donderdag 10 april 2014




Their overseas exploits and the gradual recovery of the material traces of their voyages has been the focus of much research on the Phoenicians. From that evidence, however, we will never be able to reconstruct more than a part of their culture, for the Phoenicians were more than just good sailors and clever traders. It is an irony, that almost none of the literature of the people who gave us the alphabet, has been preserved. Fragments of their poetry have survived in, for example, the biblical Song of Songs and in the Psalms. The mountains are described as “a fountain that makes the gardens fertile, a well of living water” (Song of Song 4:15). Even more evocative is the Phoenician poem embedded in Psalm 104 which speaks of the birds making their nests in the cedars which God planted and the streams breaking out of the ravines. In that Psalm, the creator lives in a palace above the mountains – the thunder is his voice, the clouds his chariot, and the winds his messengers. Those are the Phoenician images that still survive in the religious consciousness of the West.

There can no longer be any doubt that the Bible has preserved some of the best in Phoenician literature, especially lyric and gnomic poetry. Without the powerful influence of the Canaanite literacy tradition, we should lack much of the perennial appeal exerted by Hebrew poetic style and prosody, poetic imagery and vivid description of natural phenomena. Through the Bible the entire civilized world has fallen heir to Phoenician literary art.


See: W.F.Albright, From Stone Age to Christianity, Baltimore, 1940.

And: S.J.Mitchell Dahood gives a lot of examples of Phoenician poetry in the Bible texts in his publication “The Phoenician contribution to Biblical Wisdom Literature.” In the paper “The role of the Phoenicians in the interaction of Mediterranean Civilizations” by W.A.Ward.

And: Edmond Jacob goes even further back in history, when he points out the Ugaritic wisdom and the comparisons with the Bible in: “Ras Sjamra – Ugarit en het Oude Testament, Callenbach, Nijkerk, 1962.