When it comes to eaglewood in God’s Word, take the day off, dear gardener! Also called agarwood or aloes, this amazing aroma comes from exotic trees growing in near and southeast Asia, Aquilaria agallocha or malaccensis, trees that are not cultivated ornamentally. Furthermore, even if one was to locate a commercial source for seeds or saplings, the tree’s scent comes not from leaves, flowers, fruits, or seeds, but from resin in the inner wood created as a response to fungal infection. Inoculation is not a perfected process, and of course, the tree would be chopped down to capture the scent…too much work here for a mere curious home gardener of God’s Word.
Today’s journey, then, is not by hand—overturning soil or planting—but by imagination (or a visit to the perfume counter!). Likewise, the imagery associated with aloes in the Bible is regal, airy, and lofty; not democratic or earthy. A sweet irony, since the name “eaglewood” seemed a timely connection to the eagle on the Great Seal, in honor of our nation’s July 4th celebration of the birth of freedom under democratic government.
Aloes draws on visons of rest, refreshment, and repose in the garden, unearned—not its working and keeping by the sweat of the brow. Put up your gloves, pause the practical life with a cool, reviving drink, and take in enthralling refreshment, eaglewood-style, in a garden reverie:
How beautiful are your tents, Jacob, your camps, Israel! Like palm groves that stretch out, like gardens next to a river, like eaglewood trees that the Lord has planted, like cedar trees next to water. Water will drip from his branches; his seed will have plenty of water; his king will be higher than Agag, and his kingdom will be lifted up.
Numbers 24:5-7 CEB
Enjoy a poem from A-to-Z Primer of Plants from God’s Word to help you envision and drink in a gardener’s delight. May the sing-song of rhyme and meter make this plant a botanical blessing to your faith, and grow your grasp of God’s Word.
is for eaglewood, a sensational soaring
of exotic scent-imagery;
an aroma produced
in the heartwood of Aquilaria trees.
Other given names: agarwood, aloes
above all, known enticingly
as a fragrance hallowed.
All the while, the trees are infected
by a parasitic fungus,
in response creating resin
aromatic and luxurious.
Precious wood, highly traded:
across all Asia it was sold.
Ancient couriers considered
aloes worth its weight in gold.
Evocative perfume from eaglewood
kept company with the finest:
cedar, cassia, myrrh, cinnamon
combined to remind us—
a whiff, a glimpse of the Almighty,
His Kingly refreshment alluring,
enchanted garden pictures
princess beauty enthralling;
such refreshment evanescent
in a world free-falling
from God’s lofty uprightness
and given over to petty whims.
Evil intent the usual;
relief not to be worked out in a gym
but in the LORD’s salvation!
And his promise of a kingdom place
spread out, flowing in abundance,
brought all together in His grace.
Aloes won’t be planted
in a common household garden.
Egalitarian it is not—
revealing instead a King’s pardon.
The lavish, extravagant gift
we have in our Savior
who willingly takes our faults;
in exchange, perfumes in favor.
Enjoy eaglewood in imagination,
not native in this land;
and likewise, breath deep of paradise
where the Lord’s reign of beauty stands.
Your inward life is now sprouting, bringing forth fruit. What a beautiful paradise unfolds within you. When I’m near you, I smell aromas of the finest spice, for many clusters of my exquisite fruit now grow within your inner garden. Here are the nine: pomegranates of passion, henna from heaven, spikenard so sweet, saffron shining, fragrant calamus from the cross, sacred cinnamon, branches of scented woods, myrrh, like tears from a tree, and aloe as eagles ascending.
Songs 4:13-15 The Passion Translation
For more on eaglewood or aloes in the Bible, see “All About Aroma,” page 639, and a week of devotions on Israel’s Horticultural Allegories in the Garden Stories section of God’s Word for Gardeners Bible.
circa 1908, image from Internet Archive Book Images at Flickr from Rossiana: Papers and Documents Relating to the History and Geneology of the Ancient and Noble House of Ross
circa 1839, J.F. Royle, Illustrations of the botany and other branches of the natural history of the Himalayan Mountains and of the flora of Cashmere, Plates, vol. 2: t. 3 from www.plantillustrations.org
©2012 Krishnan Velayutharaja Flickr Creative Commons
Aquilaria Agallocha Tree, very valuable tree since thousands of years.