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Bible Commentaries

Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms

Ezekiel 27

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.

Verses 1-9

Ezekiel 27. We have here the lamentation over the fall of Tyre, announced in the foregoing chapter. First, its present glory is presented at full length to the view, Ezekiel 27:1-25; then its fall, the importance of which can only be understood from the knowledge of its glory. We must profoundly know the gloria mundi, if we are to take to heart the sic transit gloria mundi. In Ezekiel 27:3-9, the splendour of the city and the state; in Ezekiel 27:10-11, its admirable state of defence; in Ezekiel 27:12-25, its world-wide trade. And all this to disappear without a trace!

Ezekiel 27:1-9. And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, 2. And thou, son of man, take up a lamentation over Tyre; 3. And say to Tyre, that dwells at the entrances of the sea, that trades with the nations in many isles, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, O Tyre, thou sayest, I am perfect in beauty. 4. In the heart of the sea is thy border, thy builders have perfected thy beauty. 5. Of the cypresses of Shenir they have built for thee all thy boards; they have taken cedars of Lebanon to make, the mast for thee. 6. Of the oaks of Bashan have they made thine oars; thy benches they have made of ivory, inlaid in larch from the isles of Chittim. 7. Embroidered byssus from Egypt was thy outspreading, to be a banner for thee; purple and crimson from the isles of Elishah was thy covering. 8. The inhabitants of Zidon and Arvad were thy rowers; thy wise men, O Tyre, were in thee: they were thy pilots. 9. The ancients of Gebal and its wise men were in thee, repairing thy chinks; all the ships of the sea and their mariners were in thee to carry on thy merchandise.

“In the entrances of the sea” ( Ezekiel 27:3), in a place from which the sea is easily accessible on all sides, in the centre of the civilised world, as the entrance of the city in Judges 1:24-25, is the entrance to the city. That others may easily come to it is not in the words, although it is the necessary consequence of what is said, but that it may easily come to all others, in harmony with the following, where Tyre appears throughout as active, as one who visits the nations for trade. Tyre lies, according to Ezekiel 27:4, as it were in the heart, in the midst of the sea, because in its favourable situation all seas are easily accessible to it. In connection with this favourable situation in the heart of the sea, whose treasures flow into it from all sides, so that it already has what in Isaiah 9:5 is presented as the future of Zion—“The abundance of the sea shall be turned unto thee: the wealth of the Gentiles shall come unto thee,”—stands the perfect beauty which is ascribed to Tyre in the second half verse. This refers not merely to the city as such, in its buildings, but, as the following shows, to the whole state. In Ezekiel 27:5 f. the state of Tyre appears under the figure of a splendid ship. By the ship, where many are together, and have a common object, danger, profit, and loss, are communities usually denoted in the symbolic language of Scripture. In the passage lying at the ground of the present one ( Psalms 48:8), where, in the celebration of a defeat which the Lord on behalf of His kingdom has sent on the hostile heathen, it is said, “By the east wind Thou breakest the ships of Tarshish;’’ in Isaiah 33:21 and Revelation 8:9 the ships signify states. Elsewhere the church appears under the symbol of a ship; comp. on John 6:24-25. In the Tyrian state, the representation by the symbol of a ship was the more natural, as it was a maritime power: the capital lay like a ship in the midst of the sea, and was surrounded with a forest of musts. The materials that are employed for the state ship are the most precious of which the city was built, especially the most costly articles which commerce brought to it, on which account several of the articles here mentioned are wanting in the later description of the trade. Shenir ( Ezekiel 27:5) is, according to Deuteronomy 3:9, the old Amoritish name of Hermon, which, as unusual, was specially adapted for the lofty prophetic style, [158] but is employed here perhaps also, because it suited the Canaanites, to whom the Tyrians belonged. “Of ivory inlaid in larch” ( Ezekiel 27:6): it is literally, ivory, daughter of the larch-trees. By daughter is meant the subordinate relation. The solid material is wood; the ivory serves only for inlaying. “The isles of Chittim:” Cyprus and the surrounding islands and coasts. “The outspreading” ( Ezekiel 27:7) is, as the addition “to be a banner for thee” shows, the unfurled flag; comp. Isaiah 33:23, “they spread a banner.” The sail, which some thought must be here introduced, is not mentioned, because this ship does not move, but remains in its place, and only sends out the smaller ships from it ( Ezekiel 27:9). The thought in Ezekiel 27:8 and Ezekiel 27:9 a is, that the powers of the other Phoenician cities are for the good of the Tyrian state; but the prerogatives of supremacy remain in the chief state, and the bearers of the highest offices proceed from it. “All the ships of the sea and their mariners were in thee, to carry on thy merchandise” ( Ezekiel 27:9 b): the ships and seamen of the Tyrians are meant, with their colonies, to whom the ships in this description belong, which alone are represented as active in it. The ships of other nations, which, in comparison with those of Tyre, come not into view, are disregarded. All the ships of Tyre are, as it were, in this giant ship, as the jolly-boats in an ordinary large ship, and are sent thence, as occasion requires, on their particular errand.

