Flower: tsits (Strong’s 6731)
Sounds like: tseets
Flowers show up all throughout the Bible. Roses (Song of Solomon 2:1), lilies (1 Kings 7:19,22), myrtle (Isaiah 55:12-13), lily of the valley (Song of Solomon 2:1), hyssop (Leviticus 14:51-52), and all manner of fruit trees, apples, almonds, pomegranates, just to name a few.
One of the first instances in the Torah, where a flower makes an appearance, is in a visually stunning miracle from God. YHWH wants to show the people which of the 12 tribes will be the priests for His holy nation. Each tribe leader was to bring a staff to place in the Tabernacle. Each staff was engraved with the name of the tribe leader. YHWH instructed Aaron to let his staff stand for the tribe of Levi.
YHWH: “Place the staffs in the Tent of Meeting in front of the Testimony, where I meet with you. The staff belonging to the man I choose will sprout, and I will rid Myself of the constant grumbling of the Israelites against you.”
So Moses spoke to the Israelites, and each of their leaders gave him a staff—one for each of the leaders of their tribes, twelve staffs in all. And Aaron’s staff was among them. Then Moses placed the staffs before YHWH in the Tent of the Testimony.
The next day Moses entered the Tent of the Testimony and saw that Aaron’s staff, representing the house of Levi, had sprouted, put forth buds, flowered (wey-ya-tsits), and produced almonds! Then Moses brought out all the staffs from YHWH’s presence to all the Israelites. They saw them, and each man took his own staff.
YHWH said to Moses, “Put Aaron’s staff back in front of the Testimony, to be kept as a sign for the rebellious, so that you may put an end to their grumbling against Me, lest they die.” So Moses did as YHWH had commanded him.
YHWH instructed that the flowering branch remain in the Tabernacle, so it is not surprising that when Solomon built the first great Temple (to replace the transient Tabernacle) he decorated it with carved open flowers:
1 Kings 6:31-35
For the entrance of the inner sanctuary, Solomon constructed doors of olive wood with five-sided doorposts. The double doors were made of olive wood, and he carved into them cherubim, palm trees, and open flowers (tsits-im) and overlaid the cherubim and palm trees with hammered gold.
In the same way, he made four-sided doorposts of olive wood for the sanctuary entrance. The two doors were made of cypress wood, and each had two folding panels. And he carved into them cherubim, palm trees, and open flowers (tsits-im) and overlaid them with gold hammered evenly over the carvings.
Like a Flower
Apart from decoration and fashion, the word flower is most often used to describe the mortality of humankind.
Man, who is born of woman, is short of days and full of trouble.
Like a flower (k’tsits), he comes forth, then withers away;
like a fleeting shadow, he does not endure.
But there is hope:
A voice says, “Cry out!”
And I asked, “What should I cry out?”
“All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower (k’tsits) of the field.
The grass withers, the flower (tsits) fades when the breath of YHWH blows on them;
indeed, the people are grass.
The grass withers and the flower (tsits) fades, but the word of our God stands forever.”
Flesh, like grass, can be glorious, glorious like a flower, but it does not last. What lasts? The word of God. The Covenant He made with humanity, that is what lasts. These bodies we have are like flowers, pretty, but mortal. Immortality is for our spirit; it is for those who trust in the word of YHWH.
Peter quoted Isaiah’s passage in the New Testament:
1 Peter 1:22-25
Since you have purified your souls by obedience to the truth so that you have a genuine love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from a pure heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For,
“All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like a flower of the field;
the grass withers and the flower falls away, but the word of the Lord stands forever.”
And this is the word that was proclaimed to you.
The Psalmist also uses the image of a flower to make the same point:
As a father has compassion on his children,
so YHWH has compassion on those who fear Him.
For He knows our frame; He is mindful that we are dust.
As for man, his days are like grass— he blooms like a flower (k’tsits) of the field;
when the wind has passed over, it vanishes, and its place remembers it no more.
But from everlasting to everlasting the loving devotion of YHWH extends to those who fear Him, and His righteousness to their children’s children— to those who keep His Covenant and remember to obey His precepts. YHWH has established His throne in heaven, and His kingdom rules over all.
We are like a passing breeze, a flower that blooms and then is no more, but there is hope. YHWH provides salvation for those who keep His Covenant. Unfortunately our obsession with beauty and strength and wealth distracts us from our true purpose, to remember, and love, and live for our Creator.
Beauty & Strength
God does not go easy on those who live only for themselves, who rely only on beauty and the splendour of their bodies:
Woe to the majestic crown of Ephraim’s drunkards, to the fading flower (w’tsits) of his glorious splendour, set on the summit above the fertile valley, the pride of those overcome by wine. Behold, the Lord has a strong and mighty one. Like a hailstorm or destructive tempest, like a driving rain or flooding downpour, He will smash it to the ground.
Our bodies are just shells, filling them with liquor, is like filling them with emptiness. God cares not for outward splendour or beauty. Those who rely only on their own beauty will be destroyed. We need to be filled with the Spirit. This is what Paul said:
Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to reckless indiscretion. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.
This idea of being filled with the Spirit means living beyond what our bodies are capable of. It is not through the strength of mankind that we flourish, it’s by the Spirit of YHWH. The prophet Zechariah had many wonder-filled visions, and in one of them YHWH claims this:
Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, says YHWH of Hosts.
It’s not by armies or brute strength that we flourish, it’s by the Spirit of YHWH!
Wealth & Riches
Just as human beauty and human strength hold no interest to YHWH, wealth and the accumulation of riches impress Him even less. Proverbs gives a warning to those who trust in their wealth alone:
Those who trust in their riches will fall, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf.
In the New Testament, the letter of James highlights that YHWH, who turns society on its head, will exalt the poor and bring down the rich:
The brother in humble circumstances should exult in his high position. But the one who is rich should exult in his low position, because he will pass away like a flower of the field. For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its flower falls and its beauty is lost. So too, the rich man will fade away in the midst of his pursuits.
Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.
Unlike the “majestic crown of Ephraim’s drunkards”, the “crown of life” is God’s promise to those who love Him. Even the symbol of a crown is associated with a flower. Exodus 39 describes the crown designed for the priestly garments as a pure gold engraved flower:
They also made the flower (tsits) [often translated as plate] of the holy crown of pure gold, and they engraved on it, like an inscription on a seal:
HOLY TO YHWH. (Kodesh YHWH)
It’s no coincidence that YHWH’s holy priests would would wear a crown like a flower as a reminder that God choose Aaron and the Levites to be the Priestly tribe. YHWH took Aaron’s stick and made it bloom. He does that with lives as well. Kodesh YHWH!
But we often overlook the holiness of God and we focus only on what we want and desire.
Consider the Lilies
Beauty, strength, fashion, food and wealth are some of our most basic human desires. But our attempts to pursue these things only end up causing us stress and anxiety. Jesus (Yeshua) incorporates the imagery of flowers to address this human condition:
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air: They do not sow or reap or gather into barns—and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you, by worrying, can add a single hour to his lifespan?
And why do you worry about clothes? Consider how the lilies of the field grow: They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his glory was adorned like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
YHWH created the flowers to adorn the fields to be beautiful reminders that life is short on this planet. But life with God is forever, for those who follow Him, trust Him, love Him, and place their lives in His hands.
Next week: Hands