SYCAMORE (SYCOMORE [; Ficus, Sycomorus]):
A medium-sized bushy tree of Syria and Egypt, allied to the common fig. It is often mentioned in the Bible (Amos vii. 14; I Kings x. 27; Isa. ix. 9, 11; Ps. lxxviii. 47; I Chron. xxvii. 28; II Chron. i. 15, ix. 27), and still grows plentifully in the plain along the coast, the Shefelah (comp. the ancient name of the place Haifa, Sykaminon, after the Greek designation of the tree [συκάμινος] in the Septuagint and elsewhere). The trees grew freely also in the valley of the Jordan, in the vicinity of Jerusalem, and in Lower Galilee. It was one of the most widely scattered trees of ancient Egypt (comp. Ps. lxxviii. 47; Wilkinson, "Manners and Customsof the Ancient Egyptians," iii. 419); it was more valued there than in Palestine, where its fruit, a small fig not particularly palatable, seems to have been chiefly the food of the common people. Even to-day it is eaten by the poor only (Anderlind, in "Z. D. P. V." xi. 100; Henslow, "The Plants of the Bible," p.91). In order to make it palatable the fruit must be slit when it is maturing, to let the tart juice flow out (Amos vii. 14). The Hebrews valued the tree chiefly on account of its wood, which is light and very durable. In Palestine it was the common timber (I Kings x. 27; II Chron. i. 15, ix. 27; Isa. ix. 10). In Egypt most of the domestic utensils that have been preserved, as well as the sarcophagi, were carved from this wood.