Thorns and Thistles and the Tree of Knowledge

I will get to the point right away with thorns, thistles, and the Tree of Knowledge. Thorns by themselves are a sticky subject, but I will include thistles and the Tree. The three big references to thorns are where we get stuck in our thinking: Genesis 3:17, the original curse, the crown the Romans put on Jesus after beating Him, and Paul’s messenger of Satan in 2 Corinthians 12. But there are fifty-four verses with thorns in the Bible. (That number stays consistent in the various versions.) When we add in briers, nettles, thistles, tares, and weeds, the picture of problem plants in the Eastern Mediterranean expands and covers our field of study quite well.

The Tree of Knowledge had a good and evil component to it. The plants that are part of the curse of man’s greed in wanting knowledge and not life also have a good and evil/painful component. Some useful flora with thorns are roses, citrus fruit, and blackberries. In the Holy Land and in the Bible, they used thorn plants for whipping people, burning to cook food, and making barriers you did not want to go through. They use up a lot of water and seem to grow quickly, so they will damage the crops.

Thistles can have magnificent flowers, medicinal properties, and are eaten by humans and animals. The spines are painful if you disrespect the plant and get careless around it. (Israel put them on postage stamps.)

Off-topic, slightly.

Genesis 3 was a real eye-opener for Eve and Adam. Death entered the Garden, and they started dying. They found out serpents could move with no legs. Eve would discover pain and child-bearing. Desire and authority rushed into her life. Thorns and thistles were to be a complication in food production. Adam received pain because of them. That death entailed decomposition. How many of these concepts did they know about before greed and lust won their thinking?

Metaphors 

Exodus 22:6 is the initial statement of an issue with thorns-they dry out and become a fire hazard. (The things that get into your skin will burn you up.) Numbers 33:55 is the first usage of thorns as a metaphor for someone causing you pain. Gideon in Judges 8:7 promises to apply them and briers for torture and inflicting pain. Okay, to employ them for that is difficult because they must be gathered, and holding them requires serious precautions.

These plant protectors certainly are a proven problem (evil) and a teaching tool (good). If you have been a Christian for very long, you have heard many sermons about them. Some people spend a lot of time trying to figure out what type of thorn you are, and why you cause them so much pain. There is also a lot of moaning about the thorn poking them, and how they have to endure it in life.

Jesus 

Metaphorically, Judas Iscariot was a thorn in Jesus. Peter may have been a thistle at times (LOL). The thorny crown is possibly the only thing Jesus wore on the cross. So, with the nails, the Roman scourge, and spear, they released the blood that covers our sin (s) before the Father. 

Paul 

Steven Furtick has used Paul’s thorn in several sermons (September/October 2012), these in part, spurred this study. He did a great job with the topic.

It seems right, yet wrong, to always assume that Paul’s thorn was a bodily ailment. (A mental or spiritual issue can easily lead to physical pains.) Many try to make it an eye problem caused by the blindness from his conversion as the source of Satan’s angel against him. (Please note that the thorn was not from God.) Many try to claim a thorn as great as his. Paul got that thorn so he would not be conceited. Do you really want one like that? You probably never got an amazing revelation while in Heaven. I will also bet that writing a good part of the New Testament and supervising many churches are also not in your resume. Get the point, we deal with things and they cause troubles for us, but why compare them with his thorn. Paul’s message from this-stop complaining and ask for a deeper understanding of grace.

My Take

Thorns and briers are painful. Thorns and briers cause issues. If you elect to mess with one of those bushes, you will most likely be in pain. Their fruit or flowers may tempt and possibly be worth the discomfort you judge. The suffering is the same if someone else sticks you with one, or you find it by accident. Shoes and lawn tractor tires that found them in the grass had to be fixed. Cutting them down and burning them are the best ways of getting rid of them.

Thistles can come with beautiful flowers, and the plant has a strange type of attractiveness if all you do is look at it. If you allow a thistle to stay in your yard, it will create many more of them once they mature. Get them out of your ground early in their life. Let them grow and digging them out later can still cause pain, don’t leave the root or a stub. 

Isaiah 55:13 does offer hope that the curse of thorns and thistles will be reversed. 

Knowledge is good and can be bad. Thorns and thistles are bad even if the plant produces something useful.   

