Category Archives: Flora and Fauna

Ferrell’s Favorite Foto #22

This unusual photo of Capernaum was made from the hill above, up toward the Mount of Beatitudes. The photo shows the northeast corner of the Sea of Galilee with the Golan Heights visible.

Capernaum became the Galilean center for the ministry of Jesus.

And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, (Matthew 4:13 ESV)

Capernaum from above the location on the Sea of Galilee. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

View to the east of Capernaum from above the site. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This photo was made May 15, 2010. The sky was fairly clear and the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee is visible with perhaps a portion of the Plain of Bethsaida. Those are dried thistles in the foreground of the photo.

Olive installation at Neot Kedumim

For millennia olives have been so important in Israel and the West Bank that we see ancient crushing installations at various places we visit. Some of the presses are in small museums. I was impressed with the installation in the park at Neot Kedumim. At a distance it had an idyllic look.

Olive tree, crushing stone, and press at Neot Kedumim. Photo: ferrellJenkins.blog.

Olive tree, crushing stone, and press at Neot Kedumim. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

It is possible that some families had their own setup for producing olive oil. First, there was an olive tree, certainly large enough to produce a lot of olives, then a crushing stone that could be rolled over the olives by a person or pulled by an animal. It was also essential that they have a press. In this case the press was of the screw type. The crushed olives were placed in bags and then pressed.

Lucas P. Grimsley explains the importance of various agricultural products, including olive oil, produced in Palestine.

By NT times, Palestine was a part of the Greco-Roman world, and it played an important role in Rome’s trade network in the east. Ancient records indicate that Palestine primarily imported luxury goods (wine from Italy, beer from Media, baskets from Egypt, sandals from Laodicea), in addition to natural resources such as wood and metal. Exports continued to be primarily agricultural (olive oil, wheat, honey, figs). Despite the difference in goods, the trade balance was generally in favor of Palestine.
Specific references to trade are limited in the NT, but they attest to the fact that trade was a part of  everyday life. (Dictionary of Daily Life in Biblical and Post-Biblical Antiquity, Vol. IV: 299-300).

Below is a photo of the same type olive press. It is one of several types of presses displayed at the Ein Dor Museum of Archaeology.

Olive Press at Ein Dor Archaeological Museum. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

An olive press displayed at Ein Dor Museum of Archaeology. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

While browsing the recent Dictionary of Daily Life in Biblical and Post-Biblical Antiquity I came across this survey of the olive and its importance in Bible times.

The olive is one of the first trees mentioned in the Bible ( Gen 8: 1 1 ), in the passage in which the dove returns to Noah with an olive branch. The olive (Heb. zayit; Olea europaea) is the best-known and one of the most important trees of the Mediterranean Basin and Middle East. Olives were highly valued, and the harvesting and pressing out of olives was a significant part of the life of rural families. The pulp contains about 40 percent oil, which was used for lamps, cooking, and medicinal purposes, as well as
anointing in religious ceremonies. The psalmist proclaims that he is like an olive tree because he trusts in God’s unfailing love (Ps 52:8). (GCT, Dictionary of Daily Life in Biblical and Post-Biblical Antiquity, Vol. 4, p. 309.)

Over the years we have posted several times about olives and the olive trees. Check our index page on the subject here.

Learning from the Wildflowers of the Field

Thanks to a number of new followers we are only 25 shy of 3000. Thanks to those who shared my note about this. Here is the post I promised about the flowers of the field.

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In the spring of the year many beautiful flowers adorn the fields in Israel. After a winter of heavy rains, I think the flowers I saw in late March and early April this year were the most abundant. Jesus spoke of the flowers of the field.

And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, (Matthew 6:28 ESV)

Louw-Nida Lexicon says the Greek word krinon, which is often translated lilies, is “any one of several types of flowers, usually uncultivated – ‘wild flower.'” After listing several possibilities, BAGD says, “Perhaps Jesus had no definite flower in mind, but was thinking of all the wonderful blooms that adorn the fields of Galilee.

Here are a couple of English versions that reflect the understanding of the lexicons.

