Page images

allusions to these destructive pests. They occur in such numbers as to obscure the sun; they are extremely voracious; they are compared to horses;—the Italians, we may observe, call the locust Cavaletta, and Hay's description is 'Caput oblongum equi instar;'—they make a fearful noise in their flight; their progress is irresistible; they enter houses, and devour even the woodwork in them; they are destroyed by falling into the sea; their dead bodies taint the air; they were used as food.*

Some people have supposed that the locusts which John the Baptist ate in the wilderness were not the insect of that name, but the long sweet pods of the locust-tree (Ceratonia siliqua), St. John's bread, as the monks of Palestine call them. It is hardly necessary to say this is quite an erroneous notion. Various species of locusts are now, and have been from time immemorial, used as food. Dr. Kitto says they more resemble shrimps than anything else he has eaten. The law of Moses expressly allowed locusts, four different kinds of which are mentioned, to be used as food. The word erroneously translated 'beetle' in Lev. xi. 22 is clearly some species of Saltatorial orthopterous insect, defined as one of the 'flying creeping things that goeth upon all fours, which have legs above their feet \ to leap withal upon the earth.' Locusts, like all true insects, have six feet, but the Jews regarded the two anterior pair only as true legs in this family—regarding the latter pair as instruments for leaping. All insects, with the above exception, together with Molluscous animals, the Crustacea, and the Annelida, &c, were to be considered 'unclean.' In respect of quadrupeds, clovenfooted Mammalia alone were to be eaten; no quadruped, in short, which did not possess the two requisite conditions of chewing the cud and fully dividing the hoof into two equal parts was, by the Levitical law, accounted as good for food. The camel was excluded because, though a ruminant, it does not fully divide the hoof. There is little difference between the Levitical law in the matter of ' clean ' and 'unclean' quadrupeds and the common custom of Englishmen as regards those members of the class Mammalia which are commonly used as food— the pig amongst the Pachydermata, and the hare and rabbit amongst the Rodentia, being the only exceptions.

With respect to * clean' and ' unclean' birds, amongst which class the ancient Hebrews enumerated the bat, no such simple discriminating rule is given. Besides the bat, twenty names of birds are mentioned which were to be regarded as unclean: these

* 'Dictionary of the Bible,' art. Locutt.

t i. e. * which have their tibia so placed above their tarei as to enable them to leap.'—Ibid.

names names must be understood to comprise more than our term species, as the expression 'after their kind' indicates. The list, therefore, may be understood to exclude as unfit for food all the order Raptores, most if not all the family of Corvtdce, the hoopoe (lapwing, A. V.) amongst the Certhiada, perhaps all the order Grallatores, and the Pelicanidce amongst the natatorial order. 'The list is confined,' as Hamilton Smith observes, 'nearly to the same genera and species as are at the present day ■rejected in all Christian countries.' *

Of Fish, such as were devoid of fins and scales were pronounced unfit for food. 'These shall ye eat of all that are in the waters: whatsoever hath fins and scales in the waters, in the seas, and in the rivers, them shall ye eat' The whole families of the Siluridce and the Squalidce would, therefore, be excluded as being destitute of true scales. Eels, doubtless, came under the same category, although these fish do possess scales, so small, however, as probably to have been unobserved by the ancients. The modern Jews still abstain from eating eels. The fish 'without fins' probably mean the Raiadce, or skate family, the large expanded pectoral and ventral fins characteristic of the group not being regarded as fins by the ancient Hebrews; at any rate, it is difficult otherwise to understand the meaning of the expression, for all fish have fins.

All Reptiles, Molluscs, Crustacea as crabs and lobsters, and the whole class of Annulata, with the single exception of the saltatorial Orthoptera, were forbidden as food by the law of Moses as coming under the category of * creeping things that creep upon the' earth, or that go on the belly,' or • that multiply feet. It is true that the Conchiferous molluscs, such as oysters, are not disallowed by any precise definition; but there is little doubt that they would be considered 'abominable things.'

