Sir Thomas Browne (1683) Certain Miscellany Tracts. Tract I: Observations upon Scripture Plants, pp. 1-88.
hough many ordinary Heads run smoothly over the Scripture, yet I must acknowledge, it is one of the hardest Books I have met with: and therefore well deserveth those numerous Comments, Expositions and Annotations which make up a good part of our Libraries.
However so affected I am therewith, that I wish there had been more of it: and a larger Volume of that Divine Piece which leaveth such welcome impressions, and somewhat more, in the Readers, than the words and sense after it. At least, who would not be glad that many things barely hinted were at large delivered in it? The particulars of the Dispute between the Doctours and our Saviour could not but be welcome to them, who have every word in honour which proceeded from his mouth, or was otherwise delivered by him: and so would be glad to be assured, what he wrote with his Finger on the ground:2 But especially to have a particular of that instructing Narration or Discourse which he made unto the Disciples after his resurrection, where ’tis said: And beginning at Moses, and all the Prophets, he expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.3
But to omit Theological obscurities, you must needs observe that most Sciences do seem to have something more nearly to consider in the expressions of the Scripture.
Astronomers find therein the Names but of few Stars, scarce so many as in Achilles his Buckler in Homer, and almost the very same.4 But in some passages of the Old Testament they think they discover the Zodiacal course of the Sun: and they, also, conceive an Astronomical sense in that elegant expression of S. James5 concerning the father of lights, with whom there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning : and therein an allowable allusion unto the tropical conversion of the Sun, whereby ensueth a variation of heat, light, and also of shadows from it. But whether the Stellæ erraticæ, or wandring Stars in S. Jude,6 may be referr’d to the celestial Planets, or some meteorological wandring Stars, Ignes fatui, Stellæ cadentes & erraticæ, or had any allusion unto the Impostour Barchochebas, or Stellæ Filius, who afterward appeared, and wandred about in the time of Adrianus, they leave unto conjecture.7
Chirurgeons may find their whole art in that one passage, concerning the rib which God took out of Adam; that is, their διαίρεσις in opening the Flesh, ἐξαίρεσις in taking out the Rib, and σύνϑεσις in closing and healing the part again.8
Rhetoricians and Oratours take singular notice of very many excellent passages, stately metaphors, noble tropes and elegant expressions, not to be found or parallel’d in any other Authour.
Mineralists look earnestly into the twenty eight of Job, take special notice of the early artifice in Brass and Iron under Tubal-Cain:9 And find also mention of Gold, Silver, Brass, Tin, Lead, Iron; beside Refining, Sodering, Dross,10 Nitre, Saltpits, and in some manner also of Antimony.11
Gemmarie Naturalists reade diligently the pretious Stones in the holy City of the Apocalypse:12 examine the Breast-Plate of Aaron, and various Gemms upon it, and think the second Row the nobler of the four:13 they wonder to find the Art of Ingravery so ancient upon pretious Stones and Signets; together with the ancient use of Ear-rings and Bracelets. And are pleased to find Pearl, Coral, Amber and Crystal in those sacred Leaves, according to our Translation.14 And when they often meet with Flints and Marbles, cannot but take notice that there is no mention of the Magnet or Loadstone, which in so many similitudes, comparisons, and allusions, could hardly have been omitted in the Works of Solomon; if it were true that he knew either the attractive or directive power thereof, as some have believed.
Navigatours consider the Ark, which was pitched without and within, and could endure the Ocean without Mast or Sails: They take special notice of the twenty seventh of Ezekiel; the mighty Traffick and great Navigation of Tyre, with particular mention of their Sails, their Masts of Cedar, Oars of Oak, their skilfull Pilots, Mariners and Calkers; as also of the long Voyages of the Fleets of Solomon;15 of Jehosaphat’s Ships broken at Ezion-Geber;16 of the notable Voyage and Shipwreck of S. Paul, so accurately delivered in the Acts.17
Oneirocritical Diviners apprehend some hints of their knowledge, even from Divine Dreams; while they take notice of the Dreams of Joseph, Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, and the Angels on Jacob’s Ladder; and find, in Artemidorus and Achmetes,18 that Ladders signifie Travels, and the Scales thereof Preferment; and that Oxen Lean and Fat naturally denote Scarcity or Plenty, and the successes of Agriculture.
Physiognomists will largely put in from very many passages of Scripture. And when they find in Aristotle, quibus frons quadrangula, commensurata, fortes, referuntur ad leones,19 cannot but take special notice of that expression concerning the Gadites; mighty men of war, fit for battel, whose faces were as the faces of lyons.20
Geometrical and Architectonical Artists look narrowly upon the description of the Ark, the fabrick of the Temple, and the holy City in the Apocalypse.
But the Botanical Artist meeting every where with Vegetables, and from the Figg Leaf in Genesis to the Star Wormwood in the Apocalypse, are variously interspersed expressions from Plants, elegantly advantaging the significancy of the Text: Whereof many being delivered in a Language proper unto Judæa and neighbour Countries are imperfectly apprehended by the common Reader, and now doubtfully made out, even by the Jewish Expositour.
And even in those which are confessedly known, the elegancy is often lost in the apprehension of the Reader, unacquainted with such Vegetables, or but nakedly knowing their natures:21 whereof holding a pertinent apprehension, you cannot pass over such expressions without some doubt or want of satisfaction22 in your judgment. Hereof we shall only hint or discourse some few which I could not but take notice of in the reading of holy Scripture.
Many Plants are mention’d in Scripture which are not distinctly known in our Countries, or under such Names in the Original, as they are fain to be rendred by analogy, or by the name of Vegetables of good affinity unto them, and so maintain the textual sense, though in some variation from identity.
2. That Hyssope is taken for that Plant which cleansed the Leper,27 being a well scented, and very abstersive Simple, may well be admitted; so we be not too confident, that it is strictly the same with our common Hyssope: The Hyssope of those parts differing from that of ours; as Bellonius28 hath observed in the Hyssope which grows in Judæa, and the Hyssope of the Wall mention’d in the Works of Solomon, no kind of our Hyssope; and may tolerably be taken for some kind of minor Capillary, which best makes out the Antithesis with the Cedar.29 Nor when we meet with Libanotis, is it to be conceived our common Rosemary, which is rather the first kind thereof among several others, used by the Ancients.30
3. That it must be taken for Hemlock, which is twice so rendred in our Translation,31 will hardly be made out, otherwise than in the intended sense, and implying some Plant, wherein bitterness or a poisonous quality is considerable.
4. What Tremelius rendreth Spina, and the Vulgar Translation Paliurus, and others make some kind of Rhamnus, is allowable in the sense;32 and we contend not about the species, since they are known Thorns in those Countries, and in our Field or Gardens among us; and so common in Judæa, that men conclude the thorny Crown of our Saviour was made either of Paliurus or Rhamnus.
5. Whether the Bush which burnt and consumed not, were properly a Rubus or Bramble,33 was somewhat doubtfull from the Original and some Translations, had not the Evangelist, and S. Paul express’d the same by the Greek word βάτος,34 which from the description of Dioscorides, Herbarists accept for Rubus; although the same word βάτος expresseth not onely the Rubus or kinds of Bramble, but other Thorn-bushes, and the Hipp-briar is also named Κυνοσβάτος, or the Dog-Briar or Bramble.
6. That Myrica is rendred, Heath,35 sounds instructively enough to our ears, who behold that Plant so common in barren Plains among us: But you cannot but take notice that Erica, or our Heath is not the same Plant with Myrica or Tammarice, described by Theophrastus and Dioscorides, and which Bellonius declareth to grow so plentifully in the Desarts of Judæa and Arabia.36
7. That the βότρυς τῆς Κύπρου, botrus Cypri, or Clusters of Cypress,37 should have any reference to the Cypress Tree, according to the original Copher,38 or Clusters of the noble Vine of Cyprus, which might be planted into Judæa, may seem to others allowable in some latitude. But there seeming some noble Odour to be implied in this place,39 you may probably conceive that the expression drives at the Κύπρος of Dioscorides, some oriental kind of Ligustrum or Alcharma,40 which Dioscorides and Pliny mention under the name of Κύπρος and Cyprus,41 and to grow about Ægypt and Ascalon, producing a sweet and odorate bush of Flowers, out of which was made the famous Oleum Cyprinum.42
But why it should be rendered Camphyre your judgment cannot but doubt, who knows that our Camphyre was unknown unto the Ancients, and no ingredient into any composition of great Antiquity: that learned men long conceived it a bituminous and fossile Body, and our latest experience discovereth it to be the resinous substance of a Tree, in Borneo and China; and that the Camphyre that we use is a neat preparation of the same.43
8. When ’tis said in Isaiah 41. I will plant in the wilderness the Cedar, the Shittah Tree, and the Myrtle and the Oil Tree, I will set in the Desart, the Firre Tree, and the Pine, and the Box Tree:44 Though some doubt may be made of the Shittah Tree, yet all these Trees here mentioned being such as are ever green, you will more emphatically apprehend the mercifull meaning of God in this mention of no fading, but always verdant Trees in dry and desart places.
9. And they cut down a Branch with one cluster of Grapes, and they bare it between two upon a Staff, and they brought Pomegranates and Figgs.45 This cluster of Grapes brought upon a Staff by the Spies was an incredible sight, in Philo Judæus,46 seem’d notable in the eyes of the Israelites, but more wonderfull in our own, who look onely upon Northern Vines.47 But herein you are like to consider, that the Cluster was thus carefully carried to represent it entire, without bruising or breaking; that this was not one Bunch but an extraordinary Cluster, made up of many depending upon one gross stalk. And however, might be parallel’d with the Eastern Clusters of Margiana and Caramania, if we allow but half the expressions of Pliny and Strabo,48 whereof one would lade a Curry or small Cart; and may be made out by the clusters of the Grapes of Rhodes presented unto Duke Radzivil, each containing three parts of an Ell in compass, and the Grapes as big as Prunes.49
10. Some things may be doubted in the holy Ointment and Perfume.50 With Amber, Musk and Civet we meet not in the Scripture, nor any odours from Animals; except we take the Onycha of that Perfume51 for the Covercle of a Shell-fish called Unguis Odoratus, or Blatta Byzantina, which Dioscorides affirmeth to be taken from a Shell-fish of the Indian Lakes, which feeding upon Aromatical Plants is gathered when the Lakes are drie. But whether that which we now call Blatta Byzantina, or Unguis Odoratus, be the same with that odorate one of Antiquity, great doubt may be made; since Dioscorides saith it smelled like Castoreum, and that which we now have is of an ungratefull odour.52
No little doubt may be also made of Galbanum prescribed in the same perfume,53 if we take it for Galbanum which is of common use among us, approaching the evil scent of Assa Foetida; and not rather for Galbanum of good odour, as the adjoining words declare, and the original Chelbena will bear; which implies a fat or resinous substance, that which is commonly known among us being properly a gummous body and dissoluble also in Water.54
The holy Ointment of Stacte or pure Myrrh, distilling from the Plant without expression or firing, of Cinnamon, Cassia and Calamus, containeth less questionable species, if the Cinnamon of the Ancients were the same with ours, or managed after the same manner.55 For thereof Dioscorides made his noble Unguent. And Cinnamon was so highly valued by Princes, that Cleopatra carried it unto her Sepulchre with her Jewels; which was also kept in wooden Boxes among the rarities of Kings: and was of such a lasting nature, that at his composing of Treacle for the Emperour Severus, Galen made use of some which had been laid up by Adrianus.56
11. That the Prodigal Son desired to eat of Husks given unto Swine,57 will hardly pass in your apprehension for the Husks of Pease, Beans, or such edulious Pulses; as well understanding that the textual word Κεράτοιν or Ceration, properly intendeth the Fruit of the Siliqua Tree so common in Syria, and fed upon by Men and Beasts; called also by some the Fruit of the Locust Tree,58 and Panis Sancti Johannis, as conceiving it to have been part of the Diet of the Baptist in the Desart. The Tree and Fruit is not onely common in Syria and the Eastern parts, but also well known in Apuglia, and the Kingdom of Naples, growing along the Via Appia, from Fundi unto Mola; the hard Cods or Husks making a rattling noise in windy weather, by beating against one another: called by the Italians Caróba or Caróbala, and by the French Carouges. With the sweet Pulp hereof some conceive that the Indians preserve Ginger, Mirabolans and Nutmegs. Of the same (as Pliny delivers59) the Ancients made one kind of Wine, strongly expressing the Juice thereof; and so they might after give the expressed and less usefull part of the Cods, and remaining Pulp unto their Swine: which being no gustless or unsatisfying Offal, might be well desired by the Prodigal in his hunger.
12. No marvel is it that the Israelites having lived long in a well watred Country, and been acquainted with the noble Water of Nilus, should complain for Water in the dry and barren Wilderness. More remarkable it seems that they should extoll and linger after the Cucumbers and Leeks, Onions and Garlick in Ægypt:60 wherein notwithstanding lies a pertinent expression of the Diet of that Country in ancient times, even as high as the building of the Pyramids, when Herodotus delivereth, that so many Talents were spent in Onions and Garlick, for the Food of Labourers and Artificers;61 and is also answerable unto their present plentifull Diet in Cucumbers, and the great varieties thereof, as testified by Prosper Alpinus, who spent many years in Ægypt.62
13. What Fruit that was which our first Parents tasted in Paradise,63 from the disputes of learned men seems yet indeterminable.64 More clear it is that they cover’d their nakedness or secret parts with Figg Leaves;65 which when I reade, I cannot but call to mind the several considerations which Antiquity had of the Figg Tree, in reference unto those parts, particularly how Figg Leaves by sundry Authours are described to have some resemblance unto the Genitals, and so were aptly formed for such contection of those parts; how also in that famous Statua of Praxiteles, concerning Alexander and Bucephalus, the Secret Parts are veil’d with Figg Leaves:66 how this Tree was sacred unto Priapus, and how the Diseases of the Secret Parts have derived their Name from Figgs.67
14. That the Good Samaritan coming from Jericho used any of the Judean Balsam upon the wounded Traveller, is not to be made out,68 and we are unwilling to disparage his charitable Surgery in pouring Oil into a green Wound; and therefore when ’tis said he used Oil and Wine, may rather conceive that he made an Oinelæum or medicine of Oil and Wine beaten up and mixed together, which was no improper Medicine, and is an Art now lately studied by some so to incorporate Wine and Oil that they may lastingly hold together, which some pretend to have, and call it Oleum Samaritanum, or Samaritan’s Oil.69
15. When Daniel would not pollute himself with the Diet of the Babylonians,70 he probably declined Pagan commensation, or to eat of Meats forbidden to the Jews, though common at their Tables, or so much as to taste of their Gentile Immolations, and Sacrifices abominable unto his Palate.
But when ’tis said that he made choice of the Diet of Pulse and Water, whether he strictly confined unto a leguminous Food, according to the Vulgar Translation,71 some doubt may be raised, from the original word Zeragnim, which signifies Seminalia,72 and is so set down in the Margin of Arias Montanus;73 and the Greek word Spermata, generally expressing Seeds, may signifie any edulious or cerealious Grains beside ὄσπρια74 or lugminous Seeds.
Yet if he strictly made choice of a leguminous Food, and Water instead of his portion from the King’s Table, he handsomely declined the Diet which might have been put upon him, and particularly that which was called the Potibasis of the King, which as Athenæus informeth implied the Bread of the King, made of Barley, and Wheat, and the Wine of Cyprus, which he drank in an oval Cup.75 And therefore distinctly from that he chose plain Fare of Water, and the gross Diet of Pulse, and that perhaps not made into Bread, but parched, and tempered with Water.
Now that herein (beside the special benediction of God) he made choice of no improper Diet to keep himself fair and plump and so to excuse the Eunuch his Keeper, Physicians will not deny, who acknowledge a very nutritive and impinguating faculty in Pulses, in leguminous Food, and in several sorts of Grains and Corns, is not like to be doubted by such who consider that this was probably a great part of the Food of our Forefathers before the Floud, the Diet also of Jacob: and that Romans (called, therefore, Pultifagi) fed much on Pulse for six hundred years; that they had no Bakers for that time: and their Pistours were such as, before the use of Mills, beat out and Cleansed their Corn.76 As also that the Athletick Diet was of Pulse, Alphiton, Maza, Barley and Water; whereby they were advantaged sometimes to an exquisite state of health, and such as was not without danger. And therefore though Daniel were no Eunuch, and of a more fatning and thriving temper, as some have phancied, yet was he by this kind of Diet, sufficiently maintained in a fair and carnous state of Body, and accordingly his Picture not improperly drawn, that is, not meagre and lean, like Jeremy’s, but plump and fair, answerable to the most authentick draught of the Vatican, and the late German Luther’s Bible.
The Cynicks in Athenæus make iterated Courses of Lentils, and prefer that Diet before the luxury of Seleucus.77 The present Ægyptians, who are observed by Alpinus to be the fattest Nation, and Men to have Breasts like Women, owe much, as he conceiveth, unto the Water of Nile, and their Diet of Rice, Pease, Lentils and white Cicers. The Pulse-eating Cynicks and Stoicks, are all very long livers in Laertius. And Daniel must not be accounted of few years, who, being carried away Captive in the Reign of Joachim, by King Nebuchadnezzar, lived, by Scripture account, unto the first year of Cyrus.78
16. And Jacob took Rods of green Poplar, and of the Hazel and the Chesnut Tree, and pilled white streaks in them, and made the white appear which was in the Rods, &c.79 Men multiply the Philosophy of Jacob, who, beside the benediction of God, and the powerfull effects of imagination, raised in the Goats and Sheep from pilled and party-coloured objects, conceive that he chose out these particular Plants above any other, because he understood they had a particular virtue unto the intended effects, according unto the conception of Georgius Venetus.80
Whereto you will hardly assent, at least till you be better satisfied and assured concerning the true species of the Plants intended in the Text, or find a clearer consent and uniformity in the Translation: For what we render Poplar, Hazel and Chesnut, the Greek translateth Virgam styracinam, nucinam, plataninam, which some also render a Pomegranate:81 and so observing this variety of interpretations concerning common and known Plants among us, you may more reasonably doubt, with what propriety or assurance others less known be sometimes rendred unto us.
17. Whether in the Sermon of the Mount,82 the Lilies of the Field did point at the proper Lilies, or whether those Flowers grew wild in the place where our Saviour preached, some doubt may be made:83 because Κρίνον the word in that place is accounted of the signification with Λείριον, and that in Homer is taken for all manner of specious Flowers:84 so received by Eustachius, Hesychius, and the Scholiast upon Apollonius Rhodius, Καϑόλου τὰ ἄνϑη Λείρια λέγεται. And Κρίνον is also received in the same latitude, not signifying onely Lilies, but applied unto Daffodils, Hyacinths, Iris’s, and the Flowers of Colocynthis.
Under the like latitude of acception, are many expressions in the Canticles to be received. And when it is said he feedeth among the Lilies,85 therein may be also implied other specious Flowers, not excluding the proper Lilies. But in that expression, the Lilies drop forth Myrrhe,86 neither proper Lilies nor proper Myrrhe can be apprehended, the one not proceeding from the other,87 but may be received in a Metaphorical sense: and in some latitude may be also made out from the roscid and honey drops observable in the Flowers of Martagon, and inverted flowred Lilies, and ’tis like, is the standing sweet Dew on the white eyes of the Crown Imperial, now common among us.88
And the proper Lily may be intended in that expression of 1 Kings 7, that the brazen Sea was of the thickness of a hand breadth, and the brim like a Lily. For the figure of that Flower being round at the bottom, and somewhat repandous, or inverted at the top, doth handsomely illustrate the comparison.89
But that the Lily of the Valley, mention’d in the Canticles,90 I am the Rose of Sharon, and the Lily of the Valleys, is that Vegetable which passeth under the same name with us, that is Lilium convallium, or the May Lily,91 you will more hardly believe, who know with what insatisfaction the most learned Botanists, reduce that Plant unto any described by the Ancients; that Anguillara will have it be the Œnanthe of Athenæus, Cordus the Pothos of Theophrastus;92 and Lobelius that the Greeks had not described it; who find not six Leaves in the Flower agreeably to all Lilies, but only six small divisions in the Flower, who find it also to have a single, and no bulbous root, nor Leaves shooting about the bottom, nor the Stalk round, but angular. And that the learned Bauhinus hath not placed in the Classis of Lilies, but nervifolious Plants.93
18. Doth he not cast abroad the Fitches, and scatter the Cummin Seed, and cast in the principal Wheat, and the appointed Barley, and the Rye in their Place:94 Herein though the sense may hold under the names assigned, yet is it not so easie to determine the particular Seeds and Grains, where the obscure original causeth such differing Translations. For in the Vulgar we meet with Milium and Gith, which our Translation declineth, placing Fitches for Gith, and Rye for Milium or Millet, which notwithstanding is retained by the Dutch.
That it might be Melanthium, Nigella, or Gith,95 may be allowably apprended, from the frequent use of the Seed thereof among the Jews and other Nations, as also from the Translation of Tremellius; and the Original implying a black Seed, which is less than Cummin, as, out of Aben Ezra, Buxtorfius hath expanded it.
But whereas Milium or Κέγχρος of the Septuagint is by ours rendred Rye, there is little similitude or affinity between those Grains; For Milium is more agreeable unto Spelta or Espaut, as the Dutch and others still render it.
That we meet so often with Cummin Seed in many parts of Scripture in reference unto Judæa, a seed so abominable at present unto our Palates and Nostrils,96 will not seem strange unto any who consider the frequent use thereof among the Ancients, not onely in medical but dietetical use and practice: For their Dishes were filled therewith, and the noblest festival preparations in Apicius were not without it: And even in the Polenta, and parched Corn, the old Diet of the Romans, (as Pliny recordeth) unto every Measure they mixed a small proportion of Lin-seed and Cummin-seed.97
And so Cumminn is justly set down among things of vulgar and common use, when it is said in Matthew 23. v. 23. You pay Tithe of Mint, Annise and Cummin: but how to make out the translations of Annise we are still to seek, there being no word in the Text which properly signifieth Annise: the original being Ἄνηϑον, which the Latins call Anethum, and is properly englished Dill.98
That among many expressions, allusions and illustrations made in Scripture from Corns, there is no mention made of Oats, so usefull a Grain among us, will not seem very strange unto you, till you can clearly discover that it was a Grain of ordinary use in those parts; who may also find that Theophrastus, who is large about other Grains, delivers very little of it.99 That Dioscorides is also very short therein. And Galen delivers that it was of some use in Asia minor, especially in Mysia, and that rather for Beasts than Men: And Pliny affirmeth that the Pulticula thereof was most in use among the Germans.100 Yet that the Jews were not without all use of this Grain seems confirmable from the Rabbinical account, who reckon five Grains liable unto their Offerings, whereof the Cake presented might be made; that is, Wheat, Oats, Rye, and two sorts of Barley.101
19. Why the Disciples being hungry pluck’d the Ears of Corn,102 it seems strange to us, who observe that men half starved betake not themselves to such supply; except we consider the ancient Diet of Alphiton and Polenta, the Meal of dried and parched Corn, or that which was Ὠμήλυσις, or Meal of crude and unparched Corn, wherewith they being well acquainted, might hope for some satisfaction from the Corn yet in the Husk; that is, from the nourishing pulp or mealy part within it.103
20. The inhumane oppression of the Ægyptian Task-masters,104 who, not content with the common tale of Brick, took also from the Children of Israel their allowance of Straw, and forced them to gather Stubble where they could find it, will be more nearly apprehended, if we consider how hard it was to acquire any quantity of Stubble in Ægypt, where the Stalk of Corn was so short, that to acquire an ordinary measure, it required more than ordinary labour; as is discoverable from that account, which Pliny105 hath happily left unto us. In the Corn gather’d in Ægypt the Straw is never a Cubit long: because the Seed lieth very shallow, and hath no other nourishment than from the Mudd and Slime left by the River: For under it is nothing but Sand and Gravel.
