Open main menu

Pistacia palaestina is a tree or shrub member of the family Anacardiaceae (the sumac family) common in the Levant region (especially Palestine and Syria). It is called terebinth in English, a name also used for Pistacia terebinthus, a similar tree from the western Mediterranean Basin.

Pistacia palaestina
Pistacia palaestina.JPG
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Sapindales
Family: Anacardiaceae
Genus: Pistacia
P. palaestina
Binomial name
Pistacia palaestina



Pistacia palaestina is distinguished from P. terebinthus "by its egg-shaped leaflets, which are drawn into a long point, with somewhat hairy margins, and by more spreading and branching flower clusters."[1]


The terebinth is mentioned in the Hebrew Scriptures (or Old Testament), where the Hebrew word elah (plural elot) is used, although the word is sometimes translated as "oak". (The Hebrew word alon means "oak," and the words may be related.)

The word terebinth is found in three successive chapters of Genesis (12:6, 13:18, 14:13, 18:1) in reference to the places where Abram (later Abraham) camped called "Terebinths of Mam're the Amorite".[2] Here, the traditional rendering in English is "oaks of Mamre".

It is also found in Genesis chapter 35, where Jacob commands his family to remove idols that were taken as booty from the battle in Shechem (שכם), before travelling to Bethel.

Terebinths are also found in Isaiah in possible reference to idolatry associated with the trees, although in the Septuagint and Vulgate the word is translated "idols", as the plural of "el".)

For you will be ashamed of the terebinths that you have taken pleasure in.[3]

The best known clear reference to a terebinth (elah) in the Hebrew Scriptures is that of the Valley of Elah or "Valley of the Terebinth" (עמק האלה), where David fought Goliath (1 Samuel 17:2, 19).

At least a few references occur in Judges: Ch 4 (in reference to Heber, the Kenite, of the children of Hobab), Ch 6 (in reference to an angel of the Lord who came to visit Gideon—most versions use 'oak'), and Ch 9 (in reference to the crowning of Abimelech, by the terebinth of the pillar that was in Shechem—again most versions use 'oak'). This reference of Abimelech's crowning by an oak is actually referring to the Palestine oak, closely related to the Kermes oak (Quercus coccifera). The Hebrew distinguishes the Palestine oak and the terebinth. It is also mentioned in Hosea 4:13 when Hosea is talking about Israel's spiritual adultery by sacrificing to false gods and how to repent and be forgiven in Hosea 14.



  1. ^ Flowers of the Mediterranean by Oleg Polunin and Anthony Huxley, 1966.
  2. ^ Robert Alter, (tr.) Genesis, W.W.Norton & Co. New York, London 1996 p.60
  3. ^ Isaiah 1:29