This section is from the book "The Florist And Garden Miscellany". Also see: All New Square Foot Gardening: Grow More in Less Space!.
The word in the Hebrew Scriptures translated Lily, and plainly answering to our flower of that name, is of most interesting origin; and the references to the flower itself may teach us many things.
One of England's satirical poets writes - "'Tis said that Hebrew roots are found To flourish most in barren ground".
But we can say from experience, that Hebrew roots, wherever they flourish most, are of a most fruitful nature, and, unlike those of the florist, almost every one of them produces several varieties, and often so different from each other, that only the learned and ingenious will find out the real relationship between them. Let us take, for instance, the root of the word Lily, which, by the way, may be almost exactly seen in its Hebrew shape in the pretty English name Susan or Susanna.
1. The root in its simplest form signifies, as a verb, to be brisk, alive, sprightly, cheerful, to rejoice; and as a noun, hilarity, exultation, cheerfulness, triumphant joy, and the object of affection or joy.
2. As a noun of number it signifies six, which the learned Dr. Parkhurst thus explains: the sixth day was the day of exultation for the finishing of the creation, when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy.
3. The same word, slightly varied, stands for the fine white linen or cotton cloth so often referred to as the habiliments of the priests: in this sense the word still expresses cheerful vivid whiteness.
4. Again, it is used to signify white marble, where the same idea of purity and brightness is clearly retained.
5. And now we arrive at the fifth meaning, viz. the Lily. And how could this flower be better described, with its six leaves, white as marble or fine linen, - the very emblem of cheerfulness and joy flowing from the possession of purity?
1. The first reference to the form of the Lily in Scripture is 1 Kings vii. 26, and the parallel passage, 2 Chron. iv. 5; it is in the description of the molten sea: "Its brim was wrought like the brim of a cup, with flowers of Lilies!" We may see the beauty of the connexion, in remembering that the sea was intended for the washing of the priests, and typified that holiness without which no man shall see the Lord.
2. Again, on the top of the two pillars in the porch of the temple - the pillars called Jachin and Boaz (1 Kings vii. 15-22), as meaning the establishment and strength given by God - there was lily-work, shewing forth, as it appears to me, this truth, "The joy of the Lord is your strength".
3. The word elsewhere translated Lily is seen at the heading of Ps. lx., Ixix., xlv., and lxxx , and is left in its Hebrew form in our Bibles, either in the singular or plural, because of the difficulty of rendering its meaning. Without pretending to be wiser than the venerable translators of our Bible, we may see, besides the many references to Christ in these Psalms, an expression of triumphant joy at the close of Ps. lx., and of the full anticipation of the same at the close of Ps. lxix. and lxxx.; whilst Ps. xlv., entitled Concerning the Lilies, may perhaps be explained by the next Scripture reference to the Lily, which occurs Cant. ii. 1, 2.
4. Here we see the Divine Light first calling Himself the Lily, and then bestowing that name on His beloved church or people. This is exceedingly expressive; for the latter are nothing but what the former makes them, and out of His fulness they all receive, and grace for grace. He who said, "I am the Light of the world," addressed His disciples, saying, "Ye are the light of the world." And again He said, "Ye are clean, through the word which I have spoken unto you." True believers are elsewhere spoken of as "children of light," and as "clothed in fine linen, white and clean; the fine linen being the righteousness of the saints." Speaking of the Lily - the untoiling, the unspinning Lily, so emblematic of the believer, who finds his rest and peace and joy in the finished work of his Lord, and ceases from his own works - Christ said, "Even Solomon, in all his glory, was not arrayed like one of these!" After considering the Lily, we may truly assent to this; and to be arrayed like one of these - to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, and conformed to the image of Christ here - and to be raised from dishonour and weakness and corruption by and by, may well be our most fervent desire. I look, then, at the Lily with no common feelings of delight.
I see in it one of God's chosen emblems for His Christ, and for believers in Christ; in looking at it, I long to be holy as He is holy; I prize the righteousness which is His free gift; I rejoice that His great salvation is not of works but of grace; and I long to bear the image of the heavenly.
The remaining reference (Cant. vi. 2, 3,) forms an admirable conclusion to our subject. I believe that the words, "He is gone down into his garden to gather Lilies," and "He feedeth among the Lilies" are intended to express the Lord's goodness, either in taking His people home to Himself, or in granting them the joy of His presence here in the wilderness. And, as a little poem on this subject says - "Christ's Lilies now by tempests torn Amid a howling waste, Will soon be gather'd from the thorns, And in His bosom placed".