Tag Archives: Reflection

Camel Thorn, Persian Manna

References: Although there are no references to the plant camel thorn in the Bible, there are multiple references to camels and manna.

Camel thorn (Alhagi maurorum) is a type of legume native to the Mediterranean Sea Basin, extending into Russia. It has been introduced into Australia, southern Africa and western United States. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, currently, camel thorn does not grow east of the Mississippi River. In western United States, camel thorn is often identified as an invasive species.

At the same time, the flower is beautiful: a small, bright pink to maroon pea flowers and small legume pods.  In Israel, flowers bloom April – September, indicating that camel thorn is hardy because it grows in the heat of Israeli summers. Pilgrims to Israel will see if growing in woodlands, shrublands, steppe, and even into the desert. Because camel thorn appreciates a salty habitat, it can grow on the seashore. It grows best next to a source of water, such as an irrigation ditch.

Pods are brown or reddish and seeds are mottled brown beans. Camel thorn is a perennial with a massive rhizome system which may extend over six feet into the ground. New shoots can appear over 20 feet from the parent plant. Above the ground, the plant rarely reaches four feet in height. It is a heavily branched, gray-green thicket with long spines along the branches.

Uses: In folk medicine camel thorn has been used to treat glandular tumors, nasal polyps, and ailments related to the bile ducts. It is used as a medicinal herb for its gastroprotective, diaphoretic, diuretic, expectorant, laxative, anti-diarrhal and antiseptic properties, and in the treatment of rheumatism and hemorrhoids. I am not sure which parts of the plant are used in these treatments; however, I would be reluctant to take appreciable amounts internally. In the other hand, in the Qur’an, camel thorn is identified as a source of  sweet Manna, thus has been used as sweetener. Animals cannot forage eat the plant despite its ready invasion of grazing land. Despite being named after the camel, camels do not normally forage on this plant.

Reflection: Not all plants God put on earth can be used for food for either man nor animals. Do you ever wonder why God put them on earth? Perhaps, originally a plant such as camel thorn had a good used but with Adam and Eve’s sin, it was also corrupted. Saint Paul wrote that even creation groans under the weight of man’s sins.

Copyright: February 20, 2018; Carolyn Adams Roth

Visit my blog to learn more about plants: http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com

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?






Regal Cyclamen

Cyclamen persicumThe beautiful cyclamen (Cyclamen persicum) is often called Solomon’s crown. Although not identified in the Bible, cyclamen grow freely among rocks and on rock walls in Israel. It is native to the eastern Mediterranean region. During the Christmas season, cyclamens are a popular gift, possibly because they are associated with the Holy Land.

In Israel, cyclamen begin to blossom in November and continues through March-April. In Upper Galilee cyclamen bloom even into early May. Leaves are heart-shaped and dark green with white mottling. In Israel, flowers are generally white or vivid pink; however, they can also be lavender. The blossom (6-9 inches tall) rises from a single stem. The bloom can last an entire month. Flowers are reminiscent of orchids.

Generally, cyclamen grow from corms (small bulbs), but with enough patience, they can be grown from seeds. In the United States, cyclamen are winter hardy in zones 9–11. Recently, florists have developed smaller cyclamen (2-4 inch tall blossoms) that are hardy in zones 5-8.

Owners generally keep cyclamen in a cool, semi-shaded area on a porch or balcony during summer and bring them inside during winter. If cyclamen are planted outdoors, they need a semi-shaded area, composted soil, and plenty of moisture.

Reflection: Solomon didn’t do anything to become king except be one of King David’s sons; yet, he may be the best known of all Israel’s kings. What did you do to deserve your designation as God’s son or daughter and Christ’s brother or sister?

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, 2014; Carolyn A. Roht


Encountering Christ: Dandelion in the Last Supper

Dandelion, JBGChrist’s celebration of a last supper with his apostles was recorded in several gospels; read Luke 22:7-23.

For Christians, the Passover meal Christ celebrated with his apostles is called the Last Supper and the Guest Room known as the Upper Room. Area maps showed that the Upper Room was south of the Temple near the Gihon Spring. A path led from the Upper Room through the Kidron Valley to the Garden of Gethsemane. The date for the Passover meal in 33 A.D. was Thursday, April 22 (Wallace, 2012).

