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favourable; it produces numerous branches and leaves, under which the birds may and do take shelter, as well as build their nests; it has a name in Syria which may be considered as traditional from the earliest times, of which the Greek is a correct translation; its seeds are used for the same purposes as mustard; and in a country where trees are not plentiful, that is, the shores of the Lake of Tiberias, this tree is said to abound, that is, in the very locality where the Parable is spoken.'
Notwithstanding all that has been advanced by Royle, the Salvadora persica is certainly not the tree in question. In the first place this tree is a tropical plant; it grows only in the small low valley of Engedi, near the Dead Sea, where Irby and Mangles saw it. We were sceptical some time ago as to the claims of the Salvadora persica, and requested Dr. Hooker just before his visit to Palestine two years since to pay particular attention to the localities of that tree. It is obvious that it is necessary for the plant of the parable to be a common one, otherwise it would never have been used in a parable at all. Dr. Hooker thus wrote to us on his return from the East: 'I could not hear of any other Syrian locality for this plant except the sub-tropical valley of Engedi. I do not believe at all it is found elsewhere in Syria; no one has ever seen or heard of it elsewhere. The vale of Engedi is doubtless the Ultima Thule of its northern wanderings.' Again, the Greek civatn is said to be a 'garden herb,'* a definition which would not at all suit the Salvadora persica.^ But if the mustard-plant of Scripture is not this tree, what is the plant denoted? We have not a shadow of doubt that it is nothing less than the common Sinapis nigra. Irby and Mangles speak of the usual mustard-plant growing wild as high as their horses' heads. Dr. Thomson has seen the wild mustard on the rich plain of Akkar as tall as the horse and the rider. As to the plant being called 'a tree,' or a 'great tree,' it is clear that the expression is not only an Oriental hyperbole, but that it is used with reference to some other thing. With respect to trees, properly so called, the alvairi was no tree; but compared with the other pot-herbs of the garden, it might justly be called a tree, considering the great relative size which it attains. There is not a word in the New Testament about birds 'building their nests' in the branches of this plant; the Greek word simply denotes to ' settle or rest upon anything;' and if it is understood, as is most natural, of the small insessorial order of birds, the linnets, finches,
t Moreover, the seed of the Salvadora persica, though small, is certainly larger than the seed of the fig, so common in Palestine.
and and such like, the claims of the common mustard-plant are sufficiently established. It is certain, from Dioscorides, Pliny, and other Greek and Latin writers, that mustard seeds were valued as a condiment, even as they are with us. Is it not more probable that the Jews in our Lord's time were in the habit of using the seeds of some common Sinapis rather than the seed of a tree which cannot fulfil the Scriptural demand of being called a 'pot-herb,' even allowing the extreme improbability of its ever having occurred as a common plant in Palestine?
The shittim wood which was so extensively used in the formation of the tabernacle, the ark of the covenant, &c., was probably supplied by the Acacia Seyal or the A. Nilotica. Speaking of the vegetation of a portion of the Peninsula of Sinai, Canon Stanley observes:—' The vegetation is still what we should infer from the Mosaic history. The wild acacia, under the name of " sunt," everywhere represents the "seneh," or "senna " of the Burning Bush. A slightly different form of the tree, equally common under the name of " sayal," is the ancient "shittah," or as more usually expressed in the plural form (from the tangled thickets into which its stem expands) the " shittim," of which "the tabernacle was made"—an incidental proof, it may be observed, of the antiquity of the institution, inasmuch as the acacia, though the chief growth of the Desert, is very rare in Palestine.' According to M. Bove and other travellers, acacia trees are still not uncommon in the valleys of the Wanderings. 'Le lendemain,' says Bove, 'en traversant le Vood6 (Wady) Schen, je vis un grand nombre d'Acacia Seyel; cet arbre s'eleve a la hauteur de vingt a vingt-cinq pieds.' It is true that neither of the above-named trees could have furnished single boards of the required length (10 cubits by 1£ cubit), but the Acacia Serissa of Cairo might have done so; supposing it ever grew in the deserts of Sinai: we do not, however, see any necessity for understanding each Keresh (Heb.) to denote a single plank. Ezekiel uses the singular form of the term collectively to denote ' the deck of a ship,' so that two or more boards joined together might well be called 'one board.'
