Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Job 30:4

Who pluck mallow by the bushes, And whose food is the root of the broom shrub.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Juniper;   Mallows;   Persecution;   Thompson Chain Reference - Job;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Herbs, &C;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Juniper;   Mallows;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Food;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Juniper;   Mallows;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Food;   Job;   Juniper;   Mallows;   Nettle;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Broom Tree;   Job, the Book of;   Juniper;   Mallow;   Saltwort;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Juniper;   Mallows;   Saltwort;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Juniper,;   Mallows,;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Mallows;   Smith Bible Dictionary - Juniper,;   Mallows;   Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types - Juniper;  
Encyclopedias:
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Broom;   Bush;   Food;   Juniper;   Salt-Wort;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Food;   Juniper;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

Who cut up mallows by the bushes - מלוח malluach, which we translate mallows, comes from מלח melach, salt; some herb or shrub of a salt nature, sea-purslane, or the salsaria, salsola, or saltwort. Bochart says it is the ἁλιμος of the Greeks, and the halimus of the Romans. Some translate it nettles. The Syriac and Arabic omit the whole verse. The halimus, or atriplex halimus, grows near the sea in different countries, and is found in Spain, America, England, and Barbary. The salsaria, salsola, or saltwort, is an extensive genus of plants, several common to Asia, and not a few indigenous to a dry and sandy soil.

And juniper roots for their meat - רתמים rethamim . This is variously translated juniper, broom, furze, gorse, or whin. It is supposed to derive its name from the toughness of its twigs, as רתם ratham signifies to bind; and this answers well enough to the broom. Genista quoque vinculi usum praestat, "The broom serves for bands," says Pliny, Hist. Nat. lib. xxiv., c. 9. But how can it be said that the roots of this shrub were eaten? I do not find any evidence from Asiatic writers that the roots of the juniper tree were an article of food; and some have supposed, because of this want of evidence, that the word לחמם lachmam, for their bread, should be understood thus, to bake their bread, because it is well known that the wood of the juniper gives an intense heat, and the coals of it endure a long time; and therefore we find coals of juniper, רחמים גחלי gachaley rethamim, used Psalm 120:4; to express severe and enduring punishment. But that the roots of the juniper were used for food in the northern countries, among the Goths, we have a positive testimony from Olaus Magnus, himself a Goth, and archbishop of Upsal, in lib. vii., c. 4, of his Hist. de Gentibus Septentrionalibus. Speaking of the great number of different trees in their woods, he says: "There is a great plenty of beech trees in all the northern parts, the virtue whereof is this: that, being cut between the bark and the wood, they send forth a juice that is good for drink. The fruit of them in famine serves for bread, and their bark for clothing. Likewise also the berries of the juniper, yea, even the roots of this tree are eaten for bread, as holy Job testifies, though it is difficult to come at them by reason of their prickles: in these prickles, or thorns, live coals will last a whole year. If the inhabitants do not quench them, when winds arise they set the woods on fire, and destroy all the circumjacent fields." In this account both the properties of the juniper tree, referred to by Job and David, are mentioned by the Gothic prelate. They use its berries and roots for food, and its wood for fire.

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Job 30:4". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/job-30.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Who cut up mallows - For the purpose of eating. Mallows are common medicinal plants, famous for their emollient or softening properties, and the size and brilliancy of their flowers. It is not probable, however, that Job referred to what we commonly understand by the word mallows. It has been commonly supposed that he meant a species of plant, called by the Greeks Hallimus, a sunfish plant, or “salt wort,” growing commonly in the deserts and poor land, and eaten as a salad. The Vulgate renders it simply “herbas;” the Septuagint, ἄλιμα alima The Hebrew word, according to Umbreit, means a common salad of a saltish taste, whose young leaves being cooked, constituted food for the poorer classes. The Hebrew word מלוח mallûach is from מלח mâlach “salt,” and properly refers to a marine plant or vegetable.

By the bushes - Or among the bushes; that is, that which grew among the bushes of the desert. They wandered about in the desert that they might obtain this very humble fare.

And juniper-roots - The word here rendered “juniper” רתם rethem occurs only in this place, and in 1 Kings 19:4-5; Psalm 120:4. In each place it is rendered “juniper.” In 1Kings it is mentioned as the tree under which Elijah sat down when he fled into the wilderness for his life; In Psalm 120:4, it is mentioned as a material for making coals. “Sharp arrows of the mighty, with coals of juniper.” It is rendered “juniper” by Jerome, and by the rabbis. The verb (רתם râqab ) occurs in Micah 1:13, where it is rendered “bind,” and means to bind on, to make fast; and probably the plant here referred to received its name in some way from the notion of “binding” - perhaps because its long, flexible, and slender twigs were used for binding, or for “withes.” There is no evidence, however, that the “juniper” is in any case intended. It denotes a species of “broom - spartium junceum” of Linn., which grows abundantly in the deserts of Arabia. It is the “Genista raetam” of Forskal. “Flora” Egypt. Arab. p. 214.

