Helbon is mentioned only once in Ezekiel 27:18 amongst the fine produce and services of Tyre. Helbon is near Damascus, as indicated both by Ezekiel 27:18 and by the record of Posidonius (5). Helbon produced fine wines named karan hulbunu, and were requested by no less than Nebuchadnezzar himself in adjunct with sacrifice (1) and prized as “Syrian wine served at the table of Persian kings” some 600 years after the record of Ezekiel (2) with Athaneaus recording that the “wine was so excellent that the Persian king would drink no other” (4) The name of the city means fertile, and is a contrast to the dry hills of the adjacent anti-Lebanese range. The place is wind-swept and a small well watered fertile oasis in a barren and hostile mountainous range. Helbon itself means fertile. During a trip in Syria in 2010 I once tried to purchase wine from this area, but with no success, the bottle of Syrian finest red wine bought for a memorial feast was frankly rasping to the palate, and a far cry from these fabled wines. Apparently the grapes from the area today are made into raisins. The village of Helbon sits within a wadi with high and rugged sides (See above) and the western end leads to a very rugged and narrow track over the anti-Lebanese to the village of Efry, but the going is tough in a parallel course to the more accessible Zebedani, and the wadi Barada, which I feel is the wadi Horbah of Gen 14. Scattered old rocks can be seen around the village, with a possible ancient temple. There are reports of some Greek inscriptions in the area.
The connection between Syria and Tyre is so demonstrated, and the name of Tyre (heb tzur, hence tzurian or anglicised to Syrian) placed on the sphere of its influence. God had provided enormous benefits to Hiram under Solomon, even to the point of close association with the high priest Himself, but this favoured position and blessings from deity were turned into personal advantage in Tyre, to a point where the king sat in his throne saying he had replaced God, Ezekiel 28:2. This is a challenge to all that feel the benefits of the presence of deity: We cannot turn the grace of God into licence, ignoring the value of atonement and the presence of God in our lives, Jude 4. There are 5 places were men replaced the need for deity in scripture, and sought through personal achievement to replace El:
- The political manifestation of sin in the Tyrians Ezekiel 29:2 and demonstrated in their extensive merchant enterprises.
- The military manifestation of sin in the Assyro-Babylonian empire Isa 14:13, In the face of Yahweh’s purpose described as an arm that stretched forth, and who would turn it back (frustrate)? Isa 14:24-27 The record being written in the year that Ahaz died 14:28 Ahaz heb to posses by grasping!
- The religious manifestation of sin in the Roman catholic system, 2 Thess 2:4.
- The personal refusal to accept Christ, and to grasp at RSV Phil 2:8.
- The historic failure of Adam Gen 3:22 “who put forth his hand” thus replacing El.
- Belinno Cylinder, I, 23
- Strabo Geog: xv.735
- Porter’s handbook for Syria ii pg 495
- The Deipnosophists or Banquets of the learned Athenaeus 1.151
- Posidonius fragment 242
- Biblical reseraches in Palestine and adjacent regionis, Eli Smith vol 3: pg 470-472
- Gesenius theasaurus pg 473