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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
(σίναπι, Matthew 13:31; Matthew 17:20; Mark 4:31; Luke 13:19; Luke 17:6; in Talmudic Chaldee חִרְדָּל, chardal, Mishna, Shabb. 20:2, from the Syriac chardal,), a well-known pod-bearing shrub-like plant (genus Sinapis, of thirteen species, five of which are indigenous in Egypt, Descript. de l'Egypte, 19:96) that sometimes grows wild, and at other times is raised from the seed, which is employed as a condiment, being usually of the two kinds, the black and the white (see Penny Cyclopcedia, s.v. Sinapis). The Jews likewise cultivated mustard in their gardens (Mishna, Maaser. 4:6). The round kernels (Matthew 13:31; Matthew 17:20), which were used also by the ancients as a spice (Pliny, 19:54), passed in Jewish phrase as an emblem for a small, insignificant object (Buxtorf, Lex. Talm. col. 822); being the smallest seed commonly gathered in Palestine, although not literally the most diminutive known. "The Lord in his popular teaching," says Trench (Notes on Parables, page 108), "adhered to the popular language" (see also the Koran, Sur. 31). The statements in Matthew 13:32, that when fully grown it is the greatest of plants, and becomes a tree under which the fowls may find shelter, has been supposed to indicate a larger growth than ordinary in Western countries (see Margrave, Hist. nat. Brasil. Page 291; Bauhin, Hist. Plant. 2:855); but is confirmed by the statements of the Talmudists, one of whom describes it as a tree of which the wood was sufficient to cover a potter's shed (Talm. Hieros. Peah, 7:4), and another says that he was wont to climb into it, as men climb into a fig-tree (ib. Ketuboth, fol. 3:2; comp. Rosenmuller, Alterth. 4:105). Mr. Buckham (On the Mustard-tree of the Scriptures, 1829) cites the following from Alonzo de Orvallo's Travels in Chili (as given in Awnshaw and Churchill's Collection): "The mustard-plant thrives so rapidly that it is as big as one's arm, and so high and thick that it looks like a tree. I have travelled many leagues through mustard-groves which were taller than horse and man; and the birds built their nests in them as the Gospel mentions." The statement of Irby and Mangles has also been referred to (Lambert, in the Linncean Transactions, 17:450), that they found the mustard-plant (Sinapis nigra) growing wild between Beisan and Ajlun as high as their horses' heads. (See further in Celsii Hierobot. 2:253 sq.; Billerbeck, Flora class. page 172.) Prof. Hackett states that he was for a long time disappointed in his search for any specimens of the mustard answering to the requirements of the above texts of Scripture; but that while on his way across the plain of Akka, towards Carmel, he had the satisfaction of seeing a little forest-like field of these plants, in full blossom, from six to nine feet in height, with branches from each side of a trunk an inch or more thick; and that he actually witnessed the alighting of birds upon the stems (Illustra. of Script. Page 124). Dr. Thomson also (The Land and the Book, 2:100) says that he has seen the wild mustard on the rich plain of Akkar as tall as the horse and the rider.
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Mustard'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/m/mustard.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.