Have you ever noticed that the Bible is chock-full of gardens? Well, maybe you didn’t, but now you’re not going to be able to unsee it!
- The Bible both starts AND ends in a garden.
- The tabernacle & later the temple are modeled after Eden.
- Old Testament prophets frequently use planting parables to explain coming judgment and deliverance (Isaiah 5:1-7, Jeremiah 2:21, Psalm 80:8-16, Isaiah 37:30, Isaiah 65:21-22, Jeremiah 29:5 & 28, Ezekiel 28:26, Amos 9:14).
- Old Testament wisdom books use garden metaphors to explain prosperity and disaster.
- Jesus tells parables about fields and gardens non-stop.
- Jesus goes to Gethsemane (another garden) before he is betrayed by Judas Iscariot to the Jewish leaders.
- Jesus tells the criminal next to him on the cross that today he’ll be with Him in paradise (translated “garden”).
- Mary mistakes Jesus for the gardener after He is resurrected.
… and that’s just scratching the surface.
Heck, you can even buy a green-letter Bible that highlights all of the instances of God’s care and concern for creation. I’m not making this up! I’m intrigued by this (and might have to get myself a copy sometime!).
(this is an Amazon Affiliate link)
So why so much garden imagery in the Bible?
That’s a good question. In searching around I found a few different ideas:
- Gardens and agriculture were kind of a big deal in Ancient Near-Eastern Culture.
It wasn’t just the Israelites who were into their gardens. Sumerians (ancient Mesopotamians) believed in a creation story (Enki & Ninhursag) that focused on a garden. Plus, both cultures were positioned in the Fertile Crescent, an area known for the birth of agriculture / the cradle of civilization. Ancient hearers and readers would have understood a garden metaphor pretty well because they lived it (tilling the land) everyday.
- Gardens were kind of a big deal in mythologies of other cultures worldwide.
Check out this interesting video from Crash Course Mythology to see how pervasive they are (Crash Course’s other video are great, too, by the way):
- Tending a garden is a great metaphor for creating order out of chaos.
We see this in the story of the Garden of Eden. Everything is pretty soupy and primordial, and then becomes more ordered as God creates.
- Gardens are a great metaphor for spiritual growth and growing the Kingdom of God.
- Everyone can understand gardens as a symbol, because everyone has probably experienced a garden in some way.
As it turns out, there are many possible explanations as to why gardens are mentioned so frequently in the Bible. Some of these explanations have a lot of research and backing, and some are speculative. The truth is, we just don’t know 100% why God reveals His word to us in garden form!
Or maybe, just maybe, God likes to garden.
I think that’s the explanation that I’m going with. I’m just sayin’!
Wednesday: Weedling vs. Seedling – How to Tell the Difference
Next Sunday: 2021 Goal Check-In