International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
al'-gum, ('algummim (2 Chronicles 2:8; 2 Chronicles 9:10); ('almuggim, 1 Kings 10:11)): It is generally supposed that these two names refer to one kind of tree, the consonants being transposed as is not uncommon in Semitic words. Solomon sent to Hiram, king of Tyre, saying, "Send me also cedar-trees, fir-trees, and algum-trees, out of Lebanon" (2 Chronicles 2:8). In 1 Kings 10:11 it is said that the navy of Hiram "that brought gold from Ophir, brought in from Ophir great plenty of almug-trees and precious stones." In the parallel passage in 2 Chronicles 9:10 it is said that "algum-trees and precious stones" were brought. From this wood "the king made. pillars for the house of Yahweh, and for the king's house, harps also and psalteries for the singers: there came no such almug-trees, nor were seen, unto this day" (1 Kings 10:12). The wood was evidently very precious and apparently came from East Asia-unless we suppose from 2 Chronicles 2:8 that it actually grew on Lebanon, which is highly improbable; it was evidently a fine, close grained wood, suitable for carving. Tradition says that this was the famous sandal wood, which was in ancient times put to similar uses in India and was all through the ages highly prized for its color, fragrance, durability and texture. It is the wood of a tree, Pterocar pussantalinus (N.D. Santalaceae), which grows to a height of 25 to 30 feet; it is a native of the mountains of Malabar.