Tag Archives: Lebanon

Cedar and Hyssop

At Neot Kedumim the sign identifying the Cedar also mentions Hyssop which is growing among the trees.

You may click on the image for a larger one. Here is a copy of the text:

Cedar and Hyssop

The Cedrus Libani (cedar of Lebanon) is an impressive tree towering to great heights. It is the symbol of pride and prestige in Scripture. In contrast, the hyssop is a symbol of modesty and humility for it requires little water and soil and grows even in the smallest cracks in stone. Yet it has much to offer: food, spice, medicine and even kindling.

In Leviticus 14:4 we are told that a person cured of Leprosy must hold a ceremony in which he brings the High Priest cedar and hyssop.

This act is explained as follows: the leper was proud like the cedar and God humbled him like the hyssop that is crushed by all [for spice] (Midrash Hagadol Metzora 14:4). A common Hebrew proverb describing leadership problems in another example: “If fire consumes the cedars what shall avail the hyssop that grows on the rock?” (Babylonian Talmud Moed Katan 25b).

This hyssop is identified as Majorana syriaca or Organum syriacum. Frenkley says it is “a grayish shrub with thin woody branches” (see previous article here for the reference). She says,

It can survive with very little soil and water, sometimes growing out of the smallest cracks in stone, as though literally “out of the rock.” The hyssop is one of the most important edible plants of the Middle East, highly valued for its fragrance and flavor. It is used as a spice, as food, as a medicinal plant, and its dry branches make excellent kindling. Unassuming in size and color, useful in so many ways, the hyssop came to symbolize modesty and humility—in direct contrast to the haughty and glamorous cedar of Lebanon.

Hyssop at Neot Kedumim. Photo: ferrelljenkins.blog.

Hyssop growing near Cedar trees at Neot Kedumim. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Hyssop is mentioned 12 times in the Bible and no less than seven of these times in association with cedar wood.

  • The Israelites in Egypt were to use hyssop branches dipped in blood to place it on the lentil and doorposts of their houses (Exodus 12:22).
  • The Mosaic law commanded that the offering for the cleansed leper included two clean birds, cedar wood and scarlet yarn and hyssop” (Leviticus 14: 1-9).
  • King Solomon  spoke of both the cedar of Lebanon and the hyssop that grows in the wall (1 Kings 4:33).
  • Solomon imported cedar for his building projects in Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 2:7-10). He also planted cedars in abundance in Jerusalem (1 Kings 10:27). Cedar was a symbol of power; something kings could be proud of (Jeremiah 22:15).

At Neot Kedumim Hyssop is planted among the rocks and under the cedar trees. The tall, stately cedars stand in stark contrast to the lowly hyssop growing in the rocks.

Transporting cedars for the temple

The cedars grew in the high mountains of the Lebanon range, the north-south range along the Mediterranean coast.

Cedars also grow in the Amanus mountains north of Antakya, Turkey (Antioch of Syria in Acts 11 and 13). I have seen a small number of cedars still growing in the Taurus Mountains of Turkey. In Lebanon, the most famous of the trees are growing in the high mountains about 100 miles north of Beirut near the town of Besharre, but there are also some growing southeast of Beirut at Barouk.

(A geographical note for those who may not know. If we go east we have the Bekah Valley and then the Anti-Lebanon range of mountains. The Lebanon range continues south and becomes the mountains of upper and lower Galilee, and the mountains of Samaria and Judea. The Bekah Valley continues south to become the Hula Valley, passing through the Sea of Galilee, the Jordan Valley, passing through the Dead Sea, the Arabah, etc. The Anti-Lebanon mountain range continues south through the Golan Heights, the Mountains of Gilead, and the trans-Jordan plateau or highlands.)

Browsing in Pritchard’s Ancient Near Eastern Texts, I noted numerous reference to ancient rulers cutting cedars and transporting them to built projects in their home country.

Gudea of Lagash (2141-2122 B.C.) calls the Amanus Mountains “the Cedar Mountain.” He says “he formed into rafts cedar logs 60 cubits long, cedar logs 50 cubits long (and) KU-wood logs 25 cubits long and brought them (thus) out of the mountain.”

Tiglath-Pileser I, King of Assyria (1114-1076 B.C.), says he went to the Lebanon mountains and cut cedar beams for a temple.

