WAVES OF INVADING NATIONS (BEGINNING WITH KING NEBUCHADNEZAR) WILL UTTERLY DESTROY TYRE WHO HAD HOPED TO PROFIT BY JERUSALEM’S DESTRUCTION
One cannot overstate the magnitude of this prophecy of devastation against the most prominent Gentile city of Ezekiel’s day = Tyre. The minute details of judgment were fulfilled in such a way that there could be no doubt regarding the Lord’s sovereignty over the affairs of nations and the truth of His divine word. Nations who rejoice at the downfall of Israel will have to answer to the judgment of her covenant Sovereign.
Leslie Allen: Tyre expects a shift of power as new leader of the western states. In Yahweh’s name the prophet dashes such hopes, countering its attitude with corresponding reprisals point by point. Tyre would become victim of a relentless sea of foes, at Yahweh’s behest. The predicted reversal of its proud claims would bring proof of Yahweh’s power. In principle it would also reveal him as a patron of his covenant people, their new ally after his previous enmity.
Feinberg: The Phoenicians were vitally interested in material civilization, were industrious, resourceful, skillful in the arts and craft, adventurous as seamen; in fact, they were the famous mariners of antiquity. Sidon was the preeminent city at first, but Tyre attained its position in part by her strong natural location, situated as she was on the mainland and on a row of islands not far from the shore. Tyre means rock. She was the commercial center of the Mediterranean world. . .
Tyre’s exclamation at the fall of Jerusalem manifested unfeeling exultation over the calamity of Israel, as she looked for self-enrichment through the fall of God’s people as a commercial rival (see Prov. 17:5). Tyre rejoiced over Jerusalem’s ruin because free passage for her caravans would mean greater prosperity in trade. Taxes were doubtless levied by the Jews, here called the gate of the peoples, on caravans from the north to the south (Egypt). When Judah was strong and subjugated Edom, she controlled the caravan routes to the Red Sea, thus hindering the Phoenician tradesmen from gaining all the profit they hoped for. First and last, Tyre was actuated by commercial greed, and that at a time when far weightier matters were in the balance.
Daniel Block: the progression evident in the four parts is both logical and chronological.
– Section A deals in general terms with the ultimate cause of Tyre’s demise, the judgment of Yahweh.
– Section B highlights the immediate cause and the human agency by focusing on Nebuchadnezzar and his forces.
– In view of Tyre’s public role, Section C deals appropriately with the response of the international observers to her fall.
– Section D completes the city’s biography by describing her descent into Sheol. She has passed from the scene for good.
I. (:1-6) DASHED HOPES OF TYRE PROFITING FROM JERUSALEM’S DESTRUCTION
A. (:1) Authoritative Word of Prophetic Judgment
“Now it came about in the eleventh year, on the first of the month, that the word of the LORD came to me saying,”
John Taylor: This oracle therefore was uttered scarcely a month after the news of Jerusalem’s fall reached the exiles. It could well have been triggered off by the unsympathetic remarks of some Tyrian traders who were passing through Tel Abib when the exiles were still smarting under the news of the disaster.
B. (:2) Charge
“Son of man, because Tyre has said concerning Jerusalem, ‘Aha, the gateway of the peoples is broken; it has opened to me. I shall be filled, now that she is laid waste,’”
Constable: Divine judgment would come on this city-state because its people rejoiced at Jerusalem’s destruction (cf. 25:3; Gen. 12:3; Prov. 15:5b). According to other prophets, the Tyrians had also sold Jews as slaves to the Greeks and Edomites (Joel 3:4-8; Amos 1:9-10).
The Tyrians viewed Jerusalem’s destruction as advancing their commercial interests. They viewed the Judeans as rivals more than as enemies. The Tyrians controlled the sea routes, but Judah had controlled the land routes. Controlling trade routes enabled a nation to impose tolls and so obtain revenue. Now Jerusalem would cease to compete with Tyre for this income. The Babylonians thus opened Jerusalem’s gates to Tyre.
