Tag Archives: Wormwood

Wormwood, A bitter herb

Bible References: Deuteronomy 29.18; Jeremiah 9.15, 23.15; Lamentations 3.15, 19; Amos 5.7; Revelation 8.1-11.

When Old Testament authors referred to wormwood, the wrote about bitterness and poison. Most illustrated punishment from God because of Israelites’ behaviors. Old Testament events are presented as lessons for those of us living today. In the New Testament, an episode that named wormwood was a prophecy and called mankind to repentance.  The prophecy described a future sign which would occur near the end of the age.

In Revelation chapter eight, John described a vision in which seven angels, each with a trumpet, stood before God. The angels were ready to sound trumpets, initiating judgments on the earth. The third trumpet signaled a blazing star to fall on  earth. This blazing star was called Wormwood (absinthŏs in  Greek).

My conjecture is that Wormwood will be a meteor from outer space. When meteors enter the earth’s atmosphere and start to burn they are called meteorites. In the United States, children call them “shooting stars.” Most meteorites disintegrate by burning before they hit the earth’s surface.  If a sufficiently-large meteorite enters the earth’s atmosphere and doesn’t disintegrate, it hits the earth’s surface. A huge cloud rises. Dust and particulates in the cloud spread around the globe moved by winds and the rotation of the earth.

According to Revelation, the meteorite Wormwood will contain a contaminate that turns one-third of the earth’s fresh water bitter; or somehow release pollutants from the earth’s crust that contaminates one-third of fresh water sources. Many people will die from the contaminated water. John’s description in Revelation sounds like a nail-biting science-fiction movie.

 

The plant wormwood is one of over 300 species of artemisia; appearance varies from plant-to-plant. The artemisia that grew in Bible Israel is Artemisia arborescens, called the tree wormwood.7 Erect branches can reach ten-feet tall. Leaves have fine hairs on their surface. These hairs are thought to cool and defend the plant. Many artemisia produce cinole which gives them a camphor-like aroma; however, don’t be surprised to find some artemisia smell acrid and unpleasant.28 Artemisia are grown for foliage.

 

With the exception of rue, artemisia is the bitterest herb. The bitter taste is due to thujone content in artemisia. Artemisia leaves flavors stew and sauces; only small quantities of dried or fresh herb is needed. Artemisia leaves are used in tarragon vinegar. A. absinthium is a flavoring in alcoholic liquors, i.e., absinthe, campari, and vermouth. Ancient medicine  used artemisia in scores of concoctions.28

In the Old Testament, often wormwood was used as a metaphor for a) idolatry of Northern Kingdom (Israel),  b) calamity and sorrow, and c) false judgments. The Wormwood star’s name in Revelation identified that its effects were judgment on mankind for idolatry and injustice. Idolatry is blind or excessive devotion to something or someone, i.e., money, prestige and degrees, charismatic individuals, and political parties and ideologies.

The calamity and sorrow associated with contamination of one-third of the world’s freshwater supply will be a consequence of mankind turning from God to idol worship. It is so easy for me to look at others and identify their idols. It is less easy for me to identify my own. Yet, God expects me to continually assess myself and to make adjustments in my thinking and behavior so they are more in line with his.

Reflection: Several times previously in this book, you read how harmful plants were symbols of idolatry. Given the number of times that idolatry appears in the Bible, God takes it seriously. Do you? When did you last assess your thoughts and behaviors to identify man-made idols in your life?

Death by Wormwood

Wormwood

Wormwood was a falling star with the same name as a plant; read Revelation 8:1-11.

St. John, the Beloved Disciple, is credited with writing Revelation. Revelation is an unveiling of spiritual forces operating behind the scenes in history (ESV-SB, 2008). Revelations is largely prophecy, describing what will occur in future time. The book was written in the form of a letter addressed to the 1st century churches in the 7 cities of the Roman province of Asia in the region now known as western Turkey. Probably, John wrote Revelation in 95-96 AD when he was exiled to the island of Patmos

In Revelation chapter 8, John described a vision in which 7 angels, each with a trumpet, stood before God. The angels were ready to sound the trumpets, initiating judgments on the earth. These judgments were not the final judgment on the earth; rather, they were to warn the people of coming destruction and call them to repentance (ESV-SB, 2008). The sounding of the first four trumpets caused plagues in nature – land, sea, fresh water, and heavenly bodies. See Table 1 for a synopsis of the effect of the sounding of the four trumpets.

Table1, Outcome of Blowing Trumpets 1-4.

Trumpet Caused Outcome on the earth
First: land Hail and fire, mixed with blood, were thrown on the earth 1/3 of the earth was burnt to include 1/3 of trees and plants. Every form of plant life was affected.
Second: sea Something like a great burning mountain – a great burning mass – was thrown in to the sea. 1/3 of the sea became blood, 1/3 of living creatures in sea died, 1/3 of ships were destroyed.
Third: fresh water A blazing star called Wormwood fell on 1/3 of the rivers and springs of the earth. 1/3 of waters (possibly fresh waters) became bitter and many people died from the bitter water.
Fourth: heavenly bodies Sun, moon and stars were struck 1/3 of the day and 1/3 of the night was without light.

When the third trumpet sounded, a blazing star fell to earth. This blazing star was called Wormwood or Absinthus. When meteors enter the earth’s atmosphere and start to burn they are called meteorites. In the United States, we commonly call them shooting stars. When a large meteorite hits the earth’s surface, a huge dust cloud rises. The dust and particulates in the cloud spread around the globe moved by winds and the rotation of the earth. Wormwood contained a contaminate that turned 1/3 of the earth’s fresh water bitter; or somehow released pollutants on earth that contaminated 1/3 of fresh water sources.

Wormwood

The Revelation 8:11 wormwood reference is to Artemisia absinthium, the best known of the approximately 400 artemisias. According to legend, wormwood grew up in the trail left by the serpent’s tail as it slithered out of the Garden of Eden. The earliest known description of wormwood was found on an Egyptian papyrus dated approximately 1600 BC; it was described as a medicine to rid the body of worms. With the exception of rue, wormwood is the bitterest known herb. Wormwood is native to North Africa and temperate regions of Eurasia. Americans describe wormwood as similar to Western sagebrush.

An addictive drink, absinthe, can be made from the Artemisia leaves and flower tops. Absinthe is illegal in most countries of the world including the United States, Canada and France. The active ingredient in wormwood is thujone, which in large quantities is a convulsive poison.

Symbolism: Idolatry

In the Old Testament, wormwood was used as a metaphor in the following ways: a) idolatry of Israel (Deuteronomy 29:18); b) calamity and sorrow (Jeremiah 9:15, 23:15; Lamentations 3:15, 19); and c) false judgment (Amos 5:7) (McGee, 1991). The star’s name identified that its effects were judgment on man for his idolatry and injustice. In the Bible era, idolatry primarily referred to worship of idols or graven images, e.g., Baal, Artemis, Neptune. Most westerners do not worship statues, but that does not mean that we are not idolaters. Idolatry is blind or excessive devotion to something or someone, e.g., money, prestige, a charismatic individual.

Reflection: The calamity and sorrow associated with contamination of 1/3 of the fresh water supply of the world will be natural consequences of turning from God and worshiping idols.

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 September 4, 2014: Carolyn A. Roth

Save

Save