What Do Costumes Have to Do With the Book of Esther?

Recently, I participated in a “Table Topics” discussion with Jeremy Legatzke on Hebraic Roots Network. (I’m sure it will air pretty soon.) The topic was Purim. Jeremy prepared several questions that tend to be controversial about this Feast of the People. One question was about the tradition of dressing up or wearing costumes. Pondering this question caused me to dig for an answer. Jeremy quoted from a Haaretz article that states that donning costumes during Purim began in the 14th century as an alternative to lent. Is this tradition a tare that needs to be uprooted or is there a Biblical precedent for this custom?

While I do not agree with the scary Halloween-ish type of costumes, dressing up as Biblical or historical characters can be used as a good (and fun) teaching tool, especially for children. This is true not just for Purim, but at other times as well. Dramatic or associative play (dress-up) is an important part of child development that teaches self-regulation, conflict resolution, and empathy. It encourages imagination, creativity, and language and math development. It also relieves stress, tension, and helps children to deal with traumatic circumstances.

None of this should be surprising to a Bible believer or something we should fear. God made us to be imitators of HIM, so naturally, children learn by imitating the adults they encounter. One year, we dressed up for our Passover Seder and it was one of the most memorable we’ve ever experienced, which is the primary POINT of the Seder.

But, what about Purim? First, it is helpful to do a concordance search on clothing, garments, robes, coverings, adornments, etc. The Word of God actually has A LOT to say about garments. In every generation, clothing has played an integral role as a mark of rank, status, royalty, righteousness, gender, holiness, wickedness, mourning, bridal attire, authority, service, and more. These coverings and what they represent are used literally, figuratively, and metaphorically in the Bible. The first mention of clothing is in Genesis:

Gen 3:21 (NASB) The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.

(I’ve written some thoughts about these “garments of skin” here and here.) The last mention of clothing is in Revelation:

Rev 22:14 (NASB) Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city.

(I hope you meditate on those two verses for a while, as I believe they teach a profound lesson.) We could spend years exploring garments, the change of garments, and other adornments in the Bible. For now, consider rereading the Book of Esther and underlining or highlighting every time you see a mention of robes, changing clothes, coverings, and other royal attire such as crowns, scepters, and signet rings. That is what I did and it revealed a new dynamic to this fascinating story. If you have a good imagination, you can also picture the attire not mentioned that other characters in the story would have worn. For example, how would one know if a person was part of the royal court, harem, officials, or army if not for their garments?

Wardrobe reveals much about a person. If we see someone wearing a white coat and a stethoscope, we know that individual is a doctor. If we see a man in a blue uniform with a badge, we know that he is a police officer. So, what do the garments in the book of Esther reveal?

Esther Told Through Apparel

  • Queen Vashti’s crown is taken due to her refusal to come at the king’s command. (Est. 1:11,19)
  • Esther is given the crown because she found favor in the king’s eyes and becomes queen. (Est. 2:17)
  • The king gives his signet ring to Haman; giving him the authority to send out a decree to destroy the Jews. (Est. 3:10-15)
  • Mordechai learns of Haman’s plan to annihilate the Jews, tears his clothes, and puts on sackcloth and ashes. (Est. 4:1-2)
  • Many other Jews did the same. (Est. 4:3)
  • Esther donned royal robes to approach the king on his throne. The King extends his golden scepter to Esther and offers her not only her life and favor, but up to half of his kingdom. (Est. 5:1-3)
  • Haman, thinking the king wanted to honor him, tells the king to array a man in the king’s robes and parade him around the city on the king’s royal horse on whose head the royal crown has been placed. (Est. 6:7-9)
  • The king tells Haman to honor Mordecai by doing exactly that. Dress him in the king’s robe and lead him around the city proclaiming, “Thus shall it be done to a man the king desires to honor.” (Est. 6:10-11)
  • Haman was so humiliated that he went home mourning with his “head covered.” (Est. 6:12)
  • When Esther revealed herself and Haman’s plot at the second wine banquet, the king left in his fury. When he returned, he found Haman falling on the couch where Esther sat. The king accused Haman of assaulting Esther, and they (the king’s guard) COVERED Haman’s face. (Est. 7:8)
  • The king took his signet ring off Haman and gave it Mordecai. (Est. 8:2)
  • Mordecai and Esther wrote new decrees in the king’s name and sealed it with the signet ring, so the Jews could fight and defend themselves. (Est. 8:8,10)
  • Mordecai wore royal robes of blue and white linen, a large crown of gold, and another outer garment of purple and linen. (Est. 8:15)

In a sense, the entire plot reversal in the Book of Esther is told through what is “worn.” Can you see how a tradition of dressing up or wearing costumes and masks could have arisen from the Biblical text? This is just the surface level of the story. If we dig deeper, there is more! I’ll give a couple of examples.