The central food in the Passover meal was a one-year-old unblemished male lamb. This lamb symbolized Christ, the unblemished lamb who was sacrificed for sins. Another food in the Passover Meal was bitter herbs which were associated with the bitterness of Israelite life in Egypt. The type of bitter herb used for the Passover meal was not specified in the Bible; it could have been endive, lettuce, dandelion, etc, or another herb that grew around Jerusalem.

When Christ offered the Passover bread and the third cup of Passover wine to his apostles at the Last Supper, he initiated a Christian ritual — Holy Eucharist. The bread and wine symbolized Christ’s body which would be broken and his blood which would be shed for mankind.  In many Christian churches, the Eucharist is offered every week to congregates as a memorial of Christ’s sacrifice and to give them strength in their Christian walk.


Known since the time of Moses, the dandelion is used to illustrate bitter herbs in the Last Supper.  The species name of dandelion is Taraxacom officinale.  It has numerous common names to include puff ball, Irish daisy, and wine’s snout. In Israel, dandelions grow from the extreme north at Mount Hermon south to the Negev Dessert. Dandelion is a perennial herb. Leaves grow directly from the root in a rosette pattern; often leaves grow more horizontal than upright. Flower stems are erect, smooth, and hollow.  Normally flower stems grow about 6-8 inches in length; however, a dandelion plant left un-accosted in my flower bed had a 12-inch flower stem. The flower has a golden yellow head that is 1.5-2 inches in diameter. Did you know that dandelion flowers close at night and open at daylight?

Although dandelion leaves have a bitter flavor, the plant is cultivated as a salad crop. My mother served yard (not garden) dandelion greens with hard boiled eggs, bacon, and a tangy warm dressing.  A cousin used young dandelion flowers to make wine.

Symbolism: Lion’s tooth

The word dandelion comes from the French phrase “dent de lion” which means “lion’s tooth” because of the jagged shape of leaves. The dandelion, the bane of home-owners and farmers, hardly seems to warrant a French name as grand as lion’s tooth.  “Lion’s tooth” reminds us of Christ. When Christ came to earth two millennia ago, he came as a humble suffering servant.  When he returns to earth the second time, Christ will return as a lion. He will be a military leader who will rend and tear those individuals who set themselves against him.   

Reflection: Have you encountered Christ in his role of suffering servant or will you encounter him the first time as a military leader?

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: Carolyn A. Roth, 12/13


Esther’s Palace with Cotton Curtains

Cotton Flower, leavesThe description of the king’s palace at Susa is in Esther chapter 1.

Esther is the last of the historical books of the Old Testament. It is the story of a beautiful Jewish girl who became wife to Ahasuerus (Xerxes), king of Persia (486-465 B.C.). Esther’s Jewish name was Hadassah which translates as myrtle; she was from the tribe of Benjamin.

The story begins with Ahasuerus giving an elaborate banquet for his nobles and officials. The banquet was held in the palace’s enclosed garden. The garden had white cotton curtains and violet hangings fastened with cords of fine linen and purple to silver rings on marble pillars (ESV). Queen Vashti gave a banquet for the women in another part of the palace.  Feeling merry, Ahasuerus commanded that Vashti come before him to display her beauty to his guest. Vashti refused. Because of her disobedience, Ahasuerus divorced Vashti. Subsequently, Esther became queen.

Then, the plot of the book unfolds. Haman, an enemy of the Jews and chief advisor to Ahasuerus, determined to murder all the Jews throughout Persia. Ahasuerus consented to Haman’s plans not knowing that Queen Esther was a Jew. Esther’s uncle Mordecai sent word to Esther that she must plead to Ahasuerus for the lives of the Jews. Although frightened, Esther agreed to make the plea on behalf of her people. Esther planned two private banquets for Ahasuerus and Haman. At the second banquet Esther humbly admitted she was a Jewess.  She disclosed Haman’s scheme to destroy her people. Both Ahasuerus and Haman were stunned.  They were unaware that in ordering the murder of all Jews, they ordered the Queen’s death.

Angrily Ahasuerus ordered Haman to be hung. Because Ahasuerus could not undo his previous decree, he sent out another decree enabling the Jews to destroy any armed force that might attack them and to plunder the property of their enemies. On the 13th day of the Jewish month of Adar, the Jews destroyed all of their enemies; however, they did not plunder their property. From that time onward, Purim was a festival of celebration for the Jews.  Purim is the Hebrew word for “lots” and refers to the lottery that Haman used to choose the date for the massacre of Jews in Persia. Purim is celebrated on the 14 day of Adar which is usually in March. In March 2012 at the time of the Festival of Purim, the Prime Minister of Israel visited the United States President and presented him with a scroll of the book of Esther.


