Fangorn Forrest and the Wood of Ephraim

From the second book of Samuel, here’s this, in the King James version:

“So the people went out into the field against Israel: and the battle was in the wood of Ephraim; Where the people of Israel were slain before the servants of David, and there was there a great slaughter that day of twenty thousand men. For the battle was there scattered over the face of all the country: and the wood devoured more people that day than the sword devoured.” — Second Book of Samuel, chapter 18, verses 6 through 8

A note on the verse says the Hebrew text has “multiplied to devour;” so the trees multiplied to devour the enemies of King David. And of course then the trees got Absalom, David’s son and leader of the rebellion.

In Tolkien’s The Two Towers, the orcs fleeing into the forest from the battle at Helm’s deep, are destroyed by the trees.

Tolkien was a serious linguist and scholar, and translated the Book of Jonah for the Jerusalem Bible. I wonder if the Wood of Ephraim was in his mind as he wrote about Fangorn Forest?

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2 Replies to “Fangorn Forrest and the Wood of Ephraim”

  1. Fascinating. And there is surprisingly little commentary on what that line means. You are currently the number 2 google result for “wood of ephraim devoured”.

  2. The Bible passage is the first result, aptly enough.

    I did see one Bible commentary that suggested the wood of Ephraim was the same as the wood of Ephratah in Psalm 136.

    Ezechial 37:16 in the Jerusalem Bible says “Take another stick and write on it, “‘Joseph, the wood of Ephraim, and all the house of Israel loyal to him.'” But that seems to mean wood as a material.

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