It’s planting season here on our tiny Island (Prince Edward Island), in Eastern Canada. PEI is known for its potatoes grown in the iron-rich red dirt. We may be the smallest province, but PEI is the largest potato-producing province in all of Canada.
The Bible is chock full of gardening imagery: seeds, trees, branches, sprouts, flowers, fruit, and harvest. The word for root (shoresh) fits in well with what is arguably the most extensive metaphor in the Bible.
Root, the Metaphor
The word root was used in a few different ways. It was used for the idea of a descendent, such as those from Ephraim, “whose root [shar’sham] is in Amalek” (Judges 5:14). The word was also used in one of Daniel’s prophecies about a woman. One would arise as a branch of her roots/descendants [sharashey’ha] (Daniel 11:7).
The writer of the book of Job used shoresh to describe two unique things, the sole of the foot and the pretext of a court case:
“You set a limit for the soles [roots: shar’shey] of my feet.”
This was a one-off use of the word, as all other references to the sole of the foot used kaph which meant palm (palm of a hand/the palm of a foot).
The other use of shoresh was used to indicate the root of a case:
‘What pretext [root: w-shoresh] for a case against him can we find?’
These were outlier uses of the Hebrew word shoresh. The biggest metaphor remained to be the root of a tree which primarily represented the Spiritual health of the people.
The metaphor was simple. There were people with good roots and bad roots. The discussion of “bad roots” was extensive. Job’s friend, Bildad, said this about the wicked:
[Bildad:] “His roots [sharashaw] are dried below, and his branch withers above. The memory of him perishes from the earth, and he has no name abroad.
He is driven from light into darkness, and chased from the inhabited world. He has no offspring or descendants among his people, nor any survivor where he resided.
Those in the west are appalled at his fate, and those in the east are seized with horror. Certainly these are the dwellings of the wicked, and this is the place of him who does not know God.”
The prophet Jeremiah questioned why God would allow evil people to take root, grow and prosper:
Righteous are You, YHWH, when I plead my case with You; nevertheless I would discuss matters of justice with You:
Why has the way of the wicked prospered? Why are all those who deal in treachery at ease?
You have planted them, they have also taken root [shorashu]; they grow, they have also produced fruit.
You are near to their lips but far from their mind.
But You know me, YHWH; You see me and examine my heart’s attitude toward You. Drag them off like sheep for the slaughter, and set them apart for a day of slaughter!
How long is the land to mourn, and the vegetation of the countryside to dry up? Due to the wickedness of those who live in it, animals and birds have been snatched away, because people have said, “He will not see our final end.”
YHWH understood the pleadings of Jeremiah, and all who questioned the justice of allowing the wicked to prosper. YHWH would not allow the wicked to go unpunished. The root of evil would, one day, be destroyed:
“For behold, the day is coming, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and every evildoer will be chaff; and the day that is coming will set them ablaze,” says YHWH of armies, “so that it will leave them neither root [shoresh] nor branches.”
“But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and frolic like calves from the stall. And you will crush the wicked underfoot, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day that I am preparing,” says YHWH of armies.
Centuries later, even John the Baptist used this imagery when speaking to the Pharisees and Sadducees:
[John the Baptist:] “…the axe is already laid at the root [Greek: rhizan] of the trees; therefore, every tree that does not bear good fruit is being cut down and thrown into the fire.”
The wicked weren’t just Israel’s enemies. Israel itself was like a tree with dried up roots and no fruit, and the Pharisees and Sadducees understood completely that John was accusing them of being “bad fruit”.
In the days of the prophet Hosea, Ephraim was a stand-in term for the people of Israel:
Ephraim is stricken, their root [shar’sham] is dried up, they will produce no fruit.
Although they were Spiritually barren and rootless, YHWH would not let them stay that way:
[YHWH:] I will heal their apostasy, I will love them freely, because My anger has turned away from them.
I will be like the dew to Israel; he will blossom like the lily, and he will take root [sharashaw] like the cedars of Lebanon.
His shoots will sprout, His majesty will be like the olive tree, and his fragrance like the cedars of Lebanon.
Those who live in his shadow will again raise grain, and they will blossom like the vine. His fame will be like the wine of Lebanon.
Ephraim, what more have I to do with idols? It is I who answer and look after you. I am like a luxuriant juniper; from Me comes your fruit.
Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; whoever is discerning, let him know them. For the ways of YHWH are right, and the righteous will walk in them, but wrongdoers will stumble in them.
