WOOD (חֹ֫רֶשׁ, H3091, a bough or forest; יַ֫עַר, H3623, a forest). Naturally the word “wood” can refer to a tree, as in Daniel 5:4: “praised the gods of...wood.” The Aram. word here is אָע, H10058, equal to Heb. 'ēṩ.
When, however, a forest is intended, the word ḥoresh is used, as in 1 Samuel 23:15, 16, 18 and 19, in the story of David abiding in a wood in the wilderness of Ziph. The Heb. word here could be tr. “bough” also, curiously enough.
The normal word for forest is, however, yaar, and this is used eighteen times in the OT, as in, for instance, 2 Samuel 18:8: “The forest devoured more people that day than the sword.” It must be remembered that even Absalom was caught by the boughs of the trees in this wood. Psalm 96:12 talks about the trees of the wood rejoicing, while Song of Solomon refers to a lovely apple tree growing in a wood: “so is my beloved among young men.”
The pl. of “yaar” is ye'ārîm and that word is used in Ezekiel 34:25 KJV—“dwell securely...and sleep in the woods”—and all because God had banished “wild beasts from the land.”
Woods and forests are tremendously important to the economy of a country. They bring rain, they provide humus, they protect from wind. It is when they are cut down that soil soon erodes and a desert forms. Solomon may have done tremendous harm to the land by his unreasonable demands from the forests of Lebanon. Deuteronomy 20:20 gives a definite warning in this connection: “Thou shalt not destroy the trees...for the tree of the field is man’s life” (KJV).
Abraham planted a grove in Beer-sheba (Gen 12:6). This was a God-worshiping grove and not the Baal worship copse which later God condemned. In fact, later these groves were forbidden: “You shall not plant...an asherah” (Deut 16:21).
The first parable in the Bible is about a wood. It is found in Judges 9, and tells of the trees that wanted to anoint a king.
The Lebanon forests are the most important ones mentioned in the Bible, and must have covered hundreds of acres. Solomon’s men, i.e. overseers, hewers and laborers, numbered 163,600, and all these worked at dispatching trees for a total of twenty-five years. In addition, the king of Tyre provided some 20,000 lumberjacks to cut the trees down. What a rape of a huge forest, and what harm to the surrounding countryside it must have done. But the rape did not end there, because in Ezra’s days one reads in Ezra 3 that “they gave money...and food, drink, and oil...to the Tyrians to bring cedar trees from Lebanon.”
There were not only cedars, for fir wood was used for the doors and ceilings of the Greater House, and the floors (2 Chron 3 and 1 Kings 6). Almug trees were cut down, for Solomon expressly asks for these trees (1 Kings 10:11, 12). He used the almugs for terraces and musical instruments (2 Chron 5:13; 23:13). (See Almug Tree.)
There were prob. forests of oaks, and esp. Quercus aegilops. This is the oak of Bashan (Isa 33:9; Ezek 39:18). Oaks in Pal. are always found on mountain sides, esp. the Quercus coccifera.
The so-called sacred idol worship groves were planted with oaks. These “high places” were on the summit of a hill or mountain. A circle of trees surrounded the “cap” of the hill. There are oak forests to be seen in Pal. today.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)