TYRE (tīr, Heb. tsôr, a rock, Gr. Tyros). A Phoenician port south of Sidon and north of Carmel. Phoenicia itself is a coastal strip backed by mountains, and Tyre was further defended by rocky promontories (one of them the famous “Ladder of Tyre”), which effectively hampered invasion. Herodotus dates the foundation as early as 2740 b.c., Josephus as late as 1217. Isaiah (23:2, 12) implies that Tyre was a colony of Sidon, and Homer’s mention of “Sidonian wares,” without reference to Tyre, seems to confirm the greater antiquity of the former city. The Tell El Amarna Letters, apparently refuting Josephus’s date, contain an appeal from the ruler of Tyre, dated 1430, imploring help from Amenhotep IV against the invading Habiri. Joshua assigned Tyre to Asher, but in all probability the city was not occupied (Josh.19.29; 2Sam.24.7).

An obscure period of some four centuries follows, and Tyre emerges into history again with the name of Hiram, friend of David (2Sam.5.11). This able monarch seems to have rebuilt and fortified Tyre, taking within its boundaries nearby islands and providing the city with two harbors. The trade of Tyre at this time included the exploitation of the cedar forests of the Lebanon range. “Tyrian purple,” the product of the murex shellfish, was also a famous export. In addition, the cedar forests provided material for the famous Phoenician galleys. Accepting the challenge of the sea, the one road to wealth for the narrow little land, the Tyrians, like the rest of their kinfolk, ranged far and wide in the search for the precious shellfish and the metals in which they traded. The copper of Cyprus, the silver of Spain, and the tin of Cornwall were carried in Tyrian ships. Under Solomon, who inherited the partnership with Hiram, the Hebrews participated in Tyrian commerce, provided a southern port at Ezion Geber on the Gulf of Aqabah, and shared the trade with Ophir and the East. It was probably the loss of this southern outlet to the Red Sea and the East at the division of Israel after Solomon that stimulated the Tyrian exploration of the coast of Africa and led ultimately to the circumnavigation of the continent. Dynastic troubles followed Hiram’s death. A certain Ethbaal emerged victorious after the assassination of his brother. It was Ethbaal’s daughter Jezebel who became Ahab’s notorious queen (1Kgs.16.31). Renewed troubles after Ethbaal’s death led to the emigration of Elissa, the Dido of Vergil’s Aeneid IV, and to the founding of Carthage.

During the two hundred years of Assyrian aggression, Tyre suffered with the rest of the Middle East but, owing to the strength of her position and her sea power, maintained a measure of independence over much of the troubled era. She broke free from Nineveh a generation before the last stronghold of the Assyrians fell (606 b.c.). These years were the greatest years of Tyrian glory. Ezekiel’s account (Ezek.27.1-Ezek.27.36-Ezek.28.1-Ezek.28.26), set though it is in a context of denunciation and prophecy of ruin, gives a vivid picture of the power and wealth of the great trading port. Ruin eventually came. Babylon succeeded Assyria, and although Tyre seems successfully to have resisted the long siege of Nebuchadnezzar, the strain of her resistance to Babylon and the damage to her commerce brought the city to poverty. She briefly fell under the power of Egypt and then became a dependency of Babylon, a status she held until Babylon fell to Persia. Persia inherited Babylon’s rule. Ezra.3.7 contains an order of Cyrus II to Tyre to supply cedar for the restoration of the temple in Jerusalem. Cambyses II conscripted a Tyrian fleet against Egypt, and Tyrian ships fought on the Persian side against the Greeks at Salamis. In 332, in the course of his conquest of the East, Alexander appeared before Tyre. The island stronghold closed her gates, and Alexander was forced to build a causeway. After long months of frustration, he took the city by costly storming. Tyre was broken, and the causeway still remains, now as a place, as Ezekiel foretold, on which fishermen dry their nets (Ezek.26.5, Ezek.26.14; Ezek.47.10). Tyre made a measure of political recovery, and for a period functioned as a republic. She struck an early treaty with Rome, and her independence was respected until 20, when Augustus withdrew it. Her remaining history is without significance.——EMB


TYRE tīr (צֹ֔ר, rock; Τύρος, G5602). A famous port of the Phoenicians, some twenty-five m. S from the sister port of Sidon and fifteen m. N of the Lebanese border with Israel. It is a natural geographical frontier. Behind Tyre, the high coherent spine of the Lebanon Range is already broken down into the confused hill country that continues S to form the uplands of Galilee, and then, with the sole break of the Esdraelon Plain, to build the hill country of Ephraim and Judah. A dozen m. S of Tyre, a seaward thrust of hills and promontories forms a natural wall. It marks the modern border, a score of m. S of which lies the great Israeli port of Haifa. Both Tyre and Sidon still function as ports, but the ruins of Tyre are far more extensive and the subject of major archeological investigation and excavation.

