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Bible Encyclopedias

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature


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This plant is mentioned in the well-known and beautiful passage (): 'Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin, and yet I say unto you, that even Solomon, in all his glory, was not arrayed like one of these;' so also in . Here it is evident that the plant alluded to must have been indigenous or grown wild, in the vicinity of the Sea of Galilee, must have been of an ornamental character, and, from the Greek name given to it, of a liliaceous nature. Travelers in Palestine mention that in the month of January the fields and groves everywhere abound with various species of lily, tulip, and narcissus. Benard noticed, near Acre, on January 18th, and about Jaffa, on the 23rd, tulips, white, red, blue, etc. Gumpenberg saw the meadows of Galilee covered with the same flowers on the 31st. Tulips figure conspicuously among the flowers of Palestine. So Pococke says, 'I saw many tulips growing wild in the fields (in March), and anyone who considers how beautiful those flowers are to the eye, would be apt to conjecture that these are the lilies to which Solomon in all his glory was not to be compared.' This is much more likely to be the plant intended than some others which have been adduced, as, for instance, the scarlet amaryllis, having white flowers with bright purple streaks, found by Salt at Adowa. Others have preferred the Crown imperial, which is a native of Persia and Cashmere. Most authors have united in considering the white lily, Lilium candidum, to be the plant to which our Savior referred; but it is doubtful whether it has ever been found in a wild state in Palestine. This opinion is confirmed by a correspondent at Aleppo, who has resided long in Syria, but is acquainted only with the botany of Aleppo and Antioch: 'I never saw the white lily in a wild state, nor have I heard of its being so in Syria. It is cultivated here on the roofs of the houses in pots as an exotic bulb, like the daffodil.' The following extract of a letter from Dr. Bowring throws a new light upon the subject: 'I cannot describe to you with botanical accuracy the lily of Palestine. I heard it called by the title of Lilia syriaca, and I imagine under this title its botanical characteristics may be hunted out. Its color is a brilliant red; its size about half that of the common tiger lily. The white lily I do not remember to have seen in any part of Syria. It was in April and May that I observed my flower, and it was most abundant in the district of Galilee, where it and the Rhododendron (which grew in rich abundance round the paths) most strongly excited my attention.' On this Dr. Lindley observes, 'It is clear that neither the white lily, nor the Oporanthus luteus, nor Ixiolirion, will answer to Dr. Bowring's description, which seems to point to the Chalcedonian or scarlet martagon lily, formerly called the lily of Byzantium, found from the Adriatic to the Levant, and which, with its scarlet turban like flowers, is indeed a most stately and striking object.' As this lily (the Lilium chalcedonicum of botanists) is in flower at the season of the year when the sermon on the Mount is supposed to have been spoken, is indigenous in the very locality, and is conspicuous, even in the garden, for its remarkable showy flowers, there can now be little doubt that it is the plant alluded to by our Savior.





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Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Lily'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature".

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