Stuff in the Bible that no one told you about

Colorful fruit dangle from this date palm tree (Phoenix dactylifera). Dates have been a staple for food and fuel for the imagination in Bible Lands for thousands of years. This tree in this photograph is growing in the Palestinian oasis of Jericho, a place nicknamed "the city of date-palms" (Deut 34:3).

A vocabulary family for this species is found in the Hebrew Bible. It includes tamar, a personal name and the general word for a date-palm tree. 'Eskol or sansinnah suggests fruit or a fruit-cluster. A kippah may refer to a palm frond.

My mind drifts back to a snippet from that romantic poem hidden deep in the Old Testament, The Song of Songs (or as we call it in the classroom, "The Very Best Song"!).

Mah yaphit umah-na'amt 'ahavah bta'anugim; Zot komatek damtah l'tamar, veshadayik l'ashkoloth; 'Amarti e'eleh v'tamar 'ohazah b'sansinnav.

"What beauty and how pleasant, O Love for delights! You tower like a palm tree, your breasts are clusters. I say, 'Let me climb up the palm tree and seize its fruit!'" (Song 7:7-8).


To learn more about the archaeobotany of the date palm, see Margareta Tengberg's article on "Fruit Growing" in Vol. 1 of A Companion to the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East. D.T. Potts, ed. (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012): 181-200.