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In Bible versions:

Cananaean: AVS NRSV TEV
the country between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River reaching from the brook of Egypt to the Euphrates.
the man; son of Ham son of Noah
a region extending from Tyre and Sidon south to the Negeb
an original resident of the land of Canaan
a resident of the region of Canaan
residents of the region of Canaan
a nickname for Simon, one of Jesus' disciples, distinguishing him from Simon Peter
the region ofeast Mediterranean coastal land from Arvad (modern Lebanon) south to Gaza
the coast land from Mt. Carmel north to the Orontes River
a man who was one of the twelve apostles

merchant; trader; or that humbles and subdues
red; purple ( --> same as Phenice)
Google Maps: Canaan (31° 41´, 34° 50´); Phoenicia (33° 33´, 35° 21´)
Arts Topics: Exploring Canaan; Fighting the Remaining Canaanites; Joshua Leads the Division of Canaan; The Brothers Return to Canaan; The Canaanite Woman; The Defeated Kings of Canaan


Strongs #5477: Xanaan Chanaan

Canaan = "lowland"

1) the land of Canaan
2) in a narrower sense: the part of Palestine lying west of the Jordan
3) in a wider sense: all of Palestine

5477 Chanaan khan-ah-an'

of Hebrew origin (3667); Chanaan (i.e. Kenaan), the early name of
see HEBREW for 03667

Strongs #5478: Xanaanaiov Chanaanaios

1) Canaanite, the name of the ancient inhabitants of Palestine
before its conquest by the Israelites
2) in Christ's time: a Phoenician

5478 Chanaanaios khan-ah-an-ah'-yos

from 5477; a Chanaanoean (i.e. Kenaanite), or native of gentile
Palestine:-of Canaan.
see GREEK for 5477

Strongs #2581: Kananithv Kananites

Canaanite = "zealous"

1) the surname of apostle Simon, otherwise known as "Simon Zelotes"

2581 Kananites kan-an-ee'-tace

of Chaldee origin (compare 7067); zealous; Cananites, an
epithet:-Canaanite (by mistake for a derivative from 5477).
see GREEK for 5477
see HEBREW for 07067

Strongs #5403: foinikh Phoinike

Phenicia = "land of palm trees"

1) a territory of the province of Syria, situated on the coast of the
Mediterranean between the river Eleutherus and the promontory of
Carmel, some 30 miles (50 km) long and 3 (5 km) broad

5403 Phoinike foy-nee'-kay

from 5404; palm-country; Phoenice (or Phoenicia), a region of
Palestine:-Phenice, Phenicia.
see GREEK for 5404

Strongs #2208: zhlothv Zelotes

1) one burning with zeal, a zealot
2) used of God as jealous of any rival and sternly vindicating
his control
3) most eagerly desirous of, zealous for, a thing
3a) to acquire a thing, (zealous of)
3b) to defend and uphold a thing, vehemently contending for a thing

From the time of the Maccabees there existed among the Jews a class
of men, called Zealots, who vigorously adhered to the Mosaic law and
endeavouring even by a resort to violence, after the example of
Phinehas, to prevent religion from being violated by others; but in
the latter days of the Jewish commonwealth they used their holy zeal
as a pretext for the basest crimes.

2208 Zelotes dzay-lo-tace'

the same as 2208; a Zealot, i.e. (specially) partisan for Jewish
political independence:-Zelotes.
see GREEK for 2208


Strongs #03667: Nenk K@na`an

Canaan = "lowland"

n pr m
1) the 4th son of Ham and the progenitor of the Phoenicians and of
the various nations who peopled the seacoast of Palestine

n pr loc
2) the land west of the Jordan peopled by the descendants of Canaan
and subsequently conquered by the Israelites under Joshua

n m
3) merchant, trader

3667 Kna`an ken-ah'-an

from 3665; humiliated; Kenaan, a son a Ham; also the country
inhabited by him:-Canaan, merchant, traffick.
see HEBREW for 03665

Strongs #03669: ynenk K@na`aniy

Canaanite = see Cana "zealous"

1) descendant of inhabitant of Canaan

2) descendant or inhabitant of Canaan
3) a merchant, trader

3669 Kna`aniy ken-ah-an-ee'

patrial from 3667; a Kenaanite or inhabitant of Kenaan; by
implication, a pedlar (the Canaanites standing for their
neighbors the Ishmaelites, who conducted mercantile
caravans):-Canaanite, merchant, trafficker.
see HEBREW for 03667

Canaan [EBD]

(1.) The fourth son of Ham (Gen. 10:6). His descendants were under a curse in consequence of the transgression of his father (9:22-27). His eldest son, Zidon, was the father of the Sidonians and Phoenicians. He had eleven sons, who were the founders of as many tribes (10:15-18).

(2.) The country which derived its name from the preceding. The name as first used by the Phoenicians denoted only the maritime plain on which Sidon was built. But in the time of Moses and Joshua it denoted the whole country to the west of the Jordan and the Dead Sea (Deut. 11:30). In Josh. 5:12 the LXX. read, "land of the Phoenicians," instead of "land of Canaan."

The name signifies "the lowlands," as distinguished from the land of Gilead on the east of Jordan, which was a mountainous district. The extent and boundaries of Canaan are fully set forth in different parts of Scripture (Gen. 10:19; 17:8; Num. 13:29; 34:8). (See CANAANITES, PALESTINE.)

Canaanite [EBD]

a name given to the apostle Simon (Matt. 10:4; Mark 3:18). The word here does not, however, mean a descendant of Canaan, but is a translation, or rather almost a transliteration, of the Syriac word Kanenyeh (R.V. rendered "Cananaen"), which designates the Jewish sect of the Zealots. Hence he is called elsewhere (Luke 6:15) "Simon Zelotes;" i.e., Simon of the sect of the Zealots. (See SIMON.)

Canaanites [EBD]

the descendants of Canaan, the son of Ham. Migrating from their original home, they seem to have reached the Persian Gulf, and to have there sojourned for some time. They thence "spread to the west, across the mountain chain of Lebanon to the very edge of the Mediterranean Sea, occupying all the land which later became Palestine, also to the north-west as far as the mountain chain of Taurus. This group was very numerous, and broken up into a great many peoples, as we can judge from the list of nations (Gen. 10), the 'sons of Canaan.'" Six different tribes are mentioned in Ex. 3:8, 17; 23:23; 33:2; 34:11. In Ex. 13:5 the "Perizzites" are omitted. The "Girgashites" are mentioned in addition to the foregoing in Deut. 7:1; Josh. 3:10.

The "Canaanites," as distinguished from the Amalekites, the Anakim, and the Rephaim, were "dwellers in the lowlands" (Num. 13:29), the great plains and valleys, the richest and most important parts of Palestine. Tyre and Sidon, their famous cities, were the centres of great commercial activity; and hence the name "Canaanite" came to signify a "trader" or "merchant" (Job 41:6; Prov. 31:24, lit. "Canaanites;" comp. Zeph. 1:11; Ezek. 17:4). The name "Canaanite" is also sometimes used to designate the non-Israelite inhabitants of the land in general (Gen. 12:6; Num. 21:3; Judg. 1:10).

The Israelites, when they were led to the Promised Land, were commanded utterly to destroy the descendants of Canaan then possessing it (Ex. 23:23; Num. 33:52, 53; Deut. 20:16, 17). This was to be done "by little and little," lest the beasts of the field should increase (Ex. 23:29; Deut. 7:22, 23). The history of these wars of conquest is given in the Book of Joshua. The extermination of these tribes, however, was never fully carried out. Jerusalem was not taken till the time of David (2 Sam. 5:6, 7). In the days of Solomon bond-service was exacted from the fragments of the tribes still remaining in the land (1 Kings 9:20, 21). Even after the return from captivity survivors of five of the Canaanitish tribes were still found in the land.

In the Tell-el-Amarna tablets Canaan is found under the forms of Kinakhna and Kinakhkhi. Under the name of Kanana the Canaanites appear on Egyptian monuments, wearing a coat of mail and helmet, and distinguished by the use of spear and javelin and the battle-axe. They were called Phoenicians by the Greeks and Poeni by the Romans. By race the Canaanites were Semitic. They were famous as merchants and seamen, as well as for their artistic skill. The chief object of their worship was the sun-god, who was addressed by the general name of Baal, "lord." Each locality had its special Baal, and the various local Baals were summed up under the name of Baalim, "lords."

Phoenicia [EBD]

(Acts 21:2). (See PHENICIA.)

