For other uses, see Sarepta (disambiguation).
Shown within Lebanon
Location Lebanon
Region South Governorate
Coordinates Coordinates: 33°27′27″N 35°17′45″E / 33.45750°N 35.29583°E / 33.45750; 35.29583

Sarepta (modern Sarafand, Lebanon) was a Phoenician city on the Mediterranean coast between Sidon and Tyre, also known biblically as 'Zarephath'. Most of the objects by which Phoenician culture is characterised are those that have been recovered scattered among Phoenician colonies and trading posts; such carefully excavated colonial sites are in Spain, Sicily, Sardinia and Tunisia. The sites of many Phoenician cities, like Sidon and Tyre, by contrast, are still occupied, unavailable to archaeology except in highly restricted chance sites, usually much disturbed. Sarepta[1] is the exception, the one Phoenician city in the heartland of the culture that has been unearthed and thoroughly studied.


Sarepta is mentioned for the first time in the voyage of an Egyptian in the 14th century BCE (Chabas, Voyage d'un Egyptien, 1866, pp 20, 161, 163). Obadiah says it was the northern boundary of Canaan (Obadiah 1:20): “And the exiles of this host of the sons of Israel who are among the Canaanites as far as Zarephath (Heb. צרפת), and the exiles of Jerusalem who are in Sepharad, will possess the cities of the south.” The medieval lexicographer, David ben Abraham Al-Alfāsī, identifies Zarephath with the city of Ṣarfend (Judeo-Arabic: צרפנדה).[2] Originally Sidonian, the town passed to the Tyrians after the invasion of Shalmaneser IV, 722 BCE. It fell to Sennacherib in 701.

The first Books of Kings (17:8-24) describes the city as being subject to Sidon in the time of Ahab, and says that the prophet Elijah, after leaving the brook Cherith, multiplied the meal and oil of the widow of Zarephath (Sarepta) and raised her son from the dead there, an incident also referred to by Jesus in Luke's Gospel.[3]

Zarephath (צרפת ṣārĕfáṯ, tsarfát; Σάρεπτα, Sárepta) in Hebrew became the eponym for any smelter or forge, or metalworking shop. In the 1st century CE, the Roman Sarepta, a port about a kilometer to the south[4] is mentioned by Josephus, in Jewish Antiquities (Book VIII, xiii:2) and by Pliny, in Natural History (Book V, 17).

Sarepta as a Christian city was mentioned in the Itinerarium Burdigalense; the Onomasticon of Eusebius and in Jerome; by Theodosius and Pseudo-Antoninus who, in the 6th century call it a small town, but very Christian.[5] It contained at that time a church dedicated to St. Elias (Elijah). The Notitia episcopatuum, a list of bishoprics made in Antioch in the 6th century, speaks of Sarepta as a suffragan see of Tyre; none of its bishops are known.

Sarepta is the location of a Shia shrine to Abu Dhar al-Ghifari, a Companion of Muhammad. The shrine is believed to have been built at least several centuries after Abu Dhar's death.[6]

After the Islamization of the area, in 1185, the Greek monk Phocas, making a gazetteer of the Holy Land (De locis sanctis, 7), found the town almost in its ancient condition. A century later, according to Burchard of Mount Sion, it was in ruins and contained only seven or eight houses.[7] Even after the Crusaders' kingdoms had collapsed, the Roman Catholic Church continued to appoint purely titular bishops of Sarepta, the most noted being Thomas of Wroclaw who held the post from 1350 until 1378. [8]


A Heavy Neolithic archaeological site of the Qaraoun culture was discovered at Sarafand by Hajji Khalaf that pre-dated Sarepta by several thousand years. He made a collection of material and passed it to the National Museum of Beirut. It consisted of an assemblage of large flakes and bifaces in Eocene flint. Some piebald flint blades were also found along with hammerstones in Nummulitic limestone that resemble finds from Aadloun II (Bezez Cave), which is located 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) to the South. Khalaf also found a well-made adze and a narrow, slightly polished chisel. A collection in the National Museum of Beirut marked "Jezzine ou Sarepta" consisted of around twelve neatly made discoid cores and tortoise cores in cherty flint of a cream colour with a tinge of red.[9]

The low tell on the seashore was excavated by James B. Pritchard over five years from 1969 to 1974. [10] [11] Civil war in Lebanon put an end to the excavations.

