Tag Archives: nature

The Rose of Sharon

Tulipa sharonensisSong of Songs describes the love between a man and a woman; the reference to Rose of Sharon is in chapter 2.

The book Song of Songs is also called Song of Solomon and the Canticles. The title, Song of Songs, is a Hebrew idiom meaning “the most exquisite song” (MacDonald, 1995).  The Song is a dialogue between the Beloved (a maid) and her Lover (Solomon), with minor input from Friends.  An advantage of reading Song of Songs in the New International Version Study Bible (2002) is that each speaker is clearly marked.  Song of Songs includes erotic analogies that can be uncomfortable if considered outside the belief that sexual desire is God-given, beautiful, and to be celebrated in the context of a heterosexual, committed and loving relationship.  According to Jewish tradition, Solomon wrote the Song in his youth prior to becoming entangled in polygamy and concubinage.  This traditional view is consistent with Song of Solomon chapter 2:3 in which the Beloved compares Solomon to other young men.

The name of the Beloved is not given and her lineage is unclear.  In one place Solomon refers to her as “O, prince’s daughter!” (Song of Songs, 7:1); however, this reference could allude to the nobility of her beauty and character rather than her birth.  In another place, Friends call the Beloved a Shulammite (Song of Songs 6:13).   Shulammite could indicate that the Beloved was from Shunen, a territory allocated to Issachar in the division of tribal lands (Joshua 19:18).  Alternatively, Shulammite could be a feminine form of Solomon in which case the Friends named her “Solomon’s girl” (Song of Solomon 6:13).  Finally, possibly Shulammite does not refer directly to the Beloved; but to a type of dance in which two groups of dancers weave in and out with one another.

The Beloved called herself a rose of Sharon.  The Sharon Plain was located along the Mediterranean Sea south of Mount Carmel.  Sixty miles long and 10 miles wide, the Sharon Plain was one of the largest valley-plains in ancient Israel. In the time of Solomon, the Sharon plain was well-known for its fertility, beauty, and majesty, having many flowers and trees.  Clearly, the Beloved adored her Lover (Song of Songs 1:4).  At the same time, she did not underrate herself.  In giving herself, she offered her Lover the most perfect flower known — a rose of Sharon.

Rose of Sharon

          In the United States scholars have debated the exact Rose of Sharon flower.  The popular Rose of Sharon bush (see above)  is the Hibiscus syriacus; however, the hibiscus is not the ancient Israel Rose of Sharon.  Past professor of Biblical Botany at the Hebrew University, Dr. Ephraim HaReubeni claimed that the Rose of Sharon was a tulip. Most likely the tulip species is the Tulipa agenensis subspecies sharonensis, also known as the Sharon tulip and sun’s-eye tulip.

In Israel the Tulipa agenensis is considered a wildflower and at one time grew abundantly across Israel. Now, because of real estate develop, the Sharon tulip is harder to find in the wild. The Sharon tulip is salt resistant and prefers a neutral to acid soil and full sun.  It thrives where summers are dry and winters are cold. It grows 8-12 inches tall. The  Sharon tulips color and shape make it unique and add to its seeming perfection. Outer petals are longer (up to 2 inches long and 1 inch wide) and more pointed than inner petals.  The outer surfaces of tulip petals are uniformly red.  Inside, the tulip petal has a distinct black area at the base that extends about the half way up the sides of each petal.  A yellow halo surrounds the black on most petals.  In most cases tulips spread through asexual reproduction with bulbs producing small bulbs or bulblets.

Symbolism:  Perfection

The rose of Sharon refers to perfection.  For the ancients a rose – in this case a tulip – was the most perfect of all flowers.  Perhaps not inconsequential, the tulip is a perfect or complete flower having stamens and pistils on the same flower.  When flowers or persons are perfect, they lack no essential detail and are without fault or defect. Although the Beloved identifies that she is dark skinned from working outside in the sun, nonetheless, she is perfect for her mate.

My husband is the perfect husband for me and I am the perfect wife for him.  After 20 years of marriage and continued reinforcement from Bruce, finally I believe he sees me as perfect.  In the 20 years, I have acquired wrinkles and sags, but to him I am still perfect. His unswerving love and belief in my perfection gives me security even with characteristics the world identifies as defects.  Because Bruce views me as perfect does not mean that he doesn’t gently coach me when I am moody, or whiny, or my thinking is off track.

God is perfect and his ways are perfect (2 Samuel 22:31; Psalm 18:32; Matthew 5:48).  When Christ lived on earth, he was without fault or defect and lacked no detail in his personality to be the perfect human (Hebrews 4:15).  Because I have been redeemed by Christ, when God looks at me, he sees Christ’s perfection, not my defects.  Even more than Bruce seeing me as the perfect wife, God sees me as his perfect child.

Saint Paul talked about perfection in his letter to the Philippians (Philippians 3:10-14).  He wrote how much he wanted to know Christ and become like the perfect Christ.  Paul admitted that he was not yet perfect, but he was going to keep trying to be like Christ.  Paul believed it was important to forget what he was like and did in the past and strain forward to what was ahead.

