The Phoenicians were a maritime people that lived in coastal city-states that bordered the western part of the Mediterranean Sea. Phoenicians were also known as Canaanites, and they were well known as a nation of traders and craftsmen. The Phoenicians came into power around 1200 B.C., and their civilization went into decline about 900 years later in 300 B.C. These dates are shown on the Biblical Timeline Poster.
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Some of the most historically significant cultures spoke about Phoenicia in the past. Rome, Greece and Israel all had contact with the Phoenician people. The Phoenicians had monopolized and traded many goods not only with people in the Mediterranean but also from the Middle East. The Phoenicians probably were not the first major trading nation in recorded history, but they once were significant in world economic affairs for thousands of years.
The Phoenicians were known for trading juniper, purple die, cypress wood, embroided linen, oaks from Bashan, cedar from Lebanon, turquoise, honey and olive oil. Tyre was also known to trade their goods for slaves, gold, silver, copper and tin.
The Bible doesn’t contain the word Phoenicia, but it does talk about Tyre. This city was the most well known of all Phoenician city-states. King Solomon had traded and purchased raw materials from the Phoenicians to build Solomon’s Temple. God acknowledges Tyre as a major financial and economic power and condemns the Phoenicians because they would not worship him. Jesus Christ also echoes this same train of thought concerning Tyre when he condemns cities that would not repent of their sins and turn to him for forgiveness. Jezebel was a Phoenician princess who married King Ahab, a former ruler of Israel. During Ahab’s reign, she killed many of God’s priests and instituted the worship of Baal. God was not pleased with her and ultimately had her killed.
Tyre was always regarded as an economic power but all throughout scripture they were portrayed as people who didn’t follow after God. Since these people were Canaanites, they worshipped gods similar to Baal. This particular deity was the god of many ancient enemies of Israel. Ultimately God had wiped out the Phoenicians and removed their influence and power from the world.
Biblical References to Phoenicia
- 2 Samuel 5:11 King Hiram of Tyre sends messengers and raw materials to King David to build him a house.
- 1 Kings 5:1 King Hiram sends King Solomon servants in memory of his father, David.
- 1 Kings 9:11 King Hiram provides Solomon with raw materials for the temple.
- 1 Kings 16: 30-31 tells about Jezebel’s marriage to Ahab.
- 1 Kings 18: 13, 19 Introduces idol worship to God’s people.
- 1 Kings 19: 1-3 Jezebel tries to eliminate God’s prophet, Elijah.
- 2 Kings 9: 30-37 Jezebel dies a terrible death.
- Ezekiel 27 God acknowledges Tyre’s powerful economic position, but he condemns the city for not believing in him.
- Isaiah 23 speaks of God’s judgment and condemnation of Tyre.
- Mathew 11:21 Jesus condemns the cities of Chorazin and Bethsaida for not believing in his miracles, and he claims that Tyre will fare better during judgment than those two cities.