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Bible Commentaries
Ezekiel 27

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

Verses 1-36



IT seems somewhat like a freak of fancy in Ezekiel to dwell at such length, as he does in this chapter, on the commercial greatness of Tyre; and to point out, with such elaborate minuteness, both the circumstances connected with her thriving and wide-spread merchandise, and the notes of lamentation and pity that should be raised over her coming ruin. It is the mark, certainly, of a somewhat peculiar cast of mind, and has no exact parallel in any of the other prophets, who usually present us with only a few general and characteristic traits, when they have occasion to speak of the existing condition of a state or people, as contrasted with what they may be destined to become. Yet the prophet, in this singular delineation, was not the less guided by the Spirit of God in what he wrote, nor was the delineation itself less fitted to serve the ends for which such prophecies were written. It was just Ezekiel’s way the way peculiarly suited to his lively and realistic cast of thought of conveying a distinct and deep impression concerning the things of Tyre; first, her pre-eminent greatness as the centre of the world’s wealth and merchandise, and then her complete annihilation in respect to all that had formerly distinguished her; that so the omniscient eye of God, in foretelling what was to happen, and his overruling providence in accomplishing it, might be more strikingly exhibited. With so full and lively a picture before us of what Tyre was in the prophet’s own time, we can the more easily discern the hand of God in rendering her what she has become, and also the Divine foresight which so long beforehand declared that it was certainly to be.

In regard to the form of the delineation, it is a trope. Tyre’s existing condition and coming destiny are exhibited under the figure of a ship, constructed of the best materials, manned and equipped in the first style, trading in all mercantile commodities, and with all parts of the commercial world; but at length brought into tempestuous seas, shipwrecked, and involved in irrecoverable ruin. This is the general character of the description; but, as usually happens in the more lengthened tropes of the prophet, the figure occasionally gives place to the reality; the desire to be clear and graphic breaks in, at various points, on the uniformity of the representation. This is particularly the case at Ezekiel 27:9, where all the ships of the sea are represented as having a place in this figurative vessel; and at Ezekiel 27:11, where towns and walls, and an armed force, as of a city, are mentioned. But for so long a description the figure is wonderfully sustained, though it has in several places been marred by wrong translations. We shall simply present a translation of the whole, and subjoin a few explanatory remarks on those parts which are more obscure, deeming it unnecessary to enter at any length into the historical points referred to in the description as regards the commercial relations of antiquity. These have more in them of an antiquarian than of a religious interest, and may be examined by such as have a taste for the pursuit in Bochart’s Phaleg, the Phönizier of Movers, or what is now more accessible, Heeren’s Historical Researches, where the trade and policy of the Phoenicians have received due attention.

Ezekiel 27:1 . And the word of Jehovah came to me, saying,

Ezekiel 27:2 . And thou, son of man, lift up a lamentation over Tyre;

Ezekiel 27:3 . And say to Tyre, thou that dwellest by the entrances (ports or havens) of the sea, (The מְבוֹאֹת יַם are the openings, the inlets or outlets, by which one finds communication with the sea, in going and coming; hence its ports (as from the Latin porta, the gate that opens out and in to a city, there is portus, that does the same to the sea). Insular Tyre was remarkable for its good harbours: ancient writers specially notice two one on the north, and another on the south.) the peoples merchantess into many sea-coasts, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Tyre, thou sayest, I am perfect in beauty.

Ezekiel 27:4 . In the midst of the seas is thy territory; thy builders have perfected thy beauty.

Ezekiel 27:5 . Of fir-trees from Senir they constructed all thy boards; cedar from Lebanon have they taken to make a mast for thee. (Senir was the Sidonian name for Hermon (Deuteronomy 3:9). Instead of fir-trees, some read cypresses, which is countenanced by Sirach, xxiv. 33, where the cypress is named as the peculiar production of Hermon. The names of trees, in Scripture, are not very accurately defined. The cedar of Lebanon is well known from its height, durability, and strength; hence, well adapted for the purpose here mentioned making masts. It is also matter of history that the Tyrians obtained wood for their costlier buildings from these mountains. See especially Josephus, Antiq. viii. 5.)

