BOASTING IN PROSPERITY AND PROMINENCE BRINGS GOD’S DEVASTATING JUDGMENT
Tyre was the economic hub for worldwide commerce. She boasted in her vast wealth and influence. Here she is pictured as a magnificent vessel constructed from the most impressive materials, manned by an expert crew, protected by powerful mercenaries, laden down with a wide array of valuable merchandise as she trades with the most powerful nations of her day. Yet her false security and arrogant trust in her own invincibility cannot protect her from the reach of the arm of God’s devastating judgment. Broken apart by the waves of divine wrath, all of her glory perishes before grieving onlookers who await a similar fate for their rejection of God’s sovereign rule.
Peter Pett: In this oracle Tyre, who is seen as describing herself as ‘perfect in beauty’, is likened to a mighty ship which being overloaded will finally become a wreck and will sink beneath the waves at which all will bewail her loss. It is in the form of a poem, with a prose section inserted. The poetic metre is found in Ezekiel 27:3-9 and Ezekiel 27:25-36. In the previous oracle it was her greed that was condemned, here it is her vanity. Tyre had great pride and conceit in herself, and this was a further reason for her judgment by God (compare Psalms 10:4; Proverbs 6:17; Proverbs 8:13; Proverbs 16:18).
Galen Doughty: This lament is mostly a description of Tyre’s trade with the many nations of the Mediterranean basin and the vast amount of goods and products that came through her because of her trade. This is similar in tone to John’s lament against Babylon-Rome in Revelation 18. Ezekiel gives us historical insight into the scope of the trade of Tyre and the geography of the ancient Biblical world in the early part of the 6th century B.C. . .
This lament of Ezekiel’s needs to be seen as an eschatological lament, expressing God’s final judgment upon Tyre. Historically Tyre was attacked by Babylon and finally surrendered but was not destroyed. Alexander sacked the city two centuries later but it was rebuilt under the Seleucids. By Roman times Tyre was once again a busy seaport, so in biblical times it was never completely destroyed like Babylon was.
Feinberg: The record of Tyre has a peculiar relevance for our day, for those areas in which she excelled and was the envy of the entire ancient world are precisely the fields in which every modern nation seeks superiority. But Tyre has a message for our age, and it is that riches without God are unable to satisfy the heart of man and often keep many from dependence upon God. Has not this spirit invaded the church, and does it not pervade the lives of too many Christians?
Derek Thomas: This section highlights the danger of pride and the sense of invulnerability that comes with it. Tyre boasted: ‘I am perfect in beauty’ (27:3). This is the claim of conceit and arrogance. Scripture warns that it was pride that led to the downfall of both Uzziah and Hezekiah (2 Chron. 26:16; 32:26). It is pride that prevents sinners from seeking after God (Ps. 10:4). God says of it, ‘I hate pride’ (Prov. 8:13). It is the precursor to destruction (Prov. 16:18), as the next section of this chapter relates.
“Moreover, the word of the LORD came to me saying,”
“And you, son of man, take up a lamentation over Tyre; 3 and say to Tyre,
who dwells at the entrance to the sea,
merchant of the peoples to many coastlands,
‘Thus says the Lord God,’”
Daniel Block: Tyre is portrayed as the ruler of the seas, occupying the entrances of the seas. In this context the verb yasab, which normally means ‘to sit, dwell,’ speaks of occupying with authority, that is, ruling.
Leslie Allen: The importance of the introduction is that it gives a divine orientation to the fall of the great city-state of Tyre. This was to be no mere human phenomenon whose repercussions would ripple through the consciousness of Tyre’s neighbors and partners. The fate of Tyre was divinely ordained. The lament form essentially looks back to past glory from the perspective of present disaster. Here the usage is typically prophetic, serving the function of a prophetic announcement of doom by speaking as if that doom had already occurred. Tyre’s present position of affluence as supplier of goods to the world around (v 3a), secure as it seemed, was destined not to last. Tyre had two harbors, a natural one on the north side of the island and an artificial one on the south (Katzenstein, History 11, 14, 154). From them its merchant ships traveled the Mediterranean.
