The nation we know as Lebanon was called Phoenicia by the Greeks and originally extended along the Mediterranean coast from just north of Megiddo in Israel to Latakia, about 200 miles northwest of Damascus. The people were most likely descendants of Canaan, the fourth son of Ham, since Sidon, Canaan’s first born, gave his name to a prominent Phoenician city, and several other Canaanite tribes settled nearby following their departure from Babel (Genesis 10:15-18).
The Phoenicians were respected traders among the Mediterranean city-states. Their most notable exports were the purple dye known as Tyrian purple, various kinds of glass (which they’re credited with discovering), and the Phoenician alphabet. First developed about 1500 BC, it was the prototype for the Roman and Greek alphabets.
Phoenician trade was made possible by its excellent navy, which carried its goods to ports throughout the Mediterranean, and perhaps all the way to England. Some scholars assert that the name Britannia comes from a Phoenician word meaning source of tin and that the Phoenicians mined tin in Cornwall which they brought back to customers in the Mediterranean. Tin is used in the production of bronze.
Nebuchadnezzar had incorporated Phoenicia into the Babylonian Empire in the 6th Century BC, but the country’s downfall actually began when Alexander the Great defeated Persia in 333 BC. Almost all of the Phoenician cities including Sidon, Byblos, and Arvad conceded to Alexander with little or no resistance. Tyre, the only city which didn’t forfeit, held on until Alexander waged a successful 7 month siege in 332 BC. After the siege of Tyre, the Phoenician Empire dwindled further, and in 64 BC the name of Phoenicia disappeared entirely, its territory becoming a part of the Roman province of Syria.
Nearly 20 centuries later, the League of Nations carved out an area they called Lebanon as part of the French (Syrian) Mandate following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. The manner in which Lebanon’s borders were established made the new country about half Christian and half Sunni Muslim in its make-up. The now multi-cultured Lebanon gained its independence from France in 1943.
Over the years since, Lebanon has experienced periods of peace and war, prosperity and poverty, freedom and subjugation. While a sovereign country, it’s currently under the combined influence of Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah.
Many people don’t know that a large part of Lebanon was included in the land God set aside for Israel. Lebanon is first mentioned in Deut. 1:7 as part of the Promised Land. It was given to the Tribe of Asher but appears not to have included Tyre (Joshua 19:24-31). In return for King Hiram of Tyre’s assistance in building the Temple and royal Palace in Jerusalem, King Solomon “gave” him 20 cities of the Upper Galilee as part of his compensation (1 Kings 9:10-11) extending Lebanon’s border southward.
That Was Then. This Is Now
Currently there’s serious trouble brewing again in Lebanon, trouble that could possibly become the spark that ignites the Psalm 83 conflagration. In February 2005 former Lebanese Premier Rafiq Hariri was assassinated near his home in Beirut. 21 others were killed and over 100 wounded in the car bomb attack that took Hariri’s life. 5 years later the UN’s Special Tribunal for Lebanon is set to implicate Hezbollah in the assassination and bring indictments against several of its members. Hezbollah has said if that happens, they’ll move to de-stabilize the fragile government of Lebanon and set up a parallel one under their control. Their stated purpose is to hold the country hostage against the release of their indicted members.
The dead leader’s son, Saad Hariri, is the current Prime Minister of Lebanon. He has courageously refused to reign in the Special Tribunal to prevent them from naming Hezbollah in connection with his father’ death. On Oct 28, Hezbollah conducted a country wide training exercise to prepare for taking over the country. Some think it’s just posturing, but nobody knows for sure.
The large contingent of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon are aligned with the PLO’s Fatah faction. They have promised if Hezbollah makes good on its threats, they’ll shoot rockets into Israel and see that Hezbollah gets drawn into a much larger conflict than it wants.
As I said, experts are divided on whether this crisis will erupt into hostilities. But Psalm 83 lists Lebanon among the combatants against Israel (Gebal, also called Byblos, and Tyre are still prominent Lebanese cities and are named in Psalm 83:7) so eventually Lebanon will be drawn into another battle with Israel.
Also, Iranian Pres. Ahmadinejad is said to be putting pressure on both Syria and Hezbollah to take action that would force Israel into responding against Lebanon. This would give Iran justification for mounting a preemptive strike against Israel under the pretext of protecting its nuclear facilities. Current military build-ups on land and sea around Iran are meant to discourage this, and involve US, French, Saudi Arabian and Egyptian components. The US has also told Syrian Pres. Assad he’ll be held personally responsible if any thing happens.
As has been the case several times recently, cooler heads might prevail, postponing the inevitable war. But eventually it will happen, and when it does, Israel will emerge victorious, perhaps regaining control of southern Lebanon in the process. If so, this will nullify Lebanon’s threatened counter claim to Israel’s enormous off-shore natural gas find as well as returning the land God originally gave them.
Lebanon In The Millennium
And what is Lebanon’s eventual destiny? Zechariah and Ezekiel both say it will once again become part of the Promised Land as God has always intended. Speaking of Israel in the Millennium, He said;
Though I scatter them among the peoples, yet in distant lands they will remember me. They and their children will survive, and they will return. I will bring them back from Egypt and gather them from Assyria. I will bring them to Gilead and Lebanon, and there will not be room enough for them. (Zech. 10:9-11)
After the 2nd Coming, the first recipient of land for the Millennium will be the tribe of Dan and the land they’ll be given will include most of present day Lebanon (Ezek. 48:1).
The interior of the Millennial temple will be finished in wood (Ezek. 41:15-26) instead of the gold of past Temples. And once again Lebanon will furnish the wood that brings beauty to the Lord’s house.
“The glory of Lebanon will come to you, the juniper, the fir and the cypress together, to adorn my sanctuary; and I will glorify the place for my feet (Isaiah 60:13).
And so Lebanon has a glorious future, but not until it returns to its rightful place in the northern most parts of Israel. Only then will Lebanon know peace. You can almost hear the footsteps of the Messiah.