Iain Duguid: This oracle against Tyre is distinctively different from the other oracles against the foreign nations. The remainder of the nations immediately surrounding Israel (Ammon, Moab, Edom, Philistia, and—after Tyre—Sidon) set themselves up in opposition to God’s people. Tyre, however, thought to substitute herself for God’s city, Jerusalem, and take her place.
Morgan: God is against any nation whose life has become so materialized by commercial prosperity that she can rejoice over the calamities of other nations, because such calamities increase her opportunities of barter and amassing of wealth….Any nation to-day which gauges her attitude towards other nations by what their rise or fall may contribute to her wealth has God against her.
C. (:3-6a) Punishment – Fivefold Description
“therefore, thus says the Lord God,
1. (:3b) Divine Opposition
“Behold, I am against you, O Tyre,”
Daniel Block: Tyre’s fate is not merely the result of a conflict between two peoples. Yahweh, the divine patron of Judah, will stand up in defense of his own city.
2. (:3c) Deployment of Multiple Invasions by a Variety of Enemy Nations
“and I will bring up many nations against you,
as the sea brings up its waves.”
Alexander: The siege of Tyre by Nebuchadnezzar lasted for thirteen years (ca. 586-573 B.C.). Under King Ba’ali II, Tyre accepted Babylonian suzerainty and was ruled by ‘judges.’ However, when Babylonia declined in power, Tyre regained her independence once again. This brief freedom lasted till the second ‘wave’ of destruction brought her into submission to the Persians around 525 B.C. Tyre’s remaining history demonstrated the continuing ‘waves’ of conquerors: the resistance to Alexander the Great, eventuating in her collapse; her initial resistance to the Seleucid kingdom of Antiochus III, terminating in her becoming part of that kingdom; her submission to Rome; and her fall to the Saracens in the fourteenth century A.D., after which she never again regained any importance. God was faithful to bring the ‘many nations’ against Tyre in successive ‘waves’ of conquest.
Peter Pett: 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.
3. (:4) Destruction and Devastation
“And they will destroy the walls of Tyre and break down her towers;
and I will scrape her debris from her and make her a bare rock.”
Lamar Cooper: Alexander the Great led the third “wave” of God’s judgment that destroyed the walls of fortified Tyre in 332 B.C. He was the first to conquer both parts of the city in battle. He did so by blockading the city with 210 ships, enlarging the causeway from the mainland to the island, and then attacking the island fortress by land and by sea.
4. (:5) Despoiled by the Nations
“‘She will be a place for the spreading of nets in the midst of the sea,
for I have spoken,’ declares the Lord God,
‘and she will become spoil for the nations.’”
Constable: Fishermen would someday use the site as a place to spread their nets to dry. The picture Ezekiel presented was that of the debris of the mainland city being pushed out into the sea where it would become a flat surface. Tyre would become spoil for the nations. Formerly she had spoiled the nations by taking their money in exchange for the commodities that she had traded. Furthermore, Tyre’s daughters (her dependent villages on the mainland) would also fall in battle. The fulfillment of this prophecy would convince many of the Tyrians that Yahweh was the true God.
David Thompson: This city would be so uninhabited that fishermen would dry their nets in the very place where this great city was once located. Now fishermen do not go into downtown cities to spread out their nets and dry them. They need room to lay out the nets. The prediction is Tyre would be so leveled that fishermen would be able to spread out their nets where the city once stood.
5. (:6a) Death by the Sword
“Also her daughters who are on the mainland
will be slain by the sword,”
Lamar Cooper: God promised to bring six judgments upon Tyre (vv. 3–6).
– First come words usually associated with military engagements. Many nations would “come against” the city (v. 3). The proliferation of the military opponents of Tyre was pictured as unrelenting waves pounding the city.
– Second, Ezekiel stated evidence of divine opposition to Tyre (v. 3). The emphasis of the text literally states, “Behold [I am] coming against you,” which calls attention to the events of judgment as having been divinely orchestrated.
– Third, the walls of Tyre would be destroyed (v. 4). In spite of all those who fought against Tyre, it was not until its conquest by Alexander the Great that this prophecy was fulfilled. Nevertheless, the prediction did come true.
