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The Pulpit Commentaries The Pulpit Commentaries
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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Ezekiel 26". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ tpc/ ezekiel-26.html. 1897.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Ezekiel 26". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
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The prophetic messages against Ammon, Moab, Edom, and the Philistines were comparatively short. That against Tyre spreads over three chapters (Ezekiel 26:1-18). The special prominence thus given to the latter city was probably due to its political importance in Ezekiel's time, possibly also to the personal knowledge which may be inferred from his minute description of its magnificence and its commerce. It is ushered in with special solemnity as "a word of Jehovah."
In the eleventh year, etc. The last date given (Ezekiel 24:1) was the tenth day of the tenth month of the ninth year. We have now come to the eleventh year, on which, on the ninth day of the fourth month, Jerusalem was taken, while its destruction followed in the seventh day of the fifth month (Jeremiah 52:6, Jeremiah 52:12). Here the number of the month is not given in the Hebrew or the Vulgate, while the LXX. inserts the "first month." In Ezekiel 32:17 we have a like omission, and in both cases it is natural to assume an error of transcription. The tidings of the capture may have reached both Tyre and Tel-Abib, and Ezekiel may have heard of the temper in which the former had received them, just as he had heard how the nations named in the previous chapter had exulted in the fall, imminent and, as they thought, inevitable, of the holy city.
Because that Tyrus, etc. As the nearest great commercial city, the Venice of the ancient world, Tyre, from the days of David (2 Samuel 5:11) and Solomon (1 Kings 5:1) onward, had been prominent in the eyes of the statesmen and prophets of Judah; and Ezekiel follows in the footsteps of Joel 3:4; Amos 1:9, Amos 1:10; Isaiah 23:1-18; in dealing with it. The description in Isaiah 23:5 and Isaiah 23:14 points, not to the city on the mainland, the old Tyre of Joshua 19:29, which had been taken by Shalmaneser and was afterwards destroyed by Alexander the Great, but to the island-city, the new Tyre, which was, at this time, the emporium of the ancient world. The extent of her commerce will meet us in Ezekiel 27:1-36. Here, too, as in the case of the nations in Ezekiel 25:1-17; Ezekiel's indignation is roused by the exulting selfishness with which Tyre had looked on the downfall (actual or imminent, as before) of Jerusalem. "Now," her rulers seem to have said, "we shall be the only power in the land of Canaan." Jerusalem, that had been the gate of the peoples, was now broken. The name thus given may imply either
(1) that Jerusalem was regarded as to a considerable extent a commercial city, carrying on much intercourse with the nations with which she was in alliance, (Ezekiel 23:40, Eze 23:41; 1 Kings 9:26-28; 1 Kings 22:48; Isaiah 2:7; Herod; 3.5, of Cadytis, i.e. probably Jerusalem); or
(2) that its temple had, under Hezekiah and Josiah, drawn many proselytes from the neighboring nations, as in Psalms 87:4-6, and was looking forward to a yet fuller confluence of men of all races, as in the prophecies of Micah 4:1, Micah 4:2 and Isaiah 2:2, Isaiah 2:3—expectations which may well have become known to a city like Tyro, in frequent intercourse with Judah. "Now," the Tyrians might say, "that hope is shattered." I shall be replenished. The interpolated "now" indicates what is, of course, implied, that Tyre expects her prosperity to increase in proportion to the decline and fall of Jerusalem.
As the sea causeth, etc. We note the special appropriateness of the comparison to the position of the island city.
It shall be a place for the spreading of nets, etc. The prediction is repeated in Ezekiel 26:14, and after many chances and changes, apparent revival followed by another period of decay, the present condition of Tyre strikingly corresponds with it. The travelers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries report that "its inhabitants are only a few poor wretches that harbor in vaults and subsist upon fishing"; that the number of those inhabitants was "only ten, Turks and Christians"; that there were, a little later on, "fifty or sixty poor faro nee. During the present century there has been a partial revival, and Porter, in 1858, estimates its population at from three to four thousand. The present state of its harbor, as compared with that of Beyrout, is against any future expansion of its commerce ('Dict. Bible,' s.v. "Tyre").
The daughters in the field are, according to the usual symbolism of prophecy, the subject or allied cities on the mainland.
I will bring against thee, etc. There is a special emphasis of abruptness in the way in which Ezekiel brings in the name of the great Chaldean conqueror (we note, by the way, that he adopts the less common spelling of the name), of whom he speaks as "king of kings." The title is used by Daniel (Daniel 2:37) of Nebuchadnezzar, and by Artaxerxes of himself (Ezra 7:12), by Darius in the Nakshi Rustam inscription ('Records of the Past,' 5.151), by Tiglatb-Pileser, with the addition of "lord of lords" (ibid; 5.8).
(For the usual operations of a siege, see notes on Ezekiel 4:1, Ezekiel 4:2.) The buckler was the roof of shields under which the besiegers protected themselves from the missiles of the besieged. For engines of war, read battering-rams; for wheels, wagons. The final result will be that the breach will be made, with results such as those described in Ezekiel 26:1].
Thy strong garrisons; literally, the pillars of thy strength (Revised Version). So the Vulgate, nobiles statuae. So the word is used in Isaiah 19:19; Jeremiah 43:13; 2 Kings 3:2. The words probably refer to the two famous columns standing in the temple of the Tyrian Hercules, one of gold and one of emerald (possibly malachite or lapis-lazuli), as symbols of strength, or as pedestals surmounted by a statue of Baal (Herod; 2.44).
Thy pleasant houses; Hebrew, houses of desire. The palaces of the merchant-princes of Tyro, stately as those of Genoa or Venice. In the midst of the water. We are again reminded that it is the island city of which the prophet speaks.
The noise of thy songs. As in the imagery, of Isaiah 23:16, Tyre seems to have been famous for its music—the operatic city, as it were, of the ancient world—eminent no less for its culture than its commerce (romp. Ezekiel 28:13). The description of the desolation of the captured city is summed up once more in the words of Isaiah 23:5. It shall be a place to "spread nets upon."
Shall not the isles, etc.? The Hebrew word is used in a wider sense, as including all settlements on the sea-coast as well as islands. So it is used of Philistia (Isaiah 20:6), and of the maritime states of Asia Minor (Daniel 11:18), of the east and south coasts of Arabia (Ezekiel 27:15). Looking to the extent of commerce described in Ezekiel 27:1-36; it probably includes all the Mediterranean settlements of the Tyrians, possibly also those in the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf. The report of the fall of Tyre was to spread far and wide.
The princes of the sea are not the kings of the isles, but the merchant-princes of the city (Isaiah 23:8). They shall lay aside their robes of state—Tyrian purple embroidered with gold and silver—and shall put on the garments of mourners. Jonah 3:6 presents an interesting parallel. The word thrones is used, as in 1 Samuel 4:13, for any chair of state, as that of priest or judge (Proverbs 9:14; Esther 3:1), as well as for the specifically kingly throne. For the, most part, however, the later meaning is dominant.
Inhabited of seafaring, etc.; Hebrew, from the seas. The sense is the same, but we lose the poetry of the original in the paraphrase. Possibly, however, the phrase may represent the position of Tyro as rising out of the sea or as deriving its wealth from it. Ewald adopts a conjectural reading, which gives "destroyed from the seas;" or, with another conjecture, "She that was settled from the days of the remote past."
It is noticeable that the commercial policy of Tyre is not represented as having been oppressive. The isles do not exult in their deliverance, but mourn over the captured city whose commerce had contributed to their prosperity. The "terror" of Ezekiel 26:17 is rather the impression of awe and wonder made on all who came to it.
When I shall bring up the sea. The picture of desolation is completed. The sea washes over the bare rock that was once covered with the palaces of the merchant-princes.
When I shall bring thee down, etc. The pit is sheol, Hades, the unseen world of the dead. The image may have been suggested by Isaiah 14:9, where it is used of Babylon. It was obviously one on which the mind of Ezekiel dwelt, and is reproduced in Ezekiel 32:17-32. Here, apparently, the sinking in the depth of the waters (Ezekiel 32:19) is thought of as leading to that world of the dead that lay beneath them. The people of old time may possibly include the races of the old world that were submerged in the waters of the Flood. The imagery of Psalms 88:3-7 seems to have been floating before the prophet's mind. I shall set glory; better, will set. The contrast drawn is that between the shadow-world of the dead, and the earth with its living inhabitants. There Jehovah would establish his glory, would, sooner or later, manifest his kingdom, while Tyre and its pomp should be no more, belonging only to the past. Conjectural readings and renderings have been suggested as follows:
(1) Hitzig, "And thou no longer shinest with glory in the land of the living."
(2) Havernick and Kliefoth, "That I no longer produce anything glorious from thee in the land of the living."
(3) Ewald," That thou mayest not remain (or stand) in the laud of the living." I have adopted Keil's interpretation of the Anthorized Version.
I will make thee a terror. Ewald translates, "To sudden death will I bring thee," which corresponds with the margin of the Revised Version, I will make thee a destruction.
Tyro, the England of antiquity.
