Tag Archives: Sinai Peninsula

Acacia Wood for God’s Tabernacle

Acacia seyalThe wooden structure of the Tabernacle is described primarily in Exodus chapter 25:1–27:19; Exodus 30:1–6; and chapters 35-38. 

 Acacia wood was the only type of wood used in the construction of the Tent of Meeting, the sides of the courtyard, and the furniture and altars in the Tabernacle. The Tent of Meeting itself was constructed of gold covered acacia wood panels, or boards.  Gold covered acacia wood posts and cross bars stabilized the acacia wood panels and held the Tent of Meeting curtains in place. In the Tent of Meeting, the Table of the Presence (Showbread), the Altar of Incense (Golden Altar), and the Ark of the Covenant were built from acacia wood then overlaid with gold. Gold covered acacia wood poles were placed in gold rings on the four corners of each structure. When the Israelites moved, poles were used to lift and carry each piece of furniture.  

 In the courtyard, the Altar of Burnt Offering (Bronze Altar) was built from acacia wood overlaid with bronze. Bronze-cast rings were placed half way up the Bronze Altar at the four corners. Bronze-covered acacia wood poles were inserted into the rings for carrying the Bronze Altar. The courtyard was rectangular — approximately 150 feet on the north and south sides and 75 feet on the east and west sides. Unlike the Tent of Meeting, no acacia wood panels or boards were used to construct the sides of the courtyard. The sides were made of linen; however, the linen curtains were attached to acacia wood posts (top and sides) with silver hooks.  

 When the Israelites moved from one camp to another, the Tent of Meeting and Tabernacle were deconstructed then moved (Numbers chapter 4). God would not allow the sacred furnishings and the Tent of Meeting to be transported in wagons or carts. He required that they be carried on the shoulders of the Levites. Acacia wood is beautiful, light, and practical indestructible. It was ideal for the multiple moves that the Israelites made in their years of journeying on the Sinai Peninsula and final march into Canaan.

 Shittâh or Acacia wood

Acacia seyal fruit

The Bible identified the wood used in the Tabernacle as shittâh which translates as acacia. The Genus and species of the acacia tree used in the Tabernacle cannot be established with 100% accuracy. Over the years, several trees were suggested as the source of the wood. In the early 20th century, scholars suggested the wood was from the Mimosa nilatica (Spina AEgyptiaca of the Egyptians) primarily because the Israelites could have brought this wood out of Egypt.  Others proposed that the acacia wood of the Tabernacle was from the Acacia tortillis which grew in the Judean Desert and eastern Negev Desert. Jewish rabbinic writings asserted that acacia trees without any knots or fissures were cut by the patriarch Jacob at Migdal Ẓebo’aya, Canaan and taken into Egypt. During their captivity, the Israelites retained the acacia wood and left Egypt with the wood. Thus, when Moses asked for offerings to build the Tabernacle, everyone who had acacia wood offered it.

Although Mimosa nilatica and Acacia tortollis could have been the wood used in Tabernacle construction, many scholars favor the Acacia seyal tree. The A. seyal is indigenous to the dry desert-like climate of southern Sinai. It grows in stony alluvial soil at the base of hills. The A. seyal can grow at altitudes from 65 – 7000 feet and with annual precipitations as low as 3.5 – 9 inches. The Acacia seyal tree is a semi-evergreen tree that grows from 20 – 30 feet tall and has a broad somewhat flat canopy.

 Symbolism: Indestructible

Acacia trees and acacia wood has taken on meaning beyond a common wood used in construction.  The acacia wood used as the foundation of the Tabernacle symbolizes the humanity of Christ while the gold overlay of the boards and poles symbolizes Christ’s deity. Isaiah described Christ as “a root out of dry growth” similar to the acacia tree growing out of arid desert soil (Isaiah 53:2).

As Christians, it is important to remember that Christ was fully human and it was in His human strength that He endured unbelievable torture and finally death on the cross (John 18 and 19).  Acacia wood is virtually indestructible, but Christ is fully indestructible.  In His human body, Christ died once for all people — those present on the earth when he lived and for individuals of all future times (Hebrews 9:12-14).  The indestructible Christ rose after death and now sits at the right hand of God in heaven (Hebrew 10:12).  Burnt offerings on bronze-covered acacia wood altars are no longer needed for sins to be forgiven and for man to be reconciled to God (Hebrew 10:11-18).  Christ’s death and resurrection invites each of us to become a child of God.

