a modified form of the Greek ὄνυξ, a finger-nail, is used in the A.V. for the Heb. שׁחֵלֶת, sheche'leth (prop. a shell, from a root signifying to scale or peel off), which occurs only in Ex 30:34 (Sept. ὄνυξ; Vulg. onyx) as one of the ingredients of the sacred perfume. Similarly in Ecclesiasticus 24:15, wisdom is compared to the pleasant odor yielded by "galbanum, onyx, and sweet storax. Most versions, Hebrew interpreters and Talmudists, understand the Unguis odoratus, the well-known Constantinople "sweet-hoof' (Blatta Byzantina) of the shops. It consists of the shells of several kinds of muscles, which when burned produce a scent similar to that of the castoreum. (See passages of Arabic and other authors in Bochart, Hieroz. 3:796 sq.) There can be little doubt that the ὄνυξ of Dioscorides (2:10) and the onyx of Pliny (32:10) are identical with the operculum of a Strombus, perhaps S. lenztiginosus. There is frequent mention of the onyx in the writings of Arabian authors, and it would appear from them that the operculum of several kinds of Strombus were prized as perfumes. The following is Dioscorides's description of the ὄνυξ: "The onyx is the operculum of a shell-fish resembling the purpura, which is found in India in the nard-producing lakes; it is odorous, because the shell- fish feed on the nard, and is collected after the heat has dried up the marshes: that is the best kind which comes from the Red Sea, and is whitish and shining; the Babylonian kind is dark, and. smaller than the other; both have a sweet odor when burned, something like castoreum." It is not easy to see what Dioscorides can mean by "nard-producing lakes." The ὄνυξ, "'nail," or "claw," seems to point to the operculum of the Strombid, which is of a claw shape and serrated, whence the Arabs call the mollusk "the devil's claw;" for Unguis odoratus, or Blatta Byzantina — for under both these terms apparently the devil-claw (Teufelsklau of the Germans) is alluded to in old English writers on Materia Medica has by some been supposed no longer to exist. Dr. Lister laments its loss, believing it to have been a good medicine, "from its strong aromatic smell." Dr. Gray,; of the British Museum, says that the opercula of the different kinds of Strombidae agree with the figures of Blatta Byzantina and Unguis odoratus in the old books; with regard to the odor he writes, "The horny opercula when burned all emit an odor which some may call sweet, according to their fancy." Mr. Daniel Hanbury procured some specimens in Damascus in October (1860), and a friend of his bought some in Alexandria a few months previously. The article appears to be always mixed with the opercula of some species of Fusus. As regards the perfume ascribed to this substance, it does not appear to deserve the character of the excellent odor which has been attributed to it, though it is not without an aromatic scent. See a figure of the true Blatta Byzantina in Matthiolus's Comment. In Dioscor. (2:8), where there is a long discussion on the subject; also a fig. of B. Byzant. and the operculum of Fusus in Pomet's Histoire des Drogues (1694, pt. ii, p. 97). "Mansfield Parkyns," writes Mr. Hanbury, "in his Life in Abyssinia (1:419), mentions among the exports from Massowah a certain article called dufu, which he states is the

operculum of a shell, and that it is used in Nubia as a perfume, being burned with sandal-wood." Without this authority of the ancient versions, the Syriac etymology of the word, namely, to run in drops, exude, distil, would lead to the idea of a resinous and odoriferous substance of the vegetable kingdom. Accordingly Bochart (l. c.) would refer the word to a kind of resin called bdellium, a transparent aromatic gum found in Arabia; while Jarchi explains it of a smooth root, resembling a nail. Bahr gives the preference to this view (Symbol. 1:422), on the ground that the odor of the burned shells is not pleasant. But this is not a sufficient reason for rejecting the common explanation, as its properties might be essentially modified by mixture with other aromatic substances. Whatever is meant by the sea-nail, whether the shells or the operculum of any of the marine mollusca, the scale-like covering of their eggs, or any other production or part of an animal, it seems improbable that any such substance could have been one of the constituent spices of the most holy perfume; not only because we know of none bearing any powerful and agreeable odor, but specially because all marine creatures that were not finned and scaled fishes were unclean, and as such could not have been touched by the priests or used in the sanctuary. If, therefore, the substance denoted were of such an origin, it could only have been used by the Hebrews in ignorance of the fact. For further information on this subject, see Rumph, Amiboinische Rar-itdten- Kamnme,- cap. xvii, p. 48 (the German ed. Vienna, 1766); and comp. also Sprengel, Comm-enf. ad Dioscor. 2:10; Forskal, Desc. A sinm. p. 143 ("Unguis odoratus"); Philos. Transactions, 17:641; Johnston, Introd. to Conchol. p. 77; Gesennius, Thesaur. p. 1388.,

Bible concordance for ONYCHA.

Definition of onycha

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