Tag Archives: Symbolism

Passion Flower and Fruit

Passiflora edulis commonly called passion flower, grows prolifically in Israel. It is a perennial vine with tendrils that help the vine to climb over trellis, fences, and sides of buildings. Passion flower is herbaceous and in colder climates dies to the ground. Supposedly, it grows in Plant Zones 5 – 9 in the United State. Passiflora edulis is thought to be drought tolerant and attracts butterflies therefore has the potential to be a popular plant. It grows in full sun to part shade.

In the United States, this passion flower is native in southeastern states. Although here in Virginia the Passiflora flower is purple, my friend in Missouri has a plant which looks identical and is named Passiflora incarnate and the flower is white. The fruit from the flower is named Maypops because it gives forth a popping sound when stepped on. Maypops are green in the summer and became yellowish in the fall. They are edible. When opened, the Maypop fruit is comprised of opaque, white, little balls. The little balls are juicy and taste like lemons. If used to make lemonade, the ade will taste like it has too much water. The taste of the maypops is very light.

Symbolism

Passiflora was a name given to this showy flower when it was first described by missionaries in South America (Brazil, Paraguay). These missionaries believed that they saw various aspects of the passion of Christ immediately before and after his crucifixion. The coronal threads were seen as a symbol for the crown of thorns; the curling tendrils as the cords of the whip used to scourge Jesus. The five stamen were identified with the wounds that Christ received at his crucifixion. The three large stigmas for nails on the cross (one for each of his hands and one where Christ’s feet were placed one on top of the other and a single nail hammered into both of them. The five petals and five sepals of the flower refer to the 10 “true” apostles. Neither Peter who denied Christ and Judas who betrayed him were considered “true” apostles.

Reflection

Before I read about the symbolism of the passion flower, I thought it was beautiful to look at, both in its purple and white colors. Now, I look at the plant and see the passion of Christ. Possibly, I was happier when I could just enjoy the beauty of a flower without attempting to see the various allusions to Christ’s passion in the flower’s beauty. What about you? Do you sometimes just want to enjoy the beauty of a plant and omit the deep symbolism of it?

Copyright: October 29, 2017; Carolyn Adams Roth

Please visit my website: www. CarolynRothMinistry.com to see books which contain plants in the Bible.

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John the Baptist: No Weak Reed

????????????Christ description of John the Baptist as no feeble reed is in Luke 7:18-35.

About to begin his public ministry, Jesus went John to be baptized.  John preached a baptism for the repentance of sin. At first John declined to baptize Jesus recognizing that Christ was the sinless son of God. John persuaded John to baptize him by saying that the baptism was necessary to fulfill all righteousness (Matthew 3:13). To fulfill all righteousness indicated that Jesus was consecrated to God and officially approved by him. 

Soon after the baptism of Christ, King Herod Antipas imprisoned John. John openly disapproved of Herod’s marriage to Herodias, Herod’s brother’s wife (Matthew 14:3-5).  Herod divorced his first wife to marry Herodias. John’s prison was Machaerus, Herod’s fortress-palace on the east side of the Dead Sea. 

While imprisoned, John sent two of his disciples to Galilee to ask Christ, “are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else” (Luke 7:19). Christ did not give John’s disciples a direct “Yes” or “No” answer. Instead he told them to go back to John and report what they saw and heard, e.g., the blind received their sight, the lame walked, and lepers were cured.

After John’s messenger left, Christ asked the crowd what they expected when they went to the desert to see John: a reed swaying in the wind, a man dressed in fine clothes, or a prophet?  When Christ asked the crowd if they expected to see a swaying reed, he was referring to the firmness of John’s conviction and message. John’s message did not depend on his audience. He had the same message for tax collectors, religious leaders, and rulers:  repent, for the kingdom of heaven is a hand. John was not politically correct.  He never altered his message to accommodate an audience. He was a straight reed that did not sway from of his convictions; thus, his imprisonment and death.

The Reed

The reed that Christ alluded to was the Arundo donax, known as the giant reed or the Cypress cane. The giant reed was introduced into the Middle East and Europe from the sub-continent of Asia. The largest colonies are located on the banks of natural water courses, in floodplains of medium or large sized streams, and in dry river banks far from permanent water sources. Often the reed is found where water sources have been physically disturbed or dammed.  In Israel A. donax grows throughout the country from Mount Hermon to the Negev Desert. At one time, botanist thought the giant reed could not tolerate salt and maritime exposure; however, giant reeds have grown on sand dunes near seashores, e.g. the Sharon Plain. It tolerates strong winds and just about any type of soil. The giant reed will not grow in the shade.

