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Do the trees in scriptures have meaning? Abraham is under a oak, Deborah under a Palm, Gideon is met by an angel under a terebinth tree and there are many, many more. I feel I am missing out on some meaning of the text.

If they do have meaning, is there a book or reference I can read to explain each tree's meaning to me? Thank you and blessings.

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    Hi Steven Cohen, and welcome to mi.yodeya! This is a very open-ended question and could be improved by adding some specificity. Do you have particular reason to believe that this class of objects bears some distinct meaning (as opposed to people, cities, other plants, to name a few)? Are you referring to symbolic meaning, function, semantic role, or something else as the elusive meaningful binding thread? – WAF May 27 '14 at 3:00
  • There is a repeated pattern of people sitting under a specific tree during important times. It seems that the type of tree is conveying something onto the person sitting under it. For example, Abraham is sitting under an oak tree, an "elon". This is hard wood and conveys strength. Reflecting Abraham is in a position of strength perhaps? What about King Saul under the Tamarisk tree just before he is killed (1 Sa22:6). Or Elisha under the Juniper (1 Kigns 19:4) Are the characteristics of the trees supposed to be commenting on the person mentioned with the tree. Thank you. – Steven Cohen May 28 '14 at 2:45
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Yes, there are several books you can read — if you have an iPad, you can download The Natural Bible: the encyclopedia of Judaism and the environment which has an entry for all the trees you mentioned and many more. I would also recommend anything by Nogah haReuveni (e.g. The Tree in Our Biblical Heritage) or Yehuda Feliks (e.g. Nature and Man, or his many books in Hebrew on trees which might be closer to what you're looking for).

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Trees are often used a methaphors of knowledge / wisdom. The Torah is called a "tree of life" (Mishlei / Proverbs). Pirkei Avot ch. 3 Mishnah 17 compares someone whose deeds exceed his knowledge to a tree that has many roots but few branches (and there is a converse comparison there as well.) In both cases, the mishnah cites a Biblical verse as well.

  • I will look into the reference you provided. Many thanks. – Steven Cohen May 29 '14 at 2:58

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