Tag Archives: Star of Bethlehem flower

What an Awful Name: Dove’s Dung

Bible Reference: 2 Kings 6.24-7.20.

The king of Aram, Ben-Hadad, mobilized his entire army and attacked Israel (Northern Kingdom) besieging its capital, Samaria. Probably, the attack occurred around 850 BC when Joram was king of the northern tribes.  Elisha was still the main prophet in the Northern Kingdom and remained in Samaria during the siege. The siege lasted so long that a famine occurred throughout the city. People were starving. Cannibalism occurred.  A donkey’s head sold for eighty silver shekels and a pint of seed pods for five shekels.

In the siege of Samaria, the writer used a pint of flower bulbs to demonstrate food scarcity.  A comparison is that in ancient Israel, the value of a male child, one month through five years-of-age, was five silver shekels, while the value of a female child was three silver shekels.

Many botanists and Bible scholars agreed that the cab was from the Ornithogalum umbellatum.  The popular name of this plant is the star of Bethlehem because the flower’s six petals are reminiscent of the star over Bethlehem at Jesus’s birth. Another name for this plant is “dove’s dung,” a distasteful name for a beautiful plant.  Most likely the name came from Hebrews viewing large fields containing the white star of Bethlehem flower in the spring.  From a distance, the small white flowers appeared like dove’s droppings.

Whether or not the star of Bethlehem plant was edible generated much discussion. Reading the arguments,  the noted plant scholar, Dr. James Duke, harvested a few bulbs from his lawn.14 After boiling them vigorously, he ate one.  To Duke, the bulbs tasted similar to soap and had a bitter aftertaste.  He added salt and found that the taste improved. Because Duke experienced some shortness of breath following the ingestion of only two bulbs, he concluded he would need to be near starvation to eat star of Bethlehem bulbs.

Figure 7.1, Ornithogalum umbellatum (Star of Bethlehem).

In the United States, the star of Bethlehem is sometimes considered an invasive weed, but, other individuals value the flower for its delicate beauty. Beauty and value depends on an individual’s perspective. I planted both white and pink star of Bethlehem bulbs in the church Bible garden. Plants multiplied through corm (small bulb) division; each year I have more star of Bethlehem flowers that grow in the garden.

Value is something intrinsically desirable.3  In several places, Bible writers presented perspectives on what was valued and valuable:

1. Moses regarded disgrace for the sake of God as more valuable than treasures of Egypt.

2. Israelite proverbs averred that kings value a man who speaks the truth.

3. A husband of a wife of noble character lacked nothing of value.

4. In Paul’s first letter to his beloved disciple Timothy, Paul reminded Timothy that “Physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things” (1Timothy 4.8 NIV).

God considers his people, both Israelites and Christians, valuable.  Jesus told disciples to stop worrying about what they would eat or drink by using ravens as an example.  Ravens are a fairly large, black bird with a shrill voice and aggressive manner. Normally, ravens aren’t considered attractive birds.  Ravens don’t sow or reap, nor do they have storerooms or barns; yet, God feeds them. Jesus reminded and reassured disciples that they were more valuable to God than birds, and that God would meet their needs.

Jesus attempted to teach individuals to think about and even change what they valued. He told a parable of a man who searched for just the right pearl.  When the man found the pearl of great value, he sold all his belongings and bought it. This parable can be compared to a person seeking truth and meaning in life.  Once they find God, all possessions become secondary in comparison to following God.

On another occasion, Jesus’s teaching on what was valued and valuable didn’t reassure listeners, i.e., Jesus taught about trust using a parable of a shrewd manager. The Pharisees who loved money were listening and sneering at Jesus.  Aware of their actions and hearts, Jesus said to them, “What is highly valued (i.e., money) among men is detestable in God’s sight” (Luke 16.15 NIV). Jesus likened the love of money to a master or a god.  He told his disciples that they can’t serve both God and money.

Reflection: I value my relationship with Jesus, my husband, my church, and my family. Who or what do you value? Who are you giving your allegiance to? God? The world? Money? What would increase service to God, and less service to worldly causes, look like in your life?

Copyright: 12/18/2019; Carolyn Adams Roth

Please visit my website for more information about Bible plants: http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com