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Plants in the Bible

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When Moses spoke to the people about the Land of Promise, he described it as a "land of hills and plains" (Deuteronomy 11:11), "a good land, of brooks and of waters, and of fountains: in the plains of which and the hills deep rivers break out: a land of wheat, and barley, and vineyards, wherein fig-trees and pomegranates, and oliveyards grow: a land of oil and honey" (Deuteronomy 8:7-8). This glowing description, sketched exclusively from an utilitarian point of view, was far from doing justice to the wonderful variety of the country's productions, to which several causes contributed. First the differences of elevation; for between Lebanon, 10,000 feet above sea level, and the shores of the Dead Sea, 1285 feet below the Mediterranean, every gradation of altitude is to be found, within less than 200 miles. Sinuous valleys furrow the highland, causing an incredible variation in topography; hence, cultivated land lies almost side by side with patches of desert. The soil is now of clay, now of clay mixed with lime, farther on of sand; the surface rock is soft limestone, and basalt. In addition to these factors, variations of climate consequent on change of altitude and geographical position cause forms of vegetation which elsewhere grow far apart to thrive side by side within the narrow limits of Palestine. The vegetation along the west coast, like that of Spain, southern Italy, Sicily, and Algeria, is composed of characteristic species of Mediterranean flora. Near the perennial snows of the northern peaks grow the familiar plants of Alpine and sub-Alpine regions; the highlands of Palestine and the eastern slopes of the northern ranges produce the Oriental vegetation of the steppes; whereas the peculiar climate conditions prevailing along the Ghôr and about the Dead Sea favour a sub-tropical flora, characterized by species resembling those which thrive in Nubia and Abyssinia.

Over 3000 species of Palestinian flora are known to exist, but the Holy Land of our day can give only an imperfect idea of what it was in Biblical times. The hill-country of Juda and the Negeb are, as formerly, the grazing lands of the Judean herds, yet groves, woods, and forest flourished everywhere, few traces of which remain. The cedar-forests of Lebanon had a world-wide reputation; the slopes of Hermon and the mountains of Galaad were covered with luxuriant pine woods; oak forests were the distinctive feature of Basan, throughout Ephraim clumps of terebinths dotted the land, while extensive palm groves were both the ornament and wealth of the Jordan Valley. The arable land, much of which now lies fallow, was all cultivated and amply rewarded the tiller. The husbandman derived from his orchards and vineyards abundant crops of olives, figs, pomegranates, and grapes. Nearly every Jewish peasant had his "garden of herbs", furnishing in season vegetables and fruits for the table, flowers, and medicinal plants. Only some 130 plants are mentioned in Scripture, which is not surprising since ordinary people are interested only in a few, whether ornamental or useful. The first attempt to classify this flora is in Genesis 1:11-12, where it is divided into: (1) deshe, signifying all low plants, e.g., cryptogamia; (2) ‘esebh, including herbaceous plants; (3) ‘es peri, embracing all trees. In the course of time, the curiosity of men was attracted by the riches of Palestinian vegetation; Solomon, in particular, is said to have treated about the trees (i.e., plants) from the lofty cedar "unto the hyssop that cometh out of the wall" (1 Kings 4:33). Of the plants mentioned in the Bible, the most common varieties may be identified either with certainty or probability; but a large proportion of the biblical plant-names are generic rather than specific, e.g., briers, grass, nettles, etc.; and just what plants are meant in some cases is impossible to determine, e.g., algum, cockle, gall, etc. A complete alphabetical list of the plant-names found in the English Versions is here given, with an attempt at identification.

Acacia. See Setim.

Acanth. See Brier.

Algum (A. V., 2 Chronicles, 2:8; D. V., 9:10, 11, "thyme trees", "fir trees"; written "almug" in A.V., 1 Samuel 10:11-12). No doubt the same tree is signified, the double name being due to a mere accidental transposition of the letters; if linguistic analogy may be trusted in, almug is correct (cf. Tamil, valguka). The algum tree is spoken of as a valuable exotic product imported to Palestine by Hiram's and Solomon's fleets (1 Kings 10:11; 2 Chronicles 2:8; 9:10), suitable for fine joinery and making musical instruments (1 Kings 10:12; 2 Chronicles 9:11). Josephus (Ant., VIII, vii, 1) says it was somewhat like the wood of the fig tree, but whiter and more glittering. According to most modern scholars and certain rabbis, the red sandal-wood, Pterocarpus santalina, is intended, though some of the uses made of it appear to require a stouter material. The identification proposed by Vulg. (see Thyine) is much more satisfactory.

Almond tree, Hebrew luz (Genesis 30:37; "hazel" in A. V. is a mistranslation; cf. Arab. laux), apparently an old word later supplanted by shaqed (Genesis 43:11; Numbers 17:8; Ecclesiastes 12:5); which alludes to the early blossoming of the tree. Almonds are (Genesis 43:11) considered one of the best fruits in the Orient, and the tree, Amygdalus communis, has always been cultivated there. Several varieties, A. orientalis, Ait., or A. argentea, A. lycioides, Spach, A. spartioides, Spach, grow wild in districts such as Lebanon, Carmel, Moab.

Almug. See Algum.

Aloes (Proverbs 7:17; Song of Songs 4:14; John 19:39; A. V., Psalm 45:8) is reckoned among "the chief perfumes". In A. V., Num. xxiv, 6 ("lign aloes"; D. V., "tabernacles" is an erroneous translation), a tree is clearly intended. The officinal aloes, Liliacea, is not alluded to; the aloes of the Bible is the product of a tree of the genus Aquilaria, perhaps A. agallocha, Roxb., a native of northern India; at a certain stage of decay, the wood develops a fragrance well known to the ancients (Dioscorides, i, 21), and from it a rare perfume was obtained.

Amomum (Revelation 18:13, neither in the Greek New Testament, Vulg., A. V., nor D. V., but found in critical editions, such as Griesbach, Lachmann, Tischendorf, Nestle), a perfume well known in antiquity (Dioscor., i, 14; Theophr., "Hist. plant.", ix, 7; "De odor.", 32; etc.). The Assyrian variety was particularly prized (Virg., Eclog., iv, 25; Josephus, "Ant.", XX, ii, 3; Martial., "Epigr.", vii, 77; Ovid, "Heroid.", xxi, 166; etc.), and probably obtained from Cissus vitignea, a climbing plant native of India but found also in Armenia, Media, and Pontus (Pliny, "Nat. hist.", xii, 13).

Anise (Matthew 23:23), not the anise, Pimpinella anisum, but rather the dill, Anethum graveolens, shabath of the Talmud, shibith of the Arabs, is meant. Dill has always been much cultivated in Palestine; its seeds, leaves, and stems were subject to tithe, according to Rabbi Eliezer (Maasaroth, 1:I; cf. Matthew 23:23), which opinion, however, others thought excessive (Schwab, "Talmud de Jerus.", III, 182).

Apple tree, Heb., thappuakh (cf. Arab, tiffah; Egypt. dapih, "apple") and the description of the tree and its fruit indicate the common apple tree, Malus communis, which is beautiful, affording shade for a tent or a house (Cant., ii, 3; viii, 5), and bears a sweet fruit, the aroma (Cant., vii, 8) of which is used in the East to revive a fainting person (cf. Cant., ii, 5). Apple groves flourished at an early date (Ramses II) in Egypt (Loret, "Flore pharaonique", p. 83); place-names like Tappuah (Joshua 12:17) or Beth-tappuah (A. V., Joshua 15:53) indicate that they were a distinct feature of certain districts of Palestine.

Arum. See Cockle.

