The terebinth tree, though disguised in many other translations by mistranslation, were trees of great significance in the Scriptures. Often known for their leaves with hairy margins and spreading, branching flower clusters, these trees of the genus Pistacia served not only as a place of protection from the sun, but as place were the faithful of Elohim sought wisdom, gained heavenly insight from the Messengers of Elohim, or performed mighty deeds before Yahweh. Let us delve into the scriptures to seek out more information.
The First Instance:
Beresheit (Genesis) 12:6-7:
(6) Avram passed through the land to the place of Shekhem, to the terebinth (oak) of Moreh. The Kena’anim (Canaanites) was then in the land.
(7) Elohim appeared to Avram, and said, “To your descendants I will give this land.” He built an altar there to Yahweh, who appeared to him.
– Most King James Versions of the Scriptures translate the word terebinth as “oak or plains,” but the word in the Septuagint is “terebinthos” and “elah” in the Hebrew manuscripts (also occasionally, translated from Hebrew word “elon” or “elim“). The importance of this meeting at the terebinths was the promise of Yahweh to Avram to give him the Land of Promise. The largest land grant kingdom other than the division of land amongst the children of Noach (Noah). Notice that Avram did not begin to worship the trees because of the miraculous things that happened there, Avram built an altar to commemorate it and continued on in a life that is accounted to us for righteousness. It also marked the place where a covenant was formed, hence the creation of an altar or pillar as often referenced in threshold covenants. (please see the study Threshold Covenant for more information)
All the Others:
Beresheit (Genesis) 13:14-18:
(14) Yahweh said to Avram, after Lot was separated from him, “Now, lift up your eyes, and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward,
(15) for all the land which you see, I will give to you, and to your offspring forever.
(16) I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth, so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then your seed may also be numbered.
(17) Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it to you.”
(18) Avram moved his tent, and came and lived by the terebinth (oaks) of Mamre, which are in Hevron (Hebron), and built an altar there to Yahweh.
– While the terebinth reference is in verse 18 of this chapter, I included several of the preceding verses for context. As we mentioned in the first instance, the institution of the promise to Avram was reaffirmed and ends with the Father instructing Avram to examine the Land of Promise with his own eyes and his feet – walk the boundaries and realize the magnificence of His promise. It also serves as a precursor to the land ownership/promise reference in Devarim (Deuteronomy) 11:21-23 –
Devarim (Deuteronomy) 11:21-23:
(21) “For if you are careful to keep all this commandment which I am commanding you to do, to love Yahweh you Elohim, to walk in all His ways and hold fast to Him,
(22) then Elohim will drive out all these nations from before you, and you will dispossess nations greater and mightier than you.
(23) “Every place on which the sole of your foot treads shall be yours; your border will be from the wilderness to Lebanon, and from the river, the river Euphrates, as far as the western sea.…
Beresheit (Genesis) 18:1-4:
(1) And Elohim appeared unto him in the terebinths (plains) of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day;
(2) And he lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground,
(3) And said, My Master, if now I have found favor in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant:
(4) Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree:
– Once again, we see some significant spiritual occurrences under the terebinths. As discussed in the Messenger of Elohim study and the Threshold Covenant study, this passage has many great areas of significance. Avraham sitting at the door and offering to give food and drink to the Messengers (often translated as “angels”) is demonstration of Hospitality and reverence for those he is in submission to – He calls him Master. He seeks to bless them with the best of what he has and protect them from whatever comes along. The messenger comes with sad tidings, the impending destruction of Sodom and Amorrah/Gomorrah (Avraham will get a front row seat to its destruction). He speaks to the messenger who remains behind with familiarity and the converses about the matter as if they are nearly equals – here we see the power of the relationship between Avraham and Yahweh.
Beresheit (Genesis) 35:1-4:
(1) Yahweh said to Ya`aqov (Jacob), “Arise, go up to Beyth-El, and live there. Make there an altar to Yahweh, who appeared to you when you fled from the face of Esav your brother.”
(2) Then Ya`aqov said to his household, and to all who were with him, “Put away the foreign idols that are among you, purify yourselves, change your garments.