We have here an outline of the great, desolating judgment that was to fall upon Tyre; it is more fully described in the succeeding verses of the chapter, and lamented over in the next chapter. There are several points in the condition and history of Tyre that call for especial attention to the fate of this famous city; but the resemblance between Type and England is so striking, that we may feel much more interest in Ezekiel's utterances when we consider their bearing on our own country in the present day.
I. THE SIMILAR PROSPERITY OF TYRE AND ENGLAND.
1. In wealth. Tyre was one of the richest cities of the East, if not the very richest. Her splendor was renowned, and the wealth of her merchants was proverbial. Like England today, she was envied by other peoples for her worldly prosperity.
2. Through commerce. The wealth of Tyre was not drawn from rich mines or fertile soil of her own territory. It was not booty taken in war, like that of Babylon. Her riches came by trade. Her princes wore merchants. Thus she was like our "nation of shopkeepers."
3. By seafaring. The early commerce of Syria was carried on by Midianites over the desert (Genesis 37:28); but the later and more profitable commerce was over the waters westward, round the coast of the Mediterranean and to as far as Cornwall in Britain, perhaps even to the distant Azores. Like Venice in the Middle Ages, like Spain later, like the Netherlands after the Reformation, like England today, Tyro in ancient times was the mistress of the sea. Hence a certain cosmopolitan character.
4. With constructive art. The vast foundations of Baalbec tell of the building powers of Tyro. Solomon's temple was a grand specimen of Tyrian architecture, built with Tyrian art. We do not equal those great builders in originality. But inventive genius and manufacturing energy are characteristic of our race. Thus the material splendor of Tyro has passed to England.
II. THE FATE OF TYRE A WARNING FOR ENGLAND. The splendor and prosperity of Tyro did not save her from ruin. Can we see in her fall any hint of a similar danger threatening our own country? Consider both its immediate cause and the providential necessity that lay behind.
1. The immediate cause. Tyro was overthrown by Babylon (Verse 7). She was not able to withstand the terrific onward march of the Eastern power. She was strong at sea, but feeble ashore. She was not a military power. She proves that wealth will not protect from ruin, but will rather invite it. The wealth of London is a temptation to the invader. Prosperity is not its own security.
2. The providential necessity. Wealth enervates, and no doubt Tyro was weakened by luxury. But behind such natural operations God, the Judge of all the earth, saw the sin of Tyro. She was greedy and selfish (Verse 2). Commerce does not always win friends. By competition it stirs up jealousy. When deceptive or overreaching, it rouses the antagonism of those on whom it preys. Tyro was a most wicked city. Her very religion was shamefully immoral. Though the temple of Jehovah was built by Tyrian artists, the worship of Jehovah was not accepted by the Tyrian citizens. Like Tyro, we may build a temple for others, and never worship in it ourselves. We may patronize religion, and be none the better for it. We may send the gospel to the heathen, and become pagans at home. The temple they built for the Jews did not save the Tyrians. Nothing can save England but the uprightness and the personal religion of her people.
(last clause, "I shall be replenished, now she is laid waste")
An unworthy anticipation.
The destruction of Jerusalem afforded delights to Tyro, because the mercenary Tyrians imagined that they would gain by the loss of the Jewish capital. This was an unworthy anticipation, and the event proved that it was founded on a delusion. Tyro did not ultimately profit by the ruin of Jerusalem.
I. IT IS WICKED TO HOPE FOR GAIN THROUGH THE DISTRESS OF OTHERS. Tyre should have sympathized with her old ally in the time of adversity. But her commercial greed bears down all thoughts of friendship and all feelings of commiseration. She only looks at the direful event as an opportunity for enlarging her trade. Nations are guilty of this wickedness when they exult in the downfall and misery of their neighbors, expecting to reap a harvest of gain for themselves. Thus while two peoples are in the agonies of war, a third may be delighted at the opportunity of coining wealth by seizing the ground for commerce which the belligerents have been forced to relinquish. It may come more nearly home to us to see the same greedy spirit in the shopkeeper who inwardly rejoices over the bankruptcy of his rival, believing that now the custom will be all in his own hands. The same miserable, mercantile selfishness is even witnessed in ecclesiastical regions, when one Church takes pleasure in the misfortunes of a neighboring Church, expecting thus to have grist brought to its mill. In this case there is far less excuse, for Christians profess brotherhood, and a true Church exists for the glory of God, not for the pomp and aggrandizement of its members. God is not glorified when one Church fattens on the wreck of another Church.
II. THIS UNWORTHY ANTICIPATION IS DOOMED TO ULTIMATE FAILURE. Tyre did not gain by the overthrow of Jerusalem; on the contrary, she was swept away by the same besom of destruction that she had greedily rejoiced to see turned against her ancient ally, We are members one of another. What is hurtful to one part of the body injures the whole body. War brings nothing but loss in the long run. Selfish commerce does not ultimately pay. Greedy competition overreaches itself and reaps a Nemesis of general commercial depression. It is often found that the ruin of one house of business is followed by that of others. A market is injured, and all concerned with it suffer. Selfishness, envy, jealousy, and greed destroy mutual confidence. They introduce a condition in which every man's hand is against his fellow. This must be one of general disaster, because it is one of general distrust. We do not suffer in the end by being magnanimous. Assuredly these considerations apply with double force to religious communities. The Church that exults in the downfall of its rival cannot truly prosper. Here, indeed, what hurts a member of the body hurts the whole body. Far wiser as well as higher was the spirit of St. Paul, who rejoiced in the preaching of the gospel by all means, even though, in some cases, it involved enmity to himself (Philippians 1:18).
I. IT IS POSSIBLE FOR GOD TO BE IN ANTAGONISM TO MEN. We have come to regard the quarrel between man and God as one-sided. Now, it is one-sided in its origin, its evil, and its malice. God never wishes to be at war with men, and never originates any breach of the peace. His conduct throughout is just, considerate, marvelously long-suffering. Even when the conflict is forced on to an extremity, God never ceases to love his foolish, fallen children. He is ever waiting to be gracious, longing for signs of contrition and a door of reconciliation. The origin of the quarrel, its evil, and its malice are all on our side. But this does not mean that God takes no part in it, that he only stands before us as an impassive and immobile granite wall that we may dash our heads against, but that never moves an inch against us; much less that he gives way before our rebellious onslaught, and weakly yields to willful opposition on our part. We can provoke the Lord to anger (Psalms 78:58). "God is angry with the wicked every day" (Psalms 7:11). As Lord and Judge, he executes sentence. By necessity of righteousness, he sets himself in array against his sinful creatures.
II. SIN PROVOKES THE ANTAGONISM OF GOD. God was angry with Tyre for its wickedness, and his anger was not mitigated by the fact that the greedy were rejoicing over the calamities of their neighbors. All sin rouses the anger and active opposition of God. He is not opposed to any one from prejudice, as men are too often opposed to their neighbors. But sin, which is opposition to the will of God, must needs be opposed by him if that will is to be done on earth as it is in heaven. This, then, is not a question for a few rare souls in the awful condition of victims of Divine displeasure. Every sinner has God for his opponent. The fatal punishment of others ought to be a warning. It was not so taken by Tyre. Instead of seeing a dreadful lesson in the ruin of Jerusalem, the Tyrians rejoiced over it. Such wickedness the more stirred up the antagonism of God. Now, these Tyrians were heathen people, judged only according to their light. Yet they were condemned, for the ground of judgment was moral evil, not defective theology. But much more must God be in antagonism to those who have fuller light and yet rebel against him. "Therefore thou art inexcusable," etc. (Romans 2:1).
III. CHRIST HAS COME TO PUT AN END TO THE DIVINE ANTAGONISM. This does not mean that God is reluctant to sheathe his sword, till Christ succeeds in persuading him to do so; for our Lord was sent by his Father for the express purpose of making peace. But the cause of the antagonism had to be removed, and Christ came to effect that end by making his great atonement for sin. Through this also he brought men into a new state of repentance, and reconciled them to God. Now, we are under the doom of Divine antagonism, so long as we live in unrepented sin. But the offer of the gospel shows the way of escape from it in free forgiveness and perfect restoration to the favor of God.
The mission of Nebuchadnezzar.
I. GOD EMPLOYS HUMAN AGENTS. He does not shatter Tyre as he created the world, with a word. Nor does he send Michael and the hosts of heaven with flaming swords to smite the devoted city. The devastating conquests of Babylon effect his purpose. Nebuchadnezzar is his "servant." (Jeremiah 25:9). In the happier work of bringing salvation to a ruined world God uses human agents. God appeared incarnate in a human form. Apostles were next sent forth to proclaim the glad tidings. In the present day God uses human ministers of justice and human ministers of mercy.
II. GOD EMPLOYS AS HIS AGENTS MEN WHO DO NOT KNOW HIM. This is the singular fact brought before us in relation to the use of Nebuchadnezzar as a minister of Divine judgment. The King of Babylon was a heathen monarch, who did not acknowledge the true God (see Daniel 3:15). Yet he was impressed into the Divine service. We may serve God unconsciously. It is possible to be an instrument for effecting his purposes even when we are thinking that we are resisting them. The Jews who crucified Christ were unconsciously the means of leading his work on to completion. Thus God controls men. He claims all; he uses all. For he is the God of all, though all do not own or even know him.
