Willow is the rendering, in the A. V., of the two following Heb. words:
עֶרֶב, ereb (only in the plur. עֲרָבַים, Sept. ἰτέα, ἄγνος), is apparently a generic term for the willow, like the Arabic gharab. Willows are mentioned in Le 23:40, among the trees whose branches were to be used in the construction of booths at the Feast of Tabernacles; in Job 40:22, as a tree which gave shade to Behemoth ("the hippopotamus"); in Isa 44; Isa 4, where it is said that Israel's offspring should spring up "as willows by the watercourses;" in the Psalm (Ps 137:2) which so beautifully represents Israel's sorrow during the time of the Captivity in Babylon, "We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof." With respect to the tree upon which the captive Israelites hung their harps, there can be no, doubt that the weeping willow (Salix Babylonica) is intended. This tree grows abundantly on the banks of the Euphrates, in other parts of Asia as in Palestine (Strand, Flora Palaest. No. 5 and 6), and also in North Africa. Bochart has endeavored to show (Phaleg, , 3) that the same country is spoken of, in Isa 15:7, as "the Valley of Willows." This, however, is very doubtful. Sprengel (Hist. Re. Heb. 1, 18, 270) seems to restrict the ereb to the Salix Babylonica; but there can scarcely be a doubt that the term is generic, and includes other species of the large family of Salices, which is probably well represented in Palestine and other Bible lands, such as the Salix alba, S. vinminalis (osier), S. Egyptiaca, which latter plant, however, Sprengel identifies with the safsaf of Abul fadli, cited by Celsius (Hierob. 2, 108); but this latter word is probably the same as
2. צִפצָפָה, tsaphtsaphah, which occurs only in Eze 17:5, "He took also of the seed of the land, and planted it in a fruitful field; he placed it by great waters, and set it as a willow-tree." Celsius, however, thinks that the word means locus planis, planities, although he at the same time gives all the evidence for the willow. First, the rabbins consider it to mean a tree, "et quidem salix;" R. Ben Melech says it is "species salicis, Arabibus tziphtzaph dicta;" while "Avicenna hoc tit. dicit tziphtzaph esse chilaf." Travelers also give us similar information. Thus Paul Lucas: "Les Arabes le nomment safsaf qui signifie en Arabe saule." Rauwolf (Travels, 1, 9), speaking of the plants he found near Aleppo, remarks, "There is also a peculiar sort of willow-trees called safsaf; etc.; the stems and twigs are long, thin, weak, and of a pale-yellow color; on their twigs here and there are shoots of a span long, like unto the Cypriotish wild fig-trees, which put forth in the spring tender and woolly flowers like unto the blossoms of the poplar-tree, only they are of a more drying quality, of a pale color, and a fragrant smell. The inhabitants pull of these great quantities, and distil a very precious and sweet water out of them." This practice is still continued in Eastern countries as far as Northern India, and was, and probably still is, well known in Egypt. Hasselquist (Trav. p. 499), under the name of calaf, apparently speaks of the same tree; and Forskal (Descript. Plant. p.1 26) identifies it with the Salix Egyptiaca, while he considers the safsaf to be the S. Babylonica.
Various uses were no doubt made of willows by the ancient Hebrews, although there does not appear to be any definite allusion to them. The Egyptians used "flat baskets of wickerwork, similar to those made in Cairo at the present day" (Wilkinson, Anc. Egypt 1, 43). Herodotus (1. 194) speaks of boats at Babylon whose framework was of willow; such coracle- shaped boats are represented in the Nineveh sculptures (see Rawlinson, Herod. 1, 268).
Of Biblical willows by far the most interesting is the weeping willow, or willow of Babylon (S. Babylonica). With its long lanceolate, finely serrated, and pointed leaves, with its smooth, slender, purplish, drooping branches, it has in all modern times been the symbol of sorrow. Before the Babylonian Captivity the willow was always associated with feelings of joyful prosperity. "It is remarkable," as Mr. Johns (Forest Trees of Britain, 2, 240) truly says, "for having been in different ages emblematical of two directly opposite feelings at one time being associated with the palm, at another with the cypress."' After the Captivity, however, this tree became the emblem of sorrow, and is frequently thus alluded to in the poetry of our own country; and "there can be no doubt," as Mr. Johns continues, "that the dedication of the tree to sorrow is to be traced to the pathetic passage in the Psalms." "The children of Israel," says lady Callcott (Scripture Herbal, p. 533), "still present willows annually in their synagogues, bound up with palm and myrtle, and accompanied with a citron."