Was ancient Israel as forested as the Bible seems to indicate?
THE Bible states that certain areas of the Promised Land were forested and that trees were “plentiful.” (1 Ki. 10:27; Josh. 17:15, 18) Yet, on seeing the deforested condition of large portions of the land today, skeptics may wonder if that could ever have been the case.
The book Life in Biblical Israel explains that “forests in ancient Israel were much more extensive than they are today.” The natural cover of the highlands consisted mainly of Aleppo pine (Pinus halepensis), evergreen oak (Quercus calliprinos), and terebinth (Pistacia palaestina). In the Shephelah, an area that includes the foothills between the central mountain range and the Mediterranean Coast, the sycamore fig (Ficus sycomorus) was also abundant.
The book Plants of the Bible states that some localities in Israel are now entirely devoid of trees. What contributed to this? Explaining that it was a gradual process, the book says: “Man has persistently interfered with the natural vegetation, mainly in order to expand his farming and pasture area, but also to obtain building materials and fuel for his fire.”