Pine, עֵץ שֶׁמֶן, Pinus

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English:

pine

Hebrew:

עֵץ שֶׁמֶן (ēṣ šemen) “oil tree”

Scientific Name:

Pinus

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Biblical data

Introduction

The עֵץ שֶׁמֶן (ēṣ šemen) “oil tree” is mentioned twice in the singular in the Hebrew Bible: once in the list of seven trees that the deity will miraculously cause to grow in the wilderness (Isa 41:19), and once in the list of five trees in the hill country whose leaves were used to prepare huts for the Feast of Tabernacles in the time of Ezra (Neh 8:15). The term also occurs once in the Hebrew apocryphal literature as part of a simile describing Simon the high priest (Sir 50:10). Slightly more frequent, with four occurrences, is the plural form עֲצֵי שָׁמֶן (ăṣê šemen) “oil wood,” which is the material used to make several items in Solomon’s Temple (1 Kgs 6:23, 31, 32, 33).

Distribution within the Bible

The singular form occurs:
Once in consolation prophecy: Isa 41:19.
Once in narrative: Neh 8:15.
It also occurs once in apocryphal wisdom literature: Sir 50:10.

The plural form occurs four times, all within the same pericope, a narrative account of the construction of Solomon’s Temple (1 Kgs 6:23, 31, 32, 33).

Parts, Elements, Features that Are Specified in the Bible

Verdure, demonstrating rejuvenation of a landscape (Isa 41:19).
Leaves, as material for making huts (Neh 8:15).
Wood, as material for carpentry (1 Kgs 6:23, 31, 32, 33).
In the apocrypha, branches, whose verdure signifies beauty (Sir 50:10).

Function in Context

Figurative, signifying verdure (Isa 41:19).
Realistic references to the tree’s wood (1 Kgs 6:23, 31, 32, 33) and leaves (Neh 8:15).
In the apocrypha, the tree’s verdant branches are a simile signifying beauty (Sir 50:10).

Pairs and Constructions

In a list of seven types of tree demonstrating rejuvenation: ‏אֶרֶז שִׁטָּה וַהֲדַס וְעֵץ שָׁמֶן … בְּרוֹשׁ תִּדְהָר וּתְאַשּׁוּר (Isa 41:19).
In a list of five types of tree found in the hill country whose leaves are used to build huts: עֲלֵי־זַיִת וַעֲלֵי־עֵץ שֶׁמֶן וַעֲלֵי הֲדַס וַעֲלֵי תְמָרִים וַעֲלֵי עֵץ עָבֹת (Neh 8:15).
The wood of the tree is used alongside Lebanon cedar, juniper, and gold to make certain objects in Solomon’s temple (1 Kgs 6).[1]
In the apocrypha, the tree is paired with the olive tree, where the branches of the עֵץ שֶׁמֶן and the fruit of the olive tree are used as two similes among many to describe the beauty or radiance of Simon b. Yohanan the high priest when he exits the inner cella of the temple (Sir 50:1–24): כזית רענן מלא גרגר וכעץ שמן מרוה ענף (v. 10).

End Notes

[1] עֲצֵי שָׁמֶן are used to make the enormous cherubim sculptures of the inner cella (1 Kgs 6:23), the doors at the entrance to that cella (6:31, 32), and the doorposts at the entrance to the main hall (6:33). Solomon’ Temple is constructed mainly of Lebanon cedar, which is used generally (1 Kgs 5:20; 1 Chr 22:4), for the paneling and roof beams (1 Kgs 6:9–10, 15–16, 18; 7:3, 7), the courtyard (6:36; 7:12), and the inner altar (6:20). Indeed, this edifice is actually called “a cedar palace” (2 Sam 7:7 = 1 Chr 17:6). Juniper (1 Kgs 5:22; 2 Chr 2:7) is used for the flooring (1 Kgs 6:15), doors (6:34), and, according to the Chronicler, paneling (2 Chr 3:5) of the Temple.

