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THE TREES OF THE BIBLE.
THE TREES OF THE BIBLE.
NO. XI. - THE CED A'R TREE. *
BY THE EDITOR. The Cedar is greatly celebrated in the Scriptures. A few are still standing on Mount Lebanon, above Byblos and Tripoli east; but none elsewhere in these mountains. In former times there must have been a great abundance of them, since they were used in so many extensive buildings. These trees are remarkably thick and tall; some among them are from thirty-five to forty feet in girth. The cedar tree shoots out branches at ten or twelve feet from the ground; they are large and distant; its leaves are something like those of rosemary; it is always green, and distils a kind of gum, to which different effects are attributed. Cedar wood is reputed incorruptible; it is beautiful, solid, free from knots, and inclining to a red-brown color. It bears a small cone like that of the pine.
The cedar grows not only on Mount Lebanon, but in Africa, in Crete, or Candia. The wood was used in making statues designed for duration. The temple of Jerusalem and Solomon's palace were finished with cedar. The roof of the temple of Diana at Ephesus was of cedar, according to Pliny. In 1 Kings 10: 27, it is said that Solomon multiplied cedars in Judea, till this tree was as common as sycamores, which are very general there. Compare 2 Chron. 1: 15; 9: 27.
The cedar loves cold and mountainous places; if the top is cut it dies. The branches which it shoots, lessening as they rise, give it the form of a pyramid. Le Bruyn, in his journey to the Holy Land, says the leaves of the tree point upwards, and the fruit hangs downwards; it grows like the cones of the pine, but is longer, harder and fuller, and not easily separated from the stalk. It contains a seed like that of the cypress, and yields a glutinous, thick sort of resin, transparent, and of a strong smell, which does not run, but falls drop by drop. This author tells us, that having measured two cedars on Mount Lebanon, he found one to be fifty palms in girth; the other forty-seven. Naturalists distinguish several sorts of cedars, but we speak here only of that of Lebanon, the only one mentioned in the Bible. The wood was used not only for beams, for planks which covered edifices, and for ceilings to apartments, but likewise for beams in the walls. 1 Kings 6: 36; 7: 12; Ezra 6: 3, 4.
In the purification of a leper, cedar-wood, together with hyssop, was to be used in sprinkling the leper. Lev. 14: 4, 6.
* This article, suiting exactly our purpose, we have taken entire from Calmet.-ED. GUARDIAN.
This celebrated tree, the pinus cedrus of botanists, is not peculiar to Mount Lebanon, but grows also upon Mounts Amanus and Taurus in Asia Minor, and other parts of the Levant; but does not elsewhere reach the size and height of those on Lebanon. It has also been cultivated in the gardens of Europe; two venerable individuals of this species exist in Chiswick in England; and there is a very beautiful one in the Jardin des Plantes in Paris. The beauty of this tree consists in the proportion and symmetry of its wide-spreading branches. The gum, which exudes both from the trunk and the cones or fruit is, according to Schulz, “soft like balsam; its fragrance is like that of the balsam of Mekka. Every thing about this tree has a strong balsamic odor, and hence the whole grove is so pleasant and fragrant that it is delightful to walk in it.” This is probably the smell of Lebanon spoken of in Cant. 4:11; Hos. 14:6. The wood is peculiarly adapted to building, because it is not subject to decay, nor to be eaten of worms; hence it was much used for rafters, and for boards with which to cover houses and form the floors and ceilings of rooms. The palace of Persepolis, the temple at Jerusalem, and Solomon's palace, were all in this way built with cedar; and the latter especially appears to have had in it such a quantity of this wood that it was called “the house of the forest of Lebanon." 1 Kings 7: 2; 10: 17. The ships of the Tyrians had also masts of cedar. Ezek. 27: 5.
Of the forests of cedars wbich once covered Lebanon, only a small remnant is left. A single grove only is now found, lying a little off from the road which crosses Mount Lebanon from Baalbec to Tripoli, at some distance below the summit of the mountain on the western side-at the foot, indeed, of the highest summit or ridge of Lebanon. This grove consists of a few very old trees, intermingled with a large number of younger ones. The former are the patriarchs of the vegetable world; it is certain that they were ancient three hundred years ago; but their number is decreasing, as the oldest decay or are destroyed. In 1550 the number of these ancient trees is stated by Bellonius at 28; from that time down to 1818, they are stated at 24, 23, 16, 12 and 7. Mr. Fisk, in 1823, says there are six or eight of the largest, but does not see the propriety of the statements just enumerated. See the extract from his journal below. As the subject is interesting, the following extracts from various travelers who have visited the spot are subjoined. It will be seen that the account given by Mr. Fisk is the most full and satisfactory.
Maundrell writes, in 1696, as follows: “Tbese noble trees grow amongst the snow, near the highest part of Lebanon, and are remarkable, as well for their own age and largeness, as for those frequent allusions made to them in the word of God. Here are some of them very old and of a prodigious bulk, and others THE TREES OF THE BIBLE.
younger of a smaller size. Of the former I could reckon up only sixteen, and the latter are very numerous. I measured one of the largest, and found it twelve yards six inches in girth, and yet sound, and thirty-seven yards in the spread of its boughs. At about five or six yards from the ground it was divided into five limbs, each of which was equal to a great tree.”
