The Majestic Cedars of Lebanon
THE cedars of Lebanon, cedrus libani, are evergreens. They belong to the same family as the popular deodars, natives of the Himalayas, and the Atlas cedars, natives of Africa. They are also related to the sequoias of California.
The cedar is given more prominence in the Scriptures than any other tree of the forest, being mentioned some seventy times. The cedars of Lebanon still grow on the slopes of the mountains of Lebanon as they did in Bible times, as high as some 6,000 feet above sea level. Kings David and Solomon sent to Lebanon for cedar timber, and centuries later so did the “sons of the exile” for rebuilding the temple of Jehovah after their return from Babylon. Phoenicians and Egyptians used cedar for the masts of their ships as well as for the ships themselves.—2 Sam. 5:11; 1 Ki. 5:8; Ezra 3:7; Ezek. 27:5.
In ancient times these cedars blanketed the mountains of Lebanon, but today only a few small groves remain, consisting of upward of four hundred trees, ranging from 200 to 1,000 years of age. Helping to decimate them were the ravages of war, ancient and modern, the Turkish rule and also goats. To protect cedar seedlings from the harm that goats inflict on cedar groves, the Lebanese government built a protecting stone wall.—Isa. 14:5-8.
According to American Forests, January 1969, the cedar of Lebanon is the crowning glory of the plant world as to beauty, stateliness and strength. “Choice” and “majestic” are the terms used in the Scriptures to describe them.—Song of Sol. 5:15; Ezek. 17:23.
The Hebrew word for cedar, ’eʹrez, comes from a root meaning “to be firm,” which name is most fitting in view of its massive trunk and root system. A cedar may grow as high as 120 feet and have a trunk with a circumference as much as 47 feet. Its branches reach out quite horizontally in tiers and extend from the tree as much as fifty feet, so that the branches of a tree may have a circumference of some 300 feet. It bears tan-colored cones about four inches in length and needles upward of a half inch long. It also bears fuzzy catkins about two inches long.
Cedarwood is fragrant, has a warm red tone, is remarkably free from knots and takes a high polish. It is ideal for fine furniture. Due to its high resin content, it does not easily decay and is left alone by insects. The strength of the cedarwood apparently is due to these cedars’ growing at such a rugged high altitude. This seems borne out by the fact that cedar seedlings transplanted in parks of England have a far inferior wood. Because of its strength and beauty, ancient builders used it for beams, pillars, panels and veneer as well as for ship masts.—1 Ki. 6:9-20; 7:2-12.
Of particular interest to Christians is the figurative use of the cedars of Lebanon in the Bible. Because of their height these cedars are used as symbols of the haughty, high and mighty ones of this world who are to be brought low by Jehovah God. (Isa. 2:13; Jer. 22:23; Ezek. 31:2, 3; Amos 2:9; Zech. 11:1, 2) The strength of the cedars of Lebanon is underscored by their being used to show how powerful the voice of Jehovah is: “The voice of Jehovah is powerful; the voice of Jehovah is splendid. The voice of Jehovah is breaking the cedars; yes, Jehovah breaks the cedars of Lebanon in pieces, and he makes them skip about like a calf.”—Ps. 29:4-6.
Then, again, the result of the blessing of Jehovah upon the righteous one causes him to be compared to the firmly rooted cedar: “The righteous himself will blossom forth as a palm tree does; as a cedar in Lebanon does, he will grow big.” (Ps. 92:12) When the spirit of God came upon Balaam so that he blessed Israel, he declared: “How good-looking are your tents, O Jacob, your tabernacles, O Israel! . . . like cedars by the waters.” (Num. 24:5, 6) The Messiah, the Son of God, is also pictured as a cedar planted by God himself.—Ezek. 17:22.
The cedars growing in Lebanon today underscore the accuracy of the Bible record concerning these trees. And that record assures us that the rulers of this world, although majestic, high and mighty as the cedars, will be brought low by the mighty voice of Jehovah God. These references also are an assurance that by following a course of righteousness God’s servants will be like the cedar, strong, enduring, majestic, resisting the strains of their environment. Yes, just as the cedars’ having to endure a rugged high altitude helps to account for their strength, so Christians by enduring tribulation become strong in acquiring an “approved condition” and a firm hope.—Rom. 5:3-5.