Tag Archives: Flora of the Bible

New books from Carta Jerusalem – # 2

The Twice Told Tale parallel study of Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, and more.

The Twice Told Tale parallel study of Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, and more.

The Twice-Told Tale. This hardback book of 284 (6½” x 9½”) pages is written by Abba Bendavid, with an introduction by Mordechai Cogan. ($64). Cogan says,

It is well-known that readers of the Bible generally skip over the Book of Chronicles [1-2 Chronicles], the last book of the Hebrew Bible [chronologically]. All too often Chronicles is seen as merely a recap and summary of the historical books that preceded it….

This book includes an index to biblical citations. It will be extremely helpful to those studying Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles.

Israel Biblical Archaeology touring map.

Israel Biblical Archaeology touring map.

Israel Biblical Archaeology (A Carta Touring Map) $14.95. Carta Jerusalem describes this folding map:

 The first major comprehensive map of  archaeological sites in the Holy Land, together with over a dozen annotated historical vignette maps of major sites and events throughout the land that provide an insightful overview of all archaeological sites related to the Bible and later historical periods.

This 24 × 35½ in. map folds to 5¼×9¼ in. For those interested in locating archaeological sites this can be a very helpful resource. On the back side of the map there are numerous smaller maps and diagrams helpful in study and travel. My preference would be to have this material in spiral bound atlas format, but I expect to use the map in planning and during my next personal study trip.

Sacred Flowers, Holy Trees & Blessed Thorns by Ami Tamir is a new book published this year. The Introduction explains,

This book tells the stories of fifty plants connected to Christian tradition which can be found, in season, by the Christian pilgrim visiting the land of Israel. Illustrations that enable the pilgrim to identify the less-recognizable plants are included, and encourage the study of the rich botanical variety he/she will find on footpaths between pilgrimage sites, churches and archaeological remains.

“The encounter with the plants brings to life the wondrous tales of the Holy Family: here they acquire a deeper religious significance. That is the magic secret: to touch the matter, the rocks, the clumps of earth, and the flowers growing on them.” (From the Introduction)

Sacred Flowers Holy Trees & Blessed Thorns.

Sacred Flowers, Holy Trees & Blessed Thorns.

My personal interests are not as much attuned to the traditions and legends that have grown up around certain plants, but more to the various plants and thorns mentioned in the Bible. Nonetheless, this is a beautiful little book and one that many visitors to Israel will find helpful.

This 8″ x 5½” paperback book of 176 pages belongs to the Carta Guide Book series. It is lavishly illustrated and sells for $25.00.

Check the Carta online catalog to learn more about each book. The books also are available from Hendrickson, Amazon, and some other publishers. The books mentioned here were sent to me by Carta Jerusalem, but the comments are my own opinion.

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Tithing anise and overlooking weighty matters

Jesus used illustrations His hearers understood from their daily activities. In announcing woes on the religious leaders of His time, he spoke of spices that were used in cooking.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices– mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law– justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. (Matthew 23:23 NIV)

Instead of dill, the KJV and NKJV versions have used the term anise.

The Illustrated Manners and Customs of the Bible has a brief explanation about anise.

The term anise mentioned in Matthew 23:23 is derived from the Greek word It refers either to the dill or to the true anise. Both plants are similar and of the same plant family. Both grow about 91 cm. (3 ft.) high with clusters of yellow flowers. The seeds, leaves, and stem are used for medicine and cooking, and were a part of the ancient temple tithe. (Jesus denounced the Jews of His day for carefully obeying small laws, such as the spice tithe, and forgetting the more important ones.) Anise was cultivated in ancient Egypt and other Mediterranean countries, and still grows there today. (Packer and Tenney, Eds. Illustrated Manners and Customs of the Bible, p. 249.)

Many of the stores in the Old City of Jerusalem and other cities in Israel and the West Bank sell spices. The photo of anise (dill) below was made at Jericho.

A salesman at Jericho shows anise. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A salesman at Jericho shows anise. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Imagine counting out one of every 10 seed but overlooking justice, mercy, and faithfulness. Jesus told the experts in the law and the religious leaders,

You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.

I think there is a lesson here for many of us today.

