The Biology of Trees and the Phenomenon of Biblical Tree-Burning – Educating a Christian Apologist
بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْم
The education of Zozeph Franciso (aka “Hanuman”, aka “Zozo”), a brainless minion of christian prince(ss), continues unabated. The perverted and ignorant apologist complained about the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) cutting down some date palms when laying siege to the Bani Nadir Jews. According to Francisco, what Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) did was in violation of the Biblical rule against destroying trees when attacking an enemy. He appealed to Deuteronomy 20:19-20 to make his point:
“When you lay siege to a city for a long time, fighting against it to capture it, do not destroy its trees by putting an ax to them, because you can eat their fruit. Do not cut them down. Are the trees people, that you should besiege them? However, you may cut down trees that you know are not fruit trees and use them to build siege works until the city at war with you falls.”
However, as we can see, verse 20 clearly states that the Israelites were allowed to cut down trees that did not bear fruits. I pointed this out, but being the uneducated and biologically-challenged apologist that he is, Francisco responded by claiming that:
“…they were dead trees which means they did not give fruits.”
This illustrates how this ignorant and deceitful apologist will twist his own scripture just to attack Islam! Notice that the text in Deuteronomy does not say anything about “dead trees”. It says to “cut down trees that you know are not fruit trees…” To educate this idiot, I pointed out that not all trees are fruit-bearing trees, and I urged him to pick up a biology book to learn about the biology of trees. In biological classification, trees that produces seeds are divided into 2 groups: angiosperms and gymnosperms. Angiosperms are “fruit-bearing” plants (e.g., apple trees). But gymnosperms do not produce fruits (e.g., pine trees).
Figure 1 – Apple trees are angiosperms since they produce fruit (Source: Wikipedia).
Figure 2 – Pine trees, such as the ones above in Lebanon, are called gymnosperms (Source: https://www.123rf.com/photo_84599471_pine-trees-forest-of-jezzine-in-south-lebanon-middle-east.html).
So when the Bible talked about trees that do not have fruits, it was not referring to “dead trees”. It was merely referring to gymnosperms. These trees are very much alive. But Francisco is too stupid and uneducated to know the difference. This is why we need to educate him, both on science and the Bible.
But his education does not end there. The fact is that Deuteronomy 20:19-20 clearly states that the cutting of fruit trees was not allowed only because the Israelites could use the fruit as food. So, it was not out of a humanitarian concern for the enemy or for concern for the environment, but to ensure that the attacking Israelite army would have enough food to sustain itself while engaging in a long siege. This is proven by verse 19, which states (emphasis ours):
“When you lay siege to a city for a long time…”
Not only that, but at other times, it was not only allowed but commanded to destroy all fruit-bearing (i.e., “good” trees) since those trees were on land that the Israelites were not living in and thus could not use for themselves. This can be seen in the attack on Moab in 2 Kings 3. In this chapter, the Israelites seek the advice of Elisha, who then declares that God’s command against the Moabites was the following (emphasis ours):
“You will overthrow every fortified city and every major town. You will cut down every good tree, stop up all the springs, and ruin every good field with stones.”
According to Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon, the word “good” in this context means something that is “fertile”:
Figure 3 – Source: https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H2896&t=KJV
In other words, it is referring to trees that are fertile (i.e., “fruit-bearing”) and thus “good”. The commentators are agreed that this refers to fruit-bearing trees. Elicott’s Commentary for English Readers states:
“Taken as commands, they appear to conflict with Deuteronomy 20:19, where the felling of an enemy’s fruit trees for the purposes of siege-works is forbidden. Keil, however, explains that the law relates to Canaanite territory which the Israelites were to occupy, whereas Moab’s was an enemy’s country, and therefore not to be spared.”
Similarly, Barnes’ Notes on the Bible states:
“This is not an infringement of the rule laid down in Deuteronomy 20:19-20. The Israelites were not forbidden to fell the fruit trees in an enemy’s country, as a part of the ravage of war, when they had no thoughts of occupying the country. The plan of thus injuring an enemy was probably in general use among the nations of these parts at the time. We see the destruction represented frequently on the Assyrian monuments and mentioned in the inscriptions of Egypt.”
Finally, the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges states:
“Some persons have seen in Elisha’s language here a contradiction to Deuteronomy 20:19, where in the siege of a city the Israelites are forbidden to cut down the fruit trees. But in that place the reference is to the trees of Canaan, where the people were themselves to settle and live. The land of Moab was not to be occupied by them, therefore they were bidden to destroy everything in it. In Deuteronomy it is expressly said, ‘Thou shalt not destroy them, for thou mayest eat of them’.”
This again demonstrates an important point. The general rule in Deuteronomy 20:19-20 was only regarding lands which the Israelites were commanded to occupy (after ethnically-cleansing the local populations with mass murder and infanticide, of course (Deuteronomy 20:16-18). But other lands which were occupied by their enemies could be left in utter ruins as a way to “injure” the enemy (to borrow the terminology used by Barnes). So, contrary to what the apologists might tell us about Yahweh’s “compassionate” rules of war, the reality is that this “compassion” only applied to the Israelites. Based on this clear fact, on what grounds do ignorant hypocrites like Francisco criticize Islam?
As for the cutting down of some date-palms during the attack on Bani Nadir by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), this was a form of punishment for the treachery of that tribe. Not only that, but only a few trees were cut down, as explained in the Quran:
“Whatever you have cut down of [their] palm trees or left standing on their trunks – it was by permission of Allah and so He would disgrace the defiantly disobedient.”
Notice that it was not a scorched-earth policy, as compared to the command by Yahweh in 2 Kings 3. Also, the general rule was not to destroy trees, as clarified by Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) when he sent Yazid Ibn Abu Sufyan to lead the Muslim army in Syria:
“Do not kill women or children or an aged, infirm person. Do not cut down fruit-bearing trees. Do not destroy an inhabited place. Do not slaughter sheep or camels except for food. Do not burn bees and do not scatter them. Do not steal from the booty, and do not be cowardly.””
So again, we see the prohibition of committing any barbaric acts against unarmed people or even against animals and trees. Compared to this, the Bible allowed a scorched-earth strategy of brutal acts of violence and even destroying fertile land to make it impossible for the people to recover or for anyone to live on that land for years to come.
And Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) knows best!
 Surah Al-Hashr, 59:5.