III. GOD EMPLOYS BAD MEN AS HIS AGENTS. The worst thing about Nebuchadnezzar was not his paganism, for which he was not responsible, as he had inherited it from his ancestors; but his wickedness, his cruelty, his ambitious greed and intolerant despotism. Yet not only was this than unconsciously enlisted in the service of God. His very wrath was made to praise God, and the very exercise of his wicked disposition was just the thing that carried out the Divine purpose. The nations were chastised according to the ends of Divine justice by the unjust and wicked scourge of Nebuchadnezzar's invasions. This wonderful fact does not solve the enigma of evil, but it helps to lighten the burden of that great mystery. We see that evil itself may be turned into a ministry of good.
IV. GOD'S EMPLOYMENT OF HUMAN AGENTS IS NO JUSTIFICATION OF THEIR CONDUCT. The use of their action is no defense for it. God does not approve of Nebuchadnezzar because he seizes that cruel monarch's plans and makes them to fall in with his own holy purposes. Nebuchadnezzar must be content to be judged by the moral character of his deeds, not by the unsuspected Divine issue of them. It is no excuse for sin that God may overrule it for good. The Jews were not exonerated from blame in rejecting Christ because this rejection was the means of the world's redemption. We may be used by God to high ends, and then cast away as worthless souls unless we serve him consciously and do his will from our hearts.
Songs may be silenced either because they are found to be unworthy to be sung or because the singers are no longer able to sing them. The harp may be broken, or the minstrel may be in no mood to touch its chords. Our old joys may be given up for either of these reasons. We may find them to be unworthy, or, if no fault is discovered in them, sorrow may extinguish them.
I. SONGS ARE SILENCED BY THE DISCOVERY OF THEIR UNWORTHINESS. The songs of Tyre were not like those of Zion. Heathen songs are too often degrading to the singers of them, because false religion and immoral conduct are therein celebrated. There are pleasures of sin which it is a shame to permit unchecked. The awakening of conscience necessarily extinguishes such pleasures and stills their accompanying songs. In this way the thoughtless world may be brought to regard religion as a gloomy, repressive influence, inimical to joy, and therefore very unattractive. We should look a little deeper. The wicked song must be stopped at any cost. But it need not be followed by a reign of perpetual silence. A new song may follow, and this may be as joyous as it is innocent. Christianity is not the enemy of gladness, it is only the enemy of wickedness; and when joy is purged from evil, joy is found to be deeper, stronger, and sweeter than ever it was while intoxicated with the old corruption.
II. SONGS ARE SILENCED BY SORROW. There is a time for everything, and singing is not always seasonable. Nothing can be more unnatural than a forced song. Now, there are sorrows that quench the most vigorous soul's delights, as there are storms that beat down the strongest wings. Such were the calamities that accompanied Nebuchadnezzar's invasion. Such too were the troubles of the Jewish captives when they hung their harps upon the willows, and refused to sing the Lord's song in a strange land (Psalms 137:2-4). But there will be worse causes of the silence of old songs in God's future judgments on sin. Pleasure is no refuge from trouble. It tempts to hopes that are delusive. No one is safe just because he feels himself happy. Cheerful people may be in as great danger as despondent ones.
III. SONGS ARE SILENCED TO SAVE THE SINGER. Type is made desolate utterly and eternally. The songs of her gay citizens are no more heard. Her very rocks are scraped bare, and the fisherman spreads his nets on her once populous places. Thus cities are doomed to irretrievable ruin. But it is not so with souls. There are restoration and redemption for individual men. At all events, though a dark shadow of mystery hangs over the grave, this is the case on earth. Now, it would be best for the singer to silence his old thoughtless song in the sober reflection of repentance. The silence may be a first step to better things. We are too noisy and too superficial. The hush of demonstrative life gives us an opportunity of hearing the still small voice of God. When our songs are silenced we may listen to the songs of the angels. Then that heavenly music may teach us to tune our harps to its higher melody and inspire our souls with new songs of redemption (Revelation 5:9).
The princes of the sea.
The Tyrians were a seafaring people on a large scale. Unlike the poor Philistines, who did not go beyond the fisherman's simple toil, those adventurers swept the Mediterranean with their fleets, and even ventured to distant shores of the Atlantic. They had the advantages and the evils of a great maritime nation.
I. THE PRINCES OF THE SEA GATHERED RICHES, The merchants of Tyre were princes. Wealth was got by industry, daring, and enterprise. Thus the Tyrians anticipated the good fortune of the English. Prosperity is not often won except by means of energy and adventure. When the spirit that urges on daring attempts is enervated by luxury, the success that it once achieved is surely doomed. It is happy when that spirit is transformed into a higher character, and seeks for better returns than bales of merchandise. We cannot but feel that the voyages of the Beagle and the Challenger are nobler in this respect, as their aim was to gather treasures of knowledge. But better still is it when the command of the waters is used for the promotion of peace, the extension of liberty, and the check of the slave trade, and above all, the propagation of Christianity.
II. THE PRINCES OF THE SEA UNITED RACES. In ancient times the Tyrians were the great link of connection between the East and the West. Through them the venerable civilization of Asia woke up the genius of Europe, as yet slumbering in unconscious barbarism. Tyre gave the alphabet to Europe. Thus she laid the foundation of Greek culture and started European literature on its wonderful course. She gave more than she took. Immense and untold good comes from the peaceful intercommunication of races.
III. THE PRINCES OF THE SEA RAN GREAT RISKS. They trusted their wealth to the treacherous waves. The Merchant of Venice finds himself beggared by unexpected calamities. The greatest wealth is usually won by the most uncertain means, i.e. by foreign trade and home speculation. This is a warning to the prosperous not to put their trust in riches which so easily take wings and fly away. The fate of Tyre should drive us further to seek those better riches in the heavenly treasury, where neither moth nor rust corrupt, nor thieves break through and steal (Matthew 6:20). If even the princes of the sea were ruined, who can be satisfied to rest in the greatest earthly success?
IV. THE PRINCES OF THE SEA LIVED LOW LIVES. Princes they were, but not saints. Their mercenary character was not hidden by all the splendor of their surroundings. In their gorgeous palaces, among their well-stocked bazaars, with their heavy-laden ships on many waters, they were the cynosure of every eye. Yet in God's sight they were "miserable, and blind, and naked," for they were but mammon-worshippers. More enlightened than the Tyrian merchants, Englishmen will be guilty of greater sin and folly if they fall down and worship the same image of gold.
HOMILIES BY J.R. THOMSON
The jealousy of Tyre.
It is a singular fact that, in his reproaches and censures directed against the states and tribes by which Israel was surrounded, Ezekiel does not confine himself to a condemnation of their idolatries and their vices and crimes generally, but refers especially to the attitude these peoples had taken towards his own countrymen, their land, and their metropolis. No doubt there was patriotism in this way of looking at matters. But the frequency and evident deliberateness of such references show that it was not mere personal and patriotic feeling which animated Ezekiel. He spoke as a religious teacher and as the prophet of the Lord; and he recognized, as underlying hostility to Israel, hostility to Israel's God. It is observable that in the powerful and eloquent denunciation of Tyre's offences, in the awful prediction of Type's impending fate, which forms so interesting and instructive a portion of this book, Ezekiel puts in the very forefront of his indictment Type's attitude towards Jerusalem, the Hebrew metropolis. Type's jealousy of Jerusalem's historic power, prosperity, and wealth, Tyre's malicious delight in Jerusalem's humiliation and fall, are adduced as reasons for the Divine displeasure, and for the execution of the sentence of Divine condemnation. The proud queen of the seas was to be smitten and deposed, not only because of her luxury, pride, and idolatry, but especially because of her jealousy and malevolence towards the beloved and chosen city of Jehovah.
I. THE FACT UPON WHICH THIS JEALOUSY WAS BASED, i.e. THE FORMER PROSPERITY OF JERUSALEM. According to the poetical language of the prophet, Jerusalem had been "the gate of the peoples." In the reign of Solomon especially, and to some extent subsequently, the metropolis of the Jewish people had been an emporium of commerce. Its situation in some degree fitted it to be the center of communication between the great Eastern countries, and Egypt on the south, and the Mediterranean and its traffic Westwards. We are not accustomed to think of Jerusalem in this light; but this verse in Ezekiel's prophecies brings before our minds the unquestionable fact that there was a time when this city was a mart in which the surrounding nations were wont to exchange their produce and their commodities.
II. THE REJOICING TO WHICH THIS JEALOUSY LED, i.e. IN THE DOWNFALL OF JERUSALEM. "She is broken," was the exulting exclamation of Type upon beholding the distress of her rival. That Jerusalem deserved her fate there is no room for doubting; yet it was not generous in Type thus to triumph over the misfortunes and calamities of her neighbor. The wealth and prosperity of the Jewish capital was about to end; the days of her glory were over; her streets were to be forsaken; the caravans of the merchants were no more to thread their way through the proud gates of the city. And in this change, in these disasters, Type rejoiced.
