13. Box tree, boxwood
32. Green bay
60. Shittah, shittim
61. Stacte, storax
AV: shittah, shittim
Botanical name and images:
|Acacia Raddiana||Acacia Raddiana|
|Acacia Tortilis||Acacia Seyal|
Arabic: sant, suweinat; seyal or tahl = gum arabic tree
Shittah, Isaiah 41:19. "I will plant in the wilderness the cedar, the shittah tree, and the myrtle, and the oil tree; I will set in the desert the fir tree, and the pine, and the box tree together."
Shittim, Exodus 25:5,10,13,23,28; 26:15,26,32,37; 27:1,6; 30:1,5; 35:7,24; 36:20,31,36; 37:1,4,10,15,25,28; 38:1,6; Deuteronomy 10:3. The cliff called Seneh near Micmash (I Samuel 14:4) may have been named for the acacias and other thorny trees that grew in its shade.
Pea family, Mimosoideae. Acacias grow into spreading shrubs and thorny trees up to 8 m tall that bear clusters of fragrant, dusky yellow-orange puffball flowers in spring. African A. raddianas have a dense, flattened crown. The twisted, brown seed pods of acacias contain 8 to 12 seeds.
Theophrastus recognized two grades of acacia wood. He said that black acacia is poor and weak while white acacia is orange to red-brown, hard, durable, close-grained, and suitable for cabinet work. Long pieces are rare because the tree trunk is relatively short.
Herodotus observed Egyptians using acacia in short pieces to build river craft. They also made posts, hand tools, and clamps for mummy coffins from hard, white acacia. The Ark of the covenant, altar, furniture, and parts of the tabernacle (Exodus 25) used wood from either A. seyal or A. tortilis. In rabbinical times, acacia was thought to be one of ten varieties of cedar, which made logical the lavish use of cedar in the first and second temples.
Theophrastus records the use of acacia for furniture, coffins, chests, boxes, and bows. It makes good charcoal. Acacia bark may be used locally for tanning hides if nothing better is available, and bark fibers were formerly used for rope. The leaves, flowers, and seed pods provide nutritious fodder for wild and domestic animals.
The return of shade-giving trees from both the mountains and the wilderness to Israel’s bare hills would be a sign of welcome to the returning exiles (Isaiah 41:19).
Desert wadis of Sinai and Jordan valley, especially near water. The Kidron Valley between Jerusalem to Dead Sea was the "Valley of Shittim." The biblical "Valley of Elah" is the Wadi es Sant, which runs from Bethlehem to Ashdod. Zohary says A. raddiana, the spiraled acacia, is restricted to the southern part of the Jordan valley. A. tortilis is more tolerant of drought and heat. Moldenke says "seyal" is Arabic for torrent, and appropriately describes the preference of A. seyal for ravines. Other species of acacia in the region are A. albida and A. laeta.
The use of Acacia nilotica in roofing, boats, and furniture in Egypt is well documented archeologically from Neolithic times onward. The Egyptians made funeral garlands of acacia flowers during New Empire and Graeco-Roman times. Acacia bark and pods provide tannin for tanning leather. The galls, roots, and seeds of some species are edible, and Australian forestry researchers have introduced A. coeli to Niger and the semi-arid Sahel region of Africa because each wattle tree can produce two kilograms of nutritious seeds only two years after planting. Gum arabic from A. senegal is edible, sweet, and used commercially today in making soft drinks and candies. The ancient Egyptians invented an ink made from an emulsion of lamp black and gum arabic. The gum made lamp black adhere to papyrus. The bark of many species is used in medicines. Other acacias are used for dyes, soaps, perfumes, fodder, fuel, charcoal, timber, and paper pulp. Cutch is a brown dye made from acacia gum. As leguminous plants, acacia trees raise the nitrogen content of soil.
Hawaiian koa wood (A. koa) is a valuable hardwood that Hawaiians formerly used to make ceremonial spears and paddles. Other commercially valuable hardwoods from acacias include babul (A. arabica), Australian blackwood (A. melanoxylon), and cutch (A. catechu) from India; Australian blackwood (A. melanoxylon), raspberry jamwood (A. acuminata), gidgee (A. cambagei), and mulga (A. aneura) from Australia. Acacia woods vary from species to species in color, hardness, odor, and the presence or absence of growth rings and rays. While the acacias of the Sinai and desert regions are usually short and scrubby, A koa, A. melanoxylon, and A. dealbata grow over 25 m tall.
The pea family (Leguminosae or Fabaceae) is among the largest, most diverse, and most important of groups of flowering plants worldwide. They supply food (peas, beans, lentils, chickpeas, tamarind, carob), animal fodder (clover, alfalfa), ornamental flowers (sweet peas, redbud trees, wisteria vines), commercial hardwoods, fuel wood, tannin, and gums.
The roots of plants in the pea family bear nodules containing nitrogen-fixing bacteria which convert atmospheric nitrogen into nitrate, an essential nutrient for plant growth. The leaves of members of the pea family are pinnately compound with one or many pairs of leaflets arranged on either side of a central stalk. Most leaflets have a plant muscle or pulvinus which enables them to close at night or in adverse conditions.
The pea family has flowers of three different types. Acacias and mimosas bear puffball flowers with reduced petals and prominent stamens. Cassia and similar species have simple, open flowers with large petals. Peas, beans, and their relatives have highly modified, showy flowers that resemble butterflies.
1. Cilician fir ( Abies cilicica) 2. eastern savin or Grecian juniper (Juniperus excelsa) 3. evergreen cypress (Cupressus sempervirens)
II Chronicles 2:8, "Send me also cedar, pine, and algum logs from Lebanon, for I know that your men are skilled in cutting timber there" (NIV); 9:10-11, "The men of Hiram and the men of Solomon brought gold from Ophir; they also brought algumwood and precious stones. The king used the algumwood to make steps for the temple of the Lord and for the royal palace, and to make harps and lyres for the musicians. Nothing like them had ever been seen in Judah" (NIV).