Did the King’s Horse Wear a Crown?

Est. 6:8 (NASB)  let them bring a royal robe which the king has worn, and the horse on which the king has ridden, and on whose head a royal crown has been placed…

It’s obvious that Haman’s pride and unbridled desire for recognition and power had no bounds. This wasn’t lost on King Ahasuerus. Some scholars believe that the Persian horses wore crown-like adornments, especially those used by the royal family, but others disagree. I tend to side with the latter view based on the Hebrew text. The “royal crown” mentioned in the verse above is “מלכות כתר” or keter malkhut. It is used in two other places in the Book of Esther:

Est. 1:11 (NASB) to bring Queen Vashti before the king with her royal crown in order to display her beauty to the people and the princes, for she was beautiful.

Est. 2:17 (NASB) The king loved Esther more than all the women, and she found favor and kindness with him more than all the virgins, so that he set the royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti.

This “royal crown” is different than the large crown of gold (atarah gadol) that was given for Mordecai to wear.[1] Both display authority, but only one represents the actual kingdom, a feminine Hebrew word. Based on the usage of this Hebrew phrase, some scholars believe that what Haman actually requested was not the king’s crown or his horse’s, but the crown of the queen! Even though Haman was second in the kingdom, he wanted more. He wanted to be THE king and have his wife, the queen, too. This isn’t an outrageous interpretation considering what happened when the king returned from his anger at the second wine banquet. He found Haman falling onto the couch (or bed) with Esther.

Est. 7:8 (NKJV) When the king returned from the palace garden to the place of the banquet of wine, Haman had fallen across the couch where Esther was. Then the king said, “Will he also assault the queen while I am in the house?” As the word left the king’s mouth, they covered Haman’s face.

Ironically, it was this suspicion and judgment that cost Haman his life, not his hatred for the Jews. No one messes with the wife of the king and gets away with it!

Before Esther approached the king unannounced, she had not been summoned in thirty days. (Est. 4:11) Perhaps, the king had already grown bored with her. When she boldly approached him on his throne and invited him and Haman to a “wine banquet,” it intrigued the king. What could she want? To add to the mystery, she didn’t divulge her request at the first banquet, but invited him and Haman to another one the next evening.

After the first banquet, the king couldn’t sleep. Can you blame him? You know he had to be wondering why in the world she (his queen and wife) only invited him and Haman to these specially prepared wine banquets. He tried to ease his troubled and suspicious mind by having the book of records read to him. This is how he discovered that Mordecai had saved his life.

Thus, the next day, all his worry and suspicion is fresh on his mind when he asks Haman how he should honor a man that he desires to honor. Do you think he might have been extra sensitive to Haman using the words “keter malkhut”? After this display, King Ahasuerus was likely wondering if Haman wanted not only his woman, the queen, but also his kingdom and position. I believe this is why he acted so sharply and abruptly when he saw Haman falling onto the couch with Esther. It was a confirmation of all his suspicions!

Haman essentially wanted to switch clothes (roles) with the king. Instead, he ended up wearing the very noose he had prepared for Mordecai! Or perhaps more accurately, a very large pike was adorned with Haman’s head as a warning to all who defied the crown.

Concealed and Revealed

Another common theme in the Book of Esther is hidden motives, hidden identities, and even a hidden God (YHWH’s Name doesn’t appear in the Esther even though His divine providence is seen throughout the book.) Costumes and masks “hide” or “conceal” what is underneath. Esther concealed the fact that she was a Jew at the command of Mordecai, though the writer is sure to tell us that they are from the tribe of Benjamin. (Est. 2)

The author also reveals the lineage of Haman:

Est. 3:1 (NASB) After these events King Ahasuerus promoted Haman, the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, and advanced him and established his authority over all the princes who were with him.

Haman is called the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, or of the Agagites. This recalls Agag the king of the Amalekites, conquered and taken prisoner by Saul, and hewn in pieces by Samuel. (1 Sam. 15:8,33) It also harkens back to when the children of Israel first crossed the Reed (Red) Sea and were attacked by the Amalekites. (Ex. 17:8-16) Hence, both Jewish and Christian expositors regard Haman as a descendant of the Amalekite king, who was a descendant of Esau.

