|Ithobaal I (’Ittoba‘l, Ethbaal)|
|King of Tyre|
|Predecessor||Phelles (8 months, 879 BC)|
|Successor||Baal-Eser II (Balazeros, Ba‘l-mazzer II) 846 – 841 BC|
|Died||847 or 846 BC|
|Issue||Jezebel and Baal-Eser II|
|Dynasty||Began house of Ithobaal/Ithobalus|
Ithobaal I (Phoenician: 𐤕𐤁𐤏𐤋 [it]tobaal, in Hebrew: אֶתְבַּ֙עַל֙ Ethbaal, 1 Kings 16:31) was a king of Tyre who founded a new dynasty. During his reign, Tyre expanded its power on the mainland, making all of Phoenicia its territory as far north as Beirut, including Sidon, and even a part of the island of Cyprus. At the same time, Tyre also built new overseas colonies: Botrys (now Batrun) near Byblos, and Auza in Libya.
Primary information related to Ithobaal comes from Josephus’s citation of the Phoenician author Menander of Ephesus, in Against Apion i.18. Here it is said that the previous king, Phelles, “was slain by Ithobalus, the priest of Astarte, who reigned thirty-two years, and lived sixty-eight years; he was succeeded by his son Badezorus (Baal-Eser II).”
The dates given here are according to the work of F. M. Cross and other scholars who take 825 BC as the date of Dido’s flight from her brother Pygmalion, after which she founded the city of Carthage in 814 BC. See the chronological justification for these dates in the Pygmalion article.
Ithobaal held close diplomatic contacts with king Ahab of Israel. First Kings 16:31 relates that his daughter Jezebel married Ahab (874 – 853 BC), and Phoenician influence in Samaria and the other Israelite cities was extensive. In the 1 Kings passage, Ithobaal is labeled king of the Sidonians. At this time Tyre and Sidon were consolidated into one kingdom.
Menander’s comment that Ithobaal had been a priest of Astarte before becoming king explains why his daughter Jezebel was so zealous in the promotion of the Phoenician gods, thus leading to the conflicts between Elijah and Jezebel’s forces described in 1 Kings 18 and 19. Menander’s further statement that her father was a murderer sheds some light on her choice of a way to solve the “Naboth” problem in 1 Kings 21.
- F. M. Cross, “An Interpretation of the Nora Stone,” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 208 (Dec. 1972) 17, n. 11.
- J. M. Peñuela, “La Inscripción Asiria IM 55644 y la Cronología de los Reyes de Tiro”, Sefarad 13 (1953, Part 1) 217-37; 14 (1954, Part 2) 1-39.
- William H. Barnes, Studies in the Chronology of the Divided Monarchy of Israel (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1991) 29-55.
- Edwin R. Thiele, The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings (3rd ed.; Grand Rapids: Zondervan/Kregel, 1983) 94.
- Merrill F. Unger, Unger’s Bible Dictionary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1977) 327.
- James B. Pritchard, ed.: Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1969) 278-79.
- Thiele, Mysterious Numbers 76.