Isaiah 23 – A Burden about Tyre & The Cities of Tyre and Sidon

There’s a lot of killing going on, a lot of wars, and some of them, like with King David, You helped or actually let David win. 

A lot of people question the sixth commandment that you had written down for Moses, “Thou shalt not kill” (Ex 20:13).  That gets confusing because You had said:

Tyre
Tyre, modern Arabic Ṣūr, French Tyr or Sour, Latin Tyrus, Hebrew Zor or Tsor, town on the Mediterranean coast of southern Lebanon, located 12 miles (19 km) north of the modern border with Israel and 25 miles (40 km) south of Sidon (modern Ṣaydā). It was a major Phoenician seaport from about 2000 bce through the Roman period.

“Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,

Burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe” (Ex 21:24-25).

So I figure that means we aren’t supposed to murder someone, but legal execution is okay?

Yet, then Jesus said:

“Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for tooth:

Bu I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also” (Matt 5:38-39).

I believe that Jesus is talking about in civil cases, not criminal.  Yet, death due to punishment appears to be proper; the punishment must fit the crime, as You clearly stated, I think manslaughter would fall in here:

“If men strive and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman’s husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine.

And if mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life” (Ex 21: 22-23).

Yet, I also remember what James 1:5 and Psalm 1 say:

“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (Jas 1:5).

Nile River
The Nile is a major north-flowing river in northeastern Africa, and is the longest river in the world, though some sources cite the Amazon River as the longest. The Nile, which is 6,853 km (4,258 miles) long, is an “international” river as its drainage basin covers eleven countries, namely, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, South Sudan, Republic of the Sudan and Egypt. In particular, the Nile is the primary water source of Egypt and Sudan.

The river Nile has two major tributaries, the White Nile and Blue Nile. The White Nile is considered to be the headwaters and primary stream of the Nile itself. The Blue Nile, however, is the source of most of the water and silt. The White Nile is longer and rises in the Great Lakes region of central Africa, with the most distant source still undetermined but located in either Rwanda or Burundi. It flows north through Tanzania, Lake Victoria, Uganda and South Sudan. The Blue Nile begins at Lake Tana in Ethiopia and flows into Sudan from the southeast. The two rivers meet just north of the Sudanese capital of Khartoum.

The northern section of the river flows north almost entirely through the Sudanese desert to Egypt, then ends in a large delta and flows into the Mediterranean Sea. Egyptian civilization and Sudanese kingdoms have depended on the river since ancient times. Most of the population and cities of Egypt lie along those parts of the Nile valley north of Aswan, and nearly all the cultural and historical sites of Ancient Egypt are found along riverbanks.

“Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.

But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.

And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper” (Ps 1:1-3).

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.

“Tyre” the main seaport along the Phoenician coast, about 35 miles north of mount Carmel.

 Part of the city was built on two rocky islands about a half a mile from the shore.  King Hiram of Tyre supplied cedars and craftsmen for the temple (see 1 Kgs 5:8-9).

“How, ye ships” – see v 14.

“Ships of Tarshish” – trading ships (see note on 2:16).

“Laid waste” – fulfilled through Assyria, Nebuchadnezzar and Alexander, Nebuchadnezzar captured the mainland city in 572 B.C. (see Eze 26:7-11), but the island fortress was not taken until Alexander the Great destroyed it in 332 (cf Eze 26:3-5).

“Chittim” – Cyrus, an island that had close ties with Tyre (see Eze 27:6).

2 Be still, ye inhabitants of the isle; thou whom the merchants of Zidon, that pass over the sea, have replenished.

23:2, 4, 12 – Zidon – Sidon; see Eze 28:20-26, the other prominent Phoenician city, about 25 miles north of Tyre.

“Merchants…replenished” – Tyre’s commercial ventures affected the entire Mediterranean world (see vv 3, 8).

3 And by great waters the seed of Sihor, the harvest of the river, is her revenue; and she is a mart of nations.

“Sihor” – appears to refer to the easternmost branch of the Nile River (cf Josh 13:3; Jer 2:18).

“Harvest of the river”see 19:7 and note.

