York Rite Education - Cedars of Lebanon

Cedars of Lebanon

Graig Huber

In the Royal Arch Degree, the Principal Sojourner points out the location of the Forests of Lebanon during the pilgrimage from Babylon to Jerusalem. These forests produce the most mentioned tree in the Bible: The Cedars of Lebanon. These impressive slow growing trees were highly sought in ancient times. The timber was prized for the building of all types of ships (commercial and military) and, of course, as tradition runs, the building of King Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem. The following verse from the First Book of Kings is a communication from Hiram King of Tyre to King Solomon:

"My servants will bring them down from Lebanon to the sea, and I will make them into log rafts to go by sea to the place that you designate to me. I will have them broken up there, and you can carry them away. In exchange, you will provide the food that I request for my household." (1 Kings 5:9)

This verse refers to the Cedars of Lebanon transported overland to the city of Tyre and then from there floated by sea to the Israelite city of Joppa. After being received in Joppa, the rafts were deconstructed and the timbers were then hauled to Jerusalem for use in the city (This work was supervised by another well-known Masonic character: Adoniram). Once in Jerusalem one would expect these great timbers would be used for immense construction projects - like King Solomon’s Temple. The entire process of transporting the massive timbers was done only with pulleys, physical labor and ox power. A workforce comprised of only these "tools" must have been extremely organized and proficient to assure completion of the labors. It is said that the Ancient Cedars of Lebanon could grow to upwards of 130 feet, however, the few in existence today reach a maximum height of around 75 feet. Let us hope these historic trees do not disappear from the Earth to preserve that link these ancient builders.

From Mackey’s Revised Encyclopedia of Freemasonry:

In Scriptural symbology, the cedar-tree, says Wemyss (Symbolic Language of Scripture), was the symbol of eternity, because its substance never decays or rots. Hence, the Ark of the Covenant was made of cedar; and those are said to utter things worthy of cedar who write that which no time ought to obliterate.

The Cedars of Lebanon are frequently referred to in the legends of Freemasonry, especially in the advanced degrees; not, however, on account of any symbolical signification, but rather because of the use made of them by Solomon and Zerubbabel in the construction of their respective Temples. Phillott (Smith’s Bible Dictionary) thus describes the grove so celebrated in Scriptural and Masonic history:

“The grove of trees known as the Cedars of Lebanon consists of about 400 trees, standing quite alone in a depression of the mountain with no trees near, about six thousand four hundred feet above the sea, and three thousand below the summit. About eleven or twelve are very large and old, twenty five large, fifty of middle size, and more than three hundred younger and smaller ones. The older trees have each several trunks and spread themselves widely around, but most of the others are of cone-like form, and do not send out wide lateral branches. In 1550 there were twenty-eight old trees, in 1739, Pococke counted fifteen, but the number of trunks makes the operation of counting uncertain. They are regarded with much reverence by the native inhabitants as living records of Solomon’s power, and the Maronite patriarch was formerly accustomed to celebrate there the festival of the Transfiguration at an altar of rough stones.”


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