So that the Expression of Scripture is more Emphatical than is commonly apprehended, when ’tis said, The people were scattered abroad through all the Land of Ægypt to gather Stubble instead of Straw. For the Stubble being very short, the acquist was difficult; a few Fields afforded it not, and they were fain to wander far to obtain a sufficient quantity of it.
21. It is said in the Song of Solomon, that the Vines with the tender Grape give a good smell.106 That the Flowers of the Vine should be Emphatically noted to give a pleasant smell, seems hard unto our Northern Nostrills, which discover not such Odours, and smell them not in full Vineyards; whereas in hot Regions, and more spread and digested Flowers, a sweet savour may be allowed, denotable from several humane expressions, and the practice of the Ancients, in putting the dried Flowers of the Vine into new Wine to give it a pure and flosculous race or spirit, which Wine was therefore called Οἰνάνϑιον, allowing unto every Cadus two pounds of dried Flowers.107
And therefore, the Vine flowering but in the Spring, it cannot but seem an impertinent objection of the Jews, that the Apostles were full of new Wine at Pentecost when it was not to be found.108 Wherefore we may rather conceive that the word Γλεύκους in that place implieth not new Wine or Must, but some generous strong and sweet Wine, wherein more especially lay the power of inebriation.
But if it be taken for some kind of Must, it might be some kind of Ἀειγλεῦκος, or long-lasting Must, which might be had at any time of the year, and which, as Pliny delivereth,109 they made by hindring, and keeping the Must from fermentation or working, and so it kept soft and sweet for no small time after.
22. When the Dove, sent out of the Ark, return’d with a green Olive Leaf, according to the Original:110 how the Leaf, after ten Months, and under water, should maintain a verdure or greenness, need not much amuse the Reader, if we consider that the Olive Tree is Άείφυλλον, or continually green; that the Leaves are of a bitter taste, and of a fast and lasting substance. Since we also find fresh and green Leaves among the Olives which we receive from remote Countries; and since the Plants at the bottom of the Sea, and on the sides of Rocks, maintain a deep and fresh verdure.
How the Tree should stand so long in the Deluge under Water, may partly be allowed from the uncertain determination of the Flows and Currents of that time, and the qualification of the saltness of the Sea, by the admixture of fresh Water, when the whole watery element was together.
And it may be signally illustrated from like examples in Theophrastus and Pliny in words to this effect:111 Even the Sea affordeth Shrubs and Trees; In the red Sea whole Woods do live, namely of Bays and Olives bearing Fruit. The Souldiers of Alexander, who sailed into India, made report, that the Tides were so high in some Islands, that they overflowed, and covered the Woods, as high as Plane and Poplar Trees. The lower sort wholly, the greater all but the tops, whereto the Mariners fastned their Vessels at high Waters, and at the root in the Ebb; That the Leaves of these Sea Trees while under water looked green, but taken out presently dried with the heat of the Sun. The like is delivered by Theophrastus, that some Oaks do grow and bear Acrons112 under the Sea.
23. The Kingdom of Heaven is like to a grain of Mustard-seed, which a Man took and sowed in his Field, which indeed is the least of all Seeds; but when ’tis grown is the greatest among Herbs, and becometh a Tree, so that the Birds of the Air come and lodge in the Branches thereof.113
Luke 13. 19. It is like a grain of Mustard-seed, which a Man took and cast it into his Garden, and it waxed a great Tree, and the Fowls of the Air lodged in the Branches thereof.
This expression by a grain of Mustard-seed, will not seem so strange unto you, who well consider it. That it is simply the least of Seeds, you cannot apprehend, if you have beheld the Seeds of Rapunculus, Marjorane, Tobacco, and the smallest Seed of Lunaria.
But you may well understand it to be the smallest Seed among Herbs which produce so big a Plant, or the least of herbal Plants, which arise unto such a proportion, implied in the expression; the smallest of Seeds, and becometh the greatest of Herbs.
And you may also grant that it is the smallest of Seeds of Plants apt to δενδρόζειν, arborescere, fruticescere, or to grow unto a ligneous substance, and from an herby and oleraceous Vegetable, to become a kind of Tree, and to be accounted among the Dendrolachana, or Arboroleracea; as upon strong Seed, Culture and good Ground, is observable in some Cabbages, Mallows, and many more,114 and therefore expressed by γίνεται τὸ δένδρον, and γίνεται εἰς τὸ δένδρον, it becometh a Tree, or arborescit, as Beza rendreth it.115
Nor if warily considered doth the expression contain such difficulty. For the Parable may not ground itself upon generals, or imply any or every grain of Mustard, but point at such a grain as from its fertile spirit, and other concurrent advantages, hath the success to become arboreous, shoot into such a magnitude, and acquire the like tallness. And unto such a Grain the Kingdom of Heaven is likened which from such slender beginnings shall find such increase and grandeur.
The expression also that it might grow into such dimensions that Birds might lodge in the Branches thereof, may be literally conceived; if we allow the luxuriancy of Plants in Judæa, above our Northern Regions; If we accept of but half the Story taken notice of by Tremellius, from the Jerusalem Talmud, of a Mustard Tree that was to be climbed like a Figg Tree; and of another, under whose shade a Potter daily wrought:116 and it may somewhat abate our doubts, if we take in the advertisement of Herodotus concerning lesser plants of Milium and Sesamum in the Babylonian Soil: Milium ac Sesamum in proceritatem instar arborum crescere, etsi mihi compertum, tamen memorare supersedeo, probè sciens eis quia nunquam Babyloniam regionem adierunt perquam incredibile visum iri. We may likewise consider that the word κατασκηνῶσαι doth not necessarily signifie making a Nest, but rather sitting, roosting, covering and resting in the Boughs, according as the same word is used by the Septuagint in other places117 as the Vulgar rendreth it in this, inhabitant, as our Translation, lodgeth, and the Rhemish, resteth in the Branches.
24. And it came to pass that on the morrow Moses went into the Tabernacle of witness, and behold the Rod of Aaron for the House of Levi was budded, and brought forth Buds, and bloomed Blossomes, and yielded Almonds.118 In the contention of the Tribes and decision of priority and primogeniture of Aaron, declared by the Rod, which in a night budded, flowred and brought forth Almonds, you cannot but apprehend a propriety in the Miracle from that species of Tree which leadeth in the Vernal germination of the year, unto all the Classes of Trees; and so apprehend how properly in a night and short space of time the Miracle arose, and somewhat answerable unto its nature the Flowers and Fruit appeared in this precocious Tree, and whose original Name119 implies such speedy efflorescence, as in its proper nature flowering in February, and shewing its Fruit in March.
This consideration of that Tree maketh the expression in Jeremy120 more Emphatical, when ’tis said, What seest thou? and he said, A Rod of an Almond Tree. Then said the Lord unto me, Thou hast well seen, for I will hasten the Word to perform it. I will be quick and forward like the Almond Tree, to produce the effects of my word, and hasten to display my judgments upon them.
And we may hereby more easily apprehend the expression in Ecclesiastes;121 When the Almond Tree shall flourish. That is when the Head, which is the prime part, and first sheweth it self in the world, shall grow white, like the Flowers of the Almond Tree, whose Fruit, as Athenæus delivereth, was first called Κάρηνον, or the Head, from some resemblance and covering parts of it.
How properly the priority was confirmed by a Rod or Staff, and why the Rods and Staffs of the Princes were chosen for this decision,122 Philologists will consider. For these were the badges, signs and cognisances of their places, and were a kind of Sceptre in their hands, denoting their supereminencies. The Staff of Divinity is ordinarily described in the hands of Gods and Goddesses in old draughts. Trojan and Grecian Princes were not without the like, whereof the Shoulders of Thersites felt from the hands of Ulysses. Achilles in Homer, as by a desperate Oath, swears by his wooden Sceptre, which should never bud nor bear Leaves again; which seeming the greatest impossibility to him, advanceth the Miracle of Aaron’s Rod. And if it could be well made out that Homer had seen the Books of Moses, in that expression of Achilles, he might allude unto this Miracle.
That power which proposed the experiment by Blossomes in the Rod, added also the Fruit of Almonds; the Text not strictly making out the Leaves, and so omitting the middle germination: the Leaves properly coming after the Flowers, and before the Almonds. And therefore if you have well perused Medals, you cannot but observe how in the impress of many Shekels, which pass among us by the name of the Jerusalem Shekels, the Rod of Aaron is improperly laden with many Leaves, whereas that which is shewn under the name of the Samaritan Shekel seems most conformable unto the Text, which describeth the Fruit without Leaves.123
25. Binding his Foal unto the Vine, and his Asses Colt unto the choice Vine.124 That Vines, which are commonly supported, should grow so large and bulky, as to be fit to fasten their Juments, and Beasts of labour unto them, may seem a hard expression unto many: which notwithstanding must easily be admitted, if we consider the account of Pliny, that in many places out of Italy Vines do grow without any stay or support: nor will it be otherwise conceived of lusty Vines, if we call to mind how the same Authour125 delivereth, that the Statua of Jupiter was made out of a Vine; and that out of one single Cyprian Vine a Scale or Ladder was made that reached unto the Roof of the Temple of Diana at Ephesus.
26. I was exalted as a Palm Tree in Engaddi, and as a Rose Plant in Jericho.126 That the rose of Jericho, or that Plant which passeth among us under the denomination, was signified in this Text, you are not like to apprehend with some, who also name it the Rose of S. Mary, and deliver, that it openeth the Branches, and Flowers upon the Eve of our Saviour’s Nativity:127 But rather conceive it some proper kind of Rose, which thrived and prospered in Jericho more than in the neighbour Countries.128 For our Rose of Jericho is a very low and hard Plant, a few inches above the ground; one whereof brought from Judæa I have kept by me many years, nothing resembling a Rose Tree, either in Flowers, Branches, Leaves or Growth; and so, improper to answer the Emphatical word of exaltation in the Text: growing not onely about Jericho, but other parts of Judæa and Arabia, as Bellonius hath observed: which being a drie and ligneous Plant, is preserved many years, and though crumpled and furdled up, yet, if infused in Water, will swell and display its parts.
27. Quasi Terebinthus extendi ramos, when it is said in the same Chapter, as a Turpentine Tree have I stretched out my Branches:129 it will not seem strange unto such as have either seen that Tree, or examined its description: For it is a Plant that widely displayeth its Branches: And though in some European Countries but of a low and fruticeous growth, yet Pliny130 observeth that it is great in Syria, and so allowably, or at least not improperly mentioned in the expression of Hosea131 according to the Vulgar Translation, Super capita montium sacrificant, &c. sub quercu, populo & terebintho, quoniam bona est umbra ejus. And this diffusion and spreading of its Branches, hath afforded the Proverb of Terebintho stultior, applicable unto arrogant or boasting persons, who spread and display their own acts, as Erasmus hath observed.132
28. It is said in our Translation, Saul tarried in the uppermost parts of Gibeah, under a Pomegranate Tree which is in Migron: and the people which were with him were about six hundred men.133 And when it is said in some Latin Translations, Saul morabatur fixo tentorio sub Malogranato,134 you will not be ready to take it in the common literal sense, who know that a Pomegranate Tree is but low of growth, and very unfit to pitch a Tent under it; and may rather apprehend it as the name of a place, or the Rock of Rimmon, or Pomegranate; so named from Pomegranates which grew there, and which many think to have been the same place mentioned in Judges.135
29. It is said in the Book of Wisedom, Where water stood before, drie land appeared, and out of the red Sea a way appeared without impediment, and out of the violent streams a green Field; or as the Latin renders it, Campus germinans de profundo: whereby it seems implied that the Israelites passed over a green Field at the bottom of the Sea:136 and though most would have this but a Metaphorical expression, yet may it be literally tolerable; and so may be safely apprehended by those that sensibly know what great number of Vegetables (as the several varieties of Alga’s, Sea Lettuce, Phasganium, Conferva, Caulis Marina, Abies, Erica, Tamarice, divers sorts of Muscus, Fucus, Quercus Marina and Corallins) are found at the bottom of the Sea. Since it is also now well known, that the Western Ocean, for many degrees, is covered with Sargasso or Lenticula Marina, and found to arise from the bottom of that Sea; since, upon the coast of Provence by the Isles of Eres, there is a part of the Mediterranean Sea, called la Prairie, or the Meadowy Sea, from the bottom thereof so plentifully covered with Plants: since vast heaps of Weeds are found in the Bellies of some Whales taken in the Northern Ocean, and at a great distance from the Shore: And since the providence of Nature hath provided this shelter for minor Fishes; both for their spawn, and safety of their young ones. And this might be more peculiarly allowed to be spoken of the Red Sea, since the Hebrews named it Suph, or the Weedy Sea;137 and, also, seeing Theophrastus and Pliny, observing the growth of Vegetables under water, have made their chief illustrations from those in the Red Sea.138
30. You will readily discover how widely they are mistaken, who accept the Sycamore mention’d in several parts of the Scripture for the Sycamore, or Tree of that denomination, with us:139 which is properly but one kind or difference of Acer, and bears no Fruit with any resemblance unto a Figg.
But you will rather, thereby, apprehend the true and genuine Sycamore, or Sycaminus, which is a stranger in our part.140 A Tree (according to the description of Theophrastus, Dioscorides and Galen) resembling a Mulberry Tree in the Leaf, but in the Fruit a Figg; which it produceth not in the Twiggs but in the Trunck or Greater Branches, answerable to the Sycamore of Ægypt, the Ægyptian Figg or Giamez of the Arabians, described in Prosper Alpinus, with a Leaf somewhat broader than a Mulberry, and in its Fruit like a Figg. Insomuch that some have fancied it to have had its first production from a Figg grafted on a Mulberry.
It is a Tree common in Judæa, whereof they made frequent use in Buildings; and so understood, it explaineth that expression in Isaiah:141 Sycamori excisi sunt, Cedros substituemus. The Bricks are fallen down, we will build with hewen Stones: The Sycamores are cut down, but we will change them into Cedars.
It is a broad spreading Tree, not onely fit for Walks, Groves and Shade, but also affording profit. And therefore it is said that King David appointed Baalhanan to be over his Olive Trees and Sycamores,142 which were in great plenty; and it is accordingly delivered,143 that Solomon made Cedars to be as the Sycamore Trees that are in the Vale for abundance. That is, he planted many, though they did not come to perfection in his days.
And as it grew plentifully about the Plains, so was the Fruit good for Food; and, as Bellonius and late accounts deliver, very refreshing unto Travellers in those hot and drie Countries: whereby the expression of Amos becomes more intelligible, when he said he was an Herdsman, and a gatherer of Sycamore Fruit.144 And the expression of David also becomes more Emphatical;145 He destroyed their Vines with Hail, and their Sycamore Trees with Frost. That is, their Sicmoth in the Original, a word in the sound not far from the Sycamore.
Thus when it is said,146 If ye had Faith as a grain of Mustard-Seed, ye might say unto this Sycamine Tree, Be thou plucked up by the roots, and be thou placed in the Sea, and it should obey you: it might be more significantly spoken of this Sycamore; this being described to be Arbor vasta, a large and well rooted Tree, whose removal was more difficult than many others. And so the instance in that Text, is very properly made in the Sycamore Tree, one of the largest and less removable Trees among them. A Tree so lasting and well rooted, that the Sycamore which Zacheus ascended, is still shewn in Judæa unto Travellers; as also the hollow Sycamore at Maturæa in Ægypt, where the blessed Virgin is said to have remained:147 which though it relisheth of the Legend, yet it plainly declareth what opinion they had of the lasting condition of that Tree, to countenance the Tradition; for which they might not be without some experience, since the learned describer148 of the Pyramides observeth, that the old Ægyptians made Coffins of this Wood, which he found yet fresh and undecayed among divers of their Mummies.
And thus, also, when Zacheus climbed up into a Sycamore above any other Tree, this being a large and fair one, it cannot be denied that he made choice of a proper and advantageous Tree to look down upon our Saviour.149
31. Whether the expression of our Saviour in the Parable of the Sower,150 and the increase of the Seed unto thirty, sixty and a hundred fold, had any reference unto the ages of Believers, and measures of their Faiths, as Children, Young and Old Persons, as to beginners, well advanced and strongly confirmed Christians, as learned men have hinted; or whether in this progressional assent there were any latent Mysteries, as the mystical Interpreters of Numbers may apprehend, I pretend not to determine.
But, how this multiplication may well be conceived, and in what way apprehended, and that this centesimal increase is not naturally strange, you that are no stranger in Agriculture, old and new, are not like to make great doubt.
That every Grain should produce an Ear affording an hundred Grains, is not like to be their conjecture who behold the growth of Corn in our Fields, wherein a common Grain doth produce far less in number. For Barley consisting but of two Versus or Rows, seldom exceedeth twenty Grains, that is, ten upon each Στοῖκος, or Row; Rye, of a square figure, is very fruitfull at forty: Wheat, besides the Frit and Uruncus, or imperfect grains of the small Husks at the top and bottom of the Ear, is fruitfull at ten treble Glumæ or Husks in a Row, each containing but three Grains in breadth, if the middle Grain arriveth at all to perfection; and so maketh up threescore Grains in both sides.
Yet even this centesimal151 fructification may be admitted in some sorts of Cerealia, and Grains from one Ear: if we take in the Triticum centigranum, or fertilissimum Plinii, Indian Wheat, and Panicum; which, in every Ear, containeth hundreds of Grains.
But this increase may be easily conceived of Grains in their total multiplication, in good and fertile ground, since, if every Grain of Wheat produceth but three Ears, the increase will arise above that number. Nor are we without examples of some grounds which have produced many more Ears, and above this centesimal increase: As Pliny hath left recorded of the Byzacian Field in Africa,152 Misit ex eo loco Procurator ex uno quadraginta minus germina. Misit & Neroni pariter tercentum quadraginta stipulos, ex uno grano. Cum centessimos quidem Leontini Siciliæ campi fundunt, aliique, & tota Bœtica, & imprimis Ægyptus. And even in our own Country, from one Grain of Wheat sowed in a Garden, I have numbered many more than an hundred.153
And though many Grains are commonly lost which come not to sprouting or earing, yet the same is also verified in measure; as that one Bushel should produce a hundred, as is exemplified by the Corn in Gerar;154 Then Isaac sowed in that Land, and received in that year an hundred fold. That is, as the Chaldee explaineth it, a hundred for one, when he measured it. And this Pliny seems to intend, when he saith of the fertile Byzacian Territory before mentioned, Ex uno centeni quinquaginta modii redduntur. And may be favourably apprehended of the fertility of some grounds in Poland; wherein, after the account of Gaguinus,155 from Rye sowed in August, come thirty or forty Ears, and a Man on Horseback can scarce look over it. In the Sabbatical Crop of Judæa, there must be admitted a large increase, and probably not short of this centesimal multiplication: For it supplied part of the sixth year, the whole of the seventh, and eighth untill the Harvest of that year.156
The seven years of plenty in Ægypt must be of high increase; when, by storing up but the fifth part, they supplied the whole Land, and many of their neighbours after:for it is said, the Famine was in all the Land about them.157 And therefore though the causes of the Dearth in Ægypt be made out from the defect of the overflow of Nilus, according to the Dream of Pharaoh; yet was that no cause of the scarcity in the Land of Canaan, which may rather be ascribed to the want of the former and latter rains, for some succeeding years, if their Famine held time and duration with that of Ægypt; as may be probably gathered from that expression of Joseph,158 Come down unto me [into Ægypt] and tarry not, and there will I nourish you: (for yet there are five years of Famine) lest thou and thy Houshold, and all that thou hast come to poverty.
How they preserved their Corn so long in Ægypt may seem hard unto Northern and moist Climates, except we consider the many ways of preservation practised by antiquity, and also take in that handsome account of Pliny;159 What Corn soever is laid up in the Ear, it taketh no harm keep it as long as you will; although the best and most assured way to keep Corn is in Caves and Vaults under ground, according to the practice of Cappadocia and Thracia.
In Ægypt and Mauritania above all things they look to this, that their Granaries stand on high ground; and how drie so ever their Floor be, they lay a course of Chaff betwixt it and the ground. Besides, they put up their Corn in Granaries and Binns together with the Ear. And Varro delivereth that Wheat laid up in that manner will last fifty years; Millet an hundred; and Beans so conserved in a Cave of Ambracia, were known to last an hundred and twenty years; that is, from the time of King Pyrrhus, unto the Pyratick War under the conduct of Pompey.
More strange it may seem how, after seven years, the Grains conserved should be fruitfull for a new production. For it is said that Joseph delivered Seed unto the Ægyptians, to sow their Land for the eighth year: And Corn after seven years is like to afford little or no production, according to Theophrastus;160 Ad Sementem semen anniculum optimum putatur, binum deterius & trinum; ultra sterile fermè est, quanquam ad usum cibarium idonetum.
Yet since, from former exemplifications, Corn may be made to last so long, the fructifying power may well be conceived to last in some good proportion, according to the region and place of its conservation, as the same Theophrastus hath observed, and left a notable example from Cappadocia, where Corn might be kept sixty years, and remain fertile at forty; according to his expression thus translated; In Cappadociæ loco quodam petra dicto, triticum ad quadraginta annos fœcundum est, & ad sementem percommodum durare proditum est, sexagenos aut septuagenos ad usum cibarium servari posse idoneum. The situation of that Conservatory, was, as he delivereth, ὑψηλὸν, εὔπνουν, εὔαυρον, high, airy and exposed to several favourable winds.161 And upon such consideration of winds and ventilation, some conceive the Ægyptian Granaries were made open, the Country being free from rain. Howsoever it was, that contrivance could not be without some hazard: for the great Mists and Dews of that Country might dispose the Corn unto corruption.162
More plainly may they mistake, who from some analogy of name (as if Pyramid were derived from163 Πύρον, Triticum), conceive the Ægyptian Pyramids to have been built for Granaries; or look for any settled Monuments about the Desarts erected for that intention; since their Store-houses were made in the great Towns, according to Scripture expression,164 He gathered up all the Food of seven years, which was in the Land of Ægypt, and laid up the Food in the Cities: the Food of the Field which was round about every City, laid he up in the same.
