Tag Archives: Jacob

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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Pistachios in Canaan — the Best

pistachio-orchard-in-greece

Bible Reference:  Genesis 43:11

I admit it, I have a new addiction. It is pistachios. There is always a container setting on the counter in the kitchen. Most times when I go there, I stop and open several shells and eat the nuts.

In the Bible, pistachios are mentioned only once. Jacob told his sons to take them as a gift to the man (Joseph) in control of the Egyptian food supply. The background of the story was that Jacob’s sons made a previous trip to Egypt to buy food after a famine hit Canaan. There, Joseph (the same Joseph that the brothers sold into slavery) met with his brothers; but they failed to recognize him.

Joseph told his brothers that he would sell them additional food if Benjamin came with them when the brothers returned to Egypt. Jacob was reluctant to allow his youngest son to leave Canaan and go to Egypt with the older brothers. In Jacob’s mind, Rachel’s first son (Joseph) was dead and he had only Benjamin’s Rachel’s youngest son left alive.

Judah persuaded Jacob to allow Benjamin to accompany the brothers to Egypt lest the entire family starve. Jacob gave Judah the direction to take pistachios to Egypt to give to the man in charge of selling food. Jacob identified pistachios as one of the “best products” of Canaan.

Pistachios

Pistachios are a two-sided small greenish seed that grows in a whitish-brown hard shell. Pistachio trees (Pistacio vera) were cultivated in Israel for 4000 years. The modern pistachio tree, P. vera, was first cultivated in Bronze Age Central Asia (Uzbekistan).

pistvera1c

Pistachio trees are a desert plant and highly tolerant of saline soil. Trees can survive temperatures ranging between −10 °C (14 °F) in winter and 48 °C (118 °F) in summer. They grow poorly in high humidity. Pistachio tree are susceptible to root rot in winter if soil is not free-draining. Long, hot summers are required for proper ripening of the fruit.

Symbolism: Best

Remember in grade school you learned that something could be “good, better, or best?” Pistachios were one of the “best” products of Canaan. According to the dictionary “best” means “excelling all others.” Over time, I’ve learned that I cannot be “good” in my own strength. Believe me I tried – hard! Further, I should not compare myself with other Christians and attempt to be “better” than they. There was always someone “better” than me.

Instead, I should work at being the “best” Christian I am capable of being regardless of what others are doing or where they are in their walk with Christ. God wants me to be the “best” Christian “me” that I can be.

Reflection: How do you evaluate your Christian walk?

Copyright November 7, 2016; Carolyn A. Roth

I love studying plants in the Bible, even the relatively uncommon ones. If you are interested in learning more about Bible plants, check my website www.CarolynRothMinistry.com. I have a store where you can purchase books on Bible plants.

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Crafty Characters and Poplar Tree

White poplar limbs

Bible Reference: Genesis 30:25-43

Jacob was living in Paddan Aram with his father-in-law, Laban. Jacob married two of Laban’s daughters (Leah and Rachel). Laban was also Jacob’s uncle, the brother of Jacob’s mother Rebecca. Given these close relationships, in the Near East culture we could expect that Laban treated Jacob fairly; but, that was not the case. Continually, Laban changed his son-in-laws wages so that Jacob could acquire no personal wealth by increasing the size of this own herds.

After Rachel gave birth to Joseph, Jacob told Laban, he wanted to go back to Canaan. Laban requested Jacob to stay with him and asked Jacob what he wanted in return. Jacob agreed to stay with the stipulation that he be given every speckled or spotted sheep, every dark colored lamb, and every spotted or speckled goat. Any non-speckled sheep, lamb, or goat would belong to Laban. Always devious, Laban agreed to Jacob’s plan; but, immediately Laban took all the speckled livestock from his herds and moved them three days journey from remaining flocks. Laban’s planned to prevent speckled animals from being born so Jacob would work for no or minimal wages.

