(Heb. e'rez, Gr. kedros, Lat. cedrus), a tree very frequently mentioned in Scripture. It was stately (Ezek. 31:3-5), long-branched (Ps. 80:10; 92:12; Ezek. 31:6-9), odoriferous (Cant. 4:11; Hos. 14:6), durable, and therefore much used for boards, pillars, and ceilings (1 Kings 6:9, 10; 7:2; Jer. 22:14), for masts (Ezek. 27:5), and for carved images (Isa. 44:14).
It grew very abundantly in Palestine, and particularly on Lebanon, of which it was "the glory" (Isa. 35:2; 60:13). Hiram supplied Solomon with cedar trees from Lebanon for various purposes connected with the construction of the temple and the king's palace (2 Sam. 5:11; 7:2, 7; 1 Kings 5:6, 8,10; 6:9, 10, 15, 16, 18, 20; 7:2, 3, 7, 11, 12; 9:11, etc.). Cedars were used also in the building of the second temple under Zerubbabel (Ezra 3:7).
Of the ancient cedars of Lebanon there remain now only some seven or eight. They are not standing together. But beside them there are found between three hundred and four hundred of younger growth. They stand in an amphitheatre fronting the west, about 6,400 feet above the level of the sea.
The cedar is often figuratively alluded to in the sacred Scriptures. "The mighty conquerors of olden days, the despots of Assyria and the Pharaohs of Egypt, the proud and idolatrous monarchs of Judah, the Hebrew commonwealth itself, the war-like Ammonites of patriarchal times, and the moral majesty of the Messianic age, are all compared to the towering cedar, in its royal loftiness and supremacy (Isa. 2:13; Ezek. 17:3, 22, 23, 31:3-9; Amos 2:9; Zech. 11:1, 2; Job 40:17; Ps. 29:5; 80:10; 92:12, etc).", Groser's Scrip. Nat. Hist. (See BOX-TREE Ã‚Â»636.)
The Hebrew word erez
, invariably rendered "cedar" by the Authorized Version, stands for that tree in most of the passages where the word occurs. While the word is sometimes used in a wider sense, (Leviticus 14:6
) for evergreen cone-bearing trees, generally the cedar of Lebanon (Cedrus libani
) is intended. (1Ã‚Â Kings 7:2
; Psalms 92:12
; Solomon 5:15
; Isaiah 2:13
; Ezekiel 31:3-6
) The wood is of a reddish color, of bitter taste and aromatic odor, offensive to insects, and very durable. The cedar is a type of the Christian, being evergreen, beautiful, aromatic, wide spreading, slow growing, long lived, and having many uses. As far as is at present known, the cedar of Lebanon is confined in Syria to one valley of the Lebanon range, viz., that of the Kedisha river, which flows from near the highest point of the range westward to the Mediterranean, and enters the sea at the port of Tripoli. The grove is at the very upper part of the valley, about 15 miles from the sea, 6500 feet above that level, and its position is moreover above that of all other arboreous vegetation. ("Of the celebrated cedars on Mount Lebanon, eleven groves still remain. The famous B?Sherreh grove is three-quarters of a mile in circumference, and contains about 400 trees, young and old. Perhaps a dozen of these are very old; the largest, 63 feet in girth and 70 feet high, is thought by some to have attained the age of 2000 years." --Johnson?s Encycl.
- se'-dar, se'-der ('erez, from Hebrew root meaning "to be firm"; kedros): The 'erez was in almost all the Old Testament references the true cedar, Cedrus libani, but the name may have been applied in a loose way to allied trees, such as junipers and pines. In Nu 24:6--"as cedar-trees beside the waters"--the reference must, as is most probable, be purely poetical (see ALOES) or the 'arazim must signify some other kind of tree which flourishes beside water.
1. Cedar for Ritual Cleansing:
Cedar is twice mentioned as a substance for ritual cleansing. In Lev 14:4 the cleansed leper was sprinkled with the blood of a "clean bird" into which had been put "cedar-wood, and scarlet, and hyssop." In Nu 19:6 "cedar-wood, and hyssop, and scarlet" were to be cast into the holocaust of the red heifer. (For the symbolical meaning see CLEAN.) Here it is very generally considered that the cedar could not have been the wood of Cedrus libani, which so far as we know never grew in the wilderness, but that of some species of juniper--according to Post, Juniperis phoenicea, which may still be found in the wilderness of Edom.