Paul seemed to have a keen understanding of perfection in the Christian life.  It means being committed fully to Christ and modeling our lives after Christ’s life.  Perfection is about forgetting past inadequacies that the devil gleefully uses to keep us feeling insecure in our relationship with Christ.  Perfection focuses on the present and future.  For Christians the future is home with Christ in heaven.

Reflection:   Reflect on your perfection in God’s sight.  Doesn’t is allow you to take a deep breath and relax securely in His care?

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: January 17, 2012; carolyn a. roth; Update March 26, 2017

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Autumn in the Mountains

Jim Forney is the photographer. He lives in Roanoke and is a church friend. On his Facebook page, he continually publishes photos of this quality. Awesome.

When I look at this photograph, I see God’s glory in nature. Importantly, we are not to worship nature, but worship the creator-God of nature. Honestly, I do not believe that the beauty we see in nature or in each other are products of evolution. Do you?

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Jerusalem Sage Won’t Grow

For two years, I have been trying to grow Jerusalem sage – first in my home garden and then in our Church Bible Garden. Yes, I brought the seeds back from Israel and yes I declared them on the Custom Report.

After several seed plantings, the sage came up last year and re-appeared this spring; however, the plants were only about 3-4 inches tall. After about 4-5 weeks, the leaves looked terrible with spots and wilt. I both watered the plants and sprayed them with a multipurpose bug, fungi, etc. spray.

I even took  home plants to our Church Bible Garden to see if maybe they would do better in a different environment. No improvement in the growth pattern or appearance in the Church!

My conclusion is that Jerusalem sage does not grow well in the Roanoke Valley. I am going to use a different type of sage in the church Bible Garden.  However, I do have some seeds left so if you have any advice, I am eager to hear it.

If you have planted Jerusalem sage with a different result, let me know. We are in plant zone 7A.

 

 

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

Pine in Solomon’s Temple

P halepensis, female coneThe role of pine wood in the First Temple is described in 1 Kings Chapters 5 and 6.

Construction of the Temple and royal palace complex was a huge undertaking.  In addition to the 30,000 Israelite men that Solomon forced to cut trees in Lebanon, Solomon conscripted 153,600 aliens living in Israel.  Seventy thousand men functioned as carriers, 80,000 men as stone cutters, and 3,600 men as foreman (2 Chronicles 2:17-18).

Solomon obtained the pine for the Temple from Lebanon.  Similar to the cedar trees used in the Temple, pine trees were made into boards or planks.  The Temple floor was covered with planks of pine (1 Kings 6:15).  The entrance to the Temple’s main hall was two pine doors (1 Kings 6:33-35).  Each pine door had two leaves that turned in sockets.  On the doors were carved cherubim, palm trees, and open flowers. The carvings were overlaid with hammered gold.  The Bible does not specify whether or not pine wood was used for the floors in Solomon’s palace, throne room, and Hall of Justice.  Because the building walls were made from cedar, most likely their floors were pine planks continuing the parallel construction of the Temple.

Initially, using pine for Temple floors seems odd.  Pine is designated as a soft wood in comparison to oak, a hard wood which was plentiful in Israel.  Lebanon pine trees were most likely from old growth forests.  The wood would have been heart wood taken from the center of the pine tree versus sapwood at the outside of the tree.  Heart wood has “died,” hardened, and ceased to pass nutrients up the tree.  It is the hardest and darkest section of the pine tree.  Currently, heart wood is used in pine flooring where the wood is cut with the vertical grain.   Pine wood can be without knots (clear) or have tight knots or large knots.  Tight knots add character and beauty to pine floors without appreciably weakening them.  Heart pine ages beautifully; it darkens slightly and takes on a soft glow.  In the United States, there are pine floors 300+ years of age.  The floors have some gouges which add to the character of the floors.Pinus halepensis, Aleppo pine

This strange looking pine tree is from the Armenian Seminary Garden in Jerusalem. It is reputed to be the oldest pine tree in Israel.

The Pine Tree

The most likely candidate for the Temple pine is Pinus halepensis, known commonly as the Jerusalem pine and the Aleppo (Syria) pine.  Despite these geographical names, P. halepensis has a typical western Mediterranean distribution. Ecologically, Aleppo pines are specialized for low to moderate fertile habitats and thrive in desert heat, drought, and wind.  Although the Aleppo pine is tender when young; once established it can take near-zero temperatures. The Aleppo pine is an evergreen conifer that is relatively short lived at 70-100 years; however, with arbori-cultural care, specimens can live over 200 years. The oldest living Aleppo pine, 215 years old, is in the Armenian Gardens in Jerusalem. The Aleppo pine needle is light green to olive-green. The flower is a cone. Male cone are cylindrical and occur in tight clusters at the tip of branches.  Female cones are oval to oblong, 3–4.5 inches long, reddish to reddish purple, and grow on short stocks.