Canaan [NAVE]

1. Son of Ham, Gen. 9:18, 22, 25-27.
Descendants of, Gen. 10:6, 15; 1 Chr. 1:8, 13.
2. Land of (The history of this region is involved in that of the Israelites. The student is therefore referred to Israel, History of.
See also Canaanites.), Gen. 11:31; 17:8; 23:2.
Called The Sanctuary, Ex. 15:17; Palestine, Ex. 15:14; Land of Israel, 1 Sam. 13:19; of the Hebrews, Gen. 40:15; of the Jews, Acts 10:39; of Promise, Heb. 11:9; Holy Land, Zech. 2:12; Lord's Land, Hos. 9:3; Immanuel's Land, Isa. 8:8; Beulah, Isa. 62:4.
Promised to Abraham and his seed, Gen. 12:1-7; 13:14-17; 15:18-21; 17:8; Deut. 12:9, 10; Psa. 105:11; renewed to Isaac, Gen. 26:3.
Extent of: According to the promise, Gen. 15:18; Ex. 23:31; Deut. 11:24; Josh. 1:4; 15:1; after the conquest by Joshua, Josh. 12:1-8; in Solomon's time, 1 Kin. 4:21, 24; 2 Chr. 7:8; 9:26.
Prophecy concerning, after the restoration of Israel, Ezek. 47:13-20.
Fertility of, Deut. 8:7-9; 11:10-13.
Fruitfulness of, Num. 13:27; 14:7, 8; Jer. 2:7; 32:22.
Products of: Fruits, Deut. 8:8; Jer. 40:10, 12; mineral, Deut. 8:9.
Exports of, Ezek. 27:17.
Famines in, Gen. 12:10; 26:1; 47:13; Ruth 1:1; 2 Sam. 21:1; 1 Kin. 17.
See: Famine.
Spies sent into, by Moses, Num. 13:17-29.
Conquest of, by the Israelites, Num. 21:21-35; Deut. 3:3-6; Josh. 6-12; Psa. 44:1-3.
Divided by lot among the twelve tribes and families, Num. 26:55, 56; 33:54; 34:13; by Joshua, Eleazar and a prince from each tribe, Num. 34:16-29; 35:1-8; Josh. 14-19. Divided into twelve provinces by Solomon, 1 Kin. 4:7-19.
Into two kingdoms, Judah and Israel, 1 Kin. 11:29-36; 12:16-21.
Roman provinces of, Luke 3:1; John 4:3, 4.

Canaanites [NAVE]

Eleven nations, descended from Canaan, Gen. 10:15-19; Deut. 7:1; 1 Chr. 1:13-16.
Territory of, Gen. 10:19; 12:6; 15:18; Ex. 23:31; Num. 13:29; 34:1-12; Josh. 1:4; 5:1; given to the Israelites, Gen. 12:6, 7; 15:18; 17:8; Ex. 23:23; Deut. 7:1-3; 32:49; Psa. 135:11, 12.
Wickedness of, Gen. 13:13; Lev. 18:25, 27, 28; 20:23.
To be expelled from the land, Ex. 33:2; 34:11.
To be destroyed, Ex. 23:23, 24; Deut. 19:1; 31:3-5.
Not expelled, Josh. 17:12-18; Judg. 1:1-33; 3:1-3.
Defeat the Israelites, Num. 14:45; Judg. 4:1-3.
Defeated by the Israelites, Num. 21:1-3; Josh. 11:1-16; Judg. 4:4-24; by the Egyptians, 1 Kin. 9:16.
Chariots of, Josh. 17:18.
Isaac forbidden by Abraham to take a wife from, Gen. 38:2; 1 Chr. 2:3.
The exile Jews take wives from, Ezra 9:2.
Prophecy concerning, Gen. 9:25-27.

Cananaean [NAVE]

See: Zealot, Simon the.

Phoenicia [NAVE]

See: Phenice; Phenicia; Syrophenician.

Zealot [NAVE]

Matt. 10:4; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:15; Acts 1:13


(Ca?nan) (low, flat).
  1. The fourth son of Ham, (Genesis 10:6; 1 Chronicles 1:8) the progenitor of the Phoenicians [ZIDON, OR SIDON], and of the various nations who before the Israelite conquest people the seacoast of Palestine, and generally the while of the country westward of the Jordan. (Genesis 10:13; 1 Chronicles 1:13) (B.C. 2347.)
  2. The name "Canaan" is sometimes employed for the country itself.


(Matthew 10:4) Used in the Revised Version in place of "Canaanite." [See CANAANITE, THE]


CANAAN; CANAANITES - ka'-nan, ka'-nan-its (kena`an; Chanaan):

1. Geography

2. Meaning of the Name

3. The Results of Recent Excavations

4. History

(1) Stone Age

(2) Bronze Age

(3) A Babylonian Province

(4) Jerusalem Founded

(5) The Hyksos

(6) Egyptian Conquest

(7) Tell el-Amarna Tablets

5. The Israelitsh Invasion

6. Culture

7. Art

8. Commerce

9. Art of Writing


Canaan is stated in Gen 10:6 to have been a son of Ham and brother of Mizraim, or Egypt. This indicates the Mosaic period when the conquerors of the XVIIIth and XIXth Egyptian Dynasties made Canaan for a time a province of the Egyptian empire. Under the Pharaoh Meneptah, at the time of the Exodus, it ceased to be connected with Egypt, and the Egyptian garrisons in the South of the country were expelled by the Philistines, who probably made themselves masters of the larger portion of it, thus causing the name of Philistia or Palestine to become synonymous with that of Canaan (see Zeph 2:5). In the Tell el-Amarna Letters, Canaan is written Kinakhna and Kinakhkhi. The latter form corresponds with the Greek (Chna), a name given to Phoenicia (Hecat. Fragments 254; Eusebius, praep. Ev., i.10; ix.17).

1. Geography:

In Nu 13:29 the Canaanites are described as dwelling "by the sea, and along by the side of the Jordan," i.e. in the lowlands of Palestine. The name was confined to the country West of the Jordan (Nu 33:51; Josh 22:9), and was especially applied to Phoenicia (Isa 23:11; compare Mt 15:22). Hence, Sidon is called the "firstborn" of Canaan (Gen 10:15, though compare Jdg 3:3), and the Septuagint translates "Canaanites" by "Phoenicians" and "Canaan" by the "land of the Phoenicians" (Ex 16:35; Josh 5:12). Kinakhkhi is used in the same restricted sense in the Tell el-Amarna Letters, but it is also extended so as to include Palestine generally. On the other hand, on the Egyptian monuments Seti I calls a town in the extreme South of Palestine "the city of Pa-Kana'na" or "the Canaan," which Conder identifies with the modern Khurbet Kenan near Hebron.

As in the Tell el-Amarna Letters, so in the Old Testament, Canaan is used in an extended sense to denote the whole of Palestine West of the Jordan (Gen 12:5; 23:2,19; 28:1; 31:18; 35:6; 36:2; 37:1; 48:7; Ex 15:15; Nu 13:2; Josh 14:1; 21:2; Ps 135:11). Thus, Jerusalem which had Amorite and Hittite founders is stated to be of "the land of the Canaanite" (Ezek 16:3), and Isa (19:18) terms Hebrew, which was shared by the Israelites with the Phoenicians and, apparently, also the Amorites, "the language of Caaan." Jabin is called "the king of Canaan" in Jdg 4:2,23,24; but whether the name is employed here in a restricted or extended sense is uncertain.

2. Meaning of the Name:

As the Phoenicians were famous as traders, it has been supposed that the name "Canaanite" is a synonym of "merchant" in certain passages of the Old Testament. The pursuit of trade, however, was characteristic only of the maritime cities of Phoenicia, not of the Canaanitish towns conquered the Israelites. In Isa 23:11 we should translate "Canaan" (as the Septuagint) instead of "merchant city" (the King James Version); in Hos 12:7 (8), "as, for Canaan" (Septuagint), instead of "he is a merchant" (the King James Version); in Zeph 1:11, "people of Canaan" (Septuagint), instead of "merchant people" (the King James Version); on the other hand, "Canaanite" seems to have acquired the sense of "merchant," as "Chaldean" did of "astrologer," in Isa 23:8, and Prov 3:1:24, though probably not in Zec 14:21, and Job 41:6 (Hebrew 40:30).

