Sunday, January 18, 2015

Trees in the Bible

Yesterday, I finished my second week of 52 in the Read the Entire Bible in a Year project. Last week, I wrote about creation and about the numerous flood stories that exist around the world. It seems that all religious traditions have a flood story in them.
Today, I am going to write about trees.
In October of 2006, western New York was struck by a disastrous snow storm, called the "October Surprise storm." The result of all of that wet, heavy snow landing on trees that still had their leaves was a disaster. There was much loss of trees during that storm. Branches were breaking everywhere and people who were outside when it was occurring had to be careful to avoid being hit by branches. We are still planting trees to replace the trees that were lost.
We need trees. Human beings would not even exist without trees. There are a variety of reasons as to why trees are essential to life. Here are a few good reasons to appreciate the existence of trees:
  • Trees produce oxygen. We need to breathe and mature trees provide the oxygen that we need.
  • Trees absorb a lot of water so that the soil doesn't run off in a soaking rainfall. If too many trees are removed from an area, a rainfall will result in a great deal of runoff, resulting in extremely poor soil that will not be capable of supporting any sort of plant growth. 
  • Trees help to clean the air of pollutants and they absorb carbon dioxide that would otherwise become greenhouse gases.
  • Trees provide shade and they break the wind.
Back in ancient times, people worshiped various types of trees. These included oaks and redwoods and baobab trees. The baobab tree is mentioned in Antoine de Saint-ExupĂ©ry's The Little Prince. But in that book, the baobab's are seen as a menace: huge trees that could tear apart the Little Prince's tiny planet.
Africans have a different impression of the baobab tree. For them, it is the tree of life. It can provide shelter, clothing, food, and water. Its fruit, which is called "monkey bread," is about the size of a coconut and is very tasty, with a flavor that resembles grapefruit, vanilla, and pear. Medicine can be produced from the leaves.
In the Bible, the Tree of Life is a very important image. Before Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, they had access to the Tree of Life and they could eat that fruit whenever they wanted. When Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden, they were forbidden access to the tree of life.

"Therefore, the Lord God God sent him (Adam) out of the garden of pleasure to cultivate the ground from which he was taken. So  He cast out Adam and made him dwell opposite the garden of pleasure. He then stationed cherubim and the fiery sword which turns every way to guard the way to the tree of life." (Genesis 4:23-24)

Another tree that is mentioned in Genesis is the oak tree. There are some questions as to what type of tree is described in chapter eighteen, when God appeared to Abraham. Some versions of the Bible record the tree as a terebinth tree and others record the tree as the "oak of Mamre." The Bible that I am reading, which is the Septugint that I mentioned in last week's entry, described the tree as the "oak of Mamre." It was where Abraham discovered three men who came to visit. Abraham made sure to provide sufficient food and water for the men. 

next week: dreams described in the Bible


  1. Hi Alyce, I remember that storm. It was a doozy. We lost so many trees in our area, mostly pine trees that have shallow root systems. Nice post!

  2. I live in the desert, so I know how important trees are! Another beautiful tree analogy is that the harsher the environment, the deeper and wider the roots of a tree grow :).

  3. I love your post. People negate the importance of trees. I have heard people say things like, "We'll just plant another one." When someone talks about trees I remember climbing them as a child so I could be higher. I used to hang out in a tree with my Cockatoo.

    1. Oh and forgot to say that I'm signing up for your blog. I can't wait to read the previous one.