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Chapters 26-28 The Oracles Against Tyre and Zidon.
Oracles against Tyre continue throughout the next three chapters in some detail. Tyre seems to have exalted itself to godlike status, its kings making huge claims, and it exulted in the destruction of Jerusalem because Jerusalem was a trade rival. It was indeed so strong that it took Nebuchadnezzar the next thirteen years to subdue it. But it had to recognise that it had no hope. It was under the sentence of Yahweh.
Tyre was a famous seaport divided into island and mainland harbours, and protected by mountains. Its merchant seamen roved widely throughout the ancient world, and it was renowned for its glassware and dyed materials. The island and mainland were connected by a causeway built by Hiram I in the tenth century BC, and the island provided a perfect and strong refuge in times of invasion. It was mentioned in the Amarna letters, at times maintained close relations with Israel and Judah, and was very prosperous. It was, however, regularly subjugated by the Assyrians, who captured the mainland city, and as a wealthy seaport it had had to pay high tribute. It was about a hundred miles from Jerusalem, a journey of a few days by camel. No worthwhile empire was going to leave it alone for long. It was a source of great riches, famed for its imports and exports in a world where sea-going was seen as exceptional.
The oracles can be divided into five, the oracle of her destruction (Ezekiel 26:1-21), an oracle likening her to a foundering sea-vessel (Ezekiel 27:1-36), an oracle about the self-exaltation and downfall of her king as ‘nagid’ (prince) (Ezekiel 28:1-10), a lament over the fate of the king of Tyre (Ezekiel 28:11-19), and an oracle against Zidon (Ezekiel 28:20-26). The number of the oracles and their content reveal the important position that Tyre held in the ancient Near Eastern world, and the status that she accorded herself.
‘And so it was that in the eleventh year, on the first day of the month, that the word of Yahweh came to me saying, “Son of man, because Tyre has said against Jerusalem, ‘Aha, she is broken who was the gate of the peoples, she has been turned to me. I will be replenished now that she is laid waste’.”
The dating of the oracle is slightly uncertain as no month is mentioned. This may have been because it was the eleventh month so that it accidentally dropped out due to the scribe picking up at the wrong point. Or it may simply be that there was no record of the month and that what was considered to matter was that it was on the first day of a moon period. It was possibly around February 586/5 BC, just after the fall of Jerusalem. Tyrian traders may well have reached Babylonia with the news of the downfall, and jesting remarks about the benefit it would now bring to them.
But more important is the reason for the coming judgment. Tyre exulted in the downfall of Jerusalem because it would enhance her own profits. It is clear that she had been jealous of Jerusalem’s position as ‘the gate of the peoples’, a major intersection on the trade routes. Now that Jerusalem was no more, much of the trade benefit would come to Tyre. The destruction of Jerusalem brought her nothing but happiness.
It is a woeful thing to rejoice at gaining through the suffering and misery of others.
The First Oracle Against Tyre (Ezekiel 26:1-21 ).
‘Therefore thus says the Lord Yahweh, “Behold I am against you, O Tyre, and will cause many nations to come up against you, as the sea causes his waves to come up. And they will destroy the walls of Tyre, and break down her towers. I will also scrape her dust from her, and make her a bare rock, she will be a place for the spreading of nets in the midst of the sea, for I have spoken it,” says the Lord Yahweh.’
But she had overlooked the fact that Jerusalem was Yahweh’s own special possession. These ideas are important in that they reveal that Yahweh was still caring for His own even while He was chastising them severely, and that as the Lord of the whole earth He could summon nations to do His bidding.
The picture of the sea crashing against the shore is a vivid one. The sea was ever seen by Israel as an alien element, a destructive and powerful force. And it would overwhelm Tyre in the form of powerful armies, leaving it deserted and barren. The prophecy was literally fulfilled through the activities of Nebuchadnezzar, Alexander the Great and others.
‘I will also scrape her dust from her, and make her a bare rock, she will be a place for the spreading of nets in the midst of the sea’ This powerful fortress would be levelled to the ground and disappear under the sea. This eventually became literally true.
‘For I have spoken it,” says the Lord Yahweh.’ And it was all to be the result of Yahweh’s word. What He says, happens.
-6 “And she will become a spoil to the nations, and her daughters who are in the surrounding country will be slain with the sword, and they will know that I am Yahweh.”
‘A spoil to the nations.’ Compare Ezekiel 25:7; also see Ezekiel 7:21. She had rejoiced to see Jerusalem spoiled, now she would be spoiled herself, sharing a similar fate. Thus she too will be made aware of Who Yahweh is. Her ‘daughters’ were the local towns connected with her, who looked to her and depended on her. They would suffer for their allegiance.
‘For thus says the Lord Yahweh, “I will bring on Tyre Nebuchadrezzar, king of Babylon, king of kings (supreme king), from the north, with horses and with chariots, and with horsemen, and a company and much people.”.’
Nebuchadrezzar may have been the ‘king of kings’, but the idea is that the supreme king does Yahweh’s bidding. This variation in name from Nebuchadnezzar is in fact closer to the Babylonian name Nabu-kudurri-usur, while Nebuchadnezzar is closer to the Greek form Nabochodonosor and is a variant form. His early career is described in the Babylonian records known as ‘the Babylonian Chronicle’ which give us valuable information for dating various events.
So Yahweh would bring the supreme king against Tyre with a huge well-armed army.
“He will slay with the sword your daughters in the surrounding countryside, and he will make forts against you, and cast up a mount against you, and raise up the buckler (large body shield) against you, and he will set his battering-engines against your walls, and with his axes he will break down your towers.”
