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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature


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is the rendering in the Auth. Vers. of three distinct Heb. words. (See TOPOGRAPHICAL TERMS).

1. Usually and most properly יִעִר, ya'ar, or יִעֲרָה, yaa'rah (once rendered; "wood," Deuteronomy 19:5), signifying a dense woods from its redundancy or luxuriance, such as is seen in the growth of forest-trees, and in use restricted (with the exception of 1 Samuel 14:26, and Song of Solomon 5:1, in which it refers to honey) to an abundance of trees. It is the name given to all the great primeval forests of Syria, where the stately trees grew (Ecclesiastes 2:6; Isaiah 44:14), and where the wild beasts had their homes (Jeremiah 5:6; Micah 5:8). Hosea (Hosea 2:12) appears to use it as equivalent to the Arabic ya'ur, a rugged and desolate place, like midbar or "wilderness." (See WOOD).

2. חֹרֶשׁ, cho'resh, is apparently derived from a Chaldee root, חֲרִשׁ, to be entangled, and would therefore signify a thicket of trees or bushes, such as might afford a safe hiding-place (comp. 1 Samuel 23:15), and such as is now often seen in Palestine on the sites of ruined cities (comp. Isaiah 17:9). It applies to woods of less extent, the word itself, according to others, involving, the idea of what is cut down (from חָרִשׁ, Gesen. Thes. page 530): it is only twice (1 Samuel 23:15 sq.; 2 Chronicles 27:4) applied to woods properly so called; its sense, however, is illustrated in the other passages in which it occurs, viz. Isaiah 17:9 (A.V. "bough"), where the comparison is to the solitary relic of an ancient forest, and Ezekiel 31:3, where it applies to trees or foliage sufficient to afford shelter (Vulg. frondibus nemorosus; A.V. "with a shadowing shroud"). The term occurs seven times in Scripture, but is only once rendered forest" In the forests (Sept. ἐν τοῖς δρυμοῖς ) he built castles and towers" (2 Chronicles 27:4). The locality here referred to appears to be the south of Judah, where the mountains were formerly, and are in places still, clothed with dwarf oaks and tangled shrubberies. (See THICKET).

3. פִּרְדֵּס, pardes', a word of foreign origin, like the Greek παράδεισος, and the Arabic pardasun, q.d. park, means an enclosed garden or plantation attached to a palace, intended either for ornament or for containing animals of the chase (Ecclesiastes 2:5; Song of Solomon 4:13; comp. Xenophon, Cyrop. 1:3, 12). It is found only three times in the Bible, and is once translated forest. In Nehemiah 2:8, Asaph is called "the keeper of the king's forest" (Sept. τοῦ παραδείσου ), where it appropriately expresses the care with which the forests of Palestine were preserved under the Persian rule, a regular warden being appointed, without whose sanction no tree could be felled. Elsewhere the word describes an orchard (Ecclesiastes 2:5; Song of Solomon 4:13). (See ORCHARD).

Although Palestine has never, in historical times, been a woodland country, yet there can be no doubt that it contained much more wood formerly than it has at present. Tracts of woodland are mentioned by travelers in Palestine, but rarely what we should call a forest. There are still some remnants of ancient oak forests on the mountains of Bashan, Gilead, Hermon, and Galilee. One solitary grove of cedars exists on Lebanon, but fir-trees are there abundant. The other forests of Palestine (2 Kings 2:23; 1 Samuel 14:25; 1 Samuel 7:2, etc.) have almost disappeared. Yet here and there, in every district of the country, north and south, east and west, one meets with a solitary oak or terebinth of huge dimensions, as at Hebron, and the valley of Elah, and Shiloh, and Daniel These are the last trees of the forests, and serve to indicate what the forests of Palestine once were. Hence it is probable that the highlands were once covered with a primeval forest, of which the celebrated oaks and terebinths (e.g. those of Abraham, Tabor, etc.) scattered here and there were the relics. The woods and forests mentioned in the Bible appear to have been situated where they are usually found in cultivated countries, in the valleys and defiles that lead down from the high to the low lands, and in the adjacent plains. They were therefore of no great size, and correspond rather with the idea of the Latin saltus than with our forest. The following are those that occur in Scripture. (See TREE).

(1.) The most extensive was the forest (yaar, "wood") of Ephraim, implying a region of Ephraim covered with forests where Mount Jearim (Hill of Forests) was situated (Joshua 15:10); or in allusion to the name of the city Kirjath-jearim (1 Samuel 7:1-2). It clothed the slopes of the hills that bordered the plain of Jezreel, and the plain itself in the neighborhood of Bethshan (Joshua 17:15 sq.), extending, perhaps, at one time to Tabor, which is translated δρυμός by Theodotion (Hosea 5:1), and which is still well covered with forest-trees (Stanley, p. 350). It is, perhaps, the same with the wood of Ephratah (Psalms 132:6). (See EPHRATAH).

(2.) There was a trans-Jordanic forest (yaar, "wood") of Ephraim (2 Samuel 18:6; Sept. δρυμός ). It was here that the army of Absalom was defeated, and he himself slain. It lay near, probably a little to the west of, the town of Mahanaim, where David had his headquarters, and where he received the first tidings of the fate of his son (17:26; 18:24). Why a forest east of the Jordan should bear the name Ephraim cannot now be determined; but one thing is certain in the noble oaks which still clothe the hills of Gilead north of the Jabbok we see the remnants of "the wood of Ephraim," and the representative of that "great oak" in one of whose branches Absalom was strangely imprisoned (18:9; see Porter's Handbook for Syria and Palestine, pages 311, 314). Winer places it on the west side of the Jordan; but a comparison of 2 Samuel 17:26; 2 Samuel 18:3; 2 Samuel 18:23, proves the reverse. The statement in 18:23, in particular, marks its position as on the highlands, at some little distance from the valley of the Jordan (comp. Joseph. Ant. 7:10, 12). (See EPHRAIM, WOOD OF).

