought cassia from traders who crossed the Peninsula from Arabia to Egypt.  In the ancient Middle East, peoples so valued cassia that it was worth its weight in gold or ivory.

The Cassia Plant

The botanical name for the Tabernacle cassia is Cinnamomum cassia also known as C. aromaticum. Although cassia is in the same genus as the spice cinnamon, cassia is a different plant with a more pungent aroma.  Both fresh and fallen leaves emit the cassia aroma. Chinese cassia comes from the bark of the cassia plant. The tree is cut above the ground level 4 – 5 years after planting and every 3 – 4 years thereafter.  The bitter-tasting outer bark is removed leaving the inner cassia bark is dried in the sun. When the inner bark is dry it turns brown and curls into a hollow tube or quill. In the United States during the yuletide season, bunches (7 – 8) of cassia quills tied with a ribbon and sold in stores as cinnamon.  Cinnamaldehyde is the major (70 – 95%) component of cassia bark and responsible for the pungent odor of the bark and powdered cassia. Cassia powder is a reddish brown color in contrast to the tan color of cinnamon.

Symbolism: Anointing

Cassia and other substances of the anointing oil symbolize the work of the Holy Spirit, particularly the Spirit’s acts in the New Testament.  Christ told the people of Nazareth that he was anointed by the Holy Spirit to preach the gospel to the poor, to proclaim freedom for the prisoners, to give recovery of sight to the blind, to release the oppresses and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor (Luke 4:18-19.).  To the Church at Jerusalem and to the Gentiles at Cornelius’ home, Peter reiterated that God anointed Christ with the Holy Spirit and empowered Christ (Acts 4:24-28; Acts 10:38). Christ’s work on earth was completed through the anointing power of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit anoints believers for God’s work on earth just as the Holy Spirit anointed Christ’s for God’s work on earth.  Saint John declared that Christians have an anointing from the Holy One (1 John 2:20). Scholars are not sure whether “Holy One” refers to God or Christ; however, there is wide-spread agreement that anointing means the Holy Spirit. We Christian’s are anointed with the Holy Spirit when we accept Christ as our Savior.  At that time, the Holy Spirit enters into our body and mind and becomes a part of us.

Christ told his disciples before he left them that the Holy Spirit would come to them (John 16:5-15).  The Holy Spirit would convict them of sin and righteousness, console and guide them, be their advocate with God, and the revealer of all truth. According to Paul, the Holy Spirit gives gifts to Christians so the work of the Church in the world can be accomplished, e.g., administration, teaching, healing and distinguishing of spirits (1 Corinthians 12:8-10, 28).

Although God’s work here on earth is vitally important, the Holy Spirit anointed Christ and believers not just for work. In addition to anointing Christ with power for work, God anointed him with the oil of joy (Hebrews 1:9). The oil of joy was more valuable than the most important and valuable aromatic oils and cassia in the fragrant robes of the greatest king (Psalm 45:7–8). The reason God anointed Christ with the oil of joy was so Christ could give the joy to believers.  Isaiah wrote that Christ would bestow on believers a crown of beauty instead of ashes and the oil of gladness instead of mourning (Isaiah (61:10).  What a blessing to know that when we enter a personal relationship with Christ, we are anointed with the Holy Spirit and given the oil of joy and gladness.  Further, the Holy Spirit’s anointing presence allows us to bear fruit spiritual fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galations 5:22-23).

Reflection This morning, I heard a song that said, “You raise me up to more than I can be” (The Four Troops, 2010).  God does that through anointing Christians with the Holy Spirit.  What are you doing with your anointing?

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 October 16, 2011; carolyn a. roth

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Sacred Incense

Styrax officinalis, JBGThe story of King Uzziah and his prideful attempt to burn incense in the Temple is described in 2 Kings 15:1-7 and 2 Chronicles Chapter 26.

