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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Cedar

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(אֶרֶז , e´ rez, from its deep root or compressed form; Gr. κέδρος ) occurs in numerous places of Scripture, but authors are not agreed on the exact meaning of the term. Celsius (Hierobot. 1:106, sq.), for instance, conceives that it is a general name for the pine tribe, to the exclusion of the cedar of Lebanon, which he considers to be indicated by the word berosh, or "FIR." The majority of authors, however, are of opinion that the cedar of Lebanon (Pinus cedrus, or Cedrus Libani of botanists) is alone intended. This opinion is confirmed by the Septuagint and Vulgate, which uniformly (as in the English version) render the word by κέδρο ς, cedrus; and also by the fact that the Arabic name for the cedar of Lebanon is arz, evidently cognate with erez. The following statements are intended to be discriminaitive on the subject. (See BOTANY).

1. The earliest notice of the cedar is in Leviticus 14:4; Leviticus 14:6, where we are told that Moses commanded the leper that was to be cleansed to make an offering of two sparrows, cedar-wood, wool dyed in scarlet, and hyssop; and in Leviticus 14:49; Leviticus 14:51-52, the houses in which the lepers dwell are directed to be purified with the same materials. Again, in Numbers 19:6, Moses and Aaron are commanded to sacrifice a red heifer: "And the priest shall take cedar-wood, and hyssop, and scarlet." Here the proper cedar can hardly be meant, as it does not grow in Egypt, and its wood is scarcely aromatic. The variety called juniper is evidently intended, the wood and berries of which were anciently applied to such purposes. The term cedar is applied by Pliny to the lesser cedar, oxycedrus, a Phoenician juniper, which is still common on the Lebanon, and whose wood is aromatic. The wood or fruit of this tree was anciently burnt by way of perfume, especially at funerals (Pliny, H. N. 13:1, 5; Ovid, Fast. 2:558; Homer, Od. 5:60). The tree is common in Egypt and Nubia, and also in Arabia, in the Wâ dy Mousa, where the greater cedar is not found. It is obviously likely that the use of the more common tree should be enjoined while the people were still in the wilderness, rather than of the uncommon (Shaw, Travels, p. 464; Burckhardt, Syria, p. 430; Russell, Nubia, p. 425). (See JUNIPER).

At a later period we have notices of the various uses to which the wood of the erez was applied, as 2 Samuel 5:11; 2 Samuel 7:2-7; 1 Kings 5:6; 1 Kings 5:8; 1 Kings 5:10; 1 Kings 6:9-10; 1 Kings 6:15-16; 1 Kings 6:18; 1 Kings 6:20; 1 Kings 7:2-3; 1 Kings 7:7; 1 Kings 7:11-12; 1 Kings 9:11; 1 Kings 10:27; 1 Chronicles 17:6; 2 Chronicles 2:8; 2 Chronicles 9:27; 2 Chronicles 25:18. In these passages we are informed of the negotiations with Hiram, king of Tyre, for the supply of cedar-trees out of Lebanon, and of the uses to which the timber was applied in the construction of the Temple, and of the king's palace: he "covered the house with beams and boards of cedar; "the walls of the house within were covered with boards of cedar:" there were " cedar pillars," and "beams of cedar," and the altar was of cedar. But in these passages of Scripture, likewise, the common cedar cannot well be signified, as the wood is neither hard nor strong enough for building purposes. Other kindred varieties of trees, however, doubtless existed in the same locality with the cedar of Lebanon, which were suitable in these respects, as well as on account of beauty and durability, for architecture. Perhaps nothing more is meant than the pine-tree, which is known to grow on Matthew Lebanon. This opinion seems to be confirmed by Ezekiel 27:5 : "They have made all thy ship- boards of fir-trees of Senir; they have taken cedar from Lebanon to make masts for thee;" for it is not probable that any other tree than the common pine would be taken for masts, when this was procurable. Also in the second Temple, rebuilt under Zerubbabel, the timber employed was cedar from Lebanon (Ezra 3:7; 1 Esdras 4:48; 1 Esdras 5:55). Cedar is also said by Josephus to have been used by Herod in the roof of his temple (War, 5:5, 2). The roof of the rotunda of the church of the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem is said to have been of cedar, and that of the church of the Virgin at Bethlehem to have been of cedar or cypress (Williams, Holy City, 2:202; Quaresmius, Eluc. Terr. Sanct. 6:12; Tobler, Bethlehem, p. 110, 112). (See PINE).