Symbolism: Nobility

Pines are an emblem of nobility.  In a person, noble means the person possesses excellent qualities of the mind, character, ideals and morals. In the Old Testament, certain women were described as noble.  Boaz told Ruth he wanted to be her kinsman-redeemer because she was a noble woman (Ruth 3:11).   A woman of noble character is described as her husband’s crown (Proverbs 12:4).  Proverbs chapter 31 lauded a wife of noble character and concluded that she was worth more than rubies.  Some of her characteristics included working with eager hands to meet the food and clothing needs of the household, adding to the financial security of the family by using judgment to purchase a field and making linen garments to sell to the merchants,  giving freely to the poor and needy, speaking with wisdom, and acting with dignity.

In a brief exposition on The Kingdom of Righteousness, Isaiah ended with a description of a noble man.  He wrote, “But the noble man makes noble plans, and by noble deeds he stands” (Isaiah 32:8).  From God’s perspective having a noble mind, character, ideals, and morals is not sufficient to be credited as noble.  Nobility displays itself in deeds. We look at what a man or woman does to evaluate their nobility

Over two decades ago, I was a manager in a corporation.  In a managers’ meeting, a psychiatric nurse gave an education program on team building.  One of his remarks was, “always look more at what a team member does than what she says.”  Probably what Isaiah and the psychiatric nurse were saying was, “noble is as noble does.” Noble people are more than noble ideals and plans. Noble people produce excellent actions and deeds.  Christ said “by their fruits you will recognize them” (Matthew 7:16).

Reflection.  Would people looking at your life conclude your deeds as noble?

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 2, 2012; carolyn a. roth

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Algum Wood for Temple Musical Instruments

???????????????????????????????The use of algum wood when Solomon built the Temple is recorded in two places:  1 Kings 10:11-12; and 2 Chronicles 9:10-11.

In the process of building the Temple, Solomon wanted algum wood, also known as almug wood (Mock, 2003).  Algum wood was not available in Israel and possibly King Hiram of Tyre did not have the quality of wood that Solomon had in mind.  Solomon determined to send ships to Ophir to obtain the algum wood.  Solomon had a fleet of ships built at Ezion Geber near Elath.   Elath was a harbor on the southern tip of Israel located on the northeastern Red Sea.  King David is believed to have established his southern most defensive line at Elath.  In modern Israel, Elath is at, or near, the city of Eilat, situated on the Gulf of Aqaba.  Evidently Israelites were not adept sailors because Solomon contracted with Hiram to use Tyre sailors to serve on Israelite ships (1 Kings 9:27).

Scholars are not sure where Ophir was located; however, the Bible recorded that only once every three years did ships return from Ophir (1 Kings 10:22).  The ships from Ophir carried gold, silver, ivory, apes, and baboons in addition to algum wood.  Most likely, Ophir was located in India or the far-east.  Some writers suggested that Ophir was located in Arabia or western Africa; however, these areas would not have taken three years for a round-trip from Elath.

During Solomon’s reign, more algum wood was imported than ever seen previously in Israel.  Algum wood was used to make stairs and banisters for the Temple and royal palace complex.  It was used extensively in the stringed instrument section of the Temple, e.g., in harps and lyres (Mock, 2003).  The musical instruments were so beautiful that they were a marvel in Judah.  The almug tree yields heavy, fine-grained wood that is notably black on the surfaces yet polishes to a rich ruby or garnet color.  In addition to being strong, it is antiseptic which makes it impervious to most insects, e.g., termites, as no insects will live inside the wood.

Algum Trees and Wood

The algum tree of the Bible was from the Pterocarpus santalinus known as red sandalwood, Red Saunders and Red Sanders.  Sandalwood is native to southern India and does not naturally grow in Israel.  The algum is a deciduous tree between 33-65 feet tall.  The red sandalwood is considered endangered because its natural habitat in India is subjected to human encroachment. The algum tree has a number of useful products.  The hard, heavy heart wood can be used for carpentry and for fence posts.  Bark and stems are made into a red dye which gives a deep ruby red color to silken and woolen clothes.  Currently, the dye is used as a brightening substance in tea mixtures and a coloring agent in toothpaste.

Symbolism:  Praise

The symbolism of the algum trees used in the Temple was praise.  The harp and lyre, made with algum wood, were used to praise God (Psalm 33:1-3).  After having a magnificent Temple built to worship God, it is natural that Solomon spared no effort or expense when it came to having musical instruments crafted to praise God.  In contrast to worship which is done with words and actions, praise is expressed with words.  Praise expresses approval, esteem, and perfection; praise is a commendation and a statement of value and merit (Merriam-Webster, Incorporated, 2002).  Everything that has breath should praise the Lord (Psalm 150:6).  The challenge for Christians is why, when, where, and how we should praise God.