Jacob had another plan. He took fresh cut branches from poplar, almond, and plane trees. He made white stripes on the branches by pealing the bark and exposing the white inner wood. The branches appeared speckled – the dark colored bark contrasted with the white inner wood of the branch. When stronger females were in heat and came to drink, Jacob placed the peeled branched in the water troughs. The peeled branches were in front of the animals when they mated. The result was that the strong female birthed offspring that were speckled. In this way, Jacob grew exceedingly prosperous with huge flocks of sheep and goats.

Poplar Tree

Native to the Middle East including Palestine, the white poplar tree (Populus alba) grows well in moist areas to include along water courses. The white popular grows as tall as 60 feet; the trunk darkens with age but new shoots are white. Spring flowers are green on female trees and a bright crimson on male trees. The white poplar tree is attractive and fast growing. It is a good tree to grow between properties for privacy. Problems include brittle branches and persistent suckers requiring removal.

Crafty Characters

Both Laban and Jacob were crafty, i.e., they were deceitful, tricky, scheming, and devious. Laban agreed to give Jacob all the speckled animals for his wages. Then, immediately moved all speckled animals away from herds Jacob tended to that no speckled animals were available to breed. Jacob placed speckled branches in front of water troughs, believing that seeing the rods when they mated would cause the females animals to birth speckled offspring. Jacob’s scheme was superstitious behavior. Most definitely, the color of branches female livestock saw when they mated didn’t influence the color of offspring. It is true that the female stock produced a high percent of speckled animals. However, the reason was God’s intervention and his will and not Jacob’s conniving.

Do you admire Jacob? I don’t! He was a liar, showed partiality to his wives and children, condoned the rape of his daughter, and I could go on and on. But it really doesn’t matter what I think of Jacob. God decided to bless Jacob. God chose Jacob to be an ancestor of the Messiah in spite of Jacob’s character defects. At the same time, God didn’t condone Jacob’s behavior. Here are some Bible verses about crafty behavior:

“He catches the wise in their craftiness and the schemes of the wily are swept away” (Job 5:13). This verse was repeated by St. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthian church. Paul wrote, “For the wisdom of the world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: He catches the wise in their craftiness” (1 Corinthians 3:19). Paul encouraged Christians to grow and become mature in their faith so they are “no longer infants tossed back and forth by waves and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming” (Ephesians 2: 14). God averred that even in the church, crafty men would try to de-rail Christian belief.

Reflection: Are you crafty? Do you scheme to get your own way with your spouse or at work? If you do, please don’t forget Job’s words (which Paul repeated). God knows when we try to get our own way by being sly or crafty. His words are – the schemes of the wily are swept away.

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 25, 2015: Carolyn A. Roth

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Jacob’s Wives were Superstitious

Courtesy Sara Gold, Israel.

Courtesy Sara Gold, Israel.

Read Genesis 30:14-22.

The mandrake is associated with the patriarch Jacob, son of Isaac and Rebekah and grandson of Abraham. This event took place in Paddan Aram where Jacob was living with his mother’s brother, Laban (Genesis 29: 15 – 30: 13). Jacob’s two wives were the daughters of Laban. Leah was the first and older wife and Rachel the younger, second wife. Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah. At this time, Leah has birthed four boys and stopped conceiving children. Rachel has born no children. Jacob spent his nights with Rachel.

The story of the mandrakes began with Leah’s oldest son, Reuben, finding mandrake plants in the field and bringing mandrake roots to Leah. Rachel saw the plants and asked Leah for them. Resentful of Jacob’s preference for Rachel, Leah asked Rachel, “Wasn’t it enough that you took away my husband? Will you take my son’s mandrakes too?” Rachel responded by proposing a trade – Jacob can sleep with Leah that night in return for the mandrakes. Leah agreed. When Jacob came in from the fields, he was met by Leah who said, “You must sleep with me. I have hired you with my son’s mandrakes.” Leah became pregnant and bore Jacob a fifth son who was called Issachar. Then, Leah became pregnant with a sixth son (Zebulun) and later a daughter (Dinah).  Rachel did not become pregnant as a result of acquiring – and most likely using – the mandrakes from Leah.