32. For if thou wert cut out of the Olive Tree, which is wild by nature, and wert graffed, contrary to nature, into a good Olive Tree, how much more shall these, which be the natural Branches, be graffed unto their own Olive Tree?165 In which place, how answerable166 to the Doctrine of Husbandry this expression of S. Paul is, you will readily apprehend who understand the rules of insition or grafting, and that way of vegetable propagation; wherein that is contrary to nature, or natural rules which Art observeth: viz. to make use of Cyons more ignoble than the Stock, or to graft wild upon domestick and good Plants, according as Theophrastus167 hath anciently observed, and, making instance in the Olive, hath left this Doctrin unto us; Urbanum Sylvestribus ut satis Oleastris inserere. Nam si è contrario Sylvestrem in Urbanos severis, etsi differentia quædam erit, tamen bonæ frugis Arbor168 nunquam profecto reddetur: which is also agreeable unto our present practice, who graft Pears on Thorns, and Apples upon Crabb Stocks, not using the contrary insition. And when it is said, How much more shall these, which are the natural Branches, be grafted into their own natural Olive Tree? this is also agreeable unto the rule of the same Authour; ἔστι δε βελτίων ἐγκεντρισμὸς, ὁμοίων εἰς ὅμοια, Insitio melior est similium in similibus: For the nearer consanguinity there is between the Cyons and the Stock, the readier comprehension is made, and the nobler fructification. According also unto the later caution of Laurenbergius;169 Arbores domesticæ insitioni destinatæ, semper anteponendæ Sylvestribus. And though the success be good, and may suffice upon Stocks of the same denomination; yet, to be grafted upon their own and Mother Stock, is the nearest insition: which way, though less practised of old, is now much imbraced, and found a notable way for melioration of the Fruit; and much the rather, if the Tree to be grafted on be a good and generous Plant, a good and fair Olive, as the Apostle seems to apply by a peculiar word scarce to be found elsewhere.170
It must be also considered, that the Oleaster, or wild Olive, by cutting, transplanting and the best managery of Art, can be made but to produce such Olives as (Theophrastus saith171) were particularly named Phaulia, that is, but bad Olives; and that it was reckon’d among Prodigies, for the Oleaster to become an Olive Tree.
And when insition or grafting, in the Text, is applied unto the Olive Tree, it hath an Emphatical sense, very agreeable unto that Tree which is best propagated this way; not at all by surculation, as Theophrastus observeth, nor well by Seed, as hath been observed. Omne semen simile genus perficit, præter oleam, Oleastrum enim generat, hoc est sylvestrem oleam, & non oleam veram.
"If, therefore, thou Roman and Gentile Branch, which were cut from the wild Olive, art now, by the signal mercy of God, beyond the ordinary and commonly expected way, grafted into the true Olive, the Church of God; if thou, which neither naturally nor by humane art canst be made to produce any good Fruit, and, next to a Miracle, to be made a true Olive, art now by the benignity of God grafted into the proper Olive; how much more shall the Jew, and natural Branch, be grafted into its genuine and mother Tree, wherein propinquity of nature is like, so readily and prosperously, to effect a coalition? And this more especially by the expressed way of insition or implantation, the Olive being not successfully propagable by Seed, nor at all by surculation.
33. As for the Stork, the Firre Trees are her House.172 This expression, in our Translation, which keeps close to the Original Chasideh, is somewhat different from the Greek and Latin Translation; nor agreeable unto common observation, whereby they are known commonly to build upon Chimneys, or the tops of Houses, and high Buildings, which notwithstanding, the common Translation may clearly consist with observation, if we consider that this is commonly affirmed of the black Stork, and take notice of the description of Ornithologus in Aldrovandus, that such Storks are often found in divers parts, and that they do in Arboribus nidulari, præsertim in abietibus; Make their Nests on Trees, especially upon Firre Trees. Nor wholly disagreeing unto the practice of the common white Stork, according unto Varro, nidulantur in agris: and the concession of Aldrovandus that sometimes they build on Trees: and the assertion of Bellonius,173 that men dress them Nests, and place Cradles upon high Trees, in Marish regions, that Storks may breed upon them: which course some observe for Herns and Cormorants with us. And this building of Storks upon Trees, may also be answerable unto the original and natural way of building of Storks before the political habitations of men, and the raising of Houses and high Buildings; before they were invited by such conveniences and prepared Nests, to relinquish their natural places of nidulation. I say, before or where such advantages are not ready; when Swallows found other places than Chimneys, and Daws found other places than holes in high Fabricks to build in.
34. And, therefore, Israel said carry down the man a present, a little Balm, a little Honey, and Myrrhe, Nuts and Almonds.174 Now whether this, which Jacob sent, were the proper Balsam extolled by humane Writers, you cannot but make some doubt, who find the Greek Translation to be ῾Ρητίνη,175 that is, Resina, and so many have some suspicion that it might be some pure distillation from the Turpentine Tree, which grows prosperously and plentifully in Judæa, and seems so understood by the Arabick; and was indeed esteemed by Theophrastus and Dioscorides, the chiefest of resinous Bodies, and the word Resina Emphatically used for it.176
That the Balsam Plant hath grown and prospered in Judæa we believe without dispute. For the same is attested by Theophrastus, Pliny, Justinus, and many more; from the commendation that Galen affordeth of the Balsam of Syria,177 and the story of Cleopatra, that she obtain’d some plants from Herod the Great to transplant into Ægypt.178 But whether it was so anciently in Judæa as the time of Jacob; nay, whether this Plant was here before the time of Solomon, that great collector of Vegetable rarities, some doubt may be made from the account of Josephus, that the Queen of Sheba, a part of Arabia, among presents unto Solomon, brought some plants of the Balsam Tree, as one of the peculiar estimables of her Country.179
Whether this ever had its natural growth, or were an original native Plant of Judæa, much more that it was peculiar unto that Countrey, a greater doubt may arise: while we reade in Pausanius, Strabo and Diodorus,180 that it grows also in Arabia, and find in Theophrastus,181 that it grew in two Gardens about Jericho in Judæa. And more especially whiles we seriously consider that notable discourse between Abdella, Abdachim and Alpinus, concluding the natural and original place of this singular Plant to be in Arabia, about Mecha and Medina, where it still plentifully groweth, and Mountains abound therein. From whence it hath been carefully transplanted by the Basha’s of Grand Cairo, into the Garden of Matarea; where, when it dies, it is repaired again from those parts of Arabia, from whence the Grand Signior yearly receiveth a present of Balsam from the Xeriff of Mecha, still called by the Arabians Balessan; whence they believe arose the Greek appellation Balsam.182 And since these Balsam-plants are not now to be found in Judæa, and though purposely cultivated, are often lost in Judæa, but everlastingly live, and naturally renew in Arabia; They probably concluded, that those of Judæa were foreign and transplanted from these parts.
All which notwithstanding, since the same Plant may grow naturally and spontaneously in several Countries, and either from inward or outward causes be lost in one Region, while it continueth and subsisteth in another, the Balsam Tree might possibly be a native of Judæa as well as of Arabia; which because de facto it cannot be clearly made out, the ancient expressions of Scripture become doubtfull in this point. But since this Plant hath not, for a long time, grown in Judæa, and still plentifully prospers in Arabia, that which now comes in pretious parcels to us, and still is called the Balsam of Judæa, may now surrender its name, and more properly be called the Balsam of Arabia.
35. And the Flax and the Barley was smitten; for the Barley was in the Ear, and the Flax was bolled, but the Wheat and the Rye was not smitten, for they were not grown up.183 How the Barley and the Flax should be smitten in the plague of Hail in Ægypt,184 and the Wheat and Rye escape, because they were not yet grown up,185 may seem strange unto English observers, who call Barley Summer Corn sown so many months after Wheat, and beside hordeum Polystichon, or big Barley, sowe not Barley in the Winter, to anticipate the growth of Wheat.
And the same may also seem a preposterous expression unto all who do not consider the various Agriculture, and different Husbandry of Nations, and such as was practised in Ægypt, and fairly proved to have been also used in Judæa, wherein their Barley Harvest was before that of Wheat; as is confirmable from that expression in Ruth, that she came into Bethlehem at the beginning of Barley Harvest,186 and staid unto the end of the Wheat Harvest; from the death of Manasses the Father of Judith,187 Emphatically expressed to have happened in the Wheat Harvest, and more advanced heat of the Sun; and from the custom of the Jews, to offer the Barley Sheaf of the first fruits in March, and a Cake of Wheat Flower but at the end of Pentecost.188 Consonant unto the practice of the Ægyptians, who (as Theophrastus delivereth) sowed their Barley early in reference to their first Fruits; and also the common rural practice, recorded by the same Authour, Maturè seritur Triticum, Hordeum, quod etiam maturius seritur; Wheat and Barley are sowed early, but Barley earlier of the two.
Flax was also an early Plant, as may be illustrated from the neighbour Country of Canaan. For the Israelites kept the Passeover in Gilgal in the fourteenth day of the first Month, answering unto part of our March, having newly passed Jordan: And the Spies which were sent from Shittim unto Jericho, not many days before, were hid by Rahab under the stalks of Flax, which lay drying on the top of her House;189 which sheweth that the Flax was already and newly gathered. For this was the first preparation of Flax, and before fluviation or rotting, which, after Pliny’s account, was after Wheat Harvest.190
But the Wheat and the Rye were not smitten, for they were not grown up. The Original signifies that it was hidden, or dark, the Vulgar and Septuagint that it was serotinous or late, and our old Translation that it was late sown. And so the expression and interposition of Moses, who well understood the Husbandry of Ægypt, might Emphatically declare the state of Wheat and Rye in that particular year; and if so, the same is solvable from the time of the floud of Nilus, and the measure of its inundation. For if they were very high, and over-drenching the ground, they were forced to later Seed-time: and so the Wheat and the Rye escaped; for they were more slowly growing Grains, and, by reason of the greater Inundation of the River, were sown later than ordinary that year, especially in the Plains near the River, where the ground drieth latest.191
Some think the Plagues of Ægypt were acted in one Month, others but in the compass of twelve. In the delivery of Scripture192 there is no account, of what time of the year or particular Month they fell out; but the account of these Grains, which were either smitten or escaped, make the plague of Hail to have probably hapned in February: This may be collected from the new and old account of the Seed time and Harvest in Ægypt. For, according to the account of Radzevil,193 the River rising in June, and the Banks being cut in September, they sow about S. Andrews, when the Floud is retired, and the moderate driness of the ground permitteth. So that the Barley anticipating the Wheat, either in time of sowing or growing, might be in Ear in February.
The account of Pliny is little different.194 They cast the Seed upon the Slime and Mudd when the River is down, which commonly happeneth in the beginning of November. They begin to reap and cut down a little before the Calends of April, about the middle of March, and in the Month of May their Harvest is in. So that Barley anticipating Wheat, it might be in Ear in February, and Wheat not yet grown up, at least to the Spindle or Ear, to be destroyed by the Hail. For they cut down about the middle of March, at least their forward Corns, and in the Month of May all sorts of Corn were in.
The turning of the River into Bloud shews in what Month this happened not. That is, not when the River had overflown; for it is said, the Ægyptians digged round about the River for Water to drink, which they could not have done, if the River had been out, and the Fields under Water.
In the same Text you cannot, without some hesitation, pass over the translation of Rye, which the Original nameth Cassumeth, the Greek rendreth Olyra, the French and Dutch Spelta, the Latin Zea, and not Secale the known word for Rye. But this common Rye so well understood at present, was not distinctly described, or not well known from early Antiquity. And therefore, in this uncertainty, some have thought it to have been the Typha of the Ancients.195 Cordus will have it to be Olyra,196 and Ruellius some kind of Oryza.197 But having no vulgar and well known name for those Grains, we warily embrace an appellation of near affinity, and tolerably render it Rye.
While Flax, Barley, Wheat and Rye are named, some may wonder why no mention is made of Ryce, wherewith, at present, Ægypt so much aboundeth. But whether that Plant grew so early in that Country, some doubt may be made: for Ryce is originally a Grain of India, and might not then be transplanted into Ægypt.
36. Let them become as the Grass growing upon the House top, which withereth before it be plucked up, whereof the mower filleth not his hand, nor he that bindeth Sheaves his bosome.198 Though the filling of the hand, and mention of Sheaves of Haye, may seem strange unto us, who use neither handfulls nor Sheaves in that kind of Husbandry, yet it may be properly taken, and you are not like to doubt thereof, who may find the like expressions in the Authours de Re rustica, concerning the old way of this Husbandry.
Columella,199 delivering what Works were not to be permitted upon the Roman Feriæ, or Festivals; among others sets down, that upon such days, it was not lawfull to carry or bind up Hay, nec foenum vincire nec vehere, per religiones Pontificum licet.
Marcus Varro200 is more particular; Primum de pratis herbarum cum crescere desiit, subsecari falcibus debet, & quoad perarescat furcillis versari, cum peracuit, de his manipulos fieri & vehi in villam.
And their course of mowing seems somewhat different from ours. For they cut not down clear at once, but used an after section, which they peculiarly called Sicilitium, according as the word expouded by Georgius Alexandrinus, and Beroaldus after Pliny;201 Sicilire est falcibus consectari quæ fœnisecæ præterierunt, aut ea secare quæ fœnisecæ præterierunt.
37. When ’tis said that Elias lay and slept under a Juniper Tree, some may wonder how that Tree, which in our parts groweth but low and shrubby, should afford him shade and covering.202 But others know that there is a lesser and a larger kind of that Vegetable; that it makes a Tree in its proper soil and region. And may find in Pliny that in the temple of Diana Saguntina in Spain, the Rafters were made of Juniper.203
In that expression of David,204 Sharp Arrows of the mighty, with Coals of Juniper; Though Juniper be left out in the last Translation, yet may there be an Emphatical sense from that word; since Juniper abounds with a piercing Oil, and makes a smart Fire. And the rather, if that quality be half true, which Pliny affirmeth,205 that the Coals of Juniper raked up will keep a glowing Fire for the space of a year. For so the expression will Emphatically imply, not onely the smart burning, but the lasting fire of their malice.
That passage of Job,206 wherein he complains that poor and half famished fellows despised him, is of greater difficulty; For want and famine they were solitary, they cut up Mallows by the Bushes, and Juniper roots for meat. Wherein we might at first doubt the Translation, not onely from the Greek Text but the assertion of Dioscorides, who affirmeth that the roots of Juniper are of a venemous quality. But Scaliger hath disproved the same from the practice of the African Physicians, who use the decoction of Juniper roots against the Venereal Disease. The Chaldee reads it Genista, or some kind of Broom, which will be also unusual and hard Diet, except thereby we understand the Orobanche, or Broom Rape, which groweth from the roots of Broom; and which, according to Dioscorides, men used to eat raw or boiled in the manner of Asparagus.
And, therefore, this expression doth highly declare the misery, poverty and extremity of the persons who were now mockers of him; they being so contemptible and necessitous, that they were fain to be content, not with a mean Diet, but such as was no Diet at all, the roots of Trees, the roots of Juniper, which none would make use of for Food, but in the lowest necessity, and some degree of famishing.
38. While some have disputed whether Theophrastus knew the Scarlet Berry, others may doubt whether that noble tincture were known unto the Hebrews, which notiwthstanding seems clear from the early and iterated expressions of Scripture concerning the Scarlet Tincture,207 and is the less to be doubted because the Scarlet Berry grew plentifully in the Land of Canaan, and so they were furnished with the Materials of that Colour. For though Dioscorides saith it groweth in Armenia and Cappadocia, yet that it also grew in Judæa, seems more than probable from the account of Bellonius, who observed it to be so plentifull in that Country, that it affordeth a profitable Commodity, and great quantity thereof was transported by the Venetian Merchants.
How this should be fitly expressed by the word Tolagnoth, Vermis, or Worm, may be made out from Pliny, who calls it Coccus Scolecius, or the Wormy Berry;208 as also from the name of that Colour called Vermillion, or the Worm Colour; and which is also answerable unto the true nature of it. For this is no proper Berry containing the fructifying part, but a kind of Vessicular excrescence, adhering commonly to the Leaf of the Ilex Coccigera, or dwarf and small kind of Oak, whose Leaves are always green, and its proper seminal parts Acrons. This little Bagg containeth a red Pulp, which, if not timely gathered, or left to it self, produceth small red Flies, and partly a red powder, both serviceable unto the tincture. And therefore, to prevent the generation of Flies, when it is first gathered, they sprinkle it over with Vinegar, especially such as make use of the fresh Pulp for the confection of Alkermes; which still retaineth the Arabick name, from the Kermesberry; which is agreeable unto the description of Bellonius and Quinqueranus. And the same we have beheld in Provence and Languedock, where it is plentifully gathered, and called Manna Rusticorum, from the considerable profit which the Peasants make by gathering it.
39. Mention is made of Oaks in divers parts of Scripture, which though the Latin sometimes renders a Turpentine Tree,209 yet surely some kind of Oak may be understood thereby; but whether our common Oak as is commonly apprehended, you may well doubt; for the common Oak, which prospereth so well with us, delighteth not in hot regions. And that diligent Botanist Bellonius, who took such particular notice of the Plants of Syria and Judæa, observed not the vulgar Oak in those parts. But he found the Ilex, Chesne Verde,210 or Ever-green Oak, in many places; as also that kind of Oak which is properly named Esculus: and he makes mention thereof in places about Jerusalem, and in his Journey from thence unto Damascus, where he found Montes Ilice, & Esculo virentes; which , in his Discourse of Lemnos, he saith are always green. And therefore when it is said of Absalom,211 that his Mule went under the thick Boughs of a great Oak, and his Head caught hold of the Oak, and he was taken up between the Heaven and the Earth, that Oak might be some Ilex, or rather Esculus. For that is a thick and bushy kind, in Orbem comosa, as Dale-champius; ramis in orbem dispositis comans, as Renealmus describeth it. And when it is said that Ezechias broke down the Images, and cut down the Groves,212 they might much consist of Oaks, which were sacred unto Pagan Deities, as this more particularly, according to that of Virgil,213
— Nemorúmque Jovi quæ maxima frondet
And, in Judæa, where no Hogs were eaten by the Jews, and few kept by others, ’tis not unlikely that they most cherished the Esculus, which might serve for Food of men. For the Acrons thereof are the sweetest of any Oak, and taste like Chesnuts; and so, producing an edulious or esculent Fruit, is properly named Esculus.
They which know the Ilex, or Ever-green Oak, with somewhat prickled Leaves, named Πρίνος, will better understand the irreconcileable answer of the two Elders, when the one accused Susanna of incontinency under a Πρίνος, or Ever-green Oak, the other under a Σχῖνος, Lentiscus, or Mastick Tree,214 which are so different in Bigness, Boughs, Leaves and Fruit, the one bearing Acrons, the other Berries: And, without the knowledge hereof, will not Emphatically or distinctly understand that of the Poet,215
Flaváque de viridi stillabant Ilice mella.
40. When we often meet with the Cedars of Libanus,216 that expression may be used not onely because they grew in a known and neighbour Country, but also because they were of the noblest and largest kind of that Vegetable; And we find the Phœnician Cedar magnified by the Ancients. The Cedar of Libanus is a coniferous Tree, bearing Cones or Cloggs; (not Berries) of such a vastness, that Melchior Lussy, a great Traveller, found one upon Libanus as big as seven men could compass.217 Some are now so curious as to keep the Branches and Cones thereof among their rare Collections. And, though much Cedar Wood be now brought from America, yet ’tis time to take notice of the true Cedar of Libanus, imployed in the Temple of Solomon; for they have been much destroyed and neglected, and become at last but thin. Bellonius could reckon but twenty eight, Rowolfius and Radzevil but twenty four, and Bidulphus the same number. And a later account of some English Travellers218 that they are now but in one place, and in a small compass, in Libanus.
Quando ingressi fueritis terram, & Plantaveritis in illa ligna Pomifera, auferetis præputia eorum. Poma quæ germiinant immunda erunt vobis, nec edetis ex eis. Quarto autem anno, omnis fructus eorum sanctificabitur, laudabilis Domino. Quinto autem anno commedetis fructus.219 By this Law they were injoyned not to eath of the Fruits of the Trees which they planted for the first three years: and, as the Vulgar expresseth it, to take away the Prepuces, from such Trees, during that time; the Fruits of the fourth year being holy unto the Lord, and those of the fifth allowable unto others. Now if auferre præputia be taken, as many learned men have thought, to pluck away the bearing Buds, before they proceed unto Flowers or Fruit, you will readily apprehend the Metaphor, from the analogy and similitude of those Sprouts and Buds, which, shutting up the fruitfull particle, resembleth the preputial part.220
And you may also find herein a piece of Husbandry not mentioned in Theophrastus, or Columella. For by taking away of the Buds, and hindring fructification, the Trees become more vigorous, both in growth and future production. By such a way King Pyrrhus got into a lusty race of Beeves, and such as were desired over all Greece, by keeping them from Generation untill the ninth year.
And you may also discover a physical advantage of the goodness of the Fruit, which becometh less crude and more wholsome, upon the fourth or fifth years production.
41. While you reade in Theophrastus, or modern Herbalists, a strict division of Plants, into Arbor, Frutex, Suffrutex & Herba, you cannot but take notice of the Scriptural division at the Creation,221 into Tree and Herb: and this may seem too narrow to comprehend the Classis of Vegetables; which, notwithstanding, may be sufficient, and a plain and intelligible division thereof. And therefore in this difficulty concerning the division of Plants, the learned Botanist, Cæsalpinus, thus concludeth, Clarius agemus si alterâ divisione neglectâ, duo tantùm Plantarum genera substituamus, Arborem scilicet, & Herbam, conjungentes cum Arboribus Frutices, & cum Herba Suffrutices; Frutices being the lesser Trees, and Suffrutices the larger, harder and more solid Herbs.
And this division into Herb and Tree, may also suffice, if we take in that natural ground of the division of perfect Plants, and such as grow from Seeds. For Plants, in their first production, do send forth two Leaves adjoining to the Seed; and then afterwards, do either produce two other Leaves, and so successively before any Stalk; and such go under the name of Πόα, Βοτάνη, or Herb; or else, after the first Leaves succeeding to the Seed Leaves, they send forth a Stalk, or rudiment of a Stalk before any other Leaves, and such fall under the Classis of Δένδρον, or Tree. So that, in this natural division, there are but two grand differences, that is, Tree and Herb. The Frutex and Suffrutex have the way of production from the Seed, and in other respects the Suffrutices, or Cremia, have a middle and participating nature, and referable unto Herbs.