For the Israelites 3000 years ago and for Christians today, the why of praise is clear.  First, we praise God because he tells us to do so; e.g., “let everything that has breathe praise the Lord” (Psalm 150:6).  Second, we praise God because he deserves to be praised.  The Psalmist (48:1) wrote that the Lord is greatly to be praised, and that he is good and his mercy endures forever (136:1).  John averred that God was worthy to receive praise, e.g., glory, honor and power, because he created all things and all things exist through God’s will (Revelations 4:11).  Third, we praise God because it benefits us to do so.  Praising God gets our thoughts off of ourselves and our problems and sets them on God.  When we praise God, we are reminded of how powerful he is and that we are his special people whom he loves.  When the Temple was dedicated with prayers and praise, the entire assembly offered praises to God (2 Chronicles 5:13-14; 7:1-3).   God’s response was to send fire from heaven to consume the sacrifices.  His glory filled the temple in the form of a cloud that was so dense that the priest could not enter the temple and perform the services.

For answers to questions of when and where God wants his people to praise him, we can turn to the Bible.  The Bible tell us to praise God at all times (Psalm 34:1; Philippians 4:4), while we live (Psalm 63:3-4), and from the rising to the setting of the sun (Psalm 113:2-3).   Where should we praise God?  Should we praise God in church formal worship services or in prayer meetings?  What about when we have our devotions – is that the time to praise God?  Again, the Bible has the answer to “where should we praise God?  We should praise God in the house of the Lord and sanctuary (Psalm 134:1-2; Psalm 150:1).  Because Christian’s bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit, we are a sanctuary (I Corinthians 6:19-20); therefore, Christians can and should praise God in our bodies and in our spirits wherever we are (I Corinthian 6:19-20).

The answer to how we should praise God is sometime difficult for Christians and has been a basis for divisions among believers.  God tells us we should praise him with our whole heart and we should be glad and rejoice (Psalm 9:1-2).  We can praise him with the sound of trumpet, with tambourine, dance, stringed instruments, flutes, and cymbals (Psalm 150:2-5).  It is okay if we make a joyful shout when we come into his courts with praise and if we lift up our hands (Psalm 100:1, 4; Psalm 134:2).  Probably, God does not care is we sing traditional hymns with an organ or use contemporary praise music with keyboard and drums.  I believe that God hears both of these praise styles with a joyous heart.

Reflection:  In preparation for writing this section on praise, I spent part of the morning (while I was cleaning house) praising and thanking God for all he does.  It felt good at the time and my body and spirit still feels uplifted.  Try it and see what effect praising God has on 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 March 15, 2012; carolyn a. roth

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Ceder Wood in the Temple

Cedrus libani NK (2)The descriptions of cedar wood in the Temple are found in 1 Kings Chapter 5-7 and 2 Chronicles chapter 2-4.

In the fourth year (960 B.C.) of Solomon’s reign as king over a combined Israel and Judah, he started to build a Temple to God.  Solomon’s father David averred that God gave him specific plans for construction of the temple (1 Chronicles 28:11-19).  David relayed the construction plans to Solomon.  Several types of wood were used in the temple construction, e.g., cedar, pine, algum, and olive.  The temple was decorated with plant motifs, e.g., pomegranates, lilies, palm trees, and gourds.  The cedar tree and cedar will be described in this section.

The temple was for worshipping God and to house the Ark of the Covenant (Testimony) and other holy furnishings.  It was built in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, the site of the threshing floor that David bought from Ornan the Jebusite.  The basic structure of the temple was approximately two times the size of the Tabernacle, 90 feet long, 30 feet wide and 45 feet high. A 30 feet wide and 15 feet long vestibule or porch was attached to the front of the temple.   As with the Tabernacle, the entrance faced east.  On both sides of the entrance was a tall pillar of bronze.  The outside of the Temple was made of stone; however, the interior walls were made of cedar board covered with gold.  The Temple was completed in 7 years.

In addition to building God’s Temple, Solomon built a royal palace.  In the palace much of the wood was cedar, e.g., it was roofed with cedar and cedar columns and beams supported the roof.  Solomon’s Hall of Justice was paneled in cedar from floor to ceiling.  The palace complex took 13 years to build.

Solomon contracted with King Hiram of Tyre to supply the cedar and pine logs from the forests of Lebanon.  In exchange for the wood, Solomon provided Hiram’s court and servants with food during while the timber was cut and transported.   In addition to the food and wine Solomon gave King Hiram for the wood, Solomon conscripted 30,000 laborers to cut and transport the wood from Lebanon (I Kings 5:13-14).  These men were Israelites who were forced into labor.  Every month a cadre of 10,000 men was sent to Lebanon; thus, each man was away from home one month out of three. The timber was transported by rafts from Lebanon at Joppa, the port for Jerusalem.   Solomon conveyed the wood from Joppa to Jerusalem.

Cedar wood was and is used in edifices constructed to last centuries, even millennia. Cedar is durable, free from knots, and easy to work.  The heart wood is a warm red and beautifully grained.  Cedars exude a gum or balsam which gives the tree an aromatic scent in which people take delight.   In contrast, most insects dislike the smell and taste; consequently, they do not attack the tree (Shewell-Cooper, 1988).  Fungus is the most common cause of disease in plants.  The cedar is resistant to fungal disease so dry and wet rot rarely occur.  An expert botanist, Solomon knew the cedar’s characteristics and preferred them to trees more available to him in Israel, e.g., sycamore and box trees.