Absalom, rebel son of king David, caught his head in a great oak tree

While David was at Mahanaim, his son Absalom and those of Israel who were aligned with him camped in the land of Gilead (2 Samuel 17:26-27). David remained at the gate of the city while his men went out to fight the rebels. The Biblical account says,

So the army went out into the field against Israel, and the battle was fought in the forest of Ephraim. And the men of Israel were defeated there by the servants of David, and the loss there was great on that day, twenty thousand men. The battle spread over the face of all the country, and the forest devoured more people that day than the sword. And Absalom happened to meet the servants of David. Absalom was riding on his mule, and the mule went under the thick branches of a great oak, and his head caught fast in the oak, and he was suspended between heaven and earth, while the mule that was under him went on.  (2 Samuel 18:6-9 ESV)

Even though many trees have been used by various invaders over the centuries, some forests of oaks may still be seen in both Cisjordan (territory west of the Jordan River) and Transjordan (territory east of the Jordan River). The photos below were made in a grove of trees growing the Golan Heights a short distance south of the junction of Highways 98 and 99 south of Mas’ada.

These trees may be much smaller than the “great oak” in which Absalom caught his head, but they could be quite dangerous to a person trying to make a fast getaway on a mule.

Oaks growing in the Golan Heights. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Oaks growing in the Golan Heights. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Here are the leaves of this variety of tree.

Close view of oaks growing in the Golan Heights. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The leaves of oaks growing in the Golan Heights. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

And the large acorns it grows.

Acorns on the oaks of Bashan. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Acorns on the oaks of Bashan. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The oaks of Bashan are mentioned by the prophets of Israel several times (Isaiah 2:13; Ezekiel 27:6; Zechariah 11:2).

The technical name for the oak shown here is Querqcus ithaburensis, and is known as the Tabor oak. Dr. David Darom, in Beautiful Plants of the Bible, say this about the tree,

The Tabor oak, being a large deciduous tree that dominates its surroundings, was often associated with ritual and religious customs. Tabor oak forests once covered large areas of the northern Coastal Plain, the Lower Galilee, the Hulah Valley and
the slopes of the Golan. Most of the trees were cut down during the ages so their excellent wood could be used in buildings, furniture and boats. (p. 44)

William M. Thomson, back in 1880, described a walk in one of the “grand old forests” near the Crocodile River between Caesarea and Dor.

I had a delightful ramble early the next morning in those grand old forests, and then understood perfectly how Absalom could be caught by the thick branches of an oak. The strong arms of these trees spread out so near the ground that one cannot walk erect beneath them; and on a frightened mule, such a head of hair as that vain but wicked son polled every year would certainly become inextricably entangled: and it is interesting to know that the region east of the Jordan, that “wood of Ephraim” where the battle was fought, is still covered with thick oaks, tangled bushes, and thorny creepers growing over ragged rocks, and ruinous precipices, down which the rebel army plunged in wild dismay, horses and men crushing each other to death in remediless ruin. Thus twenty thousand men perished in that fatal wood, which “devoured more people that day than the sword devoured.” (The Land and the Book or Biblical Illustrations Drawn from the Manners and Customs, the Scenes and Scenery, of the Holy Land: Southern Palestine and Jerusalem. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1880. Print.)

To be precisely Biblical, it was Absalom’s head that caught in the oak, but the excessive hair might have contributed to his misfortune.

Absalom was killed by Joab and his armor-bearers (2 Samuel 18:14-15). Balwin comments on Absalom’s ignominious end:

All that remains is to bury there and then in the forest the body of the rebel, his grave marked only by a huge cairn of field stones, which would in a relatively short time cease to be identifiable. It was an ignominious end. (Baldwin, Joyce G. 1 and 2 Samuel: An Introduction and Commentary. Vol. 8. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988. Print. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries.)

Index to Olives and Olive Trees

The olive tree was one of the most important plants in Bible times, and it still is today throughout portions of Europe and the Middle East.

The wood of the olive tree was used in some of the furnishings of the temple (1 Kings 6:23-33).

Stump of an olive tree at Beit Jimal. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Stump of an olive tree at Beit Jamal (? En-Gannim). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Wood from dead or destroyed olive trees is often turned into carvings and souvenirs such as this carving of the faithful spies (Caleb and Joshua; Numbers 14:30) that I secured in Bethlehem many years ago.

Then they came to the valley of Eshcol and from there cut down a branch with a single cluster of grapes; and they carried it on a pole between two men, with some of the pomegranates and the figs. That place was called the valley of Eshcol, because of the cluster which the sons of Israel cut down from there. (Numbers 13:23-24 NAU)

Olive wood carving of the faithful spies. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Olive wood carving of the faithful spies. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Index to Articles About the Olive Tree and Olives

Related minor posts about olives.

When I add other posts pertaining to olives I will try to remember to add them to this index.