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Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

Isaiah 23

Verses 1-5


Now that the Lord Jesus has taken His rightful place as King of Israel in the previous chapter, there is still a power in the world that will also be judged by Him. It is not a nation, nor is it a military power, but an economic power.

Already in our time we see that events in the world are not only determined by military or political power, but also by economic power. The European Union, for example, is primarily an economic power, distinct from NATO as a military power. Christ’s government also means the end of the economic power of this world.

The Report of the Destruction of Tyre

“The burden of Tyre” is the last of the series of burdens of the nations that started with the burden of Babylon. The ‘city-kingdom’ of Tyre was located in today’s Lebanon. Just as Assyria represents the (military) world power, so Tyre represents the power of trade. The influence Tyre exerted through trade is greater than that of any other people. Together with Babylon and Egypt Tyre is the representative of what is found in the world. In this way the world at that time is painted: military power, economic power and religious-political power. These factors are also topical today.

Egypt represents the world as a system where people live in the darkness and slavery of sin. Egypt is ruled by Pharaoh, a picture of Satan.

Babylon represents the world as a religious system based not on the revelation of God, but on a self-powered religion. This system culminates in “Babylon the great, the mother of harlots” – that is, the roman catholic church – which as a religious-political system wants to rule the world, but which will be judged by that same world (Revelation 17:5; Revelation 17:16).

Tyre represents the world as an economic system where people strive to enrich themselves to be able to wallow in luxury. A detailed description of the opulence of Tyre can be found in Ezekiel 26-28. It is a prophecy about the wealth of the Roman Empire (Europe) in the end times (Revelation 18:11-Nehemiah :). The characteristics of Tyre are applied to Babylon. In the end times, the united states of Europe will show both the characteristics of Babylon and those of Tyre. There is no place for God in all of this. The day will soon come when all the consumerism of man will be put to an end. This is proposed in the judgment on Tyre.

Tyre is seen here together with the older city of Sidon, which is spoken here as a mother of Tyre (Isaiah 23:4; Isaiah 23:12). The Lord Jesus mentions both cities as examples of wickedness, which however are surpassed in their wickedness by Chorazin and Bethsaida (Matthew 11:21-Song of Solomon :). The latter cities reject their Messiah and will therefore be punished in the day of judgment more severely than Tyre and Sidon.

The future destruction of Tyre is painted vividly before our very eyes right from the start. The sailors who traded overseas, in Tarsis (probably) in Spain, and sailed back with ships full of big profits, won't find a home anymore (Isaiah 23:1). When they sail home after a stopover in the land of Cyprus, this message about Tyre already has come to their attention.

This appalling message has a chain reaction for all countries with which Tyre trades (Isaiah 23:2). Because of the destruction of Tyre, they too have lost their income. Their trading relationship is more important to them than a relationship with God. That relationship doesn’t interest them at all because their god is Mammon himself (Matthew 6:24). A large source of income comes from the granary of Sichor, the storage place of the Nile region grain harvest, the granary of the world (Isaiah 23:3).

In Isaiah 23:4 the prophet speaks to the city of Sidon. In a poetic way this city is compared to the sea with which it is most closely connected. The sea is for Tyre what fertile ground is for other cities and countries. After all, the city has obtained its great wealth through trade and shipping. Tyre is the “stronghold of the sea”. It is built on a rocky island in the sea.

Through the mouths of the sea, both cities complain that it is as if they have never given birth or raised children, so much so that they have been depopulated by the devastation. Egypt, which is in a close relationship with Tyre because of the trade in grain and earns from it, has now lost its most important customer and will be in anguish at the report of the devastation (Isaiah 23:5).

Verses 6-9

The LORD Has Done It

The survivors have no future in Tyre. They get the urgent advice to go back to Tarsis (Isaiah 23:1), now not to trade there, but to live there as a refugee (Isaiah 23:6). The farewell of Tyre is final. They will leave wailing at the sight of the ruins of their beloved city. She was once such a bustling city with a rich history and a great urge to expand (Isaiah 23:7).

