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Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 23

Smith's Bible CommentarySmith's Commentary

Verses 1-18

Now in chapter 23 he takes up his burden against Tyre. Tyre was, of course, a seaport town. It was the area... The people of Tyre were known as Phoenicians. And so you who are versed in your ancient history know of the Phoenicians and the tremendous navy that the Phoenicians possessed. They were merchants. Their ships plied the Mediterranean. In fact, they even went around the Cape Horn to bring back goods, merchandise and all. And the Phoenician navy more or less ruled the seas, and in those days the navies were used primarily for merchandising.

And so Tyre was the commercial capital of the world as far as goods and variety of goods and all. Commercialism more or less centered in Tyre in those days, the city of Tyre. So he is pronouncing now the judgment of God against Tyre, the commercial capital.

It is interesting as you go into the prophecies of Ezekiel that Ezekiel also in chapter 26 declares the destruction of Tyre. The description that Ezekiel gives in chapter 26 is much more detailed than is that of Isaiah. Ezekiel points out that there will be two enemies that will come against Tyre. The first one would break down their walls, destroy their cities, and so forth. The second one would take the rubble and cast it into the midst of the sea. And scrape the dust and cast it into the midst of the sea. And he goes on and he divides the sieges of Tyre between, "he shall do this, he shall do this, he shall do that." And then it turns and the pronoun becomes "they and they and they."

Now, as you look at your secular history, you'll find that Nebuchadnezzar came against Tyre first; after a thirteen-year siege he finally took Tyre. But as the scriptures said, he'll not get any spoil. And Nebuchadnezzar after thirteen years did not take any spoil. Because while he was besieging the city of Tyre, because he basically had a land army and the Phoenicians had all these ships, the people of Tyre during this period of siege actually moved to an island that was about a mile offshore. And they built a whole new city of Tyre on this island, so that by the time Nebuchadnezzar took the city of Tyre, the people had pretty well moved out to this island and thus he didn't take any spoil. Just like Ezekiel said. But then Ezekiel said, "And they shall come and they shall take thy timbers and thy stones and cast them into the midst of the sea: and they will scrape thy dust and throw them in the midst of the sea" ( Ezekiel 26:12 ). That's a strange thing for a prophet to say about the destruction of a city.

So when Alexander the Great, couple hundred years after Nebuchadnezzar, came in his conquest of that area, when he came to the city of Tyre and made a demand that they capitulate to him, they said, "Are you kidding? We're safe. We're out here on this island. There is nothing you can do." Well, he tried to gather a navy from ships in Sidon and so forth, and that invasion was crushed. And so Alexander the Great then launched upon this very interesting campaign of taking the ruins of the old city of Tyre, and he began to throw the rocks, the timbers and all, building a causeway out to the island. Finally taking the dirt and scraping it and dumping it on top so that he could get his machines for besieging the city and all, moving them along this causeway that he built and he fulfilled the weird prophecies of Ezekiel of scraping the dust and all and throwing it into the midst of the sea. And he built the causeway out to Tyre and finally took the city of Tyre, utterly destroying it and the Bible says, "And thy place shall be a place for the spreading of nets" ( Ezekiel 26:14 ).

Now for years people just thought when they saw the ruins of the area Tyre that this was just a peninsula. But upon closer examination they discovered that it is exactly as the historian said, "This is the island city of Tyre." And the peninsula that they thought was a peninsula is actually an artificial causeway that was built by Alexander the Great as he conquered the city of Tyre exactly according to the script. You'd think that Alexander had read the Bible or something. He would just follow the script perfectly as God declared.

The interesting thing when they finally discovered the site of ancient Tyre, when they finally realized, "This is Tyre", they looked up and here were fishermen spreading their nets on the rocks there. Just like Ezekiel said, "And thy place shall be a place for the spreading of nets." So again, God's interesting Word being fulfilled.