4 Be thou ashamed, O Zidon: for the sea hath spoken, even the strength of the sea, saying, I travail not, nor bring forth children, neither do I nourish up young men, nor bring up virgins.

“The strength of the seal” – Tyre (see note on v. 1).

“Travail…bring forth children”contrast 54:1.

5 As at the report concerning Egypt, so shall they be sorely pained at the report of Tyre.

6 Pass ye over to Tarshish; howl, ye inhabitants of the isle.

“Tarshish” – perhaps Tartessus in Spain (see Jon 1:3) or an island in the western Mediterranean or a site on the coast of North Africa.

7 Is this your joyous city, whose antiquity is of ancient days? Her own feet shall carry her afar off to sojourn.

“Antiquity…ancient days” – Tyre was founded before 2000 B.C.

Carthage in North Africa
Carthage ج was the center or capital city of the ancient Carthaginian civilization, on the eastern side of the Lake of Tunis in what is now the Tunis Governorate in Tunisia.

The city developed from a Phoenician colony into the capital of an empire dominating the Mediterranean during the first millennium BC. The legendary Queen Dido is regarded as the founder of the city, though her historicity has been questioned. According to accounts by Timaeus of Tauromenium, she purchased from a local tribe the amount of land that could be covered by an oxhide. Cutting the skin into strips, she laid out her claim and founded an empire that would become, through the Punic Wars, the only existential threat to the Roman Empire until the coming of the Vandals several centuries later.

The ancient city was destroyed by the Roman Republic in the Third Punic War in 146 BC and then re-developed as Roman Carthage, which became the major city of the Roman Empire in the province of Africa. The Roman city was again occupied by the Muslim conquest of the Maghreb in 698. The site remained uninhabited, the regional power shifting to the Medina of Tunis in the medieval period, until the early 20th century, when it began to develop into a coastal suburb of Tunis, incorporated as Carthage municipality in 1919.

The archaeological site was first surveyed in 1830, by Danish consul Christian Tuxen Falbe. Excavations were performed in the second half of the 19th century by Charles Ernest Beulé and by Alfred Louis Delattre. The Carthage National Museum was founded in 1875 by Cardinal Charles Lavigerie. Excavations performed by French archaeologists in the 1920s first attracted an extraordinary amount of attention because of the evidence they produced for child sacrifice. Although there has been considerable disagreement among scholars concerning whether or not child sacrifice was practiced by ancient Carthage, recent research indicates that child sacrifice was in practice. The open-air Carthage Paleo-Christian Museum has exhibits excavated under the auspices of UNESCO from 1975 to 1984.

“Her own feet…sojourn” – Lit. “her own feet carrie43d her to sojourn afar off”; refers to Tyre’s colonization of distant lands.  Carthage in North Africa was a colony of Tyre.

Tarshish may have been another.

8 Who hath taken this counsel against Tyre, the crowning city, whose merchants are princes, whose traffickers are the honorable of the earth?

“The crowning city” – Tyre crowned kings in her colonies.

9 The LORD of hosts hath purposed it, to stain the pride of all glory, and to bring into contempt all the honorable of the earth.

“Pride of glory’ – see Eze 27:3-4.

10 Pass through thy land as a river, O daughter of Tarshish: there is no more strength.

“Daughter of Tarshish” – a personification of Tarshish and its inhabitants.

11 He stretched out his hand over the sea, he shook the kingdoms: the LORD hath given a commandment against the merchant city, to destroy the strong holds thereof.

“Merchant city” – Lit. “Canaan,” here roughly the same as modern Lebanon.

12 And he said, Thou shalt no more rejoice, O thou oppressed virgin, daughter of Zidon: arise, pass over to Chittim; there also shalt thou have no rest.

“Oppressed” – Sidon was captured by Esarhaddon in the 7th century B.C. and  later by Nebuchadnezzar c 587 (cf Jer 25:22).

13 Behold the land of the Chaldeans; this people was not, till the Assyrian founded it for them that dwell in the wilderness: they set up the towers thereof, they raised up the palaces thereof; and he brought it to ruin.

“The Assyrian” – Sennacherib destroyed the city of Babylon in 689 B.C.  Phoenicia would look like the Babylon of that time.

