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Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature


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Leb´anon, a long chain of mountains on the northern border of Palestine. The term Libanus is more convenient in use than the Hebrew form Lebanon, as enabling us to distinguish the parallel ranges of Libanus and Anti-Libanus, which have no such distinctive names in connection with the Hebrew designation. Lebanon seems to be applied in Scripture to either or both of these ranges; and we shall also use it in this general sense: but Libanus means distinctively the westernmost of those ranges, which faces the Mediterranean, and Anti-Libanus the eastern, facing the plain of Damascus; in which sense these names will be used in this article. The present inhabitants of the country have found the convenience of distinguishing these parallel ranges; and give to Libanus the name of 'Western Mountain' (Jebel esh-Sharki), and to Anti-Libanus that of 'Eastern Mountain' (Jebel el-Gharbi); although Jebel Libnan (the same name in fact as Lebanon) occurs among the Arabs with special reference to the eastern range.

These two great ranges, which together form the Lebanon of Scripture, commence about the parallel of Tripoli (lat. 34° 28′), run in a general direction from N.E. to S.W., through about one degree of latitude, and form, at their southern termination, the natural frontier of Palestine. These parallel ranges enclose between them a fertile and well-watered valley, averaging about fifteen miles in width, which is the Cœle-Syria (Hollow Syria) of the ancients, but is called by the present inhabitants, by way of pre-eminence, el-Bekaa, or 'the Valley,' which is watered through the greater portion of its length by the river Litany, the ancient Leontes.

Nearly opposite Damascus the Anti-Libanus separates into two ridges, which diverge somewhat, and enclose the fertile Wady et-Teim. The easternmost of these two ridges, which has already been pointed out as the Hermon of Scripture [HERMON], Jebel esh-Sheikh, continues its S.W. course, and is the proper prolongation of Anti-Libanus. From the base of the higher part of this ridge, a low broad spur or mountainous tract runs off towards the south, forming the high land which shuts in the basin and Lake of el-Huleh on the east. This tract is called Jebel Heish, the higher portion of which terminates at Tel el-Faras, nearly three hours north of Fiek. The other ridge of Anti-Libanus takes a more westerly direction. It is long, low, and level; and continues to border the lower part of the great valley of Bekaa, until it seems to unite with the higher bluffs and spurs of Lebanon, and thus entirely to close that valley. In fact, only a narrow gorge is here left between precipices, in some places of great height, through which the Litany finds its way down to the sea, north of Tyre. The chain of Lebanon, or at least its higher ridges, may be said to terminate at the point where it is thus broken through by the Litany. But a broad and lower mountainous tract continues towards the south, bordering the basin of the Huleh on the west. It rises to its greatest elevation about Safed (Jebel Safed); and at length ends abruptly in the mountains of Nazareth, as the northern wall of the Plain of Esdraelon. This high tract may very properly be regarded as a prolongation of Lebanon.

The mountains of Lebanon are of limestone rock, generally of a whitish hue, and from the aspect which the range thus bears in the distance, in its cliffs and naked parts, the name of Lebanon (which signifies 'white') has been supposed to be derived; but others seek its origin in the snows which rest long upon its summits, and perpetually upon the highest of them.

Of the two ranges, that of Libanus is by far the highest. Its uppermost ridge is marked by a line, drawn at the distance of about two hours' journey from the summit, above which all is barren; but the slopes and valleys below this line afford pasturage, and are capable of cultivation, by reason of the numerous springs which are met with in all directions. Cultivation is, however, chiefly found on the seaward slopes, where numerous villages flourish, and every inch of ground is turned to account by the industrious natives, who, in the absence of natural levels, construct artificial terraces in order to prevent the earth from being swept away by the winter rains, and at the same time to retain the water requisite for the irrigation of the crops. When one looks upward from below, the vegetation on these terraces is not visible; so that the whole mountain appears as if composed only of immense rugged masses of naked whitish rock, traversed by deep wild ravines, running down precipitously to the plain. No one would suspect among these rocks the existence of a vast multitude of thrifty villages and a numerous population of mountaineers, hardy, industrious, and brave. Here, amid the crags of the rocks, are to be seen the remains of the renowned cedars; but a much larger proportion of firs, oaks, brambles, mulberry-trees, fig-trees, and vines.

Although the general elevation of Anti-Libanus is inferior to that of Libanus, the easternmost of the branches into which it divides towards its termination (Jebel esh-Sheikh) rises loftily, and overtops all the other summits of heaven. Our information respecting Anti-Libanus is less distinct than that concerning the opposite range. It appears, however, that it has fewer inhabitants, and is scarcely in any part cultivated.

None of the summits of Libanus or Anti-Libanus have been measured. By comparing the accounts of different travelers, however, as to the continuance of snow upon the higher summits, and adjusting them with reference to the point of perpetual congelation in that latitude, a rough estimate may be formed, that the average height of the Libanus mountains, from the top of which the snow entirely disappears in summer, must be considerably below 11,000 feet, probably about 10,000 feet above the level of the sea. But the higher points, particularly the Sannin, which is the highest of all, must be above that limit, as the snow rests on them all the year. By the same rule the average height of the Anti-Libanus range is reckoned as not exceeding 9000 feet; but its highest point, in the Jebel es-Sheik, or Mount Hermon, is considered to be somewhat more lofty than the Sannin, the highest point of Libanus.

In Scripture Lebanon is very generally mentioned in connection with the cedar-trees in which it abounded; but its wines are also noticed (); and in ; , it is celebrated for various kinds of fragrant plants.





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Bibliography Information
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Lebanon'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature".

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