CAPER-BERRY (translation of , abiyyonah, Eccl. xii. 5; incorrectly, A. V. "desire," from ):

The feminine "abiyyonah" does not express "desire," but "the desiring thing," sc. "soul" [so Ḳimḥi]. The Septuagint, Vulgate, Peshiṭta, and Aquila translate by κάππαρις, "caper-berry," which traditional translation is confirmed in the Mishnah Ma'as. iv. 6 and in other places in the Talmud, where it is carefully distinguished from the shoots, "temarot," and the floral envelopes, "ḳapperisin," and declared to be the fruit of the "ẓalef" or caper-plant): This is a woody, trailing shrub known in botany as caparris spinosa. It is quite common in the Mediterranean countries, where it grows on old walls and in the fissures of the rocks. Its large white flowers, with many long lilac anthers, are highly decorative. The caper of commerce, which is now eaten pickled, is the flower-bud, not mentioned in the Talmud. The "abiyyonoth," or berries proper, however, were eaten, as appears from their liability to tithes and to the restrictions of the 'Orlah. They were supposed to have aphrodisiac properties (see Delitzsch's "Ḳohelet," ad loc.).

For the allegorical meaning of the word "abiyyonah" in Ecclesiastes, see commentators.

  • Moore, The Caper-Plant and Its Edible Products, in Journal of Biblical Literature;
  • Tristram, Natural History of the Bible.
K. H. H.
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