[158] Comp. my comment on 4:8 of the Song of Songs.

Verses 10-11

In Ezekiel 27:10-11, the military fortification of Tyre. The figure of the ship is omitted here, where walls and towers are spoken of, and is only resumed in Ezekiel 27:26, on the transition from the description of the splendour to that of the destruction. Ezekiel 27:10. Paras, and Lud, and Phut, were in thy force, thy men of war: shield and helmet, they hanged in thee; they set forth thy beauty. 11. The sons of Arvad and thy force were on thy walls round about, and bold champions in thy towers: their shields they hanged upon thy walls round about: they completed thy beauty.

In Ezekiel 27:10, the foreign mercenaries, who had their fixed quarters in Tyre, and were sent from it on external expeditions; at their head the Persians from inner Asia, who stood related to Tyre, probably even then in connection with the anti-Chaldaic coalition, the first germ of their later victorious lifting of the shield against the Chaldean empire: comp. on ch. Ezekiel 8:16, Ezekiel 32:24. Then the African nations Lud and Phut. These were the most remote among the countries from which Tyre drew its mercenaries. “They set forth thy beauty:” Grotius says. It was honourable to thee to have so many nations in thy service. In apposition to the foreign mercenaries appear those from Aradus ( Ezekiel 27:11), the garrison forces from the other Phoenician cities. But along with these, Tyre has also a native force; and this is mentioned in the third place. The sons of Arvad and thy force are related to one another, as in Ezekiel 27:8 the inhabitants of Zidon and thy wise men. Towers and walls are only relied on in Phoenician warfare. “Bold champions:” this term not occurring elsewhere, is probably the Tyrian designation of a choice troop. The hanging of the weapons on the walls serves as an external symbol of self-defence. The words, “They completed thy beauty,” refer to Ezekiel 27:3, where Tyre piques itself on its perfect beauty; and Ezekiel 27:4, where the prophet says, “Thy builders completed thy beauty.”

Verses 12-25

In Ezekiel 27:12-25, to complete the representation of the glory of Tyre, we have the description of its trade, which begins and ends with Tarshish, the chief place of trade, but otherwise moves quite freely, and aims neither at completeness nor at geographical order. The attempt to force the latter upon the picture has done material injury to the representation.

Ezekiel 27:12. Tarshish traded with thee on account of the fulness of thy wealth: [159] silver, iron, tin, and lead, they gave thee for sale. 13. Javan, Tubal, and Meshech, they traded with thee: souls of men and vessels of brass they gave thee for wares. 14. From the house of Togarmah they gave horses, and riders, and mules to thee for sale. 15. The sons of Dedan traded with thee: many isles bartered with thee: ivory and ebony they returned thee for a gift. 16. Aram traded with thee on account of the abundance of thy works: carbuncle, purple, and embroidery, and byssus, and precious things, [160] and rubies, they gave thee for sale. 17. Judah and the land of Israel, they traded with thee: wheat of Minnith, and dainties, and honey, and oil, and balm, they gave thee for wares. 18. Damascus traded with thee on account of the abundance of thy works, the abundance of thy wealth, in wine of Plelbou and bright wool. 19. Vedan and Javan gave thee yarn: wrought iron, [161] cassia, and cinnamon, were among thy wares. 20. Dedan traded with thee in broad coverings for riding. 21. Arabia and all the princes of Kedar, they bartered with thee: in lambs, and rams, and he-goats, in these they bartered with thee. 22. The merchants of Sheba and Raamah traded with thee: the chief of all spices, and all precious stones and gold, they gave thee for sale. 23. Haran, and Kanneh, and Eden, the merchants of Sheba, Asshur, and Kilmad, traded with thee. 24. They traded with thee in ornaments, mantles of purple and embroidery, and in treasures [162] of damask, bound with cords, and fastened in thy market. 25. The ships of Tarshish visit thee, thy wares: and thou becamest full, and very glorious, in the heart of the sea.

[159] Luther, “Thou hast had thy trade on the sea:” setting aside the ships of Tarshish, for which in Ezekiel 27:25 also he puts ships of the sea.

[160] Luther, “velvet.” By derivation the word signifies excelsa. It is best explained by precious things or precious stones. This meaning suits also in Job 28:18 and Proverbs 24:7. “For the fool, wisdom is ramoth:” an individualizing designation of a good unattainable by him.

