Sidon, sometimes spelt Zidon, and known to its inhabitants as Saida, is the third-largest city in Lebanon. It is on the Mediterranean coast, about 25 miles north of Tyre and 30 miles south of the capital Beirut. Its name means a fishery. It was one of the most important Phoenician cities.
In 1900 it was a town of 10,000 inhabitants, but in 2000 its population was around 200,000. It contains the remains of walls built in the 12th century AD. In 1855, the sarcophagus of Eshmanezer was discovered. From a Phoenician inscription on its lid, it appears that he was a "king of the Sidonians," probably in the 3rd century BC, and that his mother was a priestess of Ashtoreth, "the goddess of the Sidonians." In this inscription Baal is mentioned as the chief god of the Sidonians.
The Bible describes Sidon at various places:
- It received its name from the "first-born" of Canaan, the grandson of Noah (Genesis 10:15, 19).
- It was the first home of the Phoenicians on the coast of Canaan, and from its extensive commercial relations became a "great" city. (Joshua 11:8; 19:28).
- It was the mother city of Tyre. It lay within the lot of the tribe of Asher, but was never subdued (Judges 1:31).
- The Sidonians long oppressed Israel (Judges 10:12).
- From the time of David its glory began to wane, and Tyre, its "virgin daughter" (Isaiah 23:12), rose to its place of pre-eminence.
- Solomon entered into a matrimonial alliance with the Sidonians, and thus their form of idolatrous worship found a place in the land of Israel (1 Kings 11:1, 33).
- It was famous for its manufactures and arts, as well as for its commerce (1 Kings 5:6; 1 Chronicles 22:4; Ezekiel 27:8).
- It is frequently referred to by the prophets (Isaiah 23:2, 4, 12; Jeremiah 25:22; 27:3; 47:4; Ezekiel 27:8; 28:21, 22; 32:30; Joel 3:4).
- Jesus Christ visited the "coasts" of Tyre and Sidon [Matthew 15:21; Mark 7:24; Luke 4:26; and from this region many came forth to hear him preaching (Mark 3:8; Luke 6:17).
- From Sidon, at which the ship put in after leaving Caesarea, Paul finally sailed for Rome (Acts 27:3, 4).