The Terebinth Tree and “God as a gardener”

Judah and Tamar Tree Terebinth

Elizabeth and I love exploring God’s library called the Bible and also His library of creation. One of our favorite places to visit is Huntington Library and Gardens in San Marino, California. We usually make a point of stopping in the Library exhibition hall to visit the Gutenberg Bible display and then walking over to the herbal and Shakespeare Gardens. Often we have thought how wonderful it would be to actually develop a special garden dedicated to the plants found in the Word of God. As we read the Word this year, we will explore various markers which help those reading the Bible discover God’s rich tapestry. One such marker is botany in the Bible and in particular trees. One tree that has often caught our attention is the Terebinth tree which has been referred to 19 times in the TaNaK or Old Testament. Gen.12:6; Gen. 13:18 where Abram moved his tent; Gen. 14:13; Gen. 18:1 where “the Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks or terebinths of Mamre; as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day,” Gen35:4; Deu.11:30; 2 Samuel 18:9, 10, 14. 1Kings 13:14;1Chronicles 10:12; Isaiah 1:29, 30, 6:13, 44:14; Ezekiel 6:13, Hosea 4:13.

So while I was searching for answers I came across this treasure in the person of Carolyn Roth and her writings on the garden of God.

We’d like to introduce you to her site and an excerpt from her site “God as a Gardener.” I hope you”ll check it out. You’ll be blessed by her in depth study of His Word as it pertains to the various plants in the Bible, her understanding of the plants of the Bible and her devotional writing. May you be blessed, James and Elizabeth

We notice she also has written book which looks quite interesting.

Roth believes that her book, God as a Gardener is the answer for pastors, Christian educators, parents, and youth who want more than a superficial read of the Bible. The book contains 12 parables from the Old Testament and 12 from the New Testament. Dr. Roth described how a plant’s characteristics, whether a grain, fruit tree, or herb, made it the ideal vehicle to illustrate the parable’s spiritual meaning. The book is laid out as a Bible study with questions and reflections throughout each chapter.

Dr. Carolyn Roth is the creator and docent of St. John Lutheran Church Bible garden in Roanoke, Virginia. The Bible garden received the 2015 Bible Garden of the Year Award from the Biblical Botanical Garden Society – USA.

In the book, plants are beautifully illustrated by Maria Lin. Maria completed a painting of at least one plant for each of the 24 parables.

“The valley of “Elah” where Saul and the Israelites prepared to battle the Philistines received its name from terebinth trees growing there. The Hebrew word êlâh refers to Pistacia.  The pistacia of the Valley of Elah was the Pistacia terebinthus variation palaestina, also known as the Pistacia palestina, terebinth tree, turpentine tree, and by its Arabic name butm. Terebinth trees  grows on the lower slopes of mountains and in the hills Israel, where it is thought to be a native plant.  Generally, the terebinth grows as a solitary tree rather than in thickets or forests.  When left undisturbed, the terebinth can reach a height of 30–33 feet tall and live up to 1000 years. In ancient Israel, terebinth trees were well-known landmarks and sometimes used as memorials for the dead.  The terebinth develops a very deep and extensive root system; consequently, leaves are green even in years of drought.  Terebinths are deciduous trees, often with a short gnarled trunks and spreading boughs.  Limbs can be irregular and sharply angled.  Young branches are red in color as are sprouting leaf stems (petioles).  Terebinth trees can reproduce by fertilized seed, semi-woody cuttings, or by layering.  Even after being cut back to a small trunk, P. terebinthus may sprout and re-grow.

Symbolism: Solitary

Several authors  identified a symbolic meaning for the P.terebinthus to include as memorials to death, mighty or sturdy, and as representing knowledge of right and wrong which leads to peace and smoothness when living in society.  Although these meanings have value, the terebinth in the Valley of Elah is better associated with the word “solitary.”  Solitary means occurring singly, or being, or going alone without companions.  In the ancient Middle East, terebinth trees did not grow in groves or groups.  Usually, they grew alone without other trees around; thus, can   be seen from far distances and used to identify locations.  Similar to the terebinth growing alone, David went out to meet and to slay Goliath alone and without companions.”

The Author of the site “God as Gardener”:

As the site editor, participants should know I am a spiritual woman with a deep belief in God. Many friends would describe my Christian perspective as orthodox. I believe in the inspired, written word of God. I live in Roanoke, Virginia.  I am a Virginia Master Gardener and a Tree Steward.

This website/blog glorifies God within the context of earth as His garden, describes Bible  and other growing plants, and applies them to our Christian walk in the 21st century. On Creation day 3, God created vegetation, e.g., trees, herbs, flowers. On this site, the word plant will be used to encompass all types of vegetation.  God created plants right after He created the heavens (Day 2) and before He created the sun, moon, and stars (Day 4). This creative order demonstrates that God valued and had a purpose for the varied flora in our world. Our response to this creative process should first be love for the Creator and second a reverence for this earthly garden.

If you would like to see a full-size picture of the plant in the story, click on it and it will expand to fill the page. The contents of this website including pictures are copyright. You may use the materials after getting permission from the editor. If you use the materials in your writings or presentations, properly cite the website.

I am looking forward to your responses to my blogs. I will try to initiate a new discussion about every other week.

My Facebook page for this blog is:

Blessings, Carolyn”


Published by

James and Elizabeth Stephens

James and Elizabeth Stephens presently live in Southern California and have been married since 1978. In 1999, James completed a MA in Intercultural Studies specializing in Leadership Development and in 2010 Elizabeth completed an Associate in Science in Business Information Technology.

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