Trees of the Bible: Poplar & Willow

Providing shade and decoration along the rivers, the poplar and willow trees appeared throughout different passages in the Bible. In this article, you will learn about references associated with these popular trees that are also regarded today in North America.

Poplar Tree

There are two different kinds of poplar trees mentioned in the Bible: the white poplar and the Euphrates poplar. The white poplar (also known as Populus alba) is poplar in North America because it is a fast-growing shade tree. In Israel, the white poplar is commonly seen along rivers and along the Banias, which is one of the sources of the Jordan River. It’s a widely planted tree. The second type of poplar tree is called the Euphrates (or Populus euphratica), which is found in the lower Jordan River region.

Some assume that the Euphrates poplar is mentioned in Psalm 137:1-3 when the captives hung their harps on the “willows” of Babylon. In the New International Version of the Bible, it reads, “By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. There on the poplars we hung our harps, for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”

Willow Tree

While the willow tree seems to appear various times in the Bible, it is difficult to determine when the reference is truly one for this species of tree. For instance, the willows mentioned in Psalm 137, as the “willows of Babylon” are not true willows, but instead, a species of poplar. Several kinds of willows existed during Biblical times with two common species being the Salix acmophylla and S. alba. There are no distinctions made between the different types.

Willow trees are specifically mentioned in the following passages of the Bible: Leviticus 23:40, Job 40:22, Isaiah 15:7 and Isaiah 44:4. When referenced in Scripture, the tree is often associated with a river or brook , pointing out the connection between water and growth. Passages highlighting the willow tree are:

Leviticus 23:40 , “And ye shall take you on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook; and ye shall rejoice before the LORD your God seven days.” [King James Version]

Job 40:22 , “The lotus-trees cover him with their shade; The willows of the brook compass him about.” [American Standard Version]

Isaiah 15:7 , “Therefore the abundance they have gotten, and that which they have laid up, shall they carry away to the brook of the willows.” [King James Version]

Isaiah 44:4 , “They will thrive like watered grass, like willows on a riverbank.” [New Living Translation]