It may here also be remarked that the Syriac and Hebrews interpreters generally, at Isaiah 41:19; Isaiah 60:13, render the word teä shshur´ (תְּאִשּׁוּר, literally erectness), translated in our version (after the Vulg. and Chaldee) "box-tree," by sherbin- cedar, a species of cedar distinguished by the smallness of its cones and the upward direction of its branches (see Rosenmü ller, Aterthumsk. IV, 1:292). Another form of this word, אָשׁוּר ashur´, occurring in Ezekiel 27:6, has there been mistranslated in our version by "Ashurites," where the clause "the company of the Ashurites have made thy benches of ivory," is literally, "thy benches they make of ivory, the daughter of the ashur- wood," i.e. inlaid or bordered with it. For a full account of the various readings of that passage, see Rosenmü ller's Schol. in Ezekiel 27:6. The most satisfactory translation appears to be that of Bochart (Geog. Sac. 1, 3, 100:5, 180) and Rosenmü ller: "Thy benches have they made of ivory, inlaid with box-wood from the isles of Chittim." Now it is probable that the isles of Chittim may refer to any of the islands or maritime districts of the Mediterranean. Bochart believes Corsica is intended in this passage; the Vulg. has "de insulis Italiae." Corsica was celebrated for its box-trees (Plin. 16:16; Theophrast. H. P. 3:15, § 5), and it is well known that the ancients understood the art of veneering wood, especially box-wood, with ivory, tortoiseshell, etc. (Virg. Aen. 10:137). However, Celsius (Hierob. 1:80) and Sprengel (Hist. Rei Herb. 1:267) identify the sherbin with the Pinus cedrus (Linn.), the cedar of Lebanon. (See BOX-TREE). If, on the other hand, we consider some of the remaining passages of Scripture, we cannot fail to perceive that they forcibly apply to the cedar of Lebanon, and to the cedar of Lebanon only. Thus, in Psalms 92:12, it is said, "The righteous shall flourish like a palmtree, and spread abroad like a cedar of Lebanon." But Ezekiel (chap. 31) is justly adduced as giving the most magnificent, and, at the same time, the most graphic description of this celebrated tree (comp. Homer, Il. 13:359; Virgil, AEn. 2:626; 5:447; Horace, Od. 4:6). The other principal passages in which the cedar is mentioned are 1 Kings 4:33; 2 Kings 19:23; Job 40, 17; Psalms 29:5; Psalms 80:10; Psalms 104:16; Psalms 148:9; Song of Solomon 1:17; Song of Solomon 5:15; Song of Solomon 8:9; Isaiah 2:13; Isaiah 9:10; Isaiah 14:8; Isaiah 37:24; Isaiah 41:19; Isaiah 44:14; Jeremiah 22:7; Jeremiah 22:14; Jeremiah 22:23; Ezekiel 17:3; Ezekiel 17:22-23; Amos 2:9; Zephaniah 2:14; Zechariah 11:1-2; and in the Apocrypha, Sirach 24:13; Sirach 1, 12. (See TREE).

The conditions to be fulfilled in order to answer all the descriptions in the Bible of a cedar-tree are that it should be tall (Isaiah 2:13), spreading (Ezekiel 31:3), abundant (1 Kings 5:6; 1 Kings 5:10), fit for beams, pillars, and boards (1 Kings 6:10; 1 Kings 6:15; 1 Kings 7:2), masts of ships (Ezekiel 27:5), and for carved work, as images (Isaiah 44:14). To these may be added qualities ascribed to cedar-wood by profane writers. Pliny speaks of the cedar of Crete, Africa, and Syria as being most esteemed and imperishable. In Egypt and Syria ships were built of cedar, and in Cyprus a tree was cut down 120 feet long and proportionately thick. The durability of cedar was proved, he says, by the duration of the cedar roof of the Temple of Diana at Ephesus, which had lasted 400 years. At Utica the beams, made of Numidian cedar, of a temple of Apollo had lasted 1178 years! (Pliny, Hist. Nat. 13:5; 16:40). Vitruvius (2:9) speaks of the antiseptic properties of the oil of cedar (comp. Josephus, Ant. 8:5,2; Sandys, Travels, p. 163, 167). The corresponding Arabic word, arz, is used to express not only the cedar of Lebanon, but also at Aleppo the Pinus sylvestris, which is abundant both near that city and on Lebanon. A similar statement will apply also to the Thuja articulata of Mount Atlas, which is called by the Arabs el-arz, a name that led to the mistake as to the material of the Cordova roof from its similarity to the Spanish alerce (Niebuhr, Descr. de l'Arabie, p. 131, etc., and Questions, 90:169, etc.; Pliny, H. N., 13:11, 15; Hay, West Barb. 100, 4:49; Gesenius, Thes. p. 148). Besides the trees which belong to the one grove, known by the name of "the Cedars," groves and green woods of cedar are found in other parts of the range (Buckingham, Travels among the Arabs, p. 468; Eng. Cyclopaedia, s.v. Syria; Robinson, new ed. of Res. 3:593; Burckhardt, Syria, p. 19; Loudon, Arboretum, 4:2406, 2407; Celsius, Hicrobotan. 1:89; Belon, Obs. de arboribus conferis, 2:162, 165, 166). The remains of wood used in the Nineveh palaces were supposed by Layard to be cedar, a supposition confirmed by the inscriptions, which show that the Assyrian kings imported cedar from Lebanon. This wood is now proved by microscopic examination to be yew (Layard, Nin. and Bab. p. 356, 357; Loudon, ut sup. p. 2431). (See FIR).

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Cedar'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/c/cedar.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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