GREEDY CAPITALISM WITH ITS ROOT MOTIVATION OF PRIDEFUL SELF-SUFFICIENCY WILL BE JUDGED BY GOD AS PROSTITUTION – YET A REMNANT WILL BE RESTORED AND SANCTIFIED
We come to the conclusion this morning of Isaiah’s section of Ten Oracles of Judgments against various nations – chapters 13-23. The theme has been constant: You cannot trust in the nations around you or in the arm of the flesh … you must trust completely and exclusively in the Lord Himself.
Most times the context has been one of political and military tension. Here as the spotlight focuses on Tyre, the context is more that of the world of commerce and economics. This is a message directed against Wall Street where “The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.” Who is more driven by the love of money than the heroes of capitalism that work the trading desks of Wall Street. Apart from submission to God, their motivation is distinctly greedy and selfish – How can I leverage the funds at my disposal to make the most money possible. They long to be applauded as successful and smart and perceptive. They want the mutual fund that they manage to be given rave reviews.
We participate in the activities of Wall Street as we open up the Wall Street Journal every morning to track the progress of our stock portfolio; to see how our 401K plan is performing. We live in a culture that stands at the pinnacle for all time as the most prideful in terms of earthly affluence. Look at us! Look at what we have accomplished! Look at what we possess! We need to be very careful to listen to God’s words of judgment to this hub of commerce of the ancient world.
GREEDY CAPITALISM WITH ITS ROOT MOTIVATION OF PRIDEFUL SELF-SUFFICIENCY WILL BE JUDGED BY GOD AS PROSTITUTION – YET A REMNANT WILL BE RESTORED AND SANCTIFIED
Definition of Capitalism: An economic system based on a free market, open competition, profit motive and private ownership of the means of production. In such a system, individuals and firms have the right to own and use wealth to earn income and to sell and purchase labor for wages with little or no government control. The function of regulating the economy is then achieved mainly through the operation of market forces where prices and profit dictate where and how resources are used and allocated.
I am not condemning Capitalism here and lobbying for some other economic system like socialism. I am saying that God is opposed to Greedy Capitalism where the materialistic mindset is prominent with a motivation of prideful self-sufficiency – where wealth is pursued from a motivation that does not give God the preeminence. [cf. vs. 18 where wealth is “stored up and hoarded” as one’s security and source of boasting and excuse for an indulgent lifestyle]
Prostitution as a Metaphor for Business Trading: [References in the passage] Prostitution involves selling your body (that which should have value and dignity) vs Greedy Capitalism which involves selling your soul; Parable of the Rich Man (Luke 12) who kept building larger barns “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions . .. This very night your soul is required of you” – Be rich in the spiritual realm
“The oracle concerning Tyre.”
Oswalt: With this pronouncement Isaiah concludes his judgments upon the nations. It is a fitting conclusion. As Babylon, the great city at the eastern edge of the world, opened the section, so Tyre, the great city at the western edge, closes it. Just as Babylon was described in general, universalistic terms, so is Tyre. . . All these factors lead to the conclusion that Tyre here, like Babylon at the beginning, is being used in a representative way. . . the central focus is on mercantile wealth. . . Babylon’s greatness lay in her glory, the list of her achievements and accomplishments, her sophistication and culture. Tyre did not have all of these, but she did have her wealth and her vast maritime contacts. So between the two of them, Babylon and Tyre summed up from east to west all that the world of that day – and this – thought was significant. Isaiah’s response was: “Do not trust the nations of this world. They are not preeminent. They do not hold your destiny in their hands. They, like you, are under the judgment of God – your God.”
Van Parunak: 10 oracles of judgment – 2 sections of 5 each; this is #10 so it corresponds to #5 which was against Egypt; A Gentile power coming under judgment that eventually serves the Lord; anticipates the nation returning to serve the Lord; Tarshish is in the western Mediterranean – either Carthage or Spain; Tyre was a double city. It was a city on the mainland of Lebanon, and associated with it an island more than a kilometer off the coast that served as its harbor and citadel. It was 20 miles south of Zidon (Sidon), another city on the mainland from which it was founded. Tyre and Sidon are often named together in the Bible, and Isaiah addresses both of them here. In time of war, the inhabitants would withdraw to the island, which had its own wells and was virtually impregnable. Alexander the Great built a causeway from the mainland to the island in order to bring his siege machines to bear against it, and over the centuries that causeway has accumulated silt and sand, so that now the former island is a peninsula.