Uzziah inherited the crown of Judah when his father Amaziah was murdered.  He reigned for 52 years.  At the beginning of his reign, Uzziah did what was right in the eyes of God and God gave him many successes.  He won decisive battles over the Philistines, the Ammonites paid him tribute, and he added to the fortifications of Jerusalem.  Uzziah had a well-trained, well- equipped army of over 300,000 men.

With success, Uzziah became proud and unfaithful to God.  On one occasion, Uzziah entered the Temple and began to burn incense on the Altar of Incense.  According to Mosaic Law, only consecrated priests who were the descendants of Aaron could burn incense in the Temple.  Uzziah was holding the censer for burning incense when the chief priest Azariah and 80 courageous priests confronted him.  Azariah reminded Uzziah that even though he was king, he could not burn the incense.  Azariah demand that Uzziah leave the sanctuary.  As Uzziah began to rage against the priests, leprosy broke out on his body.

Azariah saw the leprosy and hurried Uzziah from the temple. When Uzziah saw his leprosy and was eager to leave the Temple.  From that time until his death about 10 years later, Uzziah lived in a house separated from the palace.  His son, Jotham, governed Judah.  Uzziah was buried near his ancestors in a field; however, he was not buried in the royal tombs because of the leprosy.

The composition of Tabernacle incense was fragrant spices – stacte, onycha, and galbanum – and pure frankincense all in equal amounts (Exodus 30:34, KJV, Scofield, 1945).  Very likely the same ingredients were used to make Temple incense during the first and the second Temple (Sirach 24:15, Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha, 1965; Rabinowitz, 1977).  The plant galbanum was described as an ingredient of the Tabernacle incense in Chapter 4.  In this section, stacte will be used in as the ingredient in the Temple incense.

Stacte, Styrax officinalis

Temple incense stacte comes from the plant Styrax officinalis.   In Israel, S. officinalis has several names to include stacte tree, Official Storax, and styrax.  Stacte is translated as gum resin (Exodus 30:34) in the New International Version Study Bible (2002).

The origin of styrax is Eastern Mediterranean countries, from Italy through Turkey to include Israel.  Styrax is classified as a tree (52 feet in height); but often looks more like a good size shrub. The habitat is dry rocky slopes, in woods and thickets, and besides streams.  In Israel, the styrax tree is seen in the Judean and Samarian mountains and on Mounts Carmel and Herman as well as in the Upper Jordan and Northern valleys.  Because the styrax tree is deciduous, in autumn leaves turn yellow and drop and in spring new leaves sprout.  The styrax tree blooms April through June in Israel.  The entire tree is covered with flowers which look like snowdrops.  Styrax is an important honey plant.  Frequently, pollination occurs via insects, e.g., bees.  When the styrax tree stems and branches are wounded, a highly perfumed balsamic resin (gum) is exuded. The resin has been both described as smelling similar to a hyacinth.

Symbolism: Inspiration

The Hebrew word for stacte is nâtâph derived from the primary root nâtaph which means to ooze in the sense of to distill gradually or to fall in drops (Strong, 2010).  The figurative meaning of nâtaph is to speak by inspiration, e.g., prophesy.  As a nurse and as Master Gardener when I think of inspiration I think of breathing or oxygen taken into a human or a plant; but, the Bible has a different perspective on inspiration.  Inspiration is “God’s breathed out” word into the Holy Scriptures and into the words of the prophets (Renn, 2005).  Similar to the S. officinalis exuding gum resin (stacte), God exuded and exudes his message to the world.

As we talk about passages from the Bible, we often say as “David said in Psalm 51” or “as Paul wrote.”  We need to remember that the authors of the Bible wrote by the Holy Spirit.  The words of the Bible are not words of the author, e.g., David, Jonah, Paul; rather the words of the Bible are God’s words to the human race.  The Bible is God breathed and as such it is both divine authority and without error (Douglas & Tenney, 2011).

God inspired the words of the Bible.  “All scriptures is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” so that God’s people can be thoroughly equipped for all good works (2 Timothy 3:16, NIV Study Bible, 2002).  The Bible is a model for how we should live in this world. We can learn a new way of thinking and behaving from the Bible.

