The root paqa`, means "to split" or "burst open," and on this ground these "wild gourds" have been identified with the fruit of the squirting cucumber (Ecballium elaterium). This little gourd, 1 1/2 to 2 inches long, when fully ripe falls suddenly when touched or shaken, the bitter, irritating juice is squirted to a considerable distance, and the seeds are thrown all around. It is exceedingly common in Palestine, and its familiar poisonous properties, as a drastic cathartic, made it unlikely that under any circumstances its fruit could be mistaken for any edible gourd; it is, too, in no way vinelike ("wild vine," 2Ki 4:39) in appearance; the stem is stiff and upright, and there are no tendrils. The traditional plant, Cucumis prophetarium, which grows in the desert, and has very small "gourds," has nothing really to recommend it. By far the most probable plant is the Colocynth (Citrullus colocynthis), belonging like the last two, to Natural Order, Cucurbitaceae. This view has the support of the Septuagint and Vulgate (Jerome’s Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) It is a vinelike plant which spreads over the ground or attaches itself by its spiral tendrils to other plants. The rounded "gourds" are 3 inches or more in diameter, and contain a pulp intensely bitter and, in any but minute quantities, extremely poisonous.
E. W. G. Masterman