(3.) The forest (yaar, Sept. πόλις, A.V. "forest") of Hareth, in the mountains of Judah, to which David withdrew to avoid the fury of Saul (1 Samuel 22:5), was somewhere on the border of the Philistine plain, in the southern part of Judah. (See HARETH).

(4.) The wood (choresh, Sept. ὄρος, A.V. "wood") in the wilderness of Ziph, in which David concealed himself (1 Samuel 23:15 sq.), lay south- east of Hebron. (See ZIPH).

(5.) The forest (yaar, Sept. δρυμός, A.V. "wood") of Bethel (2 Kings 2:23-24) was situated in the ravine which descends to the plain of Jericho. (See BETHEL).

(6.) The forest (yaar, δρυμός, "wood") through which the Israelites passed in their pursuit of the Philistines (1 Samuel 14:25) was probably near Aijalon (1 Samuel 5:31), in one of the valleys leading down to the plain of Philistia. (See SAUL).

(7.) The woods (choresh, δρυμός, "forest") in which Jotham placed his forts (2 Chronicles 27:4) must have been similarly situated. (See JOTHAM).

(8.) The plain of Sharon was partly covered with wood (Strab. 17:758), whence the Sept. gives δρυμοί as an equivalent for that name in Isaiah 65:10. It has still a fair amount of wood (Stanley, page 260). SEE SHARON.

(9.) The excellency or pride of the Jordan, so called from its green and shady banks, clothed with willows, tamarisks, and cane, in which lions made their covert (Zechariah 11:3; Jeremiah 12:5). (See JORDAN).

(10.) The forest (yaar) of cedars on Mount Lebanon (2 Kings 19:23; Hosea 14:5-6), which must have been much more extensive formerly than at present; although, on the assumption that the "cedar" of Scripture is the Pinus cedrus, or so-called " cedar of Lebanon," its growth is by no means confined, among those mountains, to the famous clump of ancient trees which has alone engaged the attention of travelers. (See CEDAR). The American missionaries and others, travalling by unfrequented routes, have found woods of less ancient cedar-trees in other places. (See LEBANON,1.) "The house of the forest (yaar) of Lebanon" is several times mentioned. It appears to have been a part of the royal palace built by Solomon at Jerusalem, and used as an armory (1 Kings 7:2 sq.; 2 Kings 10:17-21; 2 Chronicles 9:16-20). The house had "four rows of cedar pillars, with cedar beams upon the pillars, and it was covered with ceda, above upon thee beams." Hence, in all probability, its name (see Keil, ad loc.). (See SOLOMON).

"The forest (yaar, δρυμός ) of Carmel' is a phrase used is 2 Kings 19:23, and Isaiah 37:24, in reference to the ravages committed by the army of Sennacherib on the land of Israel. The meaning of the clause, יִעִר כִּרְמַלוֹ ("forest of his Carmel"), seems to be its garden forest; that is,' the garden-like cedar forests of Lebanon, to which reference is made (see Keil on Kings, and Alexander on Isaiah, ad loc.).

(11.) The forest (yaar) in Arabia" occurs in Isaiah 21:13. The phrase is remarkable, because Arabia is a country singularly destitute of trees. In no part of it are there any, traces of forests.' (The Sept. translates the passage ἐν τῷ δρυμῷ ἑσπὲρας; and Lowth and others adopt. it; but the Masoretic reading is preferable.) The meaning of the word יִעִר in this place is probably the same as that of the Arabic yaur, a rugged region, whether wooded or not. (See ARABIA).

(12.) In Zechariah 11:2 there is a singular expression "Howl, O ye oaks of Bashan, for the forest of the vintage is come down." The Hebrew יִעִר הִבֵּצַוֹר (Sept. δρυμὸς σύμφυτος ) rather signifies "the fortified forest" (Vulg. saltus munitus), and it is probable that Jerusalem is thus figuratively alluded to, the houses of which are close together as the trees of a forest (compare Micah 3:12; see Henderson, Of the Minor Prophets, ad loc.). It may, however, refer to the devastation of that region, for the greater portion of Peaea was, and still is, covered with forests of oak and terebinth (Isaiah 2:13,; Ezekiel 27:6; comp. Buckingham's Palestine, page 103 sq., 240 sq.; Stanley, p. 324). (See BASHAN).

Forest is used symbolically to denote a city, kingdom, polity, or the like (Ezekiel 14:26). Devoted kingdoms are also represented under the image of a forest, which God threatens to burn or cut down. (See Isaiah 10:17-19; Isaiah 10:34, where the briers and thorns denote the common people; "the glory of the forest" are the nobles and those of highest rank and importance. See also Isaiah 32:19; Isaiah 37:24; Jeremiah 21:14; Jeremiah 22:7; Jeremiah 46:23; Zechariah 11:2.) It was also an image of unfruitfulness as contrasted with a cultivated field or vineyard (Isaiah 29:17; Isaiah 32:15; Jeremiah 26:18; Hosea 2:12). (See PALESTINE).

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These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Forest'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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