In ancient times, the land of Israel was heavily forested. In Joshua’s day, the hills in Israel’s heartland (the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh) were called “the wood country” because of the extensive forests (Josh 17:15,18). Absalom was killed in the trans-Jordanian oak forest of Ephraim (2 Sam 18:6,8).

There was a forest east of Bethel in Bethaven (1 Sam 14:25) as well a forest in the wilderness of Ziph, south-east of Hebron and a few kilometres west of the Dead Sea (1 Sam 23:15,19), and there was a forest in Hareth (1 Sam 22:5), which was south of Ziph toward the southern end of the Dead Sea. These places are in the Judean wilderness and the Negev, which has long been barren desert, except for the areas developed by the state of Israel since the 20th century.

In Elisha’s day, the prophets cut large beams from a forest near the river Jordan (2 Kings 6:1-2). Carmel was forested (2 Kings 19:23) and in Solomon’s day, sycamore trees were abundant (2 Chron 1:15). Likewise, in Jotham’s day, there were forests in Judah (2 Chron 27:4). In Nehemiah’s day, too, there was a king’s forest in Judah that was sufficient to supply wood for the second temple and the walls and gates of Jerusalem (Neh 2:8).

Bashan, east of the Sea of Galilee, was famous for its oak trees (Isa 2:13; Zech 11:2), which were used to make oars (Ezek 27:6). Hermon was famous for fir trees, which were used to build Phoenician ships (Ezek 27:5).

In the future age, when Yahweh will transform the land (Isa 41:18-20), He will restore the forests as it is written: “I will plant in the wilderness the cedar, the shittah tree, and the myrtle, and the oil tree; I will set in the desert the fir tree, and the pine, and the box tree together, that they may see, and know, and consider, and understand together, that the hand of Yahweh hath done this, and the Holy One of Israel hath created it.”