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Bible Encyclopedias

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature

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In our version various words are rendered by 'oak,' particularly Alah, which more probably denotes the terebinth-tree. The oak is, in fact, less frequently mentioned in the original than in the A.V., where it occurs so often as to suggest that the oak is as conspicuous and as common in Palestine as in this country. But in Syria oaks are by no means common, except in hilly regions, where the elevation gives the effect of a more northern climate; and even in such circumstances it does not attain the grandeur in which it often appears in our latitudes. Indeed, Syria has not the species which forms the glory of our own forests. The 'oaks of Bashan' are in Scripture mentioned with peculiar distinction (;; ), as if in the hills beyond the Jordan the oaks had been more abundant and of larger growth than elsewhere. This is the case even at the present day. In the hilly regions of Bashan and Gilead, Burckhardt repeatedly mentions forests of thick oaks—thicker than any forests which he had seen in Syria. Oaks of low stature are frequent on the hills and plains near the sources of the Jordan, and in the lower slopes of Lebanon. Lord Lindsay describes the hills of northern Judea about Hebron as covered to the top with low shrubs of the prickly oak. Prickly and evergreen oaks occur between Samaria and Mount Carmel, and on the banks of the Kishon. The thick trees which cover Mount Tabor are composed chiefly of oaks and pistachio-trees.

The species of oak found in Palestine are,

The Evergreen Oak. This is a tall but not wide-spreading tree, and the timber being very hard, is much used for purposes in which compactness and durability are required.

The Holly-leaved Montpelier Oak, another evergreen. This tree also, as its name imports, is a native of Southern Europe, and is markedly distinguished from the former by its numerous straggling branches and the thick underdown of its leaves.

The Hairy-cupped Oak, so called from the bristly appearance of the calyx. It grows to a considerable size, and furnishes an excellent timber, much used by the Turks in the building of ships and houses.

The Great Prickly-cupped Oak, which takes its name from its large prickly calyx. This species is common in the Levant, where it is a handsome tree, which it is not in our ungenial climate, though it has long been cultivated. The wood of this species is of little worth; but its acorns form the valonia of commerce, of which 150,000 cwt. are yearly imported into this country for the use of tanners.

The Kermes Oak takes its name from an insect (kermes, of the genus coccus) which adheres to the branches of this bushy evergreen shrub, in the form of small reddish balls about the size of a pea. This affords a crimson dye, formerly celebrated, but now superseded by cochineal. This dye was used by the ancient Hebrews.

From the hints of travelers there appear to be some other species of oaks in Palestine, but their information is not sufficiently distinct to enable us to identify them.





Bibliography Information
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Oak'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature". https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​kbe/​o/oak.html.
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