The Greek name, "the land of the palm." Kenrick supposes the term to express the sunburnt color of the people. The native name was Canaan, "lowland," in contrast to Aram "the highland," Syria. The woman in Mt 15:22 said to be "of Canaan" in Mr 7:26 is called "Syrophoenician." Phoenice proper was the narrow plain stretching from six miles S. of Tyre to two miles N. of Sidon, 28 miles in all, and from one to two miles broad, a small land to have wielded so mighty an influence. Sidon in the N. is 20 miles from Tyre in the S.; Zarephath lay between. Phoenice in the larger sense extended from the same southern boundary 120 miles northward to Antaradus and the island Aradus, 20 miles broad. Berytus, now Beirut (Eze 47:16; 2Sa 8:8 BEROTHAH, Berothai), was 15 geographical miles N. of Sidon. (See ARVAD.) Farther north was Byblus (GEBAL, Eze 27:9). Next is Tripolis. Next Arad or Arvad (Ge 10:18; Eze 27:8). The soil is fertile except between the river Bostremus and Beirut.
Tyre and Sidon were havens sufficient in water depth for the requirements of ancient ships; and Lebanon adjoining supplied timber abundant for shipbuilding. The Phoenicians were the great merchants, sailors, and colonists of the ancient world. The language is Semitic (from Shem), and was acquired by the Hamitic settlers in Canaan from the original Semitic occupants; it probably has a Hamitic element too (these Semitics were related by common Noachic descent to the Hamites, hence the languages too are related). Carthage was a Phoenician colony; Plautus in the Poenulus (5:1) preserves a Carthaginian passage; Phoenician is close related to Hebrew which Abram found spoken in Canaan already (compare Abimelech "father of a king," Melchizedek "king of righteousness." Kirjath Sapher "city of the book"). Thus Tyre is Hebrew tsor, "rock"; Sidon tsidon, "fishing"; Carthage karthada, "new town"; Byrsa botsrah, "citadel," Bozrah Isa 63:1. Dido, as David, "beloved"; Hasdrubal "his help is Baal"; Hannibal "grace of Baal "; Hamilcar the god "Milcar's gift."
The oldest Phoenician inscribed coins are from Tarsus. Abram originally spoke the language of Ur of the Chaldees, Aramaic, as did Laban (Ge 11:31; 31:47); but soon his descendants, as Jacob, spoke the Canaanite or Phoenician Hebrew as their own tongue, compare De 26:5. Accho (Acre), a capital harbor, assigned to Asher, was not occupied by that tribe (Jg 1:31); but remained in the Canaanites' possession. So Israel depended on Phoenice for any small commerce the former had with the W. Under Solomon Phoenice is noted for nautical skill, extensive commerce, mechanical and ornamental art (1Ki 5:6): "none can skill to hew timber like unto the Sidonians"; "cunning to work in gold, silver, brass, iron, purple, blue, and crimson," and "grave grayings" (2Ch 2:7). Hiram cast all the temple vessels and the two pillars Boaz and Jachin for Solomon, and the laver or molten sea (1Ki 7:21-23). Homer (Iliad 6:289, 23:743; Od. 4:614, 15:417) and Herodotus (1:1, 4:148) confirm Scripture as to their nautical skill, embroidered robes, and silver bowls.
Dins (in Josephus, Apion 1:17-18) and Menander (Josephus, Apion 1:18), their own historians, attest their skill in hawing wood and making metal pillars. No artistic excellence, but mechanical processes of art and ornamentation, appear in their extant gems, cylinders, metal bowls plain and embossed (Layard, Nin. and Bah. 155, 186, 192, 606). Solomon allowed the Phoenicians to build ships in Ezion Geber on condition of their instructing his sailors. Together the Phoenicians and Jews voyaged to Ophir, and once in three years further (1Ki 10:11-22; 9:26-28; 1Ch 14:1; 2Ch 8:18; 9:10). The Phoenicians after the severance of the ten tribes no longer kept the covenant with Judah. They even sold Jews as slaves to their enemies the Edomites, in violation of "the brotherly covenant" once uniting Hiram and David (Joe 3:4-8; Am 1:9-10; Isaiah 23; Ezekiel 28).