– Fourth, God promised that the island fortress would become a pile of rubble that would be scraped away. There would be no trace of the once-invincible city. Only a bare rock where fishermen would dry their nets would mark the spot (v. 4).
– Fifth, Tyre, known for its commercial and political power, would be an object of plunder for all the nations (v. 5).
– Sixth, the city on the mainland also would be destroyed and the area ravaged by the sword (v. 6).
Nations who distinguish themselves as special centers of evil and ungodliness receive special attention as objects of God’s judgment. Such nations in history also received special attention in the Word of God. Tyre, Egypt, and Babylon all share this dubious distinction. Egypt was used as a byword for the slavery of sin, immorality, and idolatry. Babylon is a byword for godless government, and Tyre is a byword for pride and self-sufficiency (26:1–6).
D. (:6b) Recognition Refrain
“and they will know that I am the LORD.”
II. (:7-14) DESTRUCTIVE FORCES OF KING NEBUCHADNEZZAR
“For thus says the Lord God,”
A. (:7) Military Might of God’s Instrument of Judgment = King Nebuchadnezzar
“Behold, I will bring upon Tyre from the north Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, king of kings, with horses, chariots, cavalry, and a great army.”
Constable: This would be the first “wave” of conquest, and the Lord described it more fully than the later ones. Nebuchadnezzar would come against Tyre with a great army, besiege the city, break down its walls, and slay many of the Tyrians. After defeating Jerusalem in 586 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar proceeded north and attacked Tyre and its neighboring towns for thirteen years, beginning that same year.
Peter Pett: Nebuchadnezzar may have been the ‘king of kings’, but the idea is that the supreme king does Yahweh’s bidding.
B. (:8-12) Military Mission of King Nebuchadnezzar
“He will slay your daughters on the mainland with the sword; and he will make siege walls against you, cast up a mound against you, and raise up a large shield against you. 9 “And the blow of his battering rams he will direct against your walls, and with his axes he will break down your towers. 10 “Because of the multitude of his horses, the dust raised by them will cover you; your walls will shake at the noise of cavalry and wagons and chariots, when he enters your gates as men enter a city that is breached. 11 “With the hoofs of his horses he will trample all your streets. He will slay your people with the sword; and your strong pillars will come down to the ground. 12 “Also they will make a spoil of your riches and a prey of your merchandise, break down your walls and destroy your pleasant houses, and throw your stones and your timbers and your debris into the water.”
Constable: Tyre’s enemies (“they”) would take much spoil from the city and would push its physical remains into the sea (cf. Zech. 9:3- 4). God accomplished this by the hand of Alexander the Great who used the rubble from the mainland town to widen the causeway (mole) to the fortress on the peninsula.
Peter Pett: 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.
Feinberg: The pillars spoken of were actually obelisks, and were probably those mentioned by the historian Herodotus as erected in the temple of Heracles at Tyre. One was of gold and the other of emerald, which shone brilliantly at night, and were dedicated to Melkarth, god of Tyre (cf. 1 Kings 7:15). These impressive pillars would be demolished by the invader.
Daniel Block: the core (vv. 8–12) is framed by strong theological affirmations of Yahweh’s role, within the context of which the human activity is to be interpreted. This rhetorical strategy also highlights the conviction that, while Nebuchadnezzar may imagine himself to be operating sovereignly, and may appear to pursue his military tactics with impunity, his independence is more apparent than real. He is merely a tool in Yahweh’s hands. . .
It is apparent from these verses [:10-12] that the prophet envisions complete success for the invader. The scene of enemy forces rushing through the breach in the wall and stampeding through the city, destroying everything in sight, is painted in bold but realistic strokes. The last line in v. 10 is the key: the enemy will take the sea fortress by storm as if it were an ordinary walled city on the mainland. The dust raised by stampeding horses and racing chariots will darken the sky like a cloud. The din of neighing and snorting horses, the clatter of wheels on rocks, the noise of charioteers beating the sides of their vehicles, and the shouts of the invaders will cause the ground to tremble and the walls to shake. The scene of general devastation continues in v. 11 with the entire city crushed under the trampling horses’ hooves, its population fallen to the sword, and the pillars of support toppled to the ground. Involved in the razing of the city are also the plundering of its wealth, the smashing of its walls, and the demolition of its magnificent homes. The final act is to dump all the rubble, reduced here to stones, timbers, and debris (ʿāpār), into the sea.
