The Jewish Christians in Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch (Acts 11:19)

“They were scattered,

Because of the persecution

That took place

Over Stephen.

They traveled

As far as Phoenicia,


And Antioch.

They were speaking

The word

To no one

Except Jews.”

Οἱ μὲν οὖν διασπαρέντες ἀπὸ τῆς θλίψεως τῆς γενομένης ἐπὶ Στεφάνῳ διῆλθον ἕως Φοινίκης καὶ Κύπρου καὶ Ἀντιοχείας, μηδενὶ λαλοῦντες τὸν λόγον εἰ μὴ μόνον Ἰουδαίοις.

The author of Acts was going to show how the further expansion of the followers of Jesus happened.  Those who were scattered (Οἱ μὲν οὖν διασπαρέντες), because of the persecution (ἀπὸ τῆς θλίψεως) that took place (τῆς γενομένης) over Stephen (ἐπὶ Στεφάνῳ) traveled (διῆλθον) as far as Phoenicia (ἕως Φοινίκης), Cyprus (καὶ Κύπρου), and Antioch (καὶ Ἀντιοχείας).  Acts was the only Greek biblical writing that used this word Διασπαρέντες, that means to sow throughout, disperse in foreign lands, or scatter, as in a diaspora.  In their dispersion, they were speaking the word (λαλοῦντες τὸν λόγον) to no one (μηδενὶ) except Jews (εἰ μὴ μόνον Ἰουδαίοις). The death and persecution of Stephen took place in chapter 7:54-60 and 8:1.  “On that day (δὲ ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ), a great or severe persecution (διωγμὸς μέγας) began (Ἐγένετο) against the assembly or church (ἐπὶ τὴν ἐκκλησίαν) in Jerusalem (τὴν ἐν Ἱεροσολύμοις).  All (πάντες δὲ), except the apostles (πλὴν τῶν ἀποστόλων), were scattered (διεσπάρησαν) throughout the countryside (κατὰ τὰς χώρας) of Judea (τῆς Ἰουδαίας) and Samaria (καὶ Σαμαρίας).”  Suddenly, with the oration and death of Stephen, things had changed in Jerusalem.  The followers of Jesus were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.  The apostles were spared, perhaps due to the early meeting where the Pharisee Gamaliel had told them to leave the leaders of this Jesus movement, Peter and John, alone in chapter 5:38.  Phoenicia was northwest of Galilee, what might be modern day Lebanon, while Cyprus was an island in the Mediterranean Sea, where Barnabas was from.  Do you know anyone who was persecuted?

The second campaign against Egypt (Dan 11:29-11:31)

“At the time appointed,

He shall return.

He shall come

Into the south.

But this time,

It shall not be

As it was before.

The ships of Kittim

Shall come against him.

He shall lose heart.

He shall withdraw.

He shall be enraged.

He shall take action

Against the holy covenant.

He shall turn back.

He shall give heed

To those who forsake

The holy covenant.

Forces sent by him

Shall occupy the temple.

They shall profane

The temple.

They shall occupy

The fortress.

They shall abolish

The regular burnt offering.

They shall set up

The abominations

That make it desolate.”

The second time that King Antiochus IV attacked Egypt, he was not as successful as the first time. The ships of Kittim, or the ships of the Romans, came against him. Kittim was the name for Cyprus and thus applied to all western troops. Once again, on his way home, in 167 BCE, he attacked Jerusalem. This time, there was a clear explanation of what he did. He turned against the people of the covenant. He even helped those who had forsaken the covenant, taking sides in a dispute there as explained in 2 Maccabees, chapters 3 and 4. He occupied the Temple and the fortress citadel in Jerusalem. He even profaned the Temple by abolishing the regular burnt offerings. These invaders even set up abominations in the Temple to make it a desolation.

Egyptian linen (Ezek 27:7-27:7)

“Your sail was

Of fine embroidered linen

From Egypt,


As your ensign.

Your awning was


With purple

From the coasts

Of Elishah.”

The ship builders at Tyre used embroidered Egyptian linen as their sails and their signals. The purple and blue awnings were from Elishah or Cyprus. The people of Tyre were international traders, famous for their purple dye.

The wood used for the ships at Tyre (Ezek 27:5-27:6)

“They made

All your planks

Of fir trees

From Senir.

To make a mast

For you,

They took a cedar

From Lebanon.

