A Whimsical Dictionary: O is for Oaks of Mamre

A Whimsical Dictionary: O is for Oaks of Mamre

A Whimsical Dictionary of Surprising Influences.

O is for Oaks of Mamre –

Oh, if only trees could talk, what tales they could tell. Take the famous oak grove found in Mamre, an area in Hebron straight east of the Dead Sea. These oaks would tell us that that famous landmark was where Abraham pitched his tent for many years.

That grove saw a lot of action. It was where Abraham built an altar for sacrifice after God spoke His covenant (Genesis 13:18). It was also where Abraham was the gracious host to the Lord Himself, accompanied by two angels, or was it the Trinity? (Genesis 18). At this site God told Abraham that his being 99 years old was irrelevant… He and Sarah would have a son within the year. What could Sarah do but laugh? After that birth announcement, the Lord told Abraham that He was about to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah because of their extreme wickedness. Abraham and God then bargained for awhile, haggling over numbers, Abraham advocating for Sodom and Gomorrah, probably because his nephew Lot lived there. All that bargaining didn’t matter in the end anyway. Those towns were toast.

All this happened near that oak grove at Mamre. Abraham and Sarah lived there off and on for many years. In fact, as it turns out, both Sarah and Abraham were buried there, in a nearby cave.

Those oak trees have been venerated ever since, at first by ancient religions convinced there was something holy about that grove. In fact, there remains at that site the Oak of Abraham, also called the Tree of Rest, right there in modern day Hebron, and it is still honored by all three Abrahamic faiths. At the site of this ancient tree stands a Russian Orthodox Monastery of the Holy Trinity. Legend has it that that oak tree is 5,000 years old, but moderns say it is about 850 years old. This tree is huge, 32′ around the trunk. The tree remains standing, even though it reportedly died in 1996.

Oaks drop acorns, of course, which grow slowly but surely to produce magnificent trees, massive as well as old. Oaks are known for their long life, and were useful in that area for providing hard wood for ships and farming implements. So, in the Bible, oaks were associated with power, usefulness and longevity.

Isaiah seemed to love oak trees, for he mentions them throughout his book. He famously referred to believers as “oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor.” (Isaiah 61:3). What a magnificent picture of solid, steady, persistent goodness, strong and true, useful for Kingdom purposes. So it wouldn’t hurt to pray to that end in our intercessory prayers. May we be oaks of righteousness, Lord, planted by You for Your glory.

If the Tree of Abraham really was one of Abraham’s oaks, I would like to ask it something… Just who were those three heavenly visitors who ate Abraham’s feast in the shade of those old oaks? In the whole new heaven and earth, maybe I’ll somehow get an answer from the Tree itself. On the other hand, I could just go straight to Abraham and ask him.