Phoenician Ships
Ancient Phoenician Ship
Illustration of an Ancient Phoenician Ship

The Phoenicians were well known navigators in the ancient Mediterranean world and famous for their shipbuilding and maritime trade. Phoenician ships had a curved shape with similar stems and sternposts. The masts had two large yardarms. Notice all the ropes used in the yard rigging. The ships also had high washboards with strakes around the deck to prevent cargo from falling off during heavy seas.

The Bible does not refer to seafaring often since the Israelites were an agrarian people rather than maritime. The prophet Ezekiel in his lament over the city of Tyre compares the city to a Tyrian merchant ship, and in doing so he describes the building of Phoenician ships in detail:

"They made all your planks of fir trees from Senir; They took a cedar from Lebanon to make you a mast. Of oaks from Bashan they made your oars; The company of Ashurites have inlaid your planks With ivory from the coasts of Cyprus. Fine embroidered linen from Egypt was what you spread for your sail; Blue and purple from the coasts of Elishah was what covered you." - Ezek 27:5-7

It was the Philistines, Phoenicians, and Syrians who controlled most of the eastern Mediterranean coastline. The Philistine ships were actually built similar to the Phoenician "hippos" style ships, named by the Greeks because of its horse-head prow (Greek hippos). There were also long ram-pointed warships, but the most popular were the round ships with asymmetrical bow and stern as seen in the picture above.

The Phoenicians invented double-oars. Their ships were tall with a high mast and upper and lower decks. 8th century Assyrian reliefs depict Phoenician merchant ships with masts and two banks of oars as seen below.

Phoenician Galley
Illustration of an Ancient Phoenician Galley

Recent Underwater Archaeology at Ashkelon (Read More)

Recent underwater archaeological excavations at ancient Ashkelon have uncovered Phoenician ships 52 feet long and 20 feet wide, from the 8th century BC. Well rounded with heavy wooden beams with very large cargos of wine (over 12 tons) and some other goods. Apparently these ships were struck by a violent storm, possibly the same as mentions by Ezekiel 27.

25 - The ships of Tarshish did sing of thee in thy market: and thou wast replenished, and made very glorious in the midst of the seas.
26 - Thy rowers have brought thee into great waters: the east wind hath broken thee in the midst of the seas.
27 - Thy riches, and thy fairs, thy merchandise, thy mariners, and thy pilots, thy calkers, and the occupiers of thy merchandise, and all thy men of war, that [are] in thee, and in all thy company which [is] in the midst of thee, shall fall into the midst of the seas in the day of thy ruin.
28 - The suburbs shall shake at the sound of the cry of thy pilots.
29 - And all that handle the oar, the mariners, [and] all the pilots of the sea, shall come down from their ships, they shall stand upon the land;
30 - And shall cause their voice to be heard against thee, and shall cry bitterly, and shall cast up dust upon their heads, they shall wallow themselves in the ashes:
31 - And they shall make themselves utterly bald for thee, and gird them with sackcloth, and they shall weep for thee with bitterness of heart [and] bitter wailing.
32 - And in their wailing they shall take up a lamentation for thee, and lament over thee, [saying], What [city is] like Tyrus, like the destroyed in the midst of the sea?

Map of Phoenicia in Biblical Times

Map of Ancient Israel - Phoenicia

Phoenicia in Smiths Bible Dictionary

Biblical Definition of Phoenicia

PHOENICIANS in the Bible Encyclopedia

Phoenicia in Eastons Bible Dictionary

The Bible Mentions "Tyre"

1 Kings 9:11 - ([Now] Hiram the king of Tyre had furnished Solomon with cedar trees and fir trees, and with gold, according to all his desire,) that then king Solomon gave Hiram twenty cities in the land of Galilee.

