Laurel WreathLaurel

This tree is mentioned as the last of several trees in Isaiah 44:14 (CSB), the only reference to the tree in the Old Testament. Koehler and Baumgartner identify the name with the laurel tree (Laurus nobilis), also commonly called ‘the sweet bay tree.’ The laurel is an evergreen, often growing as a shrub but capable of heights up to some 50 feet. Hence Isaiah could speak of the pouring rain making the tree “get big.” The entire tree (leaves, bark, roots and fruit) contains an oil long employed in medicine. The leaves are oblong and leathery, with a glossy upper side. They are also used as a condiment. In spring the tree blossoms with small creamy‑white berries. The Laurus nobilis is found from the coast on up into the middle mountain regions of Israel and grows in other Mediterranean countries too.

LaurelLaurel leaves were used by ancient Greeks to form wreaths, which they placed on the heads of victors in the Pythian games and also extended to those holding certain offices as a symbol of distinction. The English words ‘laureate’ and ‘baccalaureate’ are derived from these practices and uses of the laurel.