1. Abies cilicica: see FIR.
2. Juniperus excelsa
The Grecian juniper grows up to 20 meters tall in a graceful pyramidal shape. Its spreading branches have heavy, fine foliage and blue-black berries. See JUNIPER
3. Cupressus sempervirens: see CYPRESS.
Steps, musical instruments
The Cilician fir and the Grecian juniper are abundant in the mountains of Gilead and Lebanon.
shaked, the waker; luz
Ecclesiastes 12:5, "the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper drags itself along and desire fails; because man goes to his eternal home, and the mourners go about the streets" (RSV).
Jeremiah 1:11, "And the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 'Jeremiah, what do you see?' And I said, 'I see a rod of almond'" (RSV).
Almonds (nuts): Genesis 43:11; Exodus 25:33, 34; 37:19,20; Numbers 17:8, "And it came to pass, that on the morrow Moses went into the tabernacle of witness; and, behold, the rod of Aaron for the house of Levi was budded, and brought forth buds, and bloomed blossoms, and yielded almonds" (KJV).
Rose family, Rosaceae. The almond is the first of the fruit trees to blossom in late January. Almond trees grow 4 to 10 m high and bear finely serrated, lanceolate leaves. The white blossoms are flushed with pink and cover the branches with flowers before the leaves bud out. A dry, leathery husk encloses the nuts which ripen in April.
Almond wood is reddish.
Uses: The only recorded biblical use of almond wood was in the rod of Aaron, which was preserved in the Ark of the Covenant. It subsequently bore almonds as a sign that Aaron’s descendants were to be fruitful in God’s service. Almond wood is used today in veneers.
Jacob sent almond nuts to Egypt. Another shrub (yasar, Colutea istria) growing near the Gebel Musa area of Sinai is popularly known as "Moses' stick" because it is said to have furnished the staff that Moses used to make water flow from the rock.
The tree-like seven-branched candlestick of the Tabernacle had cups shaped like almond flowers (Exodus 25: 33-36), and almond flowers decorated Maccabean coins.
The almond nut is edible and yields oils which are sweet in cultivated varieties and bitter in wild fruit. Almond essential oils are used in food flavorings, cosmetics, and medicines.
Thickets, hedges, rocky places, and in cultivation.
Red sandalwood or red saunders
I Kings 10:11-12, "Moreover the fleet of Hiram, which brought gold from Ophir, brought from Ophir a very great amount of almug wood and precious stones. And the king made of the almug wood supports for the house of the LORD, and for the king's house, lyres also and harps for the singers; no such almug wood has come or been seen to this day" (RSV).
Tree: A stout leguminous tree of the pea family (Santalaceae) which is native to India and Ceylon. Compound leaves with three leaflets, smooth on top and hairy underside. Spikes of pea-like yellow blossoms make pods with two seeds. The bark is a blackish-brown and broken into rectangular plates by deep cracks.
Pterocarpus santalinus has a hard, dark reddish heartwood which is fine-grained, fragrant, insect resistant, and used as a substitute for genuine sandalwood (Santalum album), the monarch of aromatic woods.
Pterocarpus dalbergoides is Andaman Redwood or Burma padauk, a light yellow brown to blood red wood with darker streaks. It is very hard, heavy, and has an irregular, wavy grain, and takes a high polish. African padauk is Pterocarpus soyauxii, a fine red hardwood. It is also hard but polishes well.
Pillars, lyres, harps, and other musical instruments. Sandalwood was once used to perfume houses and as a food coloring in the middle ages. Mixed with sapan, it makes a red dye.
Ophir. Ceylon and stony country of the Cuddapah district of India.
|Malus pumila (cultivated)||Malus sylvestris (wild)|
While popular lore accepts the apple as the forbidden fruit of Eden, the Bible is noncommittal and our tradition is probably post-biblical and based on the similarity of the Latin words for apple and evil. Other perfectly reasonable nominations for the forbidden fruit include the citron (Citrus medica), quince (Cydonia oblonga), pomegranate, and apricot. Hebrew folklore favors the citron, which certainly looks the part but is not indigenous to Mesopotamia or Palestine.
|Cistus salviifolius||Cistus salviifolius|
|Commiphora gileadensis||Balanites aegyptiaca|
|Liquidambar orientalis||Liquidambar orientalis|
Josephus and other ancient historians record the cultivation of balsam bushes at Jericho and En-gedi. Josephus asserts that these balsam bushes were raised from seeds or seedlings that the Queen of Sheba brought to Solomon (I Kings 10:2). Michael Zohary dismisses the account of Josephus as a legend invented to preserve Jericho's monopoly on the balsam trade. He proposes that nurserymen of Jericho developed their own superior product by cultivating wild bushes from the En-gedi oasis. Whatever its origin, the cultivation of balsam in the Dead Sea region survived at Jericho, En-gedi, and Zoar until the seventh century AD. Israeli archeologist Benjamin Mazar identified the remains of a seventh-century BC balsam factory at En-gedi. The Babylonians destroyed it in 582 BC, but the balsam industry recovered by Roman times. Archeologist Yizhar Hirschfeld has uncovered the remains of vats in a fourth-century AD Byzantine building on a ridge above En-gedi. Hirschfeld theorizes that this facility obtained balsam oil by boiling balsam wood in olive oil by a secret process that remains a mystery today.
2. Balanites aegyptica is a tall spiny shrub or small
tree of the Simarubaceae family, up to 6 meters tall, with bifoliate ashy
green leaves and white blossoms. Its purplish fruit (Arabic, zukkum) resemble
guavas, though the Greeks thought they resembled acorns (balanos). The sweet
pulp has an unpleasant smell. Unripe fruit yield a sweet oil after pounding
and boiling. The stone encloses an oily seed which yields a yellowish oil,
and the residue substitutes for peanuts in animal feed. The Egyptians used
this oil as soap 4,000 years ago. Incisions in the bark yield a sticky yellow
gum which is less potent than South Arabian balsam. Extracts of the roots,
bark, fruit, and seeds kill free living stages of the bilharzia parasite and
the freshwater snails which harbor intermediate stages of the parasite.
3. Liquidambar orientalis is a 6 to 10 m tall deciduous tree of the family Hamamelidaceae with deeply lobed, palmate leaves. Its flowers produce a spiny fruit resembling those of plane trees. Tapping the trunk yields the greyish-brown resin which Zohary believes was the biblical stacte (Exodus 30:34).