The builders and craftsmen of the Tabernacle worked with care and diligence to build the Tabernacle as God directed. As Christians “we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 1:10). We are called by God and ordained for His work here on earth. Sometimes it isn’t easy to know the specific work God wants us to do.  In the past I have been way off track with God’s plans for me.  Alternatively, at other times I have been on track, walking as God ordained.  Part of our work here on earth is to be like acacia wood – virtually indestructible –as we walk out God’s plans for our lives.  How indestructible we are depends on how much effort we make to stay close to Christ.  The best ways to stay close to Christ are by regular — preferably daily – Bible reading, prayer, and meditation on the Holy Scriptures.

 Reflection.  Wouldn’t you like your epitaph to read:____________(your name) was indestructible in his/her walk with Christ. How can you make this happen?

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 8, 2016, Carolyn A. Roth; all rights reserved.

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Moses Encounters a Burning Bush

R. sanguineusRead the story of Moses and the Burning Bush in Exodus Chapters 3 and 4.

From the time he was weaned through approximately age 40, Moses lived in royal splendor as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.  In that time he received an excellent education that included content on history, culture, Egyptian religion, leadership, and military tactics and arms.  Despite these benefits, Moses knew that he was not an Egyptian.  He was an Israelite and his people were slaves in Egypt.

As an adult, Moses went to where some Israelites were working at slave labor.  Seeing an Egyptian overseer beating an Israelite, Moses killed the Egyptian and hid the body.  The next day Moses went to the same location and saw two Israelites fighting.  When he tried to break up the fight, one man asked Moses, “Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?” (Exodus 2:14).  Hearing these words, Moses became afraid; he realized others knew he murdered the Egyptian.  Shortly thereafter, Pharaoh learned of the murder and attempted to kill Moses.

Precipitated by these events, Moses fled Egypt and traveled to Midian.  Midian was located east of the Sinai Peninsula and outside Egyptian influence.   In Midian Moses met Jethro, a Midian priest, whose name means “friend of God”.  The Midianites were offspring of Abraham and his second wife Keturah (Genesis 25:1–4).  In Midian Moses married Jethro’s daughter, Zipporah (Exodus 2:21).  Moses became a shepherd for his father-in-law’s (not his own) sheep (Exodus 3:1).  After about 40 years in Midian, Moses led the sheep to the west side of the Midian desert, arriving at Mount Horab in the Sinai Peninsula.

There the angel of the Lord appeared in flames of fire within a bush.   Moses noticed that although the bush was on fire, it was not consumed by the fire.  Deciding to take a closer look at the strange phenomenon, Moses made his way toward the burning bush.  When God saw Moses approaching the bush, he called to Moses from within the bush and told him to come no closer.  God instructed Moses to take off his sandals because Moses was standing on holy ground.  Then God introduced himself to Moses, naming himself the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  At this introduction, Moses hid his face, afraid to look at God.

Talking from the burning bush, God told Moses that the Israelites were suffering severely under the slave masters in Egypt.  God shared that he planned to rescue them from the Egyptians and lead them to a land of milk and honey. To this point, Moses was probably nodding his head and agreeing with God’s plan. Then, God stunned Moses by saying, “So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt” (Exodus 3:10).  Immediately, Moses started questioning his qualifications to be the leader God described.  God’s response was to continue telling Moses to go back to Egypt.  In Egypt, Moses was to notify the elders of Israel first and then Pharaoh that the Israelites were to be permitted to leave Egypt.  God warned Moses that Pharaoh would oppose him; but, God himself would work wonders to compel Pharaoh to set the Israelites free.

Moses tried several ways to evade being the highly visible leader that God demanded.  One of Moses’ fears was that he was “slow of speech and tongue” (Exodus 4:10).  God told Moses that his brother Aaron, a Levite who spoke well, would be Moses’ speaker.  Convinced by God to be the Israelite leader,  Moses returned to Jethro where he took his wife and two sons and started for Egypt.

 The Burning Bush (Rubus sanctus)

Rubus sanctusThe nature of the burning bush is a source of debate among botanists and Biblical scholars.  Some believe that the burning bush was not a bush, but a figurative representation of a supernatural phenomenon.  Others contend that God spoke through a natural bush. The opinion of Jewish scholars and botanists is that the burning bush was the blackberry bush, Rubus sanctus. Other names for the R. sanctus, are the Rubus sanguineus and the holy blackberry. Most likely the R. sanctus originated in the eastern Mediterranean region of Iran or Turkey.  It is a perennial shrub that grows as a large thicket near water sources, e.g., in oases, on wadi banks, and in moist fields. The plant has no central stem; instead it produces long thin branches which can reach 5 – 6 feet in length.  Branches have spiked thorns that bend downward.  If a person reaches into the plant to pick the fruit, he will feel nothing; however, when he withdraws his hand, thorns will fasten into the flesh like sharp teeth.  Jewish writers drew a parallel between blackberry thorns and the movement of the Israelites in and out of Egypt.  When the Israelites entered Egypt, they did so with little notice.  In contrast when they left Egypt, the entire country knew of them because of supernatural events and battles associated with their exodus.Generally the blackberry flower is pink. New blackberries are green.  As they ripen, they turn red then black. Fully ripe blackberries are plump, firm, and fully black. Never pick blackberries before they are ripe as they will not ripen off the shrub.

s. Blackberries also propagate by vegetative regeneration; for example, re-growth occurs from the perennial rootstalk, from the root stem tips, and from root fragments.