3. The Results of Recent Excavation:

Much light has been thrown upon the history of Canaan prior to the Israelite occupation by recent excavation, supplemented by the monuments of Babylonia and Egypt. The Palestine Exploration led the way by its excavations in 1890-92 at Tell el-Hesy, which turned out to be the site of Lachish, first under Professor Flinders Petrie and then under Dr. Bliss. Professor Petrie laid the foundations of Palestine archaeology by fixing the chronological sequence of the Lachish pottery, and tracing the remains of six successive cities, the fourth of which was that founded by the Israelites. Between it and the preceding city was a layer of ashes, marking the period when the town lay desolate and uninhabited. The excavations at Lachish were followed by others at Tell es-Safi, the supposed site of Gath; at Tell Sandahanna, the ancient Marissa, a mile South of Bet Jibrin, where interesting relics of the Greek period were found, and at Jerusalem, where an attempt was made to trace the city walls. Next to Lachish, the most fruitful excavations have been at Gezer, which has been explored by Mr. Macalister with scientific thoroughness and skill, and where a large necropolis has been discovered as well as the remains of seven successive settlements, the last of which comes down to the Seleucid era, the third corresponding with the first settlement at Lachish. The two first settlements go back to the neolithic age. With the third the Semitic or "Amorite" period of Canaan begins; bronze makes its appearance; high-places formed of monoliths are erected, and inhumation of the dead is introduced, while the cities are surrounded with great walls of stone. While Mr. Macalister has been working at Gezer, German and Austrian expeditions under Dr. Schumacher have been excavating at Tell em-Mutesellim, the site of Megiddo, and under Dr. Sellin first at Tell Taanak, the ancient Taanach, and then at Jericho. At Taanach cuneiform tablets of the Mosaic age were found in the house of the governor of the town; at Samaria and Gezer cuneiform tablets have also been found, but they belong to the late Assyrian and Babylonian periods. At Jericho, on the fiat roof of a house adjoining the wall of the Canaanitish city, destroyed by the Israelites, a number of clay tablets were discovered laid out to dry before being inscribed with cuneiform characters. Before the letters were written and dispatched, however, the town, it seems, was captured and burnt. An American expedition, under Dr. Reisner, is now exploring Sebastiyeh (Samaria), where the ruins of Ahab's palace, with early Hebrew inscriptions, have been brought to light, as well as a great city wall built in the age of Nebuchadrezzar.

4. History:

(1) Stone Age.

The history of Canaan begins with the paleolithic age, paleolithic implements having been found in the lowlands. Our first knowledge of its population dates from the neolithic period. The neolithic inhabitants of Gezer were of short stature (about 5 ft. 4 inches in height), and lived in caves--at least in the time of the first prehistoric settlement--and burned their dead. Their sacred place was a double cave with which cup-marks in the rock were connected, and their pottery was rude; some of it was ornamented with streaks of red or black on a yellow or red wash. In the time of the second settlement a rude stone wall was built around the town. The debris of the two neolithic settlements is as much as 12 ft. in depth, implying a long period of accumulation.

(2) Bronze Age.

The neolithic population was succeeded by one of Semitic type, which introduced the use of metal, and buried its dead. The name of Amorite has been given to it, this being the name under which the Semitic population of Canaan was known to the Babylonians. Gezer was surrounded by a great wall of stone intersected by brick towers; at Lachish the Amorite wall was of crude brick, nearly 29 ft. in thickness (compare Dt 1:28). A "high-place" was erected at Gezer consisting of 9 monoliths, running from North to South, and surrounded by a platform of large stones. The second monolith has been polished by the kisses of the worshippers; the seventh was brought from a distance. Under the pavement of the sanctuary lay the bones of children, more rarely of adults, who had been sacrificed and sometimes burnt, and the remains deposited in jars. Similar evidences of human sacrifice were met with under the walls of houses both here and at Taanach and Megiddo. In the Israelite strata the food-bowl and lamp for lighting the dead in the other world are retained, but all trace of human sacrifice is gone. At Lachish in Israelite times the bowl and lamp were filled with sand. The second "Amorite" city at Gezer had a long existence. The high-place was enlarged, and an Egyptian of the age of the XIIth Dynasty was buried within its precincts. Egyptian scarabs of the XIIth and XIIIth Dynasties are now met with; these give place to scarabs of the Hyksos period, and finally to those of the XVIIIth Dynasty (1600 BC). Hittite painted pottery of Cappadocian type is also found in the later debris of the city as well as seal-cylinders of the Babylonian pattern.

(3) A Babylonian Province.

Meanwhile Canaan had for a time formed part of the Babylonian empire. Gudea, viceroy of Lagas under the kings of the Dynasty of Ur (2500 BC), had brought "limestone" from the "land of the Amorites," alabaster from Mt. Lebanon, cedar-beams from Amanus, and golddust from the desert between Palestine and Egypt. A cadastral survey was drawn up about the same time by Uru-malik, "the governor of the land of the Amorites," the name by which Syria and Canaan were known to the Babylonians, and colonies of "Amorites" engaged in trade were settled in the cities of Babylonia. After the fall of the Dynasty of Ur, Babylonia was itself conquered by the Amorites who founded the dynasty to which Khammurabi, the Amraphel of Gen 14:1, belonged (see HAMMURABI). In an inscription found near Diarbekir the only title given to Khammu-rabi is "king of the land of the Amorites." Babylonian now became the official, literary and commercial language of Canaan, and schools were established there in which the cuneiform script was taught. Canaanitish culture became wholly Babylonian; even its theology and gods were derived from Babylonia. The famous legal code of Khammu-rabi (see HAMMURABI, CODE OF) was enforced in Canaan as in other parts of the empire, and traces of its provisions are found in Gen. Abram's adoption of his slave Eliezer, Sarai's conduct to Hagar, and Rebekah's receipt of a dowry from the father of the bridegroom are examples of this. So, too, the sale of the cave of Machpelah was in accordance with the Babylonian legal forms of the Khammu-rabi age. The petty kings of Canaan paid tribute to their Babylonian suzerain, and Babylonian officials and "commerical travelers" (damgari) frequented the country.

(4) Jerusalem Founded.

We must ascribe to this period the foundation of Jerusalem, which bears a Babylonian name (Uru-Salim, "the city of Salim"), and commanded the road to the naphtha springs of the Dead-Sea. Bitumen was one of the most important articles of Babylonian trade on account of its employment for building and lighting purposes, and seems to have been a government monopoly. Hence, the rebellion of the Canaanitish princes in the naphtha district (Gen 14) was sufficiently serious to require a considerable force for its suppression.

(5) The Hyksos.

The Amorite dynasty in Babylonia was overthrown by a Hittite invasion, and Babylonian authority in Canaan came to an end, though the influence of Babylonian culture continued undiminished. In the North the Hittites were dominant; in the South, where Egyptian influence had been powerful since the age of the XIIth Dynasty, the Hyksos conquest of Egypt united Palestine with the Delta. The Hyksos kings bear Canaanitish names, and their invasion of Egypt probably formed part of that general movement which led to the establishment of an "Amorite" dynasty in Babylonia. Egypt now became an appanage of Canaan, with its capital, accordingly, near its Asiatic frontier. One of the Hyksos kings bears the characteristically Canaanitish name of Jacob-el, written in the same way as on Babylonian tablets of the age of Khammu-rabi, and a place of the same name is mentioned by Thothmes III as existing in southern Palestine

(6) Egyptian Conquest.

The Pharaohs of the XVIIIth Dynasty expelled the Hyksos and conquered Palestine and Syria. For about 200 years Canaan was an Egyptian province. With the Egyptian conquest the history of the second Amorite city at Gezer comes to an end. The old wall was partially destroyed, doubtless by Thothmes III (about 1480 BC). A third Amorite city now grew up, with a larger and stronger wall, 14 ft. thick. The houses built on the site of the towers of the first wall were filled with scarabs and other relics of the reign of Amon-hotep III (1440 BC). At Lachish the ruins of the third city were full of similar remains, and among them was a cuneiform tablet referring to a governor of Lachish mentioned in the Tell el-Amarna Letters. At Taanach cuneiform tablets of the same age have been discovered, written by Canaanites to one another but all in the Babylonian script and language.

(7) Tell el-Amarna Tablets.

