a mountain range in the north of Palestine. The name Lebanon signifies white, and was applied either on account of snow which, during a great part of the year, covered its whole summit, or on account of the white color of its limestone cliffs and peaks. It is the “white mountain”—the Mont Blanc of Palestine. Lebanon is represented in scripture as lying upon the northern border of the land of Israel (Deuteronomy 1:7; 11:24; Joshua 1:4). Two distinct ranges bear this name. They run in parallel lines from southwest to northeast for about 90 geographical miles, enclosing between them a long, fertile valley from five to eight miles wide, anciently called Coele-Syria. The western range is the “Libanus” of the old geographers and the Lebanon of scripture. The eastern range was called “Anti-Libanus” by geographers, and “Lebanon toward the sunrising” by the sacred writers (Joshua 13:5).
Lebanon—the western range—commences on the south of the deep ravine of the Litany, the ancient river Leontes, which drains the valley of Cole-Syria and falls into the Mediterranean five miles north of Tyre. It runs northeast in a straight line parallel to the coast to the opening from the Mediterranean into the plain of Emesa, called in Scripture the “entrance of Hamath” (Numbers 34:8). Here Nehr el-Kebir—the ancient river Eleutherus—sweeps round its northern end, as the Leontes does round its southern. The average elevation of the range is from 6,000 to 8,000 feet, but two peaks rise considerably higher. On the summits of both these peaks the snow remains in patches during the whole summer. The line of cultivation runs along at the height of about 6,000 feet, and below this the features of the western slopes are entirely different. The rugged limestone banks are scantily clothed with the evergreen oak, and the sandstone with pines, while every available spot is carefully cultivated. The cultivation is wonderful and shows what all Syria might be if under a good government. Fig trees cling to the naked rock; vines are trained along narrow ledges; long ranges of mulberries, on terraces like steps of stairs, cover the more gentle declivities; and dense groves of olives fill up the bottoms of the glens. Hundreds of villages are seen—here built among labyrinths of rocks, there clinging like among labyrinths of rocks, there clinging like swallows’ nests to the sides of cliffs, while convents, no less numerous, are perched on the top of every peak. The vine is still largely cultivated in every part of the mountain. Lebanon also abounds in olives, figs, and mulberries, while some remnants exist of the forests of pine, oak, and cedar which formerly covered it (1 Kings 5:6; Ezra 3:7; Psalms 29:5; Isaiah 14:8). Considerable numbers of wild beasts still inhabit its retired glens and higher peaks; the writer has seen jackals, hyaenas, wolves, bears and panthers (2 Kings 14:9; Song of Solomon 4:8; Habakkuk 2:17). Along the base of Lebanon runs the irregular plain of Phoenicia—nowhere more than two miles wide, and often interrupted by bold rocky spurs that dip into the sea. The main ridge of Lebanon is composed of Jura limestone and abounds in fossils. Long belts of more recent sandstone run along the western slopes, which are in places largely impregnated with iron. Lebanon was originally inhabited by the Hivites and Giblites (Joshua 13:5-6; Judges 3:3). The whole mountain range was assigned to the Israelites but was never conquered by them (Joshua 13:2-6; Judges 3:1-3). During the Jewish monarchy it appears to have been subject of the Phoenicians (1 Kings 5:2-6; Ezra 3:7). From the Greek conquest until modern times Lebanon had no separate history.
Anti-Libanus—The main chain of Anti-Libanus commences in the plateau of Bashan, near the parallel of Caesarea Philippi, runs north to Hermon, and then northeast in a straight line till it sinks down into the great plain of Emesa, not far from the site of Riblah. Hermon is the loftiest peak. The next highest is a few miles north of the site of Abila, beside the village of Bludan, and has an elevation of about 7,000 feet. The rest of the ridge averages about 5,000 feet. It is in general bleak and barren, with shelving gray declivities, gray cliffs, and gray rounded summits. Here and there we meet with thin forests of dwarf oak and juniper. The western slopes descend abruptly into the Buka’a, but the features of the eastern are entirely different. Three side ridges here radiate from Hermon, like the ribs of an open fan, and form the supporting walls of three great terraces. Anti-Libanus is only once distinctly mentioned in scripture, where it is accurately described as “Lebanon toward the sunrising” (Joshua 13:5).
Smith's Bible Names Dictionary (1866)