III. THE HOPE WITH WHICH THIS JEALOUSY WAS ASSOCIATED, i.e. THE EXTENSION OF THE PROSPERITY OF TYRE. The Phoenician city anticipated that she would gain what Jerusalem was about to lose: "I shall be replenished, now that she is laid waste." The greatness, opulence, and renown of Tyre were such that it seems scarcely credible that her prosperity could be affected by anything which could happen to a small and inland capital such as Jerusalem. Yet it is evident that the Tyrian spirit was a spirit of selfishness, exclusiveness, and grasping. Nothing was too great for Tyre's ambition, nothing too small to be beneath her notice and cupidity.
IV. THE MEANNESS WHICH THIS JEALOUSY REVEALED. In what follows Ezekiel displays the pomp, splendor, and magnificence of the great seaport of Phoenicia; it is strange that he should put in the forefront of his address to Tyre this imputation of littleness. There is a reason for this; it may be that the prophet spoke, not only as a patriot who resented Type's jealousy, but as a religious teacher for whom moral distinctions were all-important, and for whom a moral fault was of more consequence than all material splendor.
V. THE DISPLEASURE WHICH THIS JEALOUSY EXCITED IN THE MIND OF THE DIVINE KING AND JUDGE. "I," says God—"I am against thee, O Tyre!" The city which had envied and hated his own Jerusalem, the seat of his worship, and the metropolis of his chosen; the city which was pained by Jerusalem's prosperity, and which rejoiced in Jerusalem's fall,—incurred the indignation as well as the disapproval of the Most High. For dispositions were revealed discreditable to human hate, ire, and repugnant to Divine purity. Because Tyre was against Jerusalem, the Lord God was against Tyre.—T.
The fate of Type.
From such obscure peoples as the Ammonites, Moabites, and Edomites, who—except for their occasional association with Israel—are quite aside from the world's history, the prophet passes to deal with Tyre, one of the greatest and most commanding cities whose deeds and fame adorn the annals of mankind. The Ruler of men does not, indeed, allow the meanest to defy his authority with impunity; his sway extends to the most insignificant of peoples, of tribes. But on the other hand, the proudest and the mightiest are subject to his control, and, when rebellious and defiant, must feel the weight of his irresistible hand.
I. THE GREATNESS OF TYRE. The elements of this greatness, the causes which conspired to produce it, were many and various. There may be noticed:
1. Its commanding maritime situation. Partly upon a rock, partly upon the mainland, Tyre sat—a queen. To the east, the north, the south, were countries which poured their produce into the Phoenician port; before her, to the west, were the waters of the great sea, upon whose shores lay the great states and cities of the ancient world. Tyre was thus the highway of the nations.
2. Its commerce. This was carried on with all the known countries accessible to the Tyrian fleets. Her supremacy upon the sea gave Tyre a foremost position among the nations; her adventurous mariners not only visited every port of the Mediterranean, they passed the Pillars of Hercules, and traded with "the islands of the West."
3. Its wealth. Every nation paid tribute to Tyre. The exchange, the mart, of the world, it acquired and retained riches scarcely equaled.
4. Its splendor—such as is described by Ezekiel—was the natural result of the opulence of its enterprising merchants and sea-captains.
5. Its political power was out of all proportion to its territory, its population; its alliance was sought, and its hostility was dreaded.
II. THE ENEMIES OF TYRE. These were many and formidable. It is a sad symptom of human depravity that unusual prosperity should excite general dislike, jealousy, envy, and ill will. "Many nations came up against Tyre, as the sea causeth his waves to come up." But some of these adversaries Tyre could treat with derision or contempt. This was not so, however, with Babylon. A different type of civilization and national life was no doubt exhibited in the great kingdom of the East; but the population and armies of Babylonia were enormous, and the resources of the kingdom all but inexhaustible. When the King of Babylon turned his arms against Tyre, brave and powerful as was the regal city by the sea, there was no disguising the fact that the time of trial and of danger had come.
III. THE SIEGE AND CONQUEST OF TYRE. It is matter of history that the prophet's predictions were fulfilled. Nebuchadnezzar King of Babylon came up against Tyre, and, notwithstanding its boasted impregnability, laid siege to it, and directed against it all the vast military resources of his kingdom. For long years the siege was maintained. The besieged, having open communication by sea, were able to withstand the assaults of the enemy; and it was only the patience and indomitable perseverance of the Babylonians that gave them the final victory.
IV. THE DESTRUCTION AND DESOLATION OF TYRE. A more striking and detailed prediction than this was never uttered; and never was prediction more strikingly and literally fulfilled. The downfall of Tyre was complete. The walls and towers of the city were broken down. The rock upon which she stood—a stronghold of defiance—was left bare and desolate. The nets of the solitary fisher were spread where magnificence and revelry had reigned. Tyre became a spoil to the nations. Her dependencies were vanquished and destroyed with her; in her they had trusted, in her favor they had basked, and in her ruin they were overwhelmed. The destruction and desolation were in awful contrast to the light and glory, the splendor and power, of bygone days.
APPLICATION. The time of national greatness and prosperity is to any people a time of trial. Then especially does it behoove a nation to beware of pride and self-confidence. For the rebellious, contumacious, and ungodly there is assuredly retribution prepared. The King of all is God of hosts, and he never wants means and agencies to carry out his own righteous and judicial purposes. Resistance to God is vain; it can last but for a short time. And every nation must learn that the Lord is God alone.—T.
The besieging of Tyre.
The fate foretold for the famous city is here related, so to speak, beforehand, with singular copiousness and exactness of detail.
I. THE ENEMY—THE KING OF BABYLON. Tyre had many foes, but at most of them she could afford to laugh, for they had no power to carry their hostility into effect. But Nebuchadnezzar, the king of kings, was an enemy that none could despise. His power and his resources were such as to render him formidable even to the mightiest. Flushed with previous successes, confident in the irresistible force of his arms, this puissant monarch, in unconscious obedience to Divine behests, turned his sword against the proud mistress of the seas.
II. THE HOSTILE ARMY AND THE APPARATUS OF WAR. Ezekiel describes, with the accuracy and minuteness of one who beheld it, the force which the King of Babylon directed against Tyre. We see the dreaded conqueror of the nations advance from the north-east "with horses, and with chariots, and with horsemen, and a company of much people." The undertaking was only possible to a power which commanded abundance of military resources, and which was able to bring up successive reinforcements, and to continue warlike operations through the changing fortunes and the long delays often incident to ancient campaigns. All that was necessary for his purpose, Nebuchadnezzar knew, before he commenced operations, that he could command.
III. THE SIEGE. The several stages of this enterprise are described as by an eyewitness. First, engagements take place with the neighboring powers dependent upon and in alliance with Tyre. These are defeated, and their opposition is subdued. Then forts are constructed and a mount is raised from which the besiegers can direct their attack against the beleaguered city. Further, battering-engines are brought forward to play against the walls, and the towers are assaulted by the battle-axes of the besiegers. The dust raised by the galloping horses marks where the cavalry repel the sally from the garrison. The sights of warfare rise before the eye, its sounds salute and deafen the ear. Through long years these military maneuvers go forward with changing fortune; yet leaving the city weaker and less able, even with the open communication seawards, to sustain the siege.
IV. THE ASSAULT, CONQUEST, AND SUBJUGATION. At length the fatal breach is made in the city wall, and we seem to see the victorious army rush forward to overpower the gallant but now disheartened defenders. The walls shake at the noise of the horsemen, the wagons, and the chariots, as the conquerors pour into the streets of the city. The conquering troops, mad with long-delayed success, ride over and cut down every armed man they meet, and even slay the defenseless inhabitants with the sword. The famous city, which had boasted itself invincible and impregnable, is taken and occupied by the Babylonian forces.
V. THE SPOILING AND DESTRUCTION. The riches and merchandise fall a prey into the hands of the victors, who are satiated with booty. The monuments of Tyrian pride and grandeur are leveled in the dust. The fortifications are demolished, the pleasant houses, luxurious abodes of merchant-princes, are pulled down, and the stone and timber are flung into the sea. Precious goods are appropriated or wantonly destroyed. As ever in warfare, so here, the spoils go to the conquerors, Vae victis!
VI. THE DESOLATION AND WASTE. In those palaces and halls were once heard the songs of joy and of love, of feasting and of mirth—the strains of music vibrating from harp and lyre, and breathing from the tuneful flute. Now a mournful silence reigns, broken only by the cry of the sea-bird or the plash of the wind-smitten waves. In those harbors rode but lately the fleets laden with the commerce of the world, and Tyrian merchants gazed with pride upon their noble and richly laden argosies. Now the fisherman spreads his nets upon the deserted rocks, and looks wistfully over the forsaken roadsteads and the waste of waters where no sail curves before the wind or glitters in the sunshine. "The Lord has spoken it," and what he has said has come to pass. The Tyrian splendor and opulence were of this world, and they are no more. Sic transit gloria mundi!—T.
