MembersIn the Beginning Man Gave Names to All the Plants

What is the true definition of “eshel,” which modern botanists apply to a useless tree, but ancient sages say has much deeper meaning?

By Tsvi Sadan | | Topics: And Man Named All the Plants
What botanists now say is the "eshel" tree mentioned three times in the Bible. Photo: Shutterstock

The title of this series, a twist on the 1979 Bob Dylan song ”Man gave names to all the animals,” has the same idea in mind. Like any name in the Bible, giving names to plants reveals something about their nature. The problem, however, is the inherent difficulty in identifying many of the 100 plants mentioned by name in the Hebrew Bible. Though considerable scientific efforts were made to identify the biblical flora, there is still no way to know for sure that the biblical cedar tree, for example, is the Cedrus libani. This series, therefore, is not a study in botany, but rather an attempt to unveil the attempts by Jewish sources to identify the biblical flora, and the reason they are mentioned in the Bible.


And Abraham planted eshel in Beersheba

Eshel (supposedly tamarix, tamarisk, salt cedar), is mentioned three times in the Hebrew Bible (Gen. 21:33, 1 Sam. 22:6 and 1 Sam. 31:13). Earlier English translations like the King James have translated eshel to either “tree” or “grove.”...

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