[161] Luther, “Dan, and Javan, and Mehusal, brought iron-work to thy markets;” instead of Vedan, Dan, and Meussal, falsely, as a proper name.

[162] Luther, “costly chests.” There is no reason for omitting the ascertained meaning, treasures.

Tarshish in Ezekiel 27:12 is Tartessus in Spain, Javan ( Ezekiel 27:13) Greece; in connection with which, notwithstanding the local distance, on account of the similarity of the wares, Meshech and Tubal, the Moschi and Tibareni on the border of the Black Sea. [163] Togarraah in Ezekiel 27:14 is probably Armenia. As Scripture knows only one Dedan, the Arabic, Dedan in Ezekiel 27:15 cannot be different from Dedan in Ezekiel 27:20. The “many isles” here have nothing geographically to do with Dedan. The prophet was probably unable to define them exactly. The Dedanites with their caravans appear as representatives of the inland trade. The same products, however, were imported into Tyre by sea, and thus came from “the isles,” the islands and coasts. “They returned thee for a gift:” all trade is a return. “On account of the abundance of thy works” ( Ezekiel 27:16)—thy works of art. The abundance in these is that which enticed Aram to trade. What Tyre offers is only indicated in a brief allusion: the prophet is full only in respect of the imported goods, because the conflux of these to Tyre constitutes the glory of the city, and thus gives the ground for picturing the depth of its fall. The point of view to which the prophet keeps in the whole picture, is exactly given in the words of the close: “And thou becamest full and very glorious in the heart of the sea.” Accordingly, what Tyre exported comes out only as an allusion in passing. That Tyre was so full and honoured, while Zion became ever poorer and poorer, and sank into misery—this was a stone of stumbling to the people of God. The prophet removes the stumbling-stone when he points to the end. There all fulness and glory are vanished from Tyre, for ever vanished, buried in the depth of the sea; and, on the contrary, Zion begins to bloom. [164] Minnith in Ezekiel 27:17 is the name of a place in the transjordanic region ( Judges 11:33). For the nobler gifts, which the land of Israel could offer. Tyre had no taste. Damascus, included under Aram, Ezekiel 27:16, occurs again expressly in Ezekiel 27:18, because it was a chief place of trade for Tyre. Along with works of art from Tyre, which were already mentioned in Ezekiel 27:16, is noticed here the abundance of all riches as a motive for Damascus to enter into relations of trade with Tyre. This proves that the trade of Tyre was no mere barter—that it also paid for wares with money; for this especially is to be understood by riches. Helbon, a place in Antilibanus, where even now the vine is largely cultivated. Vedan, in Ezekiel 27:19, cannot be determined, and was probably known to the prophet himself only by name. Javan is always Greece, and occurred before in Ezekiel 27:13. The second half-verse says nothing of the origin of the wares. Goods must have been brought in of which the prophet knew not the origin. Among Greek commodities, yarn only is mentioned here; others are named in Ezekiel 27:13. Dedan, mentioned before in Ezekiel 27:15, recurs once more in Ezekiel 27:20, to complete by a new commodity the splendid warerooms of Tyre. All that flowed into Tyre interests the prophet more than the order in the enumeration of the places whence it came. Sheba, mentioned before in Ezekiel 27:22, recurs in Ezekiel 27:23, where it was intended to give at the close a collection of the most diverse regions, and bring to view the extent of the Tyrian trade. This alone is the object of the prophet. He writes as little from the view of a minister of commerce, as Isaiah in ch. Isaiah 3 from that of a milliner. The succession of places is then only “highly disorderly and surprising,” when we measure the prophet by a false standard. Excessive order would not suit the prophet. Concerning Kilmad, Ezekiel himself had perhaps no more exact information to give than concerning Vedan. He knew only one thing for certain, that there was a Kilmad, and that Tyre had commercial relations with it; and this only concerns us here. Ornaments ( Ezekiel 27:24), properly perfections, is the general, which is then followed by the special. “Bound with cords, and fastened:” Ezekiel describes the bales of such stuffs probably according to his own view. “The ships of Tarshish visit thee, thy wares” ( Ezekiel 27:25): these were the special object of the visit. But while they fetched, they also carried—comp. Ezekiel 27:12, to which the close of the whole section returns,—and that which they brought comes here specially into view, as the second part of the verse shows. The ships of Tarshish come so far into view as they contribute to this, that Tyre becomes full and glorious.

[163] Text: Niebuhr, p. 135.

[164] The ב in בנ פךְ? might be wanting, according to Ezekiel 27:12 and Ezekiel 27:19. It is not needful to think of a meaning deviating from these parallels. Properly, in rubies; so that the works furnished by them consisted in these.