In the Tell el-Amarna Letters we have a picture of Canaan at the moment when the Asiatic empire of Egypt was breaking up through the religious and social troubles that marked the reign of Amon-hotep IV. The Hittites were attacking it in the North; in the South of Canaan the Khabiri or "confederate" bands of free-lances were acquiring principalities for themselves. The petty kings and governors had foreign troops in their pay with which they fought one against the other; and their mercenaries readily transferred their allegiance from one paymaster to another, or seized the city they were engaged to defend. Hittites, Mitannians from Mesopotamia, and other foreigners appear as governors of the towns; the Egyptian government was too weak to depose them and was content if they professed themselves loyal. At times the Canaanitish princes intrigued with the Assyrians against their Egyptian masters; at other times with the Mitannians of "Aram-Naharaim" or the Hittites of Cappadocia. The troops sent by the Egyptian Pharaoh were insufficient to suppress the rebellion, and the authority of the Egyptian commissioners grew less and less. Eventually the king of the Amorites was compelled to pass openly over to the Hittite king, and Canaan was lost to the Pharaohs.

5. The Israelite Invasion:

Gaza and the neighboring towns, however, still remained in their hands, and with the recovery of Egyptian power under the XIXth Dynasty allowed Seti I to march once more into Canaan and reduce it again to subjection. In spite of Hittite attacks the country on both sides of the Jordan acknowledged the rule of Seti and his son Ramses II, and in the 21st year of the latter Pharaoh the long war with the Hittites came to an end, a treaty being made which fixed the Egyptian frontier pretty much where the Israelite frontier afterward ran. A work, known as The Travels of the Mohar, which satirizes the misadventures of a tourist in Canaan, gives a picture of Canaan in the days of Ramses II. With the death of Ramses II Egyptian rule in Palestine came finally to an end. The Philistines drove the Egyptian garrisons from the cities which commanded the military road through Canaan, and the long war with the Hittites exhausted the inland towns, so that they made but a feeble resistance to the Israelites who assailed them shortly afterward. The Egyptians, however, never relinquished their claim to be masters of Canaan, and when the Philistines power had been overthrown by David we find the Egyptian king again marching northward and capturing Gezer (1 Ki 9:16). Meanwhile the counry had become to a large extent Israelite. In the earlier days of the Israelite invasion the Canaanitish towns had been destroyed and the people massacred; later the two peoples intermarried, and a mixed race was the result. The portraits accompanying the names of the places taken by Shishak in southern Palestine have Amorite features, and the modern fellahin of Palestine are Canaanite rather than Jewish in type.

6. Culture:

Canaanitish culture was based on that of Babylonia, and begins with the introduction of the use of copper and bronze. When Canaan became a Babylonian province, it naturally shared in the civilization of the ruling power. The religious beliefs and deities of Babylonia were superimposed upon those of the primitive Canaanite. The local Baal or "lord" of the soil made way for the "lord of heaven," the Sun-god of the Babylonians. The "high-place" gradually became a temple built after a Babylonian fashion. The sacred stone, once the supreme object of Canaanitish worship, was transformed into a Beth-el or shrine of an indwelling god. The gods and goddesses of Babylonia migrated to Canaan; places received their names from Nebo or Nin-ip; Hadad became Amurru "the Amorite god"; Ishtar passed into Ashtoreth, and Asirtu, the female counterpart of Asir, the national god of Assyria, became Asherah, while her sanctuary, which in Assyria was a temple, was identified in Canaan with the old fetish of an upright stone or log. But human sacrifice, and more especially the sacrifice of the firstborn son, of which we find few traces in Babylonia, continued to be practiced with undiminished frequency until, as we learn from the excavations, the Israelite conquest brought about its suppression. The human victim is also absent from the later sacrificial tariffs of Carthage and Marseilles, its place being taken in them by the ram. According to these tariffs the sacrifices and offerings were of two kinds, the zau`at or sin offering and the shelem or thank-offering. The sin offering was given wholly to the god; part of the thank-offering would be taken by the offerer. Birds which were not allowed as a sin offering might constitute a thank-offering. Besides the sacrifices, there were also offerings of corn, wine, fruit and oil.

7. Art:

What primitive Canaanitish art was like may be seen from the rude sculptures in the Wadi el-Kana near Tyre. Under Babylonian influence it rapidly developed. Among the Canaanite spoil captured by Thothmes III were tables, chairs and staves of cedar and ebony inlaid with gold or simply gilded, richly embroidered robes, chariots chased with silver, iron tent poles studded with precious stones, "bowls with goats' heads on them, and one with a lion's head, the workmanship of the land of Zahi" (the Phoenician coast), iron armor with gold inlay, and rings of gold and silver that were used as money. At Taanach, gold and silver ornaments have been found of high artistic merit. To the Israelites, fresh from the desert, the life of the wealthy Canaanite would have appeared luxurious in the extreme.

8. Commerce:

The position of Canaan made it the meeting-place of the commercial routes of the ancient world. The fleets of the Phoenician cities are celebrated in the Tell el-Amarna Letters, and it is probable that they were already engaged in the purple trade. The inland towns of Canaan depended not only on agriculture but also on a carrying trade: caravans as well as "commercial travelers" (damgari) came to them from Cappadocia, Babylonia and Egypt. Bronze, silver, lead, and painted ware were brought from Asia Minor, together with horses; naphtha was exported to Babylonia in return for embroidered stuffs; copper came from Cyprus, richly chased vessels of the precious metals from Crete and corn from Egypt. Baltic amber has been found at Lachish, where a furnace with iron slag, discovered in the third Amorite city, shows that the native iron was worked before the age of the Israelite conquest. The manufacture of glass goes back to the same epoch. As far back as 2500 BC, alabaster and limestone had been sent to Babylonia from the quarries of the Lebanon.

9. Art of Writing:

Long before the age of Abraham the Babylonian seal-cylinder had become known and been imitated in Syria and Canaan. But it was not until Canaan had been made a Babylonian province under the Khammu-rabi dynasty that the cuneiform system of writing was introduced together with the Babylonian language and literature. Henceforward, schools were established and libraries or archive-chambers formed where the foreign language and its complicated syllabary could be taught and stored. In the Mosaic age the Taanach tablets show that the inhabitants of a small country town could correspond with one another on local matters in the foreign language and script, and two of the Tell el-Amarna letters are from a Canaanitish lady. The official notices of the name by which each year was known in Babylonia were sent to Canaan as to other provinces of the Babylonian empire in the cuneiform script; one of these, dated in the reign of Khammurabi's successor, has been found in the Lebanon.


H. Vincent, Canaan d'apres l'exploration recente, 1907; G. A. Smith, Historical Geography of the Holy Land, 1894; Publications of the Palestine Exploration Fund; E. Sellin, Tell Ta`annek and Eine Nachlese auf dem Tell Ta`annek, 1904-5; Schumacher, Tell Mutesellim, 1909; Thiersch, Die neueren Ausgrabungen in Palestina, 1908.


A. H. Sayce


CANANAEAN; CANAANITE - ka-na-ne'-an, ka'-nan-it.



PHOENICIA; PHOENICIANS - fe-nish'-i-a, fe-nish'-anz:

1. The Land

2. The Colonies

3. The People

4. Arts and Manufactures

5. Commerce and Trade

6. Language and Culture

7. Religion

8. History


1. The Land:

The term "Phoenicia" is Greek (Phoinike, "land of dates, or palm trees," from phoinix, "the date-palm"). It occurs in the Bible only in Acts (11:19; 15:3; 21:2), the land being generally designated as the "coast" or "borders of Tyre and Sidon" (Mt 15:21; Mk 7:24,31; Lk 6:17). In the Old Testament we find it included in the land belonging to the Canaanites or to Sidon (Gen 10:19; 49:13; Josh 11:8; 1 Ki 17:9). The limits of Phoenicia were indefinite also. It is sometimes used by classic writers as including the coast line from Mt. Cassius on the North to Gaza or beyond on the South, a distance of some 380 miles, or about 400 miles if we include the sweep of indentations and bays and the outstretching of the promontories. But in the stricter sense, it did not extend beyond Gabala (modern Jebleh) on the North, and Mt. Carmel on the South, or some 150 miles. The name was probably first applied to the region opposite Cyprus, from Gabala to Aradus and Marathus, where the date-palm was observed, and then, as it was found in still greater abundance farther South, it was applied to that region also. The palm tree is common on the coins of both Aradus and Tyre, and it still grows on the coast, though not in great abundance. The width of the land also was indefinite, not extending inland beyond the crest of the two ranges of mountains, the Bargylus (Nusairi Mountains) and the Lebanon, which run parallel to the coast and leave but little space between them and the sea for the greater portion of their length. It is doubtful whether the Phoenicians occupied the mountain tracts, but they must have dominated them on the western slopes, since they derived from them timber for their ships and temples. The width of the country probably did not exceed 25 or 30 miles at the most, and in many places it was much less, a very small territory, in fact, but one that played a distinguished role in ancient times.