A New World relative of L. orientalis is L. styraciflua, the sweet gum tree of the southeastern United States. It grows in river bottomland forests and its gum is a substitute for storax gum. Some trees live 300 years and reach heights of 40 m. The wood is moderately hard, close-grained, and known commercially as satin walnut. It is valued for uses in woodenware, furniture, construction, paper pulp, and veneer.
Perfume, medicine, embalming.
C. gileadensis is a native of southern Arabia and Ethiopia but does not grow in Gilead.
Balanites aegyptica, according to A.W. Anderson, still flourishes in the Arabah and the limestone hills of Palestine. Elsewhere, it thrives in dry parts of Arabia, Egypt, and Eritrea.
gum of Commiphora mukul
Botanical name and image:
Genesis 2:12, "and the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there" (RSV); Numbers 11:7, "Now the manna was like coriander seed, and its appearance like that of bdellium" (RSV).
Family Burseraceae. A balsam shrub or small tree with spiny branches which grows in arid, rocky places from Arabia to India.
The yellow resinous gum obtained by incision of the bark was a substitute for myrrh and is still valued in medicine and spice. The gum is used as an astringent and antiseptic.
Scripturally, the green bay tree is a metaphor for self-sufficient hedonism.
Arabia, Iraq, Iran, and India.
the European boxthorn
Botanical name and illustration:
Joshua 10:10, "Israel pursued them along the way going up to Beth Horon and cut them down all the way to Azekah and Makedah" (NIV).
Joshua 10:11, 15:35; I Samuel 17:1; II Chronicles 11:9; Nehemiah 11:30; Jeremiah 34:7.
Boxthorns are thorny, summer-deciduous shrubs of the nightshade family, Solanaceae. They grow in tangled thickets and have long, drooping branches with greyish-white bark, lanceolate leaves 2 to 5 cm long, and greenish-yellow flowers which make a yellow berry once known as "Lot's lemon." The genus is named for prickly plants of Lycia, the ancient name of a district in Asia Minor.
The only biblical use is as a place name. Birds enjoy the berries, and the bushes are useful as hedges and fuel.
Occurrence: Boxthorns grow on sandy ground in the brush country of the coastal plain.
a species of cypress or cedar.
See "Cedar" or "Cypress."
Botanical name and image:
|Buxus longifolia||B. balearica|
Buxus longifolia is a shrub or small tree native to Turkey and
the eastern Mediterranean. B. balearica is native to the western Mediterranean.
Isaiah 41:19, "I will plant in the wilderness the cedar, the shittah tree, and the myrtle, and the oil tree; I will set in the desert the fir tree, and the pine, and the box tree together" (AV).
Isaiah 60:13, "The glory of Lebanon shall come to thee, the fir tree, the pine tree, and the box together, to beautify the place of my sanctuary; and I will make the place of my feet glorious" (KJV).
Family Buxaceae. Small evergreen trees or shrubs. George Adam Smith saw specimens 20 ft (6 m) tall. Its small, glossy green leaves have smooth edges. The spikes of small, white flowers produce capsules of tiny black seeds.
B. sempervirens of Venezuela is the source of West Indian or "genuine" boxwood. Logs are 6 to 10 in. diameter and 5 to 12 ft long. Boxwood is a heavy, hard, dense, yellowish-white wood with a unified texture and close, straight grain. The green wood is denser than water.
The hardness, stability, and durability of boxwood after drying made it useful in biblical times for furniture, flutes, writing tablets, spoons, combs, and statuary. Boxwood is used today for rulers, handles, fine inlays, engraving, printing blocks, chess pieces, and carving. Blocks of boxwood were once preferred for wood engravings. The boxwood shrubs used in landscaping and topiary are a dwarf form of the species.
The hills of Galilee and Lebanon. The Assyrians prized boxwood furniture and called the Amanus mountains of Lebanon the "Mountain of taskarinnu-wood" -- the Boxwood Mountain. Tiglath-Peleser I left a monumental inscription recording that he established gardens at Asur for the cultivation of imported trees for timber and fruit. He asserted that he "took cedar (erenu), box tree (taskarinnu), Kanish oak (allakanish) from the lands over which I gained dominion in the west -- such trees which none among the previous kings, my forefathers, had ever planted -- and I planted them in the orchards of my land."
The kings of Assyria prized their boxwood furniture. Assurnasirpal II of Assyria (883-859 B.C.) furnished his palace at Carchemish with beds, tables, and chairs of taskarinnu or boxwood. The kings of Mitanni and Alasia sent boxwood furniture and boxwood to Egypt.
A Phrygian burial mound of the 8th century B.C. at Gordion contained an ornate boxwood table with intricate geometric juniper inlays and a walnut top. Other furniture from the Gordion mounds shows that Phrygian craftsmen also used maple, poplar, oak, cedar, pine, and yew.
Fragments of finely carved boxwood have been identified in the remains of a house that was destroyed during the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem.
Blackberry bramble or a thorn tree
Botanical name and image:
Genesis 50:10-11, "When they reached the threshing floor of Atad, near the Jordan, they lamented loudly and bitterly; and there Joseph observed a seven-day period of mourning for his father" (NIV).
Judges 9:14-15, the parable of the bramble and the trees. Moldenke regards this 'atadh as the European boxthorn, Lycium europaeum. Isaeli naturalist Nogah Hareuveni nominates the jujube, Zizyphus spina-christi. Moldenke suggests that Isaiah 34:13 refers to the Syrian thistle, Notobasis syriaca, or the spotted golden-thistle, Scolymus maculatus.
Luke 6:44, "For figs are not gathered from thorns, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush."
Rose family, Rosaceae. The blackberry bramble is bushy with long, arching stems full of thorns and prickles. Its hairy, three- or five-lobed leaves have finely serrated edges. The simple white flowers produce tangy black drupes or blackberries.
Edible fruit, hedges, barriers, and fuel. Blackberry leaves, flowers, and berries have medicinal uses.
Scripturally, the picture of a ruined land overgrown with brambles stands for the desolate condition of all who renounce God.
Brambles near streams bear fruit in October.
Other possibilities are Rhamnus palestina, buckthorn, and Lycium europaeum, a thorny bush.
