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Bible Commentaries
Ezekiel 26

Coffman's Commentaries on the BibleCoffman's Commentaries

Introduction

PROPHECY AGAINST TYRE

It is of interest that, “In the Hebrew Bible, there is a marginal note at the beginning of this chapter, which reads, `half of the book.’“(F1)

Regarding the date of this chapter, Keil identified it as “the year in which Jerusalem fell.”(F2) Alexander gave that date as 587-586 B.C.(F3)

Ezekiel gave more space to God’s prophecies against Tyre than did any other sacred writer. The prophecy which begins in this chapter is concluded in Ezekiel 28:19. This may have been due to the importance of Tyre at that particular time.

As was true of all the other nations against whom God directed his prophecies, it was their paganism which required the destruction in which God judged them. Salvation for mankind could never have been accomplished without the general knowledge of all mankind that God is, and that there is none else besides Him. The necessity for the destructive punishment of Israel had given her pagan neighbors the excuse to claim that the True God had been defeated; therefore, the pagan nations themselves were destroyed.

Tyre, and its sister city Sidon were pagan to the center of their existence. It was Jezebel, the daughter of Eth-Baal, king of the Sidonians, who brought the whole pagan institution into Israel in the days of Ahab, precipitating the contest with Elijah on Mount Carmel. Incidentally, that development demonstrated the godless influence of Israel’s apostate kings and their foreign wives. Jezebel was the wife of Ahab.

Tyre was an exceedingly strong city, the citadel of which was located on a rock-bound island 1,200 yards off the eastern shore of the Mediterranean. There were numerous villages and cities on the mainland that were commercially and politically related to Tyre. “Tyre was the incarnation of unrestrained commercialism.”(F4) They were the vulture-like scavengers on the fringes of every battlefield, waiting to make a deal to buy the prisoners of war and sell them at a profit. On one occasion they had even sold the Israelites to Edom (Amos 1:9). Back in the days of Solomon, they had formed a covenant (’the brotherly covenant’) with Israel, and therefore they probably had some knowledge of Jehovah.

In addition to the supporting cities and villages on the mainland, Tyre had also established a wide network of commercial establishments all over the Mediterranean world, which some believe included Tarshish on the coast of Spain; and, at one time, Carthage paid a yearly tribute to Tyre.(F5) The chief representatives of Tyre in all of such centers were important leaders, called `princes’ in this chapter, “the merchant princes” of antiquity.

Tyre was primarily a merchandiser, a tradesman; but another source of her wealth was the manufacture of a rare purple dye, made from the murex shell, which came from a tiny shellfish abundant in that area.(F6) No doubt Lydia (Acts 16), a “seller of purple” had her connections with Tyre.

The chapter naturally falls into four divisions: (1) the announcement of Tyre’s ruin (Ezekiel 26:1-6), (2) Nebuchadnezzar named as the destroyer (Ezekiel 26:7-14), (3) the world-wide shock at Tyre’s fall, and (4) the permanence of the city’s ruin (Ezekiel 26:19-21).

Verses 1-6

“And it came to pass in the eleventh year, in the first day of the month, that the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, Son of man, because that Tyre hath said against Jerusalem, Aha, she is broken that was the gate of the people; she is turned unto me; I shall be replenished, now that she is laid waste: therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Behold, I am against thee, O Tyre, and will cause many nations to come up against thee, as the sea causeth 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 a bare rock. She shall be a place for the spreading of nets in the midst of the sea; for I have spoken it, saith the Lord Jehovah; and she shall become a spoil to the nations. And her daughters that are in the field shall be slain with the sword: and they shall know that I am Jehovah.”

“She… that was the gate of the people” There were several ways in which Jerusalem was indeed the “gate of the people.” Due to Jerusalem’s location as a kind of center-piece for three continents, she sat astride the principle trade-routes of the world, able to impose taxes upon all who passed through her borders. The cruel selfishness of those old slave-traders in Tyre led them to look with greedy delight upon any disaster that befell Jerusalem.

The word “gate” (Ezekiel 26:2) is often translated “gates”; and Keil believed that, “The plural was used to indicate the folding doors which formed `the gate.’“(F7) However, to us, it appears that the several toll-stations on all the roads passing through Palestine is a more logical understanding of the plural. All such seats of custom were under the control of Jerusalem until its fall.