I. (:1-14) Judgment
II. (:15-18) Restoration
Motyer: David and Solomon enjoyed warm relations with Tyre, marred only by Tyrian discontent over the cities Solomon ceded (1 Ki. 9:10ff). Hiram of Tyre “always loved David” (1 Ki. 5:1) and renewed his covenant with Solomon (1 Ki. 5:12), co-operating commercially over the temple (1 Ki. 5:6f.). But there was another side. Solomon took Phoenician wives and imported the cult of the Sidonian Ashtoreth (1 Ki. 11:1, 5). These high places remained (2 Ki. 23:13) and Isaiah would have grown up with an awareness of Tyre’s corruption of Israel’s most favoured king. Phoenician influence was an evil genius to the northern kingdom also, even to the extent of almost replacing Yahweh with the Baal of Sidon (1 Ki. 16, 18). In the Psalms, however, though we find Tyre in a hostile coalition against Israel (Ps. 83:7), yet the psalmist prays that the Gentile nations may come to know the name of the Lord (Ps. 83:18). In Psalm 45 the “daughter of Tyre” brings a gift to the royal wedding (verse 12, 13) and in Psalm 87 Tyre is accorded birthright honours in Zion (verse 4). Finally, in the prophets references are for the most part hostile (Je. 47:4; Am. 1:9ff; Joel 3:4; 4:4; Zc. 9:2-4), and it is of Tyre alone that Ezekiel fails to say that they will yet “know the Lord” (Ezk. 25:7, 11; 30:26). Isaiah, however, looks forward to the dedication of Tyre’s wealth to the Lord and his people (23:18), and he is thus living within the traditions to which he was heir, and indeed reaching back to the normative times of David.
I. (:1b-7) THE FAR REACHING IMPACT OF THE DESTRUCTION OF TYRE – THE HUB OF WORLD COMMERCE
A. (:1b) Tarshish Stranded – Destination Destroyed (cf. vs. 14 – bookends around the judgment section)
“Wail, O ships of Tarshish, for Tyre is destroyed, without house or harbor;
It is reported to them from the land of Cyprus.”
Beall: In v. 1, the ships of Tarshish are told to howl or wail, because of the destruction of Tyre.
Tarshish is probably to be identified with Tartessus in southwest Spain (see also Jon 1:3–Tarshish is where Jonah fled from the Lord), on the westernmost tip of the Mediterranean
(see, however, Young [2:145]–it could be northern Africa [Carthage – 1 Kings 10:22; 2 Chron 9:21; 1 Kings 22:49]). Ships of Tarshish were strong, seaworthy vessels, used in commerce (for which Tyre was famous). The ships apparently receive the word of the destruction of Tyre while making a stop at Cyprus (150 miles northwest of Tyre).
Ships capable of the longest voyages – going across the whole Mediterranean
Van Parunak: You have lost your major port of call
When the hub of commerce is destroyed – has far-reaching consequences; our economy is a world economy; our markets don’t exist in isolation; what happens in other parts of the world impacts us; certainly another Wall Street collapse would send shockwaves throughout the world
B. (:2-4) Sidon Silenced and Shamed – Revenue Stream Cut Off
1. (:2-3) Be Silent – No more trading activity
“Be silent, you inhabitants of the coastland, You merchants of Sidon;
Your messengers crossed the sea and were on many waters.
The grain of the Nile, the harvest of the River was her revenue;
And she was the market of nations.”
Sidon 20 miles north of Tyre; sort of mother city – people came from there to found Tyre; usually mentioned together
Motyer: both connotation of motionless and silent . . . contrasts with the following impression of a bustling international port.
Egypt important trade partner because land was fertile and source of grain; international commerce is in view
Cf. Port of Baltimore – its importance; all of the goods that are shipped through here; what would be the economic impact to the overall region if the Port were to be shut down for some reason; just had a strike for a couple of days and we could barely tolerate that
2. (:4) Be Ashamed – No more vitality
“Be ashamed, O Sidon; For the sea speaks, the stronghold of the sea, saying,
‘I have neither travailed nor given birth,
I have neither brought up young men nor reared virgins.’”
