TYRE AND SIDON
Tyre and Sidon are twenty miles apart and are now in Lebanon, north of Galilee. The inhabitants of Sidon must be the descendants of Sidon, who was the firstborn son of Canaan, the grandson of Noah (Gen 10:15). Saida in Arabic means “fishing.” Sidon was the northern border of the ancient Canaanites (Gen 10:19). Tyre is twenty miles south of Sidon and built on a rock island on the east coast of the Mediterranean sea. The name Tyre came from the Semitic word “sr” meaning rock.
Tyre and Sidon were the principal cities of Phoenicia, which lay on the coast of Galilee. Though Joshua had allotted these cities also to the tribe of Asher (Josh 19:28-29) during the conquest of Canaan, the Israelites never conquered the people there (Judg 1:31-32). “So the Israelites settled among the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. They took their daughters in marriage, and gave their own daughters to their sons in marriage, and served their gods” (Judg 3:5-6).
Tyre had a significant contribution to providing supplies and personnel for the construction of the palace of David in Jerusalem. “Hiram, king of Tyre, sent envoys to David along with cedar wood, and carpenters and masons, who built a house for David” (2 Sam 5:11). “The Sidonians and Tyrians brought great stores of cedar logs to David” (1 Chr 22:4).
The Assyrians attacked the ten tribes of Israel around 740 BC and exiled them to various parts of their empire. The tribe of Asher was also among the lost ten tribes of Israel. Jeremiah (27:3–11) and Ezekiel (26:7–14) had prophesied the surrender of Tyre and Sidon to Nebuchadnezzar. The Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar besieged Tyre for 13 years (585–572 BC).
After returning from the Babylonian exile, when the Jews started construction of the second Temple in Jerusalem (521-516 BC) under the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah, they sought the help from Tyre and Sidon for construction materials for the Temple. “Then they hired stonecutters and carpenters, and sent food and drink and oil to the Sidonians and Tyrians that they might ship cedar trees from the Lebanon to the port of Joppa, as Cyrus, king of Persia, had authorized” (Ezr 3:7).
ANNA FROM THE TIBE OF ASHER
Anna, the prophetess who met the Holy Family at the Temple at the presentation of Infant Jesus, was from the tribe of Asher (Lk 2:34). Asher was Jacob’s eighth son from Zilpah, Leah’s maid and Jacob’s concubine (Gen 30:12-13). This tribe was one among the 10 Northern tribes that fell into idolatrous worship (2 Kgs 17:16). So, God withdrew his support, and the Assyrians attacked and dispersed the Northern Kingdom in 722 BC. A very few faithful from the ten tribes had migrated to the south so they could continue to worship the true God in the Temple. However, they had to sacrifice many of their family members, friends, land, and inheritance. Anna’s family was one among such exemplary people who wanted to continue their faithfulness to the true God.
The tribe of Asher did not conquer Tyre and Sidon and expel the Canaanites from them. Instead, they made peace with them and lived together and had inter-marriages. That led to idolatrous worship. When the Israel split into North and South, few families migrated to the South for worship of the true God of Israel. Their sacrifices were worth to gain blessings from God. Let us be faithful to Jesus even at the expense of the comforts and worldly achievements to attain the eternal reward.