Tanis. Now San. From Hebrew root, "moved tents," i.e. the place of departure. On the E. of the Tanitic branch of the Nile. "Hebron was built seven years before Zoan in Egypt" (Numbers 13:22), a notice implying the two had a common founder. Zoan was probably built, or rebuilt, by the Hyksos or shepherd kings (Salatis is named as the builder), connected with the Palestinian Anakim, as a fortress of defense on their eastern frontier. Thothmes 2 great-grandson of Aahmes, the original persecutor of Israel, resided at Zoan. Psalm 78:12; Psalm 78:43, speaks of "the field of Zoan" as the scene of Jehovah's marvelous deeds, signs, and wonders in Egypt. It was a very large city, strongly fortified.
The remains of edifices and obelisks (ten or twelve,) the stone of which was brought from Syene, are numerous covering an area a mile in diameter N. to S., bearing mostly the name of Rameses II. It was the rendezvous for the armies of the Delta, and an imperial city in the 12th dynasty. It answers to Avaris the capital of the Hyksos, who gave it its Hebrew name; both Avaris (Ha-Awar, Pa-Awar, "the house of going out") and Zoan mean "departing." This Pharaoh had warred successfully against the Shasous, the nomadic tribes adjoining, and so his residing in N.W. Egypt would be important at that time.
Moses' exposure must have been in a branch of the Nile not infested by crocodiles, for neither would the parents have exposed him nor would Thermuthis ("the great mother", a designation of Neith the deity of Lower Egypt), Pharaoh's daughter, have bathed in a place infested by them; therefore not at Memphis where anciently they were common, but at Zoan on the Tanitic branch, near the sea, where crocodiles are never found, probably the western boundary of the district occupied by Israel. Amosis or Aahmes captured Zoan or Avaris from the shepherd kings, their last stronghold after ruling (See EGYPT for 511 years. It was well adapted as the place from whence to carry out measures for crushing Israel (Exodus 2).
Tanis was famous for flax (Pliny, 19:1), compare the mention of flax, Exodus 9:31. Anciently a rich plain, "the marshes" or "pasture lands," stretched due E. as far as Pelusium 30 miles off, gradually narrowing toward the E. and watered by four of the seven branches of the Nile, the Pathmitic, Mendesian, Tanitic, and Pelusiac. Now it is in part covered by the lake Menzeleh through the subsidence of the Mediterranean coast.
Here came the ambassadors of Hezekiah seeking alliance (Isaiah 30:4). On Sevechus' withdrawal from Lower Egypt Tethos of the priestly caste became supreme, having Zoan for his capital, 718 B.C. In his contests with the military caste "the princes of Zoan became fools," though famed for wisdom (Isaiah 19:13). God threatens (Ezekiel 30:14), "I will set fire in Zoan," etc., namely, by Nebuchadnezzar. It is now a barren waste, the canal through it giving no fertility; the capital of several Pharaohs, now the abode of fishermen, exposed to wild beasts and malignant fevers. The oldest name found is Sesertesen III, of the 12th dynasty; the latest is that of Tirhakah. The 21st dynasty was called Tanite from it.
Fausset, Andrew Robert M.A., D.D., "Definition for 'zoan' Fausset's Bible Dictionary".