Phoenicia (1 Kings 5)

Bilderesultat for ancient phoenicia

Illustration: Sidon, a Phoenician seaport

The Phoenicians were descendants of the people of Canaan (cf. Genesis 10:15).Phoenicia was never organized as a nation-state but consisted of a group of independent port cities along the northern seacoast of Israel. Phoenicia’s main centres included Arvad, Byblos, Sidon (above illustration) and Tyre. Relatively few Iron Age remains have been located at these cities.

Following the socioeconomic collapse of the Late Bronze Age, the Phoenicians established themselves as the preeminent sea traders in the Mediterranean. Their craftsmen’s need for metals and other goods led merchants to establish colonies throughout the Mediterranean, as far away as Spain and the Atlantic coast of northern Africa. Phoenician fame also spread from its lumber trade and its thriving purple dye industry. A noted legacy is the Phoenician alphabet, which the Greeks borrowed, probably during the eighth century B.C.

Solomon solicited Phoenician expertise for the  construction of the temple and for the maritime gold trade (1 Kings 5, 9:26-28). The king of Tyre provided cedar and pine in exchange for wheat and olive oil and sent experienced sailors to assist Solomon’s fleet. But the Phoenicians also exported their religion to Israel. The Sidonian princess Jezebel, who was given in marriage to Omri’s son Ahab, used her position to promote Baal worship in Israel (16:29-33, 18). Phoenician influence also penetrated the kingdom of Judah, including, among other things, the practice of child sacrifice in the Hinnom Valley of Jerusalem (2 Kings 23:10).

Excavations at Carthage in northern Africa, the most famous of the Phoenician/Punic colonies, provide grim evidence of the longstanding practice of child sacrifice (eighth-second centuries B.C.). Thousands of urns containing the charred bones of infants and children have been excavated from the ritual burial precinct of Tannit, a Phoenician goddess. These Phoenician religious practices became a  stumbling block to both Israel and Judah (e.g. 2 Kings 16:3, 21:6) and a recurring theme of Israelite prophetic rebuke (Jeremiah 19:5-6, 32:35, Ezekiel 16:20-22, Micah 6:7).


 

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