They made your oars

From oaks

Of Bashan.

They made your deck

Of pines

From the coasts of Cyprus,

Inlaid with ivory.”

The people of Tyre got their wood for their ships from a variety of places. The planks for their ships came from the fir trees of Senir or Mount Hermon, between Syria and Lebanon. Of course, the cedar used for the mast of the ships came from Lebanon, as did all good cedar. The oars for the ships came from the oaks of Bashan, on the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee. Their decks were made of pine from the island of Cyprus in the Mediterranean Sea. Somehow their decks of pine were inlaid with ivory.

The end of Sidon (Isa 23:12-23:12)

“Yahweh said.

‘You will exult no longer!

O oppressed virgin daughter Sidon!


Cross over to Cyprus!

Even there,

You will have no rest.’”

Yahweh said that Sidon was going to come to an end. They would no longer rejoice because Sidon, the virgin daughter, was oppressed. They should get up and go to the island of Cyprus, but even that will not be that great.

Oracle against Tyre (Isa 23:1-23:1)

“The oracle concerning Tyre.


O ships of Tarshish!

Your fortress is destroyed.

When they came in

From Cyprus

They learned of it.”

Tyre was a Phoenician costal island city that still exists in southern Lebanon. Known for its maritime trade and purple dye, it was actually in the Israelite territory of Asher. The ships of Tarshish are mentioned 24 times in the biblical books, most notably when speaking about the wealth of King Solomon, in 1 Kings, chapter 10. Tarnish must have been someplace where there was a lot of metal, such as silver, probably some distance away, since speculation continues as to its exact location. The fortress or the houses of Tyre would be destroyed. Apparently these Phoenician sailors from Tyre were coming back from the island of Cyprus in the Mediterranean Sea, when they learned about this destruction.

The disgrace of Ptolemy (2 Macc 10:12-10:13)

“Ptolemy, who was called Macron, took the lead in showing justice to the Jews because of the wrong that had been done to them. He attempted to maintain peaceful relations with them. As a result he was accused before Eupator by the king’s friends. He heard himself called a traitor at every turn, because he had abandoned Cyprus, which Philometor had entrusted to him. He had gone over to Antiochus Epiphanes. Unable to command the respect due his office, he took poison and ended his life.”

Ptolemy Macron had been in charge of Cyprus under the Egyptian King Ptolemy VI Philometor, who ruled from 180-145 BCE. King Ptolemy VI was the young king defeated by the Seleucid King Antiochus IV, who then outlived him. Ptolemy switched his allegiance from the Egyptian king to the King Antiochus IV so that he became the governor of Coele-syria and Phoenicia. He treated the Jews fairly so that there were complaints that he was a traitor to the young King Antiochus V. Everyone said that he could not be trusted. He poisoned himself and died. This is a strange story that seems to indicate that anyone who was kind to the Jews was not favored by the new king. However, he did commit suicide.

Similar letters to the other kings (1 Macc 15:22-15:24)

“The Roman Consul wrote the same thing to King Demetrius, King Attalus, King Ariarathes, King Arsaces, and to all the countries. He also wrote the same to Sampsames, the Spartans, Delos, Myndos, Sicyon, Caria, Samos, Pamphylia, Lycia, and Halicarnassus. He also wrote the same to Rhodes, Phaselis, Cos, Side, Aradus, Gortyna, Cnidus, Cyprus and Cyrene. They also sent a copy of these things to the high priest Simon.”

The Roman Consul wrote a similar letter to a whole lot of people and countries. Who are all these people and places? Remember that King Demetrius II is still the king of the Seleucid Empire, but he is a captive in Persia. King Attalus II was the king of Pergammum, an ancient Greek city, from 159-138 BCE. King Ariarathes V was the king of Cappadocia from 162-130 BCE. King Arsaces IV (171-138 BCE) was the ruler of Persia that held King Demetrius II as a prisoner. Outside of the Egyptian kingdom, these were the major kingdoms. Most of the other places were the islands in the Mediterranean Sea (Delos, Samos, Rhodes, and Cyprus) or the Greek city states (Sampsames, Spartans, Myndos, Sicyon, Caria, Pamphylia, Lycia, Halicarnassus, Phaselis, Cos, Side, Aradus, Gortyna, Cnidus, and Cyrene). Obviously, he also sent a copy to Simon.