Ash Tree. Isaiah 44:14 (A. V. for Heb., ’oren; D. V. "pine") depicts a planted tree, watered only by rain, whose wood is suitable to be carved into images and useful as fuel (Isaiah 44:15). Probably the tree intended is Pinus pinea, the maritime or stone pine, rather than the ash, as the various species of Fraxinus grow only in the mountains of Syria, outside Palestine.

Aspalathus (Ecclus., xxiv, 20; Greek, xxiv, 20; D. V. "aromatical balm") is quite frequently alluded to by ancient writers (Theognis Hippocrates, Theophrastes, Plutarch, Pliny etc.) as a thorny plant yielding a costly perfume. It is impossible to identify it with certainty, but most scholars believe it to be Convolvulus scoparius, also called Lignum rhodium (rose-scented wood).

Aspen. See Mulberry.

Astragalus a genus of Papilionaceous plants of the tribe Lotea, several species of which yield the gum tragacanth (Hebrew nek’oth, Arab. neka’at) probably meant in Genesis 37:25; 43:11 (D.V. "spices"; "storax"). In 2 Kings 20:13, and Isaiah 39:2, Hebrew nekothoth has been mistaken for the plural of nek’oth and mistranslated accordingly "aromatical spices"; A.V. and R.V. give, in margin, "spicery"; A. V. "precious things" is correct. The gum spoken of in Gen. was probably gathered from the species found in Palestine, A. gummifer, A. rousseaunus, A. kurdicus, A. stromatodes.

Balm, Balsam, the regular translation of Hebrew çori (Genesis 37:25; 43:11; Jeremiah 8:22; 46:11; 51:8), except in Ezekiel 27:17 (Hebrew pannag) and Sirach 24:20a (Greek ’aspalathos, see Aspalathus); xxiv, 20b (Greek smúrna). The çori is described as coming from Galaad (Jeremiah 8:22; 46:11) and having medicinal properties (Jeremiah 51:8). It is obtained from Balsamodendron opobalsamum, Kunth., which is extant in tropical regions of east Africa and Arabia and yields the "balm of Mecca"; and Amyris gileadensis, a variety of the former, which gave the more extravagantly prized "balm of Judea", and is now extinct; it was extensively cultivated around the Lake of Tiberias, in the Jordan Valley, and on the shores of the Dead Sea (Talm. Babyl. Shabbath, 26a; Josephus, "Ant.", IX, i, 2; Jerome, "Quæst in Gen.", xiv, 7; Pliny, "Nat. hist.", xii, 25, etc.). The word çori is also applied to the gum from the mastic tree, or lentisk (Pistacia lentiscus, cf. Arab. daru), and that from Balanites ægyptica, Del., falsely styled "balm of Galaad". The meaning of pannag, mentioned in Ezekiel 27:17, is not known with certainty; modern commentators agree with R. V. (marginal gloss) that it is "a kind of confection".

Balsam, Aromatical. See Aspalathus.

Barley (Hebrew se’orah, "hairy", an allusion to the length of the awns) was cultivated through the East as provender for horses and asses (1 Kings 4:28), also as a staple food among the poor, working men, and the people at large in times of distress. The grain was either roasted (Leviticus 2:14; 2 Kings 4:43) or milled, kneaded and cooked in ovens as bread or cake. Barley, being the commonest grain, was considered a type of worthless things, hence the contemptuous force of Ezekiel 13:19; Judges, vii, 13; and Osee, iii, 2. Hordeum ithaburense, Boiss., grows wild in many districts of Palestine; cultivation has developed the two (H. distichum), four (H. tetrastichum), and six-rowed (H. hexastichum) barley. The harvest begins in April in the Ghôr, and continues later in higher altitudes; a sheaf of the new crop was offered in oblation on the "sabbath of the Passover".

Bay tree, so A.V. in Psalm 36:35; D.V. "Cedar of Libanus", which renderings are erroneous. The correct meaning of the Heb. text is: "as a green tree", any kind of evergreen tree, "in its native soil".

Bdellium (Genesis 2:12; Numbers 11:7), either a precious stone or the aromatic gum of Amyris agallochum, a small resinous tree of northern India, found also, according to Pliny, in Arabia, Media, and Babylonia.

Beans (2 Samuel 17:28; Ezekiel 4:9), the horse-bean (Faba vulgaris; cf. Hebrew pol and Arab. ful), an ordinary article of food, extensively cultivated in the East. The string-bean, Vigna sinensis, kidney-bean, Phaseolus vulgaris, and Phaseolus molliflorus, also grow in Palestine.

Blackthorn. See Bur.

Blasting. See Mildew.

Borith, a Heb. word transliterated in Jeremiah 2:22, and translated in Mal., iii, 2 by "fuller's herb" (A. V. "scap"). St. Jerome in his Commentary on Jeremiah 2:22, identifies borith with the "fuller's weed", which was not used, like the Dipsacus fullonum, Mill., to dress cloth, but to wash it; St. Jerome adds that the plant grew on rich, damp soil, which description applies to a species of Saponaria; yet many modern scholars think he refers to some vegetable alkali procured by burning plants like Salsola kali and the Salicornias (S. fructicosa; S. herbacea) abundant on the coast.

Boxthorn. See Bramble.

Box tree (Isaiah 41:19; 60:13; in D. V., Ezekiel 27:6, instead of "ivory and cabins", we should read: "ivory inlain in boxwood"), probably the Hebrew the’ashshur. The box tree does not grow in Palestine, and indeed the Bible nowhere intimates this, but it mentions the box tree of Lebanon, Buxus longifolia, Boiss., and that imported from the islands of the Mediterranean.

Bramble, translated from Hebrew ’atad in Judges, ix, 14-15, also rendered "thorn", in Psalm 57:10. The Latin version has in both places rhamnus, "buckthorn"; of which several species grow in Palestine and Syria, but Arabic writers hold that the various kinds of Lycium or boxthorn are meant.

Briers. (1) Hebrew kharul rendered "burning" in D.V., Job 30:7, "thorns" in Proverbs 24:31 and Sophon., ii, 9, according to which texts it must be large enough for people to sit under, and must develop rapidly in uncultivated lands. Its translation as "thistles" or "nettles" is unsuitable, for these plants do not reach the proportions required by Job 30:7, hence it is generally believed to be either the acanth, Acanthus spinosus, or rest-harrow, two species of which, Onamis antiquarum, and particularly O. leiosperma, Boiss., are very common in the Holy Land. (2) Hebrew barquanim (Judges 8:7, 16) probably corresponds to the numerous species of Rubus which abound in Palestine; according to Moore (Judges, ad loc.), Phaceopappus scoparius, Boiss., is intended. (3) Hebrew khedeq (Micah 7:4). See Mad-apple. (4) Hebrew shamir (Isaiah 5:6; 9:18; 10:17; 32:13), the flexible Paliurus aculeatus, Lam., Arab. samur, the supposed material of Christ's crown of thorns. (5) Hebrew shqyth (Isaiah 7:23-5), a word not found outside of Isaias, and possibly designating prickly bushes in general.

Broom. See Juniper.

Buckthorn. See Bramble.

Bulrush represents three Heb. words: (1) gome Exodus 2:3; Isaiah 18:2; 35:7), Cyperus papyrus, is now extinct in Egypt (cf. Isaiah 19:6-7), where it was formerly regarded as the distinctive plant of the country (Strab., xvii, 15) and the Nile was styled "the papyrus-bearer" (Ovid, "Metam.", xv, 753), but still grows around the Lake of Tiberias, Lake Huleh. (2) ’Agmon (A. V., Isaiah 58:5; D. V. "circle") is variously rendered (D. V. Isaiah 19:15; Job 40:21). The plant whose flexibility is alluded to in Isaiah 58:5, A. V. appears to be either the common reed, Arundo donax, or some kind of rush; Juncus communis, J. maritimus, Lam., J. acutus are abundant in Palestine. (3) Suph (Isaiah 19:6; A. V. "flag"; etc.), Egypt. tûf, probably designates the various kinds of rush and sea-weeds (Jonah 2:6). Yam Suph is the Hebrew name for the Red Sea.