Why do you worry about clothing? Think about how the flowers of the field grow; they do not work or spin. (Matthew 6:28 NET)

And why do you worry about clothes? Learn how the wildflowers of the field grow: they don’t labor or spin thread. (Matthew 6:28 CSB)

Without much comment I will show you a few of the flowers I saw at Neot Kedumim. For a larger image suitable for use in teaching just click on each photo.

Flowers of the field at Neot Kedumim. ferrelljenkins.blog.

Beautiful yellow flowers adorn the hillsides at Neot Kedumim. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Look closely and you will see a butterfly enjoying the flowers.

Flowers at Neot Kedumim.

Butterflies enjoy the wildflowers of the field at Neot Kedumim. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Pink is a nice color, too.

Wildflowers of the Field. ferrelljenkins.blog.

Pink flowers of the field at Neot Kedumim. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

It is common to associate the Anemone with the “lily” of the field Jesus mentioned.

Flowers of the field. ferrelljenkins.blog.

The Anemones were scattered here and there along the trail at Neot Kedumim. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Now, notice how Jesus used the flowers of the field to teach about worry and over concern about the things of this life.

Can any of you add a single cubit to his height by worrying?
28 And why do you worry about clothes? Learn how the wildflowers of the field grow: they don’t labor or spin thread.
29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these!
30 If that’s how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, won’t He do much more for you– you of little faith?
31 So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat? ‘ or ‘What will we drink? ‘ or ‘What will we wear?’
32 For the idolaters eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.
33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.
34 Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:27-34 CSB)

The next time you see beautiful flowers think about this.

Cedar and Hyssop

At Neot Kedumim the sign identifying the Cedar also mentions Hyssop which is growing among the trees.

You may click on the image for a larger one. Here is a copy of the text:

Cedar and Hyssop

The Cedrus Libani (cedar of Lebanon) is an impressive tree towering to great heights. It is the symbol of pride and prestige in Scripture. In contrast, the hyssop is a symbol of modesty and humility for it requires little water and soil and grows even in the smallest cracks in stone. Yet it has much to offer: food, spice, medicine and even kindling.

In Leviticus 14:4 we are told that a person cured of Leprosy must hold a ceremony in which he brings the High Priest cedar and hyssop.

This act is explained as follows: the leper was proud like the cedar and God humbled him like the hyssop that is crushed by all [for spice] (Midrash Hagadol Metzora 14:4). A common Hebrew proverb describing leadership problems in another example: “If fire consumes the cedars what shall avail the hyssop that grows on the rock?” (Babylonian Talmud Moed Katan 25b).

This hyssop is identified as Majorana syriaca or Organum syriacum. Frenkley says it is “a grayish shrub with thin woody branches” (see previous article here for the reference). She says,

It can survive with very little soil and water, sometimes growing out of the smallest cracks in stone, as though literally “out of the rock.” The hyssop is one of the most important edible plants of the Middle East, highly valued for its fragrance and flavor. It is used as a spice, as food, as a medicinal plant, and its dry branches make excellent kindling. Unassuming in size and color, useful in so many ways, the hyssop came to symbolize modesty and humility—in direct contrast to the haughty and glamorous cedar of Lebanon.

Hyssop at Neot Kedumim. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

Hyssop growing near Cedar trees at Neot Kedumim. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Hyssop is mentioned 12 times in the Bible and no less than seven of these times in association with cedar wood.

  • The Israelites in Egypt were to use hyssop branches dipped in blood to place it on the lentil and doorposts of their houses (Exodus 12:22).
  • The Mosaic law commanded that the offering for the cleansed leper included two clean birds, cedar wood and scarlet yarn and hyssop” (Leviticus 14: 1-9).
  • King Solomon  spoke of both the cedar of Lebanon and the hyssop that grows in the wall (1 Kings 4:33).
  • Solomon imported cedar for his building projects in Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 2:7-10). He also planted cedars in abundance in Jerusalem (1 Kings 10:27). Cedar was a symbol of power; something kings could be proud of (Jeremiah 22:15).

