(lihb' uh nuhn) Place name meaning “white” or perhaps “white mountain.” A small country at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea and the western end of Asia. It has long been a world center of transportation and trade. The proper noun literally means the “White” (mountain), probably derived from the snow-capped Mount Hermon, also known as Sirion (Psalms 29:6). Hermon is often covered with snow, and its white crown offers a majestic and impressive view. The constant snow-coverage is contrasted with the fickleness and apostasy of Israel (Jeremiah 18:1).
Sandy beaches lie along its Mediterranean coast. Rugged mountains rise in the interior. The country itself is dominated by two mountain ridges, the Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon mountains. Both ranges run parallel to the coast. The Lebanon range extends for about 105 miles along the coast, from modern-day Tripoli in the north to Tyre in the south.
The mountain ranges are about 6,230 feet high. Some summits reach a height of more than 11,000 feet: the highest peak is el-Qurnat el-Sawda (11,024 ft.). Between the higher parts of the range lie valleys and ravines.
The Holy Valley, which collects the water from the Mountain of the Cedars, is one of the most important valleys. It was in this region that the Maronites found refuge in the beginning of their history. This Holy Valley has retained its significance throughout the ages. Ain Qadisha (Spring of the Holy Valley) is highly revered. It gushes forth in the heart of a cedar forest and mountainside near Bsherrih. Another famous valley is the Valley of Adonis, through which the River of Adonis flows; and to where the pilgrimage of Adonis took place in the spring of the year. See Gods, Pagan.
In the Bible, Lebanon is celebrated in various capacities. It is frequently featured in the Old Testament, in a general way, as the northern boundry of Palestine (Deuteronomy 1:24;
Joshua 1:4), dividing it from Phoenicia and Syria. Its imposing rage was emblematic of natural strength and solidarity, therefore a perfect poetic foil to the majesty of God revealed in a thunderstorm so powerful that it “maketh them to skip like a calf” (Psalms 29:6). It was a proverbially lush land, noted for its magnificent forests (Isaiah 60:13), especially the “cedars of Lebanon” (Judges 9:15;
Isaiah 2:13). For the tree-poor Palestinians, Lebanon's cedars symbolized the ultimate in natural wealth and beauty. The psalmist calls these ancient and beautiful cedars the “trees of the Lordů which He hath planted” (Psalms 104:16). It is said that some of the cedars remaining in Lebanon are at least 2,500 years old. They share with the famous redwoods of California the distinction of being the oldest living things on earth.
Cedars, as well as other woods of Lebanon, were used in great abundance in the construction of David's palace and Solomon's Temple and palace buildings (1 Kings 5:10-18;
1 Kings 7:2). Cedar was obtained also for the building of the second Temple or the Temple of Zerubbabel (Ezra 3:7).
The forests of Lebanon have been victims of human greed and irresponsibility. They were exploited by Egypt and Mesopotamia long before biblical times, and they continued to supply precious timber well into the Roman Era. Under the Ottoman Empire (A.D. 1516), the forest almost entirely disappeared. Today there is not much left of the cedar woods; almost all of them are gone. The olive tree also played an important part in ancient times and is still cultivated.
Tyre to which
Ezekiel 27-28 is devoted, was one of the most famous cities of the ancient world. Along with the older port of Sidon, it was one of the centers of Phoenician civilization. See Ezekiel 27-28.
Many foreign powers have controlled the Phoenician city-states. They include, in order of rule, the Egyptians, Hittites, Assyrians, Babylonians, and Persians. In 332 B.C. Alexander the Great conquered Lebanon. The region came under the control of the Roman Empire in 64 B.C.