Sights and Insights: Chronological gymnastics

Simple elements like time and plants give lasting lessons on Passover.

By WAYNE STILES
February 20, 2012 15:39
4 minute read.
 Grinding stone at Neot Kedumim

Grinding stone at Neot Kedumim 390. (photo credit: BiblePlaces.com)

 
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Wayne Stiles has never recovered from his travels in the Holy Land. Follow him on Twitter (@WayneStiles) or on his blog at www.waynestiles.com.


The biblical landscape preserve in Israel, Neot Kedumim, is far more than an arboretum of biblical trees, plants, and gardens. Marvelously designed with the visitor in mind, the preserve purposes to help explain the vital connection the land had to the Bible itself.

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The land of Israel has always had a relationship with the Scriptures. In fact, because we’re observing Leap Year at the end of the month, I thought about the creative calendar-shifting that had to occur in Israel’s history. Its purpose had everything to do with the land.

God required the Hebrews to celebrate Passover at the appointed time of Abib, or Aviv (Exodus 23:15), a Hebrew word that refers to the time in spring when the grain begins to ripen. The first Passover occurred on the fifteenth day of Nisan, which became the first month of the Jewish calendar.

In a book called Nature in Our Biblical Heritage by Nogah Hareuveni, I learned that because the Jewish month goes from New Moon to New Moon—or every 29-1/2 days—the Jewish year loses eleven days according to the solar calendar each year. And because the sun determines the seasons and controls a plant’s development, the Hebrews had to compensate to make the lunar month of Nisan correspond to the month in which Abib, or springtime, occurred each year. So, about every third year they added an additional month to make up for the difference in calendars.

Succa at Neot Kedumim (Bibleplaces.com)I

This was all done for good reason. The Lord gave the Hebrews a plain explanation why the celebration should coincide with spring: “For [then] you came out of Egypt” (Exodus 23:15). If the nation didn’t add the extra month, the lunar calendar would cause the date for the Feast of Unleavened Bread to wander through the seasons year by year. Without the additional month, the holiday would still preserve its historical value, but it would have lost its agricultural connection to the Promised Land.



These chronological gymnastics revealed a simple lesson. By keeping the union between the Exodus and the spring, the Hebrews had a consistent, tangible reminder that the same God who redeemed them also provided their sustenance each year.

As I strolled among the biblical gardens of Neot Kedumim, I marveled at seeing the flora and fauna spoken of in the Bible, including a tall cedar of Lebanon, donated by the Lebanese army. I also observed a small hyssop branch and was reminded of David’s plea for forgiveness in Psalm 51:7, “Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.”

Winepress at Neot Kedumim (Bibleplaces.com)

The hyssop’s blooms served as an excellent sponge and found their use in a number of sacrificial rites in Israel—beginning with applying the blood of the Passover lamb to the doorway during the Exodus (Exodus 12:22; Leviticus 14:4ff; Numbers 19:18). In fact, out of the twelve uses of “hyssop” in the Bible, eleven occur in the context of purification.

David’s prayer uses hyssop as a metaphor that indicates the means of his forgiveness: through the blood of a sacrifice. I find it fascinating that the only mention of hyssop in the Gospel narratives comes at the very moment Jesus died on the cross at Passover (John 19:29-30).

After I left the preserve, I had to marvel at the genius of God. Whether through creative calendar shifting, or through a little hyssop plant, the Lord used simple elements like time and florae to connect the land to the redemptive lessons of Passover.

What to Do There:
At Neot Kedumim, explore the various flora and fauna spoken of in the Bible as well as observe the cultural recreations such as grinding stone, and olive screw press, sukkah, a threshing floor with sledge, a water wheel, and a winepress. You can also read Psalm 51 if you find a hyssop plant.

How to Get There:
If you travel ten minutes east from Ben-Gurion Airport, Neot Kedumim is located between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv on Route 443.


This column was adapted from Wayne Stiles’ books, Going Places with God: A Devotional Journey through the Lands of the Bible (Ventura, Calif.: Regal Books, 2006) and Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus: A Journey through the Lands and Lessons of Christ (Ventura, Calif.: Regal Books, 2008). Used by permission.

Wayne Stiles has never recovered from his travels in the Holy Land. Follow him on Twitter (@WayneStiles) or on his blog at www.waynestiles.com.

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