November 3, 2008
Steve Collins
Several readers have sent me links about a scientific survey indicating that as many as 1 in every 17 men in several Mediterranean locations has a DNA marker identifying them as being descended from the ancient Phoenicians. As many readers know, my books identify the Phoenician Empire in its glory days from 1100-700 BC as being the alliance of the Israelites with the smaller city-states of Tyre, Sidon, etc. located on the modern Lebanese coast. Let’s review this period before commenting on the links. The Bible mentions this alliance was firmly established by King David of the United Kingdom of Israel and King Hiram of Tyre circa 1000 BC (II Samuel 5:11-12, I Chronicles 14:1-2). The alliance became a multi-generational one when King Hiram confirmed the alliance with David’s son, King Solomon (I Kings 5:1-2). Under Kings Hiram and Solomon, the alliance of the Israelite tribes with Tyre became very close. I Kings 5 states that the two groups had many tens of thousands of laborers working in each other’s nations and I Kings 5:6 indicates that the Sidonians were also a part of this alliance. After the great Israelite civil war, the northern ten tribes of Israel remained allied with the Phoenicians while Judah generally went an independent way.
In the 9th century BC, the royal houses of Israel and Sidon intermarried when King Ahab of Israel married a Sidonian princess named Jezebel (with disastrous results due to the Baal-worship that infiltrated Israel from Tyre and Sidon). During this time, the “Phoenician” navy reigned supreme on the world’s oceans, blocking the Greeks and others from many regions of international maritime commerce. When King Ahab was searching for Elijah, I Kings 18:10 relates that King Ahab “took an oath” from the kings of all nations that they had searched for Elijah in their nations and not found him. If Ahab had been a king of a petty shepherd kingdom, he would not have had this kind of “clout.” However, because Ahab was the titular head of the Phoenician Empire, any nation which angered King Ahab risked being cut off from international maritime commerce. The Israelites, and the people of Tyre and Sidon had commingled their navies into one unit as early as the time of King Solomon (I Kings 9:26-28, 10:11, 22-23), bringing great riches to those in the Phoenician alliance. Even the Kingdom of Judah briefly had a queen named Athaliah who was descended from King Ahab and Queen Jezebel (II Kings 8:25-26, 11:1-21), again with disastrous results. However, these unions do show how extensive the ties were between the Israelite tribes and the city-states of Tyre and Sidon long after Solomon died.
When the kingdom of Israel’s ten tribes went into exile, Tyre and Sidon reverted to smaller-power status as the “Phoenician” alliance no longer had Israel’s larger manpower to sustain their “great power” status in the ancient world. However, the Phoenician Empire had previously established many colonies around the Mediterranean Sea, in Europe and the British Isles and even the New World. One link below notes that the Phoenicians founded the great city of Carthage, which actually called itself by a Hebrew name, “Kirjath Hadeshath.” Carthage also was ruled by “Shophetim” (Hebrew for Judges) and had a language based on Hebrew. Carthage began as a mostly Israelite colony, with many residents also having origins in Tyre and Sidon. Carthage was a dominant city in the Mediterranean until the Punic Wars with Rome. Carthage fell in 146 BC, but its Punic culture continued in North Africa for many centuries because when Carthage fell, its rule had become so oppressive that Utica and other Punic cities joined the Romans and were part of the Roman Empire thereafter. Evidence of the surviving Israelite/Phoenician/Carthaginian presence in North Africa is found in the New Testament. The Roman Punic region of North Africa was known as Cyrenaica. Acts 6:9 mentions Cyrenians and Simon of Cyrene was forced to carry the cross of Christ (Mark 15:20-21). Simon and the Cyrenians were from the Carthaginian/Punic region of the Roman Empire.
The links below note that DNA evidence was examined in modern men in Syria, Palestine, Tunisia, Morocco, Cyprus and Malta. These were all areas where the ancient Israelite/Phoenician empire was strong, and the latter four regions had a strong Carthaginian dominance or presence for many more centuries. These facts make it believable that a residual Phoenician/Carthaginian population would still be in a number of Mediterranean regions. This DNA study also affirms how widespread was the empire and influence of the ancient Phoenician and Carthaginian Empires.
It must be noted that the ten tribes of Israel scattered into many different nations when they went into exile from the Promised Land. The Bible specifically mentions the tribes of Gad, Reuben, Naphtali, half of Manasseh and a portion of Ephraim went into Assyrian Mesopotamia as captives. My books make the case that the remaining tribes of the ancient Kingdom of Israel remained free by choosing either to migrate via ships to the extensive network of Phoenician colonies (Carthage, Iberia/Spain, Celtic Europe, the British Isles, etc.) or migrating overland to the Black Sea region where they became known as “Sacae” Scythians (named after “Isaac”). Daniel 9:7 confirms that the ten tribes were not all in the region of Mesopotamia (where they were ruled by Assyria, Babylon and Persia). In this verse, Daniel states that the ten tribes of “Israel” were then residing in many countries, some of which were “far off” from Daniel’s Persian location. The “Phoenician” DNA markers found in various Mediterranean regions are a result of the ancient Phoenician colonists and Carthaginian residents who lived in these regions. However, they do not represent the main body of Israelites who migrated out of the ancient kingdom of Israel into Asia, Europe, the British Isles, etc.