If this is the case, Haman’s hatred of Mordecai and the Jews is a very old sibling rivalry that dates back to Jacob and Esau. On a spiritual level, this is the battle of appetites and desires (flesh) with the truth of the Word of God and His Torah. On the outside, Esau wore the skin of the firstborn, but he was ruled by his flesh rather than the Spirit of God. He acted rashly and without concern for his birthright, because he’d rather be in the field like a beast. But Jacob was a peaceful man of the tents, an idiom for Torah study. Thus, Esau’s stomach of desire sold the divine birthright to Jacob for a bowl of red (earth/flesh-like) soup.

Rebekah was given a Word from the LORD while the boys were still in her womb that the older would serve the younger. And, when an aged and blind (physically and spiritually) Isaac went to bless the boys before he died, Rebekah counseled Jacob to dress up or wear the beast-like costume of Esau.

Jacob disguised his identity by donning the garments of his brother and received the blessing of the firstborn, which YHWH said belonged to him in the first place.

Gen. 27:15 (NASB) Then Rebekah took the best garments of Esau her elder son, which were with her in the house, and put them on Jacob her younger son.

At first glance, this activity appears to be highly deceptive. I believe we are meant to wrestle with this story. What was really happening here? Did Rebekah and Jacob sin or did they fulfill God’s plan in an unorthodox way? Wasn’t there a way for YHWH’s intended son to receive the birthright and the blessing without such “trickery”?  To add to our struggle, the Word never says that Rebekah or Jacob sinned by going through with their plan.

Israel (Jacob) received the blessing while he was wearing the costume of Esau! Some rabbis teach that this is the real reason for the tradition of wearing costumes on Purim. Descendants of Jacob and Esau met again in Persia, and once again Esau sought the life of Jacob. But also once again, there was a heavenly reversal and Jacob (Mordecai) receives the eminent position that Esau (Haman) sought.

There are some deep lessons to be learned by wearing the garments of another. If children benefit from this activity in the natural, what do you suppose the spiritual counterpart is?

I think the answer is found in Genesis chapter 1:

Gen. 1:27 (NASB) God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

We are to be the image of God in the earth. We are to be imitators of the Messiah.[2] We are to be clothed in garments of salvation and robed in His righteousness.[3] But in doing so, sometimes we must beat the beast at his own game of masquerading as an angel of light. Things are not always what they seem. Sometimes we think we are dealing with a harlot, and she’s really a righteous woman doing the will of God. Sometimes we think a ruler is a foreign pagan, and he’s really our brother.

Esau still hates Jacob, even if he offers a kiss. We need to discern these twins within ourselves first. Like Esther, many of us live in exile. But also like Esther, we are daughters of Abihail. (Est.2:15) In Hebrew, Abihail is Av + chayil. Our Father is a strong Warrior!

We recall righteous Tamar that took off her garments of widowhood and concealed her identity from Judah, which procured the line of Judah and the Messiah. We recall Joseph who dressed and spoke like an Egyptian, and saved not only the nation of Israel, but also many others. We remember that the outside of the cup can be deceiving. The children of light give others the benefit of doubt. They are not quick to judge or speak. They do not promote unforgiveness or hatred, even when they are betrayed and hurt. They are image-bearers of God and not a red, hairy beast of the field.

If wearing a costume or dressing up occasionally can teach me to be more like my Daddy, more empathetic to other’s plights, and confuse the schemes of the enemy, then that’s what I want to do.



[1] Est. 8:15 (NASB) Then Mordecai went out from the presence of the king in royal robes of blue and white, with a large crown of gold and a garment of fine linen and purple; and the city of Susa shouted and rejoiced.

[2] 1 Cor. 1:11, Eph. 5:1

[3] Is. 61:10

Categories: Biblical Symbols, Moedim | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Torah Portion: Beshalach, A New Creation

 Exodus 13:17-17:16, Judges 4:4-5:31

In my last post on Chodesh Shevat, trees and fruit, and tasting that fruit were the central theme. I used the analogy of people being trees that produce fruit to bring out a deeper spiritual meaning for the new month, the New Year for Trees, and living a life devoted to God. One of the lessons of trees and taste buds is RENEWAL.

