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mencing in smallest rills. The chief of these Orders are the Corylaceæ, or the Oak-family; the Betulaceæ, or the Birch-tree family; the Salicaceae, or the Willow-family; and the Juglandaceæ, or the Walnutfamily, members of the first and third of which are certainly mentioned in Scripture, and others perhaps by implication. The interest of the associations is not exceeded in any other class of Scripture plants, though, not being trees of the fruit-bearing kind, they are, outshone as to products by such as the fig, the vine, and the olive. Foremost among them in point of prominence in Scripture narrative stands the oak itself, that famous tree the very name of which sounds patriarchal ; the oak of the Bible, however, is not our own familiar English one, but a species differing both in leaves and acorns, and which botanists call
20. The Valonia-oak (Quercus Ægilops). That this was the kind specifically in view with the inspired writers, there can be but little doubt, perhaps no doubt at all. It is a noble tree, one of the most celebrated of the Old World species of its glorious genus, "" one of the fairest in the world," says old Evelyn, and though sturdy, "goodly to look on." In figure it much resembles the well-known Turkey oak (Quercus Cerris), with which it corresponds (as well as with our native British oak), in being less remarkable for lofty stature than for amplitude of horizontal spread. The height of a full-grown tree seldom exceeds fifty feet; yet the extremities of the great boughs, the points where, river-like, they lose themselves in branchlets and twigs, are often quite remote from the trunk; projected, moreover, at no great elevation above the ground, the tips, like kindly outstretched hands, are often within the reach even of a child. The leaves are ovate-oblong, and deeply and angularly lobed, the lobes ending in bristles; and as winter approaches they quit the branches, the Egilops, like the oak of Old England, being deciduous. As for the catkins, they resemble a yellowish fringe, being thin, interrupted, and unspeakably abundant: the female flowers are minute and rose-coloured; the acorn-cups are immense, often two inches across; in substance they are tough and woody; rough scales completely cover the exterior; inside they are smooth and soft as satin. Under the name of Valonia (which word is the same as the Greek Baλavos1), these great cups, sometimes retaining the acorns, are imported by shiploads for the use of the tanners. The Ægilops is common in the countries bordering the Levant, Palestine of course
1 Compare Bouλoμaɩ and volo, and see "The Alphabet," by Professor T. H. Key, p. 47.
included, also in the Greek Archipelago. It was introduced into England in 1731, but has never become common, though capable of enduring severe attacks of frost. Of this splendid tree it is highly probable that the famous forests of Bashan chiefly consisted. The latter are three times mentioned in Scripture, and always in a way that declares their oaks to have been peculiarly grand and commanding.
At this point we are arrested by one of the difficulties so frequent in the vocabularies of ancient times, and of which an example has already occurred in the case of the word erez. The name borne in Hebrew by the oak appears to have denoted, in its primitive sense, any large and magnificent tree, of vast age and old celebrity, thus corresponding as to sense with the Greek opus, and with the Latin quercus and robur. The ancients, as mentioned before, were not given to minute technical distinctions. Flowers were flowers, and grand and ancient trees were trees, often undistinguished by special names. The Greek word Spus, commonly translated "oak," plainly signifies nothing more than "tree," when regarded from a philologer's point of view; and it is probable that Homer means nothing more definite when in the Iliad he uses the word to give an idea of strength :
"They stood, as on the mountains stand,
The trees with lofty top."1
Pliny, after the same manner, speaks of the great Hercynian forest as composed of robora, contemporary with the creation of the world, and of stupendous magnitude. The ancients regarded these great trees as coeval with the earth itself; the oldest and finest were held sacred,2 and in the mythic times there was a kind of legendary belief that the demigods and heroes were in some way descended from them. When Penelope, questioning the identity of long-absent Ulysses, tells him that his shabby appearance belies heroic pedigree, such as that of her lord, "Thou," she exclaims, "art not born of a tree of ancient fable !"3 The products of these primeval trees, when of the nut or acorn kind, would also seem to have been included under a single name. The Greek Baλavos, though subsequently restricted to the veritable acorn, appears to have included at first chestnuts also and beech-mast, much in the same way that in our own colloquial we apply the name of "nut" to any fruit that is hard-seeded and provided with a kernel, with arbitrary limitation, nevertheless, to the produce of the Corylus Avellana. So with the equivalent Latin glans (etymologically identical 1 Iliad, xii. 132. 2 See Virgil, Ecl. vii. 14. 3 Odyssey, xix. 163.
with Balavos), which seems to have denoted not only acorns but chestnuts a fruit much pleasanter to think of than simple acorns, as having constituted part of the food of primitive man. "Glandes," says Ovid, "that fell from the spreading tree of Jove," formed part of the food of man in the Golden Age.1 That certain species of Quercus yield acorns which are not only esculent but sweet and palatable is quite true; but to suppose they were ever a staple food with mankind is quite unnecessary. It seems not unlikely that the Greek onyos and the Latin esculus held collective meanings much the same as those of δρυς and robur.
