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PLANTS OF THE BIBLE.
TREES AND SHRUBS.
JOHN HUTTON BALFOUR M. A., M. D.,
F.R.S.S.L. AND E., F.L.S., F.R.C.S.E.,
Ragius Keeper of the Botanic Gardens, and Professor of Medicine and Botany in the University of Edinburgh.
"Bohold the fig-trees and all the trees.”—Luke xxi. 29.
EDINBURGH; AND NEW YORK.
EVERYTHING mentioned in the Bible is worthy of our attentive consideration. The very words of the original text, written by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, call for diligent study; and the more we examine them in dependence on the aid of that Spirit, the more light do we find shining upon them. The student of God's Word cannot search too deeply or too minately into its hidden treasures. The most learned linguist finds here ample scope for all his lore, and the accomplished naturalist may bring to bear upon this work all the resources of science.
In the Sacred Writings there are frequent allusions made to the Vegetable Kingdom. Our blessed Saviour drew beautiful illustrations from plants, and he calls upon us to consider the lilies of the field. While plants, like the other works of the Almighty Creator, are well worthy of study, they are especially so when we view them in connexion with Scripture. In order to see fully the lesson which is to be taught, it is necessary that we should be acquainted with the plant to which reference is made. Want of knowledge in this respect has hid much of the beauty and force of many a parable.
At the time when our excellent English version was made, there was comparatively little known in regard to the plants of Palestine, and hence the meaning of the Hebrew and Greek names was often doubtfully given. As the science of Botany has advanced, and more particularly as the knowledge of the Flora of the East has increased, additional light has been thrown on the plants noticed in the Bible. Celsius, Rosenmüller, Royle, and many others, have done much to elucidate Scripture Botany; and although there are still many difficulties in the
way of a complete Bible Flora, still there has been a great advance in this department of Biblical learning. It has been thought that such a work as the present might be useful in calling attention to this important subject, and in inducing those who may visit Palestine to turn their powers of observation to useful account. It is to be regretted that, of the numerous visitors at the present day to the Holy Land, few have turned their thoughts in this direction, and that thus many valuable opportunities for acquiring botanical information have been lost. The Botany of the Bible can be fully worked out only by those who travel in Eastern countries, and who are acquainted with Hebrew, Syriac, Arabic, and other cognate languages. A great deal of valuable information may be gathered on the spot which cannot be otherwise obtained. Let us hope that, ere long, travellers will have greater facilities for prosecuting with safety their researches in that interesting, although now deserted, land; and that some botanist may soon arise who will be able to write with scientific accuracy on all the Scripture plants, from the Cedar on Lebanon even to the Hyssop that groweth out of the wall.