The white cotton curtains (Hebrew karpas) of Esther were probably Gossypium herbaceum also known as Levant cotton and Arabian cotton. G. herbaceum was domesticated in India about 3000 B.C. and present in Mesopotamia about 1000 B.C.  Ahasuerus ruled lands from India to Ethiopia; consequently, finding cotton curtains in his palace is reasonable. In the 7th century B.C. cotton was present in Horvat ʽUza located in the Arad Valley in Palestine. Certainly, the exiles would have brought cotton fabric, if not plants, back with them from exile in Persia. G. herbaceum is not the same species of cotton grown in present-day Israel, nor is it grown in the United States. When cotton plants are irrigated, most flower mid to late summer. Large, showy, solitary blooms have five petals (1-2 inches long). Flowers are yellow (occasionally white) at first, then fade to a soft red or pink. The cotton plant fruit is called a boll. When ripe, the boll splits and a mass of fine white filaments or fibers exude.  The white fibers are the cotton of commerce. Seeds are contained in the white fibers. In ancient times seeds were separated from fibers by hand.  With the invention of the cotton gin in the 18th century, seeds and fibers are separated mechanically.

Symbolism: Curtain, Conceal

In Ahasuerus’ palace, curtains were made from cotton. Curtain has several meanings to include a hanging screen that can be drawn back, a device that conceals or acts as a barrier, or the time that a theatrical performance begins. In the first chapter of Esther, the cotton curtains were associated with all three meanings. Technically, the white cotton curtains were tied back by cords of fine linen and purple to silver rods. In inclement weather or to obscure the sun’s rays, the cotton curtains could be let down. Figuratively, the curtains symbolized Esther concealing her nationality. They symbolized Haman’s concealed desire to murder Mordecai; yet convincing Ahasuerus that all Jews should die because they disobeyed the king’s laws. Finally, the cotton-curtained plaza was the stage where the first act of the drama of Esther began.

Earlier in this book, we studied the importance of the veil or curtain in the Tent of Meeting. That curtain was made of linen not cotton but it also concealed, e.g., the Most Holy of Holies room from the Holy of Holies room. On a daily basis, priest entered the Holy of Holies and attended to the lamps and incense. The same was not true for the Most Holy of Holies where God dwelled.  The chief priest entered the Most Holy of Holies one time per year and then only after making blood sacrifice for his own sins and the inadvertent sins of the Israelites.

Christ death changed the curtain separating the two rooms of the Temple. When Christ died, the curtain separating the Most Holy of Holies from the Holies of Holy rooms tore from top to bottom. Similarly, Christ’s death tore the curtain separating us from God. God became open and available to us; no longer concealed by a curtain. Now through the blood of Jesus Christ we have confidence to stand before God (Hebrews 10:19). In a way I empathize with the ancient Israelites who requested that God speaking Moses instead of speaking directly to them (Exodus 20:18-19).  The thought of standing before the God of the universe can be somewhat intimidating. Then, I remember that the God of the universe is my loving Father; no one loves me more than God loves me.

Reflection:  We have ready access to God through Christ.  No more curtain between us and Abba, our Father.  Now the only one who can keep God concealed from us is us.

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, 2012; carolyn a. roth


Pharaoh Dreamed of Reeds

Phragmites communis (2)Read Genesis Chapter 41.

Joseph’s (1915 BC-1805 BC) life was swayed by his dreams and the dreams of others. He alienated his brothers by telling them his dream in which they bow to him. Because of their jealousy, his brothers sold him into slavery when Joseph was 17 years old.  Joseph became a slave in a wealthy Egyptian household. Wrongly accused of molesting the owner’s wife, Joseph was sent to prison. During his imprisonment, Joseph interpreted a dream from the cup-bearer of Pharaoh.  Later when Joseph was about 30, Pharaoh had a dream that his advisers couldn’t interpret.  Pharaoh’s cup-bearer suggested that Pharaoh send for Joseph to interpret his dream.  One part of Pharaoh’s dream involved him standing on the bank of the Nile River. Out of the river came seven sleek, fat cows. The cows grazed among the reeds. After the sleek, fat cows, seven ugly, lean cows came out of the river. The ugly lean cows ate the sleek, fat cows; however, the cows remained ugly and lean.

