The meaning of Fir; Fir-tree in the Bible
(From International Standard Bible Encyclopedia)
fur, (the Revised Version, margin "cypress"; berosh, II Samuel 6:5; I Kings 5:8, I Kings 5:10, etc.; (berothem (plural only), an Aramaic form, Song of Solomon 1:17):
1. Old Testament References:
This tree was one of the chief trees of Lebanon (Isaiah 60:13); one of usefulness (Isaiah 41:19; Isaiah 55:13); associated with the cedar (II Kings 19:23; Psalms 104:17; Isaiah 14:8; Zechariah 11:2); its boughs were wide and great (Ezekiel 31:8); it was evergreen (Hosea 14:8); it could supply boards and timber for doors (I Kings 6:15, I Kings 6:24); beams for roofing the temple (II Chronicles 3:5); planks for shipbuilding (Ezekiel 27:5). In II Samuel 6:5 we read: "David and all the house of Israel played before Yahweh with all manner of instruments made of fir-wood," etc. It is practically certain that the reading in the parallel passage in I Chronicles 13:8 is more correct: "David and all Israel played before God with all their might, even with songs," etc. This view is supported by the Septuagint translation (en pase dunamei). There is therefore no necessity to suppose that berosh was a wood used for musical instruments.
2. The Identity of "Berosh":
The identity of berosh is uncertain. It was a name applied either to several of the Coniferae in common or to one or more outstanding species. If the latter is the case we can only seek for the most suited to Old Testament requirements. The Aleppo pine, Pinus Halepensis, is a fine tree which flourishes in the Lebanon, but its wood is not of special excellence and durability. A better tree (or couple of trees) is the sherbin of the Syrians; this name includes two distinct varieties in the suborder Cypressineae, the fine tall juniper, Juniperis excelsa and the cypress, Cypressus sempervirens. They both still occur in considerable numbers in the Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon; they are magnificent trees and produce excellent wood—resinous, fragrant, durable. If these trees were not classed locally, as now, under one name, then the cypress is of the two more probably the berosh. The coffins of Egyptian mummies were made of cypress; a compact variety of this cypress is cultivated all over the Turkish empire by the Moslems as an ornament in cemeteries. From early times the cypress has been connected with mourning.
In the Apocrypha there are two definite references to the cypress (kuparissos). In Sirach 24:13, Wisdom says:
"I was exalted like a cedar in Libanus,
And as a cypress tree on the mountains of Hermon."
And in Sirach 50:10 the high priest Simon is said to be
"As an olive tree budding forth fruits,
And as a cypress growing high among the clouds."
These passages, especially the former, certainly favor the idea that berosh was the cypress; the name may, however, have included allied trees.
E. W. G. Masterman
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