Tag Archives: Jewish Captivity

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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Digging Willow Lined Canels in Babylon

S. babylonica (2)The story of the fall of Jerusalem is in 2 Kings 25:1-12 and Psalm 137 is a lament of the exiles in Babylon.

After King Zedekiah of Judah rebelled, Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Jerusalem (January 15, 588 B.C.). About 2 ½ years later, King Zedekiah and his army broke through the Jerusalem wall near the king’s garden and fled the city. Nebuchadnezzar pursued and captured Zedekiah at Riblah. Zedekiah was taken to Babylon and killed. On August 14, 586 B.C., the Babylonians set fire to the temple, royal palace, and every important building in Jerusalem. The walls of Jerusalem were broken down. Israelites that remained in Jerusalem were taken as captives into Babylon with the exception of the poorest people who were left to tend the vineyards and fields.  In Babylon, Jewish captives were treated as slaves or servants (2 Chronicles 36:20).

Psalm 137 remembers the Babylonian captivity and provides insight into the life of the Jerusalem captives in Babylon. The first stanza (first 3 verses) possibly indicates that the captives lived near and/or worked building canals that connected rivers around Babylon and provided irrigation for crops. The captives were so wretched that at times they could do nothing but sit and weep for their lost freedom and land. Verse 2 recorded that they hung harps, used to accompany songs to God, on willow trees. Probably the men did not technically hang their valued musical instruments on willow tree branches. More likely, they set them aside or as we say today, “put them on a back shelf,” having no heart to play or sing. To further add to the captive’s agony, their Babylonian captors demanded the Jewish play harps and sing songs of joy about Zion. The Babylonians want the captives to entertain them!

Stanza 2 (verses 4-6) is about repentance. It begins by the captives asking how they can sing God’s songs in a foreign land. In the captives’ minds, songs should praise God and reverberate through the Temple and Jerusalem, not be sung for the entertainment of a heathen people. The two verses of the stanza are pledges and curses on themselves if they forget Jerusalem. Verse 5 says: may their right hand – the hand used to play the harp – lose its skill (become numb) if they forget Jerusalem. Verse 6 avers:  may their tongues cling to the roof of their mouth – never sing – if they do not remember and consider Jerusalem their highest joy.

Stanza 3 (verses 7-9) is a petition for God to punish the Edomites and the Babylonians. The Edomonites were off-spring of Esau who was Jacob’s (Israel) twin brother. Yet, the Edomites encouraged the Babylonians when they destroy Jerusalem. Although the Babylonians were the vehicle of God’s punishment of the Jewish people, they embraced their conquest with gleeful brutality. The brutality included taking Jewish babies from the arms of Jewish mothers and beating their heads against walls and trees.

Babylon Willow Tree

The Babylonian willow is the Salix babylonica  known as the weeping willow. The tree is native to central Asia, probably China. From China it was transported along the silk route to the Middle East. The willow was planted and grew around ancient Babylon which gave its name to the species.  Weeping willows favors bright sunlight.  Under too much shade, the tree grows unevenly. In Israel, S. babylonica grows in Mediterranean woodlands and shrub-lands and is found in the Sharon Plain. Typically, Babylonian weeping willows grow between 30-50 feet tall. Flexible stems move gracefully in the wind. The weeping willow is deciduous and loses its leaves in the late fall and early winter months. The upper leaf surface looks olive-green while the underside appears silver. Like branches and stems, leaves hang down, or droop, as they grow. Weeping will trees produce leaves and flowers simultaneously.

Symbolism:  Repentance

Depression and weeping are concepts that could be associated with the Salix babylonica because they described the behavior of the Jewish captives in Psalm 137:1-3; however, “repentance” is the better symbolism. Repentance means turning from sin and amending one’s life.  Repentance implies sorrow, regret, and contrition for previous sinful behavior.  The captive Jewish men repented. The result was that they could not sing God’s songs in a land of heathen idolaters.  They saw moral impropriety in mixing the songs of the Lord with the things of the world.

The Bible did not describe how the captivities came to repentance. They may have remembered and talked among themselves about the prophecies of Isaiah and Jeremiah. Both warned of the coming judgment on Israel, but also talked about Israel’s deliverance and restoration. Perhaps they heard directly or indirectly the consoling words of Ezekiel, who like they lived in Babylon.  Ezekiel’s assured the captives that Israel would return home to Jerusalem and inhabit the towns of Judah (Ezekiel 36:8-12).  Ezekiel even promised that a new Temple would be built.

However repentance came about, the Jewish captives pledged their loyalty to Jerusalem, home of God. The Good News Bible (1976) provides a succinct translation of their oath:

May I never be able to play the harp again if I forget you Jerusalem!  May I never be able to sing again if I do not remember you, if I do not think of you as my greatest joy (Psalm 137:5-6).

In April 1948 immediately before Israel declared itself an independent nation, the Jewish sector of Jerusalem was practically in a state of siege (MacDonald, 1995). Food supplies were almost exhausted. Weekly rations for each person was 2 ounces of margarine, 4 ounces of potatoes, and 4 ounces of dried meat. Then, news came that a convoy of food and supplies was coming from Tel Aviv. Hundreds of people ran out to welcome the trucks. Jews in Jerusalem reported that they will never forget the sight of the first truck in the convoy.  Written on the front bumper of the blue Ford were the words “If I ever forget you, O Jerusalem….”

