Sidon (Zechariah 9)

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Illustration: Ancient Sidon

Sidon is located at a natural harbour on the coast of Lebanon, in ancient Phoenicia, between Tyre and Beirut. It was, in fact, one of the oldest and most important cities in the region. Sidon’s prominence is reflected in the fact that it is mentioned in Hittite, Ugaritic, Egyptian and Assyrian records. The Sidonians were engaged throughout their long history in fishing, seafaring, commerce and manufacture of purple dye. An enormous mound of murex shells, from which this striking dye was extracted, still exists in modern Sidon. Its inhabitants were also known for their fine craftsmanship; they produced beautiful works in materials such as ivory and silver. References to “Greater Sidon” in Joshua 11:8 and 19:28 reflect a precise knowledge of the name of the town. The Assyrian record of Sennacherib’s campaign in 701 B.C. states that he captured both “Greater Sidon” and “Little Sidon”.

When Joshua divided the promised land, Sidon was allotted to the tribe of Asher, but this tribe was unable to drive out the Sidonians (Judges 1:31, 3:1-3). Later, during the divided monarchy period, Ahab married Jezebel, daughter of Ethbaal, king of Sidon, in a union that resulted in the introduction of pagan worship into the northern kingdom (1 Kings 16:31-33). The prophets Jeremiah (Jeremiah 25:22, 27:3-6, 47:4), Ezekiel (Ezekiel 28:20-24), Joel (Joel 3:4-8) and Zechariah (Zechariah 9:1-2) all pronounced judgement against Sidon. She was among the cities God had given to Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon (Jeremiah 27:6) and a text excavation at Babylon lists the king of Sidon among Nebuchadnezzar’s captives. Sidon was also a centre for the Persian fleet during the reign of Xerxes.

Excavations at ancient Sidon have been limited by recent military hostilities, as well as by urban development. Recently there have been indications of the possibility of excavating remains of ancient Sidon under the sea (Greek historians indicate that in 146 B.C. the city was struck by an earthquake, which caused a large portion of it to sink beneath the sea).


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