Then in Ezekiel 28:1-26 , he takes up this lamentation against the king of Tyre. But as he is speaking against the king of Tyre, the prophecy switches and he begins to address himself unto Satan, the power behind the king of Tyre. "How art," no, that's Isaiah. In addressing himself, Ezekiel says concerning Satan, "Thou was perfect in beauty, perfect in wisdom, perfect in all of thy ways until the day that iniquity was found in thee," and so forth. "And thou hast been in Eden, the garden of God" ( Ezekiel 28:12-13 ). And he is describing Satan.

Now Tyre was the center of the commercial system. God seems to have it in for man's commercial systems. It would seem that God is not interested in men exploiting other men for their own profit. And God comes down hard against Tyre because of its commercialism. In the eighteenth chapter of Revelation, the final great commercial system that is destroyed, again, it says, "Weep and howl, ye merchants for you were made rich and so forth by thy merchandise and all." But it says, "Rejoice ye in heaven for those men who have enslaved other men in debts and so forth are over, you know." So that when we enter into the Kingdom Age you won't find commercialism. Everyone that thirsteth, come and drink, eat freely. Commercialism will be over in the Kingdom Age. And all of us will share together in that kingdom and no one will be exploiting someone else for gain or for profit. And God really has it in for people exploiting others for personal gain or profit. And so he takes up the burden against Tyre, the commercial center.

Howl, ye ships of Tarshish; for it is laid waste, so that there is no house, no entering in: from the land of Chittim it is revealed to them ( Isaiah 23:1 ).

So Tyre is to be laid waste. It was. This great commercial city.

Be still, ye inhabitants of the coast; thou whom the merchants of Zidon, that pass over the sea, have replenished. And by great waters the seed of Sihor, the harvest of the river, is her revenue; and she is the marketplace of the nations. Be thou ashamed, O Zidon: for the sea hath spoken, even the strength of the sea, saying, I travail not, nor bring forth children, neither do I nourish up young men, nor bring up virgins. As at the report concerning Egypt, so shall they be sorely pained at the report of Tyre. Pass ye over to Tarshish; howl, ye inhabitants of the coast. Is this your joyous city, whose antiquity is of ancient days? her own feet shall carry her afar off to sojourn. Who hath taken this counsel against Tyre, the crowning city, whose merchants are princes, whose traffickers are the honorable of the earth? The LORD of hosts hath purposed it, to stain the pride of all glory, and to bring into contempt all the honorable of the earth. Pass through thy land as a river, O daughter of Tarshish: there is no more strength. He stretched out his hand over the sea, he shook the kingdoms: the LORD hath given a commandment against the merchant city, to destroy the strongholds thereof. And he said, Thou shalt no more rejoice, O thou oppressed virgin, daughter of Zidon: arise, pass over to Chittim; there also shalt thou have no rest. Behold the land of the Chaldeans; this people was not, till the Assyrian founded it for them that dwell in the wilderness: they set up the towers thereof, they raised up the palaces thereof; and he brought it to ruin. Howl, ye ships of Tarshish ( Isaiah 23:2-14 ):

Now he speaks here of the Chaldeans or the Babylonians being the conquerors.

Howl, ye ships of Tarshish for your strength is laid waste ( Isaiah 23:14 ).

The great Phoenician navy.

And it shall come to pass in that day, that Tyre shall be forgotten for seventy years, according to the days of one king: after the end of seventy years shall Tyre sing as a harlot. Take a harp, go about the city, thou harlot that hast been forgotten; make sweet melody, sing many songs, that thou mayest be remembered. And it shall come to pass after the end of seventy years, that the LORD will visit Tyre, and she shall turn to her hire, and shall commit fornication with all the kingdoms of the world upon the face of the earth. And her merchandise and her hire shall be holiness to the LORD: it shall not be treasured nor laid up; for her merchandise shall be for them that dwell before the LORD, to eat sufficiently, and for durable clothing ( Isaiah 23:15-18 ).

Now in Psalms, a psalm of the Kingdom Age speaks of Tyre bringing her gifts and so forth unto the Lord in the Kingdom Age in one of the kingdom psalms. So ultimately Tyre will be used again only for the supplying of the kingdom of the Lord. "

Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Isaiah 23". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/csc/isaiah-23.html. 2014.
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