Tag Archives: Northern Kingdom-Israel

Hosea Prophecy about a Lily Blossom

Easter LilyIf Israel repented, God would cause them to blossom like a lily; see Hosea chapter 14.

The book of Hosea is the first book of the Minor Prophets.  Hosea lived in the final disastrous days of the Northern Kingdom when 6 kings reigned within 25 years.  Because Hosea came from the northern tribes, he was aware of every pride and perversion of the people.  While Amos addressed God’s justice and social justice, Hosea spoke of God’s love, mercy, and forgiveness.  At the same time, Hosea averred that Israel’s disloyalty to God idol worship was spiritual adultery.  Hosea identified Assyria as the source of God’s judgment on the Northern Tribes.

Hosea implored Israel to repent so that God could heal their waywardness.  God wanted to love them freely and turn his anger from them.  God said that if Israel repented, he would be like the dew and Israel would blossom like a lily.  Dew symbolized God’s blessing on Israel, mirroring Jacob’s blessing on Joseph, e.g., “may the Lord bless his (Joseph’s) land with the precious dew from heaven above” (Deuteronomy 33:13)  God was willing to use this heavenly dew to refresh and stimulate Israel to be lily blossom.

The Hebrew word shôshân (shôwshân), translates as “lily,” and means a beautiful flower.  Possibly the word shôshân was derived from shesh, the primary root for “six” the number of petals on the lily plant.  The lily is the most mentioned flower in the Bible.   In ancient times, supposedly the lily was dear to the heart of God and to all Israelites.  Over time the lily became known as the Star of David which appears on the modern Israeli flag.

The Lily

The lily described in Hosea is most likely the Lilium candidum, also known as the Madonna lily because it appeared frequently in pictures with the Virgin Mary.   The origin of the L. candidum is probably the Middle East and/or Greece.  In Israel, wild lilies grow in Mediterranean wood and Carmel and Upper Galilee. It can grow in semi-shade or full sun. L. candidum grows from a bulb planted just below the soil surface. Typical of plants in Mediterranean climates, this lily’s leaves die down in the very hot summer and grow up again in the rainy fall and early winter.  Usually each stem has several large flowers which live for 5-6 days. The dazzlingly white corolla is funnel shaped with six pointed petals that form a symmetrical star shape. The lily fruit splits open and disperses many small seeds which can germinate in up to four weeks.  Most gardeners purchase small plants or bulbs for propagation.

Symbolism:  Chastity & Innocence

In Latin, Lilium means shining or pure white. In Hosea 14, the lily symbolized chastity and innocence. Chastity means abstaining from unlawful sexual intercourse. If Israel ceased prostituting themselves to idols, they would be chaste before God. They would no longer commit spiritual adultery. Innocence is freedom from guilt or sin by being unacquainted with evil. If Israel repented and returned to God, then God would restore their innocence. Their previous spiritual adultery would not have occurred. God was willing to make the degenerate Northern Kingdom chaste and innocent similar to a young man or woman who never had sex or even thought about sex.  

Through Christ, God invites each of us to become chaste and innocent, no matter our sins, crimes, or idols. Chastity and innocence occurs when we have new birth by accepting Christ as our savior. We can maintain that same chastity and innocence by confessing our sins to God on an ongoing basis (1 John 1:9). 

Reflection. Do you feel innocent and chaste before God? What are your idols? Are you ready to give them up for a return to God-given innocence and chastity?

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 20, 2012; carolyn a. roth


The Hemlock in Amos’ Prophecy

Conium maculatum flowerAmos’ comparison of the Northern Kingdom to a poisonous hemlock plant is found in Amos 6:12.

Amos is the third book of the Minor Prophets.  The minor prophets were considered minor in the sense that their books were much smaller than those of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, not because their messages were less important.  Amos prophesied over a 10 year period, 760-750 B.C.

Amos’ home was Tekoa, a town about 12 miles south of Jerusalem.  When God called him to be a prophet, Amos was a herdsman and tender of sycamore trees.  Amos completed most of his ministry in the area of Bethel, the Northern Kingdom’s main sanctuary.  At Bethel, Jeroboam I set up one of the golden calves soon after the 10 Northern tribes formed an independent kingdom.  All manner of pagan worship practices occurred at Bethel.  At the time of Amos’ prophecy the Northern Kingdom was politically secure and prosperous under the rule of Jeroboam II (sole reign 782-753 B.C.).

