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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
(עִרְעָר , arar', Jeremiah 17:6; Sept. ἀγριομυρίκη, Vulg. myricce; or עֲרוֹעֵר, aroem ‘, Jeremiah 48:6; Sept. ὄνος ἄγριος, perh. by reading עָרוֹד, a wild ass; Vulg. myricae) has been variously translated, as myrica, tamarisk; tamarin which is an Indian tree, the tamarind; retama, that is. the broom; and also, as in the French and English versions, bruiere, heath, which is, perhaps, the most incorrect of all, though Hasselquist mentions finding heath near Jericho, in Syria. Gesenius, however, renders it ruins in the latter of the above passages (as in Isaiah 17:2), and needy in the former (as in Psalms 102:18). As far as the context is concerned, some of the plants named, as the retain and tamarisk, would answer very well, (See TAMIARISK); but the Arabic name, arar, is applied to a totally different plant, a species of juniper, as has been clearly shown by Celsius (Hierobot. 2, 195), who states that Arias Montanus is the only one who has so translated the Hebrew in the first of the passages in question (Jeremiah 17:6): "For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh, but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land, and not inhabited." Both the Heb. words are from the root עָרִר, "to be naked." in allusion to the bare nature of the rocks on which the juniper often grows (comp. Psalms 102:17, הָעִרְעָר תְּפַלִּת, "the prayer of the destitute," or ill-clad). Several species of juniper are no doubt found in Syria and Palestine. (See CEDAR); (See JUNIPER).
Dr. Robinson met with some in proceeding from Hebron to wady Musa, near the romantic pass of Nemela: "On the rocks above we found the juniper- tree, Arabic ar'ar; its berries have the appearance and taste of the common juniper, except that there is more of the aroma of the pine. These trees were ten or fifteen feet in height, and hung upon the rocks even to the summits of the cliffs and needles" (Bibl. Researches, 2, 506). In proceeding S.E. he states: "Large trees of the juniper become quite common in the wadys and on the rocks." It is mentioned in the same situations by other travelers, and is no doubt common enough, particularly in wild, uncultivated, and often inaccessible situations, and is thus suitable to Jeremiah 48:6 : "Flee, save your lives, and be like the heath in the wilderness." This appears to be the Juniperus Sabina, or savin, with small scale-like leaves, which are pressed close to the stem, and which is described as being a gloomy-looking bush inhabiting the most sterile soil (see English Cyclop. Hist. 3:311); a character which is obviously well suited to the naked or destitute tree spoken of by the prophet. Rosenmü ller's explanation of the Hebrew word, which is also adopted by Maurer, "qui destitutus versatur" (Schol. ad Jeremiah 17:6), is very unsatisfactory. Not to mention the tameness of the comparison, it is evidently contradicted by the antithesis in Jeremiah 17:8 : "Cursed is he that trusteth in man he shall be like the juniper that grows on the bare rocks of the desert: Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord he shall be as a tree planted by the waters." The contrast between the shrub of the arid desert and the tree growing by the waters is very striking; but Rosenmü ller's interpretation appears to us to spoil the whole. Even more unsatisfactory is Michaelis (Supp. Lex. Heb. p. 1971), who thinks "Guinea-hens" (Numida meleagris) are intended! Gesenius (Thes. p. 1073 4) understands these two Heb. terms to denote "parietinse, aedificia eversa" (ruins); but it is more in accordance with the scriptural passages to suppose that some tree is intended, which explanation, moreover, has the sanction of the Sept. and Vulgate, and of the modern use of a kindred Arabic word. — Smith. Modern travelers do not mention the species; but those which have been named as growing in Palestine are the Phoenician juniper, the common savin, and the brown-berried juniper. The first of these is a tree of about twenty feet high, growing with its branches in a pyramidal form. Rosenmü ller states that "Forskal found it frequently in the sandy heaths about Suez. The caravans use it for fuel." The species best known in America are the common red cedar (Jun. Virginiana) and the Bermuda cedar, from which the wood of lead pencils is manufactured. They all have long, narrow, prickly leaves, and bear a soft, pulpy berry, from which a carminative oil is extracted. The wood is light, highly odorous, and very durable. (See JUNIPER).
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Heath'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/h/heath.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.