Tag Archives: Tabernacle

Linen Curtains in the Tabernacle

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Read how Tabernacle Curtains were made and used in Exodus 26:1–6 and 31-37; Exodus 27:9–19; and Exodus chapter 28.

Flax was used extensively in the Tabernacle to make linen. Flax is native to the eastern Mediterranean region and was an important crop in Egypt since the 5th millennium B.C.  The linen curtains, the blue, purple and scarlet embroidery yarn, and the linen priest’s clothes came from the flax plant. The two craftsmen, Bezalel and Oholiab, God designated to oversee building of the Tabernacle were given skill as designers and embroiderers in blue, purple and scarlet yarn and in fine linen (Exodus 35:35). 

In the Tent of Meeting, a curtain (veil) made of fine woven linen hung between the Holies of Holy and the Most Holy of Holies. Cherubim were embroidered on the veil with blue, purple and scarlet yarn.  The Tent of Meeting roof was made of linen curtains. The curtains draped over the outside of the gold-covered acacia wood panels.  Cherubim made of purple, blue and scarlet yarn were woven or worked into the linen curtains.  A fine linen curtain covered the entrance of the Tent of Meeting (east side).  The entrance curtain included colored yarn, however, there were no cherubim on the curtain.  The sides of the Tabernacle courtyard were plain linen curtains held in place by silver hooks that attached them to the wood posts.  The curtain at the courtyard entrance was the only courtyard curtain that included colored yarn.  An embroiderer was used to make the entrance curtain.  

Aaron was the first Israelite high priest. God gave very specific instructions for making his   clothes.   The clothes included the breastplate, ephod, robe, tunic, turban, sash, and undergarments.   All were made with fine linen.  With the exception of the tunic and undergarments, all linen clothes were embroidered with or used colored yarn.  No sandals or shoes were included as part of the high priest’s clothing.  The rationale for lack of sandals was that when Aaron ministered to the Lord he was on holy ground.  As priests, Aaron’s sons had special clothes.   Their clothes included tunics, sashes, headbands, and undergarments made of linen; no colored yarn or embroidery was used.

 In the Bible, the Hebrew word for the linen associated with the Tabernacle is shêsh. Shêsh means “fine linen” and denotes a type of Egyptian linen of peculiar whiteness and fineness. When Egyptians wove fine linen, they used as many as 140 strands of threads per inch lengthwise (warf) and 64 strands per inch horizontal (weft). Linen of this fine weave had the appearance of silk. In ancient times fine linen was a mark of quality and associated with wealth and rank. Fine linen was the usual dress of Egyptian priests and royalty.  Pharaoh dressed Joseph in fine linen when Joseph was promoted to second-in command over all Egypt (Genesis 41:41–43). Egyptian fine linen was exquisite – it was soft and flexible but strong, cool to wear, and had a luster or sheen to its whiteness.

As slaves in Egypt, the Israelites would not have possessed much, if any, fine linen; however, when they left Egypt, the Egyptians gave them tribute.  The tribute included clothes and more than likely included fine linen and yarn for spinning linen (Exodus 12:35-36). When Moses asked the Israelites for offerings to build the Tabernacle, he specified the need for blue, purple, and scarlet yarn and fine linen (Exodus 25:3).  Exodus recorded that skilled women spun fine linen and blue, purple and scarlet yarn and brought these as offerings for the Tabernacle (Exodus 35:25-26).  There is no record that women wove the yarn into linen cloth for curtains or priest’s clothes.

 The Flax Plant

The Ancient Egyptian flax plant, Linum usitatissimum, was used to make linen.  In Biblical times flax was the most important fiber crop. Probably the L. usitatissimum originated in Mesopotamia; however, it was extensively cultivated in Egypt and less so in Palestine.  In Egypt flax grew along the sides the Nile River and particularly in the Nile Delta region. In Egypt and the Middle East, flax was planted in the early winter and flax harvested in the spring.

 The flax plant has a single stem that grows up to four feet tall.  The fiber is in the stem.  Initially, the stem is green, but turns yellow as the plant ripens and readies for harvest. When flax plants were harvested for fiber, mature plants were pulled up by their roots. Harvested plants were allowed to dry, then retted.  Retting is a process of soaking flax to separate the fiber from the woody tissue (straw).  Egyptians dyed some flax threads.  Blue and purple dyes were derived from shellfish (primarily the murex) which lived in the Mediterranean Sea. Scarlet dye came from the eggs and carcasses of a worm (Coccus ilicus) which lived on the leaves of holly plants.