42. I have seen the ungodly in great power, and flourishing like a green Bay Tree.222 Both Scripture and humane Writers draw frequent illustrations from Plants. Scribonius Largus illustrates the old Cymbals from Cotyledon Palustris, or Umbelicus Veneris. Who would expect to find Aaron’s Mitre in any Plant? yet Josephus hath taken some pains to make out the same in the seminal knop of Hyoscyamus, or Henbane.223 The Scripture compares the Figure of Manna unto the Seed of Coriander.224 In Jeremy225 we find the expression, Streight as a Palm Tree: And here the wicked in their flourishing state are likened unto a Bay Tree. Which, sufficiently answering the sense of the Text, we are unwilling to exclude that noble Plant from the honour of having its name in Scripture.226 Yet we cannot but observe, that the Septuagint renders it Cedars, and the Vulgar accordingly,227 Vidi impium superexaltatum, & elevatum sicut Cedros Libani; and the Translation of Tremellius mentions neither Bay nor Cedar; Sese explicantem tanquam Arbor indigena virens; which seems to have been followed by the last Low Dutch Translation. A private Translation renders it like a green self-growing Laurel.228 The High Dutch of Luther’s Bible, retains the word Laurel; and so doth the old Saxon and Island Translation;229 so also the French, Spanish; and Italian of Diodati: yet his Notes acknowledge that some think it rather a Cedar, and others any large Tree in a prospering and natural Soil.
But however these Translations differ, the sense is allowable and obvious unto apprehension: when no particular Plant is named, any proper to the sense may be supposed; where either Cedar or Laurel is mentioned, if the preceding words [exalted and elevated] be used, they are more appliable unto the Cedar; where the word [flourishing] is used, it is more agreeable unto the Laurel, which, in its prosperity, abounds with pleasant Flowers, whereas those of the Cedar are very little, and scarce perceptible, answerable unto the Firre, Pine and other coniferous Trees.
43. And in the morning, when they were come from Bethany, he was hungry; and seeing a Figg Tree afar off having Leaves, he came, if haply he might find any thing thereon; and when he came to it, he found nothing but Leaves: for the time of Figgs was not yet.230 Singular conceptions have passed from learned men to make out this passage of S. Mark, which S. Matthew so plainly delivereth;231 most men doubting why our Saviour should curse the Tree for bearing no Fruit, when the time of Fruit was not yet come; or why it is said that the time of Figgs was not yet, when, notwithstanding, Figgs might be found at that season.
Heinsius,232 who thinks that Elias must salve the doubt, according to the received Reading of the Text, undertaketh to vary the same, reading ὅυ γάρ ἦν, καιρὸς οὔκων, that is, for where he was, it was the season or time for Figgs.
A learned Interpreter233 of our own, without alteration of accents or words, endeavours to salve all, by another interpretation of the same, Οὔ γάρ καιρὸς οὔκων, For it was not a good or seasonable year for Figgs.
But, because men part not easily with old beliefs, or the received construction of words, we shall briefly set down what may be alledged for it.
And, first, for the better comprehension of all deductions hereupon, we may consider the several differences and distinctions both of Figg Trees and their Fruits. Suidas upon the word Ἰσχὰς makes four divisions of Figgs, Ὄλυνϑος, Φήληξ, Σῦκον, and Ἰσχάς. But because Φήληξ makes no considerable distinction, learned men do chiefly insist upon the three others, that is, Ὄλυνϑος, or Grossus, which are the Buttons, or small sort of Figgs, either not ripe, or not ordinarily proceeding to ripeness, but fall away at least in the greatest part, and especially in sharp Winters; which are also named Χυκάδες, and distinguished from the Fruit of the wild Figg, or Caprificus, which is named Ἐρινεὸς, and never cometh unto ripeness. The second is called Σῦκον, or Ficus, which commonly proceedeth unto ripeness in its due season. A third the ripe Figg dried, which maketh the Ἰσχάδες, or Carrier.234
Of Figg Trees there are also many divisions; For some are prodromi, or precocious, which bear Fruit very early, whether they bear once, or oftner in the year; some are protericæ, which are the most early of the precocious Trees, and bear soonest of any; some are æstivæ, which bear in the common season of the Summer, and some serotinæ, which bear very late.
Some are biferous and triferous, which bear twice or thrice in the year, and some are of the ordinary standing course, which make up the expected season of Figgs.
Again some Figg Trees, either in their proper kind, or fertility in some single ones, do bear Fruit or rudiments of Fruit all the year long; as is annually observed in some kind of Figg Trees in hot and proper regions; and may also be observed in some Figg Trees of more temperate Countries, in years of no great disadvantage, wherein, when the Summer-ripe Figg is past, others begin to appear, and so, standing in Buttons all the Winter, do either fall away before the Spring, or else proceed to ripeness.
Now, according to these distinctions, we may measure the intent of the Text, and endeavour to make out the expression. For, considering the diversity of these Trees, and their several fructifications, probable or possible it is, that some thereof were implied, and may literally afford a solution.
And first, though it was not the season for Figgs, yet some Fruit might have been expected, even in ordinary bearing Trees. For the Grossi or Buttons appear before the Leaves, especially before the Leaves are well grown. Some might have stood during the Winter, and by this time have been of some growth: Though many fall off, yet some might remain on, and proceed towards maturity. And we find that good Husbands had an art to make them hold on, as is delivered by Theophrastus.
The Σύκον or common Summer Figg was not expected; for that is placed by Galen among the Fructus Horarii, or Horæi, which ripen in that part of the Summer, called Ὥρα, and stands commended by him above other Fruits of that season. And of this kind might be the Figgs which were brought to Cleopatra in a Basket together with an Asp, according to the time of her death on the nineteenth of August. And that our Saviour expected not such Figgs, but some other kind, seems to be implied in the indefinite expression, if haply he might find any thing thereon; which in that Country, and the variety of such Trees, might not be despaired of, at this season, and very probably hoped for in the first precocious and early bearing Trees. And that there were precocious and early bearing Trees in Judæa, may be illustrated from some expressions in Scripture concerning precocious Figgs; Calathus unus habebat Ficus bonas nimis, sicut solent esse Ficus primi temporis; One Basket had very good Figgs, even like the Figgs that are first ripe.235 And the like might be more especially expected in this place, if this remarkable Tree be rightly placed in some Mapps of Jerusalem; for it is placed, by Adrichomius, in or near Bethphage, which some conjectures will have to be the House of Figgs: and at this place Figg Trees are still to be found, if we consult the Travels of Bidulphus.
Again, in this great variety of Figg Trees, as precocious, proterical, biferous, triferous and always bearing Trees, something might have been expected, though the time of common Figgs was not yet. For some Trees bear in a manner all the year; as may be illustrated from the Epistle of the Emperour Julian, concerning his present of Damascus Figgs, which he commendeth from their successive and continued growing and bearing, after the manner of the Fruits which Homer describeth in the Garden of Alcinous.236 And though it were then but about the eleventh of March, yet, in the Latitude of Jerusalem, the Sun at that time hath a good power in the day, and might advance the maturity of precocious often-bearing or ever-bearing Figgs. And therefore when it is said237 that S. Peter stood and warmed himself by the Fire in the Judgment Hall, and the reason is added [for it was cold]238 that expression might be interposed either to denote the coolness in the Morning, according to hot Countries, or some extraordinary and unusual coldness, which happened at that time. For the ame Bidulphus, who was at that time of the year at Jerusalem, saith, that it was then as hot as at Midsummer in England: and we find in Scripture, that the first Sheaf of Barley was offer’d in March.239
Our Saviour therefore, seeing a Figg Tree with Leaves well spread, and so as to be distinguished a far off, went unto it, and when he came, found nothing but Leaves; he found it to be no precocious, or always-bearing Tree: And though it were not the time for Summer Figgs, yet he found no rudiments thereof; and though he expected not common Figgs, yet something might happily have been expected of some other kind, according to different fertility, and variety of production; but, discovering nothing, he found a Tree answering unto the State of the Jewish Rulers, barren unto all expectation.240
And this is consonant unto the mystery of the Story, wherein the Figg Tree denoteth the Synagogue and Rulers of the Jews, whom God having peculiarly cultivated, singularly blessed and cherished, he expected from them no ordinary, slow, or customary fructification, but an earliness in good Works, a precocious or continued fructification, and was not content with common after-bearing; and might justly have expostulated with the Jews, as God by the Prophet Micah241 did with their Forefathers; Præcoquas Ficus desideravit Anima mea, My Soul longed for, (or desired) early ripe Fruits, but ye are become as a Vine already gathered, and there is no cluster upon you.
Lastly, in this account of the Figg Tree, the mystery and symbolical sense is chiefly to be looked upon. Our Saviour, therefore, taking a hint from his hunger to go unto this specious Tree, and intending, by this Tree, to declare a Judgment upon the Synagogue and people of the Jews, he came unto the Tree, and, after the usual manner, inquired, and looked about for some kind of Fruit, as he had done before in the Jews, but found nothing but Leaves and specious outsides, as he had also found in them; and when it bore no Fruit like them, when he expected it, and came to look for it, though it were not the time for ordinary Fruit, yet failing when he required it, in the mysterious sense, ’twas fruitless longer to expect it. For he had come unto them, and they were nothing fructified by it, his departure approached, and his time of preaching was now at an end.
Now, in this account, besides the Miracle, some things are naturally considerable. For it may be question’d how the Figg Tree, naturally a fruitfull Plant, became barren, for it had no shew or so much as rudiment of Fruit: And it was, in old time, a signal Judgment of God, that the Figg Tree should bear no Fruit: and therefore this Tree may naturally be conceived to have been under some Disease indisposing it to such fructification. And this, in the Pathology of Plants, may be the Disease of φθλλομανία, ἐμφυλλισμὸς, or superfoliation mention’d by Theophrastus; whereby the fructifying Juice is starved by the excess of Leaves; which in this Tree were already so full spread, that it might be known and distinguished afar off. And this was, also, a sharp resemblance of the hypocrisie of the Rulers, made up of specious outsides, and fruitless ostentation, contrary to the Fruit of the Figg Tree, which, filled with a sweet and pleasant pulp, makes no shew without, not so much as of any Flower.
Some naturals are also considerable from the propriety of this punishment settled upon a Figg Tree: for infertility and barrenness seems more intolerable in this Tree than any, as being a Vegetable singularly constituted for production; so far from bearing no Fruit that it may be made to bear almost any.242 And therefore the Ancients singled out this as the fittest Tree whereon to graft and propagate other Fruits, as containing a plentifull and lively Sap, whereby other Cyons would prosper: And, therefore, this Tree was also sacred unto the Deity of Fertility: and the Statua of Priapus was made of the Figg Tree.
Olim Truncus eram Ficulnus inutile Lignum.243
It hath also a peculiar advantage to produce and maintainits Fruit above all other Plants, as not subject to miscarry in Flowers and Blossomes, from accidents of Wind and Weather. For it beareth no Flowers outwardly, and such as it hath, are within the Coat, as the later examination of naturalists hath discovered.
Lastly, It was a Tree wholly constituted for Fruit, wherein if it faileth, it is in a manner useless, the Wood thereof being of so little use, that it affordeth proverbial expressions,
Homo Ficulneus, argumentum Ficulneum,
for things of no validity.244
44. I said I will go up into the Palm Tree, and take hold of the Boughs thereof.245 This expression is more agreeable unto the Palm than is commonly apprehended, for that it is a tall bare Tree bearing its Boughs but at the top and upper part; so that it must be ascended before its Boughs or Fruit can be attained: And the going, getting or climbing up, may be Emphatical in this Tree; for the Trunk or Body thereof is naturally contrived for ascension, and made with advantage for getting up, as having many welts and eminencies, and so as it were a natural Ladder, and Staves, by which it may be climbed, as Pliny observeth,246 Palmæ teretes atque proceres, densis quadratisque pollicibus faciles se ad scandendum præbent, by this way men are able to get up into it. And the Figures of Indians thus climbing the same are graphically described in the Travels of Linschoten. This Tree is often mentioned in Scripture, and was so remarkable in Judæa, that in after-times it became the Emblem of that Country, as may be seen in that Medal of the Emperour Titus, with a Captive Woman sitting under a Palm, and the Inscription Judæa Capta.247 And Pliny confirmeth the same when he saith, Judæa Palmis inclyta.248
45. Many things are mention’d in Scripture, which have an Emphasis from this or the neighbour Countries: For besides the Cedars, the Syrian Lilies are taken notice of by Writers.249 That expression in the Canticles,250 Thou art fair, thou art fair, thou hast Dove eyes, receives a particular character, if we look not upon our common Pigeons, but the beauteous and fine ey’d Doves of Syria.
When the Rump is so strictly taken notice of in the Sacrifice of the Peace Offering,251 in these words, The whole Rump, it shall be taken off hard by the Back-bone, it becomes the more considerable in reference to this Country, where Sheep had so large Tails; which, according to Aristotle, were a Cubit broad;252 and so they are still, as Bellonius hath delivered.
When ’tis said in the Canticles, Thy Teeth are as a Flock of Sheep, which go up from the washing, whereof every one beareth Twins, and there is not one barren among them;253 it may seem hard unto us of these parts to find whole Flocks bearing Twins, and not one barren among them; yet may this be better conceived in the fertile Flocks of those Countries, where Sheep have so often two, sometimes three, and sometimes four, and which is so frequently observed by Writers of the neighbour Country of Ægypt. And this fecundity, and fruitfulness of their Flocks, is answerable unto the expression of the Psalmist, That our Sheep may bring forth thousands and ten thousands in our Streets.254 And hereby, besides what was spent at their Tables, a good supply was made for the great consumption of Sheep in their several kinds of Sacrifices; and of so many thousand Male unblemished yearling Lambs, which were required at their Passeovers.
Nor need we wonder to find so frequent mention both of Garden and Field Plants; since Syria was notable of old for this curiosity and variety, according to Pliny, Syria hortis operosissima;255 and since Bellonius hath so lately observed of Jerusalem, that its hilly parts did so abound with Plants, that they might be compared unto Mount Ida in Crete or Candia; which is the most noted place for noble Simples yet known.
46. Though so many Plants have their express Names in Scripture, yet others are implied in some Texts which are not explicitly mention’d. In the Feast of Tabernacles or Booths, the Law was this,256 Thou shalt take unto thee Boughs of goodly Trees, Branches of the Palm, and the Boughs of thick Trees, and Willows of the Brook. Now though the Text descendeth not unto particulars of the goodly Trees, and thick Trees; yet Maimonides will tell us that for a goodly Tree they made use of the Citron Tree, which is fair and goodly to the eye, and well prospering in that Country: And that for the thick Trees they used the Myrtle, which was no rare or infrequent Plant among them. And though it groweth but low in our Gardens, was not a little Tree in those parts; in which Plants also the Leaves grew thick, and almost covered the Stalk. And Curtius Symphorianus257 in his description of the Exotick Myrtle, makes it, Folio densissimo senis in ordinem versibus. The Paschal Lamb was to be eaten with bitterness or bitter Herbs, not particularly set down in Scripture:258 but the Jewish Writers declare, that they made use of Succory, and wild Lettuce, which Herbs while some conceive they could not get down, as being very bitter, rough and prickly, they may consider that the time of the Passeover was in the Spring, when these Herbs are young and tender, and consequently less unpleasant: besides, according to the Jewish custom, these Herbs were dipped in the Charoseth or Sawce made of Raisins stamped with Vinegar, and were also eaten with Bread; and they had four Cups of Wine allowed unto them; and it was sufficient to take but a pittance of Herbs, or the quantity of an Olive.259
47. Though the famous paper Reed of Ægypt, be onely particularly named in Scripture;260 yet when Reeds are so often mention’d, without special name or distinction, we may conceive their differences may be comprehended, and that they were not all of one kind, or that the common Reed was onely implied. For mention is made in Ezekiel261 of a measuring Reed of six Cubits: we find that they smote our Saviour on the Head with a Reed, and put a Sponge with the Vinegar on a Reed, which was long enough to reach to his mouth, while he was upon the Cross;262 And with such differences of Reeds, Vallatory, Sagittary, Scriptory, and others, they might be furnished in Judæa: for we find in the portion of Ephraim,263 Vallis arundineti; and so set down in the Mapps of Adricomius, and in our Translation the River Kana, or Brook of Canes. And Bellonius tells us that the River Jordan affordeth plenty and variety of Reeds; out of some whereof the Arabs make Darts, and light Lances, and out of others, Arrows; and withall that there plentifully groweth the fine Calamus, arundo Scriptoria, or writing Reed, which they gather with the greatest care, as being of singular use and commodity at home and abroad; a hard Reed about the compass of a Goose or Swans Quill, whereof I have seen some polished and cut with a Webb; which is in common use for writing throughout the Turkish Dominions, they using not the Quills of Birds.264
And whereas the same Authour with other describers of these parts affirmeth, that the River Jordan, not far from Jerico, is but such a Stream as a youth may throw a Stone over it, or about eight fathoms broad, it doth not diminish the account and solemnity of the miraculous passage of the Israelites under Joshua; For it must be considered, that they passed it in the time of Harvest, when the River was high, and the Grounds about it under Water, according to that pertinent parenthesis,265 As the Feet of the Priests, which carried the Ark, were dipped in the brim of the Water, (for Jordan overfloweth all its Banks at the time of Harvest.) In this consideration it was well joined with the great River Euphrates, in that Expression in Ecclesiasticus, God maketh the understanding to abound like Euphrates, and as Jordan in the time of Harvest.266
48. The Kingdom of Heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good Seed in his Field, but while men slept, his Enemy came and sowed Tares (or, as the Greek, Zizania) among the Wheat.267
Now, how to render Zizania, and to what species of Plants to confine it, there is no slender doubt; for the word is not mention’d in other parts of Scripture, nor in any ancient Greek Writer: it is not to be found in Aristotle, Theophrastus, or Dioscorides. Some Greek and Latin Fathers have made use of the same, as also Suidas and Phavorinus; but probably they have all derived it from this Text.
And therefore this obscurity might easily occasion such variety in Translations and Expositions. For some retain the word Zizania, as the Vulgar, that of Beza, of Junius, and also the Italian and Spanish. The Low Dutch renders it Oncruidt, the German Oncraut, or Herba Mala, the French Yuroye or Lolium, and the English Tares.
Besides, this being conceived to be a Syriack word, it may still add unto the uncertainty of the sense. For though this Gospel were first written in Hebrew, or Syriack, yet it is not unquestionable whether the true Original be any where extant: And that Syriack Copy which we now have, is conceived to be of far later time than S. Matthew.
Expositours and Annotatours are also various. Hugo Grotius hath passed the word Zizania without a Note. Diodati, retaining the word Zizania, conceives that it was some peculiar Herb growing among the Corn of those Countries, and not known in our Fields. But Emmanuel de Sa interprets it, Plantas semini noxias, and so accordingly some others.
Buxtorfius, in his Rabbinical Lexicon, gives divers interpretations, sometimes for degenerated Corn, sometimes for the black Seeds in Wheat, but withall concludes, an hæc sit eadem vox aut species, cum Zizaniâ apud Evangelistam, quærant alii. But Lexicons and Dictionaries by Zizania do almost generally understand Lolium, which we call Darnel, and commonly confine the signification to that Plant: Notwithstanding, since Lolium had a known and received name in Greek, some may be apt to doubt, why, if that Plant were particularly intended, the proper Greek word was not used for the Text. For Theophrastus named Lolium Αἶρα, and hath often mentioned that Plant; and in one place saith that Corn doth sometimes Loliescere268 or degenerate into Darnel. Dioscorides, who travelled over Judæa, gives it the same π86 name, which is also to be found in Galen, Ætius and Ægineta; and Pliny hath sometimes latinized that word into Æra.269
Besides, Lolium or Darnel shews it self in the Winter, growing up with the Wheat; and Theophrastus observed that it was no Vernal Plant, but came up in the Winter; which will not well answer the expression of the Text, And when the Blade came up, and brought forth Fruit, or gave evidence of its Fruit, the Zizania appeared. And if the Husbandry of the Ancients were agreeable unto ours, they would not have been so earnest to weed away the Darnel; for our Husbandmen do not commonly weed it in the Field, but separate the Seeds after Thrashing. And therefore Galen delivereth, that in an unseasonable year, and great scarcity of Corn, when they neglected to separate the Darnel, the Bread proved generally unwholsome, and had evil effects on the Head.
Our old and later Translation render Zizania, Tares, which name our Enlgish Botanists give unto Aracus, Cracca, Vicia sylvestris, calling them Tares, and strangling Tares. And our Husbandmen by Tares understand some sorts of wild Fitches, which grow amongst Corn, and clasp upon it, according to the Latin Etymology, Vicia à Viciendo. Now in this uncertainty of the Original, Tares as well as some others, may make out the sense, and be also more agreeable unto the circumstances of the Parable. For they come up and appear what they are, when the Blade of the Corn is come up, and also the Stalk and Fruit discoverable. They have likewise little spreading Roots, which may intangle or rob the good Roots, and they have also tendrils and claspers, which lay hold of what grows near them, and so can hardly be weeded without endangering the neighbour Corn.
However, if by Zizania we understand Herbas segeti noxias, or vitia segetum, as some Expositours have done, and take the word in a more general sense, comprehending several Weeds and Vegetables offensive unto Corn, according as the Greek word in the plural Number may imply, and as the learned Laurenbergius270 hath expressed, Runcare quod apud nostrates Weden dicitus, Zizanias inutiles est evellere. If, I say, it be thus taken, we shall not need to be definitive, or confine unto one particular Plant, from a word which may comprehend divers: And this may also prove a safer sense, in such obscurity of the Original.
And therefore since in this Parable the sower of the Zizania is the Devil, and the Zizania wicked persons; if any from this larger acception, will take in Thistles, Darnel, Cockle, wild strangling Fitches, Bindweed, Tribulus, Restharrow and other Vitia Segetum; he may, both from the natural and symbolical qualities of those Vegetables, have plenty of matter to illustrate the variety of his mischiefs, and of the wicked of this world.
49. When ’tis said in Job,271 Let Thistles grow up instead of Wheat, and Cockle instead of Barley, the words are intelligible, the sense allowable and significant to this purpose: but whether the word Cockle doth strictly conform unto the Original, some doubt may be made from the different Translations of it; For the Vulgar renders it Spina, Tremelius Vitia Frugum, and the Geneva, Yuroye or Darnel. Besides, whether Cockle were common in the ancient Agriculture of those parts, or what word they used for it, is of great uncertainty. For the Elder Botanical Writers have made no mention thereof, and the Moderns have given it the Name of Pseudomelanthium, Nigellastrum, Lychnoeides Segetum, names not known unto Antiquity: And therefore our Translation hath warily set down noisome Weeds in the Margin.