14 Howl, ye ships of Tarshish: for your strength is laid waste.

15 And it shall come to pass in that day, that Tyre shall be forgotten seventy years, according to the days of one king: after the end of seventy years shall Tyre sing as an harlot.

“Seventy years” -also the length of the Babylonian captivity (see Jer 25:11, 29:10), and the length of time Sennacherib decreed that Babylon should remain devastated.

16 Take an harp, go about the city, thou harlot that hast been forgotten; make sweet melody, sing many songs, that thou mayest be remembered.

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.

“Her hire” – the wages of a prostitute.  A “Harlot” nation was one that sought to make the highest profits, regardless of the mans.  Self-gratifications was the key (cf Rev 17:5).

18 And her merchandise and her hire shall be holiness to the LORD: it shall not be treasured nor laid up; for her merchandise shall be for them that dwell before the LORD, to eat sufficiently, and for durable clothing.

“Holiness to the LORD” – devoted to the Lord.  The earnings of a prostitute could not be given to the Lord (Deut 23:18), but the silver and gold of a city devoted to destruction were placed in the Lord’s treasury (see Josh 6:17, 19; cf Mic 4:13).

“For them” – Israel will one day receive the wealth of the nations (see note on 18:7, cf 60:5-11, 61:6).

The Cities of Tyre and Sidon

The names Tyre and Sidon were famous in the ancient Near East.  They are also important cities in the Old and New Testaments.  Both are now located in Lebanon, with Tyre 20 miles

Sidon Today
Sidon, known locally as Sayda), is the third-largest city in Lebanon. It is located in the South Governorate of Lebanon, on the Mediterranean coast, about 40 kilometres (25 miles) north of Tyre and 40 km (25 miles) south of the capital, Beirut. In the Book of Genesis, Sidon was the first-born son of Canaan, who was a son of Ham, thereby making Sidon a great grandson of Noah.

south of Sidon and only 12 miles north of the Israel-Lebanon border.  Today each is just a shadow of their former selves.

Sidon, called Saida today (Arabic for “fishing”), was named after the firstborn son of Canaan (Gen 10:15) and probably settled by his descendants.  The northern border of ancient Canaan extended to Sidon (Gen 10:19)

Later, Jacob spoke of it as the boundary of Zebulun (Gen 49:13) and Joshua included it as part of the land promised to Israel (Jos 13:6).  Sidon was included in the inheritance of Asher, on its northern boundary (Jos 19:28), but it was not taken by that tribe in conquest (Jdg 1:31, 3:3).  Settled from the beginning as a port city, Sidon was built on a promontory with a nearby offshore island that sheltered the harbor from storms.

Twenty mile south of Sidon, in the middle of a coastal plain, Tyre (called Sour in Arabic today) was constructed on a rock island a few hundred yards out into the Mediterranean.  In fact, the city took its name from this rock island.  Tyre comes from the Semetic sr (Hebrew Sor, Arabic Sur, Babylonian Surru, Egyptian Dr,) meaning rock.

The port of ancient Sidon is believed to have been located in this area.  The Sea Castle in the harbor today was originally built as a Crusader fort to protect the harbor.  It is believed the Castle sits over the site of the Phoenician temple to Melkart. 

Located at the foot of some of the Lebanese mountain’s southwestern ridges and near the gorge of the ancient Leontes River (the modern Litani), the rich and well-watered plain became the fortified island’s primary source or food, water, wood and other living essentials. 

Sidon Sea Castle
Sidon’s Sea Castle was built by the crusaders in the thirteenth century as a fortress of the holy land. It is one of the most prominent historical sites in the port city of Sidon, Lebanon.
The city of Sidon is located on the Mediterranean coast of Lebanon. This ancient Phoenician city has been of great religious, political and commercial value; it is said to be inhabited since 4000 B.C. During the 13th century, the Crusaders built Sidon’s Sea Castle as a fortress on a small island connected to the mainland by a narrow 80m long roadway.

The island was formerly the site of a temple to Melqart, the Phoenician version of Heracles. The beauty of the Castle can be seen in old illustrations of it; however, after bearing several wars, it has been damaged and renovated several times. It was partially destroyed by the Mamluks when they took over the city from the Crusaders, but they subsequently rebuilt it and added the long causeway. The castle later fell into disuse, but was again restored in the 17th century by Emir Fakhreddine II, only to suffer great damage.