The idea of being born anew, having a change of status, and being refined into a “new” creation is evident in every aspect of the natural world that YHWH created. The new moon (month) is just one of the heavenly governors that proclaims this message. The Good News is taught in various and sundry ways to those with ears to hear.

This week’s Torah portion, Beshalach, is one of my favorites. There are so many wondrous events that one could spend weeks, if not years, on this one portion. I just happened to pull up Rabbi David Fohrman’s alephbeta.org and the following video captured my attention. The creation week is THE cycle; it is the great archetype for everything we see in both the natural and the spiritual. The seven moedim (feast days) exemplify this week and the Good News beautifully.

Creation Gospel students of Dr. Hollisa Alewine have explored the notion that the creation week can be seen in the exodus from Egypt in workbook one. Rabbi Fohrman furthers this imagery by presenting the listener with a midrash about the sea parting to expose dry ground, and fruit trees appearing as the children walk through the sea. Where do the rabbis get the idea that trees appeared? Could this metaphor be a depiction of the people walking through the sea as trees of righteousness? Is the fruit a reminder of the fullness of the creation week (Shabbat) and the feast of the fruit harvest (Sukkot)? Is the midrash a foreshadowing of returning to Eden?

I hope you’ll watch and find out in this month of taste and “trees.”

Beshalach: Fruit Trees In the Sea?

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Chodesh Shevat: Taste and See

Ps. 34:8 (NASB) O taste and see that the LORD is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!

The eleventh Hebrew month is called Shevat in Zechariah 1:7. Shevat is a cognate of shevet; meaning branch, rod, scepter, scion, staff, and tribe.[1] In the Land of Israel, Shevat gives the first indicators of spring as the almond trees “wake up” and sprout green buds as a sign of new (resurrected) life. Tu’B’Shevat, the 15th of Shevat, commemorates the New Year for Trees in Jewish tradition. (Read more about that here.)

© Victor Torres | Dreamstime.com

Almond buds and blossoms are also associated with authority. Consider Aaron’s rod that budded and blossomed overnight with fully ripe almonds after Korah’s rebellion and the consequent plague upon the people. (Num.16-17) This sign (oht) revealed that Aaron was YHWH’s chosen high priest, and that he operated in the fullness of the Holy Spirit, as indicated by the fully ripe fruit on his rod. It wasn’t happenstance that the rod or branch of the almond was chosen to display this sign, as almond trees flower and bear fruit earlier than all the fruit trees in Israel. Therefore, almonds are שָׁקֵד (sheked) in Hebrew; a word that also means to awake or watch (shakad).

Jer. 1:11-12 (NASB) The word of the LORD came to me saying, “What do you see, Jeremiah?” And I said, “I see a rod of an almond tree.” 12 Then the LORD said to me, “You have seen well, for I am watching over My word to perform it.”

The imagery of wakefulness, resurrection, counsel, correction, and authority are also symbolized in the design of the holy golden menorah. It, too, has almond blossoms, buds, and even seven watery-like eyes filled with fiery olive oil. Traditionally, the eleventh month of Shevat merges these themes together with the human faculty of taste and the stomach, i.e. eating.

At first glance, this notion seems a little odd. Haven’t we clearly detected the connections of trees, especially almond trees, with the current season and (spiritual) sight? We could even add light, vision, the Word, and the fullness of the Holy Spirit to these ideas as both the almond tree and the menorah tree represent these concepts beautifully. So why then, do the rabbis suggest that Shevat is associated with taste?

Taste Buds

Contemplating this question led me to do a little research on the tongue and taste buds. The average human tongue is about three inches long with 2,000 to 4,000 taste buds. The tongue is made up of 8 different muscles that intertwine with each other creating a flexible matrix that work independently of the skeleton.

The tongue’s pink and white bumps that are visible to the human eye are called papillae. Each papilla contains 1 to 700 taste buds, depending upon its location on the tongue.[2] Taste buds have ten to fifty sensory cells that are intermittently renewed about every ten days.[3] The arrangement of these cells looks like the bud of a flower; hence, the name “taste buds.”[4]

Taste is some combination of sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami (savory).[5] Contrary to what many were taught in school, all areas of the tongue can detect each of these tastes. Like all of the human senses, taste enables one to discern the world around them. Taste (often along with the sense of smell) is how we discern what we are ingesting. But “eating” doesn’t begin with the tongue and one’s taste buds. We eat with our eyes first. Like Chavah (Eve), the fruit is first pleasing to the eyes before it is deemed good to eat.

