There are people on the Internet who are prophesying that a “major, world-changing discovery will be made between Jerusalem and Rome…” If so, it will be discovered in the Mediterranean Sea, because there is very little land along that trajectory. The other properties along that line are a sea bottom that is so riddled with earthquake fault lines that it looks like shattered glass, a treasure of sunken vessels going back at least 4,000 years, and sea waters that are warm on the surface, but cool enough below surface to preserve almost anything that falls into it. As with most waters, there is a season when sailing is reasonably safe (Summer) and a season for very destructive storms (Winter), as the Apostle Paul warned the Roman soldiers taking him to Rome to trial. He also wrote that the journey was safe from pirates for any ship flying the Castor and Pollux flag, as the Romans had defeated the pirates who had made those waters hazardous in the past. Paul knew, because he was a ship’s captain of long tenure before he became a Christian.
The Mediterranean has a history of being the route of choice for trade, as there were many islands as well as rivers flowing into it with habitations along their shores. Its only short-coming was its inaccessibility to India and the spice trade along that trade route, which had to leave ship and transport their goods by camel and donkey across what is now the Suez Canal or face the trip around the Horn of Africa with its mist, fog, and treacherous storms.
Trade was light for some time after the people left the Ark, but began to pick up shortly after the death of Abraham, when the most of the population was land based, depending on cattle of all descriptions, grain for both humans and cattle, and family vegetable gardens for their food supply. That changed when Esau raided the herds owned by the blind and bed-ridden Isaac, leaving several thousand families with no means of support. These now-unemployed herdsmen migrated to the shores of the sea to try to survive on fishing in the area of what is Tyre today. They met and merged with the small population that was based in Byblos, and applied the skills of trade that had been learned under Abraham, improving both their own fortunes and those of Byblos, who extended their food source by trading with Egypt, importing food and papyrus, in exchange for cedar wood for building. Their extreme northern position meant that the cedar forests were less productive than those further south, and their small population limited the amount of cedar logs that could be harvested with hand labor. The influx of the herdsmen from the interior meant that logging could be greatly expanded, especially if they settled in the area that became Tyre. Their merged populations allowed an expansion of trade all along the shores of the sea in all directions, and provided jobs for the workers in clay, glass, precious metals and jewels, and especially building, which the herdsmen had learned during the five years Abraham spent in Egypt during the famine.
Even though the herdsmen from Abraham and the population of Byblos were related, they retained their individual cultures, including their religions. The herdsmen continued the practice of circumcision as it had been instituted under Abraham. The men of Byblos did not adopt that custom. The dominant (lesser) god was Ba’al, and his wife was Ashera, the one with the groves where people sacrificed on “every high hill” that got Israel into so much trouble in later years. Praising (which is what worship is) Ashera was convenient and comfortable. The people would choose a tree that provided excellent shade, trim the lower branches off, hang strips of cloth that made a soothing sound on the lower branches, build a fire-pit close by to roast meat, and spend a lot of time with others of their tribe there during the scorching hot days of summer. This brings up a fact that is glossed over by most Christian groups. The law of Moses was not given until they were in the Exodus from Egypt. The entire Israelite tribe worshiped the gods of the Syrians until that time, including Abraham. The tradition says that the law was given on Mt. Sinai, but the Jews admit that this is a convenience. It was given during the long journey between Egypt and the promised land, as the need arose for each incident. The reverence for Abraham came from an entirely different source than introducing monotheism, which we will address in a future post.