Spring’s perennial flowers include the age-old star of Bethlehem. This may be the delight of your garden’s returning flourish, or the disdain! Depending on your region, these small flowers are greeted with a smile or a scourge; they bring bright, starry-joy to flower beds, or they mount a full-scale invasion.
And there was a great famine in Samar′ia, as they besieged it, until an ass’s head was sold for eighty shekels of silver, and the fourth part of a kab of dove’s dung for five shekels of silver.
2 Kings 6:25 RSV
In bizarre horticultural humor, the name of the flowers in Hebrew, dibyown, is translated “dove’s dung.” Yes, you read that right—a flower named for what comes out of the distasteful end of a gentle bird. I was puzzled for years at such a shameful designation, and research seemed to only offer that a drift of these lovelies…looked like a hillside smothered in white bird droppings, what???? As if that is a graceful explanation?!
Then early this spring, I was talking to a northern gardener friend on Facebook who was shocked I would actually pay for and plant such nuisances in my yard. It hit me…the name might be from the swear word uttered at having to dig them out, ha! Bible humor stikes again!
Small Flowers Poetry
In my warm climate garden, where soggy, clay soils will rot the bulbs over the summer, I love to plant these as annuals in the late fall, knowing they will illuminate but not invade my spring garden. Star of Bethlehem joins the Plant Guide this week, and adds the year’s first poem to the continuing saga of the A-to-Z Primer of Plants from God’s Word. Enjoy a bit of rhyming fun to discover this small flowers’ big story.
is for star of Bethlehem,
a small, Holy Land flower,
which, to a city under siege,
became Samaria’s pricey flour.
A momentary mention
in a crisis-story in God’s Word,
the bloom imparts big faith to
withstand situations absurd.
Who would make bread from flower bulbs?
Who would name flowers for feces?
Yet these elegant, petite, starry-shaped blossoms
meet such bizarre criteria completely.
Deliveries stilled, resources cut-off,
Samaria’s citizens panicked;
sold donkey-head meat and strange grain-substitute
at prices sky-high and frantic.
The king tore his clothes; in sackcloth he shuddered,
distraught at the scurrilous state.
“From where can I get help?” he sighed,
his resolve ready to disintegrate.
Where does help come from—
the threshing floor? winepress? mountainside?
Knowing the Lord dispatches chariots of fire,
Elisha calmly replied:
“About this time tomorrow,
supplies will restore; prices returned to normal.”
A country delivered in a day???
The king’s servant was prone to quarrel.
Who controls surging, outrageous economies?
Who says “Be still” to waves?
When sanity succumbs to swirling madness,
who delivers from all that enslaves?
Elisha knew with assurance his God, the LORD:
the One who sets everything right,
the One who created the starry host,
the One turning darkness to light.
And sure enough, just as the Lord said,
the next day saw rightness in place.
The terrorizing enemy retreated,
spooked at the sound of Spirit-army’s race.
Such are the possibilities at the disposal
of the LORD God Almighty.
The servant who doubted saw goods brought back
but he did not taste any.
Every Word of the Lord happened exactly
as King David of Bethlehem had agreed:
The LORD delivers from every kind of trouble—
into this reality we faithfully proceed.
Are you keeping such good news to yourself?
Better to spread it everywhere!
Perhaps that’s why star of Bethlehem flowers
overtake garden’s ground: Beware!
The lovely, little pinpointed flourish
can soon become devouring drift.
Perhaps the Hebrew name, “dove’s dung,”
is a cussing at their spendthrift!
“Bird’s milk,” the species name Ornithogalum refines
from the awkward Hebrew moniker;
nonetheless, this small flower’s big story:
God’s deliverance is a fortune-reverser.
I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the LORD.
Psalm 118:17 NIV
For more information on planting star of Bethlehem, see our Plant Guide:
Read more about star of Bethlehem in God’s Word for Gardeners Bible, in their mention near 2 Kings 6:25 & see a week’s series of devotions on deliverance in Composting, pages a-31.
©2019 Shelley S. Cramm The small flowers of Star of Bethlehem dotted our Texas garden early this spring.