At Neot Kedumim Hyssop is planted among the rocks and under the cedar trees. The tall, stately cedars stand in stark contrast to the lowly hyssop growing in the rocks.

A Cedar of Lebanon Grows in Israel

My first visit to Neot Kedumim was with Leon Mauldin about 14 years ago. Neot Kedumim is a Biblical Landscape Reserve in Israel, located halfway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv in the vicinity of Modin. One can spend several hours following one of the several trails on this 625 acres of hills and valleys. For more details visit the website here.

A few years ago I was doing some reading about the animals in the Haibar Reserve north of Eilat in the Arabah when I ran across a reference a cedar of Lebanon growing in Neot Kedumim. The article written by Helen Frenkley provides the explanation:

One of the most striking garden areas at Neot Kedumim is the Garden of Wisdom Literature, where cedars of Lebanon grow alongside clumps of hyssop bushes. Transplanting fifteen 40-year-old cedars of Lebanon to Neot Kedumim was quite an undertaking. In 1976, the trees were purchased from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s botanical garden on Mt. Scopus. Those cedars of Lebanon had been brought as cones from Lebanon in 1936 by Dr. Ephraim and Mrs. Hannah Hareuveni and their 12-year-old son, Nogah, after an extended botanical field trip to that country. The seeds that germinated were planted on Mt. Scopus not far from the Museum of Biblical and Talmudic Botany established by the Hareuvenis at the university in 1925. Carefully tended, these trees thrived and new seedlings were added as the years went by.

Ephraim and Hannah Hareuveni died in the 1950s without seeing the Biblical Landscape Reserve they had dreamed of creating. Mt. Scopus was cut off from western Jerusalem by Jordanian forces during the 1948 War of Independence and was inaccessible to Israelis, except for a small caretaker police force, between 1948 and 1967. In the Six Day War of 1967, Mt. Scopus became part of Israel. Nogah Hareuveni was one of the first people who returned to see how the cedars of Lebanon had weathered the near siege conditions of those 19 years. Because of the lack of drinking water on Mt. Scopus, it had been impossible to irrigate the cedars, which consequently suffered greatly.

Nine years later, however, 15 of those cedar trees were boxed. When, after eight more months, the side roots grew, confined within the four-sided slats, the tap roots were cut and the trees trucked down to Neot Kedumim. Pits with rich soil had been prepared and a water tanker stood by for immediate irrigation. Neot Kedumim is 2,000 feet lower in elevation than Mt. Scopus, but much to everyone’s surprise and delight, the diligent care paid off. The cedars survived and flourished. Several scores of saplings of various ages have now been added, so that a grove of some 50 cedars of different sizes thrives in the Garden of Wisdom Literature at Neot Kedumim.

You can find the complete article in Frenkley, Helen. “The Search for Roots—Israel’s Biblical Landscape Reserve.” Biblical Archaeology Review. Sept/Oct. 1986.

When I purchased my ticket to visit Neot Kedumim in early April I asked about the cedars. The person on duty called the office to inquire. A very nice lady came  to provide the answers I needed. This time I took a trail different from the one Leon and I had taken in ’05.

It took a while, and I began to wonder if I would ever see a cedar. Eventually I came to an area where several small trees were visible.

Cedars of Lebanon in Israel. FerrellJenkins.blog.

Small Cedars of Lebanon growing at Neo Kedumim in the lowlands of Israel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

After a while I came to what I think is the oldest of the Cedars. This plant is identified as a Cedrus Libani (cedar of Lebanon).

Cedar of Lebanon growing in Neot Kedumim. ferrelljenkinsl.blog.

Likely the largest Cedar of Lebanon (Cedrus Libani) growing in Neot Kedumim. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Not very long back we presented several articles on the Cedar of Lebanon. Begin here. If you do not easily locate others in the series, just use the Search Box and insert cedars.

I can highly recommend visits to Neot Kedumim) for travelers who have the time to visit. This year Luke Chandler traveled with me, but he had to return home a few days early. When he reads this he will be sorry!