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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

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(Heb. Tso'an, צעִן ; Sept. Τανίς; ,Vulg. Taais), an ancient city of Lower Egypt, situated on the eastern side of the Tanitic branch of the Nile, and mentioned several times in the Old Test. (Numbers 13:22; Psalms 78:12; Psalms 78:43 Isaiah 19:11; Isaiah 19:13; Isaiah 30:4; Ezekiel 30:14). Its ruins have lately been carefully explored (Petrie, Tanis, in "Mem. of Eg. Expl. Fund,' Lond. 1884-8).

I. The name, preserved in the Coptic Jane, the Arabic San (a village still on the site), and the classical Tayit, Tanis (whence the Coptic transcription Taneos), comes from the root צָעִן "he moved tents" (Isaiah 33:20), cognate with טָעִן : "he loaded a beast of burden;" and thus signifies "a place of departure" (like Zaanannim, Joshua 19:33,or Zaanaim, Judges 4:11, on a similar thoroughfare). Zoan lay near the eastern border of Lower Egypt. The senses of departure or removing therefore, would seem not to indicate a mere resting place of caravans, but a place of departure from a country. The Egyptian-name Ha-awar or Pa-awar (Avaris, Ἀουαρίς ) means "the abode" or "house" of "going out" or "departure." Its more precise sense fixes that of the Shemitic equivalent.

II. History.

1. From Manetho. At a remote period, between the age when the pyramids were built and that of the empire, Egypt was invaded, overrun, and subdued by the strangers known as the Shepherds, who, or at least their first race, appear to have been Arabs cognate with the Phoenicians, How they entered Egypt does not appear. After .a time they made one of themselves king, a certain Salatis,' who reigned at Memphis, exacting tribute of Upper and Lower Egypt, and garrisoning the fittest places with especial regard to the safety of the eastern provinces, which he foresaw the Assyrians' would desire to invade. With this view, finding in the Saite (better elsewhere Sethroite) home, on the east of the Bubastite branch, a very fit city called Avaris, he rebuilt and very strongly walled it, garrisoning it with 240,000 men. He came hither in harvest-time (about the vernal equinox),to give corn and pay to the troops, and exercise them so as to terrify foreigners.

The position of Tanis explains the case. Like the other principal cities of this tract-Pelusium, Bubastis, and Heliopolis it lay on the east bank of the river towards Syria. It was thus outside a great line of defence, and afforded a protection to the cultivated lands to the east and an obstacle to an invader, while to retreat from it was always possible, so long as the Egyptians held the river. But Tanis, though doubtless fortified partly with the object of repelling an invader, was too far inland to be the frontier fortress. It was near enough to be the place of departure for caravans, perhaps was the last town in the Shepherd period, but not near enough to command the entrance of Egypt. Pelusium lay upon the great road to Palestine; it has been until lately placed too far north, (See SIN), and the plain was here narrow from north to south, so that no invader could safely pass the fortress; but it soon became broader, and, by turning in a south- westerly direction, an advancing enemy would leave Tanis far to the northward, and bold general would detach a force to keep its garrison in check and march upon Heliopolis and Memphis. An enormous standing militia, settled in the Bucolia, as the Egyptian militia afterwards was in neighboring tracts of the delta, and with its headquarters .at Tanis, would have overawed Egypt, and secured a retreat in case of disaster, besides maintaining hold of some of the most productive, land in the country, and mainly for the former two objects we believe Avaris to have been fortified.

2. From the Egyptian Monuments. Apipi, probably Apophis of the fifteenth dynasty, a Shepherd-king who reigned shortly before the eighteenth dynasty, built, a temple here to Set, the Egyptian Baal, and worshipped no other god. According to Manetho, the Shepherds, after 511 years of rule, were expelled from all Egypt and shut up in Avaris, whence they were allowed to depart by capitulation by either Amosis or Thummosis (Aahmes or Thothmes IV), the first and seventh kings of the eighteenth dynasty. The monuments show that the honor of ridding Egypt of the Shepherds belongs tog Aahmmes. Rameses II embellished the great temple of Tanis, and was followed by his son Menptah.