 Symbolism: Purity 

 In ancient times, linen symbolized purity and in Revelation (15:5-6) St. John used “clean, shining linen” as a symbol for purity.  Purity means spotless, stainless, free from what pollutes; containing nothing that does not properly belong; free from moral fault or guilt. The Hebrew verb for purify, tāhēr, also means to cleanse or to be clean. The Tabernacle complex with its linen curtains was a symbol of the Israelite’s need to be clean or pure before God.  In the Tabernacle animals were sacrificed and animal blood shed to accomplish ritual purification.  Today when individuals accept Christ as their Savior, they are purified (cleansed) or made spotless in relation to former sins.  Then, the challenge of living a pure life begins.

 Of the 33 verses in the New International Version Study Bible (2002) which referred to purity, about 1/3 centered on the individual’s heart  In the Old Testament, King David implored God to “create in me a pure heart” (Psalm 51:10).  King David questioned who can approach God and stand before him? The answer was “He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false” (Psalm 24:3–4).

 In the New Testament there is a similar focus on Christians keeping their heart pure. Christ taught, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God” (Matthew 5:8).  Paul told Timothy that love (the greatest of all virtues) comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith (1Timothy 1:5).  He instructed Timothy to “Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22).  Paul cautioned Timothy to have nothing to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because they produce quarrels (verse 23).

  Taken together, these verses from the Old and New Testament communicated that to please God, Christians must keep their hearts pure.  Keeping a pure hearts begins with a sincere faith in Christ as our Savior. Purity means that we love one another and are free from moral guilt about how we act toward and think about each other.   Purity is about actively pursuing faith, love, and peace.  In addition to positive actions that help us to grow toward purity, the Bible verses on a pure heart articulated certain behaviors to avoid.  These behaviors are worshipping idols, lying, becoming involved in nonproductive arguments and quarrels, and pursuing evil desires of youth, e.g., sexual debauchery.

 I want to keep my heart pure; however, sometime I do not restrain my impulses. At times I fill my life with irreverent thoughts and actions.  In the past I often made my career an idol rather than keeping God at the center of my life. Most certainly I have engaged in foolish and stupid arguments, rationalizing them in the name of “devil’s advocate” or “intellectual debate.”  How, then, can I keep a clean, pure heart so I can see God in my day-to-day life?  The answer for me is the same as it was for the Israelites. I must agree with God about my sins. When I do, I can be at-one with God. God has made it easy for me to reconcile myself to him and his purity. I John 1:9 says if we confess our sins, God will cleanse us from sin and purify us from our unrighteousness.  Having a pure, clean heart is as simple as going to God admitting my sin and asking His forgiveness.

Reflection. When did you last clean up or purify your life?  Would now be a good time to enact I John 1:9 in your relationship with Christ?

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 31, 2013; Carolyn A. Roth

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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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This Light of Mine

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 April 23, 2016, Carolyn A. Roth

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God’s Watching You

Dwarf flowering almond

Read about the Lampstand of the Tabernacle in Exodus 25.

The almond tree symbolizes God’s watchfulness. The almond tree was central to the Tabernacle and is described in two key situations. First, almond tree buds, blossoms and flowers are the design on the Lampstand (Exodus 25:33-34). The Lampstand and it accessories were made of 75 pounds of gold (MacDonald, 2005). In the Bible, no dimensions (height, width of the top of the Lampstand) were given for the Lampstand; however, its base and arms are described in detail in Exodus 37: 17 – 23).

Three branches extend from one side and three branches from the opposite side of the central base. On each of the six branches there were three cups shaped like almond flowers with buds and blossoms. The Lampstand base and central branch had four cups shaped like almond flowers with buds and blossoms. One almond bud was under the first pair of branches, a second bud under the second pair of branches, and a third bud under the third pair of branches. The buds and seven branches were all one piece of gold with the base, hammered out of pure gold. At the top of each of the seven branches was set an oil lamp.

The Lampstand was the only source of light in the Tabernacle. It was positioned in the Holy of Holies on the south side of the room, opposite the Table of the Presence-Bread. Priests lit the seven oil lamps every evening; the lamps were to burn continually throughout the night until morning. Today, Christians and Jews refer to lamps that are similar as a “menorah.”