Taste and Shevat

Now that the science lesson is over, how does this relate to the month of Shevat? People are often compared to trees in Scripture.[6] Humans have limbs, trunks, and grow roots. People can flourish or wither, and produce fruit. Fruit is an indicator of health and reproduction. Seeds reside Inside the fruit, and have the potential to produce a whole new tree. Messiah compares man to trees:

Mat. 7:15-20 (NASB) “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.  16  “You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they?  17  “So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.  18  “A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit.  19  “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  20  “So then, you will know them by their fruits.

The appearance of the tree is not a good indicator of whether that tree (man) is good or evil. We are to look for proper fruit, as outlined by Paul in Galatians 5.

Gal. 5:22-23 (NASB)  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  23  gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

No matter how appealing the outward appearance is to one’s eyes, human sight, like all senses, can be deceiving. Tasting fruit offers one an additional measure of discernment. What does your tongue tell you? Is the fruit sweet? Sour? Bitter? Salty? Is there a seed inside the fruit?

Taste buds look like a flower bud or blossom under the microscope. Do you think this is a coincidence? These little receptors receive what is ingested and send that signal to the brain as a form of warning or delight. Even if one’s eyes indicate that the fruit is a delight, the taste buds will know whether the fruit is bitter or sweet.

My mother expressed an insightful notion as we were discussing this the other night. She said, “Most people cannot accept the ‘seed’ we offer them because it is encased in a shell (fruit) of bitterness.” Their tongues reject our words and even truth because their senses of discernment are not getting the signals of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Thus, the bitterness is spit out; and with it, the truth we claim to be espousing.

Perhaps the problem isn’t that the fruit is bad, but immature. Young, unripe fruit has a sour taste that can cause intestinal distress. The Torah gives commandments for the appropriate time to consume fruit from trees, but what if trees are also people?

Lev. 19:23-25 (NASB) ‘When you enter the land and plant all kinds of trees for food, then you shall count their fruit as forbidden. Three years it shall be forbidden to you; it shall not be eaten.  24  ‘But in the fourth year all its fruit shall be holy, an offering of praise to the LORD.  25  ‘In the fifth year you are to eat of its fruit, that its yield may increase for you; I am the LORD your God.

© Igor Dolgov | Dreamstime.com

The Torah further directs one in how to handle fruit trees in a time of war; they are not to be cut down or destroyed. Are we not in a very real and ongoing spiritual battle? Mind the fruit trees, please.

Dt. 20:19-20 (NASB)  “When you besiege a city a long time, to make war against it in order to capture it, you shall not destroy its trees by swinging an axe against them; for you may eat from them, and you shall not cut them down. For is the tree of the field a man, that it should be besieged by you?  20  “Only the trees which you know are not fruit trees you shall destroy and cut down, that you may construct siegeworks against the city that is making war with you until it falls.

Taste and See

Taste and then see the fruit of the trees (people). The Word offers some help for one’s taste buds. Sometimes, these tools of discernment need to be renewed, just as we do. Thankfully, Adonai’s design of the tongue enables it to do just that. Within weeks, one can have a mouth filled with new taste buds that crave the good and not the bad. But even then, some tastes require an extra measure of discernment. Consider the following:

Umami (savory)

An aged Isaac had trouble with his physical sight and his sense of taste. His discernment was off, leaving Rebekah to steer the circumstances back toward the instruction the LORD originally gave while she was pregnant. The older will serve the younger.

Gen. 25:28 (NASB) Now Isaac loved Esau, because he had a taste for game, but Rebekah loved Jacob.

Appetites are deceiving and can impair spiritual vision if one is ruled by their mighty impulses. In Isaac’s case, the result was a lack of sight and taste for Adonai’s plan for his younger son Jacob. Savory is a pleasant taste from animal fats and proteins. May that craving not be for wild game, but for the sacrifices of flesh laid upon the holy altar!


As soon as Adonai redeemed Israel from the bondage of Egypt and walked them through the baptismal waters of the Reed (Red) Sea, their first stop was Marah, a place of bitterness.

Ex. 15:23-25 (NASB)  When they came to Marah, they could not drink the waters of Marah, for they were bitter; therefore it was named Marah.  24  So the people grumbled at Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?”  25  Then he cried out to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a tree; and he threw it into the waters, and the waters became sweet. There He made for them a statute and regulation, and there He tested them.