God wanted His people, men and women, to grow strong in His path. He did not want themto turn toward idols, which was like living as “a root [shoresh] bearing poisonous fruit…” (Deuteronomy 29:18).
Although the were given multiple chances to repent, those who wholly rejected YHWH would face a terrible fate:
Therefore, as a tongue of fire consumes stubble, and dry grass collapses in the flame, so their root [shar’sham] will become like rot, and their blossom blow away like dust; for they have rejected the Law of YHWH of armies, and discarded the word of the Holy One of Israel.
The Root of the Adversary
The wicked were doing a great job on their own destroying themselves. But the seduction to be gods of their own making was undoubtedly enticed by YHWH’s chief opponent, the Adversary [ha-Satan]. The prophet Isaiah described the people under the Adversary’s dominion as living under the “serpent’s root”:
In the year that King Ahaz died, this pronouncement came:
“Do not rejoice, Philistia, all of you, because the rod that struck you is broken; for from the serpent’s root [mi-shoresh nakhash] a viper will come out, and its fruit will be a winged serpent.
Those who are most helpless will eat, and the poor will lie down in security; I will kill your root [shar’shek] with famine, and it will kill your survivors.”
YHWH would protect the helpless and the poor; but the wicked helped themselves and were rich from their greed. It wouldn’t be a happy ending for these enemies of YHWH.
Jeremiah reflected on the difference between the cursed man who rejected YHWH and the blessed man who trusted YHWH:
This is what YHWH says:
“Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind and makes flesh his strength, and whose heart turns away from YHWH. For he will be like a bush in the desert, and will not see when prosperity comes, but will live in stony wastes in the wilderness, a land of salt that is not inhabited.
Blessed is the man who trusts in YHWH, and whose trust is YHWH. For he will be like a tree planted by the water that extends its roots [sharashaw] by a stream, and does not fear when the heat comes; but its leaves will be green, and it will not be anxious in a year of drought, nor cease to yield fruit.”
The blessed followers of YHWH would be nourished by the waters, grow green and bear ceaseless fruit. But it wouldn’t always be easy gardening.
Job was seen as a righteous man by God, but he went through a testing that was both devastating and demoralizing. He cried to God, [paraphrase:] “If I have wronged You, uproot my crops (Job 31:8) and uproot all my increase.” (Job 31:12). But YHWH did not uproot Job because He recognized that Job’s heart was genuine and he was righteous.
Proverbs 12:12 (see also Proverbs 12:3)
The wicked person desires the plunder of evil people, but the root [w-shoresh] of the righteous yields fruit.
Because of Job’s righteousness, YHWH did not uproot his prosperity (as the Adversary had done), but He blessed Job and gave him double of what he had lost (Job 42:10).
There was a reward for those who struggled but remained true to YHWH. In the darkest moments of our lives we ought to hold onto our love for God and stand firmly rooted in our faith. If our roots are deep, whatever attacks us cannot destroy us.
But the wicked, who often look stronger and more powerful, God would one day uproot and reject:
You love all words that devour, you deceitful tongue. But God will break you down forever; He will snatch you up and tear you away from your tent, and uproot you [w-sharesh’ka] from the land of the living. Selah
YHWH, the God of Life, would eliminate the wicked from the land of the living. Life with God was rich and abundant and well-watered, and available only to those whose root held on faithfully to YHWH. There was no space or place for the wicked in YHWH’s Garden Kingdom.
Messiah: From Root to Fruit
YHWH would lead His people to the water of life so that we could flourish, grow, and bear fruit for His Kingdom. But we can’t do it alone.
We were never meant to thrive in this world on our own. We were meant to partnership with God and be the benevolent rules of this planet, under the care and guidance of YHWH the Creator (Genesis 1:26).
Even if Adam and Eve had obeyed God in the Garden, we still would be walking in Eden, in partnership with God, and growing and flourishing under His care. But Human-Life (Adam and Eve) did not choose well in the Garden and so God had to put things right and reverse the curse that humans had brought on themselves. He would send a Messiah, a branch from His root, to save and redeem His people, and bring them back home to Him.
YHWH’s plan of salvation was consistently prayed for in the Scriptures. The Pslamist, Asaph, called on YHWH to carefully watch over the Son, the deeply rooted vine, of YHWH:
[Asaph to YHWH:] You removed a vine from Egypt; You drove out the nations and planted it. You cleared the ground before it, and it took deep root [wa-ta-sh’resh sharashey’ha] and filled the land.
