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Bible Commentaries

Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms

Ezekiel 26

Chapters 26-28

These chapters describe the fall of Tyre and Sidon. First the prophecy against Tyre in ch. Ezekiel 26. Then the lamentation over Tyre in ch. Ezekiel 27. In ch. Ezekiel 28:1-10 the fall of the prince of Tyre; in Ezekiel 28:11-19 the lamentation over him. In Ezekiel 28:20-24 the prophecy concerning Sidon. In Ezekiel 28:25-26, before the fall of the chief power in the coalition, Egypt, we have the close of the prophecies concerning the neighbouring nations.

The prophet has good reason to be so full in his announcement against Tyre. Along with Babylon and Egypt, Tyre was then the most glorious concentration of the worldly power. In the queen of the sea the thought of the vanity of all worldly power was strikingly exemplified. Hand in hand with this thought goes, in Ezekiel, that of the indestructibleness of the kingdom of God. The design to raise the light of the kingdom of God through the shade of the world, appears manifestly at the close of the whole in ch. Ezekiel 28:25-26, and even before at the close of ch. 26. The prophet wishes to prevent the despondency which the contemplation of the world shining in its glory may so easily call forth in the people of God groaning under the cross.

The prophecy in ch. Ezekiel 26 has four clauses: the destruction of Tyre in outline, Ezekiel 26:2-6; the detail, Ezekiel 26:7-14; the lamentation of the princes of the sea over Tyre, Ezekiel 26:15-18; and the epilogue, in which Tyre in its total downfall is contrasted with Zion in its glorious resurrection, Ezekiel 26:19-21.

Verse 1

Ezekiel 26:1. And it came to pass in the eleventh year, in the first of the month, the word of the Lord came unto me, saying. In the date the month is wanting. This omission of the month indicates here, as in ch. Ezekiel 32:17, that it is to be taken from the last previous date, that is, from ch. Ezekiel 24:1. Accordingly it is the tenth month. The prominence given to the similarity of the month leads to the similarity of the situation: there the day of the opening of the siege of Jerusalem, here that of the opening of the siege of Tyre. In the same month in which Tyre a few years before had rejoiced, must she now lament. When Ezekiel uttered this prophecy, the proclamation against Jerusalem in ch. Ezekiel 24 was already fulfilled by the conquest of it which took place in the fourth month of the eleventh year ( Jeremiah 39:2). Already came the change to its heathen rival Tyre, who had rejoiced in the downfall of Jerusalem, thinking that she would come off free, and gain by its fall.

Verses 2-6

Ezekiel 26:2. Son of man, because Tyre saith against Jerusalem, Aha, broken is the gate of the peoples; [148] it is turned to me; [149] I will be replenished, she is laid waste. 3. Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah; Behold, I am against thee, Tyre, and I will bring up many nations upon thee, as if I brought up the sea with its waves. 4. And they shall destroy the walls of Tyre, and break down her towers: and I will sweep away her dust from her, and make her a bare rock. 5. A place for spreading a net shall she be in the midst of the sea: for I have spoken it, saith the Lord Jehovah; and she shall become a spoil to the heathen. 6. And her daughters which are in the field shall be slain by the sword; and they shall know that I am the LORD.

[148] Luther, “The gates of the peoples are broken.” But the sing. of the verb shows that the plur. of the noun denotes here, as often, one gate.

[149] Luther, “It is turned.” But the fem. refers obviously to the gate: this, or in fact the prerogative of being the gathering point of the nations, is gone over to Tyre.