C. (:13-14) Mashed Mound of Crushed City of Tyre
1. (:13) Silenced of Any Joy and Revelry
“So I will silence the sound of your songs,
and the sound of your harps will be heard no more.”
David Thompson: Tyre was a place of entertainment and revelry. This was a great place for the arts. They had beautiful music. They had orchestra music and they had talented singers. There were songs and harps. God says I will put an end to all of it.
2. (:14) Stripped Down to the Bare Rock
“’And I will make you a bare rock;
you will be a place for the spreading of nets. You will be built no more, for I the LORD have spoken,’ declares the Lord God.”
Douglas Stuart: ‘Shall never be rebuilt’ might be better translated ‘will not be built-up again,’ that is, ‘will not go back to its former state,’ and does not imply that the island of Tyre would never again have any buildings or inhabitants at all.”
Peter Pett: 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.
Galen Doughty: In Ezekiel’s day Tyre consisted of two parts, a mainland city and port where much of the population lived and an island surrounded by great walls linked to the mainland by a causeway. This may be the meaning of the reference to “out in the sea she will become a place to spread fishnets.”
III. (:15-18) DISGRACED LAMENTATION OVER THE FALL OF TYRE
“Thus says the Lord God to Tyre,”
Leslie Allen: Tyre’s downfall is viewed from another aspect, that of a funeral lament put in the mouths of Tyre’s maritime partners. It has the effect of sealing the city’s doom: its fall is irrevocable.
A. (:15-16) Panicked Reaction of Tyre’s Maritime Partners
“Shall not the coastlands shake at the sound of your fall when the wounded groan, when the slaughter occurs in your midst?
Then all the princes of the sea will go down from their thrones, remove their robes, and strip off their embroidered garments. They will clothe themselves with trembling; they will sit on the ground, tremble every moment, and be appalled at you.”
Lamar Cooper: The “coastlands” (v. 15) refers to the neighboring states that were vassals of Tyre and therefore depended on the city for their own security.
Feinberg: Tyre as the mother city sent her priests to her colonies, so there were both political, commercial and religious ties between them.
Constable: The Lord also revealed that other towns would tremble when they heard of Tyre’s overthrow. These were Tyre’s vassals along the coast and among the islands that depended on Tyre for their prosperity and protection. Tyre had colonies in many Mediterranean coastal regions: Cyprus, Rhodes, Malta, Spain, Sicily, Sardinia, the Balearic Islands, and Africa. The rulers of these communities would go into mourning and would fear because of what had overtaken their mother city (cf. Job 2:11- 13; Jon. 3:6; Rev. 18:9). They would abdicate their thrones and submit to the enemy invaders.
B. (:17-18) Fearful Lamentation of Tyre’s Maritime Partners
“And they will take up a lamentation over you and say to you,
‘How you have perished, O inhabited one,
From the seas, O renowned city, Which was mighty on the sea,
She and her inhabitants,
Who imposed her terror On all her inhabitants!’
Now the coastlands will tremble On the day of your fall;
Yes, the coastlands which are by the sea Will be terrified at your passing.”
Constable: They would lament Tyre’s fate and bemoan the destruction of such a mighty sea power, and they would acknowledge their own fear at the fall of Tyre. This brief lament is in the characteristic qinah or funeral dirge rhythm described previously. The Tyrians had rejoiced over Jerusalem’s fall (v. 2), but these vassals demonstrated more wisdom by recognizing that the fall of Tyre meant judgment for them.
