1. Kikâyôn only in Jonah 4:6-10. The plant which is intended by this word, and which afforded shade to the prophet Jonah before Nineveh, is the Ricinus communis, or castor-oil plant, which, a native of Asia, is now naturalized in America, Africa, and the south of Europe. This plant varies considerably in size, being in India a tree, but in England seldom attaining a greater height than three or four feet. The leaves are large and palmate, with serrated lobes, and would form an excellent shelter for the sun-stricken prophet. The seeds contain the oil so well known under the name of “castor oil,” which has for ages been in high repute as a medicine. It is now thought by many that the plant meant is a vine of the cucumber family, a genuine gourd, which is much used for shade in the East.
2. The wild gourd of 2 Kings 4:39, which one of “the sons of the prophets” gathered ignorantly, supposing them to be good for food, is a poisonous gourd, supposed to be the colocynth, which bears a fruit of the color and size of an orange, with a hard, woody shell. As several varieties of the same family, such as melons, pumpkins, etc., are favorite articles of refreshing food amongst the Orientals, we can easily understand the cause of the mistake.
Colocynthus or Wild Gourd.