Bur, so, D. V., Os., ix, 6; x, 8, translating Vulgate lappa, "burdock", for Hebrew khoakh and qosh. Khoakh recurs in Proverbs 26:9; Cant., ii, 2 (D. V. "thorns"); 2 Kings 14:9; 2 Chronicles 25:18; Job 31:40 (D.V. "thistle"); "thorn" is the ordinary meaning of qosh. If burdock is the equivalent of khoakh, then Lappa major, D. C., growing in Lebanon is signified, as Lappa minor, D. C., is unknown in Palestine; however, the many kinds of thistles common in the East suit better the description. Yet, from the resemblance of Arab. khaukh with Hebrew khoakh, some species of blackthorn or sloe tree Prunus ursina, and others, Arab. khaukh al-dib might be intended.

Burnet. See Thistle (5).

Bush, Burning, Hebrew seneh, "thorny" (Exodus 3:2-4; Deuteronomy 33:16), probably a kind of whitethorn of goodly proportions (Cratægus sinaitica, Boiss.) common throughout the Sinaitic Peninsula. Arab. sanna is applied to all thorny shrubs.

Calamus, Hebrew qaneh (Exodus 30:23; Ezekiel 27:19; Song of Songs 4:14, and Isaiah 43:24; D. V. "sweet cane"; Jeremiah 6:20: "sweet-smelling cane"), a scented reed yielding a perfume entering into the composition of the spices burned in sacrifices (Isaiah 43:24; Jeremiah 6:20) and of the oil of unction (Exodus 30:23-5). The qaneh is, according to some, Andropogon schænanthus, which was used in Egypt for making the Kyphi or sacred perfume; according to others, Acorus aromaticus.

Cane, Sweet (Song of Songs 4:14; Isaiah 43:24). See Calamus.

Cane, Sweet-smelling (Jeremiah 6:20). See Calamus.

Camphire (A. V., Song of Songs 1:14; D.V. 4:13; "cypress"). From Hebrew kopher. The modern "camphor" was unknown to the ancients. Pliny identifies cyprus with the ligustrum of Italy, but the plant is no other than the henna tree (Lawsonia alba) the Orientals are so fond of. Its red sweet-scented spikes (Douay Version, Cant., i, 13; "clusters") yield the henna oil; from its powdered leaves is obtained the reddish-orange paste with which Eastern women stain their finger and toe nails and dye their hair. Ascalon and Engaddi were particularly renowned for their henna.

Caper, Hebrew abiyyonah (Douay Version, Ecclesiastes 12:5), the fruit of the caper tree, probably Capparis spinosa; C. herbacea, and C. ægyptiaca are also found in Palestine.

Carob, Greek kerátion (Luke 15:16), translated "husks" (A.V.; D.V.), the coarse pods of the locust tree, Ceratonia siliqua, "St. John's bread-tree".

Cassia, Hebrew qiddah (Exodus 30:24; Ezekiel 27:19; D. V. "stacte"). Egypt. qad, the aromatic bark of Cinnamomum cassia, Bl., of India, an ingredient of the oil of unction (Exodus 30:24), and the Egyptian Kyphi. In Psalm 44:9, qeçi’ah, the Aramaic equivalent of qiddah,is possibly an explanation of ’ahaloth. There is no Biblical reference to the cassia, from which the senna of medicine is obtained.

Cedar, indiscriminately applied to Cedrus libani, C. bermudensis, Juniperus virginiana, and Cupressus thymoides, as Heb., ’erez was used for three different trees: (1) The cedar wood employed in certain ceremonies of purification (Leviticus 14:4, 6; 49052; Numbers 19:6) was either Juniperus phænicea, or J. oxycedrus, which pagans burned during sacrifices and at funeral piles (Hom., "Odyss.", v, 60; Ovid, "Fast.", ii, 538), and Pliny calls "little cedar" (Nat. Hist., XIII, i, 30). (2) The tree growing "by the waterside" (Numbers 24:6) appears from Ez., xxxi, 7, to be the Cedrus libani, which usually thrives on dry mountain slopes. (3) In most of the other passages of Holy Writ, Cedrus libani, Barr, is intended, which "prince of trees", by its height (Isaiah 2:13; Ezekiel 31:3, 8; Amos 2:9), appropriately figured the mighty Eastern empires (Ezekiel 31:3-18, etc.). From its trunk ship-masts (Ezekiel 27:5), pillars, beams, and boards for temples and palaces (1 Kings 6:9; 7:2) were made; its hard, close-grained wood, capable of receiving a high polish, was a suitable material for carved ornamentations (1 Kings 6:18) and images (Isaiah 44:14-5). Cedar forests were a paradise of aromatic scent, owing to the fragrant resin exuding from every pore of the bark (Song of Songs 4:11; Hosea 14:7); they were "the glory of Libanus" (Isaiah 35:2; 60:13), as well as a source of riches for their possessors (1 Kings 5:6 sqq.; 1 Chronicles 22:4) and an object of envy to the powerful monarchs of Nineveh (Isaiah 37:24; inscr. of several Assyrian kings).

Cedrat, Citrus medica, or C. cedra is, according to the Syriac and Arabic Bibles, the "Targum" of Onkelos, Josephus (Ant. III, x, 4) and the Talmud (Sukka, iii, 5), the hadar (D. V. "the fairest tree") spoken of in Lev., xxiii, 40, in reference to the feast of Tabernacles.

Centaurea. See Thistles.

Charlock. See Mustard.

Chestnut-tree. See Plane-tree.

Cinnamon, Hebrew, qinnamon (Exodus 30:23; Proverbs 7:17; Song of Songs 4:14; Sirach 24:20; Revelation 18:13), the inner aromatic bark of Cinnamomum zeylanicum, Nees, an ingredient of the oil of unction and of the Kyphi.

Citron, Citrus limonum, supposed by some Rabbis to be intended in the text of Lev., xxiii, 40; "boughs of hadar", used regularly in the service of the synagogue and hardly distinguishable from cedrat.

Cockle, A. V., Job 31:40, for Hebrew be’osha: D. V. "thorns". The marginal renderings of A. V. and R. V. "stinking weeds", "noisome weeds", are much more correct. D. V., Matthew 13:24-30, translates the Greek zizánia by cockle. The two names used in the original text point to plants of quite different characters: (1) According to etymology, be’osha must refer to some plant of offensive smell; besides the stink-weed (Datura stramonium) and the ill-smelling goose-weeds (Solanum nigrum) there are several fetid arums, henbanes, and mandrakes in Palestine, hence be’osha appears to be a general term applicable to all noisome and harmful plants. In the English Bibles, Isaiah 5:2-4, the plural form is translated by "wild grapes", a weak rendering in view of the terrible judgment pronounced against the vineyard in the context; be’ushim may mean stinking fruits, as be’osha means stinking weeds. (2) zizánia, from Aram. zonin, stands for Lolium temulentum, or bearded darnel, the only grass with a poisonous seed, "entirely like wheat till the ear appears". The rendering of both versions is therefore inaccurate.

Colocynth, Citrullus colocynthis, Schr., Cucumis c., probably the "wild gourd" of 2 Kings 4:38-40, common throughout the Holy Land. In 1 Kings 6:18; 7:24, we read about carvings around the inside of the Temple and the brazen sea, probably representing the ornamental leaves, stems, tendrils, and fruits of the colocynth.

