Tag Archives: plants

Egypt was a broken staff of reed

Last week, in preparation for a lesson I was presenting, I studied Ezekiel’s proclamation against Egypt. He says that Egypt has been a “staff of reed” to the house of Israel. Notice these verses from chapter 29.

Then all the inhabitants of Egypt shall know that I am the LORD. “Because you have been a staff of reed to the house of Israel,  when they grasped you with the hand, you broke and tore all their shoulders; and when they leaned on you, you broke and made all their loins to shake.  (Ezekiel 29:6-7 ESV)

The prophet Isaiah spoke directly to Israel with the same lesson.

Behold, you are trusting in Egypt, that broken reed of a staff, which will pierce the hand of any man who leans on it. Such is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all who trust in him. (Isaiah 36:6 ESV)

Reeds are common along the banks of the Nile and the canals that take water to the fields needing it. The photo below shows a broken reed.

A broken reed does not make a good walking stick. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A broken reed does not make a good walking stick. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

There is a great lesson in this for each of us to avoid leaning on promises and systems of thought that will not hold us up in time of need.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.  (Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV)

The fig tree

When the children of Israel came to the end of the period of Wilderness Wandering, the LORD reminded them of the wonderful land into which He was bringing them.

“For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing forth in valleys and hills; a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey; a land where you will eat food without scarcity, in which you will not lack anything; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. (Deuteronomy 8:7-9 NAU)

The fig is the first fruit tree specifically named in the Bible. Adam and Eve used the leaves of the fig tree to make coverings (loincloths) for themselves when they learned their condition before God.

Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings. (Genesis 3:7 NAU)

During the past two weeks we noticed ripe figs in several places in Israel and the West Bank. The photo below of the ripe figs was taken at Tel Balata (= Shechem).

Ripe figs at Shechem, Early September. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Ripe figs at Shechem, Early September. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Almond staff in the ark of the covenant

Three items from the period of the wilderness (desert) wandering of the children of Israel were considered significant enough to be included in the ark of the covenant.

Behind the second curtain was a second section called the Most Holy Place, having the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron’s staff that budded, and the tablets of the covenant. Above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail. (Hebrews 9:3-5 ESV)

The picture below, made at the model of the Tabernacle in the Wilderness, shows a replica of the Ark of the Covenant with the contents mentioned by the writer of Hebrews. For more information about the model read here.

Replica of Ark of Covenant showing contents. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Replica of the Ark of the Covenant showing contents. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

At Jerash in Jordan, young boys were selling small bags of green almonds. Not my preference, but apparently there is a market for them. “Jordan almonds” are famous for use at weddings. The fresh almond is bittersweet in taste, but the sugar coating adds sweetness. The “Jordan almonds” are still “Jordan almonds” even when they come from California!

Green almonds at Jerash, Jordan. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Green almonds at Jerash, Jordan. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Jerash is thought to be the site of Gerasa, one of the cities of the Decapolis (Matthew 4:25). Perhaps it is the city belonging to the country of the Gerasenes (Mark 5:1; Luke 8:26,37).

Almonds – a symbol of watchfulness and old age

Almonds were also among the best products of the land sent by Jacob to the man in Egypt (Genesis 43:11). The Hebrew word for almond (seqedim) comes from the root sqd which means “to watch, wake.” King and Stager tell us that the name was given because,

its splendid white blossoms appear as early as the end of January, a true harbinger of spring. Jeremiah plays on sqd: “The word of Yahweh came to me [Jeremiah], saying, ‘Jeremiah, what do you see?’ And I said, ‘I see a branch of an almond tree (saqed).’ Then Yahweh said to me, ‘You have seen well, for I am watching (soqed) over my word to perform it” (Jer. 1:11-12). (Life in Biblical Israel, 105)

The photo below was made in early March near the north border of the Palestinian West Bank near Jenin. Notice that the falling blossoms turn the ground gray.

Almond trees blooming in the West Bank. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Almond trees blooming in the West Bank near Jenin. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Other biblical references to the almond include the following:

  • The cups of the lampstand for the tabernacle were shaped like almond blossoms (Exodus 25:33).
  • Aaron’s rod sprouted and brought forth buds, produced blossoms, and bore ripe almonds (yummy; Numbers 17:8).
  • Used figuratively of the person growing older (“the almond tree blossoms,” Ecclesiastes 12:5). Matthew Henry says, “The old man’s hair has grown white, so that his head looks like an almond-tree in the blossom. The almond-tree blossoms before any other tree, and therefore fitly shows what haste old age makes in seizing upon men; it prevents their expectations and comes faster upon them than they thought of. Gray hairs are here and there upon them, and they perceive it not.”
Almond blossoms in the West Bank. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Almond blossoms in the West Bank. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Pistachio nuts among best products of the land

During the days of a severe famine in the land of Canaan, Israel (Jacob) agreed to allow his youngest son Benjamin to go to Egypt at the request of the man who was in charge of dispensing food. That man was Joseph, the son of Israel. Jacob agreed to allow Benjamin to go with his older brothers. He also told the boys to take some of “the best products of the land” including pistachio nuts.

Then their father Israel said to them, “If it must be so, then do this: take some of the best products of the land in your bags, and carry down to the man as a present, a little balm and a little honey, aromatic gum and myrrh, pistachio nuts and almonds. (Genesis 43:11 NAU)

I began thinking about this post while studying John 12.

Mary then took a pound of very costly perfume of pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. (John 12:3 NAU)

There are several significant words in this text: perfume (muron), pure (pistikos), and nard (vardos). The Greek word for pure (pistikos)  is difficult to define. Bauer-Danker says it is “variously interpreted, but evidently suggesting exceptional quality.” A comment by William Barclay caught my attention.

Oddly enough, no one really knows what that word means. There are four possibilities. It may come from the adjective pistos which means faithful or reliable, and so may mean genuine. It may come from the verb pinein which means to drink, and so may mean liquid. It may be a kind of trade name, and may have to be translated simply pistic nard. It may come from a word meaning the pistachio nut, and be a special kind of essence extracted from it. In any event it was a specially valuable kind of perfume.

Then I noticed the comments by Keil and Delitzsch on pictachio nuts (sic) in Genesis 43:11.

which are not mentioned anywhere else, are, according to the Samar. vers., the fruit of the pistacia vera, a tree resembling the terebinth, – long angular nuts of the size of hazel-nuts, with an oily kernel of a pleasant flavour; it does not thrive in Palestine now [1875], but the nuts are imported from Aleppo.

Well, that led me to think of photos I made in a pistachio orchard near Carchemish on the Euphrates (Jeremiah 46:2). This is about 65 miles from Aleppo.

Pistachio's growing near Carchemish on the Euphrates. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Pistachio's growing near Carchemish on the Euphrates. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

I think this is the only place I have seen pistachio’s growing on a tree. The practical comment by Matthew Henry is worth meditating on for a while.

Note, (1.) Providence dispenses its gifts variously. Some countries produce one commodity, others another, that commerce may be preserved. (2.) Honey and spice will never make up the want of bread-corn. The famine was sore in Canaan, and yet they had balm and myrrh, etc. We may live well enough upon plain food without dainties; but we cannot live upon dainties without plain food. Let us thank God that that which is most needful and useful is generally most cheap and common.

That sort of outlines the rambling of the mind back of this post. It is amazing what one may learn once he begins to track down leads. I still don’t know if pure (pistikos) has anything to do with pistachio nuts! Meditate.