Sight Magazine – GreenSight: Allon or Oak

The “allon” (also called “elon”) mentioned in the Old Testament, is considered oak (in fact, “allon” is the modern Hebrew word for oak). Allon means strong and mighty while the word El is the Hebrew name for God. Oak fits this meaning well, as it is considered a strong tree.

There are five species of oak trees in Israel.
I. Palestine oak or common oak (Quercus calliprinos)
ii. Tabor oak (Quercus ithaburensis), also called Valonia oak (Quercus aegilops)
iii. Kermes oak (Quercus coccifera)
iv. Boissier oak, also called tola oak (Quercus boissieri)
v. Oak cork (Quercus suber)

An oak from Palestine. PHOTO: Davidbena (licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0)

The two most common oak species are the common oak and the Tabor oak, but the kermes oak is the most abundant oak found in Israel, growing on its rocky hills. Common oak, cork oak, and kermes oak are evergreen trees, while Tabor oak and bush oak are all deciduous.

Palestine or common oak (Quercus calliprinos) is a holm oak. It is a small to medium-sized tree that can grow up to 18 feet tall, but is often much smaller. It is found in the valleys and hills of Judea and Galilee. It has prickly serrated leaves that grow up to two inches long. Acorns are three to four centimeters long and have a diameter of two to three centimeters.

“The two most common oak species are the common oak and the Tabor oak, but the kermes oak is the most abundant oak found in Israel, growing on its rocky hills. Common oak, cork oak, and kermes oak are evergreen trees, while Tabor oak and bush oak are all deciduous. “

Tabor oak (Quercus ithaburensis) is a majestic deciduous tree. Although in the warmer part of the country, such as the upper Jordan River, the leaves can persist throughout the winter. It varies in height from 10 to 25 meters high and can have a crown perimeter of 20 meters. It is usually noticed because of its well-developed trunk. It is often up to five meters tall before branching out. It does not like cold winters, so it grows only at low elevations and is found in areas such as Sharon, Lower Galilee, Hulah, and Dan Valleys. The leaves of Tabor oak are shiny green above and gray below. They are oval in shape, are four to nine centimeters long, and typically have 7 to 10 pairs of teeth along the edges. However, these teeth are not sharp like the Palestinian oak. This tree bears enormous acorns.

Kermes oak (Quercus coccifera) of the western Mediterranean, is closely related to the Palestinian oak (Quercus calliprinos), indeed, it is treated as a subspecies or variety thereof by some botanists. The Kermes oak differs from the Palestinian oak by its smaller size. It is a shrubby tree that usually grows only four to six meters tall, but can sometimes reach 10 meters. It is a thorny green oak that branches out at the base. It is profusely covered with leaves and produces abundant acorns. Sometimes the kermes oak is identified as the elah.

Box oak, also called tola oak (Quercus boissieri), is known in Hebrew as Allon Hatola. The name tola comes from the name of the crimson worm (coccus ilicis) which is called tola in Hebrew. This worm (more precisely a cochineal) lives on the branches of this tree (as it does on the Tabor oak). He produced the scarlet color which was used as a dye in the curtains of the tabernacle and on the clothes of the high priest. The box oak has a tall, straight trunk and is deciduous. It has elongated acorns which are both thinner and longer than other oak species in Israel. They grow up to four centimeters long. The box oak typically grows above 800 meters and is found in the hills of the Golan Heights, Mount Hermon, Galilee, Mount Carmel, Samaria, and the Judean Hills.

Cork oak (Quercus suber) is a holm oak that reaches about 20 meters in height. Its leaves are three to seven centimeters long and its acorns are about two to three centimeters long. They are oval or oblong in shape. This tree is found in the dense scrub of the Mediterranean coast and in forest areas further inland.

There are a number of references to allon in the Old Testament. Genesis 35: 8 records how Deborah (Rebecca’s nurse) was buried under an allon tree. The place was known as Allon Baccut, which literally means “oak of weeping”.

