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What is a juniper tree in the Bible?

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Quick Answer

The juniper trees referred to in the Bible are not true junipers, but actually a species called Retama raetam, or white broom. According to the University of Chicago, this plant is common in the Middle East, especially around Lebanon, Mount Carmel, Gilead, Jordan and the Dead Sea.

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Full Answer

The juniper trees in the Bible are really white broom trees. This tree, which appears more as a bush, is dense with long, flexible branches and ranges from three to 12 feet tall. The name "white broom" comes from the small, white flowers that cluster along the branches. The tree only has a fewsparse leaves, but because of its desert locale, the trees offer excellent shade.

This tree is mentioned often in the Bible in expressions like "coals of juniper." The University of Chicago points out that this expression has its roots in reality because the wood of the white broom is essential in making charcoal. Furthermore, this tree is an important source of firewood, an important amenity in Biblical times. In fact, when this tree burns it makes a very loud crackling sound. Legend has it that a white broom was burning in the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus was praying in it before being arrested by Roman soldiers.

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