Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, July 20th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
Attention!
StudyLight.org has pledged to help build churches in Uganda. Help us with that pledge and support pastors in the heart of Africa.
Click here to join the effort!

Bible Commentaries
Ezekiel 26

Fairbairn's Commentary on Ezekiel, Jonah and Pastoral EpistlesFairbairn's Commentaries

Verses 1-2

CHAPTER 26.

THE JUDGMENT OF TYRE.

THE relative importance of the prophet’s communication in respect to Tyre is marked at the commencement by his prefixing the date, while in the four preceding cases the judgments alone are recorded, without any express mention of the time of their communication. The date given in the case before us has this peculiarity, that it omits the month, and mentions only the year and the day: “the eleventh year, and the first day of the month.” Various conjectures have been made to account for or supply this omission. Hävernick supposes that the month which might be regarded such by way of distinction was meant the month, namely, in which Jerusalem was taken and destroyed by the Chaldeans. This, however, is open to the objection (which indeed is urged by Hitzig), that the event in question, as appears from the history, was spread over two months Jerusalem having been taken in the fourth month, but not actually reduced to ashes till the fifth (Jeremiah 52:6, Jeremiah 52:12). Some recent commentators (Ewald, Hitzig) think the month has dropped out of the text, but that it must have been one near the close of the year, by which time the report of what had taken place in Judea may have reached the banks of the Chebar. The more probable supposition is that thrown out by the Rabbi David, and followed by Pradus, Grotius, and others, that as the prophet immediately refers to the language of Tyre at the fall of Jerusalem, and takes that as the ground of his communication to Tyre, the month most fitly to be understood is the fifth; since Jerusalem having been taken in the fourth, and Tyre being situated in the immediate neighbourhood, she may well be conceived to have uttered her taunt before the close of the same month, while on the first day of the next the prophet meets it with a reply from heaven. This seems to me the most probable opinion, but certainty is unattainable, and it is a matter of comparatively little moment. That the communication was given in the eleventh year determines the period of its announcement to be very nearly contemporaneous with the fall of Jerusalem; the doom of Tyre was pronounced during the same year that witnessed the overthrow of Jerusalem.

It is well known that there were properly two Tyres, one situated on the mainland of the Phoenician coast, in a rich and fertile plain, commonly called Palætyrus, or Old Tyre; and another on a rocky isle, lying immediately opposite, and less than half a mile distant from the shore, which was sometimes also called New Tyre. The opinion has been very generally entertained, and is expressed in many of our most approved works (for example, Prideaux’s Connection, Lowth’s Commentary, Jahn’s Hebrew Commonwealth), that the city upon the mainland was the only one that existed down to the time of Nebuchadnezzar; that while he was besieging this, the inhabitants removed their property to the adjacent island, where they built and fortified the new and much stronger city; and that as it had been the continental Tyre before, so afterwards it was the insular Tyre which was renowned for its commercial greatness and prosperity. More accurate investigations, however, have shown the groundlessness of this opinion. Vitringa (on Isaiah 23:0.), who is also followed by Bishop Newton on the Prophecies, has produced authorities to show that both the cities existed at a time considerably prior to that of our prophet, and that insular Tyre appears, from the earliest accounts, to have laid claim to a very remote antiquity. He understands Josephus to speak of this Tyre, when he says that it was built 240 years before the Temple of Solomon (Antiq. viii. 3. 1). Besides, it is evident from the passage quoted by Josephus out of Menander (Antiq. ix. 14. 2), a passage avowedly taken from the Tyrian archives, that it was not the continental but the insular city which Shalmaneser, king of Assyria, besieged for five years, and with so little success that he was obliged to relinquish the attempt. At that time, therefore, nearly a century and a half before the destruction of Jerusalem, it not only existed, but had reached such maturity of strength that it could withstand the whole might of the Assyrian empire.