The second source of almonds in the Tabernacle is Aaron’s staff which sprouted overnight while in front of the Ark of the Testimony (Covenant) in the Tent of Meeting (Numbers 17: 1 – 11). Unlike staffs representing the other 11 tribes of Israel, Aaron’s staff produced buds, blossoms and almonds. Aaron’s staff was not placed in the Tabernacle at its initial construction at Mt. Sinai.

After Aaron’s staff sprouted it was kept in front of the Testimony in the Most Holy of Holies during the wanderings of the Israelites. Paul avers that that Aaron’s staff was placed in the Ark of the Testimony (Hebrews 9:4); however, Aaron’s staff was not in the Ark of the Testimony when Solomon brought the Ark to the first Temple in Jerusalem (I Kings 8: 9).

Almond Tree

The almond tree described in Exodus and Numbers is likely the Prunus amygdalus var. dulcis or Amygdalus (almond) communis(common). The almond tree bears sweet almonds which were used for food in the eastern Mediterranean region. Domesticated almonds were identified in the early Bronze Age (3000-2000 B.C.). Usually almond tree grow 12 – 27 feet in height. The flowering almond tree buds in Israel as early as February and is one of the most beautiful flowering trees in nature.

Amygdalus communis, NK

In Old Testament times almonds were eaten raw or roasted, pressed for almond oil, and used to flavor porridge, breads and other baked goods. In Egypt, almonds were found in Pharaoh Tutankhamen’s tomb in Egypt (around 1327 B.C.); these almonds were likely imported from Canaan. When Jacob directed his sons to go to Egypt to buy grain, he told them to take almonds as a gift to the Egyptians because almonds were “some of the best product of the land” (Genesis43:11).

Symbolism: Alert, Watchful

In the Hebrew language, name for almond tree is shâqêd (Strong, 2010). The primary root of shâqêd is shâqad which means to be watchful, alert, on the lookout, and sleepless. Almond buds and blossoms were placed on the Lampstand where the lamps burned during the night to symbolize two things: first, the constant watchfulness of God over His people and second the need for Israel to be alert to the commandments of God.

The association between the almond tree and watchfulness of God over Israel is repeated in Jeremiah 1: 11 – 12. The Lord asked Jeremiah, What do you see? Jeremiah’s response is, “I see the branch of an almond tree.” God returns, “You have seen correctly, for I am watching to see that my word is fulfilled.” Job (7:20) calls God a “watcher of men.” Placing Aaron’s almond rod in the Most Holy of Holies is a reminder that the priesthood must be watchful against any rebellion or turning of the Children of Israel from God’s laws.

By using the symbolism of the almond tree in the Tabernacle, God provided both reassurance and caution to the Children of Israel. He provides reassurance that He is always watching over them. At the same time God cautions His Children to remain alert to events and situations that can detract them from keeping God as the primary focus of their lives.

At this time I am teaching an on-line course to university students. When courses are offered online, faculty and students rarely meet person-to-person. Students can be in Africa as missionaries, in Guam on a military ship, or anywhere across the globe. Faculty must be watchful that students read and implement the course syllabus, content, and assignments. If a student is off track, the faculty must immediately respond to assist her/him to re-read or re-think their work. Students ask questions of the faculty on line in Discussion Boards or via university email. University policy requires faculty to respond to students within 24 hours. At the same time students have a responsibility to be alert. They need to read posted announcements, grading comments, and answers to questions posed by classmates. If students are not constantly alert to the interactions in the course, they can limit their learning and their earned grades.

Faculty-student interactions in an online course are a reflection of how God works with us. He constantly monitors our behavior and when we get off track, He sends us messages that we need to readjust our thinking and our behavior. Unlike my interaction with students, God does not take up to 24 hours to learn what I am thinking/doing and respond to me. He knows immediately. And, thanks be to God, He does not figuratively pull His hair out at some of the things I do or neglect to do.

God is continually and constantly watchful over me. That does not mean that I can float along in my relationship with God and expect Him to do all of the work. I must stay alert and track with His guidelines for a successful life. In Matthew 26:40 Christ warns Peter, “watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” Paul instructs Timothy to “watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers” (I Timothy 4:16).

Reflection: Are you being watchful of your life and behavior so you do not drift from closeness with God? Are you watching and praying so you do not fall into temptation?

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, January 15, 2014. All rights reserved.

