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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible


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ZIDON (NT Sidon ). About midway between Beyrout and Tyre, on the edge of a fertile strip of plain stretching from the mountain to the shore, a small rocky promontory juts into the sea. Here stood the ancient city of Zidon. The site was chosen doubtless because of the excellent harbour formed by a series of small islets, a short distance from the shore, which protected shipping lying by the city. In old times the islets were joined together by artificial embankments. This harbour lay to the N.; on the S. was a second one, larger but less secure, known as the Egyptian harbour. Zidon appears in Scripture as the chief city of PhÅ“nicia, giving her name to the whole people ( Genesis 10:15 , Judges 10:12 etc.). What the title ‘Great Zidon’ ( Joshua 11:8 etc.) signified, as distinguished from ‘Little Zidon,’ we cannot now say. They are mentioned together in the inscription of Sennacherib at a later period (Schrader, KAT [Note: Die Keilinschriften und das Alte Testament.] 2 . 288f.). Zidon’s early pre-eminence was due no doubt to her success in commercial enterprise, the skill and intrepidity of her mariners and merchants, and the progress of her sons in arts and manufactures. They excelled in artistic metal work (Homer, Il . xxiii. 743 748, Od . iv. 613 619, xv. 460) and in the products of the loom, the value of which was enhanced by the famous dye, used first by the Zidonians, but, by a strange fortune, known to the later world as ‘Tyrian purple.’ The planting of colonies was a natural, and almost necessary, outcome of her commercial enterprise. If she did not found Aradus (Strabo, xvi. ii. 13) and Carthage (Appian, de Rebus Punicis , 1, etc.), she seems to claim on a coin to be the mother-city of Melita or Malta, as well as of Citlum and Berytus (Gesenius, Mon. PhÅ“n . 276; Rawlinson, PhÅ“n . 411). Prince Zimrida of Zidon appears in the Amarna tablets as contesting with Egypt the lordship of the coast lands. Zidonlan ascendancy succeeded the decline of the Egyptian power after Rameses ii. How long it lasted we do not know. It was marked by an unsuccessful conflict with the Philistines for the possession of Dor, which, however, did not necessarily involve her deposition (Rawlinson, op. cit . 417). Israel, who had not dispossessed the Zidonians ( Judges 1:31 ), suffered oppression at their hands ( Judges 10:12 ). By the time of Solomon, however, Tyre had assumed the hegemony (Jos. [Note: Josephus.] Ant. VIII. v. 3, c . Apion , i. 18). In b.c. 877 Zidon, with other PhÅ“nician cities, submitted to the Assyrian Ashur-nazir-pal and ‘sent him presents.’ Zidon suffered under Shalmaneser ii., Tiglath-pileser, Shalmaneser iv, and finally was subdued by Sennacherib, who made Tubaal, a creature of his own, king. A revolt under Tubaal’s successor led to the utter destruction of the city, with circumstances of great severity, by Esarhaddon, who built a new city called by his own name. The native lips probably preserved the ancient name. ‘Zidon’ persists, ‘Ir Esarhaddon’ is heard of no more. The decline and fall of Assyria brought a period of rest to PhÅ“nicia, and recuperation to her cities. The attempt to gain Judah for the league against the growing power of Babylon brought an embassy to Jerusalem, in which the king of Zidon was represented ( Jeremiah 27:3 ). A revolt, apparently in b.c. 598, joined in by Judah, was stamped out by Nebuchadrezzar. Zidon’s swift submission was due to devastating pestilence ( Ezekiel 28:21 ff.). The long resistance of Tyre led to her destruction and humiliation ( Ezekiel 26:8 ff.), Zidon once more assuming the leadership.

In the beginning of the Persian period the PhÅ“nician cities enjoyed practical autonomy, and a time of great material prosperity. A friendly arrangement with Cambyses perpetuated this state of things, and in the Greek wars most valuable assistance was given by the PhÅ“nicians to the Persians. The revolt of the PhÅ“nicians, headed by Zidon, about b.c. 351, was remorselessly crushed by Artaxerxes Ochus. Zidon was betrayed into his hands by the despairing king, Tennes. To escape the cruelties of Ochus, the inhabitants burned the city, more than 40,000 perishing in the flames. The treachery of Tennes was matched by that of Ochus, who, having no further use for him, put him to death (Diod. Sic. xvi passim ). The city rose again from its ashes, and regained something of its former prosperity. The son of Tennes became king, and retained the sceptre till the advent of Alexander. While PhÅ“nicia then lost her predominance in the trade of the Mediterranean, Zidon retained considerable Importance as the possessor of an excellent harbour, and as a seat of PhÅ“nician industry. Lying in the territory often in dispute between Syria and Egypt, in the following centuries Zidon several times changed hands. Under the Romans she enjoyed the privileges of a free city. Zidon figures in the Gospel narratives ( Matthew 11:21 f., Matthew 15:21 , Mark 3:6 etc.). Jesus possibly visited the city ( Mark 7:31 ). It appears in Acts 12:20 , and was touched at by St. Paul in his voyage to Rome ( Acts 27:3 ). It became the seat of a bishop. Zidon suffered heavily during the Crusades. Under the Druse prince; Fakhreddin (1595 1634), its prosperity revived; but, in order to prevent the approach of the Turkish fleet, he caused the entrance to the harbour to be filled up, thus making it comparatively useless. The present walls of the city were built by Mohammed ‘Ali of Egypt (1832 1840). The fortress, Kal‘at el-Bahr , ‘Castle of the Sea,’ dating from the 13th cent., stands on the largest of the islands, which is joined to the mainland by a bridge of 9 arches. The present population is about 11,000. The chief occupations are fishing, and the cultivation of the gardens and orange groves for which modern Zidon is famous. While the oldest existing buildings date from the Middle Ages, there are many remains of great antiquity, traces of walls, hewn stones, pillars, coins, and the reservoirs cut out of the rock. The most important discoveries so far have been (1855) the sarcophagus of king Eshmunazar (early in the 4th cent. b.c.), with the well-known inscription, now in Paris; and (1887) the tomb, containing 17 PhÅ“nician and Greek sarcophagi, highly ornamented; among them that of Tabnit, father of Eshmunazar, and the alleged sarcophagus of Alexander the Great.

W. Ewing.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Zidon'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. 1909.

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