 Symbolism:  God Reveals Himself

Rubus sanctus is a symbol of God revealing himself to man. “Reveal” means to make known something that was secret or hidden and to open up to view (Merriam-Webster Incorporated, 2005).  Synonyms of “reveal” are “disclose” and “tell”.  In the entire Old Testament nowhere does God reveal  more about himself to one man than in the passage of the burning bush.  In fact, this passage is sometimes called the “Mosaic revelation of God about himself” (MacDonald, 1995).

Some of the truths that God revealed about himself were:

  • God revealed to Moses that he was the God of Moses’ ancestors:  Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  God remembered Moses’ ancestors and the promises he made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob from more than 400 years ago.
  • God revealed to Moses that he heard the cries and saw the agony of the Israelites’ slavery in Egypt. God was not limited to one land area such as Haran or Canaan where he appeared to Moses’ ancestors; rather God heard the cries of his people wherever they were.  The Bible does not identify that the Israelite cries were in the form of prayers, but, God heard them.
  • God revealed to Moses that he was going to take action on behalf of the Israelites.  God cared about his chosen people so much that he was willing to intervene in history to help them.
  • God revealed to Moses that he had a plan to see that his promises to Moses’ ancestors were realized. God is a God of specifics and details. Part of that plan was for Moses to act as the leader of the Israelites before Pharaoh.
  • God revealed to Moses that he knew the opposition that Moses would face from Pharaoh.  God knows the hearts of men; he knew Pharaoh’s pride and stubbornness.
  • God revealed his power to Moses. God was able to take other forms, in this instance he was talking to Moses from a burning bush. God revealed his power by telling Moses that the “supposed” power of the gods of the greatest nation on earth, Egypt, would be no obstruction to God’s will and plan.

Considering the attributes that God revealed about himself makes me glad that God is on my side.  At the same time, I feel overwhelmed that God who is all powerful (omnipotent), all knowledge (omniscient), and always present (omnipresent) claimed me for his child. It is understandable that Moses hid his face in God’s presence – he doesn’t want God to see him and he was afraid to look on God.  What am I going to do when God reveals himself totally to me?  Often I think about the song by the Christian recording group “Mercy Me”.

 I Can Only Imagine*

I can only imagine What it will be like, When I walk By your side
I can only imagine What my eyes will see When your face Is before me.
I can only imagine When that day comes When I find myself  Standing in the Son.
I can only imagine When all I will do Is forever Forever worship you.
[Chorus:]
Surrounded by Your glory, What will my heart feel
Will I dance for you Jesus or in awe of you be still
Will I stand in your presence or to my knees will I fall
Will I sing hallelujah, will I be able to speak at all?
I can only imagine.
*( From: http://www.elyrics.net/read/m/mercyme-lyrics/i-can-only-imagine-lyrics.html)

Reflection: How will you respond when you are face-to-face with God, when God is revealed fully to 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 hppt://CarolynRothMinistry.com/

Copyright August 16, 2011, Carolyn A. Roth; all rights reserved.

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Olive Tree in the Tabernacle

Olive TreeThe fruit of the olive tree is identified three places in the Tabernacle which was built while the Israelites were camped at Mount Sinai. In all three places, it was olive oil, pressed from olives, which was used.

First, olive oil provided fuel for seven lamps which set on the golden Lampstand in the Tent of Meeting, Holy of Holies (Exodus 40:1 – 5). One lamp set on each of the seven branches of the Lampstand. The Bible does not identify the material used in the construction of the seven lamps. Some authors identified the material as gold – the same substance used in the crafting of the Lampstand. Other authors suggested that the material was a type of clay used in pottery. Small pottery lamps were found at ancient Israeli archeological sites around the time of the Exodus. The lamps were open rimmed in contrast to later New Testament lamps which had a central hole into which olive oil was poured and a short spout which contained the lamp wick. In the open bowl-type lamp, one side was pinched narrow into a spout like protrusion. The wick extended from the spout side of the lamp. God told Moses to have the Israelites bring clear oil of pressed olives for the Lampstand lamps (Exodus 27:20-21). The high priest, Aaron, was to tend the lamps so that they burned continually before the Lord from evening until morning.