Kingdom Wedding

Matthew 25:1 compares the Kingdom of Heaven to ten girls waiting for their wedding. This post continues the ideas in the Ten Virgins Who Woke Up by examining components of a Jewish wedding. Marriage and the Wedding are core to the Kingdom of God. It is the third thing that God provided to Adam in the Garden-a place to live, a way to support himself, and a wife (life is a given). Genesis 2:24 is the first explanation or commentary in the Bible. The verse explains the “why” for the first recorded words of any man: “bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh”. Yes, Adam spoke names of animals, but they are never listed. This shows the importance of marriage. Because this joining reflects how God wants us to relate to Him, is there any wonder why marriage between a man and a woman is being attacked? The serpent’s assault on the Kingdom in the Garden is intended to separate mankind from God and to tear apart the union of Man and Woman. What if Adam never ate the fruit? Eve was deceived, but sin entered when Adam followed his wife in eating the forbidden fruit. How would things look now if Adam followed God’s voice and instructions? Okay, back to the symbolism in a Jewish wedding. 

In Luke 2, Mary is betrothed to Joseph. This part of the wedding is the erusin and, according to custom, they are bound to each other. Joseph’s father paid the mohar or bride’s price to Mary’s father (Exodus 22:16). This money should follow Mary into the marriage, but the money or services belonged to Mary’s father. I am sure that the money became part of Joseph’s concern when he found out Mary was with child. Father God paid the mohar; Jesus came to earth and died for us to pay the price. Our erusin began when we choose to accept that payment of Jesus’ blood and the work of the cross.

The mattan are the gifts given to the bride by the groom over and above the mohar. This thought is overwhelming! Jesus sent the Holy Spirit and with Him are the gifts. Charis is the Greek word used for the gifts of the Spirit and for grace. Are you picking what part of the mattan you want and fits in your BOX, or are you taking all the Gift? 

For the next parts of the wedding, I will list and explain as I see them and how they fit into the Kingdom.

  1. In the erusin, the groom is to prepare a place for the bride to live (John 14:2+3). Search in Bible Gateway for-prepare a place. The results are interesting. https://www.biblegateway.com/quicksearch/?quicksearch=prepare+a+place&resultspp=100&version=NIV
  2. The bride (and the groom) are to wash in a mikveh. This is a spiritual preparation. A mikveh is a pool of living (moving) water. I will equate the washing to baptism, but there are many types and reasons for washing in Jewish customs. 
  3. Nissuin is the wedding, and a part of this is a colorful parade. This procession is in the parable of the Ten Virgins. The Bride was never sure when the groom would come, so they had to be ready. The Father of the groom decided the exact time for the procession. Jesus said this in Matthew 24:36. I did not find this in my current research, but I believe the nissuin was two parades, one going to get the Bride and one going home. If that is the case, I would like to call the Palm Sunday ride into Jerusalem the first parade and the second parade is yet to happen.
  4. The chappah is what the Bride stands under, and that symbolizes the marriage chamber. May I offer the tongues of fire when they settled above the disciples’ heads on the Day of Pentecost as the chappah? They represent the glory of Heaven as first seen on Mount Sinai
  5. The Bride has responsibilities and duties during the erusin. Her price has been paid, and she is now married (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). The free.messianicbible.com site uses the Parable of the Virgins as its focus, so I am good with that. Again, I don’t have sources, but many of the things they say I have heard/read in other places. The bride had to be ready and part of that was a lamp filled with oil. She was to be concerned about her clothing and ornaments. She needed to be listening for the shofar (the trump) that will announce the groom’s coming. In our current customs, the bride and her family are busy doing all the work for the perfect day. That is not what it looked like in the first century. The groom handled the marriage feast.

Another post will focus on verses in the Bible about this topic. They are surprising. Psalm 45, which is labeled a wedding song, will provide a new twist on Kingdom, weddings, and brides. 

https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/465162/jewish/The-Jewish-Marriage-Ceremony.htm

https://www.biblegateway.com

myjewishlearning .com

jfedgmw.org

free.messianicbible.com

I apologize about the URL for the last three websites. All deal with ancient Jewish wedding practices. Facebook is creating links that I did not wish to have in my post.