2 Chronicles 2:14 - The son of a woman of the daughters of Dan, and his father [was] a man of Tyre, skilful to work in gold, and in silver, in brass, in iron, in stone, and in timber, in purple, in blue, and in fine linen, and in crimson; also to grave any manner of graving, and to find out every device which shall be put to him, with thy cunning men, and with the cunning men of my lord David thy father.

Joshua 19:29 - And [then] the coast turneth to Ramah, and to the strong city Tyre; and the coast turneth to Hosah; and the outgoings thereof are at the sea from the coast to Achzib:

1 Kings 7:14 - He [was] a widow's son of the tribe of Naphtali, and his father [was] a man of Tyre, a worker in brass: and he was filled with wisdom, and understanding, and cunning to work all works in brass. And he came to king Solomon, and wrought all his work.

Acts 12:20 - And Herod was highly displeased with them of Tyre and Sidon: but they came with one accord to him, and, having made Blastus the king's chamberlain their friend, desired peace; because their country was nourished by the king's [country].

2 Chronicles 2:3 - And Solomon sent to Huram the king of Tyre, saying, As thou didst deal with David my father, and didst send him cedars to build him an house to dwell therein, [even so deal with me].

2 Chronicles 2:11 - Then Huram the king of Tyre answered in writing, which he sent to Solomon, Because the LORD hath loved his people, he hath made thee king over them.

1 Kings 5:1 - And Hiram king of Tyre sent his servants unto Solomon; for he had heard that they had anointed him king in the room of his father: for Hiram was ever a lover of David.

Isaiah 23:5 - As at the report concerning Egypt, [so] shall they be sorely pained at the report of Tyre.

Luke 10:13 - Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works had been done in Tyre and Sidon, which have been done in you, they had a great while ago repented, sitting in sackcloth and ashes.

2 Samuel 5:11 - And Hiram king of Tyre sent messengers to David, and cedar trees, and carpenters, and masons: and they built David an house.

Joel 3:4 - Yea, and what have ye to do with me, O Tyre, and Zidon, and all the coasts of Palestine? will ye render me a recompence? and if ye recompense me, swiftly [and] speedily will I return your recompence upon your own head;

Matthew 11:21 - Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.

Acts 21:3 - Now when we had discovered Cyprus, we left it on the left hand, and sailed into Syria, and landed at Tyre: for there the ship was to unlade her burden.

Ezra 3:7 - They gave money also unto the masons, and to the carpenters; and meat, and drink, and oil, unto them of Zidon, and to them of Tyre, to bring cedar trees from Lebanon to the sea of Joppa, according to the grant that they had of Cyrus king of Persia.

Mark 3:8 - And from Jerusalem, and from Idumaea, and [from] beyond Jordan; and they about Tyre and Sidon, a great multitude, when they had heard what great things he did, came unto him.

Mark 7:31 - And again, departing from the coasts of Tyre and Sidon, he came unto the sea of Galilee, through the midst of the coasts of Decapolis.

1 Chronicles 22:4 - Also cedar trees in abundance: for the Zidonians and they of Tyre brought much cedar wood to David.

Luke 6:17 - And he came down with them, and stood in the plain, and the company of his disciples, and a great multitude of people out of all Judaea and Jerusalem, and from the sea coast of Tyre and Sidon, which came to hear him, and to be healed of their diseases;

Isaiah 23:17 - And it shall come to pass after the end of seventy years, that the LORD will visit Tyre, and she shall turn to her hire, and shall commit fornication with all the kingdoms of the world upon the face of the earth.

Isaiah 23:1 - The burden of Tyre. Howl, ye ships of Tarshish; for it is laid waste, so that there is no house, no entering in: from the land of Chittim it is revealed to them.

1 Chronicles 14:1 - Now Hiram king of Tyre sent messengers to David, and timber of cedars, with masons and carpenters, to build him an house.

Nehemiah 13:16 - There dwelt men of Tyre also therein, which brought fish, and all manner of ware, and sold on the sabbath unto the children of Judah, and in Jerusalem.

