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The meaning of Zarephath in the Bible
(From International Standard Bible Encyclopedia)

zar'-e-fath (tsarephath; Sarepta): The Sidonian town in which Elijah was entertained by a widow after he left the brook Cherith (I Kings 17:9 ff.). Obadiah refers to it as a Canaanite (probably meaning Phoenicia) town (Obadiah 1:20). It appears in the Greek form Sarepta in Luke 4:26 (the King James Version), and is said to be in the land of Sidon. Josephus (Ant., VIII, xiii, 2) says it was not "far from Sidon and Tyre, for it lay between them." Eusebius, Onomasticon (s.v. "Sarefta"), places it on the public road, i.e. the road along the seashore. It can be no other than the modern Sarafend, about 13 miles North of Tyre, on the spur of the mountain which divides the plain of Tyre from that of Sidon.

The site of the ancient town is marked by the ruins on the shore to the South of the modern village, about 8 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-Qantara, 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. The modern village of Sarafend was built some time after the 12th century, since at the time of the Crusades the town was still on the shore.

It is conjectured that the Syrophoenician woman mentioned in Luke 4:26 was an inhabitant of Zarephath., and it is possible that our Lord visited the place in His journey to the region as narrated in Mark 7:24-31, for it is said that he "came through Sidon unto the sea of Galilee."

The place has been identified by some with Misrephoth-maim of Joshua 11:8 and Joshua 13:6, but the latter passage would indicate that Misrephoth-maim was at the limit of the territory of the Sidonians, which Zarephath was not in the days of Joshua.

See MISREPHOTH-MAIM; SIDON.

Originally Sidonian, the town passed to the Tyrians after the invasian of Shalmaneser IV, 722 BC. It fell to Sennacherib 701 BC. The Wely, or shrine bearing the name of el-Khudr, the saint in whom George is blended with Elijah, stands near the shore. Probably here the Crusaders erected a chapel on what they believed to be the site of the widow's house.

W. Ewing


See more on the meaning of Zarephath in the Bible:
Zarephath {Easton's Bible Dictionary}
Zarephath {Hitchcock's Bible Name}

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