After the fall of the empire, the first dynasty is the twenty-first, called by Manetho that of Tanites; its history is obscure, and it fell before the stronger line of Bubastites, the twenty-second dynasty, founded by Shishak. The expulsion of Set from the pantheon, under the twenty-second dynasty, must have been a blow to Tanis, and perhaps a religious war. occasioned the rise of the twenty-third. The twenty-third dynasty is called Tanite, and its last king is probably Sethos, the contemporary of Tirhakah, mentioned by Herodotus. (See EGYPT).

3. From the Bible we learn that Zoan was one of the oldest cities in Egypt having been built seven years after Hebron, which already existed in the time of Abraham. (Numbers 13:22; comp. Genesis 22:2). It seems also to have been one of the principal capitals, or royal abodes, of the Pharaohs (Isaiah 19:11; Isaiah 19:13); and accordingly "the field of Zoan," or the fine alluvial plain around the city, is described as the scene of the marvelous works. which God wrought in the time of Moses (Psalms 78:12; Psalms 78:33), and once more appears in sacred history as a place to which came ambassadors, either of Hoshea or Ahaz, or else possibly Hezekiah: "For his princes were at Zoan, and his messengers came to Hanes" (Isaiah 30:4). As mentioned with the frontier town Tahpanhes, Tanis is not necessarily the capital. But the same prophet perhaps more distinctly points to a Tanite line when saving, in "the burden of Egypt," "The princes of Zoan are become fools; the princes of Noph are deceived" (Isaiah 19:13). The doom of. Tanis is foretold by Ezekiel: "I will set fire in Zoan" (Ezekiel 30:4), where it occurs among the cities to be taken by Nebuchadnezzar.

III. Description and Remains. Anciently a rich plain extended due east as far as Pelusium, about thirty miles distant, gradually narrowing towards the east, so that in a south-easterly direction from Tanis it was not more than half this breadth. The whole of this plain about as far south and west as Tanis, was anciently known as "the Fields" or "Plains," "the Marshes" (τὰ ῾Ελη, Ε᾿λεαρχία ), or "the pasture-lands" (Βουκολία ). Through the subsidence of the Mediterranean coast, it is now almost covered by the great lake Menzaleh, of old, it was a rich marsh-land watered by four of the seven branches of the Nile, the Pathmitic, Mendesian, Tanitic, and Pelusiac, and swept by the cool breezes of the Mediterranean.

At present the plain of San is very, extensive, but thinly-inhabited; no village exists in the immediate vicinity of the ancient Tanis; and, when looking from the mounds of this once splendid city towards the distant palms of indistinct villages we perceive the desolation spread around it. The field' of Zoan is now a barren waste; a canal passes through it. without being able to fertilize the soil; fire' has been set in Zoan' and one of the principal capitals or royal abodes of the Pharaohs is now the habitation of fishermen, the resort of wild beasts, and infested with reptiles and malignant fevers. It is remarkable for the height and extent of its mounds, which are upwards of a mile from north to south, and nearly three quarters of a mile from east to west. The area in which the sacred enclosure of the temple stood is about 1500 feet by 1250, surrounded by mounds of fallen houses. The temple was adorned by Rameses II with numerous obelisks and most of its sculptures.

It is very ruinous, but its remains prove its former grandeur. The number of its obelisks, ten or twelve all now fallen, is unequalled, and the labor of transporting them from Syene shows the lavish magnificence of the Egyptian kings. The oldest name found here is that of Sesertesen III of the twelfth dynasty, the latest that of Tirhakah (Wilkinson, Handbook; p. 221-222). Two black statues and a granite sphinx, with blocks of hewn and occasionally sculptured granite, are among the objects which engage the attention of the few travelers who visit this desolate place. The modern village of San consists of mere huts, with the exception of a ruined kasr of modern date (id. Modern Egypt, 1, 449-4520; Narrative of the Scottish Deputation, p. 72-76). Recently, M. Mariette has made excavations on this site and discovered remains of the Shepherd period, showing a markedly characteristic style, specially in the representation of face and figure, but of Egyptian art, and therefore afterwards appropriated by the Egyptianl kings. The bilingual or rather trilingual inscription of Ptolemy III (Euergetes I) is of very great interest. See Lepsius, Das bilingue Decret von Kcnopus (Bel. 1867); Reinisch und Rosler, Die zweispraachige Inschrift von Tanis (Vienna, eod.); Proceedings of the Amer. Oriental Society, May, 1870, p. 8; Bibliotheca Sacra, 24:771; 26:581.

Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Zoan'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tce/​z/zoan.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.
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