The general thought in Ezekiel 26:2 is this: the world triumphs over the church, when the latter suffers a heavy overthrow and is visited by the judgments of her God; but its laughter will be changed into howling. Both Jerusalem and Tyre laid claim to be the world-city,—the one because she regarded the true religion as the highest good, the other because she considered material gain and earthly riches as alone real. By the taking of Jerusalem the process seemed to be decided in favour of Tyre, and she exulted in this decision. In the Messianic announcements, the homage of Tyre to Jerusalem, and its incorporation into the kingdom of God, were expressly celebrated. In Psalms 45:13 it is said, “The daughter of Tyre shall entreat thee with a gift, the rich among the people.” In Psalms 87:4, “I proclaim Rahab and Babylon as my confessors; behold Philistia, and Tyre, with Kush, (of these it is said,) This was born there.” Tyre, in the future, will in Jerusalem be born again to a new life. In Isaiah 23, Tyre, after she has been made tender by the judgments of God, consecrates herself, and all that she has, to the Lord. Without doubt these bold hopes of Zion were known in Tyre, and caused much bad blood in the proud queen of the sea. Already they seemed to be proved by facts to be vain fancies. Zion lay low, and Tyre stood upright, and believed that in the heart of the seas she might despise the world-conqueror, especially as Assyria had already assailed her in vain. “The gate of the peoples:” so is Jerusalem named, on account of the influx of the nations, which was destined for her in the future. Comp. especially the expression, “All nations shall flow into it” ( Isaiah 2:2; Micah 4:1), not without a connecting point in the present, as Jerusalem was at all times a magnet for the God-seeking hearts among the heathen. “It is turned to me:” namely, the gate of the peoples. Tyre considers herself the heiress of Jerusalem. The fall of the spiritual centre presents to view the enhanced importance of the secular. “As if I brought up the sea with its waves:” so we must interpret Ezekiel 26:3 according to Ezekiel 26:19. The “many nations,” according to Ezekiel 26:7, gather around Nebuchadnezzar as their leader. Tyre, the insular (Scripture knows no other; [150] and that this alone can be meant here, is proved even by the contrast of the daughters in the field, Ezekiel 26:6, and her situation on a rock), sinks back ( Ezekiel 26:4) into her original state: all that was added by man vanishes—there remains only the bare, naked rock in the sea; all glorious array, wherewith she was adorned, disappears as a dream on awaking. The daughters of Tyre in the field ( Ezekiel 26:6) are the cities dependent on her on the mainland, perhaps the so-called Palaetyrus in particular, the suburb of the insular Tyre, standing on the shore. The field forms the contrast to the rock of the insular Tyre, on which was neither sowing nor planting.

[150] Only by a wrong interpretation has Hävernick found a notice of Palaetyrus in Hos. Isaiah 13.

The survey of the fate of Tyre is now followed by the detailed description of its siege and capture by Nebuchadnezzar. In so full a description of the siege, the casting up of a mound is nowhere mentioned. This shows that such already existed before Nebuchadnezzar undertook the siege. This is also antecedently probable. Great accumulations by the Tyrians themselves are expressly mentioned in history. Tyre was preeminently a merchant city. The possible disadvantages in war of the connection with the mainland might the less outweigh the great and permanent advantages for trade, as the mound might be so easily cut through in. case of danger.

Verses 7-14

Ezekiel 26:7-14. For thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Behold, I bring upon Tyre Nebuchadrezzar [151] king of Babylon from the north, a king of kings, with horse, and with chariot, and with riders, and company, and much people. 8. Thy daughters in the field he will slay with the sword, and set a tower against thee, and cast up a wall against thee, and lift up the buckler against thee. 9. And the destruction [152] of his engine he shall set against thy walls, and break down thy towers with his swords. [153] 10. From the abundance of his horses, their dust shall cover thee: at the sound of the rider, and the wheel, and the chariot, thy walls shall shake, when he entereth into thy gates, like the entrance into a broken city. 11. With the hoofs of his horses he shall tread all thy streets: thy people shall he slay with the sword, and thy strong pillars shall come down to the earth. 12. And they shall plunder thy riches, and despoil thy merchandise, and break down thy walls, and pull down thy fair houses, [154] and lay thy stones, and thy timbers, and thy dust, in the midst of the water. 13. And I will cause the noise of thy songs to cease; and the sound of thy harps shall be no more heard. 14. And I will make thee a bare rock: a spreading-place of nets shalt thou be; thou shalt be built no more: for I the Lord have spoken it, saith the Lord Jehovah.

