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 N-NE to S-SW for some ninety-five miles (153 kilometers) along the Mediterranean Sea, the Lebanon chain parallels the Anti-Lebanon range for about sixty-five miles (105 kilometers). The two ranges are separated by a long, fertile valley (Coele-Syria or the Biqaʽ) measuring between six and ten miles (10 and 16 kilometers) in width. (Josh. 11:17; 12:7) Through this valley the Orontes River courses northward, whereas the Litany (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 6,000 and 7,000 feet (c. 1,800 meters and c. 2,100 meters) in elevation, with two peaks towering over 3,000 feet (c. 900 meters) higher. Both the eastern and the western slopes of Lebanon are steep.
The range itself consists of a bottom layer of hard limestone, next a layer of yellow and red sandstone overlaid and interspersed with limestone, and finally another layer of limestone. 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 Song of Solomon 4:15.) The terraced lower slopes on the W side support grain, vineyards, fruit orchards, and mulberry, walnut and olive trees. (Compare Hosea 14:5-7.) Pines thrive in the rich soil of the sandstone layer, and at the higher elevations are to be found a few small groves of the majestic cedars that anciently covered the range and the wood of which was used for various purposes.(1 Ki. 6:9; Song of Sol. 3:9; Ezek. 27:5; see CEDAR.) Ash, cypress and juniper trees are also native to the Lebanon range. (1 Ki. 5:6-8; 2 Ki. 19:23; Isa. 60:13) Among the animals inhabiting this region are jackals, gazelles, hyenas, wolves and bears. In ancient times both the forests and wildlife were more abundant, it being a haunt for lions and leopards. (Song of Sol. 4:8; Isa. 40:16) Possibly it was the fragrance of its great forests that was known as the “fragrance of Lebanon.”—Song of Sol. 4:11.
The Lebanon region was not conquered by the Israelites under Joshua’s leadership, but came to be the NW border of the land. (Deut. 1:7; 3:25; 11:24; Josh. 1:4; 9:1) The pagan inhabitants of this area, however, served to test Israel’s faithfulness to Jehovah. (Judg. 3:3, 4) Centuries later, King Solomon exercised jurisdiction over a part of Lebanon and there did building work. (1 Ki. 9:17-19; 2 Chron. 8:5, 6) Possibly one of his construction projects included “the tower of Lebanon, which is looking out toward Damascus.” (Song of Sol. 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.—1 Ki. 5:7-14.
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. (Nah. 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 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 Ezekiel 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 Isaiah 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.