There are few harbors on the whole coast, none in the modern sense, since what few bays and inlets there are afford but slight shelter to modern ships, but those of the ancients found sufficient protection in a number of places, especially by means of artificial harbors, and the facility with which they could be drawn out upon the sandy beach in winter when navigation was suspended. The promontories are few and do not project far into the sea, such as Theu-prosopon South of Tripolis, Ras Beirut and the broad projection South of Tyre including Ras el-`Abyadh and Ras en-Naqura and Ras el-Musheirifeh (see LADDER OF TYRE). The promontory of Carmel is rather more marked than the others, and forms quite an extensive bay, which extends to Acre. The promontory rises to a height of 500 ft. or more near the sea and to more than double that elevation in its course to the Southeast.

Mt. Lebanon, which forms the background of Phoenicia for about 100 miles, is a most striking feature of the landscape. It rises to a height of 10,200 ft. in the highest point, East of Tripolis, and to 8,500 in Jebel Sunnin, East of Beirut, and the average elevation is from 5,000 to 6,000 ft. It is rent by deep gorges where the numerous streams have cut their way to the sea, furnishing most varied and picturesque scenery. It was originally heavily wooded with cedar, oak, and pine trees, which are still found in considerable numbers, but by far the larger part of the mountain has been denuded of forests, and the slopes have been extensively terraced for the cultivation of vines and fruit trees and the mulberry for silk culture. The plains along the coast are not extensive, but generally very fertile and bear abundant crops of wheat, barley and other cereals, where not given to the culture of the mulberry, orange, lemon, fig, apricot and other small fruits. In its greatest extent Phoenicia included the broad plain of Sharon and that of Acre, between Carmel and that city, and a portion of the region watered by the Kishon, but the plains of Phoenicia, strictly speaking, are much more restricted. They are: the plain of Tyre, long but narrow, extending from Ras el-`Abyadh to Sarepta; the plain of Sidon extending from Sarepta to the Bostrenus (Nahr el-'Auly); the plain of Beirut (Berytus) between the extensive sand dunes along the shore and the rocky cape on the West and the foot of Lebanon, 10 or 12 miles long but only one or two wide, containing one of the largest olive groves in Syria; the very small plain of Tripolis, including that city and its port; and, the most extensive of all, the plain of Marathus, extending from Arka to Aradus or even beyond, including the river Eleutherus (Nahr el-Kebir). These plains furnished only a portion of the food needed by the inhabitants who were more or less dependent on their neighbors for it (1 Ki 5:11; Acts 12:20).

The rivers of Phoenicia are comparatively short and small; the Litany rises in the Buka', between Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon, and finds its way in a deep and narrow gorge between Lebanon and Mt. Hermon to the South, and finally turns westward and reaches the sea a few miles North of Tyre, where it is called the Kasimiyeh. About 12 miles North of Beirut is the Dog River (Lycus), a very short stream but noted for the famous pass at its mouth, where Egyptian Assyrian and Babylonian kings engraved their monuments; and a few miles South of Jebail (Gebal) is the Adonis (Nahr Ibrahim), which comes down from 'Afqa (Apheca = Aphek, Josh 13:4), noted for the rites of Venus and Adonis (see TAMMUZ); and the Eleutherus, already mentioned, which runs through the valley between Bargylus and Lebanon and provides the pass between these two mountains into the interior. The other rivers are very short, but furnish a perennial water-supply to the coast dwellers.

The products of the land, as well as the climate, are very varied on account of the difference in elevation of the tracts suitable to culture, ranging in temperature from the semi-tropical to Alpine. How far the ancients cultivated the mountain sides we do not know, but they certainly profited largely by the forests of cedar and pine, especially the former, which was the most valuable for shipbuilding and architectural purposes, and was highly prized, not only by the Phoenicians, but by Egyptians, Assyrians and Babylonians, who transported it to their own countries for buildings. The mineral products are few, and the Phoenicians depended on their colonies and other lands for what they needed of these.

2. The Colonies:

The narrowness of the land and the difficulty of expansion on account of the lofty mountain ranges and the hostility of the tribes of the interior led the Phoenicians to turn seaward for an outlet to their increasing population. We have only one instance of their attempt to colonize the Hinterland, and that ended in disaster (Jdg 18). Hiram, king of Tyre, was not pleased with Solomon's gift of 20 cities in Galilee, probably not desiring to assume responsibility for their defense. The people early became mariners, and the dominion of the sea was more inviting to them, and they found room for expansion in the islands and on the coast of the Mediterranean, where they established colonies far and wide. Their first over-sea possessions were in Cyprus, the coasts of which they occupied in the 2nd millennium BC, probably about 1500. On the southern coast they planted various colonies, such as Citium (Larnaca), Amathus, Curium and Paphos, and on the eastern, Salamis, Ammachosta and Soli, and, in the interior, Idalium and Golgi, besides other less important settlements. The evidences of the Phoenician occupation of Cyprus are numerous. The southern portion of Asia Minor also attracted them at an early date, especially the rich plains of Cilicia, and Tarsus became the most important of their colonies there. Its coins bear Phoenician types and legends, among which Baal is conspicuous. Other points along the coast were occupied, and the island of Rhodes as well as certain ports on the south coast of Crete, and most of the islands of the Aegean. Their presence in Attica is vouched for by inscriptions, and legend connects Thebes with them in the person of Cadmus, the reputed son of Agenor, king of Phoenicia. But it is doubtful whether they really colonized the mainland of Greece. They were more attracted by the lands farther to the West.

The greatest of their colonies was in Africa. They occupied Utica first, probably in the 12th century BC, and others in the same region until in the 9th century. Great Carthage was founded, which was destined to become the richest and most powerful of all and the dreaded rival of Rome. All are familiar with the story of Elisa, or Dido, the reputed Tyrian queen who led her followers to the place and founded the city. The story is perhaps legendary, but that Carthage was a colony of Tyre there is no reason to doubt. Other colonists occupied portions of Sicily, such as Motya, Erix, Soli and Panormus (Palermo). They also crossed over to Sardinia and the Balearic Isles, and planted colonies on the south coast of Spain and the northwestern coast of Africa, within and beyond the straits of Gibraltar. Of their settlements in Spain Gades (Cades) and Tartessus were the most noted, the latter being probably the Tarshish of Scripture (1 Ki 10:22). Malaca (Malaga) and Abdera, within the straits, were likewise important settlements, and there were others of less note.

The colonial enterprise of the Phoenicians was remarkable for the age, and was only surpassed in ancient times by the Greeks who came later, the former being the pioneers. The energy and daring of the Phoenicians in pushing out into unknown seas, with the imperfect means at their disposal, is evidence of the enterprise of this people. Their chief object, however, was trade. Their colonies were mostly factories for the exchange of their manufactured articles for the products of the lands they visited. They cared little about building up new states or for extending their civilization and molding barbarous tribes and imparting to them their culture. In this they were far surpassed by the Greeks whose colonies profoundly modified the peoples and lands with which they came in contact.

3. The People:

The Phoenicians were the same as the Canaanites, under which name they are known in the Old Testament, as well as Sidonians (Gen 10:19; Nu 13:29). They were of Semitic stock, if we may judge by their language and characteristics. It is true that in Gen 10:6 Canaan is called a son of Ham, but it is also true that the language of Canaan is identified with Hebrew (Isa 19:18). If the early Phoenicians spoke a different tongue, they entirely lost it before their contact with the Hebrews. Their writings and all the references to them in ancient authorities show that their language was purely Semitic. As to their origin and the time of their migration to the Syrian coast, it is more difficult to determine. Herodotus (i.2; vii.89) says that they lived at first on the Erythraean Sea, which is identified with the Persian Gulf, and modern authorities have not found evidence to refute the statement. It is quite certain that they were not the aborigines of the country, and must have come in with some of the various migrations from the East, which we know, from Egyptian and Babylonian monuments, occurred in the 3rd, perhaps in the 4th, millennium BC. Semites are found in Syria as early as the IVth Egyptian Dynasty, about 3000 BC, and we may fairly conjecture that the Canaanites were in possession of the seacoast as early as 2500 BC. It is possible that they were among the Hyksos invaders of Egypt (Paton, Syria and Palestine, 67).