The Cedar Tree

The scientific name for the Lebanon cedar is the Cedrus libani.  The Lebanon cedar is native to the Middle East; it grows wild only in Turkey, Syria, and Lebanon.  Today in Lebanon large numbers of cedars no longer exist; therefore, it is a protected species in that country.   The most venerable representatives are 1,200–2,000 years old and grow in the Besharre region of northern Lebanon. The few cedars in Israel are on Mount Hermon and the Galilean and Judean mountains. Cedars are an evergreen tree with trunk and older branches silvery and cracked.  Leaves present as silvery-blue needles arranged in clumps on short spur-like projects from branches. The flower is a cone. Seeds germinate best in the cool temperatures of high hills and mountains.  Cedars grow slowly and it takes centuries to produce a majestic cedar.

Symbolism: Firm

The Hebrew word for a cedar tree is ʾerez a word derived from the primitive root ʾâraz, meaning to be firm as in the case of a cedar tree (Strong, 2010).  The cedar tree was firm because of its tenacious root structure, its long life in nature, its resistance to insect infestation, and its endurance as a building material.   The adjective firm, means securely or solidly fixed in place; having a structure that resists pressure; and well-founded.   The opposite of firm is weak or uncertain.

Fifty verses in the Bible address firm or firmness, 29 in the Old Testament and 21 in the New Testament.   In the Old Testament two themes emerged in relation to firm.  The first theme was that God is firm in his purpose (Job 36:5), plans (Psalm 33:11), love (Psalm 89:2), and statutes (Psalm 93:5).  The second theme was that if God’s people stood firm, God would deliver them from their enemies, e.g., Pharaoh and the Egyptians (Exodus 14:13), Moab and Ammon (2 Chronicles 20:17), and from wicked men (Proverbs 12:7).  At the same time, God warned Old Testament Israel, “If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all” (Isaiah 7:9).   If Israel succumbed to the life style and pressure of surrounding nations and their faith became weak, then they would not stand as individuals or as a nation.

In four places in the New Testament, Christ said that if followers stood firm to the end, they would be “saved” or have “life eternal” (Matthew 10:22, 24:12-13; Mark 13:12-13; Luke 21:19).   But, in the same verses Christ warned his followers that wicked/worldly men would hate them because these wicked men hated Christ.  Christ described ways hate would become visible, e.g., brothers would betray brother and fathers their children, and children would rebel against parents.  Until recently, when I read the descriptions of brother betraying brother or parents betraying their children, I always thought of Nazi Germany, Communist countries during the cold war, or Christians in China.  More and more, I acknowledge hate and betrayal of Christians occurs daily in the United States.   The result may not be that the life of a family member or dear friend is forfeited; but mental or spiritual death and physical illness can occur through betrayal and neglect after family members or friends embrace Jesus Christ.

Several Sundays ago, our Godly minister distributed a handout that said we live in a “post-Christian” society.   A post Christian society is one in which the majority of individuals are not Christians.  They do not follow the moral-ethical statutes and laws of God.  We see evidence of this post-Christian modernism in efforts to remove the 10 Commandments from public buildings, eliminate prayer and after school Bible study from public schools, turn college religion courses into philosophy courses, and forbid Christian prayer before public meetings.  I am very uncomfortable with the disconnection between our government and God’s gracious loving principles for our lives.  Moving God from in our nation’s public life and symbols, means the United States no long affirms God and Christ.   That leads us back to Isaiah’s warning to the nation of Israel, “If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand firm at all”  (Isaiah, 7:9).

Prayer.  Help us to believe and act like we live in a Christian nation.  Help us to stop being afraid to speak and write about Christ. Amen.

Reflection.  Ultimately, how we are forced to act can become what we believe.

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 March 5, 2012; carolyn a. roth

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Proverb of the Adulteress

Agarwood seed aloeswood (1)Solomon’s proverb warning his son about an adulteress is found in Proverbs chapter 7.

The proverb of the adulteress showed an older and perhaps wiser Solomon than the exuberant Lover in Song of Songs.  In this proverb, Solomon addressed his son.  He described looking through the lattice of a window and seeing a young man who lacked judgment.  In the twilight of the day, the youth walked in the direction of the adulteress’ house.  The woman came out to meet the youth.  She was dressed like a prostitute; e.g., provocative, revealing.  In the street, the woman took hold of the young man and kissed him on the face.

Unashamedly, the adulteress invited the young man to her home for a sumptuous meal and to spend the night making love with her.  Enticingly, she described her bed as covered with linens from Egypt and perfumed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon.   Possibly to reassure the youth that they will not be disturbed, she declared that her husband was not at home.  He was on a long journey with a purse full of money.  With persuasive and seductive words, the adulteress led the young man astray.  He followed her like an ox going to the slaughter.

