And upon all the cedars "Even against all the cedars" - Princes, potentates, rulers, captains, rich men, etc. - So Kimchi. These verses afford us a striking example of that peculiar way of writing, which makes a principal characteristic of the parabolical or poetical style of the Hebrews, and in which the prophets deal so largely, namely, their manner of exhibiting things Divine, spiritual, moral, and political, by a set of images taken from things natural, artificial, religious, historical, in the way of metaphor or allegory. Of these nature furnishes much the largest and the most pleasing share; and all poetry has chiefly recourse to natural images, as the richest and most powerful source of illustration. But it may be observed of the Hebrew poetry in particular, that in the use of such images, and in the application of them in the way of illustration and ornament, it is more regular and constant than any other poetry whatever; that it has for the most part a set of images appropriated in a manner to the explication of certain subjects. Thus you will find, in many other places besides this before us, that cedars of Lebanon and oaks of Bashan, are used in the way of metaphor and allegory for kings, princes, potentates of the highest rank; high mountains and lofty hills, for kingdoms, republics, states, cities; towers and fortresses, for defenders and protectors, whether by counsel or strength, in peace or war; ships of Tarshish and works of art, and invention employed in adorning them, for merchants, men enriched by commerce, and abounding in all the luxuries and elegances of life, such as those of Tyre and Sidon; for it appears from the course of the whole passage, and from the train of ideas, that the fortresses and the ships are to be taken metaphorically, as well as the high trees and the lofty mountains.
Ships of Tarshish - Are in Scripture frequently used by a metonymy for ships in general, especially such as are employed in carrying on traffic between distant countries, as Tarshish was the most celebrated mart of those times, frequented of old by the Phoenicians, and the principal source of wealth to Judea and the neighboring countries. The learned seem now to be perfectly well agreed that Tarshish is Tartessus, a city of Spain, at the mouth of the river Baetis, whence the Phoenicians, who first opened this trade, brought silver and gold, ( Jeremiah 10:9; Ezekiel 27:12;), in which that country then abounded; and, pursuing their voyage still farther to the Cassiterides, (Bogart, Canaan, 1 c. 39; Huet, Hist. de Commerce, p. 194), the islands of Scilly and Cornwall, they brought from thence lead and tin.
Tarshish is celebrated in Scripture, 2 Chronicles 8:17, 2 Chronicles 8:18; 2 Chronicles 9:21, for the trade which Solomon carried on thither, in conjunction with the Tyrians. Jehoshaphat, 1 Kings 22:48; 2 Chronicles 20:36, attempted afterwards to renew their trade. And from the account given of his attempt it appears that his fleet was to sail to Ezion-geber on the Red Sea; they must therefore have designed to sail round Africa, as Solomon's fleet had done before, (see Huet, Histoire de Commerce, p. 32), for it was a three years' voyage, ( 2 Chronicles 9:21;), and they brought gold from Ophir, probably on the coast of Arabia; silver from Tartessus; and ivory, apes, and peacocks, from Africa." אופרי Afri, Africa, the Roman termination, Africa terra. תרשיש Tarshish, some city or country in Africa. So the Chaldee on 1 Kings 22:49, where it renders תרשיש Tarshish by אפריקה Aphricah ; and compare 2 Chronicles 20:36, from whence it appears, to go to Ophir and to Tarshish is one and the same thing." - Dr. Jubb.
It is certain that under Pharaoh Necho, about two hundred years afterwards, this voyage was made by the Egyptians; Herodot. 4:42. They sailed from the Red Sea, and returned by the Mediterranean, and they performed it in three years, just the same time that the voyage under Solomon had taken up. It appears likewise from Pliny, Nat. Hist., 2:67, that the passage round the Cape of Good Hope was known and frequently practiced before his time, by Hanno, the Carthaginian, when Carthage was in its glory; by one Eudoxus, in the time of Ptolemy Lathyrus, king of Egypt; and Coelus Antipater, a historian of good credit, somewhat earlier than Pliny, testifies that he had seen a merchant who had made the voyage from Gades to Ethiopia. The Portuguese under Vasco de Gama, near three hundred years ago, recovered this navigation, after it had been intermitted and lost for many centuries. - L.
