The Creation Wiki is made available by the NW Creation Network
Watch monthly live webcast - Like us on Facebook - Subscribe on YouTube


From CreationWiki, the encyclopedia of creation science
(Redirected from Phoenicians)
Jump to: navigation, search
Map of Phoenicia.

Phoenicia (Phoenician: 𐤊𐤍𐤏𐤍, Kānāʻan; Greek: Φοινίκη, Phoiníkē; Latin: Phœnicia) was an ancient civilization located in the north of ancient Canaan in the region of today's coastal Lebanon conquered by the Caphtorim.

The Phoenicians


That ancient historian, Herodotus, claims that the Phoenicians arrived from the Persian Gulf region, in the vicinity of the original Red Sea.[1] He claims that they had their own tradition of this origin.[2][3] In ancient times the Red Sea as we know it was not called by that name. The original Red Sea according to Rohl and others is the Persian or Arabian Gulf[4] and this would also indicate that they originated in Babylon and were close allies of the Cushites. Driver states that the "Canaanites came from the Red Sea coast and were really related to the Cushites."[5]

Thus the Phoenicians of the eastern Mediterranean believed that they originated from the sacred paradise isle of Sumerian legend.[6]
They called themselves Kna' or Kinahni (Phoenician: 𐤊𐤍𐤏𐤍, Kānāʻan; Hebrew: כנען, Kānāʻan;) after their forefather, Canaan, and did not form a single unified state. Rather, they founded independent, and often-times, competing city-kingdoms and instead of speaking of themselves collectively as Phoenicians, they would call themselves after their particular city they lived in: viz. Sidonians, Byblians, or Tyrians. Some of these cities still exist: Beirut (Berytus), Jbeil (Byblos), Saïda (Sidon or Zidon), Sur (Tyre).[7] Not all Canaanites however were known as Phoenicians[8] and not all Phoenicians were Canaanites.

The name "Phoenician" derives from the Greek Φοινίκη (Phoiníkē) which means "purple dye" or "red-purple"[9] and was attributed to the olive-complexioned peoples dwelling in the narrow stretch of Lebanese-Syrian coastline on the Mediterranean. Interestingly, Erithrus who was king of Spain in the 14th Century BC, was probably Phoenician and his name means "red". Geographically, Phoenicia, to the Greeks, was more than just the small swath of coast in the northern Levant. That demarcation is from later Roman times and closely represents the Roman-era administrative region. For example, Strabo (ca. 63 BC-25 AD), an authority on the topic, in his Geography described Phoenicia as practically the entire eastern Mediterranean coast, from the northern parts and the coast of modern Syria all the way south to the edges of the Nile river, including even Gaza and the coast of the Sinai.[10] This alone should call into question the description of the Phoenicians as merely Canaanites, for in Biblical times it is clear that both Philistines and Israelites occupied those coasts.

In the Septuagint, the Hebrew word for Canaanite was sometimes errantly translated as Phoenician, which reflects the composition of the area and the geographical labeling in use when the Septuagint was translated from Hebrew, during the Hellenistic period following the conquests of Alexander, but which is not historically accurate in the context of the much earlier Israelite period of occupation in Canaan. After the deportations of the Israelites by the Assyrians and Babylonians in the 8th to 6th centuries BC, most of the people who remained in the area which became known as Phoenicia were Canaanites, along with others of Israel's ancient enemies.

Along with the new peoples brought into the region by its conquerors (Ezra 4:9-10 ), these Canaanites, Hittites, and others occupied nearly all the land once belonging to Israel (Ezra 9:2 ), including the lands of Asher (later "Phoenicia"), Ephraim and Manasseh (later Samaria), and much of Judaea, but not Jerusalem nor most of Galilee. Where "In historical times the Phoenicians called themselves Canaanites and their land Canaan," as the 9th edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica reads citing surviving fragments of the Greek historian Hecataeus of Miletus, one should expect Hecataeus, who wrote in the very late 6th and early 5th centuries BC, to have found Canaanites in Phoenicia, most of the Israelites having been removed years earlier. The Greeks continued to call these non-Israelite peoples "Phoenicians," but only because they dwelt in the land which they called "Phoenicia." Hence where Mark 7:26 calls a certain woman "Syro-Phoenician," Matthew 15:22 more accurately identifies that same woman as a Canaanite.

