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Bible Dictionaries

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary

Mustard

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σιναπι , Matthew 13:32; Matthew 17:20; Mark 4:31; Luke 13:19; Luke 17:6; a well known garden herb. Christ compares the kingdom of heaven to "a grain of mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in the earth, which indeed," said he, "is the least of all seeds; but when it is grown is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof," Matthew 13:31-32 . "This expression will not appear strange," says Sir Thomas Browne, "if we recollect that the mustard seed, though it be not simply and in itself the smallest of seeds, yet may be very well believed to be the smallest of such as are apt to grow unto a ligneous substance, and become a kind of tree." The expression, also, that it might grow into such dimensions that birds might lodge on its branches, may be literally conceived, if we allow the luxuriancy of plants in India above our northern regions. And he quotes upon this occasion what is recorded in the Jewish story, of a mustard tree that was to be climbed like a fig tree. The Talmud also mentions one whose branches were so extensive as to cover a tent. Without insisting on the accuracy of this, we may gather from it that we should not judge of eastern vegetables by those which are familiar to ourselves. Scheuchzer describes a species of mustard which grows several feet high, with a tapering stalk, and spreads into many branches. Of this arborescent or treelike vegetable, he gives a print; and Linnaeus mentions a species whose branches were real wood, which he names sinapi erucoides. But whatever kind of tree our Lord meant, it is clear, from the fact that he never takes his illustrations from any objects but such as were familiar, and often present in the scene around him, that he spoke of one which the Jews well knew to have minute seeds, and yet to be of so large growth as to afford shelter for the birds of the air.

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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Mustard'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/wtd/m/mustard.html. 1831-2.

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