Tag Archives: poison

Wormwood, A bitter herb

Bible References: Deuteronomy 29.18; Jeremiah 9.15, 23.15; Lamentations 3.15, 19; Amos 5.7; Revelation 8.1-11.

When Old Testament authors referred to wormwood, the wrote about bitterness and poison. Most illustrated punishment from God because of Israelites’ behaviors. Old Testament events are presented as lessons for those of us living today. In the New Testament, an episode that named wormwood was a prophecy and called mankind to repentance.  The prophecy described a future sign which would occur near the end of the age.

In Revelation chapter eight, John described a vision in which seven angels, each with a trumpet, stood before God. The angels were ready to sound trumpets, initiating judgments on the earth. The third trumpet signaled a blazing star to fall on  earth. This blazing star was called Wormwood (absinthŏs in  Greek).

My conjecture is that Wormwood will be a meteor from outer space. When meteors enter the earth’s atmosphere and start to burn they are called meteorites. In the United States, children call them “shooting stars.” Most meteorites disintegrate by burning before they hit the earth’s surface.  If a sufficiently-large meteorite enters the earth’s atmosphere and doesn’t disintegrate, it hits the earth’s surface. A huge cloud rises. Dust and particulates in the cloud spread around the globe moved by winds and the rotation of the earth.

According to Revelation, the meteorite Wormwood will contain a contaminate that turns one-third of the earth’s fresh water bitter; or somehow release pollutants from the earth’s crust that contaminates one-third of fresh water sources. Many people will die from the contaminated water. John’s description in Revelation sounds like a nail-biting science-fiction movie.

 

The plant wormwood is one of over 300 species of artemisia; appearance varies from plant-to-plant. The artemisia that grew in Bible Israel is Artemisia arborescens, called the tree wormwood.7 Erect branches can reach ten-feet tall. Leaves have fine hairs on their surface. These hairs are thought to cool and defend the plant. Many artemisia produce cinole which gives them a camphor-like aroma; however, don’t be surprised to find some artemisia smell acrid and unpleasant.28 Artemisia are grown for foliage.

 

With the exception of rue, artemisia is the bitterest herb. The bitter taste is due to thujone content in artemisia. Artemisia leaves flavors stew and sauces; only small quantities of dried or fresh herb is needed. Artemisia leaves are used in tarragon vinegar. A. absinthium is a flavoring in alcoholic liquors, i.e., absinthe, campari, and vermouth. Ancient medicine  used artemisia in scores of concoctions.28

In the Old Testament, often wormwood was used as a metaphor for a) idolatry of Northern Kingdom (Israel),  b) calamity and sorrow, and c) false judgments. The Wormwood star’s name in Revelation identified that its effects were judgment on mankind for idolatry and injustice. Idolatry is blind or excessive devotion to something or someone, i.e., money, prestige and degrees, charismatic individuals, and political parties and ideologies.

The calamity and sorrow associated with contamination of one-third of the world’s freshwater supply will be a consequence of mankind turning from God to idol worship. It is so easy for me to look at others and identify their idols. It is less easy for me to identify my own. Yet, God expects me to continually assess myself and to make adjustments in my thinking and behavior so they are more in line with his.

Reflection: Several times previously in this book, you read how harmful plants were symbols of idolatry. Given the number of times that idolatry appears in the Bible, God takes it seriously. Do you? When did you last assess your thoughts and behaviors to identify man-made idols in your life?

Flowering Tobacco Plant

1-DSC07130Never have I read in the Bible that ancient near east people smoked tobacco; however, I’m including the flowering tobacco plant (Nicotianium, cultivar Crimson Bedder) in God as a Gardener because the plant is beautiful. The leaves are a shiny dark green and the flower is breath taking. The flowering tobacco is a sub-tropical plant and in Virginia grows as an annual. These pictures were taken inside at the Washington DC Botannic Garden in June, 2015.

Depending on the cultivar you purchase, flowering tobacco plants will grow between 6-8 inches to 5 feet tall. Flowers grow on slender stems and look good when they are planted in mass. They can be grown in pots. The flowering tobacco plant grows best in partial shade to sun. While they like lots of water, they do not like soggy soil.1-DSC07129

Tobacco plants are grown for their color and fragrance. Humming birds are attracted to them. Plants are poisonous, if swallowed. Keep away from children or pets! As expected from the name, the flowering tobacco plants contain high levels of nicotine.

Reflection: Have you noticed that so many beautiful plants are poisonous, e.g., the castor bean plant and now the flowering tobacco? Gardening is not for wimps. Gardeners have to carefully select and decide where to position each plant for safety. Perhaps, God thinks about positioning each of us so we grow where we are safe, even where we do not harm others. I want to grow in the garden God planted just for me. What about you, are you in the garden God planted for you?

I love Bible plants along with their symbolism. If you want to learn more about them, read my two books: 1) Rooted in God and 2) God as a Gardener. You can purchase them from my website: Carolyn Roth Ministry at http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/

Copyright July 13, 2015: Carolyn A. Roth

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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

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