The Garden and Grapes

This study of The Garden and Grapes could have been The Fruit Eve and Adam Ate. Now before I lose some of you, it needs to be said that God, in His wisdom, did not tell us the type of fruit on the Tree of Knowledge. Declaring that grapes could be a possibility is a big “What If” and that is fine with me. 

Now, the next sticky point is that the Bible says tree and not vine. The actual word in Biblical Hebrew is etz. This word has two means – tree and wood. So, in Ezekiel 15:2,6 and Numbers 6:4 when it is translated into the phrase called a vine tree, it started me on this study. Most vines do not take a freestanding form of a tree. But I have seen some vines that are kept small actually act like a tree. You will not make a chair or tool handle out of that wood, but they can stand up and look like a tree (small tree). (We had a freestanding wisteria vine that was under six-foot-tall with a single main trunk and an umbrella-shaped top.)

 https://www.balashon.com/2007/01/etz-and-ilan.html is a website that does a good job with the word etz

I would usually argue that the tree Eve ate from was a fig tree. Fig trees in scripture can be a shadow for dead religious works, practices, and churches. That idea is simple to grab a hold of because Adam and Eve grabbed fig leaves and sewed them together to hide from God. Jesus during Holy Week symbolically put an end to “fig tree religion” when He cursed one because of no fruit. He then became “the true Vine” with Gentiles grafted into Him. THINKING OUT LOUD MOMENT – What if the Tree of Life was/is a “true” fig tree!

Grapes, grapevines, wine, winepresses, and raisins all are mentioned in the Bible. Just like the Tree in the Garden, these items can carry a “Good and Evil” label or function. Wine is good in some context and a troublemaker in others, just like the knowledge the tree gave Eve and Adam. It is this dual nature that makes me lean in the favor of grapes as “the fruit” in the Garden. Numbers 6:3 contains the requirements for a Nazirite while he is seeking God (John the Baptist was one for life Luke 1:15.) Why grapes? The plant is a symbol of the kingdom and grapes/raisins are good for the body. Wine can “gladden man’s heart” but too much wine can lead to debauchery. My simple thought is that God wanted them to focus on HIM for the time they were seeking God. Hearing God and not the many voices around you for a season is good. After that time, they then could enjoy “grapes” again.

A Sample of Grape Verses

There are many verses in the Bible about grapes, wine, and raisins. So, the ones I am about to use are just a sample that shows the good/evil nature.

Deuteronomy 32: 32+33 For their vine is of the vine of Sodom, and of the fields of Gomorrah: their grapes are grapes of gall, their clusters are bitter (KJV). These verses are talking about Jeshurun (the upright one), which is another name for Israel.

Hosea 9:10a (KJV) I found Israel like grapes in the wilderness; I saw your fathers as the first ripe in the fig tree at her first time. Part B is the other story – but they went to Baal Peor and separated themselves unto that shame, and their abominations were according as they loved. The section that proceeds this is comparing Israel (northern kingdom) to Gibeah, the town in Benjamin that raped the Levite’s wife. King Saul was from Gibeah. 

Isaiah 5:4 (NIV) What more could have been done for my vineyard than I have done for it? When I looked for good grapes, why did it yield only bad?

Luke 5:38+39 (NIV) is the story of new wine into new wineskins. New wine is the Spirit of God and His fresh anointing. Verse 39 – And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, The old is better. Sticking with the idea of good/evil and new/old, the old knowledge is “just better”.

Mark 12:1 is the parable about the kingdom and Jesus, as told using a vineyard and renters.

John 2:1 is the first of the seven major miracles in John (there are many more). Jesus is at a wedding, creating a “need” from the fruit of the vine in stone/earthen jars, and the very next story is a Passover. How much more symbolism does one story.

May I please try to pull my scattered thoughts in and end this study? Grapes, like knowledge, are not the problem. What you do with the grapes/knowledge defines them as good or evil. 

If the “tree” is a stumbling root, doing something useful with a vine tree’s wood will fall into that good/bad area. If you need a strong solid piece of wood, it is not coming from a vine. They are good for fuel for a fire, wreaths for your door, or tying bundles of sticks together. Swinging out of a tree is a good use, as well. Some days knowledge is like that wood. It will burn you up, make a pretty wall hanging, actually bring things/thoughts together, or have you flying around in the air going nowhere and just leave you hanging.