Ashurnasirpal II, King of Assyria (883-859 B.C.),  says, “I ascended the mountains of the Amamus … and cut down (there) logs of cedars” and other trees.

Shalmaneser III, King of Assyria (858-824 B.C.), claims that he ascended the mountain Amanus and cut cedar and pine timber.

Esarhaddon, king of Assyria (680-649 B.C.), claims he made 22 kings of the Hatti transport material for his palace: “big logs, long beams (and) thin boards from cedar and pine trees, products of the Sirara and Lebanon (La-na-na) mountains which had grown for a long time into tall and strong timber….” Sirara was one of the towns of southern Mesopotamia. Esarhaddon left his image and an inscription on the cliffs above Dog River in Lebanon.

Nebuchadnezzar II, king of Babylon (605-562 B.C.), refers to the Lebanon as the “[Cedar] Mountain, the luxurious forest of Marduk, the smell of which is sweet.” He says no other god has desired and no other king has felled the trees. He says Marduk desired the cedars “as a fitting adornment for the palace of the ruler of heaven and earth.”

The Neo-Babylonian king claims to have rid the country (Lebanon) of a foreign enemy and returned scattered inhabitants to their settlements. In order to transport cedars to Babylon, he explains some of his projects.

What no former king had done (I achieved): I cut through steep mountains, I split rocks, opened passages and (thus) I constructed a straight road for the (transport of the) cedars. I made the Arahtu flo[at] (down) and carry to Marduk, my king, mighty cedars, high and strong, of precious beauty and of excellent dark quality, the abundant yield of the Lebanon, as (if they be) reed stalks (carried by) the river. Within Babylon [I stored] mulberry wood. I made the inhabitants of the Lebanon live in safety together and let nobody disturb them. In order that nobody might do any harm [to them] I ere[cted there] a stela (showing) me (as) everlasting king (of this region) and built … I, myself, … established.…

The Arahtu was a canal built by Nebuchadnezzar near Babylon that was used in the transportation of the cedars. Some of the kings speak of building roads for the transportation of the cedars.

In 1971 I was able to make a photo of the inscription left by Nebuchadnezzar at Dog River north of Beirut. Some more recent travelers have found this covered by vines. Click on the photo for a larger image and you will get a better view of some of the cuneiform writing.

Nebuchadnezzar's inscription made on the right bank of Dog River in Lebanon. FerrellJenkins.blog.

Nebuchadnezzar’s inscription made on the right bank of Dog River in Lebanon. On the left bank on the rock cliffs there are reliefs and inscriptions by Ramses II of Egypt, and Assyrian kings Shalmaneser III (?) and Esarhaddon. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Hiram, king of Tyre, promised Solomon that he would transport cedars by sea to Joppa.

And we will cut whatever timber you need from Lebanon and bring it to you in rafts by sea to Joppa, so that you may take it up to Jerusalem. (2 Chronicles 2:16 ESV)

The parallel text in 1 Kings 5:9 says,

My servants shall bring it down to the sea from Lebanon, and I will make it into rafts to go by sea to the place you direct. And I will have them broken up there, and you shall receive it. And you shall meet my wishes by providing food for my household.” (1 Kings 5:9 ESV)

The comment in The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament explains:

Transport of the logs along the Palestinian coast south would have involved either tying them together into rafts, which required staying very close to shore for fear of storms breaking them up, or loading them on ships. Assyrian reliefs show Phoenician ships both loaded with logs and towing them.

This photograph illustrates the comment above, but the biblical text indicates that the logs cut for Solomon were made into rafts.

Sargon transporting cedar logs from Lebanon by sea. Displayed in the Louvre. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Sargon transporting cedar logs from Lebanon by sea. Displayed in the Louvre. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Lebanon had two famous rivers, both of which had their source in the Bekah valley. The Orontes River flowed north past Kadesh, Hamath, and other cities and then turned west to flow past Antioch into the Mediterranean at Seleucia.

The Leontes River (also known as the Letani), flowed through the Lebanon mountains and into the Mediterranean a few miles north of Tyre. Since we know of other rulers floating the timbers on rivers, I have thought that perhaps some of those going to Jerusalem may have been moved from the southern forests by means of the Leontes, then tied into rafts near the coast for the trip to Joppa.