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Acacia Wood in the Tabernacle

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The 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

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 July 31, 2013; Carolyn A. Roth

King Uzziah and Sacred Incense

Styrax officinalis, JBGThe story of King Uzziah and his prideful attempt to burn incense in the Temple is described in 2 Kings 15:1-7 and 2 Chronicles Chapter 26.

Uzziah inherited the crown of Judah when his father Amaziah was murdered.  He reigned for 52 years.  At the beginning of his reign, Uzziah did what was right in the eyes of God and God gave him many successes.  He won decisive battles over the Philistines, the Ammonites paid him tribute, and he added to the fortifications of Jerusalem.  Uzziah had a well-trained, well- equipped army of over 300,000 men.

With success, Uzziah became proud and unfaithful to God.  On one occasion, Uzziah entered the Temple and began to burn incense on the Altar of Incense.  According to Mosaic Law, only consecrated priests who were the descendants of Aaron could burn incense in the Temple.  Uzziah was holding the censer for burning incense when the chief priest Azariah and 80 courageous priests confronted him.  Azariah reminded Uzziah that even though he was king, he could not burn the incense.  Azariah demand that Uzziah leave the sanctuary.  As Uzziah began to rage against the priests, leprosy broke out on his body.

Azariah saw the leprosy and hurried Uzziah from the temple. When Uzziah saw his leprosy and was eager to leave the Temple.  From that time until his death about 10 years later, Uzziah lived in a house separated from the palace.  His son, Jotham, governed Judah.  Uzziah was buried near his ancestors in a field; however, he was not buried in the royal tombs because of the leprosy.

The composition of Tabernacle incense was fragrant spices – stacte, onycha, and galbanum – and pure frankincense all in equal amounts (Exodus 30:34, KJV, Scofield, 1945).  Very likely the same ingredients were used to make Temple incense during the first and the second Temple (Sirach 24:15, Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha, 1965; Rabinowitz, 1977).  The plant galbanum was described as an ingredient of the Tabernacle incense in Chapter 4.  In this section, stacte will be used in as the ingredient in the Temple incense.

Stacte, Styrax officinalis

Temple incense stacte comes from the plant Styrax officinalis.   In Israel, S. officinalis has several names to include stacte tree, Official Storax, and styrax.  Stacte is translated as gum resin (Exodus 30:34) in the New International Version Study Bible (2002).

The origin of styrax is Eastern Mediterranean countries, from Italy through Turkey to include Israel.  Styrax is classified as a tree (52 feet in height); but often looks more like a good size shrub. The habitat is dry rocky slopes, in woods and thickets, and besides streams.  In Israel, the styrax tree is seen in the Judean and Samarian mountains and on Mounts Carmel and Herman as well as in the Upper Jordan and Northern valleys.  Because the styrax tree is deciduous, in autumn leaves turn yellow and drop and in spring new leaves sprout.  The styrax tree blooms April through June in Israel.  The entire tree is covered with flowers which look like snowdrops.  Styrax is an important honey plant.  Frequently, pollination occurs via insects, e.g., bees.  When the styrax tree stems and branches are wounded, a highly perfumed balsamic resin (gum) is exuded. The resin has been both described as smelling similar to a hyacinth.

Symbolism: Inspiration

The Hebrew word for stacte is nâtâph derived from the primary root nâtaph which means to ooze in the sense of to distill gradually or to fall in drops (Strong, 2010).  The figurative meaning of nâtaph is to speak by inspiration, e.g., prophesy.  As a nurse and as Master Gardener when I think of inspiration I think of breathing or oxygen taken into a human or a plant; but, the Bible has a different perspective on inspiration.  Inspiration is “God’s breathed out” word into the Holy Scriptures and into the words of the prophets (Renn, 2005).  Similar to the S. officinalis exuding gum resin (stacte), God exuded and exudes his message to the world.

As we talk about passages from the Bible, we often say as “David said in Psalm 51” or “as Paul wrote.”  We need to remember that the authors of the Bible wrote by the Holy Spirit.  The words of the Bible are not words of the author, e.g., David, Jonah, Paul; rather the words of the Bible are God’s words to the human race.  The Bible is God breathed and as such it is both divine authority and without error (Douglas & Tenney, 2011).

God inspired the words of the Bible.  “All scriptures is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” so that God’s people can be thoroughly equipped for all good works (2 Timothy 3:16, NIV Study Bible, 2002).  The Bible is a model for how we should live in this world. We can learn a new way of thinking and behaving from the Bible.

