A tree included by Solomon in his request to Hiram of Tyre for timbers for the construction of the temple and from which stairs and supports as well as harps and stringed instruments were constructed.
The algum tree of this account cannot be identified with certainty. It is traditionally suggested to be the red sandalwood (Pterocarpus santalinus) now found in India and Sri Lanka, although some favor the white sandalwood (Santalum album), perhaps because of Josephus’ statement that it is whitish in color. (Jewish Antiquities, VIII, 177 [vii, 1]) The red sandalwood grows to heights of about 7.5 to 9 m (25 to 30 ft) and has a hard, fine-grained, reddish-brown wood that takes a high polish. It is suggested as suitable for musical instruments of the type mentioned in the Bible account. The wood has a sweet scent and is highly resistant to insects.
The red sandalwood does not grow in Lebanon at the present time. However, the record is not definite whether the “algum” trees were native to Lebanon or not. At any rate, Hiram later saw fit to bring them from Ophir, and here again, the timbers may have been imports even in Ophir, as it was in position to act as a trading center dealing with India, Egypt, and other places in Africa. (1Ki 10:11, 22) The rarity and preciousness of the wood delivered by Hiram is indicated by the statement that “timbers of algum trees like this have not come in nor have they been seen down to this day.”—1Ki 10:12.