That the Phoenicians took to the sea at a very early date and became the most skillful mariners of the ancient world is certain. Their enterprise in this direction is attested by classic writers, and the references to it in the Old Testament are numerous. This was coupled with great industry and skill in the manufacture of the various articles which furnished the materials of their extended commerce. They exhibited a boldness and audacity in braving the perils of the sea in their little ships, which, for the age, demands our admiration. They were the first who dared to push out of sight of land in their voyages and sail beyond the Pillars of Hercules into the ocean. But in their commercial dealings they were often unscrupulous, and their greed of gain often led them to take unfair advantage of the barbarous races with whom they came in contact. The purchase of the land on which the citadel of Carthage was built may illustrate the opinion of the ancients regarding them, but we ought to remember that trickery and deceit are charged against them by their enemies, who alone have handed down accounts of them. The Hebrew prophets speak of their pride and vanity (Ezek 28:17), and violence (Ezek 28:16), and Amos hints at a traffic in captives taken in war, but whether of Hebrews or not is not clear (Am 1:9). Slaves were among the articles of merchandise in which they traded (Ezek 27:13; Joel 3:6), but this could hardly be charged against them as a great sin when slavery was universal. The chief reason for their being denounced by the prophets was their corrupt practices in worship and the baleful influence of the Baal and Astarte cult introduced by them into Israel through Ahab's marriage with Jezebel (1 Ki 16:31-33). This evil influence was felt even after the captivity when the rites of the Phoenician Tammuz were practiced in Jerusalem (Ezek 8:14). But the earlier relations of the Phoenicians with Israel in the days of David and Solomon were friendly and mutually beneficial. On the whole the judgment of history assigns to this people a high position for their enterprise and skill in carrying on their trade, and in being the pioneers of civilization in many of the Mediterranean lands, especially by their introduction of alphabetical writing, which was by far the most valuable of all their contributions to the culture of the ancient world.

4. Arts and Manufactures:

(1) Textile Fabrics:

The Phoenicians were celebrated for their textile fabrics of silk, wool, linen and cotton. The materials of the last three were obtained from Syria and Egypt, but the silk came from the Far East through Persia. The dyeing of these fabrics was by a process invented by the Phoenicians, and the luster and permanence of color were unequaled by the ancients and made the Tyrian purple famous throughout the world. The finer qualities of it were so precious that only the very wealthy, or kings and princes, could obtain it, and it became at last a synonym of royalty. This dye was obtained from the shell-fish which was abundant in the Mediterranean, especially along the Phoenician coast, species of the Murex and the Buccinum. The mode of manufacture is not definitely known and was probably kept a secret by the Phoenicians. At least they had a monopoly of the business.

(2) Glass:

Glass was another well-known product of the country, and although not invented by the Phoeniclans as formerly supposed, it was made in large quantities and exported to all countries about the sea.


(3) Pottery:

Pottery was also an article of manufacture and export, and some of the examples of their work found in Cyprus show considerable skill in the art of decoration as well as making. In this, however, they were far surpassed by the Greeks.

(4) Bronze:

Bronze was a specialty of the Phoenicians, and they were for centuries the leading producers, since they controlled the sources of supply of the copper and tin used in its manufacture. The remains of their bronze manufactures are numerous, such as arms for offense and defense, knives, toilet articles, axes, sickles, cups, paterae, and various other household utensils. Articles for artistic purposes are not of high value, although the pillars named Jachin and Boaz, the molten sea, the bases, layers and other articles cast by Hiram of Tyre for the temple of Solomon must have exhibited considerable artistic merit. Their bronze was of good quality and was tempered so as to serve well for edged tools. The composition was about 9 parts copper to 1 part of tin. They seem also to have made iron (2 Ch 2:14), and some specimens have come down to us, but we cannot judge from their scarcity as to the extent of their manufactures in this metal, since most of the articles have perished by corrosion.

Aesthetic art among the Phoenicians was of low grade, as it was among the Semites generally, and where we find some works of moderate merit they undoubtedly manifest the influence of Greek art, such as those found in Cyprus by General Di Cesnola and others. In Phoenicia proper very little of artistic value has come to light that can be ascribed to native artists. In sculpture the style is stiff and conventional, much of it exceedingly rude, and lacks expression. The animal forms are generally grotesque, often absurd, reminding one of children's attempts at plastic article The anthropoid sarcophagi discovered at Sidon were modeled after the Egyptian and the magnificent ones, of different design, from the same place, now in the Museum of Constantinople, were certainly the work of Greek artists of the age of Alexander the Great.

The architecture of the Phoenicians was characterized by massiveness, rather than elegance. The substructures of some of their temples and castles are cyclopean, like those of the temple at Jerusalem (1 Ki 7:10), and other examples are found at Sidon, Gebal, Marathus and other places in Phoenicia itself. Their work seems lacking in symmetry and grace, showing a want of aesthetic taste.

5. Commerce and Trade:

Trade was the very life of Phoenicia. The contracted limits of the land forbade any extensive agriculture, and the people were forced to get their living by other means. They applied themselves to industrial arts, and this led them to seek the means for distributing their wares. Trade was essential to them, and they sought outlets for it by sea and land. Their position was especially favorable for commerce. In the very center of the ancient world, with the great rich and populous nations of antiquity at their back and on either side, they faced the young, vigorous and growing nations of the West, and they served them all as carriers and producers. Their caravans threaded all the well-beaten routes of the East, the deserts of Arabia and the mountain defiles of Armenia and Asia Minor, and their ships pushed boldly out to sea and explored the Mediterranean and the Euxine and did not hesitate to brave the unknown dangers of the Atlantic and perhaps even penetrated to the Baltic, emulating the mariners of a later day in their zeal for discovery and search for new avenues of trade. Could we find a detailed account of their voyages and discoveries, it would be a most interesting document, but we have little except what others have written about them, which, however, gives us a pretty fair idea of the extent of their commercial enterprise. The prophet Ezekiel has given us a remarkable catalogue of the wares of Tyre and of the countries with which she traded (Ezek 27). There we have mention of nearly all the regions of Western Asia, Egypt, Greece and the islands, and Spain, indicated by the names of races, tribes and countries. The materials of their traffic include the most important known to the ancient world, the products of agriculture, such as wool, linen, oil, balm, spices, frankincense, wine, corn, etc.; of metals, such as gold, silver, copper (brass), tin, iron, lead, etc.; precious stones and the articles of manufacture, the "multitude of handiworks," which they were so skillful in producing. They traded in animals also, horses, mules, lambs, rams and goats, and, what is less to their credit, in the persons of men (Ezek 27:13). The range of their trade was much wider than is indicated by Ezekiel. We know they reached the Scilly Isles in Britain, and probably the Baltic, whither they went for amber, though this might have been brought overland to the Adriatic and received into their ships there. They passed along the western coast of Africa as far as Cape Non, and perhaps farther, for Herodotus tells us that Pharaohnecoh dispatched a crew of Phoenician sailors to circumnavigate Africa, which they accomplished in 3 years.

We know that they had a fleet in the Red Sea sailing from Elath or Ezion-geber (1 Ki 9:26,27), and it is quite possible that they were allowed by some of the kings of Egypt to avail themselves of ports on the other branch of the Red Sea. They must have visited the eastern shore of Africa and perhaps struck across the Indian Ocean, after skirting the coast of Arabia, and thus carried on trade with India. The Ophir mentioned in connection with these voyages has not been definitely located, but was perhaps in Southern Arabia, though possibly in Southeast Africa.


The ships in which the Phoenicians made these voyages were small as compared with the great vessels of the present day, but the largest known in their age, as we may infer from the long voyages they made. Their superiority is testified to by classical writers. In the famous expedition of Xerxes to Greece the Phoenician ships excelled all others in speed, and the king chose one of them when he embarked upon the sea (Herodotus vii.100). These ships were impelled both by sails and oars, as we know from illustrations upon the coins.


6. Language and Culture:

The ancients attributed the invention of the alphabet to the Phoenicians. This is now regarded as doubtful, and there are no reliable data for determining what people first analyzed speech to its ultimate elements, but to the Phoenicians belongs the merit of bringing the invention to the knowledge of the western world. It is quite certain that the alphabets of Western Asia and those of Europe were derived from the Phoenician characters. This is what we should have expected from their wide commercial relations. The alphabetic writing was in fact one of their exports and was by far, the most important of them all. The world owes a great debt to this people for this invaluable aid to literature, science and culture.


