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Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature


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Fig. 181—Cypress, Cupressus sempervirens

Fir occurs in several passages of Scripture, in ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; . There is great difference of opinion as to the precise tree referred to in these passages. Some suppose it to be the cedar of Lebanon, others the box, ash, juniper, etc. In Scripture the terms Eres and Berosh, the one rendered 'cedar' and the other 'fir,' are very frequently associated together, and it is probable that the former may indicate the cedar with the wild pine-tree, while the latter may comprehend the juniper and cypress tribe.

The different species of juniper have by some botanists been ranked under Cedar. Of juniper there are several species in Syria. Of these the only species which could have been the Berosh of Scripture are the prickly or brown-berried juniper, an evergreen shrub from 10 to 12 feet high, and the Phoenician juniper, a native of the south of Europe, Russia, and Syria. Some are of opinion that the wood of the prickly juniper, rather than that of the so-called cedar of Lebanon, is the cedar-wood so famed in ancient times for its durability, and which was therefore employed in making statues. It is to the wood of certain species of juniper that the name of cedar-wood is now specially applied.

The evergreen cypress of botanists is a tree well known as being tapering in form, in consequence of its branches growing upright and close to the stem. In its general appearance it resembles the Lombardy poplar, so that the one is often mistaken for the other when seen in Oriental drawings. In southern latitudes it usually grows to a height of 50 or 60 feet. Its branchlets are closely covered with very small imbricated leaves, which remain on the tree for five or six years. Du Hamel states that he has observed on the bark of young cypresses small particles of a substance resembling gum tragacanth, and that he has seen bees taking great pains to detach these particles, probably to supply some of the matter required for forming their combs. This cypress is a native of the Grecian Archipelago, particularly of Candia (the ancient Crete) and Cyprus, and also of Asia Minor, Syria, and Persia. It may be seen on the coast of Palestine as well as in the interior, as the Muhammadans plant it in their cemeteries. It is also found on the mountains of Syria. 'The wood of the cypress is hard, fragrant, and of a remarkably fine close grain, very durable, and of a beautiful reddish hue, which Pliny says it never loses.' As to the opinion respecting the durability of the cypress-wood entertained by the ancients, it may be sufficient to adduce the authority of Pliny, who says 'that the statue of Jupiter in the Capitol, which was formed of cypress, had existed above 600 years without showing the slightest symptom of decay, and that the doors of the Temple of Diana at Ephesus, which were also of cypress, and were 400 years old, had the appearance of being quite new.' This wood was used for a variety of purposes, as for wine-presses, poles, rafters, and joists. In all the passages of Scripture, therefore, the cypress will be found to answer completely to the descriptions and uses of the Berosh; for it is well adapted for building, is not subject to destruction, and was therefore very likely to be employed in the erection of the Temple, and also for its gates and flooring; for the decks of ships, and even for musical instruments and lances.





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Bibliography Information
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Fir'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature".

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