Joseph interpreted Pharaoh’s dream and gave God the credited for being able to do so. The interpretation was that seven years of over-abundance would be followed by seven years of famine in Egypt.  Pharaoh asked Joseph how Egypt could avoid the devastating effects of the famine.  Joseph suggested storing food during the seven years of over-abundance that could be used during the seven years of famine. The plan seemed good to Pharaoh. Pharaoh made Joseph second only to himself in power in Egypt and charged Joseph to implement the plan.

Pharaoh’s concern about a dream that involved the Nile River and reeds was understandable.  The Nile River ran the length of Egypt.  Before emptying into the Mediterranean Sea in northern (lower) Egypt, the Nile divided into multiple branches forming the Nile delta. The Nile River was the center of a narrow belt of fertile land about 15–25 miles on each side of the river.  The fertility of the land was tied to annual (June–September) flooding of the Nile. Flood waters deposited a layer of mineral-rich silt. The silt was ideal for crops which were planted and grew October to February.

Reeds grew along the Nile River bank and throughout the Nile delta and were a key economic asset to the ancient Egyptians.  Reed colonies were used in erosion control and provided wildlife habitats along the river and in the delta. In the warm season, the Egyptian reed provided high quality forage for both cattle and horses. The reeds upright growth made it easy for livestock to eat all of the leaves.  Reeds were used extensively for roofing materials on homes of the poor.  They provided lattices, fences, materials for weaving mats and carrying nets.  Reeds were cut and fashioned into pens; rope was made from the fiber of flower stalks.  Because they were straight, long, and durable, reeds were used as measuring devices.

Egyptian’s belief included that after death they traveled through the underworld for 12 hours of night, eventually reaching the Field of Reeds. In the Field of Reeds the body was reanimated and rejuvenated.  The Field of Reeds was a natural extension of life in Egypt, e.g., Egyptians ate, loved, and worshiped there. Class distinctions remained, pharaoh remained pharaoh.  Pharaoh’s dream was located in reeds along the Nile River. It encompassed sleek, fat cows being eaten by ugly, lean cows.  Possibly pharaoh suspected that his dream impacted not only his country, but also his afterlife in the Field of Reeds.

The Egyptian Reed 

The reed that Pharaoh dreamed about was most likely the Phragmites australis, also known as the Phragmites communis and the common Reed.  Generally, reeds do not tolerate rapidly flowing water but are well adapted to both fresh and brackish water.  The common reed of Egypt had creeping roots (rhizomes) that make a dense vegetative mat. The P. australis is a tall perennial grass with central stalks called culms.  Usually culms grows to a height of 6–9 feet but have been known to grow 16 feet.  In the growing season, culms are green but as winter emerges, stalks become dark yellow or brown. In the Middle East, flowers, called panicles, bloom July through December. Initially the flower is green or purplish, but become a warm sandy color as the plant matures.  Flowers are large (6–16 inches) and showy.  The Egyptian reed spreads by underground root (rhizome) root extension.  Also, vegetative reproduction can occur when portions of the root or plant are broken from the main reed and moved water to a new location where they take root and grow.

Symbolism of the Egyptian reed 

According to Worchester (2009) reeds symbolized material or corporal (bodily) truth and knowledge.  Material or corporal truth is the lowest form of truth.  Corporal truths change with cultural norms, societal perspectives, and personal experiences.  In contrast to corporal truth, Divine truth is eternal and unchangeable. God is defined as the God of truth (Isaiah 61:16). Divine truth can be used as a measuring rod against which individuals in all ages and societies can evaluate personal thoughts, beliefs, and behavior.

In today’s world, God’s truth comes primarily from the Bible. As we grow spiritually, the Holy Spirit opens scripture passages in ever increasing depth.  For many years I have attended Bible studies, e.g., Genesis, The Acts of the Apostles. With each repeated study on a topic, I understood the characters and events in more detail.  I am able to comprehend more of God’s purpose in placing a story or event in the Holy Scriptures.

As individuals pray and meditate on scripture, they may receive insights and even revelations; but those insights and revelations never contradict the infallible Word of God.  We need to be very careful before we say, “God told me to do x or y.”  If we get personal revelations which we think are from God, we need to search the scripture to verify that the message is true.