Turning now to the great and primeval trees of ancient Palestine, we find that the name collectively applied to them, and corresponding with the Greek Spus,was el, the idea implied being that of strength, with consequent endurance and stability. El, however, in its simplest form occurs but rarely. In most cases it appears in some enlarged or inflexional shape, or in a plural form, the latter notably in elim, that beautiful word which in the history of the Wanderings becomes the name of a place, no doubt by reason of the threescore and ten palm trees which grew there, the palm being emphatically the tree of the desert, time-honoured, established by birthright, and characteristic ; thus the analogue in the wilderness of the oaks and their congeners of the cold mountains. The same plural (elim) occurs in Isaiah i. 29, where the Authorized Version renders it "oaks:" "They that forsake the Lord shall be consumed; they shall be ashamed of the elim which ye have desired:" and in happier association again in lxi. 3, "The spirit of the Lord is upon me to preach good tidings, . . . to bind up the broken-hearted, . . . to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord,... that they might be called elim of righteousness." In both cases the sense is clearly that of something strong, flourishing, and delightful to behold, by reason of its vigour, and luxuriance, and comeliness; and the same meaning no doubt pertains to the word as employed by Ezekiel in his description of the pride and glory of Assyria, and its overthrow, when the elim no longer "stand up in their height, neither shoot up their top among the thick boughs" (xxxi. 14). The qualities ascribed to the elim in these various passages are precisely those which pertain to Truth, of the beauty of which virtue no tree in nature, however vigorous and comely, can be too just and suitable an emblem and representative; so grand, so simple, so self-contained, so resolute, so persevering, and longæval, is
1 Met. i. 106.
TRUTH the leading idea in all that the Prophets have to say to us, and the Evangelists after them; and hostility to which, and assaults upon it, are so graphically pictured in the threats and deeds of the Assyrians, the great enemies of God's people. See how energetically this correspondence has been taken up in Language! The essential element of that ancient Greek word Spvs, signifying the strong, the stalwart, the immemorial, and the sacred tree, dru and dâru in the Sanscrit (whence deodara above cited), and diffused in a score of various forms throughout the Indian, the Celtic, and the Germanic tongues, is without question the original parent of our English words truth and true. The truths that dwell in our intelligence are literally as well as figuratively the "trees of the mind." Well may the Psalmist say that "the trees which the Lord hath planted are full of sap," since nothing holds so much life as the Truth which a man feels to be the link between God and himself.1
As applied to the oak definitely and specifically (just as Homer sometimes uses Spus) the name before us holds the shape, in the masculine, of alōn, or, as a Frenchman would write it, élōn, the earliest reference to the tree occurring in Gen. xxxv. 8, where it is said that the remains of Deborah (the old nurse who accompanied that celebrated and crafty lady, Rebekah, mother of Esau and Jacob, into Canaan), were buried. . . under an oak, and the name of it was alōn-bachuth," literally, the "oak-of-weeping." The term occurs next in Joshua xxiv. 26, where "Joshua wrote these words (the new covenant to put away strange gods) in the book of the law of God, and took a great stone, and set it up there under an oak, that was by the sanctuary of the Lord," the employment of the great stone, and the selection of this particular species of tree, both having emblematic reference to perpetuity, and thus, as it were, sealing the covenant. Next we have it in Isaiah, where, in association with the terebinth, the oak is used as an image of the unshaken and impregnable life of God's own Church, which it is promised shall be saved when the cities are "wasted," and the land is "utterly desolate." "As a teiltree and an oak, whose substance is in them when they cast their leaves, so the holy seed shall be the substance thereof" (vi. 13). The same prophet makes allusion to the oak in the celebrated picture
1 Compare the word "corroborate," which is literally to give to a statement the strength and solidity of an oak-tree. And see for a curious use of the word in its first or physical sense, Lord Bacon's "Wisdom of the Ancients," in "Typhon."
above adverted to, of the blindness and folly of the idolater; "He heweth him down cedars, and taketh the cypress and the oak;" and, in similar connection, we again find it in Hosea iv. 13, when the idolater is described as sacrificing upon the "tops of mountains," and burning incense “ 'upon the hills, under oaks, and poplars, and elms, because the shadow thereof is good." Here it is quite plain that the practical idea designed for you and for me is the frightful wickedness involved in the profanation of Divine truth, and the prostitution of it to sinful purposes. In Zechariah xi. 2 the oak supplies a fine personification, "Howl, O ye oaks of Bashan, for the forest of the vintage is come down." In Isaiah ii. 13, these "oaks of Bashan" stand as growing and living symbols of human pride, especially that most perilous of all its forms, the pride of intellect, the certain fall of which, sooner or later, is figured in their overthrow, "For the day of the Lord of Hosts shall be upon every one that is proud and lofty, and upon all the cedars of Lebanon, . . . and upon all the oaks of Bashan." Lastly, in Ezekiel xxvii. 6, it is said that the Phoenicians made the oars for their ships "of the caks of Bashan," where, again, the veritable oak is no doubt intended.
In another set of texts, although the oak appears to be spoken of in the original Hebrew, the Authorized Version, apparently following the Septuagint, has the word "plain," i.e., a level and wide-extended surface of country. Instead of "the plain of Tabor" (1 Sam. x. 3), it would be better perhaps to read "in a grove of oaks at Tabor;" and for "the plain of Meonenim" (Judges xi. 37) "the oak or groveof-oaks of the magicians," or "of the enchantments." To this list belong also the Authorized Version translations of Judges iv. 11 and ix. 6, "the plain of Zaanaim," and "the plain of the pillar that was in Shechem." It is by no means clear, however, that the word "plain" does not sometimes occur in the Authorized Version where the original Hebrew intends the tree called the terebinth, presently to be described, as in the case of "the plain of Mamre," or perhaps only some great and ancient tree, without particular meaning as to species. The whole matter is obscure, and waits elucidation. Contrariwise, in the Authorized Version the word "oak" appears to stand in several instances where the original intends quite a different thing-the terebinth above cited, as in the history of the unfortunate Absalom. These terebinth-texts will be noticed by and by; here it is only necessary to add that when the difficulties which beset the question shall be disentangled, the genuine allusions to the oak in Scripture