Ezekiel 27:6 . Of oaks of Bashan they made thy oars; thy plank-work they made ivory with boxes (or cedars, i.e. those and ivory combined) from the isle of Cyrus. (Instead of the punctuation of the Hebrew text, making two words of בַּת־אֶשֻׁדִים , the junction of the two, long ago proposed by the Chaldee: asseres buxeos ebore obductos, also adopted by Rabbi Solomon, has been sanctioned by Bochart, and is now, indeed, generally acquiesced in. It becomes then, with bashurim, a sort of trees. But instead of the box-tree, Ges. Thes. would understand a species of cedar to be meant; the same as תְּאַשׁוֹר in Isaiah 41:19; Isaiah 9:13 though here he retains the received text, and renders transtra tua fecerunt ex ebore,filia cedorum, i.e. cedro incluso. He refers for a parallel to Virgil, Aen. 10:137, inclusum buxo ebur. By the קַרְשֵּׁךְ have very commonly been understood, the benches on which the rowers sat; but as there were tiers of these at each side of the vessel, the singular is rather against the supposition. It is more probably the deck, as Hitzig suggests, that is meant, which was one piece, though made up of separate parts.)

Ezekiel 27:7 . Fine linen with broidered work from Egypt was thy sail, to serve for a banner (streamer) to thee; bluish and red purple from the sea-coasts of Elislia (Greece) were thy awning. (The meaning of the verse is, that the fine quality of the sailcloth, and the embroidery upon it, was instead of a pennant or standard; it served the purpose of this. Several of the plates in Wilkinson’s Egypt show what expense was sometimes gone into by the ancients in decorating their sails. There is a general agreement among commentators that by Elisha Greece is to be understood, but they differ in the mode of explanation some identifying it with Elis in the Peloponesus; others, with Hellas. Laconian purple was renowned.)

Ezekiel 27:8 . The inhabitants of Zidon and Arvad were thy rowers; thy wise men, Tyre, that were in thee, were thy steersmen. (When the men of Zidon and Arvad (Aradus) are mentioned as oars men in the ships of Tyre, it denotes the relative superiority of Tyre; these also were very important Phoenician cities, yet their men sought employment in the merchant vessels of Tyre, certainly not working as slaves, but with the view of bettering their condition.)

Ezekiel 27:9 . Men of mature age from Gebal and her skilled ones were thy calkers (literally, stoppers of chinks); all the ships of the sea with their mariners were in thee to handle thy merchandise.

Ezekiel 27:10 . Persia, and Lud, and Phut (The people of Lud and Phut are not certainly known, but most probably were Lydians and Libyans. See at ch. 30:5, where the words again occur.) were in thy army, thy men of war; the shield and helmet they hung in thee; they made thee glorious.

Ezekiel 27:11 . The men of Arvad and thine army were upon thy walls round about, and men of daring were in thy towers; (The Gammadims of our version ought to be translated; there is no trace whatever of such a people; and the position which the persons in question are said to have occupied, that of keeping watch in the towers, is one that would never have been entrusted to foreigners. The sense also adopted by Hitzig and some others, deserters (namely, from other countries) is arbitrary and unsuitable. I follow those, among whom is Hävernick, who, from the Arabic, obtain the sense of hardy, strong, daring, or enterprising. The stout-hearted and daring occupied her watch-towers.) they hung their shields upon thy walls round about; they perfected thy beauty.

Ezekiel 27:12 . Tarshish was thy dealer from the abundance of all sort of wealth; with silver, with iron, with tin, and with lead, they did barter with thee. ( נָתְנוּ עִזְבוֹנָיִךְ not as in the received translation, “they traded in thy fairs;” but, they made thy exchanges, or did barter with thee. The noun is from the verb עָזַב , to leave; hence, “that which you leave to any one, for something else given you by him in regular barter" (Gussetius). So also Ewald, Hävernick, and others. The richness of Tarshish, the Latin Tartessus, and that part of Spain in which it was situated, in the precious metals mentioned in this part of the text, is well known.)

Ezekiel 27:13 . Javan, Tubal, and Mesech, they were thy merchants; with souls of men and articles of brass they did barter with thee. (Javan, the loniaus or Greeks; Mesech, the Moschi, in the Moschian mountains, between Armenia, Iberia, and Colchis, a rough and warlike race; Tubal, the Tibareni in Pontus; all, in short, of Greece, or connected with it. The souls of men, in which these races are said to have trafficked with Tyre, are the slaves which, when obtained from certain parts of Greece and the surrounding countries, were particularly prized in ancient times.)

