is the rendering in the A.V. of four Hebrew words (אֵיל [in the plural, however, only so rendered, אֵילַים], אֵלָה, אִלָּה. andאִלּוֹן), but is usually thought to be the meaning also of two others (אַילָן and אֵילוֹן); which are all from the same or cognate roots (אוּל, אַיל, or אָלִל), significant of strength. We take each of these in regular order, and then give a general statement of the subject. For the various opinions upon the meaning of these kindred terms, see Gesenius, Thesaur. p. 47, 51, 103; and Stanley, Sinai and Pal. p. 519. SEE TRUE.
1. Eyl (אֵיל, Sept.Vat. τερέβινθος; Alex. τερέμινθος; Aq., Sym., Theod., Apivg; Vulg. campestria) occurs only in the singular number in Ge 14:6 ("El-paran"). It is uncertain whether e'l should be joined with Paran to form a proper name, or whether it is to be taken separately, as the "terebinth," or the "oak," or the "grove" of Paran. Onkelos and Saadias follow the Vulg., whence the "plain" of the A. V. (margin) (see Stanley, Sinai and Pal. p. 519,520, App.). Rosenmüller (Schol. ad 1. c.) follows Jarchi (Comment. in Pent. ad Gen; 14:6), and is for retaining the proper name. Two plurals and one collective form of el occur: eylim, eyldth, and eyldth. Elim, the second station where the Israelites halted after they had crossed the Red Sea, in all probability derived — its name from the seventy palm-trees there; the name el, which more particularly signifies an oak, being here put for any grove or plantation. Similarly the other .double form, Eloth or Elath, may refer, as Stanley (Sinai and Pal. p. 20) conjectures, to the palm-grove at Akaba. The plural eylim occurs in Isa 1:29, where probably "oaks" are intended; in Isa 61:3, and Ezra 31:14, any strong, flourishing trees may be denoted. SEE ELIM.
2. Elah (אֵלָה, Sept. τερέβινθος, δρῦς ᾿Ηλά, δένδρον ῾δένδρον συσκίαζον, Symm.]; πλάτανος in Hosea iv. 13 [δένδρον σύσκιον]; Vulg. terebinthus, quercus; A. V. "oak," "elah," "teil-tree" in Isa 6:13; "elms" in Ho 4:13). SEE ELAH.
3. Eylon (אֵילוֹן; Sept. ἡ δρῦς ἡ ὑψηλή, ἡ βάλανος ᾿Ηλων; Vulg. convallis illustris, quercus) occurs frequently in the O.T., and denotes, there can be little doubt, some kind of oak. The A. V., following the Targum, translates eylon by "plain." SEE PLAIN.
4. Ilan (Chald. אַילָן; Sept. δένδρον; Vulg. arbor) is found only in Daniel iv as the tree which Nebuchadnezzar saw in his dream. The word appears to be used for any "strong tree," the oak having the best claim to the title, to which tree probably indirect allusion may be made.
5. Ahh (אִלָּה; Sept. ἡ τέρμινθος, Aq. and Symm. ἡ δρῦς; Vulg. quercus) occurs only in Jos 24:26, and is correctly rendered "oak" by the A. V.
6. Allon (אִלּוֹן; Sept. ἡ βάλανος, δένδρον βαλάνου, δρῦς; Vulg. quercus) is uniformly rendered "oak" by the A. V., and has always been so understood by commentators. It occurs in Ge 35:8; Jos 19:32; Isa 2:13; Isa 6:13; Isa 44:14; Ho 4:13; Am 2:9; Zec 11:2.