Some traditions identify the burning bush of Exodus 3:2-4 as a bramble, though it is not a much more likely choice than the cultivated bramble, Rubus sanctus, on display at the monastery of St. Catherine. Backlighted blackberry leaves can appear to blaze in low-angle autumn sunlight, but the Hebrew word "seneh" is utterly nondescriptive and generalized. See "Senna."
According to tradition, the monastery of St. Catherine occupies the site of the burning bush, and its jewel is the dark little Chapel of the Burning Bush. An altar stands over the spot where the bush grew, and the monks keep lamps burning perpetually over the altar. Otherwise, only a single slit of a window above the altar illuminates the chapel, and a beam of sunlight penetrates it directly just once a year. The monks ask visitors to remove their shoes before entering.
The word is colloquial and generalized enough to include thistles as well as woody shrubs. There are too many candidates for any one to be able to have the last word. In English, at least, "brier" implies wild roses and brambles first and foremost but not exclusively.
barqan, shamiyr, carpad, callown, carab, hedek
Judges 8:7, 16; Isaiah 5:6; 7:23-25; 9:18; 10:17; 27:4; 32:13; 55:13; Ezekiel 2:6; 28:24; Micah 7:4.
tribolos: Matthew 7:16, "Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns or figs of thistles?" (AV).
Hebrews 6:8, "But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned" (AV).
Many thorny shrubs bear edible fruit and many others were useful in medicine. The roots of the white heath tree were formerly the source of carved briar pipes for tobacco.
Scripturally, briers, nettles, and thistles stand for the annoying weeds that creep into the lives of those who do not obey God, giving place in time to thorns that crowd out the fruitful vines.
Botanical name and image:
|Retama raetam||Retama raetam|
rethem, the binder
I Kings 19: 4-5, "But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree; ..." (RSV).
Job 30:4, "They pick mallow and the leaves of bushes, and to warm themselves the roots of the broom" (RSV). Psalm 120:4, "A warrior's sharp arrows, with glowing coals of the broom tree!"
Pea family. 7 to 8 feet tall; pole-like stems; thin leaves make scanty though welcome shade. Abundant leguminous white flowers in spring make pods with a double row of small, bitter peas.
Broom charcoal makes a hot fire, and broom embers were prized for retaining heat long after other embers cooled. Broom roots are bitter and inedible. The affluent Job rated gathering them for fuel to earn a living as an extreme of poverty (Job 30:4). Broom twigs were once bound together for sweeping floors.
Occurrence: Sandy ground in deserts of Israel and Sinai. Grows with Periploca aphylla in Judean desert and on rocky escarpments facing Jordan valley.
May Thielgaard Watts relates the tradition that broom is an ancient symbol of humility because Mary rebuked a broom tree for snapping its pods while Herod's soldiers were searching for the place where the infant Jesus lay hidden from them.
henna blossoms; the small, white flowers of the henna shrub.
Botanical name and image:
|Lawsonia inermis||Lawsonia inermis|
Song Of Songs 1:14, "My beloved is to me as a cluster of camphire in the vineyards of En-gedi;"
4:14, "Thy plants are an orchard of pomegranates, with pleasant fruits; camphire, with spikenard."
Loosestrife family, Lythraceae. A spiny bush or small tree which is still a favorite hedge and garden plant in Moslem countries. The shrub bears simple, opposite, grey-green leaves and clusters of creamy flowers which make black berries.
The young, powdered leaves of the henna shrub are sold as a cosmetic in Moslem countries. Women soak the powder in water with a little lemon or lime juice and make a paste that they use to stain their feet, palms, and fingernails a dark reddish-brown. Adding lime and ammonia turns the henna black. The practice dates back to the ancient Egyptians. Women also use powdered henna to dye their hair. A combination of henna and indigo dyes the hair or beard a glossy black. Henna is still a source of dyes in durable dark shades. Its coloring agent is hennotannic acid.
Fresh and dried henna leaves contain tannin and have cooling astringent properties that find a variety of uses in herbal medicine in Africa and the Middle East. The root is used in combination with indigo to induce abortions and to treat hysteria and nervous disorders. The roots and leaves are credited with vermicidal properties. The bark is used to treat jaundice, kidney stones, and nervous symptoms.
Henna blossoms have a strong smell that attracts bees. People
in West Africa add henna blossoms to oils for anointing their bodies and Hindus
distill a popular fragrance from them.
The henna shrub reportedly still grows at En-gedi and is widespread wild and in cultivation in the Middle East and East and West Africa.
Botanical name and image:
|Ceratonia siliqua||Ceratonia siliqua|
Matthew 3:4; Mark 1:6.
Pea family, Fabacea. 15 m tall trees with stout trunks. Pinnately compound, dark green leaves with thick, leathery, glossy leaflets. Male and female flowers appear on separate trees. Red female flowers make flat leathery pods that curve like horns, 7 to 30 cm long, with 5 to 15 hard brown seeds in a sweet, edible pulp. The pods ripen from May to August. The Greek and botanical names of the carob tree reflect the horned appearance of its pods.
Carob wood is hard, heavy, and lustrous, reddish to wine-colored, but not decay resistant.
Theophrastus records that the Egyptians used carob wood in furniture. It is now used for marquetry and walking sticks. Carob beans gave their name to the gerah, a twentieth of a shekel, and they later became the original carat measure of jewelers, which is now defined as 200 milligrams. Carob beans are used as cattle fodder today and were considered food for the poor in Jewish folklore. Their traditional name, "St. John's bread," honors John the Baptist. The Bedouin make a sweet called ma'atul from carob beans, and they are now used for making sherbets, fermented drinks, and a substitute for chocolate. The Egyptians made a wine from carob beans. Modern Jews eat bokser, a bread made from carob beans on the feast of Tu B'Shevat
The carob tree is native to the eastern Mediterranean region. In Palestine, it is widespread in the maquis, the areas of thorny scrub vegetation.
Moldenke says the confusion between carob beans and locusts may be due to a scribal error. In defense of the locust argument, Leviticus 11:22 permits the eating of locusts according to their kind and people of the Middle East still enjoy them as tidbits.
|Cinnamomum cassia||Cinnamomum cassia|
kiddah, ketsiyoth -- "peeling bark."
