Who Were the Phoenicians?

While no exact equivalent of the term Phoenician appears in the Bible, the people to whom the Greeks would later give this name are mentioned in the books of Kings and Ezekiel as allies and trade partners of King Solomon. Relatively little is known about them with any certainty, as Philippe Bohstrom writes:

The Phoenicians are famed for being master seamen who traded with the peoples around the Mediterranean, spreading their alphabet as they sailed. . . . [But they] left behind almost no written records, only inscriptions (such as dedications at temples). . . .

Archaeologists have found more than 10,000 sanctuary inscriptions, but they are of little value, since they are all roughly the same. Their writings teach archaeologists a great deal about one particular kind of dedication to the gods; that’s all. . . .

The homeland of the Phoenicians . . . was a narrow strip of coast that more or less corresponds roughly to modern-day Lebanon. Where they may have originated . . . before their first appearance in Lebanon is the subject of much debate.

In the Hebrew Bible, the power of the Phoenicians (such as the king of Tyre) was associated with their ships. The book of Ezekiel says: “Who is there like Tyre . . . thy wares went forth out of the seas, thou fillest many peoples: thou didst enrich the kings of the earth with thy merchandise and thy riches . . . You did business in Spain and took silver, iron, tin, and lead in payment for your abundant goods.”

The archaeological data support, if not all of the details, the big picture painted in the Bible.

Read more at Haaretz

More about: Ancient Near East, Archaeology, Hebrew Bible, History & Ideas, King Solomon, Phoenicia


Israel Just Sent Iran a Clear Message

Early Friday morning, Israel attacked military installations near the Iranian cities of Isfahan and nearby Natanz, the latter being one of the hubs of the country’s nuclear program. Jerusalem is not taking credit for the attack, and none of the details are too certain, but it seems that the attack involved multiple drones, likely launched from within Iran, as well as one or more missiles fired from Syrian or Iraqi airspace. Strikes on Syrian radar systems shortly beforehand probably helped make the attack possible, and there were reportedly strikes on Iraq as well.

Iran itself is downplaying the attack, but the S-300 air-defense batteries in Isfahan appear to have been destroyed or damaged. This is a sophisticated Russian-made system positioned to protect the Natanz nuclear installation. In other words, Israel has demonstrated that Iran’s best technology can’t protect the country’s skies from the IDF. As Yossi Kuperwasser puts it, the attack, combined with the response to the assault on April 13,

clarified to the Iranians that whereas we [Israelis] are not as vulnerable as they thought, they are more vulnerable than they thought. They have difficulty hitting us, but we have no difficulty hitting them.

Nobody knows exactly how the operation was carried out. . . . It is good that a question mark hovers over . . . what exactly Israel did. Let’s keep them wondering. It is good for deniability and good for keeping the enemy uncertain.

The fact that we chose targets that were in the vicinity of a major nuclear facility but were linked to the Iranian missile and air forces was a good message. It communicated that we can reach other targets as well but, as we don’t want escalation, we chose targets nearby that were involved in the attack against Israel. I think it sends the message that if we want to, we can send a stronger message. Israel is not seeking escalation at the moment.

Read more at Jewish Chronicle

More about: Iran, Israeli Security