Also known as lotus tree, this deciduous shrub or small  tree is a member of the buckthorn family, Rhamnaceae, and is native to the arid and semi arid areas of the Mediterranean area where it grows in woodlands, shrublands, and semi-steeps.  The plant grow 5-16′ tall and has a deep taproot and smooth, zigzag, whitish branches bearing a pair of thin recurved thorns that are of unequal length and situated at the base of each leaf.  The small leathery leaves have a thin cuticle and are ovate-oblong, nearly 2-ranked, and about 1/2″ long.  In late spring to early summer, axillary clusters of small greenish flowers appear and give rise to a yellow,  globose, pea-sized drupe that bears 2 seeds and is edible.  Leaves, flowers, and stems are filled with mucilage. Photo Credit Wikipedia

The Hebrew word צֶאֱלִ֥ים is usually translated as lotus tree/bush/plant but sometimes as just a shady tree or shade. The lotus bush of the Levant is Zizyphus lotus, a plant that likes medium moist to dry soil and would not grow in a marsh as the passage suggests.  Another issue is the identification of the animal that is translated as the behemoth.  Suggestions include elephant, hippopotamus, whale, and crocodile none of which are likely to lie in the shade of the relatively small Z. lotus with its small leaves.

Job 40 (NKJV)  God describes the behemoth .

21. “He lies under the lotus trees, In a covert of reeds and marsh.”

22. “The lotus trees cover him with their shade; The willows by the brook surround him.”

Wild jujube likes full sun and average to lean, medium moist to dry, well-drained in USDA Hardiness Zones 11 and warmer and tolerates alkalinity and drought.  The plants are healthy and have no significant pests or diseases.  Propagation is by  fresh stratified seed, division of suckers in dormant season, and hardwood cuttings in winter.  The plants  respond well to coppicing and spread by root suckers and self-sowing, often forming dense unwanted thickets and may be considered invasive. The density and thorniness of the branches combined with the rapid growth to maturity makes it a good choice for a hedge.  In addition, the plants are valuable for erosion control, fuel, and as a component in medicines.  Wild jujube is thought to be the lotus tree mentioned by Homer in the Odyssey.

The genus name, Zizphus, is derived from the Persian name zizfum. The specific epithet,  lotus, is from the Greek word lōtos, used to denote certain plants. Photo Credit Wikipedia

By Karen