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Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary

Gourd

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קיקיזן , Jonah 4:6-7 ; Jonah 4:9-10 . Michaelis, in his remarks on this subject, says, "Celsius appears to me to have proved that it is the kiki of the Egyptians." He refers it to the class of the ricinus, the great catapucus. According to Dioscorides, it is of rapid growth, and bears a berry from which an oil is expressed. In the Arabic version of this passage, which is to be found in Avicenna, it is rendered, "from thence is pressed the oil which they call oil of kiki, which is the oil of Alkeroa." So Herodotus says: "The inhabitants of the marshy grounds in Egypt make use of an oil, which they term the kiki, expressed from the Sillicyprian plant. In Greece this plant springs spontaneously, without any cultivation; but the Egyptians sow it on the banks of the river and of the canals; it there produces fruit in great abundance, but of a very strong odour. When gathered, they obtain from it, either by friction or pressure, an unctuous liquid, which diffuses an offensive smell, but for burning it is equal in quality to the oil of olives." This plant rises with a strong herbaceous stalk to the height of ten or twelve feet; and is furnished with very large leaves, not unlike those of the plane tree. Rabbi Kimchi says that the people of the east plant them before their shops for the sake of the shade, and to refresh themselves under them. Niebuhr says, "I saw, for the first time at Basra, the plant eikeroa, mentioned in Michaelis's ‘Questions.' It has the form of a tree. The trunk appeared to me rather to resemble leaves than wood; nevertheless, it is harder than that which bears the Adam's fig. Each branch of the keroa has but one large leaf, with six or seven foldings in it. This plant was near to a rivulet, which watered it amply. At the end of October, 1765, it had risen in five months' time about eight feet, and bore at once flowers and fruit, ripe and unripe. Another tree of this species, which had not had so much water, had not grown more in a whole year. The flowers and leaves of it which I gathered withered in a few minutes; as do all plants of a rapid growth. This tree is called at Aleppo, palma Christi. An oil is made from it called oleum de keroa; oleum cicinum; oleum ficus infernalis. The Christians and Jews of Mosul (Nineveh) say, it was not the keroa whose shadow refreshed Jonah, but a sort of gourd, el-kera, which has very large leaves, very large fruit, and lasts but about four months." The epithet which the prophet uses in speaking of the plant, "son of the night it was, and, as a son of the night it died," does not compel us to believe that it grew in a single night, but, either by a strong oriental figure that it was of rapid growth, or akin to night in the shade it spread for his repose. The figure is not uncommon in the east, and one of our own poets has called the rose "child of the summer." Nor are we bound to take the expression "on the morrow," as strictly importing the very next day, since the word has reference to much more distant time, Exodus 13:14 ; Deuteronomy 6:20 ; Joshua 4:6 . It might be simply taken as afterward. But the author of "Scripture Illustrated" justly remarks, "As the history in Jonah expressly says, the Lord prepared this plant, no doubt we may conceive of it as an extraordinary one of its kind, remarkably rapid in its growth, remarkably hard in its stem, remarkably vigorous in its branches, and remarkable for the extensive spread of its leaves and the deep gloom of their shadow; and, after a certain duration, remarkable for a sudden withering, and a total uselessness to the impatient prophet."

2. We read of the wild gourd in 2 Kings 4:39 ; that Elisha, being at Gilgal during a great famine, bade one of his servants prepare something for the entertainment of the prophets who were in that place. The servant, going into the field, found, as our translators render it, some wild gourds, gathered a lapful of them, and having brought them with him, cut them in pieces and put them into a pot, not knowing what they were. When they were brought to table, the prophets, having tasted them, thought they were mortal poison. Immediately, the man of God called for flour, threw it into the pot, and desired them to eat without any apprehensions. They did so, and perceived nothing of the bitterness whereof they were before sensible. This plant or fruit is called in Hebrew פקעות and פקעים . There have been various opinions about it. Celsius supposes it the colocynth. The leaves of the plant are large, placed alternate; the flowers white, and the fruit of the gourd kind, of the size of a large apple, which, when ripe, is yellow, and of a pleasant and inviting appearance, but, to the taste intolerably bitter, and proves a drastic purgative. It seems that the fruit, whatever it might have been, was early thought proper for an ornament in architecture. It furnished a model for some of the carved work of cedar in Solomon's temple, 1 Kings 6:18 ; 1 Kings 7:24 .


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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Gourd'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/wtd/g/gourd.html. 1831-2.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, November 12th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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