Coriander seed (Exodus 16:31; Numbers 11:7), the fruit of Coriandrum sativum, allied to aniseed and caraway.

Corn, a general word for cereals in English Bibles, like dagan in Heb. Wheat, barley, spelt (fitches), vetch, millet, pulse; rye and oats are neither mentioned in Scripture nor cultivated in the Holy Land.

Corn, Winter, Hebrew kussemeth (Douay Version, Exodus 9:32; A.V. "rye"), rendered "spelt" in Isaiah 28:25, yet the close resemblance of Arab. kirsanah with Hebrew suggests a leguminous plant, Vicia ervilia.

Cotton, Hebrew or Persian karpas, Gossypium herbaceum, translated "green". Probably the shesh of Egypt and the buç of Syria (Ezekiel 27:7, 16, "fine linen") were also cotton.

Cucumber, Hebrew qishshu’im (Numbers 11:5; Isaiah 1:8), evidently the species Cucumis chate (cf. Arab. qiththa), indigenous in Egypt; C. sativus is also extensively cultivated in Palestine.

Cummin, Hebrew kammon, Arabic kammun, the seed of Cuminum cyminum (Isaiah 28:25, 27; Matthew 23:23).

Cypress, in D. V., Cant., i, 16 (A. V., 17) a poor translation of Hebrew ’eç shemen (see Oil tree); elsewhere Hebrew berosh is rendered "fir tree"; in Sirach 24:17, the original word is not known. Among the identifications proposed for beroth are Pinus halapensis, Miel., and Cupressus sempervirens, the latter more probable.

Cyprus (Cant., i, 13; iv, 13). See Camphire.

Darnel, bearded. See Cockle (2).

Dill (R.V., Matthew 23:23). See Anise.

Ear of corn translates three Heb. words: (1) shibboleth, the ripe ear ready for harvest; (2) melilah, the ears that one may pluck to rub in the hands, and eat the grains (Deuteronomy 23:25; Matthew 12:1; Mark 2:23; Luke 6:1); (3) abib, the green and tender ear of corn.

Ebony. Hebrew hobnim, Arab. ebmus (Ezekiel 27:15), the black heart wood of Diospyros ebenum, and allied species of the same genus, imported from coasts of Indian Ocean by merchantmen of Tyre.

Elecampane. See Thistle (6).

Elm translates: (1) Hebrew thidhar (Douay Version, Isaiah 41:19; Isaiah 60:13: "pine trees"), possibly Ulmus campestris, Sm. (Arab. derdar); (2) Hebrew ’elah (A. V., Hos., iv, 13; D. V. "turpentine tree"). See Terebinth.

Figs (Hebrew te’ênim), the fruit of the fig tree (Hebrew te’ênah), Ficus carica, growing spontaneously and cultivated throughout the Holy Land. The fruit buds, which appear at the time of the "latter rains" (spring), are called "green figs" (Song of Songs 2:13; Hebrew pag, cf. Beth-phage), which, "late in spring" (Matthew 24:32), ripen under the overshadowing leaves, hence Mark 11:13, and the parable of the barren fig tree (Matthew 21:19, 21; Mark 11:20-6; Luke 13:6-9). Precociously ripening figs (Hebrew bikkurah) are particularly relished; the ordinary ripe fruit is eaten fresh or dried in compressed cakes (Hebrew debelah: 1 Samuel 25:18, etc.). Orientals still regard figs as the best poultice (2 Kings 20:7; Isaiah 38:21; St. Jerome, "In Isaiam", xxxviii, 21, in P.L., XXIV, 396).

Fir, applied to all coniferous trees except the cedar, but should be restricted to the genera Abies and Picea, meant by Hebrew siakh (Genesis 21:15; D. V. "trees"; cf. Arab., shukh). Among these, Abies cilicia, Kotsch, and Picea orientalis are found in the Lebanon, Amanus and northward.

Fitches. Hebrew, kussemeth (Ezekiel 4:9), possibly Vicia ervilia, rendered "gith" by D.V., "rye" and "spelt" by A.V. and R.V. in Isaiah 28:25.

Flag, Hebrew akhu (A.V., Genesis 41:2, 18: "meadow"; D.V. "marshy places", "green places in a marshy pasture"; Job 8:11; D.V. "sedge-bush"), a plant growing in marshes and good for cattle to feed upon, probably Cyperus esculentus.

Flax, Hebrew pistah (Exodus 9:31; Deuteronomy 22:11; "linen"; Proverbs 31:13), Linum usitatissimum, very early cultivated in Egypt and Palestine.

Flower of the field, Hebrew khabbaççeth (Isaiah 25:1), kh. sharon (Cant., ii, 1), like Arab. bûseil, by which Narcissus tazetta is designated by the Palestinians. Possibly N. serotinus, or fall Narcissus, was also meant by Heb., which some suppose to mean the meadow-saffron (Colchicum variegatum, C. steveni), abundant in the Holy Land.

Forest translates five Heb. words: (1) Ya’ar, forest proper; (2) horesh, "wooded height"; (3) çebak, a clump of trees; (4) ‘abhim, thicket; (5) pardeç, orchard. Among the numerous forests mentioned in the Bible are: Forest of Ephraim, which, in the Canaanite period, extended from Bethel to Bethsan; that between Bethel and the Jordan (2 Kings 2:24); Forest of Hareth, on the western slopes of the Judean hills; Forest of Aialon, west of Bethoron; Forests of Kiriath Yearim; the forest where Joatham built castles and towers (2 Chronicles 27:4) in the mountains of Juda; that at the edge of the Judean desert near Ziph (1 Samuel 23:15); Forest of the South (Ezekiel 20:46, 47); and those of Basan (Isaiah 2:13) and Ephraim (2 Samuel 18:6). Lebanon, Carmel, Hermon were also covered with luxuriant forests.

Frankincense (Hebrew lebonah) should not be confounded with incense (Hebrew qetorah), which confusion has been made in several passages of the English Bibles, e.g., Isaiah 43:23; 60:6 (A.V.); Jeremiah 6:20. Incense was a mixture of frankincense and other spices (Exodus 30:34-5). Arabian frankincense, the frankincense par excellence, is the aromatical resin of Boswellia sacra, a tree which grows in southern Arabia (Arab. luban); B. papyrifera of Abyssinia yields African frankincense, which is also good.

Fuller's herb (Malachi 3:2). See Borith.

Galbanum, Hebrew khelbenah (Exodus 30:34; Sirach 24:21), a gum produced by Ferula galbaniflua, Boiss. and other umbelliferous plants of the same genus. Its odour is pungent, and it was probably used in the composition of incense to drive away insects from the sanctuary.

Gall translates two Heb. words: (1) mererah, which stands for bile; (2) rosh, a bitter plant associated with wormwood, and growing "in the furrows of the field" (Hosea 10:4; D. V. "bitterness"), identified with: poison hemlock (A. V., Hos., x, 4), Conium maculatum, not grown in the fields; colocynth, Citrullus colocynthis, not found in ploughed ground; and darnel, Lolium temulentum, not bitter. Probably the poppy, Papaver rheas, or P. somniferum, Arab. ras elhishhash, is meant.

Garlic, Allium sativum, Hebrew shum (cf. Arab. thum), a favourite article of food in the East. The species most commonly cultivated is the shallot, Allium ascalonicum.

Gith, Hebrew queçath (Isaiah 28:25, 27), Nigella sativa; A.V. "fitches" is wrong, nor does queçakh stand for the nutmeg flower, as G.E. Post suggests.

Goose-weed. See Cockle.

Gopher wood (Genesis 6:14; D.V. "timber planks"), a tree suitable for shipbuilding: cypress, cedar, and other resinous trees have been proposed, but interpreters remain at variance.

