Algum Trees and Wood
The use of algum wood when Solomon built the Temple is recorded in two places: 1 Kings 10:11-12; and 2 Chronicles 9:10-11.
During Solomon’s reign, more algum wood was imported than ever seen previously in Israel. Algum wood was used to make stairs and banisters for the Temple and royal palace complex. It was used extensively in the stringed instrument section of the Temple, e.g., in harps and lyres. The musical instruments were so beautiful that they were a marvel in Judah. The almug tree yields heavy, fine-grained wood that is notably black on the surfaces yet polishes to a rich ruby or garnet color. In addition to being strong, it is antiseptic which makes it impervious to most insects, e.g., termites, as no insects will live inside the wood.
The algum tree of the Bible was from the Pterocarpus santalinus known as red sandalwood, Red Saunders and Red Sanders. Sandalwood is native to southern India and does not naturally grow in Israel. The algum is a deciduous tree between 33-65 feet tall. The red sandalwood is considered endangered because its natural habitat in India is subjected to human encroachment. The algum tree has a number of useful products. The hard, heavy heart wood can be used for carpentry and for fence posts. Bark and stems are made into a red dye which gives a deep ruby red color to silken and woolen clothes. Currently, the dye is used as a brightening substance in tea mixtures and a coloring agent in toothpaste.