The myrtle, Myrtus communis (Natural Order Myrtaceae), is a very common indigenous shrub all over Palestine. On the bare hillsides it is a low bush, but under favorable conditions of moisture it attains a considerable height (compare Zechariah 1:8,10). It has dark green, scented leaves, delicate starry white flowers and dark-colored berries, which are eaten. In ancient times it was sacred to Astarte. It is mentioned as one of the choice plants of the land (Isaiah 41:19). "Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir-tree; and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle-tree" (Isaiah 55:13), is one of the prophetic pictures of God's promised blessings. It was one of the trees used in the Feast of Tabernacles (Nehemiah 8:15): "the branches of thick trees" (which see) are interpreted in the Talmud (Cuk. 3 4; Yer Cuk. 3, 53rd) as myrtle boughs; also (id) the "thick trees" of Nehemiah 8:15 as "wild myrtle." Myrtle twigs, particularly those of the broadleaved variety, together with a palm branch and twigs of willow, are still used in the ritual of the Feast of Tabernacles. For many references to myrtle in Jewish writings see Jewish Encyclopedia, IX, 137.
E. W. G. Masterman
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