Contributor: Dr. Raanan Eichler, Biblical scholar, Postdoc 2016

History of Identification

Identification History Table


Hebrew Greek Aramaic Syriac Latin Arabic English
Reference MT LXX Revisions Targumim Peshitta Vulgate Jewish Christian KJV NRSV NJPS
Isa 41:19 עֵץ שָׁמֶן κυπάρισσος
= cypress (Cupressus)
אָעִין דִמשַח
= oil wood
(literal translation)
qysˀ dmšḥˀ
= oil wood
(literal translation)
lignum olivae
= olive wood
oil tree
(literal translation)
olive oleasters
Neh 8:15 עֵץ שֶׁמֶן ξύλων κυπαρισσίνων
= cypress wood/trees
gwzˀ
= nut tree
ligni pulcherrimi
= beautiful wood
pine wild olive pine trees
Sir 50:10 עץ שמן κυπάρισσος
= cypress
ˀylnˀ dmšḥˀ
= oil tree
gyrus = circle /
cedrus = cedar /
cypressus = cypress
cypress tree cypress
1 Kgs 6:23 עֲצֵי־שָׁמֶן 0 /
ξύλων κυπαρισσίνων
= cypress
אָעֵי זֵיתָא
= olive wood
qysˀ mšwḥtˀ
= oil wood
lignis olivarum
= olive wood
olive tree olivewood olive wood
1 Kgs 6:31 עֲצֵי־שָׁמֶן ξύλων ἀρκευθίνων
= juniper (Juniperus) wood
SH: oliuae
= olive
אָעֵי זֵיתָא
= olive wood
qysˀ dmšwḥtˀ
= oil wood
lignis olivarum
= olive wood
olive tree olivewood olive wood
1 Kgs 6:32 עֲצֵי־שֶׁמֶן ξύλων πευκίνων
= pine wood
אָעֵי זֵיתָא
= olive wood
qysˀ dmšwḥtˀ
= oil wood
lignis olivarum
= olive wood
olive tree olivewood olive wood
1 Kgs 6:33 עֲצֵי־שָׁמֶן ξύλων ἀρκευθίνων
= juniper wood
אָעֵי זֵיתָא
= olive wood
qysˀ dmšwḥtˀ
= oil wood
lignis olivarum
= olive wood
olive tree olivewood oleaster wood

Discussion

The Septuagint renders the terms inconsistently. In Neh 8:15, Sir 50:10, 1 Kgs 6:23, and possibly Isa 41:19, it uses κυπάρισσος “cypress.” In 1 Kgs 6:31, 33, it has ἄρκευθος “juniper.” And in 1 Kgs 6:32, it uses πεύκη “pine.”

Targum Jonathan consistently renders the terms as זיתא “olive,” except in Isa 41:19, where the literal translation משח “oil” is used instead. The translation as “olive” is obviously inferred from the well-known association of olive trees with שֶׁמֶן, oil, an association that is embodied in the English word “olive” itself and in its cognates in other European languages.[1] But this translation cannot be accepted because, in Neh 8:15, עֵץ שֶׁמֶן occurs alongside זַיִת, which itself indisputably denotes the olive tree. Accordingly, זית and עץ שמן are explicitly distinguished from each other in the Talmud (Sifra on Lev 1:8 // m. Tamid 2:3 // t. Menah. 9:14).

Other translations also seem to constitute attempts to find a tree associated with oil. The Peshitta, though it usually renders the terms literally and uninformatively with mšwḥt’ or mšḥ’ “oil,” uses gwzh “nut” in Neh 8:15. Nut oil, or שמן אגוזים, is known to the talmudic authors (Sifra and Lev. Rab. on Lev 24:2; m. Shabb. 2:2), who mention it as the only type of oil available in Media (t. Shabb. 2:3). At the same time, these authors explicitly distinguish אגוז from עץ שמן (Sifra on Lev 1:8 // m. Tamid 2:3 // t. Menah. 9:14).

Another translation of עֵץ שֶׁמֶן, attributed to the academy of the Amora Rav (third century CE), is אפרסמא (b. Rosh Hash. 23a = b. B. Bat. 80b). This is presumably the same as the well-known אפרסמון of talmudic literature, which is associated with perfume oil (e.g., y. Sotah 8:3 // y. Sheqal. 6:1; b. Ta‘an. 25a) and is identified by many scholars as Commiphora gileadensis, a type of myrrh shrub.[2]

The Vulgate, like Targum Jonathan (and followed by almost all English Bible translations), renders the term almost consistently as oliva “olive.” In Neh 8:15, however, it uses oliva for the adjacent זַיִת and renders עֵץ שֶׁמֶן as pulcher “beautiful” instead. In Sir 50:10, one manuscript attests cedrus “cedar,” while others attest cypressus “cypress.”