Indeed, the evidences that remain of the strength and importance of ancient Tyre seem all to point to the insular rather than the continental city. The name also, צוֹר , Zor, rock, rock-city, suits exactly the insular, but not the continental one, which was built on a smooth plain. Hence some have recently maintained (in particular, Hengstenberg, De Rebus Tyriorum, also Hävernick here) that the insular Tyre was the original, as it certainly was the chief city, and that Palætyrus was a more recent and inferior place, though closely connected with the other, and rather a suburb of it than an entirely separate and independent city. This view obtains some confirmation from what is known of the procedure of many of the early Grecian colonists in founding maritime settlements. “An island close adjoining to the coast, or an outlying tongue of land connected with the continent by a narrow isthmus, and presenting some hill sufficient for an acropolis, seems to have been considered as the most favourable situation for Grecian colonial settlement.” (Grote’s Hist, of Greece, III. p. 240.) Possibly enough the Tyrian settlers would not, at the very outset of their career, resort to the island to lay the foundations of their future greatness; it is more in accordance with the laws of probability, and with the natural course of things, to suppose that a city existed first upon the shore, and that the island only came to be occupied after a considerable degree of prosperity had already been reached, and when the advantages of its position for security and defence had been fully ascertained. But it is quite compatible with this opinion that the rock-island may have given to both places the name by which they are known to history; first, because the protection and harbourage it afforded were of prime importance even to the continental city, and then because in process of time the other actually became the chief seat of government and commerce. Such is the view maintained at great length by Movers (Das Phönizische Alterthum, I. c. 6) ,who believes continental Tyre to have been actually the oldest and, till the time, at least, of the Assyrian empire, the greatest of the two; but holds that they were properly but one city, and were often so viewed by ancient writers, who under the general name of Tyre sometimes refer more to the one, sometimes more to the other, or include both.

But leaving the question of the comparative priority of the two cities, which is of no practical moment, the fact chiefly to be borne in mind when proceeding to consider the prophecy on Tyre is, that there actually were two cities which then went by the name of Tyre, and that the insular one is kept prominently in view. In some parts of the description reference is made to a population and cities upon the land; but there can be no doubt that the Tyre spoken of as the seat of commercial power and greatness is the sea-girt rock and city, perched, as it were, in pride and security among the waters. Keeping in view this as the actual state of things, we shall have no difficulty in seeing the propriety of the different parts of the prophet’s delineation, and we shall also find that the judgment denounced is in perfect accordance with the historical results in respect to the state and cities of Tyre.

The word uttered by Ezekiel on the subject falls into three parts, which are distributed into so many chapters. The first, contained in Ezekiel 26:0, records specifically the sin on account of which Tyre was destined to become the object of Divine retribution, the severe and terrible overthrow that was to be brought upon her greatness, and the means and instruments that were to be employed in effecting it. The second, which occupies the whole of Ezekiel 27:0, is a lamentation over the downfall and prostration of so much earthly magnificence, busy merchandise, and long-continued prosperity. And the last, which takes up nearly the whole of Ezekiel 28:0, consists of another lamentation, more immediately addressed to the king, and forming a sort of elegy upon the humiliation and dishonour which were to come over all the pride and vain-glory that in him had towered aloft above everything human, and had even vaunted itself against the Most High. The prophecy in its entire compass affords a most characteristic specimen of the peculiarities of Ezekiel’s manner, especially in regard to the singularly life-like character of his representations, his tendency to crowd the picture by a multiplicity of minute details, and his disposition to see the old reviving itself again in the new. There is also this further peculiarity, which pervades all Ezekiel’s predictions regarding the heathen kingdoms, that the dark side only is exhibited to our view. The judgments he utters are judgments without mercy, reigning to complete destruction, because the kingdoms are contemplated by him simply in their relation of hostility to the cause and kingdom of the Lord. He would lead us to behold in them so many exemplifications of the fall and doom of heathendom, in contrast to the destiny of Israel, to which belonged the resurrection and the life, the dominion and the glory. Hence he looks no farther here than to the ruin of Tyre; while in the closely-related and earlier prophecy of Isaiah (Isaiah 23:0.), the prospect is held out at the close of a period of blessing, when, partially recovered from her desolations, Tyre should turn to the Lord, and her merchandise and her hire should be holiness to him.

The word contained in this 26th chapter naturally falls into four divisions: The sin of Tyre; her coming doom; the instruments and means of executing it; and the effect to be produced on other nations by her sad reverse and miserable downfall.

The first of these divisions is despatched in a single verse:

Ezekiel 26:1 . And it came to pass in the eleventh year, in the first of the month, that the word of Jehovah came to me, saying,

Ezekiel 26:2 . Son of man, because Tyre hath said against Jerusalem, Aha! broken is the gate of the peoples; (There is here a peculiarity in the construction, דַּלְתווֹת a plural being coupled with a verb in the singular. We find quite a similar construction in Jeremiah 51:58, in regard to the walls of Babylon. And here, probably, the plural has reference merely to the folding-leaves of the gates the single gate composed of two parts, as at Ezekiel 41:24.) it has turned itself to me; I shall be replenished; she is become desolate.

