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mountain under the shade of a tall palm-tree. His silver locks hang around his peaceful countenance, and his eye glistened with youthful freshness in the red beams of the evening sun. Close around him reclined a circle of blooming youths, all listening to the lovely words of wisdom which dropped from his lips like the dew of heaven from the cups of the field-lily.
"Children," he began, "God is love, and they that dwell in love dwell in God, and God in them. Do you see the beautiful sunbeams that fall at our feet? How can these beams exist without the sun from which they come? How can man exist without God? Childreu, he that abideth in love abideth in God, and God in him."
So spoke the gray-haired man, and a silent prayer, like a sigh, flowed tremblingly from his lips. The youths were silent with
Behold! now from the west the evening wind came playing in the tops of the lofty palms, and the friendly teacher began anew: "Do you hear the breathing presence of God in the sacred branches? The spirit of the Lord comes in the soft voice over us, and the palm-leaves rustle. How deep it has struck its roots into the bosom of the loving earth! and out of the deep it draws forth the nurturing sap. sends it up into the spreading branches and the tall top, that ity become life-giving to the waving leaves, and the fragrant bossoms. Thus it grows, vigorous and lovely, forming for itself high in the air a rustling crown, and lifts its arms longingly up towards the light of heaven.
"So, also, does man rest in God, and in his love, and opens for itself in God the fountain and the power of life, that his days may be full of fragrance and bloom, and that he may turn his face towards the bright beams of eternal life. See! it is the love of God which infuses fragrance and bloom into earthly life."
Here the friendly teacher arose and walked with his scholars towards his dwelling in the valley below.
While now they were descending from the mountain, behold! they found a palm-tree lying upon the earth, which was dead and dry. A storm from the north had cast down the power of the trunk, broken the limbs, and torn the roots out of the earth, so that it was dead.
The friendly, gray-haired man stood still, and the features of love changed into the earnestness of sorrow. "Behold!" he said, "here is an emblem of men who have torn away from the love of God. The freshness and the fountain of their life is wasted, and the rich odor of its bloom-days is withered leaves."
A tear trembled in his pious eye, and he said: "Children, God is love, and those that dwell in love dwell in God, and God in them."
THE TREES OF THE BIBLE.
NO. XIV.—THE SYCAMORE TREB.
BY THE EDITOR.
Did climb the tree,
THE Hebrew name of this tree is Schikmim. The English name is derived from a Greek, or rather from two Greek words: Suke, a fig, and moros, a mulberry. There is a reason for this combination in the nature of the tree itself. It partakes of the nature of two distinct species, the mulberry and the fig. It has a leaf like the mulberry, and a fruit like the fig. Some have imagined that it was originally produced by engrafting the one tree upon the other.
This tree is common in Palestine, in Arabia, and in Egypt. It is a spreading tree, which may furnish the reason why Zaccheus climbed upon it; from one of its branches extending over the way he could look down on the Saviour as he passed. It is often so thick that three men joining hands can hardly reach round the trunk. Hasselgriest says the stem is often fifty feet thick. Its wood is much used in building, and is said to be very durable. Dr. Shaw says, in his travels in Egypt, "The mummy chests, and whatever figures and instruments of wood are found in the catacombs, are all of them of sycamore, which, though spongy and porous to appearance has, notwithstanding, continued entire and uncorrupted for at least three thousand years." On account of this virtue of its wood, as well as for the grateful shade afforded by its wide-spreading branches, and its useful fruit, it was held in the highest estimation by the Egyptians.
Mr. Norden, in his travels into Egypt and Nubia, gives us a particular description of this interesting tree. "The sycamore is of the height of a beech, and bears its fruit in a manner quite different from other trees; it has them on the trunk itself, which shoots out little sprigs in the form of grape-stalks, at the end of which grow the fruit, close to one another, almost like clusters of grapes. The tree is always green, and bears fruit several times in the year, without observing certain seasons; for I have seen some sycamores that have given fruit two months after others. The fruit has the figure and smell of real figs, but is inferior to them in the taste, having a disgustful sweetness. Its color is a yellow inclining to an ochre, shadowed by a flesh color. In the inside it resembles the common figs, excepting that it has a blackish coloring with yellow spots. This sort of tree is pretty common in Egypt; the people, for the greater part, live upon its fruit, and
think themselves well regaled when they have a piece of bread, a couple of sycamore figs, and a pitcher of water.
Paxton says that the sycamore tree produces fruit as high as seven times a year, though it bears only one crop annually that can be called perfectly formed and perfectly ripened fruit; the rest is of inferior quality.