Of imported zoological specimens, especial mention is made of apes and peacocks, which the navy of Tharshish brought once in three years to Jerusalem. That the Hebrew words kophim and tokeyim are correctly rendered 'apes' and 'peacocks' is unquestionable. The Hebrew terms are certainly of foreign origin. Let us hear what a very high authority on all matters connected with language says on this subject:—

c You remember the fleet of Tharshish which Solomon had at sea, together with the navy of Hiram, and which came onco in three years, bringing gold and silver, ivory, apes, and peacocks. The same navy which was stationed on the shore of the Bed Sea is said to have

* 'Cyclop, of Biblical Literature,' vol. ii. p. 899, ed. 1856.

p 2 fetched fetched gold from Ophir, and to have brought, likewise, great plenty of algum-trees and precious stones from Ophir.

* Well, a great deal has been written to point out where this Ophir was; but there can be no doubt that it was in India. The names for apes, peacocks, ivory, and algum-trees are foreign words in Hebrew, as much as gutta-percha or tobacco are in English. Now if we wished to know from what part of the world gutta-percha was first imported into England, we might safely conclude that it came from that country whero the name gutta-percha formed part of the spoken language. If, therefore, wo can find a language in which the names for peacocks, apes, ivory, and algum-tree, which are foreign in Hebrew, are indigenous, we may be certain that the country in which that language was spoken must have been the Ophir of the Bible. That language is no other but Sanscrit.

'Apes are called in Hebrew Koph, a word without an etymology in the Semitic languages, but nearly identical in sound with the Sanscrit name of ape, Kapi.

'Ivory is called either Karnoth-shen, horns of tooth; or slten-lwbbim. This liabbim is again without a derivation in Hebrew, but it is most likely a corruption of the Sanscrit name for elephant, ibha, preceded by the Semitic article.

'Peacocks are called in Hebrew tukhi-im, and this finds its explanation in the name still used for peacock on the coast of Malabar, togei, which in turn has been derived from the Sanscrit sikkin, meaning, furnished with a crest.

'All these articles, ivory, gold, apes, peacocks, arc indigenous in India, though of course they might have been found in other countries likewise. Not so the algum-tree, at least if interpreters are right in taking algum or almug for sandalwood. Sandalwood is found indigenous on the coast of Malabar only, and one of its numerous names there, and in Sanscrit, is valgulca. This valguVJca) is clearly the name which Jewish and Phoenician merchants corrupted into algum, and which in Hebrew was still further changed into almug.' *

The question as to the identification of the algummin or almuggin trees of Solomon's fleet leads us to say a few words on the botany of the Bible. Space, however, compels us to be brief in our remarks.

Much remains to be done in this branch of Biblical natural history. 'The botany of the Bible,' says Dr. Balfour, in his useful little work whose title is given at the head of this article, 1 can be fully worked out only by those who travel in Eastern countries, and who are acquainted with Hebrew, Syriac, Arabic, and other cognate languages. A great deal of valuable information may be gathered on the spot which cannot be otherwise

• 'Lectures on the Science of Language,' p. 189-191. By Max Miiller, M.A. London, 1861.

obtained.' obtained.' Another essential, in our opinion, is that the inquirer should, for a year or two at least, be resident in the country. It is a very difficult matter for mere visitors to obtain adequate information on such subjects. As an instance of the truth of this remark we quote an extract from a letter we received about two years since from Dr. Hooker, who had then lately returned from Palestine:—

'I procured a great many plants, but very little information of any service to you, though I made every inquiry about the subject of your notes. You would hardly believo the difficulty in getting reliable information about the simplest subjects: e.g. Three to all appearance unexceptionable English resident authorities (including a Consul and a medical gentleman) assured me that the finest apples in Syria grew at Joppa and Askalon; the fact appeared so improbable that though one authority had eaten them, I could not resist prosecuting the inquiry, and at last found a gentleman that had property there, and knew a little of horticulture, who assured me that they were all quinces, the apples being abominable!'

