In Solomon's time first, the foreign trade of the Israelites to any extent began; chiefly consisting in imports, namely, linen yarn, horses, and chariots from Egypt. For these he paid in gold brought by his fleets, in concert with the Phoenicians, from India, East Africa, and Arabia (1Ki 10:22-29). He supplied provisions for the workmen in Lebanon, while the Phoenicians brought the timber by sea to Joppa (1Ki 5:6,9). Palestine supplied Tyre with grain, honey, oil, balm, and wine (Eze 27:17; Ac 12:20). Solomon's and the Phoenician united fleets brought on the Indian Ocean, from Ophir to Elath and Ezion Geber on the Elanitic gulf of the Red Sea (ports gained by David from Edom), gold, silver, ivory, Algum (or Almug) trees, and precious stones, peacocks and apes (1Ki 9:26; 10:11-22). (See ALGUM or ALMUG.)
He fortified Baalbek and Palmyra too, as a caravan station for the inland commerce of eastern and south eastern Asia. Oil was exported to Egypt (Ho 12:1). Fine linen and girdles were sold to merchants (Pr 31:24). Jerusalem appears in Eze 26:2 as the rival of Tyre, who exulted at the thought of her fall; "she is broken that was the gates (the mart) of the people, she (i.e. her commerce from Palmyra, Petra, and the East) is turned unto me. I shall be replenished now she is laid waste." Caesarea was made a port by Herod; besides Joppa. The law strictly enjoined fair dealing, and just weights (Le 19:35-36; De 25:13-16).
From the time that men began to live in cities, trade, in some shape, must have been carried on to supply the town-dwellers with necessaries from foreign as well as native sources, for we find that Abraham was rich, not only in cattle, but in silver, gold and gold and silver plate and ornaments.
Among trading nations mentioned in Scripture, Egypt holds in very early times a prominent position. The internal trade of the Jews, as well as the external, was much promoted by the festivals, which brought large numbers of persons to Jerusalem.
The places of public market were chiefly the open spaces near the gates, to which goods were brought for sale by those who came from the outside.
The traders in later times were allowed to intrude into the temple, in the outer courts of which victims were publicly sold for the sacrifice.
COMMERCE. Merchandise, in its various branches, was carried on in the east at the earliest period of which we have any account; and it was not long before the traffic between nations, both by sea and land, was very considerable. Accordingly, frequent mention is made of public roads, fords, bridges, and beasts of burden; also of ships for the transportation of property, of weights, measures, and coin, both in the oldest books of the Bible, and in the most ancient profane histories. The Phenicians anciently held the first rank as a commercial nation. They were in the habit of purchasing goods of various kinds throughout all the east. They then carried them in ships down the Mediterranean, as far as the shores of Africa and Europe, brought back in return merchandise and silver, and disposed of these again in the more eastern countries. The first metropolis of the Phenicians was Sidon; afterward Tyre became the principal city. Tyre was built two hundred and forty years before the temple of Solomon, or twelve hundred and fifty-one before Christ. The Phenicians had ports of their own in almost every country; the most distinguished of which were Carthage and Tarshish, or Tartessus, in Spain. The ships from the latter place undertook very distant voyages: hence, any vessels that performed distant voyages were called "ships of Tarshish," ???? ?????. Something is said of the commerce of the Phenicians in the twenty-seventh and twenty-eighth chapters of Ezekiel, and the twenty-third chapter of Isaiah. The inhabitants of Arabia Felix carried on a commerce with India. They carried some of the articles which they brought from India through the straits of Babelmandel into Abyssinia and Egypt; some they transported to Babylon through the Persian Gulf and the Euphrates; and some by the way of the Red Sea to the port of Eziongeber. They thus became rich though it is possible their wealth may have been too much magnified by the ancients. The eminence of the Egyptians, as a commercial nation, commences with the reign of Necho. Their commerce, nevertheless, was not great, till Alexander had destroyed Tyre and built Alexandria.