Exodus 30:24, "Take the finest spices: --and of cassia, five hundred, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, and of olive oil a hin" (RSV).
Psalm 45:8, "your robes are all fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia" (RSV).
Ezekiel 27:19, "wrought iron, cassia, and calamus were bartered for your merchandise" (RSV).
Family Lauracea. An evergreen tree up to 10 m tall. The bark is aromatic, thicker than true cinnamon bark, with a less delicate flavor. The inner bark contains 1 to 2% volatile oil of cassia. Unscraped bark is grey; scraped bark is light reddish brown. Ground cassia is reddish brown.
Trees of the genus Cassia belong to the pea family and are the source of a spice which is inferior to Cinnamomum cassia.
Scripturally, cassia is a metaphor for offerings of praise and worship.
Powdered cassia bark is an ancient food flavoring and fragrance and fragrance. Commercial cinnamon sold in the USA is actually generic cassia from C. cassia, C. burmanii, and C. loureirii. Anderson says the buds are used as cloves. Herbalists use the leaves in medicines. They make a purgative called cathartin from a mixture of leaves and seed pods.
Occurrence: Southeast Asia.
Cinnamomum camphora is the source of camphor wood and camphor. Camphor trees are 18 to 30 m tall (60 to 100 ft) and 60 to 100 cm (24 to 40 in) in diameter. Camphor wood ranges from a light yellow to brown to light pinkish to reddish brown with dark streaks. It is soft, lustrous, with a fine, straight grain and a camphor odor, and it works well. It has a limited use in veneers and in entomological and ornamental cabinets. The evergreen tree is native to Japan, Formosa, and China and is grown as an ornamental elsewhere.
Botanical name and illustration:
|Ricinus Communis||Ricinus Communis|
el keroa, khirwhih
Jonah 4:6, "And the LORD God appointed a plant, and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be a shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort. So Jonah was exceedingly glad because of the plant" (RSV).
Family Euphorbiaceae. The castor bean is an annual shrub, 6 to 12 ft tall. In warm climates, it grows into a small, scrubby tree with a stout trunk. Its large, dark green palmate leaves with 12 lobes are deeply divided and give the plant the name "Palma Christi." Reddish flower spikes make clusters of spiny dehiscent fruit, each bearing 3 large spotted seeds.
Oil of the castor bean is used for anointing the body, as a laxative, in medicines, an industrial lubricant, a base for soaps, an illuminant, and for softening leather. The Egyptians cultivated castor oil plants from predynastic times onward and they took the place of olive trees, which are not indigenous to Egypt and were apparently not cultivated there before the eighteenth dynasty. They never flourished south of Alexandria or the Fayum depression. Egyptian physicians used the oil, beans, and roots in their medicines.The seed residue cake is used as fertilizer. The seeds contain ricinine, a poison. Castor beans are cultivated for oil near Gaza, el Arish, and Rafiah.
Jonah's qiqayon represents a gift that God may grant temporarily and for a specific purpose. Jonah took his qiqayon for granted until it wilted.
In cultivation and naturalized in wild places near water. The castor bean is thought to be a native of Africa.
Cedar of Lebanon
Botanical name and image:
II Samuel 5:11, "Now Hiram King of Tyre sent messengers to David, along with cedar logs and carpenters and stonemasons, and they built a palace for David" (NIV).
Leviticus 14:4-6, 49-52; Numbers 19:6, 24:6; Judges 9:15; II Samuel 5:11; 7:2, 7; I Kings 4:33; 5:6-10; 6:9-36; 7:2-12; 9:11; 10:27; II Kings 14:9; 19:23; I Chronicles 14:1; 17:1,6; 22:4; II Chronicles 1:15; 2:3, 8; 9:27; 25:18; Ezra 3:7; Job 40:17; Psalm 29:5; 80:10; 92:12; 104:16; 148:9; Song 1:17; 5:15; 8:9; Isaiah 2:13; 9:10; 14:8; 37:24; 41:19; 44:14; Jeremiah 22:7, 14, 15, 23; Ezekiel 17:3, 22, 23; 27:5, 24; 31:3, 8; Amos 2:9; Zephaniah 2:14; Zechariah 11:1,2.
Some references to 'erez are generic and probably refer to other
conifers. Juniper is more likely for Leviticus 14:4 and Numbers 19:6, and
Numbers 24:6 describes plane trees better than cedars.
A large, spreading conifer of the pine family, which was once abundant in the mountains of Lebanon. The blue-green needles are 2.5 to 3 cm long. The egg-shaped female cones are up to 10 cm long and take 3 years to ripen. Mature cedars of Lebanon attain a 24 m height, diameters of as much as 4 m, and live up to 3,000 years.
Cedars and cypress are the foremost biblical pictures of the majesty of Lebanon. Figuratively, the cedar in Psalm 29:5 stands for the proud and powerful who oppose God, and in Zechariah it stands for the nation of Israel before the Assyrians cut it down. On the other hand, cedars in Psalm 92:12 represent the grace and dignity of the testimony of faithful believers.
Cedar wood is light, soft, durable, resinous, fragrant, beautiful, and free of knots and worms. It splits easily for planks and beams, carves easily, and takes a high polish.
Cedar wood was historically esteemed and exploited throughout the ancient world. Archeological evidence at Tell Nami, 15 km south of Haifa, confirms that the Egyptians traded for cedar or ash-wood during the Middle Bronze Age (ca. 1950-1750 BC.). Gudea of Lagash recorded about 2150 BC that he brought great cedar logs from the Cedar Mountain to make roof beams for the temple of Ningirsu. The rulers of Babylonia, and Assyria also sent expeditions to Lebanon to procure cedar for their monumental building projects. The Assyrian kings planted cedars (erenu) in their botanical gardens and orchards. Cedar and cypress were the favorite woods among the Greeks and Romans for palatial doors.
David's house, Solomon's Temple and house; Second Temple; roofs, floors, paneling, doors. An aromatic oil was distilled from the wood. Ezekiel 27:5 alludes to the use of cedar as masts for ships of Tarshish.