The Gr. historian Herodotus (c. 490-430 b.c.) dates the foundation of Tyre as early as 2740 b.c.; Josephus, as late as 1217 b.c. Such wide discrepancy throws suspicion on both figures. Herodotus is more likely to be correct, but the missing factor in all such dating is the exact time of the coming of the Phoenicians to the coastal strip between the Lebanon mountains and the coast. Excavation at more than one point of settlement on the coast reveals a Neolithic layer under the mass of Phoen. remains, themselves heavily overlaid by the structures of Greeks, Romans, and sometimes Crusaders, a phenomenon visible from Byblos to Tyre. The Phoenicians, like the Greeks, were not a national unit, and never achieved anything like unity. Like the Greeks they were organized in city states, and rival claimants in historical tradition might fix varied points for a city’s significant beginning; hence, the discrepancy.

Isaiah (23:2, 12) seems to imply that Tyre was a colony of Sidon. She was a “daughter of Sidon” according to the prophet, and the phrase “Sidonian goods” in Homer might imply that Sidon was the more ancient city. “Then she went down to her fragrant chamber where were her embroidered robes, the work of Sidonian women, whom Alexandros himself brought from Sidon when he sailed over the wide sea” (Iliad 6. 288-290). Homer mentions Sidon several times, but not Tyre. In Lat. authors, the adjective “Sidonian” is often attached to Tyre. Dido, for example, daughter of Belus of Tyre, is called by Vergil “Sidonian Dido.” The Tell-el-Amarna letters, which at least precede Josephus’ date, contain an appeal from the local governor of Tyre, which must be dated about 1430 b.c., asking for help against the invading “Habiri.” Whoever these invaders were, the appeal addressed to Amenhetep IV shows that Egyp. power, having penetrated so far N, was wavering on the Phoen. coast, its strength too far extended. Joshua assigned Tyre to the tribe of Asher, but it does not appear likely that the Heb. invasion reached so northern a locality (Josh 19:29; 2 Sam 24:7).

There are no clear records over the next three or four centuries, but history becomes sharp and definite with Hiram, king of Tyre, the friend of David. Hiram seems to have enjoyed an extraordinarily long reign, for he is mentioned first when he sent cedar and craftsmen to David (2 Sam 5:11). He did the same for Solomon (1 Kings 5:1). Tyre seems to have been the center of Phoen. power at the time, for the Sidonians are described in the same context where Hiram’s servants and masons of Gebal, the ancient Byblos, are also listed. This town is twenty-five m. N of Beirut. It is interesting to note that Ethbaal, reputed to be a grandson of Hiram, is called a cent. later, “King of the Sidonians” (1 Kings 16:31). Power would appear to have oscillated between the two great ports. The canny Hiram profited greatly from the partnership with Israel. As the famous papyrus of Wenamon shows, the princes of the Phoenicians were preeminently businessmen, and it is clear that Solomon gravely embarrassed Israel by his heavy payments of wheat and oil (1 Kings 5:11), his supply of manpower for the Tyrian lumbering, and his unwise surrender of twenty Galilaean centers of population to the northern power (1 Kings 9:10-13). Hiram, however, later expressed his dissatisfaction with the Galilee acquisitions, and it is possibly an indication that Solomon had exercised a certain native shrewdness.

Together the two monarchs established a trade partnership based on the Gulf of Akaba, to the N of which Solomon had his oresmelting plants. Hiram was glad to trade Phoen. skill in shipbuilding and navigation for ready access across Heb. territory to the Red Sea and the trade routes to Ophir, India, and Ceylon.

In addition to the cedar timber, which was the first occasion of the commercial contacts with Israel, Tyre also traded in the incomparable crimson dye made from the murex shellfish on her coast. Timber, dye, dyed cloth, a mighty carrying trade, her cargoes of tin and tin ore from Cornwall, silver from Spain, and copper from Cyprus made the Tyre of Hiram one of the great commercial cities of the ancient world.