And upon all the cedars of Lebanon - This is a beautiful specimen of the poetic manner of writing, so common among the Hebrews, where spiritual and moral subjects are represented by grand or beautiful imagery taken from objects of nature. Mount Lebanon bounded Palestine on the north. It was formerly much celebrated for its large and lofty cedars. These cedars were from thirty-five to forty feet in girth, and very high. They were magnificent trees, and were valuable for ceiling: statues, or roofs, that required durable, and beautiful timber. The roof of the temple of Diana of Ephesus, according to Pliny, was of cedar, and no small part of the temple of Solomon was of this wood. A few lofty trees of this description are still remaining on Mount Lebanon. ‹After three hours of laborious traveling,‘ says D‘Arvieux, ‹we arrived at the famous cedars about eleven o‘clock. We counted twenty-three of them. The circumference of these trees is thirty-six feet. The bark of the cedar resembles that of the pine; the leaves and cone also bear considerable resemblance. The stem is upright, the wood is hard, and has the reputation of being incorruptible. The leaves are long, narrow, rough, very green, ranged in tufts along the branches; they shoot in spring, and fall in the beginning of winter. Its flowers and fruit resemble those of the pine. From the full grown trees, a fluid trickles naturally, and without incision; this is clear, transparent, whitish, and after a time dries and hardens; it is supposed to possess great virtues. The place where these great trees are stationed, is in a plain of nearly a league in circumference, on the summit of a mount which is environed on almost all sides by other mounts, so high that their summits are always covered with snow. This plain is level, the air is pure, the heavens always serene.‘
Maundrell found only sixteen cedars of large growth, and a natural plantation of smaller ones, which were very numerous. One of the largest was twelve yards six inches in girth, and thirty-seven yards in the spread of its boughs. At six yards from the ground, it was divided into five limbs, each equal to a great tree. Dr. Richardson visited them in 1818, and found a small clump of large, tall, and beautiful trees, which he pronounces the most picturesque productions of the vegetable world that he had ever seen. In this clump are two generations of trees; the oldest are large and massy, rearing their heads to an enormous height, and spreading their branches to a great extent. He measured one, not the largest in the clump, and found it thirty-two feet in circumference. Seven of these trees appeared to be very old, the rest younger, though, for want of space, their branches are not so spreading.
Bush‘s “Illustrations of Scripture.” ‹The celebrated cedar-grove of Lebanon,‘ says Dr. Robinson, ‹is at least two days journey from Beirut, near the northern, and perhaps the highest summit of the mountain. It has been often and sufficiently described by travelers for the last three centuries; but they all differ as to the number of the oldest trees, inasmuch as in counting, some have included more and some less of the younger ones. At present, the number of trees appears to be on the increase, and amounts in all to several hundred. This grove was long held to be the only remnant of the ancient cedars of Lebanon. But Seetzen, in 1805, discovered two other groves of greater extent; and the American Missionaries, in traveling through the mountains, have also found many cedars in other places. The trees are of all sizes, old and young; but none so ancient and venerable as those usually visited.‘ “Bib. Researches,” iii., 440; 441. The cedar, so large, lofty, and grand, is used in the Scriptures to represent kings, princes, and nobles: compare Ezekiel 31:3; Daniel 4:20-22; Zechariah 11:1-2; Isaiah 14:8. Here it means the princes and nobles of the land of Israel. The Chaldee renders it, ‹upon all the strong and mighty kings of the people.‘
And upon all the oaks of Bashan - “Bashan” was east of the river Jordan, in the limits of the half tribe of Manasseh. It was bounded on the north and east by Gilead, south by the river Jabbok, and west by the Jordan. It was celebrated for pasturage, and for producing fine cattle; Numbers 21:33; Numbers 32:33; Psalm 22:12; Ezekiel 39:18; Amos 4:1; Micah 7:14. Its lofty oaks are also particularly celebrated; Ezekiel 27:6; Amos 2:9; Zechariah 11:2. The sense here is not different from the former member of the sentence - denoting the princes and nobles of the land.