Wood from Tyre

Photo Credit: BiblePlaces.com, Giza Pyramids

In Exodus 25, God instructs Moses to begin the process of building a tabernacle: The Lord said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites to bring me an offering. You are to receive the offering for me from everyone whose heart prompts them to give. These are the offerings you are to receive from them: gold, silver and bronze; blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen; goat hair; ram skins dyed red and another type of durable leather; acacia wood; olive oil for the light; spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense; and onyx stones and other gems to be mounted on the ephod and breastpiece. “Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them. Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you.“

In 1 Kings 5, Solomon announced his intention to build a temple. He sent word to Hiram the king of Tyre to initiate an order of wood to build the temple. “I intend, therefore, to build a temple for the Name of the Lord my God, as the Lord told my father David, when he said, Your son whom I will put on the throne in your place will build the temple for my Name. So give orders that cedars of Lebanon be cut for me. My men will work with yours, and I will pay you for your men whatever wages you set. You know that we have no one so skilled in felling timber as the Sidonians.”

In 1 Kings 7, Solomon built a palace. The palace is referred to as the Palace of the Forest of Lebanon, for the large quantity of cedars used in its construction.

At the end of the Late Bronze Age, eastern Mediterranean ports such as Ugarit in the area of Syria collapsed. Trade shifted to other ports. In the Iron Age II, three major coastal cities in the area of modern day Lebanon, Byblos, Sidon and Tyre running north to south, picked up the trade volume.

Tyre is the southernmost of theses cities, less than 15 miles distance from today’s northern border of Israel. In Arabic it is pronounced Tzur, meaning rock, for the rocky outcropping on which it is built.

Tyre evolved to become a major shipping port. It connected inland Mesopotamia with the Mediterranean. Trade routes running along the coast connected Europe and Anatolia with Egypt. Trade routes inland ran into Mesopotamia, to Iraq and beyond. Shipping routes reached to the western Mediterranean and Iberia.

For the all the trade in goods, the region itself was best known for its cedar wood. Iraq and Egypt lack wood, and the cedars of Lebanon were sent elsewhere for use in building projects and other uses. In Egypt, the wood was used for building ships and for the sarcophagi which contained mummified bodies. In the Bible, that wood was used to build Solomon’s temple and palace.

One use for Lebanon’s cedar wood was in the Solar barge of Cheops. This boat was discovered under the sands besides the Great Pyramid of Giza, the pyramid for the Old Kingdom Egyptian king Khufu, in the 3rd millennium BCE. It was constructed using cedar wood from Lebanon. The boat is shown in the image above. It is on display at the Giza Solar Boat Museum.