Notes in green are the original marginalia. The running title is Observ. upon several Plants Tract I. // Tract I. mention’d in Scripture.
1. A pencilled note in a copy of the Tracts belonging to John Evelyn says that “Most of these letters were written to Sir Nicholas Bacon”. The margin bears the notice Introduction.
2. In John 8:6-10.
3. Luke 24. 27.
4. In the Iliad 18:484-485: the Sun, a full Moon, the Pleiades, Hyades, Orion and the Bear (or Wain or Dipper). Job 9:9 and 38:31 mention the Pleiades and Orion; 9:9 and 28:32 mention Arcturus (and in the latter “his sons” and hence, presumably, Boötes); Amos 5:8 mentions “the seven stars” (the Bear) and Orion. The “morning star” is mentioned several times, and of course the Sun and the Moon, as well as various unidentified stars, comets and meteorites and the star seen at the birth of Christ.
5. James 1. 17.
6. Jude 1:13: sidera errantia.
7. Jude 1:13, in the KJV, “Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandring stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.” A note by Wilkin in his edition of the Complete Works of Browne (hereafter, Wilkin): “Barchochebas. One of the impostors who assumed the character of Messias; he changed his true name, Bar-Coziba, son of a lie, to that of Bar-chochebas, son of a star! He excited a revolt against the Romans which led to a very sanguinary contest, terminating with his death, at the storming of Bither by the Romans under Julius Severus. Bossuet supposes him to be the star mentioned in the 8th chap. of Revelation.
"The apostle Jude more probably alluded to the term ‘star’, by which the Jews often designated their teachers, and applied it here to some of the Christian teachers, whose unholy motives, erroneous doctrines, or wandering and unsettled habits exposed them to his rebuke."
Justin Martyr in his First Apology mentions Barchochebas as an anti-Christian leader of the Jews in their revolt against the Romans. The star mentioned in Revelation 8:10-11 has another interesting connection with the (putative) subject of this tract, as it is called Wormwood.
8. Cf. Cyrus-Garden Chapter I and note.
9. Gen. 4:22. Tubalcain son of Zillah was “an instructor of every artificer in brass and iron”.
10. MS Sloane 1841 adds “sulphur”.
11. Depinxit oculos stibio. 2 King. 9.30. Jerem. 4.30. Ezek. 23.40. In the Vulgate. The KJV, 2 Kings 9:30, reads “painted her eyes”; the Hebrew word used implies powdered antimony (stibium) in much the same way that English “painted her cheeks” and “painted her lips” imply “with rouge” and “with lipstick”. Similarly with the other cited passages.
12. Rev. 21:11 ff., especially 18-21.
13. Exodus 28:15-21. The breastplate as designed by God had four rows of three stones each: a sardius, a topaz, and a carbuncle; an emerald, a sapphire, and a diamond; a ligure, an agate, and an amethyst; and a beryl, an onyx, and a jasper, each of which was either inscribed with the name or the symbol of one of the tribes of Israel or perhaps simply represented the tribe. Described at great length by Josephus. See also Pseudodoxia I.iii and note.
14. Ear-rings: many places, e.g., Gen. 35:4 and Exodus 32:2; bracelets: again in many places, e.g., Numbers 31:50. Pearl and coral in Job 28:18; coral in Ezekiel 27:16; amber and crystal are mentioned (as colors) in Ezekiel. Job 28:17 mentions crystal.
15. 1 Kings 9:26 ff.
16. On their way to Ophir for gold; 1 Kings 22:48.
17. Acts 27.
18. Artemidorus, early 3rd century, author of Oneirocritica, which had been translated into English in 1656; Ahmed Ibn Sirin, died ca. 728, author of a work on the interpretation of dreams as related in Islamic hadith.
19. Pseudo-Aristotle’s Physiognomy 811b.33-34: οἱ δὲ τετράγωνον σύμμετρον τῷ μετώπῳ ἔχοντες μεγαλόψυχοι· ἀναφέρεται ἐπὶ τοὺς λέοντας. “Those having a symmetrical rectangle as a forehead are magnanimous: it is seen in lions."
20. 1 Chr. 12:8: “And of the Gadites there separated themselves unto David into the hold in the wilderness men of might, and men of war fit for the battle, that could handle shield and buckler, whose faces were like the faces of lions, and were as swift as the roes upon the mountains."
21. This reminds me of a story I once heard or read (I cannot remember the source) of an Indian professor of English literature’s first visit to England. On landing, he saw yellow flowers blooming about the tarmac, walked up to them and began to quote Wordsworth’s lines on daffodils. The flowers were dandelions. I had a friend in college who claimed, at the moment of looking at a tulip in bloom, not to know the difference between a rose and a tulip. What is the meaning for these people of such phrases as “the last rose of summer” or “daffodils that come before the swallow dares, and take the winds of March with beauty”? An interesting area for investigation.
22. MS Sloane 1841: “insatisfaction"
23. Here the Introduction ends, and The Observations. begin. Kikaion. Jonah 4.6; a Gourd. In the KJV: “And the Lord God prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief. So Jonah was exceedingly glad of the gourd.” The Vulgate has “et praeparavit Dominus Deus hederam et ascendit super caput Ionae ut esset umbra super caput eius et protegeret eum laboraverat enim et laetatus est Iona super hedera laetitia magna”. Most English Bibles have gourd, although the “Bible in Basic English” plumps for “vine”. If in fact it is the castor plant — see the following notes — this, however, is the wrong “basic”.
24. That is, they have kikayon or kikajon as marginal notes. The Greek has “κολοκυνϑη”.
25. In the Authorized and Revised versions a marginal note offers the alternative “palm-christ” or “Palma Christi”. The Douay, following Jerome, has “ivy”; the “Second French” Bible of Louis Segond has “ricin”. Both readings were vehemently contested by Augustine; see the following notes.
26. Wilkin notes “Augustine called it a gourd, and accused Jerome of heresy for the opinion he held. Yet they both seem to have been wrong. It was in all probability the kiki of the Egyptians, a plant of the same family as the ricinus; and, according to Dioscorides, of rapid growth; bearing a berry from which an oil is expressed; rising to the height of ten or twelve feet, and furnished with very large leaves, like those of the plane-tree; so that the people of the East plant it before their shops for the sake of its shade.” St. Augustine objected to that translation as well, on several good grounds. The castor-bean is as “little subject unto Worms” as ivy, at least in these parts. See Plants of the Bible (Harold N. Moldenke and Alma L. Moldenke, Waltham, MA: Chronica Botanica, 1952; reprinted in 1986 by Dover; hereafter “Moldenke"), an exhaustive work on which I shall lean heavily in these notes.
27. Leviticus 14:4 ff. describes the ritual for dealing with leprosy, including hyssop. Cf. the NT stories of curing lepers, e.g., Matthew 8, 11, Mark 14. The Hebrew is אזוב ezob, the Greek ὔσωπος. It is, says Moldenke, “unquestionably the most puzzling and controversial of all the words in the Bible applying, or thought to apply, to plants and plant products.” The hyssop we are familiar with is not native to the Levant. The word itself may refer to several different plants; in this case, the most likely candidate is Origanum maru, the Syrian marjoram. All members of the mint family are in any case susceptible to variation caused both by cross-breeding and by simple freakishness of the genes. That is why there are so many varieties of mint, and why people who have found a mint plant that is to their liking attempt to keep it pure, reproducing it vegetatively and culling inferior specimens. Consider also the tarragon plant: the culinary variety does not seem to be reproducible from seed (it always yields the so-called “Russian” tarragon, which is simply flavorless tarragon). Wilkin notes, on hyssop, that it is “a diminutive herb of a very bitter taste, which Hasselquist [F. Hasselquist, Voyages and Travels in the Levant in the years 1749-1752 (in Swedish, edited by Linnæus, 1757; in English, 1766)] mentions as growing on the mountains near Jerusalem, as well as on the walls of the city. Pliny mentions it in connection with the vinegar and the sponge. Nat. Hist. lib. xxiii, c. 1.” Pliny HN xxiii.55 (see also the note at that location). Matt. 24:48; Mark 15:36. Cf. John 19:29, which reads “hyssop” rather than “reed”.
28. Pierre Belon, whose Observations on his travels in the Middle East, Greece and Egypt were published in 1555. They were republished in English in 1693 (after Browne’s death) as part of John Ray’s two-volume compendium of travel literature.
29. In 1 Kings 4:33: “And [Solomon] spake of trees, from the cedar tree that is in Lebanon even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall: he spake also of beasts, and of fowl, and of creeping things, and of fishes.” Browne’s Capillary is the maiden’s hair fern, or more generally any of the ferns or their relatives; but certainly not a tree, as the passage suggests we should expect. Neither of course is the hyssop a tree. Some suggest the caper, Capparis sicula, which is (1) woody, (2) wall-growing, and (3) often decumbent, thus furnishing an excellent antithesis to the cedar while still remaining in the category “tree”. (The translation of the Hebrew ets as “tree” is uncontested.)
30. On libanotis, see Pliny HN xix.187 and xx.172. The Greek original can mean any of several different plants, including rosemary and several varieties of incense. In Latin Libanotis is almost always rosemary. The Vulgate uses the Latin tus, whose meaning is similar to the Greek. English traditionally, if not accurately, uses “frankincense”.)
31. Hemlock. Hosea 10.4. Amos 6.2. Hosea: “They have spoken words, swearing falsely in making a covenant: thus judgment springeth up as hemlock in the furrows of the field”, where “hemlock” translates the Hebrew r'osh, elsewhere translated “gall” or “venom” or “bitterness”. Amos: “Shall horses run upon the rock? will one plow there with oxen? for ye have turned judgment into gall, and the fruit of righteousness into hemlock”, where “hemlock” translates the Hebrew la'anach, elsewhere translated “wormwood”. The plant usually called hemlock hardly “springs up”, although some weedy plants like the water hemlock also bear the name hemlock. Perhaps wormwood, or perhaps, as Browne (and the Hebrew) suggests, merely a type for any poisonous plant. This is the solution of many English translators, who use “wormwood”, “poisonous thing”, “weed”, or, in the case of the Douay’s Hosea, simply “bitterness”.
32. Paliurus. Isaiah 34:13, Vulgate: “et orientur in domibus eius spinae et urticae et paliurus in munitionibus eius et erit cubile draconum et pascua strutionum”; KJV: “And thorns shall come up in her palaces, nettles and brambles in the fortresses thereof: and it shall be an habitation of dragons, and a court for owls”. Micah 7:4, “qui optimus in eis est quasi paliurus et qui rectus quasi spina de sepe dies speculationis tuae visitatio tua venit nunc erit vastitas eorum”, “The best of them is as a brier: the most upright is sharper than a thorn hedge: the day of thy watchmen and thy visitation cometh; now shall be their perplexity”. Probably Solanum incanum, a thorny nightshade (also called Palestine nightshade, Jericho potato, apple of Sodom). Its thorns are brutal and its handsome fruit when ripe bursts, emitting what appears to be a cloud of dust and ashes. Rhamnus palæstina is a shrub widely used for hedges. Paliurus spina-christi (or australis) is another thorny, straggling shrub. Along with Zizyphus spina-christi, the “great jujube”, it is a candidate for the source of the Crown of Thorns.
33. Rubus. Exodus 3:2-4: “apparuitque ei Dominus in flamma ignis de medio rubi et videbat quod rubus arderet et non conbureretur  dixit ergo Moses vadam et videbo visionem hanc magnam quare non conburatur rubus  cernens autem Dominus quod pergeret ad videndum vocavit eum de medio rubi et ait Moses Moses qui respondit adsum”; “And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed. And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt. And when the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I”. “The most logical explanation,” says Moldenke, “seems to be that of Smith who suggests that the ‘flame of fire’ may have been the crimson-flowered mistletoe known as the acacia strap-flower, Lorantus acaciæ, which grows in great profusion on various thorny Acacia shrubs and trees in the Holy Land and Sinai.… This mistletow, when in full bloom, imparts to the shrub or tree the appearance of being ablaze with fire because of its brilliant flame-coloured blossoms.… Smith calls attention to the almost breath-taking appearance of this mistletoe on the yellow-flowered opoponax.” [J. Smith’s Bible Plants (1878), not W. Smith’s Bible Dictionary] The question of why the KJV (and most English translations) have “bush” rather than the more accurate “thorny bush” is open. The Hebrew seneh is a thorny bush, possibly a blackberry.
34. Mark 12:26, Luke 20:37; Acts 7:30 and 35. The LXX Exod. 3:2 has βάτος. In Dioscorides 4:37-38, “blackberry, “bramble”, but he uses the same word for other plants; see 1:13.
35. Myrica. MS Sloane 1847 “be as the heath in the wilderness.” A marginal annotation to Cant. 1.14 in all (print) editions belongs with the next section, where it is repeated.
Jer. 48:6: “Flee, save your lives, and be like the heath in the wilderness.” Jer. 17:6: “For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited.” Wilkin notes “The LXX, in Jer. xlviii, 6, instead of ouru evidently read orud, ‘a wild ass;’ which suits that passage (as well as Jer. xvii, 6) better than ‘heath’!” The Vulgate has “myrica”, and most English translations use “bush” or “heath” (although at 48:6 Basic English has “and let your faces be turned to Aroer in the Arabah” and Young, more comprehensibly, has “Ye are as a naked thing in a wilderness”.) The Hebrew ar-ar means “destitute, deprived, naked”; in reference to a bush, possibly juniper or just scrub, as it is rendered in some translations, or even simply naked.
36. The Douay does use tamarix. The figure in the passage makes the identification unlikely. Who would tell someone to go and hide in the wilderness like a medium-sized and quite showy tree? Like many other desert plants, the tamarix does bear a resemblance to heath (in its leaves and general habit, although not in its size). Some botanists claim that there are native heaths in the Holy Land, in limited distribution, but others assert the contrary. Gerard complains bitterly about a plant called “Rose of Jericho”, which he renames “Heath of Jericho”, because it is, he says, of all the plants described by botanists the least like a rose. (It does indeed resemble a small, gnarly, dried heath in his illustration.)
37. Cypress. Cant. 1. 14 “My beloved is unto me as a cluster of camphire in the vineyards of Engedi.” The Vulgate (at 1:13) has “botrus cypri dilectus meus mihi in vineis Engaddi”. “Κύπρος” = “tree growing in Cyprus”. Cant. 4:13. “Thy plants are an orchard of pomegranates, with pleasant fruits; camphire, with spikenard”; Vulgate: “emissiones tuae paradisus malorum punicorum cum pomorum fructibus cypri cum nardo”.
38. The Hebrew kopher is translated in the KJV as ransom (8 times), satisfaction (twice), bribe (twice), camphire (twice), and once each as pitch, sum of money, and village. It is possibly the name of a plant, probably henna.
39. Because the surrounding verses mention other fragrant plants, spikenard and myrrh.
40. The Segond translation of 1910 has troëne, “privet”. Ligustrum or Alcharma = henna or “Egyptian privet”, Lawsonia inermis. Henna’s small white to yellowish flowers are powerfully fragrant, reminiscent of roses. It is widely distributed in the area, from India to the Levant to Egypt and the Mediterranean.
41. Pliny HN xii.109 (englished): henna.
42. Pliny HN xv.28 (englished), xxviii.109; famous for its odor.
43. Cinnamomum camphora. Camphor is the dried crystalline resin; the oil exuded in the process of creating camphor is also used ("oil of camphor"), but probably was not known to Browne. While the tree will grow in any tropical or warm sub-tropical area, there is no evidence that it grew in the Holy Land in early Biblical times. On the other hand, the substance and the tree may well have been known to the ancients. Browne may be confused by the “m” added when the word came back into modern European languages from the Arabic, who had in turn borrowed it from the Greek καφουρα. The word occurs in Dioscorides and as an interpolation (say the critics) in Galen, in its present meaning. Cognates occur in numerous other ancient languages (Persian, Sanskrit, and so on).
44. Shittah Tree, &c. Isa. 41.19. Vulgate: “dabo in solitudine cedrum et spinam et myrtum et lignum olivae ponam in deserto abietem ulmum et buxum simul”. The word “shittah” occurs in the singular only in this passage; it usually occurs as “shittim wood”. Shittim = “sticks of wood”, presumably an allusion to its habit of growing in gnarled, shrub-like groups. The tree may be either or both of Acacia seyal and Acacia tortilis, “the only timber trees of any considerable size on the Arabian desert” (Moldenke), but a major argument against this identification is that the remainder of the list consists of trees that do not normally grow in the desert; indeed, that seems to be the point.
45. Grapes of Eshcol. Num. 13.23. Numbers 13:23-24: “And they came unto the brook of Eshcol, and cut down from thence a branch with one cluster of grapes, and they bare it between two upon a staff; and they brought of the pomegranates, and of the figs. The place was called the brook Eshcol, because of the cluster of grapes which the children of Israel cut down from thence.” Eshcol = cluster (eshcowl = “cluster of grapes").
46. ἄριστος ϑέααριστος ϑεα. Philo.
47. Moldenke (p. 243) quotes a letter from a Dr. Robert F. Griggs, who believed that the “ ‘grapes’ brought back by Joshua and Caleb were bananas.… It impressed me because bananas are obviously the only fruit a bunch of which would constitute a man’s burden as there described.… Furthermore, my slight acquaintance with higher criticism has indicated that the translators of the English text were very much at a loss to find English equivalents for the words of the original and upon discovering mention of a fruit in bunches, grapes would be the most natural way to construe it.” The Vulgate has uva. The Hebrew 'enab seems to mean simply “bear fruit”, which might easily mean “grape”, the fruit of fruits to most of the world that knows it, and especially of fruits that cluster. Moldenke says that “the grape-vine of the Old World sometimes assumes the habit of a tree … bearing bunches of grapes 10 or 12 pounds in weight, the individual berries the size of small plums. Bunches have even been produced weighing as much as 26 pounds. The vines of Palestine were always renowned both for the luxuriance of their growth and for the immense clusters of grapes which they produced.” Wilkin notes “Doubdan (Voyage de la Terre Sainte, ch. xxi [Jean Doubdan’s Le Voyage de la Terre-Sainte, contenant une véritable description des lieux plus considérables que N.S. a sanctifié de la présence, prédications, miracles & soufrances. L’estat de la ville de Ierusalem, tant ancienne que moderne; Plus une légère description des principales villes de l’Italie. Fait l’an 1652 par M.I.D.P. Paris, F. Clovsier, 1657] speaks of bunches weighing ten or twelve pounds. Forster, on the authority of a Religious, who had long resided in Palestine, says, that there grew in the valley of Hebron bunches so large that two men could scarcely carry one."
48. Sc. Carmania. The Greeks raised a variety of grape believed to have come from this desert region of what is now southern Iran, just west of the Straits of Hormuz. Strabo (15.2.14) writes “It is from this vine that ‘the Carmanian’ as we here call it originated — a vine which often has clusters of even two cubits, these clusters being thick with large grapes; and it is reasonable to suppose that this vine is more flourishing there than here.” Pliny does not mention the Carmanian vine per se, but does report on the vines of Cyprus, which may be the same variety as the Carmanian. In writing about Margiana (a region of what is now northwest Afghanistan between the Murgab and the Amu-Darya Rivers), Strabo twice mentions the enormous clusters of grapes grown there (11.10.2 and 2.14.1): “They say it is oftentimes found that the trunk of the grape-vine can be encircled only by the out-stretched arms of two men, and that the cluster of grapes is two cubits long.” Pliny (HN vi.64 (englished) ) says merely that it’s sunny and vines grow there. See also Section 25 on large vines.
49. Radzivil in his Travels: Mikolaj Krzysztof Radziwill, 1549-1616, in his Podróz do Ziemi Swietej, Syrii i Egiptu, 1582-1584. An (English) ell is about 45 inches; hence the clusters measured about 34 inches around.
50. Ingred. of holy Perfume. Stacte, &c. Exod 30.34, 35. Exodus 30:34-35: “And the Lord said unto Moses, Take unto thee sweet spices, stacte, and onycha, and galbanum; these sweet spices with pure frankincense: of each shall there be a like weight: And thou shalt make it a perfume, a confection after the art of the apothecary, tempered together, pure and holy.” Said perfume was reserved for the use of God; in 38, “Whosoever shall make like unto that, to smell thereto, shall even be cut off from his people.” In the Vulgate, “dixitque Dominus ad Mosen sume tibi aromata stacten et onycha galbanen boni odoris et tus lucidissimum aequalis ponderis erunt omnia faciesque thymiama conpositum opere unguentarii mixtum diligenter et purum et sanctificatione dignissimum.” As a proleptic note, the word “amber” does occur in the Bible, but refers to the color (literally, in the text: “the color of amber”; e.g., Ezekiel 8:2; see note 14 above). It is a translation of chashmal, whose exact meaning is uncertain; possibly bronze.
51. The Hebrew shekhayleth, of uncertain signification. Strong suggests it is from the same root as shakkal, to roar (like a lion), hence a lion, “through some obscure idea, perhaps that of peeling off by concussion of sound”, which might fit with a shellfish of sufficient proportions. The Greek ὄνυξ ("onyx") refers to the operculum of the bivalve Strombus, which when burnt yields a sweet smell (see, e.g., Dioscorides 1.2); but as this is itself a translation, it signifies only if it is itself correct and refers to the same substance as the Hebrew. On that, opinion is divided, some holding it to refer either to benzoin (from Styrax benzoin, a tree not native to the Holy Land) or to bdellium.
52. Unguis odorata or Blatta Byzantina, the operculum of a marine gastropod (Strombus?) is still used in India for perfume; among other things, it is boiled to perfume medicines. Browne not infrequently mentions as unpleasant odors and flavors that are often considered pleasing by others or in other times; see note 54 below.
53. The Hebrew chelbenaw, a resin, from a root meaning “fat” and hence “finest”; the Greek γαλβάνη. Probably Ferula galbaniflua and/or related species (Moldenke quotes authorities saying that there are nine species in the area); possibly Galbanum officinale; possibly some combination.
54. There may have been more than one galbanum in commerce. It is usually mentioned as smelling sweet up until the 17th century, when there are many references to its nastiness, as well as more references to its sweetness. The Oxford dictionary quotes Wilson’s Belphegor (1691), v.ii, “I’ll have ye burnt in effigy, with brimstone, galbanum, aristolochia, hypericon, and rue.” On the other hand, we may note that Shakespeare refers to rue as “sweet”, an adjective to which most people would take exception. These things are largely a matter of taste. Wilkin says that galbanum is “a gum issuing from an umbelliferous plant, growing in Persia and Africa; — when first drawn, white and soft; — afterwards reddish; — of a strong smell, bitter and acid, inflammable, and soluble in water.” It is to be noted that the bases and fixatives of perfumes do not always smell very good on their own.
