Ladder of Tyre

LADDER OF TYRE (̔Η κλίμαξ Τύρου). That narrow strip of coastal alluvial plain about five m. wide and a few hundred ft. above the Mediterranean Sea, located between Tyre and the coastal town of Achzib where the Galilee hills come down almost to the sea.

This narrow strip of coast, near the present Israeli-Lebanese border, is marked by a series of intermittent low hills of Pleistocene limestone. No doubt, this narrow ledge made it difficult for any invader (or, caravan) to pass from N to S, or vice versa.

The term, “Ladder of Tyre,” is not found in the canonical OT and NT, but it occurs in the Apocryphal 1 Maccabees 11:59 where Antiochus VI is said to have confirmed Jonathan, the Jew, as high priest, and his brother Simon as captain over the area from the Ladder of Tyre in the N to the borders of Egypt in the S.

Josephus (War II. 88) also refers to the Ladder and locates it at between eleven and twelve m. N of Rom. Ptolemais (the same as Accho) which would place it at about the present day Ras en-Naqura.


D. Baly, The Geography of the Bible (1957), 8, 39, 128; Y. Aharoni, The Land of the Bible, tr. A. F. Rainey (1967), 21, 171.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

(He klimax (apo tes klimakos) Turou): Not mentioned in the Old Testament or the New Testament, but in Apocrypha (1 Macc 11:59), where it is said that nodetitle, after having confirmed Jonathan in the high-priesthood, appointed his brother Simon captain over the territory included between the nodetitle and the borders of Egypt. The Ladder has been located at different points on the coast between Tyre and Acre, such as the Ras el-`Abyadh ("Promontorium Album" of the ancient geographers), about 7 miles South of Tyre, and Ras en-Naqurah, about 6 miles farther South, and Ras el-Musheirifeh, a little farther on. These are capes jutting westward into the sea from the ridge which runs parallel to the general line of the coast. These capes project more than a mile into the sea, and present a very bold and precipitous front from 200 to 300 ft. in height. The ascent on either side of the promontory is very steep, and at Ras el-`Abyadh steps were cut in the white rock, which led to the identification of this point with the Ladder, but a reference to Josephus (B J, II, x, 2) leads to a different conclusion. He locates it 100 stadia North of Acre, which corresponds fairly well with the southern limit of the whole promontory, which is about 12 miles North of Acre, but not at all with Ras el-`Abyadh. The altitude of el Musheirifeh is greater than that of el-`Abyadh and may have had steps cut in it similar to the latter. It is more probable that the Ladder of Tyre was here, or at en-Naqurah, but the term applied to the whole promontory, which offered a serious obstacle to the passage of armies, or even caravans, since the approach is precipitous on either side, and at Ras el-`Abyadh the road skirts the edge of a sheer precipice, where a misstep would hurl one into the sea some 200 ft. below. The application of the term to the whole promontory seems to be indicated by Josephus, since he speaks of it as one of the mountains which encompass the plain of Ptolemais (Acre) and the highest of all. This would not be true of any one of the three capes mentioned, but would be if the hills behind, which form their base, were included. That it was designated as the Ladder of Tyre rather than of Acre was probably due to the fact that the promontory is nearer the former city (see Thomson, LB, II, edition 1882; SWP, name-lists, under the word).

Given. in 1 Macc 11:59 as the northern limit of the territory placed under the authority of Simon Thassi the Maccabee by nodetitle (Theos), in the year 143 BC. The statement of Josephus (B J, II, x, 2) that it was 100 furlongs North of Ptolemais, and a similar indication of position in the Jerusalem Talmud (Ab Zar 19) lead us to identify it with Ras-en-Naqurah and not with Ras-el-`Abyad (Promontorium Album of Pliny), as has been done. Here the rugged hills of Upper Galilee descend in bold precipices to the sea and leave no beach between. A natural barrier is thus formed which prevented the histories of Israel and Tyre from ever touching one another except in peaceful relations.