Can you imagine experiencing the ten mighty miracles in Egypt, plundering your Egyptian taskmasters, fleeing from Pharaoh and being protected by a pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire, walking through the parted Sea of Reeds on dry ground, and then watching as the waters returned, swallowing the enemy and his army? That’s the setting for the bitter waters of Marah. The people grumbled (lun – H3885) at Moses because the water was bitter to their taste buds. It’s hard to imagine, but I wonder if we don’t do this very thing.

God answered by showing Moses “a tree.” What do you suppose this tree was? Or more mystically, WHO was this tree? What or who sweetens the bitter waters? Bitterness is an unpleasant taste that warns the brain to reject (spit out) the liquid or solid. The writer of Hebrews reminds believers to pursue peace with all men and sanctification, so that a root of bitterness doesn’t take root in one’s heart that will defile not only the person, but those around them. (Heb. 12:13-15)

Even after salvation and redemption, sanctification is necessary. Failing to submit to this difficult process is akin to allowing bitterness to grow, which defiles the living waters.[7] The Book of Hebrews continues with an admonition to remember the ungodly appetites (tastes) of Esau. We need the counsel of the Tree of Life, the Holy Word, Yeshua the Messiah, to sweeten the waters as He tenderly leads us through the sanctification process.

Drinking bitter waters is also a test. Consider the Sotah, the woman accused of adultery in Numbers 5. She literally drinks a curse as she is bared before the priest. If she is guilty, she will suffer the curse; but if she is innocent, she will not be harmed and will go on to produce holy fruit.


In the verses below, YHWH relates the Sabbath and the provision He provides to both sight and taste.

Ex. 16:28-31 (NASB) Then the LORD said to Moses, “How long do you refuse to keep My commandments and My instructions?  29  “See, the LORD has given you the sabbath; therefore He gives you bread for two days on the sixth day. Remain every man in his place; let no man go out of his place on the seventh day.”  30  So the people rested on the seventh day.  31  The house of Israel named it manna, and it was like coriander seed, white, and its taste was like wafers with honey.

Sabbath rest is a holy space in time, a refuge where Adonai provides bread for the whole man. It is like wafers and honey to the taste buds that ingest its wondrous and heavenly flavor. Many are like ancient Israel and cannot fathom how this strange substance has worth. They declare, “What is it?” Eyes alone are deceiving.

Sometimes we confuse sweet and bitter:

Is. 5:20 (NASB) Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!

This is because we have been tasting and ingesting the words (seeds/fruit) of the harlot or wicked woman instead of the Holy Spirit of Wisdom.

Pr. 5:3-4 (NASB)  For the lips of an adulteress drip honey And smoother than oil is her speech;  4  But in the end she is bitter as wormwood, Sharp as a two-edged sword.

Our taste buds need time to regenerate and heal to their proper function. This is why fasting is beneficial to both the natural and the spirit man.[8] When the flesh is denied the things that it craves, taste buds have time to renew and desire that which is truly good and helpful to the body and the spirit. Beastly scales fall from the eyes when the spirit rules over the lower nature. That is how one can proclaim with joy and gladness:

Ps. 119:103-104 (NASB) How sweet are Your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!  104 From Your precepts I get understanding; Therefore I hate every false way.

But, there is another side to this coin, a holy mandate, that makes the sweet, bitter. The double-edged sword of the Word of the LORD slices through bone and marrow, soul (nephesh) and spirit, and judgment falls on those things that do not belong and on those that refuse to repent.

Ezek. 3:3,14 (NASB)  He said to me, “Son of man, feed your stomach and fill your body with this scroll which I am giving you.” Then I ate it, and it was sweet as honey in my mouth… So the Spirit lifted me up and took me away; and I went embittered in the rage of my spirit, and the hand of the LORD was strong on me.

Delivering the honey of the Word is a difficult task. One must endure many stings to extract its sweet amber. What is delightfully sweet to the taste buds of the righteous is bitter to the stomach of fleshly appetites and desire. YHWH gave Ezekiel a mission to be a watchman and prophet to rebellious Israel. He endured bitter circumstances to deliver the golden Words of the LORD’s judgment. John’s experience mirrored Ezekiel:

Rev. 10:9-11 (NASB) So I went to the angel, telling him to give me the little book. And he *said to me, “Take it and eat it; it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey.”  10  I took the little book out of the angel’s hand and ate it, and in my mouth it was sweet as honey; and when I had eaten it, my stomach was made bitter.  11  And they *said to me, “You must prophesy again concerning many peoples and nations and tongues and kings.”

