A Land for Temple Swap

Photo Credit: BiblePlaces.com, Lebanon, Byblos Museum

In Exodus 33, after the sin of the Golden Calf, God tells Moses to go to the promised land. “Leave this place, you and the people you brought up out of Egypt, and go up to the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, saying, I will give it to your descendants. I will send an angel before you and drive out the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites.”

In Joshua 19, the tribe of Asher is allotted territories in the northern part of the promised land. Their territory included: “Helkath, Hali, Beten, Akshaph, Allammelek, Amad and Mishal. On the west the boundary touched Carmel and Shihor Libnath. It then turned east toward Beth Dagon, touched Zebulun and the Valley of Iphtah El, and went north to Beth Emek and Neiel, passing Kabul on the left. It went to Abdon, Rehob, Hammon and Kanah, as far as Greater Sidon. The boundary then turned back toward Ramah and went to the fortified city of Tyre, turned toward Hosah and came out at the Mediterranean Sea in the region of Akzib, Ummah, Aphek and Rehob. There were twenty-two towns and their villages.”

Despite the promise, in Judges 1, the tribe of Asher could not displace the local population. “Nor did Asher drive out those living in Akko or Sidon or Ahlab or Akzib or Helbah or Aphek or Rehob. The Asherites lived among the Canaanite inhabitants of the land because they did not drive them out.” Tyre lies between Akko and Sidon, and would seemingly be included in this unconquered region.

In 1 Kings 4, Solomon is said to have extended his reign to the Euphrates River and along the coast, but he did not hold this land for long. In 1 Kings 9, he relinquished control of parts to the king of Tyre in appreciation for the materials he gave him to build his temple and palace. “King Solomon gave twenty towns in Galilee to Hiram king of Tyre, because Hiram had supplied him with all the cedar and juniper and gold he wanted. But when Hiram went from Tyre to see the towns that Solomon had given him, he was not pleased with them. “What kind of towns are these you have given me, my brother?” he asked. And he called them the Land of Kabul, a name they have to this day. Now Hiram had sent to the king 120 talents of gold.”

The Phoenicians of Byblos, Sidon and Tyre in the Iron II period are thought by many to be one and the same people with the Canaanites. The material remains uncovered in today’s northern Israel demonstrate the connection between the regions in the Iron Age. Running from north to south, Akhziv, Tel Kabri, Akko, Tel Keisan, Tell Abu Hawam in Haifa and Tel Dor all show a Phoenician material culture, including Phoenician style pottery.

Control of this region would have given Tyre control of the ports along the Mediterranean coast. Tyre could then control the trade in goods into the Kingdom of Israel and then through the Jezreel Valley and into Syria and beyond. In the Bible, the king of Tyre may have unimpressed with the lands he was given by Solomon, but these lands would help Tyre entrench itself in northern Canaan and maintain its dominant economic role.

The image above is of a Phoenician Middle Bronze ship anchor, one that would have been used to dock at port. It is on display at the Byblos Museum in Lebanon.