Writing in 1992, English botanist Nigel Hepper said that “the practice of marking graves with oaks and terebinths still continues to this day and several beautiful evergreen oaks can be seen, for example along the road from Jerusalem to the coast “.

The oaks of Bashan are mentioned several times in the Old Testament, notably by the prophet Isaiah:
“The Almighty Lord has a day in store
for all the proud and the noble,
for all that is exalted
(and they will be humiliated),
for all the cedars of Lebanon, high and high,
and everyone [oaks] from Bashan,
for all the imposing mountains
and all the high hills,
for each high tower
and every fortified wall,
for each merchant vessel
and any majestic ship.
The arrogance of man will be reduced
and the pride of men humbled. “
– Isaiah 2: 12-17



Zechariah also mentions the oaks of Bashan when they existed as a dense forest:
“Open your doors, O Lebanon,
so that the fire devours your cedars!
Groan, O pine, for the cedar has fallen;
the majestic trees are ruined!
Moan, come on [oaks] from Bashan;
the dense forest has been cut down!

“Hear the groan of the shepherds;
their rich pastures are destroyed!
Hear the roar of the lions;
the lush thicket of the Jordan is ruined! “
– Zechariah 11: 1-2

The wood of Allon de Bashan was used for making oars as it is recorded in Ezekiel 27: 6: “They made all your pine wood from Senir; they took an erez [cedar] from Lebanon to make you a mast. allon [oaks] from Bashan they made your oars; of cypress wood from the coasts of Cyprus, they made your bridge, inlaid with ivory. “

God, through the prophet Isaiah, made a promise regarding Judah’s punishment for allon. He says that even if there will only be one stump of allon left, they will still grow again:
So I said, ‘For how long, O Lord?’ And he answered: “Until the cities remain in ruins and without inhabitants, until the houses are forsaken, and the fields are ruined and wasted, until the Lord has sent all the people away. and that the country be completely abandoned. And if a tenth remains in the land, it will again be devastated. But like the terebinth [elah] and come on [oak] leave the stumps when they are cut, so the holy seed will be the stump in the earth. “- Isaiah 6: 11-13

The wood of Allon, like that of other trees, was used to make idols, as Isaiah 44: 14-15 reports: “He cut down cedars. [erez], or maybe took a cypress [tirzah] where do we go [oak]. He let it grow among the trees of the forest, or planted a pine [oren], and the rain made him grow … he also shapes a god and worships him; he makes an idol and prostrates himself to it. “

The people made sacrifices under the allon trees as reported in Hosea 4:13:
“They sacrifice on top of the mountains
and burn offerings on the hills,
under allon [oak]poplar [livneh] and terebinth [elah],
where the shade is pleasant.
That’s why your daughters turn to prostitution
and your daughters-in-law to adultery. “

Allon was a tree of strength. Amos 2: 9 says, “I destroyed the Amorite before them, although he was as great as cedars. [erez] and strong like allon [oaks]. I destroyed its fruit above and its roots below. ”

That the allon was an important and remarkable tree is seen in Joshua 19:33 where the allon was used as a marker for the boundary of the tribal area of ​​Naphtali: “The sixth lot went out for Naphtali, clan by clan: Their limit went to Héléph and allon [large] tree in Zaanannim, passing Adami Nekeb and Jabneel in Lakkum and ending at the Jordan ”. Specifically, this allon may have been Tabor oak, due to its majestic appearance.

Finally, the oaks were useful in other respects. They were one of the sources of tannin. Tannin was needed to tan the hides. Tanning is mentioned in Acts 10: 6, where a certain Simon the tanner lived near the coast in Joppa.

This is an edited excerpt from Alvin Johnson’s iBook ‘Biblical Flora’, 2017. The book is available for free download on iTunes. A Teacher’s Edition is also available for purchase.


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