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Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary
תפוח , Proverbs 25:11; Song of Solomon 2:3; Song of Solomon 2:5; Song of Solomon 7:8; Song of Solomon 8:5; Joel 1:12 . As the best apples of Egypt, though ordinary, are brought thither by sea from Rhodes, and by land from Damascus, we may believe that Judea, an intermediate country between Egypt and Damascus, has none that are of any value. Can it be imagined, then, that the apple trees of which the Prophet Joel speaks, Joel 1:12 , and which he mentions among the things that gave joy to the inhabitants of Judea, were those that we call by that name? Our translators must surely have been mistaken here, since the apples which the inhabitants of Judea eat at this day are of foreign growth, and at the same time but very indifferent.
There are five places, beside this in Joel, in which the word occurs; and from them we learn that it was thought the noblest of the trees of the wood, and that its fruit was very sweet or pleasant, Song of Solomon 2:3; of the colour of gold, Proverbs 25:11; extremely fragrant, Song of Solomon 7:8; and proper for those to smell that were ready to faint, Song of Solomon 2:5 . We may be sure that the taphuach was very early known in the holy land, as it is mentioned in the book of Joshua as having given name to a city of Manasseh and one of Judah. Several interpreters and critics render פרי הדר , Leviticus 23:40 , branches, or fruit, of the beautiful tree; and understand it of the citron; and it is known that the Jews still make use of the fruit of this tree at their yearly feast of tabernacles.
Citron trees are very noble, being large, their leaves beautiful, ever continuing on the trees, of an exquisite smell, and affording a most delightful shade. It might well, therefore, be said, "As the citron tree is among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons." This is a delicate compliment, comparing the fine appearance of the prince, amid his escort, to the superior beauty with which the citron tree appears among the ordinary trees of the forest; and the compliment is heightened by an allusion to the refreshing shade and the exhilarating fruit.
The exhilarating effects of the fruit are mentioned Song of Solomon 2:5 , "Comfort me with citrons." Egmont and Heyman tell us of an Arabian who was in a great measure brought to himself, when overcome with wine, by the help of citrons and coffee.
To the manner of serving up these citrons in his court, Solomon seems to refer, when he says, "A word fitly spoken is like golden citrons in silver baskets;" whether, as Maimonides supposes, in baskets wrought with open work, or in salvers curiously chased, it nothing concerns us to determine; the meaning is, that an excellent saying, suitably expressed, is as the most acceptable gift in the fairest conveyance. So the rabbins say, that the tribute of the first ripe fruits was carried to the temple in silver baskets.
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Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Apple Tree'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/wtd/a/apple-tree.html. 1831-2.