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Bible Dictionaries

Holman Bible Dictionary

Phoenicia

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(fee ni' cih uh) Place name meaning, “purple” or “crimson,” translation of Hebrew “Canaan,” land of purple.” The narrow land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Lebanon Mountains between Tyre in the south and Arvad in the north. New Testament Phoenicia reached south to Dor. Great forest land enabled the people to build ships and become the dominant seafaring nation. The forests also provided timber for export, Phoenician cedars being the featured material of Solomon's Temple (1 Kings 5:8-10 ).

Culture Phoenician religion was akin to that of the Canaanites, featuring fertility rites of Baal. See Canaan. Later, Baal's Greek counterpart Adonis (“my lord”) was worshiped in similar fashion to Tammuz. See Fertility Cults. The Phoenician princess Jezebel imported devotion to Baal to Israel. See Jezebel; Elijah . Phoenicia introduced the alphabet to the western world, but little of their literature survived.

History City-states rather than central government dominated Phoenicia. Leading cities were Tyre, Sidon, Byblos (Gebal), and Berytos (Beirut). An early Neolithic race disappeared about 3000 B.C., being replaced by Semitic colonizers from the east. Invading armies from north (Hittites), east (Amorites and Assyrians), and south (Egyptians) dominated history until 1000 B.C. when King Hiram of Tyre established local rule (981-947 B.C.). See Hiram . They were able to take advantage of their location on the sea with natural harbors and their forests to establish farflung trade. Compare Ezekiel 27:1 . Their sailors established trading colonies to the west and south all along the Mediterranean coast. The most notable colony was Carthage on the North African coast.

Growth of Assyrian power about 750 B.C. led to Phoenicia's decline. The Persian Empire gave virtual independence to Phoenicia, using the Phoenician fleet against Egypt and Greece. Alexander the Great put an end to Phoenician political power, but the great cities retained economic power.

New Testament Jesus' ministry reached Tyre and Sidon (Matthew 15:21 ). Persecution beginning with Stephen's death, led the church to spread into Phoenicia (Acts 11:19; compare Acts 15:3; Acts 21:2-3 ). See Tyre; Sidon.

Timothy Trammel

Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Phoenicia'. Holman Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hbd/p/phoenicia.html. 1991.

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