When we read the Bible, we take God’s inspired words into us — or not.  Christmas morning I sat in church listening to the epistle being read and thought how lovely the reader looked.  In retrospect, I asked myself “where was my head?”  Have you ever read the Bible while thinking of something else entirely?  I have. On those occasions, I doubt if I changed any part of myself as a result of my reading.

Reflection.  Allowing God to inspire us from his holy Word is an intentional process on our part.  How intentional are you being when you read The Holy Bible?

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 August 17, 2012; carolyn a. roth

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Cassia in the Anointing Oil

Rolled CassiaThe anointing oil used in the Tabernacle is described in Exodus 25:6; 29:1-9; 30:22-33; 40:17; and Leviticus 8:1-13, 30.

When God instructed the Israelites to bring offerings for the Tabernacle, he included spices for the anointing oil.  Sacred anointing oil was a blend of four spices and olive oil. God was specific in the proportions of each: 500 shekels of liquid myrrh, 500 shekels of cassia, 250 shekels of fragrant cinnamon, 250 shekels of fragrant cane and one hin of olive oil.  The sanctuary shekel was equivalent to about 2/5th ounce.  Taken together the four spices weighed about 38 pounds.  A hin of olive oil was equivalent to about one gallon. The Tabernacle anointing oil was made by a perfumer and it was considered sacred.  If any person made perfume like it or put it on anyone other than a priest, they would be cut off from the Israelites.

The Tabernacle was set up on the first day of the first month in the second year after the Israelites left Egypt.  At that time the Tabernacle, its furnishings, the priests, and the priests clothing were anointed with the sacred oil and consecrated.  Anointing was done to set apart items and people to God’s service.  Consecration means “to make holy” for God’s service.  Leviticus chapter 8 called the process of anointing and consecrating Aaron and his sons “ordination.”  As it is used in Leviticus, ordination literally means “you shall fill his hands.”  Probably the meaning was that the priests will take into their hands the role/tasks of the priesthood given to them by God.

The Bible allocated many verses to Moses’ anointing and consecrating the Tabernacle and the priests.  The reason for these detailed descriptions is that God is holy and demands holiness from those who serve him.  The Bible detailed that Aaron and his sons were anointed and consecrated only after sacrifice and atonement were made for their own sins. They could not be anointed for God’s service until they were ritually clean. Outwardly Moses presided over the anointing of the Tabernacle; however, the Israelites understood that God, not Moses, made the Tabernacle and priests holy.

Cassia is used to represent the spices in the anointing oil.  It was probably brought with the Israelites out of Egypt.  Egyptians imported cassia from China and used cassia in the embalming process.  As the Israelites traveled throughout the Sinai Peninsula, they could have bought cassia from traders who crossed the Peninsula from Arabia to Egypt.  In the ancient Middle East, peoples so valued cassia that it was worth its weight in gold or ivory.

The Cassia Plant

The botanical name for the Tabernacle cassia is Cinnamomum cassia also known as C. aromaticum. Although cassia is in the same genus as the spice cinnamon, cassia is a different plant with a more pungent aroma.  Both fresh and fallen leaves emit the cassia aroma. Chinese cassia comes from the bark of the cassia plant. The tree is cut above the ground level 4 – 5 years after planting and every 3 – 4 years thereafter.  The bitter-tasting outer bark is removed leaving the inner cassia bark is dried in the sun. When the inner bark is dry it turns brown and curls into a hollow tube or quill. In the United States during the yuletide season, bunches (7 – 8) of cassia quills tied with a ribbon and sold in stores as cinnamon.  Cinnamaldehyde is the major (70 – 95%) component of cassia bark and responsible for the pungent odor of the bark and powdered cassia. Cassia powder is a reddish brown color in contrast to the tan color of cinnamon.

Symbolism: Anointing

Cassia and other substances of the anointing oil symbolize the work of the Holy Spirit, particularly the Spirit’s acts in the New Testament.  Christ told the people of Nazareth that he was anointed by the Holy Spirit to preach the gospel to the poor, to proclaim freedom for the prisoners, to give recovery of sight to the blind, to release the oppresses and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor (Luke 4:18-19.).  To the Church at Jerusalem and to the Gentiles at Cornelius’ home, Peter reiterated that God anointed Christ with the Holy Spirit and empowered Christ (Acts 4:24-28; Acts 10:38). Christ’s work on earth was completed through the anointing power of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit anoints believers for God’s work on earth just as the Holy Spirit anointed Christ’s for God’s work on earth.  Saint John declared that Christians have an anointing from the Holy One (1 John 2:20). Scholars are not sure whether “Holy One” refers to God or Christ; however, there is wide-spread agreement that anointing means the Holy Spirit. We Christian’s are anointed with the Holy Spirit when we accept Christ as our Savior.  At that time, the Holy Spirit enters into our body and mind and becomes a part of us.