As I looked through the Index in my Bible, I found 17 verses in Matthew alone in which Christ said, “I tell you the truth” and then proceeded to direct his disciples or audience toward some action, to issue a warning, or provide some insight to life. Christ did not need to say, “I tell you the truth” because Christ is Divine and by definition cannot lie.  He used the words for emphasis or to get his listener’s attention.  The entire Bible is full of Divine truth.  There is no need for us to rely only on physical or corporal truth as we walk through life.

Reflection:  From where do you get your truth?

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 16, 2011: Carolyn A. Roth



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.



Wheat in the Presence Bread

Wheat GrainsSuggested readings Exodus 25:23-30; Leviticus 2; Leviticus 24:5 – 9.

Fine wheat flour was used to make the loaves of bread that was placed on the Table of Presence in the Holy of Holies in the Tent of Meeting. In the Bible, the loaves are called the bread of the Presence, the Presence bread, or the Showbread. (Exodus 25:30). There was one loaf for each of the 12 tribes of Israel. The loaves represented a perpetual bread offering to God.The Presence-bread was set out in two piles of six loaves (Exodus 24: 5 – 9). Each pile was set on a solid gold plate used exclusively on the Table of the Presence. Every Sabbath a new set of 12 loaves was set out before the Lord as an everlasting covenant. The loaves that were removed from the Table belonged to Aaron and his sons who were directed to eat them in a holy place. Most likely the holy eating place was the courtyard outside the Tent of Meeting (Exodus 6:16). On the Table beside the stacks of Presence-bread, pure incense was set out. The incense was burned to represent the bread, an offering made to the Lord by fire. No part of the Presence-bread itself was ever burned.

In Old Testament times most wheat was milled into flour to make bread. Milling was a mechanical process of separating the wheat endosperm from the bran and germ. Then the wheat endosperm (starch) was ground into flour. The bread of the Presence was made with “fine flour” (Leviticus 24:5; NIV Study Bible note Exodus 2:1) which means no wheat bran or germ remained in the flour and the flour was thoroughly ground.

In most early societies, men planted and harvested wheat while women milled and baked the resulting flour into bread; however, the Kohathites (the second of Levi’ sons) were charged with baking the Presence-bread. When the Bible described the Presence-bread, it was not identified as made without yeast (unleavened). Yet, more than likely it was unleavened because all grain offerings baked in the oven and presented in the Tabernacle were required to be made without yeast (Leviticus 2:4, 11).

There are three possible sources for the wheat used to make the fine flour for the Presence-bread. First, possibly the flour came with the Israelites out of Egypt. Yet if flour was available, why did the Israelites grumble against Moses and Aaron in the Desert of Sin, complaining that they had no food (Exodus 16: 1-16)? It was in the Desert of Sin, about 2 ½ months after the Israelites left Egypt, where God began to feed the Israelites with manna. God provided manna which could be baked into a type of bread the entire 40 years the children of Israel wandered in the Sinai Peninsula.

A second source of the fine wheat flour used to make the Presence-bread could have been wild wheat. When the Tabernacle was built, the Israelites were camped at Mt. Sinai, now known as Mt. Safsafa at Wadi Raha. Mt. Safsafa is part of St. Katherine’s Municipality, South Sinai, Egypt. This area is high altitude desert (5,200 feet) and winter nights can drop to below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. The St. Katherine’s area is the only place in Egypt where snow falls on a regular basis. The mountain snow melts slowly, releasing water at a steady pace, replenishing underground catchment areas. When rain falls, water flows rapidly down the barren Sinai Mountains and drenches the valleys, gullies, and wadi at the base of the mountains. Residents of St. Katherine’s Municipality reported that in older times there was at least one rainfall every 40 days and valleys were greener than present. Wild wheat and even domesticated wheat could have possibly grown in the area of Mt. Sinai. In the Mid-East wheat is planted in the fall (about November) and harvested the spring (April) . Perhaps the Israelites found wild wheat or planted winter wheat around the base of Mt. Sinai where they camped for 11 months. This wheat would not have been sufficient to feed the approximate two million Israelites, but it may have been ample to make fine flour for the Presence-bread. Further, the Israelites could have found wild wheat in various places during their 40 year journey over the Sinai Peninsula. An argument against finding wild wheat on the Sinai Peninsula is in Numbers 20:5 where the Children of Israel complained to Moses that the Peninsula has “no grain or figs, grapevines or pomegranates.” By this time the Israelites had wandered around  the Sinai Peninsula almost 40 years and they were very aware of its plant life.

