Editorial -- By: Gary A. Byers

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 15:4 (Fall 2002)
Article: Editorial
Author: Gary A. Byers


Editorial

Lebanon, Syria and the Bible

Gary A. Byers

During the spring of 2001, I was part of an Associates for Bible Research team that visited Lebanon and Syria. It had been almost 30 years since my last visit as a college student to both countries, and I have very few recollections of sites in either place. Thirty years older and wiser, what I was able to see was wonderful!

While the modern state of Lebanon came into existence in 1946, that land was a significant part of the ancient Near East from the beginning. Yet, like ancient Canaan,1 the city-states of Phoenicia never united into one kingdom. Neither the Phoenician alphabet nor Mediterranean seafaring and trade could overcome the region’s geography. Almost every major city on the coast was a seaport, separated from the rest of the country by the Lebanon mountains.

Today, one of the modern world’s smallest countries, Lebanon’s major cities are also located on its narrow Mediterranean coastal strip. Inland are the Lebanon (west) and Anti-Lebanon (east) mountain ranges, with the Beqa’ Valley situated between them.

We visited the Phoenician coastal sites, the Lebanon mountains and sites in the Beqa’ Valley. Excavations exposed significant ruins and a number of the sites had been developed for tourism. The only disappointment was that most sites were not excavted down to Phoenician and Canaanite levels. For one reason, the sites continued to be inhabited through the centuries to the present. Another problem was the lack of resources and opportunity to excavate over the past 25 years, due to the civil war. Finally, the Greek and Roman remains were so spectacular at many sites that the decision was made not to go deeper.

Lebanon came into existence only in the mid-20th century. When the Ottoman Turkish empire was dismantled as a result of World War I, the newly created League of Nations placed the region of today’s Lebanon and Syria under the control of France in 1920. After World War II, France reluctantly gave Lebanon its independence in 1946. Lebanon has been governed by a parliamentary government ever since. Historically more pro-Western than its Arab neighbors, this has often caused Lebanon difficulty. In fact, the country has spent much of the past two decades dealing with the occupation of foreign troops, most notably Israelis and Syrians. The Israeli army completed its pullout of southern Lebanon in May 2000, just one year before our visit.

Syrian troops still occupy parts of Lebanon, even parts of the capital city, Beirut. Although the Syrian troops are very unpopular with the Lebanese people and condemned by the Lebanese government, the country ...

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