This is quite certainly the Arabic ratam (Retama retem, Natural Order, Leguminosae), a variety of broom which is one of the most characteristic shrubs of the deserts of Southern Palestine and southward to Egypt. Though the shade it affords is but scanty, in the absence of other shrubs it is frequently used by desert travelers as a refuge from the sun's scorching rays (compare 1 Kings 19:4). The root yields good charcoal, giving out much heat (Psalms 120:4). For people to be reduced to chew it for nourishment betokens the lowest depth of starvation (Job 30:4). Indeed so hopeless is this root as a source of food that many commentators believe that the accepted text is in error, and by altering a single letter, substituting the Hebrew letter, cheth, ("ch") for he ("h"), they get a reading, which has been adopted in the Revised Version margin, "to warm them" instead of "their meat," which certainly is much more probable.
E. W. G. Masterman
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