When we read the Bible, we take God’s inspired words into us — or not.  Christmas morning I sat in church listening to the epistle being read and thought how lovely the reader looked.  In retrospect, I asked myself “where was my head?”  Have you ever read the Bible while thinking of something else entirely?  I have. On those occasions, I doubt if I changed any part of myself as a result of my reading.

Reflection.  Allowing God to inspire us from his holy Word is an intentional process on our part.  How intentional are you being when you read The Holy Bible?

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 August 17, 2012; carolyn a. roth

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Joyful Peppermint

Bible Reference: Luke 11:37-44. 

At the end of a day of teaching, a Pharisee invited Jesus to his house to eat. Christ entered the house and reclined at the table. The Pharisee was surprised that Jesus did not wash his hands before the meal for two reasons. First, most foods were eaten with the hands. Second, although not a Mosaic Law, Jewish hierarchy advocated a procedure for hand washing before meals. Knowing what his host was thinking, Jesus admonished him, saying that Pharisees clean the outsides of dishware while they disregard the insides which are full of greed and wickedness. Pharisees’ tithe on mint, rue, and garden herbs, but neglect justice and the love of God. Christ admonished the Pharisees to practice justice and love as well as tithing.

The Book of Law required that Jews tithe. Tithing meant that they gave 10% of their money and/or crops to the Lord which usually went to the Temple (Leviticus 27:30). Mint and rue were herbs produced by farmers and other agriculturists for commerce; therefore, Mosaic Law required Jews to tithe on them. Importantly, when Christ spoke to the Pharisee, he did not tell the Pharisee that tithing on mint production was wrong. Just the opposite, Christ reinforced the need for God’s people to tithe. At the same time, Christ instructed the Pharisees that loving God and seeking justice were the greater good.

Mint, the Plant

The mint that grew in the Holy Land was Mentha longifolia, sometimes known as Mentha spicata L., wild mint, and horsemint. The large mint family, Lamiaceae, has 250 genera and 6,700 species; species names are often confused and confusing. Probably, M. longifolia originated in the countries of the Mediterranean Basin; however, South Africa claims it as indigenous. Mint thrives in most soils as long as soils are moist. If mint plants are propagated to secure a specific aroma, it is best to cut a piece of the original root (rhizome) and plant it. Virtually any part of a root will grow into a new plant.   When mint is planted for its essential oils, full sun is optimal; however, it will grow in partial shade. Wild mint tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure; it is not frost tender. In Israel, wild mint is found in Galilee, the central mountains and valleys, and south into the Northern Negev Desert and Aravah Valley. 

 Symbolism: Happiness, Joyful

The Greek word for mint is hēduŏsmŏn which is derived from hēdista meaning very gladly and kauchaŏmai, which means joy and rejoice. These two Greek words denote happiness and joy. Both words are appropriate for mint which medicinally relieves headaches, aids digestion, and is used to cover unsavory tastes and smells (Plants for a Future, 2012).

King David associated righteous behavior with gladness, happiness, and joy (Psalm 68:3). When Pharisees tithed on their income to include the relatively unimportant herb mint, they acted rightly. If they lived in strict adherence to the Mosaic laws, the Pharisees could have been happy, joyful people; yet, I could find no place in the Bible where the Pharisees were described as happy or joyful. Is it possible that righteous behavior does not lead to happiness? Was David wrong to associate righteousness with joy? Or was there something wrong about the righteousness of the Pharisees?

William MacDonald (1995) succinctly summarized why Pharisees were not happy and joyful.  They were externalists; which means the Pharisees were punctilious about small details of the ceremonial law, i.e., hand washing. At the same time, they neglected the greater commandments to love God and their neighbors (Matthew 22:37-40). They emphasized the subordinate and overlooked the primary laws of God. Happiness and joy cannot come when God or his primary commandments are ignored. Happiness comes from loving God and striving to please him in all things. Joy comes from doing good to others. 

Reflection. Christ said, whatever you do to the least man, woman or child, you do to me; and whatever you do not do to the least man, woman, or child you do not do to me (Matthew 25:40, 45). Christ is the “least” man, woman, or child.  

