by Wayne Blank
The Phoenician people were among the great masters of commerce of the ancient world, with colonies widely established along the Mediterranean (e.g. Carthage in North Africa). Due to its location at the "center of the world," Phoenicia became the hub of international finance with trade routes from Asia to Africa converging on the Phoenician coast. This is referred to in The Bible:
"say to Tyre, who dwells at the entrance to the sea, merchant of the peoples on many coastlands, thus says the Lord God: "O Tyre, you have said, 'I am perfect in beauty.' Your borders are in the heart of the seas; your builders made perfect your beauty." (Ezekiel 27:3-4 RSV)
The Phoenicians, primarily through King Hiram of Tyre, were major suppliers of materials and skilled labor to Solomon for the building of the original Temple (see Temples), which God commanded to be built in Jerusalem:
"Now therefore command that cedars of Lebanon be cut for me; and my servants will join your servants, and I will pay you for your servants such wages as you set; for you know that there is no one among us who knows how to cut timber like the Sidonians." When Hiram heard the words of Solomon, he rejoiced greatly, and said, "Blessed be the Lord this day, who has given to David a wise son to be over this great people." And Hiram sent to Solomon, saying, "I have heard the message which you have sent to me; I am ready to do all you desire in the matter of cedar and cypress timber. My servants shall bring it down to the sea from Lebanon; and I will make it into rafts to go by sea to the place you direct" (1 Kings 5:6-9 RSV)
The Phoenician religion was similar to that of the Canaanites, with Baal, and its related idols, the most prevalent. Jezebel (bel is a form of baal), a Phoenician woman from Sidon who married King Ahab of Israel (despite God's repeated command for the Israelites not to marry idol worshipers) was one of the most infamous corruptive influences to the Israelites in her time. She fiercely attempted to obliterate the worship of the True God - she commanded that the people forsake The Lord, and murdered as many of His prophets that she could find (1 Kings 18:4), including attempts on Elijah.
Phoenician dominance began to decline with the rise of the Assyrians (see Ancient Empires - Assyria), although later the Persians (see Ancient Empires - Persia) allowed Phoenicia to maintain itself as a regional ally, where the then still formidable Phoenician fleet was used against Greece and Egypt. The Greek warlord Alexander the Great (see Ancient Empires - Greece) eventually conquered Phoenicia, and with the rise of the Romans (see Ancient Empires - Rome) its power and influence were gone.
Fact Finder: Did Jesus Christ visit and preach in Phoenicia (i.e. Tyre and Sidon)?