There is a possibility that the island on which the castle is built was, in fact, the location of the Phoenician King’s palace and several other Phoenician monuments which were destroyed by Esarhaddon and then by natural earthquakes. This island has also served as a shelter from inside attacks on the city. Great Sidon, Little Sidon, powerful fortresses, pastures, cisterns and fortifications are all mentioned in the Assyrian king Sennacherib’s recordings of his attacks on Sidon and nearby cities.

Apparently the island was fortified first and called Tyre, while the coastal city directly opposite was settled later.  It was originally called Ushu in cuneiform texts and later Palaetyrus (“old Tyre”) in Greek texts.

The Canaanites

Historical and archaeological evidence indicate both cities were settled by the early second millennium B.C. and were important seaports long before the Israelites settled in Canaan. 

Yet, while Sidon was mentioned many times during the Canaanite and early Israelite periods in the Bible, Tyre first appeared as part of Asher’s western boundary.  Specifically called a “fortified city” in this passage, it was noted as a significant landmark. 

Tyre does not appear again in the Bible until Hiram, king of Tyre, sends cedar, carpenters, and masons to build David’s house (2 Sam 5:11). 

King Hiram’s Tomb
The Tomb of King Hiram is located a couple minutes drive Southeast of Tyre in the village of Hanaway. It is a colossal limestone sarcophagus built upon a high pedestal, just north of the border with Israel.

While both cities are mentioned in a number of second millennium B.C. extra-Biblical documents, the most interesting accounts come from the Amarna Letters. Actual letters from the kings of both cities were found among the Amarna Letters (ca 1350 BC). 

Zimrida, king of Sidon wrote one or maybe two of the Amarna Letters.  Abi-Milki, king of Tyre, sent ten letters to the Egyptian Pharaoh.

This murex shell was fished out of the Mediterranean Sea by a local fisherman and given to ABR director Dr. Bryant Wood when he visited Tyre.  Still found in the Mediterranean today, the ancients collected thousands of these mollusks to produce just one ounce of purple dye.  It was such a costly process

that purple clothing was considered a symbol of wealth and royalty (cf Jer 10:9; Eze 27:7; Acts 16:14).

Although the dates of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey are still in dispute, only Sidon and Sidonians are mentioned (17 times: Iliad 6.290–91; 23.743-44; Odyssey 4.83, 84, 618; 13.272, 285; 14.288, 291; 15.118, 415, 417, 419, 425, 473). 

Yet the failure to mention either Tyre or Tyrians may not be significant.  At least some of Homer’s usage appears to relate the term Sidonian with Phoenicians in general (see also 1 Kgs 5:6)

It would seem that during the second millennium B.C. Sidon was the pre-eminent of the two port cities.  It also appears, during the first millennium B.C. that Tyre eclipsed Sidon.

The Phoenicians

While Tyre and Sidon were considered Canaanite during the second millennium BC, scholars call the Lebanese coast after the time of the Israelite Conquest of Canaan, Phoenecia. 

“Phoenicia” was the name given to the region by the Greeks, from their word for purple.  The ancient world’s purple dye industry developed from extracting a fluid from a Mediterranean mollusk, the murex. 

Not only did the people of the Phoenician coast develop this industry, they specialized in shipping this very valuable commodity all over the Mediterranean world.  Beginning with David, the Tyrian connection became prominent. 

Amarna Letters
The Amarna letters are an archive, written on clay tablets, primarily consisting of diplomatic correspondence between the Egyptian administration and its representatives in Canaan and Amurru during the New Kingdom, between c. 1360-1332 BC. The letters were found in Upper Egypt at Amarna, the modern name for the ancient Egyptian capital of Akhetaten (el-Amarna), founded by pharaoh Akhenaten (1350s – 1330s BC) during the Eighteenth dynasty of Egypt.