The Egyptians made sarcophagi and other funerary furniture from cedar. One of two boat pits discovered near the Great Pyramid of Cheops in 1954 was opened and found to contain 651 cedar boat timbers and hundreds of nails, ropes, staples, hooks, and other parts. When assembled, the boat measured 31.2 meters long by 2.6 meters wide and 3.5 meters deep (102 by 22 by 11.5 ft). The deck had a single large cabin.
The hull of a first century fishing boat found near Capernaum has cedar strakes (planks) and oak ribs. The builders took many of the timbers from older vessels, and they mended the boat from time to time with inferior local woods. The restored, 8 meter (27 ft) hull is now on display in the Yigal Allon Museum at Ginosar.
The cedar of Lebanon is a biblical figure of grandeur, majesty,
The mountains of Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey. Formerly common at higher elevations, cedars are now so scarce in their natural range that the survivors are protected by a "Cedars of Lebanon" National Park. Cedars have been cultivated outside their range in botanical parks and arboretums, and such trees are probably the only source of cedar logs today. The Atlas cedar (C. atlantica) Cyprus cedar (C. brevifolia), and the deodar (C. deodara) may be geographical variants of the same species.
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People in ancient times did not always distinguish clearly between cedar, cypress, and juniper. The Greeks and Romans used the same word (kedros, cedrus) for cedar and juniper.
Nogah Hareuveni reports that the rabbis recognized nine other trees as varieties of cedar; not in the botanical sense, but as permissible substitutes in purification ceremonies. They include acacia, myrtle, olil tree, juniper, maple, cypress, oak, plane, and almug.
Just as in ancient times, "cedar" still serves as a basket term for a variety of soft, scented reddish woods, especially juniper.
"Spanish cedar," for instance, is neither Spanish nor even a coniferous softwood. Cedrela odorata is a hardwood tree of the mahogany family, Meliaceae, and a native of Central and South America. The wood is also marketed as acaju catinga, cedrela, cedre, cedro amarello, cedro macho, cedro real, cedre acajou, cobano, cuche, kurana, igary, Nogal cimmaron, and other colorful names. Cedrela is a handsome, lustrous wood which varies from a pale golden brown to dark reddish brown and is prized for cigar boxes, humidors, and cabinets.
Plane tree. Definitely not the edible Spanish chestnut (Castanea sativa) or the European horsechestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum), which are not native to Palestine.
Botanical name and images:
|Platanus orientalis||Platanus orientalis|
Genesis 30:37, "And Jacob took him rods of green poplar, and of the hazel and chesnut tree; and pilled white strakes in them, and made the white appear which was in the rods" (AV). Ezekiel 31:8, "The cedars in the garden of God could not hide him; the fir trees were not like his boughs, and the chesnut trees were not like his branches; nor any tree in the garden of God was like unto him in his beauty." (AV).
see PLANE TREE.
The wood and nuts of Spanish chestnuts are so esteemed that the trees have been widely introduced and cultivated around the world. The tree grows 30 to 35 m tall and up to 1.5 m in diameter. Its yellow-brown heartwood is coarse-grained but without the rays of oak, straight and even-grained, and of medium density. It has good woodworking properties but is susceptible to cracks in drying, decay, and boring beetles. Spanish chestnut is used in timbers and interior trim, though the trees are more valuable for their nuts. Spanish chestnuts are the proverbial chestnuts that one has to be pull out of the fire in order to get someone else out of trouble.
The stately horse chestnut tree is a native of southeast Europe but has been introduced throughout western Europe where its bold, candle-like spikes of creamy-white flowers make it a popular standby for parks and landscaping. The chestnut tree celebrated by Longfellow was probably an Ohio buckeye, Aesculus glabra. Both species produce a soft light-colored wood which cuts and turns easily but has inferior strength and durability. Their seeds are rich in saponins or soap-forming agents, which must be boiled off to make them edible to humans.
a spice made from the fragrant bark of the cinnamon tree.
Botanical name and images:
|Cinnamomum zeylanicum||Cinnamomum zeylanicum|
Powdered cinnamon bark is an ancient flavoring for baked goods and has uses in fragrances and medicine. True cinnamon has a more delicate flavor than cassia and is distinguishable from cassia by analysis of its essential oils. Commercial cinnamons sold in the U.S.A. are botanically cassia. The ancient Egyptians obtained malabathrum oil from cinnamon leaves.
Scripturally, the fragrance of cinnamon in Exodus 30:23 is a metaphor for the worthiness of a whole-heartedly obedient life as as offering to God. In Proverbs 7:17, however, cinnamon's appetizing fragrance describes the overpowering allure of sin.
The cinnamon tree is a native of Ceylon and the neighboring Malabar coast of India and Burma.
Gopher, cypress, fir, box
Most probably includes "gopher wood" (Genesis 6), box tree (Isaiah 41:19; 55:13), and fir.
Botanical name and image:
berosh, te'ashshur, tirzah, gopher
1. tirzah, Isaiah 44:14. "He cut down cedars, or perhaps took a cypress or oak" (NIV).
2. gopher, Genesis 6:14. "Make yourself an ark of gopher wood" (RSV).
3. te'ashshur, Isaiah 41:19. "I will set in the desert the cypress, the plane and the pine together" (RSV).
4. berosh, II Samuel 6:5. "And David and all the house of Israel played before the LORD on all manner of instruments made of fir wood" (AV).
I Kings 5: 8-10. "And Hiram sent to Solomon saying, 'I have heard the message which you sent to me; I am ready to do all you desire in the matter of cedar and cypress timber" RSV.
I Kings 6:15, 34; 9:11; II Kings 19:23; II Chronicles 2:8; 3:5; Psalm 104:17; Song 1:17; Isaiah 14:8; 37:24; 41:19; 55:13; 60:13; Ezekiel 27:5-6; 31:8; Nahum 2:3; Zechariah 11:2.
Coniferous tree, cypress family, with dense, dark green foliage, numerous branchlets with scaly, resinous leaves, 13 to 20 m tall, columnar or pyramidal form. Cypresses bears globular brown cones, 2.5 to 3 cm long with 18 scales, each holding a varying number of winged seeds. Like members of the pea family, cypress roots have nodules containing nitrogen-fixing bacteria.
The American bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) is an unrelated conifer of the family Pinaceae.
