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Bible Encyclopedias

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature

Vine Wild

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It is related in , that Elisha having come again to Gilgal, when there was a famine in the land, and many sons of the prophets were assembled there, he ordered his servant to prepare for them a dish of vegetables: 'One went out into the field to gather herbs (oroth), and found a wild vine, and gathered thereof wild gourds (pakyoth sadeh) his lap-full, and came and shred them into the pot of pottage, for they knew them not.' 'So they poured out for the men to eat: but as they were eating of the pottage, they cried out, O thou man of God, there is death in the pot; and they could not eat thereof.' From this it appears that the servant mistook the fruit of one plant (pakyoth) for something else, called oroth, and that the former was vine like, that is, with long weak slender stems, and that the fruit had some remarkable taste, by which the mistake was discovered whenever the pottage was tasted. Though a few other plants have been indicated, the pakyoth has almost universally been supposed to be one of the family of the gourd or cucumber-like plants, several of which are conspicuous for their bitterness, and a few poisonous, while others, it is well known, are edible. Therefore one of the former may have been mistaken for one of the latter, or the oroth may have been some similarly shaped fruit, as for instance the egg-plant, used as a vegetable.

The plant referred to has usually been supposed to be the colocynth, which is essentially a desert plant. Dr. Kitto says, 'In the desert parts of Syria, Egypt, and Arabia, and on the banks of the rivers Tigris and Euphrates, its tendrils run over vast tracts of ground, offering a prodigious number of gourds, which are crushed under foot by camels, horses, and men. In winter we have seen the extent of many miles covered with the connecting tendrils and dry gourds of the preceding season, the latter exhibiting precisely the same appearance as in our shops, and when crushed, with a crackling noise, beneath the feet, discharging, in the form of a light powder, the valuable drug which it contains.' The Globe Cucumber, Dr. Kitto continues, 'derives its specific name (Cucumis prophetarum) from the notion that it afforded the gourd which “the sons of the prophets” shred by mistake into their pottage, and which made them declare, when they came to taste it, that there was “death in the pot.” This plant is smaller in every part than the common melon, and has a nauseous odor, while its fruit is to the full as bitter as the Coloquintida. The fruit has a rather singular appearance from the manner in which its surface is armed with prickles, which are, however, soft and harmless' (Pictorial Palestine; Physical Geog. p. 289). But this plant, though it is nauseous and bitter as the Colocynth, yet the fruit, not being bigger than a cherry, does not appear likely to have been that which was shred into the pot. Celsius, however, was of opinion that the Cucumis agrestis of the ancients, and which was found by Belon in descending from Mount Sinai, was the plant. This plant is now called squirting cucumber, and is a well known drastic purgative, violent enough in its action to be considered even a poison. Its fruit is ovate, obtuse, and scabrous. But it is not easy to say whether this or the Colocynth is most likely to have been the plant mistaken for oroth; but the fruit of this species might certainly be mistaken for young gherkins. Both are bitter and poisonous.

A fruitful vine is often adduced as an emblem of the Hebrew nation, and also the vine that was brought out of Egypt. A period of security and repose is figured by everyone sitting under his own vine and fig-tree; and prosperity by 'Judah, a lion's whelp, binding his foal to the vine, and his ass's colt to the choice vine;' both indications of Eastern manners, where sitting in the shade is most pleasant, and tying cattle in similar situations a common practice.

The vine must have been cultivated in very early times, as we are informed in , that Noah planted the vine immediately after the deluge; and bread and wine are mentioned in . In Egypt also we have early notice of it (), as Pharaoh's chief butler saw in a dream a vine with three branches; and the Israelites complain () that Moses and Aaron had brought them out of Egypt into that dry and barren land, where there were neither figs nor vines. The wines of Syria were in early times also highly esteemed; and though the growth of the vine has much decreased, from the diminished population and the Muhammadan rule, yet travelers still speak with enthusiasm of some of the wines, as of the vino d'oro of Lebanon.





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Bibliography Information
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Vine Wild'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature".

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