As far as the fragmentary record can be pieced together, it would appear that grave dynastic strife followed the stability of Hiram’s long reign. The shift of power to Sidon under Ethbaal has been noted above. It was the daughter of Ethbaal who became Ahab’s notorious queen, Jezebel, a dynastic marriage of convenience, which marked the transfer to the northern kingdom of the now sundered Heb. people, the profitable trading partnership that Solomon had established and exploited. Tyre and Phoenicia generally were poor in agricultural land, and the primary products of Israel were the natural exchange for her luxury goods.

Throughout the long two centuries of Assyrian domination in the Middle E, Tyre had her share in common with other communities of aggression and strife, but her naval power and her almost impregnable position on her offshore island gave her a measure of immunity. It is significant that she contrived to break free from the dominance of Nineveh a generation before that last stronghold of the Assyrian imperialist kings fell in the closing decade of the 7th cent. b.c. The date was either 612 or 606 b.c. This was another Golden Age of Tyrian affluence and power. Ezekiel’s chapters (Ezek. 27; 28) of stern denunciation give a striking picture of the wealth, might, and varied trade that gathered around the Phoen. port. When Babylon succeeded Nineveh as the great aggressor of the Middle E, Tyre resisted Nebuchadnezzar, but the strain of the long siege, the drain of her wealth and manpower, and the disruption of her commerce over this period of war ended the dominance of the great Phoen. port.

Tyre appears to have endured a time of dependence upon Egypt, then the rule of Babylon, and then that of Persia, which succeeded to Babylon’s empire and pattern of command. Ezra (3:7) quotes an order of Cyrus II to Tyre to supply cedar for the restoration of the Temple in Jerusalem, which the Pers. monarch had sanctioned. Lebanon cedar at this time must have been increasingly scarce. The mountain forests had already suffered at least seven centuries of exploitation. Seafaring, however, remained a Tyrian expertise, and there is evidence that the mad Cambyses II conscripted a Tyrian fleet for his assault on Egypt, and that Tyrian galleys also sailed with the ill-fated Pers. expedition against Greece, which the Greeks shattered at Salamis in 480 b.c.

In 332 b.c., in the course of his march through the crumbling Pers. empire, Alexander appeared before Tyre, and the city, confident in her strong position, closed her gates against the small Macedonian army. The siege that followed became one of the epic stories of military history. Alexander built a causeway across the narrow strait, which still remains the core of the wedge-shaped promontory that to this day attaches the ancient island site of Tyre to the mainland. The modern town occupies the shore and the artificial isthmus. It was only by this vast engineering feat and the costly assault at the end that Alexander took Tyre. Ezekiel’s prophecy came true, and the great city became a drying place for the nets of fishermen (Ezek 26:5, 14; 47:10).

The site, however, retained its old prestige, and Tyre made a measure of recovery and functioned for a time as a republic. She recognized the rising star of Rome, established early political relations with the Republic and retained her independence until Augustus and the Empire. When the prince absorbed Tyre into his provincial system in 20 b.c., the city disappeared from history.

The remains, uncovered with some care, are extensive and the stratification reads like a history of the whole crowded and historic coast. The ruin of Phoen. docks and warehouses lies beneath the building of Greeks and Romans. An odd feature of the Gr. period is an oblong theater, unique in the Mediterranean world. A fine 1st-cent. pavement, a mosaic-floored street of shops and colonnades, has special interest for it dates from the time when Christ, following the hill paths from Galilee, visited the Phoen. coast. He might have trod this pavement on His further journey N. Today the hostile frontier lies across His path.


CAH, I (1924); II (1926); III (1925); IV (1926).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

(tsowr. tsor, "rock"’ Turos, "Tyrus"; modern Sur):

1. Physical Features:

The most noted of the Phoenician cities situated on the coast, lat. 33ø 17 minutes, about 20 miles South of Sidon and about 35 North of Carmel. The date of its foundation is uncertain, but it was later than that of Sidon. It is mentioned in the travels of the Egyptian Mohar, dating probably from the 14th century BC, and in the Tell el-Amarna Letters of about the same period. Herodotus describes the temple of Hercules at Tyre and says it was built 2,300 years before his time, which would carry back the beginning of the city to more than 2700 BC. It was a double city, one part on an island, a short distance from the shore, and the other on the mainland opposite. The island city had two harbors, connected by a canal, one looking North and the other South. The island was rocky and the city was fortitled on the land side by a wall 150 ft. high, the wall being of less elevation on the other sides. It was an exceedingly strong position, and is referred to in the Bible as the "strong" or "fortitled" city (Jos 19:29). The space within the walls was crowded with buildings, and is said to have contained 40,000 inhabitants. The town on the mainland was situated in a plain extending from the Ras el-`Abyad, on the South to Sarepta on the North, a distance of about 20 miles. It was fertile and well watered, the river Leontes (Litany) passing through it to the sea, about 5 miles N. of Tyre, and the copious fountain of Ras el-`Ain, 3 miles to the South, furnishing an abundant supply both for the city and the gardens.