The mind of Tyre is uttered in a few broken sentences, but these plainly enough indicating her satisfaction at the destruction of Jerusalem, and the hope she entertained of turning it to good account. Tyre being a city of merchants, all bent on the one object of plying their worldly interest and increasing their gains, she is represented as contemplating the fall of Jerusalem in a merely commercial light. To some extent Jerusalem had been a rival, as her gate in Oriental cities the common resort for business as well as justice had been a market-place, where the inland traders of different countries had been wont to meet for traffic. And it appeared a matter of congratulation to Tyre that this should no longer be the case; for the tide of merchandise which had hitherto flowed in that direction would now, she expected, find its way to her; she would obtain a still more exclusive command of the Syrian trade, and so would get her own coffers more abundantly replenished by means of the desolation that was alighting on Jerusalem.

It does not appear that there was anything like direct hostility between Tyre or the people of Phoenicia generally, and the inhabitants of Jndah. It would rather seem that the relation between the two regions was throughout of a peaceful character, as it was connected with mutual advantage. Even in the days of David and Solomon, when Israel was at the very summit of her glory, there is no appearance of bitter animosity or jealous rivalry on the part of the Tyrians, such as was displayed by other surrounding nations; but on the contrary, a ready cooperation in the transactions of business, and a neighbourly interchange of the civilities of life. This was no more than what might have been expected, as the Phoenicians were chiefly devoted to commerce; and being possessed of a small land-territory, it was their obvious interest to cultivate friendly relations with the Jews and the other inhabitants of Syria, from whom they derived their principal supplies of corn. It was impossible, however, that there should have been an intimate and cordial agreement between them and Israel, so long as the worship of Jehovah was not altogether proscribed at Jerusalem. One of the most formidable adversaries with which that worship ever had to contend had sprung from the Phœnician territory, the infamous Jezebel having been a daughter of the king of Zidon. And there can be no doubt that the commercial intercourse that subsisted between the Phoenicians and the covenant-people, considering the strong idolatrous tendencies of the latter, must often have proved a snare to their souls, or even a direct source of corruption. This, indeed, is plainly intimated by Ezekiel, when, in immediate connection with the desolating judgments that were to be executed upon the Phoenicians, he brings out the result, that a pricking “brier should no longer be found to the house of Israel, nor a grieving thorn in those that were round about them” (Ezekiel 28:24)

Yet we must distinguish between this kind of latent antipathy and the avowed hostility, the persecuting bitterness, manifested by the nations whose doom is recorded in the preceding chapter. Nothing of the latter description is here, or anywhere else, charged upon Tyre. It was her intense worldly-mindedness, her all-engrossing pursuit of the interests of merchandise, and the selfish avarice and pride engendered by her commercial greatness and political strength, it was simply this, though viewed also as having its sinfulness aggravated by her heartless indifference regarding the fate of Jerusalem, her hope of being able to turn even that to personal advantage, and subsequently, an actual trafficking in the lives and liberties of the vanquished Jews (Amos 1:9; Joel 3:6), that constituted the peculiar guilt of Tyre, and called for the righteous retributions of Heaven. In that particular region where God had been pleased to set up his kingdom, she stood pre-eminently the world’s representative, in its towering ambition, its fleshly confidences, and its eager prosecution of selfish ends and purposes, in utter disregard or proud defiance of the will and glory of Jehovah. And being such, in a situation where she might have learned better things, it was her just doom that she should be made a perpetual monument of the instability and emptiness of all that the world can secure for its most successful votaries. “The Lord of hosts hath purposed it, to stain the pride of all glory, and to bring into contempt all the honourable of the earth” (Isaiah 23:9).

Verses 3-6

This coming doom of Tyre is described with graphic energy, and, in respect to its last issues, in four simple verses:

Ezekiel 26:3 . Therefore, thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Behold, I am against thee, Tyre, and will cause many nations to come up against thee, as the sea makes his waves to come up.

Ezekiel 26:4 . And they shall destroy the walls of Tyre, and break down her towers: and I will sweep off her dust from her, and render her a bare rock.

Ezekiel 26:5 . A spreading-ground for nets shall she be in the midst of the sea; for I have spoken, saith the Lord Jehovah; and she shall become a spoil to the nations.

Ezekiel 26:6 . And her daughters that are in the field (I the filial or dependent towns and villages on the Phœnician coast) shall be slain by the sword; and they shall know that I am Jehovah (Ezekiel 26:3-6 ).

There is nowhere to be found in prophecy so striking and minute a description of the melancholy reverse which was to take place in the fortunes of Tyre, and of the utter prostration to which she was to be reduced. But before looking at the particular parts of the description, and inquiring how far it corresponds with the facts of history, we must bring into view the next section, which connects with the coming desolation the instruments that were to be employed in producing it.