It has small variegated blossoms, and grows in the water-courses of the Wadys. Dr. Robinson (Bibl. Researches, i. 299) says, “The Retem is the largest and most conspicuous shrub of these de sects, growing thickly in the water-courses and valleys. Our Arabs always selected the place of encampment (if possible) in a place where it grew, in order to be sheltered by it at night from the wind; and, during the day, when they often went on in advance of the camels, we found them not unfrequently sitting or sleeping under a bush of Retem, to protect them from the sun. It was in this very desert, a day‘s journey from Beersheba, that the prophet Elijah lay down and slept beneath the same shrub. The roots are very bitter, and are regarded by the Arabs as yielding the best charcoal. The Hebrew name רתם rethem is the same as the present Arabic name.” Burckhardt remarks, that he found several Bedouins in the Wady Genne collecting brushwood, which they burned into charcoal for the Egyptian market, and adds that they preferred for this purpose the thick roots of the shrub Rethem, which grew there in abundance. Travels in Syria, p. 483. It could have been only those who were reduced to the utmost penury and want that could have made use of the roots of this shrub for food, and this is doubtless the idea which Job means to convey. It is said to have been occasionally used for food by the poor. See Gesenius, Lex.; Umbreit in loc., and Schultens. A description of the condition of the poor, remarkably similar to this, occurs in Lucan, Lib. vii.;

- Cernit miserabile vulgus

In pecudum cecidisse cibos, et carpere dumos

Et morsu spoliare nemus.

Biddulph (in the collection of Voyages from the Library of the Earl of Oxford, p. 807), says he had seen many poor people in Syria gather mallows and clover, and when he had asked them what they designed to do with it, they answered that it was for food. They cooked and ate them. Herodotus, viii. 115, says, that the army of Xerxes, after their defeat, when they had consumed all the grain of the inhabitants in Thessaly, “fed on the natural produce of the earth, stripping wild and cultivated trees alike of their bark and leaves, to such an extremity of famine were they come.”

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Job 30:4". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/job-30.html. 1870.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Who cut up mallows by the bushes,.... Which with the Troglodytes were of a vast sizeF18Diodorus Siculus, l. 3. p. 175. ; or rather "upon the bush"F19עלי שיח "super virgulto", Montanus, Schultens; "super arbustum", Bochart. or "tree"; and therefore cannot mean what we call mallows, which are herbs on the ground, and grow not on trees or bushes; and, besides, are not for food, but rather for medicine: though PlutarchF20In symposio septem sap. says they, were the food of the meaner sort of people; so HoraceF21"-----me pascunt olivae. Me cichorea levesque malvae". Carmin. l. 1. Ode. 31. & Epod. Ode. 2. speaks of them as such; and the word in the original is near in sound to a mallow; but it signifies something salt, wherefore Mr. Broughton renders it "salt herbs"; so Grotius, such as might grow by the seaside, or in salt marshes; and in Edom, or Idumea, where Job lived, was a valley of salt, see 2 Kings 14:7. Jarchi says it is the same with what the Syrians in their language call "kakuli", which with them is a kind of pulse; but what the Turks at this day call "kakuli" is a kind of salt herb, like to "alcali", which is the food of camelsF24Scheuchzer. Physic. Sacr. vol. 4. p. 760. the Septuagint render the word by "alima"; and, by several modern learned men, what is intended is thought to be the "halimus" of Dioscorides, Galen, and Avicenna; which is like unto a bramble, and grows in hedges and maritime places; the tops of which, when young and tender, are eaten, and the leaves boiled for food, and are eaten by poor people, being what soon filled the belly, and satisfied; and seem to be the same the Moors call "mallochia", and cry about the streets, as food for the poor to buyF25lbid. vid. Reinesium de Lingua Punic. c. 9. S. 20, 21. : however it appears upon the whole to be the tops or leaves of some sort of shrub, which Idumean people used to gather and live upon. The following story is reported in the TalmudF26T. Bab. Kiddushin, fol. 66. 1. concerning King Jannai, who