Final thought – Adam and Eve would have gotten “everything” they needed if they would have eaten from the Tree of Life.   

Tree of Knowledge –Surpasses/Passeth Knowledge

Ephesians 3: 19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God (KJV); made me realize that there is something “beyond” knowledge. I have said it before, “It is the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, not the tree of good and evil”.  The “knowledge” part is really important.  Use a search tool and look up knowledge in your favorite translation.  

I found Ephesians 3:19 and Jeremiah 10:14, 51:17.  In the KJV the verses in Jeremiah are practically the same – 14 Every man is brutish in his knowledge: every founder is confounded by the graven image: for his molten image is falsehood, and there is no breath in them; the difference is “by his knowledge”.  In or by, the problem is the false knowledge of what God is like.  Eve chose knowledge and I believe Adam followed Eve because he thought she had something he did not have.  What if they had realized that the love and fellowship with the Father and the love of Christ (Tree of Eternal Life) was better than “just” knowledge? 

Adam and Eve, I believe, were very intelligent.  So, the Snake used the promise of knowledge to lure them into a horrible choice.  Being intelligent does not mean that you will use knowledge correctly.  In Proverbs 8 and 9, contrast Wisdom and Folly as two women who are calling for your attention.

The love of Christ surpasses or goes beyond knowledge. I know it helps you in your daily life.  The “fullness of God” is beyond knowledge and to have all of Him helping you will advance you in your endeavors.  (I will add that following Jesus and seeking Him is the key to that help.)

Oh, “brutish” in Jeremiah, according to Strong’s Concordance, means to consume by fire or EATING. Other translations use a variety of words to capture that thought. But a Mark’s loose translation would be-Every man is consumed by knowledge; then it list idols.

Bible Gateway was my search engine.

The Garden and the Thousand Year Reign

The thousand-year reign of Revelation 20 and the Garden of Eden may sound like two strange concepts to put together, but this is today’s study. (SPOILER ALERT – this a study, only a study.)  The question that inspired this study was – Why was Satan to be bound and then released?  (Revelation 20:2,3, and 7 NIV).  So, I am not questioning what is going to happen in that thousand-year period but why a thousand years.

Since I have been musing on the Garden I have noticed many connections between Genesis and Revelation. Things from the Garden show up in both – the Tree of Life and the River.  So, the thousand-year reign also stirred my interest.  Was this another thing that had its foundation in the Creation story?

Psalm 90:4 and 2 Peter 3:8 are used frequently to speak of an eternal God and His idea of time.  One thousand years equals a day in the sight of God is not a new in theology or eschatology.  For me they are a reminder of just how limited I am compared to God.  Pulling this thought into Revelation 20 does not seem right, so I will leave it alone.  But that still left me with – why bind Satan for thousand years and then release him for a short time? 

Having noticed so many similar things in Genesis and Revelation, I have to wonder if the first Adam (and Eve) had a thousand years in the Garden before the Tree of Knowledge.  One thousand years of just pure fellowship with the Eternal Father and spending time under His rule and reign.  Just man and God walking in the Garden.  It could possible follow a pattern that some have seen in the Creation story – chaos, peace/Creation, and chaos.  I will try to explain that last statement.  Genesis 1:2 has a formless earth that is empty and dark, followed with God casting His light over everything; then to have the deception in Genesis 3. In Revelation it may look like the Antichrist, the thousand years, Satan loose, the eternal Kingdom of God.

Was the Tree a test for Adam and Eve?  Job’s story could loosely fit into the scenario of peace, chaos, and then peace.  That would then lead to the question of – Did Satan have to get permission to trouble Eve?  That thought might have you look at Revelation 20 as a thousand-year reign, Satan loose and deceiving people again, and then his last judgment.  Which ushers in the Father/Jesus’ Kingdom.

Man’s freewill is the issue here.  Eve, then Adam, choose knowledge over fellowship.  Abraham had knowledge and choose faith over doubt.  Judah and Israel were split on what to choose, some choose God, some did not.  People today, especially the Church, are in that same Garden.  Do I really choose Jesus and His way, or do I choose knowledge and its way?  The Father’s Kingdom will only have people that truly chose to fellowship with Him.  Will it come down to Revelation 20:6 (the Garden) or 20:7 and chaos.  Your choice!

Pic is from http://clipart.christiansunite.com