55. Stacte, Hebrew nataph, another resin; the finest resin of myrrh. Myrrh is the natural exudation of a small scrubby tree (Commiphora) that grows in Arabia. Cinnamon and cassia are not products of Arabia. On Cinnamon, cassia and calamus, see Ezekiel 27:19 in the KJV. On the entire mess, see Moldenke, especially s.vv. Cinnamomum cassia and Cinnamomum zeylandicum. Presumably it is the confluence of the KJV and the Vulgate that impels Browne to drag in cinnamon at this point; for the Vulgate reads “stacte et calamus” where the KJV reads “cassia and calamus”.
56. See also Pseudodoxia Epidemica, Book VII, chapter 7.
57. Husks eaten by the Prodigal. Luke 15.16: “And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him”; in the Vulgate, “et cupiebat implere ventrem suum de siliquis quas porci manducabant et nemo illi dabat”. Most translations have either “husk” or “pod”.
58. Ceratonia siliqua. Commentators, for once in nearly universal agreement, believe that the locusts eaten by John the Baptist were the pods of this tree, the carob. See also Pseudodoxia Epidemica, Book VII, chapter 9.
59. Pliny HN xiv.103 (englished).
60. Cucumbers, &c. of Ægypt. Numbers 11:5: “We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlick.” The cucumber, of unknown origin, formed a staple of the Egyptian diet for many centuries, or even millennia (certainly well into the modern era, if not still). A note in Wilkin seeks to upgrade the common cucumber probably referred to here: “Hasselquist thus describes the cucumis chate, or queen of cucumbers. ‘It grows in the fertile earth around Cairo, after the inundation of the Nile, and not in any other place in Egypt, nor in any other soil. It ripens with water melons: its flesh is almost of the same substance, but is not near so cool. The grandees eat it as the most pleasant food they find, and that from which they have least to apprehend. It is the most excellent of this tribe of any yet known.’ ” Moldenke describes this plant as being covered with soft transparent hairs and having a melon-like flesh that is more watery than that of the common cucumber.
61. Herodotus ii.125.6, quoting, with some dubiety, what his interpreter told him was carved on the pyramid. For another take on this question, see this web site, where the authors take the hieroglyphs to refer to types of stone or minerals, classified by smell.
62. Prosper Alpini, 1553-1617, who wrote a number of works about Egypt, including Historia Ægyptæ Naturalis, in two parts, De plantis Ægyptis, and De medicina Ægyptiorum.
63. Forbidden Fruit. Gen. 2.17, &c.
64. Wilkin: “Jewish tradition considers it to have been the citron, which in all probability was the fruit spoken of in Cant. ii,13, rather than the apple, as it is translated.” See also Pseudodoxia Epidemica VII.1 and notes on the forbidden fruit. Moldenke, after considering other claimants and rather arbitrarily dismissing most of them, plumps for the apricot. As it is entirely unclear that the tree exists anywhere outside the Garden, the whole discussion seems, if you’ll forgive the expression, fruitless.
65. Gen. 3:7, in the KJV: “And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons”. The Hebrew tenah may be of foreign derivation. Wilkin notes “The fig tree is called taneh, or the ‘grief tree’, from its rough leaves. Hence the Rabbins and others represent Adam to have selected it as a natural sackcloth, to express his contrition.” Many authorities, however, and even the poet Milton, believe that it is not the fruit-tree that is referred to, but one of the other figs, many of which have hairless leaves.
66. In a statue alleged (in an inscription on its base) to be by Praxiteles, formerly in the Piazza del Monte Cavallo, or Piazza del Quirinale; it (and its mate, allegedly by Phidias) represent the Dioscuri, not two attempts at Augustus and Bucephalus. The fig leaves were probably the result of contemporary prudery, not of ancient iconicism. See this article and the accompanying (bad) steel engraving from the Penny Magazine for an early nineteenth century view of it. See also this article by Hülsen (in Italian) on the question of such attributions.
67. I.e., the condylomata, called “ficus”, that are secondary characteristics of syphillis. Other condylomata, as well as piles, are sometimes called “figs”. The name is due not to the position but to the appearance.
68. Balsam. Oil. Luke 10.34: He “went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.” Judean, or Jericho, Balsam, Balanites ægyptica, mentioned (three times) in Jeremiah.
69. See Mrs. Grieve s.v. “Olive" on the medicinal uses of olive oil. See also Hippocrates.
70. Pulse of Daniel. Dan. 1.12. “Prove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days; and let them give us pulse to eat, and water to drink.” (In 1:8 the Jews explain that they do not wish to eat the king’s meat or drink his wine for fear of defiling themselves; the “proof” is that they can flourish on a rougher diet.) Pulse = Hebrew zeronim, probably dried beans or lentils (or both). Hasselquist in Iter Palæstinum suggests the parched legumes and grains consumed in some parts of the Near East and North Africa: “On the road from Acra to Seide we saw a herdsman eating his dinner, consisting of half-ripe ears of wheat, which he toasted, and ate with as good an appetite as a Turk does his pillaus."
71. “Tenta nos obsecro servos tuos diebus decem, et dentur nobis legumina ad vescendum, et aqua ad bibendum."
72. I.e., sown vegetables.
73. Benito Arias Montano, 1527-1598, in his “Antwerp Polyglot”, the Biblia Sacra Hebraice, Chaldaice, Græce, & Latine.
74. ὄσπρια, the word the LXX uses for both the passages in Daniel (Hebrew zeronim) and in II Samuel 17:28 (Hebrew kali).
75. Potibazis. Athenæus XI.503 f, quoting Dion’s Persian History, “ἐστὶ δὲ ποτίβαζις ἄρτος κρίθινος καὶ πύρινος ὀπτὸς καὶ κυπαρίσσου στέφανος καὶ οἶνος κεκραμένος ἐν ᾠῷ χρυσῷ, οὗ αὐτὸς βασιλεὺς πίνει.” The “oval Cup” is a “golden Egg” ("ᾠόν χρύσον"). A note in the Loeb edition: “The word ποτιβασις (without accent in A) was traced by Scaliger to a Hebrew base variously rendered by τράπεζα or δεῖπνον in the Septuagint, e.g. Daniel I:5”, ἀπὸ τῆς βασιλικῆς τραπέζης. Pathbag, of Persian origin, rendered “king’s meat” in the KJV.
76. Jacob ate pulses before tricking his brother, whereafter he ate venison; Genesis 25:30-34. On Rome and pulses, see Pliny HN xviii, especially 104. For pultiphagus, see e.g. Plautus Mostelleria III.ii.137. The Latin Pistor, baker, is from pinsor to beat (whence e.g. pistillum, pestle). See Pliny xviii.107. For an example of a “plump and fair” Daniel, see for instance Michelangelo’s Daniel in the Sistine Chapel.
77. For example, iv.155 ff., where Cynuklos goes on at great length about a diet of pulses.
78. Daniel was born about 620 BC. The first deportations of Jewish youth were in 605. Cyrus’s army conquered Babylon in October of 539 BC, and the text specifically says (twice) that Daniel was then alive: in Daniel 1:21 “And Daniel continued even unto the first year of king Cyrus” and 6:28: “So this Daniel prospered in the reign of Darius, and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian”. The last recorded events of Daniel’s life seem to have taken place in the third year of the reign of Cyrus, 536 (Daniel 10-11), when he would have been about 84.
79. Jacob’s Rods. Gen. 30. 37. In the KJV, “And Jacob took him rods of green poplar, and of the hazel and chesnut tree; and pilled white strakes in them, and made the white appear which was in the rods”; in the Vulgate: “tollens ergo Iacob virgas populeas virides et amigdalinas et ex platanis ex parte decorticavit eas detractisque corticibus in his quae spoliata fuerant candor apparuit illa vero quae integra erant viridia permanserunt atque in hunc modum color effectus est varius”. A strict dictionary translation of the Hebrew would be white tree, almond, and plane, but that begs the question, as the definition of “plane” is an abyss of controversy and then what’s the white tree? It is Poplar, say many, including apparently Jerome, adding, for our confusion, “virides”; storax, say others. The entire episode is in any case, as Browne will point out, very peculiar. The Basic English Bible throws out the lot and says simply “trees”.
80. G. Venetus, Problem. 200. Francisci Georgii Veneti (Francesco Giorgio), In Scripturam Sacram problemata, Venice, 1563.
81. 'armon (plane) and rimmon (pomegranate) in the Hebrew; perhaps the similarity of the words accounts for the translation. Darby has “maple” (the “wild plane” of Britain being in fact the maple Acer platanoides.)
82. Lilies of the Field. Matt. 6.28. “And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin”. (Also in Luke 12:27: “Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these”.)
83. This is perhaps the most hotly contested (and hence most popular) of the Bible’s cruces. Many hold out for the anemone, Anemone coronaria, but the reasoning behind this choice is somewhat specious, basically resting on the premiss that the flower must be common (not necessarily; I could name a few dozen flowers that are “of the field” and yet not common). The Greek is κρίνον (which name shows up in Crinum, a genus of plants from the new world, Asia, and South Africa that is necessarily out of contention, but which nevertheless is still occasionally thrust into the dispute). Wilkin quotes from Salt’s Voyage to Abyssinia, p. 419: “At a few miles from Adowa, we discovered a new and beautiful species of amaryllis, which bore from ten to twelve spikes of bloom on each stem, as large as those of the belladonna, springing from one common receptacle. The general colour of the corolla was white, and every petal was marked with a single streak of bright purple down the middle. The flower was sweet scented, and its smell, though much more powerful, resembled that of the lily of the valley. This superb plant excited the admiration of the whole party; and it brought immediately to my recollection the beautiful comparison used on a particular occasion by our Saviour, ‘I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.’ ” As often in these cases, the exact identification of “lily”, if there is one, is not essential to the meaning, but people do like to argue.
84. Λείριον occurs in the Homeric Hymns, 2.427, in a list of attractive flowers, where it is usually taken to be a lily, probably Lilium candidum, the Madonna lily. In other sources, the word is sometimes taken to refer either to the autumn or to the tazetta daffodil. In the context, it might be well to remember the wide latitude of the English lily, which is used to refer to a number of lily-like plants, as well as a few not-so-lily-like plants, which are not considered lilies botanically. At least not always considered lilies; it seems that every great plant classifier takes at least one destructive romp through the lily fields in the course of his career, and a plant that was a lily fifty years ago may or may not be a lily today, depending.
85. Cant. 2:16. Usually taken to be the hyacinth. The problem is compounded by the Hebrew word shoshan, which is also the name of Susa or Shushan; Strong’s concordance says “any lily”, in accord with Browne’s argument.
86. Cant. 5:13; “His cheeks are as a bed of spices, as sweet flowers: his lips like lilies, dropping sweet smelling myrrhe."
87. Moldenke believes that only in this passage is the reference to Lilium candidum, because of the reference to dropping myrrh; the flower is almost overpoweringly fragrant.
88. Lilium martagon; Lilium candidum; and Fritillaria imperialis (whose bulb, by the way, smells exactly like elephants, or, according to other noses than mine, like foxes; it can be smelled in the spring even when buried two feet deep). Others have suggested the crown imperial for this passage, but the plant is not common in the Holy Land and may not have grown there at all in Biblical times.
89. 1 Kings 7:26: “And it was an hand breadth thick, and the brim thereof was wrought like the brim of a cup, with flowers of lilies: it contained two thousand baths.” The lily-work in this part of the Bible is probably (on archeological and historical grounds) lotus-work (like that of the Egyptians, or Arts and Crafts). But here we come up against another problem: what is Browne talking about? He seems to believe that it is the cup itself being described as shaped like a lily; I take the passage to mean that the brim was ornamented with lilies (or lotuses). In addition, which lily is he talking about? Presumably the martagon, as the candidum lily could hardly be called rounded at the bottom. But it sounds more like a tulip to me.
90. Cant. 2.1
91. Convallaria majalis, which does not occur in the area. Suggestions for this passage include hyacinth, Sternbergia lutea, and Tulipa montana.
92. ὀινάνϑη, usually translated dropwort, Athenæus xv689a and c, from which perfume is made; Gerard’s filipendula, modern Oenanthe spp. The oil of the water dropwort was still in the pharmacopeia in Mrs. Grieve’s day: water fennel. πόϑος: Theophrastus 6.8.3, where he says that there are two types, one of which is like a hyacinth, whatever that may mean: Liddell & Scott say Delphinium ajacis, and the other, without color, like an asphodel and used at tombs (or at funerals). The word means, roughly, “regret” (cf. English “forget-me-not"). Anguillara: Luigi (Squalermo) Anguillara (born in Anguillara di Sabazia), c. 1512-1570, botanist and pharmacologist; Cordus: Valerius Cordus, 1515-1544, Germany apothecary and professor (at Wittemburg), whose Dispensatorium, sive, Pharmacorum conficidendorum ratio went through a number of editions after its publication, with such distinguished editors as Gesner and Rondelet (for the 1651/2 edition).
93. Lily of the valley is currently classed in the family Liliaceae; it is rhizomatous rather than bulbous. (The question is of only mild pertinence, however; it does not matter whether the lily is a lily, only whether it is the plant in question here.) Lobelius: Mathias de L’Obel, 1538-1616, physician, botanist and pharmacologist; his Plantarum seu Stirpium icones is one of the great works of botany. Bauhinius: Caspar Bauhin, 1560-1624, author of a number of works cited by Browne; his Theatri botanici sive Index in Theophrasti Dioscoridis, Plinii et botanicorum qui à seculo scripserunt attempts to identify and classify according to a modern system plants mentioned in a number of ancient (or old) sources.
94. Fitches, Cummin, &c. in Isa. 28.25. “When he [the plowman] hath made plain the face thereof [i.e., his field], doth he not cast abroad the fitches, and scatter the cummin, and cast in the principal wheat and the appointed barley and the rie in their place?” The Vulgate: “nonne cum adaequaverit faciem eius seret gith et cyminum sparget et ponet triticum per ordinem et hordeum et milium et viciam in finibus suis”. Fitch (or vetch), definitely a mistranslation of the Hebrew qetsach, probably black cumin or nutmeg-flower (Nigella sativa), whose seeds are used as a pepper-like condiment; cummin (= Hebrew cammon), Cuminum cyminum. Darby translates “dill”, which has the double advantage of (1) looking like Nigella, and (2) having seeds that are used as a spice. Douay (following the Vulgate) gives “gith”, which properly means Nigella, although it is applied as well to a lychnis (Lychnis githago).
Rye (= Hebrew kuccemeth) should be “spelt” (Triticum spelta or Triticum æstivum var. spelta), and thus read the ASV and the Basic English Bibles, the latter having apparently decided that while “kinds of seed” is good enough for the fitches and the cumin, your average 6-year-old will know what spelt is). The KJV confusingly translates the same word as “fitches” elsewhere (e.g., Ezek. 4:9). “Millet” is usually Panicum miliaceum, but the word is occasionally used for other millet-like grains.
95. Melanthium, a name used for various plants, especially Agrostemma (= Lychnis) Githago, the corn-cockle and (by Fuchs, Primi stirpium) for Coriandrum sativum, coriander. The modern genus bearing the name is of the new world. On gith and nigella, see the previous note.
96. Cumin, Cuminum cyminum, highly valued in ancient and medieval cookery and still widely used throughout the world. Interestingly, Wilkin, in those days before Indian restaurants, felt obliged to explain cumin to his readers: “An umbelliferous plant resembling fennel; producing a bitterish, warm, aromatic seed”. (Cilantro, the leaves of the coriander plant, is another herb whose palatability is disputed; Mrs. Grieve says “The inhabitants of Peru are so fond of the taste and smell of this herb that it enters into almost all their dishes, and the taste is often objectionable to any but a native. Both in Peru and in Egypt, the leaves are put into soup.")
97. Pliny HN xx.82; in xix.160 he says: "condimentorium tamen omnium, quæ fastidiis…, cuminum amicissimum”.
98. Matthew 23:23 (KJV): “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone”; in the Vulgate, “vae vobis scribae et Pharisaei hypocritae quia decimatis mentam et anethum et cyminum et reliquistis quae graviora sunt legis iudicium et misericordiam et fidem haec oportuit facere et illa non omittere”. RSV, Weymouth and Young all give “dill”; the Basic English lumps all together as “sweet-smelling plants”. ἄνηϑον is a form of ἄνισον, the Greek word referring to both anise and dill. Latin distinguishes between anison (= anise) and anethum (= dill), both derived from the same Greek word. In any case, most commentators agree with Browne: it’s dill.
99. In Book VIII, which treats largely of grains, Βρόμος is mentioned but twice (at most; one reading is conjectured after Pliny): VIII.iv.1, where “oats”, if they be oats, are placed in the class of grains having several coats; and in VIII.iv.2, where oats are called “wild and uncultivated”: Avena barbata. Dioscorides 2.94.
100. Pliny HN xviii.149 on Germans and oats; see also xxvi.58, the only place I have found in the Historia where the word “pulticula” occurs.
101. Oats were probably unknown in the Holy Land in early Biblical times. Smith’s Bible Dictionary (s.v. corn) says that oats are mentioned only in rabbinical writings and not in the Bible itself. Three sorts of barley were in common cultivation in the ancient Near East: Hordeum distichon, H. vulgare, and H. hexastichon. Rye, if the plant now understood by that name, needs a colder climate than can be afforded thereabouts, and therefore almost certainly was not cultivated.
102. Ears of Corn. Matt. 12. 1. Which reads, in the KJV: “At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn; and his disciples were an hungred, and began to pluck the ears of corn and to eat.” Moldenke quotes William M. Thomson (whose The Land and the Book, or, Biblical Illustrations Drawn from the Manners and Customs, the Scenes and Scenery of the Holy Land went through a number of editions following the publication of volume 1 in 1859) on the use of parched wheat as food in the Holy Land: “a quantity of the best ears (of wheat), not too ripe, are plucked with the stalks attached; these are tied into small parcels, a blazing fire is kindled with dry grass and thorn bushes, and the corn heads are held in it until the chaff is mostly burned off”. When done, it forms a “favourite food all over the country”.
103. ῎Αλφιτον (or more usually in the plural, ἄλφιτα), barley-meal, groats, meal; sufficiently common to be used by Aristophanes in the general meaning of “daily bread”. On polenta, see note 97 and Pliny HN xviii.72; see also xxiv.3 and xxvii.59. Cf. also the Vulgate, Lev. 23:14: “panem et pulentam et pultes non comedetis ex segete usque ad diem qua offeratis ex ea Deo vestro praeceptum est sempiternum in generationibus cunctisque habitaculis vestris”, where the KJV translates “parched corn”. ὠμήλυσις = bruised or “ground” meal of barley or of wheat, used mostly as a poultice.
104. Stubble of Ægypt. Exod. 5. 7, &c. Exodus 5:7-9, 12-14, in the KJV: “Ye shall no more give the people straw to make brick, as heretofore: let them go and gather straw for themselves. And the tale of the bricks, which they did make heretofore, ye shall lay upon them; ye shall not diminish ought thereof: for they be idle; therefore they cry, saying, Let us go and sacrifice to our God. Let there more work be laid upon the men, that they may labour therein; and let them not regard vain words. ... [5:12] So the people were scattered abroad throughout all the land of Egypt to gather stubble instead of straw. And the taskmasters hasted them, saying, Fulfil your works, your daily tasks, as when there was straw.” It is not clear precisely which grain(s) afforded the stubble, but that question hardly affects Browne’s point.
105. Lib. 18. c. 7 Nat. Hist. Pliny xviii.169. See also Harmer’s Observation LXXII, which would suggest even greater difficulty in the gathering of stubble. Thomas Harmer (1714-1788), Observations on Various Passages in Scripture, &c., which went through a number of editions after its publication in 1775. Harmer was a pre-internet surfer: he remained in his village in England, collecting information for his volumes from travellers. As his fame grew, so too did his sources of information. He himself never left England.
106. Flowers of the Vine, Cant. 2. 13. In the KJV: “The fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away”; in the Vulgate, “ficus protulit grossos suos vineae florent dederunt odorem surge amica mea speciosa mea et veni”. The “tender grape” translates the Hebrew cemador, grape blossom or grape bud. (The “green figs” are the “young” fruit which has overwintered on the tree.)
107. Pliny NH xiv.98 (Englished by Holland), not of Vitis vinifera, but apparently of Vitis labrusca, which has a rather heavy scent. Mentioned as well by Dioscorides. If we have οἰνάνϑιον as wine flavored with grape flowers, why not have oiνάνϑη above be grape flowers? (Consider also the modern “May-wine”, in which the dried flowers of sweet woodruff are infused, as well as the classic recipe for clafoutis, which calls for the pits of the cherries to be left in for flavor.) Cadus, a kind of urn or amphora for containing wine (or other things); hence a measure, about 1-1/2 amphorae Atticae, or about 72 (American) pints.
108. Acts 2.13. The response of some to the Apostles’ talking in tongues, a response that has been repeated on similar occasions in the years since, we might add. “New wine” would not necessarily have been quite that new, as it of course requires time for fermenting; it would be the wine of grapes harvested the previous autumn. Compare the modern Beaujolais nouveau, which becomes available, although scarcely drinkable, or only by Americans, early in the year following its harvest, and Ciliegiolo di Narni, which is actually drunk that young. Browne is, however, apparently correct in objecting to the translation itself, as γλευκος (usually) means a sweet young wine (or even grape juice). But sweet wines can be markedly alcoholic, even young: look at a bottle of “Auslese”.
109. Pliny HN xiv.83, or in Holland’s English.
110. The Olive Leaf in Gen. 8. 11. “And the dove came in to him in the evening; and, lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf pluckt off: so Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth.” “Some authorities,” writes Moldenke, “are of the opinion that the ‘olive leaf’ ... may have been from Tamarix mannifera.... That the olive was not yet known at the time of Noah seems difficult to believe, although that is the claim made by those who maintain the tamarisk for this passage.” The Hebrew zayit is seemingly correctly translated “olive” elsewhere in the Bible, so why not here?
111. Theophrast. Hist. Lib. 4. cap. 7, 8. Plin. lib. 13. cap. ultimo. Pliny, NH xiii.139 ff.; or in Holland’s English.
112. The interesting literary form “acron” is apparently due to a (somewhat rare) Hellenizing influence. The modern form “acorn”, on the other hand, seems to be due to a folk-etymologizing form “ak-corn” or “oak-corn”. The word, if unaffected by such ditherings, would probably be “acern” or “acren” (hard c’s). Cf. “acre” from the same root, “aecr”, a field.
