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Holman Bible Dictionary

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FLOWERS

Colorful blooms containing a plant's reproductive organs. Flowers grew abundantly during springtime in Palestine. Flowers grew mostly in open fields, since flower gardens as we now know them were not cultivated. See Garden. Flowers grew in crop fields and in groves of trees around houses. Numerous kinds of wild flowers could be found in the plains and mountainsof Palestine. The words “flower” or “flowers” refer to (1) colorful blossoms, (2) towering plants, (3) open flowers, and (4) flourishing flowers. In Palestine the warm spring temperatures joined with the winter rains to produce beautiful, blooming plants and flowers.

(1) Almond blossoms (Genesis 43:11; Exodus 25:33-34; Exodus 37:19-20; Numbers 17:8; Ecclesiastes 12:5). This tree, a member of the rose family, had beautiful pink blossoms that the Israelites used as models for engravers to adorn the cups of the golden lampstand.

(2) Bulrush (Exodus 2:3; Job 8:11; Isaiah 18:2; Isaiah 35:7), sometimes is referred to as “flag,” “papyrus” (NIV), “reed” (NAS), or “rush” (NEB). This tall, slender reedlike plant grew along the banks of the Nile River and provided the earliest known material for making paper and covering the frames of boats (Isaiah 18:2).

(3) Calamus leaves (Exodus 30:23; Song of Solomon 4:14; Isaiah 43:24; Jeremiah 6:20; Ezekiel 27:19). The leaves from this plant were a sweet-smelling cane or ginger grass. The leaves, when crushed, gave a much relished ginger smell. It was apparently imported from India for use in worship (Jeremiah 6:20). Several Hebrew expressions lie behind “calamus.” The basic Hebrew term qaneh means, “cane.” It is modified in Exodus 30:23 by the word for balsam, apparently referring to sweet cane or Cymbopogon. A similar plant may be meant by qaneh tob in Jeremiah 6:20, to meaning either “good” or “perfumed.” Elsewhere, qaneh ooccurs without modification and may refer to different types of cane. For example, in 1 Kings 14:15 the giant reed Arundo donax may be meant. Compare Job 40:21; Isaiah 19:6; Isaiah 35:7.

(4) Camphire flowers (sometimes referred to as Henna) (Song of Solomon 1:14; Song of Solomon 4:13; Song of Solomon 7:11—see REB). The camphire was a small plant or shrub that bore beautiful cream-colored flowers that hung in clusters like grapes and were highly scented. It was used for orange dye.

(5) Caperberry flowers (Ecclesiastes 12:5). The caperberry was a prickly shrub which produced lovely flowers and small, edible berries as it grew in rocks and walls. It was supposed to stimulate sexual desires and powers. KJV, NRSV, NIV, TEV translate the Hebrew term as “desire” in Ecclesiastes 12:5, but REB and NAS follow recent Hebrew dictionaries in translating, “caperberry.”

(6) Cockle flowers (Job 31:40) were the purplish red flowers of a noxious weed called the “cockle” or “darnel” (Lolium tenulentumro). This plant grew abundantly in Palestinian grain fields. Its Hebrew name is spelled like the Hebrew word for “stink” and thus is translated “stinkweed” by NAS.

(7) Crocus (Song of Solomon 2:1; Isaiah 35:1) was a spring flowering herb with a long yellow floral tube tinged with purple specks or stripes. It is sometimes translated as rose. Technically, it was probably the asphodel (REB).

(8) Fitch (Isaiah 28:25-27) KJV calls this flower the “fitch,” but the better designation is probably the nutmeg flower. This flower was a member of the buttercup family and grew wildly in most Mediterranean lands. The plant was about two feet high and had bright blue flowers. The pods of the plant were used like pepper. Technically the plant is probably dill (NRSV, NAS, REB) or more precisely black cummin (Nigella sativaro). NIV translates, “caraway.”

(9) Leek (Numbers 11:5), a member of the lily family, was a bulbous biennial plant with broad leaves. The bases of the leaves were eaten as food. The bulbs of this plant were used as seasoning. Israel relished the memory of leeks (Allium porrumro) from Egypt.