A more imaginative and pathetic picture than that painted in these words will scarcely be found in revelation, or indeed in all literature. The anticipation of Tyre's destruction seems to have awakened all the poetry of the prophet's nature. And no wonder; for never was a contrast more marked and more significant than that between Tyre in its grandeur and Tyre in its desolation. The isles shake with the resounding crash of the city's fall. The groans of the wounded and the dying are heard afar. Princes exchange their splendor for trembling and astonishment. The city strong in the sea has fallen weak and helpless in the day of Divine judgment. And the seamen who were Tyre's glory and security are no more to be found. Terror and trembling are upon those who dwell in the islands of the deep. Where Tyre reared herself in opulence, grandeur, and pride, the sea breaks upon the deserted rocks, and upon the ruins strewn in disorder by the lonely shore. The waters engulf the merchants, the seafaring men, and all those who minister to the pomp and pleasures of a wealthy and luxurious city. Tyre is as though it had not been; men seek the city, and it is not found.
I. THE GRIEF AND LAMENTATION OF THOSE WHO SHARED IN THE CITY'S PROSPERITY AND GREATNESS, AND WHO LOSE AND SUFFER BY ITS FALL. Some survived the destruction of Tyre, to cherish the memory of days of wealth and feasting, haughtiness and boasting. Some escaped with life, but with the loss of all which to them made life precious. And others, who had brought their merchandise to the great Phoenician emporium, now found no market for the commodities they produced. For all such material loss gave sincerity and even bitterness to their mourning and woe.
II. THE GRIEF AND LAMENTATION OF THOSE WHO WITNESSED THE CITY'S DESTRUCTION, AND WHO WERE IMPRESSED AND APPALLED BY THE SPECTACLE. Ezekiel himself was one of these. Even the conquerors could scarcely fail to feel the pathos of the situation, and to cherish some sympathy for the city whose splendor and power their arms had brought to an end. The ruin of Tyre was a loss to the nations of the world. Embodying, as the city did, the world-spirit, civic and commercial greatness, it must needs have awakened poignant feelings of desolation in the hearts of many who had no personal, material interest in Tyrian commerce. The lesson of the frailty and perishableness of earthly greatness, even if its moral side was missed, could not but impress the historical imagination.
III. THE GRIEF AND LAMENTATION OF THOSE WHO IN AFTER-TIME INQUIRE FOR THE CITY WHOSE GREATNESS AND SPLENDOR ARE RECORDED IN TRADITION AND IN HISTORY. The traveler who, impelled by curiosity or by historical interest, seeks for the site of Tyre the magnificent, learns that every trace of the city has vanished. Some ruined, deserted cities, famous in story, leave behind them some ruin, some memorial, to which imagination may attach the traditions of the past. But for Tyre the traveler can only inquire from the waves that beat upon the shore, from the rocks where the fishermen spread their nets. "Though thou be sought for, yet shalt thou never be found again, saith the Lord God."
IV. THE TEMPORARY AND DEPARTED SPLENDORS OF EARTH SUGGEST BY CONTRAST ETERNAL AND UNFADING GLORY. Who can contemplate the ruin of such a city as Tyre without being reminded of "the city which hath foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God"? which the glory of God illumines with nightless splendor, and into which are brought the glory and honor of the nations?—T.
HOMILIES BY J.D. DAVIES
Collision between man's plans and God's plans.
Appearance is never a safe guide. It might seem to a carnal eye as if the downfall of Israel would bring worldly advantage to Tyre. But that prospect was soon overcast. Righteous obedience is the only safe guide to men. The path may be, for a time, rough and dark, yet it will bring us into a paradise of light.
I. NATIONAL SELFISHNESS IS SIN. Nations have their vices as well as individual persons. If the leaders of a nation cherish evil purposes or pursue evil plans, unchecked by the subjects of the realm, the whole nation contracts guilt. Yet if one person or more, moved by better feelings, discountenances the national deed, that person is exculpated from the common blame, and shall be owned by God. The protection of Noah and his family, of Lot and his daughters, amid the general destruction, proves the fatherly care of God for individuals. The single grain in a heap of chaff shall be cared for by God.
II. AN OFFENSE DONE TO A NATION IS AN OFFENSE AGAINST GOD. Tyre had rejoiced in Jerusalem's overthrow. Instead of lamenting Israel's sins, the people of Tyre had room only for one thought-their own selfish advantage. The trade of Jerusalem would flow to Tyre. This calamity in Israel would bring a talent or two of gold into the pockets of Tyrian traders. What base ground for jubilation! No matter what suffering or humiliation the Jews may endure, Tyre would add to the smart by taunt and triumph. But God is not deaf. Into his ears every sound of selfish boasting came. He weighs every thought and word of man in his balances of justice. That selfish taunt will not float idly on the summer gale. It is a grief to Jehovah, and he will repay. "The Lord executeth righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed. In all human affairs, individual or national, God has a real interest. He will never be left out of the account.
III. SELFISH PLANS ABE DOOMED TO REVERSE. Tyre had said, "I shall be replenished." God said, "I will make her like the top of a rock." Tyre had "reckoned without her host." Instead of security, she was to be inundated with invasion. Instead of wealth, there should be want. Instead of glory, desolation. Her selfish hope should burst like a bubble. The golden eggs she expected soon to be hatched proved to be the eggs of a cockatrice. Selfish greed is a bad investment. The desire to promote our national interests, to the injury of another nation, is not patriotism; it is selfish envy and pride. Triumph over another's fall is base, is diabolic.
IV. SECULAR LOSSES OFTEN BRING REAL GAIN. "They shall know that I am the Lord." This is a gain of the noblest kind—a gain that is abiding and permanent. Such knowledge is better than rubies. The bulk of men will not learn this lesson in the day of prosperity, but in the cloudy days of adversity, when all earthly good has vanished, the lesson stands out clearly before their eyes. Some earthly sciences are best learnt in the dark. This knowledge of God is best learnt in the dark hour of affliction. For when all human calculations have failed, and all human plans have collapsed, men are compelled to feel that an unseen hand has been working, an unseen Being has been presiding in their affairs. Of a truth, "the Lord reigneth."—D.
A miracle of foreknowledge.
False prophets discourse only in general terms and in ambiguous language. Their announcements may have the most contrary meanings. At best they are happy conjectures, fortunate guesses. But the prophecies of Scripture are like sunlight compared with such a phosphorescent flame. The clearness and fullness of these prophetic utterances can be accounted for only as a revelation from the omniscient God.
I. DIVINE PREDICTIONS ARE ALWAYS RIGHTEOUS IN THEIR SUBSTANCE. The predictions of pretentious men are usually trivial—the effect of a prurient curiosity. God's revelations of the future are always concerned in the rebuke of sin and in the furtherance of righteousness. As in the manufacture of cordage in our Government arsenals a worsted thread of a distinct color runs through every yard of rope, so through all God's dealings with men this principle of righteousness is ever prominent. What does not serve a righteous end is not of God.
II. DIVINE PREDICTIONS ARE CLEAR IN THEIR ANNOUNCEMENTS. There is no ambiguity, no double meaning, here. No one is left in doubt whether the event to happen is to be favorable or unfavorable. No one is left in doubt what place or people is the subject-matter of the prophecy. In this case every circumstance is narrated with as much minuteness of detail as if it were a piece of history acted before the eye of the speaker. The place to be overthrown, its peculiar situation and structure, its former greatness and splendor, the name of the invader, all his military enginery and tactics, the steps by which he should proceed, and the extent of his triumph, are announced beforehand with a dearness and definiteness that can only come from a superhuman source. The contents of the prophecy are often so unlikely in themselves that no human foresight, however shrewd, would conceive such issues; and the fulfillment of such improbable predictions most plainly indicate the operation of a Divine mind.
III. DIVINE PREDICTIONS ARE CERTAIN IN THEIR FULFILMENT. "I the Lord have spoken it, saith the Lord." The true prophet of Jehovah is modest and self-oblivious. He does not speak in his own name. He keeps himself in the background. His object is to exalt his Master and to gain homage for him. The predictions of God always take effect. For with God there is no future. He sees things distant as though they were near. Looking along the vista of ages, he perceives how every event unfolds from preceding event. The history of men and of nations is, to his eye, drawn out in long perspective. And his word is the mightiest force in the universe. "He spake, and it was done;" "By the word of the Lord were the heavens made;" "By the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked."
IV. DIVINE PREDICTIONS ARE MERCIFUL IN THEIR INTENTIONS. Wherefore did God declare beforehand this coming suffering and disaster? Was it not enough to endure the calamity when the destined hour came? As the main design was to promote righteousness, this shall be done, if possible, in a way of mercy. The prediction would serve to instruct and console the Jews in captivity. It would be beneficial for them to be convinced that Jehovah ruled in all the affairs of men. If the prophecy reached the ears of the King of Babylon, it would serve a good purpose for him to know that he was a servant of the King of heaven, that his army was under the control of God, and that the success of his military expeditions depended on the good will of Jehovah. And if the prophecy should be repeated in the ears of the Tyriaus, who can tell that some among them may repent and opportunely escape from the catastrophe? To foreshadow the dread event is an act of kindness, which the humble and teachable would appreciate.—D.
