The Acacia in the Sinai Wilderness

Most travelers to Israel have probably seen acacia trees growing along the shore of the Dead Sea. Fewer travelers have visited the Sinai Peninsula, now part of Egypt. The term acacia is used in most English versions of the Bible, but the King James version (1611) simply transliterated the Hebrew word shittim.

The Fauna and Flora of the Bible comments on the acacia:

The acacia is a member of the Mimosa family. Four different species are found in Palestine, the most common being the A. raddiana, which grows in the valleys around the Dead Sea. It is an evergreen tree, 3 to 5.5 m high, with spiny branches carrying yellow flowers; its wood is very useful for building purposes.

The acacia below is in the Wadi el-Tor in the Sinai Peninsula between the Gulf of Suez and Mount Sinai.

Acacia growing in Wadi el-Tor in the Sinai Peninsula. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Acacia growing in Wadi el-Tor in the Sinai Peninsula. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

In the description of the construction of the tabernacle, the book of Exodus uses the word acacia 26 times from chapter 25 to chapter 38. When we see the smaller trees today we may wonder about finding enough wood for the tabernacle. At Ain Musa (Spring of Moses), the traditional place of Marah (Exodus 15:23), there are a few older large Acacia growing. Could it be possible that 3500 years ago there were many this size?

Large acacia at Ain Musa (Spring of Moses) on the east shore of the Gulf of Suez. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Large acacia at Ain Musa (Spring of Moses) on the east shore of the Gulf of Suez.

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