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International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
pam'-tre (tamar, same as the Aramaic and Ethiopic, but in Arabic = "date"; phoinix (Ex 15:27; Lev 23:40; Nu 33:9; Dt 34:3; Jdg 1:16; 3:13; 2 Ch 28:15; Neh 8:15; Ps 92:12; Song 7:7 f; Joel 1:12); tomer, Deborah "dwelt under the palm-tree" (Jdg 4:5); "They are like a palm-tree (margin "pillar"), of turned work" (Jer 10:5); timorah (only in the plural), the palm tree as an architectural feature (1 Ki 6:29,32,35; 7:36; 2 Ch 3:5; Ezek 40:16); Greek only Ecclesiasticus 50:12; Jn 12:13; Rev 7:9):
1. Palm Trees:
The palm, Phoenix dactylifera (Natural Order Palmeae), Arabic nakhl, is a tree which from the earliest times has been associated with the Semitic peoples. In Arabia the very existence of man depends largely upon its presence, and many authorities consider this to have been its original habitat. It is only natural that such a tree should have been sacred both there and in Assyria in the earliest ages. In Israel the palm leaf appears as an ornament upon pottery as far back as 1800 BC (compare PEF, Gezer Mere., II, 172). In Egypt the tall palm stem forms a constant feature in early architecture, and among the Hebrews it was extensively used as a decoration of the temple (1 Ki 6:29,32,35; 7:36; 2 Ch 3:5). It is a symbol of beauty (Song 7:7) and of the righteous man:
"The righteous shall flourish like the palm-tree:
He shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
They are planted in the house of Yahweh;
They shall flourish in the courts of our God.
They shall still bring forth fruit in old age;
They shall be full of sap and green" (Ps 92:12-14).
The palm tree or branch is used extensively on Jewish coinage and most noticeably appears as a symbol of the land upon the celebrated Judea Capta coins of Vespasian. A couple of centuries or so later it forms a prominent architectural feature in the ornamentation of the Galilean synagogues, e.g. at Tell Chum (Capernaum). The method of artificial fertilization of the pistillate (female) flowers by means of the staminate (male) flowers appears to have been known in the earliest historic times. Winged figures are depicted on some of the early Assyrian sculptures shaking a bunch of the male flowers over the female for the same purpose as the people of modern Gaza ascend the tall trunks of the fruit-bearing palms and tie among the female flowers a bunch of the pollen-bearing male flowers.
2. Their Ancient Abundance in Israel:
In Israel today the palm is much neglected; there are few groves except along the coast, e.g. at the bay of Akka, Jaffa and Gaza; solitary palms occur all over the land in the courtyards of mosques (compare Ps 92:13) and houses even in the mountains. Once palms flourished upon the Mount of Olives (Neh 8:15), and Jericho was long known as the "city of palm-trees" (Dt 34:3; Jdg 1:16; 3:13; 2 Ch 28:15; Josephus BJ, IV, viii, 2-3), but today the only palms are scarce and small; under its name Hazazon-tamar (2 Ch 20:2), En-gedi would appear to have been as much a place of palms in ancient days as we know it was in later history. A city, too, called Tamar ("date palm") appears to have been somewhere near the southwestern corner of the Dead Sea (Ezek 47:19; 48:28). Today the numerous salt-encrusted stumps of wild palm trees washed up all along the shores of the Dead Sea witness to the existence of these trees within recent times in some of the deep valleys around.
3. Palm Branches:
Branches of palms have been symbolically associated with several different ideas. A palm branch is used in Isa 9:14; 19:15 to signify he "head," the highest of the people, as contrasted with the rush, the "tail," or humblest of the people. Palm branches appear from early times to have been associated with rejoicing. On the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles the Hebrews were commanded to take branches of palms, with other trees, and rejoice before God (Lev 23:40; compare Neh 8:15; 2 Macc 10:7). The palm branch still forms the chief feature of the lulabh carried daily by every pious Jew to the synagogue, during the feast. Later it was connected with the idea of triumph and victory. Simon Maccabeus entered the Akra at Jerusalem after its capture, "with thanksgiving, and branches of palm trees, and with harps, and cymbals, and with viols, and hymns, and songs: because there was destroyed a great enemy out of Israel" (1 Macc 13:51 the King James Version; compare 2 Macc 10:7). The same idea comes out in the use of palm branches by the multitudes who escorted Jesus to Jerusalem (Jn 12:13) and also in the vision of the "great multitude, which no man could number .... standing before the .... Lamb, arrayed in white robes, and palms in their hands" (Rev 7:9). Today palms are carried in every Moslem funeral procession and are laid on the new-made grave.
See also TAMAR as a proper name.
E. W. G. Masterman
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Definition for 'palm tree'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". bible-history.com - ISBE
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