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PLANTS OF THE BIBLE

 

Plants of biblical times continue to hold great popular interest. Scholars do not always agree upon which plants actually grew in biblical lands. Botany of the bible becomes more difficult to study when so many translations have been made throughout history. What is certain though is the enthusiastic interest we have in learning more about how these plants were used during these times, their historical significance and how these same plants today continue to have a place in our modern life.

THE PROMISED LAND 

It has been said that there is no other space on earth of this approximate size that contains the diversity of climate and phytogeography that the Biblical lands offer. This was "The Promised Land" where important events in human history took place. There is no other botanical topic that has been explored in this extreme detail, by so many scholars and for so many centuries as the plants of the Holy Land.

PLANT MIS-IDENTIFICATIONS

For many centuries scholars just assumed the plants growing in their European homelands were also present in the Holy land. They also scoured their homelands for any sign of the Hebrew plant names found in the more original Greece and Roman writings of the early translations. Myriad translations of the Bible have contributed significantly to plant mis-identifications as well as the fact that the science of botany is rather new in the development of human knowledge and consistent botanical nomenclature was not established yet when so many translations were written.

THESE PRECIOUS COMMODITIES CHANGED THE DESTINIES OF CIVILIZATIONS

Aromatics and herbs have played a hugely influential role in health, healing, religion, lifestyle and business since the beginning of recorded history. Just the pursuit and trade in these exotics alone changed the destinies of nations and civilizations. During Biblical days, these ancient cultures used them as medicine and to make incense, perfume, ointments, cosmetics, antidotes against poisons, varnishes and even embalming preservatives. Scented olive oil was used as a cleansing agent in body rubbing and massage.

3000 TONS OF FRANKINCENSE!

Incense is an aromatic smoke rising from burning plant material. In the Palestine Region and Syria, there is archaeological evidence of the use of incense dating to 2000 B.C. The word Frankincense however means 'true incense'. It was thought that the rising smoke formed a link between the people and their gods in heaven. Today just a few hundred tons of Frankincense is produced annually but in the heyday of incense aromatics around 300 B.C., 3000 tons of Frankincense alone was exported!

HOW THEY CAN BE USED IN OUR MODERN LIFE TODAY

Essential oils from these Biblical herbs are wonderful and healthful aromatics that can easily be made into anointing oils or simply used to soothe respiratory or skin conditions or help us to relax and cope better with stress. Olive Leaf extract is an extremely popular item in a natural, home medicine cabinet and the effects of using Castor Oil ("Palma Christi", Hand of Christ) Packs externally are remarkable.

 

PLANTS OF THE BIBLE

 

 

The following are Biblical references to plants we know as herbs, spices and aromatics. This is not a complete list but includes some of the more descriptive verses showing the significance and use of these medicinal or aromatic substances.

 

CASSIA

Exodus 30: 23-24 Take thou also unto thee principal spices, of pure myrrh five hundred shekels, and of sweet cinnamon half so much, even two hundred and fifty shekels, and of sweet calamus two hundred and fifty shekels, and of cassia five hundred shekels.

 

 

CASTOR OIL (CASTOR BEAN)

Jonah 4: 6-7 And the Lord God prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief. So Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd. But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it smote the gourd that it withered.

 

CINNAMON

Exodus 30: 23-24 Take thou also unto thee principal spices, of pure myrrh five hundred shekels, and of sweet cinnamon half so much, even two hundred and fifty shekels, and of sweet calamus two hundred and fifty shekels, and of cassia five hundred shekels.

Proverbs 7: 17 I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon.

 

FRANKINCENSE

Exodus 30: 1, 7-9, & 34 And thou shalt make an altar to burn incense upon: of shittim wood shalt thou make it…And Aaron shall burn thereon sweet incense every morning: when he dresseth the lamps, he shall burn incense upon it. And when Aaron lighteth the lamps at eve, he shall burn incense upon it, a perpetual incense before the Lord throughout your generations. Ye shall offer no strange incense thereon…And the Lord said unto Moses, Take unto thee sweet spices, stacte, and onycha, and galbanum; these sweet spices with pure frankincense

Leviticus 2: 1-2 & 15-16 And when any will offer a meat offering unto the Lord, his offering shall be of fine flour; and he shall pour oil upon it, and put frankincense thereon. And he shall take thereout…all the frankincense thereof…And thou shalt put oil upon it, and lay frankincense thereon: it is a meat offering. And the priest shall burn the memorial of it, part of the beaten corn thereof, and part of the oil thereof, with all the frankincense thereof…

Leviticus 16: 12-13 And he shall take a censer full of burning coals of fire from off the altar before the Lord, and his hands full of sweet incense beaten small…And he shall put the incense upon the fire…that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat…

Jeremiah 17: 26 And they shall come from the cities of Judah, and from the places about Jerusalem, and from the land of Benjamin, and from the plain, and from the mountains, and from the south, bringing burnt offerings, and sacrifices, and meat offerings, and incense, and bringing sacrifices of praise, unto the house of the Lord.

Matthew 2: 11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts: gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.

Revelation 5: 8 …having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints.

 

GALBANUM

Exodus 30: 34 Take unto thee sweet spices, stacte, and onycha, and galbanum; these sweet spices with pure frankincense…

Ecclesiasticus 24: 15 …a pleasant odour like the best myrrh, as galbanum, and onyx, and sweet storax…

 

 

MYRRH

Exodus 30: 23-24 Take thou also unto thee principal spices, of pure myrrh five hundred shekels, and of sweet cinnamon half so much, even two hundred and fifty shekels, and of sweet calamus two hundred and fifty shekels, and of cassia five hundred shekels.

Esther 2: 12 …for so were the days of their purification accomplished, to wit, six months with oil of myrrh, and six months with sweet odours, and with other things for the purifying of the women.

Solomon's Song 3: 6 Who is this that cometh out of the wilderness like pillars of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense…?

Matthew 2: 11 …and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.

 

 

OLIVE OIL

Genesis 8: 11 And the dove came in to him in the morning; and, lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf pluckt off….

Exodus 27: 20 And thou shalt command the children of Israel, that they bring thee pure oil olive beaten for the light, to cause the lamp to burn always.

Deuteronomy 7: 13 …thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil

Deuteronomy 8: 8 …A land of oil olive, and honey.

Judges 9: 8-9 The trees went forth on a time to anoint a king over them; and they said unto the olive tree, Reign thou over us. But the olive tree said unto them, Should I leave my fatness, wherewith by me they honour God and man…

Psalms 23: 5 …thou anointest my head with oil

Proverbs 27: 9 Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart…

Matthew 6: 17 But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face.

Mark 6: 13 …and anointed with oil many that were sick…

Luke 10: 34 And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine…

James 5: 14 Is any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.

 

 

SPIKENARD

Solomon's Song 1: 12 While the king sitteth at his table, my spikenard sendeth forth the smell thereof.

Mark 14: 3 And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard, very precious; and she brak the box, and poured it on his head.

John 12: 3 Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.

 

An excellent reference on this subject is:

Moldenke, Harold N. and Moldenke, Alma L. Plants of the Bible. New York: Dover Publishing, Inc. 1986.

 

See Also:

 

Oils of the Bible

 

 

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