The Tops of the Mulberry Trees

The Tops of the Mulberry Trees

The Tops of the Mulberry Trees.

“Then the Philistines went up once again and deployed themselves in the Valley of Rephaim. Therefore David inquired of the Lord, and He said, ‘You shall not go up; circle around behind them, and come upon them in front of the mulberry trees. And it shall be, when you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the mulberry trees, then you shall advance quickly. For then the Lord will go in front of you to strike the camp of the Philistines.’ And David so, as the Lord commanded him; and David drove back the Philistines…”  (2 Samuel 5:22-25).

In the Hebrew Bible, we see lots of trees, but there is no evidence of an actual mulberry tree at that time, in that place. These trees were not introduced into Palestine during the time of the Old Testament, though there was  large shrub related to it that was called a Baca bush. Biblical scholars say that it is impossible to identify the tree in this episode of David’s. They say the tree must have been either a poplar tree, an aspen, or a balsam tree. We do know that Psalm 84:6 refers to the valley of Baca, the valley of the Baca bush, or mulberry tree. This tree is known as the “weeping tree” because of the blood-like tears when the pressed mulberry berries are poured. Therefore, that valley was known as the Valley of Weeping. Also, whatever tree it was in this scene with David was to have lighter branches and leaves that can make sounds when the wind blows through them. Mulberry trees do not have the ability to generate a rustling sound with wind. But the other trees mentioned can definitely do so. The poplar tree seems to be the preferred identification these days, but nobody actually knows.

It is impressive that David, proving to be a man after God’s heart after all, realizes that his primary job at that point was to subdue the nations of the Promised Land. That was something the Jewish pioneers were unable to do, and David intends to finish the job. David is often found asking the Lord for directions and battle plans during this era. Time and again we see the faithful David using these wonderful words, “and David inquired of the Lord.” Would that we would do likewise every morning as we get ready for the day.

Clearly, this battle against the Philistines was getting special attention from Yahweh, complete with unique battle plans for David and his army. When the sounds of marching feet at the tops of these trees were heard by David, says the Lord, he was to attack immediately. What were these marching sounds at the top of these trees? Were they the miraculous advancing footsteps of Yahweh, the Almighty God who has no feet? Was it the wind of the Holy Spirit blowing through the trees at the direction of the Lord, producing those rustling sounds? Were those marching sounds the warrior angels called into action by Yahweh-sabaoth, the Lord of the Angel Armies, preparing for battle and led by the Lord? Whomever or whatever produced these sounds, we can trust that it actually happened. And once again, trees were in the middle of all the action.