I. (:3b-7) BUILDING AND BEAUTIFYING THE SHIP – ITS CONSTRUCTION
A. (:3b-4) Arrogance of Magnificence and Worldwide Impact
1. (:3b) Basking in Her Beauty
“O Tyre, you have said, ‘I am perfect in beauty.’”
Constable: The Lord instructed Ezekiel to write a lamentation over Tyre, though presently it was renowned for its seafaring and commercial leadership in the world. Tyre’s neighboring kings sang the first dirge over Tyre’s demise (26:15-18), but Ezekiel was to utter the one in this chapter. The destruction of sinners always moves the heart of God, and it should also move the hearts of His spokespeople.
Tyre had taken great pride and conceit in itself, and this was another cause of its judgment by God (cf. 26:2; Ps. 10:4; Prov. 6:17; 8:13; 16:18). Like Jerusalem, it considered itself perfect in beauty (Lam. 2:15; cf. Ezek. 28:1-17; Rev. 3:17).
2. (:4a) Boasting of Her Vast Influence
“Your borders are in the heart of the seas;”
David Thompson: Her borders were the seas. In other words, she did business all over the world. Moshe Greenberg said, “Tyre serves as middleman for the world, transferring products to and from the most distant ports” (Ezekiel 21-37, p. 548). There is no question that various places of the world depended on Tyre for their survival and success. This is the problem, the nations of the world depended on Tyre and not God.
3. (:4b) Basking in Her Beauty
“Your builders have perfected your beauty.”
Constable: Ezekiel described Tyre as a large, beautiful merchant ship. He used this figure to portray Tyre’s pride and her prominence and dominance as a maritime power.
David Guzik: Prosperous and glistening on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, Tyre was a proud city. They saw themselves as a city without limits (your borders are in the midst of the seas) and full of beauty (your builders have perfected your beauty).
B. (:5-7) Assembled from the Finest Materials
1. (:5a) Her Planks
“They have made all your planks of fir trees from Senir;”
2. (:5b) Her Mast
“They have taken a cedar from Lebanon to make a mast for you.”
3. (:6a) Her Oars
“Of oaks from Bashan they have made your oars;”
4. (:6b) Her Deck
“With ivory they have inlaid your deck of boxwood from the coastlands of Cyprus.”
Daniel Block: Her sail was like a flag. Fundamentally, nes denotes a standard or flag raised on a hill around which marshaled troops would rally. Accordingly, this sail served as a symbol of Tyrian self-assurance and pride. Wherever the ship traveled observers would recognize her and marvel at her beauty.
5. (:7a) Her Sail
“Your sail was of fine embroidered linen from Egypt
So that it became your distinguishing mark;”
6. (:7b) Her Awning
“Your awning was blue and purple from the coastlands of Elishah.”
Constable: The wood (“planks”) was “fir” (probably pine or cypress) from the Mount Hermon region, and the mast was a strong cedar from Lebanon. Likewise her “oars” were of the best strong “oaks from Bashan,” and her “decks of boxwood (or cypress) from … Cyprus” contained beautifully “inlaid … ivory.” Her “embroidered … linen sail” had come “from Egypt,” which was famous for its linen products (Gen. 41:42; Prov. 7:16), and it had become Tyre’s distinguishing flag or banner.
The “awning” over the deck, or possibly the deck itself, was an attractive combination of “violet (or blue)” and “purple” colors, and it came from “Elishah” (Italy, Sicily, Carthage, Cyprus, and Syria all being possibilities). In other words, Tyre’s development as a city-state came through obtaining the finest materials of her day by trading with the producers of those materials.
II. (:8-11) MANNING THE SHIP – ITS CREW
A. (:8) Rowers and Pilots
“The inhabitants of Sidon and Arvad were your rowers;”
Charles Dyer: The earliest Phoenician ships each had 50 oarsmen and were quite fast. The later commercial ships were much longer and had a crew of up to 200 with two or three banks of oars on each side.
Wright: All Phoenician coastal cities mentioned here.
“Your wise men, O Tyre, were aboard; they were your pilots.”