The preeminent Phoenician cities were Tyre and Sidon. Homer, the earliest and most famous of Greek poets, never even mentioned Tyre, but often Sidon.[11] That these cities existed before the Israelite occupation of Canaan is clear in the Biblical record. Byblos, the Gebal of Ezekiel 27:9 in the KJV, another famous Phoenician city, also existed in the remotest times, and is mentioned in The Story of Si-nuhe and other ancient documents (ANET pp. 19 ff., 228 et al.). While Canaanites occupied these cities in antiquity (see for example, the Amarna letters), that does not mean that they did so during the later Israelite Judges and Kingdom periods.

Upon the conquest of the land of Canaan by the Israelites, the entire land was divided amongst the twelve tribes (Joshua 11:23 ), as described in Joshua chapters 13 through 21. Strabo, speaking of Moses and the Israelite conquest of Canaan, says that under Moses' successors the Israelites "seized the property of others and subdued much of Syria and Phoenicia,"[12] exactly as they were commanded to do (Deuteronomy 11:8 , 23-24, even if Strabo thought meanly of it—obviously not understanding the circumstances. Asher's territory included both Tyre and Sidon (Joshua 19:24-31 , the core territory of historical "Phoenicia" on any map. Joshua 11:8 ; 13:4, 6 and 19:28-29 all make it clear that the children of Israel were very active in, and inhabited, the land of "Phoenicia" encompassing Tyre and points north, and Judges chapters 1 and 3 show that the Israelites at this early period were dwelling among Canaanites whom they failed to remove from the land, enslaving them instead. Tyre is not mentioned among the list of cities in Judges 1 where Canaanites were said to have remained.

Tyre, which soon after became the foremost "Phoenician" city, and the city out of which came the Phoenician colonies of the west, was indeed an Israelite city during this period. Strabo says: "Now although the poets have referred more repeatedly to Sidon than to Tyre (Homer does not even mention Tyre), yet the colonies sent into Libya [i.e. Carthage] and Iberia, as far even as outside the Pillars, hymn rather the praises of Tyre."[13] As time progressed, the Israelites strengthened in their possession of the land of Canaan, as the Biblical records suggest, and Canaanites remained their slaves.[14] When David had his census of Israel, Tyre and Sidon were among the places where it was conducted, and here both of these cities are distinguished from "the cities of the Hivites, and of the Canaanites," and so they must have been Israelite cities (2 Samuel 24:6-7 ), which Jesus Christ also attests at Matthew 11:21-22 and Luke 10:13-14 . The lamentation of Tyre by Ezekiel (chap. 27) shows that it was an Israelite city. At Ezekiel 27:6 we see the tribe of Asher ("Ashurites") in Cyprus ("Kittim"), an island of famous Phoenician colonies which was subject to Tyre before the Assyrian conquest.[15] At 27:12 we see that the tribes of Dan (Danaan Greeks) and Javan (Japhetite Ionian Greeks) brought trade to Tyre.

Surely Tyre was an Israelite city, and Josephus acknowledges as much again in his Against Apion,[16] where he quotes a Greek writer Theophrastus and his writings concerning laws: "the laws of the Tyrians forbid men to swear foreign oaths," and Josephus tells us that he was speaking of Israelites, and then goes on to cite Herodotus,[17] who stated that the Phoenicians and the "Syrians of Palestine" (which is what Herodotus called the Judaeans[18]) were circumcised, and Josephus points out that "there are no inhabitants of Palestine that are circumcised excepting the Judaeans [meaning Israelites]; and therefore it must be his knowledge of them that enabled him to speak so much concerning them."

That the Tyrians had such laws, and brought them to their colonies, is evident in a statement of Strabo's in his Geography at 3.1.6: "The Turdetanians are ranked as the wisest of the Iberians; and they make use of an alphabet, and possess records of their ancient history, poems and laws written in verse that are six thousand years old, as they assert," and a footnote in the Loeb Library edition states that "Some think the text should be emended to read 'six thousand verses in length.'" In either case, it is apparent that these Iberians, "Phoenician" Hebrews, surely had copies of the Scriptures.

