Juniper Joy

Greek juniper berries on branches

Juniper is one of the unsung heroes of the season’s evergreenery—not today! Today let us burst into song, as the Lord commands his mountains, and clap our hands as He decrees to forests, in jubilant praise of junipers. They are a gloriously fragrant genus of branches to help us deck the halls this holiday season.

The boughs of Juniperus spp. grow about our landscapes, quiet backdrops upholding the color of life and growth all year long in many forms. Junipers can be low-spreading groundcovers, dense shrubs forming hedges, stand alone tree specimens, or planted in stands as shield to wind and privacy.

The Greek juniper, Juniperus excelsa, is commonly accepted as the stately species of Scripture, a tall, upright tree-form, almost always an implied sidekick to cedar of Lebanon—

I have cut down its tallest cedars, the choicest of its junipers. I have reached its remotest parts, the finest of its forests.
2 Kings 19:23 NIV

—or part of a company of conifers, with cypress and fir:

I will set junipers in the wasteland, the fir and the cypress together, so that people may see and know, may consider and understand, that the hand of the Lord has done this, that the Holy One of Israel has created it.
Isaiah 41:19-20 NIV

Confirming the Conifers

Botanical Illustrated Juniperus excelsaWith their scent strongly reminiscent of piney relatives in the conifer clans, junipers are sometimes confusingly called cedar, as in Juniperus virginiana’s common name Eastern red cedar. Likewise in Scripture, the conifers are a bit of a conundrum, a not-quite sorted out botanical one-to-one with Hebrew words. Berowsh or berosh, the word in many of the Isaiah passages, has been translated alternately as juniper, fir, cypress, pine. Well-sought scholar Michael Zohary taught that berowsh stood for all three trees collectively: cypress, fir and juniper.

Additionally, cedar mentioned in the cleansing rituals of Leviticus, Hebrew word erez, was likely the Phoenician juniper, a species better adapted to the water savvy needs of the Sinai than cedar of Lebanon would be. Although, the Phoenician juniper is also attributed to the Hebrew word, arower, in instances describing a shrub in the desert.

And he will be like a juniper in the wilderness, and he will not see when good comes
Jerimiah 17:6 HSCB

Evergreen, Everlasting

Nevertheless, the imparting is clear: evergreens are to convince us of the everlasting glory of God, Savior Redeemer, Mighty One of Jacob, the LORD’s renown, God of Israel, Holy One. See…Isaiah’s vivid evergreen descriptions reveal that just as the junipers, God has many names, too!

The glory of Lebanon will come to you, the juniper, the fir and the cypress together, to adorn my sanctuary; and I will glorify the place for my feet.
Isaiah 60:13 NIV

Juniper Jingle

What better way to celebrate with great joy than to add a little jingle on juniper?! Welcome juniper to the A-to-Z Primer of Plants from God’s Word; add a bit of banter as you adorn mantles and bannisters with garlands of juniper greenery this Christmas season.

Learn more about Greek juniper in the Plant Guide


drop cap Jis for juniper
evergreen in Israel’s land,
a lovely respite
from the dull browns of sand

and arid terrain found across
its southern region.
Set junipers in the wasteland
for the happy season

when Jesus will come
and restore mankind.
In the company of conifers,
His mission we find:

A planting—Messiah’s charge—
overturning earth’s degradation,
and the thorny state of man
found throughout the nations.

Brier to myrtle,
blind to see;
thornbush to juniper,
captive to free.

Our stately Savior, Redeemer,
Holy One, Mighty One of Jacob:
To His fragrant salvation,
juniper calls us to wake up.

Soon trees will be clapping,
their joy bursting to sound
the Spirit’s watering, His refreshment
to behold the Lord’s renown.

Let’s sing this jingle
in bells and juniper!
Plant a tree, shrub, or bush
resounding things soon-to-occur.

Let your garden testify and
bring God’s message close,
providing boughs to deck halls
and company with heavenly host.

Junipers are dioecious—
the botanical term
for a single species having two kinds:
a him and a her.

Male junipers bulge with
pollen mini-cones come spring;
slight breezes spread yellow
dust over everything!

The females yield cones
looking more like blueberries;
seeds concealed within
spread by hungry birds’ merry.

Cooks prize berries, too;
prominent in spice trade,
imparting piney infusion
to meat and game marinade.

And the lumber, where
juniper is most avidly sought—
from pencil to fence picket
the wood rarely rots.

“Because the temple I build
will be large and magnificent,”
King Solomon summoned
and Hyram of Tyre sent

from Lebanon, famed cedar
and juniper timber,
felled to construct
palace and temple that remembers

the glory of God
in every detail:
Adorn my sanctuary,
for no Word of God will ever fail.

clap your hands forests

Gods Word for Gardeners book in mustard greens


Find Greek juniper in God’s Word for Gardeners Bible in the “Lay of the Land,” for the Cedars of Lebanon series of devotions from the Garden Tour section, beginning page 355.

Garden in Delight gate logo


Learn about the horticulture of Greek juniper in our Plant Guide:


Photo Credits:
© 2014  Ngrig2013 | Berries and soft needles of a Juniperus excelsa (taken in Crimea)

c. 1788 Botanical Illustration from Pallas, P.S., Flora Rossica, vol. 1(2): p. 14, t. 56, fig. 1 drawing by K.F. Knappe

© 2018 Shelley S Cramm Drop cap sketch for Juniper

© 2015 Oleksandr Sokolenko | Dirt road in Cedrus forest, on the way to Elmali, Turkey region, coniferous trees. Shelley’s note: While Greek juniper is not identified specifically, I thought this photo pictures Isaiah 55:12 so beautifully! Mountains in the backdrop – sing! Trees – clap your hands!

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2 Responses to Juniper Joy

  1. Judy Davidson December 7, 2018 at 9:52 pm #

    Dear Shelley,
    Just beautiful, beautiful pictures and message on Juniper Joy!!

    • Shelley Cramm December 27, 2018 at 6:43 pm #

      Thank you, Judy! It has been a wonderful season of celebrating!

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