The rejoicing of Tyre over the fall of Jerusalem indicated that, “Tyre considered herself the heiress of Jerusalem. The fall of the world’s only spiritual center, enhanced the importance of the secular center.”(F8) Although not stated here, the full meaning of Tyre’s remarks should probably be understood as carrying the thought that, “Now she is turned to me and to my gods!”

They shall destroy the walls of Tyre (Ezekiel 26:4); I will scrape her dust from her, and make her a bare rock (Ezekiel 26:4); she shall become a spoil to the nations (Ezekiel 26:5); many nations shall come up against thee, as the waves of the sea (Ezekiel 26:3). All of these prophecies were most circumstantially fulfilled.

Cooke alleged that the siege of Tyre by Nebuchadnezzar was “probably inconclusive.”(F9) However, it went on for a period of thirteen years (586 B. C. to 573 B.C.)(F10) and any worse “defeat” than such a siege can hardly be imagined. Furthermore, “It is evident that Nebuchadnezzar did indeed establish authority over Tyre, because an ancient inscription dated in 564/563 B.C. mentions a Babylonian high commissioner, alongside Tyre’s native king (evidently a vassal of Nebuchadnezzar).”(F11)

It should be noted that a final end of Tyre was not to come in a single overthrow; it would be the result of “many nations,” coming against the proud city “as the waves of the sea.” First, there was Nebuchadnezzar (586-573 B.C); the Persians next subjugated Tyre in 525 B.C.;(F12) then, there was Alexander the Great (332 B.C.); and Tyre’s remaining history continued to show the `continuing waves’ of destruction. These included their submission to the Antiochus III, to Rome in the days of that empire, and to the Saracens in the fourteenth century A.D.(F13) Is not this indeed “as the sea causeth her waves to come up?”

That Tyre would become as a bare rock is demonstrated by the condition of the place now, and for centuries previously.

That God would scrape her dust from her took place when Alexander the Great built a great mole out to the island fortress, took it, and then scraped the whole city into the ocean!

A few commentators, quoting Ezekiel 29:18, insist that “this prophecy was not fulfilled.” However, in that passage Ezekiel was referring only to a “single wave” of the many that came against Tyre. Besides that, there are indeed Biblical examples of prophecies that were not fulfilled. God’s promise through Jonah to overthrow Nineveh in forty days was not fulfilled. Why? Nineveh repented! Furthermore, we cannot rule out the possibility of an unrecorded repentance by Tyre. “It is possible that Tyre was spared because of an unrecorded repentance.”(F14) It would be helpful if some of our radical “scholars” would read Jeremiah 18:7-10. We have no evidence whatever that Tyre ever repented; but they certainly had some knowledge of the Lord; and it is no more unreasonable that, at one time or another, they indeed might have repented, than that Nineveh herself did so! Our view here is that every Word of God’s prophecy against Tyre came to pass exactly as he promised.

Verses 7-14

“For thus saith the Lord Jehovah: For behold I will bring upon Tyre Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, a king of kings from the north, with horses, and with chariots, and with horsemen, and a company, and much people. He shall slay with the sword thy daughters in the field; and he shall make forts against thee, and cast up a mound against thee, and raise up the buckler against thee. And he shall set his battering engines against thy walls, and with his axes he shall break down thy towers. By reason of the abundance of his horses their dust shall cover thee: thy walls shall shake at the noise of the horsemen, and of the wagons, and of the chariots, when he shall enter into thy gates, as men enter into a city wherein is made a breach. With the hoofs of his horses shall he tread down all thy streets; he shall slay thy people with the sword; and the pillars of thy strength shall go down to the ground. And they shall make a spoil of thy riches, and make a prey of thy merchandise; and they shall break down thy walls, and destroy thy pleasant houses; and they shall lay thy stones and thy timber and thy dust in the midst of the waters. And I will cause the noise of thy songs to cease; and the sound of thy harps shall be no more heard. And I will make thee a bare rock: thou shalt be a place for the spreading of nets; thou shalt be built no more: for I Jehovah have spoken it, saith the Lord Jehovah.”

NEBUCHADNEZZAR NAMED AS THE DESTROYER

“He shall slay with the sword thy daughters in the field.” “These daughters were the suburbs and dependences on the mainland.”(F15) In these supporting villages were located many of those “pleasant houses,” riches, and merchandise, which fell to the operations of Nebuchadnezzar. As for the promise that these should never more be rebuilt, this was certainly true of all that was scraped into the sea for the purpose of building the mole out to the walls of the citadel on the island.