Some modern scholars avoid the problem of Neh 8:15 by rendering עֵץ שֶׁמֶן as “oleaster” or “wild olive” (see b. Sukkah 12a), thereby preserving the association with oil while accounting for the distinction from the olive per se.[3] It should be stressed that the English term “oleaster” refers to two entirely different types of trees, as does the term “wild olive.” Both refer either to true wild varieties of the olive (Olea europaea) or to trees of the genus Elaeagnus, which are similar to the olive in appearance but botanically unrelated.[4]

The Septuagint on 1 Kgs 6:32 anticipated later interpreters in rendering the term as “pine,” as noted above. An anonymous comment in the Talmud (y. Rosh Hash. 2:2) equates עצי שמן with דדנין, which Feliks interprets as the Greek term δαδίον “splinter of pine wood.”[5] David Kimhi and Gersonides maintained that עֲצֵי שָׁמֶן refers to a type of coniferous tree named פין “pine,” which excretes the oily substance from which tar is derived.[6] This translation is used in the Luther Bible on Isa 41:19, in the King James Bible on Neh 8:15, and in the Geneva Bible on both verses. Feliks, Zohary, and Amar adopt this view, the first two noting that Aramaic-speaking Kurdish Jews still call the Turkish pine (Pinus brutia) אעא דמשחא “oil tree.”[7] The present entry takes the position of these scholars. Remarkably, resinous pine wood is called “fat-wood” in the English of the southern United States.[8]

End Notes

[1] OED, “olive, n.1 and adj.
[2] Iluz et al. 2010, 516.
[3] BDB; Mulder 1998, 268–69, citing Bruijel 1939, 159. Löw 1924–34, 1:590, states that עֵץ שֶׁמֶן is Elaeagnus hortensis. HALOT deems the identification of the term as uncertain, stating that the two main suggestions are oleaster of the species Elaeagnus hortensis and Scotch pine (Pinus sylvestris).
[4] OED, “oleaster, n.
[5] Feliks 1968, 88; Feliks 1997, 197 n. 14.
[6] Kimhi commentary on 1 Kgs 6:23, in Cohen 1995, 43–44; commentary on Isa 41:19, in Cohen 1996, 269; Gersonides commentary on 1 Kgs 6:23, in Cohen 1995, 43.
[7] Feliks 1968, 88–89; Feliks 1997, 194–99; Zohary 1982, 114; Amar 2012, 167–68.
[8] OED, “fat, adj. and n.2,” S2, fat-wood.

Bibliography

Amar, Zohar. 2012. צמחי המקרא. Jerusalem: Rubin Mass.
Bruijel, F. J. 1939. Bijbel en Natuur. Kampen: Kok.
Cohen, Menachem, ed. 1995. מקראות גדולות ‘הכתר’: מלכים א-ב. Ramat-Gan: Bar Ilan University.
_____, ed. 1996. מקראות גדולות ‘הכתר’: ישעיהו. Ramat-Gan: Bar Ilan University.
Feliks, Yehuda. 1968. עולם הצומח המקראי. Ramat-Gan: Masada.
_____. 1997. עצי בשמים יער ונוי. Jerusalem: Rubin Mass.
Iluz, David, et al. “Medicinal Properties of Commiphora Gileadensis.” African Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology 4 (2010): 516–20.
Löw, Immanuel. 1924–34. Die Flora der Juden. 4 vols. Vienna and Leipzig: Löwit and Kohut.
Mulder, Martin J. 1998. 1 Kings. Historical Commentary on the Old Testament. Translated by John Vriend. Leuven: Peeters.
Zohary, Michael. 1982. Plants of the Bible. London: Cambridge University Press.

Contributor: Dr. Raanan Eichler, Biblical scholar, Postdoc 2016

Biological Information

ID

There are some 105 species of pine in the world, but only one is native to the land of Israel: the Aleppo pine. This species tends to grow in mineral-poor environments such as sandstone, marl, and chalk.[1]

End Notes

[1] Shmida 2006, 31–33.

Bibliography

Shmida, Avi. 2006. מדריך העצים והשיחים בישראל. Jerusalem: Keter.