We find the sacred writers several times referring to sycamores and cedars in contrast. 1 Kings 27; 2 Chron. 1: 15-27; Is. 9: 40. Though the sycamore was a magificent tree and durable in its wood, the cedar was regarded still more so. The latter, however, was a more rare tree than the cedar. To "make cedar as a sycamore," or to "change cedar into sycamore," denotes a promise of blessing, of increased favor.
The sycamore figs are very easily gathered. They seem to have such little hold upon the tree, that, as one says, "if they be shaken they shall even fall into the mouth of the eater." Even before they are ripe they are easily cast. This explains that solemn passage in the Revelation of John: "And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig-tree casteth her untimely figs when she is shaken of a mighty wind." This also explains why a particular officer was appointed, in the reign of David, whose sole duty it was to watch over the sycamore and olive groves. 1 Chron. 27: 28.
The prophet Amos, before his call to the sacred office, was "a gatherer of sycamore fruit." Amos 7: 14. On this passage Paxton makes the following instructive remarks: "Pliny and other natural historians allege, that it continues immature till it is rubbed with iron combs, after which it ripens in four days. It is not an operation of this kind to which the prophet Amos refers, in the text which we translate, 'I was a gatherer of sycamore fruit?' The Septuagint seems to refer it to something done to the fruit, to hasten its maturity; probably to the action of the iron comb, without an application of which the figs cannot be eaten, because of their intolerable bitterness. Parkhurst renders the phrase, a scraper of sycamore fruit; which he contends, from the united testimony of natural historians, is the true meaning of the original term. The business of Amos, then, before his appointment to the prophetical office, was to scrape or wound the fruit of the sycamore tree, to hasten its maturity and prepare it for use. Simon renders it a cultivator of sycamore fruit, which is perhaps the preferable meaning; for it appears that the cultivation of this fig required a variety of operations, all of which it is reasonable to suppose, were performed by the same persons. To render the tree fruitful, they scarified the bark, through which a kind of milky liquor continually distilled. This, it is said, causes a little bough to be formed without leaves, having upon it sometimes six or seven figs. The are hollow, without grains, and contain a little yellow
matter, which is generally a nest of grubs. At their extremity, a sort of water collects, which, as it prevents them from ripening, must be let out. Amos, it is probable, was employed in these various operations; which has induced Simon and others to render the words, not a gatherer of sycamore fruit, but a dresser of the sycamore tree; which includes all the culture and attendance it requires.'
In confirmation of this testimony, that a certain attention was bestowed upon the sycamore fig, to aid it to become more perfectly ripe, another traveler says: "At the time when the fruit has arrived to the size of an inch diameter, the inhabitants pare off a part of the centre point. They say that without this paring it would not come to maturity."
In Psalm 78: 47, there is an allusion to a judgment which God would send upon his unfaithful people, namely, he would destroy "their sycamore trees with frost." To see the full force of this, we must remember that naturally it is a very unusual thing for sycamore fruit to be injured by frost. It buds late in the spring. On this account it was called by the ancients arborum sapientissima, the wisest of trees, because it thus avoids the nipping frosts. The blighting of the sycamore figs was therefore the more plainly a curse from God on the people for their sins.
Some have supposed that the sycamine tree, mentioned by our Saviour, differs from the sycamore; but critics generally make it the same. "If ye had faith as a grain of mustard-seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should be done." Luke 17: 6. On this passage Paxton, applying it to the sycamore, remarks: "It strikes its large diverging roots deep into the soil; and on this account our Lord alludes to it as the most difficult to be rooted up and transferred to another situation: If ye had faith as a grain of mustard-seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea, and it should obey you.' The extreme difficulty with which this tree is transferred from its native spot to another situation, gives to the words of our Lord a peculiar force and beauty. The stronger and more diverging the root of a tree, the more difficult it must be to pluck it up, and insert it again so as to make it strike root and grow; but far more difficult still to plant it in the sea, where the soil is so far below the surface, and where the restless billows are continually tossing it from one side to another; yet, says our Lord, a task no less difficult than this to be accomplished, can the man of genuine faith perform with a word; for with God nothing is impossible, nothing difficult or laborious."
Thus we have found this tree rich in instruction and in sacred associations. How often are we reminded, by the frequent allusions of Scripture to objects in nature, how necessary to the full
understanding of the Divine Word, is a thorough acquaintance with natural history of the Bible. We sincerely hope our articles on this subject may serve our young readers in this way; and also awaken in their minds a desire to pursue the subject for themselves by the aid of other helps. Thus they will find the sacred scriptures, not only rich in themselves, but also a constant stimulus to them to seek knowledge from other sources. They will find the world of nature an interesting and instructive commentary on the world of spirit and grace.