We have no space to speak of the olive, with 'its twisted stems and silver foliage;' or of the pomegranate, whose 'tender green and scarlet blossoms,'says Professor Stanley, 'are amongst the most beautiful of sights, even when stripped of the associations which would invest the tamest of their kind with interest;' or of the oaks of Moreh, of Mamre, and of Bethel the ' oak of tears.'* We must only just allude to the carob-tree (Ceratonia tiliqua), the long sweet pods of which were doubtless the 'husks' which the 'swine did eat' in the parable of the Prodigal Son; and to the sycamores,—not the tree commonly but erroneously called by this name in our own country, but the Ficus sycamorus, with leaves something resembling those of the mulberry, and with fruit like a fig, which grows in clusters on the trunk and large branches. In order to render the fruit of this tree palatable, it is necessary to scrape off a part of it, or to make incisions into it; hence Amos says of himself, 'I was a scraper of the sycamore fruit.'

The palm, so frequently alluded to in the Bible, appears to be becoming scarce in central Palestine. It is spoken of by Stanley as 'breaking the uniformity of the Syrian landscape by the

rarity of its occurrence Two or three in the gardens of

Jerusalem, some few, perhaps, at Nablus, one or two in the plain of Esdraelon, comprise nearly all the instances of the palm in central Palestine.' \

* See Dr. Hooker's paper on 'the Oaks of Palestine,' Transac. of Lin. Soc., vol. xxiii. p. 381. t 'Sinai and Palestine,' p. 144.


The mustard-tree of the New Testament demands more extended notice. 'The kingdom of Heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed which a man took. and sowed in his field, which indeed is the least of all seeds; but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.' • It is obvious,' says Balfour, 'that it cannot be the common mustard of this country, which is an herb of annual growth; whereas the Evangelists speak of the plant as a tree having branches on which the fowls of the air lodge.' Again, 'our Lord alludes to the smallness of the seed in Matt xvii. 20, and Luke xvii. 6. The mustard-plant then was a branching tree with a small seed.' From the conclusion that no mustardplant (Sinapis) can represent the 'great tree' of the parable—a conclusion, however, too hastily arrived at—writers have endeavoured to discover some tree indigenous to Palestine which should literally fulfil the Scriptural demands. It is now in this country almost universally allowed that the Salvadqra persica is the tree signified. The late excellent Dr. Royle, an able botanist and an accomplished scholar, is the author of this theory. In a paper read before the Royal Asiatic Society, entitled, 'On the Identification of the Mustard-tree of Scripture,' this writer advances many very plausible arguments in favour of the claims of the Salvadora. The same thought occurred to Messrs. Irby and Mangles, who observed this tree near the Dead Sea.

'There was one curious tree,' they say, 'which we observed in great plenty, and which bore fruit in bunches resembling in appearance the currant with the colour of the plum; it has a pleasant, although strongly aromatic taste, exactly resembling mustard. The leaves have the same pungent flavour as the fruit, although not so strong. We think it probable that this is the tree our Saviour alluded to in the Parable of the mustard-seed, and not the plant which we hftvo in the north.'

An additional argument in favour of the Salvadora is its Arabic name Khardal, which signifies 'mustard.' Its claims are thus summed up by Royle:—

'The Salvadora persica appears better calculated than any other tree that has yet been adduced to answer to everything that is required, especially if we take into account its name and the opinions held respecting it in Syria. We have in it a small seed, which sown in cultivated ground grows up and abounds in foliage. This being pungent may like tho seeds have been used as a condiment, as mustard and cress is with us. The nature of the plant is to become arboreous, and thus it will form a largo shrub or tree, twenty-five feet high, under which a horseman may stand when the climate and soil are


« PreviousContinue »