Every sketch of the botany of the Bible, however imperfect, should contain some notice of the far-famed cedars of Lebanon.
The following remarks of Dr. Hooker will be read with interest, containing, as they do, the most recent and the most scientific account we possess :—
'So far as is at present generally known, the cedars are confined on Lebanon to one spot, at the head of the Kedisha Valley; they have, however, been found by Ehrenberg in forests of oak, &c, on the route
from from Bsherre to Bsinnate. The Kedisha Valley, at 6000 feet elevation, terminates in broad, shallow, flat-floored basins, and is two to three miles across, and as much long; it is here in a straight lino fifteen miles from the sea, and about three or four from the summit of Lebanon, which is to the northward of it. These open basins have shelving sides, which rise 2000 to 4000 feet above their bases; they exactly resemble -what are called Corrys in many Highland mountains. The floor of that in which the cedars grow presents almost a dead level to the eye, crossed abruptly and transversely by a confused range of ancient moraines which have been deposited by glaciers, that, under very different conditions of climate, once filled the basin above them, and communicated with the perpetual snow with which the whole summit of Lebanon was, at that time, deeply covered. The moraines are perhaps 80 to 100 feet high; their boundaries are perfectly defined, and they divide the floor of the basin into an upper and lower flat area. The rills from the surrounding heights collect on the upper flat, and form one stream, which winds amongst the moraines on its way to the lower flat, whence it is precipitated into the gorge of the Kedisha. The cedars grow on that portion of the moraine which immediately borders this stream, and nowhere else; they form ono , group about 400 yards in diameter, with an outstanding tree or ,two, not far from the rest, and appear as a black speck in the great area of the corry and its moraines, which contain no other arboreous vegetation, nor any shrubs but a few small berberry and rose bushes that form no feature in the landscape.
'The number of trees is about 400, and they are disposed in nine groups, corresponding with as many hummocks of the range of moraines: they are of various sizes, from about eighteen inches to upwards of forty feet in girth; but the most remarkable and significant fact connected with their size, and consequently with the age of the grove, is that there is no tree of less than eighteen inches girth, and that we found no young trees, bushes, nor even seedlings of a second year's growth. We had no means of estimating accurately the ages of the youngest or oldest tree. It may be remarked, however, that the wood of the branch of the old tree, cut at the time, is eight inches in diameter (exclusive of bark), presents an extremely firm, compact, and close-grained texture, and has no less than 140 rings, which are so close in some parts that they cannot be counted without a lens. This specimen, further, is both harder and browner than any English-grown cedar or native deodar, and is as odoriferous as the latter. These, however, are the characters of an old lower branch of a very old tree, and are no guide to the general character of the wood on the Lebanon, and still less to that of English-grown specimens, which are always very inferior in colour, odour, grain, and texture. Calculating only from the rings in this branch, the youngest trees in Lebanon would average 100 years old, the oldest 2500, both estimates no doubt widely far from the mark. Calculating from trunks of English rapidly-grown specimens, their ages might be put down as low respectively as 5 .and 200 years, while from the rate of growth of the
Chelsea cedars the youngest trees may bo 22, and the oldest 600 to 800 years old.' *
Dr. Hooker thinks that the cedar grove has not materially decreased since the clays of Solomon, and considers it very doubtful whether the wood was ever largely used in Jerusalem for building purposes. Considering the quantity of first-rate oak and pine on all the coast-ranges from Carmel northwards, he believes it improbable that the 'almost inaccessible valleys of the Lebanon should have been ransacked for a wood that has no particular quality to recommend it for building purposes:—
'The lower slopes of the Lebanon,' he continues, 'bordering on the sea, were and are covered with magnificent forests; so that there was little inducement to ascend 6000 feet, through twenty miles of a rocky mountain valley, to obtain a material which could not be transported to the coast without the utmost difficulty and expense. It is further to be remarked that it is difficult to reconcile the hypothesis of the former great extent of the cedar forests with the fact of almost the only existing habitat being the moraines of ono of the most populous valleys on the mountains. The cypress (also called cedar by the ancients), the Pinus Halepensis, and the tall, fragrant Juniperu* of the Lebanon, with its fine red heart-wood, would have been far more prized on every account.'
