1 Samuel 31:12-13, Genesis 21:33
Saul was the first king for the Israelites. He was tall, dark and handsome and the people wanted a king like the other tribes around them. There are many stories about Saul and as we saw in the David and Goliath story, Saul was flawed. David with his sling defeated Goliath and “stole” the hearts of the people. Saul thought he saw the writing on the wall and that David would steal the kingship. Thus began a crack in Saul’s leadership. Saul eventually dies on the battle field with his sons and with David in exile. Brave men rescue his body.
12 all the valiant men set out, travelled all night long, and took the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons from the wall of Beth-shan. They came to Jabesh and burned them there. 13 Then they took their bones and buried them under the tamarisk tree in Jabesh, and fasted for seven days.
I pondered why they buried them under a tamarisk tree. The tamarisk tree is a significant tree in Jewish history, I discovered. It is symbolic of the covenant between Abraham and God. Abraham planted a tamarisk tree at Beersheba. Abraham had moved from his home country in Ur, had sired Ismael by Sarah’s maid Hagar, had Isaac by Sarah and was settling the land with the Philistines that lived there. After a dispute with a chief over a well, Abraham made peace by giving seven ewe lambs to confirm he had built the well and there would not be fighting. “Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba, and there he called on the name of the Lord, the Eternal God. (Gen. 21:33)” The tamarisk tree was like a symbol of Abraham starting to worship God publicly.
When my second son graduated from high school in Kenya, he went and planted a tree in the woods near his school. It testified to this time of his life. When his older brother bought a house, he gifted them with a tree that has grown into a large statement of their commitment to each other. Perhaps you don’t plant trees to memorialize significant moments in your life and perhaps like me, you do not even know what a tamarisk tree looks like. But we do other things to honor important events and we find ways to make physical the commitments we make to each other and God. One of our most common symbols is a wedding ring.
Let us take a moment or two to think about how a tree could be a monument to our relationship with God and with others. We may bury our dead near a tree but we also bury our sins “at the foot of the cross” Blessings as you thank God for your relationship and for friends.