The mountains were covered with its shadow, and the cedars of God with its branches. It was sending out its branches to the sea and its shoots to the Euphrates River.
Why have You broken down its hedges, so that all who pass that way pick its fruit? A boar from the forest eats it away, and whatever moves in the field feeds on it.
God of armies, do turn back; look down from heaven and see, and take care of this vine, the shoot which Your right hand has planted, and of the Son whom You have strengthened for Yourself.
YHWH’s also repeatedly reminded people of His plan of redemption:
2 Kings 19:25-31 (see also Isaiah 37:30-32)
[YHWH:] ‘Have you not heard? Long ago I did it; from ancient times I planned it. Now I have brought it about, that you would turn fortified cities into ruined heaps.
Therefore their inhabitants were powerless, they were shattered and put to shame. They were like the vegetation of the field and the green grass, like grass on the housetops that is scorched before it has grown.
But I know your sitting down, your going out, your coming in, and your raging against Me.
Because of your raging against Me, and because your complacency has come up to My ears, I will put My hook in your nose, and My bridle in your lips, and I will turn you back by the way by which you came.
Then this shall be the sign for you: you will eat this year what grows of itself, in the second year what grows by itself, and in the third year sow, harvest, plant vineyards, and eat their fruit. The survivors that are left of the house of Judah will again take root [shoresh] downward and bear fruit upward. For out of Jerusalem will go a remnant, and survivors out of Mount Zion. The zeal of YHWH will perform this.
After years of turning away from YHWH and being under threat from neighbouring nations, YHWH would turn the people back to Him and strengthen the survivors. Their roots would grow deeper and stronger. They would overcome adversity and bear fruit.
This idea, of taking root downward and bearing fruit upward, was also expressed by the prophet Amos. YHWH wanted His people to bear good fruit, but those who bore bad fruit would have their fruit and root destroyed. With the root gone, there was no coming back:
[YHWH:] “Yet it was I who destroyed the Amorite before them, though his height was like the height of cedars and he was as strong as the oaks; I also destroyed his fruit above and his roots [w-sharashaw] below.”
Even Yeshua (Jesus) used this metaphor of destroying the root of evil:
Mark 11:12-14, 20-24
On the next day, when they had left Bethany, He [Jesus] became hungry. Seeing from a distance a fig tree in leaf, He went to see if perhaps He would find anything on it; and when He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. And He said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again!” And His disciples were listening…
…As they were passing by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots up [Greek: rhizon]. And being reminded, Peter said to Him, “Rabbi, look, the fig tree that You cursed has withered.”
And Jesus answered and said to them, “Have faith in God. Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted to him. Therefore, I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted to you.”
Yeshua didn’t have a vendetta against the fig tree, He was merely making a point. He saw that the people were rooted in evil. The fig tree represented the people and He would eliminate them, “from the roots up”. To reverse the destruction, all the people had to do was pray, ask, believe and receive. That’s all it took to grow abundantly under God’s graces. A good root bears good fruit.
Yeshua drove the point home with a parable:
Mark 4:3-9, 13-20
“Listen to this! Behold, the sower went out to sow; as he was sowing, some seed fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate it up. Other seed fell on the rocky ground where it did not have much soil; and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of soil. And when the sun had risen, it was scorched; and because it had no root [Greek: rhizan], it withered away. Other seed fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked it, and it yielded no crop. Other seeds fell into the good soil, and as they grew up and increased, they yielded a crop and produced thirty, sixty, and a hundred times as much.” And He was saying, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
…And He said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How will you understand all the parables? The sower sows the word. These are the ones who are beside the road where the word is sown; and when they hear, immediately Satan comes and takes away the word which has been sown in them. And in a similar way these are the ones sown with seed on the rocky places, who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy; and yet they have no firm root [Greek: rhizan] in themselves, but are only temporary; then, when affliction or persecution occurs because of the word, immediately they fall away. And others are the ones sown with seed among the thorns; these are the ones who have heard the word, but the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of wealth, and the desires for other things enter and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. And those are the ones sown with seed on the good soil; and they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty, sixty, and a hundred times as much.”
Messiah: A Branch from the Root
Yeshua was the Anointed One (Messiah) promised by YHWH. This Messiah would redeem humanity and remove the curse of death which distanced them from YHWH. Isaiah described this Messiah to come as a Branch from the Root of Jesse:
Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch from his roots [mi-sharashaw] will bear fruit. The Spirit of YHWH will rest on Him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and strength, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of YHWH.