Amos was a vehement spokesman for God’s justice.  He argued that true righteousness and piety were displayed through social justice for all citizens.  Although Amos did not identify Assyria as the means of God’s judgment on the Northern Kingdom, he warned them that God’s judgment was fast approaching.  The judgment would be more than military conquest and tribute to a foreign conqueror.  It would involve total destruction of the Northern Kingdom as a nation and dispersion of its citizens to foreign lands.  Amos accused leaders and ordinary citizens of turning justice into gall, and the fruit of righteousness into hemlock (Amos 6:12, TEB).  Hemlock was a poisonous plant.

The Hemlock Plant

The botanical name for the hemlock plant is Conium maculatum, also known as the poisonous hemlock. It is indigenous to Eastern Mediterranean countries where it is classified as a toxic weed.  In about 399 B.C., the Greek philosopher Socrates was condemned to drink hemlock poison as a means of committing suicide.  Poisonous hemlock is found on banks of streams and rivers, along roadsides and hedgerows, in wasteland, pastures, and meadow lands.  The poisonous hemlock should not be confused with the Canadian hemlock tree  or the American water hemlock tree.  A single plant can produce 35,000-40,000 seeds.  Leaves and seeds are harvested for medicinal purposes are the leaves and seeds; however, medicinal uses of hemlock are limited because of the closeness of therapeutic and poisonous levels.  Sometimes childrenay see the plant top, mistake it for carrots or parsley, and eat it.  Because hemlocks are rare in North America and initially hemlock signs and symptoms mimic other acute conditions, physicians may not immediately diagnose hemlock poisoning when children present in emergency departments.

Symbolism: Poison

At times the hemlock plant has been associated with bitterness, calamity, and sorrow.  In Amos, the Hebrew word laʽǎnâh was used as the word for hemlock; the word laʽǎnâh comes from an unused root meaning “to curse.”  All these words are good candidates for the symbolism of poisonous hemlock; however, I am going to associate the hemlock plant with poison or poisonous.  A poison is a substance that kills, injures or impairs; it is destructive, harmful, and corrupt. Poisonous described the hemlock plant and best depicted the words and behaviors of the Northern Kingdom leaders and citizens in the book of Amos.

When I looked at the behavior of the Northern Kingdom people, I thought, “I’m never going to act like they did; nor say and do the things they did.”  Then, I recalled some Bible teachings on poison and the tongue.  In Psalms (140:3), we read that evil men make their tongues as sharp as the poison of snakes.  Similarly, James pointed out that man has tamed all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea, but man cannot take the tongue; it is a restless evil, full of poison (James 3:7-8).  James said that the tongue is set on fire by hell which is a figuratively way of saying by the devil (James 3:6).

Reflection:  Some days my tongue is so sharp that I am embarrassed by what comes out of my mouth.  On those days, my words are not from God; but, from the Devil. Have you ever wished words unsaid? How can we prevent poison from coming out of our mouths?

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 7, 2012; carolyn a. roth


Jonah and the Vine

Ricinus communis (2)This book of Jonah is only four chapters long; the episode of Jonah and the vine is in Jonah Chapter 4.

Jonah was the only Old Testament prophet sent directly to the Gentiles.  The theme of Jonah is the God’s divine mercy is applied without favoritism to Jews and Gentiles.  Jonah was from the tribe of Zebulun.  His ministry was between 800-750 B.C. about the time of King Jeroboam II in the Northern Kingdom.  By the end of 721 B.C., Assyria conquered and deported the Northern Kingdom Jews.

The Book of Jonah begins with God telling Jonah to travel to Ninevah, Assyria to warn the people of pending retribution because of their wickedness.  Instead of heading northeast to Nineveh, Jonah booked passage on a ship to Tarshish, a city located in southern Spain.  God caused a violent storm to buffet the ship.  The superstitious sailors cast lots to identify who was responsible for the calamity. The lot fell on Jonah.  Jonah was thrown into the Mediterranean Sea where he was swallowed by a giant fish.  While inside the fish, Jonah acknowledged his disobedience and the sovereignty of God.  After three days, the fish vomited Jonah onto dry land, probably near an eastern Mediterranean country.

Again, God told Jonah to go to Nineveh and proclaim a message that God would give to him.  Jonah went and proclaimed, “forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned” (Jonah 3:4, NIV-SB, 2002).  The Ninevehites including their king believed Jonah’s prophecy.  They fasted in sackcloth and ashes.  When God saw that the Ninevehites turn from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not destroy Nineveh.

