), in Hebrew LEBANON (HEBREW), a celebrated mountain range of Syria, or, as St. Jerome truly terms it, “mons Phoenices altissimus.” (Onomast. s. v.
) Its name is derived from the root HEBREW, “to be white;” as St. Jerome also remarks, “Libanus λευκασμὸς,
id est, ‘candor’ interpretatur” (Adv. Jovinianum,
tom. iv. col. 172): and white it is, “both in summer and winter; in the former season on account of the natural colour of the barren rock, and in the latter by reason of the snow,” which indeed “remains in some places, near the summit, throughout the year.” (Irby and Mangles, Oct. 30 and Nov. 1.) Allusion is made to its snows in Jer.
18.14; and it is described by Tacitus as “tantos inter ardores opacum fidumque nivibus.” (Hist.
5.6.) Lebanon is much celebrated both in sacred and classical writers, and, in particular, much of the sublime imagery of the prophets of the Old Testament is borrowed from this mountain (e.g. Psal.
29.5, 6, 104.16--18; Cant.
4.8, 11, 15, 5.15; Isa.
It is, however, chiefly celebrated in sacred history for its forests of cedar and fir, from which the temple of Solomon was constructed and adorned. (1 Kings,
v.; 2 Chron.
It is clear from the sacred history that Mount Lebanon was, in Solomon's time, subject to the kings of Tyre; but at a later period we find the king of Assyria felling its timber for his military engines (Isa.
14.8, 37.24; Ezek.
31.16); and Diodorus Siculus relates that Antigonus, having collected from all quarters hewers of wood, and sawyers, and shipbuilders, brought down timber from Libanus to the sea, to build himself a navy. Some idea of the extent of its pine forests may be formed from the fact recorded by this historian, that 8000 men were employed in felling and sawing it, and 1000 beasts in transporting it to its destination.
He correctly describes the mountain as extending along the coast of Tripoli and Byblius, as far as Sidon, abounding in cedars, and firs, and cypresses, of marvellous size and beauty (19.58); and it is singular that the other classical geographers were wholly mistaken as to the course of this remarkable mountain chain, both Ptolemy (5.15
) and Strabo (xvi. p.755
) representing the two almost parallel ranges of Libanus and Antilibanus as commencing near the sea and running from west to east, in the direction of Damascus,--Libanus on the north and Antilibanus on the south; and it is remarkable that the Septuagint translators, apparently under the same erroneous idea, frequently translate the Hebrew word Lebanon by Ἀντιλίβανος
(e. g. Deut.
1.7, 3.25, 11.24; Josh.
1.4, 9.1). Their relative position is correctly stated by Eusebius and St. Jerome (s. v. Antilibanus
), who place Antilibanus to the east of Libanus and in the vicinity of Damascus. [ANTILIBANUS
Lebanon itself may be said to commence on the north of the river Leontes (el-Kâsimîyeh
), between Tyre and Sidon; it follows the course of the coast of the Mediterranean towards the north, which in some places washes its base, and in others is separated from it by a plain varying in extent: the mountain attains its highest elevation (nearly 12,000 feet) about half way between Beirût
It is now called by various names, after the tribes by whom it is peopled,--the southern part being inhabited by the Metowili; to the north of whom, as far as the road from Beirût
to Damascus, are the Druses; the Maronites occupying the northern parts, and in particular the district called Kesrawan.
(Robinson, Bibl. Res.
vol. iii. p. 459; Burckhardt, Syria,
It still answers, in part at least, to the description of St. Jerome, being “fertilissimus et virens,” though it can be no longer said “densissimis arborum comis protegitur” (Comment in Osee,
c. xiv.): and again,--“Nihil Libano in terra repromissionis excelsius est, nec nemorosius atque condensius.
” (Comment. in Zacharian,
It is now chiefly fruitful in vines and mulberry trees; the former celebrated from of old (Hos.
14.7), the latter introduced with the cultivation of the silkworm in comparatively modern times. Its extensive pine forests have entirely disappeared, or are now represented by small clusters of firs of no imposing growth, scattered over the mountain in those parts where the soft sandstone (here of a reddish hue) comes out from between the Jura limestone, which is the prevailing formation of the mountain.
The cedars so renowned in ancient times, and known to be the patriarchs of all of their species now existing, [p. 2.174]
are found principally towards the north of the range (Robinson, Bibl. Res.
vol. iii. pp. 440, 441), particularly in the vicinity of a Maronite village named Ehden,
doubtless identical with the “Eden” of Ezekiel (31.16), in the neighbourhood of which the finest specimens of the cedars were even then found. They had almost become extinct,--only eight ancient trees can now be numbered,--when, a few years ago, the monks of a neighbouring convent went to the pains of planting some five hundred trees, which are now carefully preserved, and will perpetuate the tradition of the “cedars of Lebanon” to succeeding generations.
The fact remarked by St. Jerome, of the proper name of the mountain being synonymous with frankincense, both in Greek and Hebrew, has given rise to the idea that the mountain produced this odoriferous shrub, of which, however, there is no proof. (Reland, Palaestina,