Verses 7-14

Ezekiel 26:7 . For thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Behold, I am bringing against Tyre, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, from the north, a king of kings, with horses, and with chariots, and with horsemen, and a multitude, and much people.

Ezekiel 26:8 . Thy daughters in the field he shall slay with the sword, and set a watch-tower against thee, and cast up against thee a rampart, and lift up against thee the buckler.

Ezekiel 26:9 . And his enginery of Destruction (I give here what I take to be the proper meaning of the words, rather than a literal translation. מְחִי is evidently a noun from מָחָה , which, as Havernick notes, is always used in the sense of destroying, extirpating, etc.; therefore, not percussio, as many take it, but rather extirpatio, destruction. קְבֵל is anything in front of or opposition to another; hence קָבֳלּוֹ is a general designation of what the enemy was to put in hostile array against the walls of Tyre his enginery. So that the two words together may best be rendered: his enginery of destruction, or the destruction of his enginery.) he will set against thy walls, and thy towers be will break down with his swords. (It certainly sounds rather strange to speak of breaking down towers with swords; and on this account our translators, with the greater part of commentators, substitute axes or hatchets for swords. But חֶרֶר is not elsewhere used of any warlike instrument, except the sword. In Exodus 20:25, it seems to denote an iron tool for hewing stones; and perhaps the general meaning of iron or steel might, with Ewald, be adopted here: Thy towers he breaks down with his iron. It is rather against this, however, that the word is plural, and so appears to denote specific instruments. We therefore adhere to the usual meaning, swords; believing, with Hävernick, that the coupling of swords with the destruction of towers was intended to heighten the idea of the extraordinary and resistless character of the Babylonians, who, as God’s instruments of vengeance, would do with their swords what common warriors could not attempt. Compare as a like mark of the peculiar and extraordinary, though on a different account, the lines in the ode on Sir John Moore: “We buried him darkly by dead of night, The sods with our bayonets turning.”)

Ezekiel 26:10 . By the abundance of his horses their dust shall cover thee; by the noise of his horsemen, the wheelwork, (It seems evident from the use of גַלְגַּל here, and in Ezekiel 23:24, also Ezekiel 10:13, that it is employed by our author not in the ordinary sense of wheels, as part of a conveyance, but for a separate conveyance or instrument of operations. He means by it some sort of wheelwork, whether as a car for riding on, or for the operations of the siege.) and chariots, thy walls shall shake when he enters into thy gates as those that enter into a city taken by breach. (Imbreached, if we had such a word, would be the exact meaning of the original here. The prophet intimates, that strong and impregnable as the fortifications of Tyre were deemed, a breach would be made in them, through which, as in other vanquished cities, the army should enter. Even Tyre’s sea-girt position, and massy walls to the water’s edge, would not be sufficient to prevent the catastrophe.)

Ezekiel 26:11 . With the hoofs of his horses he shall trample upon all thy streets, he shall slay thy people with the sword, and the pillars of thy strength he shall cast down to the ground. (I adhere to the usual meaning of מַצֵּבָה , a statue or pillar. It is no where found in the sense of garrison, as a thing that could be thrown down, a military fort or building. It is commonly used of sacred or monumental pillars. And possibly some allusion is made here to the famous pillars in the temple of Hercules (Herod, ii. 44).)

12. And they shall spoil thy wealth, and make a prey of thy merchandise, and break down thy walls, and destroy thy pleasant houses; and thy stones, and thy wood, and thy dust they shall lay in the midst of the waters.

Ezekiel 26:13 . And I will make to cease the noise of thy songs, and the sound of thy harps shall no more be heard.

Ezekiel 26:14 . And I will render thee a bare rock, a spreading-ground for nets shalt thou be; thou shalt not be built again: for I Jehovah have spoken, saith the Lord Jehovah.

