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Lebanon

LEBANON

leb'-a-non (lebanon; Septuagint Libanos; Vulgate (Jerome's Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) Libanus):

1. Name:

Derived from the root labhen, "to be white," probably from the snow which covers its summits the greater part of the year. "White mountains" are found in almost every country. The light color of the upper limestone may, however, form a sufficient reason for the name. In prose the article is usually connected with the name. In poetry it is more often without the article. In the Septuagint, however, the article is generally present both in prose and poetry.

2. General Description:

The Lebanon range proper borders the east coast of the Mediterranean, for a distance of 100 miles, running North-Northeast and South-Southwest from the mouth of the Litany river, the classic Leontes (which enters the sea a little North of Tyre), to the mouth of the Eleuthurus (Nahr el-Kebir), a few miles North of Tripolis. This river comes through a depression between Lebanon and the Nuseiriyeh mountains, known as "the entrance to Hamath," and connects with a caravan route to the Euphrates through Palmyra. For a considerable distance North of the Litany, the mountain summits average from 4,000 to 6,000 ft. in height, and the range is more or less dissected by short streams which enter the Mediterranean. Most prominent of these is the Nahr ez-Zaherany, which, after running 25 or 30 miles in a southerly direction through the center of the range, like the Litany, turns abruptly West opposite Mt. Hermon, reaching the sea between Tyre and Sidon. In roughly parallel courses Nahr el-`Awleh and Nahr Damur descend to the sea between Sidon and Beyrout, and Nahr Beyrout just North of the city. Throughout this district the mountain recesses are more or less wooded. Opposite Beyrout the range rises in Jebel Sannin to an elevation of 8,560 ft. Thirty miles farther Northeast the summit is reached in Jebel Mukhmal, at an elevation of 10,225 ft., with several others of nearly the same height. An amphitheater here opens to the West, in which is sheltered the most frequented cedar grove, and from which emerges the Nahr Qadisha ("sacred stream") which enters the Mediterranean at Tripolis. Snow is found upon these summits throughout the year (Jeremiah 18:14), while formerly the level area between them furnished the snow fields from which a glacier descended several miles into the headwaters of the Qadisha, reaching a level of about 5,000 ft. The glacier deposited in this amphitheater a terminal moraine covering several square miles, which at its front, near Bsherreh, is 1,000 ft. in thickness. It is on this that the grove of cedars referred to is growing.

The view from this summit reveals the geographical features of the region in a most satisfactory manner. Toward the East lies Coele-Syria (the modern Buka), 7,000 ft. below the summit, bordered on the eastern side by the mountain wall of Anti-Lebanon, corresponding to the cliffs of Moab East of the Jordan valley, opposite Judea. This depression in fact is but a continuation of the great geological fault so conspicuous in the Jordan valley (see ARABAH). As one looks down into this valley, Ba`albek appears at the base of Anti-Lebanon, only 20 miles away. The valley is here about 10 miles wide, and forms the watershed between the Orontes and the Litany. To the Northeast the valley of the Orontes is soon obscured by intervening peaks, but to the Southwest the valley of the Litany closes up only where the glistering peak of Mt. Hermon pierces the sky, as the river turns abruptly toward the sea 40 miles distant. Toward the West, the blue waters of the Mediterranean, only 25 miles distant as the crow flies, show themselves at intervals through the gorges cut by the rapid streams which have furrowed the western flanks of the mountain (Song of Solomon 4:15); 3,500 ft. beneath is the amphitheater many square miles in area, filled with the terminal moraine from which the Qadisha river emerges, and on which the grove of cedars (compare 1 Kings 4:33; Psalms 92:12; Hosea 14:5) appears as a green spot in the center. Onward to the West the river gorge winds its way amid numerous picturesque village sites and terraced fields, every foot of which is cultivated by a frugal and industrious people. To the traveler who has made the diagonal journey from Beirut to the cedars, memory fills in innumerable details which are concealed from vision at any one time. He has crossed Nahr el-Kelb ("Dog River"), near its mouth, where he has seen Egyptian and Assyrian inscriptions dating from the time of Sennacherib's invasion. Ascending this river, after passing numerous villages surrounded by mulberry and olive groves, vineyards, and fields of wheat, and pausing to study the ruins of a temple dating from Roman times, and having crossed a natural bridge at Jisr el-Hagar with a span of 120 ft., rising 75 ft. above the stream, he arrives, at the end of the second day, at the ruins of the famous temple of Venus destroyed by the order of Constantine on account of the impurity of the rites celebrated in it. Here, too, is a famous spring, typical of many others which gush forth on either side of the Lebanon range from beneath the thick deposits of limestone which everywhere crown its summit. The flow of water is enormous, and at certain seasons of the year is colored red with a mineral matter which the ancients regarded with mysterious reverence (see LB, III, 244). The lower part of the amphitheater is covered with verdure and a scanty growth of pine and walnut trees, but the upper part merges in the barren cliffs which lie above the snow line. Onward, alternately through upturned limestone strata, left by erosion in fantastic forms, and through barren areas of red sandstone, where the cedars of Lebanon would flourish if protected from the depredations of man and his domestic animals, he crosses by turns at higher and higher levels the headwaters of the Ibrahim, Fedar, Jozeh, Byblus and the Botrys rivers, and at length reaches, on the fourth day, the Qadisha, 5 miles below the cedars of Lebanon. Viewed from the Mediterranean the Lebanon range presents a continuous undulating outline of light-colored limestone peaks, the whole rising so abruptly from the sea that through most of the distance there is barely room for a road along the shore, while in places even that is prevented by rocky promontories projecting boldly into the sea. The only harbors of importance are at Beyrout and Tripolis, and these are only partially protected, being open to the Northwest. The eastern face of the range falling down into Coele-Syria is very abrupt, with no foothills and but one or two important valleys.