Symbolism: Conviction, Convict

In the vignette of John the Baptist and the swaying reed, the symbolism is conviction. A conviction is a firmly held belief that something is true, real, and certain. John lived his convictions; he stayed on message (repentance) and on task (baptizing). My husband calls John “a straight arrow” because John did not deviate from his convictions. John was like the long straight culms of the giant reed which grew along the Jordan River where John baptized repentant sinners. 

Today the world has an even stronger voice than that of John to convict us of sin. The Holy Spirit is in the world to convict individuals of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8). The Holy Spirits convicts individuals of original sin and their need to repent, accept Christ as Savior, and be baptized. At the same time Holy Spirit has a convicting role in the lives of Christians as well. If we listen, the Holy Spirit tells us which parts of their lives are righteous and which are sinful. Then we can make sound judgments about aspects of our lives to change.   

Jude wrote that God and his holy ones will convict sinners about the harsh words that they have spoken against him (Jude 1:15). Sometimes Christians speak harshly about God when they do not get their own way, or do not understand reasons for circumstances in their lives.  At times, we laugh at jokes about God. Years ago I heard a joke about the Holy Spirit. I am still stunned that anyone had the temerity to joke about God’s spirit (Mark 3:29). Rarely do we speak up when an individual disrespects God by cursing or discounts the Holy Scriptures. Both laughter and silence imply agreement and can be as harsh as outspoken words against God.      

John could have been silent when Herod divorced his first wife so he could marry his brother’s wife. He wasn’t silent and he paid for his out-spoken convictions with his life. I wonder if we as Christians should speak out more often on the rampant immorality in our world. Yes, we will get push-back and that push-back may label us as intolerant, bigots, etc. Our reputations may be shredded as a result of speaking our convictions. John the Baptist cared more about his convictions than his reputation in the world.

Prayer: God, please give us men and women today who have convictions and beliefs and are not buffeted by winds of change and political correctness. Lord, give our churches and society men and women who will speak up 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 May 13, 2013; Carolyn A. Roht

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Isaac and the Thicket

Thicket, Ramat HanadivRead Genesis 21:1-7 and Genesis 22:1-19.

Isaac was the son that God promised Abraham and Sarah – the son through whom all the peoples of the earth would be blessed (Genesis 17:15-19, 22:17-18). Isaac was born in 2066 B.C.  when Abraham was 100 years old and Sarah about 90 years-of-age.  When Isaac was about 16, God gave Abraham the command to take Isaac to the region of Mount Moriah and there sacrifice Isaac as a burnt offering.  Abraham did not question God’s command. Early the next morning Abraham cut wood for the burnt offering and saddled his donkey. With two servants and Isaac, Abraham started off to Mount Moriah.  Three days later, Abraham saw the place where God wanted him to make the burnt offering. Telling his servants to remain behind, Abraham and Isaac went forward together.  Isaac carried the wood for the burnt offering while Abraham carried the fire.

As Abraham and Isaac walked on the final leg of the journey, Isaac asked his father< where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” (Genesis 22:7).  Abraham assured Isaac that God himself would provide the lamb. When Abraham and Isaac reached the God-ordained place on Mount Moriah, Abraham built an altar and arranged the wood on it. Abraham laid Isaac on top of the wood and bound Isaac there.  Abraham picked up his knife and prepared to slay Isaac.  At the last minute, the angel of the Lord called to Abraham and told Abraham not to lay a hand on Isaac. The angel commended Abraham for fearing God enough to give his only son, Isaac, to God.

Abraham looked up and in a thicket saw a ram caught by the horns.  The thicket held the ram in place in much the same way that Isaac’s bindings held him on the altar. Just as Isaac did not struggling against his bindings, the ram did not struggling to loosen its horns from the thicket. The ram was simply there waiting for Abraham to see it. Abraham took the ram and offered it as a burnt offering instead of Isaac.