The Litani river a few miles north of Tyre, Lebanon. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Leontes (= Litani) river a few miles north of Tyre, Lebanon. Photo: Ferrell Jenkins.

The distance from the mouth of the Leontes River to Joppa is about 95 miles (152 km). Our photos below is an aerial view of Joppa and its modern harbor.

Aerial view of Joppa, showing the modern harbor. ferrelljenkins.blog.

The modern harbor at Joppa. We know that the tel (a green mound with some paths on it) you see in the left bottom quarter of the photo was inhabited by Egyptians as early as the 15th century B.C. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Archaeological Encyclopedia of the Holy Land (1990) says,

Some scholars believe that the port referred to is that of Tell Qasile, east of Jaffa.

If that is so, the logs would be floated up the Yarkon River a short distance to Tell Qasile which is a little northeast of Joppa, close enough to be considered Joppa.

From Joppa the logs were transported by Solomon’s men across the plain of Sharon and up into the mountains of Judea. Quite a project without trucks or trains. In addition to the temple, the Bible records that Solomon built “the House of the Forest of Lebanon” (I Kings 7:2).

Our final photograph shows some stone anchors displayed at Tel Qasile which is located on the grounds of the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv. I notice that these are larger than anchors found at the Sea of Galilee. These would be more suitable for use on a river such as the Yarkon.

Stone anchors displayed at Tel Qasile at the Eretz Israel Museum, Tel Aviv. FerrellJenkins.blog.

Stone anchors displayed at Tel Qasile at the Eretz Israel Museum, Tel Aviv. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

 

The Cedars of Lebanon

The Bible records that King David provided materials for a proposed temple in Jerusalem before his death.

…and cedar timbers without number, for the Sidonians and Tyrians brought great quantities of cedar to David. (1 Chronicles 22:4 ESV; see verses 1-5)

  • The cedars were floated from Lebanon to Joppa for Solomon’s Temple (2 Chronicles 2:16).
  • Hiram, king of Tyre, built a cedar house for David (2 Samuel 5:11; 7:2).
  • Solomon requested that Hiram have cedars of Lebanon cut for him (1 Chronicles 22:7).
  • Cedars from Lebanon again were floated to Joppa for the rebuilding of the temple (520-516 B.C.; Ezra 3:7).

Only a few of the fabled cedars remain in Lebanon. One cluster of trees grow at Besharre in the north of Lebanon at an elevation of about 5000 feet or more above sea level. Our photo below was made in May, 2002, when there was some snow still on the surrounding mountains.

A view of the clump of cedars at Besharre, Lebanon. FerrellJenkins.blog.

A view of the clump of cedars at Besharre, Lebanon. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The cedars in Lebanon are now protected and may be cut for the wood only when a tree has fallen.

A fallen cedar at Besharre in northern Lebanon. FerrellJenkins.blog.

A fallen cedar at Besharre in northern Lebanon. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Cedrus libani is described in Fauna and Flora of the Bible.

The enthusiasm with which the OT writings praise the cedar of Lebanon is understandable. It is a majestic tree of great beauty, reaching 27 m [88 ft.] in height and 12 m [39 ft.] in girth. Its long branches spread out horizontally from the trunk, and the leaves are dark and evergreen, glittering like silver in the sun. The cones take three years to mature. The fragrant wood is much sought after for building purposes, as it does not easily rot. Its great value as timber is often mentioned, especially in the history of King Solomon. (p. 108)

Small twigs and cones from the cedars of Lebanon. ferrelljenkins.blog.

Small potted plants and cones from the cedars of Lebanon. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The next photo illustrates how the branches “spread out horizontally from the trunk.” This tree is different from the cedars so many of us have enjoyed for Christmas trees.

A few of the Cedars of Lebanon at Besherre. ferrelljenkin.blog.

A few of the Cedars of Lebanon at Besherre. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Not so many of the cedars remain because various nations have used them in buildings projects.

We have an example in a temple from the Late Bronze Age, a period of Egyptian control at Lachish. The description of the temple by David Ussishkin is fascinating, but I must concentrate on two things. Several charred beams were found on the floor of the building. Ussishkin says,

The roof was spanned by long wooden beams laid parallel to one another across the main hall. Their charred remains, identified as cedar of Lebanon, were found lying on the floor; altogether, remains of about ten beams could be detected along the southern part of the hall… (Ussishkin, David. “Excavations at Tel Lachish – 1973-1977.” Tel Aviv 5:1-2 (1978): 1-97: 13.