3. Geology:

Geologically considered, the Lebanon consists of three conformable strata of rock thrown up in an anticline with its steepest face to the East. The lowest of these are several thousand ft. thick, consisting of hard limestone containing few fossils, the most characteristic of which is Cidaris glandaria, from which the formation has been named Glandarian limestone. In its foldings this has been elevated in places to a height of 5,000 ft. Through erosion it is exposed in numerous places, where it presents picturesque castellated columns, whose bluish-gray sides are beautifully fluted by atmospheric agencies. The second formation consists of several hundred feet of red-colored sandstone alternating with soft limestone and clay deposits, occasionally containing a poor quality of bituminous coal, with pyrites and efflorescent salts. It is this that occasionally colors the water of the spring at Adonis. The characteristic fossil is Trigonia syriaca. Altogether this formation attains a thickness of 1,000 ft., and it is on its exposed surfaces that the most of the Lebanon pines are found. It contains also many signs of volcanic action. The third formation consists of hippurite limestone, a cretaceous formation, in some places almost wholly composed of fragments of the fossils from which it derives its name. This formation appears on all the highest summits, where in most cases it is nearly horizontal, and in places attains a thickness of 5,000 ft. Between the summits of the range and the foothills this formation has been almost wholly carried away by erosion, thus exposing the underlying formations. Cretaceous strata of still later age are found at low levels near the sea, which in places are covered by small deposits of Tertiary limestone, and by a porous sandstone of the Pleistocene age.

4. Scenery:

The scenery of the western slopes of Lebanon is most varied, magnificent, and beautiful, and well calculated, as indeed it did to impress the imagination of the Hebrew poets. Originally it was heavily covered with forests of pine, oak and cedar; but these have for the most part long since disappeared, except in the valley of Nahr Ibrahim, which is still thickly wooded with pine, oak and plane trees. Of the cedars there remain, besides the grove at the head of the Qadisha, only two or three, and they are of less importance. Every available spot on the western flanks of the Lebanon is cultivated, being sown with wheat or planted with the vine, the olive, the mulberry and the walnut. Irrigation is extensively practiced. When we let the eye range from the snowy summits of the mountain over all that lies between them and the orange groves of Sidon on the seashore, we understand why the Arabs say that "Lebanon bears winter on its head, spring on its shoulders, autumn in its lap, while summer lies at its feet."

In the more desolate places jackals, hyenas, wolves, and panthers are still found (compare 2 Kings 14:9).

5. History:

The original inhabitants of Lebanon were Hivites and Gebalites (Judges 3:3; Joshua 13:5,6). The whole mountain range was assigned to the Israelites, but was never conquered by them. It seemed generally to have been subject to the Phoenicians. At present it is occupied by various sects of Christians and Mohammedans, of whom the Maronites, Druzes and Orthodox Greeks are most active and prominent. Since 1860 the region has been under the protection of European powers with a Christian governor. No exact figures are available, but the population at present numbers probably about 275,000.

Ruins of ancient temples are numerous throughout Lebanon. Bacon estimates that within a radius of 20 miles of Ba`albek there are 15 ruined sun-temples, the grandeur and beauty of which would have made them famous but for the surpassing splendor of Ba`albek.

6. Anti-Lebanon:

Anti-Libanus (Judith 1:7; Joshua 13:5; Song of Solomon 7:4) is an extension northward of the great mountain system facing on the East the great geological fault most conspicuous in the valley of the Jordan (see JORDAN, VALLEY OF), extending from the Gulf of Akabah to Antioch on the Orontes River. The system begins at the Barada River just North of Mt. Hermon, and, running parallel to Mt. Lebanon for 65 miles, terminates at Chums, the "entering in of Hamath." The highest points of the range reach an elevation of over 8,000 ft. Eastward the range merges into the plateau of the great Syrian desert. South of Ba`albek the Yahfufah, a stream of considerable importance, empties into the Litany, while the Barada (the "Abana" of Scripture), rising in the same plateau, flows eastward to Damascus, its volume being greatly increased by fountains coming in from the base of the dissected plateau.

LITERATURE.

The geographical and geological descriptions are largely obtained by the writer from an extended excursion through the region in the company of Professor Day of the Protestant College at Beirut, whose knowledge of the region is most intimate and comprehensive. For more detailed information see Robinson, BRP2, II, 435, 493; G. A. Smith, HGHL, 45; Burton and Drake, Unexplored Syria; Benjamin W. Bacon, and G.F. Wright in Records of the Past, 1906, V, 67-83, 195-204; Baedeker-Socin, Palestine.

George Frederick Wright


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Entry for 'LEBANON'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". 1915.