It is necessary here, first of all, to look to the part which Nebuchadnezzar was predicted to take in the punishment of Tyre; for it admits of no doubt that the prophet represents the victorious assault of that monarch as the commencement of Tyre’s degradation. But to what extent precisely do the terms of the prediction warrant us to carry the result of Nebuchadnezzar’s hostility? Does it positively ascribe to him both the capture and the complete destruction of the city? Unquestionably the capture of it, and, of course, along with that the destruction, to some extent, of its power and splendour; but not necessarily anything further. It is plainly foretold that Nebuchadnezzar and his army should enter the city by storm, spread terror and dismay among its inhabitants, and generally inflict a blow on the strength and prosperity of the state. But no one even moderately acquainted with the characteristics of the prophetic style, can be ignorant how usual it is to connect a delineation of events with some grand starting-point, as if all were to spring immediately from it, while ages, perhaps, were needed to consummate the process. Thus Isaiah, in announcing the doom of Babylon (Isaiah 13:0.), introduces the Medes as the instruments of her coming fall; and without a break, without an intimation of any future conquerors or any other adverse influences, goes on to paint, in the strongest terms, her utter ruin and desolation, though this end was not to be reached till many a century had revolved after the conquest by the Medes, and many a hostile element besides had played its part on the devoted city. But still it was neither mistake nor caprice to connect the result so peculiarly with the Median conquest; for that was the first link in the long chain of evil the first deadly blow that was never to be properly healed again; it was such a beginning of sorrows as already foreboded the coming end. In like manner Jeremiah, speaking of the Philistines (with whom he also couples those of Tyre and Sidon), and foretelling the destined prostration of the country, even to a state of hopeless exhaustion, points merely to the destructive agency of the king of Babylon, as if he saw in that the fountainhead of the whole evil. How many similar examples also might be referred to of predictions entirely opposite as to their substance, but perfectly alike as to the mode of representation predictions of good and not of evil, but which connect with a particular event (such as the birth of Christ) a long line of operations or issues which many an age should be required to develope? In all such cases, the Omniscient Spirit that animated the prophets perceived in the particular fact specified the commencement of the entire series of related events; so that from the outset he made known this as the germinant force the sure sign and earnest of all that might otherwise be needed to accomplish the predicted result. (Cautious and reverential students of the prophetic word have in every age noted the peculiarity above referred to, though they have not always made a judicious use of it. Even Abarbinel has the following remark concerning it: morem hunc esse prophetarum, etc., “that it is the custom of the prophets in their predictions to have respect at once to a near and a remote period; so that prophecies pointing to very distant times are found amongst others which relate to the immediate future. Whence we may the more certainly conclude, that God might threaten the Tyrians with the destruction of their city, though it might be brought on at different times and by gradual advances.”)

Such, there can be no reasonable doubt, is the manner in which the prophecy respecting Tyre ought to be interpreted. The prophet distinctly announces Nebuchadnezzar as the beginner of the work of judgment, but not on that account its sole and final executor. It would have been to act against all probability, in despite of the commonest rules and lessons of experience, if he had given it forth as his conviction that one individual should extinguish the very existence of Tyre, and, as by a single stroke, reduce her from being the first commercial power in the world to the condition of a shattered fortress and a nearly unpeopled rock. Common sense alone, apart from the principles of the prophetic style, might satisfy us that such could not be the meaning of the prophet; and the change in the narration at Ezekiel 26:12, from the individual to the general, gives no obscure intimation of the real import of the description. Up to that point it is Nebuchadnezzar who does all; he who storms the city, effects a breach in its walls, slays and subdues and triumphs. But as if what he did only served to pave the way for what was to be carried forward by many other hands, the language then becomes quite general:” And they shall spoil thy wealth, and make a prey on. thy merchandise,” etc.; in short, a progressive work of spoliation and trouble, until she becomes a helpless and a hopeless ruin.

We shall not say it is for the purpose of fastening upon the prophet a more distinct charge of error, when Hitzig alleges it as certain that the passage ascribes to Nebuchadnezzar the total destruction of Tyre, a thing “which notoriously was not accomplished” (p. 227), but we have no hesitation in saying that such an assertion is made in palpable disregard of one of the commonest principles of prophetical interpretation. The whole that the prophet can in fairness be understood to declare is, that Nebuchadnezzar should by violent means become master of Tyre, and thus commence the process of her downfall a process which might be delayed, but would never altogether cease till the period of her complete destruction. But the question still remains: Did the king of Babylon actually do what is here affirmed of him? Did he in truth gain possession of the city, and subject Tyre to his dominion? This is now positively denied (by Hitzig, first in his Commentary on Isaiah, Isaiah 23:0, and again in his Commentary on Ezekiel; also by Winer in his Real Wört., art. Tyrus); and the charge is distinctly brought against Ezekiel, of having uttered a prediction which failed in its accomplishment. Nay, Ezekiel himself is adduced as chief evidence in support of the assertion, since at Ezekiel 29:18 he makes mention of the Divine commission to Nebuchadnezzar to go against Egypt, because “he had served a great service against Tyre, yet had he no wages for his army.” This is construed into a virtual confession that he had not taken and spoiled Tyre, but had been obliged to desist from the undertaking after the loss of much time and treasure. But it is manifestly a hasty conclusion; for the passage indicates nothing as to the result of the expedition against Tyre, excepting that it yielded no booty as a recompense adequate to the toil and labour that had been spent in it. And surely this might well have been the case, even if the expedition had been successful, considering that it lasted for the extrarordinary period of thirteen years. For how much of the available wealth of the Tyrians must have been wasted during such a protracted contest. And how likely that, before the close, they would take the precaution of securing what was left in their ships or their colonies. This is what Jerome expressly affirms to have been done; (“Quod quum viderent Tyrii jam jamque perfectum, et percussione arietum, murorum fundamenta quaterentur, quidquid pretiosum in auro, argento, vestibusque, et varia supellectili nobilitas habuit, impositum navibus ad insulas asportavit; ita ut capta urbe, nihil dignum labore suo inveniret Nebuchodonosor” (on Ezekiel 29:18).) and it is also what we know to have happened to a very considerable extent in connection with the next great siege Tyre sustained, though it only lasted as many months as the other did years that, namely, conducted by Alexander the Great (Quint. Cur. iv. 3; Diod. Sic. xvii. 41).