2. Cedar Trees in the Old Testament:
Cedar trees are everywhere mentioned with admiration in the Old Testament. Solomon made the cedar the first of trees (1 Ki 4:33). They are the "glory of Lebanon" (Isa 35:2; 60:13). The most boastful threat of Sennacherib was that he would cut down the tall cedars of Lebanon (Isa 37:24). They were strong, as is implied in--
"The voice of Yahweh is powerful; ....
The voice of Yahweh breaketh the cedars;
Yea, Yahweh breaketh in pieces the cedars of Lebanon"
The cedars are tall--"whose height was like the height of the cedars"--(Am 2:9; 2 Ki 19:23); majestic (2 Ki 14:9), and excellent (Song 5:15). The Assyrian power is compared to--"a cedar in Lebanon with fair branches, and with a forest-like shade, an high stature; and its top was among the thick boughs .... its stature was exalted above all the trees of the field; and its boughs were multiplied, and its branches became long" (Ezek 31:3-5). They are in particular God's trees--
"The trees of Yahweh are filled with moisture,
The cedars of Lebanon, which he hath planted" (Ps 104:16).
Doubtless as a reminiscence of this the Syrians today call the cedar `ars er rubb, "the cedar of the Lord." The growth of the cedar is typical of that of the righteous man (Ps 92:12).
That cedars were once very abundant in the Lebanon is evident (1 Ki 6:9-18; 10:27). What they contributed to the glory and beauty of that district may be seen in Zec 11:1-2:
"Open thy doors, O Lebanon, that the fire may devour thy cedars.
Wail, O fir-tree, for the cedar is fallen, because the
glorious (Revised Version margin) ones are destroyed:
Wail, O ye oaks of Bashan, for the strong forest is come down."
3. Cedar Timber:
The wood of the cedar has always been highly prized--much more so than the sycamore (1 Ki 10:27; Isa 9:10). David had a house of cedar built for him by Hiram, king of Tyre (2 Sam 5:11), and he prepared "cedar-trees without number" for the temple which his son was to build (1 Ch 22:4). Cedar timber was very much used in the construction of Solomon's temple and palace, the trees being cut in the Lebanon by Sidonians by orders of the king of Tyre--"Hiram gave Solomon timber of cedar and timber of fir according to all his desire" (1 Ki 5:6-10). One of Solomon's most important buildings was known as "the house of the forest of Lebanon" (1 Ki 7:2; 10:17; 2 Ch 9:16), on account of the source of its materials. While cedar was well adapted for beams ( 1 Ki 6:9; Song 1:17), boards (Song 8:9), pillars (1 Ki 7:2) and ceilings (Jer 22:14), it was suited as well for carved work, such as idols (Isa 44:14,15). It was also used for ships' masts (Ezek 27:5).
4. Cedars in Modern Syria:
The Cedrus libani still survives in the mountains of Syria and flourishes in much greater numbers in the Taurus mountains. "There are groves of cedars above el-Ma`acir, Baruk, `Ain Zehaltah, Hadith, Besherri, and Sir" (Post, Flora, 751). Of these the grove at Besherri is of world-wide renown. It consists of a group of about 400 trees, among them some magnificent old patriarchs, which lies on the bare slopes of the Lebanon some 6,000 ft. above the sea. Doubtless they are survivors of a forest which here once covered the mountain slopes for miles. The half a dozen highest specimens reach a height of between 70 and 80 ft., and have trunks of a circumference of 40 ft. or more. It is impossible to estimate with any certainty their age, but they may be as much as 800, or even 1,000, years old. Though magnificent, these are by no means the largest of their kind. Some of the cedars of Amanus are quite 100 ft. high and the Himalayan cedar, Cedrus deodara, a variety of Cedrus libani, reaches a height of 150 ft. The impressiveness of the cedar lies, however, not so much in its height and massive trunk, as in the wonderful lateral spread of its branches, which often exceeds its height. The branches grow out horizontally in successive tiers, each horizontal plane presenting, when looked at from above, the appearance of a green sward. The leaves are about an inch long, arranged in clusters; at first they are bright green, but they change with age to a deeper tint with a glaucous hue; the foliage is evergreen, the successive annual growths of leaves each lasting two years. The cones, 4 to 6 inches long, are oval or oblong-ovate, with a depression at times at the apex; they require two years to reach maturity and then, unlike other conifers, they remain attached to the tree, dropping out their scales bearing the seeds.
The wood of the cedar, specially grown under the conditions of its natural habitat, is hard, close grained, and takes a high polish. It is full of resin (Ps 92:14) which preserves it from rot and from worms. Cedar oil, a kind of turpentine extracted from the wood, was used in ancient times as a preservative for parchments and garments.
E. W. G. Masterman