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CEDAR (אֶ֫רֶז, H780, firmness; cedar work, אַרְזָה, H781). Cedar is mentioned in sixty-five texts and “cedar tree” in six texts. It undoubtedly refers to the Cedar of Lebanon (Cedrus libani). This word “cedar” appears to come from Arabia, the meaning being “strong and firmly-rooted tree.” This cedar can grow to a height of 120 ft., and is often thirty to forty ft. in girth. Starting as a rule about nine or ten ft. from the ground, the branches grow out horizontally and become very wide-spreading. When young, however, the cedar is almost pyramid-shaped. The cones the trees bear are fascinating. They start the first year pale green and small; the second year they become browner and about three inches across; and the third year they turn a dark brown, and open out to release quite small seeds. There are cedar trees today over 2,000 years of age.

Cedars are much admired, not only because of their beauty, but because of their fragrance. The wood is not attacked by insect pests; it is of a pleasant, warm red color, and is free from knots. It has remarkable lasting qualities. It is no wonder, therefore, that Solomon used it for his palace and for the Temple. It is certainly the monarch of the evergreens.

Not only do the branches spread out well, but so do the roots, thus Hosea 14:5 (KJV) says: “He shall cast forth his roots as Lebanon,” while the righteous, of course, grow like the cedar trees (Ps 92:12), and Israel itself is strong and happy like cedar trees beside the waters (Num 24:6).

The Lebanon range where the trees grew was N of Pal., and evidently in Solomon’s days the forests were extremely large. It was obviously extremely presumptuous of the thistle to talk as it did in 2 Kings 14:9 about the cedar, “the monarch of the forest.” Further, it must be remembered that in Amos the prophet compares the cedar, because of its great size, to the giants of Anak (Amos 2:9).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

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 Le 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:

That cedars were once very abundant in the Lebanon is evident (1Ki 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:

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.

See also

  • Plants