Christ told his disciples before he left them that the Holy Spirit would come to them (John 16:5-15).  The Holy Spirit would convict them of sin and righteousness, console and guide them, be their advocate with God, and the revealer of all truth. According to Paul, the Holy Spirit gives gifts to Christians so the work of the Church in the world can be accomplished, e.g., administration, teaching, healing and distinguishing of spirits (1 Corinthians 12:8-10, 28).

Although God’s work here on earth is vitally important, the Holy Spirit anointed Christ and believers not just for work. In addition to anointing Christ with power for work, God anointed him with the oil of joy (Hebrews 1:9). The oil of joy was more valuable than the most important and valuable aromatic oils and cassia in the fragrant robes of the greatest king (Psalm 45:7–8). The reason God anointed Christ with the oil of joy was so Christ could give the joy to believers.  Isaiah wrote that Christ would bestow on believers a crown of beauty instead of ashes and the oil of gladness instead of mourning (Isaiah (61:10).  What a blessing to know that when we enter a personal relationship with Christ, we are anointed with the Holy Spirit and given the oil of joy and gladness.  Further, the Holy Spirit’s anointing presence allows us to bear fruit spiritual fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galations 5:22-23).

Reflection This morning, I heard a song that said, “You raise me up to more than I can be” (The Four Troops, 2010).  God does that through anointing Christians with the Holy Spirit.  What are you doing with your anointing?

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 October 16, 2011; carolyn a. roth

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Galbanum, an Ingredient in Incense

Ferula galbanifluaThe story of the Tabernacle incense is in Exodus 30:1–10, 34-38; Exodus 37:25-29; and Exodus 40:26-28.

When God listed offerings for the Tabernacle, he included spices for fragrant incense (Exodus 25:6).  Specifically, a perfumer was to blend the holy incense out of equal proportions of gum resin (stacte), onycha, galbanum, and pure frankincense.  The incense was to be salted and pure and sacred (30:35).  Several scholars have commented on what “salted” meant.  One idea was that salt was a preservative in the incense.  A second idea was related to the ancient’s belief that sharing salt between two people was considered to bind them in a covenant.  In the incense, the Israelites offered salt to God, which set Israel’s seal on the covenantal relationship that God offered.  Finally, directing the incense to be salted could have meant it was to be well prepared.The Tabernacle incense was to be “most holy” to the Israelites, and the Israelites were to consider the Tabernacle incense “holy to the Lord” (Exodus 30:36, 37).  Israelites then and in generations to come were to burn incense before the Lord (Exodus 30: 7-9).  The incense on the Altar of Incense was to thanks and praise God for his care and protection to a redeemed people. The Israelites were cautioned to not use the incense formula to make incense for personal use. If they did, they would be cut off from the Israelite people.

The question of the origin of the ingredients for the incense is an important one. The Israelites were in the Sinai Peninsula where these spices did not occur in nature. Most likely, the spices were brought with the Israelites out of Egypt; they were tributes from the Egyptians.  In particular, women would have fragrant, sweet-smelling spices and perfumes. The Bible noted that the Israelites gave an overabundance of materials for the Tabernacle construction.  That overabundance would have included incense spices as well as other construction materials.

Once blended, the incense was ground and used on the Altar of Incense (Golden Altar) and on the Table of the Presence Bread. Both of these structures were located in the Holy of Holies, Tent of Meeting. The Altar of Incense was located immediately in front of the veil separating the Holy of Holies from the Most Holy of Holies (Exodus 30:6). The Altar of Incense was so closely connected to the Most Holy Place that the writer of Hebrews mentioned that it was placed behind the veil separating the two rooms (Hebrews 9:4). No other incense was burnt on the Altar of Incense; nor were other types of offerings made on it, e.g., animal, grain, or drink. On the Altar, incense was burnt twice a day: in the evening when the chief priest lit the lamps (on the Lampstand) to burn throughout the night, and in the morning when the lamps were prepared (dressed) for the day.  Incense was also burnt on the Table of the Presence Bread.  On the Table, incense was place along each stack of Bread (Leviticus 24:5–9).  The incense was burnt as a memorial representing the 12 loaves of bread.  It was an offering made to the Lord by fire.