Ezekiel 27:14 . They of the house of Togarmah in horses, riding-steeds, and mules, did barter with thee. (The פָּרָשָׁים must here mean a certain kind of horses horses for riding; as it could not be the prophet’s design to class horsemen with horses and mules as articles of trade. That the word has this meaning also in other passages, see Gesenius, Lex. Togarmah is Armenia.)

Ezekiel 27:15 . The men of Dedan were thy merchants; many sea-coasts were the mart of thy hand (i.e. were dependent on thee for their trade); horns of ivory and ebony they brought in return as thy reward. (“Horns of ivory,” were so called because of the resemblance of ivory, in its original state, to horns; not, as some have gratuitously supposed, because the ancients falsely imagined ivory was obtained from the horns of certain animals.)

Ezekiel 27:16 . Syria was thy mart for the multitude of thy works; with carbuncle, purple, and embroidery, and fine cotton, and corals, and brilliants, they transacted in thy exchanges. (Instead of Syria, Aram, some codices, LXX., Peschito, read Edom; and many commentators prefer this reading. Neither of the two names is unsuitable, though from the connection we might rather have expected Edom than Aram. The precious stone meant by נֹפֶךְ , according to the most ancient authorities, was carbuncle, not emerald so Sept., Josephus, Epiphanius, and the Jer. Talmud. See Ges. Thes.)

Ezekiel 27:17 . Judah and the land of Israel, they were thy dealers with wheat of Minnith, and Pannag, and honey, and oil, and balm, they transacted thy business. (Minnith was originally an Ammonite city (Judges 11:33). Of Pannag we know nothing; hence some translate it here, and give it the meaning of sweet things generally. But if held to be a proper name, then it and Minnith must be regarded as places remarkable for the finest qualities of wheat.)

Ezekiel 27:18 . Damascus was thy mart for the multitude of thy works, for the fulness of all kind of wealth, with wine of Chalybon, and the whitest wool. (Wine of Chalybon was so famous, that the kings of Persia are reported to have used it in preference to all others.)

Ezekiel 27:19 . Vedan and Javan from Uzal transacted in thy exchanges, with wrought (polished) iron, cassia, and calamus, they did business with thee. (There is great difficulty in determining how the proper names in this verse ought to be taken. “And Dan,” with which the verse begins in our version, is open especially to the two objections that none of the parts in the prophet’s enumeration begin with And, and that Dan also would be quite out of place here. It seems better, therefore, to read Vedan as one word, and to understand it of some place unknown. From the products specified, one would expect to find some Arabian cities or people mentioned. The conjecture of Tuch (on Genesis 10:27), that by Javan here might possibly be meant a Greek settlement in Arabia in the neighbourhood of Uzal, a town in Yemen, is not improbable. Yemen was distinguished for its manufacture of fine sword -blades, which may be the wrought or polished iron here specified. The other things were the natural products of Arabia.)

Ezekiel 27:20 . Dedan was thy merchant with splendid coverings for chariots.

Ezekiel 27:21 . Arabia, and all the princes of Kedar, they were dealers in thine employ (literally, of thy hand); with lambs, and rams, and goats with these they were thy dealers. (When Arabia is mentioned separately, it is commonly the Nomadic portion that is meant; and especially must that be understood here when it is coupled with the princes of Kedar, the heads, in a manner, of the shepherd tribes. Hence the articles of traffic named are of the flocks.)

Ezekiel 27:22 . The merchants of Shebah and Raamah, they were thy dealers; with the choice of every sort of spicery, and with every precious stone, and gold, they transacted thy exchanges. (Shebah and Raamah, two ancient places in Arabia (Genesis 10:7).)

Ezekiel 27:23 . Haran, Canneh, and Eden, the merchants of Sheba, Ashur-Ohilmad, were thy dealers. (I follow Horsley in this way of reading the names of the verse, which appears to me decidedly preferable to Hävernick’s: “Haran and Canneh and Aden are dealers of Saba; (but) Assur, Chilmad are thy customers.” For it seems very unnatural to bring in here those who dealt with Saba, and not less so, to couple all Assyria with some obscure place or district like Chilmad. I think they ought all to be regarded as mentioned here simply on account of their relation to Tyre. The places appear partly to be Arabian and partly Assyrian.)