(3) Let us arise, and go up to Beyth-El. I will make there an altar to Elohim, who answered me in the day of my distress, and was with me in the way which I went.”
(4) They gave to Ya`aqov all the foreign idols which were in their hands, and the rings which were in their ears; and Ya`aqov hid them under the oak which was by Shekhem.
– Much like New testament references to not appearing before Yahweh with any matter of uncleanness or division amongst brethren, Ya’aqov had to purify His house and their minds and hearts prior to appearing before Yahweh at Bethel (Bethel derived from “Beyth El” meaning “house of El/Elohim”). The spiritual adultery/idolatry would not be found acceptable in Yahweh’s sight, in fact it is an abomination before him. Much like Ya’aqov and his family, we need to put away the idols in our lives to be purified in our Heaven Father’s eyes. As opposed to hiding them under a tree, we must completely remove anything that causes separation between us, Messiah, and the Father. Here is a New Testament reference to the fact that is being alluded to:
Mattityahu (Matthew) 5:23-24:
(23) “If therefore you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has anything against you,
(24) leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
Yehoshua (Joshua) 24:20-27:
(20) If you forsake Elohim, and serve foreign deities, then he will turn and do you evil, and consume you, after that he has done you good.
(21) The people said to Yehoshua, No; but we will serve Yahweh.
(22) Yehoshua said to the people, You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen Yahweh Elohim, to serve him. They said, We are witnesses.
(23) Now therefore put away, said he, the foreign idols which are among you, and incline your heart to the Yahweh, the Elohim of Yisra’el.
(24) The people said to Yehoshua, the Yahweh our Elohim will we serve, and to his voice will we listen.
(25) So Yehoshua made a covenant with the people that day, and set them a statute and an ordinance in Shekhem.
(26) Yehoshua wrote these words in the book of the law of Elohim; and he took a great stone, and set it up there under the terebinth (Oak) that was by the sanctuary of Yahweh.
(27) Yehoshua said to all the people, Behold, this stone shall be a witness against us; for it has heard all the words of the Yahweh which he spoke to us: it shall be therefore a witness against you, lest you deny your Elohim.
– Yet another astounding moment at the terebinth trees – the Children of Yisra’el began to follow the ways of the Amorites and the other nations, adopting their idols, intermarrying with their people, and performing rituals to foreign deities. Yehoshua (Joshua) sought to right their wrongs before sending them to take their inheritance. He set up a stone, or pillar in some translations, as an everlasting reminder of their abominations so that they would not repeat the mistakes for which they repented. (This also another example of the Threshold covenant, please see the study Threshold Covenant for more information)
Shophetim (Judges) 6:11,19:
(11) And there came Messenger of Yahweh, and sat under a terebinth which was in Ophrah, that belonged to Yoash the Abi’ezrite: and his son Gid’on (Gideon) threshed wheat by the winepress, to hide it from the Midyanites.
(19) And Gid’on went in, and prepared a young goat, and unleavened bread from an ephah of flour. The meat he put in a basket, and he put broth in a pot. And he brought them out to Him, under the terebinth tree, and presented it.
– The occurrence here is the beginning of the story of Gideon, from the tribe of Menashsheh, a man whom through the strength of Yahweh defeated the Midyanites. Yahweh uses a man, from one of the traditionally smallest and “weakest” tribes, who had no military training, to show His might and dedication to His peoples. As in the other examples, we see many elements of covenantal agreement types and themes – Threshold Covenant and Messenger of Elohim.
Other instances: Ge 12:6; Deu 11:30; Isa 1:29-30, 6:13; Ho 4:13; 1 Sa 10:3, 17:2,19, 21:9;2 Sa 18:9,10,14; 1 Ki 13:14, 1 Ch 10:12, Eze 6:13; Ecc 24:16;
Those that seek Yahweh, His wisdom, counsel, and blessings were inexorably tied by a common meeting place – the terebinth trees. Not only did they provide shelter from the heat of the day, but served as a place of wondrous occurrences and covenantal themes. May you be blessed as you seek our Beloved Father and His righteousness. Shalom Aleichem!