Reflection. The Jews learned the value of repentance in Babylon.Have you learned the value of repentance?

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 27, 2012; carolyn a. roth

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Nebuchadnezzar ate Grass

Cicer arietinum, chickpea The story of Daniel interpreting King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and the outcome of the dream is in Daniel chapter 4.

Along with other members of the Israelite royal family and nobility, Daniel was deported (605 B.C.) to Babylon during the reign of the Chaldean king Nebuchadnezzar. He was given a Babylonian name and was educated for service in the Babylonian court. God gave Daniel ability to understand and interpret dreams. His abilities so impressed Nebuchadnezzar that the king made Daniel ruler over the entire province of Babylon and chief officer over the wise men.

Nebuchadnezzar had a dream about a mighty tree that reached the heavens and was visible to the ends of the earth. The tree provided shade and food for all manner of animals and birds.  Heavenly beings decreed that the tree be chopped down, its branches and leaves stripped, and its fruit scattered. The tree’s stump remained with the beast of the grass.  Nebuchadnezzar asked Daniel to interpret the dream.

Daniel told King Nebuchadnezzar that he was the tree that would be chopped down.  Nebuchadezzar would lose his sanity and kingdom. He would dwell with beasts in the field and eat grass like oxen. Only when Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged that God gave him the Chaldean kingdom, would Nebuchadnezzar recover his mind.  Daniel implored the king to break off his sins and show mercy to the oppressed.

Despite Daniel’s warning, King Nebuchadnezzar did not change his behavior. After 12 months, the king walked on the palace roof admiring his power and majesty. While he was speaking words of self-praise, a voice from heaven told Nebuchadnezzar that God’s time of judgment was now. Nebuchadnezzar lost his sanity. He went to the fields and ate grass. His body became wet from the dew of heaven. Nebuchadnezzar’s hair grew long as eagle’s feathers and his nails were like bird’s claws.

At the end of seven years, Nebuchadnezzar lifted up his eyes and acknowledged the God of heaven.  His reason returned to him and his kinship was restored.  Nebuchadnezzar blessed the Most High and credited God with returning his kingdom to him. The Bible story ends by Nebuchadnezzar saying, “those who walk in pride he (God) is able to humble” (Daniel 4:37, NIV-SB, 2002).

Chick-peas

In the story of Nebuchadnezzar, grass referred to a grazing or forage crop for oxen.  Probably Nebuchadnezzar ate more than one type of grass because animal forage is seasonal.  Ancient Babylon produced barley, chick peas, the sesame, and a marshland edible root (gongai). In ancient Babylon and in modern day Iraq where Babylon was located, chickpeas are consumed by both humans and animals. The Iraq chickpea is the Cicer arietinum L. Chickpea plants were cultivated as early as 5000 years B.C. in Syria and Turkey.   In 2012, chickpeas were not listed as a plant that currently grows in Israel. Chick peas have a high biological value. Starch, amino acids (building blocks of proteins), and minerals are present in seeds.  Humans eat seeds raw, cooked, fresh, or dried.  Often seeds are described as tasting like a sweet chestnut.  Livestock (particularly cows and pigs) eat broken seeds and seed pods; plant straw is used as animal fodder.  In developing countries, dried stems and roots are used as a cooking fuel.

Symbolism:  Forage, Grazing

In the story of Nebuchadnezzar eating grass like an animal, the chickpea symbolized forage and grazing.  As a noun forage means food for animals to eat; sometimes animal forage is called hay, feed, or silage.  As an action (verb), forage means that the animal is searching, hunting, or rummaging for food. Grazing includes the process of foraging, but also means that the grazer eats small portions of food throughout the day. Some days, e.g., after church or on Saturday afternoon during football season, my husband and I do not cook meals; rather we forage or graze on food all afternoon and evening.  He’s a chips, cashews, and chicken wings guy, while I am happy with my biscotti, chocolate, and peanut butter. Like Nebuchadnezzar grazing for fodder eating a little bite here and there, Bruce and I make multiple trips to the refrigerator and pantry.

Many people are foraging or hunting for answers to today’s problems and challenges.  In the process they take a small bite of this or that philosophy or religion. They may watch an evangelist for a short time, or pick up a Bible for a brief read. When they do not get immediate answers or the answers they want, they turn to another book, person, or ism. Their actions are like my eating biscotti, chocolate, and peanut butter – maybe at times tasty, but not nutritionally adequate or fulfilling.

We are not going to know God by grazing lightly through the Bible, or attending church on a hit or miss basis.  People who take this approach will need to hear the elementary truths of God’s word over and over again. They will drink milk rather than eat the solid foods of teachings on righteousness (Hebrews 5:11-14). God wants methodical people who will search the scriptures daily, learn from them, and apply them to their lives.  He wants followers who attend church and Bible study with a teachable heart.

Nebuchadnezzar got God’s message.  After returning to his senses, Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged that God is supreme and does according to his will in heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth (Daniel 4:38, NIV-SB, 2002).  Likely Nebuchadnezzar would tell men and women who graze or nibble in the Christian faith that God’s signs are great and his wonders mighty (Daniel 4:3, NIV-SB, 2002).  God’s kingdom is everlasting and endures from generation to generation.

Reflection.  Are you a grazer – taking small bites of Christianity here and there – or are you a disciple, a convicted adherent to Christianity.  Have you taken a big bit of God or are you still nibbling around?

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, 2012; carolyn a. roth

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