Ezekiel 27:24 . These were thy dealers in beautiful things, in cloaks of blue, and embroidery, and bundles of damask wound about with thread, and strong, (The אֲרֻזִים here is now generally taken for part. pas. of an unused root, in the sense of closely bound together; hence, compact, strong a sense still retained in the Arabic. In this sense it is a fit designation of the wares spoken of, the בְּרוֹמִים a very doubtful word, found only here, but supposed to mean woven stuffs, made up of various kinds of threads damasks. If the אֲרֻזים is taken in the sense of cedars; or, as an adj. cedrine (with Ges.), it must qualify not the wares spoken of, but the bundles or chests in which they were put as if the prophet laid stress on the mere ornamenting of the exterior of the packages.) among thy merchandise.

Ezekiel 27:25 . The ships of Tarshish were thy walls as to thy merchandise; and thou wast replenished and wert very glorious in the midst of the seas. (To call the ships of Tarshish the walls of Tyre, has been thought so peculiar as to justify a departure from the received meaning of שָּׁרווֹת . But there is endless diversity in the renderings adopted. The Vulgate: principes; our translators: kings: and to mention no more, Hitzig, the last commentator, while on Jeremiah 5:10, he had proposed for the passage before us ship-masts, he now abandons this, and would read שָּׂדוֹתַיִך thy fields: “The fitting out and freighting of ships with goods was, in a manner, the cultivation of the land. The importation of all the treasures, which the ships brought back in return, was the land’s produce”!! A strong figure truly! For ourselves, we think the received text, and the ascertained meaning of walls, afford a greatly more natural explanation. The ships of Tarshish, meaning by these, perhaps, not so much the ships that belonged to that particular place, as rather ships of the size usually trading thither, the largest and finest merchant-vessels these were the walls of thy merchandise, or as to thy merchandise; at once the bulwarks of thy commercial greatness, and the means by which its traffic was carried on. To name such ships as peculiarly hers, seemed all one with naming walls of security and defence as to her mercantile prosperity.)

Ezekiel 27:26 . Thy rowers bring thee into great waters; the east wind breaks thee in the midst of the seas.

Ezekiel 27:27 . Thy wealth, and thy barterings, thy mer chandise, thy mariners and thy pilots, thy calkers, and the transactors of thy merchandise, and all thy men of war, that are in thee, and in all thy company that is in the midst of thee, sink down in the midst of the seas, in the day of thy ruin.

Ezekiel 27:28 . At the noise of the cry of thy pilots the suburbs shake.

Ezekiel 27:29 . And from their ships come down all that handle the oar, the mariners, all the pilots of the sea, upon the ground they stand.

Ezekiel 27:30 . And they make themselves to be heard of thee with their voice, and they cry bitterly, and they cast dust upon their heads, they wallow in ashes.

Ezekiel 27:31 . And they make themselves utterly bald for thee, and gird on sackcloth, and weep for thee with bitterness of heart, with bitter mourning.

Ezekiel 27:32 . And they lift up for thee in their wailings a lamentation, and lament over thee, Who is like Tyre? as a destroyed one in the midst of the sea?

Ezekiel 27:33 . When thy commodities went forth from the seas, thou didst replenish many peoples; with the abundance of thy wealth and thy merchandise thou didst enrich kings of the earth.

Ezekiel 27:34 . Now thou art broken by the waters in the depths of the sea,, thy merchandise and all thy company in the midst sink down.

Ezekiel 27:35 . All the inhabitants of the sea-coasts are astonished at thee, and their kings are horribly afraid, they are troubled in their countenances.

Ezekiel 27:36 . The merchants among the nations hiss at thee; ruins shalt thou be, and shalt be no more, even for ever.

It may be noted that the remark made at the close of last chapter is equally applicable here. The coming destruction of Tyre is viewed in contrast with her existing greatness; and as it was her commercial prosperity which made her what she was, so the loss of this, which the prophet foresaw was certainly to take place, would in a manner terminate her existence. It is, of course, quite consistent with this, that some remains of a city may still be found; it is plainly implied in other parts of the prophecy that such should be the case, as when she is spoken of as a spreading-ground for nets; for who were to spread these but the fishermen still frequenting her ports, and still dwelling among her ruins? But the Tyre of antiquity no longer exists; her place is no more found; and a voice of lamentation over her fallen and irrecoverable greatness is naturally raised by those who contemplate her condition.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Ezekiel 27". "Fairbairn's Commentary on Ezekiel, Jonah and Pastoral Epistles". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/fbn/ezekiel-27.html.
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