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BROOM brōōm (רֹ֫תֶם, H8413). Broom and broom-tree are both correct trs. from the Heb. word rothem. It is a desert shrub doubtless identified with the Arab ratham, which grows in abundance in southern Pal. and the Sinai Peninsula. Strictly speaking, it is not a juniper tree, though sometimes so called, but is a member of the pea family. It has long slender branches, small leaves, and showy yellow blossoms, and provides only scant shade. Its sparse shade, however, is welcome to the weary traveler, as in the case of Elijah who rested “and slept under a broom tree” (1 Kings 19:5). Its forage is of low grade, eaten by animals only in dire need. Its stock and roots are good fuel and provide charcoal when burned (Job 30:4). The psalmist spoke of “glowing coals of the broom tree” (Ps 120:4). Isaiah’s prediction of God sweeping Babylon “with the broom of destruction” (Isa 14:23) prob. refers to a hand broom (besom).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

broom: Occurs in 1Ki 19:4 m ("broomtree"); Job 30:4, and Ps 120:4 m as the translation of the Hebrew rothem, where the King James Version employed "juniper" which is retained in the Revised Version (British and American) text in 1Ki 19:4 and Job 30:4. Juniper is certainly incorrect and broom is not a particularly happy rendering. The rothem was doubtless the shrub called by the Arabs ratam, a shrub which casts so little shadow that it would be used for shade only when there was no other refuge from the desert sun, and would be eaten only in case of the direst necessity, but which could be burned and used for the making of charcoal.

See Juniper.

Besom (broom)

BESOM (broom) (מַטְאֲטֵא, H4748). This Heb. word which occurs only in Isaiah 14:23 is tr. as “besom” in KJV and NEB. A more common rendering, esp. in American Eng. of the word “besom,” is usually by the word “broom.” In the Isaiah passage the prophet is portraying a figurative sweeper with which God will sweep away Babylon. This sweeper or mop used in everyday life prob. came from the broom plant found in the area of Pal.

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