There is much difficulty in determining the exact meanings of the several varieties of the term mentioned above; the old versions are so inconsistent that they add but little by way of elucidation. Celsius (Hierob. 1:34) has endeavored to show that eyl, eylim, eylon, elah, and allah all stand for the terebinth-tree (Pistacia terebinthus), while allon alone denotes an oak. Royle (in Kitto's Cyc. art. Alah) agrees with Celsius in identifying the elah (אֵלָה) with the terebinth, and the allon (אִלּוֹן): with the oak. Hiller (Hierophyt. 1:348) restricts the various forms of this word to different species of oak, and says no mention is made of the terebinth in the Hebrew Scriptures. Rosenmüller (Bib. Not. p. 237) gives the terebinth to eyl and elah, and the oak to allah, allon, and eylon (אֵילוֹן ). It should be stated that allon occurs in Ho 4:13, as distinguished from the other form, eldh; consequently it is necessary to suppose that two different trees are signified by the terms. Others believe that the difference is specific, and not generic that two species of oaks are denoted by the Hebrew terms, allon standing for an evergreen oak, as the Quercus pseudo-coccifera, and eldh for one of the deciduous kinds. The Pistacia vera could never be mistaken for an oak. — If, therefore, specific allusion was ever made to this tree, it probably would have been under another name than any one of the numerous forms which are used to designate the different species of the genus Quercus; perhaps under a Hebrew form allied to the Arabic butm, "the terebinth." SEE TEREBINTH.
That various species of oak may well have deserved the appellation of mighty trees is clear, from the fact that noble oaks are to this day occasionally seen in Palestine and Lebanon. On this subject we have been favored with some, valuable remarks from Dr. Hooker, who says, "The forests have been so completely cleared off all Palestine that we must not look for existing evidence of what the trees were in Biblical times and antecedently. In Syria proper there are only three common oaks. All form large trees in many countries, but very rarely now in Palestine; though that they do so occasionally is proof enough that they once did." Abraham's oak, near Hebron, is a. familiar example of a noble tree of one species, the prickly evergreen oak (Quercus pseudo-coccifera [see Tristram, Nat. Hist. of the Bible, p. 369]). Dr. Robinson (Bib. Res. 2:81) has given a minute account of it; and "his description," says Dr. Hooker, "is good, and his measurements tally with mine." If we examine the claims of the terebinth to represent the eldh, as Celsius and others assert, we shall see that in point of size it cannot compete with some of the oaks of Palestine; and that therefore if eldh ever denotes the terebinth which we by no means assert it does not. the term etymologically is applicable to it only in a second degree; for the Pistacia terebinthus, although it also occasionally grows to a great size, "'spreading its boughs," as Robinson (Bib. Res. 2:222) observes, "far and wide like a noble oak," yet does not form so conspicuously a good tree as either the Quercus pseudo-coccifera or Q. aegilops. Dr. Thomson (The Land and the Book, 1:375) remarks on this point: "There are more mighty oaks here in this immediate vicinity (Mejdel esShems) than there are terebinths in all Syria and Palestine together. I have traveled from end to end of these countries, and across them in all directions, and speak with absolute certainty." At 2:414, the same writer remarks, "We have oaks in Lebanon twice the size of this (Abraham's oak), and every way more striking and majestic." Dr. Hooker has no doubt that Thomson is correct in saying there are far finer oaks in Lebanon; "though," he observes, "I did not see any larger, and only one or two at all near it. Cyri Graham told me there were forests of noble oaks in Lebanon north of the cedar valley." It is evident from these observations that two oaks (Quercus pseudo-coccifera and Q. oegilops) are well worthy of the name of mighty trees; though it is equally true that over a greater part of the country the oaks of Palestine are at present merely bushes. The oaks of Bashan probably belong to the species known as Quercus oegilops, the Valonia oak which is said to be common in Gilead and Bashan. It rises on a stout gnarled trunk, from one to two yards in circumference, to the height of twenty to thirty feet; a rather round-headed, densely leaved tree, giving an open park-like appearance to the landscape. The wood is said to be excellent, and the tree is, like all other timber in Syria, indiscriminately cut for house-fitting and fuel. Its acorns form the valonia of commerce, of which 150,000 cwt. are yearly imported into England for the use of tanners. Another species of oak, besides those named above, is the Quercus infectoria, which is common in Galilee and Samaria. It is rather a small tree in Palestine, and seldom grows above thirty feet high, though in ancient times it might have been a noble tree. It is also called the Kermes oak (Quercus coccifera), from an insect (kernes, of the genus coccus) which adheres to the branches of this bushy evergreen shrub, in the form of small reddish balls about the size of a pea. This affords a crimson dye, formerly celebrated, but now superseded by cochineal. This dye was used by the ancient Hebrews; for the word told (תּוֹלָע), which denotes a worm, and particularly the kermes worm, denotes also the dye prepared from it (Isa 1:18; La 4:5), and is accordingly rendered κόκκινον in those passages where it occurs. For a description of the oaks of Palestine, see Dr. Hooker's paper read before the Linnnaan Society, June, 1861.
