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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible


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LEBANON , now Jebel Lebnân , is mentioned more than 60 times in the OT. The name, from the root lâbân (‘white’), was probably given on account of the mountain’s covering of snow. The snow of Lebanon is mentioned in Jeremiah 18:14 . Many passages refer to its beauty, particularly in relation to its cedars and other trees (see Psalms 72:16 , Song of Solomon 4:11 , Hosea 14:5; Hosea 14:7 ). From Lebanon was obtained wood for building the first ( 2 Chronicles 2:8 ) and the second ( Ezra 3:7 ) Temple. Lebanon was famous for its fruitfulness ( Psalms 72:16 ) and its wine ( Hosea 14:7 ).

The term ‘Lebanon’ may be considered in most places as referring to the whole mountain mass, more correctly distinguished as Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon ( Libanus and Antilibanus of Jdt 1:7 ). The two ranges traverse N. Syria, running roughly parallel, from S.W. to N.E., and are separated by a deep valley the biq‘ah of Joshua 11:17; Joshua 12:7 known to-day as el-Buqa . The western range, Lebanon proper, is nearly 100 miles long, but the eastern, if Hermon is deducted as a separate entity, is only 65 miles long. The former range is divided from the mountains of Galilee by the deep chasm made by the Litâni river in its passage seawards. In the N. a somewhat similar gorge formed by the Nahr el-Kebîr , the ancient Eleutherus, divides it from the Jebel Nusairiyeh . The summits of the range rise in height from south to north. In the S. a few points attain to almost 7000 feet; in the centre, E. of Beyrout, Jebel Kuneiseh is 6960 feet, and Jebel Sannîn 8554 feet; further N., to the S.E. of Tripoli, is a great semicircular group of mountains, sometimes known as the ‘Cedar group,’ on account of the famous group of these trees in their midst, where the highest point, Jebel Mukhmal , reaches 10, 207 feet, and several other points are almost as lofty. Geologically the Lebanon is built of three main groups of strata. Lowest comes a thick layer of hard limestone, named after its most characteristic fossil ( Cidaris glandaria ) Glandaria limestone; above this are strata of Nubian sandstone, yellow and red in colour, and in places 1500 feet thick, overlaid and interlaced with strata of limestone containing fossil echinoderms and ammonites; and thirdly, above this group, and forming the bulk of the highest peaks, is another layer, many thousand feet thick in places, of a limestone containing countless fossils known as hippurites, radiolites, and such like. The sandstone strata are most important, for where they come to the surface is the richest soil and the most plentiful water, and here flourish most luxuriantly the pines which are such a characteristic feature of W. Lebanon scenery. A great contrast exists between the W. and E. slopes. The former are fertile and picturesque, while down their innumerable valleys course numberless mountain streams to feed the many rivers flowing seawards. The E. slopes are comparatively barren, and, except at one point, near Zahleh , there is no stream of importance. Of the Lebanon rivers besides the Nahr Litâni (Leontes) and the Nahr el-Kebîr (Eleutherus), the following may be enumerated from S. to N. as the more important: Nahr ez-Zaherani, Nahr el-‘Auwali (Bostrenus), Nahr Beirût (Magoras), Nahr el-Kelb (Lycus), Nahr Ibrahîm (Adonis), and the Nahr Qadîsha or ‘holy river,’ near Tripoli.

The Lebanon is still fairly well wooded in a few places, though very scantily compared with ancient times, when Hiram, king of Tyre, supplied Solomon with ‘cedar trees, fir trees, and algum trees out of Lebanon’ (1 Kings 5:6 , 2 Chronicles 2:8 ). In regard to cultivation there has been a very great improvement in recent years, and the terraced lower slopes of the mountain are now covered with mulberry, walnut, and olive trees as well as vines. Many of the views in the Lebanon are of most romantic beauty, and the climate of many parts is superb. Wild animals are certainly scarcer than in olden days. In the time of Tiglath-pileser 1. the elephant was hunted here, but it has long been extinct. Jackals, gazelles, hyænas, wolves, bears, and panthers (in order of commonness) are found and, inland from Sidon, the coney ( Hyrax ) abounds.

Politically the Lebanon rejoices in a freer and better government than any other part of Syria, as, since the massacres of 1860, a Christian governor, appointed with the approval of the European Powers, rules on behalf of the Sultan. The district, except in the N., is now extensively supplied with excellent carriage roads, and the range is crossed by the French railway from Beyrout to Damascus, the highest point traversed being 4880 feet above sea-level.

Between the Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon is the great hollow known to the Greeks as CÅ“le-Syria , and to-day called Buqa‘ el-‘Azîz . Considered geologically, this wide valley is a product of the same great ‘fault’ as produced the deep Jordan valley. It is now a great, fertile, but little cultivated, plain, from 3 to 6 miles wide, and in its rise, not far from Baalbek, two famous rivers, the Litâni (Leontes), which flows S., and the Nahr el-Asi or Orontes, which flows N., and enters the sea near Antioch. This hollow plain, besides being crossed transversely by the Damascus railway and road, is traversed over more than half its length by the new line past Baalbek, Homs, and Hamath to Aleppo Some part of this plain, ‘the valley of the Lebanon, would appear to have been conquered by the Israelites ( Joshua 11:17 ).

The Anti-Lebanon is to-day known as Jebel esh-Sherki or ‘the east mountain,’ the equivalent of ‘Lebanon towards the sun-rising’ of Joshua 13:5 . In Song of Solomon 7:4 it is referred to as ‘the tower of Lebanon that looketh towards Damascus.’ In Deuteronomy 1:7; Deuteronomy 3:25; Deuteronomy 11:24 , Joshua 1:4; Joshua 9:1 , the Heb. ‘Lebanon’ is in the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] tr. [Note: translate or translation.] ‘Anti-Lebanon.’ Anti-Lebanon is somewhat arbitrarily divided from Hermon, which is structurally its S. extremity, by a, pass (along which the French diligence road runs), and especially by the Wady Barada . In the N. it terminates in the plain around Homs. Its highest point is Tâla’ at Mûsa (8755 feet), but several other peaks are almost as lofty. A valley, like the Buqa‘ in miniature, traverses the S. part of the range from N. to S., and in this rises the Nahr Yafûfeh , which empties its waters down the Wady Yafûfeh to join the Litâni; and the Nahr Barada , which, after rising in a beautiful pool at the S.W. extremity of this plain, runs down the Wady Barada to Damascus. The N. part of this range is very bare and wild.

E. W. G. Masterman.

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Lebanon'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. 1909.

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