"went to Cochalith in the wilderness, and there subdued sixty fortified towns; and, upon his return, he greatly rejoiced, and called all the wise men of Israel, and said unto them, our fathers ate "malluchim" (the word used in this text of Job) at the time they were employed in building the sanctuary; so we will eat "malluchim" on remembrance of our fathers; and they set "malluchim" on tables of gold, and they ate;'

which the gloss interprets herbs; the name of which, in the Syriac language, is "kakuli"; the Targum is, who plucks up thorns instead of eatable herbs. SomeF1David de Pomis Lexic. fol. 80. 3. render the word "nettles", see Job 30:7;

juniper roots for their meat, or "bread"F2לחמם "panis eorum", Montanus, Michaelis, Schultens. ; with the roots of which the poor were fed in time of want, as SchindlerF22Lexic. col. 1775. observes: that bread may be, and has been made out of roots, is certain, as with the West Indians, out of the roots of "ages" and "jucca"F3Pet. Martyr. de Angleria, decad. 1. l. 1. ; and in particular juniper roots in the northern countries have been used for breadF4Olaus Magnus, de Ritu Gent. Septent. l. 12. c. 4. ; and there were a people in Ethiopia above Egypt, who lived upon roots of reeds prepared, and were called "rhisophagi"F5Diod. Sic. l. 3. p. 159. , "root eaters": some render the words, "or juniper roots to heat", or "warm with"F6"Ad calefaciendum se", Pagninus; so Kimchi, Sepher Shorash rad, חמם. , as the word is used in Isaiah 47:14; and coals of juniper have in them a very great and vehement heat, see Psalm 120:3; but if any part of the juniper tree was taken for this purpose, to warm with when cold, one should think the branches, or the body of the tree, should be cut down, rather than the roots dug up: another sense is given by someF7Hillerus apud Schultens in loc. , that meat or bread is to be understood of the livelihood these persons got by digging up juniper roots, and selling them: there are others that think, that not the roots of juniper, but of "broom"F8שרש רתמים "radix genistarum", Michaelis, Schultens; so some in Mercerus, Drusius, & Gussetius, p. 839. , are meant, whose rape, or navew, or excrescence from the roots of it, seem to be more fit food. All this agrees with the Troglodytes, whom PlinyF9Nat. Hist. l. 37. c. 8. represents as thieves and robbers, and, when pressed with famine, dig up herbs and roots: cutters of roots are reckoned among the worst of men by ManethoF11Apotelesm. l. 5. v. 183. .

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Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Job 30:4". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/job-30.html. 1999.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

mallows — rather, “salt-wort,” which grows in deserts and is eaten as a salad by the poor [Maurer].

by the bushes — among the bushes.

juniper — rather, a kind of broom, Spartium junceum [Linnaeus], still called in Arabia, as in the Hebrew of Job, retem, of which the bitter roots are eaten by the poor.

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Job 30:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/job-30.html. 1871-8.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

Who cut up mallows by the bushes, and juniper roots for their meat.

Who cut — Bitter herbs, which shews their extreme necessity.

Juniper — Possibly the word may signify some other plant, for the Hebrews themselves are at a loss for the signification of the names of plants.

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Wesley, John. "Commentary on Job 30:4". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/job-30.html. 1765.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Job 30:4 Who cut up mallows by the bushes, and juniper roots [for] their meat.

Ver. 4. Who cut up mallows by the bushes] Pitiful poor fare they are glad of; not so good as that of the Baptist, locusts and wild honey, Matthew 3:4, but mallows, which, together with asphodelus, Hesiod mentioneth as poor folk’s fare. Tremellius rendereth it, Herbas e salsilagine cum stirpibus, salt, and bitter herbs and stalks; Brentius rendereth it, nettles; some take it for samphire, which is a kind of sea mallows, or sea purslain. The Hebrew word comes from another that signifieth salt; and sounds like the Latin malva, and the English mallows. Coarse and homely provision the wretches were glad to make use of, to appease the cruel hunger that devoured them, Ut famem quoquomodo sedarent (Merc.). And this hath been sometimes the case of better men; as of those worthies, who wandered in deserts, and in mountains, in dens and caves of the earth, Hebrews 11:38. The Duke of Lorrain had proscribed some thousands of his Protestant subjects, who were thereby forced to feed upon leaves of trees and grass of the fields, till the senate of Strasborough, overcome by the importunity of their divines, took them in, and relieved them, till they could be otherwise provided for (Scultet. Annal.). In the late wars of Germany people were found dead in the highways with grass in their mouths, perishing for want of better food.