Many westerners cannot make much sense of this story. What does the mandrake have to do with pregnancy? In early peoples, the mandrake was associated with the superstitious belief that it promoted fertility and conception in barren women. The mandrake root was consumed in very small amounts, cut into an amulet to wear on the body, or put beneath the bed. The Genesis story revealed that Rachel and Leah believed that mandrakes promoted conception. Both Leah and Rachel wanted children. Leah wanted additional children to win the regard and affection of Jacob.  Rachel wanted children to validate herself as a woman. Rachel was so desperate to have children that she was willing to have Jacob spend a night with Leah to get possession of the mandrakes.

We are not told whether Jacob believed that mandrakes promoted fertility; however, at this time Jacob spent his nights with Rachel knowing she wanted children. In earlier chapters of Genesis, the Bible recorded that Rachel told Jacob, “Give me children, or I’ll die” (Genesis 30:1 – 2). Jacob responded angrily asking Rachel, “Am I in the place of God, who has kept you from having children?” Jacob’s response can be contrasted with that of his father Isaac and his care for his wife Rebekah. When Rebekah was barren, Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of Rebekah (Genesis 25:21). The Lord answered Isaac’s prayer.  Rebekah became pregnant and gave birth to Esau and Jacob.  There is no record that Jacob prayed about Rachel’s barren state. Rather, many years later the Bible recorded that God listened to Rachel and opened her womb and she conceived Jacob’s 11th son (Genesis 30:22 – 24).

Mandragora autumnalisCharacteristics of the Mandrake Plant

The mandrake, Mandragora officinarum (AKA M, autumnalis) is a member of the Solanacea family that includes some poisonous plants (nightshades), but also important crop plants such as potatoes and egg plants. It is native to lands around the Mediterranean Sea. The mandrake grows best in stony wastelands and uncultivated fields and will not survive severe winters. The most notable segment of the mandrake and the portion associated with fertility and conception is the root. Mandrakes have large brown roots (similar to parsnips) that can run three to four feet into the ground.The thick root is frequently forked similar to two legs. The root can weigh several pounds. On the surface of the ground, the mandrake is a dark green color with a rosette of leaves which can grow up to twelve inches long and six inches wide. Mandrake flowers produce globular yellow to orange berries which resemble small tomatoes.

Application of the Mandrake

The Bible story of the mandrakes speaks to individuals today. It tells us that Rachel could not manipulate her fertility by believing in the superstitious power of a plant, e.g., the mandrake. It was God who gave Rachel fertility after she prayed to him. We do not know if Rachel’s fertility would have occurred earlier if her husband Jacob – God’s chosen man and the son of the patriarch Abraham   — would have prayed for her. We simply know that when Rachel finally turned to God, God responded by granting Rachel’s request for a son. What a son Rachel received! Rachel’s first son was Joseph, one of the greatest men of the Bible whose life is an example for every Jew and Christian.

Many of us engage in superstitious behavior. We read our horoscope every morning and think that it will tell us if we are going to have a good day. We  ask God questions. Then open the Bible expecting that God’s answer will be in the first passage we read. This type of question and answer behavior is superstitious and an attempt to manipulate God’s word to meet our immediate situation and needs. God answers prayers and the answers are based on principles and truths for our lives found in the Bible. Paul wrote (Romans 8:26 – 27) that we do not know what we should pray for, but that the Holy Spirit knows what we need. The Holy Spirit intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express so that our prayers will be in accordance with God’s will for our lives.

Thought:  I am sure that I have engaged in superstitious behavior and have tried to manipulate or end run God. I am equally sure and thankful that the Holy Spirit intercedes for me when I pray. Over time I have become willing to admit that I do not have the answers to every situation. More and more my prayers are simply, “Your will be done, God.” What about you?  Are you like Jacob’s wives trying by superstitious behavior or your own efforts to manage events and situations in your life? Or are you willing to wait prayerfully on God’s time and/or his will for you?

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 2014: Carolyn Adams Roth

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A Bad Bargain

Esau 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 Lentils & Lentil Stewancient 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: June 2014: Carolyn Roth

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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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