A third possible source of fine wheat flour could have been from traders. As early as the 16th century B.C. the Sinai Peninsula was an important cross-road for traders. In the 16th century B.C., the Pharaohs built the way of Shur across the Sinai to Beersheba and into Jerusalem. Other trade routes crossed near the center of the Sinai, connecting Egypt and the Arabian Peninsula. It is possible that fine wheat grain or flour from the Nile Delta was transported along trade routes. Egypt was known to export grain (Genesis 24:3 – 5). Certainly, the Israelites had sufficient gold and silver to purchase raw grain and/or fine flour from traders (Exodus 36: 3-7).

The Wheat Plant

Research shows that cereal gatherings could have occurred as early as 17,000 B.C. in the near east. The earliest wild wheats were einkorn (Triticum boeoticum) and emmer (T. dicoccidoides) which grew in southeastern Turkey and northern Syria. Archeology records documented that wheat was domesticated prior to 7000 B.C. and grown for harvest in the Fertile Crescent and in the Nile delta region (northern Egypt). In the Bible wheat is first mentioned as harvested by Jacob in Palestine (Genesis 30: 14). Wheat is an annual crop that grows best in temperate climates. Wheat grows in about 100 days in a frost-free growing season. To obtain a good wheat crop, from 15 – 20 inches of precipitation are necessary. In areas of no more than 10 – 15 inches of precipitation, wheat is often planted every 2 years. The land is kept free of vegetation on the alternate year so moisture can accumulate in the soil. Wheat kernels consist of three parts. The outer covering (about 12%) is called bran. The center (endosperm, 85%) is composed of starch, the portion present in white flour. The inner part of the kernel (2 – 3%), called the germ (embryo) expands, or germinates, into the new wheat plant.

Symbolism: Living, Life

Wheat has been valuable to man from time immemorial and it was valuable to God who commanded that the Israelites make the Presence-bread from it. I am intrigued that God told the Israelites to bake bread weekly out of wheat, a grain that was not in large supply on the dry Sinai Peninsula. Why didn’t God allow them bake manna for the Presence-bread? Manna was plentiful and God provided a steady supply of it. Instead God required the Israelites to make an offering from wheat, a grain they had to seek during their 40 years of travels.

Just like it could have been difficulty for the Israelites to find sufficient wheat to mill fine flour for the Presence-Bread, it is sometimes difficult to walking out a Christian life. As a child in Sunday School I learned that Christ said to come to him; his burdens are easy and yoke light. At times I feel like there is a big wooden oxen yoke on my shoulders that is weighing me down. I feel like I am seeking a way to His presence that I cannot fine. I’ve come to realize that on days that I feel bone weary and weighed down, I need to go back to Matthew 11 and read exactly what Christ was telling the crowd. Matthew 11: 28 – 30 reads “come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

If I want a light burden today — here in this world — I must come to Christ and learn from His life. When I study the life of Christ, I see a man who seemed to be without ego. Christ didn’t have to have His own way all of the time. He lived in the presence of his Father and did God’s will, even dying because it was God’s will. Christ described himself as gentle and humble. Gentle and humble isn’t an easy way to live. It seems counter-intuitive to many women my age who worked hard to achieve in a world geared to men. But, I’m not willing to say that Christ’s directions on how to live are wrong. And, I am reminded of St. Paul’s words, “I urge you, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:1 – 2).

Reflection. I think I understand it now: To have a light, unburden life, I need to be gentle and meek as Christ was. A life such as this does not conform to the world. It is a living sacrifice – a sweet perfume – offered daily to Christ. In this new paradigm, my life becomes an offering to God much as the fine wheat Presence-bread was an offering and sacrifice to God.

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 25, 2011, Carolyn A. Roth; all rights reserved.



Tree of Knowledge: Just what was it?

Read Genesis chapters 2 and 3.

When God set Adam and Even in the Garden of Eden, He told Adam and Eve they could eat of any tree in the Garden of Eden except the tree of knowledge of good and evil and blessing and calamity. God was explicit – the penalty for eating from the tree of knowledge was that both would die (Genesis 2:17). Adam and Eve knew exactly which tree in Eden God was talking about when He said the tree of knowledge. It was located near the center of Eden and it produced fruit that appeared good to eat and was attractive to the eye. When God confronted Adam and Eve about their disobedience, neither responded with “I didn’t know which tree you meant.”