B. (:9) Mechanics and Traders
“The elders of Gebal and her wise men were with you repairing your seams;”
Clarke: Those who repaired their vessels; paying, as it is termed, pitched hemp into the seams, to prevent the water from oozing through.
Galen Doughty: Veteran craftsmen from Gebal or Byblos were on board, shipwrights and carpenters who caulked the seams of the ship and kept her seaworthy.
“All the ships of the sea and their sailors were with you in order to deal in your merchandise.”
John Taylor: The description of every lavish detail of the trading vessel that represents the city of Tyre is expressed as an elaboration of Tyre’s opinion of her own matchlessness: ‘I am perfect in beauty’ (3).
C. (:10-11) Mercenaries as the Protective Force
1. (:10) From Persia, Lud and Put
“Persia and Lud and Put were in your army, your men of war.
They hung shield and helmet in you;
they set forth your splendor.”
2. (:11) Sons of Arvad and the Gammadim
“The sons of Arvad and your army were on your walls, all around,
and the Gammadim were in your towers.
They hung their shields on your walls, all around;
they perfected your beauty.”
Galen Doughty: Many nations used mercenaries in ancient times when they did not have the population to field a large standing army. Ezekiel says Tyre used this practice to defend the city. Tyre was rich enough it could hire the best soldiers from the nations around it. Ezekiel’s picture is of a fabulously wealthy and beautiful city whose influence was felt by many nations from the eastern Mediterranean coast all across the Great Sea.
Daniel Block: In addition to the crew, on board the ship Tyre was a contingent of mercenary military personnel, referred to as ḥêlēk, “your army,” and more closely defined as ʾanšê milḥamtēk, “your men of war.” Their presence on board the merchant ship probably reflects Tyre’s current war with Nebuchadnezzar, and the heightened need to protect her precious cargo from marauding pirates.
III. (:12-25) WORLDWIDE TRADING PARTNERS FOR THE SHIP – ITS CARGO OF MERCHANDISE
A. (:12-15) Trading with Mediterranean Areas and Asia Minor
“Tarshish was your customer because of the abundance of all kinds of wealth; with silver, iron, tin, and lead, they paid for your wares. 13 “Javan, Tubal, and Meshech, they were your traders; with the lives of men and vessels of bronze they paid for your merchandise. 14 “Those from Beth-togarmah gave horses and war horses and mules for your wares. 15 “The sons of Dedan were your traders. Many coastlands were your market; ivory tusks and ebony they brought as your payment.”
Leslie Allen: Between the description of the ship’s construction and crew and the reference to its setting sail fully laden in v 25b has been inserted a bridging account of its cargo. For this purpose an extant commercial catalog of trading commodities and their sources has evidently been used. It has been written up into a prose account of Tyre’s trade relations with other parts of the world. In this context it functions virtually as a cargo list, although strictly the trading city of Tyre is in view rather than the metaphorical ship.
B. (:16-17) Trading with Palestinian Regions from South to North
“Aram was your customer because of the abundance of your goods; they paid for your wares with emeralds, purple, embroidered work, fine linen, coral, and rubies. 17 “Judah and the land of Israel, they were your traders; with the wheat of Minnith, cakes, honey, oil, and balm they paid for your merchandise.”
C. (:18-19) Trading with Syria
“Damascus was your customer because of the abundance of your goods, because of the abundance of all kinds of wealth, because of the wine of Helbon and white wool. 19 “Vedan and Javan paid for your wares from Uzal; wrought iron, cassia, and sweet cane were among your merchandise.”
D. (:20-22) Trading with Arabia
“Dedan traded with you in saddlecloths for riding. 21 “Arabia and all the princes of Kedar, they were your customers for lambs, rams, and goats; for these they were your customers. 22 “The traders of Sheba and Raamah, they traded with you; they paid for your wares with the best of all kinds of spices, and with all kinds of precious stones, and gold.”
E. (:23-24) Trading with Mesopotamia
“Haran, Canneh, Eden, the traders of Sheba, Asshur, and Chilmad traded with you. 24 “They traded with you in choice garments, in clothes of blue and embroidered work, and in carpets of many colors, and tightly wound cords, which were among your merchandise.”