The site of the ancient town is marked by the ruins on the shore to the south of the modern village, about eight miles to the south of Sidon, which extend along the shore for a mile or more. They are in two distinct groups, one on a headland to the west of a fountain called ‛Ain el-Ḳantara, which is not far from the shore. Here was the ancient harbor which still affords shelter for small craft. The other group of ruins is to the south, and consists of columns, sarcophagi, and marble slabs, indicating a city of considerable importance.

Pritchard's excavations revealed many artifacts of daily life in the ancient Phoenician city of Sarepta: pottery workshops and kilns, artifacts of daily use and religious figurines, numerous inscriptions that included some in Ugaritic. Pillar worship is traceable from an 8th-century shrine of Tanit-Ashtart, and a seal with the city's name made the identification secure. The local Bronze Age-Iron Age stratigraphy was established in detail; absolute dating depends in part on correlations with Cypriote and Aegean stratigraphy.

The climax of the Sarepta discoveries at Sarafand is the cult shrine of "Tanit/Astart", who is identified in the site by an inscribed votive ivory plaque, the first identification of Tanit in her homeland. The site revealed figurines, further carved ivories, amulets and a cultic mask.

Other uses of the name

In Hebrew after the Diaspora, the name Zarephath (צרפת, ts-r-f-t, Tsarfat) is used to mean France, perhaps because the Hebrew letters ts-r-f, if reversed, become f-r-ts.[12]

A strain of the West Nile Virus is called 'Sarafend'. Although the origins of the strain name are unknown, it is possible that the virus strain was first isolated in this area.

See also


  1. Identification of the site is secured by inscriptions that include a stamp-seal with the name of Sarepta.
  2. The Hebrew-Arabic Dictionary known as "Kitāb Jāmi' Al-Alfāẓ (Agron)," p. xxxviii, pub. by Solomon L. Skoss, 1936 Yale University
  3. Luke 4:26
  4. Designated Area I, it was excavated in 1969-70.
  5. Geyer, Intinera hierosolymitana, Vienna, 1898, 18, 147, 150
  6. Mohammad Rihan (30 May 2014). The Politics and Culture of an Umayyad Tribe: Conflict and Factionalism in the Early Islamic Period. I.B.Tauris. p. 195. ISBN 9781780765648.
  7. Monachus Borchardus, Descriptio Terrae sanctae, et regionum finitarum, vol. 2, pp. 9, 1593
  8. Piotr Górecki, Parishes, Tithes and Society in Earlier Medieval Poland c. 1100-c. 1250, Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, New Series, vol. 83, no. 2, pp. i-ix+1-146, 1993
  9. Lorraine Copeland; P. Wescombe (1965). Inventory of Stone-Age sites in Lebanon, pp. 95 & 135. Imprimerie Catholique. Retrieved 21 July 2011.
  10. James B. Pritchard, SAREPTA. A Preliminary Report on the Iron Age. Excavations of the University Museum of the University of Pennsylvania, 1970-72. With contributions by William P. Anderson; Ellen Herscher; Javier Teixidor, University Museum, University of Pennsylvania, 1975, ISBN 0-934718-24-5
  11. James B. Pritchard, Sarepta in History and Tradition, in J. Reumann (ed.). Understanding the Sacred Text: Essays in honor of Morton S. Enslin on the Hebrew Bible and Christian beginnings, pp. 101-114, Judson Press, 1972, ISBN 0-8170-0487-4
  12. Banitt, Menahem (1985). Rashi, interpreter of the biblical letter. Tel Aviv: Chaim Rosenberg School of Jewish Studies. p. 141. OCLC 15252529. Retrieved 1 January 2013.

External links

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