Copyright January 31, 2018; Carolyn A. Roth

Plant Parable: Spiritual Adultery

An Old Testament parable of a green tree is one of the Bible’s miniature parables (Hoses 14:8). It is brief, and some would say obscure. Hosea spoke the parable of the evergreen tree to the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Today, we read the parable and visualize the majesty of a green tree, similar to the beloved Christmas tree in our churches and homes.

The prophet Hosea implored the Northern Kingdom to repent so that God could heal their waywardness. Hosea averred that Israel’s disloyalty to God and idol worship was spiritual adultery. Because Hosea came from the Northern Kingdom, he knew every pride and perversion of royalty and common citizen alike. Yet, Hosea spoke of God’s love, mercy, and forgiveness. On Jesus’ birth-day, he came with love, mercy, and forgiveness.

Hosea assured Israel that foreign countries, despite their earthy powers, couldn’t save them. God alone can save Israel. After assuring the Israelites that God can and will heal Israel, Hosea offered a parable:

Ephraim shall say, What have I to do any more with idols?
I have answered (him) and will regard and watch over him; I am like a green fir (cypress tree); with Me is the fruit found (which is to nourish you) (Hosea 14:8 AMP)

Symbolism

The spiritual interpretation of God as an evergreen cypress tree is that man-made idols aren’t immortal; they aren’t even alive. They are statues, man’s creations. Some have ears; but, they can’t hear. Some have mouths; but, they can’t speak. Having a head isn’t the same as having a brain or a mind. Worshiping idols is spiritual adultery against God.

Immortality, including long life for an individual or a nation, comes only from God. Perhaps, nowhere in the Old Testament is God’s caring so forthrightly and succinctly presented as here in Hosea. God told Israel that he, not an idol, answers them and looks after them. He is like a green cypress tree. From God comes Israel’s fruit, i.e., both their food and their righteousness.

Hosea 14:8 is the only place (that I know of) where God compared himself to a living organism. At times, the Bible writers recorded that God is enduring like the mountains, the soil, and the ocean. In Hosea, God liken himself to something alive, as he is alive. That living organism was a tree with a lovely smell and which was disease-resistant. Although ancient people used the cypress tree to symbolize immortality, God doesn’t just symbolize immortality; he is immortal. This immortal God chose to come to earth, born in a baby and live as a man, so mankind could have immortal life with him in heaven.

Reflection: An immortal life isn’t up to you or me. We are guaranteed immortality. The question is where will each of us spend our never-ending life.

Cypress Essential Oil (Supplied by Linda Sable, Wellness Advocate)

The crisp, fresh aroma of Cypress essential oil promotes vitality and energy, while topical application helps to invigorate the senses and ground the soul. Cypress works on the heart and mind, creating flexibility. These attributes make Cypress the oil of Motion & Flow. Its powerful properties include antibacterial, antiseptic, making it effective for topical application as well.

When used aromatically, Cypress livens up the spirit and mind. The aroma of this essential oil is clean, woody and herbaceous and is commonly combined with citrus oils. For example, when combined with lime the invigorating scent helps to boost the mood.  Aromatic use helps to transform feelings of being stalled into feeling of progression. Cypress is also used to reduce the appearance of oily skin and is great to incorporate into a massage.

Copyright November 11, 2017; Carolyn Adams Roth

Read more about Bible plants and my ministry at http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com

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Samuel and the Vineyard

Grapes from Gimso IsraelBible Reference:  1 Samuel chapter 8.

Samuel was a priest, a prophet, and the last judge over Israel.  Samuel’s life was at the intersection of two time points in Israel’s history: (1) when Israel was a theocracy and judges conveyed God’s will to the people and (2) when there was an earthly king over Israel.  Samuel was about 65 years old when the leaders of Israel came to his home at Ramah.  There, Israel’s leaders requested a king.  Their reasons were 1) Samuel was old; 2) his sons did not walk in his ways; i.e, Samuel’s sons’ perverted justice by accepting bribes; and 3) like other nations the Israelites wanted a king who would protect them and fight their battles for them.

