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THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MATTHEW - Chapter 21 - Verse 8

Verse 8. And a very great multitude, etc. Others showed the same respect by throwing their garments before him; others by cutting down branches of trees, and casting them in the way. This was the way in which conquerors and princes were often honoured. To cast flowers, or garlands, or evergreens, before a warrior returning from victory, or a king entering into his kingdom, was a common way of testifying joyful and triumphant feeling. Thus Josephus says, that Alexander and Agrippa were received at Jerusalem. So in our own land, some of the most acceptable tokens of rejoicing ever bestowed upon Washington were garlands of roses scattered in his path by children. So the path of Lafayette was often strewed with flowers, as a mark of respect and of a nation's gratitude. John says, Joh 12:13, that these branches were branches of the palm-tree. The palm was an emblem of joy and victory. It was used by the Roman soldiers as well as the Jews, as a symbol of peace. See 1 Mac. 13:51; 2 Mac. 10:6, 7; Re 7:9.

The palm-tree is common in warm climates, and was abundant in Palestine. The finest grew about Jericho and Engeddi. Hence Jericho was called the city of palm-trees. The palm has a long and straight body, a spreading-top, and an appearance of very great beauty. It produces an agreeable fruit, a pleasant shade, a kind of honey little inferior to the honey of bees, and from it was drawn a pleasant wine, much used in the east. On ancient coins the palm-tree is often a symbol of Judea. On coins, made after Jerusalem was taken, Judea is represented by a female sitting and weeping under a palm-tree. A reference to the palm-tree occurs often in the Bible, and its general form and uses are familiar to most readers. We give an, engraving of the tree, and add a description of it for the use of those to whom it is not familiar.

Strictly speaking, the palm-tree has no branches; but at the summit, from forty to eighty twigs, or leaf-stalks, spring forth, which are intended in Ne 8:15. The leaves are set around the trunk in circles of about six. The lower row is of great length, and the vast leaves bend themselves in a curve towards the earth; as the circle ascend, the leaves are shorter. In the month of February, there sprout from between the junctures of the lower stalks and the trunk little scales, which develop a kind of bud, the germ of the coming fruit. These germs are contained in a thick and tough skin, not unlike leather. According to the account of a modern traveller, a single tree in Barbary and Egypt bears from fifteen to twenty large clusters of dates, weighing from fifteen to twenty pounds each. The palm-tree lives more than two hundred years, and is most productive from the thirtieth until the eightieth year. The Arabs speak of two hundred and sixty uses to which the different parts of the palm-tree are applied.

The inhabitants of Egypt, Arabia, and Persia, depend much on the fruit of the palm-tree for their subsistence. Camels feed on the seed; and the leaves, branches, fibres, and sap, are all very valuable.

The "branches" referred to by John, (Joh 12:13,) refer to the long leaves which shoot out from the top of the tree, and which were often carried about as the symbol of victory. Comp. See Barnes "Isa 3:26".

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