It is, therefore, to adduce that subsequent passage in Ezekiel for more than it can fairly substantiate, when it is produced as a counter testimony to the one before us; for anything that it contains, Nebuchadnezzar may have executed to the full what is here ascribed to him respecting Tyre. And this oracle is so far borne out by the evidence of collateral testimony, that both Menander of Ephesus and Philostratus report, from the Phœnician annals, a thirteen years siege of Tyre by Nebuchadnezzar (Josephus, c. Apion, i. 20; Ant. x. 11. 1). True, but then it is one thing to besiege, and another to carry the siege; these profane authors make no mention of this, and that no-mention is held as a proof by those who would fain detect some flaw in the evidence, that the city was not taken by the king of Babylon. One would have thought that, on the supposition of only selfish principles influencing the mind of Ezekiel allowing him but a measure of common sense, to say nothing of any higher endowments he would have cancelled that portion of his writings which had announced Nebuchadnezzar as the conqueror of Tyre if the word had palpably proved a mistaken augury. Could he possibly wish to appear before the world as a self-convicted impostor? Or, if he was so regardless himself about the character of his own consistency, how certainly would Ezra and the elders, when making up the Jewish canon, have rejected an oracle which events, still fresh in the recollection of all, had proved to be false! The supposition is every way incredible; and besides, there is not an entire want of external evidence that Nebuchadnezzar succeeded in his attempts against Tyre, for both the heathen writers above referred to, in the passages quoted by Josephus from their abstract of Phoenician affairs, represent the king of Babylon as having made himself master of all Phoenicia, which could with no propriety have been done if the principal Phoenician state had successfully withstood his assault. And it admits of no doubt that in the history of the period the Phœnician interest is presently afterwards found in a depressed condition, the hereditary monarchy of Tyre ceases, and she is first governed by a joint magistracy, then gets a king from Babylon; also during the Persian dynasty, which very soon supplanted that of Babylon, Tyre is named after Zidon, as if it had become the second in rank, and both Tyre and Zidon appear in the train of the new lords of the world as tributary states, all plainly implying some great work of conquest going before, and compelling the proud mistress of the seas to take this inferior place. To say that the long siege of thirteen years may have so far wasted her resources as to render it politic or necessary for her to descend to such a subordinate position, is an assumption alike gratuitous and improbable, since nothing could have contributed so much to foster the pride and confirm the ascendancy of Tyre as the circumstance of having so long, if she had but successfully, defied the mighty conqueror of nations. Not her successful resistance, but only her subjection, could account for so altered a turn in her affairs. (For the proof of the facts last referred to, see the passages from Menander and Philostratus in Josephus; also Ezra, iii. 7; Herod, vii. 99, 100; viii. 67; or Movers’ Das Phönizische Alterthum, c. 11, where the matter is fully investigated. Even Gesenius, on Isaiah 23:0, holds it as certain that the Tyrians, if not actually overthrown, must have been brought to terms by Nebuchadnezzar, “as we see that subsequently the Tyrians sent to Babylon to fetch Merbal, one of their later kings” (referring to Jos. c. Ap. i. 21). In a matter of this kind, it is only the broader statements of history that should be brought into notice, especially as the historical fragments to be depended on are from the pen, not of contemporary writers, but of persons who lived two or more centuries after the events in question, and who merely wrote compends of history. In such a case it is unwise to urge little points, as it only gives the adversary an opportunity of pressing improbabilities or inconsistencies in the accounts relied on. Hengstenberg, and in part also Hävernick, have in this way laid themselves open, at various points, to the attacks of a sharp and unsparing writer like Hitzig, who has a quick eye for any small discrepance or mistake, but does not know often how to estimate things of greater moment. It is unwise, also, to speculate about the probable way which Nebuchadnezzar took to carry the siege of Tyre, whether by mounds, floats, or ships, or by any other means. No information has come down to us on the subject; but surely it is not to be supposed that such a monarch as Nebuchadnezzar, accustomed to such gigantic undertakings, was to conduct a thirteen years’ siege without resorting to prodigious appliances of some sort. See for proof of such in Movers, p. 446, sq.)