To awaken the conscience of the listener / reader the question is asked how the collapse of this trading empire could have happened (Isaiah 23:8). Tyre is presented in its magnitude as “the bestower of crowns”, i.e. it makes its relations powerful. Behind this we see Satan, who can say to the Lord Jesus that he can give all the power and glory of the world to whom he wants (Luke 4:5-Joshua :). The answer to the question is given directly by Isaiah. The LORD of hosts has done it (Isaiah 23:9). The reason is given: the pride in one’s own beauty, the glorying in one’s own abilities.

Man has used the results of the well-functioning economy to greater honor and glory of himself and has not given any glory to God, Who has enabled him to do so. That pride is defiled by the LORD. He has despised all those people at the top of the power of commerce. He will also humiliate the power behind Tyre, Satan, who also exalted himself on his own beauty (Ezekiel 28:17).

It is a warning for us not to use what we have received from the Lord for our own honor. This applies to our physical as well as our spiritual and intellectual capacities.

Verses 10-14

New Residential Area for Tyre

In Isaiah 23:10 the colony of Tyre is called “daughter (of) Tarsis” (Isaiah 23:1; Isaiah 23:6). The rich past is cut off. Return is impossible. Tyre no longer exists. The motherland is gone. There is no more restraint (Isaiah 23:1), no powers that hold them captive and rule over them. They can, just like the Nile, do what they want. They will have to work the land as a source of income, just as the Nile floods the land and makes it fertile.

The Septuagint translates the beginning of Isaiah 23:10 with “work your land”. It means that instead of being a sailor they should now become a farmer. The sea will no longer be able to serve them as a trade route because the LORD has stretched out His hand over it, that is to say, He has carried out the judgment on it (Isaiah 23:11). His command over Tyre, called “Canaan,” which means “commerce,” is that it will be destroyed.

For Sidon, just as for Tyre, bathing in opulence and living in luxury and entertainment is over (Isaiah 23:12). The LORD calls her “crushed virgin daughter of Sidon”. The city is dishonored, stripped of its beauty and attractiveness. When the Sidonians, possibly as a result of the fugitives from Tyre, visit Cyprus, they will think they have escaped disaster there. But if they think they will find peace there, they will be deceived. The following verse gives the reason for this. The land of the Chaldeans, the Babylonians, was destroyed by the Assyrians at that time. In the same way, Tyre will be destroyed by the Babylon (Isaiah 23:13), which was destroyed at that time.

After this description of the destructions carried out by order of the LORD, the call of Isaiah 23:1 is repeated (Isaiah 23:14).

Verses 15-18

God’s People Get the Profit of Tyre

The destruction of Tyre will not be forever. If Babylon ruled over Tyre for seventy years (Isaiah 23:15; Ezekiel 29:17-Job :; Jeremiah 29:10), the LORD will allow a restoration for Tyre. The way this is expressed is based on the idea that Tyre is a harlot who has been playing the harlot by her commerce with the nations. In the song of the harlot, Tyre goes back to her lovers to draw attention to herself again and lure them into trading with her as an attractive trading partner (Isaiah 23:16-Esther :). It is not trade as such that is condemned, but the way trade is conducted and the merchandise. Often the trade is accompanied by literal harlotry and women are traded as prostitutes.

In spite of again abusing the flourishing trade under the permission of the LORD, the LORD will achieve His own purpose with it. An example of this we see in the relationship between Hiram, the king of Tyre, and Solomon (1 Kings 7:13-2 Chronicles :). Also after the return of a remnant from Babylon to Jerusalem, Tyre and Sidon contribute to the rebuilding of the temple (Ezra 3:7). Soon, however, their striving for profit prevailed again (Nehemiah 13:16).

Her harlot’s wages, the proceeds of her sinful trade, shall be holy to the LORD (Isaiah 23:18). This will happen in the realm of peace. Then “the daughter of Tyre [will come] with a gift” (Psalms 45:12). That gift, and all that Tyre has earned with her trade, will be used by Him “for those who dwell in the presence the LORD”. His people will saturate themselves with the food of the nations and will dress themselves with the graceful garments of the nations. The riches of the nations will be brought to His people (Isaiah 60:5; Psalms 72:10-1 Kings :).

All the glory of the earth will one day be detached from the power of sin to which it is now subject and attached. In that time, the time of the realm of peace, everything, including the world economy, will contribute to the glory of the King of kings and will be enjoyed as an inheritance by those who live in fellowship with the LORD.

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Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Isaiah 23". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniƫl', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.