Ju'niper (דֹתֶם, ro'them, prob. so called from its use in binding; Sept. in 1Ki 19:4, ῾Ράθαμ v.r. ῾Ραθμέν; in verse 5, φυτόν; in Job 30:4, ξύλον; in Ps 120:4, ἐρημικός; Vulg. juniperus. but in Ps 120:4, desolatorius), a shrub or tree mentioned as affording shade to Elijah in his flight to Horeb (1Ki 19:4-5), and as affording material for fuel, and also, in extreme cases, for human food (Ps 120:4; Job 30:4). The older translators seem to have been unacquainted with it, while the modern versions have generally followed the Vulgate in referring it to the juniper (see Stengel in the Biblioth. Brem. 7, fasc. 5; Hiller, Hierophyt. 1, 253; Sprengel, Gesch. d. Botan. 1, 25), which, however, seems to be indicated by a different Hebrew word. SEE HEATH.
The different species of juniper have by some botanists been ranked under Cedrus, the true species being distinguished by the title of Cedrus baccifera, and the pines by that of Cedrus conifera. Of Juniperus, the
ἄρκευθος of the Greeks and abhul of the Arabs, there are several species in Syria. Of these, J. communis, the common juniper, is a very widely diffused species, being found in Europe and Asia, in the plains of northern and in the mountains of southern latitudes, usually forming a low shrub, but in some situations being fifteen feet, and even thirty feet high, J. oxycedrus, the sharp or prickly, or brown berried juniper, closely allied to the common juniper, is an evergreen shrub, from ten to twelve, but sometimes even twenty feet high. It was found by M. Boyd on Mount Lebanon. J. drupacea, or large fruited juniper, is a species which was introduced into Europe from the East under the Arabic name habhel. This name, however, is applied rather to all the species than to any one in particular. It is a native of Mount Cassius, and is thought to be the same as the greater juniper found by Belon on Mount Taurus, which he describes as rising to the height of a cypress. J. Phoenicea, or Phoenician juniper, is the great juniper of Dioscorides, and is a native of the south of Europe, Russia, and Syria. It has imbricated leaves, bears some resemblance to the cypress, and attains a height of from twenty to thirty feet. J. Lycia, or Lycian juniper, is a dwarf species, and J. Sabina, or the common Savine, is usually a low spreading shrub, but sometimes rises to the height often or twelve feet. It is a native of the south of Europe and Syria. Of these species, J. oxycedrus and J. Phoenicea are the only species which could have been the berosh of Scripture. Some are of opinion that the wood of J. oxycedrus, rather than that of the so called cedar of Lebanon is the cedar wood so famed in ancient times for its durability, and which was therefore employed in making statues. It is to the wood of certain species of juniper that the name of cedar wood is now specially applied. SEE CEDAR.
The rothem, however, is no doubt the plant still called by the Arabs retem, and commonly known as Spanish broom. In Loudon's Encyclopoedia of Plants it is named Spartium monospermum, or white single-seeded broom, and is described as a very handsome shrub, remarkable for its numerous snow white flowers. Osbeck remarks that it grows like willow bushes along the shores of Spain, as far as the flying sands reach, where scarcely any other plant exists except the Ononis serpens, or creeping restharrow. The, use of this, shrub is very great in stopping the sand. The leaves and young branches furnish delicious food for goats. It converts the most, barren spot into a fine odoriferous garden by its flowers, which continue a long time. It seems to shelter hogs and goats against the scorching heat of the sun. The twigs are used for tying bundles, and all kinds of herbs that are brought to market are fastened together with them. The Spaniards call it retama, from the Arabic name retem. It is now referred by all botanists to the genus Genista, and called G. monosperma. It is described by De Candolle as a branching and erect shrub, with slender, wand like, flexible branches; leaves comparatively few, linear, oblong, pressed to the branches, pubescent; inflorescence in few flowered lateral racemes; petals white, silky, nearly equal to one another; legumes oval, inflated, smooth, membranaceous, one to two seeded. It occurs on the sterile shores of Portugal, Spain, Barbary, and Egypt. It was found by Forskal at Suez, and named by him Genista Spartium? with roetoem as its Arabic name. Bove also found it at Suez, and again in different parts of Syria. Belon