And He will delight in the fear of YHWH, and He will not judge by what His eyes see, nor make decisions by what His ears hear; but with righteousness He will judge the poor, and decide with fairness for the humble of the earth; and He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked.
Also righteousness will be the belt around His hips, and faithfulness the belt around His waist. And the wolf will dwell with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the young lion and the fattened steer will be together; and a little boy will lead them.
Also the cow and the bear will graze, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The nursing child will play by the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child will put his hand on the viper’s den.
They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of YHWH as the waters cover the sea.
Then on that day the nations will resort to the root of Jesse [shoresh Yi’shai], who will stand as a signal flag for the peoples; and His resting place will be glorious.
YHWH’s plan for redemption was worth celebrating! He would bring down His Adversary and raise up His people:
On that day YHWH will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, with His fierce and great and mighty sword, even Leviathan the twisted serpent; and He will kill the dragon who lives in the sea.
On that day, “A vineyard of beauty, sing of it! I, YHWH, am its keeper; I water it every moment. So that no one will damage it, I guard it night and day.
I have no wrath. Should someone give Me briars and thorns in battle, then I would step on them, I would burn them completely. Or let him rely on My protection, let him make peace with Me, let him make peace with Me.”
In the days to come Jacob will take root [ya-sh’resh], Israel will blossom and sprout, and they will fill the whole world with fruit.”
This image of the whole world bearing fruit is an image of completion. It is a picture of beauty and wholeness and a return to the Garden Kingdom of YHWH as it was meant to be. That is what peace (shalom) means: wholeness, completion, and YHWH’s plan coming to fruition.
It was the Messiah, Yeshua, who would bring it all to completion:
Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of YHWH been revealed? For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, and like a root [w-ka-shoresh] out of dry ground.
He has no stately form or majesty that we would look at Him, nor an appearance that we would take pleasure in Him.
He was despised and abandoned by men, a man of great pain and familiar with sickness; and like one from whom people hide their faces, He was despised, and we had no regard for Him.
However, it was our sicknesses that He Himself bore, and our pains that He carried; yet we ourselves assumed that He had been afflicted, struck down by God, and humiliated.
But He was pierced for our offenses, He was crushed for our wrongdoings; the punishment for our well-being was laid upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed.
All of us, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but YHWH has caused the wrongdoing of us all to fall on Him.
Root: Rising from the Dead
Psalm 53 outlined the story of the Messianic Suffering Servant who would carry the sins of the world, and bury them.
His death would bring us everlasting life, from beyond the grave and into the Kingdom of YHWH. Yeshua had to conquer death and the only way He could do that was by succumbing to it.
[Job:] “For there is hope for a tree, when it is cut down, that it will sprout again, and its shoots will not fail.
Though its roots [shar’show] grow old in the ground, and its stump dies in the dry soil, at the scent of water it will flourish and produce sprigs like a plant.
But a man dies and lies prostrate. a person passes away, and where is he?
As water evaporates from the sea, and a river becomes parched and dried up, so a man lies down and does not rise. Until the heavens no longer exist, he will not awake nor be woken from his sleep.
Oh that You would hide me in Sheol, that You would conceal me until Your wrath returns to You, that You would set a limit for me and remember me! If a man dies, will he live again?”
Yeshua’s execution answered Job’s question (“If a man dies, will he live again?”) with a resounding “Yes!”
The fact that Yeshua was crucified on a tree brings the metaphor to completion. The root of Jesse would grow and flourish like a well-watered vine, but it would be cut down early and killed on a tree. But it wasn’t the end of Him; He sprouted up again and came back to life… just as it was foretold:
Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been declared to you from the beginning?
Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, who stretches out the heavens like a curtain and spreads them out like a tent to live in.
It is He who reduces rulers to nothing, who makes the judges of the earth meaningless. Scarcely have they been planted, scarcely have they been sown, scarcely has their stock taken root [shoresh] in the earth, but He merely blows on them, and they wither, and the storm carries them away like stubble. To whom then will you compare Me that I would be his equal?” says the Holy One.
Raise your eyes on high and see who has created these stars, the One who brings out their multitude by number, He calls them all by name; because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power, not one of them is missing.”
YHWH is in control. We have nothing to worry about, or fear. As followers of YHWH we are well-rooted, and with prayer and study we can produce fruit that will nourish this entire world. Remember, if your roots are deep, whatever attacks you cannot destroy you. Feed your soul with His Word, pray and believe, and you will flourish, and grow tall and strong in His love. Shalom!
Next week: Snare/Trap