lily Summary and Overview
Bible Dictionaries at a Glance
lily in Easton's Bible Dictionary
The Hebrew name shushan or shoshan, i.e., "whiteness", was used
as the general name of several plants common to Syria, such as
the tulip, iris, anemone, gladiolus, ranunculus, etc. Some
interpret it, with much probability, as denoting in the Old
Testament the water-lily (Nymphoea lotus of Linn.), or lotus
(Cant. 2:1, 2; 2:16; 4:5; 5:13; 6:2, 3; 7:2). "Its flowers are
large, and they are of a white colour, with streaks of pink.
They supplied models for the ornaments of the pillars and the
molten sea" (1 Kings 7:19, 22, 26; 2 Chr. 4:5). In the Canticles
its beauty and fragrance shadow forth the preciousness of Christ
to the Church. Groser, however (Scrip. Nat. Hist.), strongly
argues that the word, both in the Old and New Testaments,
denotes liliaceous plants in general, or if one genus is to be
selected, that it must be the genus Iris, which is "large,
vigorous, elegant in form, and gorgeous in colouring."
The lilies (Gr. krinia) spoken of in the New Testament (Matt.
6:28; Luke 12:27) were probably the scarlet martagon (Lilium
Chalcedonicum) or "red Turk's-cap lily", which "comes into
flower at the season of the year when our Lord's sermon on the
mount is supposed to have been delivered. It is abundant in the
district of Galilee; and its fine scarlet flowers render it a
very conspicous and showy object, which would naturally attract
the attention of the hearers" (Balfour's Plants of the Bible).
Of the true "floral glories of Israel" the pheasant's eye
(Adonis Palestina), the ranunuculus (R. Asiaticus), and the
anemone (A coronaria), the last named is however, with the
greatest probability regarded as the "lily of the field" to
which our Lord refers. "Certainly," says Tristram (Nat. Hist. of
the Bible), "if, in the wondrous richness of bloom which
characterizes the land of Israel in spring, any one plant can
claim pre-eminence, it is the anemone, the most natural flower
for our Lord to pluck and seize upon as an illustration, whether
walking in the fields or sitting on the hill-side." "The white
water-lily (Nymphcea alba) and the yellow water-lily (Nuphar
lutea) are both abundant in the marshes of the Upper Jordan, but
have no connection with the lily of Scripture."
lily in Smith's Bible Dictionary
(Heb. shushan, shoshannah). Although there is little doubt that the Hebrew word denotes some plant of the lily species, it is by no means certain what individual of this class it specially designates. The plant must have been a conspicuous object on the shores of the Lake of Gennesaret, #Mt 6:28; Lu 12:27| it must have flourished in the deep broad valleys of Israel, #So 2:1| among the thorny shrubs, ib. #So 2:2| and pastures of the desert, ib. #So 2:16; 4:5; 6:3| and must have been remarkable for its rapid and luxuriant growth. #Ho 14:5|, Ecclus. 39:14. That its flowers were brilliant in color would seem to be indicated in #Mt 6:28| where it is compared with the gorgeous robes of Solomon; and that this color was scarlet or purple is implied in #So 5:13| There appears to be no species of lily which so completely answers all these requirements as the Lilium chalcedonicum, or scarlet martagon, which grows in profusing in the Levant. But direct evidence on the point is still to be desired from the observation of travellers. (It is very probable that the term lily here is general, not referring to any particular species, but to a large class of flowers growing in Israel, and resembling the lily, as the tulip, iris, gladiolus, etc. --ED.)
lily in Schaff's Bible Dictionary
LIL'Y (Heb. shusan; Arabic susan). The Arabs use this word for any beautiful flower resembling a lily, and in this general sense it is probably employed Scarlet Lily. (Lilium Chalcedonicum.) in the Bible, the connection often suggesting to an Oriental mind the particular species meant. The only true lily now found in Palestine is the scarlet martagon (Lilium chulcedonicum). It is likely that a white and fragrant kind (L. candidum) was once found on the coast, and this may have been the species referred to in such Lily. (Anemone coronarla.) passages as Cant. Song 2:1. But neither kind was probably ever generally abundant. Many related flowers of great beauty are common, such as irises, tulips, hyacinths, and a gladiolus. If any particular plant is meant, the scarlet anemone (Anemone coronaria) best answers the conditions of color, Cant. Song 5:13, universal abundance, and gorgeousness. Matt 6:28-29. This flower is called a lily by the Arabs. In the scarcity of wood the common flowering weeds of the fields are ordinarily gathered for fuel, and under the hot sun and dry wind Matt 6:30 is often literally fulfilled.
lily in Fausset's Bible Dictionary
shuwshan. Matthew 7:28-29. The white lily plant is used as fuel when withered; but it does not grow wild in Syria. Rather the scarlet martagon (Lilium chalcedonicum). "The lily at Huleh is large, the three inner petals meet above, forming a gorgeous canopy such as art never approached, and king never sat under even in his utmost glory. Our flower delights in the valleys, grows among thorns, and I have sadly lacerated my hands in extricating it. Nothing can be in higher contrast than the velvety softness of this lily and the tangled hedge of thorns about it. Gazelles still feed among these flowers, and you can scarcely ride through the woods N. of Tabor without frightening gazelles from their flowery pasture" (Thomson, Land and Book, 2:18). Compare Song of Solomon 2:1, "lily of the valleys" (Song of Solomon 2:2) "among thorns," (Song of Solomon 2:16) "he feedeth (in Song of Solomon 4:5 'roes') among the lilies."
The words of Solomon's Song (Song of Solomon 5:13), "his lips like lilies," require a ruby or scarlet color, not white. But as" lily" was used also in a general sense for a lovely, bell-shaped flower, the Egyptian lotus of the Nile is probably meant in the "lily work" ornamentation of the capitals ("chapiters") of Solomon's temple pillars, and the rim of the brazen sea (1 Kings 7:22-23). So Egyptian architecture delights in lotus headed capitals. "He shall grow as the lily" (Hosea 14:5), i.e. rapidly selfpropagating, one root often producing 50 bulbs (Pliny, Nat. Hist. 21:5). Stanley thinks "lily" includes numerous flowers of the tulip or amaryllis kind blooming in the early summer or the autumn of Israel. J. Hamilton (Imperial Dictionary) remarks on "consider the lilies," "wondrous is God's chemistry who out of black mould and invisible vapour builds up that column of chrysolite, and crowns it with its flaming capital.
How strange is God's husbandry! Instead of taking the lily into a conservatory, He leaves it out among the thorns. The same soil from which one nature can only extract the harsh astringent sloe with its cruel spines yields to another flexile leaves and balmy blossoms. So the life of faith is not lived in the convent or in the sanctuary (alone), but out of doors in the unsympathising world, in the midst of secular men. From the same soil and the same atmosphere from which others derive repulsive attributes, the believer can absorb grace and give forth excellence. The same bounties of providence which make Nabal more churlish make Joseph more generous, tender, and forgiving; the same sunshine which elicits the balm of the lily matures in the blackthorn its verjuice, the same shower which makes thistles rank fills the lily cup with nectar, and clothes it in raiment eclipsing Solomon."