The Amarna letters are unusual in Egyptological research, because they are mostly written in Akkadian cuneiform, the writing system of ancient Mesopotamia, rather than that of ancient Egypt. The known tablets total 382: 24 tablets had been recovered since the Norwegian Assyriologist Jørgen Alexander Knudtzon’s landmark edition of the Amarna letters, Die El-Amarna-Tafeln, published in two volumes (1907 and 1915). The written correspondence spans a period of at most thirty years.
The Amarna letters are of great significance for biblical studies as well as Semitic linguistics, since they shed light on the culture and language of the Canaanite peoples in pre-biblical times. The letters, though written in Akkadian, are heavily colored by the mother tongue of their writers, who spoke an early form of Canaanite, the language family which would later evolve into its daughter languages, Hebrew and Phoenician. These “Canaanisms” provide valuable insights into the proto-stage of those languages several centuries prior to their first actual manifestation

Ethbaal was the father of Jezebel and king of Sidon (1 Kgs 16:31).  Many scholars follow Josephus (Against Apion 1.121-24; Antiquities 8), who was quoting Menander, and identify Ethbaal with Ithbaal (Hebrew “Man of Baal”), priest of Astarte who killed the king of Tyre and seized the throne.  In fact, during many periods, the king of one city seemed to be considered king of the other city by outsiders.

Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, besieged Tyre for 13 years (585–572 BC), but the precise historical facts of its outcome are still unclear.  He evidently did not conquer the city, but it may have surrendered conditionally to him. 

Both Jeremiah (27:3–11) and Ezekiel (26:7–14) spoke of this event.  Apparently both Tyre and Sidon surrendered to Nebuchadnezzar, based on a fragmentary Babylonian administrative document which mentions the kings of Tyre and Sidon as receiving rations from the royal Babylonian household.

Glass Manufacture
The Persians maintained a royal park in Sidon and it was during this time that the temple of Eshmoun was built. Glass manufacture, Sidon’s most important enterprise in the Phoenician era, was conducted on a vast scale and the production of purple dye was almost as important.

In the days of Ezra and Zerubbabel, the Jews returning from captivity also sent to the men of Sidon and Tyre for cedars to build the Second Temple.  Again cedars were floated from Lebanon along the Mediterranean coast to Joppa, where they could be brought overland to Jerusalem (Ezra 3:7).

The golden age of Sidon was still to come.  Beyond its prominence in the second millennium B.C. Sidon’s greatest days did not come until after the days of Nebuchadnezzar. 

The port city reached its peak of power through its worldwide trade in the murex dye and glass industries.

  At the same time, it continued to be among the eastern Mediterranean’s leaders in shipbuilding and shipping.

Alexander the Great

While Tyre seemed to withstand Nebuchadnezzar, it was not prepared for Alexander 250 years later.  Although every Phoenician city to the north, including Sidon, welcomed Alexander, Tyre would only agree to surrender nominally to him.  They would not allow him entrance to the city, which was exactly what Alexander intended to do. 

Not be denied, after only a seven-month siege of the island city, he did what no one else had ever considered possible.  Utilizing stones, timber, dirt and debris from the mainland, Alexander constructed a causeway out into the Mediterranean.  At last he reached the island, breached the city wall and slew or put into slavery the defiant Tyrians.  An amazing feat, Tyre was changed forever.

In time the causeway was enlarged by rubble and sand deposits washed up by waves.  This 1873 map shows Tyre as it was in 322 B.C. and later as a peninsula stretching out into the Mediterranean Sea.  Evidence of Tyre’s ancient harbors can still be seen on the peninsula’s north and south sides.

Ezekiel referred to this event long before it happened.  While also mentioning that God would send Nebuchadnezzar against the city (Eze 26:7), he spoke of the Lord’s promise to destroy Tyre, scrape her dust from her, make her smooth like the top of a rock and a good place for spreading out nets to dry (Eze 26:4, 14)

1873 map shows Tyre as it was in 322 B.C.
The city of Tyre was originally an island which Alexander the Great later joined to the mainland by a causeway. In time the causeway was enlarged by rubble and sand deposits washed up by waves. This 1873 map shows Tyre as it was in 322 BC, and later as a peninsula stretching out into the Mediterranean Sea. Evidence of Tyre’s ancient harbors can still be seen on the peninsula’s north and south sides.