In regard to the future fortunes of Tyre, all is matter of well-known and ascertained history; and the result has been a remarkable verification of the words of the prophet. After the times of Nebuchadnezzar, the next great blow struck at its greatness and prosperity, was the conquest of it by Alexander, which took place about 322 years before the Christian era, and which was only gained after he had, with incredible pains, connected the mainland with the island by a mound or causeway. The stones of old Tyre were all used in the construction of this huge work of art; and so well compacted had it been from the first, that it continued ever afterwards to stand, and in the course of time has grown, by the gradual accumulations of sand, to the breadth of about half a mile. The site of Tyre, therefore, ceased from the time of Alexander to be an isolated rock, and became, what it still remains, a peninsula. It again, however, endured a long siege in the time of Antigonus, one of Alexander’s successors, but was obliged to yield at last. Still, even in New Testament times, it had not altogether lost its prosperity. It was even then a place of considerable traffic, and was known in the first centuries as the seat of a Christian bishop. Though nothing compared with what it had been in former ages, it continued to be a place of considerable importance and great strength. The Crusaders in 1124 only got possession of it after a siege of nearly five months, and were surprised at the splendour of its houses and the strength of its fortifications. Though it continued for a long period to withstand the arms of the Saracens, yet ultimately (about the beginning of the 14th century) it fell into their hands, and they appear to have soon razed its fortifications, as they did also those of Sidon and Beirût; for shortly afterwards Abulfeda speaks of it as being in a state of desolation and ruin. The travellers who in more recent times have been on the spot, have all delivered an unvarying testimony concerning it, describing it as a heap of ruins, “not so much as one entire house left, and only a few poor fishermen harbouring themselves in the vaults” (Maundrell). The growth and export of tobacco to Egypt has tended slightly to improve its condition during the present century; but the accumulation of sand in its harbours, which has rendered them too shallow for large vessels, and the more favourable position of Beirut at a short distance, prevent the hope of Tyre’s ancient glory ever returning to her. The remains of her former magnificence lie for ever buried in the deep, and she can never again be the homestead of merchant princes, but only at most the abode of fishermen and a resort for the smaller craft of traders. So surely does the word of God travel on to its accomplishment, though ages may elapse in the process, and seeming impossibilities have to be vanquished before the destined result can be reached.

Verses 15-21

The remaining verses in the chapter (Ezekiel 26:15-21) have respect to the impression which the overthrow of Tyre was fitted to produce upon other maritime nations, and more especially her own colonial possessions.

Ezekiel 26:15 . Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Shall not the isles (or more gene rally, the sea-coasts) shake at the sound of thy fall, at the cry of the wounded, and the great slaughter made in the midst of thee?

Ezekiel 26:16 . And all the princes of the sea shall come down from their thrones, and lay aside their robes, and put off their embroidered garments; with terrors they shall clothe them elves, upon the ground shall they sit, and they tremble every moment, and are astonished at thee.

Ezekiel 26:17 . And they shall take up a lamentation over thee, and say to thee, How art thou destroyed, thou inhabitant of the seas, (Literally, Thou that art inhabited from the seas. The rendering adopted by our translators, “inhabited of sea-faring men,” though supported by Grotius and others, is quite untenable, as it arbitrarily substitutes sea-farers for seas, and regards such sea-farers, persons merely coming for traffic to Tyre, as its proper inhabitants. The Targum and the Peschito already give the correct meaning, habitatrix marium; the Vulgate, not quite so correctly, quæ habitas in mari. It denotes Tyre as a prosperous city rising out of the seas, appearing as if she had got thence her very inhabitants, being peopled so closely down to the waters. The rendering of the LXX., which gives, “destroyed out of the sea,” is another specimen of the loose character of their translation of Ezekiel. They evidently mistook the verb for a part of שָּׁבַת Heb.) the renowned city, that was strong in the sea, she and her inhabitants, who did put their terror upon all her inhabitants! (Hitzig, with some reason, ridicules the very forced and artificial construction adopted by Hävernick of this clause: Tyre’s inhabitants (her home-people), who kept in terror all the inhabitants (namely, the inhabitants of her colonies, who might still be called her own). Understood thus, it is certainly, as Hävernick styles it, “a somewhat enigmatical sentence.” Hitzig supposes, as very commonly, a corruption in the text, and would prefer the more abbreviated reading of the LXX.: “the renowned city that put her terror on all her inhabitants finding inhabitants only once in the passage. But there is no need for this change. When the prophet had said that Tyre was strong in the sea, he specifies both the city itself and its inhabitants as sharing in this strength; and then adds, that they (the people and city viewed complexly the state) put their terror upon all her inhabitants that is, not only were, as a whole, objects of fear to others, but communicated of this to every one of her people; causing the name of a Tyrian to be everywhere dreaded.)