True prophets and prophecy requires dealing with the bitterness of God’s judgment on stinky flesh. The delivery vessel must suffer many tribulations for the sake of righteousness, a process that is very unpleasant to the stomach (appetites and desires of human flesh), but sweet to the taste buds of godly discernment. Only a Holy Spirit filled person could endure this bittersweet calling and mission. David, the anointed king, rejoiced in the judgments of YHWH:

Ps. 19:9-10 (NASB) The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the LORD are true; they are righteous altogether.  10 They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb.

If your obedient service to YHWH is bittersweet, rejoice! For He is faithful and true! You are His planting, a mighty oak. Taste and See the liquid gold promises of Messiah:

Is. 61:1-3 (NASB) The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, Because the LORD has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners;  2  To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn,  3  To grant those who mourn in Zion, Giving them a garland instead of ashes, The oil of gladness instead of mourning, The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.


The Hebrew word for sour is related to chametz, leavened grains. Fermented breads in the ancient world were all sour dough types. Most often leavened grains (chametz) are figurative of the small foreign agents multiplying rapidly to puff up a person in pride or other sin. This makes one sour or defiled. Closely linked to this notion is the sense of sight, as one is to be watchful of the kneading bowl and thoroughly inspect the house during the days of Unleavened Bread. As Paul says, just a little leaven will infect the whole lump of dough![9]

1Cor. 5:7-8 (NASB)  Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed.  8  Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

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There is no mistaking that Paul is comparing the sourness of leaven to the actions (and words) of people in the context of the chapter above. The people he references are believers, not those lost to the world. Recall the original Passover and Unleavened Bread. Israel’s first stop was Marah with its bitter waters. If one fails to search out the leaven of the heart, the sour chametz will puff up like the chest of a wild beast of the field to create wickedness and eventually bitterness among even the Household of God. What’s the remedy?

1Cor. 5:11 (NASB) But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one.

Hopefully, being removed from the camp will spring up a well of repentance in such a person’s heart. Regardless, the yeast infection is stayed from infecting the rest of the local body. Our duty is to daily examine our own hearts for the sourness of pride. The indicators (fruits) are a dead giveaway as to what is truly growing in the soil. Check for the sweet attributes of the fruit of the Holy Spirit, and remove what doesn’t belong. In Psalm 34, David tells us to taste and see that the LORD is good. Taste, in order to “see” properly. This is also to true for our words. Taste your words before you spit them out. Don’t let the putrid smell of decaying flesh be on your breath. May your lips drip with the fragrant honey of the Word and fruit (words and action) of the Spirit.


Lev. 2:13 (NASB)  ‘Every grain offering of yours, moreover, you shall season with salt, so that the salt of the covenant of your God shall not be lacking from your grain offering; with all your offerings you shall offer salt.

Eliminate salt from your diet and discover how mundane and boring eating and tasting can become. Salt adds life and delight to any type of food; even the best dessert needs a pinch of salt to bring out the richness and sweetness. Salt CHANGES the taste of food (it never works the other way around). It makes food and drink palatable and yummy. All sacrifices are offered with salt. Salt was not only a great commodity in the ancient world, but was a symbol of covenant in the near east.[10] Salt and a meal between families bound them together.

Too little salt and the taste is not as appealing. Too much salt, and something can hardly be swallowed, and can even result in poisoning. But with the right amount, flavor bursts in the mouth causing delight. This is what we are to be to other people; the thing that causes them to rejoice and crave more.

Col. 4:5-6 (NASB) Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity.  6  Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.

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Salt is a great cleanser and food preservative. It prevents decay and kills many harmful bacteria. Interestingly, Elisha purified the waters in Jericho with salt. (2 Kings 2) The bottom line is that salt can kill or heal. We must discern a healthy amount to use both literally and figuratively. Messiah said:

Mat. 5:13 (NASB) “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.

Salt also causes thirst. Our speech should cause others to hunger and thirst for righteousness, not suffer dehydration. Living Waters are to flow like a river from our innermost being. This IS the Holy Spirit, a river of Life and of Eden. If we have become salt that is no longer salty, or a pillar of salt that continually longs for the world, there is no life. We are a dry well. May Abba cast such a one into His watery refining fires of cleansing and renewal. May He sprinkle fresh water upon your soul.

Ezek. 36:24-27 (NASB)  “For I will take you from the nations, gather you from all the lands and bring you into your own land.  25  “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols.  26  “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.  27  “I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.