Ezekiel also pointed out that Tyre’s world-wide trade would cease with this event (Eze 27 and 28).  Tyre has served as a “quarry” for the whole coast.  Her stones may be found as far away as Beirut (40 miles north) and Akko (25 miles south in Israel).

Ezekiel also prophesied of God’s judgment against Sidon (Eze 28:20–24).  God promised pestilence.

Sidon and Tyre Today

Sidon was the scene of heavy fighting during Lebanon’s civil war and its situation only deteriorated during the subsequent 22-year Israeli occupation.  Even today, there is only one hotel and few restaurants for tourists.  With numerous hammams (Turkish baths), souqs (markets) and mosques, it feels like an old world city.  There is little industry and the port services only a minimal number of local fishing vessels.

Unfortunately, because the ancient port area has continued to be inhabited over the millennia, there is little archaeological evidence or Bronze and Iron Age Sidon.  Ruins of the Castle of St. Louis on a hill south of the port are believed to sit over the ancient acropolis.  Just south of the castle is Murex Hill, once ancient Sidon’s garbage dump.  The mound was formed by tens of thousands of crushed murex shells from the city’s famed purple dye industry.

Saint Louis Castle
The Castle of Saint Louis, also known as Qalaat al Muizz or the Land Castle, is a ruined castle in Sidon, Lebanon. It was built in 1254 by French crusaders on the site of an earlier Fatimid fortress, and was altered a number of times until the 17th century.

History
The site now occupied the Castle of St. Louis is said to have been the acropolis of the ancient city. Some remains of this acropolis still exist, including a theater. The citadel was probably completely demolished and then rebuilt by the Arabs.

To the south of the citadel is a mound of debris called Murex Hill. A talus of crushed shells of murex shells (correctly, specimens of Bolinus brandaris and Hexaplex trunculus) along the western slope can still be seen. This artificial mound (100 m. long and 50 m. high) was formed by the accumulation of refuse from the purple dye factories of Phoenician times. Mosaic tiling at the top of the mound suggests that Roman buildings were erected there when the area was no longer used as the city’s dumping ground. Part of the hill today is covered by the cemetery of the Muslim Shiite community of Sidon.

The site of the citadel became a fortress in the 10th century, when Fatimid Caliph Al-Mu’izz li-Din Allah fortified it and gave it the name Qalaat al Muizz. The castle as it is today was built in 1254 by crusaders during the Frankish occupation of Sidon. The French king, Louis IX, better known as St. Louis, appears to have spent a long time at the castle, and this is perhaps why the site is named after him.

When the Arabs reoccupied the city, the castle was restored. It was damaged later on by the Mamluks, and was extensively rebuilt by Fakhr-al-Din II in the 17th century. The castle was then looted a number of times, leaving the structure in ruins. Part of the castle collapsed during the end of the Ottoman era.

The castle served as a shelter for refugees of the 1948 Palestinian exodus. It was further damaged by Israeli shelling. Plans are being made to restore the castle.

Today Tyre is a depressed city that suffered greatly during Lebanon’s civil war and Israel’s subsequent occupation of southern Lebanon.  The modern isthmus that joins the island to the mainland holds streets of houses and shops.  There is a picturesque fishing harbor on the north side of the isthmus, adjoining a lively souq.

The administrative center for a number of nearby villages and towns, Tyre has a number of unplanned squatter settlements.  As important as any industry to modern Tyre are the Greek and Roman archaeological remains which cover the ancient mainland city of Palaetyrus, the accumulated isthmus and the island city.

The hippodrome at Tyre is the best preserved in the world.  Once seating 20,000 spectators, the course is 525 yards long.  Primarily constructed for chariot races, as in the movie Ben Hur, the ends of this racing oval were marked by turning stones called metae which still sit in place.  The tight high-speed turns at the metae created the most exciting and dangerous part of the race, often leading to dramatic collisions and spills. Modern Tyrians use the hippodrome today as a jogging course.

It is hard to think about the rich historical connections Tyre and Sidon had with Scripture.  Outside of modern Israel, it is easy to forget that God specifically mentioned these cities as part of the Promised Land.

Even in the New Testament, Jesus and Paul took the time to minister to the people of these cities.  Not Israelite by population and pagan by religious practice, God continued to bring to them a witness of His love and power.