Excellent timber. Cypress wood is straight-grained and reddish-brown with a fine texture, resinous and aromatic, light, moderately hard, knotty, and decay resistant. It is strong and has good woodworking properties. The Egyptians called cypress "meru-wood," and the Akkadians of Mesopotamia called it "surmenu." Theophrastus extolled its durability.
Ezekiel 27:6 alludes to the use of cypress wood from Cypress for the ivory-inlaid decks of ships of Tarshish.
The Egyptians, Greeks, Phoenicians used cedar for building ships, pillars, steps, musical instruments, rafters and roof beams, doors, idols, furniture, and winepresses.
The island of Cyprus was named for its cypresses, and the tree was worshipped there. Cypresses are widely cultivated for landscaping, and Italian and mourning cypresses are especially common in cemeteries.
Cypress oil and berries have medicinal uses.
Lebanon, Cyprus, Greece, N. Africa, Asia Minor.
Dalbergia melanoxylon. At least 15 different trees are known as ebony.
|Dalbergia melanoxylon||Dalbergia melanoxylon|
hobnim. The English name derives from the Egyptian word hybny, not the Hebrew eben, or stone.
Ezekiel 27:15. "The men of Rhodes traded with you, and many coastlands were your customers; they paid you with ivory tusks and ebony" (NIV).
Dalbergia melanoxylon, the 'Mpingo or African blackwood, is a leguminous tree found in semiarid parts of tropical Africa including Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Mozambique, Nigeria, Angola, Zimbabwe, and Senegal. It grows to heights of 5 to 6 m (15 to 20 ft) and diameters of 30 to 50 cm (18 inches to rarely 2 feet), and its bark has a charred appearance.
Much commercial ebony comes from several trees of the genus Diospyros, order Ebenales, family Ebenacea, which includes persimmons (divine pears). D. ebenum is a tall evergreen tree of India. It has a thick crown and rough, dark grey bark with longitudinal fissures. The most important commercial sources of ebony are D. virginiana and D. macassar.
Dalbergia melanoxylon has white sapwood and reddish-brown to purplish-black heartwood with a dull luster and no odor. Although it seasons slowly and is hard to work, ebony is esteemed for carving and turning because it is very hard, dense, fine-grained, decay-resistant, and polishes to a glossy luster. Its growth rings and rays are indistinct. The quality of the wood is due to the formation of gums in its cell walls. Small pieces of African ebony sell by the pound.
Other species of Dalbergia are the sources of colorful hardwoods known as rosewood, cocobolo, Indian teakwood, sissoo, tulipwood, and Brazilian kingwood.
Diospyros ebenum has whitish sapwood and jet-black heartwood which is very dense, hard, and durable. Trees growing on rocky, well drained soil reportedly yield the best ebony. Diospyros melanoxylon has black heartwood streaked with purple and brown. Diospyros marmorata is the Andaman marblewood, which has dark grey heartwood with black streaks. Diospyros oocarpa of the Bombay region has a figured heartwood with layers of black and brown. The color of the heartwood in Diospyros is due to chemical and physical changes in gummy materials stored in its vessels. Like the wood of African ebony, the wood of Diospyros ebenum seasons slowly and is hard to work. It can be brittle, but the glossy luster of finished work justifies the effort.
West Indian Ebony comes from Brya ebenus and has dark brown to black heartwood with a density of 87 pounds per cubic foot.
Ancient kings of India used ebony for cups because of its supposed antagonism to poison. The ancient Egyptians imported Dalbergia melanoxylon for use in the best of their fine furniture, valuable vessels, scepters, statues, and idols. Amenhotep III sent gifts of ebony furniture to the kings of Babylonia and Arzawa. The Assyrians name for ebony was "usu-wood."
The Egyptian word hybny was later applied to the jet black heartwood of the date-plum, Diospyros ebenum of Africa, Ceylon, and South India, and some of this wood appears in later Egyptian woodwork.
Ebony from Dalbergia melanoxylon is still used to make the ballafon or marimba of Guinea, piano keys, marimbas, clarinets, parts of other musical instruments, giving the 'Mpingo a reputation as the tree of music. Ebony is also used for knife handles, fine oriental cabinets, and furniture inlay.
Ezekiel's allusion to ebony and ivory together suggests that the use of ebony with ivory inlays is an ancient practice.
Dalbergia melanoxylon grows in drier parts of tropical Africa. Diospyros grows in the tropics of Africa, India, Ceylon, and Indonesia. The Ceylon ebony grows up to 1 m in diameter.
Herodotus says the Ethiopians sent the Persians a tribute of 200 ebony logs every 3 years.
1. terebinth, 2. hairy elm
Botanical name and illustration:
|Ulmus canescens||Ulmus canescens|
1. elah, the feminine form of elon, or terebinth. See TEREBINTH.
1. elah: Hosea 4:13, "They sacrifice upon the tops of the mountains, and burn incense upon the hills, under oaks and poplars and elms, because the shadow thereof is good: therefore your daughters shall commit whoredom, and your spouses shall commit adultery" (AV).
2. geshem: Isaiah 44:14, "He cut down cedars, or perhaps took a cypress or oak. He let it grow among the trees of the forest, or planted a pine, and the rain made it grow" (NIV). Zohary (1982) concludes that "the rain" should read "elm" while geshem alludes to the elm's water-loving habit.
Family Ulmaceae. The dwarfs of their tribe, hairy elms grow up to 8 m tall, with large, ovate leaves having dentate edges and long tips. Zohary (1962) says that a few trees of U. canescens grow by certain wadis in the hill country of Ephraim. They are the last survivors of a riparian woodlan
The wood of the American elm is light-colored, tough, heavy, coarse-grained, hard to split, ring porous, and tends to warp. European elm, U. campestris, reputedly has far superior properties for woodworking.
The Greeks used elm in their chariots, and elm became the standard material for wheel hubs. Examples of Egyptian chariots include elm parts.
The association of elms with cult sites by translators of the AV reflects an ancient association of elms with megaliths and cemeteries in Europe.
Botanical name and illustration:
|1. Ficus carica|
|2. Ficus sycamorus||2. Ficus sycamorus|
te'enah -- spreading out.
43 references to figs, fig trees, fig leaves, etc.
21 references to figs and fig trees.