“A roof of shields” This is called “the buckler” in our version. “It refers to what the Romans called a `testudo’.”(F16) It was a portable light roof covered with military shields, under the protection of which soldiers could deploy their battering rams against an enemy wall.

“Thy pillars shall be brought down to the ground” “This is probably reference to the pillars associated with the temple of Melkart, the pagan god worshipped in Tyre. Not even he could save the city.”(F17) These pillars were described by Herodotus. “One was of opal, the other of emerald; they had been erected in honor of the god Melkarth (a variable spelling).”(F18)

“Thou shalt be built no more” This was literally fulfilled as regards the continental city of Tyre.(F19) “That part of the city that lay on the rocky island, recovered after a lapse of seventy years, as predicted by the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 23:17-18).”(F20)

Verses 15-18

“Thus saith the Lord Jehovah to Tyre: Shall not the isles shake at the sound of thy fall, when the wounded groan, when the slaughter is made in the midst of thee? Then all the princes of the sea shall come down from their thrones, and lay aside their robes, and strip off their broidered garments: they shall clothe themselves with trembling; they shall sit upon the ground, and shall tremble every moment, and be astonished at thee. And they shall take up a lamentation over thee, and say to thee, How art thou destroyed, that west inhabited by seafaring men, the renowned city that was strong in the sea, she and her inhabitants, that caused their terror to be on all that dwelt there! Now shall the isles tremble in the days of thy fall; yea, the isles that are in the sea shall be dismayed at thy departure.”

ALARM AND SHOCK AT THE NEWS OF TYRE’S FALL

“The isles” These refer to all of the islands and coastlands of the Mediterranean Sea, which long had been under the domination of Tyre.

“The renowned city that caused her terror to fall upon all” The heartless old slave traders of Tyre had been the terror of mankind, but for the thirteen year siege against them by Nebuchadnezzar, they allowed the evil slave trade to rest!

“The princes shall come down from their thrones” These merchant princes were not actually kings. They were agents of Tyre, and the meaning here is that the source of their power, wealth, and glory had dried up. They were therefore downgraded and humiliated.

“The mourning of these `princes’ indicated that they had better judgment than the rulers of Tyre. Those in Tyre could not realize that the destruction of Jerusalem meant the same fate awaited them; but these ’princes’ realized that they also were involved in the fate of Tyre.”(F21)

“They shall tremble every moment” “This means that they were trembling and fearful continually.”(F22)

Verses 19-21

“Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: When I shall make thee a desolate city, like the cities that are not inhabited; when I shall bring up the deep upon thee, and the great waters shall cover thee; then will I bring thee down with them that descend into the pit, to the people of old time, and will make thee to dwell in the nether part of the earth, in the places that are desolate of old, that thou be not inhabited; and I will set glory in the land of the living. I will make thee a terror, and thou shalt no more have any being; though thou be sought for, yet shall thou never be found again, saith the Lord Jehovah.”

In a passage like this, we can understand why the New Testament declares that, “Christ Jesus abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” (2 Timothy 1:10) Certainly, the glorious hope of eternal life and the restored fellowship of lost Mankind with the Creator is nowhere visible in a passage such as this. “This passage gives the impression that the pit is identical with Sheol, the realm of the dead, which appears here as a place of no return and of utter lostness. The resurrection does not appear here, but simply a murky, shadowy, existence alongside the peoples of old and the ruins of the past.”(F23) Of course, there are other passages, here and there, throughout the Old Testament which indeed give glimpses of the resurrection from the dead; and for these we humbly thank God and praise his holy name; but the tragic passage here is not one of those passages.

In the practical sense, “Tyre is here compared to the dead who are placed in their tombs and then are heard no more in the land of the living.”(F24)

“To the people of old time” Keil saw in this, “A reference to the people of the `old world,’ that is the generation of the Ante-Diluvians.”(F25) This suggests an obvious analogy. That godless world that lived prior to the Great Deluge was covered with the “great waters,” even as the rains of Tyre were scraped into the sea and the “great waters” covered them, thus providing for Tyre, “Its everlasting dwelling-place, among the rains of that primeval world which was destroyed by the flood, and beside that godless race of the Ante-Diluvians.”(F26)

“Yet thou shalt never be found again” This prophecy of the total disappearance of Tyre was literally fulfilled in the disappearance of the continental city of Tyre. “It is true that the insular Tyre afterward attained some distinction, but the ancient continental city never recovered from her ruin.”(F27)

Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Ezekiel 26". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/ezekiel-26.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
 
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