[151] This comes nearer the native form. Abroad the r was softened into n (Niebuhr, p. 41).

[152] מחי , destruction (comp. 2 Kings 21:13), in connection with יתן , corresponds to יתץ ; that is, he will destroy thy walls with his engines.

[153] Luther, “his weapons.” There is no ground, however, for taking חרב in other than the usual sense of sword.

[154] Concerning חמד and חמדה—never longing, pleasure, but always the beautiful, or beauty—comp. Christol. on Haggai 2:7. The fair houses here correspond to the palaces of Tyre destroyed by the Chaldeans ( Isaiah 23:13).

The riders, along with the horses and chariots ( Ezekiel 26:7), are the chariot-warriors; comp. Ezekiel 26:10. The words, “Thy daughters in the field he will slay with the sword,” are repeated in Ezekiel 26:8 and Ezekiel 26:6, to indicate that we have here the filling up of what was there given in outline. By the connection with a distinct personality already present on the scene they receive a new import. The swords in Ezekiel 26:9, which slay the defenders, are at the same time the means of destroying the towers. The wheels and the chariots are distinguished in Ezekiel 26:10: the chariots themselves also rattle. The falling of the “strong pillars” ( Ezekiel 26:11) has its special import in this, that these pillars were symbols of the power and glory of Tyre, as the image erected by Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 3) was a symbol of the glory of the Chaldean empire. The first place among these pillars was taken by those of Hercules (Herod. ii. 44), who, as even his name indicates, properly the Merchant, was exactly the objective I of the Tyrians. [155] Ezekiel 26:14 returns as a refrain to Ezekiel 26:4-5. According to Isaiah 23:15-18, Tyre, seventy years after her fall by the Chaldeans, returns to prosperity, “whores” or trades “with all the kingdoms of the earth,” and consecrates herself, and all her gains, to the true God. A contradiction does not arise here; but the one prophet is to be completed from the other. Ezekiel does not touch on the lucidum intervallum celebrated by Isaiah, because, in regard to the heathen nations in general, his eye is directed only to the side of wrath, which alone served his purpose. Isaiah obtains from him the completion, that a lucidum intervallum only is meant, that the restored Tyre will not understand the tune of her visitation, and that the neglect of the light will bring on a deeper darkness. It is not to be overlooked, however, that the restoration in Isaiah is only partial. Tyre is, in him, after the lapse of the seventy years of Chaldean supremacy, certainly again an important merchant city, but not a merchant power.

[155] Text: Compare רכלה , Ezekiel 26:12.

Verses 15-18

In Ezekiel 26:15-18 the impression which the fall of Tyre will make on its confederates. Ezekiel 26:15. Thus saith the Lord Jehovah to Tyre, Shall not the isles shake at the sound of thy fall, when the wounded cry, and slaughter is made in thy midst? 16. And all the princes of the sea shall come down from their thrones, and lay aside their robes, and put off their broidered garments: they shall clothe themselves with trembling, sit on the earth and tremble at every moment, and be amazed at thee. 17. And they shall take up a lamentation for thee, and say to thee, How art thou destroyed, that art inhabited from the seas, the renowned city, which wast strong in the sea, she and her inhabitants, which cause terror to all her inhabitants! 18. Now shall the isles [156] tremble in the day of thy fall, and the isles that are in the sea shall be troubled at thy departure.

[156] Intentionally stands first the Chaldee form אין .

The islands shake in Ezekiel 26:15, not exactly on account of any immediate danger which accrued to them from the fall of Tyre, but because now nothing any more in all the world appears to be secure. The fall of Tyre is an impressive sermon on the vanity of all earthly things, the transitory nature of all glory that has its foundation only in the earth. “That art inhabited from the seas” ( Ezekiel 26:17)—out of the seas: this is exactly the aspect that especially interests those princes of the seas standing in connection with Tyre, the conflux from the colonies, and other seaports in the mother city and central place. “She and her inhabitants, who caused their terror to all her inhabitants:” Tyre had a twofold class of inhabitants, like Jerusalem, whose inhabitants were in a certain sense all the inhabitants of the land: first, the inhabitants in the strict sense—the citizens; then her connections in the colonies and in other seaports more or less dependent on Tyre, who at all events, ideally taken, dwelt in Tyre, because the roots of their existence were there; on which account they often betook took themselves thither and made their abode there for a time: they flowed into and out of the central state. The inhabitants in the one sense were the terror of the inhabitants in the other sense. They must bow before them, and obey their commands. The departure in Ezekiel 26:18 is the end.