John 2:48, "Before Phillip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you" (RSV).
James 3:12, "My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water" (NIV).
Moraceae, mulberry family. The low-spreading tree makes a thick shade in summer and grows up to 8 m (25 ft) tall. Alternate large, deeply lobed leaves appear in spring. A bract sheaths new growth at the tip of a branch. The sap is milky white. The flowers are hidden in a fleshy, hollow, pear-shaped receptacle with a small terminal aperture. The receptacle matures into a brownish to purple fruit. A crop of "early" figs ripens in June, and a second in August and September.
The wood of the fig tree is white, porous, tough and easily bent, but of little value.
Theophrastus says fig wood was used for theater seats, hoops, garlands, and ornaments.
Figs are used as food and medicine, fresh, dried, or pressed. They are rich in calcium, iron, and phosphorus, and have a mild laxative effect. They also contain psoralens, which are large carbohydrate molecules that are able to destroy infectious microorganisms on blood platelets by binding with their DNA or RNA agents that cause blood poisoning. Like apples and plums, figs represent a single cultivated species with many cultivars or varieties of size, color, and taste. Some cultivars bear a single summer crop, while others of the biblical type bear two kinds of fruit: early figs from figlets of previous year and smaller, late summer fruits.
A fruitful fig tree is the biblical symbol of peace and prosperity, while a barren fig tree is a biblical epitome of worthlessness which often stands for Israel as a nation. Fig leaves have become metaphors for vain attempts to conceal mistakes.
The Romans worshipped the sacred fig tree of Romulus.
Fig trees thrive in almost any soil in the Mediterranean region and are easily propagated from cuttings. Cultivation of the fig tree dates from at least 5,000 BC. Fig trees were cultivated everywhere in Palestine in biblical times. Wild fig trees are barren.
Breadfruit trees and the sacred banyan trees of India are members of the same family. Other species in tropical rain forests grow to great size.
berowsh = 1. Cypress 2. juniper 3. pine 4. fir
1. Cupressus sempervirens 2. Juniperus excelsa, J. sabina 3. Pinus sp. 4. Abies cilicica.
|2. Juniperus excelsa|
|3. Pinus sp.||4. Abies cilicica|
21 references. While most of these passages refer to other trees, Zohary (1982) concludes that berowsh in Ezekiel 27:5 definitely means fir: "They have made all of thy ship boards of fir of Senir" (AV).
Pine family. Slender pyramidal trees, up to 30 m tall. Firs have single, flat needles without stalks. They are 2 to 3 cm long and grow directly in all directions from twigs. Branchlets are hairy. The erect cones break apart at maturity.
Fir is white to yellowish, light, soft, weaker than pine, susceptible to rot and insects, and splits well because it has a straight grain. It is usually odorless in comparison with pine.
Fir is used for cheap boxes, planks, carving, and pulp wood. The Assyrians called it "mihru-wood." Theophrastus says that Abies alba of the high mountains of Europe was the timber of choice for building triremes because of its lightness and durability, though it is subject to waterlogging. Fir and pine resins were common in ancient medicines.
Abies cilicica grows in on Mt. Hermon and other mountains in Lebanon, northern Syria, and Turkey, but not in Palestine.
Gum of the frankincense tree
Botanical name and images:
Boswellia sacra or one of two dozen other Boswellia species such as B. frereana, B. carteri, B. thurifera, and B. papyrifera.
|1. b. sacra||2. b. frereana|
|3. B. carteri||4. B. thurifera|
|4. B. papyfirea|
Exodus 30:34, "And the LORD said to Moses, 'Take sweet spices, stacte, and onycha, and galbanum, sweet spices with pure frankincense (of each shall there be an equal part)" (RSV).
Leviticus 2:1, 2, 15, 16,; 5:11; 6:15; 24:7; Numbers 5:15; I Chronicles 9:29; Nehemiah 13:5, 9; Song 3:6; 4:6,14.
Matthew 2:11, "and going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshipped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh" (RSV).
Tree: Family Burseraceae. Crooked shrubs or small trees with aromatic oil in their bark and compound leaves with three to five tiny leaflets and starry pink flowers with yellow hearts. The gum is an exudation obtained by tapping the bark. The gum forms large globules that slowly harden, turn nearly opaque, and take on a greenish to yellowish white hue.
Andrews says the wood is hard, heavy, and durable.
Use: Frankincense is so called because as incense it burns easily and slowly.
In the tabernacle, it was offered with showbread and was an ingredient of the holy anointing oil. The Romans used frankincense in medicine. Charred frankincense was an ingredient of kohl, a cosmetic for painting around the eyes.
Scripturally, the fragrance of frankincense is a metaphor for the value placed on the worship of all who love Christ.
South Arabia, Ethiopia and dry areas of East Africa. The best frankincense comes from Dhofar and the eastern Hadramaut in South Arabia. Orbital photography by NASA's Spaceborne Imaging Radar has mapped the site of the lost city of Ubar on the edge of the Empty Quarter in Oman, South Arabia. Ubar was the center of an international trade in frankincense until the sixth century AD.
resin of Ferula galbaniflua, F. gummosa or another species of Ferula.
Botanical name and image:
Exodus 30:34, "Then the LORD said to Moses' Take fragrant spices -- gum resin, onycha and galbanum -- and pure frankincense, all in equal amounts" (NIV).
Carrot family, Umbelliferae. The galbanum is a bushy perennial herb related to caraway and fennel. Growing several feet tall, it bears large leaves finely divided into narrow segments and large, flat heads of tiny greenish-yellow flowers. The milky sap hardens to a brownish-yellow resin with a fetid odor.
Galbanum resin was an ingredient of sacred incense. The leaves and seeds have found uses in perfumes and in medicine as astringents, stimulants, expectorants, and aphrodisiacs.
The related F. assa-foetida is still used in varnish and asafoetida, a gum proverbial for its fetid ammoniac smell.
The hollow stems of F. communis, the giant fennel are used in furniture in some parts of the Mediterranean region.
Iran. Closely related species of Ferula are endemic in Iraq and India.
MacKay says that other possible sources of galbanum are Opoidia galbanifera and Bubon galbanum.
Genesis 6:14. "Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch."
Tree: See CYPRESS.