Tyre is seen here speaking as the fortress of the sea (seemingly impregnable island location) – bemoaning her barrenness – she has been reduced to a childless state; if that has happened to the greater of the twin cities, how much more will Sidon be put to shame; she will be barren as well
Motyer: expectation coming to nothing and becoming an object of derision;
Martin: The sea is personified as the mother of the Phoenicians, and nothing could be more appropriate. With the slaughter of so many Sidonians by Assyria, Sidon had been bereft of her children and was left as if she had never had them. The sadness of the sea is matched by that of Egypt (v. 5), whose trading links with Tyre and Sidon and, perhaps, her own danger from the same source gave her sympathy.
C. (:5) Egypt Distressed – Feeling the Financial Impact and Threat of Destruction
“When the report reaches Egypt, they will be in anguish at the report of Tyre.”
Motyer: reinforces the magnitude of the disaster
Back in those days it took a while for news reports to reach the next geographic region; no instant watching of CNN; no instant communications; you never knew if you had all of the details straight; always some degree of uncertainty leading to even greater anguish
D. (:6-7) Phoenicia Mocked – Reduced to Refugee Status
“Pass over to Tarshish; Wail, O inhabitants of the coastland. Is this your jubilant city,
Whose origin is from antiquity, Whose feet used to carry her to colonize distant places?”
Motyer: It was trade, not conquest, which drove Tyrians; not lordship, but money. The parallel Egypt oracle (19:1 – 20:6) represents the power of the world pressing on the people of God. Tyre represents the ways of the world exerting their influence.
Oswalt: Three aspects of Tyre’s existence made it hard to accept her destruction: her vitality, her antiquity, and her colonizing energy. . Tyre must have been an exciting and cosmopolitan city
II. (:8-9) THE ALL SOVEREIGN INSTIGATOR OF THE DESTRUCTION OF TYRE – THE PRIDE OF EARTHLY AFFLUENCE
A. (:8) Question Asked – Who Could Have Done This? Given Tyre’s Prominence
“Who has planned this against Tyre?”
Both the Planning and the Carrying out of the Destruction of Tyre
Everybody wanted to be like Tyre: the Donald Trumps of the ancient world
1. Successful Business Tycoons — Creator of Empires – people making their fortunes off the business trading
“the bestower of crowns,” – they did the hiring and the firing
2. Powerful Business Tycoons – lived like royalty
“Whose merchants were princes,”
3. Respected Business Tycoons – worldwide reputations
“whose traders were the honored of the earth?”
B. (:9) Question Answered – the Lord of Hosts – To Squelch Pride and Self-Sufficiency
“The LORD of hosts has planned it
to defile the pride of all beauty, To despise all the honored of the earth.”
Beall: V 8 asks the ultimate question, “who was responsible for the destruction of Tyre?” It was not accomplished by Assyria or Babylon alone, but in reality it was the Lord’s doing, in order to punish Tyre’s pride (see Isa 2:11, 17; 4:2; 5:15-16; 13:19; 14:12-20; 28:1-6; 60:15). The pride of Tyre is brought out further by Ezekiel (Ezek 27:3b; 28:12b). Note the symmetry between vv. 8 and 9 (who has purposed it? The Lord has purposed it; the honorable of the earth; the honorable of the earth).
What’s wrong with beauty? What’s wrong with being honored and respected throughout the earth? Usually we expect more explicit denunciation of sin – such as idolatry and exploitation; here the sins are those root evils that we put up with in a compromising fashion – the sin of pride and self-sufficiency
Van Parunak: Why did God destroy Tyre? Glorious and rich and honorable; everybody thought she was wonderful; 2:11-17 proud and lofty and lifted up; God is a jealous God; doesn’t tolerate anything else being prestigious and lofty; Intolerant of any competition or opposition to His authority and glory
III. (:10-14) THE SURPRISINGLY SHOCKING IMAGES OF THE DESTRUCTION OF TYRE – THE STRONGHOLDS REDUCED TO RUBBLE
A. (:10-13) Images of Tyre’s Destruction
1. (:10) Flooded Nile River – No More Shipyard for Commerce
“Overflow your land like the Nile, O daughter of Tarshish,
There is no more restraint.”
Brian Borgman: Alternative translation: “traverse your land like the Nile … there is no more shipyard.” The merchant fleets which were all drawn to Tyre like a magnet now have no place to go so they wander aimlessly like the waters of the Nile; God has destroyed the shipyard in Tyre; took decisive action;
2. (:11) Tumultuous Waves / Demolished Strongholds
“He has stretched His hand out over the sea, He has made the kingdoms tremble;
The LORD has given a command concerning Canaan to demolish its strongholds.”