National disaster becomes a public lesson.
The world of men is one, although nationalities are many. There is a thread of unity on which the separate jewels of humanity are strung. What affects one affects, in some measure, the whole.
I. THERE IS MUTUAL INTERDEPENDENCE OF NATIONS. Nations, like individuals, have been incarnations of selfishness. They have tried to aggrandize for self alone, but they have failed, and in most cases the failure has been a disaster. In respect to material property obtained through commerce, it is emphatically true that the prosperity must be shared by others. God will not allow any nation to retain every particle of its riches within itself. To be most prosperous, it must make others partakers of its wealth. The real welfare of one nation may be the welfare of all. Stable prosperity is diffusive.
II. MATERIAL PROSPERITY IS POWER. It brings position, honor, and extensive influence. The isles and lands with which Tyre traded held her in high repute. Many of the traders in other parts grew rich, gained powerful influence, became in their circles princes, and sat upon thrones. It is power, less potent than knowledge—power of an inferior sort—yet it is a perceptible power. It gives leisure for investigation and discovery. It can purchase stores of good. It can be converted into various forms of utility.
III. MATERIAL PROSPERITY KS VERY INSECURE. It often awakens the envy and the cupidity of others. It germinates pride in its possessor, and not pride only, but also arrogance and oppressiveness. In the natural course of things reaction appears. The oppressed classes combine and rise. Offence given to another nation in a spirit of overbearing arrogance awakens resentment, provokes vengeance. The wealthy nation is over-confident in its security and in its natural defenses. But a little shrewdness or contrivance undermines every natural defense, or else confidence in men disappoints, and in an hour the fancied security is dissipated.
IV. THE FALL OF ONE NATION IS A GRIEF TO MANY NATIONS. "They shall take up a lamentation for thee, and say, How art thou destroyed, that wast inhabited of seafaring men, the renowned city!" Some selfish peoples would rejoice that a rival and a menace was overthrown. But others would be plunged into profound grief. Their traffic would be diminished, perhaps destroyed. Still worse, if Tyre, so mighty, so well-defended, be overthrown, what security have we? The downfall of Tyre shook the foundations of other empires, shook the hearts of many thoughtful men. It was evident that every kind of material defense was a broken reed.
V. TRUE LIFE IS THE ONLY TRUE GLORY. "I shall set glory in the land of the living." The only permanent life is a righteous life. Other life is ephemeral. This abides, this is eternal. Righteousness not only "exalts a nation," it consolidates and establishes it also. The" land of the living" is the empire of righteousness—the true holy land. The kingdom which is built on righteous principles is the kingdom of Christ. Every other kingdom has wood and hay and stubble intermixed with the gold and silver of sterling goodness. So far as righteous life prevails in any land on earth, so far will true and permanent glory abide there. All other foundations, all other defense, can and will be shaken.—D.
HOMILIES BY W. JONES
The sin and doom of Tyre.
"And it came to pass in the eleventh year, in the first day of the month, that the word of the Lord came unto me, saying," etc.
I. THE SIN OF TYRE. "Son of man, because that Tyre hath said against Jerusalem, Aha! she is broken that was the gate of the peoples; she is turned unto me: I shall be replenished, now that she is laid waste." The sin which is here charged against Tyre is extreme and cruel selfishness. There is no evidence in this chapter that the Tyrians were animated by any hostile feelings towards the Jews, as the Ammonites, Edomites, and Philistines were. But Tyre was a great and prosperous commercial city, and the inhabitants thereof rejoiced in the destruction of Jerusalem because they thought that they should profit thereby. This is made quite clear in the verse before us. The Tyrians are represented as speaking of Jerusalem as "she that was the gate of the peoples." The plural expresses the fact, says the 'Speaker's Commentary,' "that many peoples passed through Jerusalem as the central place on the highway of commerce. This was eminently the case in the reign of Solomon, when for the time Jerusalem became the mart to which was gathered the trade of India and of the far East. The fame of its early greatness as the emporium of Eastern commerce still clung to Jerusalem, and this city, even in decadence, kept up enough of its original trade to be viewed with jealousy by Tyre, who owed her greatness to the same cause, and in the true spirit of mercantile competition exulted in the thought that the trade of Jerusalem would now be diverted into her markets." Their greed of gain had rendered them unfeeling and even cruel in their attitude towards their suffering neighbors, with whom in former times they had been in friendly relations. They rejoiced at the calamity of others because they believed it would contribute to their prosperity. They exulted in the downfall of others if it was likely to promote their own rise. This spirit is unbrotherly, selfish, mean, cruel. It is utterly opposed to the Divine will, and awakens the stern displeasure of the Almighty. Here is solemn admonition to persons, companies, societies, and nations, who would secure prosperity without regarding the means which they employ to do so. Are there not many today who care not who is impoverished if only they are enriched, who suffers if only they succeed, or who sinks provided that they rise? However their spirit may be tolerated or even approved by men, it is abhorrent unto God.
II. THE JUDGMENT OF GOD.
1. Its Author. "Therefore thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I am against thee, O Tyre, and will cause many nations to come up against thee, as the sea causeth his waves to come up." God himself in his providence brought upon Tyre the punishment of her extreme selfishness and cruel boastings against fallen Jerusalem. Ill fares it with any city which has the Lord against it.
2. Its instruments. "I will cause many nations to come up against thee … I will bring upon Tyre Nebuchadnezzar King of Babylon," etc. (Ezekiel 26:7). Nebuchadnezzar had conquered many kingdoms. He was a "king of kings," and the army which he led against Tyre was recruited from "many nations." He was the first instrument employed by God to punish Tyre for her sin. And ages afterwards, Alexander and his forces inflicted terrible sufferings and losses upon the people of the proud city.
3. Its nature. Several features of the punishment of Tyre are exhibited by the prophet.
(1) Siege. "They shall destroy the walls of Tyre, and break down her towers … and he shall make forts against thee," etc. (Ezekiel 26:8-10). Nebuchadnezzar besieged insular Tyre for thirteen years. Very great must have been the miseries of the people during those weary years.
(2) Spoliation. "She shall become a spoil of the nations … and they shall make a spoil of thy riches, and make a prey of thy merchandise," etc. (Ezekiel 26:12). The riches in which they had prided themselves, and in the hope of the increase of which they had exulted in the downfall of Jerusalem, would be seized and possessed by others. The beautiful houses of their merchant-princes would be destroyed and their city ruined.
(3) Slaughter. "Her daughters which are in the field shall be slain with the sword … he shall slay thy people with the sword." The daughters in the field are the cities on the mainland which were dependent on Tyre, or submitted to her supremacy, with special reference, perhaps, to Palaetyrus, or Old Tyre, "the suburb of the insular Tyre, standing on the shore." We are not aware of any record of the extent of the slaughter by Nebuchadnezzar and his army. Probably it was very great. When Alexander besieged Tyre, fearful was the slaughter of the inhabitants thereof. "Besides eight thousand men slain in the attack, two thousand were crucified after the city was taken" (Kitto).
(4) Complete and irretrievable overthrow. "They shall destroy the walls of Tyre, and break down her towers: I will also scrape her dust from her, and make her a bare rock," etc. (Ezekiel 26:4, Ezekiel 26:5,Ezekiel 26:14, Ezekiel 26:19-21). This part of the prophecy was not fully accomplished until centuries had passed away. Nebuchadnezzar, as we have said, besieged Tyre for thirteen years. He would be able soon to take Palaetyrus, on the mainland, which was dismantled, if not entirely destroyed, by him. Whether at the end of the thirteen years he took the island-city is uncertain. The suggestions of the 'Speaker's Commentary' on the point seem to us very probably correct: "Nebuchadnezzar was indeed determined not to leave this city, once the vassal of the Assyrian, independent, and persevered until Tyre gave in. Nebuchadnezzar may then have insisted upon his right, as a conqueror, of entering the island-city with his army; but the conquest was probably barren of the fruits he had expected so far as spoil was concerned (cf. Ezekiel 29:18), and Nebuchadnezzar, having asserted his majesty by reducing the city to vassalage, may have been content not to push matters further, and have willingly turned his forces in another direction." More than two centuries later, Alexander besieged Tyre. At that time the city "was completely surrounded by prodigious walls, the loftiest portion of which, on the side fronting the mainland, reached a height of not less than a hundred and fifty feet." The island on which it was built was nearly half a mile from the mainland. And as Alexander had no fleet, its situation made his task a difficult one. The difficulty was thus overcome: The harbor of Tyre to the north being "blockaded by the Cyprians, and that to the south by the Phoenicians," afforded Alexander an opportunity for constructing the enormous mole, or breakwater, which joined the island to the mainland. This mole was two hundred feet wide, and was composed of the ruins of Palaetyrus, the stones and the timber and the dust of which were thus laid in the midst of the waters (Ezekiel 26:12). Across the mole Alexander marched his forces, and soon made himself master of insular Tyre. Having done so, in addition to the ten thousand who were slain, thirty thousand of the inhabitants, including slaves, free women, and free children, were sold for slaves. But even after the Chaldean invasion under Nebuchadnezzar, Tyre" never regained independence, but was great and wealthy under Persian, Greek, and Roman masters …. It was never again a world-power, capable of raising itself again in its own might against the kingdom of God. In the present condition of Tyre we note the fulfillment of Ezekiel's predictions. In A.D. 638 it formed part of the conquests of Khalif Omar, who, however, dealt leniently with the inhabitants, and the city for many years enjoyed a moderate degree of prosperity. The ruin of Tyre was due to the Sultan of Egypt, who, in the year A.D. 1291, took possession, the inhabitants (who were Christians) having abandoned it without a struggle. The Saracens thereupon laid it in ruins, and did not allow the former inhabitants to return. In the first half of the fourteenth century it was visited by Sir John Mandeville, who found it in that state of desolation in which it has remained ever since" ('Speaker's Commentary'). Of modern travelers we quote the testimony of M. Renan as to its present state: "No great city which has played so important a part for centuries has left fewer traces than Tyre. Ezekiel was a true prophet when he said of Tyre,' They shall seek for thee, and thou shalt be no more' (Ezekiel 26:21). A traveler who was not informed of its existence might pass along the whole coast, from La Kasmie to Ras-el-Ain, without being aware that he was close to an ancient city …. Tyre is now the ruin of a town built with ruins."