The Phoenician alphabet comprises 22 letters and is deficient in signs to indicate vowels, which were left to be supplied by the reader. This defect is common to the Semitic alphabets, but was soon remedied when the Greeks adopted the Phoenician. Some of the letters have to serve for two sounds, such as the signs for "s" and "sh", for "p" and "ph", for "t" and "th"; besides, there is a redundant sign for the sound of "s". Also the sounds of "y" and "w" are unrepresented.

The origin of the letters is probably to be found in the hieroglyphic signs for words and syllables used by the Egyptians and others, since the similarity of some of them to these signs is evident, but in some cases it is more likely that the Phoenicians adopted hieroglyphics of their own. Thus the first letter, 'aleph, which means "ox," was evidently derived from the picture of an ox's head and then reduced to a conventional form.

The Phoenician alphabet and language were common to the Canaanitish tribes and the Hebrews, as we know from the many inscriptions found in Western Asia. The Moabite Stone testifies to their use East of the Jordan, and the Siloam Inscription likewise for Israel, and the same characters have been found in North Syria. This would be natural, for people of these regions had become largely Semitic by the 9th century BC, when we suppose that the Phoenician alphabet was in general use.

It is strange that the Phoenicians, who had an alphabet so early, and made it so widely known to the world, made so little use of it for literature. The remains of their language are very scanty, mostly inscriptions, and these generally very brief. The longest ones in Phoenician proper are those from Sidon, the most famous of which is that of Esmunazer, king of Sidon, comprising 298 words. Some few others, pertaining to the same dynasty, have been discovered in tombs and on the walls of the temple of Asmun, and show the Phoenician character and style in its best form. Only two works of any length are known to us by translation or references in Greek authors. The first is the Phoenician History of Sanchoniathon, of Beirut, which Philo of Byblus claims to have translated from the Phoenician original. This, however, is doubted, and both the author and the history are suspected to be mythical. The other work is genuine; the short account of the voyage of a Carthaginian king beyond the Pillars of Hercules, called the Periplus of Hanno, is not without merit as a narrative, and indicates that the Carthaginian branch of the Phoenician race, at least, may have had a literature of some value, but it is unfortunately lost. We cannot suppose, however, that it was very extensive or very important, as more of it would then have been preserved. The conclusion is natural that the Phoenicians were so absorbed in commercial enterprise and the pursuit of wealth that they neglected the nobler uses of the invaluable instrument of culture they had found in alphabetic writing.

7. Religion:

A very prominent role was assigned to religion in the life of the Phoenicians. As a Semitic people, such a characteristic was but natural and they seem to have possessed it in large measure. Their religious ideas are important on account of the influence they had on the Hebrews, which is so apparent in the Old Testament. The worship of the Canaanitish Baal and Ashtoreth, or Astarte, led the Israelites astray and produced most disastrous results.

There can be little doubt that the chief deities of the Phoenicians, as well as the forms of their cult, were derived from Babylonia, brought with them probably when they migrated to the West, but afterward modified by contact with Egypt and Greece. Some regard the earliest conception of the deity among the Semites to have been monotheism, and we find traces of this in the attributes ascribed by the Phoenicians to their chief god. He is Baal, "lord" or "master"; Baal-samin, "lord of heaven"; Eliun, "supreme," etc. These terms imply either one God or one who is supreme among the gods and their ruler. But this belief was changed before the Phoenicians came into contact with the Hebrews, and polytheism took its place, though their gods were less numerous than among most polytheistic races. One of the most corrupting tendencies we notice was the ascription of sexual characteristics to the chief deities of their pantheon, such as Baal and Ashtoreth, which led to licentious rites of the most abominable character.

Baal ba`al; the Phoenician Baal was the chief deity and was universally worshipped, being usually designated by the locality in each place: Baal of Tyre or Baal-Tsur, Baal-Sidon, Baal-Tars (Tarsus), Baal-bek, etc. He was regarded as the god of the generative principle in Nature, and his statues were sometimes flanked by bulls. He was identified with Zeus, and he appears on the coins under the Greek type of Zeus, seated on a throne, holding an eagle in the outstretched right hand and a scepter in the left. Sometimes his head is encircled with rays showing him to be the sun-god.

Ashtoreth (Phoenician `ashtoreth) was the great Nature-goddess, the Magna Mater, queen of heaven (Jer 7:18), and as Baal was the solar deity, so she was often represented under the lunar aspect, Ashteroth-karnaim, "Ashteroth of the two horns" (Gen 14:5). Sometimes she is represented holding the dove, the symbol of fecundity, of which she was the goddess. She was commonly identified with Aphrodite or Venus. She, like Baal, had temples everywhere, and kings were sometimes her high priests, and her worship was too often accompanied with orgies of the most corrupt kind, as at Apheca.


Among the other gods we may mention: El, or Il ('el originally the designation of the supreme God, but afterward a subordinate deity who became the special divinity of Byblus (Gebal), and was regarded by the Greeks as the same as Kronos. Melqarth (melqarth, "king of the city") originally was the same as Baal, representing one aspect of that god, but later a separate deity, the patron god of Tyre whose head appears on many of its coins, as well as his symbol, the club, since he was identified with Hercules. Herodotus describes his temple at Tyre to which he attributes great antiquity, 2,300 years before his time. Dagon (daghon) seems to have been the tutelary deity of Aradus, his head appearing on the early autonomous coins of that city. He seems to have been regarded as the god of agriculture by the Phoenicians, rather than of fishing as generally supposed. Adonis ('adhon, "lord") was regarded as the son of Cinyras, a mythic king of Gebal and the husband of Ashtoreth. The myth of his death by the wild boar led to the peculiar rites celebrating it, instituted by the women of Gebal at Apheca and on the river named after him (see TAMMUZ). Esmun ('esmun) one of the sons of Siddik, the father of the Cabiri, was especially honored at Sidon and Beirut. At Sidon a great temple was built in his honor, the ruins of which have been recently explored and various inscriptions found dedicating it to him. His name signifies "the eighth," i.e. the eighth son of Siddik, the others being the Cabiri, or Great Ones, who were regarded as presiding over ships and navigation, and as such were worshipped in many places, although their special seat was Beirut. Although they were called "Great" they are represented as dwarfs, and an image of one of them was placed on the prow, or stern, of each Phoenician war galley. The goddess Tanith (tanith) occupied a lofty place in the pantheon, since in inscriptions she takes the precedence over Baal when the two names occur together. She was especially honored at Carthage and to her most exalted names are given, such as "the parent of all"; "the highest of the gods"; "the mistress of the elements," etc. Besides some other gods of less note originally worshipped by the Phoenicians, they introduced some foreign deities into their pantheon. Thus Poseidon appears frequently on the coins of Beirut and became its patron deity in Roman times; Isis and her temple at Gebal are likewise represented on its coins, the Dioscuri or their symbols on those of Tripolis and Beirut, etc.

The corrupt nature of the Phoenician worship has been referred to. It was also cruel, the custom of human sacrifices being common and carried to an extent unheard of among other peoples, such as the horrible sacrifice of 200 noble youths at Carthage when besieged by Agathocles. The sacrifice was by burning, the victim being placed in the arms of the statue of the god, heated for the purpose. In Phoenicia this god was Melqarth, or Molech, and the custom is denounced in the Old Testament (Lev 20:2-5), but other gods were also honored in this way. The religious feeling of the Phoenicians was undoubtedly deep, but sadly corrupt and depraved.

8. History:

The political history of Phoenicia is that of the towns and cities belonging to it. The country as a whole had no centralized government, but the chief towns exercised a sort of hegemony, at times, over some of the lesser ones. This was especially the case with Sidon and Tyre, but every city had its king and its local government. The land is never referred to in ancient documents, but the people are designated by their cities. Thus, we find in Gen 10:17 f the mention of Sidon, the Arvadite, the Arkite, etc., and, in Josh 13:4, the Gebalites and the Sidonians in connection with the land of the Canaanites. In the same way the inscriptions of Egypt, Babylonia and Assyria refer to the people of the different cities, but not to the land as a political unit, which it never was.