Ezekiel 26:18 . Now shall the sea-coasts tremble in the day of thy fall, and the isles that are in the sea be terrified at thy exit (or end).

Ezekiel 26:19 . For thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Because I make thee a desolate city, like the cities which are not inhabited, because I bring up upon thee the deep and the covering of many waters;

Ezekiel 26:20 . And I make thee to go down with those that go down to the pit, to the people of ancient time, and I make thee dwell in the land of deep places, an eternal desolation, with those that go down to the pit, that thou mayest not be inhabited, nor set as an ornament in the land of the living; (The negative in this verse ought undoubtedly to be applied to both clauses: not be inhabited, and not set as an ornament. The Chaldee, and those who followed it, understood the last clause to refer to Judah, and hence took it positively. But the LXX. properly understood both clauses of Tyre, and took both negatively. The because or in that, at the beginning of the whole passage, is to be explained as a construction ad sensum. The reason is here given of what goes before.)

Ezekiel 26:21 . Ruins will I make thee, and thou shalt not be; and thou shalt be sought, and shalt not be found any more for ever, saith the Lord Jehovah.

By the isles or sea-coasts, and princes of the sea, in the earlier part of this passage, are chiefly to be understood the maritime powers in different places, colonies of Tyre, with which she traded and kept up a very close connection. (For the extraordinary number and extent of these colonial possessions of Tyre, see Heeren, Phœnicians, chap. ii.) Even the greatest and most influential of these, Carthage in Africa, was accustomed to send a yearly present of gifts to the temple of the Tyrian Hercules; and, as the mother-city, Tyre still had the honour of giving high-priests to her colonial dependencies. Being thus connected by the sacred tie of religion, as well as by the regular intercourse of trade with these maritime settlements along the coasts of the Mediterranean, we can easily understand how her humiliation would send a thrill of distress through all the affiliated states, and make them fear also for their own prosperity. The description given of this, however, evidently partakes to a considerable extent of the ideal; and we are not to suppose that the rulers of these states were actually to divest themselves of their royal garments, and sit as mourners upon the ground: what is meant is, that the effect produced would be of a kind that would have its just and fitting expression in such natural indications of sorrow. The prophet seems to have before his eye the account of Nineveh’s repentance at the preaching of Jonah. And the feeling of trouble and dismay which then pervaded that great city, when it seemed to stand on the verge of destruction, was now, in like manner, to pervade the colonial settlements and trading associates of Tyre when they heard the report of her overthrow.

What is said of Tyre herself at the close is also entirely figurative. She is described as a person going to be submerged under the waters that encompassed her, and sent from the land of the living to tenant the lower regions of the dead, the land of gloom and forgetfulness, where the departed of primeval time had their abode. In plain terms, Tyre (like the king of Babylon, in the 14th chapter of Isaiah) was to take rank with the dead, and be no more numbered with the living. But, of course, it is the Tyre that then was which is meant the proud, imperial mistress of the seas; as such, she was to cease to have a local habitation and a name in the earth, she was to be found only among the departed. That there should still be a Tyre on the same spot where the ancient city stood, is nothing against the description; for this poor and shrivelled thing is no longer the Tyre of the prophet that is gone, never to return again. And to apply such expressions as “she shall be no more,” “she shall be sought for, but not be found,” only to old Tyre, as we find modern travellers very commonly doing, because the very site of this is not precisely known, is to misapprehend the nature of the description, it is to turn a figurative into a literal delineation, and to apply only to a portion of the city what was plainly meant of the whole. It is of Tyre in her completeness, insular as well as continental, that the prophet speaks, and she is long since written among the dead.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Ezekiel 26". "Fairbairn's Commentary on Ezekiel, Jonah and Pastoral Epistles". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/fbn/ezekiel-26.html.
 
adsfree-icon
Ads FreeProfile