(10) Lily (1 Kings Numbers 7:19,Numbers 7:22,Numbers 7:26; 2 Chronicles 4:5; Song of Solomon 2:1-2,Song of Solomon 2:16; Song of Solomon 5:13; Song of Solomon 6:2-3; Song of Solomon 7:2; Hosea 14:5). The term “lily” covered a wide range of flowers. The most common was Lilius candidum. The lily mentioned in Song of Solomon 5:13 refers to a rare variety of lily that had a bloom similar to a glowing flame. The “lily of the valley” (Song of Solomon 2:1-2,Song of Solomon 2:16) is known as the Easter lily. The lily mentioned in Hosea 14:5 is more akin to an iris. The beautiful water lily or lotus was a favorite flower in Egypt and was used to decorate Solomon's Temple (1 Kings 7:19,1 Kings 7:22,1 Kings 7:26; 2 Chronicles 4:5). The “lilies of the field” (Matthew 6:28; Luke 12:27) were probably numerous kinds of colorful spring flowers such as the crown anemone.

(11) Mandrake (Genesis 30:14-16; Song of Solomon 7:13). The mandrake, a herb of the nightshade family, had a rosette of large leaves and mauve flowers during winter and fragrant and round yellow fruit during spring. The mandrake grew in fields and rough ground. It was considered to give sexual powers and probably can be identified as Atropa Mandragora, rooften used for medicine in ancient times.

(12) Mint (Matthew 23:23; Luke 11:42) was an aromatic plant with hairy leaves and dense white or pink flowers, probably jucande olens. Mint was used to flavor food. The Jews scattered it on the floors of houses and synagogues for its sweet smell.

(13) Myrtle branches (Nehemiah 8:15; Isaiah 41:19; Isaiah 55:13; Zechariah 1:8-11). Myrtle bushes (Myrtus communisro), which grew on Palestinian hillsides, had fragrant evergreen leaves and scented white flowers. The flowers on the myrtle branches were used as perfumes.

(14) Pomegranate blossoms (Exodus 28:33, Numbers 13:23; 1 Samuel 14:2; 1 Kings 7:18) from the pomegranate tree (Punica granatumro) had dark green leaves with large orange-red blossoms. Decorators carved pomegranates on public buildings. The fruit symbolized fertility and was used to tan leather and for medicine.

(15) Rose (Song of Solomon 2:1; Isaiah 35:1). Several varieties of roses could be found in Palestine. The rose was a member of the crocus family. Traditionally, what is considered a rose is not the flower mentioned in Scripture. The “rose” is more generally considered an asphodel. See Crocus above.

(16) Saffron (Song of Solomon 4:14). Saffron (Curcuma longa or Crocus sativasro) is a species of crocus. In ancient times the petals of the saffron flower were used to perfume banquet halls. The type meant in Song of Solomon 4:14 may be an exotic plant imported from India.

Other Though not specifically mentioned by kind in the Bible, other varieties of flowers grew in Palestine. Appearing as early as January were the pink, white, and lilac blossoms of the cyclamen. Dominating many landscapes were the various shades of reds and pinks of the crown anemones, poppies, and mountain tulips. Some short-lived summer flowers were the yellow and white daisylike chrysanthemums.

Figurative Uses of “Flowers” The striking manner in which flowers burst into bloom for a few short weeks in spring and then faded into withered leaves was viewed as an illustration of the transient nature of human life (Job 14:2; Psalms 103:15; Isaiah 40:6; 1 Peter 1:24). The flowers of spring (Song of Solomon 2:12) signify renewal. The “fading flower” of Isaiah 28:1 represented the downfall of God's disobedient people. The “lilies of the field” (Matthew 6:28) grew unassumingly and without any outward signs of anxiety. If God takes care of the lilies, so God will take care of His children who need not worry uselessly. The phrase “flower of her age” (1 Corinthians 7:36) described a girl reaching womanhood. The rich pass away just as quickly as the period of time for blooming flowers passes away (James 1:10-11).

Gary Hardin


Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor.. "Entry for 'FLOWERS'". "Holman Bible Dictionary".
<http://classic.studylight.org/dic/hbd/view.cgi?number=T2084>. 1991.

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