Likely, the Ninevites were ecstatic over God’s decision, however, Jonah was angry.  His complaint to God and about God included (Jonah 4:2):

  • isn’t this just what I said would happen when I was at home?
  • that’s why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish.
  • I knew that you are gracious, compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in love, and relent from sending calamity.

Jonah was so upset that he told God to kill him; it would be better for him to be dead than alive.  God’s response was to ask Jonah the question, “Have you any right to be angry” (Jonah 4:4).  Instead of answering God, Jonah went to a spot east of Nineveh, built a small shelter, sat down under it, and waited to see what would happen to Nineveh.  Jonah had no confidence that the Ninevehites would continue their reformed ways.  As Jonah watched the city, God stimulated a vine to grow over Jonah to screen him from the sun and to ease his discomfort.  Jonah was very happy about the vine.  At dawn the next day, God made a worm chew the vine so it withered.  When sun rose, God caused a scorching east wind and the sun to shine on Jonah’s head.  Jonah grew faint and again told God that it would be better for him to die than live.

God asked Jonah, “Do you have a right to be angry about the vine” (Jonah 4:9).   Jonah’s response was a resounding “I do and I am angry enough to die.” God said told Jonah was concerned about a vine that he neither caused to grow nor tended.  How much more should God be concerned about Nineveh, a city of 120,000 people who did not know right from wrong.

Castor bean leavesCastor Bean Plant

The majority of present day botanists and scholars agree that Jonah’s gourd was the  Ricinus communis, also known as the castor bean, castor oil plant, and palma Christi (hand of Christ).  The castor bean vine is indigenous to Northeastern Africa, the Middle East, or India.  It was found in 5000 year-old Egyptian tombs.  The castor oil bean tree grows wild in Israel and can be seen on rocky hillsides, in waste areas, along road shoulders, and in fallow fields. Established plants are drought tolerant; but are killed by substantial frost. It grows as an annual that reaches 8-15 feet tall in a single growing season. When young, leaves are red and shining; however, when fully expanded (12-30 inches across), leaves are blue-green and paler on the underside. These large leaves produce abundant shade when the tree is full grown. When the growing season is short, gardeners start seeds inside or scar the seeds before planting. The castor oil tree produces a variety of products.  Made from the castor oil seed coat, ricin is a deadly chemical which can be used in biological warfare.  Ingesting ricin in even small doses can be fatal.  Castor oil is a distasteful laxative made from castor seeds.

Symbolism:  Compassion

The Biblical gourd is a symbol of compassion.  Compassion means a sympathetic awareness of another person’s distress together with a desire to alleviate the distress.  In the story of Jonah, we see compassion juxtaposition with lack of compassion.  God had compassion on the Ninevehites and sent Jonah to call them to repentance.  Jonah had no compassion for the 120,000 Ninevehites who repented of their sins.  God had compassion on Jonah and caused a leafy gourd to grow over Jonah’s shelter.  Jonah had compassion on the gourd that protected him from the sun; he was angry when a worm chewed through the vine and caused it to die.

Possibly some of Jonah’s lack of compassion for the Ninevehites was the result of seeing God as belonging to the Israelites.  He did not fully comprehend that God was the God of the world and cared about all peoples to include the Ninevehites (Psalm 145:9).  Throughout the book of Jonah, God leads Jonah to a new understanding of God himself.   We never read that God was angry with the sulky Jonah.  Instead God gave patient explanations using Jonah’s feelings for the gourd vine to parallel God’s feelings for the Ninevehites.

In his ministry Christ demonstrated compassion consistently.  In the Gospels we can read that Christ had compassion on individuals and groups (Matthew 9:36, 14:14; 20:34; Mark 1:41, 6:34; and Luke 7:13, 10:13).  Repeatedly Christ used the word “compassion” when he told stories of love (Matthew 18:27, 33; Mark 5:19; and Luke 7:13, 15:20).

When investigating compassion, I read that personal salvation should bear fruit in social compassion.  Not being too sure of that statement, I searched the scriptures for confirmation or dis-confirmation.  I found these words penned by St. John: “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?  Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions” (I John 3:17-18.   John was calling us to have social compassion on others.

Jonah called the Ninevehites to repentance because of God’s compassion for them.  Because of Christ’s love for us, we need to have compassion on our brothers and sisters in need.

Reflection.  As I write this unit, it is 9 days until Christmas.  Many of us have softer hearts at this time of year. We remember that Christ came into the world because he had compassion on us. How do you exhibit Christ’s compassion all year long?

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 11, 2012; carolyn a. roth