Samuel was not pleased that Israel’s leaders asked for a king.  Most likely, Samuel was hurt, perceiving that the Israelites were rejecting his judgeship.  For approximately 350 years, Israel was ruled by God through judges.  Now, during Samuel’s tenure as judge, they asked for a king.  Despite his feelings, Samuel took the elders’ request to God. Possibly, Samuel thought God would be jealous of his divine rule and reject the Israelite’s request.  God’s response was to assure Samuel that the tribal elders were not rejecting Samuel, but that they were rejecting him (God).  God told Samuel to accede to the Israelites request for a king; but to first warn the Israelites what a king who ruled over them would do.  Acting on God’s direction, Samuel told the Israelites that a king would:

  • Take their sons to man and equip his chariots and horses, serve as warriors, make weapons of war, plow the kings ground, and reap the king’s harvest.
  • Take their daughters to be perfumers, cooks, and bakers.
  • Give to his officials and attendants the best of their fields, vineyards (grapes), and olive groves and 1/10th of their grain and vintage (wine).
  • Take the best or their cattle and donkeys and 1/10 of their flocks.
  • Take for his use their menservants and maidservants

Samuel warned the Israelites that they would become the king’s slaves. When this happened, the Israelites would cry out to God, but God would not answer them. The Israelites refused to listen to Samuel’s warnings; emphatically, they asked for a king.  Once again Samuel took their demands to God.  God’s response was, “Listen to them and give them a king” (1 Samuel 8:22). Chapter 8 ends with Samuel telling the men of Israel to go back to their own town.  Chapter 9 begins with the story of the first king of Israel.

The Grape Vine

The plant that illustrates Samuel’s message to the Israelites is the grapevine. The grapevine is one of the seven plants that God told the Israelites would be available to them in the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 8:8).  In ancient Israel, grape vines were a principle crop because grapes were used fresh or dried or made into wine. Taking the best of an Israelite’s vineyards could deprive a family of food and/or affect their income. Vitis vinifera is the botanical name for the grape that grows in Israel.  In ancient Israel when a family had only a few vines in the yard, often the vines remained laying on the ground.  The V. vineifera fruit is the grape.  The best grapes  are obtained when vines are pruned.  Wine is fermented grape juice.  Although the Negev was a popular area for wine growing in ancient times, today there are wine regions all over Israel.

Symbolism: Destiny

The grape vine and vineyards are mentioned over 500 times in the Bible.  At times the vine referred to peace and prosperity (1 Kings 4:25; Micah 4:4, and Zechariah 3:10).  At other times, the vine was associated with the Israelites and their destiny as God’s chosen Old Testament people (Psalms 80:8-16 and Isaiah 1:5-8).  Destiny means a predetermine course of events. Israel’s destiny was that God be their king; he was to be the watchman over the vineyard Israel (Psalm 121:3-4).  In Old Testament Israel, large vineyards were surrounded by a thorny hedge or stone wall.  A tower was placed in the vineyard for a watchman to guard the vineyard from thieves and/or destroyers.

Psalm 80 provides a succinct description of Israel as a vine and Israel’s destiny.  God brought a vine out of Egypt and drove out the nations and planted the vine in Canaan/Israel.  Initially the vine grew and flourished.  Then, the Psalmist laments, “why have you broken down its wall so that all who pass by pick its grapes?” (Psalm 80:12).  Regardless of the Psalmists lament, we must remember that the Israelites, not God, changed their destiny.  Had they continued in obedience and trust, God would have remained their watchman.  Certainly, Samuel’s warned the Israelites what their destiny would look like under an earthly king and numerous prophets warned them against rejecting God and turning to idolatry.

Despite Israel rejecting their God-given destiny, God did not leave the Israelites without hope.  In Zachariah, God told the Israelites that he would send them his servant, the Branch and remove the sin of the land in a single day (Zechariah 3:8–10). The branch is a title for the Messiah.  On the day Christ was crucified a way was opened to removed sin from Israel and the world.