III. THE LAMENTATION FOR TYRE. (Verses 15-18.)
1. The deep and widespread impression made by her destruction. "Thus saith the Lord God to Tyre; Shall not the isles shake at the sound of thy fall," etc.? (Verse 15). The coasts and islands of the Mediterranean are represented as shaking at the fall of the proud city, because her fall would denote the instability of all things. When Tyre is overthrown, what place can be deemed secure?
2. The consternation produced by her destruction. "Then all the princes of the sea shall come down from their thrones," etc. (Verse 16). By "the princes of the sea," we should probably understand the chief men in "the settlements of the Phoenicians in the Sidonian and Tyrian period along the various coasts, in Cyprus, Rhodes, Malta; in Spain, Sicily, Sardinia," etc. These are represented as changing their splendid robes for the garb of mourners, as coming down from their exalted and luxurious seats and sitting upon the ground. Persons in great affliction or sorrow are frequently represented as seated or prostrate upon the ground (cf. Job 2:8, Job 2:13; Isaiah 3:26; Isaiah 47:1; Lamentations 2:10). Shakespeare, in 'King John,' makes Constance say—
"My grief's so great,
That no supporter but the huge firm earth
Can hold it up: here I and sorrow sit;
Here is my throne, bid kings come bow to it."
These great men, moreover, were seized with amazement and continual trembling.
3. The lamentation awakened by her destruction. "And they shall take up a lamentation for thee, and say to thee, How art thou destroyed," etc.! Thus would the fall of the prosperous island-city be bewailed by neighboring peoples.
CONCLUSION. Certain lessons stand out with impressive clearness and force.
1. The insecurity of worldly greatness, glory, and power.
2. The heinousness of the sin of selfishness.
3. The evanescence of the prosperity which is attained without regard to the rights or interests of others.—W.J.
The exultation of the world over the Church.
"Son of man, because that Tyrus hath said against Jerusalem, Aha! she is broken that was the gate of the peoples," etc. Type is viewed by the prophet, not merely in its literal aspect, but also in a typical one. "Tyre, in the prophets," says Schroder, "comes into consideration, not in a political respect, but as the representative, the might, of the world's commerce. Jehovah and mammon are the counterpart to Jerusalem and Tyre." And says Hengstenberg, "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." If, then, we take Tyre as representing the world with its riches and pomp and power, and Jerusalem the Church, the text gives us as a subject the exultation of the world over the Church. But it behooves us to be clear as to what we are to understand by the world—the world that is antagonistic to the Church. It is neither the material world, nor the human world—the world of men, nor our worldly or secular occupation. Very admirably has F. W. Robertson, on 1 John 2:15-17, brought out the meaning of the world which is forbidden to Christians. "Now to define what worldliness is. Remark, first, that it is determined by the spirit of a life, not the objects with which the life is conversant. It is not the ' flesh,' nor the 'eye,' nor 'life,' which are forbidden, but it is the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eye, and the pride of life …. Look into this a little closer. The lust of the flesh. Here is affection for the outward: pleasure, that which affects the senses only: the flesh, that enjoyment which comes from the emotions of an hour, be it coarse or be it refined. The pleasure of wine or the pleasure of music, so far as it is only a movement of the flesh. Again, the lust of the eye. Here is affection for the transient, for the eye can only gaze on form and color; and these are things that do not last. Once more, the pride of life. Here is affection for the unreal—men's opinion, the estimate which depends upon wealth, rank, circumstances. Worldliness, then, consists in these three things—attachment to the outward, attachment to the transitory, attachment to the unreal, in opposition to love for the inward, the eternal, the true; and the one of these affections is necessarily expelled by the other." In this view of worldliness, Type was representative of the world. She gloried in her secure situation, her commercial prosperity, her great riches, etc. We remark that the exultation of the world over the Church—
I. IS BITTER AND BOASTFUL. "Tyre hath said against Jerusalem, Aha! she is broken that was the gate of the peoples" etc. (1 John 2:2). As we have already shown (in our homily on the chapter as a whole), this unseemly triumphing arose from the selfishness which anticipated that the fall of Jerusalem would promote the commercial prosperity of Type. But probably this was not the only reason for the rejoicing of the Tyriana in the ruin of the sacred city. The antagonism between their religion and the religion of the Jews would increase their joy at the downfall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple. "Only thirty-four years before the destruction of Jerusalem," says Mr. Twisleton, "commenced the celebrated reformation of Josiah. This momentous religious revolution (2 Kings 22:1-20; 2 Kings 23:1-37.) fully explains the exultation and malevolence of the Tyrians. In that reformation Josiah had heaped insults on the gods who were the objects of Tyrian veneration and love; he had consumed with fire the sacred vessels used in their worship; he had burnt their images and defiled their high places—not excepting even the high place near Jerusalem, which Solomon the friend of Hiram had built to Ashtoreth the queen of heaven, and which for more than three hundred and fifty years had been a striking memorial of the reciprocal good will which once united the two monarchs and the two nations. Indeed, he seemed to have endeavored to exterminate their religion, for in Samaria (2 Kings 23:20) he had slain upon the altars of the high places all their priests. These acts, although in their ultimate results they may have contributed powerfully to the diffusion of the Jewish religion, must have been regarded by the Tyriaus as a series of sacrilegious and abominable outrages; and we can scarcely doubt that the death in battle of Josiah at Megiddo, and the subsequent destruction of the city and temple of Jerusalem, were hailed by them with triumphant joy as instances of Divine retribution in human affairs." ‹eze-6› Moreover, it is very probable that some of the predictions of the Hebrew prophets concerning Tyro in its relation to Jerusalem were known to the people of the island-city, and increased the bitterness of their joy over the calamities of the Jews. "In the Messianic announcements, the homage of Tyre to Jerusalem, and its incorporation into the kingdom of God, were expressly celebrated" (see, as examples, Psalms 45:12; Psalms 87:4; Isaiah 23:18). "Without doubt," says Hengstenberg, "these bold hopes of Zion were known in Tyre, and caused much bad blood in the proud queen of the sea." And still there are those who, worldly in spirit, are bitter against the Church of God. They deride its noblest enterprises; they ridicule its vital beliefs; they mock its most cherished hopes. If Christians are rigid and scrupulous in their religious duties and observances, the world reproaches them for their narrowness and Pharisaism. If Christians stumble and fall, the world rejoices in their overthrow and scoffs at their religion. But the exultation of the world over the Church—
II. IS VAIN. The things from which the world draws its satisfaction, and upon which it rests its hopes, are uncertain and delusive. Tyre rejoiced in her security, her riches, her commercial prosperity; but these things failed her in her time of need. That these things are unstable, impermanent, transient, is a truth which no one attempts to deny. How vain, then, to exult in the ascendancy which such things give! The world's triumph, even at the best, is more in appearance than reality. "The world passeth away, and the lust thereof." But the essential elements of the Church's life are real and abiding verities. The Church may be brought down very low, but it shall rise again. Its course leads on to splendid triumph. But the ungodly world shall sink. Its rank and fiches, its pomp and power and pleasures shall pass away as the dreams of night fade before the light and the activities of day.
III. IS OBSERVED BY THE LORD GOD. He knew and took notice of the cruel triumph of proud Tyro over prostrate Jerusalem. He made known the fact of that triumph to his servant Ezekiel on the banks of the Chebar. He still observes the attitude of the world towards his Church. No persons or powers can exalt themselves against his people without attracting the notice of his ever-watchful eye (cf. 2 Chronicles 16:9; Psalms 34:15, Psa 34:16; 1 Peter 3:12, 1 Peter 3:13).