Peter Pett: The list ends with a miscellany of places and products. It could have gone on and on. Haran was on the main route from Nineveh to Aleppo, and after the fall of Nineveh became the capital of Assyria until taken by the Babylonians. Canneh was in Mesopotamia, probably in the area of the middle Euphrates. Eden may be connected with Beth-Eden – see Amos 1:5 – and Bene-Eden, ‘sons of Eden’ – 2 Kings 19:12; Isaiah 37:12, which were probably the Aramean state of Bit-Adini, south of Haran. Or it may be related to Hindanu (‘Iddan) on the middle Euphrates. Sheba was in eastern Arabia, but ‘the traders of Sheba’ may hint at a well-known trading station in Mesopotamia. Asshur (Assyria) was in Mesopotamia, and Chilmad unknown. They exchanged garments, carpets, and finely crafted clothing materials.
Douglas Stuart: The particular materials mentioned as being traded were characteristic of their respective geographical areas as far as we know, but hardly limited to them. Thus it would be incorrect to assume, for example, that the products mentioned in connection with Israel and Judah in verse 17 are the only ones, or even the dominant ones, that were exported in Old Testament times. The point is rather that through Tyre moved the varied, splendid products of dozens of nations, so that it was an economic crossroads of unparalleled prestige.
Iain Duguid: Nor was her beauty merely cosmetic. The merchant ship Tyre is depicted as a highly efficient business machine, trading in all kinds of costly goods. The seemingly interminable list of her trading partners, whether borrowed from an extant source or modeled after that form, makes clear the astonishing array of her wares. The cargo list seems to be organized by geographic areas, starting with Mediterranean locations and those in Asia Minor (27:12–15) and moving on through Palestinian regions from south to north (27:16–17) to Syria (27:18–19), Arabia (27:20–22), and finally Mesopotamia (27:23–24). [Zimmerli] By covering all points of the compass and virtually every imaginable precious commodity, the picture is established of Tyre as the commercial crossroads of the world, the Hong Kong of the ancient Near East.
F. (:25) Summary
“The ships of Tarshish were the carriers for your merchandise.
And you were filled and were very glorious in the heart of the seas.”
Peter Pett: Instead of camels, the ‘ships of the desert’, Tyre used seagoing ships for carrying their merchandise.
David Thompson: Tyre was doing business worldwide. She had control of the world. The world loved her and did business with her. It was the biggest and best and most successful city in the world.
David Guzik: The impressive list of peoples, places, trading, and merchandise shows what an economic powerhouse Tyre was. The absence of any mention of God shows that they cared only for business, with no regard to God their creator and redeemer.
Galen Doughty: This whole section paints a picture of the vast network of trade that Tyre oversaw. She was not a military power instead her influence was through the goods and services that she exchanged with nations and peoples from the western Mediterranean like Tarshish to the spice caravans from southern Arabia. Her power was not in her armies but in her markets. Tyre also had power in her navy and trading vessels. Empires like Nebuchadnezzar and Alexander coveted Tyre in order to control her trade. Conquering empires like the Babylonians often used conquest to gain wealth and treasure. Tyre used her ships and markets to amass wealth through trade. The problem was if you destroyed Tyre one would severely impact the economies of the eastern Mediterranean and even all the way into Mesopotamia and diminish the long term opportunity for wealth through trade. Ezekiel recognizes Tyre’s value to the nations all over the Middle East, including Israel and Judah.
IV. (:26-36) SINKING THE SHIP – ITS CATASTROPHE
A. (:26-27) Reversal of Fortunes
1. (:26) Destruction of Her Invincibility
“Your rowers have brought you into great waters;
The east wind has broken you in the heart of the seas.”
Daniel Block: For all her fiscal accomplishments, Tyre had dared to oppose Babylon, and in so doing had taken her stand against Yahweh and his inexorable purposes for the nations. Inasmuch as this dirge is presented as the very oracle of God, his silence is more apparent than real. His hand may be hidden, but it is present in the east wind that blows upon that ship. Indeed, the east wind is his breath, blowing on the high and mighty, reducing them to nothing (cf. Isa. 40:24). In her apparent invincibility, Tyre represented the glory of human achievement. Because her successes were driven by avarice and pursued in defiance of God, however, she could not stand. The Lord of history always has the last word.