The cities first come into notice in the period of the Egyptian domination, beginning in the 16th century BC under Thothmes III. This king subdued most of the Phoenician cities, or received their submission, in his numerous campaigns to Syria, and the Egyptian rule continued with more or less interruption until the decline of Egypt under the XXth Dynasty, or about 300 years. During this time Arvad seems to have exercised the hegemony in the North, and Sidon in the South, with Gebal controlling the middle region. The Tell el-Amarna Letters reveal many facts concerning the condition of things while the Egyptian power was declining in the latter part of the XVIIIth Dynasty, especially in the reign of Amenhotep IV (Ikhnaton). The rise of the Amorite and Hittite power in the North threatened these cities, which were under Egyptian governors, and they called upon their suzerain for aid, which was not given, and they fell, one after another, into the hands of the enemy. Rameses II restored Egyptian rule, but his successors of the XXth Dynasty could not maintain it, and the invasion of tribes from the West and North, called the Peleset, or Philistines, by land and sea, though repelled by Rameses III, continued to increase until the Egyptian domination was broken, and the coast towns resumed their independence about the middle of the 12th century BC. Sidon came to the front as the chief city of Phoenicia, and it is referred to by Joshua as "Great Sidon" (Josh 11:8). Homer also mentions Sidon frequently, but makes no reference to Tyre. The latter city was certainly in existence in his day, but had not come to the front as the leading city in the mind of the Greeks. Yet it was a fortified city in the time of Joshua (19:29), and the king of Tyre is among the correspondents mentioned in the Tell el-Amarna Letters. It seems to have taken precedence of Sidon when the latter was attacked by the Philistines of Askelon, and the inhabitants were compelled to flee for safety to Tyre. At all events Tyre exercised the hegemony in Phoenicia by the time David came to the throne, and had probably obtained it a century or two before, and held it until Phoenicia became subject to Assyria in the 9th century BC. Asshur-nazir-pal first came into contact with Phoenicia, which submitted to tribute, between 877 and 860 BC, and this subjection continued until the downfall of Assyria in the latter part of the 7th century BC. The subjection was nominal only for more than a century, the cities retaining their kings and managing their own affairs with no interference from the Assyrians as long as they paid the tribute. But with the advent of Tiglath-pileser in Syria, about 740 BC, conditions changed, and the Phoenician towns were subjected to severe treatment, and some of the dynasties were driven from their cities and Assyrian governors appointed in their places. Their oppression caused revolts, and Elulaeus of Tyre united Sidon and the cities to the South in a league to resist the encroachments of Tiglath-pileser and his successor Shalmaneser IV, whom he successfully resisted, although the Assyrian gained over to his side Sidon, Acre, and some other towns and had the assistance of their fleets to make an attack upon the island city. The attack failed completely, and Shalmaneser left Elulaeus to his independence, which he maintained for a quarter of a century, regaining control of the towns that had fallen away and also of Cyprus. Sargon (722-705 BC) let Phoenicia alone, but Sennacherib (705-681) determined to punish the king of Tyre and prepared an army of 200,000 men for the war with Phoenicia. Elulaeus was afraid and fled to Cyprus, but his towns dared to resist and Sennacherib had to reduce them one after another, but did not succeed in taking Tyre itself. He set over the conquered territory a certain Tubaal, probably a Phoenician who paid him tribute. He also took tribute from Gebal and Aradus, which indicates that all of Phoenicia was subject to him, as these two cities probably controlled all that was not under Tyre. In the reign of Esarhaddon (681-668) Sidon revolted under Abd-Melkarth, who was caught and beheaded, the city sacked, and the inhabitants either killed or carried into captivity, and it was re-peopled by captives from the East. At a later date (672), when Esarhaddon was preparing to invade Egypt, Baal, the vassal king of Tyre, revolted and refused to aid him, but afterward submitted either to Esarhaddon or to his son Ashurbanipal and assisted the latter in his invasion of Egypt, 668 BC. Four years later, however, we find the Assyrian king besieging Tyre and punishing Baal by making him give his daughter to be a member of the Assyrian's harem. Baal himself was left on his throne. The same fate was the lot of the king of Aradus, and Accho (Acre) was also punished.

The frequent rebellions of the Phoenician towns show their love of independence and a sturdy resistance to oppression. They became freed from the yoke of Assyria probably about 630 BC, when the Medes attacked Nineveh and the Scythic hordes overran all Western Asia. The Phoenician cities were fortitled and did not suffer very much from the barbarian invasion, and, as Assyria was broken, they resumed their independence. In the struggle which followed between Egypt and Babylon for the mastery of Syria, Phoenicia fell, for a time, under the sway of Egypt, but was not oppressed, and her towns prospered, and it was in this period that Tyre attained great wealth and renown as reflected in the Book of Ezk. When Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to it, a resistance of 13 years showed its strength and resources, and

although the town on the mainland was destroyed, it is doubtful whether the king of Babylon took the island city, but it must have submitted to pay tribute (585 BC). Phoenicia remained subject to Babylon until that empire fell into the hands of the Persians (538), and then accepted the yoke of the latter in the days of Cambyses, if not earlier, but the Persian king does not seem to have used force to gain the adherence of the Phoenicians. He needed their fleets to assist in the attack upon Egypt and secured them without difficulty. They aided him in the conquest of Egypt, but when he asked them to proceed against Carthage they refused, and he had to desist. The navy of Phoenicia was too necessary for him to run any risk of alienating it.

This navy was the strongest sea power of the Persians in all their coming wars with Greece. Without its assistance Darius and his successors could with difficulty have invaded that country or held in subjection the western coasts of Asia Minor. Phoenicia remained faithful to her Persian rulers about 150 years, but when the general revolt of the western satraps occurred in 362 BC, Phoenicia seems to have favored them, but no open rebellion broke out until 351, when Sidon, under her king Tabnit II (Tennes), boldly declared her independence and induced most of the Phoenician cities to do the same. The Persian garrisons were massacred or driven out. Ochus, the king of Persia, marched with an army of 300,000 infantry and 30,000 horse to punish the rebels, and Tabnit, in cowardly alarm, betrayed Sidon into his hands, but the citizens set fire to the city and destroyed themselves rather than fall into the hands of Ochus, who, as treacherous as Tabnit, slew the traitor (see SIDON). The other cities then submitted, and Phoenicia remained subject to Persia until the time of Alexander the Great. When this conqueror invaded the dominions of Persia and had defeated Darius at Issus, 333 BC, he demanded the submission of the Phoenician towns, and all yielded save Tyre. Alexander was obliged to lay siege to it, which cost him 7 months of the severest labor, such was the valor and skill of the Tyrians. The capture of Tyre is reckoned as one of the greatest exploits of this mighty conqueror who stained his record by his cruel treatment of the brave defenders. He massacred the male prisoners and sold the remainder of the inhabitants, to the number of 30,000, into slavery (see TYRE). After the death of Alexander the Phoenician cities were subject to the Ptolemies of Egypt and the Seleucids of Syria, the latter finally obtaining control of all by the victory of Antiochus III over Scopas in 198 BC. From this time on Phoenicia formed a part of the Seleucid kingdom until it passed, together with Syria and Palestine, into the hands of the Romans. Its cities became the home of many Greeks and its language became largely Greek, as inscriptions and coins testify. The Romans had also much to do in modifying the character of the people, and some towns, Berytus, especially, became largely Roman. Phoenicia can hardly be said to have had a separate existence after the Greek invasion.


Rawlinson, History of Phoenicia; Kenrick, Phoenicia; Movers, Phonizier; Breasted, History of Egypt, and Ancient Records; Budge, History of Egypt; Rawlinson, Ancient Monarchies; Rogers, Babylonia and Assyria; Bevan, House of Seleucus; Tell el-Amarna Letters; Perrot and Chipiez, Art in Phoenicia.

H. Porter


ZEALOT; ZEALOTS - zel'-ut, zel'-uts: Simon, one of the apostles, was called "the Zealot" Zelotes from zeloo "to rival," "emulate," "be jealous," "admire," "desire greatly," Lk 6:15; Acts 1:13, the King James Version "Zelotes"). In Mt 10:4 and Mk 3:18 he is called "the Cananean" (so the Revised Version (British and American) correctly; not "the Canaanite," as the King James Version says, following inferior manuscripts), ho Kananaios. From the time of the Maccabees there existed among the Jews a party who professed great zeal for the observance of the "law." According to Josephus (BJ, IV, iii, 9; v, 1; VII, viii, 1) they resorted to violence and assassination in their hatred of the foreigner, being at many points similar to the Chinese Boxers. It is not improbable that the "Assassins" (see ASSASSINS) of Acts 21:38 were identical, or at least closely associated, with this body of "Zealots," to which we must conclude that Simon had belonged before he became one of the Twelve.

See, further, SIMON THE ZEALOT.

William Arthur Heidel

Also see definition of "Canaan" in Word Study

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