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FOREST (Heb. ya‘ar, sevakh, āvîm). A piece of land covered with trees naturally planted, as distinguished from a park where man’s hand is more evident. In ancient times, most of the highlands of Canaan and Syria except the tops of the high mountains were covered with forests. Several forests are mentioned by name, those of Lebanon most often, for these were famous for the cedar and the fir trees. Hiram of Tyre (1Kgs.5.8-1Kgs.5.10) brought down cedar and fir trees from the forest of Lebanon, to the sea and floated them southward to the port that Solomon had constructed, from which his servants could transport the timbers to Jerusalem. Solomon’s “Palace of the Forest of Lebanon” (1Kgs.7.2) was apparently his own house and was so named because of the prevalence of cedar in its structure. The crucial battle of Absalom’s rebellion was fought in a wood or forest in Ephraim (2Sam.18.1-2Sam.18.33), and “the forest claimed more lives that day than the sword” (2Sam.18.8).

FOREST (חֹ֫רֶשׁ, H3091, a thicket, or wooded height; יַ֫עַר, H3623, thicket, wood; פַּרְדֵּס, H7236, park, the garden ground, or paradise).

The word “forest” occurs thirty-eight times in the Bible, thirty-five times as yaar—an outspread place; once as ḥoreš or thicket (2 Chron 27:4); once as ya’arâh (Ps 29:9); and once as pardēs, i.e. park (Neh 2:8). Four special forests are mentioned—the Forest of Carmel, found in Zebulun on the S border of Asher; the forest of Hareth, S of Judah on the borders of the Philistine Plain; the Forest of Lebanon (1 Kings 7:2; 2 Chron 9:16), which refers to an armory or treasure house which King Solomon built in or near Jerusalem, and the Forest of Arabia. The real Forest of Lebanon was near Tyre. This ran almost parallel to the seacoast, NE through Syria. The situation of the Forest of Arabia (Isa 21:13) is not known.

The Lebanon Forest undoubtedly was by far the biggest one in the Pal. region. Remember that 100,000 lumberjacks worked solidly for fifty-five years in these forests to provide sufficient cedar for Solomon’s Temple, palaces and treasure house. Millions of feet of lumber floated down from Tyre to Joppa, the port of Jerusalem, over that period. This forest not only grew cedars, but firs and almug trees as well.

There is evidence that in ancient times great forests covered Syria and Pal., but by the time the children of Israel occupied the land, much of the forest land had been ruined by the greed of man. It is, for instance, believed that there was a date palm forest in the Jordan valley from Lake Gennesaret to the Dead Sea. Even in the days of Josephus, a.d. 37 to 95, there was a forest of date palms near Jericho, seven m. long.

There must have been Kermes oak forests, even if small, in the mountainous regions of Pal. It is on this oak (Quercus coccifera) that the scale insect lives which produces the scarlet dye used by the Israelites.

There are references like Psalm 50:10 “every beast of the forest is mine,” or in Isaiah 9:18 “in the thickets of the forest,” or in Hosea 2:12—“I will make them a forest,” which seem to refer to forests as a whole, and not to any particular one. In Deuteronomy 20:19, we read “The tree of the field is man’s life” (KJV). The cutting down of forests invariably leads to soil erosion and often to a desert. Such unprotected soil dries out, and is blown or washed away. Deuteronomy 20:19 warns against destroying trees.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)


(1) choresh (compare proper name Harosheth), 2Ch 27:4. In 1Sa 23:15 ff translated "wood"; in Isa 17:9, "wood"; in Eze 31:3, "forest-like shade." Applied to any thick growth of vegetation but not necessarily so extensive as (3).

(2) pardec: Ne 2:8, margin "park"; Ec 2:5, the King James Version "orchards," the Revised Version (British and American) "parks"; So 4:13, English Versions of the Bible "orchard," the Revised Version, margin "paradise." A word of Persian origin signifying probably an enclosure.

See Paradise.

(4) cebhakh, from root meaning "to interweave." A "thicket" (Ge 22:13; Jer 4:7); "thicket of trees" (Ps 74:5); "thickets of the forest" (Isa 9:18; 10:34).

(5) ’adbhim, "thicket" (Jer 4:29).

From many references it is evident that Palestine had in Old Testament times much more extensive forests and woodlands than today. For a discussion of the subject see Botany.