Solomon concluded this proverb to his son by telling him not to let his heart turn toward an adulteress or stray into her paths.  The adulteress has brought many victims down and killed a mighty throng.  Solomon’s final warning was “her house is a highway to the grave, leading down to the chambers of death” (Proverbs 7:27).

Solomon’s proverb identified three plants: myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon.  Aloes is described here.  The aloe of the New Testament and today is an herbaceous plant; however, the aloe of the Old Testament was from a tree.  The Hebrew word for aloe used in Proverbs was ʼǎhâlôwth.  This same word was used for aloe in Numbers 24:6 when Balaam blessed rather than cursed the Israelites, in the wedding song of Psalm 45:8, and when Solomon described his Beloved bride as an orchard of the finest trees, e.g., pomegranates, cinnamon, aloes (Song of Songs 4:12-14).

The Aloe Tree

Agarwood seed aloeswood (2)The Old Testament aloe tree was the Aquilaria malaccensis, also known as A. agallocha and the eaglewood tree.  Aquilaria malaccensis is on the world list of threatened trees.The eaglewood tree is native to India. Aloe is made from the agarwood of the eaglewood tree.  Only about 10% of mature Aquilaria trees produce agarwood.  Research suggested that the fragrant oleoresin that permeates the heartwood of some eaglewood trees is produced in response to a fungal infection.  Once the fungus establishes itself on the tree, it turns the woody trunk into a deep brown color.  The darker the heart wood, the more valuable the wood.  Trees over 50 years old produce the best agarwood.  Agarwood is harvested, cut into small pieces, and burned.  The result is a distinct aroma.  Linens packed with pieces of agarwood take on the smell of the agar in the same manner as linens packed in a cedar chest. There is a popular belief in Middle East that the aloe tree was descended from the Garden of Eden even though all other trees were lost (Walker, 1979).  According to legend, Adam brought shoots from the aloe tree from Eden and planted them in the land where he and Eve settled.  Today, this tree is called Shoot of Paradise and Paradise Wood.

Symbolism: Aphrodisiac

Aloes are associated with both beauty and with aphrodisiacs.  In the parable of the adulteress, aloes symbolizes an aphrodisiac.  An aphrodisiac is a substance, e.g., drink, smell, or food, which is believed to arouse sexual desire or pleasure.  As a young woman, I imagined creating a home for my husband that invited love and sexual desire.  Our home would be filled with pleasant aromas from fragrant candles and simmering potpourri.  Bed linens would be kept in a closet with pleasant perfumed sachets that would imbue the linens with their fragrance.  Hmmm, I learned quickly that my husband became “stuffed up” by the perfumed air in the house and on the bed linens.  Those fragrances did not arouse him to love and sexual desire, but to sneezing and coughing.

To my husband an aphrodisiac was something different than my perspective.   His point of view can best be described by a story.  We were newly engaged and my birthday arrived.   I was excited to see what Bruce would get me.  Would it be flowers or a floral perfume which I loved?   He came into the house with a beautifully wrapped box that was about 5 inches by 18 inches.  What could it be?  As quickly as possible while still trying to be graceful, I removed the ribbon and paper and opened the box.  It was… it was…. it was a fishing rod and reel!  Bruce was so excited.  Immediately, he showed me how to put the rod together, admiring it tensile strength.  He talked about the fishing trips we could take.  But, I did not fish!

Over the years, I have learned to love fishing and I still have that fishing rod.  To Bruce seeing me wading streams, casting a line, and occasionally pulling in a fish is an aphrodisiac.  He gets so excited by taking me fishing that sometime he doesn’t even fish.  He stays available in the event I lose my fly or get my line tangled.   Sexual arousal, excitement, and stimulation come in many ways.  Hopefully starry-eyed young women grow into mature, loving wives.

Reflection.    David wrote that God satisfies our desires with good things (Psalm 103:5).  God knows our need for sexual pleasure and love; his plan is that they occur together.

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 February 19, 2012; carolyn a. roth

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My Lover, a Cluster of Henna Blossoms

Lawsonia inermis, JBG The Beloved comparing Solomon to a cluster of henna blossoms is described in Song of Solomon Chapter 1.

Throughout this beautiful love poem, the Beloved appeared to be Solomon’s equal.   Although Solomon declared his love and admiration for her, the poem seemed her love story more than his.  The Beloved spoke first.  Of the 117 verses in the Song, 55 were definitely spoken by the Beloved and she was possibly the speaker of another 19 verses. The Beloved proclaimed the overwhelming power of love, e.g., love rivals death, burns with intensity, is precious, and it cannot be purchased. God’s intention is that intense love be a part of the marital relationship.

The Beloved described almost every aspect of her Lover, e.g., his appearance, odor, and grace.  Often she compared him to plants, e.g., he was like a sachet of myrrh resting between her breasts (1:13), his fruit is sweet to my taste (2:3), his cheeks are like beds of spice and his lips were like lilies (5:13).  In verse 1:14, she described Solomon as a cluster of henna blossoms from the vineyards of En Gedi.  Thirty miles south of Jerusalem, En Gedi was one of two fresh water springs on the western shore of the Dead ) Sea.  En Gedi’s year around temperate climate and available water made it well known as an agriculture center.