What this story means for the 21st century

God has appointed a destiny for Christians, unbelievers, men, and women. This life or death destiny applies to all people.  Jews and Gentiles no longer have separate pathways to everlasting life (Ephesians 2:11-22).  Saint Paul described that destiny as, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).  The true and absolute pathway to life is through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.

Reflection.   Spend some time reflecting on your final destiny. Are you sure about it or do you have some doubts?  If so, read Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23, and John 3:16.  Then, talk to God about your life. Ask God to forgive your sins through belief in his son, Jesus Christ, who died for the sins of every man and woman

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 4, 2011; carolyn a. roth

 

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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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Caught in a Thicket

Photograph is Chaste tree flower in St. John Lutheran Bible Garden

Bible Reference: Genesis 22:1-19.

Isaac was the son that God promised Abraham and Sarah – the son through whom all the peoples of the earth would be blessed. When Isaac was about 16 years old, God commanded Abraham to take Isaac to the region of Mount Moriah and sacrifice him as a burnt offering.

Abraham didn’t hesitate or question God’s command. Early the next morning, Abraham, Isaac, and two servants started walking toward Mount Moriah. As Abraham and Isaac walked together, Isaac asked his father where the lamb was for the burnt offering. Abraham responded that God would provide the lamb.

When they reached Mount Moriah, Abraham built an altar, arranged wood on it, and bound Isaac on top of the wood. Abraham picked up his knife, prepared to slay Isaac. At the last minute, the angel of the Lord told Abraham to not kill Isaac. The angel commended Abraham for fearing God enough to sacrifice his son.

Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught by the horns in a nearby thicket. The thicket held the ram in place in much the same way that Isaac’s bindings held him on the altar. Just as Isaac didn’t struggle against his bindings, the Bible doesn’t indicate that the ram struggled to loosen its horns from the thicket. The ram was simply there, waiting for Abraham to see it. Abraham killed the ram and offered it as a burnt offering.

What is a Thicket?

Although Abraham, Isaac, and the ram played major roles in this Bible episode, so did the thicket. A thicket is a group of wild shrubs and occasional small trees which grow together to form impenetrable branches and roots. In thickets, trees rarely grow more than 10-20 feet tall. Often shrubs have thorns and vines entangle with them. Trees and shrubs that could have composed the Mount Moriah thicket were the chaste tree, prickly juniper, and myrtle.Chaste Tree Flower

Abraham’s planned sacrifice of Isaac on Mount Moriah was in approximately 2050 B.C. At that time, much of the Judean Mountains including Mount Moriah was tree covered; however, approximately 30-40 years earlier, a natural or manmade disaster (earthquake, flood, or fire) occurred. Thickets grow only in response to disturbances where large trees are destroyed.

In present day Israel, many wild trees and shrubs have been replaced by plants, e.g., flowers and domesticated trees; however, some thickets still grow where cultivated land was abandoned. An example is the Ramat Hanadiv Nature Park northwest of Jerusalem. When we hiked a park trail, we didn’t see a ram; however, cattle foraged the area. It was easy to image one reaching into the thicket for succulent leaves and getting its horns tangled in branches.

For wilderness hikers, a thicket can be a difficult landscape to traverse. Often when experienced hikers encounter a thicket, they don’t enter it; they go around the thicket. Trying to go through a tangled, thorn-infested thicket can result in loss of direction and damage to skin and clothes.

My friend from Texas calls the chaste tree a “Texas lilac” Its if from the Genus,  Vitus. They are perennials and grow all over the Roanoke Valley (plant zones 6 and 7).

Symbolism

The Hebrew word for thicket comes from the word çâbak, which means to entwine in the sense of interwoven branches. In English, entanglement means to wrap or twist together and to ensnare. Often entanglements cause confusion. Imagine the confusing thoughts that Satan brought to Abraham’s mind during the three day walk to Mount Moriah; e. g., “Surely God doesn’t mean for you to sacrifice Isaac? A God that really loved and cared about you would never require you to kill your beloved son.”

