A hard and durable but light wood; at first yellowish, but gradually turning very dark, like ebony. Of this the Ark and its altars, with their staves, and the bars of the Tabernacle were made (Ex. xxxv. 7; Deut. x. 3). The Acacia-tree is called in Hebrew shiṭṭah (for shintah), plural shiṭṭim; , Arabic, sanṭ; an Egyptian loan-word. It is the Spina Ægyptiaca of the ancients (Mimosa Nilotica, Linn.). It is a large, spreading, thorny tree with many branches, found in Africa and Arabia. The name of this tree (shiṭṭim) is found in various locality names mentioned in the Bible: Shittim (Num. xxxv. 1); Abel-Shiṭṭim (ibid. xxxiii. 49); Beth-Shittah (Judges, vii. 22). It appears to have been highly prized (Isa. xli. 19).
- Jablonsky, Opuscula, ed. te Water, i. 260;
- Rosenmüller, Handbuch der Bibl. Alterthumskunde, iv. part i. p. 272;
- Robinson, Bibl. Researches in Palestine, ii. 249;
- Imanuel Löw, Aramäische Pflanzennamen, p. 59; p. 197 (for the meaning of shiṭṭah = sanṭ = Acacia, Acacia Nilotica), p. 388 (for the meaning of toranita = cypress).
R. H. 23a, referring to Isa. xli. 19, counts the shiṭṭah (explained as toranita = "cypress-tree" according to Löw,"Pflanzennamen," p. 388; according to others = "pine") among the ten kinds of cedar-trees; so also B. B. 80b; but Yer. Ket. vii. 31d; Tan., Terumah, § 9; Ex. R. xxxv., mention twenty-four cedar-trees, seven of which are derived from Isa. xli. 19 (compare the fourteen trees in Enoch, iii. and Book of Jubilees, xxi. 12, where, instead of shaḳed (almond), shiṭṭah (Acacia) was most likely the original reading; see Dillman, "Das Buch Henoch," p. 91, where reference is made to Isa. xli. 19, lv. 13, lx. 13; compare also "Geoponica," xi. 1, where fourteen evergreen trees are enumerated). See Tan. l.c.: "Of all these the shiṭṭim-wood alone was selected in order to atone for the sin that Israel was to commit in Shittim [Num. xxv. 1 et seq.]. Indeed, while Phinehas assuaged the divine wrath [Num. xxv. 7], the Holy One—blessed be He!—said: 'I shall in the future heal the plague of Shittim: A fountain shall come forth from the house of the Lord, and shall water the valley of Shittim'"; see Joel, iv. 18, Heb. (Tan. l.c.).
"Acacia trees without any knots or fissures were cut by Jacob the patriarch in Migdal Ẓebo'aya, Palestine, and were taken down by him to Egypt to be preserved by his children for future use in the wilderness; wherefore we read (Ex. xxxv. 24): 'Every man with whom was found shiṭṭim [R. V. acacia] wood.' R. Hananiah was asked regarding the Acacia-trees that were still growing there whether it was right that people should refrain from using them for common purposes in order that the wood might be consecrated solely for the Ark, to which he replied: 'By all means remain true to the custom of your fathers,'" which was not to use Acacia for such purposes (Gen. R. xciv.; Cant. R. i. 12; Yer. Pes. iv. 30d; see also Testament of the Patriarchs, Simeon, § 8).