The beauty of flowers and the way they bloom and flourish makes them a good image for many spiritual themes, including love, transience, and the glory of God. Two Hebrew words are translated as “flower:” perach means to break forth, bud, sprout, or burst; tsuwts evokes images of shining, sparkling, or gleaming. The first connotes spontaneous growth, while the second focuses on beauty.
THE BEAUTY OF CREATION
In Song of Solomon, the image of a flower is used to describe the beloved. The beauty and delicate nature of flowers makes them a metaphor for love. The lover says, “I am a rose of Sharon, a lily growing in the valleys” (2:1). Both the woman and the man are described with flower imagery (e.g., 4:5; 5:13), and their love is consummated in a garden (7:12). Beautiful, sensuous, and carefully tended flowers are a metaphor for erotic love.
Flowers also point us to the glory of God. Jesus urges us to “notice how the flowers grow in the field. They never work or spin yarn for clothes. But I say that not even Solomon in all his majesty was dressed like one fo these flowers” (Matt 6:28-29). Flowers are an image of God’s tender care of nature and his concern for beauty in addition to utility. Perhaps that is why the tabernacle (Exod 28:31-36) and temple were so filled with depictions of flowers (1 Kings 6:18, 29, 32; 7:49). When we see the beauty God has given us in nature, particularly the creativity, color, and delicate scent of flowers, we can’t help but praise the Creator,
HERE TODAY, GONE TOMORROW
One of the most common uses of flower imagery in the Bible is in connection with the transience of life. Flowers last but a few days, in much the same way that a person is here one day and gone the next. This image first applies to divine judgment, wherein evil people and their wicked deeds do not last. The psalmist explains that “wicked people sprout like grass and all troublemakers blossom like flowers, only to be destroyed forever” (Ps 92:7). They will be trampled underfoot (Isa 28:1-4) and cut down in their prime (Dan 4:4-14). Their deeds will not outlast them.
This brevity is particularly true of earthly wealth, which lasts but a moment. James tells us, “Rich people will wither like flowers. The sun rises with its scorching heat and dries up plants. The flowers drop off, and the beauty is gone. The same thing will happen to rich people. While they are busy, they will die” (James 1:10-11). When one thinks of riches, the images of a flower fits well-it is flashy and bright but soon wilts and falls off. Earthly treasure does not last.
God’s Word stands in contrast to the brief life of a flower. “Grass dries up, and flowers wither, but the word of our God will last forever” (Isa 40:8). Using the image of flowers to represent the short span of a person’s life makes it an appropriate foil to the eternal Word of God.
As with most biblical images, flowers also have a redemptive use. After the judgment comes restoration. “The desert and the dry land will be glad, and the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. It will rejoice and sing with joy. . . .Everyone will see the glory of the LORD, the majesty of our God” (Isa 35:1-2). The tree that has been cut down will once again sprout and blossom. God does not leave us in death, but brings the blossom of life from the dry stump.