Tag Archives: Palestine

Joshua & the Henbane

Hyoscyamus aureus

Read Joshua chapter 15.

While in Israel and Jordan, I became aware of the number of regions and cities that were named after plants. As a result, I am adding an additional plant – the golden henbane to the list of Plants and the Promised Land.  The Hebrew word for henbane is shikkeron (or less often shikrona).  Shikkeron is identified in the Bible only in the book of Joshua (Joshua 15:11).

The distribution of the Promised Land on the west side of the Jordan was determined by lot. The tribe of Judah received the first allocation of land. The size of each tribe’s territory was according to the tribe’s population. The largest tribe among the 12 tribes of Israel, Judah numbered over 76,000 warriors. God set the boundaries for the Promised Land lands that each tribe was to conquer and retain.

When Joshua described the borders of Judah, the detailed description of the northern border (Joshua 14:5 -11), included that it “went to the northern slope of Ekron, turned toward (or bent around) to Shikkeron, passed along to Mount Baalah and reached Jabneel.” The northern boundary ended at the Mediterranean Sea on the east.  Shikkeron was not identified as one of the towns or cities that Judah was to occupy (Judah 15: 20 – 63); consequently, it may have been a small village or an identifiable site rather than a town.  A map of Judah showed that Shikkeron was located on an arc that connected two hills (Ekron and Baalah) which were about 6 – 8 miles apart.

God wanted Shikkeron to be part of Judah rather than the tribe of Dan which was allocated land on the northwest border of Judah (Joshua 19:40–48). The Books of Joshua and Judges revealed that the Danites had difficulty taking possession of their territory from the Amorites (Joshua 19:47; Judges 1: 34). Eventually, many Danites abandoned their assigned land northwest of Judah. They moved to the far northern portion of Canaan near the tributaries of the Jordan River (Judges Chapter 18).  There they rapidly turned to idolatry. Overall it was better for Shikkeron to belong to Judah than to Dan. Judah maintained itself as an intact kingdom for  approximate 900 years.

Golden Henbane

Five species of Hyoscyamus grow in Israel; however, the Shikkeron sited in Joshua 15:11 referred to Hyoscyamus aureus, known as yellow or golden henbane.  Henbane is thought to have originated in the Mediterranean regions of Asia Minor. Henbane is wide-spread in Israel. When we were in Jerusalem, we saw clumps of henbane growing out from between stone cracks on the Western (Wailing) Wall in Jerusalem. Henbane is a non-woody perennial that can grow 2 – 3 feet tall.  Both stems and leaves are gray-green and covered with sticky hairs. Flowers are yellow with a darker (almost black) throat). Henbane self-sows and can be grown in uncultivated areas of a garden. When propagating, sow seeds as soon as they are ripe as henbane seeds lose their viability rapidly. Maturing henbane produce a long taproot; consequently established plants do not respond well to attempts to move them from place to place.

Symbolism: Obedience

Although the Book of Joshua detailed (chapters 13 – 21) tribal boundaries and identified towns within each boundary, today it is almost impossible to trace the exact boundaries of tribal lands. Many of us who read Joshua just skim these chapters, asking why this degree of detail was included in a book as important as the Bible.  I think God was giving His people an example of obedience when He said that mighty Judah should occupy and retain a site as small as Shikkeron.  If Judah was obedient to God in the small details, likely Judah would be obedient in larger activities.

God expects obedience from His people. When Joshua became leader of the Israelites, God told him to a) be strong and courageous and b) to obey all the laws that Moses gave to Joshua (Joshua 1: 7). In turn, Joshua told the Israelites to obey God, to walk in His ways, and to serve Him (Joshua 22:5). As I read the descriptions (Joshua, Judges, and Ruth) of the Israelites conquering and occupying the Promised Land, one fact was clear: obedience was central to Israel’s success.  When the Israelites disregarded and disobeyed God’s commandments and laws, their enemies overcame them. The result was destruction in Israelite lands and loss of Israelite lives.

Obedience is not an ancient Israelite concept that today’s Christian can ignore. There are about 124 verses in the New International Version Study Bible (2002) that contain the word obey or one of its derivatives. These verses are divided almost equally between the Old (n = 61) and New (N = 63) Testaments.  In the New Testament Christ told his followers that if they want to enter life, they need to obey the commandments (Matthew 19:17) and “if anyone loves me (Christ) he will obey my teaching” (John 14:23).

Thought:  God’s people are called to obey His Word; but, surely we get a pass for disobeying specifics of God’s Word when we don’t know them.  I mean, well, gosh, I can’t know everything, can I? Whose fault is it if I don’t know what God wants me to do?  Shouldn’t the preacher — or even my parents –have told me how to do things right? It’s not my fault……..is it?

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, 2011, Carolyn A. Roth; all rights reserved.



Jotham & the Thorn Tree

Z spina-christi (2)Jotham’s story is in Judges 8:28-9:57.

