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

When It Comes to Peace with Israel, Many Saudis Have Religious Concerns

Sept. 22 2023

While roughly a third of Saudis are willing to cooperate with the Jewish state in matters of technology and commerce, far fewer are willing to allow Israeli teams to compete within the kingdom—let alone support diplomatic normalization. These are just a few results of a recent, detailed, and professional opinion survey—a rarity in Saudi Arabia—that has much bearing on current negotiations involving Washington, Jerusalem, and Riyadh. David Pollock notes some others:

When asked about possible factors “in considering whether or not Saudi Arabia should establish official relations with Israel,” the Saudi public opts first for an Islamic—rather than a specifically Saudi—agenda: almost half (46 percent) say it would be “important” to obtain “new Israeli guarantees of Muslim rights at al-Aqsa Mosque and al-Haram al-Sharif [i.e., the Temple Mount] in Jerusalem.” Prioritizing this issue is significantly more popular than any other option offered. . . .

This popular focus on religion is in line with responses to other controversial questions in the survey. Exactly the same percentage, for example, feel “strongly” that “our country should cut off all relations with any other country where anybody hurts the Quran.”

By comparison, Palestinian aspirations come in second place in Saudi popular perceptions of a deal with Israel. Thirty-six percent of the Saudi public say it would be “important” to obtain “new steps toward political rights and better economic opportunities for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.” Far behind these drivers in popular attitudes, surprisingly, are hypothetical American contributions to a Saudi-Israel deal—even though these have reportedly been under heavy discussion at the official level in recent months.

Therefore, based on this analysis of these new survey findings, all three governments involved in a possible trilateral U.S.-Saudi-Israel deal would be well advised to pay at least as much attention to its religious dimension as to its political, security, and economic ones.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Islam, Israel-Arab relations, Saudi Arabia, Temple Mount