2. History:

(1) Tyre was for centuries subordinate to Sidon, but when the Philistines subdued the latter city, probably in the 12th century. (see Sidon), Tyre received an accession of inhabitants from the fugitives which gave it the pre-eminence. From this time dates its great commercial and colonial activity. Its mariners pushed boldly out to the West and founded colonies in Spain and North Africa, some of which, like Gades, Abdera and Carthage, became famous. They extended their commerce more widely than Sidon had ever done and ventured into the Atlantic and reached the coasts of Britain and West Africa. They reached out to the East also, and had their ships in the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean, and their land routes threaded all Western Asia (see Phoenicia). Tyre, like all the Phoenician cities, became subject to Egypt under Thothmes III in the first half of the 15th century BC, and remained so for some 300 years, but it enjoyed practical autonomy under native kings, being only subject to tribute and to furnishing contingents of ships when the Egyptian kings made their expeditions to the North. In the Tell el-Amarna Letters, dating from the first half of the 14th century, we find a certain Abi-melek (or Abi-milki) writing from Tyre to the king of Egypt asking for aid against the Amorite leader, Aziru, and the king of Sidon, who had joined the rebels. The name is Phoenician, and we know that it was the policy of the Egyptian kings to leave the native dynasts on the throne.

(2) After the decline of Egypt, Tyre regained her independence and exercised the hegemony over most of the Phoenician towns, at least as far North as Gebal (Byblus), as appears in the control that Hiram had over the Lebanon forests in the time of David and Solomon. Hiram was evidently desirous of an alliance with Israel, since he sent messengers to David and furnished cedar and workmen to build him a house, apparently without solicitation. The friendly connection between the two kingdoms was advantageous to both, since David and Solomon needed the timber and the skilled artisans that Hiram could furnish, and Hiram needed the food products of the land of Israel (1Ki 5). Tyre was at this time noted for the skill of its artificers, and its manufactured products were famous throughout the world (see nodetitle, 4). The purple dye and works in bronze were especially famous, and Hiram, the Tyrian artisan, was engaged by Solomon to cast the bronzes required for the temple (1Ki 7:13 ). Hiram, the king, enlarged and beautified his capital. He united the two small islands on which the city was built by filling up the space between, where he made an open square and built a splendid temple to Melkarth and Astarte. He engaged in commercial enterprises with Solomon (1Ki 9:26-28; 10:22), both in pursuance of the friendly alliance and also for the advantage of having the use of the port of Ezion-geber on the Red Sea. His brilliant reign lasted 43 years.

(3) The list of kings who succeeded him contains the names of Baal-azar, Abd-ashtoreth, murdered by his brothers, the eldest of whom succeeded him, followed by Astartus and Aserymus murdered by his brother, Pheles, who was overthrown by the high priest Eth-baal, showing how disturbed the period was. Eth-baal, or Ithobal, was the king who made an alliance with Ahab and gave him Jezebel, his daughter, in marriage, which proved most disastrous both to her and the country because of the introduction of the Baal-worship into Israel. Eth-baal was an energetic monarch, and is said to have rounded Botrys (Batrun). He reigned 32 years, and was followed by Badezor and Mattan, who gave his daughter, Elissa (Dido), in marriage to her uncle Sicharbas and transferred the throne to them; but they were set aside by an uprising of the people, and Pygmalion, son of Mattan, was placed on the throne, and Sicharbas put to death. Elissa fled with a party of nobles, by sea, to Africa and founded the city of Carthage. This happened about the middle of the 9th century BC, Josephus putting it at 860 BC.