David Thompson: – God will cause their rowers to bring them into deep, destructive waters
2. (:27) Drowning of Her Glory
“Your wealth, your wares, your merchandise,
Your sailors, and your pilots, Your repairers of seams,
your dealers in merchandise, and all your men of war who are in you, With all your company that is in your midst,
Will fall into the heart of the seas on the day of your overthrow.”
Constable: This great ship (commercial empire) was headed for shipwreck.
John Taylor: In the very place where Tyre was thought to be supreme, in the midst of the seas (cf. verse 4), she was overtaken by disaster. The powerful east wind (cf. Ps. 48:7) broke her up and she foundered, taking with her all her crew and her armies and her merchandise (is it significant that this comes first in the list?). The countryside (28, rsv; lit. the ‘open spaces’; av suburbs), which had supplied many of those on board, will be shattered at the sound of the sailors crying for help and all the shipping world gathers to lament the loss of such a stately craft. For the signs of mourning in verses 30, 31, see 7:17f.
B. (:28-32) Reaction from Onlookers
1. (:28-31) Bitter Mourning
“At the sound of the cry of your pilots the pasture lands will shake. 29 and all who handle the oar, the sailors, and all the pilots of the sea will come down from their ships; They will stand on the land, 30 and they will make their voice heard over you and will cry bitterly. They will cast dust on their heads, they will wallow in ashes. 31 Also they will make themselves bald for you and gird themselves with sackcloth; And they will weep for you in bitterness of soul with bitter mourning.”
2. (:32) Shocked Lamentation
“Moreover, in their wailing they will take up a lamentation for you
And lament over you: ‘Who is like Tyre, Like her who is silent in the midst of the sea?’”
Constable: They would lament the demise of this great commercial empire regarding it as the mightiest power of its kind on the earth. Thus we have a lamentation within a lamentation (cf. v. 2). Tyre had satisfied the materialistic desires of many nations and kings. These onlookers would wail because Tyre’s “ship” had sunk.
C. (:33-36) Repercussions of Her Demise
1. (:33-34) Bankrupt of Wealth and Impact
a. (:33) Former Prosperity and Economic Impact
“When your wares went out from the seas,
You satisfied many peoples;
With the abundance of your wealth and your merchandise
You enriched the kings of earth.”
b. (:34) Fallen into Oblivion
“Now that you are broken by the seas in the depths of the waters,
Your merchandise and all your company
Have fallen in the midst of you.”
Peter Pett: Now the poem contrasts what they accomplished with what they have come to. They went out over the seas and satisfied the world with their merchandise and their trading riches, but now they have been broken up by those seas, and all their wealth is engulfed by the sea, along with their ship’s company. Triumph has turned into disaster because she exalted herself, and challenged Yahweh.
2. (:35-36) Boasting Transformed into Derision
a. (:35-36a) Trading Partners Terrified and Hissing
“All the inhabitants of the coastlands are appalled at you,
And their kings are horribly afraid;
They are troubled in countenance.
The merchants among the peoples hiss at you;”
Wiersbe: Tyre’s agents, brokers, traders, and customers will feel the repercussions of the sinking of the ship. People will stand on the shore and lament the end of the vast, mercantile system that gave them jobs, income, and security. Some of the merchants will “whistle” or “hiss” when they hear the news (27:36), probably as a shocked response to the tragedy. However, the word can mean “to hiss in scorn or derision,” suggesting that some of the leaders in the business network are happy to see Tyre fall. They cooperated in the system because they had to, but now perhaps they would have opportunity to build their own network and make a greater profit. This great lamentation is an advance demonstration of what the whole world will do when Satan’s system, “Babylon the great,” collapses before the Lord returns to establish His kingdom (Rev. 18:17-19).
b. (:36b) Tyre Terrified and Wiped Out
“You have become terrified, and you will be no more.”