Verses 26-36

Hitherto is the delineation of the glory of Tyre, which has no other object than to bring to the light the depth of its fall, and indelibly impress upon the mind the vanity of all earthly things. “The glory of the lauds must come to dust and ashes:” this is now exemplified in Tyre in Ezekiel 27:26-36 Ezekiel 27:26-36, the greatness of which had been so long for Israel a riddle and a stumbling-stone, that still stood upright, when Zion already lay in ruins. Jeremiah had already struck up his song: “How sits the city so solitary, that was full of people! She is become as a widow: a princess among the nations, and a queen in the provinces, she must now serve.” We have here a plaster for the wound, which this lamentation of Jeremiah describes.

Ezekiel 27:26-36. Thy rowers have brought thee into great waters; the east wind [165] hath broken thee in the heart of the seas. 27. Thy riches and thy merchandise, thy wares, [166] thy mariners and thy pilots, the repairers of thy chinks, and those who dealt in thy wares, and all thy men of war that are in thee, and all thy company [167] which is in thy midst, shall fall into the heart of the sea in the day of thy fall. 28. At the sound of the cry of thy pilots the borders shall shake. 29. And all that handle the oar, the mariners, and all the pilots of the sea, shall come down from their ships: they shall stand upon the land. 30. And they shall make their voice heard over thee, and cry bitterly, and cast dust upon their head: they shall strew themselves with ashes. 31. And they shall shave themselves bald for thee, and gird themselves with sackcloth, and weep for thee in bitterness of soul with a bitter wailing. 32. And in their wailing they shall take up a lamentation [168] for thee, and lament over thee, Who is like Tyre, like one that is destroyed [169] amidst the sea? 33. When thy merchandise went out from the sea?, thou satisfiedst many people: with the abundance of thy riches and thy wares thou didst enrich the kings of the earth. 34. In the time when thou art broken from the sea in the depths of the waters, [170] thy wares and all thy company in thy midst shall fall. 35. All the inhabitants of the isles shall be astonished at thee, and thy kings shall shudder, they shall be troubled in face. 36. The merchants among the people shall hiss at thee; thou shalt be a terror, and shalt not be for ever.

[165] Luther, “And thy mariners Lave conveyed for thee upon great waters but an east wind.” But it is not said, they have brought for thee, but thee.

[166] Luther, “thy wares, buyers, traders.” He overlooked that the first three words refer to the goods, and then a double triad of persons follows.

[167] It is literally, “and in or on thy great multitude,” so that the falling consists in the multitude. ב occurs several times in this way in Genesis, for ex., Genesis 9:10.

[168] Luther, after a wrong reading, “their children also shall lament thee.” ני is contracted from נהי , Jeremiah 9:17-18; comp. נה , Ezekiel 7:11. The reading “their sons” is only a bad conjecture. Not their sons—they themselves lament.

[169] דמה is not the participle, but the past tense in Pual, that hero, as often the past tense—for ex. הללה , ch. 26:17—stands in the place of the participle.

[170] “but now art thou plunged from the sea in the deepest waters.” Other expositors also take עת for an accus. of time now. But it does not so occur elsewhere. According to all parallel passages, נשברת must give the more exact definition of the time—at the time when. From the contrast with Ezekiel 27:33 also, the chief emphasis must lie on the loss of the wares: the destruction of Tyre itself can only be regarded as its conditioning cause.

In Ezekiel 27:26, Tyre appears again, as in Ezekiel 27:4-9, under the figure of a ship, and her fall as a shipwreck. The many waters are a figure of great dangers and sufferings ( Psalms 42:8). The cast wind—this in particular, as the most violent in Palestine—signifies the storm of dangers. The fundamental passage is Psalms 48:8. “In the heart of the sea:” this recurs from Ezekiel 27:25. The earlier state of glory now changes into its grave. According to Ezekiel 27:29, the catastrophe is regarded by all sea-faring men standing in close relation with Tyre as a common one. They lament over the fall of Tyre, because nothing more is certain in the whole world, if even the queen of the sea must fall. They are so overwhelmed with terror, that they leave the uncertain sea, as the fall of Tyre shows, and betake themselves to the land. No one is like Tyre ( Ezekiel 27:30), in the combination of former unexampled glory and present total destruction. The point of departure for the wares of Tyre is the sea ( Ezekiel 27:33), whence they are exported into the havens of all the world. The satisfying denotes the appeasing of desire. The wares are those, the importation of which into Tyre was described in Ezekiel 27:12-25. Tyre is ( Ezekiel 27:34) broken from the seas, from which formerly its wares came ( Ezekiel 27:33), in the depth of the waters, as a sunken ship, and with it are its wares drowned in the deep. Formerly the sympathy of friends, but in Ezekiel 27:36 the scorn of the rivals and the envious.

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Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on Ezekiel 27". Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/heg/ezekiel-27.html.