The meaning of Apple; Apple-tree in the Bible
(From International Standard Bible Encyclopedia)
ap'-l ap'-l tre, (tappuach): A fruit tree and fruit mentioned chiefly in Cant, concerning the true nature of which there has been much dispute.
Song of Solomon 2:3 says: "As the apple-tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons. I sat down under his shadow with great delight"; Song of Solomon 8:5 : "Under the apple-tree I awakened thee: there thy mother was in travail with thee, there was she in travail that brought thee forth." Of the fruit it is said, Song of Solomon 2:3 : "His fruit was sweet to my taste"; Song of Solomon 2:5 : "Stay ye me with raisins, refresh me with apples"; Song of Solomon 7:8 : "the smell of thy breath (Hebrew "nose") like apples."
In all the above references the true apple, Pyrus malus, suits the conditions satisfactorily. The apple tree affords good shade, the fruit is sweet, the perfume is a very special favorite with the people of the East. Sick persons in Palestine delight to hold an apple in their hands, simply for the smell. (Compare Arabian Nights, "Prince Hassan and the Paribanou.") Further the Arabic for apple tuffah is without doubt identical with the Hebrew tappuach. The apple was well known, too, in ancient times; it was, for example, extensively cultivated by the Romans.
The one serious objection is that apples do not easily reach perfection in Palestine; the climate is too dry and hot; farther north in the Lebanon they flourish. At the same time it is possible to exaggerate this objection, for with careful grafting and cultivation exceedingly good apples may be produced in the mountain regions. Apple trees there need special care and renewal of the grafts, but there is no impossibility that at the time of the writing of Canticles skilled gardeners should have been able to produce sweet and perfumed apples in Palestine. Small but very sweet and fragrant apples are now grown at Gaza. Good apples are now plentiful in the market at Jerusalem, but they are chiefly importations from the North.
On account of the above difficulty three other fruits have been suggested by various writers. Two doubtless have been brought forward with a view to Proverbs 25:11 : "A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in network of silver," but the reference would certainly seem to be to some silver filigree work ornamented with gold modeled to look like fruit rather than to any actual fruit. The citron and the apricot (Tristram) have both been suggested as the true tappuach. The former, which is a native of Persia, does not appear to have been introduced into Palestine until well into the Christian era and the apricot, though an attractive substitute for the apple and today one of the most beautiful and productive of fruit trees, can hardly have been established in Palestine at the time of the scriptural references. It is a native of China and is said to have first begun to find its way westward at the time of Alexander the Great.
The third of the fruits is the quince, Cydonia vulgaris (Natural Order Rosaceae), and this had more serious claims. It flourishes in Palestine and has been long indigenous there. Indeed it is probable that even if tappuach was a name for apple, it originally included also the closely allied quince. The greatest difficulty is its harsh and bitter taste. Further the Mishna distinguishes the tappuach from the quince, which is called parish, and from the crab apple or chazor (Kohler in Jewish Encyclopedia, II, 23). The quince along with the apple was sacred to Aphrodite, the goddess of love.
On the whole there does not appear to be any sufficient reason for rejecting the translation of the King James Version and the Revised Version (British and American); the Biblical references suit it; the identity of the Hebrew and Arabic words favor it and there is no insuperable objection on scientific grounds.
The word tappuach appears in two place names, BETH-TAPPUAH and TAPPUAH (which see).
E. W. G. Masterman
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