113. Grain of Mustard-seed in S. Matt. 13. 31, 32. Despite much ingenious and interesting speculation — and some bitterness, appropriate in this context — most commentators agree that the parables refer to the standard black mustard, Brassica (or Sinapis) nigra. It is an annual that can reach ten (or, some say, fifteen) feet. Its stems become woody and strong, especially in the autumn. Compare the sunflower, on which quite large birds can and do perch, if not lodge. The Greek, as Browne points out below, may be simply “perch” or “settle”, although its literal meaning is “to pitch a tent”, implying a meaning very similar to English “lodge” or “encamp”.
114. It is interesting to note this early version of the “biggest marrow” contest and to speculate upon the early traces of modern British cuisine implicit in the sizes and likely textures of those cabbages.
115. “fit arbor” says the Vulgate.
116. Lemnius’ Herbs & Trees in the Bible (1566) collates a number of Talmudic references to mustard plants (usually gigantic mustard plants), if they are mustard plants.
117. Dan 4. 9. Ps. 1. 14. 12. [Psalms 14.1 and 15.9. I do not find the word in Daniel.]
118. The Rod of Aaron. Numb. 17. 8. The Hebrew shaqed, almond, means, roughly, “wake-tree”, an allusion to its blooming so early in the spring.
119. Shacher from Schachar, festinus fuit or maturit.
120. Jer. 1. 11., which has “my Word” for “the Word”.
121. Eccles. 12. 5. KJV: “Also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets” (7: “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it").
122. Numbers 17:1-3: “And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and take of every one of them a rod according to the house of their fathers, of all their princes according to the house of their fathers twelve rods: write thou every man’s name upon his rod. And thou shalt write Aaron’s name upon the rod of Levi: for one rod shall be for the head of the house of their fathers."
123. Coins showing a leafing branch on the reverse are depicted e.g. in Villalpandus, Apparatus Urbis ac Templi Hierosolymitani. They are invariably fakes meant to be coins of the second revolt. On the obverse they commonly show a steaming cup or censer, a misunderstanding of the cup or covered cup frequently depicted on genuine coins; for that reason they are sometimes called “censer-pieces”. Genuine (and false) coins of the two revolts often carry the name of Jerusalem written in more or less modern Hebrew characters in one form or another; hence, “Jerusalem shekels”. The almond itself is almost unknown on Jewish coins; the item taken for the rod of Aaron by Browne and others of his day is, according to G.F. Hill (in his appendix to Theodore Reinach’s Jewish Coins, Chicago: Argonaut, 1966) the palm, often shown with dates. I have tracked down two coins that are alleged to have almonds: both are second revolt coins, a denarius and a bronze; British Museum Catalogue, Greek Coins of Palestine 33-13 and 38-5. “Samaritan shekels”, which are genuine, are so called because they bear inscriptions in an old form of Hebrew script which was thought to be Samaritan rather than proper Hebrew (thanks to Bob Leonard of the Numismatics List for this information). Tyrian shekels, said by the Talmud to be the only acceptable money for Temple offerings, bear eagles or, less commonly, pomegranates, but not to my knowledge palms, dates, or almonds. The entire question possesses somewhat more than an academic interest to certain groups in Israel who are attempting to revive, in one form or another, temple offerings.
124. The Vine in Gen. 49. 11. Wilkin: “In some parts of Persia, it was formerly the custom to turn their cattle into the vineyards after the vintage, to browse on the vines, some of which are so large that a man can scarcely compass their trunks in his arms."
125. Plin. lib. 14. Pliny HN xiv.9 or in Holland’s English on all three subjects: tree-like vines, the statue of Jupiter, and the stairs made of a single vine that reached the roof of the temple at Ephesus. See also the discussion above, Section 9 and note, on large clusters of grapes. Such clusters imply a very strong vine.
126. Rose of Jericho. Ecclus. 24. 14. Ecclus 24:11 ff. is a treasure-trove or luxuriant garden of plant imagery. According to Moldenke, the majority opinion is that the rose in this particular passage is oleander, Nerium oleander. The question, in myriad forms, has excited much interest over the years, and pops up from time to time in such places as Notes and Queries. See also note 36.
127. Usually the plant referred to by this name is Anastatica hierochuntica, a very low, woody annual that, when it ripens, curls into a ball like tumbleweed. As Browne notes later, it will revive on being soaked in water. It was (and may still be for all I know) largely sold as a souvenir of the Holy Land.
128. A note in Wilkin: “Sir R. K. Porter gives the following description of the oriental rose trees probably here intended: — ‘On first entering this bower of fairy land, I was struck with the appearance of two rose trees: full fourteen feet high, laden with thousands of flowers, in every degree of expansion, and of a bloom and delicacy of scent, that imbued the whole atmosphere with the most exquisite perfume; indeed, I believe that in no country of the world, does the rose grow in such perfection, as in Persia, in no country is it so cultivated, and prized by the natives. Their gardens and courts are crowded with its plants, their rooms ornamented with vases filled with its gathered bunches, and every bath strewed with the full blown flowers, plucked from the ever replenished stems.’ ” Sir Robert Ker Porter (1821-1822): Travels in Georgia, Persia, Armenia, ancient Babylonia, &c. &c. during the years 1817, 1818, 1819, and 1820. With numerous engravings of portraits, costumes, antiquities, &c. (2 volumes). London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown. Unfortunately, Persia is quite a long way from the Holy Land, and Sir R.K.’s description is quite a long way in time from Ecclesiasticus. Nevertheless, there are four common(ish) species of roses native to the Holy Land, and a number of others grow in restricted areas of the mountains. Therefore, a plant referred to as a rose might well be a rose.
129. Turpentine Tree in Ecclus. 24. 16. 24:16 in the KJV; in the Vulgate, 24:22: “ego quasi terebinthus extendi ramos meos et rami mei honoris et gratiæ”. Pistacia terebinthus var. palæstina, a deciduous tree (pace Wilkin, who seems to confuse it with the so-called camphor tree) which yields “Cyprus turpentine”. Moldenke has the following to say about it: “In the time of Josephus (about 37-95 A.D.) there was a giant terebinth tree near Hebron, which legend stated had been there ‘since the creation of the world’ [BJ iv.9.7; cf. Ant. i.10.4, where Josephus speaks of the oak Ogyges, which may or may not be the same tree]. Under this tree the captive Jews were sold by Titus Vespasian in 69 A.D. [the story is said to be in a letter of Jerome; but, so far as I can make out, it was under Hadrian in 119 when these particular slaves were sold in this place, after the reduction of Jerusalem following the Bar-Cochba rebellion; I have not yet found a record of slaves having been sold under this tree by Titus, which would presumably be in Josephus], and it is supposed to be the tree under which Abraham entertained the three angels (Genesis 18: 8). The tree died about 330 A.D. [according to Eusebius] and has since been replaced by an oak. The Hebrew word in the text is ‘etz’, the literal meaning of which is simply ‘tree’.” (P. 178) On the terebinth (or oak) and its successor, see this web page). According to J. Smith, an oak tree near Hebron in the early nineteenth century was held in such high esteem by the Mohametan Palestinians that they refused to approach it with any cutting implements, even after a major storm broke a large branch, lest they should lose their first-born sons.
130. Terebinthus in Macedonia fruticat, in Syria, magna est. Lib. 13. Plin. A summary of HN xiii.54 (in the English by Holland).
131. Hosea 4. 13. The KJV translates “elms”; most other translations have “terebinth”.
132. Erasmus in his Adagia 4.3.33.
133. Pomegranate in 1 Sam. 14. 2. Mind you, the Bible (in most versions) does not say that Saul pitched a tent there nor that the six hundred men with him fit under the pomegranate tree, which, at a maximum, can reach about 30 feet.
134. The Vulgate: “Saul morabatur in extrema parte Gabaa sub malogranato quae erat in Magron”.
135. Judges 20. 45, 47. Ch. 21. 13. Rimmon (or Remmon) occurs as a place name in Joshua, Numbers, Judges, 1 Chronicles (where it’s big enough to have suburbs), Nehemiah, etc.; as a personal name in II Sam. 4:2 ("Rimmon the Beerothite"), and as the name of an Assyrian deity in 2 Kings 5. “Rock Rimmon”: see Judges 20:45 ff. Six hundred men hide there.
136. A Green Field in Wisd. 19. 7. (where the Vulgate has de profundo nimio). See also Ralegh’s Historie of the World, Book II, Chapter III: “The Hebrews have also another fancy, that the Red sea was divided into twelve parts, and that every tribe passed over in a path apart, because it is written in the 135th Psalm, according to the Vulgar, Divisit mare rubrum in divisiones; ‘He divided the Red sea in divisions.’ Also that the bottom of the sea became as a green field or pasture.” The rejection of the last belief is unsupported by the text (the sentence as quoted is indeed the entire argument). Later Ralegh mentions that any red color in the Red Sea may be due to red plants.
137. See also Pseudodoxia Epidemica, Book VI chapter 9 on the Red Sea, as well as the previous note.
138. Pliny HN xiii.135 ff. (English); Theophrastus
139. Sycamore. The word occurs eight times in the KJV, most noted by Browne below: at 1 Kings 10:27, 1 Chron. 27:28, 2 Chron. 1:15 and 9:27, Ps. 78:47, Amos 7:14, and Isaiah 9:10, representing the Hebrew shaqan; at Luke 19:4, representing the Greek συκομορος, “mulberry-fig” or “fig-mulberry”. Ficus sycomorus, “a strong-growing, robust, wide-spreading tree of great importance and extensive use, growing 30 or 40 feet tall, sometimes attaining a trunk circumference of 20 or more feet, with a crown to 120 feet in diameter.... The fruit is produced abundantly in clusters on all parts of the tree, both on young and old branches, and even on the old limbs and trunk itself. It is very similar to that of the common fig, only smaller and much inferior in quality. Nevertheless being very sweet to the taste, it is used extensively for food in Palestine and Egypt....” Its wood, although soft, is durable. It was used for mummy-cases. (Moldenke, p. 107) It is not the sycamore of England, a variety of maple (Acer pseudoplatanus) nor any of the various species of planes (Platanus) also called sycamores.
140. The Septuagint confuses συκομορος, the sycamore, and συκαμινος, the black mulberry, which word occurs (properly) in Luke 17:6. They are different trees. For further confusion, Browne’s description here is of the συκομορος, although he calls it συκαμινος.
141. Isa. 9.10. The Vulgate reads “lateres ceciderunt sed quadris lapidibus aedificabimus sycomoros succiderunt sed cedros inmutabimus”; note the humble status of the sycomore, as in 1 Kings 10.27 below.
142. 1 Chron. 27. 28.
143. 1 Kings 10. 27. “And the king made silver to be in Jerusalem as stones, and cedars made he to be as the sycomore trees that are in the vale, for abundance."
144. Amos. 7. 14. Gatherer is a mistranslation; tender or dresser, the translation of several other English Bibles (including the RSV) is closer. The Vulgate has vellicans, “plucker”. That word is rather strong and not normally used of gathering fruit; “thin” may have been in Jerome’s mind. The Hebrew balac does not occur elsewhere and is a “primitive root”. The fruit of the sycomore is better if it is split or punctured some days before being gathered. That job, along with probably thinning the fruit and so on, was part of Amos’ duties as he wandered about with his herds.
145. Psal. 78. 47.
146. Luke 17.6, where the Greek has “συκαμινος”, mulberry, as above. While the tree is smaller than the sycomore, it is extremely hardy and long-lived. The mulberry occurs in the Old Testament (Hebrew baca = “weeping") as well, but that name is now often referred to Populus euphratica, a small weeping tree, just to keep the game going.
147. According to Smith’s Bible Dictionary, the tree was still being shown in the 19th century; see also this page for the record of a Confederate soldier’s visit. According to the version of Otto Meinardus’s Holy Family in Egypt on line at Copt Net, the tree was actually planted in 1672 and was nearly destroyed in 1906, but a shoot remains alive (or did in 1962). The legend is that Mary and Jesus (and presumably Joseph as well) were being pursued by enemies during the flight to Egypt; the sycamore opened to provide a hiding place within its trunk, opening up again when the danger had passed. It might be noted in this context that the sycamore was associated with the Egyptian goddess Hathor, who herself emerges from a sycamore; such associations are very enduring.
148. D. Greaves. (Dr.) John Greaves, 1602-1652, author of Pyramidographia and other works, especially interested in Roman weights and measures.
149. It also helps if the tree is there. If it isn’t, it’s very difficult to climb.
150. Increase of Seed 100 fold in Matt. 13. 23. “But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.” Also 13:3-8: “And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow; And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up: Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them: But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.” Speculation on the average yield of grains in Jesus’ day centers around about 50-60 times what is sown, although yields in the area in more recent times, but without modern agricultural techniques, have been around 20 times.
151. centessimal in the text, but corrected in the Errata. This is the earliest instance of the word, and the only instance in this sense, recorded in the OED (where it is given as centessimal), ignoring the occurrence two paragraphs up.
152. Hist. Nat. lib. 18, cap. 21. An epitome of Pliny NH xviii.94-95, which reads: “misit ex eo loco divo Augusto procurator eius ex uno grano, vix credibile dictu, CCCC paucis minus germina, exstantque de ea re epistulae. misit et Neroni similiter CCCLX stipulas ex uno grano. cum centesimo quidem et Leontini Siciliae campi fundunt aliique et tota Baetica et in primis Aegyptus. fertilissima tritici genera ramosum ac quod centigranium vocant. inventus est iam et scapus unus centum fabis onustus."
153. Wilkin: “The manuscript in the British Museum reads, ‘no less than three hundred stalks and ears.’ — MS. Sloan. 1841."
154. Gen. 26. 12.
155. “Alexandrus Guagninus”, Alexander Gwagnin, 1538(?)-1614. Rerum Polonicarum in three volumes; Frankfort, 1594.
156. Sabbatical Crop: that is, the crop of the sixth year, as the seventh year the fields must lie fallow. Lev. 25, especially 21-22: “Then I will command my blessing upon you in the sixth year, and it shall bring forth fruit for three years. And ye shall sow the eighth year, and eat yet of old fruit until the ninth year; until her fruits come in ye shall eat of the old store."
157. Gen. 41. 56.
158. Gen. 45. 9, 11.
159. Pliny HN xviii.306.
160. Theoph. Hist. l. 8.
161. Harmer, among others, notes that granaries of the type mentioned by Browne (that is, bins built off the ground) were common in Egypt in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. But Joseph’s seeds were most probably kept in caves, which provide nearly ideal conditions of low temperatures, dark, and low, constant humidity (like a refrigerator); or possibly they were buried in earthenware jugs, and/or in trenches of the kind described by Pliny? It is also entirely possible that enough crops were harvested each year of the seven to provide at least some seed crop, perhaps enough to replace the amount of the original seed crop that died each year, even if not enough to feed the population. By the same token, it is also nearly certain that the fifth of the crop kept during the seven years prior to the famine was in addition to that portion normally retained for seed.
162. Ægypt ὁμιχλώδης, καὶ δροσοβόλος. Vid. Theophrastum. [De causis plantarum VI.iii]
163. In antiquity, a common theory of the derivation of pyramid. Another antique theory derives it from πυρ, fire. The word is probably of Egyptian origin, but all is speculation.
164. Gen. 41. 48.
165. Olive Tree in Rom. 11. 24.
166. “How geographically answerable” — Ms. Sloan. 1841
167. De causis Plant. Lib. 1 Cap. 7.
168. καλλικαρπεῖν οὐχ ἕξει
169. De horticultura. Johann Lauremberg, 1590-1658.
170. καλλιελαιον Rom. 11. 24. = “good olive tree” = “domesticated olive tree”, in contrast to the αγριελαιος = αγριελαια or “field olive” = “wild olive tree”. In this passage, some take this to mean the oleaster, not a true olive (although the word oleaster itself refers to both the wild olive, as Browne uses it, and the “Russian” olive or Eleagnus.) The passage would make no sense without this distinction; although the words are not particularly common, they are found here and there. The distinction could also be made by using ελαια = olive vs. ελαιος = wild olive, but it would not be as clear, and God knows what commentators would make of two words that that similar.
171. Geoponic. lib. 10.
172. Stork nesting on Firre Trees in Psal. 104. 17. The “fir tree”, Hebrew berosh, is probably the Aleppo pine; the Hebrew meaning, literally, “noble tree”. The word translated stork here is so translated in five of the six instances where it occurs; it seems to mean something along the lines of “faithful bird” (cf. the Roman Pietas, who is sometimes accompanied by a stork). A note in Wilkin: “Doubdan saw immense numbers of these bird in Galilee resting in the evening on trees. — Harmer’s Observations, vol. iii, p. 323."
173. Bellonius de Avibus.
174. Balm, in Gen. 43.11. The Vulgate has “modicum resinæ”. See also Sect. 14 and notes.
175. ῥητίνη, the resin of a pine tree; “probably a foreign word”, say Liddell & Scott; OED goes a little further, “non-Indo-European word”. The Hebrew of Gen. 43.11, צרי.
176. Moldenke, p. 177, in one of the more interesting articles: “The ‘balm’ of Genesis 43:11 must have been a native product of the land of Jacob, i.e., Canaan, unknown in Egypt at the time, and therefore could not have been Commiphora opobalsamum as has been suggested by so many writers, since that species is native to the mountainous portions of southern Arabia and trade in spices had not yet been established in Jacob’s day. The same reason excludes the true myrrh, Commiphora myrrha, from this passage. It is now thought that the ‘balm’ of Jacob was the product of the lentisk or mastic tree, Pistacia lentiscus…. The ‘balm’ (Hebrew, ‘tzrai’) is a fragrant, terebinthine, gummy exudation of the sap secured by making incisions in the stem and branches, usually in the month of August. It is known in commerce as ‘mastic’, ‘mastick’, or ‘mastich’, and has been an article of trade since the earliest times."
177. theophrastus, pliny, galen [unfinished note]
178. According to Josephus, Bel. J. I.18.5. “Obtain’d” is a mild word for the transaction.
179. Josephus: Ant. J. VIII.6.6, with a fertur; to which Whiston adds the following note: “Some blame Josephus for supposing that the balsam tree might be first brought out of Arabia, or Egypt, or Ethiopia, into Judea, by this queen of Sheba, since several have said that of old no country bore this precious balsam but Judea; yet it is not only false that this balsam was peculiar to Judea, but both Egypt and Arabia, and particularly Sabea, had it; which last was that very country whence Josephus … intimates this queen might bring it first into Judea. Nor are we to suppose that the queen of Sabæa could well omit that such a present as this balsam tree would be esteemed by Solomon, in case it were then almost peculiar to her own country. Nor is the mention of balm or balsam, as carried by merchants, and sent as a present out of Judea by Jacob, to the governor of Egypt, Genesis 37:25; 43:11, to be alleged to the contrary, since what we there render balm or balsam, denotes rather that turpentine which we now call turpentine of Chio, or Cyprus, the juice of the turpentine tree, than this precious balm. This last is also the same word that we elsewhere render by the same mistake balm of Gilead; it should be rendered, the turpentine of Gilead, Jeremiah 8:22."
180. Pausanias, 9.28, who adds that in Arabia vipers live at the base of each tree, delighting in the balsam juice and the shade of the tree. Strabo, XVI.4.19. Diodorus Siculus II.48.9.
181. Theophrast. l. 9, c. 6., though I do not see any reerence there to Jericho.
182. The word is probably of Semitic origin, possibly from the Hebrew balsam = spice. The Hebrew word rendered “balm” is tsoriy or tsriy; it occurs six times in the Old Testament. Balsamum is not used for “balm” in the Vulgate nor is Greek βαλσαμον in the Septuagint. See, e.g., Ezekiel 27:17, in which both “resina” and “balsamum” occur: Iuda et terra Israhel ipsi institores tui in frumento primo balsamum et mel et oleum et resinam proposuerunt in nundinis tuis, KJV: “Judah, and the land of Israel, they were thy merchants: they traded in thy market wheat of Minnith, and Pannag, and honey, and oil, and balm."
183. Barley, Flax, &c. in Exod. 9. 31. In connection with this passage, consider Observation XVII from Harmer’s Observations (1814 American edition, Vol. iv, pp. 16-17).
184. Linum foliculos germinavit, σπερματίζον, Septuag. (in Exodus 9.31).
185. Serotina, Lat. ὄψιμα Gr. (in Exodus 9:32).
186. Ruth 1:22
187. He was her husband, not her father, and died in the barley harvest. Judith 8:2-3: “And Manasses was her husband, of her tribe and kindred, who died in the barley harvest. For as he stood overseeing them that bound sheaves in the field, the heat came upon his head, and he fell on his bed, and died in the city of Bethulia: and they buried him with his fathers in the field between Dothaim and Balamo.” Harmer speaks of the extreme heat of Egypt during April and May, and supposes the same to have been at least occasionally the case in Judæa.
188. Leviticus 23.
189. Joshua 2:6
190. Accounts of the Holy Land from the fifteenth to the eighteenth centuries widely record the drying of flax on rooftops (exposure to the sun helps to bleach the fibres), around Easter (or Passover), which is about the time of the barley harvest. Flax is usually retted before it is dried. The process takes several weeks. Therefore, if flax ripens six weeks or so before barley, is retted and then put to dry on the roofs, this would accord with the account of Joshua; Moses was certainly alive in January, and is said to have died in the Hebrew twelfth month, that is, probably February or March. After his death, the new leader Joshua sent the spies who were hidden by Rahab. They were hidden among the flax stalks Rahab was drying on her roof, some time after Passover, or, say, early April. For Pliny’s account, see HN xix.?.
191. Harmer, Observation XVII, as above, supposes this double harvest to have been usual.
192. Exodus 9 ff. On the side of “one month” is Exodus 11:2; the account specifies only two periods, one of three days, one of seven, in so many words, in addition to a number of “tomorrows”.
193. Radzevil’s Travels. As in note 49.
194. Plin. lib. 18, cap. 18. HN xviii.78, of barley.
195. Typha, “a plant used for stuffing bolsters”, according to Liddell & Scott; usually taken to be a reed, possibly Typha angustata, a relative of cat-tails. (And why not, we might ask, cat-tail itself? Once you chase off the red-winged blackbirds, I’d imagine the catkins would yield nice fluffy stuffing.) On rye, see also 94 and 101.
196. “White Amel-corn” or spelt.
197. Rice, probably not cultivated in the Middle East in Biblical times, but there I choose not to go, agreeing with Harmer (and with Browne), that it is sufficient “to observe, that some sorts of farinaceous plants were then but just sown, while others were drawing to maturity”.
198. Sheaves of Grass, in Psal. 129. 6, 7. In the KJV: “Let them be as the grass upon the housetops, which withereth afore it groweth up: Wherewith the mower filleth not his hand; nor he that bindeth sheaves his bosom.” See, once again, Harmer’s Observation LXXII on the method of harvest in the middle east, by plucking up from the ground.
