Tyre and Sidon 

"Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, 'Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession.' Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, 'Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.' He answered, 'I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.' The woman came and knelt before him. 'Lord, help me!' she said. He replied, 'It is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to their dogs.' 'Yes, Lord,' she said, 'but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table.' Then Jesus answered, 'Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.' And her daughter was healed from that very hour" (Matthew 15:21-28).


Tyre (Hebrew Zor; Latin Tyrus) is an ancient Phoenician city in southern Lebanon, jutting out into the Mediterranean Sea. It is located about 23 miles north of Acre (Akko), and 20 miles south of Sidon. The modern city's name is Sur.
Tyre has a long and illustrious history. In ancient times it was the most important city of the Phoenicians, amassing great wealth and power from the export of purple dye.
In the first century AD, Tyre was the home of a Christian community visited by St. Paul, and it became a major stronghold of the Crusaders in the 12th century. Today, Tyre (Sur) is the fourth largest city in Lebanon and is a popular stop for tourists due to its ancient ruins. It was added to UNESCO's World Heritage list in 1984.


Tyre appears on monuments as early as 1500 BC, and claiming, according to Herodotus, to have been founded about 2700 BC. The inhabitants of Tyre were leading merchants in the ancient world. The city of Tyre was particularly known for the production of a rare sort of purple dye, known as Tyrian purple, which was in many ancient cultures reserved for royal use.
In the time of King David (c. 1000 BC), a friendly alliance was entered into between the Hebrews and the Tyrians, who were long ruled over by their native kings.
Tyre was often attacked by Egypt, then by the Babylonian Nebuchadnezzar (586573 BC), and it later fell under the power of the Persians. In 332 BC, the city was conquered by Alexander the Great, after a siege of seven months. During the seige Alexander connected two distinct cities about 92 miles apart (one on an island and one on the coast) by a causeway. Tyre continued to maintain much of its commercial importance until the Christian era.
Somewhere near Tyre, Jesus healed a Syrian woman's daughter after she gave him a clever reply about breadcrumbs. (Mk 7:24) A Christian church was founded in Tyre shortly after the martyrdom of Stephen (in Jerusalem) and St. Paul, on his return from his third missionary journey, spent a week in conversation with the disciples there. According to Irenaeus of Lyons, the female companion of the Gnostic magician Simon Magus came from Tyre.
Tyre was captured in 1124 during the First Crusade and became one of the most important cities of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem. It was part of the royal domain, although there were also autonomous trading colonies there for the Italian merchant cities. The city was the seat of the archbishop of Tyre, who reported to the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem.
After the fall of Jerusalem to Saladin in 1187, the seat of the kingdom moved to Acre, but coronations were still held in Tyre. In 1291, Tyre was retaken by the Mameluks. It then passed to Ottoman rule until it became part of the modern state of Lebanon after World War I.

Triumphal arch on the principal road leading into Roman Tyre. The road was lined by colonnades; an aqueduct ran along the south side.

Today, Tyre offers visitors an impressive array of excavated ancient ruins, which are spread across three separate archaeological areas. Sights include the remains of a Roman cemetery (necropolis) with several freestanding stone tombs, a Roman triumphal arch, bathhouse, aqueduct, and cardo (street), and a Byzantine mosaic floor from an ancient church.
Tyre's hippodrome (arena for chariot racing), of which a significant amount survives, is unique in being built of stone instead of the more usual brick. It could seat 20,000 spectators.
Remains from other periods have also been unearthed at Tyre, including those from the Byzantine, Arab and Crusader eras, but it is the Roman ruins that are most numerous and impressive.
The sights of modern Tyre (Sur) include a colorful souk (market), a double-domed Shia mosque, and a Christian quarter that is the seat of the Maronite Bishop of Tyre and the Holy Land.
Near Tyre is the reported tomb of King Ahiram (Hiram) (970-936 BC), contemporary of King David, who sent cedar and craftsmen to help build King Solomon's temple in Jerusalem. It is located on the road to Qana El-Jaleel, 6 km southeast of Tyre.


Another view of the triumphal arch on the principal road leading into Roman Tyre


The principal seaport on the Phoenician coast, Tyre was located about 45 miles north of Ptolomais (ancient Acre; modern Acco). Tyre was in reality two cities. One lay on an island, the other on the mainland, and each section had its own harbor. Its Hebrew name, Tzor, signifies a rock, as in flint, which was used as a knife. The city became the principal Phoenician port. Its most coveted export was the costly scarlet-purple dye, called 'Tyrian,' made from the local murex shell. Legend says the deities Melqart and Astarte were walking along the beach when their dog picked up a shell that stained its mouth crimson. Astarte told Melqart she would love him forever if he would make her a dress of that color. In response he built the dyeworks. The Tyrians jealously guarded the processes used to extract and blend their dyes. Some of these trade secrets still lie buried in the ruins of ancient Tyre.

Buildings of modern Sour (Tyre) in Lebanon


The wording in Mark indicates that Jesus went as far north as Sidon:
"Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon" (Mark 7:31).


Sidon (Greek form of the Phoenician "Zidon") was located in the narrow plain running along the Mediterranean Sea, less than 20 miles north of Tyre. Like most Phoenician cities, it was built on a promontory facing an island, which sheltered its fleet from storms and served as a refuge during military incursions from the interior. Sidon was the third great Phoenician city-state, rivaling Byblos and Tyre as a naval power. Together, the three cities symbolized Phoenician maritime prominence. In early times Sidon was more influential that Tyre. This view is confirmed by "Sidonians" being used as the generic name for the Phoenicians or Canaanites in the Bible. However, by the 9th century BC, it had become a dependency of Tyre.
When Sidon, like the other cities of Phoenicia, fell under Roman domination, it continued to mint its own silver coins. The Romans also built a theater and other major monuments in the city. Later, it became famous for its glassware and purple-dye industries. Located about fifty miles northwest of Nazareth it is the most northern city mentioned in connection with Christ's journeys.

Sea Castle, a 13th century Crusader fortress built on a small island at modern Saida, Lebanon (ancient Sidon)

After Jesus left "the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon," he apparently headed southeast through the territory of Herod Philip. He took this rather circuitous route to avoid entering Galilee, controlled by Philip's half-brother, Herod Antipas, who, according to the Gospels, had taken a hostile attitude toward Jesus:
"King Herod heard about this, for Jesus' name had become well known. Some were saying, 'John the Baptist has been raised from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.' Others said, 'He is Elijah.' And still others claimed, 'He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of long ago.' But when Herod heard this, he said, 'John, the man I beheaded, has been raised from the dead!'" (Mark 6:14-16).

Also... "At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, 'Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you'" (Luke 13:31).










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