Taste and see! In conclusion, there is one last association for the month of Shevat that ties into the theme of taste. The tribe of Shevat is Asher. Asher means to be happy, blessed, to advance and walk straight. Perhaps Jacob and Moses’ blessings over this son and tribe will have a deeper meaning considering the faculty of taste just explored.

Gen. 49:20 (NASB) “As for Asher, his food shall be rich (fat), And he will yield royal dainties.”

Dt. 33:24-25 (NASB)  Of Asher he said, “More blessed than sons is Asher; May he be favored by his brothers, And may he dip his foot in oil.  25  “Your locks will be iron and bronze, And according to your days, so will your leisurely walk be.

Asher’s food (fruit) is fat and rich, a feast fit for a King and his court. He is a picture of one that offers the thirsty, hungry, and battle weary true refreshment. He spreads happiness and revitalizes the weak. This is how he yields “royal dainties.” He serves from the King’s table. Does this remind you of the wedding supper of the Lamb?

Moses, through the inspiration of the Ruach HaKodesh, blesses the tribe of Asher last. He is the eleventh-hour tribe (of the eleventh month). Moses says Asher is the MOST blessed of the sons. When his fruit is pressed (tested), his walk (foot) is revealed to be dipped in the sweet oil of the Holy Spirit. Verse 25 above uses the English word “locks” to describe the Hebrew word man’al, meaning sandal or shoe latches or the thing that secures one’s shoes. To have your “feet shod with the preparation with the Gospel of Peace,” remember the happiness of Asher. (Eph. 6:15)

Is. 52:7 (NASB)  How lovely on the mountains Are the feet of him who brings good news, Who announces peace And brings good news of happiness, Who announces salvation, And says to Zion, “Your God reigns!”

Asher is a reminder of the happiness to come in the fullness of the Kingdom of God and his banquet table of royal dainties. Asher has the oil from holy trees that others come to “purchase.” His delicacies make him favored among the brethren because they can “taste and see” the richness of the Holy Spirit in the actions and words that drip like oil and honey from his lips. They are a balm of healing and delight, a reminder of the King’s Table. May you be like Asher as a holy tree of life, and not the Asherim of deaf and dumb idols.

May this new month bring renewal and blessings upon you and your households. May it truly be a New Year for Trees (people) in your assemblies. May your tongue be used as a wise discerner of truth. May you be happy like Asher with the richness of the bread (Word) of God, and may you yield a banquet fit for the King and His Kingdom.

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Update: After reading this article, a dear reader sent me the following song by Andrew Peterson. It’s called “The Sower’s Song.” I can’t express the magnitude of how much Adonai is glorified in it! Enjoy!

[1] The word Shevat (שְׁבָט) is also phonetically related to Shabbat (שַׁבָּת). The letters tet and tav, both letters of the tongue, can be interchangeable.

[2] http://www.monell.org/news/fact_sheets/monell_taste_primer

[3] http://jcb.rupress.org/content/jcb/27/2/263.full.pdf


[4] Learn more here.

[5] Flavor is a combination of taste plus smell, which is how your brain registers scent when you  eat something. I hope to explore flavor and smell in a later in post.

[6] For example, see: Dt. 20:19, Is. 65:22, Jer. 17:8, & Psalm 1

[7] See also James 3 on the tongue.

[8] Consider Jonah 3:7

[9] 1 Cor. 5:6-8, Gal. 5:9

[10] For more on this see Clay Trumbull’s Salt Covenant.

Categories: Biblical Symbols, new moon, Study Helps | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

The Kidneys and the Ears

What do your kidneys have to with listening or hearing from God? Enjoy this insightful post from my friend and fellow author/blogger Bonnie Manning. (:

Tekoa Manning


For thou hast possessed my kidneys: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb.” Psalm 139:13 JB. “I shall bless Lord Jehovah who counsels me and my kidneys teach me in the nights.” Psalm 16:7 AB.

 I’m five or six years old and it hurts to breathe. I’m feverish. The doctor puts his stethoscope on my chest and tells me to take deep breath’s, which is difficult. He removes his lighted earpiece and looks deep into my ear canal. He asked me if my ears hurt. I answer in shallow rasps. As he peers, he says something to me that today seems humorous. He says, “What have you been planting in there, corn or potatoes?” I sink down and become embarrassed that I have dirty ears. Forget that I’m dying. Not really, but you get the gist of the situation.

I was ashamed that I…

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