GEBAL (gē'băl, Heb. geval, border, Gr. Byblos, Biblos)

A seaport of Phoenicia, between Sidon and Tripolis; modern Jebeil, twenty-five miles (forty-two km.) north of Beirut. In the fifteenth century b.c. it was subject to Egypt. Its history included periods of independence alternating with subjection to successive empires. In Greek and Roman times it was called Byblos, from the manufacture of papyrus there. Josh.13.5-Josh.13.6 refers to the land of the Giblites or Gebalites, the land of Lebanon at the foot of Mount Hermon, as part of the land God gave to the children of Israel; God promised to drive out its inhabitants if Joshua would divide it by lot to the Israelites; but we have no record of his accepting the offer, and the Israelites never controlled Gebal. Expert stonemasonry was a major industry of Gebal (cf. 1Kgs.5.17-1Kgs.5.18, kjv “stonesquarers”). Shipbuilding was another, for Ezek.27.9 tells us that caulkers from Gebal worked on ships at Tyre. Skilled technologies, paper making, fine stonework, and seaworthy shipbuilding distinguished Gebal in addition to its raw materials and mass production.A land between the Dead Sea and Petra; modern Jibal in NE Edom. It was allied with Israel’s enemies (Ps.83.6-Ps.83.8).

GEBAL ge’ bəl (גְּבַל, H1488, boundary; Ugar. Gbl; Egyp. Kubni; Gr. Βύβλος; Akkad. Gubla); GEBALITES, gē’ bel īts; GIBLITES, KJV gĭb’ līts.

1. A Phoen. city on the Mediterranean N of Beirut, called Byblos by the Greeks; modern Jebeil. The inhabitants were called Gebalites (Giblites, KJV, Josh 13:5).

Once a flourishing port and trading center known to the Greco-Roman world as Byblos and to the Assyrians and Babylonians in earlier times as Gubla. Its most valuable export was pine and cedarwood from Lebanon. The city was also noted for shipbuilding and stonecutting.

Excavation began in 1921 at Gebal by Pierre Montet, later joined by Maurice Dunand. The work has revealed successive layers of occupation. Traces of ancient magnificence in the ruins of its wall, castle, and temple were uncovered. Occupation of the site has been traced to Neolithic times. By the latter half of the fifth millennium, villages were in existence all over W Asia, including Gebal. Remains have been found of a people in late Chalcolithic Gezer and Gebal of small, slender, bony structure, long-headed, and delicate of feature. They lived in rectangular or circular huts, used silver for personal ornaments, and buried their dead in large earthen pots.

Late in the fourth millennium, as the protoliterate culture flourished in Mesopotamia, there was widespread cultural exchange. Even at that early period, Egypt was in contact with Gebal. Seal impressions found there suggest that a major route of exchange lay through Pal. and Syria.

In c. 2800 b.c., fire swept through the city causing a setback in its progress, but it was reconstructed on an even grander scale. It was at this time that Egypt was experiencing her great classic flowering—the Old Kingdom period. She had not yet organized an Asiatic empire, but was already protecting her commercial interests there with military force. Gebal was virtually a colony during this period, supplying the cedars of Lebanon, which were of vital importance to Egypt. The temple of Baaltis in Gebal received votive offerings in great quantities from Egypt all through the Bronze Age.

Before the end of the third millennium, Canaanites in Gebal had developed a syllabic script modeled on the Egyp. hieroglyphics. A number of these inscrs. on copper have been found. The names of the kings at the end of the third millennium indicate that the rulers were Semites, prob. Amorites.

At the beginning of the second millennium, the most prosperous period of Egyp. history was about to begin—the Middle Kingdom period. Egypt enjoyed prosperity during the twelfth dynasty that was rarely matched in all her history. Most of Pal. and southern Phoenicia were under Egyp. control at this time. Gebal was an Egyp. colony. Objects found in tombs there bear the cartouches of rulers of the twelfth dynasty. The native princes wrote their names in Egyp. characters and vowed their loyalty to the Pharaoh.

As the Middle Kingdom was coming to an end (c. 1797 b.c.), the twelfth was followed by the weak thirteenth dynasty. There was a brief revival under Neferhotep I (c. 1740-1729), when nominal authority was exercised over Gebal.

During this period Mari reached its zenith (1730-1700) under Zimri-lim and had widespread trade with many cities, including Gebal.