Pocoke, 1738, describes them with greater minuteness: “The cedars form a grove about a mile in circumference, which consists of some large cedars, that are near to one another, a great number of young cedars and some pines. The great cedars, at some distance, look like very large spreading oaks; the bodies of the trees are short, dividing at bottom into three or four, some of which, growing up together for about ten feet, appear something like those Gothic columns which seem to be composed of several pillars. Higher up they begin to spread horizontally. The young cedars are not easily known from pines; I observed they bear a greater quantity of fruit than the large ones. The wood does not differ from white deal in appearance, nor does it seem to be harder. It has a fine smell, but not so fragrant as the juniper of America, which is commonly called cedar; and it also falls short of it in beauty. I took a piece of the wood from a great tree that was blown down by the wind, and left there to rot. There are fifteen large ones standing."
Burckhardt speaks of the cedars in 1810, as follows: “They stand on uneven ground, and form a small woon. Of the oldest and best looking trees, I counted eleven or twelve ; twenty-five were very large ones, about fifty of middling size, and more than three hundred smaller and young ones. The oldest trees are distinguished by having the foliage and small branches at the top only, and by four, five, or even seven trunks springing from one base. The branches and foliage of the others were lower; but I saw none whose leaves touched the ground, like those in Kew gardens. The trunks of the old trees are covered with the names of travelers and other persons who have visited them. I saw a date of the seventeenth century. The trunks of the oldest trees seem to be quite dead; the wood is of a gray tint. I took off a piece of one of them, but it was afterwards stolen."
Dr. Richardson visited the cedars in his way from Baalbec to Tripoli, in 1818. From the summit of the mountain, the descent towards the west, he says, “is rather precipitous, and winds, by a long, circuitous direction, down the side of the mountain. In a few minutes we came in sight of the far-famed cedars, that lay down before us on our right. At first, they appeared like a dark spot on the base of the mountain, and afterwards like a clump of dwarfish shrubs that possessed neither dignity nor beauty, nor any thing that entitled them to a visit, but the name. In about an hour and a half, we reached them. They are large, and tall, and beautiful, the most picturesque productions of the vegetable world that we had seen. There are in this clump two generations of trees; the oldest are large and massy, rearing their heads to an enormous height, and spreading their branches afar. We measured one of them, which we afterwards saw was not the largest in the clump, and found it thirty-two feet in circumference. Seren of these trees have a particularly ancient appearance; ihe rest are younger, but equally tall, though, for want of space, their branches are not so spreading. The clump is so small, that a person may walk round it in half an hour. The old cedars are not found in any other part of Lebanon. Young trees are occasionally met with; they are very productive, and cast many seeds annually. The surface all around is covered with rock and stone, with a partial but luxuriant vegetation springing up in the interstices."
Under date of October 4, 1823, the American missionaries, Messrs. Fisk and King, record in their journal the following description of the cedars of Lebanon : "Taking a guide, we set out for the cedars, going a little south of east. In about two hours we came in sight of them, and in another hour reached them. Instead of being on the highest summit of Lebanon, as has sometimes been said, they are situated at the foot of a high mountan, in what may be considered as the arena of a vast amphitheatre, opening to the west, with high mountains on the north, south, and east. The cedars stand on five or six gentle elevations, and occupy a spot of ground about three-fourths of a mile in circumference. I walked around it in fifteen minutes. We measured a number of the trees. The largest is upwards of 40 feet in circumference. Six or eight others are also very large, several of them nearly the size of the largest. But each of these was manifestly two trees or more, which have grown together, and now form one. They generally separate a few feet from the ground into the original trees. The handsomest and tallest are those of two or three feet in diameter, the body straight, the branches almost horizontal, forming a beautiful cone, and casting a goodly shade. We measured the length of two by the shade, and found each about 90 feet. The largest are not so high, but some of the others, I think, are a little higher. They produce a conical fruit, in shape and size like that of the pine. I counted them, and made the whole number 389. Mr. King counted them, omitting the small saplings, and made the number 321. I know not why travelers and authors have so long and so generally given 28, 20, 15, 5, or 7, as the number of the cedars. It is true, that “of those of superior size and antiquity,” there are not a great number; but then there is a regular gradation in size, from the largest down to the merest sapling. One man, of whom I inquired, told me that there are cedars in other places on mount Lebanon, but he could not tell where. Several others, to whom I have put the question, have unanimously assured me that these are
the only cedars which exist on the mountain. They are called in Arabic ary. The Maronites tell me that they have an annual Feast of the Cedars. Before seeing the cedars, I had met with a European traveler who had just visited them. He gave a short account of them, and concluded with saying, “It is as with miracles; the wonder all vanishes when you reach the spot." What is there at which an infidel cannot sneer? Yet let even an infidel put himself in the place of an Asiatic passing from barren desert to barren desert, traversing oceans of sand and mountains of naked rock, accustomed to countries like Egypt, Arabia, Judea, and Asia Minor, abounding, in the best places, only with shrubbery and fruit trees ; let him, with the feelings of such a man, climb the rugged rocks, and pass the open ravines of Lebanon, and suddenly descry, among the hills, a grove of 300 trees such as the cedars actually are, even at the present day, and he will confess that a fine comparison in Amos 2.9, “whose height was as the height of the cedars, and he was strong as the oaks." Let him, after a long ride in the heat of the sun, sit down under the shade of a cedar, and contemplate the exact conical form of its top, and the beautiful symmetry of its branches, and he will no longer wonder that David compared the people of Israel, in the days of their prosperity, to the goodly cedars," Psalm 130: 10. Atraveler, who had just left the forests of America, might think this little grove of cedars not worthy of so much notice; but the man who knows how rare large trees are in Asia, and how difficult it is to find timber for building, will feel at once that what is said in Scripture of these trees is perfectly natural. It is probable that in the days of Solomon and Hiram, there were extensive forests of cedars on Lebanon. A variety of causes may have contributed to their diminution and almost total extinction. Yet, in comparison with all the other trees that I have seen on the mountain, the few that remain may still be called “the glory of Lebanon."