Gourd, Hebrew qiqayou (Jonah 4:6-10; D.V. "ivy"), the bottle-gourd, Cucurbita lagenaria, frequently used to overshadow booths or as a screen along trellises.

Grape, wild. See Colocynth.

Grape. See Vine.

Grape, Wild. See Cockle.

Grass translates four Heb. words: (1) deshe’, pasture or tender grass, consisting mainly of forage plants; (2) yerek, verdure in general; (3) khaçir, a good equivalent for grass; (4) ’esebh, herbage, including vegetables suitable for human food. It occurs frequently in the Bible, as in Genesis 47:4; Numbers 22:4; Job 6:5; 30:4 (see Mallows); 40:15; Matthew 6:30; etc.

Grove, English rendering of two Hebrew words: (1) asherah, a sacred pole or raised stone in a temple enclosure, which "groves" do not concern us here; (2) ’eshel, probably the tamarisk tree (q.v.; cf. Arab. ’athl), but translated "groves" in Genesis 21:33, and rendered elsewhere by "wood", as in 1 Samuel 31:6 and 31:13.

Hay, Hebrew hasas (Proverbs 27:25), a dried herb for cattle. "Stubble" in Isaiah 5:24; 33:11, also translates hasas.

Hazel. See Almond tree.

Heath, Heb. ’ar’ ar’ aro’er (A.V., Jeremiah 17:6; 48:6; D. V. "tamaric", "heath"), a green bush bearing red or pink blossoms, and native of the Cape of Good Hope. The only species in Palestine is the Erica verticillata, Forskal. The E. multiflora is abundant in the Mediterranean region.

Hemlock, Hebrew rosh (A. V., Hosea 10:4; Amos 6:12; D. V. "bitterness"; 13, "wormwood"), an umbelliferous plant from which the poisonous alkaloid, conia, is derived. Conium maculatum and Æthusa cynapium are found in Syria. The water- hemlock is found only in colder zones. See Gall.

Henna. See Camphire.

Herb. See Grass.

Herbs, Bitter, Hebrew meorim (Exodus 12:8; Numbers 9:11; D. V. "wild lettuce"), comprise diverse plants of the family of Compositæ, which were eaten with the paschal lamb. Five species are known: wild lettuce, Hebrew hazeret; endive, ulsin; chicory, tamka; harhabina and maror, whose translation is variously rendered a kind of millet or beet, and the bitter coriander or horehound.

Holm (Daniel 13:58; Isaiah 44:14; A.V. "cypress") probably Hebrew tirzah, a kind of evergreen-oak.

Husks. See Carob.

Hyssop, Heb. ’ezob, Arab, zufa, an aromatic herb forming a dwarf bush. The Hysoppus officinalis, Linné (Exodus 12:22; Leviticus 14:4, 6, 49, 51-52; Numbers 19:6; Psalm 1:9; Hebrews 9:19), was used in aspersion. In 1 Kings 4:33, hyssop is a species of moss (Orthotricum saxatile; Pottia trunculata) spoken of in contrast to the grandeur of the cedar. The "hyssop" mentioned in John 14:29, is written "reed" in Matthew 27:48, and Mark 15:36.

Ivy (Jonah 4:6-10; see Gourd), the Hedera helix, (2 Maccabees 6:78), which grows wild in Palestine.

Juniper (Douay Version, 1 Kings 19:4-5; Job 30:4; Psalm 119:4: "That lay waste", a mistranslation), an equivalent of Hebrew rothem, a sort of broom (Retama retem, cf. Arab. ratam).

Knapweed. See Thistles.

Ladanum, Hebrew lot (D. V. "stacte", A. V. "myrrh," in Genesis 37:25; 43:11), a gum from several plants of the genus Cistus (rock-rose); C. villosus and C. salvifolius are very abundant. In Sirach 24:21, "storax". Hebrew libneh, is the equivalent of Greek stachté, used by Septuagint in the above passages of Gen.; whether ladanum was meant is not clear, as it is frequently the Greek rendering of Hebrew nataf.

Leeks, Hebrew khaçir (Numbers 11:5), also rendered "grass", a vegetable, Allium porrum.

Lentils, Hebrew ’adashim (Genesis 25:34; 2 Samuel 17:28; Ezekiel 4:9), Arabic adas, Ervum lens, or Lens esculenta, Moench., an important article of diet.

Lentisk. See Balm, Mastic tree.

Lign aloes. See Aloes.

Lily. (1) Hebrew shushan, Arab. susan, a generical term applicable to many widely different flowers, not only of the order Liliaceæ, but of Iridaceæ, Amaryllidaceæ, and others. Lilium candidum is cultivated everywhere; Gladiolus illyricus, Koch, G. septum, Gawl, G. atroviolaceus, Boiss., are indigenous in the Holy Land; Iris sari, Schott, I. palestina, Baker, I. lorteti, Barb., I. helenæ, are likewise abundant in pastures and swampy places. (2) The "lilies of the field" surpassing Solomon in glory were lilylike plants; needless to suppose that any others, e.g. the windflower of Palestine, were intended.

Lily of the valleys, Heb. khabbaççeleth. See Flower of the field.

Locust tree. See Carob.

Lotus. (1) A water plant of the order Nymphæaceæ, the white species of which, Nymphæa lotus, was called in Egyptian seshni, sushin, like the Hebrew shushan, which may have been applied to water-lilies, but the lotus was probably intended in 1 Kings 7:19, 22, 26, 49. (2) A tree, Hebrew çe ’elim (A.V. Job 40:16-17: "shadow", "shades"), Zizyphus lotus, very common in Africa on the river banks.

Mad-apple, Hebrew khodeq (Proverbs 26:9; D. V. "thorn"; Micah 7:4: "briers"), Arab. khadaq, Solanum coagulans, Forskal, of the same genus as our mad apple, found near Jericho. Solanum cordatum, Forskal, may also be intended.

Mallows, a mistranslation in A.V., Job 30:4, for the orache or sea-purslain, Atriplex halimus, from Hebrew malluakh, derived from melakh, "salt", as halimus from ’áls. According to Galen, the extremities are edible; the Talmud tells us that the Jews working in the re-construction of the Temple (520-15 B.C.) ate it (Kiddushim, iii, fol. 66a).

Mandrake, from Heb., dud‘, meaning "love plant", which Orientals believe ensures conception. All interpreters hold Mandragora officinarum to be the plant intended in Genesis 30:14, and Cant., vii, 13.

Manna of commerce is a sugary secretion of various Oriental plants, Tamarix mannifera, Ehr., Alhaqi camelorum, Fish., Cotoneaster nummularia, Fraxinus ornus, and F. rotundifolia; it has none of the qualifications attributed to the manna of Exodus 16.

Mastic tree, an alliteration of the Greek schînos, schísei, Aram. pistheqa-pesag (Daniel 13:54), the lentisk, Pistacia lentiscus, common in the East, which exudes a fragrant resin extensively used to flavour sweetmeats, wine, etc. See Balm.

Meadow, A.V., Genesis 41:2, 18 (D.V. "marshy places"), for Hebrew akhu. See Flag; Sedge-bush.

Meadow saffron. See Flower of the field.

Melon, Hebrew ’abhattikhim (Numbers 11:5), like Arab. bottikh, old Egypt. buttuga, seems to have a generic connotation, yet it designated primarily the watermelon (Citrullus vulgaris, Shrad.), and secondarily other melons. The passage of Numbers refers only to the melons of Egypt, and there is no mention in the Bible of melons of Palestine, yet they were in old times cultivated as extensively as now.