IV. WILL BE PUNISHED BY THE LORD GOD. "Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I am against thee, O Tyre," etc. (Verses 3, 4). The Lord here proclaims himself against Tyre, and threatens to strip the proud city of her boasted pomp, prosperity, and power. He would break down her defenses, level her to the ground, make an utter end of her, leaving nothing but the bare rock on which she had stood. The defenses of the irreligious world are subtle policies, material riches, social power, etc. These are all impermanent things. And should they endure, the time comes when they will fail to meet the needs of those who put their trust in them. If no other punishment awaited the votaries of this world, surely this would be a heart-crushing, a heart-breaking one, to awake to the sad realization of the stern truth that the objects for which they had striven in life, which they had looked upon as their chief good, and in which they had trusted, were vain, having no power or fitness to answer the deep cravings of their souls, or to help them in the awful needs of their being. "Whose confidence shall break in sunder, and whose trust is a spider's web;" "And their hope shall be the giving up of the ghost."—W.J.
A lamentation over fallen greatness.
"Thus saith the Lord God to Tyrus; Shall not the isles shake at the sound of thy fall," etc.? These verses suggest the following observations.
I. THE JUDGMENTS OF GOD ARE SOMETIMES SO AWFUL AS TO FILL THE EXALTED AND MIGHTY WITH AMAZEMENT AND DISMAY. (Ezekiel 26:15, Ezekiel 26:16; cf. Jeremiah 4:7-9.) The isles are the islands of the Mediterranean, and places on the coast also are perhaps referred to. The princes are those of the various island and sea-board settlements, and the wealthy merchant-princes of prosperous commercial centers. Thus it was said of Tyre, "whose merchants are princes, whose traffickers are the honorable of the earth" (Isaiah 23:8). The fall of Tyre would cause them extreme astonishment and trembling for their own safety. The Divine retributions sometimes appall even the stoutest hearts, and lead the highly placed and powerful to realize (at least for a time) their weakness.
II. THE JUDGMENTS OF GOD SOMETIMES AWAKEN THE LAMENTATIONS OF THOSE WHO BEHOLD THEM. "They shall take up a lamentation for thee," etc. (Ezekiel 26:17). This verse seems to suggest that the fall of Tyre would be bewailed in mournful threnodies. It is instructive to notice what it was which the neighboring states lamented in the downfall of the island-city. The things which are particularized in the text are such as these: the eclipse of brilliant renown, "How art thou destroyed … the renowned city!" the destruction of distinguished power, "which was strong in the sea;" the overthrow of one which had been so formidable to others, "which caused their terror to be on all that haunt it." Worldly minds mourn the less of worldly prosperity. "When Jerusalem, the holy city, was destroyed" says Matthew Henry, "there were no such lamentations for it; it was nothing to those that passed by (Lamentations 1:12); but when Tyre, the trading city, fell, it was universally bemoaned. Note: Those who have the world in their hearts lament the loss of great men more than the loss of good men" But the ions patriot and prophet Jeremiah bewailed the destruction of Jerusalem in his unrivalled elegies. As Dr. Milman observes, "Never did city suffer a more miserable fate, never was ruined city lamented in language so exquisitely pathetic"
III. THE JUDGMENTS OF GOD SHOULD LEAD THOSE WHO BEHOLD THEM TO EXERCISE SERIOUS REFLECTION. Catastrophes like the fall of Tyre startle peoples and nations into short-lived concern or even alarm. They ought to lead to sober thought and earnest self-examination. They are fitted to impress salutary lessons and to direct to a salutary course of action. May we not say that they are designed to do so? "When God punishes, he does it not merely on account of the ungodly, who must feel such punishment, but also on account of other ungodly persons, that they may become better by such examples." This judgment upon Tyre was fitted to teach:
1. The limitation of human greatness. Unquestionably, Tyre was great; but she was not great enough to stand against the forces of Nebuchadnezzar, or, in after-times, against the might of Alexander. The greatest of human states is pitiably small when God arrays himself against it (cf. Verse 3).
2. The uncertainty of secular prosperity. Tyro was a rich and prosperous city; but where now are its riches, its great commerce, etc.? Fresh illustrations arise almost daily of the unreliableness of secular success, and the uncertain tenure of temporal possessions. "For riches certainly make themselves wings, like an eagle that flieth toward heaven."
3. The insecurity of those who seem most firmly established. The proud island-city seemed most securely founded and fortified. Her situation was a source of great strength and safety against any adversary. She was able to offer long and stubborn resistance to the powerful and victorious King of Babylon. But she was conquered; and now she is utterly demolished. The very strongest and most stable of cities or empires may slowly, decline into insignificance and feebleness, or speedily reel into ruin.
4. The ruinousness of sin. The intense selfishness and cruel boasting of Tyre against Jerusalem led to her overthrow. No state or kingdom can be strong apart from righteousness. Vice, injustice, oppression, cruelty, will bring the mightiest city or empire to ruin. "The throne is established by righteousness;" "Take away the wicked from before the king, and his throne shall be established in righteousness;" "The king that faithfully judgeth the poor, his throne shall be established forever." Lessons such as these the fall of Tyro should have impressed upon those who were affected by it. Others' miseries should be our monitors. When God's judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world should learn righteousness (Isaiah 26:9).—W.J.
An encouraging assurance for a depressed people.
"And I shall set glory in the land of the living." Accepting this rendering as expressing the meaning of the original, and as applicable to Judah, we see in it—
I. A REMARKABLE DESIGNATION OF THE HOLY LAND. It is here called "the land of the living." Hengstenberg views "the land of the living" as standing in "contrast to Sheol, the land. of the dead, to which in the foregoing the inhabitants of Tyre are assigned." The expression seems to refer particularly to Palestine. The ' Speaker's Commentary' says, "The land of the living is the land of the true God, as opposed to the land of the dead, to which is gathered the glory of the world." And Matthew Henry, "The holy land is the land of the living; for none but holy souls are properly living souls." There was propriety in applying this designation to that land, because there:
1. The living God was known and worshipped. "In Judah is God known: his Name is great in Israel," etc. (Psalms 76:1, Psalms 76:2); "My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God," etc. (Psalms 42:2). The people of other lands had riches, honors, power; but they were idolaters. Their gods were no gods, but dead idols. In the highest sense no land can be called living whose deity or deities are dead, unreal, mere human inventions. To the people of Judah and Jerusalem the living and true God had revealed himself through law-giver, prophet, and. poet, and through his hand in their history as a nation.
2. The living Word was possessed. The sacred writings of the Jews are far superior to those of heathen nations. They were true: "the Word of truth" (Psalms 119:43, Psalms 119:142, Psalms 119:160). They were vital and lasting: ".living oracles" (Acts 7:38); "the Word of God, which liveth and abideth" (1 Peter 1:23). They were life-giving "Thy Word hath quickened, me" (Psalms 119:50, Psalms 119:93). Moreover, their Scriptures were light-giving: "Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path" (Psalms 119:105, Psalms 119:130).
3. The living ordinances were observed. The pure worship of the living and true God was instituted and practiced there, and, after the return from the Captivity, without any admixture of idolatry. Worship, when it is directed to the true Object and offered in a true spirit, develops and strengthens the noblest life of the worshipper. To the pious Jews the means of grace were as "wells of salvation." In these respects, then, Palestine was appropriately called "the land of the living." And with even greater fullness and force may the designation be applied to this favored land of ours.
II. AN ENCOURAGING ASSURANCE CONCERNING THE HOLY LAND. "I shall set glory in the land of the living" Let us look at this assurance:
1. In its primary signification. By the side of the utter overthrow of Tyre, Ezekiel predicts the renewal of the Divine favor and of prosperity to Jerusalem. Brief as the clause is, it indicates the return of the people of Judah from captivity to their own land, the rebuilding of the temple of Jehovah, the re-establishment of religious ordinances, and the restoration of the sacred city. And all these things were in due season accomplished. And thus interpreted, the assurance given in the text is the more significant from the fact that, after their return home, the Jews never obscured the Divine glory by the practice of idolatry. They neither gave God's glory to another nor his praise unto graven images.
2. In its other and grander signification. The text prophetically points to the coming of the Messiah and the proclamation of the glorious gospel. In the work of redemption by Jesus Christ we have a much more illustrious display of the glory of God than in the return of the exiles from Babylon to Jerusalem, the rebuilding of the temple, etc. And this glory is ever increasing amongst men as the triumphs of the gospel are multiplied. The enemies of the cause of God are being vanquished by truth and love, and his true kingdom is constantly being established more and more deeply and widely in this world. And at length "all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord."
CONCLUSION. Even in the darkest seasons of its history there is always a bright and inspiring hope for the true Church of God. By its unfaithfulness it may bring upon itself severe chastisement from its great Head; but it shall arise from the dust purified and strengthened, and go forward in its glorious course, "fair as the moon, clear as the sun, terrible as an army with banners."—W.J.