Ezekiel 26 – Greedy Tyre is No More
A. Certain judgment against Tyre.
1. (1-2) Announcing the fall of Tyre.
And it came to pass in the eleventh year, on the first day of the month, that the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Son of man, because Tyre has said against Jerusalem, ‘Aha! She is broken who was the gateway of the peoples; now she is turned over to me; I shall be filled; she is laid waste.’
a. It came to pass in the eleventh year, on the first day of the month: The last time marker given was at Ezekiel 24:1, telling of how the siege of Jerusalem began in the ninth year, in the tenth month, on the tenth day of the month. Though Ezekiel does not give us the name of which month this word of the LORD came to him, most think that Ezekiel received the prophecy regarding Tyre a little more than 14 months later.
i. Most commentators believe these prophecies regarding Tyre were given shortly after the fall of Jerusalem because they focus on Tyre’s joy at the fall of Zion. Some believe that instead they were written in the “prophetic perfect,” speaking of future events with such certainty that the idea is that they have already happened.
b. Tyre: This was the great and ancient city of the Phoenicians on the Mediterranean coast north of Israel (in modern-day Lebanon). Tyre and her sister city Sidon (about 20 miles or 32 kilometers north of Tyre) were important seaports for the whole region.
i. “Tyre was an ancient city of the Phoenicians, appearing for the first time in the Bible in Joshua 19:29….The city was actually composed of two parts, one on the mainland and the other on a rocky island about a half mile from the coast.” (Feinberg)
ii. “As a commercial centre, Tyre was famous for her glassware and for her dyed materials, using the purple dye made from the local murex shell-fish.” (Taylor)
iii. “Tyre, to the world of her age, was what Venice was in the Middle Ages, and London to-day. She was strong in the sea; the carrying trade of the world was in her hands. Carthage, which was able to conflict with Rome, was her daughter; and the coasts of Cornwall were visited by her merchant vessels. In the days of Ezekiel she was a proud and populous city.” (Meyer)
c. Because Tyre has said against Jerusalem: God promised judgment against the city-kingdom of Tyre because she said she would benefit from Jerusalem’s fall. Now that Jerusalem was broken, Tyre said: “she is turned over to me; I shall be filled; she is laid waste.”
i. This strong opposition was not always the policy of Tyre towards Jerusalem. Hiram, the King of Tyre, was a true friend of King David (2 Samuel 5:11) and helped David and later Solomon in supplies and expertise in building the temple (1 Kings 5:1-12; 1 Chronicles 14:1; 2 Chronicles 2:3 and 2:11).
ii. Though Tyre and Israel were friendly in the reigns of David and Solomon, they drifted apart later. Tyrians sold Jews as slaves to the Greeks and Edomites (cf. Joel 3:4-8; Amos 1:9-10).” (Feinberg)
iii. “Earlier Tyre had treacherously broken a pact (Amos 1:9), and she is selected as an example of proud self-sufficiency by Isaiah (Isaiah 23) as well as by Ezekiel.” (Wright)
d. She is turned over to me; I shall be filled; she is laid waste: Tyre was happy at the fall of Jerusalem because it was good for her trading business. In some way the kingdom of Judah was a competitor or hindrance to the economy of Tyre. Blind with greed, Tyre had no spiritual sense or values, only material and economic values. If destroying God’s city, temple, and people were good for business, then it made Tyre happy.
i. “Jerusalem’s fall enhanced Tyre’s control over commerce in the eastern Mediterranean. That is precisely how Tyre reacted to the Babylonian devastation of Jerusalem. This callous venality prompted Ezekiel’s words of judgment.” (Vawter and Hoppe)
ii. Proverbs 17:5 says, He who is glad at calamity will not go unpunished. This was true of Tyre.
iii. “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.” (Morgan)
2. (3-6) The destruction to come to Tyre.
“Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: ‘Behold, I am against you, O Tyre, and will cause many nations to come up against you, as the sea causes its waves to come up. And they shall destroy the walls of Tyre and break down her towers; I will also scrape her dust from her, and make her like the top of a rock. It shall be a place for spreading nets in the midst of the sea, for I have spoken,’ says the Lord GOD; ‘it shall become plunder for the nations. Also her daughter villages which are in the fields shall be slain by the sword. Then they shall know that I am the LORD.’
a. Behold, I am against you, O Tyre: God said He was against Tyre because of her wicked and opportunistic attitude toward Jerusalem and Judah. She hoped to benefit from the misfortune and judgment of God’s people. There were, no doubt, many other sins that made Tyre guilty, yet in faithfulness to His covenant to Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3), God would judge Tyre based on how they treated His covenant people, the Jews.
i. When God is against you, none can help. “Neither can thine Apollo help or deliver thee out of my hands; no, though thou chain that idol and nail him to a post, that thou mayest be sure of him; for so these Tyrians did when Alexander besieged their city and took it.” (Trapp)
b. Will cause many nations to come against you, as the sea causes its waves to come up: Tyre was famous for its remarkably secure defenses, especially because when under attack they could retreat to a seemingly unconquerable portion of the city that was an island. Nevertheless, God promised that one day many nations would come against them as unstoppable as the waves of the sea.
i. God was faithful to bring many nations against Tyre in successive waves of conquest and destruction:
· Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Tyre for 13 years and eventually conquered them (about 586-573 BC).
· The Persians conquered and brought Tyre to submission around 525 BC.
· Alexander the Great destroyed the city in just the manner described in 332 BC.
· Antiochus III conquered and subjugated Tyre.
· Rome conquered and subjugated Tyre.
· The Saracens in the 14th century AD finally obliterated the city of Tyre.
c. They shall destroy the walls of Tyre and break down her towers: Despite her strongly defended position, God promised that Tyre would indeed be destroyed. Throughout history, many nations would come and continually crash against her like the waves of the sea. The destruction would be so complete that the city would be bare like the top of a rock, and a place for spreading nets in the midst of the sea.
i. The top of a rock: The name Tyre means, “rock.” When God said He would make her a bare outcropping of rock, it was a play upon her name.
ii. “The magnificent structures of the commercial capital of the Mediterranean will be replaced by fishermen’s nets, spread out on the bare rock to dry, in the midst of the sea. ” (Block)
d. Also her daughter villages which are in the fields: The many villages and small cities allied with Tyre would also be destroyed. Her colony cities scattered around the broader world would be crippled. Judgment would be complete.
i. “The colonies of Phoenicia were in Cyprus, Rhodes, Malta, Spain, Sicily, Sardinia, the Balearic Islands and Africa, with all looking to Tyre as their headquarters, and sending annual gifts to the Tyrian Heracles.” (Feinberg)
3. (7-11) The destruction to come from Nebuchadnezzar’s army.
“For thus says the Lord GOD: ‘Behold, I will bring against Tyre from the north Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, king of kings, with horses, with chariots, and with horsemen, and an army with many people. He will slay with the sword your daughter villages in the fields; he will heap up a siege mound against you, build a wall against you, and raise a defense against you. He will direct his battering rams against your walls, and with his axes he will break down your towers. Because of the abundance of his horses, their dust will cover you; your walls will shake at the noise of the horsemen, the wagons, and the chariots, when he enters your gates, as men enter a city that has been breached. With the hooves of his horses he will trample all your streets; he will slay your people by the sword, and your strong pillars will fall to the ground.
a. I bring against Tyre from the north Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon: God promised that the same king who destroyed Jerusalem would also attack and subdue Tyre. Nebuchadnezzar would bring much death and destruction, complete with battering rams and axes to break down towers.
i. Throughout the book of Ezekiel many references have been made to the king of Babylon, but Ezekiel 26:7 is the first mention of Nebuchadnezzar by name. Here, Ezekiel actually used a slightly different form of his name (Nebuchadrezzar), often used in Babylonian writings.
ii. “This spelling of his name was thought to be more correct than Nebuchadnezzar, being closer to the Babylonian Nabukudurri-usur, but both forms are found in the Hebrew Bible and Nebuchadnezzar may have been the common western Aramaic form.” (Taylor)
iii. “The strategy described here reflects thorough knowledge of military tactics, containing all the elements normally associated with siege warfare.” (Block)
b. Because of the abundance of his horses, their dust will cover you: The army of Nebuchadnezzar would be so massive that their horses would kick up a cloud of dust big enough to cover the city. The whole city would shake at the noise of the horsemen, the wagons, and the chariots of Babylon.
c. He will slay your people by the sword: Nebuchadnezzar laid siege against the mainland portion of Tyre for 13 years and conquered that part of the city, subjugating all of Tyre under his rule.
i. “Nebuchadnezzar now turned his attention to Tyre, which held out on its island for thirteen years. It is now known from inscriptions that Nebuchadnezzar eventually forced its submission and put a puppet king on the throne. Ezekiel. 29.18 records that he did not obtain enough spoil from the city to pay for all the efforts he had made.” (Wright)
ii. Your strong pillars will fall to the ground: “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.” (Feinberg)
4. (12-14) The destruction to come from succeeding waves of invaders.