Mildew, Hebrew yeraqon, occurs three times in D. V. and with it is mentioned shiddaphon, variously rendered (2 Chronicles 6:28: "blasting"; Amos 4:9: "burning wind"; Haggai 2:18: "blasting wind"). In Deuteronomy 28:22, and 1 Kings 8:37, yeraqon is translated "blasting" (A. V. "mildew"), and shiddaphon, "corrupted air". Translators evidently had no definite idea of the nature and difference of these two plagues. Yeraqon, or mildew, is caused by parasitic fungi like Puccinia graminis and P. straminis which suck out of the grain, on which they develop on account of excessive moisture. Shiddaphon, or smut, manifests itself, in periods of excessive drought, and is caused by fungi of the genus Ustilago, which, when fully developed, with the aid of the khamsin wind, "blast" the grain.

Millet, Hebrew dokhan (Ezekiel 4:9), Arab. dokhn, is applied to Panicum miliaceum, and Setaria italica, Kth. The rendering "millet", in D. V., Isaiah 28:25, is not justified, as Hebrew nisman, found here, means "put in its place".

Mint (Matthew 23:23; Luke 11:42). Various species are found in Palestine: Mentha sylvestris, the horse-mint, with its variety M. viridis, the spear-mint, grow everywhere; M. sativa, the garden-mint, is cultivated in all gardens; M. piperita, the peppermint, M. aquatica, the water-mint, M. pulegium, the pennyroyal, are also found in abundance. Mint is not mentioned in the Law among tithable things, but the Pharisaic opinion subjecting to tithe all edibles acquired force of law.

Mulberry, Hebrew beka’ im (A. V., 2 Samuel 5:23-4; 1 Chronicles 14:14-5; D. V. "pear tree"), a tree, two species of which are cultivated in Palestine: Morus alba, M. nigra. Neither this nor pear-tree is a likely translation; the context rather suggests a tree the leaves of which rustle like the aspen, Populus tremula. In D.V. Luke 17:6, "mulberry tree" is probably a good translation.

Mustard. Several kinds of mustard-plant grow in the Holy Land, either wild, as the charlock, Sinapis arvensis, and the white mustard, S. Alba, or cultivated, as S. nigra, which last seems the one intended in the Gospel. Our Lord compares the kingdom of God to a mustard seed (Matthew 13:31-2), a familiar term to mean the tiniest thing possible (cf. Talmud Jerus. Peah, 7; T. Babyl. Kethub., iiib), "which a man … sowed in his field" and which "when it is grown up, it is greater than all herbs"; the mustard tree attains in Palestine a height of ten feet and is a favourite resort of linnets and finches.

Myrrh translates two Heb. words: (1) mor (cf. Arab. morr), the aromatic resin produced by Balsamodendron myrrha, Nees, which grows in Arabia and subtropical east Africa, was extensively used among the ancients, not only as a perfume (Exodus 30:23; Psalm 44:9; Proverbs 7:17; Song of Songs 1:12; 5:5), but also for embalming (John 19:39) and as an anodyne (Mark, xv, 23; (2) lot, see Ladanum.

Myrtle, Hebrew hadas (Isaiah 41:19; 55:13; Zechariah 1:8, 10, 11), Myrtus communis, Arab. hadas, an evergreen shrub especially prized for its fragrant leaves, and found in great abundance in certain districts of Palestine. Its height is usually three to four feet, attaining to eight feet in moist soil, and a variety cultivated in Damascus reaches up ten to twelve feet; hence an erroneous translation in almost all the above Scriptural passages.

Nard, pistic (R.V. margin, Mark 14:3). See Spikenard.

Nettles translates two Heb. words: (1) kharul, plur. kharulim (A. V., Job 30:7; D. V. "briers"; Zephaniah 2:9; Proverbs 24:31; D. V. "thorns"), see Bramble; (2) qimmosh, qimmeshonim (Proverbs 24:31; A. V. "thorns"; Isaiah 34:13; Hosea 9:6): correctly rendered "nettles" (Urtica urens, U. dioica, U. pilulifera, U. membranacea, Poir.), which are found everywhere on neglected patches, whilst the deserts abound with Forskahlea tenacissima, a plant akin to the Urtica.

Nut, equivalent of two Heb. words: (1) ’egoz (Cant., vi, 10), Arab. jauz, the walnut tree, universally cultivated in the East; (2) botnim (A. V., Genesis 43:11), probably the pistachio nut, Arab. butm. See Pistachio.

Oak, Hebrew ’ayl, ’elah, ’elon, ’allah, ’alon are thus indiscriminately translated. From Osee iv, 13, and Isaiah 6:13, it appears that the ’elah is different from the ’allon; in fact, ’ayl, ’elah, ’elon, are understood by some to be the terebinth ’allah and ’allon representing the oak. The genus Quercus is largely represented in Palestine and Syria, as to the number of individuals and species, seven of which have been found: (1) Quercus robur is represented by two varieties: Q. cedrorum and Q. pinnatifida; (2) Q. infectoria; (3) Q. ilex; (4) Q. coccifera, or holm oak, of which there are three varieties: Q. calliprinos, Q. palestina, and Q. pseudo- coccifera, this latter, a prickly evergreen oak with leaves like very small holly, most common in the land, especially as brushwood; (5) Q. cerris; (6) Q. ægylops, the Valonia oak, also very common and of which two varieties are known: Q. ithaburensis and Q . look, Ky.; (7) Q. libani, Oliv.

Oil tree, Hebrew ’es shemen (Isaiah 41:19; 1 Kings 6:23, 31-3; III Esdras 8:15), the olive-tree in D. V., the oleaster in R. V., and variously rendered in A. V.: "oil tree", "olive tree" and "pine". To meet the requirements of the different passages where the ’es shemen is mentioned, it must be a fat tree, producing oil or resin, an emblem of fertility, capable of furnishing a block of wood out of which an image ten feet high may be carved, it must grow in mountains near Jerusalem, and have a dense foliage. Wild olive, oleaster, Elæagnus angustifolius (Arab., haleph), Balanites ægyptiaca, Del. (Arab. zaqqum), are therefore excluded; some kind of pine is probably meant.

Olive tree, Olea europæa, one of the most characteristic trees of the Mediterranean region, and universally cultivated in the Holy Land. Scriptural allusions to it are very numerous, and the ruins of oil-presses manifest the extensive use of its enormous produce: olives, the husbandman's only relish; oil which serves as food, medicine, unguent, and fuel for lamps; finally candles and soap. The olive tree was considered the symbol of fruitfulness, blessing, and happiness, the emblem of peace and prosperity.

Olive, Wild (Romans 11:17, 24), not the oleaster, Elæagnus angustifolia, common throughout Palestine, but the seedling of the olive, on which the Olea europæa is grafted.

Onion, Hebrew beçalim (Numbers 11:5), Allium cepa, universally cultivated and forming an important and favourite article of diet in the East. Successes in America were immediately owing to the vigorous exertions and prowess of the Irish immigrants who bore arms in that cause" (Historical Review of the State of Ireland, II, 178). The historians Marmion and Gordon write to the same effect.

Palm tree, Hebrew thamar (Exodus 15:27), tomer (Judges 4:5), Phænix dactylifera, the date palm. The palm tree flourishes now only in the maritime plain, but the Jordan Valley, Engaddi, Mount Olivet, and many other localities were renowned in antiquity for their palm groves. In fact, the abundance of palm trees in certain places suggested their names: Phœnicia (from Greek phoîniks), Engaddi, formerly named Hazazon Thamar, i.e. "Palm grove", Jericho, surnamed "the City of Palm trees", Bethany, "the house of dates", are among the best known. Dates are a staple article of food among the Bedouins; unlike figs, they are not dried into compressed cakes, but separately; date wine was known throughout the East and is still made in a few places; date honey (Hebrew debash; cf. Arab. dibs) has always been one of the favourite sweetmeats of the Orientals. There are many allusions in Scripture to palm trees, which are also prominent in architectural ornamentation (Hebrew timmorah, 1 Kings 6:29).

