(שַׁטָּה, Shittah, for שַׁנתָּה, shintah, properly the thorny, if Heb. [see below]; i.q. the Arabic Sunt; only once in the sing. Isa 41:19; Sept. πύξος, Vulg. pinea; A.V. "Shittah tree") or SHITTIM (שַׁטַּי ם, Shittim, plur. of the same, used with עֵצ, ets, tree or wood; Sept. ἄσηπτος, Vulg, setim), a tree, generally regarded as the acacia, the wood of which was extensively employed in the construction of the tabernacle, the boards and pillars being made of it; the ark of the covenant and the staves for carrying it, the table of show bread with its staves, the altar of burned offerings and the altar of incense with their respective staves, were also constructed out of this wood (see Ex 25; Ex 26; Ex 36; Ex 37:29). In Isa 41:19 the same tree is mentioned with the "cedar, the myrtle, and the oil tree," as one which God would plant in the wilderness. The Heb. term (שַׁטָּה) is, by Jablonski, Celsius, and many other authors, derived from the Egyptian word, the נ being dropped; and, from an Arabic MS. cited by Celsius, it appears that the Arabic term also comes from the Egyptian, the true Arabic name for the acacia being karadh (Hierob. 1, 508). The Egyptian name of the acacia is sont, sant, or santh. See Jablonski (Opusc. 1, 261), Rossius (Etymol. Egypt. p. 273), and Prosper Alpinus (Plant. Egypt. p. 6), who thus speaks of this tree: "The acacia, which the Egyptians call sant, grows in localities in Egypt remote from the sea, and large quantities of this tree are produced on the mountains of Sinai, overhanging the Red Sea. That this tree is, without doubt, the true acacia of the ancients, or the Egyptian thorn, is clear from several indications, especially from the fact that no other spinous tree occurs in Egypt which so well answers to the required characters. These trees grow to the size of a mulberry tree, and spread their branches aloft." "The acacia tree," says Dr. Shaw, "being by much the largest and most common tree in these deserts (Arabia Petraea), we have some reason to conjecture that the shittim wood was the wood of the acacia, especially as its flowers are of an excellent smell, for the shittah tree is, in Isa 41:19, joined with the myrtle and other fragrant shrubs." Bruce, as quoted by Dr. Harris, remarks that "the acacia seems the only indigenous tree in the Thebaid. The male is called the Saiel; from it proceeds the gium arabic on incision with an axe. This gum chiefly comes from Arabia Petraea, where these trees are most numerous." Kitto says the required species is found in either the Acacia gummifera or in the A. Seyal, or rather in both. They both grow abundantly in the valleys of that region in which the Israelites wandered for forty years, and both supply products which must have rendered them of much value to the Israelites. We think the probability is that the A. Seyal supplied the shittim wood, if, indeed, the name did not denote acacia wood in general. This tree grows from fifteen to twenty feet in. height. So M. Bove, "Le lendemain, en traversant le Voode (Wady) Schen, je vis un grand nombre d'Acacia Seyal; cet arbre s'eleve a la hauteur de vingt a vingt-cinq pieds. Les Arabes font avec son bois du charbon qu'ils vont vendre a Suez." The A. Seyal is very common in some parts of the peninsula of Sinai (M. Bove, Voyage du Caire au Maont Sinai, Ann. des Scienc. Nat. 1834, sec. ser. 1, 166; Stanley, Sin. and Pal. p. 20, 69, 298). These trees are more common in Arabia than in Palestine, though there is a valley on the west side of the Dead Sea, the
Wady Seyal, which derives its name from a few acacia trees there. The A. Seyal, like the A. A. rabica, yields the well known substance called gum arabic, which is obtained by incisions in the bark, but it is impossible to say whether the ancient Jews were acquainted with its use. From the tangled thickets into which the stem of this tree expands, Stanley thinks is to be traced the use of the plural form of the Heb. noun Shittim. "The wild acacia (Mimosa Nilotica), under the name of Sunt," the same writer says (ibid. p. 20), "everywhere represents the seneh or senna of the burning bush." But neither of these conjectures appears to be well founded. Besides the above, there is another species, the A. tortilis, common on Mount Sinai. Although none of the above named trees are sufficiently large to Yield planks ten cubits long by one and a half cubits wide, which we are told was the size of the boards that formed the tabernacle (Ex 36:21), yet there is an acacia that grows near Cairo, viz. the A. serissa, which would supply boards of the required size. There is, however, no evidence to show that this tree ever grew in the peninsula of Sinai. And though it would be unfair to draw any conclusion from such negative evidence, still it is probable that "the boards" (הִקּרָשַׁי ם) were supplied by one of the other acacias. There is, however, no necessity to limit the meaning of the Heb. קֶרֶשׁ (keresh) to "a single plank." In Eze 27:6 the same word, in the singular number, is applied in a collective sense to "the deck" of a ship (comp. our "on board"). The keresh of the tabernacle, therefore, may denote "two or more boards joined together," which, from being thus united, may have been expressed by a singular noun. These acacias, which are for the most part tropical plants, must not be confounded with the tree (Robinia pseudo-acacia) popularly known by this name in England, which is a North American plant, and belongs to a different genus and suborder. The true acacias, most of which possess hard and durable wood (comp. Pliny, [H.N. 3, 19; Josephus, Ant. 3, 6, 1), belong to the order Leguminosoe, suborder Mimoseo. Livingstone (Trav. in S. Africa, abridged ed., p. 77) thinks the" A. girajga (camel thorn) supplied the wood for. the tabernacle, etc. "It is," he adds, "an imperishable mwood, while that which is usually supposed to be the slittim (A. Vilotica), wants beauty and soon decays." But there is no, evidence that this tree grows in Arabia. The A. Seyal is the only timber tree of any size in the Arabian desert. It is a gnarled and very thorny tree, somewhat like the solitary hawthorn in its habit of growth, but much larger. It flourishes in the driest situations, and is scattered over the whole of the Sinaitic peninsula. It is also abundant in the many ravinies which open on the Dead Sea at Engedi, and all along its western shores. Several places on the eastern shore also derive their names from its presence. SEE SHITTIM. The wood is very hard and close grained, very much resembling that of the yellow locust, of a fine orange-brown color, with a darker heart, and admirably adapted for cabinet work." Its leaves are small and pinnate, and in spring it is covered with its round tufts of yellow blossoms, which grow in clusters round the branches, like little balls of fibre. The bark is yellow and smooth, like that of the ailantus. It is powerfully astringent, and is used by the Bedawin for tanning yellow leather. The branches are often cut by the natives for making charcoal, but the camels browse on them when young and tender. The bark exudes a gum, the gum arabic of commerce, not only by incisions, but spontaneously, which the Arabs collect for sale and occasionally employ for food. They also say that it allays thirst. See Tristram, Nat., Hist. of the Bible, p. 390 sq. SEE THORN.