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Bible Dictionaries

Smith's Bible Dictionary

Palm Tree

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Palm Tree. (Hebrew, tamar). Under this generic term, many species are botanically included; but we have here only to do with the date palm, the Phoenix dactylifera of Linnaeus. While this tree was abundant generally in the Levant, it was regarded, by the ancients, as peculiarly characteristic of Palestine and the neighboring regions, though now it is rare.

("The palm tree frequently attains a height of eighty feet, but more commonly forty to fifty feet. It begins to bear fruit, after it has been planted six or eight years, and continues to be productive for a century. Its trunk is straight, tall and unbroken, terminating in a crown of emerald-green plumes, like a diadem of gigantic ostrich-feathers; these leaves are frequently twenty feet in length, droop slightly at the ends, and whisper musically in the breeze.

The palm is, in truth, a beautiful and most useful tree. Its fruit is the daily food of millions; its sap furnishes an agreeable wine; the fibres of the base of its leaves are woven into ropes and rigging; its tall stem supplies a valuable timber; its leaves are manufactured into brushes, mats, bags, couches and baskets. This one tree supplies almost all the wants of the Arab or Egyptian." - Bible Plants).

Many places are mentioned in the Bible as having connection with palm trees; Elim, where grew three score and ten palm trees, Exodus 15:27, and Elath. Deuteronomy 2:8. Jericho was the city of "palm trees", Deuteronomy 31:3, Hazezon-tamar, "the felling of the palm tree", is clear in its derivation. There is also Tamar, "the palm". Ezekiel 47:19. Bethany means the "house of dates". The word Phoenicia, which occurs twice in the New Testament - Acts 11:19; Acts 15:3 - is in all probability derived from the Greek word for a palm.

The striking appearance of the tree, its uprightness and beauty, would naturally suggest the giving of its name, occasionally, to women. Genesis 38:6; 2 Samuel 13:1; 2 Samuel 14:27. There is, in the Psalms, Psalms 92:12, the familiar comparison, "The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree," which suggests a world of illustration, whether respect be had to the orderly and regular aspect of the tree, its fruitfulness, the perpetual greenness of its foliage, or the height at which the foliage grows, as far as possible, from earth, and as near as possible, to heaven.

Perhaps no point is more worthy of mention, we wish to pursue the comparison, than the elasticity of the fibre of the palm, and its determined growth upward, even when loaded with weights. The passage in Revelation 7:9, where the glorified of all nations are described as "clothed with white robes and palms in their hands," might seem to us a purely classical image; but palm branches were used, by the Jews, in token of victory and peace.

(To these points of comparison may be added, its principle of growth: it is an endogen, and grows from within; its usefulness; the Syrians enumerating 360 different uses to which it may be put; and the statement that it bears its best fruit in old age. - Editor). It is curious that this tree, once so abundant in Judea, is now comparatively rare, except in the Philistine plain, and in the old Phoenicia about Beyrout.

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Bibliography Information
Smith, William, Dr. Entry for 'Palm Tree'. Smith's Bible Dictionary. 1901.

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