When the Beloved described her lover as a cluster of henna blossoms, she averred that he was beautiful and smelled good.  Henna blossoms contain an essential oil used to make perfume.

Although not mentioned in Song of Songs, henna is best known as a cosmetic used to enhance beauty.  For the past 6000 year, henna has been used to stain or dye hands, feet, nails and hair. In ancient times Egyptian women in particular used henna as a cosmetic.  Moses’ requirement that female war captives shave their heads and trim their nails prior to marrying an Israelite man probably was to remove all henna beauty-enhancements from the woman (Deuteronomy 21:11-14).

The Henna Plant

The henna plant in Song of Solomon was the Lawsonia inermis L, also known as the Lawsonia alba. The Latin word inermis means unarmed or without spines. In the King James Bible henna is called “camphire.”.  Probably henna was native to Iran from where it spread throughout the Middle East.  Henna grows mainly along water courses and in semi-arid regions.  When the henna plant is five years old, it begins to flower and reaches its peak between 6–12 years.  Henna plants have been known to produce for as long as 25 years.  The plant will grow in containers as long as it is well watered and repotted as needed. Henna is a perennial shrub or small tree that grows 6–23 feet tall.  Hair, skin and nail dyes are made from dried, crushed leaves and young shoots; the active pigment is lawsone. In Old Testament times, the henna plant was known for its beautiful flowers and intriguing smell.  Fragrant flowers are used as a perfume; the main flower oil is beta-ionone.

Symbolism:  Beauty

Henna has been associated with the rites of womanhood, representing fortune, seduction and beauty; also henna symbolizes prosperity, fertility, and happiness. In Song of Songs, henna symbolized the beauty that the Beloved saw in Solomon.  Frequently the Bible, poets, and today’s mass media associate beauty with the physical attributes of women.  I am going to look at beauty from a different point of view – that of how a woman evaluates her husband as beautiful.

A woman sees a man as beautiful if he gives pleasure to her senses, her mind, and her spirit.  He is beautiful whenever he excites her keenest pleasure and stirs her emotions through her senses.  It is good for a wife to be stirred emotionally by her husband’s physical appearance — the shape of his face, a dimple in his cheek, the wave of his hair, his broad shoulders, his trim waist, and muscular thighs.  At the same time, these male characteristics may not last, e.g., men age, experience illness or accident, go bald, or decide to grow a beard.  A woman whose senses are not stimulated by other than her husband’s physical characteristics may have difficulty viewing her husband as beautiful over the many years of a marriage.

When woman list characteristics desirable in a prospective husband, they rarely list spiritual beauty.  Many women do not evaluate whether or not a prospective husband will fill the role of spiritual head of the family.  Yet, a spiritual husband gives keen pleasure to a woman.  She admires, respects, and honors him, all of which stimulate her emotions and allow her to see him as beautiful.  When I married Bruce, he was a redeemed Christian who was beginning an intentional walk with Christ.  Over the past 20 years, I experienced mental and spiritual pleasure watching him emerge as the spiritual head of our home.  He is a beautiful Christian man and husband.

Christ directed us to look on the inside not on the outside for beauty in men.  He called the Pharisees “hypocrites” because they were like whitewashed tombs (Matthew 23:27-28).  They look beautiful on the outside with their elaborate robes and righteous words, but on the inside they were unclean and wicked.  Christ cared deeply about what was on the inside of men.

Sometimes, I wonder if the Beloved really saw Solomon.  Did she look at his character sufficiently or was she deluded by his beauty and kingship?  Nothing in her exuberant descriptions suggested that the Beloved anticipated she would be one of 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kings 11:3).

Reflection.  What do you consider beautiful about your husband?  When did you last give him flowers?

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 January 28, 2012; carolyn a. roth

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Dethroned King David

Vicia faba beans, Rignanese (192x128)The story of Absalom’s conspiracy and David’s retreat to Mahaniam where he and his men received welcome supplies is told in 2 Samuel chapters 15-18.

After killing his older brother Amnon, Absalom fled to Geshar.  Only after five years did David welcomed Absalom back into his presence.  After returning from exile, Absalom set out to win the hearts of the men of Israel from David.  Absalom greeted those who approached him warmly reaching out his hand and kissing them.  Absalom’s primary assertion was that David was unresponsive to the claims and complaints of the people.  After years of undermining David, Absalom went to Hebron where he had himself declared King.  Hebron was where David ruled Judah for 7 years.  Absalom had a large following of men from Israel and some from the tribe of Judah where Hebron was located.  In addition, Ahithophel, David’s most important and most trusted adviser, sided with Absalom.

Hearing that Absalom was declared king and not knowing the extent of the rebellion, David fled Jerusalem with his household and close fighting men.  David walked barefoot up the road to the top of the Mount of Olives; he wept and his head was covered in grief.  When David reached the summit, Hushai, one of his trusted advisers, met him.  David sent Hushai back to Jerusalem to foil Absalom’s plans and to serve as David’s spy.  Shortly, after David passed over the summit of the Mount of Olives, Ziba met him with a string of donkeys, food, and wine.

