Plants of the Bible Lytton John Musselman Old Dominion University
About 125 different plants are mentioned in the Bible. This includes crops about whose identity is clear, and such obscure plants as almug wood (II Chronicles 2:8) and “costly wood” (Revelation 18:12). In addition, there are general terms as “weeds” and “trees”.
More plants are mentioned in the Old Testament than in the New Testament • Isaiah mentions more plants than any other book (it is also one of the longest books). • Song of Solomon mentions more unique plants, hapex legemon, than any other book.
Few plants and plant products are unique to the New Testament Papyrus Laurel
Paper from the Egyptian river plant Cyperus papyrus is mentioned in II John 12. It was shipped to the Phoenician port of Byblos, the presentday Lebanese city of Jbail. Our English word paper comes from papyrusand Bible Bible from Byblos. Ancient port of Byblos
Laurel (Laurus nobilis), the bay leaf of cooking, is implied in the victor’s crown in several New Testament verses, especially Paul’s writings. It is a common shrub in the Mediterranean region. “…you will receive a crown of glory that will never fade. . .” I Peter 5:4
Several plants are obvious imports to Israel. Examples are ebony (Ezekiel 27:15) and the essential ingredients for the anointing oil and incense—calamus, frankincense, and myrrh (Exodus 30) Boswellia papyrifera near Kadugli, Sudan
Based on an agrarian society, the Bible includes many references to crops, like wheat, and associated plants. Certainly the best known is the mustard of Jesus’ teaching yet we have little idea of which plant is intended.
No clear correlation exists between the frequency of references and the frequency of plants in natural vegetation. A good example is the carob (kharoobin Arabic), Ceratonia siliqua, a common tree in much of the Middle East yet mentioned only once (the story of the prodigal son, Luke 15). Because of their uniform weight, the seeds of carob were used to measure precious commodities, like gold. Hence the word carat in English, from Ceratonia.
Chamaecyparis thyoides Cedar of Lebanon Local people in different lands use Bible (or Qu’ran) names for indigenous plants which never grew in Bible lands. The flora of Eastern North America, for example, has many "cedars," which are no relation to the cedar of Lebanon of the Bible. Atlantic white cedar, Dismal Swamp Juniperus virginiana Red cedar
In eastern Sudan, the Beja people call the large, arborescent Euphorbia abyssinca, zaqqm after the “tree of Hell” mentioned in the Qu’ran (Al-Sfft 37:65, Al-Dukhn 44:49, Al-Waqiah 56:51).
The vine (Vitis vinifera) and its products is mentioned more than any other plant with 372 references. On the other hand, some plants are mentioned only once such as saffron.
Current Research on Bible Plants Cedar of Lebanon Cedrus libani
The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar in Lebanon Psalm 92:12
Certainly the best known Lebanese plant is Cedrus libani, Cedar of Lebanon Cedars of the Lord, Bsherri Tannourine cedar preserve
Cedar requires fog from the Mediterranean to thrive Less than 3% of the original cedar forest is extant in Lebanon Ehden cedar preserve, March 2002
A patriarch of cedars at the Arz el Rab (cedars of God) Preserve near Bsherri, Lebanon Wood craft from broken branches and damaged trees
Artist Rudy Rahme has sculpted some dead trees into objects of religious veneration, perhaps a continuation of the ancient respect for forest giants
A cedar log about 300 years old when it was toppled, probably by a flood, 7774 years ago. Preserved on the campus of the American University of Beirut
Current research at the American University of Beirut seeks to inventory cedars, determine their reproductive potential, and understand their importance in the local economy
Mandrake Mandragora officinalis A relative of tomato, potato, and tobacco. It contains a complex chemical mixture.
Mandrake Flowers in the winter with specialized floral parts that repel rain.
Mandrake Fruits are often considered toxic Fragrant fruits are produced in the late spring. “. . .the mandrakes send out their fragrance. . .” Song of Solomon 7: 13.
Current Research on Bible Plants Frikeh Green Roasted Wheat
What is the material in these verses? • If you bring a grain offering of first fruits to the Lord, you shall bring as the grain offering of your first fruits coarse new grain from fresh ears parched with fire. Leviticus 2:14. New Revised Standard Version • If you bring a grain offering of first fruits to the LORD, offer crushed heads of new grain roasted in the fire. Leviticus 2:14. New International Version
Frikeh Production in Syria Selecting the grain for burning
Frikeh Production in Syria Selecting the grain for burning Burning the durum wheat
Frikeh Production in Syria The finished product. Drying on an Aleppo sidewalk
We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost --also the cucumbers, melons, leeks and garlic. Numbers 11:5 What are “leeks” in the Bible?
Comparison of Allium porrum and A. kurrat C Allium kurrat, Egypt Allium porrum, England
Kurrat Culture of kurrat near Alexandria, Egypt March 2003
Kurrat Kurrat is easy to grow from seed. Flowers appear after six months.
What is the smallest seed in the Bible?
Brassica alba White mustard Mustard?? Brassica nigra Black mustard
Mustard seed is not the smallest seed, only the smallest of crop seeds.
Wheat Flax Chickpea Barley
Wheat Flax Chickpea Mustard Barley
Jesus said: “It [The Kingdom of God] is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant. . .” Mark 4: 31.
What feature makes it like the Kingdom of God?
Perhaps its unusually rapid germination.
What feature makes it like the Kingdom of God? “Leaven” is also a symbol of the Kingdom of God. Mustard seed 24 hours after sowing
Mustard—What is mustard in the Bible?
There is no archeological or ethnobotanical evidence of culture of mustard.
One candidate is Eruca sativa, known in English as rocket or arugula.
Eruca sativa, widely used in the Middle East
Eruca sativa, widely used in the Middle East
Some Bible Plants easy to grow in the Tidewater area