The Galbanum Plant

The plant described with the Tabernacle incense is galbanum which produces a resinous gum, also called galbanum.  The botanical name of galbanum is  also F. gummosa. Galbanum is a member of the same family of plants as carrots and parsley; it is native to central Asia particularly Iran. Galbanum was not known to grow in Israel; and in 2012 Israeli plant data bases do not list it. The Hebrew word for galbanum is chelbᵉnâh. The only place that chelbᵉnâh appears in the Bible is with spices used to make the Tabernacle incense. In England and the United States, the flowers were described as greenish white or yellow;  however, in Central Asia, flowers are a brilliant orange-yellow (Aitchison, 1887).  There are differing opinions about the gum odor and taste from pleasant odor and an acrid taste to strongly balsamic, pungent, and disagreeable or musky.  Whatever the odor of galbanum gum alone, when it was blended with the other three spices, the resulting Tabernacle incense was fragrant.

Symbolism: Fragrance

The symbolism of Tabernacle incense is three-fold.  In the Tabernacle, the incense symbolized a fragrance, or beautiful aroma, lifted to God in thanksgiving.  In the New Testament, the symbolism of fragrance is repeated in Christ’s redemptive work on the cross and in the work of the Church.  In contrast to Tabernacle incense that was burnt and rose up to God morning and evening, the sweet fragrance of the Church should rise continually to the Lord.  In his writings to a number of young Church congregations, Paul pointed out how Christ was and we are to be fragrant offerings and aromas to God.  For example, Paul told the Church at Ephesus to be imitators of Christ and to live a life of love in the same way that Christ loved us and gave himself as fragrant offering and sacrifice to God (Ephesians 5:1-2).

To God, Christians are the aroma of Christ among “those who are being saved and those who are perishing” (2 Corinthians 2:15)  To the saved, Christians are the fragrance of life.  To those who reject Christ, Christians and the gospel message are the smell of death (2 Corinthians 2:16, note, New International Version Study Bible, 2002).  Christians and the gospel message themselves are not evil-smelling or death dealing; but when nonbelievers reject the life-giving message of Christ, they smell death, not fragrant life.

When Paul wrote to the Philippians, he acknowledged their gifts saying he was not amply supplied (Philippians 4:14-19).  Probably, the gifts include money as well as material goods such as food and clothing.  Paul identified the gifts were “a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God” (Philippians 4:18).  The gifts from the Philippians to Paul were not in atonement for sin.  Rather, they were gifts of thanksgiving and praise for Paul’s ministry and Christ’s gift of salvation.  The church members at Philippi set an example that church members today can follow in giving to the support of missionaries.

Reflection. When we apply the Bible to our lives, we are like sweet-smelling incense lifted up by a gentle breeze to God. What kind of fragrance are you giving off?

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 October 5, 2011; carolyn a. roth

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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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Almond Tree on Tabernacle Lampstand

Amygdalus communis, NKRead about the Lampstand of the Tabernacle in Exodus 25.

The almond tree was central to the Tabernacle and is described in two key situations. First, almond tree buds, blossoms and flowers are the design on the Lampstand (Exodus 25:33-34).The Lampstand and it accessories were made of 75 pounds of gold (MacDonald, 2005). In the Bible, no dimensions (height, width of the top of the Lampstand) were given for the Lampstand; however, its base and arms are described in detail in Exodus 37: 17 – 23). Three branches extend from one side and three branches from the opposite side of the central base. On each of the six branches there were three cups shaped like almond flowers with buds and blossoms. The Lampstand base and central branch had four cups shaped like almond flowers with buds and blossoms. One almond bud was under the first pair of branches, a second bud under the second pair of branches, and a third bud under the third pair of branches. The buds and seven branches were all one piece of gold with the base, hammered out of pure gold. At the top of each of the seven branches was set an oil lamp. The Lampstand was the only source of light in the Tabernacle. It was positioned in the Holy of Holies on the south side of the room, opposite the Table of the Presence-Bread. Priests lit the seven oil lamps every evening; the lamps were to burn continually throughout the night until morning. Today, Christians and Jews refer to lamps that are similar as a “menorah.”

