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Several parts of the Holy Land, no less than of Idumea, that lay contiguous to it, are described by the ancients to have abounded with date trees. Judea, particularly, is typified in several coins of Vespasian, by a disconsolate woman sitting under a palm tree. Upon the Greek coin, also, of his son Titus, struck upon like occasion, we see a shield suspended upon a palm tree, with a Victory writing
The same tree, upon a medal of Domitian, is made an emblem of Neapolis, formerly Sichem, or Naplosa, as it is now called; as it is also of Sephoris or Sepphoury, according to the present name, the metropolis of Galilee, upon one of Trajan's coins. It may be presumed, therefore, that the palm tree was formerly much cultivated in the Holy Land; although Stanley suggests that they are now scarce in central Palestine, for he says, it is seen 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 Nablous, and one or two in the plain of Esdraelon, comprise nearly all the instances of the palm in Central Palestine.*
In Deut. xxxiv. 3, Jericho is called “the city of palm trees,” because it anciently abounded with them: and Dr. Shaw states that there are several of them yet at Jericho, where there is the convenience they require of being often watered, where the climate is warm, and the soil sandy, or such as they thrive in. In the north, however, Dr. Shaw states that he rarely saw above two or three of them together ; and even these, as their fruit rarely or never comes to maturity, are of no further service than (like the palm tree of Deborah) to shade the retreats or sanctuaries of their Sheikhs, as they might formerly * “ Sinai and Palestine,” p. 144.
have been sufficient to supply the solemn processions with branches (See John xii. 13). “ To be exalted,” or “ to flourish like the palm tree,” (Psal. xcii. 12), are as just and proper expressions, suitable to the nature of this plant, as to spread abroad like a cedar.”
The straight and lofty growth of the palm tree, its longevity and great fecundity, the permanence and perpetual flourishing of its leaves, and their form, resembling the solar rays, make it, says Parkhurst, a very proper emblem of the natural, and thence of the divine, light. Hence, in the holy place or sanctuary of the temple. (the emblem of Christ's body), palm trees were engraved on the walls and doors between the coupled cherubs (1 Kings vi. 29, 32, 35; Ezek. xli. 18, 19, 20, 25, 26.) Hence, at the Feast of Tabernacles, branches of palm trees were to be used, among others, in making their booths. (Comp. Lev. xxiii. 40, Neh. viii. 15.) Palm branches were also used as emblems of victory, believers doubtless intending thereby to acknowledge the supreme Author of their success and prosperity, and to carry on their thoughts to the Divine Light, the great Conqueror over sin and death (Comp. 1 Mac. xiii. 51; 2 Mac. x. 7; John, xii. 13; Rev. vii. 9.) The idolaters used palms on such occasions, not without respect to Apollo or the sun, to whom they were consecrated. Hence, probably, we have the name of a place “Baal-Tamar” (Judg. xx. 33)--tamar being, as we have said, the name of the palm tree—it being so called in honour of Baal or the sun, whose image, it may be, was there accompanied by this tree.
It is probable that Tamar (Ezek. xlvii. 19, &c.) or Tadmor (1 Kings, ix. 18) built in the desert, by
Solomon, and afterwards called Palmyra by the Greeks, obtained its name from the number of palm trees which grew about it. Mr. Parkhurst has a long and interesting article on the subject, to which the reader is referred.
THE OLIVE. — The Apostle Paul distinguishes olive trees
as of two kinds (Rom. xi. 24 ;) the wild or natural, and those under care and culture. The cultivated olive tree is of a moderate height, its trunk knotty, its bark smooth and ash-coloured, and its wood solid and of a yellowish colour. The leaves are oblong, almost like those of the willow, of a green colour, dark on the upper side, and white beneath. In the month of June it puts out white flowers that grow in bunches. The fruit is oblong and plump; first green, then pale, and when quite ripe, black. The wild olive is smaller in all
It does not appear that Egypt was remarkable for the cultivation of this tree. It abounded, however, in Syria, and was of better quality there than in any part of the Levant. They are now more abundant than any other tree in Palestine, and almost every village has its olive grove.
The Scripture references to the olive tree are frequent. In Psalm lii., David describes a wicked man as soon to wither away and disappear, while he himself should be like a young and vigorous olive tree, which had long to live and to flourish. The beauty of the olive tree, alluded to in other passages of Scripture, consisted in the spread of its branches, and not in its colour: “His branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive tree (Hos. xiv. 6.) “We entered upon a grove of olives,” says the author of a Narrative of a Mission of