Location: Ein Avdat
Derivation of the botanical name:
Populus may be derived from arbor populi, the people's tree, since poplars have long been planted along streets.
euphratica, Ευφράτης Euphrátēs, for the Euphrates river in southwest Asia.
The Hebrew name: צפצפת, zaphzephet, a hapa legomenon in the Bible, of imitative origin, suggestive of the rustling of its branches; Arabic safsafah (= willow).
The leaves of the Populus euphratica are polymorphic, that is, different leaves on the same tree or even the same branch may have strikingly different shapes. The leaf-blades on young plants and the sterile lower branches of older plants are linear to lanceolate and entire-mergined, while the leaves of fertile branches are elliptic, oblong, ovate, rhomboid, or deltoid in shape, cuneate to truncate at the base, ans often more or less irregularly dentate.
The bark of the Populus euphratica, unlike its close relative the white poplar, is not white nor do the leaves have a white undersurface. It can tolerate relatively high salinity.
- The standard author abbreviation Oliv. is used to indicate Daniel Oliver (1830 – 1916), a British botanist.
The polymorphic leaves can be a reason for confusion and many modern Bible commentators agree that it was the Populus euphratica that was referred to in many Bible passages, like Leviticus 23:40, Leviticus 26:36, II Samuel 5:23-24, I Chronicles 14:14-15, Psalms 84:6, Psalms 137:2, and Isaiah 7:2.
The terms Aravah and Tzaftzafah are interchangeable.
What was once called Aravah is now called Tzaftzafah, and what was called
Tzaftzafah is now called Aravah. The original Aravah is a willow (Salix), and the
Tzaftzafah (Populus), are cottonwoods, poplars, and aspens.
- Leviticus 23:40
On the first day you are to take branches from luxuriant trees—from palms, willows and other leafy trees—and rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days.
- Leviticus 26:36
“‘As for those of you who are left, I will make their hearts so fearful in the lands of their enemies that the sound of a windblown leaf will put them to flight. They will run as though fleeing from the sword, and they will fall, even though no one is pursuing them.
- II Samuel 5:23-24
so David inquired of the LORD, and he answered, “Do not go straight up, but circle around behind them and attack them in front of the poplar trees. As soon as you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the poplar trees, move quickly, because that will mean the LORD has gone out in front of you to strike the Philistine army.”
- I Chronicles 14:14-15
so David inquired of God again, and God answered him, “Do not go directly after them, but circle around them and attack them in front of the poplar trees. As soon as you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the poplar trees, move out to battle, because that will mean God has gone out in front of you to strike the Philistine army.
- Psalm 84:6
As they pass through the Valley of Baka, they make it a place of springs;
the autumn rains also cover it with pools.
- Psalms 137:1-3
By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion.
There on the poplars we hung our harps, for there our captors asked us for songs,
our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!
- Isaiah 7:2
Now the house of David was told, “Aram has allied itself with Ephraim”; so the hearts of Ahaz and his people were shaken, as the trees of the forest are shaken by the wind.
Location: Ein Avdat