2. The Phenicians sometimes received the goods of India by way of the Persian Gulf, where they had colonies in the islands of Dedan, Arad, and Tyre. Sometimes they received them from the Arabians, who either brought them by land through Arabia, or up the Red Sea to Eziongeber. In the latter case, having landed them at the port mentioned, they transported them through the country by the way of Gaza to Phenicia. The Phenicians increased the amount of their foreign goods by the addition of those which they themselves fabricated; and were thus enabled to supply all parts of the Mediterranean. The Egyptians at first received their goods from the Phenicians, Arabians, Africans, and Abyssinians; in all of which countries there are still the remains of large trading towns; but in a subsequent age, they imported goods from India in their own vessels; and eventually carried on an export trade with various ports on the Mediterranean. Oriental commerce, however, was chiefly carried on by land: accordingly, vessels are hardly mentioned in the Bible, except in Ps 107:23-30, and in passages where the discourse turns upon the Phenicians, or upon the naval affairs of Solomon and Jehoshaphat. The two principal routes from Palestine into Egypt were, the one along the shores of the Mediterranean from Gaza to Pelusium, and the other from Gaza by the way of Mount Sinai and the Elanitic branch of the Red Sea.
3. The merchants transported their goods upon camels; animals which are patient of thirst, and are easily supported in the deserts. For the common purpose of security against depredations, the oriental merchants travelled in company, as is common in the east at the present day. A large travelling company of this kind is called a caravan or carvan, a smaller one was called kafile or kafle, Job 6:18-20; Ge 37:25; Isa 21:13; Jer 9:2; Jg 5:6; Lu 2:44. The furniture carried by the individuals of a caravan consisted of a mattress, a coverlet, a carpet for sitting upon, a round piece of leather, which answered the purpose of a table, a few pots and kettles of copper covered with tin; also a tin-plated cup, which was suspended before the breast under the outer garment, and was used for drinking, 1Sa 26:11-12,16: leathern bags for holding water, tents, lights, and provisions in quality and abundance as each one could afford. Every caravan had a leader to conduct it through the desert, who was acquainted with the direction of its route, and with the cisterns and fountains. These he was able to ascertain, sometimes from heaps of stones, sometimes by the character of the soil, and, when other helps failed him, by the stars, Nu 10:29-32; Jer 31:21;
Isa 21:14. When all things are in readiness, the individuals who compose the caravan assemble at a distance from the city. The commander of the caravan, who is a different person from the conductor or leader, and is chosen from the wealthiest of its members, appoints the day of their departure. A similar arrangement was adopted among the Jews, whenever they travelled in large numbers to the city of Jerusalem. The caravans start very early, sometimes before day. They endeavour to find a stopping place or station to remain at during the night, which shall afford them a supply of water, Job 6:15-20. They arrive at their stopping place before the close of the day; and, while it is yet light, prepare every thing that is necessary for the recommencement of their journey. In order to prevent any one from wandering away from the caravan, and getting lost during the night, lamps or torches are elevated upon poles and carried before it. The pillar of fire answered this purpose for the Israelites, when wandering in the wilderness. Sometimes the caravans lodge in cities; but when they do not, they pitch their tents so as to form an encampment; and during the night keep watch alternately for the sake of security. In the cities there are public inns, called Chan and Carvanserai, in which the caravans are lodged without expense. They are large square buildings, in the centre of which is an area, or open court. Carvanserais are denominated in the Greek of the New Testament, ??????????, ?????????, and ????????, Lu 2:7; 10:34. The first mention of one in the Old Testament is in Jer 41:17, ???? ????. It was situated near the city of Bethlehem.
4. Moses enacted no laws in favour of commerce, although there is no question that he saw the situation of Palestine to be very favourable for it. The reason of this was, that the Hebrews, who were designedly set apart to preserve the true religion, could not mingle with foreign idolatrous nations without injury. He therefore merely inculcated good faith and honesty in buying and selling, Le 19:36-37; De 25:13-16; and left all the other interests of commerce to a future age. By the establishment, however, of the three great festivals, he gave occasion for some mercantile intercourse, At these festivals all the adult males of the nation were yearly assembled at one place. The consequence was, that those who had any thing to sell brought it; while those who wished to buy articles came with the expectation of having an opportunity. As Moses, though he did not encourage, did not interdict foreign commerce, Solomon, at a later period, not only carried on a traffic in horses, as already stated, but sent ships from the port of Eziongeber through the Red Sea to Ophir, probably the coast of Africa, 1Ki 9:26; 2Ch 9:21. This traffic, although a source of emolument, appears to have been neglected after the death of Solomon. The attempt made by Jehoshaphat to restore it was frustrated, by his ships being dashed upon the rocks and destroyed, 1Ki 22:48-49; 2Ch 20:36. Joppa, though not a very convenient one, was properly the port of Jerusalem; and some of the large vessels which went to Spain sailed from it, Jon 1:3. In the age of Ezekiel, the commerce of Jerusalem was so great, that it gave an occasion of envy even to the Tyrians themselves, Eze 26:2. After the captivity, a great number of Jews became merchants, and travelled for the p