Paper reed, Hebrew aroth (A. V., Isaiah 19:7) preferably rendered "the channel of the river" (D. V.), as the allusion seems to be to the meadows on the banks of the Nile.

Pear tree. See Mulberry.

Pen, in Psalm 44:2 and Jeremiah 8:8, is probably the stalk of Arundo donax, which the ancients used for writing, as do also the modern Orientals.

Pennyroyal. See Mint.

Peppermint. See Mint.

Pine tree translates the Hebrew words: (1) ’oren (Isaiah 44:14; A.V. "ash", possibly Pinus pinea; (2) thidhar (Isaiah 60:13; Isaiah 41:19; D.V. "elm"), the elm rather than pine.

Pistachio, Hebrew botnim (Genesis 43:11), probably refers to the nut-fruits of Pistacia vera, very common in Palestine; yet Arab. butm is applied to Pistacia terebinthus.

Plane tree, Hebrew armon (Genesis 30:37; Ezekiel 31:8; A. V. "chestnut tree"; Sirach 24:19). Platanus orientalis, found throughout the East, fulfills well the condition implied in the Heb. name ("peeled"), as the outer layers of its bark peel off. A. V. translation is erroneous, for the chestnut tree does not flourish either in Mesopotamia or Palestine.

Pomegranate, the fruit of Punica granatum, a great favourite in the Orient, and very plentiful in Palestine, hence the many allusions to it in the Bible. Pomegranates were frequently taken as a model of ornamentation; several places of the Holy Land were named after the tree (Heb., rimmon): Rimmon, Geth-Remmon, En-Rimmon, etc.

Poplar, Hebrew libneh (Genesis 30:37; Hosea 4:13). Arab. lubna, Styrax officinalis, certainly identified with the tree from the inner layer of whose bark the officinal storax is obtained.

Poppy. See Gall.

Pulse renders two Heb. words: (1) qali occurs twice in 2 Samuel 17:28, and is translated by "parched corn" and "pulse"; the allusion is to cereals, the seeds of peas, beans, lentils, and the like, which, in the East, are roasted in the oven or toasted over the fire; (2) zero‘im, zero‘nim (Daniel 1:12-16) refer to no special plants, but possibly to all edible summer vegetables.

Reed, a general word translating several Hebrew names of plants: ’agmon, gome, sûph (see Bulrush) and qaneh (see Calamus).

Rest-harrow. See Briers.

Rock-rose. See Ladanum.

Rose. (1) Hebrew khabbaççeleth (A. V., Song of Songs 2:1; Isaiah 35:1) is probably the narcissus (see Flower of the Field). (2) Wis., ii, 8, seems to indicate the ordinary rose, though roses were known in Egypt only at the epoch of the Ptolemies. (3) The rose plant mentioned in Sirach 24:18; 39:17, is rather the oleander, Nerium oleander, very abundant around Jericho, where it is doubtful whether roses ever flourished except in gardens, although seven different species of the genus Rosa grow in Palestine.

Rue (Luke 11:42), probably Ruta chalepensis, slightly different from R. graveolens, the officinal one. St. Luke implies that Pharisees regarded the rue as subject to tithe, although it was not mentioned in the Law among tithable things (Leviticus 27:30; Numbers 18:21; Deuteronomy 14:22). This opinion of some overstrict Rabbis did not prevail in the course of time, and the Talmud (Shebiith, ix, 1) distinctly excepts the rue from tithe.

Rush (Job 8:11). See Bulrush.

Saffron, Hebrew karkom (Canticles 4:14), cf. Arab. kurkum, a fragrant plant, Crocus sativus, grown in the East and in Europe for seasoning dishes, bread, etc.

Sandal-wood. See Algum.

Sea-purslain. See Mallows.

Sedge, Hebrew suph (D.V., Exodus 2:3), a generic name for rush. See Bulrush.

Sedge-bush, Heb. ’akhu (Douay Version, Job 8:11; Genesis 41:2, 18; "marshy places"; A. V., "meadow") probably designates all kinds of green plants living in marshes (cf. Egypt. akhah), in particular Cyperus esculentus. See Flag.

Setim wood, the gum arabic tree, Acacia Seyal, Del., which abounds in the oasis of the Sinaitic Peninsula and in the sultry Wadys about the Dead Sea. The wood is light, though hard and close-grained, of a fine orange-brown hue darkening with age, and was reputed incorruptible.

Shrub, Hebrew na’açuç (Douay Version, Isaiah 7:19; 55:13), a particular kind of shrub, probably some jujube tree, either Zizyphus vulgaris, Lamentations, or Z. spina-christi, Willd.

Sloe. See Bur.

Smut. See Mildew.

Soap. See Borith.

Sodom, Vine of (Deuteronomy 32:32). See Vine.

Spear-mint. See Mint.

Spelt, A.V. and R.V. for kussemeth (Ezekiel 4:9). See Fitches. R.V. for qeçakh (Exodus 9:32; Isaiah 28:25). See Gith.

Spices translates three Heb. words: (1) sammum, a generic word including galbanum onycha, the operculum of a strombus, and stacte; (2) basam, another generic term under which come myrrh, cinnamon, sweet cane, and cassia; (3) noko ’oth, possibly the same substance as Arab. noka’ath. See Astragalus.

Spices, Aromatical (2 Kings 20:13; Isaiah 39:2), a mistranslation for "precious things". See Astragalus.

Spikenard (A. V. Song of Songs 1:11-12; 4:14; Mark 14:3; John 12:3), a fragrant essential oil obtained from the root of Nardostachys jatamansi, D. C., a small herbaceous plant of the Himalayas, which is exported all over the East, and was known even to the Romans; the perfume obtained from it was very expensive.

Stacte translates four Heb. words: (1) nataph (Exodus 30:34), a fragrant gum identified with the storax (see Poplar), and with myrrh in drops or tears; (2) ahaloth (Douay Version, Psalm 44:9: "aloes"; (3) lot (Genesis 37:25; 43:11), see Ladanum; (4) qiddah (Ezekiel 27:19), see Cassia..

Storax. (1) Genesis 43:11: see Astragalus; (2) Ecclesiasticus 24:21: see Poplar; Stacte (1).

Sweet cane. See Cane.

Sycamine (A. V., Luke 17:6; D. V. "mulberry tree"). As St. Luke distinguishes sukáminos (here) from sukomoréa (xix, 4), they probably differ; sukaminos is admitted by scholars to be the black mulberry, Morus nigra.

Sycamore or Sycomore, Hebrew shiqmim or shiqmoth (1 Kings 10:27; Psalm 77:47, "mulberry"; Isaiah 9:10; A. V. Amos 7:14), not the tree commonly called by that name, Acer pseudo-platanus, but Ficus sycomorus, formerly more plentiful in Palestine.

Tamarisk, Hebrew ’eshel (Genesis 21:33; "grove"; 1 Samuel 22:6; 31:13; D.V. "wood", A.V. "tree"), Arab. ’athl, a tree of which eight or nine species grow in Palestine.

Teil tree (A.V., Isaiah 6:13), a mistranslation of Hebrew ’elah, which is probably the terebinth.

Terebinth (Douay Version, Isaiah 6:13), Pistacia terebinthus, the turpentine tree, for Hebrew ’ayl, ’elah, ’elon (see Oak); it grows in dry localities of south and eastern Palestine where the oak cannot thrive. The turpentine, different from that of the pine trees, is a kind of pleasant-smelling oil, obtained by making incisions in the bark, and is widely used in the East to flavour wine, sweet-meats, etc.

