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Bible Commentaries
Ezekiel 27

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes


2. A funeral dirge over Tyre ch. 27

This chapter consists of prose (Ezekiel 27:1-3 a, Ezekiel 27:10-25 a) and poetic sections (Ezekiel 27:3-9, Ezekiel 27:25-36). Ezekiel composed the poetic parts in the traditional qinah or funeral dirge rhythm.

"Many feel that the vividness of detail of this chapter places it practically without parallel in the history of literature. . . . To understand the chapter ethnologically one must study it in the light of Genesis 10; to do it justice from the viewpoint of prophecy, Isaiah 13-14 and Revelation 18 must be carefully weighed." [Note: Feinberg, p. 152.]

Verses 1-3

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; Psalms 10:4; Proverbs 6:17; Proverbs 8:13; Proverbs 16:18). Like Jerusalem, it considered itself perfect in beauty (Lamentations 2:15; cf. Ezekiel 28:1-17; Revelation 3:17).

Verses 1-11

The great ship Tyre 27:1-11

Verse 4

Ezekiel described Tyre as a large, beautiful merchant ship. [Note: See Edwin M. Good, "Ezekiel’s Ship: Some Extended Metaphors in the Old Testament," Semitics 1 (1970):79-103.] He used this figure to portray Tyre’s pride and her prominence and dominance as a maritime power.

"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." [Note: Dyer, "Ezekiel," p. 1280.]

The limits of this "ship of state" were those of the sea itself, and its builders had made it into a magnificent enterprise. The materials that had gone into its construction had been of the finest quality.

Verses 5-7

The wood 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 oak from Bashan, and her decks of boxwood (or cypress) from Cyprus contained beautifully inlaid ivory. Her linen sail had come from Egypt, which was famous for its linen products (Genesis 41:42; Proverbs 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 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.

Verses 8-9

Strong men from Sidon and Arvad, other neighboring Phoenician towns, were this ship’s rowers, and its pilots were wise men. The Phoenicians were peerless in their seamanship in antiquity. The repairmen on board were also wise men from the famous elders of Gebal (Byblos in Lebanon). All other trading peoples cooperated with Tyre because it was the leading merchant marine power of its day.

"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)." [Note: Taylor, p. 192.]

Verses 10-11

Famous mercenaries from distant lands were on board; Tyre was able to attract warriors to fight for her because she was strong. But the outstanding men of Tyre itself were traders, not soldiers. These foreign soldiers came from as far away as Persia, Lud (Lydia in Anatolia, modern eastern Turkey), and Put (on the African coast of the southern Red Sea). Some authorities equate Put with Libya, but 30:5 treats them as two separate places. These soldiers contributed to the glory of Tyre’s reputation as a mighty city-state. Likewise the men of Arvad and the Gammadim (men of Gammad, places unknown) were part of her fighting force. They hung their shields on Tyre’s walls identifying themselves with her and pledging to defend her. The NIV translators believed Helech was the name of a place, namely, a region in southeast Anatolia (the later Roman province of Cilicia where the Apostle Paul grew up). The NASB editors preferred to translate this word as "your army."

Verses 12-13

Tyre’s trading partners included Tarshish (at the western end of the Mediterranean, probably southern Spain or Sardinia), which gave silver, iron, tin, and lead for her wares. There was a Tartessus in both southern Spain and in Sardinia. [Note: Feinberg, p. 223.] Javan (Greece), Tubal, and Meshech (both in eastern Anatolia) paid for their purchases from Tyre with human slaves and vessels of bronze.

Verses 12-24

The extent of Tyre’s commercial empire 27:12-24

This section is a valuable resource for understanding the geography, natural resources, and trade relations of the ancient Near East as well as explaining the extensiveness of Tyre’s commercial empire. Notice the large numbers of places and products named. [Note: See the maps at the end of these notes for probable locations of these places. The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old Testament also has a chart of "Tyre’s Trading Partners" listed in Ezekiel 27:12-25 on page 1281.]

Verses 14-15

The people of Beth-togarmah (Armenia) gave mules and horses, including war horses, for Tyre’s wares. The Dedanites, who lived in Arabia along the Persian Gulf or the Gulf of Aqabah, also traded with Tyre and paid for their merchandise with ivory tusks and ebony. Some translators followed the Septuagint here and replaced Dedan with Rhodes, a Greek Aegean port, because the change only involves repointing the Hebrew word and because Dedan appears again in Ezekiel 27:20.

Verses 16-17

Syria was one of Tyre’s customers and provided her with emeralds, purple, embroidered goods, fine linen, coral, and rubies in exchange for its purchases. Judah also traded with Tyre and exchanged wheat from Minnith (in western Ammon), cakes or confections, honey, oil, and balm for her goods.

Verses 18-19

Damascus also found Tyre an attractive trading partner because of her extensive inventory of various products and paid for her purchases with wine from Helbon (Aleppo, northwest of Damascus) and white wool (or wool from Zahar, also northwest of Damascus). Veda (or Danites) and Javan (or Greeks from Uzal, an old capital of Yemen in eastern Arabia) paid for their wares with yarn, wrought iron, cassia, and sweet cane.

Verses 20-21

Dedan also provided saddlecloths, and other Arabians and the Arab tribes of Kedar, a nomadic people, paid lambs, rams, and goats for their goods.

Verses 22-24

Traders from Sheba and Raamah, other areas of Arabia, paid for their wares with spices, precious gems, and gold. Haran (in Aramea), Canneh (or Calneh, in Mesopotamia), Eden (south of Haran), Sheba (in eastern Arabia), Asshur (Assyria), and Chilmad (probably in Mesopotamia or Arabia) exchanged garments, carpets, and finely crafted clothing materials.

Verse 25

Ships from Tarshish, probably Spain, carried Tyre’s merchandise. Tyre became very rich because of all this sea trade.

Verses 25-36

The sinking of the great ship 27:25-36

This great ship (commercial empire) was headed for shipwreck.

Verses 26-27

Tyre’s merchants had brought her "ship" into great waters, but there it encountered a strong east wind that broke it, namely, Babylon. All who contributed to the success of Tyre’s enterprise would fall into the chaotic sea when God overthrew this ship of state.

"Any ship can be sunk by the Master of the seas." [Note: Stuart, p. 267.]

Verses 28-31

The cry of the Tyrians when destruction came would cause all her merchants, trading partners, and onlookers to bewail and mourn (cf. Revelation 18:17-19).

Verses 32-34

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. Ezekiel 27:2). Tyre had satisfied the materialistic desires of many nations and kings. These onlookers would wail because Tyre’s "ship" had sunk.

Verses 35-36

Tyre’s trading partners would stand appalled at her, and their kings would fear for the prosperity of their own kingdoms. Other merchants would whistle in amazement at her unbelievable collapse (cf. 1 Kings 9:8; Revelation 18:15-19). Tyre herself would quake with terror and would pass into oblivion.

"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?" [Note: Feinberg, p. 157.]

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Ezekiel 27". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/ezekiel-27.html. 2012.
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