All the devices of ancient warfare would be applied against Tyre. The villages around would be laid waste. Siege forts/walls would be built and a mount to make the defenders more accessible. Walls of shields would be utilised in the assaults, and battering-rams would be brought against the walls. Axes would be applied to the wooden defence towers. All this against the mainland town for the island could not be reached.
There is a deliberate attempt here to demonstrate that Tyre, with all her pride and claims, is really inferior compared to this supreme king who is Yahweh’s instrument.
“Because his horses are so abundant their dust will cover you. Your walls will shake at the noise of the horsemen, and of the wagons, and of the chariots, when he enters into your gates, as men enter a city in which a breach has been made. With the hooves of his horses he will tread down all your streets, he will slay your people with the sword, and the pillars of your strength will collapse to the ground.”
The contrast goes on. The horsemen would be so many that the dust raised by their hooves would cover the city. The multitude of horsemen, wagons and chariots would make the walls shake. The breach would be made and then the slaughter would begin and the strong parts of the city would be pulled down (or ‘the pillars of its strength’ may be its people). What is great Tyre in the light of this?
“And they will make a spoil of your riches, and make a prey of your merchandise, and they will break down your walls, and destroy your pleasant houses, and they will lay your stones, and your timber, and your dust in the midst of the waters.”
The riches from trade and merchanting would become a spoil for the invaders, their proud buildings a ruin, and these would be tossed into the harbour. This would no doubt be true to some extent under Nebuchadnezzar, but later, in the time of Alexander the Great, this would occur for the specific purpose of enlarging the causeway to the island for the invading troops. The ruins of the mainland city would be utilised. The prophecy telescopes Tyre’s future, for Yahweh’s activities against Tyre will go on and on.
We have here an example of how prophecy can contain two elements, a near and a far. It begins with specifics and then continues with a later outcome, the inexorable march of history. For the prophets were not interested in forecasting particular events but in presenting the total picture of the final purposes of Yahweh.
“And I will make the noise of your songs cease, and the sound of your harps will be heard no more. You will be a place for spreading nets, and you will be built no more. For I Yahweh have spoken it,” says the Lord Yahweh.’
The prophecy looks far into the future, when Tyre’s destiny would be fulfilled. In the end all merriment and music would cease as it became unpeopled and Tyre would disappear from history, and its proud island fortress would become a bare rock for fishermen to spread their nets on. History records how, after long centuries, this was indeed literally fulfilled. Such was the end of the glory of Tyre. And it happened at Yahweh’s word.
‘Thus says the Lord Yahweh to Tyre, “Will not the isles/coastlands shake at the sound of your fall, when the wounded groan, when the slaughter is made in the midst of you? Then all the princes of the sea will come down from their thrones, and lay aside their robes, and strip off their bordered garments. They will clothe themselves with trembling. They will sit on the ground, and will tremble every moment and be appalled at you.” ’
The description of their tragedy goes on. Those to whom their seamen regularly sailed, and especially their own colonies, (Tyre had colonies in many Mediterranean coastal regions such as Cyprus, Rhodes, Malta, Spain, Sicily, Sardinia, the Balearic Islands, and Africa), will learn the news of their fall and tremble, and the isles and distant coastlands, the island and city states on the Mediterranean seaboard, themselves will shake when Tyre falls, an exaggerated description of the cataclysmic nature of their fall. The groans of the wounded will, as it were, reach out to them. Then these princes across the sea (the princes of the colonies, and the merchant princes who benefited by them), will mourn for them, stripping off their ordinary clothing and clothing themselves with trembling, i.e. mourning clothes and mourning rites. They will be totally appalled. Such was the myth of Tyre.
“And they will take up a lamentation for you, and say to you,
‘How you are destroyed from the seas, O inhabited one,
O city renowned,
Who was mighty in the seas,
She and her inhabitants,
Who caused their terror to be
On all who inhabited it.
Now the isles will tremble,
On the day of your fall,
Yes the isles that are in the sea,
Are dismayed at your passing.’ ”
Tyre is portrayed as having been so powerful as a sea fortress, and through her ships at sea, that all others who sailed and inhabited the sea were afraid of her. Thus her fall makes them afraid too, for who can withstand One who could do this?
(We must remember that her name and her reputation probably far exceeded the reality, as her seamen sang her praises, with the usual exaggeration of seamen to credulous people who would never see the reality, and exalted her to the skies).
‘For thus says the Lord Yahweh, “When I make you a desolate city like the cities which are not inhabited, when I bring up the deep on you, and the great waters cover you, then will I bring you down with those who descend to the pit, to the people of old time, and will make you to dwell in the nether parts of the earth, in the places that are desolate of old, with those who go down to the pit, so that you will not be not inhabited or be given beauty by me in the land of the living. I will make you terrors (a dreadful warning to men), and you will be no more Though you are sought for, you will never be found again, says the Lord Yahweh.” ’
Tyre’s final end is portrayed. She will become a city of the dead, at the hands of those who invade her, who will sweep in like the sea and cover her with their great waves. Her people will become like those who have died long ago, sharing their grave with them, desolate like they are desolate. She will be without living inhabitants, and can expect to be given no beauty by God as would be if she were inhabited by living men. Rather she will be a dreadful portent and warning because she is no more, gone to the land from which no one returns. And though men seek her she will be a lost city, never to be found again as a living city, hidden beneath the waves. The picture given is of the shadowy underworld where all that has ceased to be has gone.
Thus will this pearl of the sea, this mighty shipping nation, finally cease to exist, as a punishment for how she has behaved towards Israel. And it did inexorably happen, bit by bit over many centuries, until through time the island city was no more.
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Ezekiel 26". "Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://studylight.org/
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