(תִּרזָה, tirzah', from its hardness; Sept. ἀγριοβάλανος, but most copies omit; Vulg. ilex) is mentioned only in Isa 44:14: "He (i.e. the carpenter, ver. 13) heweth him down cedars, and taketh the cypress," for the purpose of making an idol. There is no doubt that the wood must have been of a texture fit to be worked, as well as to retain the shape given to it. Though translated "cypress," we have no proof that this tree was intended, but it is well suited for the purpose indicated. See FIR. The Greek translators, Aquila and Theodotion, have employed a word which denotes the wild or forest oak (ἀγριοβάλανος). The oldest Latin version renders the Heb. word by ilex, "the evergreen oak" (Rosenmüller, p. 317). As the wood of this species is well fitted for being worked into images, and was so employed by the ancients, it is possible that it may be that intended, though we have no satisfactory proof of its being so. Celsius (Hierob. 2:269, 70) defends the rendering of the Vulg. in Isa 44:14, but the etymology of the word from תָּרִז, to be hard (as in Latin we get robur, an oak), equally well suits the cypress, and there is great probability that the tree mentioned by Isaiah with the cedar and the oak is identical with the "cypress" (κυπάρισσος) of the Apocrypha. In Ecclesiasticus 24:13, it is described as growing upon the mountains of Hermon; and it has been observed by Kitto (Phys. Hist. of Palest. p. 224) that if this be understood of the great Hermon, it is illustrated by Pococke, who tells us that it is the only tree which grows towards the summit of Lebanon. In Ecclesiasticus 1, 10, the high-priest is compared to a "cypress towering to the cloud," on account of his tall and noble figure. It is usually supposed that the words translated "fir," "gopher-wood," and "thyine-wood," in our version of the Bible indicate varieties of the juniper or cypress. (See each in its alphabetical order.)
Cypress, the κυπάρισσος of the Greeks and the suroo of the Arabs, called also by them shujrut-alhyat, or tree of life, is the Cupressus sempervirens, or the evergreen cypress of botanists. This tree is well known as being tapering in form, in consequence of its branches growing upright and close to the stem, and also that in its general appearance it resembles the Lombardy poplar, so that the one is often mistaken for the other when seen in Oriental drawings. In southern latitudes it usually grows to a height of fifty or sixty feet. Its branches are closely covered with very small imbricated leaves, which remain on the trees five or six years. Du Hamel states that he has observed on the bark of young cypresses small particles of a substance resembling gum tragacanth, and that he has seen bees taking great pains to detach these particles, probably to supply some of the matter required for forming their combs. This cypress is a native of the Grecian Archipelago, particularly of Candia (the ancient Crete) and Cyprus, and also of Asia Minor, Syria, and Persia. It may be seen on the coast of Palestine, as well as in the interior, as the Mohammedans plant it in their cemeteries. That it is found on the mountains of Syria is evident from the quotations by Celsius (Hierobot . 1:133), from Cyril of Alexandria (in Esaiam, p. 848), Jerome (Comment. in Ho 14:6), and others. SEE CEDAR. The wood of the cypress is hard, fragrant, and of a remarkably fine close grain, very durable, and of a beautiful reddish hue, which Pliny says it never loses (Hist. Nat. 16:33). As to the opinion respecting the durability of the cypress-wood entertained by the ancients, it may be sufficient to adduce the authority of Pliny, who says that "the statue of Jupiter, in the Capitol, which was formed of cypress, had existed above 600 years without showing the slightest symptom of decay, and that the doors of the temple of Diana at Ephesus, which were also of cypress, and were 400 years old, had the appearance of being quite new." This wood was used for a variety of purposes, as for wine-presses, poles, rafters, and joists, and was an especial favorite for funereal grounds. Horace says (Carm. ii. 14, 23) that whatever was thought worthy of being handed down to remote posterity was preserved in cypress or cedar wood; and Virgil refers to it in similar terms (Georg. 2:442; AEn. v. 64). (See Penny Cycloepedia, s.v. Cupressus.) SEE BOTANY.