They will plunder your riches and pillage your merchandise; they will break down your walls and destroy your pleasant houses; they will lay your stones, your timber, and your soil in the midst of the water. I will put an end to the sound of your songs, and the sound of your harps shall be heard no more. I will make you like the top of a rock; you shall be a place for spreading nets, and you shall never be rebuilt, for I the LORD have spoken,’ says the Lord GOD.
a. They will plunder your riches: There is a subtle but significant change from Ezekiel 26:7-11 to 26:12-14. In verses 7-11 the destruction is described as the effect of a he – that is, Nebuchadnezzar. Starting at verse 12, the destruction comes at the hands of they – that is, the succeeding waves of many nations of invaders and conquerors mentioned in Ezekiel 26:3-6.
i. “Commentators have long noticed the change of pronoun from the ‘he’ of the previous verses to the ‘they’ of verse 12. It is rightly understood that Ezekiel was carrying the picture beyond Nebuchadnezzar to other invaders as well who would complete what he began.” (Feinberg)
b. They will break down your walls and destroy your pleasant houses: In the centuries after Nebuchadnezzar’s conquest of Tyre, many other nations came against her like the waves of the sea prophesied in Ezekiel 26:3-6. One of the most notable was Alexander the Great in 332 BC, who brought great destruction.
c. They will lay your stones, your timber, and your soil in the midst of the water: When Alexander the Great came against Tyre, most of the people retreated to the island portion of the city which even Nebuchadnezzar could not conquer. In a remarkable feat of engineering and vision, Alexander’s armies took the rubble of the mainland city and built a causeway, a solid road built up through the water out to the island part of the city and conquered it – just as Ezekiel prophesied.
i. “Certainly Alexander the Great literally threw Tyre’s ‘stones, timber and rubble into the sea’ when he built a one-half mile causeway out to the island fortress to conquer the city.” (Alexander)
ii. “The American archaeologist Edward Robinson saw forty or fifty marble columns beneath the water along the shores of Tyre.” (Feinberg)
d. I will make you like the top of a rock; you shall be a place for spreading nets: Once again the doom and destruction of Tyre is announced, even as in Ezekiel 26:4-5. Eventually, the final wave of destruction came against Tyre from the Saracens in the fourteenth century AD. They destroyed the city so thoroughly that its remains have only been found with great time and difficulty. It truly became a place for spreading nets.
i. It is worth noting that in mercy, God delayed this final destruction of Tyre for many centuries, even until the 14th century. In New Testament times, “The Lord Jesus did bring his preaching and healing ministry to this heathen city (Matt 15:21; Mark 7:24–31; Luke 6:17). Her responsibility and judgment would be less than that of the Galileans who rejected Christ’s constant ministry to them (Matt 11:21–22; Luke 10:13–14).” (Alexander)
ii. The Apostle Paul also visited Tyre and met with believers there (Acts 21:3-4). Adam Clarke quoted Calmet, who wrote that many faithful martyrs came from Tyre in its Christian period.
iii. There is a modern city of Tyre, but it isn’t really built on the same spot as the ancient city – and has never come close to reaching the grandeur and importance of ancient Tyre.
B. Down to the Pit.
1. (15-18) The nations lament over Tyre.
“Thus says the Lord GOD to Tyre: ‘Will the coastlands not shake at the sound of your fall, when the wounded cry, when slaughter is made in the midst of you? Then all the princes of the sea will come down from their thrones, lay aside their robes, and take off their embroidered garments; they will clothe themselves with trembling; they will sit on the ground, tremble every moment, and be astonished at you. And they will take up a lamentation for you, and say to you:
“How you have perished,
O one inhabited by seafaring men,
O renowned city,
Who was strong at sea,
She and her inhabitants,
Who caused their terror to be on all her inhabitants!