In contrast to the ram entangled in the thicket, Abraham didn’t become entangled in Satan’s lies or become confused by his limited understanding of God and the situation. Abraham obeyed God, believing that God would keep his promise and Isaac would be the father of all nations.

Reflection: Think about a time when you were wrapped up, twisted, or entangled in a problem. Did God fit in anywhere? Knowing what you know now, how could you have involved God more?

I love Bible plants along with their symbolism. If you want to learn more about them, read my book God as a Gardener. You can purchase them from my website: Carolyn Roth Ministry at http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/

Copyright July 21, 2017: Carolyn A. Roth

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Linen Curtains in the Tabernacle

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Read how Tabernacle Curtains were made and used in Exodus 26:1–6 and 31-37; Exodus 27:9–19; and Exodus chapter 28.

Flax was used extensively in the Tabernacle to make linen. Flax is native to the eastern Mediterranean region and was an important crop in Egypt since the 5th millennium B.C.  The linen curtains, the blue, purple and scarlet embroidery yarn, and the linen priest’s clothes came from the flax plant. The two craftsmen, Bezalel and Oholiab, God designated to oversee building of the Tabernacle were given skill as designers and embroiderers in blue, purple and scarlet yarn and in fine linen (Exodus 35:35). 

In the Tent of Meeting, a curtain (veil) made of fine woven linen hung between the Holies of Holy and the Most Holy of Holies. Cherubim were embroidered on the veil with blue, purple and scarlet yarn.  The Tent of Meeting roof was made of linen curtains. The curtains draped over the outside of the gold-covered acacia wood panels.  Cherubim made of purple, blue and scarlet yarn were woven or worked into the linen curtains.  A fine linen curtain covered the entrance of the Tent of Meeting (east side).  The entrance curtain included colored yarn, however, there were no cherubim on the curtain.  The sides of the Tabernacle courtyard were plain linen curtains held in place by silver hooks that attached them to the wood posts.  The curtain at the courtyard entrance was the only courtyard curtain that included colored yarn.  An embroiderer was used to make the entrance curtain.  

Aaron was the first Israelite high priest. God gave very specific instructions for making his   clothes.   The clothes included the breastplate, ephod, robe, tunic, turban, sash, and undergarments.   All were made with fine linen.  With the exception of the tunic and undergarments, all linen clothes were embroidered with or used colored yarn.  No sandals or shoes were included as part of the high priest’s clothing.  The rationale for lack of sandals was that when Aaron ministered to the Lord he was on holy ground.  As priests, Aaron’s sons had special clothes.   Their clothes included tunics, sashes, headbands, and undergarments made of linen; no colored yarn or embroidery was used.

 In the Bible, the Hebrew word for the linen associated with the Tabernacle is shêsh. Shêsh means “fine linen” and denotes a type of Egyptian linen of peculiar whiteness and fineness. When Egyptians wove fine linen, they used as many as 140 strands of threads per inch lengthwise (warf) and 64 strands per inch horizontal (weft). Linen of this fine weave had the appearance of silk. In ancient times fine linen was a mark of quality and associated with wealth and rank. Fine linen was the usual dress of Egyptian priests and royalty.  Pharaoh dressed Joseph in fine linen when Joseph was promoted to second-in command over all Egypt (Genesis 41:41–43). Egyptian fine linen was exquisite – it was soft and flexible but strong, cool to wear, and had a luster or sheen to its whiteness.

As slaves in Egypt, the Israelites would not have possessed much, if any, fine linen; however, when they left Egypt, the Egyptians gave them tribute.  The tribute included clothes and more than likely included fine linen and yarn for spinning linen (Exodus 12:35-36). When Moses asked the Israelites for offerings to build the Tabernacle, he specified the need for blue, purple, and scarlet yarn and fine linen (Exodus 25:3).  Exodus recorded that skilled women spun fine linen and blue, purple and scarlet yarn and brought these as offerings for the Tabernacle (Exodus 35:25-26).  There is no record that women wove the yarn into linen cloth for curtains or priest’s clothes.