(4) In the first half of this century Tyre became subject to Assyria, and her hegemony in Phoenicia came to an end, but her prosperity was not seriously checked as we may infer from Isa 23:8, which was written a century or so later. Assyria was satisfied with the payment of tribute until the time of Tiglath-pileser III (745-727), who laid a heavier hand upon her, and this led Elulaeus, king of Tyre, to form a confederacy of the Phoenician cities against Assyria. Shalmaneser IV subdued all except Tyre, which he distressed by cutting off her water-supply. But the people dug wells and obtained enough to subsist upon for five years, when Shalmaneser was killed and Elulaeus recovered control of his territory. He was not molested by Sargon, but Sennacherib advanced against him with 200,000 men, and Elulaeus fled to Cyprus. The citizens made a successful resistance and Sennacherib did not take Tyre, but it submitted to Esar-haddon, and its king, Baal, obtained the special favor of the Assyrian king, who made him ruler of all the coast cities from Dor to Gebal, and the Lebanon was placed under his control (680-673 BC). It is rather surprising that Baal refused to assist him in his attack upon Egypt and that Esar-haddon did not punish him, probably because he was too much occupied with Egypt. Ashur-banipal, however, did compel him to submit and to give him his daughter, and those of his brothers, as secondary wives, but left him as king of Tyre.

(5) On the decline of Assyria, Tyre regained its independence, and its greatness is indicated by the fact that it resisted Nebuchadnezzar 13 years (598-585); it is uncertain whether the island city was taken, but it evidently came to terms with the king of Babylon (compare Eze 27:26; Josephus, Ant, X, xi, 1 and see The Expository Times, 1899, pp. 378, 430, 475, 520). After this siege Sidon took the lead and Tyre was in a disturbed state: the monarchy was overthrown and suffetes, or judges, took its place for six years, when the old order was restored. The decline of Babylon enabled Tyre to regain her independence for a short period until its submission to the Persians about 525 BC, and thenceforth it was a vassal state during the continuance of the Persian empire.

(6) It was by no means hindered in its commercial prosperity, and its great strength is seen in the brave and energetic resistance it made to Alexander the Great. All Phoenicia submitted to him without resistance, and Tyre was willing to admit his suzerainty, but declined to receive him into the city. This so angered Alexander that he at once commenced a siege that proved the most difficult undertaking in all his wars. He had no fleet and was obliged to build a mole (causeway) from the mainland to the island, but before he could finish it the Tyrians destroyed it and beat back their assailants handily. Alexander had to do the work all over again, and since he was convinced that without a fleet he would not be able to take the city, he procured ships from the Phoenician towns that had submitted, and with the aid of these was able to blockade the port and prevent the besieged from issuing forth to destroy the new causeway. This was at length pushed up to the very wall of the city, which was finally breached, and the troops of Alexander forced their way in. But even then the defenders would not yield, and the king himself had to lead the assault upon them with his bodyguard and put them all to the sword. Those who died with arms in their hands were 8,000, and the survivors, women, children and slaves, to the number of 30,000, were sold in the open market. He placed over the ruined city, into which he introduced some colonists, a certain Abd-elonim, and left it after having spent about seven months in subduing it.

(7) After the death of Alexander, Tyre passed into the hands of Ptolemy Lagi, and when Antigonus, in 314 BC, took Phoenicia from him, Tyre resisted, and he had to blockade it 15 months before it would yield, showing how quickly it had recovered from its previous disaster. It became a part of the Seleucid kingdom when Antiochus III drove the Ptolemies from Syria (198 BC), and the Seleucid kings regarded it of importance and gave it the right of asylum, and it was allowed the status of a free city by the Romans, Antony recognizing the magistrates and council of Tyre as allies. When the Parthians attacked and took Syria, in 40 BC, Tyre would not submit and was left untouched, being too strong for them. Augustus deprived it of its freedom, but it was given the status of a "metropolis" by Hadrian, and this title appears on its coins.

(8) Tyre is mentioned in the New Testament several times: Christ visited its territory (Mt 15:21; Mr 7:24), and people from there came to hear Him (Lu 6:17). Herod Agrippa I had trouble with Tyre, and a deputation came to visit him at Caesarea (Ac 12:20). Paul visited Tyre on his journey from Asia to Jerusalem (Ac 21:6-7).

Christianity was accepted by the people of Tyre, so that the 2nd century AD saw a bishopric established there, and in the 4th a council was held there to consider charges against Athanasius, by the party of Arius; he was condemned, a decision which brought the Tyrian church into disrepute. Tyre was already obnoxious to Christians because the anti-Christian philosopher Porphyry was from there. Tyre continued a commercial center, and Jerome says that it was the noblest and most beautiful of the Phoenician cities and an emporium of commerce for almost the whole world (Commentary on Ezekiel). It was of considerable importance in the Crusades and continued so until toward the end of the 13th century, when its trade declined, and it has now dwindled to a town of some 5,000 inhabitants. For "literature" see nodetitle.