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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible

Palm Tree

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PALM TREE ( tâmâr ). The date palm ( Phœnix dactylifera ) is a tree essential to existence in the deserts of Arabia, and was therefore held sacred among the Semites from the earliest historic times. It flourishes in Egypt, Mesopotamia, and the oases of Arabia ( Exodus 15:27 , Numbers 33:9 ), but its cultivation has for long been much neglected in Palestine. It is still found in considerable numbers in the Maritime Plain, e.g . at the Bay of ‘Akka and at Gaza; and small scattered groups occur all over the land in the neighbourhood of springs. In the valleys east of the Dead Sea, many sterile, dwarfed palms occur. Both in the OT ( Deuteronomy 34:3 , Judges 1:16 ; Judges 3:13 , 2 Chronicles 28:15 ) and in Josephus ( BJ IV. viii. 2 3), Jericho is famous for its vast groves of palms; to-day there are but few, and these quite modern trees. Not only are dates a staple diet in Arabia and an important article of export, but the plaited leaves furnish mats and baskets, the bark is made into ropes, and the seeds are ground up for cattle. From the dates is made a kind of syrup, date-honey or dibs , a valuable substitute for sugar. The method of fertilization of the female (pistillate) flowers by the pollen from the male (staminate) flowers was known in very ancient times, and nature was then, as now, assisted by shaking out the pollen over the female flowers. The palm tree is referred to ( Psalms 92:12 ) as a sign of prosperity and ( Song of Solomon 7:7-8 ) of beauty. Figures of palm trees were used to ornament the Temple ( 1 Kings 6:1-38 ); at a later period they occur on Jewish coins and in the sculpture of the ancient Jewish synagogues, notably in the recently excavated synagogue at Tell Hûm (Capernaum). The sacredness of this tree thus persisted from the early Semite to late Jewish times. Palm branches were used at the rejoicings of the Feast of Tabernacles ( Leviticus 23:40 , Nehemiah 8:15 ), as they are among the modern Jews, who daily, during this feast, wave branches of palms in their synagogues. In 1Ma 13:51 we read of the bearing of palm branches as the sign of triumphant rejoicing an idea also implied in their use in John 12:13 and Revelation 7:9 . To-day these branches are used by the Moslems especially at funeral processions, and to decorate graves.

E. W. G. Masterman.

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Palm Tree'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. 1909.

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