This temple is also designated as the Acropolis Temple. Information about it, including a plan and reconstruction drawings are found in Ussishkin, Biblical Lachish, pp. 140-164.

In our photo below that I made in 1980 only one piece of wood remains (in the center of our photo).

Charred beam made of Cedar of Lebanon in the Egyptian-period temple at Lachish. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins, 1980.

Charred beam made of Cedar of Lebanon in the Egyptian-period temple at Lachish. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins, 1980.

Notice the column base. Two of these were found in the temple. The scholars who analyzed the carbonized beams with a diameter of about 30 cm [12 inches]. Cedar trunks of that diameter could have been 14 metres [45 feet] or longer, and thus easily capable of spanning the ceiling across the main hall without additional support (Usshishkin, Excavations).

Ancient nations used the cedar of Lebanon for their boats and buildings. Several panels are displayed in the Louvre showing boats transporting logs of cedars of Lebanon for use in the palace of Sargon. Our photo shows a small portion of one panel.

Assyrians transporting cedar of Lebanon for their buildings. Louvre. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Assyrians transporting cedar of Lebanon for their buildings. Period of Sargon II (721-705 BC). Louvre. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

NASA photos of Israel and Middle East

NASA has posted several excellent photos made by Barry Wilmore from the International Space Station on Facebook. The photos were made on Christmas day, 2014. See how many landmarks you can identify. Click on the photo for a larger image. Do you see Tyre?

Israel, the West Bank, and part of Jordan from the ISS. Photo: NASA/Barry Wilmore.

Israel, the West Bank, and part of Jordan from the ISS. Photo: NASA/Barry Wilmore.

The photo below shows portions (or all) of (L to R) Egypt, Sinai Peninsula, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey (including Euphrates River), and Iraq. Great photo.

The Middle East from the ISS. Photo: NASA/Barry Wilmore.

The Middle East from the ISS. Photo: NASA/Barry Wilmore.

Get out your Bible atlases and study these photos.

Our tax dollars put to good use, I would say.

Visualizing Isaiah 33: Lebanon, Sharon, Bashan and Golan

The fruitful land, the Lebanon range, the plain of Sharon, and the regions of Bashan and Carmel are used by Isaiah to describe what happens in Israel due to the Assyrian invasion.

Behold, their heroes cry in the streets; the envoys of peace weep bitterly. The highways lie waste; the traveler ceases. Covenants are broken; cities are despised; there is no regard for man. The land mourns and languishes; Lebanon is confounded and withers away; Sharon is like a desert, and Bashan and Carmel shake off their leaves. (Isaiah 33:7-9 ESV; see similar language in 2:13)

Oaks in Bashan (Golan Heights). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Oaks in Bashan (Golan Heights). There is a nice stand of oaks east of Highway 98, south of Mas’ada near the border with Syria. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Homer Hailey comments on this text,

The language is figurative, suggesting that the land reflects the spirit of the people whom the invaders are overrunning and devastating. Four ordinarily flourishing sections of the country are described: Lebanon, the mountain range to the north, noted for its majestic beauty and mighty cedar and fir trees, is confounded and withereth away; Sharon, the verdant and flower-rich plain extending south from Carmel until it melts into the Shephelah of western Judea, is like a desert; and Bashan, extending northwest from the Sea of Galilee, noted for its oak groves and rich grazing land, and Carmel, the verdant mountains or hill that juts into the Mediterranean Sea, shake off their leaves, so that the trees are bare. The picture is one of dejection, of both people and land (A Commentary on Isaiah With Emphasis on the Messianic Hope, 280).

When the redeemed return to Zion these once glorious and verdant regions shall once again be majestic.

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad; the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus; it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the LORD, the majesty of our God. (Isaiah 35:1-2 ESV)

Mount Carmel near Murakah. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Mount Carmel near Murakah. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

For our most recent comments on the Cedars of Lebanon, see here.

Visualizing Isaiah 23: Tyre is laid waste

Isaiah 23 is an oracle concerning the famous Phoenician port city of Tyre. The Mediterranean world of Egypt, Tarshish, Cyprus, and the neighboring city of Sidon, would be affected by the fall of Tyre.

