(Lebʹa·non) [White [Mountain]].
Generally, the westernmost of the two ranges forming the mountain system of Lebanon. Perhaps its name is derived from the light color of its limestone cliffs and summits or from the fact that the range’s upper slopes are covered with snow during a major part of the year. (Jer 18:14) Extending from NNE to SSW for about 160 km (100 mi) along the Mediterranean Sea, the Lebanon chain parallels the Anti-Lebanon Range for about 100 km (60 mi). The two ranges are separated by a long, fertile valley, the Beqaʽ (Coele-Syria), measuring between 10 and 16 km (6 and 10 mi) in width. (Jos 11:17; 12:7) Through this valley the Orontes River courses northward, whereas the Litani (its lower course being called Nahr el-Kasimiye) flows southward and curves around the southern end of the Lebanon range. The Nahr el-Kebir (Eleutherus) flows past the northern end of the Lebanon chain.
With few exceptions, the foothills of the Lebanon Range rise almost directly from the Mediterranean Sea, leaving only a narrow coastal plain. The summits of this range average between 1,800 and 2,100 m (6,000 and 7,000 ft) in elevation, with two peaks towering over 900 m (3,000 ft) higher. Both the eastern and the western slopes of the range are steep.
Its eastern slopes are quite barren and have practically no important streams. But the well-watered western slopes are cleft by streams and gorges. (Compare Ca 4:15.) The terraced lower slopes on the W side support grain, vineyards, and fruit orchards, as well as mulberry, walnut, and olive trees. (Compare Ho 14:5-7.) Pines thrive in the rich soil of the sandstone layer, and at the higher elevations a few small groves of majestic cedars are to be found. These trees anciently covered the range and their wood was used for a variety of purposes. (1Ki 6:9; Ca 3:9; Eze 27:5; see CEDAR.) Ash, cypress, and juniper trees are also native to the Lebanon Range. (1Ki 5:6-8; 2Ki 19:23; Isa 60:13) Among the animals inhabiting this region are jackals, gazelles, hyenas, and wolves. In ancient times both the forests and the wildlife were more abundant; the region was a haunt for lions and leopards. (Ca 4:8; Isa 40:16) Possibly it was the fragrance of its great forests that was known as “the fragrance of Lebanon.”—Ca 4:11.
The Lebanon region was not conquered by the Israelites under Joshua’s leadership, but it came to be the NW border of the land. (De 1:7; 3:25; 11:24; Jos 1:4; 9:1) The pagan inhabitants of this area, however, served to test Israel’s faithfulness to Jehovah. (Jg 3:3, 4) Centuries later, King Solomon exercised jurisdiction over a part of Lebanon and there did building work. (1Ki 9:17-19; 2Ch 8:5, 6) Possibly one of his construction projects included “the tower of Lebanon, which is looking out toward Damascus.” (Ca 7:4; some, however, understand this to refer to one of the peaks of Lebanon.) At this time Hiram the king of Tyre controlled another portion of Lebanon, from which he supplied Solomon with cedar and juniper timbers.—1Ki 5:7-14.
Illustrative Use. Many of the Scriptural references to Lebanon are associated with its fruitfulness (Ps 72:16; Isa 35:2) and luxuriant forests, particularly its majestic cedars. (Ps 29:5) Often Lebanon is used in a figurative way. It is depicted as if in a state of abashment, sympathizing with the land of Judah that had been despoiled by the Assyrian forces. (Isa 33:1, 9) The Assyrian army itself, however, was to experience calamity, being felled like trees of Lebanon. (Isa 10:24-26, 33, 34) Disastrous effects resulting from Jehovah’s judgment are compared to the withering of the blossom of Lebanon. (Na 1:4) However, the turning of Lebanon’s forest into a fruitful orchard is alluded to in a restoration prophecy and illustrates a complete reversal of matters.—Isa 29:17, 18.
Jehovah, through Jeremiah, “said concerning the house of the king of Judah, ‘You are as Gilead to me, the head of Lebanon.’” (Jer 22:6) “The house” appears to designate the palace complex. (Jer 22:1, 5) Situated as it was on an eminence, the palace’s location was lofty and magnificent, like Lebanon. Also, cedarwood had been used extensively in the construction of the various royal edifices there. (1Ki 7:2-12) King Jehoiakim, who heard the words recorded at Jeremiah 22:6, had himself used cedar paneling for his luxurious palace. (Jer 22:13-15) Therefore, the palace area was like a magnificent forest of cedar buildings and could appropriately be compared to Lebanon and to heavily wooded Gilead. Jehovah warned Judah that if King Jehoiakim, his servants, and the people did not render justice, the ‘house would become a mere devastation’ (Jer 22:1-5) and those dwelling in figurative Lebanon (Jerusalem), “being nested in the cedars,” would experience calamity.—Jer 22:23; see also Eze 17:2, 3.
Similarly, the desire of Assyrian King Sennacherib to “ascend the height of mountainous regions, the remotest parts of Lebanon,” and to “cut down its lofty cedars” appears to allude to his intentions concerning Jerusalem. (Isa 37:21-24) The prophetic words regarding the violence done to Lebanon (Hab 2:17) may refer to calamity in store for Jerusalem. Or they are perhaps to be understood literally as denoting the depletion of Lebanon’s forests through the ravages of war.—Compare Isa 14:5-8.
Zechariah’s prophecy (10:10) pointed to the time when Jehovah would bring his people back to the land of Gilead and Lebanon. In this case Lebanon may refer to the territory W of the Jordan, as Gilead designates the land E of the Jordan.