Gebal is mentioned in the Amarna letters. King Rib-addi of Gebal sent more than fifty letters to the king of Egypt proclaiming his allegiance and complaining of imminent invasion by the Habiru. At the beginning of the reign of Rameses II (c. 1290-1224), Gebal was a border fortress for the Egyp. province of Canaan and in 1194 was destroyed by the Sea Peoples in their march on Egypt. A period of extreme Egyp. weakness followed, c. 1080, so that Gebal, which was almost as Egypt. as Egypt herself, received the royal representative, Wen-Amon with mockery and insolence, demanding cash for the trees he had been sent to acquire for constructing a sacred barge.

The sarcophagus of Ahirim of Gebal (c. 1000) was discovered with inscrs. of a Phoen. type script. These inscrs. use the twenty-two consonants of the Heb. alphabet and are written from right to left. The Gebalites were considered master builders and able seamen (1 Kings 5:18; Ezek 27:9). Joshua 13:5 mentions their land as not conquered.

Gebal paid tribute to a number of the Assyrian kings during their era of domination. Tribute was paid to Ashurnasirpal II (883-859), Tiglath-pileser III (745-727), Sennacherib (705-681), Esarhaddon (681-669), and Ashurbanipal (669-627). The Gebalites also were dominated in turn by the Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans. The remains of a castle built by the Crusaders in the 11th cent. a.d. are there.

2. A geographical area S of the Dead Sea, near Petra of Edom (Ps 83:7).


E. Robertson, “Jebeil,” EBr, XII (1957), 985; J. Bright, A History of Israel (1959); L. Cottrell, ed., The Concise Encyclopedia of Archaeology (1960), 123; M. Noth, The Old Testament World (1966), 213, 214; Y. Aharoni, The Land of the Bible (1967).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

(gebhal, "border"; Bublos, and Biblos; Byblus, modern Jebeil):

(1) An ancient Phoenician city, situated on a bluff of the foothills of Lebanon, overlooking the Mediterranean. It was one of the principal seaports of Phoenicia, and had a small but good harbor for small ships. It lies in lat. 34 degrees 8’, nearly, and about 4 miles North of the river Adonis (Nahr Ibrahim). It was regarded as a holy city by the ancients. Philo mentions the tradition that it was founded by Kronos, and was sacred to the worship of Beltis and, later, of Adonis, whose rites were celebrated yearly at the river of the same name and at its source in the mountain, at Apheca (see Tammuz). Gebal was the center of quite an extensive district, extending from the Eleutherus on the North to the Tamyras on the South, a distance of 60 or 70 miles along the coast. It is mentioned by Jos (13:5) as the land of the Gebalites (which see) (the King James Version "Giblites"), and the Gebalites are also mentioned in 1Ki 5:18 (Hebrew 32) as aiding in the construction of Solomon’s temple. The "elders" and the "wise men" of Gebal are among the workmen employed on Tyrian ships (Eze 27:9 the American Revised Version, margin). The earliest mention of Gebal found in history is in the Tell el-Amarna Letters, which were composed in the first half of the 14th century BC. It had become, in connection with all Phoenicia, a dependency of Egypt in the days of Thothmes III and was under Egyptian governors, but, in the reign of Amenhotep IV (Ikhnaton), the Hittites and Amorites from the North and Khabiri from the South attacked the territory of Gebal, and its governor wrote letters to Amenhotep, calling for help. There are over 60 of these, describing the desperate condition of the city and of its governor, Ribaddi, who was expelled and took refuge in Beirut, but afterward regained his capital only to be besieged and lose all his dependencies, and finally to fall into the hands of the enemy. Gebal afterward became independent, as is shown by the records of Ramses IX (1442-1423 BC) and of Ramses XII, for its king retained the emissaries of the former 17 years in captivity, and treated a trusted agent of the latter with scant civility. Its king at this time was Zakkar-Baal, and kings of Gebal are mentioned in the Assyrian records, one paying tribute to Ashurnazir-pal (circa 887 BC) and another to Sennacherib (705-680). The latter king was Uru-melek, and kings of Gebal are mentioned in connection with other Phoenician cities under Persian rule. The city submitted to Alexander the Great without opposition, and furnished a fleet to aid him in the siege of Tyre (332). Strabo refers to it as a town of note in the days of Pompey (xvi.2,17), and it is frequently mentioned in Phoenician (CIS, 1) and Assyrian inscriptions in the forms Gubal and Gubli (COT, I, 174).

(2) (gebhal; Gobolitis): A district Southeast of the Dead Sea, which is referred to in Ps 83:7 (Hebrew 8) in connection with Moab, Ammon, Amalek and others, as making a covenant together against Israel (compare 1 Macc 5). Robinson (BR, II, 154) found the name Jebal still applied to this region, and Josephus (Ant., II, i, 2) speaks of a Gebalitis as forming part of Idumaea. It is a hilly region, as the modern name signifies, and includes the towns of Shobek and Tolfieh.