Palm Tree

The palm is the date palm, normally a fruit tree, but the writer feels that Deborah’s palm was a non-fruiter. Usually when trees do not bear fruit, they produce more foliage, and this would have pleased Deborah for she obviously needed the shade.

The date palm is Phoenix dactylifera. It will grow ninety ft. high or more. On the top there are borne large numbers of feathery leaves, about nine feet long. In Pal. the palms are sometimes found in groves and sometimes as lone specimens. The date fruits are invaluable in many parts of the Middle E (see Dates).

There is hardly any part of the date palm that is not used. The leaves are used for roofing, and even in the olden days to make the sides of houses; they also are made into fences for protection from winds, animals, etc. From the crowns, ropes are made. The date kernels provide food for animals, particularly camels, and the seeds often are made into beads. A strong liquor is produced from the spathe that surrounds the flowers. This undoubtedly was known to the ancient Babylonians. It is presumed by many that when strong drink is referred to in the Bible—as opposed to wine—it means this particular intoxicant.

Because the ancient historian Herodotus states that a palm can produce bread, wine, and “honey,” there is reason to believe that he calls the liquor “honey” and that some of the references to honey in the OT are therefore to the date palm liquor—and not to the common honey from bees.

The Jewish historian, Josephus, claims that there were forests of palms in his time (37-95 a.d.), and that these were found by the Lake of Galilee, in the Jordan Valley, round about Jerusalem, as well as on the Mount of Olives. One palm forest near Jericho is described as being “seven miles long.”

Because the palm takes some thirty years before being fully mature, the planting of the trees is a long-term project, but around Jericho the writer has seen recently evidence of largescale palm planting, and the trees are doing very well. Date palms usually last about 200 years.

The trees are dioecious, i.e. the male flowers are borne on separate trees from the female blossoms. For this reason, it was customary in the olden days to cut off the male blooms and hang them in the “female trees,” thus insuring perfect pollination.

The Heb. word תָּמָר, H9469, was always used as a term of admiration, such as “tall and willowy”; Absalom’s sister was given the name.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

1. Palm Trees:

The palm, Phoenix dactylifera (Natural Order Palmeae), Arabic nakhl, is a tree which from the earliest times has been associated with the Semitic peoples. In Arabia the very existence of man depends largely upon its presence, and many authorities consider this to have been its original habitat. It is only natural that such a tree should have been sacred both there and in Assyria in the earliest ages. In Palestine the palm leaf appears as an ornament upon pottery as far back as 1800 BC (compare PEF, Gezer Mere., II, 172). In Egypt the tall palm stem forms a constant feature in early architecture, and among the Hebrews it was extensively used as a decoration of the temple (1Ki 6:29,32,35; 7:36; 2Ch 3:5). It is a symbol of beauty (So 7:7) and of the righteous man:

"The righteous shall flourish like the palm-tree:

He shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.

They are planted in the house of Yahweh;

They shall flourish in the courts of our God.

They shall still bring forth fruit in old age;

They shall be full of sap and green" (Ps 92:12-14).

The palm tree or branch is used extensively on Jewish coinage and most noticeably appears as a symbol of the land upon the celebrated Judea Capta coins of Vespasian. A couple of centuries or so later it forms a prominent architectural feature in the ornamentation of the Galilean synagogues, e.g. at Tell Chum (Capernaum). The method of artificial fertilization of the pistillate (female) flowers by means of the staminate (male) flowers appears to have been known in the earliest historic times. Winged figures are depicted on some of the early Assyrian sculptures shaking a bunch of the male flowers over the female for the same purpose as the people of modern Gaza ascend the tall trunks of the fruit-bearing palms and tie among the female flowers a bunch of the pollen-bearing male flowers.

2. Their Ancient Abundance in Palestine:

3. Palm Branches:

See also TAMAR as a proper name.

See also

  • Plants