Thickets on Mount Moriah

Abraham, Isaac, and the ram played major parts in this Bible episode; but the role of the ticket was also important.  What is a thicket and how did its being there contribute to the successful outcome of the story?  The Hebrew word for thicket is çᵉbâk, derived from the Hebrew word çâbak, which means to entwine in the sense of interwoven branches.  A thicket is a group of wild shrubs and occasional small trees which grow together to form impenetrable branches. At times vines entangle with the shrubs and small trees. Thickets are not merely shrubs planted near each other; rather branches and roots join or entangle as if the shrub was a single plant. Often shrubs have thorns.  In thickets rarely are shrubs and small trees taller than 10 – 20 feet. Abraham’s planned sacrifice on Mount Mariah was in approximately 2050 B. C.  At that time, much of the Judean Mountains including Mount Moriah was tree covered; however, approximately 30 – 40 years before this story a natural or manmade disaster (earthquake, flood or fire) must have occurred locally. Thickets grow in response to natural disturbances in which large trees are destroyed.  Some shrubs that may have participated in thicket formation on ancient Mount Moriah are in Table 1.

Symbolism of the Thicket: Entanglements

In the story of the Isaac and the burnt offering, the ram was entangled in the interwoven branches of the thicket. Entangle means to wrap or twist together, to interweave, and to ensnare (Merriam-Webster, 2005). An entanglement is a condition of being confused.  In contrast to the ram in the thicket, Abraham was not entangled or confused. Abraham understood that God had first priority in his life. Imagine the thoughts that Satan brought to Abraham’s mind during the three day walk to Mount Moriah. Some of these thoughts could have been: “Surely God did not tell you to sacrifice Isaac as a burnt offering? You must have misunderstood. If you sacrifice Isaac then you will have no son alive to be the father of all nations. A God that really loved and cared about would never put you through the pain of killing your beloved son. How can a god who is demanding this sacrifice be a just god that you want to follow and obey?”

Abraham did not become entangled in Satan’s lies or confused by the limitations of his own understanding of God and this situation. Abraham believed God would keep his promises: God promised that Isaac would be the father of all nations and all the world would be blessed through Isaac (Genesis 17:15-19).  Abraham did not understand how God would work out this situation; yet, Abraham believed that even if he offered Isaac as a burnt offering, God would ensure that Isaac was the father of all nations.

The author of the letter to the Hebrews directed readers to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles” (Hebrews 12:1).  Many times we get entangled and confused by Satan’s arguments when he tempts us to do something that the Bible defines as a sin. Satan tries to make us doubt God’s word or he redefines the situation so that we think God is being unfair to us. When we become entangled and confused by Satan’s temptations and arguments, we need to remember the thicket.

For wilderness hikers, the most difficult landscape to traverse is often a thicket. In many cases when a thicket is encountered, hikers do not attempt to cut through them; rather they go around the thicket.  Hikers know that if they try to go through a tangled, thorn-infested thicket, they will get hurt. They may even lose their direction. When Satan tries to draw us into a thicket of confusion or doubt, like hikers facing a thicket, we need to circumvent his ploys. An alternative to heading straight through masses of interwoven branches is to calmly rest in God’s care and go around the thicket.

Reflection: What lies and arguments has Satan tried to entangle you in lately?  Are you listening to his arguments or are you remembering God’s promises?

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 29, 2011, Carolyn A. Roth; all rights reserved.

Table 1 Shrubs and small trees in a thicket in the area of Mount Moriah

Names Characteristic
Prickly juniper (Juniperus oxycedrus) Evergreen dioecious tree that can grow up to 46 feet tall but more often a shrub. Needles display in groups of three; needles are sharp and up to ¾ inches long.  Fruit (cone) berry-like, red, spherical. Grows in mountain elevations up to 4,593 feet.
Myrtle (Myrtus communis) In ancient Canaan and even when the Children of Israel entered the land, wild myrtle thickets were abundant. Evergreen; grows up to 18 feet tall; purplish black berries.
Strange vine (Vitis orientalis) Bushy shrub; sometimes climbing, deciduous vine. Smooth and sometimes slightly ribbed shoots. Leaves have serrated edges. Round fruit similar in appearance to currents. Prolific in mountains of Israel, can grow at elevations as high as 5000 feet.
Buckthorn orPalestine buckthorn (Rhamnus lycioides, orRhamnus palaestinus)  Used for centuries as hedges (Walker, 1979). Evergreen bush or small tree; up to 6 feet in height. Grows on hillsides of much of Israel. Rhamnus comes from “ram” meaning branching; branches are intertwined.

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