(כֹּפֶר, kopher; Sept. κύπρος ; Lat. cyprus, the cyprus-flower), rendered in our margin cypress (Song 1:14; Song 4:13).
It is entirely different from the modern gum camphor, although the names appear to be etymologically connected. The latter is a product of a tree largely cultivated in the island of Formosa, the Camphora officinarum, of the Nat. order Lauracece. There is another tree, the Dryobalancps aromatica of Sumatra, which also yields camphor; but it is improbable that the substance secreted by either of these trees was known to the ancients. The plant in question is conceded to be the el-Henna of the Arabs (Lawsonia inermis and spinosa of Linnaeus, which Lamarck and some other naturalists regard as the same species, and name it Lawsonia alba, alleging that the thorny ends of the branches characteristic of the latter are due only to old age; but each seems to retain its peculiar traits under cultivation), described by Dioscordes (1:125) and Pliny (12:24) as growing in Egypt, and producing odoriferous flowers, from which was made the oleum Cyprineum. Mariti remarks that "the shrub known in the Hebrew language by the name of kopher is common in the island of Cyprus, and thence had its Latin came;" also, that "the Botrus Cypri has been supposed to be a kind of rare and exquisite grapes, tiansplanted from Cyprus to Engaddi; but the Botrus is known to the natives of Cyprus as an odoriferous shrub called henna, or alkanna." So R. Ben Melek (ad Song of Solomon 1:14), as quoted and translated by Celsius (Hierobot. 1:223). If we refer to the works of the Arabs, we find both in Serapion and Avicenna reference from their Hinna to the description by Dioscorides and Galen of Kupros or Cypros. Sprengel states (Comment. on Dioscor. 1:124, note) that the inhabitants of Nulbia call the henna-plant Khojreh; he refers to Delisle (Flor. Egypt. p. 12). If we examine the works of Oriental travelers and naturalists, we shall find that this plant is universally esteemed in Eastern countries, and appears to have been so from the earliest times, both on account of the fragrance of its flowers and the coloring properties of its leaves (see Prosp. Alpin.100:13). It was especially abundant near Ashkelon (Pliny, 12:51; Josephus, War, 4:8, 3). Thus Rauwolff, when at Tripoli (Travels, iv), "found there another tree, not unlike unto our privet, by the Arabians called A lcana or Henna, and by the Grecians, in their vulgar tongue, Schenna, which they have from Egypt, where, but 'above all' in Cayre, they grow in abundance. The Turks and Moors nurse these up with great care and diligence because of their sweet-smelling flowers. They also, as I am informed, keep their leaves all winter, which leaves they powder and mix with the juice of citrons, and stain therewith against great holidays the hair and nails of their children of a red color; which color may perhaps be seen with us on the manes and tails of Turkish horses" (see also Belon, 2:74). The variety called Lawsonia spinosa is larger than the other, growing to a height of from four to six feet; its flowers are less abundant and less fragrant, but have a more powerfully coloring property. In appearance both plants resemble myrtle; the flowers (which grow in clusters) are small and beautifully white, and exhale an agreeable odor. The women take great pleasure in them. They hold them in their hand, carry them in their bosom, and keep them in their apartments to perfume the air (comp. Song 1:13). To prepare the leaves for the use to which the plant is so generally applied by the women of Egypt, they are gathered about the commencement of spring, and, having been exposed to the air. till thoroughly dry, are reduced to powder, which being afterward made into a paste, is then fit for use. This paste requires about five hours to dry upon whatever part it may be laid, and the red tinge it imparts is durable. It was anciently applied to the nails of the hands and feet, to the soles of the feet and the palms of the hands, and sometimes to the hair. Brides in Persia are still thus ornamented on the night before marriage (Sir Wm. Ouseley's Travels in Persia, 3:565). From the appearance of the nails of mummies, there can be no doubt that it was used in the same manner by the Egyptians as it is by their descendants in the present day. The expression rendered in De 21:12, in directing the treatment of a female captive, "pare her nails," is supposed to mean "adorn her nails," and would imply the antiquity of this practice, although others are of opinion that the marginal reading, "suffer to grow," is the more correct sense, as an act of mourning. SEE PAINT.
⇒Bible concordance for CAMPHIRE.
For the scientific classification of this plant, see the Penny Cyclopeadiads.v. Lawsonia. The shrub is figured and described by Sonnini, Travels, 1:164; see also Oedmann, Samlt. 1:91; 6:102 sq.; Hasselquist,
Trav. p. 503; Shaw, Trav. p. 103; Hartmann, Hebraer. 2:356 sq.'; Russel, Aleppo, 1:134; Mariti, p. 541; Forskal, Flor. p. 55; Burckhardt, Arabia, p. 442; Lane, Mod. Eg. 1:52; Rosenmüller, Bib. Bot. p. 133; Wilkinson, Anc. Eg 2:345. SEE BOTANY.