Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Rose of Sharon in Biblical Origins

Rose of Sharon is a common name that applies to several different species of flowering plants that are highly valued throughout the world. The name's colloquial application has been used as an example of the lack of precision of common names, which potentially causes confusion. Rose of Sharon has also become a frequently used catch phrase in lyrics and verse.

Chavatzelet HaSharon (Hebrew חבצלת השרון) is an onion-like flower bulb. (Hebrew חבצלת ḥăḇaṣṣeleṯ) is a flower of uncertain identity translated as the Rose of Sharon in English language translations of the Bible. Etymologists have inconclusively linked the Biblical חבצלת to the words בצל beṣel, meaning 'bulb', and חמץ ḥāmaṣ, which is understood as meaning either 'pungent' or 'splendid' (The Analytical Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon). The name Rose of Sharon first appears in English in 1611 in the King James Version of the Bible. According to an annotation of Song of Solomon 2:1 by the translation committee of the New Revised Standard Version, "Rose of Sharon" is a mistranslation of a more general Hebrew word for "crocus".

The most accepted interpretation for the Biblical reference is the Pancratium maritimum, which blooms in the late summer just above the high-tide mark. The Hebrew name for this flower is חבצלת or חבצלת החוף (coastal ḥăḇaṣṣeleṯ). It is commonly assumed by most people in Israel that, the Sharon plain being on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, the Biblical passage refers to this flower.

Varying scholars have suggested that the biblical "Rose of Sharon" may be one of the following plants:

• A "kind of crocus" ("Sharon", Harper's Bible Dictionary) or a "crocus that grows in the coastal plain of Sharon" (New Oxford Annotated Bible);

• Tulipa montana, "a bright red tulip-like flower ... today prolific in the hills of Sharon" ("rose", Harper's Bible Dictionary);

• Tulipa agenensis, the Sharon tulip, a species of tulip suggested by a few botanists; or

• Lilium candidum, more commonly known as the Madonna lily, a species of lily suggested by some botanists, though likely in reference to the "lily of the valleys" mentioned in the second part of Song of Solomon 2.1.


See also: Florist Delivery, Thailand Flowers, Thai Rose, Orchid Thai

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