Even in orthodox Christian communities, there is discussion about the tree of knowledge. Was it an actual tree or a representation (symbol) of mankind’s movement from innocence to awareness of self and sin? If there was an actual tree, what species was it and what kind of fruit did it produce? Some information is available by searching various reference sources, e.g., Hebrew dictionaries, the history and climate of the Middle East, and Latin resources.

Frequently, non Christians and even some Christians assume the tree of knowledge was an apple tree and the fruit that Eve took from the tree was an apple. It is unlikely that the tree of knowledge was an apple tree for two reasons. First, fine varieties of apples were not available in the early Middle East. Second, in the area between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers when the Garden of Eden was most likely located, the climate is arid. The average rainfall in the plains of Iraq between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers is low at about 13 inches annually. Apples trees thrive best in temperate and northern climates where they receive ample water to produce their fruit.

The notion that the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil may have been an apple tree could have evolved in two ways. First, the Jewish historian Josephus (37 – c.100 AD/CE) wrote about a fruit which he called the Sodom apple. The Sodom apple tree (Asclepius gigantean variety procera) grew near the site of the biblical Sodom. Its fruit resembled a large, smooth apple or orange and was yellow when fully ripe (click link at top of page for a picture). Sodom apples grew in clusters of three or four. To the eye they appeared delicious and they were soft to the touch. When pressed or struck the fruit exploded with a puff leaving only rind and a few fibers. The beauty of the Sodom apple combined with its ephemeral nature could have caused early Jews to associate it with the futility of reaching for fruit from the tree of knowledge. Second, an association between the tree of knowledge of good and evil and an apple tree could have evolved millennia after the Garden of Eden. In Latin, an apple tree is Malus domestica. In the same language (Latin) the word malus means evil, calamity, harm, injury or unlawful. Thus, to Christians the tree of knowledge of evil (malus) became associated with an apple (Malus domestica) tree.

More recent Biblical commentators have proposed that the tree of knowledge of good and evil and blessing and calamity was a pomegranate tree. Pomegranate means “apple with grains” (Walker, 1979). Pomegranates are mentioned in the Bible beginning with the time of Moses (Exodus 28: 31-35). The fruit of the pomegranate is a reddish berry about the size of an orange. The pulp is a beautiful succulent crimson. The pomegranate is tart to the taste. The argument for a pomegranate tree as the tree of knowledge of good and evil is spoiled when the Hebrew language is considered. In every place that pomegranate trees or fruits are mention in the Old Testament, rimmôwn is the Hebrew word for pomegranate tree and the pomegranate fruit. In contrast, when the tree of knowledge of good and evil is identified, the Hebrew word for tree is êts.  Êts is used in Genesis 2:17 to describe a specific type of tree, e.g.,  the tree of knowledge. The same word, êts, is used for tree in approximately 25 places in Genesis and throughout the Old Testament. In each case it refers to a specific type of tree. In the Hebrew language of the Old Testament, there is no unique word when designating the êts (tree) of knowledge of good and evil. The Hebrew is unambiguousthe tree (êts) of knowledge of good and evil was a unique species of tree.


Are you as amazed as I am that the God, creator of the universe and maker of man, would explain to Adam (His creation) why he could not eat from a certain tree? Shouldn’t it be enough that God says “no, you cannot do that” and Adam automatically obeys this omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent God? Yet, Adam’s behavior was not surprising to God. God knew that even the first man needed a rationale for God-given commands. God also knew that even with an explanation that included consequences, Adam would disobey His injunction.

What about you and me? Don’t we also want explanations and rationales for what God commands us? Are we more obedient when we know the reason God commands us to do or not to do something? No coincidentally, God speaks to us (through the Bible) telling us what to do for a healthy physical, psychological and spiritual life, however,  we sometimes disobey His word even when we know the consequences.

Adam and Eve chose not to obey the prohibition against eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Can you think of a time that you disobeyed God? Were you beguiled and deceived into disobeying as Eve was? Alternatively, did you disobey God because of your self will or because everyone else was doing it? Did you try to blame or shift the reason for your disobedience on others, even on God?

Reflection: What was the outcome of some of your disobedience to God’s word? In retrospect, would you do the same things again?

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 6, 2010, Carolyn A. Roth; all rights reserved.