Traveling around Israel one frequently sees a plant called Desire or Caper bush (Capparis spinosa). This tenacious plant has taken root in the cracks between the stones that make up the Western Wall and the remainder of the wall that surrounds the Old City of Jerusalem. I also saw it growing from the rocks at En Gedi and out of the crevices and holes in the rocks of the Cliffs of Arbel.
There is only one place in the Bible where this plant is mentioned, and it is done in such a way that one may not recognize it. The author of Ecclesiastes writes about it in Chapter 12, Verse 5. He begins chapter 12 by telling the read, "Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come...when men are afraid of heights and of dangers in the streets; when the almond tree blossoms and the grasshopper drags himself along, and desire (Hebrew = avionah) is no longer stirred..." (NIV) In the King James Version it says, "Desire shall fail..." while The Complete Jewish Bible says, "the caper berry has no effect..."
The writer of Ecclesiastes wants his readers to understanding how challenging life can be in later years. Yet, the Caper bush defies the doom and gloom of this verse by the way it grows. It is native to hostile growing conditions--rooted in cliffs, stone walls and rock crevices in the full sun. Actually, this plant thrives in areas that have poor, dry and rocky soils. It is a spiny evergreen shrub that grows 2' to 3' tall and can spread up to 6'. The flowers stand out above the round leaves and spiny stems. The 2" to 3" white-petaled flowers have purple stamens that rise from a pale-yellow flower center. The Caper blooms profusely from March till August. It is the unopened flower buds of the Caper that are picked and preserved in salt or pickled vinegar to be used as garnishes on a variety of foods. When the flowers are permitted to stay on the plant, they produce an oblong, edible fruit called Caper berries.
For me, one of the most interesting characteristics of the flowers on the Caper bush is that they only last for one day. They are in full bloom and at the height of their beauty during the night time. This, along with the fact that the bush roots in rocks, speaks to me. The physical attributes of the Caper bush give us some spiritual principles:
It does not matter what age we are or the season of life we are in. If we establish ourselves on the Lord, our Rock, and blossom wherever we find ourselves; like the Caper bush we will produce fruit that glorifies Him.
Joan E. Mathias