Thistles, or numerous prickly plants, are one of the special features of the flora of the Holy Land; hence they are designated by various Hebrew words, inconsistently translated by the versions, where guess-work seems occasionally to have been employed although the general meaning is certain: (1) barqanim, see Briers; (2) dardar, Arab. shaukat ed-dardar, possibly Centaureas, star-thistles and knapweeds; (3) khedeq, see Mad-apple; (4) khoakh (see Bur), a plant, which grows amidst ruins (Isaiah 24:13), in fallow-lands (Hosea 9:6), with lilies (Cant., ii, 2), and in fallow fields where it is harmful to corn (Job 31:40), all which features suit well the various kinds of thistles (Carduus pycnocephalus, C. argentatus, Circium lanceolatum, C. arvense, Attractilis comosa, Carthamus oxyacantha, Scolymus maculatus), most abundant in Palestine; (5) sirim, the various star-thistles, or perhaps the thorny burnet, plentiful in ruins; (6) sirpal, from the Greek rendering, probably the elecampane, Inula viscosa, common on the hills of the Holy Land; (7) qimmeshonim, see Nettles; (8) shayith and (9) shamir, see Briers.

Thorns, used in the English Bibles to designate plants like thistles, also includes thorny plants, such as (1) ’atal, see Bramble; (2) mesukah, the general name given to a hedge of any kind of thorny shrubs; (3) na’açuç, see Shrub; (4) sillôn (cf. Arab. sula), some kind of strong thorns; (5) sarabhim, tangled thorns forming thickets impossible to clear; (6) çinnim, an unidentified thorny plant; (7) qoç, a generic word for thorny bushes; (8) sikkim (cf. Arab. shauk), also a generic name.

Thyine wood, probably Thuya articulata, Desf., especially in Apocalypse 18:12. See Algum.

Turpentine tree. See Terebinth.

Vetches (D. V., Isaiah 28:25). See Fitches.

Vine, the ordinary grape-vine, Vitis vinifera, of which many varieties are cultivated and thrive in the Holy Land. In Old Testament times vine and wine were so important and popular that in it they are constantly mentioned and alluded to, and a relatively large vocabulary was devoted to expressing varieties of plants and produce. In Ezekiel 15:6, Hebrew çafçafah is rendered "vine", see Willow.

Vine of Sodom (Deuteronomy 32:32), possibly the well known shrub, "Apple of Sodom", Calotropis procera, Willd., which peculiar plant grows round the Dead Sea and produces a fruit of the size of an apple, and "fair to behold", which bursts when touched and contains only white silky tufts and small seeds, "dust and ashes" (Josephus).

Walnut. See Nut.

Water-mint. See Mint.

Wheat, from Hebrew bar and dagan, also translated "corn" and applicable to all cereals, is properly in Hebrew khittah (cf. Arab. khintah), of which two varieties are especially cultivated in Palestine: Triticum æstivum, summer wheat, and T. hybernum, winter wheat; the harvest takes place from May (Ghôr) to June (highlands). Corn is threshed by cattle or pressed out with a sledge, and winnowed with a shovel, by throwing the grain against the wind on threshing floors upon breezy hills.

Wheel (Psalm 82:14) probably refers to some kind of Centaurea, as does "whirlwind" (Isaiah 17:13).

Willow. (1) Hebrew çafçafah (A. V., Ezekiel 17:5; D. V., "vine"), Arab. safsaf, probably willow though some prefer Elægnus khortensis, Marsh., from Arab. zaizafun. (2) Hebrew ’arabim (Leviticus 23:40; Job 40:17; Psalm 136:2; Isaiah 44:4), like Arab. gharab, hence the willow. ’Arabim, used only in the plur., probably designates all willows in general (Salix safsaf, S. alba, S. Fragilis, S. babylonica, or weeping willow, are frequent in the Palestinian Wadys), whereas çafçafah may point out some particular species possibly the weeping willow.

Wormwood, Hebrew la’anah (Revelation 8:11), plants of the genus Artemisia, several species of which (A. monosperma, Del., A. herba-alba, Asso., A. judaica, A. annua, A. arborescens) are common in Palestine, notably on tablelands and in deserts. The characteristic bitterness of the Artemisias, coupled with their usual dreariness of habitat, aptly typified for Eastern minds calamity, injustice, and the evil results of sin.


     BALFOUR, The Plants of the Bible (London, 1885); BONAVIA, The Flora of the Assyrian Monuments and its Outcomes (Westminster, 1894); DUNS, Biblical Natural Science, being the expl. of all references in Holy Scripture to geology, botany, etc. (London, 1863-5);GROSER, The Trees and Plants mentioned in the Bible (London, 1895); HOOKER AND TRISTRAM, Plants of the Bible, with the chief allusions collected and explained in Aids to the Student of the Holy Bible (London); KNIGHT, Bible Plants and Animals (London, 1889); POST, Flora of Syria, Palestine and Sinai, from the Taurus to the Ras Muhammad, and from the Mediterranean Sea to the Syrian desert (Beirut, 1896); SMITH, Bible Plants, their history, with a review of the opinions of various writers regarding their identification (London, 1878); TRISTRAM, The Natural History of the Bible (London, 1889); IDEM, The Fauna and Flora of Palestine (London, 1884); ZELLER, Wild Flowers of the Holy Land (London, 1876); BOISSIER, Flora Orientalis (Bale and Geneva, 1867-88); CELSIUS, Hierobotanicon, sive de plantis Sacræ Scripturæ dissertationes breves (Upsala, 1745- 7); FORSKAL, Flora Ægyptico- Arabica (Copenhagen, 1776); HILLER, Hierophyticon, sive Commentarius in loca Scripturæ Sacræ quæ plantarum faciunt mentionem (Treves, 1725); LEMNIUS, Similitudinum ac parabolarum, quæ in Bibliis ex herbis desumuntur, dilucida explicatio (Frankfort, 1626); LINNE, Flora Palestinæ (Upsala, 1756); URSINUS, Arboretum biblicum (Nuremberg, 1699); IDEM, Arboreti biblici continuatio (Nuremberg, 1699); CULTRERA, Botanique biblique (Geneva, 1861); FILLION, Atlas d'histoire naturelle de la Bible (Paris, 1884); GANDOGER, Plantes de Judée in Bulletin de la Societé botanique de France, XXXIII, XXXV, XXXVI (Paris); IDEM, articles on several plants in VIGOUROUX, Dictionnaire de la Bible (Paris, 1895—); HAMILTON, La botanique de la Bible (Nice, 1871); LEVESQUE, articles on various plants in VIG., Dict. Bibl.; LORET, La flore pharaonique, d'après les documents hiéroglyphiques et les spécimens découverts dans les tombes (Paris, 1892); FONCK, Strifzüge durch die Biblische Flora (Freiburg, 1900); KINZLER, Biblische Naturgesch. (Calw and Stuttgart, 1884); LÖW, Aramäische Pflanzennamen (Leipzig, 1881); ORDMANN, Vermischte Sammlungen aus der Naturkunde zur Erklärung der Heiligen Schrift (Leipzig, 1786-95); ROSENMÜLLER, Handbuch der Biblischlen Altertumskunde, IV, 1; Biblische Naturgesch. (Leipzig, 1830); WOENIG, Die Pflanzen im alten Ægypten (Leipzig, 1886); CULTRERA, Flora Biblica, ovvero spiegazione della plante menzionate nella Sacra Scrittura (Palermo, 1861).

About this page

APA citation. Souvay, C. (1911). Plants in the Bible. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Souvay, Charles. "Plants in the Bible." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 12. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by WGKofron. With thanks to Fr. John Hilkert, Akron, Ohio.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. June 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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