Ex. 14 – describing the parting of the Red Sea – reference to Moses stretching out his hand at the direction of the Lord
3. (:12) Crushed Virgins / Homeless Wanderers
“And He has said, ‘You shall exult no more, O crushed virgin daughter of Sidon.
Arise, pass over to Cyprus; even there you will find no rest.’”
Motyer: 4 Consequences:
– loss of joy (the joy of reveling),
– loss of peace (crushed – “to oppress, wrong, extort” and experience violation as of a virgin raped)
– loss of tenure (they will be exiled and have to cross over to Cyprus).
– loss of rest (the unending experience of a displaced person who can find no rest).
4. (:13) Desert Places / Ruined Palaces
“Behold, the land of the Chaldeans– this is the people which was not; Assyria appointed it for desert creatures– they erected their siege towers, they stripped its palaces, they made it a ruin.”
B. (:14) Lament Over Tyre’s Destruction
“Wail, O ships of Tarshish, for your stronghold is destroyed.”
Van Parunak: This echo of v. 1 closes the description of Tyre’s fall. “Your strength” summarizes briefly the value of the city as port and market that was detailed in v. 1. The noun often refers to an isolated refuge, which Island Tyre was.
IV. (:15-18) THE FINAL ESCHATOLOGICAL INCOME FROM THE RESTORATION OF TYRE – THE BENEFITS TO THE REDEEMED
Beall: Vv 15-18, written in prose, contain a prophecy of 70 years in which Tyre will be forgotten
(one king’s reign?), and at its end, Tyre would again engage in her prostituting trade, yet somehow the Lord would receive the gain. Some refer these verses to the time of Judah’s captivity by Babylon, after which materials from Tyre were used to construct the temple complex. Perhaps they refer to the end time, when even Tyre’s commerce will be used to the glory of God’s people.
Martin: quoting Erlandsson – If one is looking for an interval of seventy years during which Tyre’s trade was crippled, the period which immediately comes to mind is that between the years 700 and 630 when Assyria did not permit Tyre to engage in any business activity. When Assyria’s hold over Palestine came to an end around 630, most of the western states were enabled to flourish again, especially Judah and Tyre.
A. (:15a) The 70 Year Rejection of Tyre
“Now it will come about in that day that Tyre will be forgotten for seventy years like the days of one king.
Sounds similar to the 70 year prophecy in the Book of Daniel
Motyer: plainly intended to make the seventy years a precise rather than a symbolic time, like the earlier qualifying phrase, “according to the years of a hired worker” in 16:14; 21:16.
– Assyria under Sargon and Sennacherib?? 700-630
– Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians??
– Alexander the Great””
– End Times scenario??
B. (:15b-16) The Song of the Harlot – Seeking New Clients
At the end of seventy years it will happen to Tyre as in the song of the harlot: Take your harp, walk about the city, O forgotten harlot; Pluck the strings skillfully, sing many songs, That you may be remembered.”
Van Parunak: Metaphor of prostitution used for city’s activity of commerce and trading;[ cf. sales mgrs characterizing their sales reps as whores] – pure capitalism is based on selfishness – trying to get as much wealth for myself; 70 year old washed up prostitute mocked here; no possibility of getting back clients
C. (:17) The Restoration of Tyre to Its Prominence in Worldly Commerce
“And it will come about at the end of seventy years that the LORD will visit Tyre. Then she will go back to her harlot’s wages, and will play the harlot with all the kingdoms on the face of the earth.”
It takes the action of the Lord to restore Tyre to successful commerce —
She seems to be pursuing her old ways here – same metaphor of prostitution; specific word used for the wages of a harlot; widespread business activity
Verse 18 is the key – we see she is transformed and sanctified
D. (:18) The Transformation of Tyre to Dedicate Her Income to the Lord
“And her gain and her harlot’s wages will be set apart to the LORD; it will not be stored up or hoarded, but her gain will become sufficient food and choice attire for those who dwell in the presence of the LORD.”
Not only restored, but sanctified in some sense – at some time yet in the future; she will one day turn to the Lord and seek to serve Him
Motyer: The new Tyre would be there to supply materials for the temple at the time of the return from Babylon (Ezr. 3:7) but, like the return itself, this was only a token of the fulfillment yet to come (Rev. 21:24-26; cf. Is. 60:5).
Luke 12 – Parable of the Rich Man