The oak is, in fact, less frequently mentioned in the original than in the A.V., where it occurs so often as to suggest that the oak is as conspicuous and as common in Palestine as in this country. But in Syria oaks are by no means common, except in hilly regions, where the elevation gives the effect of a more northern climate; and even in such circumstances it does not attain the grandeur in which it often appears in our latitudes. Indeed, Syria has not the species (Quercus robur) which forms the glory of our own forests. The "oaks of Bashan" are in Scripture mentioned with peculiar distinction (Isa 2:13; Zec 11:2), as if in the hills beyond the Jordan the oaks had been more abundant and of larger growth than elsewhere. Of these the Tyrians used to make their oars (Eze 27:6; comp. Theophr. Plant. v., 8; Val. Flac. 2:644; Strabo, 4:195), and idolaters their images (Isa 44:14). They are abundant even t at the present day. In the hilly regions of Bashan and Gilead. Burckhardt repeatedly mentions forests of thick oaks — thicker than any forests he had seen in Syria, making a grateful shade, and imparting to the scenery a European character (Syria, p. 265, 348). On that side of the river a thick oak forest occurs as far south as the vicinity of Amman, the capital of the Ammonites (p. 356). Oaks of low stature are frequent in the hills and plains near the sources of the Jordan (p. 45, 312, 315); and sdme of large dimensions are found in different parts of the country, beside the natural reservoirs of water fed by springs (p. 193, 315). On the lower slopes of Lebanon low oak-trees are numerous, and the inhabitants employ their branches in the construction of the flat roofs of their dwellings (p. 4, 7, 18, 193, 312, etc.). Lord Lindsav also makes frequent mention of oaks in Palestine. He confirms their existing abundance in the countries of Bashan and Gilead. — He calls them "noble prickly oaks," and "evergreen oaks," and notices a variety of the latter with a broader leaf than usual (Travels, 2:132, 124, 137; see also Pococke. East, 3:270; Hasselquist, Trav. p. 554). But oak- trees are by no means wanting on the west of the Jordan, in the proper Land of Canaan. Lord Lindsav describes the hills of southern Judaea about Hebron as covered to the top with low shrubs of the prickly oak. Fine park scenery, composed chiefly of prickly and evergreen oaks, occurs between Samaria and Mount Carmel. The same trees abound on the southern prolongations of that mountain, and on the banks of the Kishon. The thick woods which cover Mount Tabor are composed chiefly of oaks and pistachio-trees; and oaks are found in the valleys which trend from that mountain (Lindsay, 2:51, 77, 85). Hasselquist found groves of the Kermes oak (Queicus coccifera) in the valleys beyond the plains of Acre, on the road to Nazareth (Travels, p. 153). Under oaks the dead were buried (Ge 35:8; comp. 1Sa 31:13;:1Ch 11:12), offerings were made to idols (Ho 4:13; comp. Virg. Geor. 3:332; Ovid, Met. vii, 743 sq.; Kiesling. De Superstitione Israel. sub quercub. cult. [Leips. 1748]), and national assemblies were held (Jg 9:6,37). Single oaks of great height served also as landmarks (1Sa 10:3), and bore a distinguishing name (Jg 9:6,37, where אֵלוֹן, oak, is mistakenly rendered plain in the English version). SEE MEONENIM; SEE OAK-WORSHIP.