also mentions finding it in several places when traveling in the East. Burckhardt also frequently mentions the shrub rethem in the deserts to the south of Palestine, and he thought it to be the same plant as the Genista roetoem of Forskal. He states that whole plains are sometimes covered with this shrub, and that such places are favorite places of pasturage, as sheep are remarkably fond of the pods. Lord Lindsay again, while traveling in the middle of the valleys of Mount Sinai, says, "The rattam, a species of broom, bearing a white flower, delicately streaked with purple, afforded me frequent shelter from the sun while in advance of the caravan" (Letters, p. 183). Dr. Robinson, in his journey from Akabah to Jerusalem, says (Researches, 2, 124): "The shrubs which we had met with throughout the desert still continued. One of the principal of these is the retem, a species of the broom plant, the Genista roetoem of Forskal. This is the largest and most conspicuous shrub of these deserts, growing thickly in the water courses and valleys. Our Arabs always selected the place of encampment, if possible, in a spot where it grew, in order to be sheltered by it at night from the wind; and during the day, when they often went on in advance of the camels, we found them not unfrequently sitting or sleeping under a bush of retem to protect them from the sun. It was in this very desert, a day's journey from Beersheba, that the prophet Elijah lay down and slept beneath the same shrub" (1Ki 19:4-5, "under a juniper tree"). It affords shade and protection, both in heat and storm, to travelers (Virgil, Georg. 2, 434, 436), and Bonar describes it as particularly useful for shelter in the peninsula of Arabia Petraea (Sinai, p. 190).
In the other passages the meaning is not so clear, and therefore different interpretations have been given. Thus Job (Job 30:4) says of the half famished people who despised him, "Who cut up mallows by the bushes, and rothem roots for their food." Though the broom root may perhaps be more suitable for diet than the juniper, yet they are both too bitter and medicinal to be considered or used as nutritious, and therefore some say that "when we read that rothem roots were their food, we are to suppose a great deal more than the words express, namely, that their hunger was so violent as not to refrain even from these roots," which were neither refreshing nor nourishing. Dr. Thomson's ingenious suggestion (Land and Book, 2, 438), that perhaps the mallows only were used for food, and the rothem roots as fuel to cook them with, seems hardly tenable from the phraseology. Ursinus supposes (Arboret. Bibl. c. 27) that instead of the roots of this broom we are to understand a plant which grows upon these roots, as well as upon some other plants, and which is well known by the English name of broom rape, the orobanche of botanists. These are sometimes eaten. Thus Dioscorides (2, 136) observes that the orobanche, which grows from the roots of broom, was sometimes eaten raw, or boiled like asparagus. Celsius again suggests an amendment in the sentence, and thinks that we should understand it to mean that the broom roots were required for fuel, and not for food, as the Hebrew words signifying fuel and food, though very similar to each other, are very different in their derivation (see Gesenius, Thesaur. p. 1317; on the contrary, Michaelis, Neue Orient. Bibl. 5, 4, 5), and this sense is confirmed by some of the Talmudical writers, as R. Levi ben-Gerson, in his, remarks on this passage, says. The broom is the only fuel procurable in many of these desert situations (see Thevenot, Trav. 1, 222). In Ps 120:4, David observes that the calumnies of his enemies were "like arrows of the mighty, with coals of rothem." The broom, being no doubt very commonly used as fuel in a country where it is abundant and other plants scarce, might readily suggest itself in a comparison; but it is also described as sparkling, burning, and crackling more vehemently than other wood, and the Arabs regard it as yielding the best charcoal. Thus the tree which afforded shade to Elijah may have furnished also the "coals" or ashes for baking the cake which satisfied his hunger (1Ki 19:6). See Celsius, Hierobot. 1, 246; Oedmann, Verm. Sammlungen, 2, 8; Forskal, Flora Aeg. et Arab. p. 56 and 214; Schultens, Comment. on Job, ad loc.; Robinson, Research. 1, 299; Burckhardt, Syria, p. 483; Pliny. H.N. 24, 9, 65; Balfour, Plants of the Bible, p. 50; Stanley, S. and P. p. 20, 79, 521.