The 'malluach' is only mentioned once in the Old Testament. It is used when Job spoke of his bitterness of being ill-treated for no reason.

Saltbush

The saltplant or shrubby orache (Atriplex halimus). PICTURE: František Pleva.

 

"But now they mock me, men younger than I, whose fathers I would have disdained to put with my sheep dogs. Of what use was the strength of their hands to me, since their vigour had gone from them? Haggard from want and hunger, they roamed the parched land in desolate wastelands at night. In the malluach (brush) they gathered salt herbs, and their food was the root of the broom tree." - Job 30: 1-4

The word malluach is derived from the Hebrew word melach which means salt.

It is suggested that the malluach is the shrubby orache otherwise known as the saltbush (Atriplex halimus). This is a common desert plant that grows between one to two metres tall. It is found near dry river beds and as a weed in oases.

The saltbush is an important plant for both people and camels. The leaves raw are too salty to eat, but once cooked they are much better. In the Scripture, these disrespectful and uncaring younger men instead of offering comfort, metaphorically offered salty leaves to the spiritually hungry and needy Job. 

This is an edited excerpt from Alvin Johnson's iBook 'Biblical Flora', 2017. The book is available for free download on iTunes. A teacher's edition is also available for purchase.