As David traveled away from Jerusalem and approached Buhurim, Shimei a man from the tribe of Benjamin (the tribe of Saul) cursed David and threw stones at him; however, David would not allow his men to harm Shimei.  David said that Shimei’s cursing may be at God’s direction.  Eventually, David, his tired household, and fighting men arrived at Mahanaim where he set up camp.  About 100 miles north-northwest of Jerusalem, Mahanaim had historical significance.  It was in Mahanaim that Saul’s son, Ish-Bosheth, lived during his two year reign as king over the tribes of Israel.  While David was at Mahanaim, three wealthy men brought him provisions that included bedding, cooking and eating bowls, sheep, dairy products, grains, and beans. The three benefactors were an Ammonite leader, Shobi, who probably was appointed governor after David conquered Rabbah (2 Samuel 12:29); Makir of Lo Debar who first sheltered Mephibosheth, the crippled son of Jonathan (2 Samuel 9:4); and the 80 year old  Barzillai, the Gileadite from Rogelim.

Meanwhile King Absalom entered Jerusalem and took over David’s palace.  Increasingly more men from the northern tribes of Israel and from Judah swore allegiance to Absalom. Through God’s intervention, Abaslom decided not to mount a focused attack to kill David immediately.  Rather Absalom led his men against David and his fighters who were on the eastern side of the Jordan River in the forest of Ephraim.  David must have been confident his commanders would win the battle against Absalom because them to deal gently with Absalom.  In the battle David’s long-time commander, Joab, deliberately killed Absalom.  After some negotiations, David returned to Jerusalem as King over Israel and Judah.

The Broad Bean    

The bean was the Vicia faba  known as the broad bean, faba bean, and Vicia vulgaris. Beans are one of the oldest cultivated plants.  Their origin is North Africa or the Middle East.    Although beans are not drought resistant, they are sufficiently hearty to live through mild frosts. The broad bean can grow in semi-shade as well as strong sunlight and tolerates. Beans are a green, up-right, annual, legume. The attractive flower is white with dark purple markings.  Mature beans are between 3–9 inches long. Beans should be harvested as beans inside mature.  If harvesting is delayed until all pods are ripe, pods nearer the bottom of the plant split and beans are lost.  Beans are oblong or oval, smooth, and flattened on the sides. Bean color is mottled reddish-brown. In the ancient Middle East, beans were and are an important alternative source of protein particularly for those living in or near poverty.  Even today in the Middle East beans remain one of the most important winter crops. Broad bean flour is very rich in protein, vitamins and minerals; therefore, it is used alone or mixed with other flours to make bread.

Symbolism: Extend, Extent

Traditionally, beans were associated with pending conflict, laughter, or something small. European folklore claims that planting beans during the night time or on Good Friday is good luck.  In Nicaragua newlyweds are given a bowl of beans for good luck. When beans were included in the provisions brought to David at Manhaniam, luck was probably not considered. More likely David’s benefactors were providing a high source of protein that was both a meat and flour extender.

Extend means to make the offer of or to make available. David’s three benefactors at Manhaniam extend provisions including beans to David when he was in severe need.  The three men who extended themselves to support David knew that they would likely forfeit their lives and lands if Absalom’s rebellion prevailed. The Bible has a great deal to say about individuals who willingly extend help to the needy.  A proverb in Biblical Israel about a noble woman was, “she opens her arms to the poor and extends her hand to the needy” (Proverbs 31:20).  Extending assistance to the needy included sharing food (Proverbs 22:9), lending money (Proverbs 28:8) and defending rights (Proverbs 31:9).  Those who were kind and extend assistance to the needy were blessed (Proverbs 14:21; 22:9) and lacked nothing (Proverbs 28:27).

In the New Testament two verses use the word “extend or extent.”  In describing God’s great and glorious provision of salvation for his people, Mary (the mother of Christ) said that God extends his mercy to those that fear him from generation to generation (Luke 1:50).  Saint John wrote that Christ loved his own who were in the world and showed them the fullest extent of his love (John 13:1).  Showing the fullest extent of his love entailed Christ being tortured, crucified, and dying in place of each of us.

Absalom won the hearts of the Israelites because he was young, attractive, smooth talking, and extended himself with handshakes and kisses to the Israelites (2 Samuel 14:25; 15:1-6).  In contrast, David was elderly, more introspective, and less available to the people. Yet, David had solid friends who stood by him during Absalom’s rebellion even when David retreated to the east side of the Jordan River.  From the time David began his retreat and all during the time of his exile, David extended his plans to return as king of Israel and Judah.  Similarly, during his entire life Christ demonstrated the extent of his love for individuals and humanity.

Reflection.  How can you extend your love to other individuals?  How can you share your food and money with others?  How can you defend the rights of the poor and needy?

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 December 29, 2011; carolyn a. Roth

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