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Bible Dictionaries

Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words

Tree

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‛Êts (עֵץ, Strong's #6086), “tree; wood; timber; stick; stalk.” This word has cognates in Ugaritic, Akkadian, Phoenician, Aramaic (‘e’), and Arabic. It occurs about 325 times in biblical Hebrew and in all periods.

In its first biblical appearance ‘ets is used as a collective noun representing all trees bearing fruit (Gen. 1:11). In Exod. 9:25 the word means “tree” indiscriminately: “… And the hail smote every herb of the field, and brake every tree of the field.” God forbids Israel to destroy the orchards around besieged cities: “When thou shalt besiege a city a long time, in making war against it to take it, thou shalt not destroy the trees … : for thou mayest eat of them [literally, “… its tree or orchard … for you may eat from it …”] …” (Deut. 20:19).

This word may signify a single “tree,” as it does in Gen. 2:9: “… The tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.”

This word may be used of the genus “tree.” So Isa. 41:19 lists the olive “tree” and the box “tree” in the midst of a long list of various species of trees.

‛Êts can mean “wood.” Thus, Deut. 16:21 should read: “You shall not plant for yourself an Asherah of any kind of wood” (NASB, “any kind of tree”). This word can represent “wood” as a material from which things are constructed, as a raw material to be carved: “… And in carving of timber, to work in all manner of workmanship” (Exod. 31:5). Large unprocessed pieces of “wood or timber” are also signified by ‛êts: “Go up to the mountain, and bring wood [timber], and build the house …” (Hag. 1:8). The end product of wood already processed and fashioned into something may be indicated by ‛êts: “And upon whatsoever any of them, when they are dead, doth fall, it shall be unclean; whether it be any vessel of wood …” (Lev. 11:32). This word means “stick” or “piece of wood” in Ezek. 37:16: “… Thou son of man, take thee one stick, and write upon it.…” This may also refer to a “pole” or “gallows”: “… Within three days shall Pharaoh lift up thy head from off thee, and shall hang thee on a tree [gallows or pole] …” (Gen. 40:19).

‛Êts once means “stalk”: “But she had brought them up to the roof of the house, and hid them with the stalks of flax, which she had laid in order upon the roof” (Josh. 2:6).

'Ayil (אַיִל, Strong's #352), “large, mighty tree.” This word occurs 4 times and only in poetical passages. This does not mean a particular genus or species of tree but merely a large, mighty tree: “For they shall be ashamed of the [mighty trees] [KJV, RSV, NASB, “oaks”] which ye have desired …” (Isa. 1:29—the first biblical occurrence).

'Êlôn (אֵלוֹן, Strong's #436), “large tree.” This noun is probably related to ‘ayil, “large tree.” ‘Elon occurs 10 times and only in relation to places of worship. It may well be that these were all ancient cultic sites. The word does not represent a particular genus or species of tree but, like the noun to which it is related, simply a “big tree”: “Gaal spoke again and said, Look, men are coming down from the center of the land, and one company is coming from the direction of the Diviners’ oak [KJV, “Meonenim”; NASB, “oak”]” (Judg. 9:37, RSV). Judg. 9:6 speaks of the “tree of the pillar” (KJV, “plain of the piilar”) in Shechem where the men of Shechem and Beth-millo made Abimelech king.

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Bibliography Information
Vines, W. E., M. A. Entry for 'Tree'. Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/vot/t/tree.html. 1940.

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