Sycomore, Tree

sik'-o-mor, (shiqmah, Aramaic shiqema' plural shiqmim; in Septuagint wrongly translated by sukaminos, "the mulberry"; see SYCAMINE (1Ki 10:27; 1Ch 27:28; 2Ch 1:15; 9:27; Isa 9:10; Am 7:14): shiqkmoth (Ps 78:47); sukomoraia (Lu 19:4)): The sycomore-fig, Ficus sycomorus (Natural Order, Urticaceae), known in Arabic as Jummeiz, is one of the finest of the lowland trees of Palestine, and attains still greater proportions in Lower Egypt. It is evident from 1Ki 10:27; 2Ch 1:15 that it was once abundant, and at a later period it was so plentiful in the neighborhood of what is now Haifa as to give the name Sykaminon to the town which once stood near there. It is a tree which cannot flourish in the cooler mountain heights; it cannot stand frost (Ps 78:47). It was one of the distinguishing marks of Lower, as contrasted with Upper, Galilee that the sycomore could flourish there. It is highly improbable that sycomores could ever have flourished near Tekoa (compare Am 7:14), but it is quite possible that the town or individual inhabitants may have held lands in the Jordan valley or in the Shephelah on which these trees grew. Villages in Palestine today not infrequently possess estates at considerable distances; the village of Silwan (Siloam), for example, possesses and cultivates extensive fertile lands halfway to the Dead Sea. The sycomore produces small, rounded figs, about an inch long, which grow upon tortuous, leafless twigs springing from the trunk or the older branches; they are more or less tasteless. It would appear that in ancient times some treatment was adopted, such as piercing the apex of the fruit to hasten the ripening. Amos was a "nipper" (bolec) of sycomore figs (Am 7:14). The tree not uncommonly attains a height of 50 ft., with an enormous trunk; in many parts, especially where, as near the coast, the tree grows out of sandy soil, the branching roots stand out of the ground for some distance. The timber is of fair quality and was much valued in ancient times (1Ki 10:27; 2Ch 1:15; 9:27; Isa 9:10). Mummy cases and many of the best preserved wooden utensils of ancient Egyptian life are made of it. This tree must be distinguished from the English sycamore, Acer pseudo-platanus (Natural Order, Spindaceae), the "false plane tree," a kind of maple.

E. W. G. Masterman

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