The second place that olives were used in the Tabernacle was in the Bread of the Presence. The Presence Bread (Showbread) was a type of grain offering. God described meticulously that all grain offerings (Leviticus 2:1 – 16) should be prepared/offered with olive oil.

The third place that olive oil was used in the Tabernacle was as an ingredient of the anointing oil (Exodus 30: 22-32). God decreed that Moses use anointing oil to anoint and consecrate (to God) every part of the tabernacle, the priests, and the priest’s clothes. The anointing oil, described in detail, consisted of fine spices and a hin (3.7 liters or 1.5 gallons) of olive oil. The anointing oil was to be God’s sacred anointing oil for future generations. If anyone made perfume using the same formula and put it on other than a priest, he/she was to be cut off from the Children of Israel.

Ancient olive treeOlive Trees

The olive tree is the second plant mentioned in the Bible and one of the world’s oldest cultivated trees.  Archeological evidence suggests that the olive tree was first domesticated in the 4th millennium B.C.  The wild Mediterranean olive is the most likely progenitor of today’s cultivated olive, Olea europaea. Some scholars identify the olive as indigenous to present day Israel and Syria; while others claim North Africa or Crete as homes of the first olive trees. In all probability there were wild olive trees growing in the Sinai Peninsula when the Children of Israel traveled there in 1446 – 1406 B.C. Olive trees are long lived, up to 1000 years. They are evergreens that grow to a height of 65 feet with spreading branches that form a dense crown or canopy.  In Old Testament times, youth used long sticks to shake olive tree branches with the result that ripe olives fell to the ground. To obtain small quantities of clear olive oil such as used in anointing oil, olives were gently squeezed — so that no parts were crushed.

Symbolism: Light, Illumination

When we think of the symbolism of the olive tree, we associate the olive branch or leaf as symbols of peace and prosperity. This symbolism comes from the Greeks where the olive tree was the sacred tree of goddess Athena. Athens, the capital of Greece, took its name from the goddess. In the Old Testament olive trees, branches and olives are not associated with peace or prosperity. In Exodus and Leviticus, the Hebrew word for olive tree, olive, and olive oil is zayith; zayith means an olive, as yielding illuminating oil.  Another Old Testament word for olive is sheman, meaning to shine or anoint.

The writers of the Old Testament Psalms repeatedly told the Israelites then and Christian’s today that God is our light (Psalm 27:1,Psalm 89: 15, Psalm 119: 105). In the New Testament, Christ is described or describes himself as the light of the world and of men (John 1: 4, John 8:12, John 12:46). In the Old Testament, the Israelites were to reflect God’s light to the surrounding nations (Isaiah 42:6, Isaiah 49:6). Today, Christians are called to take Christ’s light into the world. Christ said “you are the light of the world…. let your light shine before men that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5: 14 – 16). St Paul wrote “you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of light consists of all goodness, righteousness and truth)” (Ephesians 5: 8 – 9).

One of the saddest stories in the Bible involves the lamps of the golden Lampstand (I Samuel 3: 1- 4). The Children of Israel are now in the Promised Land and the Ark of the Covenant and the golden Lampstand are at Shiloh. As the chief priest, Eli has the task of preparing and lighting the seven lamps each evening. The story is set early one morning before sunrise. Samuel recorded a small sentence, “The lamp of God had not yet gone out” (I Samuel 3:3). That the lamps burned low or burnt out before morning means that Eli did not prepare the lamps with sufficient olive oil or wick length so that the lamps would burn through the night until morning. The lack of illumination before the Table of the Presence symbolized spiritual dimness in the lives of priests and Israelites. Both were neglecting God; consequently, their lives were not filled with the light of His presence. In this same vignette, Samuel wrote “in those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions” (I Samuel 3:1). There could be no illumination (words or visions) from God when the priest and people were neglecting or disobeying Him.

As olive oil lamps shined on the Presence Table in the Tent of Meeting, Christians are illuminated by Christ and they reflect Him in a dark world. If our light dims or burns out, how will Christ be seen? Remember that childhood Sunday school song:

This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine. This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

I’m not going to let Satan blow it out. I’m going to let it shine. I’m not going to let Satan blow it out. I’m going to let it shine. Let it shine, let it shine all over the world.

Reflection. So what about you? Is you light burning for Christ, or has your light grown dim?

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 9, 2011, Carolyn A. Roth; all rights reserved

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