Jotham was the youngest son of the great Judge Gideon who judged Israel between 1162 – 1122 B.C.  One of the many positive characteristics of Gideon was that he refused to be king of the Israelites after defeating the Midianites. His words were, “I will not rule over you, nor will my son rule over you. The Lord will rule over you” (Judges 8:23). Gideon was from the tribe of Manasseh and lived in Ophrah. Gideon had 70 sons by his wives and one son, Abimelech, by his concubine. Abimelech lived with his mother’s people in Shechem.

After Gideon’s death, Abimelech negotiated with the men of Shechem to make him king. Abimelech and a group of paid adventurers murdered Gideon’s legitimate sons with the exception of the youngest son, Jotham. On the day that Abimelech was crowned, Jotham climbed Mount Gerizim and loudly proclaimed a parable to the citizens of Shechem and Beth Millo over which Abimelech was to rule.

Jotham began the parable by saying, “One day the trees went out to anoint a king for themselves” (Judges 9:8). The parable continued as the trees said to the olive tree, “Come be our king.” The olive tree declined as did the fig tree and the vine. Finally, the trees said to the thorn bush, “Come be our king” (Judges 9:14). The thorn bush responded, “If you really want to anoint me king over you, come and take refuge in my shade, but if not, then let fire come out of the thorn bush and consume the cedars of Lebanon” (Judges 9:16). Then, Jotham challenged the men of Shechem asking whether or not they acted honorable and in good faith to the family of Gideon, the same Gideon who saved them from the Midianites. If their answer is “yes,” Jotham wished them joy in Abimelech’s kingship. If their answer is “no,” then Jotham’s curse was that Abimelech and the citizens consume each other with fire. After telling this parable and giving this curse, Jotham fled the area.

Abimelech governed the towns three years; then God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the men of Shechem. The result was that Abimelech destroyed Shechem. He set fire to the tower of Shechem burning the people inside. Abimelech salted the land to condemn Shechem to barrenness and desolation. Then Abimelech attack Thebez. In the process of attempting to take the tower, a woman dropped a millstone on Abimelech’s head cracking his skull. Because Abimelech did not want a woman to receive credit for killing him, he demanded that his armor-bearer kill him. When Abimelech’s men saw that he was dead, they went home. This story conclusion is that God repaid the wickedness that Abimelech did to his brothers and made the men of Shechem pay for their wickedness.

The Thorn Tree

In his parable Jotham compared Abimelech to a thorn tree. Israel and Middle East botanists identify the thorn bush as the Ziziphus spina-christi tree. The Hebrew word for thorn bush is “âtâ.;”  The origin of the atad tree is the warm and humid landscapes of tropical Sudan. The species most likely arrived in Israel approximately 4000 B.C. The oldest Z. spina-christi in Israel – about 800 years old – is located at Ein Hatzeva. In Israel the tree is widely distributed in warm valleys and desert oases.  The atad is larger than all other fruit tree native to Israel.  Its deep and wide-spreading root system often leaches all nourishment from the surrounding soil. For an orchard to succeed, farmers must first remove all atad prior to planting fruit trees. Each leaf has a pair of stipules at its base which turn into thorns. One hard thorn is straight, while the other is hooked. In southern Israel the atad is evergreen; but, in the colder climate of northern Israel, it shed its leaves in the colder months. The fruit is yellow and small, about 3/4 – 1 inch in diameter. Each fruit contains a large stone (pit) in the center which is surrounded by a fleshy pulp. Although not very tasty, the fruit can and is eaten by people living in poverty. Fruit is best eaten green and tastes like sour apples.

Symbolism: Pierce or Penetrate

The Hebrew word for thorn tree, âtâd, is derived from an unused root meaning to pierce. Jotham pierced the conscience of the men of Shechem and Beth Millo when he asked them if they acted honorably to the family of Gideon. Jotham penetrated their thoughts when he included in his parable the thorn tree’s request that other trees come and rest in its shade. In ancient times, resting in the shade of a king was a common illustration, referring to the king providing protection for his people. Yet, the farmers and travelers among Jotham’s hearers knew it was difficult to rest in the shade of the wild atad; often long hanging intertwined branches made the area under the tree inaccessible.

The Israelites had a proverb, “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” (Proverbs 12:18). Jotham’s parable was not reckless, but his words pierced his listeners like a sword — in three year Abimelech was dead by the hand of his subjects. Hearing piercing words are not always bad. At times, we need to hear words that pierce our conscious, heart, or soul. Frequently, it is easy to accept piercing words from a pastor or friend. It is harder to accept them from a un-friend.

When I was in the work world, I dreaded annual evaluations. Even when the evaluative comments were constructive and kind, I cringed when they were offered. At times I discounted the comments or rationalized my behavior. I know now that my attitude was wrong. I should have accepted the comments, carefully evaluating each so that I could grow and accommodate myself to the environment in which I worked.

Thought: What about you? Do you allow constructive evaluations to pierce or penetrate inside of you? Or, do you ignore learning situations, parables, and proverbs, putting up mental barriers to personal reflection?

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 May 21, 2011, Carolyn A. Roth; all rights reserved.



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.