Illustrated Dictionary of the Bible
Mallow: A shrub growing one and one half to three meters (Five to ten feet) high and having thick, succulent leaves and small purple flowers. The Hebrew word for mallow means "salt plant". It thrived in dry, salty regions especially around the Dead Sea. Although the leaves were sour and had little nutritive value, they were boiled and eaten by the poor in dire circumstances.
Mentioned only once in the Bible (Job 30:4), mallow is also translated as salt herbs in the NIV and saltwort in the NEB.
Mandrake: A fruit-producing plant with dark green leaves and small bluish-purple flowers. The mandrake is a relative of the potato family which grew abundantly throughout Palestine and the Mediterranean region.
The yellow fruit of the mandrake was small, sweet-tasting, and fragrant. It had narcotic qualities and may have been used medicinally. The fruit of the mandrake was also referred to as the "love apple". It was considered a love potion.
Marjoram: (See Hyssop).
Melon: A type of gourd which bears sweet fruit. Both cantaloupes and watermelons may have grown along the banks of the Nile River in Egypt. Melons were used as food and medicine. An intoxicating drink was made from their juice.
The Hebrews had become accustomed to eating melons and other tasty foods in Egypt. They looked back on these fondly while in the wilderness (Num. 1:5). This word is translated watermelon by the NEB.
Millet: An annual grain-producing grass which was under one meter (three feet) high and produced many seeds. The seeds of millet were smaller than other cereal grains. Millet has been known since ancient times in Palestine and Egypt. It was used for bread (Ezek. 4:9) and eaten raw, especially by the poor.
Millet is referred to in several different ways in Ezekiel 27:17. It is translated pannag in the KJV, confections in the NIV, meal in the NEB, and cakes in the NASB.
Mulberry: A tree which grew to a height of about eight to ten meters (25-30 feet) and produced red berries. A refreshing drink was prepared from the fruit. Jesus used the mulberry tree as an illustration when teaching about faith (Luke 17:6). It is called sycamine in the KJV and RSV, and aspen in the NEB. The mulberry trees mentioned in II Samuel 5:23-24 and I Chronicles 14:14-15 are believed to be a species of poplar.
Mustard: A plant which grew wild along roadsides and in fields, reaching a height of about 4.6 meters (15 feet). The black mustard of Palestine seems to be the species to which Jesus referred (Matt. 13:31-32; Mark 4:31-32; Luke 13:19). It was cultivated for its seeds which were used as a condiment and for oil.
The mustard seed was the smallest seed known in Jesus' day (Matt. 13:32). Nevertheless, Jesus said that if one has faith as a mustard seed, he can move mountains (Matt. 17:20) or transplant a mulberry tree into the sea (Luke 17:6).
Myrrh: An extract from a stiff-branched tree with white flowers and plum-like fruit. After myrrh was extracted from the wood, it soon hardened and was valued as an article of trade. It was an ingredient used in anointing oil (Ex. 30:23), and was used as perfume (Ps. 45:8; Prov. 7:17; Song 3:6), in purification rites for women (Esth. 2:12), as a gift for the infant Jesus (Matt. 2:11), and in embalming (John 19:39). According to the Gospel of Mark (15:23), the drink offered to Jesus before His crucifixion was "wine mingled with myrrh". Matthew, however, has "sour wine mingled with gall" (Matt. 27:34).
The reference to myrrh in Genesis 37:25 and 43:11 is thought to be ladanum, sometimes called onycha, from a species of rockrose and not the true myrrh. Also see Onycha.
Myrtle: An evergreen tree with dark glossy leaves and white flowers. The leaves, flowers, and berries of the myrtle were used for perfume and an seasoning for food. The myrtle tree had a religious significance for the Hebrews (Zech. 1:8-11) and was a symbol of peace and joy. Queen Esther's Hebrew name (Esth. 2:7) meant myrtle.
Nard: (see Spikenard).
The nettles of Zephaniah 2:9 (KJV) are translated weeds by the NKJV.
Oak: A large tree with a massive trunk that grew abundantly in Palestine and the surrounding countries. Many Hebrew words refer to the oak. Some scholars think these words could have referred to any large tree such as the terebinth or elm.
The oak tree was an important historical landmark to the Hebrews. Some specific oak trees are mentioned in the Bible. These include the oaks of Bashan (Is. 2:13; Zech. 11:2), the oak of Bethel (Gen. 35:8, KJV; terebinth tree, NKJV), and the oaks of Mamre (Gen. 13:18, RSV; terebinth trees, NKJV).
Oil Tree: A tree of uncertain identity. Many oil-producing trees mentioned in the Bible could be identified as the oil tree. Many authorities believe the oleaster or wild olive is the tree meant. It grew to a height of about 4.5 to 6 meters (15-20 feet) and produced small bitter fruit resembling an olive. The oleaster yielded an inferior oil which was used medicinally.
The oil tree of Isaiah 41:19 is translated olive tree in the RSV, NIV, NEB, and NASB. Also see Olive.
Olive: A fruit-bearing tree about 6 meters (20 feet) tall with a gnarled, twisted trunk, white flowers, and berries that ripen to a black color. The olive tree grew slowly and continued to bear fruit after reaching a great age. Before it died, new branches sprouted from its roots.