Now the coastlands tremble on the day of your fall;
Yes, the coastlands by the sea are troubled at your departure.”’
a. Will the coastlands not shake at the sound of your fall: The fall of the great city of Tyre would be a horror and a warning to the other cities on the Mediterranean coast.
b. They will sit on the ground, tremble every moment, and be astonished at you: The princes of those other cities on the Mediterranean coast would humble themselves in great fear that the same destruction would come upon them.
i. Come down from their thrones: “The Hebrew word can refer to any chair of an official (1 Samuel 4:13), not exclusively to the royal throne, although it is used mainly in that connection.” (Feinberg)
c. How you have perished: The lamentation of the princes of the seacoast cities will mourn the loss of such a great, renowned, strong city. Tyre’s fall would make them troubled, knowing that similar judgment could come upon them.
i. “In Ezekiel 26:17-18 we have a brief lamentation over the fall of the city. Keep in mind that in ancient days, the prophets sometimes used funeral lamentations in a satirical manner to poke fun at the enemies of God.” (Wiersbe)
ii. Who was strong at sea: “The strength of Tyre was so great, that Alexander despaired of being able to reduce it unless he could fill up that arm of the sea that ran between it and the main land. And this work cost his army seven months of labour.” (Clarke)
2. (19-21) Tyre brought down to the pit.
“For thus says the Lord GOD: ‘When I make you a desolate city, like cities that are not inhabited, when I bring the deep upon you, and great waters cover you, then I will bring you down with those who descend into the Pit, to the people of old, and I will make you dwell in the lowest part of the earth, in places desolate from antiquity, with those who go down to the Pit, so that you may never be inhabited; and I shall establish glory in the land of the living. I will make you a terror, and you shall be no more; though you are sought for, you will never be found again,’ says the Lord GOD.”
a. I will bring you down with those who descend into the Pit: God promised to not only bring the deep upon you, and great waters to cover you, but to take them deeper still, down to the Pit of God’s eternal judgment.
i. Pit: “Refers primarily to a cistern in which rainwater is trapped and stored, but it was also applied to empty cisterns used as dungeons (Exodus 12:29; Jeremiah 37:16; 38:6–13), or convenient places in which to dump corpses (Jeremiah 41:7–9).” (Block)
ii. Pit: “The Hebrew word bor means ‘a well, a pit, a cistern,’ but it also refers to the pit of death (Psalms 28:1 and 88:4-6) and sometimes is an equivalent of sheol, the realm of departed spirits.” (Wiersbe)
b. I will make you dwell in the lowest part of the earth: This wasn’t speaking of geography, such as the Dead Sea region (1400 feet or 430 meters below sea level). This speaks of the realm of the dead, where the lost are judged. These are places desolate from antiquity.
i. The lowest part of the earth: “Another description of the grave, from the situation, and from the solitudes or desolation of it. In brief, when Tyre, as a dead man, shall be buried, forgotten and perish utterly, and my hand hath done it, then it shall be known my hand hath avenged and punished all her insolence, inhumanity, and covetousness that she discovered when she rejoiced at Jerusalem’s fall.” (Poole)
ii. “Other ancient Near Easterners recognized the realm of the dead to be ruled by the god of the netherworld, the ‘King of Terrors,’ as far as Ezekiel and all orthodox Yahwists are concerned, Yahweh exercises full control over life and death. His sovereignty knows no bounds (Ps. 139:8). He opens and closes the doors of Sheol and he consigns his enemies to it.” (Block)
c. I shall establish glory in the land of the living: The judgment and fall of cities such as Tyre do not defeat God’s plan; it advances it. His agenda remains the same, to establish glory in the land of the living.
i. Land of the living: “Represents the sphere in which humans live, in contrast to the netherworld, the realm of the dead, and the heavens, the domain of God.” (Block)
ii. “The point is that Tyre would disappear from the land of the living—from the stage of history—and never be found again.” (Smith)
d. I will make you a terror, and you shall be no more: The judgment God would bring upon Tyre would bring fear and terror into the heart and mind of all who heard it. When Tyre had served this final purpose in God’s plan, then they would be no more. Their destruction would be so complete that archaeologists would do their work with difficulty: though you are sought for, you will never be found again.
i. “Tyre would never again exist and play an important role in history as she had in the past. Though some might look for her, she would not be found.” (Alexander)
ii. Though you are sought for, you will never be found again: What a contrast to this are the words of Jeremiah 50:20: “‘In those days the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found.’ Refuse the love of God, and you are doomed; you will leave no enduring record. Trust in Him, and your sins will be blotted out as if they had never been.” (Meyer)
iii. Never be found again: “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.” (Block)