Isaiah 23:8 - Who hath taken this counsel against Tyre, the crowning [city], whose merchants [are] princes, whose traffickers [are] the honourable of the earth?

2 Samuel 24:7 - And came to the strong hold of Tyre, and to all the cities of the Hivites, and of the Canaanites: and they went out to the south of Judah, [even] to Beersheba.

Psalms 87:4 - I will make mention of Rahab and Babylon to them that know me: behold Philistia, and Tyre, with Ethiopia; this [man] was born there.

Psalms 45:12 - And the daughter of Tyre [shall be there] with a gift; [even] the rich among the people shall intreat thy favour.

Psalms 83:7 - Gebal, and Ammon, and Amalek; the Philistines with the inhabitants of Tyre;

Mark 7:24 - And from thence he arose, and went into the borders of Tyre and Sidon, and entered into an house, and would have no man know [it]: but he could not be hid.

Acts 21:7 - And when we had finished [our] course from Tyre, we came to Ptolemais, and saluted the brethren, and abode with them one day.

The Bible Also Mentions "Sidon" and the "Sidonians"

1 Kings 5:6 - Now therefore command thou that they hew me cedar trees out of Lebanon; and my servants shall be with thy servants: and unto thee will I give hire for thy servants according to all that thou shalt appoint: for thou knowest that [there is] not among us any that can skill to hew timber like unto the Sidonians.

Judges 3:3 - [Namely], five lords of the Philistines, and all the Canaanites, and the Sidonians, and the Hivites that dwelt in mount Lebanon, from mount Baalhermon unto the entering in of Hamath.

Deuteronomy 3:9 - ([Which] Hermon the Sidonians call Sirion; and the Amorites call it Shenir;)

Joshua 13:6 - All the inhabitants of the hill country from Lebanon unto Misrephothmaim, [and] all the Sidonians, them will I drive out from before the children of Israel: only divide thou it by lot unto the Israelites for an inheritance, as I have commanded thee.

Joshua 13:4 - From the south, all the land of the Canaanites, and Mearah that [is] beside the Sidonians, unto Aphek, to the borders of the Amorites:

Acts 12:20 - And Herod was highly displeased with them of Tyre and Sidon: but they came with one accord to him, and, having made Blastus the king's chamberlain their friend, desired peace; because their country was nourished by the king's [country].

Genesis 10:19 - And the border of the Canaanites was from Sidon, as thou comest to Gerar, unto Gaza; as thou goest, unto Sodom, and Gomorrah, and Admah, and Zeboim, even unto Lasha.

Luke 10:13 - Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works had been done in Tyre and Sidon, which have been done in you, they had a great while ago repented, sitting in sackcloth and ashes.

Matthew 11:21 - Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.

Mark 3:8 - And from Jerusalem, and from Idumaea, and [from] beyond Jordan; and they about Tyre and Sidon, a great multitude, when they had heard what great things he did, came unto him.

Mark 7:31 - And again, departing from the coasts of Tyre and Sidon, he came unto the sea of Galilee, through the midst of the coasts of Decapolis.

Luke 6:17 - And he came down with them, and stood in the plain, and the company of his disciples, and a great multitude of people out of all Judaea and Jerusalem, and from the sea coast of Tyre and Sidon, which came to hear him, and to be healed of their diseases;

Acts 27:3 - And the next [day] we touched at Sidon. And Julius courteously entreated Paul, and gave [him] liberty to go unto his friends to refresh himself.

Luke 4:26 - But unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, [a city] of Sidon, unto a woman [that was] a widow.

Mark 7:24 - And from thence he arose, and went into the borders of Tyre and Sidon, and entered into an house, and would have no man know [it]: but he could not be hid.

Genesis 10:15 - And Canaan begat Sidon his firstborn, and Heth,

Matthew 15:21 - Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon.

Matthew 11:22 - But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you.

Luke 10:14 - But it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment, than for you.

 

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