Just the other day I was reading how Abraham, after making a covenant with Abimelech at Beersheba, planted a Tamarisk tree. It made me wonder, “Why the Tamarisk? What’s so special about that particular tree?” I love the Old Testament as it is full of imagery and prophetic pictures, even in something so obscure as the type of tree Abraham plants here.
Apparently, the Tamarisk is a great tree for seeking shade. For centuries, travellers, shepherds and indeed modern day tourists have sat under the same trees and no doubt felt the cool of their shade. Any observant, early morning shade-seeker would notice shiny droplets of water on the thinner branches. This is because the Tamarisk tree grows needles which excrete salt. During the night, as the moisture increases in the cooler air, the water vapour sticks to the salt particles and condenses into droplets. How beautiful the trees thick grey/green pillows of vapour look to anyone seeking freedom from thirst. As the morning sun comes and warms the air , so the water evaporates and cools the Tamarisk’s branches. Given that these trees can grow to 50 ft high and have such amazing features, we cannot be surprised that Abraham chose them over any other tree.
But it doesn’t end there!
When the Tamarisk flowers in Springtime its buds attract multitudes of bees who turn the toxic sap into a sweet honey substance. In the desert, such honeydew would rapidly dry out and become a solid, sticky “cake”. It is thought that this is the origin of “Manna” which God provided for the Israelites in the desert. Its name is derived from “Man Hu” which means “what is it”. Today it is considered a delicacy in the Middle East, and is a good source of carbohydrate, even if the Israelites got a bit fed up with it back in the day !
So here we have a picture of how God, through Abraham, provided the coolest shade and food for his children. Not just with any old tree, but with the beautiful Tamarisk. Clever isn’t he!
“How many are your works, Lord! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. There is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number – living things both large and small.”