Verses 19-21

In the epilogue, Ezekiel 26:19-21, the contrast of Tyre in its irretrievable destruction, and Zion in its joyful resurrection. Ezekiel 26:19. Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, When I shall make thee a desolate city, like the cities that are not inhabited; when I bring up the deep upon thee, and many waters cover thee; 20. And I bring thee down with them that go down into the pit, to the perpetual people, and cause thee to dwell in the land of the deep, in waste lauds of old with those that go down to the pit, that thou sit not; then shall I set beauty in the land of the living; 21. I will make thee a terror, and thou shalt be no more; and thou shalt be sought, and no more found for ever, saith the Lord Jehovah.

In Ezekiel 26:19 the city, in Ezekiel 26:20 the inhabitants, ruins above, a terrible wilderness beneath, in the desolate places of Sheol, the land of death-darkness without order ( Job 10:22). Then, in contrast with both, Zion gloriously risen from her fall. He who has such a hope may well be patient with the scorn of Tyre ( Ezekiel 26:2), and answer it with a simple respice finem. With respect to Zion the mere indication suffices, the reference to the fact that on the ruin of Tyre on the earth there is a place of glory. It is only necessary to mark the place for the announcement of salvation hereafter to be unfolded. With “Then shall I set” begins the apodosis. On the relation of the words, inserted with enigmatical brevity, to Zion there can be the less doubt, when the fundamental passage in Isaiah 24:16 is considered. There also the beauty denotes the glory of Israel rising out of a heavy divine visitation. The flood in Ezekiel 26:19 is ideal, the overflowing of the nations; comp. Ezekiel 26:3, where the comparison, here abridged, is expanded. The perpetual people ( Ezekiel 26:20) are those who from primeval times have been in hell—its ancestral guests, so to speak—to whom all others, and among them the inhabitants of Tyre, go down, especially the “heroes of eternity,” or antiquity, who perished in the deluge ( Genesis 6:4). “That thou sit not:” to bit is the opposite of lying down. The land of the living points to Psalms 27:13, where the singer, or Israel, expresses the assurance that he will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living, and forms the contrast to Sheol, the land of the dead, to which in the foregoing the inhabitants of Tyre are assigned. The prophet has, in regard to Tyre, comprised in Ezekiel 26:19-21 what was historically realized by degrees, and has now become a completed fact for many centuries. The truth of his announcement consists in this, that the first taking of Tyre by Nebuchadnezzar was the beginning of the end, the germ of its downfall, that it never again attained to its ancient greatness, but rather step by step reached its total overthrow, although, in harmony with the prophecy of Isaiah, an apparent improvement in its condition occasionally took place. No human eye could discern that precisely this moment was of decisive importance for the whole future of the city. Rationalism has made the assertion that Tyre was not taken by Nebuchadnezzar. On the contrary, this one thing is sufficient, that Ezekiel makes the communication a long time after the decision to prepare a collection of his prophecies was formed. Had it not been fulfilled, the prophet by the very communication would have exposed himself to the judgment pronounced in Deuteronomy 18:22. We have a clear evidence of the fulfilment further on, in ch. Ezekiel 29:17-21. [157]

[157] The full demonstration of the fulfilment is given in my treatise, De rebus Tyriorum, with which comp. Hävernick, Comm.; Movers. Phoenicians, ii, 1, pp. 428, 48 f., 61 f.; Niebuhr, Hist. of Ass. and Babylon, p. 216.

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Bibliographical Information
Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on Ezekiel 26". Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/heg/ezekiel-26.html.