Reference: Revelation 18:11-17
John wrote Revelation near the end of the first century. At that time, the Roman Empire was the dominant geographic-political entity, stretching from Britain, through Europe, and into the Middle East. In Revelation 18, John prophesied the end of Rome and the Roman Empire; however, the Roman Empire did not end for about another 375 years. In 476 A.D., Rome fell when the last western emperor, Romulus Augustus, was deposed by the Hun general, Odoacer, who then ruled Italy.
Revelation Chapter 18 contains three laments; one by the kings of the earth (Revelation 18:9-10), one by the merchants of the earth (Revelation 18:11-17), and another by sea captains, sailors and all who earned their living from the sea (Revelation 18:18-20). The merchants of the earth are crying out because Romans (and its Empire) no longer buy their cargoes. These cargoes include precious metals and stones, linen and cloths, every sort of citron wood and articles of every kind made of ivory and costly wood, spices and food products, horses and carriages, and slaves.
During the Roman Republic, elite members of society were known for their sumptuous banquets. The best banquet tables were made of citron wood because the wood did not stain when wine and other food was spilled on them. The Roman philosopher and statesman Cicero (106 B.C.-43 B.C.) recorded that a citron wood table could cost as much as 1.3 million sesterces. To put this amount of money into a New Testament framework, this citron banquet table was valued at an amount equivalent to 20 Jewish workers each laboring 45 years (assume: 1/4 of a denarius equaled 1 sesterce and a typical Jewish laborer earned 1 denarii per day).
Citron wood comes from the Tetraclinis articulata tree which most of us call the sandarac gum tree, thyine wood, or the thuya. T. articulata is the sole species in this genus of plants. It was native to the western Mediterranean region particularly southern Spain, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Malta. The expansion of agricultural activity, over grazing, urbanization, exploitation, and fires have reduced the number of sandarac trees. In Israel, the sandarac grows in Galilee and the northern valleys, central hills (Carmel) and in the entire Negev desert area. It can grow in rock fissures and rocky slopes. T. articulata is an evergreen coniferous tree in the cypress family.
In the Roman Empire, citron wood was a luxury item. A luxury item is an indulgence that provides pleasure, satisfaction, or ease. To wealthy Romans, a citron wood banquet table provided all three of these. These wealthy Romans and their decadent ways were the same individuals that persecuted early Christians, laughing when Christians were killed in the Coliseum. Their self- indulgence led to the downfall of Rome.
Reflection: Do you pay more attention to: acquiring luxury items or walking in the Spirit?
I love Bible plants along with their symbolism. If you want to learn more about them, read my two books: 1) Rooted in God and 2) God as a Gardener. You can purchase them from my website: Carolyn Roth Ministry at http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/
Copyright: October 28, 2014, Carolyn A. Roth