Armon

An example of the Planatus orientalis, possibly the armon tree, with its flaky, speckled bark. PICTURE: Melanie J Watts/Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 

The armon is identified as the ‘chestnut’ in the KJV and the ‘plane’ in the NIV. The name armon is related to the Hebrew word aram. This word can mean crafty but it also relates to the idea of bare or smooth. This may refer to the annual peeling off of the bark that occurs with some tree species.

The armon is possibly the oriental plane (Platanus orientalis). This is a large deciduous tree which can grow up to 30 metres in height. It has a tall trunk with smooth and importantly, flaking bark, as well as spreading branches.

The armon is mentioned in Genesis 30:37 where it was one of the trees Jacob used in his attempt to increase his flock size, He had agreed with his father-in-law Laban that he would receive the speckled and spotted young: "Jacob, however, took fresh-cut branches from poplar, almond and armon trees and made white stripes on them by peeling the bark and exposing the white inner wood of the branches."

Possibly significantly for this story is the fact that this tree has "speckled bark that sheds in large irregular sheets, leaving a smooth surface that is mottled and pale".

In another passage God speaking to Ezekiel said that the kingdom of Assyria was like a mighty tree, greater than the armon.

"Son of man, say to Pharaoh king of Egypt and to his hordes. 
'Who can be compared with you in majesty?
Consider Assyria, once a cedar (erez) in Lebanon,
with beautiful branches overshadowing the forest;
it towered on high,
its top above the thick foliage...
The cedars (erez) in the garden of God
could not rival it,
nor could the junipers (berosh)
equal its boughs,
nor could the armon trees
compare with its branches -  
no tree in the garden of God
could match its beauty.
I made it beautiful with abundant branches,
the envy of all the trees of Eden
in the garden of God'.
     "Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: Because it towered on high, lifting its top above the thick foliage, and because it was proud of its height, I handed it over to the ruler of the nations, for him to deal with according to its wickedness. I cast it aside, and the most ruthless of foreign nations cut it down and left it. Its boughs fell on the mountains and in all the valleys; its branches lay broken in all the ravines of the land. All the nations of the earth came out from under its shade and left it." - Ezekiel 31:2, 3, 8-12  

Some additional information comes from the apocryphal book of Ecclesiasticus 24:14 (also known as The Wisdom of Jesus Son of Sirach). In this passage the armon is a tree found near water: "I grew tall like a palm tree in En-gedi, and like rosebushes in Jericho; like a beautiful olive tree in the field, and like a armon (plane) tree by the water".

Excerpt From Alvin Johnson's iBook Biblical Flora, 2017. The book is available for free download on iTunes.