Daniel Block: Given the terror she had spread all around, the maritime nations might have rejoiced over the demise of their rival and commercial overlord. Instead they express shock, trembling (ḥārad), and dismay (nibhal). For all her brutality, Tyre had represented stability, and places such as Carthage had flourished under her leadership. No doubt when they saw her go they realized not only that they too were vulnerable, but also that their continued prosperity depended on the establishment of entirely new trading patterns.
IV. (:19-21) DESTINED FOR EXTINCTION
“For thus says the Lord God,”
Leslie Allen: The companion piece now makes explicit the truth that Yahweh will have been at work in the fall of Tyre. It points overtly and constantly to Yahweh’s activity. In so doing it means to shed light on the previous oracle. If the rehearsal of mourning rites served to seal Tyre’s doom, even more does this portrayal of a descent to Sheol in premature death. The crumbling of the war-ravaged island into the sea would be both fact and symbol. The sea was a powerful image of chaos and death (cf. Tromp, Primitive Conceptions 59–61). Tyre was to join the dead in Sheol, becoming a nonentity as they were, and to exchange the land of the living for the land of the nether places. The once virile city would leave behind an uninhabited ruin (vv 19a–20aγ). Fallen, it would not stand (v 20b, cf. vv 15, 18). The “never again” of v 21b echoes and intensifies the close of the first half of the overall unit (v 14). This sealing of Tyre’s fate in irrevocable finality (cf. Jenni, ZAW 65  14) is meant to assuage the passionate feelings of Ezekiel’s fellow exiles.
Douglas Stuart: Then the prophecy reverts to a concluding direct quotation of the Lord speaking to Tyre, in which its future is likened to drowning (v. 19) and to death in hell (v. 20). The “Pit” is the actual term used, a common synonym in the Old Testament for hell as the place of death (“the next world” in a general, unspecified sense) rather than necessarily as a place of torment (cf. 31:14; 32:17–32). Tyre’s death and consignment to the Pit will result in “glory in the land of the living” (v. 20), a way of saying that the absence of this arrogant, slave-trading nation will be a divine blessing to the earth. Verse 21 sums up: The rocky spot where Tyre once was will be a horrible thing to behold (“a terror”), the city itself now nonexistent, nowhere to be found. This, again, is the language of the curses of desolation, well known from both the Mosaic covenant curses of Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28–32 and from the other Old Testament prophets.
A. (:19) Two Images of Desolation and Irrelevance
1. Uninhabited City
“When I shall make you a desolate city,
like the cities which are not inhabited,”
2. Underwater and Forgotten
“when I shall bring up the deep over you,
and the great waters will cover you,”
B. (:20-21) Termination in the Pit of Extinction
“’then I shall bring you down with those who go down to the pit, to the people of old, and I shall make you dwell in the lower parts of the earth, like the ancient waste places, with those who go down to the pit, so that you will not be inhabited; but I shall set glory in the land of the living. 21 I shall bring terrors on you, and you will be no more; though you will be sought, you will never be found again,’ declares the Lord God.”
Constable: Terrors would overtake the people, and the city would exist no longer even though others tried to find it (cf. 27:26-35). They would search for the city on its former site but would discover that it was not there. In other words, it would enjoy no continuing importance in history. Today only a small fishing village exists on the site, and sailors use the rocks to dry their nets (cf. v. 14).
Daniel Block: Unlike the surrounding nature religions, in which one of the deities (Baal in Canaan, Tammuz in Babylon) was thought to die each autumn and be banished to the netherworld, where he remained until his annual resurrection in the spring, when Yahweh banishes someone to Sheol and closes the door to the Pit, it is sealed. No one consigned to Sheol ever returns.
Galen Doughty: God says he will make Tyre like a city no longer inhabited. The ocean waves will cover its houses and walls. He will bring Tyre down to the pit, literally the dungeon or well, and to those who lived long ago and are no more. In other words God is going to wipe out Tyre and her city and her inhabitants will be like cities long since destroyed and never settled again. They will not return or be rebuilt, but be only a memory. God will bring Tyre to a horrible end and she will be no more, never to be sought and never to be found again.