Grass and wild flowers

Grass has natural associations with proliferation and a lack of refinement; flowers with beauty and rarity. Both, by their short-lived nature, are used in the Bible to signify temporality. They are also cited in the context of passages about God’s provision.

Grass image available through Creative CommonsFleeting beauty

Just as in modern-day poetry, human beauty is likened to that of flowers by way of praise or compliment:
She:   I am a rose of Sharon,
       a lily of the valleys.
He:    As a lily among brambles,
       so is my love among the young women.
Song of Solomon 2:1-2 ESVUK     
In Isaiah 35:1-2 flower imagery is used to illustrate the promise to Israel of God-given flourishing and glory to come:
The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad;
  the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus;
it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing.
                                    Isaiah 35:1-2a ESVUK     
However, in other places, the fleeting lifespan of flowers is used to emphasise the temporality of beauty and glory, either of individuals Job 14:1-2 or of nations Isaiah 28:1. Passages such as these serve as laments or warnings, and also reminders of the sovereignty of God. 
In a hot climate, the short lifespan of grass is also used to reassure that, although the wicked appear to flourish, they will also perish like grass Psalms 92:7-9. In Psalms 37:1-2; Psalms 37:20 a similar analogy is used to advise hearers not to envy evildoers. In Isaiah short-lived human life is contrasted with the permanence of God’s word:
All flesh is grass,
  and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. .. 
The grass withers, the flower fades,
  but the word of our God will stand for ever. Isaiah 40:6, 8 ESVUK     
In the New Testament, Peter develops the idea by saying that once Christians have the ‘living and abiding word of God’ planted within them, they will endure rather than perish (1 Peter 1:23-25).

Nature’s reliance on God

Field of Lilies c1910In the New Testament, Jesus used the image of flowers in a field to encourage his followers to trust in God’s provision:
28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 
                                   Matthew 6:28-30 ESVUK     
In this case, the temporality of the grass is contrasted with his human hearers who, by implication, are of greater or more permanent worth.
The letter of James uses the analogy of falling flowers and grass withered by the sun to encourage humility in the wealthy, whose earthly treasures and glory will similarly pass away (James 1:9-11).

Grass and wild flowers in literature

  • Wild flowers feature strongly in the forest home of the fairies in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (c.1590-7). In particular, the potion by which Oberon causes Titania to fall in love with Bottom is derived from a wild pansy called ‘love-in-idleness’
  • William Wordsworth wrote his famous 1802 poem I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud after unexpectedly stumbling on a large bank of wild daffodils beside a lake. The poem draws on the flowers’ beauty, liveliness and abundance
  • In Flanders Fields is a rondeau poem written during the First World War (1915) by Major John McCrae. It speaks of the wild poppies that grew up around the soldiers’ battlefield graves, and which have since become symbols of remembrance
  • In C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce (1945) the visitors to heaven are so insubstantial in comparison to the solid realness of that place that the grass does not bend beneath them.


  • Michael Rosen’s classic interactive children’s story We’re Going on a Bear Hunt (1989) takes readers through patches of short and long grass (‘swish swish swish swish!’) among other vividly imagined obstacles.

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