And juniper roots for their meat] These, though they surpass all other in bitterness, were their ordinary food. Our forefathers, as they coloured their bodies with woad {A blue dye-stuff prepared from the leaves of Isatis tinctoria powdered and fermented: now generally superseded by indigo, in the preparation of which it is still sometimes used.} (and were, therefore, called Picts), this was their fine clothes; so their food was barks of trees, and roots, say our chroniclers. Is not the matter well amended with us? and should we not serve the Lord with joyfulness in the abundance of all things, Deuteronomy 28:47. Lavater thinks that these poor people for a living dug up juniper roots, and sold them to others for the use of making perfume.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Job 30:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/job-30.html. 1865-1868.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Job 30:4. Who cut up mallows, &c.— Or, Sea-purslane. The word rendered juniper signifies the broom, or birch-tree. See 1 Kings 19:4. These were, without doubt, the meanest kinds of foods and made use of only when no other could be procured.

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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Job 30:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/job-30.html. 1801-1803.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Mallows; or, purslain, or salt or bitter herbs, as the word seems to import, which shows their extreme necessity.

By the bushes; or, by the shrubs, nigh unto which they grew; or, with the barks of trees, as the Vulgar Latin renders it.

Juniper roots: possibly the word may signify some other plant, for the Hebrews themselves are at a loss for the signification of the names of plants.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Job 30:4". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/job-30.html. 1685.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

4.Mallows — Probably the sea purslain or orach, a kind of bramble without thorns, of an exceedingly bitter and saltish taste, whence the Hebrew name, like our word salad, from sal, salt. Athenaeus speaks of the poor of his day as “eating purslain, and gathering such like bad things.”

Juniper — Hebrew, rothem, is a broom shrub, common in the desert of Syria, and grows to the height of eight or ten feet, furnishing a shade, though slight, yet eagerly sought for by the traveller. It was under this plant Elijah took shelter. Its roots are so bitter as to be eaten only by the extremely poor.

 

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Job 30:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/job-30.html. 1874-1909.

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Job 30:4. Who cut up mallows — Or, bitter herbs, as the word seems to import, which shows their extreme necessity; by the bushes — Or, by the shrubs, nigh unto which they grew. Or, with the bark of trees, as the Vulgate Latin renders it; and juniper-roots — Possibly the word may signify some other plant, for the Hebrews themselves are at a loss for the signification of the names of plants.

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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Job 30:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/job-30.html. 1857.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Grass. "There (in Crete, where no noxious animal, no serpent lives) the herb alimos, being chewed, expels hunger for the day;" admorsa diurnam famem prohibet. (Solin. 17.) --- The Hebrew malliuch, is rendered halima, by the Septuagint (Haydock) and Bochart would translate, "who gather the halima from the bush." (Calmet) --- Protestants, "who cut up mallows by the bushes, and juniper roots for their meat." (Haydock) --- Yet all agree that the latter is not proper for food. (Calmet) --- Rethamim may (Haydock) designate any "shrubs or wild herbs," as the Septuagint and Symmachus have explained it. (Calmet) --- Perhaps the very poor people might use the juniper or broom roots for food, (Menochius) or to burn in order to prepare their victuals. (Haydock) --- The Arabs and Spaniards still use the word retama for "the birch-tree." (Parkhurst)

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Job 30:4". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/job-30.html. 1859.

Mark Dunagan Commentary on the Bible

The word "mallow" refers to a plant with sour-tasting leaves that grew in salty marshes and the broom-shrub is a plant that only the desperate would seek to eat for food, especially the roots. "Thin, hungry and wandering about in the desert" (Bible Knowledge Comm. p. 752).

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Dunagan, Mark. "Commentary on Job 30:4". "Mark Dunagan Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dun/job-30.html. 1999-2014.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Who cut up mallows by the bushes, and juniper roots for their meat.

Mallows - rather, salt wort, which grows in deserts, and is eaten as a salad by the poor, having a salt taste (Maurer).

By the bushes - among the bushes.

Juniper - rather, a kind of broom, spartium junceum (Linnoeus), still called Arabia, as in the Hebrew of Job, Retem, of which the bitter roots are eaten by the poor.

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Job 30:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/job-30.html. 1871-8.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Who cut up mallows by the bushes, and juniper roots for their meat.
mallows
The Hebrew malluäch, in Arabic, malluch, and in Syriac mallucho, is probably the [Lalima or Lalimos] of the Greeks, and halimus of the Romans, which Dioscorides describes as a kind of bramble, without thorns, the leaves of which are boiled and eaten.
juniper roots
The Hebrew rothem, in Arabic, ratim, and in Spanish, retama, most probably signifies the genista or broom, which is very abundant in the deserts of Arabia.
for their meat
2 Kings 4:38,39; Amos 7:14; Luke 15:16
Reciprocal: Job 15:23 - wandereth

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Job 30:4". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/job-30.html.