199. Columella lib. 2, cap. 22. Columella II.xxi.4: “nec foenum secare aut vincire aut vehere; ac ne vindemiam quidem cogi per religiones pontificum feriis licet”, among a thorough list of such prohibitions.
200. Varro lib. 1, cap. 49. De re rustica I.xlix. Browne’s text has peracescat for perarescat.
201. Pliny, HN xviii.259.
202. Juniper Tree, in 1 King. 19. 5, &c. 19:4-7: “But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers. And as he lay and slept under a juniper tree, behold, then an angel touched him, and said unto him, Arise and eat. And he looked, and, behold, there was a cake baken on the coals, and a cruse of water at his head. And he did eat and drink, and laid him down again. And the angel of the Lord came again the second time, and touched him, and said, Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee.” The Vulgate also has “iuniper”. See the article on “Retama raetam" from the Moldenkes’ Plants of the Bible on this question; on this particular passage, see Moldenke. The broom tree suggested as the correct translation here, it should be noted, is smaller than a juniper. Norman Douglas in his Birds and Beasts of the Greek Anthology runs into much the same question on the junipers of Greece, discussing it at some length; see Douglas on Junipers.
203. Pliny, HN xvi.216.
204. Psal. 120. 4. See, again, Moldenke. Vulgate, 119:4, “sagittae potentis acutae cum carbonibus iuniperorum”.
205. Not Pliny, but Isidore, XVII.7.35.
206. Job. 30. 3, 4. See Moldenke. The Vulgate has “et mandebant herbas et arborum cortices et radix iuniperorum erat cibus eorum”.
207. Scarlet Tincture, in Gen. 38. 28. Exod. 25. 4, &c. Not properly a berry, but the dead body of the female of the worm Coccus ilicis, which infests oaks, especially Quercus coccifera, common in mountainous areas of Palestine, Syria and Lebanon. When ready to lay eggs, she affixes herself to the tree, thus affording the eggs and young the shelter of her (dead) body. Scarlet = Hebrew shaniy occurs about 35 times in the Bible. Although, as Browne says, the worm “grew plentifully in the Land of Canaan”, some commentators doubt whether the Hebrews knew how to extract the dye. Those commentators believe that the Hebrews bought the prepared dye from the Phoenicians.
208. Pliny HN xxiv.8.
209. Oaks, in Gen. 35. 4, 8. Josh. 24. 26. Isa. 1. 29. Ezek. 27. 6. Hosea 4. 13, &c. “Oak”, which occurs 22 times in the KJV, translates several words or variations of words in the Hebrew, of which the basic three are אלה ela (probably = “terebinth") (also translated as “teil” in Isa. 6:13 and as “elm” in Ho. 4:13, where it occurs with other words also translated “oak"); אללון allown = “oak”; and, once, אללה allah = oak or terebinth. The word(s) probably mean(s) simply “noble” or “big” tree, although opinion varies. El or ayil, which occurs in Isa. 1:29, is normally translated “rams” (for sacrifice) and is thus rendered in the Vulgate. The Vulgate translates all the others as “quercus” except in Genesis 35:4 and 1 Kings 13:14, which have “terebinth” (Hebrew ela); in Isaiah 6:13 the Vulgate has “terebinth” for the KJV’s “teil” and in Hos. 4:13 “terebinth” for “elm”. There are many species of oak in the Levant, and certainly more specimens of oak trees than of the terebinth, although that tree becomes more common as the territory becomes more arid.
210. Quercus ilex, the holm oak; although the evergreen Quercus pseudococcifera or Quercus coccifera var. pseudococcifera is more likely what he saw, as it is said to be more common.
211. 2 Sam. 18. 9, 14. Quercus æsculentus or Italian oak, whose acorns are not only edible (as are all acorns, so far as I know) but “edulious or esculent”.
212. 2 King. 18. 4. Browne’s reasoning is especially valid in that oaks thrive in the cooler “high places”.
213. Georgics II.15-16
214. Susannah 1:58: “Now therefore tell me, Under what tree didst thou take them companying together? Who answered, Under an holm tree”; Susannah 1:54: “Now then, if thou hast seen her, tell me, Under what tree sawest thou them companying together? Who answered, Under a mastick tree."
215. Ovid Metamorph. I.112.
216. Cedars of Libanus. The word “cedar” occurs in about 70 verses of the Bible (all Old Testament); e.g., Leviticus 14:51, “And he shall take the cedar wood, and the hyssop, and the scarlet, and the living bird, and dip them in the blood of the slain bird, and in the running water, and sprinkle the house seven times”; Judges 9:15: “And the bramble said unto the trees, If in truth ye anoint me king over you, then come and put your trust in my shadow: and if not, let fire come out of the bramble, and devour the cedars of Lebanon”; 2 Chron. 9:27: “And the king made silver in Jerusalem as stones, and cedar trees made he as the sycomore trees that are in the low plains in abundance”; Psalms 92:12: “The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon”; and so on. Most of the instances certainly refer to Cedrus libani, a tree rightly held in great esteem for its beauty, its fragrance, and the usefulness and durability of its wood.
217. That is, the tree might attain such a girth — not the fruit. The cones are 3-1/2 to 5 inches long.
218. A Journey to Jerusalem, 1672. Wilkin quotes Burckhardt’s Travels in Syria and the Holy Land (published posthumously in 1822 by “the Association for Promoting the Discovery of the Interior Parts of Africa”) on the sole stand of cedars that Burckhardt was able to find in Lebanon: “They stand on uneven ground, and form a small wood. Of the oldest and best-looking trees, I counted eleven or twelve; twenty-five very large ones; about fifty of middling size; and more than three hundred smaller and younger ones. The oldest trees are distinguished by having the foliage and small branches at the top only, and by four, five, or even seven trunks springing from one base; the branches and foliage of the others were lower, but I saw none whose leaves touched the ground, like those in Kew Gardens. The trunks of the old trees are covered with the names of travellers and other persons who have visited them: I saw a date of the seventeenth century. The trunks of the oldest trees seem to be quite dead: the wood is of a grey tint.”
219. Uncircumcised Fruit, in Levit. 19. 23.-25, which concludes “congregantes poma quae proferunt ego Dominus Deus vester”.
220. This is more ingenious than likely. The Hebrew arel clearly means “uncircumcised”, and why would God not say simply “circumcise it”, rather than (more or less) “treat it as uncircumcised”, which does not require, necessarily, circumcision. Especially as He is being, by God’s standards, particularly clear in this part of the Bible. On the other hand, there is no prohibition against eating the uncircumcised; only against marrying them and such-like. So let us pass it over and be thankful we are not, most of us, Orthodox Jewish orchardists. Plutarch writes that Numa said “Thou shalt not make libation to the gods of wine from an unpruned vine,” a prohibition Plutarch ranks among sayings of little apparent sense (Numa Pompilius).
221. Partition of Plants into Herb and Tree, in Gen. 1. 11. 1:11-12, in the KJV: “And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good”; in the Vulgate, “et ait germinet terra herbam virentem et facientem semen et lignum pomiferum faciens fructum iuxta genus suum cuius semen in semet ipso sit super terram et factum est ita. et protulit terra herbam virentem et adferentem semen iuxta genus suum lignumque faciens fructum et habens unumquodque sementem secundum speciem suam et vidit Deus quod esset bonum”.
222. The Bay Tree, in Psal. 37. 35. Which reads, in the KJV, “I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree.” The Vulgate has “res vidi impium robustum et fortissimum sicut indigenam virentem” (36:35), in far better accordance with the Hebrew.
223. In Ant.Jud. III.viii.6, “The high priest’s mitre was the same that we described before, and was wrought like that of all the other priests; above which there was another, with swathes of blue embroidered, and round it was a golden crown polished, of three rows, one above another; out of which arose a cup of gold, which resembled the herb which we call Saccharus; but those Greeks that are skillful in botany call it Hyoscyamus. Now, lest any one that has seen this herb, but has not been taught its name, and is unacquainted with its nature, or, having known its name, knows not the herb when he sees it, I shall give such as these are a description of it”, which he proceeds to do at great length. Scribonius Largus is mentioned in the tract on Cymbals, where, oddly, the description of cymbals is not given.
224. In Exodus 16:31, “And the house of Israel called the name thereof Manna: and it was like coriander seed, white; and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey”; and in Numbers 11:7, “And the manna was as coriander seed, and the colour thereof as the colour of bdellium”.
225. Jer. 10. 5. “Upright as the palm tree” (of the heathen: it’s not good).
226. This being the only occurrence of the bay tree in the KJV.
227. It must be remarked that Browne’s “Vulgar” is not always the same as what we now call Jerome’s Vulgate. In this instance, Browne is using the “Gallican Psalter”, the version of the Psalms translated by Jerome from the Greek, or rather revised from the Old Latin based on the Greek (it’s really more complicated than that, but there we shall leave it). Naturally, it is more in accord with the Septuagint and less with the Hebrew (and with the “true” Jeromean Vulgate).
229. Although the Anglo-Saxon of the Paris Psalter has cedar: “Ic geseah thone unrihtwisan swithe upahafenne swa swa sum cedertreow on Libanus munte."
230. The Figg Tree, in S. Mark 11. 13, &c.
231. Matt. 21. 19. “And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away.” “Plainly” because Mark gives the beginning of the story in 13 but does not conclude it until 20.
232. Heinsius in Nonnum. Daniel Heinsius, 1580-1655.
233. D. Hammond. Henry Hammond, 1605-1660.
234. One scarcely knows where to begin, but let us start by pointing out that none of these alternative words actually occurs in the passages in question (nor anywhere else in the Bible). The word used is the standard word for the common fig, συκον. As defined these days, the distinctions are thus: συκον = common fig; ολυνϑος = Ficus caprificius, the fruit of the wild fig, and it is supposedly the same as ερινεος; συκαδες = συκιδες = cuttings of the common fig used for propagation. Finally, φυλυχ = wild fig, and perhaps derives from φυλος, cunning, deceitful, because its fruit may look ripe when it is not. (ισχαδες meaning “carrier” does not enter into the question; it is derived not from ισχας but from ισχηω, originally, “to hold back” or “to restrain”.) Thus, so far as I can make out, there is only one distinction: wild vs. not wild. Now, in general, the fruit of the cultivated fig can be found on some trees in any period when they are in leaf; the main periods being June, when the Grossi, buds of the previous year held through the winter, ripen; and August-September, when the fruit of the new wood ripens. After a harsh winter, the June fruits may be blasted; in such a case, there will be no remnant fruits ripening in July, either. In addition, no particular tree can be guaranteed to have fruits outside the main periods of fruitfulness; statistically, if there are enough fig trees, there will be figs for most of the period between June and the autumn. All of this in addition to the considerations Browne will adduce in the next paragraphs.
235. Jer. 24. 2. Which concludes “and the other basket had very naughty figs, which could not be eaten, they were so bad.” It might be added, by a contrarian, that the “firstfruit” is not defined; it could be argued that the fruit of the early year, of precocious trees, is only that left over from the previous year; the fruit of the new growth, that of August, would be “newer’. But this is not a standard reading. (It is to be noted that Browne is moving away from the rational explanation of the story at which he at first seemed to be aiming — which explanation is in any case scarcely possible without positing simply that Jesus had a very hasty and particularly disagreeable temper — and into an explanation based on a symbolical, allegorical or analogical reading.)
236. As described in the Odyssey, VII.114-132.
237. S. Mark 14. 67. S. Luke 22. 55, 56.
238. S. John 18.18.
239. Or April; Leviticus 23:10.
240. One need hardly point out the unsatisfactory nature of this disquisition. However correct it may be botanically, it does not ever come near answering the questions posed by the passage(s). (1) A hungry Jesus spies out a fig tree; although it is out of season, he goes up to it and expects to find something to eat on it, but he is disappointed. (2) So he curses it so that it will never feed anyone else. Why not, we might ask, bring it to fruitfulness? In any case, it is left to see exactly what this curse means. (3) He then goes into Jerusalem and goes about the business of clearing out the temple, in an apparent rage. (4) He then exits Jerusalem, whereupon his disciples see that the poor fig tree has been blasted. (5) He then begins a disquisition the essence of which is (a) God is powerful, (b) God answers the prayers of (c) those who forgive! And those who do not are in big trouble. Now this last statement is certainly supported by the events that soon followed; but what are we to make of the combination of (b) and (c) in the context of the fig tree? For if Jesus prays without forgiving — the only way he could pray for the obliteration of a tree that has discommoded him — is he not disobeying his own injunction? As far as its signifying the “Synagogue and Rulers of the Jews”, while this is a standard interpretation, it is hardly to be drawn from the text: among many other objections, the tree is not said to have been cultivated (although it was not beyond Jesus to steal fruit; after all, he had just stolen an ass and a colt); and Jesus himself makes no such conclusion — indeed, he does not justify the act at all, but merely says “see what you can do if you have faith”; what one might call the “look Ma, no hands!” defense.
One other thing should be kept in mind in considering these passages: this is not a story or a parable; it is an event in the life of Jesus, told by two eye-witnesses. However grossly unfair it might be to pay the same wages for eight hours as for one hour of work, that is simply an illustration of a point. This story, however illustrative of a point, is said to be real. Its problems therefore cannot be brushed away by allegorical interpretation, however neat that interpretation is (and it isn’t, very). Consider also the much gentler parable in Luke 13:6-9, where the fig tree is spared.
241. Micah 7. 1. “Woe is me! for I am as when they have gathered the summer fruits, as the grape gleanings of the vintage: there is no cluster to eat: my soul desired the firstripe fruit.”
242. The tree is said not to have fruit at that moment; it is not said to be barren. Indeed, the opposite is strongly implied, because the curse is that No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever; and in order to accomplish this, the tree was destroyed.
243. Horace Sermones I.viii.1, which continues “cum faber, incertus scamnum faceretne Priapum, maluit esse deum”. There is a mysterious M in the margin opposite this quote, corrected to nothing in the Errata.
244. The fig tree wasn’t totally useless, aside from its fruit: You could sit under it; see John 1:48. You could even dwell under it; 1 Kings 4:25.
245. The Palm Tree, in Cant. 7. 8. Which normally reads go up to the palm tree” in the KJV, although most other English translations have “climb” or “go up into” and the Vulgate has “ascendam”. The Hebrew עלה 'alah has as primary meaning “go up” in the sense of “climb” or “ascend”. It would be most interesting to hear Browne explain the remainder of the verse, and what it has to do with the beginning; but that must, alas, await a day when we will be in the presence of better authorities on the subject.
246. Plin. 13, cap. 4. (A modified quote of) Pliny HN xiii.29; Englished, XIII, Chap. IV.
247. A common (and, if you ask me, highly obnoxious) coin type under Vespasian and Titus; see, for instance, this site. Other “Judæa capta” coins were issued by Domitian and Hadrian.
248. Pliny HN xiii.26 “Iudaea vero incluta est vel magis palmis, quarum natura nunc dicetur.” Englished, XIII, Chap. IV
249. Lilies, in Cant. 2. 1, 2, 16. 1-2: “I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys. As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters.” 16: “My beloved is mine, and I am his: he feedeth among the lilies.” [In the Vulgate, “ego flos campi et lilium convallium. sicut lilium inter spinas sic amica mea inter filias”; “dilectus meus mihi et ego illi qui pascitur inter lilia”.] See also the discussions above concerning the lily and the lily of the valley.
250. Cant. 4. 1. “Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair; thou hast doves’ eyes within thy locks: thy hair is as a flock of goats, that appear from mount Gilead.” Smith’s Bible Dictionary suggests this is a reference to the “amativeness” of the dove, clearly visible (in the spring at least) even among the common doves of the United States (and of Norwich). The goat in question is presumably the Angora goat, although even so it is not a comparison I would venture upon with any degree of confidence. Syrian Doves are mentioned in another context in Pseudodoxia Epidemica III.iii. Easton’s Bible Dictionary, quoting Psalm 68, says that there is a species of dove “in Damascus” with gold feathers and silver wings. This seems to be stretching a text to the breaking point, and perhaps beyond.
251. Levit. 3. 9. Various breeds of fat-tailed sheep are common throughout the Middle East and Africa, and have been for thousands of years. Even now, the most common breed of sheep in Israel, Syria, Iran and the area is the Awassi and its derivatives, an African or Africanized fat-tailed sheep. The tails of the original Palestine fat-tailed sheep are very broad, at about fifteen inches, and can weigh up to forty or fifty pounds, mostly of fat. Apparently shepherds were accustomed to provide a little wooden wagon on which the tails of sheep could rest — at least, rabbinical authorities place this among the activities prohibited on the Sabbath. Some authorities consider that it is the tail alone that is sacrificed. Breeds of fat-tailed sheep are raised all over the world now. Indeed, Browne might have seen them himself, as apparently they formed a major breed on the isle of Canvey, in whose arms one (couchant, if that is the word for a sheep, and proper) figures.
252. Aristot. Hist. Animal. lib. 8 Part 28.
253. Cant. 4. 2. The currently dominant breed of fat-tailed sheep bears about 1.2 lambs per lambing, although the Israelis have bred a sheep that bears 2.1. Solomon is no doubt casting about for images of perfection, not describing reality. (After all, whose teeth are really like a flock of sheep? And is it desirable?)
254. Psal. 144. 13. Once again, not so much a description of reality as a description of an ideal world, in a prayer.
255. Pliny HN xx.33.
256. Trees and Herbs not expresly nam’d in Scripture. Levit. 23. 40. The word translated “goodly” here is elsewhere rendered “excellent”, “glorious”, etc.; that translated “thick” is always thus translated, and means thick with foliage, leafy. There seems to have been a split in the Jewish tradition, before Jesus’ day, over the exact procedure of the festival. The (historically) victorious view is that usually attributed to the Pharisees, who said that the branches plucked were to be carried into the Temple (as lulob and etrog, as on the coins above) rather than the more specious explanation that they should be the actual building materials for the sukkoth or tabernacles or booths. This victory of one viewpoint leads in the rabbinical sources to what is probably an over-precise description of the botanical requirements.
257. Curtius de Hortis. Benoît de Court, in his Horti of 1560. Curtius’s most famous work is a long series of erudite Latin notes, far outweighing the text, provided for Les arrêts d’amour, a jeu d’esprit of Martial de Paris.
258. Exod. 12:8, Numbers 9:11. מרר, mrowr, (like the holiday of the cats) sometimes translated “bitterness”, otherwise “bitter herbs”, as is the Jewish custom. The “classical” list is endive, chicory, wild lettuce, watercress, sorrel, and dandelion (although dandelion at that season of the year would not be very “bitter” in our climate), to which some add mint (!).
259. Browne seems to regard the procedure as something like haggis on Robert Burns’ Night: if you are sufficiently drunk, you may dash down a small part with a bit more Scotch. Recipes for the charoseth are to be found variously on line; try here for a wide selection organized by origin. Each person must take the amount of an olive of bitter herbs, and not less, although presumably more is permitted.
260. Reeds in Scripture. In Isaiah 19:7, “The paper reeds by the brooks, by the mouth of the brooks, and every thing sown by the brooks, shall wither, be driven away, and be no more.” Reeds occur about 35 times in the Bible, New Testament included.
261. Ezek. 40. 5. Arundo donax, the giant reed common throughout the Holy Land and Egypt. It grows from 8 to 20 feet tall in very thick clumps, almost like jungles. It is probable that this is also the reed of the passages in Matthew and Mark, but see note 27 above on hyssop/reed.
262. S. Matt. 27. 30, 48. And likewise Mark 15:19 and 15:36. Probably, again, Arundo donax, although possibly cattail, one of the Typha species, which better accords with the Greek καλαμος. See also note 27 above.
263. Josh. 16, 17. E.g., 16:8, “de Taffua pertransitque contra mare in valle Harundineti suntque egressus eius in mare Salsissimum haec est possessio tribus filiorum Ephraim per familias suas”, where KJV gives “the river Kanah”; Kanah = קנה = reed. “Vallatory”, from L. vallum, wall: used for measuring walls; “Sagittary”, for arrows; “Scriptory”, for writing. The first word seems never to have been used outside this passage; the second never in this particular sense except here; the third is rare and may never have been used elsewhere to mean the actual instrument of writing.
264. Probably Phragmites communis or its varieties.
265. Josh. 3. 15. The modern river is between 90 and 100 feet wide, but the valley it has carved is considerably wider. In addition, its banks are frequently marshy or swampy. It is not a river one would wish to cross without a bridge, bearing all of one’s household possessions and all of the sacred objects of one’s people, and most especially the Ark, whose mode of travel was strictly regulated.
266. Ecclus. 24. 26.
267. Zizania, in S. Matt. 13. 24, 25, &c. In all probability Lolium temulentum, the darnel, a common weed of the area, as Wyclif and earlier translators rendered it — or sometimes as cockle, leading to further confusion. Darnel is one of only three widely-spread poisonous grasses, although it is widely held that the poisonous effects are due to a fungus that grows in the grains (compare ergot in rye) rather than to the grain itself. It is a perfect mimic of wheat when young. Although distinguishable from wheat at harvest time, it is difficult and labor-intensive to cull it from the wheat crop. Its seeds, smaller than wheat, can be more or less effectively removed at threshing time; but in poor districts like Palestine or in poor years it may be left with the wheat. In many country districts (Smith cites Palestine, Mrs. Grieve Cheshire) darnel is felt to be a degenerated wheat rather than a separate plant. It is also purposely planted by the malicious in some areas to spoil crops. The effects of its poisons include cramps, nausea, hypothermia, and the appearance of drunkenness; it was held by the ancients to cause blindness. (The modern French ivraie, = Browne’s yuroye, refers to the intoxicating aspect of the plant). The Greek ζιζάνιον (Vulgate zizania), a weed that grows in wheat, darnel. The word was not used by classical authors, whose darnel is αἶρα, as Browne points out; zizania is probably of oriental origin, as Arabic zawan and its variants and the Sumerian zizån. The tares, or fitches or vetches (remember them?), Vicia spp., especially sativa, are no longer very common or very difficult weeds, if ever they were, although some of them can be nuisances, notably hirsuta, strangle-tare.
268. ἐξαιροῦσθαι. Theophrast. Hist. Plant. 1. 8. [This does not occur in Hist. Plant. lib. 8; the word in the form Browne gives does not occur in Theophrastus in the accepted text. I’ve changed it to the form given in C.P. II.16, but am not sure what Browne had in mind.]
269. In HN xviii.156, where its consumption in bread is said to render one tipsy.
270. De Horti Cultura
271. Cockle, in Job. 31. 40. באשה bashaw, “noxious weed”. Vulgate: “pro frumento oriatur mihi tribulus et pro hordeo spina finita sunt verba Iob”. Wilkin notes “Celsius, and after him Michaelis, supposes this to have been the aconite”. Cockle is usually Agrostemma (or Lychnis) githago; see also notes 94 and 95.
This page is by James Eason.