The fruit was harvested by beating the boughs of the olive tree with a stick (Deut. 24:20), or by shaking the tree (Is. 17:6). The ripe fruit was enjoyed fresh or the green fruit was often pickled or made into a relish.
The best oil was obtained from the green olive fruit. It was used as fuel for lamps (Ex. 27:20), as anointing oil (Lev. 2:1), as an article of commerce (I Kings 5:11), and for dressing wounds (Luke 10:34).
Olive trees were cultivated in groves or orchards (Ex. 23:11; Josh. 24:13). The most famous olive garden mentioned in the Bible is Gethsemane, meaning "oil press" (Matt. 26:36).
Onion: A plant with a large, edible bulb. The onion is mentioned only once in the Bible, as one of the foods the Hebrews longed for in the wilderness (Num. 11:5). The onion was known in Egypt from ancient times. Drawings of the onion have been found on Egyptian tombs.
Onycha: A dark brown gum resin which was obtained from the stem and leaves of a species of the rockrose, also known as ladanum. Onycha was used as an ingredient in the holy anointing oil (Ex. 30:34). It was highly valued for its fragrance and medicinal qualities.
The rockrose was a bush growing to a height of about one meter (three feet) and having large white flowers measuring eight centimeters (three inches) across. Some scholars believe the substance referred to as myrrh in Genesis 37:25 and 43:11 was onycha.
: A tree which grew to a height of about 18 to 30 meters (60-100 feet) and ahd long feathery leaves (branches; Neh. 8:15; John 12:13; Rev. 7:9). These branches were about two to three meters (six to eight feet) long and grew from the top of the trunk. Also called the date palm, this tree is believed to grow from 100 to 200 years old.
Palm branches were considered a symbol of victory (John 12:13; Rev. 7:9). Many places in the Bible were identified by the abundance of palm trees (Ex. 15:27; Deut. 34:3; Judg. 1:16). One of the Hebrew words for palm, Tamar, was often used as a woman's name (Gen. 38:6; II Sam. 13:1).
Pannag: (see Millet).
Papyrus: (see Reed/Rush).
Pine: An evergreen tree of uncertain identity. Biblical scholars believe pine refers to either the Brutian or the Aleppo pine (Is. 41:19; 60:13). The Brutian pine grew to a height of about 9 to 11 meters (30-35 feet). It is smaller and has longer needles than the Aleppo pine, which grew to a height of about 27 meters (90 feet). Both trees grew in Lebanon and in Palestine.
Bible scholars are not agreed on the identity of the many evergreens mentioned in the Bible. Other trees suggested for these references are the ash, fir, cypress, cedar, or juniper.
Pistachio Nut: A produce of the pistacia tree, which was about nine meters (30 feet) tall with wide spreading branches. The pistachio nut is about 2.5 centimeters (one inch) long and has a thin, hard outer shell. The smooth husk or skin which shields the green kernel is red. These nuts were sweet and considered a luxury. Jacob included them in the gifts sent to Egypt (Gen. 43:11).
Plane: (see Chestnut).
The pomegranate tree has been cultivated in Palestine and Egypt since ancient times (Num. 13:23; Deut. 8:8). It grew as a bush or small tree, sometimes reaching a height of about 9 meters (30 feet) with small, lance-shaped leaves. The blossoms were bright red. The fruit usually ripened in August or September.
Pomegranates were highly esteemed during Bible times. The hem of Aaron's robe was decorated with blue, purple, and red pomegranates (Ex. 28:33-34; 29:24-26). It was listed among the pleasant fruits of Egypt (Num. 20:5). Solomon decorated the TEmple with the likeness of the pomegranate (I Kings 7:18,20).
Poplar: A tree which grew to a height of about 9 to 18 meters (30-60 feet) and had wide spreading branches. The leaves were green with white undersides. Jacob stripped the bark from poplar branches to reveal the white wood. This was supposed to control the color of his cattle (Gen. 30:37).
Hosea refers to the Israelites worshiping idols in the shade of poplar trees. This brought GOD's condemnation for their sin (Hos. 4:13). Also see Willow.
Raisin: (see Grape).
Reed/Rush: Gigantic hollow-stemmed grasses which grew along river banks and in moist areas of Egypt and Palestine. Many different Hebrew words refer to the marsh plants of the Bible. They form a large order of plants, such as flax, flags, bulrush, cane, calamus, and papyrus.
Reeds and rushes grew anywhere from one to six meters (3-20 feet) high and had long, narrow leaves. A cluster of white flowers formed at the top of each stem.
The reeds were used in various ways, including walking sticks, fishing poles, musical instruments, and pens. People also used them for weaving baskets, mats, and for other domestic purposes. Moses' basket was woven from reeds. Papyrus, a particular reed, was used to make paper.
Reeds were a symbol of weakness. Jesus refers to them as shaking in the wind (Matt. 11:7). A reed was placed in Jesus' hand as He was mocked by the Roman soldiers (Matt. 27:29).
|Home||Site Index||Bible Index|
|Kingdom Dynamics||Truth in Action||Links|