The second source of almonds in the Tabernacle is Aaron’s staff which sprouted overnight while in front of the Ark of the Testimony (Covenant) in the Tent of Meeting (Numbers 17: 1 – 11). Unlike staffs representing the other 11 tribes of Israel, Aaron’s staff produced buds, blossoms and almonds. Aaron’s staff was not placed in the Tabernacle at its initial construction at Mt. Sinai. After the staff sprouted it was kept in front of the Testimony in the Most Holy of Holies during the wanderings of the Israelites. Paul avers that that Aaron’s staff was placed in the Ark of the Testimony (Hebrews 9:4); however, Aaron’s staff was not in the Ark of the Testimony when Solomon brought the Ark to the first Temple in Jerusalem (I Kings 8: 9).

Almond Tree

The almond tree described in Exodus and Numbers is likely the Prunus amygdalus var. dulcis or Amygdalus (almond) communis(common). The almond tree bears sweet almonds which were used for food in the eastern Mediterranean region. Domesticated almonds were identified in the early Bronze Age (3000-2000 B.C.). Usually almond tree grow 12 – 27 feet in height. The flowering almond tree buds in Israel as early as February and is one of the most beautiful flowering trees in nature. The outer covering of the Prunus is a leathery coat called a hull, which contains a hard shell and edible nut. In botanical language the hard shell is called an endocarp, and the nut or fruit is identified as a drupe and has a downy outer reddish coat. In Old Testament times almonds were eaten raw or roasted, pressed for almond oil, and used to flavor porridge, breads and other baked goods. In Egypt, almonds were found in Pharaoh Tutankhamen’s tomb in Egypt (around 1327 B.C.); these almonds were likely imported from Canaan. When Jacob directed his sons to go to Egypt to buy grain, he told them to take almonds as a gift to the Egyptians because almonds were “some of the best product of the land” (Genesis43:11).

Symbolism: Alert, Watchful

In the Hebrew language, name for almond tree is shâqêd (Strong, 2010). The primary root of shâqêd is shâqad which means to be watchful, alert, on the lookout, and sleepless. Almond buds and blossoms were placed on the Lampstand where the lamps burned during the night to symbolize two things: first, the constant watchfulness of God over His people and second the need for Israel to be alert to the commandments of God.

The association between the almond tree and watchfulness of God over Israel is repeated in Jeremiah 1: 11 – 12. The Lord asked Jeremiah, What do you see? Jeremiah’s response is, “I see the branch of an almond tree.” God returns, “You have seen correctly, for I am watching to see that my word is fulfilled.” Job (7:20) calls God a “watcher of men.” Placing Aaron’s almond rod in the Most Holy of Holies is a reminder that the priesthood must be watchful against any rebellion or turning of the Children of Israel from God’s laws.

By using the symbolism of the almond tree in the Tabernacle, God provided both reassurance and caution to the Children of Israel. He provides reassurance that He is always watching over them. At the same time God cautions His Children to remain alert to events and situations that can detract them from keeping God as the primary focus of their lives.

At this time I am teaching an on-line course to university students. When courses are offered online, faculty and students rarely meet person-to-person. Students can be in Africa as missionaries, in Guam on a military ship, or anywhere across the globe. Faculty must be watchful that students read and implement the course syllabus, content, and assignments. If a student is off track, the faculty must immediately respond to assist her/him to re-read or re-think their work. Students ask questions of the faculty on line in Discussion Boards or via university email. University policy requires faculty to respond to students within 24 hours. At the same time students have a responsibility to be alert. They need to read posted announcements, grading comments, and answers to questions posed by classmates. If students are not constantly alert to the interactions in the course, they can limit their learning and their earned grades.

Faculty-student interactions in an online course are a reflection of how God works with us. He constantly monitors our behavior and when we get off track, He sends us messages that we need to readjust our thinking and our behavior. Unlike my interaction with students, God does not take up to 24 hours to learn what I am thinking/doing and respond to me. He knows immediately. And, thanks be to God, He does not figuratively pull His hair out at some of the things I do or neglect to do.

God is continually and constantly watchful over me. That does not mean that I can float along in my relationship with God and expect Him to do all of the work. I must stay alert and track with His guidelines for a successful life. In Matthew 26:40 Christ warns Peter, “watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” Paul instructs Timothy to “watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers” (I Timothy 4:16).

Reflection: Are you being watchful of your life and behavior so you do not drift from closeness with God? Are you watching and praying so you do not fall into temptation?

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 February 1, 2011, Carolyn A. Roth; all rights reserved.

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