Glossary of Terms

Tyre and Sidon


Young People's Bible Dictionary

by Barbara Smith (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1965)

Tyre; usually Tyre and Sidon in the N.T. A seaport and commercial cernter on the east coast of theMediterannean Sea (in general history known as a Phoenician city). In O.T. times it was a city-state with its own king. From Tyre, ships went all over the Mediterranean world to trade and to establish colonies. One of the chief products of Tyre was a dye known as Tyrian purple, made from shellfish. Josh. 19:29; 2 Sam. 5:11; 1 Kings 5:1; Isa. 23:1; Ezek., ch. 27 (description of Tyre as a trading center); Matt. 11:21; Mark 7:24; Acts 21:3-7.

Sidon. A city on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea, about twenty-five miles north of Tyre, with which it is often named in both the O.T. and the N.T. Sidon was an old city before the time of the Israelites. LikeTyre, it was a commercial city and port for fleet of trading ships that went to all parts of the world of that time. It reached the height of its prosperity about the time of Solomon. Today the city is called. Saida. Gen. 10:19; Josh. 19:28; 2 Sam. 24:6; Jer. 25:22; Joel 3:4; Matt. 11:21; Luke 6:17; Acts 12:20; 27:3.

Harper’s Bible Dictionary

edited by Paul J. Achtemier (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1985)

Sidon, one of the two leading cities (with Tyre) of ancient Phoenicia. Sidon is located twenty-two miles north of Tyre on the Mediterranean coast of modern Lebanon. Substantial archaeological investigation is not possible because of the modern city on the site, but a Crusader sea castle lies some meters offshore on the north side of Sidon while the ruins of a medieval land castle and an ancient heap of murex shells are on the south side of the town. It possesses a port with an inner and outer harbor on the north side and another on the south. Immediately outside Sidon stone round houses of the Chalcolithic period (4000-3000 b.c.) have been found, and the neighborhood cemeteries of the Babylonian to Late Roman periods (ca. 625 b.c.-a.d. 324) have produced numerous sar acophagi, the most famous of which (now in Istanbul) depicts Alexander the Great in battle and hunting scenes carved in marble.

In the Amarna Age (fourteenth century b.c.) King Zimrida of Sidon wrote two letters to the pharaoh of Egypt. In one he professed his loyalty and requested Egyptian aid in regaining territory that had fallen to Habiru rebels. But in other correspondence the kings of Byblos and Tyre portrayed Zimrida as having joined the rebellion and allied himself with Aziru, king of Amurru, against them and Egypt. At the beginning of the Iron Age (ca. 1200 b.c.) Sidonian colonists refounded Tyre, according to classical tradition. The Egyptian Tale of Wenamun, dated to the mid-eleventh century b.c., mentions the presence of fifty ships in the port of Sidon. It may have outclassed Tyre during the first centuries (1200-1000 b.c.) of the Iron Age, but during most of the Phoenician period Tyre led or controlled Sidon despite the fact that from the Greek perspective of the Homeric poems the term Phoenician was synonymous with Sidon. For example, the Assyrian king Sennacherib in 701 b.c. defeated Luli, whom he called king of Sidon but who is almost certainly the same as Elulaeus, king of Tyre. In the seventh century b.c. Sidon was besieged by King Esarhaddon of Assyria who razed the city (677 b.c.) and built in its place an Assyrian residence nearby called Kar-Esarhaddon.

Sidon’s fortunes improved during the Persian period (539-332 b.c.), due in part to the decline of Tyre following a thirteen-year siege (586-573 b.c.) by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar and in part to the favor bestowed upon Sidon by Persian monarchs. The mainland settlement of Sidon may have been more tractable than island Tyre, which submitted but remained unconquered. Phoenician refusal to support the Persian king Cambyses’ planned attack on North Africa, where Tyre’s chief colonies were located, may have been led by Tyre.

Cambyses conquered Egypt in 526 b.c. with the aid of the Phoenicians. King Tabnit of Sidon ruled about this time and it may be no accident that he was buried in an Egyptian general’s reused stone sarcophagus upon which Tabnit left his own inscription. His mummified body in it revealed him to be a strong man, 5 feet 5 inches tall, with wavy reddish-brown hair tinted with henna. The sarcophagus of his son, King Eshmunazar II, possessed a Phoenician inscription of twenty-two lines from which we learn that he built several temples for Astarte at Sidon and for Eshmun at a mountain spring and that Sidon was given possession of Dor and Joppa south of Tyre. His father, King Tabnit, was a priest of Astarte and his mother, Amo‘ashtart, was priestess of Astarte and both were offspring of Eshmunazar I, king of Sidon. The sanctuary of Eshmun on a hillside a few miles away at the river Nahr el-Awali has been excavated by M. Dunand and others, revealing important buildings, inscriptions, and statuary of the Babylonian, Persian, and Hellenistic periods dedicated to Eshmun. He was the god of healing and was equated with the Greek deity Asclepius. In the Persian Wars, when Darius and Xerxes attacked Greek city-states, King Tetramnestus and his fleet of three hundred Sidonian triremes (warships with three banks of oars) led the Persian navy.

In 351 b.c., on the enthronement of Artaxerxes III Ochus in Persia, Sidon revolted. King Tennes led Sidon in rebellion, but when the Persians reacted and the cause looked hopeless Tennes treacherously betrayed Sidon in order to save himself. The city was burned and, although rebuilt, did not regain its former position. Sidon quickly submitted to Alexander the Great in 332 b.c. and assisted him in the siege of Tyre. During the Hellenistic and Roman periods Sidon was a prosperous center for commerce and learning.

Sidon is mentioned frequently in the ot prophetic books, often in conjunction with Tyre (e.g., Isa. 23:2, 4, 12; Jer. 25:22; Ezek. 28:21-22; Joel 3:4; Zech. 9:2) and the area was visited by Jesus (Matt. 15:21; Mark 7:24) and Paul (Acts 27:3).

Bibliography Jidejian, N. Sidon Through the Ages. Beirut: Dar el-Machreq, 1971. Katzenstein, H. J. ‘Tyre in the Early Persian Period (539-486 b.c.e.). Biblical Archeologist 42:1 (1979):23-34.


Topical index of terms
Edited for by Robert Nguyen Cramer
Top of page