 The Flax Plant

The Ancient Egyptian flax plant, Linum usitatissimum, was used to make linen.  In Biblical times flax was the most important fiber crop. Probably the L. usitatissimum originated in Mesopotamia; however, it was extensively cultivated in Egypt and less so in Palestine.  In Egypt flax grew along the sides the Nile River and particularly in the Nile Delta region. In Egypt and the Middle East, flax was planted in the early winter and flax harvested in the spring.

 The flax plant has a single stem that grows up to four feet tall.  The fiber is in the stem.  Initially, the stem is green, but turns yellow as the plant ripens and readies for harvest. When flax plants were harvested for fiber, mature plants were pulled up by their roots. Harvested plants were allowed to dry, then retted.  Retting is a process of soaking flax to separate the fiber from the woody tissue (straw).  Egyptians dyed some flax threads.  Blue and purple dyes were derived from shellfish (primarily the murex) which lived in the Mediterranean Sea. Scarlet dye came from the eggs and carcasses of a worm (Coccus ilicus) which lived on the leaves of holly plants.

 Symbolism: Purity 

 In ancient times, linen symbolized purity and in Revelation (15:5-6) St. John used “clean, shining linen” as a symbol for purity.  Purity means spotless, stainless, free from what pollutes; containing nothing that does not properly belong; free from moral fault or guilt. The Hebrew verb for purify, tāhēr, also means to cleanse or to be clean. The Tabernacle complex with its linen curtains was a symbol of the Israelite’s need to be clean or pure before God.  In the Tabernacle animals were sacrificed and animal blood shed to accomplish ritual purification.  Today when individuals accept Christ as their Savior, they are purified (cleansed) or made spotless in relation to former sins.  Then, the challenge of living a pure life begins.

 Of the 33 verses in the New International Version Study Bible (2002) which referred to purity, about 1/3 centered on the individual’s heart  In the Old Testament, King David implored God to “create in me a pure heart” (Psalm 51:10).  King David questioned who can approach God and stand before him? The answer was “He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false” (Psalm 24:3–4).

 In the New Testament there is a similar focus on Christians keeping their heart pure. Christ taught, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God” (Matthew 5:8).  Paul told Timothy that love (the greatest of all virtues) comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith (1Timothy 1:5).  He instructed Timothy to “Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22).  Paul cautioned Timothy to have nothing to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because they produce quarrels (verse 23).

  Taken together, these verses from the Old and New Testament communicated that to please God, Christians must keep their hearts pure.  Keeping a pure hearts begins with a sincere faith in Christ as our Savior. Purity means that we love one another and are free from moral guilt about how we act toward and think about each other.   Purity is about actively pursuing faith, love, and peace.  In addition to positive actions that help us to grow toward purity, the Bible verses on a pure heart articulated certain behaviors to avoid.  These behaviors are worshipping idols, lying, becoming involved in nonproductive arguments and quarrels, and pursuing evil desires of youth, e.g., sexual debauchery.

 I want to keep my heart pure; however, sometime I do not restrain my impulses. At times I fill my life with irreverent thoughts and actions.  In the past I often made my career an idol rather than keeping God at the center of my life. Most certainly I have engaged in foolish and stupid arguments, rationalizing them in the name of “devil’s advocate” or “intellectual debate.”  How, then, can I keep a clean, pure heart so I can see God in my day-to-day life?  The answer for me is the same as it was for the Israelites. I must agree with God about my sins. When I do, I can be at-one with God. God has made it easy for me to reconcile myself to him and his purity. I John 1:9 says if we confess our sins, God will cleanse us from sin and purify us from our unrighteousness.  Having a pure, clean heart is as simple as going to God admitting my sin and asking His forgiveness.

Reflection. When did you last clean up or purify your life?  Would now be a good time to enact I John 1:9 in your relationship with Christ?

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 31, 2013; Carolyn A. Roth

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