The Cedars of Lebanon -- By: William Ellwanger

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 15:4 (Fall 2002)
Article: The Cedars of Lebanon
Author: William Ellwanger

The Cedars of Lebanon

William Ellwanger

One of the majestic cedars of Lebanon emerging from the rocky terrain.

One of the days on our recent visit to Lebanon was dedicated to finding and photographing the famous Cedars of Lebanon (technically cedrus libani). Based on numerous Biblical references and a great deal of literature about the cedar forests in Lebanon, one would still expect to see cedar trees here and there. Yet, unfortunately, during the past three millennia greed has taken precedent over conservation and today very few cedars are left.

Our search to see the cedars took us north from Beirut along the coast for an hour. At ancient Byblos, we turned east and headed up into the Lebanon mountains. Leaving the oppressive heat of the Mediterranean coast, the temperature quickly became much more pleasant. Following a circuitous route through numerous small hamlets, some in our group even thought the sights reminded them of Alpine scenes in Switzerland.

After another couple of hours, we finally arrived at our destination high in the mountains. Instead of the anticipated vast cedar forests, we found a small grove of perhaps 30 trees with an adjacent outdoor marketplace offering tourists cedar wood souvenirs. This small nationally-protected grove is one of only a few remaining cedars of Lebanon today.

The Majestic Cedar

The profile of these majestic trees includes a unique horizontally-sprawling branch and leaf system. In addition, several huge and gnarly tree trunks often seem to grow out of one extensive root base. While cedars can live over 1200 years and grow to a height of about 120 ft (33m), we were impressed with the stature of even the younger trees in this grove at about 60 to 70 ft (21m) high.

During our visit, I couldn’t help but recall why wood from the cedar has been held in such high esteem. First, I remember the very pleasant aroma of a small cedar closet in our first home. In addition to its long-lasting fragrance, cedar wood provides builders with a material of outstanding structural strength and a natural resistance to the deteriorating effects of the elements. Demonstrating that quality, Ezekiel said the ships of the important Phoenician seaport of Tyre used cedar logs for their masts (Ez 27:5).

Cedars of Lebanon in Scripture

Wood from the cedars of Lebanon played a special role in official state building projects of several nations, including Egypt and Israel. Hiram, king of Tyre, sent both cedars and carpenters to assist King David in building his palace in Jerusalem (2 Sm 5:...

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