Cedars of Lebanon (Song of Solomon 5)

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Illustration: A cedar tree from Lebanon

A tall (averaging 37 m in its maturity) and majestic evergreen tree, the cedar of Lebanon, was highly  valued in antiquity. Its durability and dimensions provided building materials for palaces, temples, ships and furnishings, and Egyptians prized its resin for mummification. Nebuchadnezzar wrote of hauling felled cedars to Babylon from Mount Lebanon, an abundant source of timer in the ancient Near East (cf. Isaiah 37:24). The temple and palace complex in Jerusalem were lavishly adorned with cedar (1 Kings 7:2, 1 Chronicles 22:4), and the cedar wood was used for purification rituals (Leviticus 14:4-4). Attesting to the use of cedar in monumental architecture, remnants of charred cedar beams were found in a Middle Bronze Age palace (sixteenth century B.C.), as well as in a Late Bronze Age temple (thirteenth century B.C.) at Lachish.

The height and commanding presence of the species vivid Biblical images. Yahweh’s majesty stands above all cedars (Psalm 148:9, 13) and His vice is so powerful that it shatters them (Psalm 29:5). The development of a righteous person is compared to the cedar’s steady maturing process (Psalm 92:12). In the Song of Songs the lover’s appearance evokes the tree’s exquisite worth (Song of Solomon 5:15). Yet the cedar’s height can also be a visual picture of human pride and arrogance (Isaiah 2:12-13, Ezekiel 31:3, 10-12).


 

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