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OAK AND TEREBINTH:

The Hebrew terms calling for consideration here are: "elah" (Gen. xxxv. 4; Judges vi. 11, 19, and elsewhere); "el" (only in the plural form "elim"; Isa. i. 29, lvii. 5, A. V. "idols," R. V. "oaks"; lxi. 3, A. V. "trees"); "elon" (Gen. xii. 6, A. V. "plain"; R. V. "oak"; xiii. 18); "allah" (Josh. xxiv. 26, E. V. "oak"); and "allon" (Gen. xxxv. 8; Isa. ii. 13, xliv. 14, and often E. V. "oak"). All these terms may have originally denoted large, strong trees in general (comp. the Latin robur), comprising both the oak and the terebinth, which are similar in outward appearance. But "elah" (which in Isa. vi. 13 and Hos. iv. 13 is distinguished from "allon") and its cognates "elon" and "elim" are assumed to mean the terebinth, while "allon" (which is repeatedly connected with Bashan [Isa. ii. 13; Ezek. xxvii. 6; Zech. xi. 2], a district famous for its oaks) and "allah" are assumed to denote the oak.

Both the oak and the terebinth offered favorite resorts for religious practises (Isa. i. 29, lvii. 5; Ezek. vi. 13; Hos. iv. 13), and were associated with theophanies (Judges vi. 11; comp. Gen. xii. 6; Judges ix. 37). By reason of their striking appearance and their longevity they served also as topographical landmarks (Gen. xxxv. 8; Judges iv. 11, vi. 11, ix. 6; I Sam. x. 3, xvii. 2). The custom of burial beneath these trees is mentioned (Gen. xxxv.8; I Chron. x. 12). Oak timber was used for the manufacture of idols (Isa. xliv. 14) and for ship-building (Ezek. xxvii. 6). The oak and the terebinth are employed as emblems of strength and durability (Amos ii. 9; Isa. lxi. 3).

According to Tristram, the following three species of oak are at present common in Palestine: (1) the prickly evergreen oak (Quercus pseudo-coccifera), abundant in Gilead; the most famous exemplar of this species is the so-called "Abraham's oak" near. Hebron, measuring 23 feet in girth with a diameter of foliage of about 90 feet (see Abraham's Oak); (2) the Valona oak (Q. Ægilops), common in the north and supposed to represent the "oaks of Bashan"; (3) the Oriental gall-oak (Q. infectoria), on Carmel.

The terebinth (Pistacia Terebinthus) is abundant in the south and southeast. See Forest.

Bibliography:
  • Kotschy, Die Eichen Europas und des Orients, Olmütz, 1862;
  • Tristram, Nat. Hist. p. 367, London, 1867;
  • Wagler, Die Eiche in Alter und Neuer Zeit: Mythologisch-Kulturgeschichtliche Studie, Berlin, 1891.
E. G. H. I. M. C.
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