The word ’ēlâ really denotes a strong, hardy tree. It is presumed that the Israelites sacrified to idols under terebinth trees because “the shadow thereof is good,” since it provided concealment.
This long-lived tree is the Pistacia terebinthus palaestina. It is common enough in Pal. growing to a height of thirty-five ft. In the dark valley of Elah, David slew Goliath—perhaps this is the reason Goliath did not easily see the slung stone.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
(2) ’elim (
(3) ’allah (
(6) In Ecclesiasticus 24:16 terem (b)inthos, the King James Version turpentine tree," the Revised Version (British and American) "terebinth."
It is clear that the translators are uncertain which translation is correct, and it would seem not improbable that then there was no clear distinction between oak and terebinth in the minds of the. writers; yet the two are very different trees to any but the most superficial observation.
The terebinth--Pistacia terebinthus (Natural Order, Anacardiaceae), Arabic Butm]--is a tree allied to the P. vera, which produces the pistachio nut, and to the familiar "pepper tree" (Schinus molle) so extensively cultivated in modern Palestine. Like the latter the terebinth has red berries, like small immature grapes. The leaves are pinnate, four to six pairs, and they change color and fall in autumn, leaving the trunk bare (compare
From this tree a kind of turpentine is obtained, hence, the alternative name "turpentine tree" (Ecclesiasticus 24:16 the King James Version, the Revised Version (British and American) "terebinth").