We fully agree with these remarks. The Hebrew erez often, it is true, applied to the Cedrus Libani, is used in a wide sense to denote any conifer. The ' cedar-wood' (erez) mentioned in Lev. xiv. 6, for instance, cannot be the Cedrus Libani, for the Israelites were, at the time indicated, in the Desert of Sinai, where this tree never grew. The masts which the Tyrians are said to have made out of the wood of 'Cedars of Lebanon' (erez) were probably furnished by the Pinus Halepensis, and not the Cedrus Libani. We take the word erez to be generic, and to be applied to any of the larger Coniferw; nor do we think that the Cedrus Libani has the exclusive right to the denominations of the * glory of Lebanon,' * the cedars which the Lord hath planted,' &c, but that the tall juniper and the Pinus Halepensis were intended to come in for their share of praise.
We notice the fig-tree only in connexion with the passage in St. Mark, xi. 13, where the circumstance of our Lord cursing the barren fig-tree is related. 'And seeing a fig-tree afar off having leaves, he came if haply he might find anything thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet.' The apparent unreasonableness of
* 'Natural History Review."
seeking fruit at an unseasonable time, and the consequent injustice of the sentence afterwards pronounced, have been the source of much perplexity to commentators, and numerous attempts at explanation have been given from time to time. Most of these are unsatisfactory. Without, then, pausing to consider them, we pass on at once to give what we are fully persuaded is the true solution. The fig-tree (Ficus carica) in Palestine produces fruit at three or four different periods of the year: first, there is the bOcor, or early-ripe fig, frequently mentioned in the Old Testament; this ripens on an average towards the end of June, though, under certain very favourable conditions of soil or temperature, the figs may ripen somewhat earlier. After these come the karmouse, or summer-fig, which rarely ripens before August, when another crop, called the winter-fig, appears: these last-named figs hang and ripen on the tree even after the leaves have fallen, and, provided the winter proves mild, are occasionally gathered in the spring.
Now, at the time of the transaction mentioned by the Evangelist, viz. the end of March or the beginning of April, it was too late to find winter-figs, and there would be no new figs on the trees larger than small plums, and these sour and hard, wholly unfit to be eaten. But we must remember that the fruit of the fig-tree comes before the leaves: consequently if the tree produced leaves, it should also have had eatable early fruit, had it been true to its pretensions. It was an unusual thing, certainly, for a fig-tree at the end of March or the beginning of April to have on it these leaves, nor is it necessary to inquire what natural causes operated to produce such a phenomenon; it is sufficient to know that these abnormal leaves ought to have been accompanied by abnormal fruit. The whole question turns on the tree's pretensions and the typical design of the miracle. It would be unpardonable to omit to notice the beautiful comment of Dr. Wordsworth on this passage:—
'The fact of this tree having an abundance of leaves and no fruit, is what is here brought out. And the sin of the fig-tree (so to speak) was that while it had the power given it to bring forth leaves, it had not the mil to bring forth fruit. It spent all its sap and strength in making a barren and ostentatious display of exuberant foliage, inviting the hungry passer-by from a distance to quit tlio road and to come and look for fruit, and then baulking him with barrenness when he came to examine it. A solemn warning to all nations and churches, to all societies and individuals who make a profession of piety, but do not bring forth the fruits of faith and obedience in their fives.'
This view, we may add, accords with the interpretation adopted