More details about the prophecy concerning Tyre are given in Ezekiel 26-28. Nebuchadnezzar is named as one of the kings who will bring about the fall of Tyre. He besieged Tyre for 13 years (585-572 B.C.), immediately after the destruction of Jerusalem. The people of Tyre fled from their mainland city to the island about ½ mile offshore. But Tyre was to be destroyed by many nations. Alexander the Great came to Tyre in 332 B.C. Most of the cities in his path surrendered, but the people of Tyre prepared to resist him. The more powerful Greeks used the debris of the desolate mainland city to build a causeway to the island. Alexander’s army captured the island city in seven months.

Ezekiel says the city “will be built no more” (Ezekiel 26:14). The mainland city has never been rebuilt. From my first visit to Tyre in 1967, I continued to visit the city until 1975, and then again in 2002. Political and military conditions have made it impossible to visit more times.

The diagram below hopefully will help to explain what we have briefly explained here. It was prepared by my friend Steven Sebree of Moonlight Graphic Works for one of my books which is currently out of print.

The mainland has not been rebuilt since the destruction by Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians (585-572 B.C.).

The mainland city has not been rebuilt since the destruction by Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians (585-572 B.C.). The causeway to the island was built by Alexander the Great in 332 B.C.

By 315 B.C. the island city was rebuilt, but was populated by Carians from SW Asia Minor. The present city of Tyre occupied the island and the causeway. The photo below shows a view to the west of a Roman arch built over the causeway built by the Greeks. The island city is visible beyond the arch.

A Roman arch built on the causeway built by Alexander the Great. View West. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A Roman arch on the causeway built by Alexander the Great. The view is to the west and the modern island city. There is no city on the mainland. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Visualizing Isaiah 14: cedars of Lebanon rejoice over the fall of Babylon

Isaiah 14 continues to deal with the downfall of Babylon. In great poetic language we learn that the cedars of Lebanon will rejoice that there is no longer a woodcutter to come up against them.

The whole earth is at rest and quiet; they break forth into singing. The cypresses rejoice at you, the cedars of Lebanon, saying, ‘Since you were laid low, no woodcutter comes up against us.’ (Isaiah 14:7-8 ESV)

The Assyrians came before the Babylonians to take advantage of the wonderful cedars of Lebanon. Sargon II left a frieze on the wall of his palace at Khorsabad showing timber being transported for use in the construction of Assyrian palaces.

Assyrians transporting Cedars from Lebanon. Louvre. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Assyrians transporting Cedars from Lebanon. Louvre. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The above frieze was produced at Khorsabad during the Neo-Assyrian period, about 713-706 B.C. The Louvre website has this explanation about procuring timber.

Timber was needed to build monumental palaces, but Assyria lacked quality building timber. Lebanon was famous for its cedar forests and from the end of the 2nd millennium, the Assyrian kings imported wood
from this region as the cuneiform inscriptions explain. The trees felled in the Lebanese mountains were carted from Sidon to a port south of  Tyre. The timber was loaded on ships that sailed north along the Phoenician coast, skirting Tyre then Ruad; it was no doubt unloaded at the mouth of the Orontes River. From there the timber could be transported to Assyria by river or road.

More information about the frieze is available at the Louvre website here.

Esarhaddon, the king of Assyria and Babylon between 681-669 B.C., says he made numerous kings,

transport under terrible difficulties, to Nineveh, the town (where I exercise) my rulership, as building material for my palace: big logs, long beams (and) thin boards from cedar and pine trees, products of the Sirara and Lebanon (Lab-na-na) mountains, which had grown for a long time into tall and strong timber… (ANET)

The Cedars of Lebanon grow at an altitude of more than 5000 feet above sea level in the northern Lebanon mountains. Only about 300 of the great trees remain near Besharre. In the photo below I show a cedar that has fallen during a storm and is now being cut for use in souvenirs. The trees are protected against indiscriminate cutting.

Cedars of Lebanon are now protected from cutting. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Cedars of Lebanon are now protected from cutting. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The little village at the Cedars is built around one of the larger remaining trees. You can see the cedar wood plaques displayed at the shops along the main road.

Cedar of Lebanon in a little village at the location of the largest remaining grove. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A large Cedar of Lebanon in a little village at the location of the largest remaining grove of trees. Only small bands of snow could still be seen on the mountains in early May. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.