Many of the Greek gods and heroes were admitted to be Phoenician, including Heracles (who was said to have saved Andromeda from a sea monster at Joppa in Palestine), Dionysus, Cadmus "the Phoenician" (called "the Tyrian" by Herodotus[19]), Semele, the Cabiri, Oedipus, Phoenix, and many others. From Phoenix were descended the Greek heroes Minos, Sarpedon, Rhadamanthys, Phineus, Adonis, and his daughter Europa. That Minos was indeed considered to be a Greek see Josephus, Against Apion 2:17. Phoenicia is a very important part of many of the earliest Greek myths, along with much of the Greek language. One may begin with the poems of Homer, Hesiod, and Euripides. The "Phoenicians" made many settlements in Greece at an early time, nearly as early as the conquest of Canaan itself, namely in Boeotia and Thessaly, in addition to the islands. The largest was named Thebes. Cadmus "the Phoenician" and Danaus "the Egyptian" were even said to have left for Greece from Egypt at the same time that Moses led the Israelites in the Exodus,[20] a myth which certainly holds elements of truth. There is evidence both circumstantial and linguistic (from the Egyptian names for them) that the "Sea Peoples" who invaded Egypt in the late 13th century were actually a group of confederate Israelite and Philistine tribes. The Phoenicians were obviously an important component in early Greek development.

One branch of Phoenicians in Tyre, c. 830 BC, had an internal problem which led to some breaking away and founding Carthage on the North African coast (modern Tunisia) where they called themselves Puoni or Phoenicians. The famous St. Augustine of Hippo, in North Africa stated that the inhabitants of Carthage called themselves Canaanites even in the 5th Century AD.[21]

In pursuit of tin, silver, and copper, they journeyed to Cyprus, Sicily, Sardinia, the coasts of Spain, and even as far as the British Isles. As such, they formed chains of trading posts at many of these sites, throughout the Mediterranean, enabling their ships to take on very long journeys to strange lands.


The Canaanite Phoenicians and other Canaanites, in spite of their Hamitic descent, spoke a Semitic language, probably adopted from a large migration of Shemites, such as Hebrews, who came from land and sea, and introduced their language and a sophisticated maritime technology about 1800 BC. In addition to their many inscriptions, the Phoenicians, contrary to some reports, wrote many books, which have not survived. Evangelical Preparation by Eusebius of Caesarea quotes extensively from Philo of Byblos and Sanchuniathon. Furthermore, the Phoenician Punic colonies of North Africa continued to be a source of knowledge about the Phoenicians. St. Augustine knew at least a smattering of Punic and occasionally uses it to explain cognate words found in Hebrew.

See Also


  1. Douglas, J (Ed) (et al) (1972) New Bible Dictionary. Inter-Varsity Press, London, p. 992. Donald Harden's The Phoenicians agrees (p. 21).
  2. Herodotus, Histories 1.1.7.
  3. Baldwin, J.D, (1869) Pre-Historic Nations. Harper & Brothers, New York, pp. 130-31
  4. Rohl, D (1998) Legend. The Genesis of Civilisation. Random House, London, p. 253
  5. Driver, S.R. (Ed.). (1910). The International Critical Commentary on the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, p. 193
  6. Rohl, D (1998) Legend. The Genesis of Civilisation. Random House, London, p. 253
  7. Stump (1982) "Lebanon's Future". See also Genesis 10:15-18
  8. Douglas, J (Ed) (et al) (1972) New Bible Dictionary. Inter-Varsity Press, London, p. 183. Sanchuniathon transmitted the Phoenician traditions that they descended from Kna'. Fortunately, Philo of Byblos has also preserved these traditions so that we, today, may know their true origin.
  9. Douglas, J (Ed) (et al) (1972) New Bible Dictionary. Inter-Varsity Press, London, p. 994
  10. Strabo, Geography 16.2.21, 33
  11. Strabo, Geography 16.2.22
  12. Strabo, Geography 16.2.37
  13. Strabo, Geography 16.2.22
  14. Josephus, Antiquities 8.6.3
  15. Josephus, Antiquities 9.14.2
  16. Josephus, Against Apion 1:22
  17. Herodotus, Histories 2:104
  18. cf. Ibid. 2:159, 3:5 and 7:89
  19. Herodotus, Histories 2:49
  20. Diodorus Siculus, Bibliotheka Historia, 40.3.1-3
  21. Aubet, M (1987) The Phoenicians and the West. New York: Cambridge University Press, p. 10

External Links