Israel supplied Phoenice with wheat, honey, oil, and balm (Eze 27:17; 1Ki 5:9,11; Ezr 3:7; Ac 12:20): "wheat of Minnith" (an Ammonite city). (See PANNAG.) Palestine's being the granary of Phoenice explains why the latter alone of the surrounding nations maintained lasting peace with Israel; and this notwithstanding Elijah's slaughter of the Phoenician Baal's prophets and priests, and Jehu's slaughter of Baal's worshippers. Another reason was their policy of avoiding land wars. The polytheism of Phoenice their next neighbor had a corrupting influence on Israel. It seemed narrow minded to be so exclusive as to maintain that Jehovah of Israel alone was to be worshipped. Hence arose compromises, as Solomon's sacrificing to his wives' deities, Ashtoreth of Sidon, etc., and the people's halting between Jehovah and Baal under Ahab. The northern kingdom near Phoenice was more corrupted than Judah; but Judah copied her bad example (2Ki 17:19; Jer 3:8).
The burning of sons to Baal (Jer 19:5; 32:35) originated in the idea of human life forfeited by sin needing expiation by human life; substitution was the primitive way revealed; fire, the symbol of the sun god, purified in consuming, so was the mode of vicarious sacrifice. But while God requires a faith ready for such an awful sacrifice (Genesis 22), He forbids the human sacrifice, and substitutes animals, with whom in his material nature and animal life man is so closely related. The Carthaginians, when besieged by Agethocles, burnt 200 boys of the aristocracy to Saturn, and after victory the most beautiful captives (Diod. 20:14, 65). The men and women "consecrated" to lust in connection with the temples of Astarte deified, as religion, shameless licentiousness (2Ki 23:7; De 23:17-18; 1Ki 14:24; 15:12; 22:46; Ho 4:14; Job 36:14 margin).
LETTERS. Tradition says Cadmus ("the Eastern" or "of ancient time") introduced into Greece the 16 earliest Greek letters. The names of the four Greek letters Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, are without meaning in Greek; but the Hebrew 'Aleph (?), Bet[h] (?), Gimel (?) Daleth (?), mean respectively ox, house, camel, door; so, in the main, the rest. The original Greek and Phoenician letters resembled one another, though not so the modern Hebrew and later Greek. The Hebrew or Phoenician originally are rude pictures of the objects signified by the names: 'Aleph (?), of an ox head; Gimel (?), of a camel's back; Daleth (?), of a tent door; Vav (?), of a hook or peg; Lamed[h] (?), of an ox goad; 'Ayin (?), of an eye; Qoph (?), of the back of the head; Resh (?), of a head; Tav [or Tau] (?), of a cross.
The -a termination of the Greek letters is the Aramaic status emphaticus; the definite article he, instead of being prefixed was subjoined to the noun; so in Ge 31:47 the Aramaean (Syrian) Laban adds -a to sahaduth "testimony," Jegar Sahadutha; nine out of the 16 Cadmeian letters are in the Aramaic status emphaticus, i.e. ending in -a. This proves that when the Greeks received originally the letters from the East the names by which they learned them were Aramaic. (See WRITING.) The Phoenicians traded for tin so far W. as the Scilly islands or Cassiterides (Strabo 3:5, section 11) and the coasts of Cornwall. Their "traveller's stories" were proverbial, "a Phoenician figment." Also their fraudulence in bargains, "Syrians against Phoenicians,"i.e, fraud matching fraud; compare "Punica fides". A sarcophagus of king Ashmunazer with Phoenician inscription describing him "possessor of Dor, Joppa, and ample grainlands at the root of Dan," is in the Louvre, brought by the Duc de Luynes.