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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and Homiletical

Isaiah 23

Verses 1-14


Isaiah 23:0

All the nations hitherto mentioned, bordering on Judah, come under the power of Assyria. But Tyre, according to verse 13, is to fall a prey to the Chaldæans. This prophecy is placed last on account of its fulfilment belonging to a time subsequent to the supremacy of Assyria. Tyre was not only the head of the minor Phœnician states, but was also the mistress of the sea, both for commerce and war; and for these two reasons was the most important ally of Egypt. He who would attack Egypt from the north must first seek to possess himself of Tyre, which was the bulwark of Egypt. Assyria had long an eye on Egypt. They were, in fact, natural rivals. Shalmaneser, rightly perceiving the importance which Tyre had for his plans against Egypt, made himself master of Phœnicia, with exception of insular Tyre, which he blockaded for five years, and sought, by cutting off its supply of water, to force to surrender. Whether he succeeded in this attempt cannot be definitely ascertained. In any case Tyre suffered no great loss. Our prophecy must have had its rise at this time. For further particulars see below in remarks on Isaiah 33:15-18. Rationalistic interpreters place this alternative before us in regard to the genuineness of the prophecy. Either the prophecy refers to a conquest of Tyre by the Assyrians—in that case it is genuine; or it is intended to announce a conquest by the Chaldaeans—in that case it is spurious. It is admitted that it bears the marks of having Isaiah for its author. But it is judged impossible for Isaiah to have announced the Chaldæans as the conquerors of Tyre. I believe it would be more scientific not to regard this as impossible, but to treat it as a problem. Even Knobel defends the authenticity of the prophecy against the shallow objections drawn from language and history by Hitzig and Movers (Tübingen Quarterly Journal III. p. 506 sqq.). Movers afterwards modified his view so as to allow chapter 23. to be genuine, but revised and altered by Jeremiah (Phoen. II. 1, p. 396, Note). Knobel defends also its integrity against Eichhorn, Ewald and Meier. The Isaiah 23:15-18 stand and fall with the expression “the land of the Chaldæans,” Isaiah 23:13. The piece consists of two parts, of which the first (Isaiah 23:1-14) has for its subject the fall of Tyre, the second (vers.15–18) Tyre’s restoration.


a) The fall of Tyre

Isaiah 23:1-14

1          The burden of Tyre.

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.

2     Be 1still, ye inhabitants of the isle;

Thou whom the merchants of Zidon, that pass over the sea,
Have replenished.

3     And by great waters the seed of Sihor,

The harvest of the river, is her revenue;

And 2she is a mart of nations.

4     Be thou ashamed, O Zidon; for the sea hath spoken,

Even the strength of the sea, saying,

3I travail not, nor bring forth children,

Neither do I nourish up young men,

Nor bring up young virgins.

5     4As at the report concerning Egypt,

So shall they be sorely pained at the report of Tyre.

6     Pass ye over to Tarshish;

Howl, ye inhabitants of the isle.

7     5Is this your joyous city,

Whose antiquity is of ancient days?

6Her own feet shall carry her afar off to sojourn.

8     Who hath taken this counsel against Tyre, 7the crowning city;

Whose merchants are princes,

Whose traffickers are the honourable of the earth?

9     The Lord of hosts hath purposed it,

To 8stain the pride of all glory,

And to bring into contempt all the honorable of the earth.

10     Pass through thy land as a river,

O daughter of Tarshish:

There is no more 9strength.

11     He stretched out his hand over the sea;

He shook the kingdoms.
The Lord hath given a commandment 10against 11the merchant city

To destroy the 12Strongholds thereof.

12     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.

13     Behold, the land of the Chaldeans;

This people was not:—

13Till 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.

14     Howl, ye ships of Tarshish;

For your strength is laid waste.


Isaiah 23:1. הילילי which is first found in Joel (Isaiah 1:5; Isaiah 1:11; Isaiah 1:13), occurs besides in Isaiah only in the first prophecy against Babylon (Isaiah 13:6 here evidently borrowed from Joel) and in the form הֵילִילִי in the Massa against the Philistines (Isaiah 14:31).

Isaiah 23:3. סָחַר never means emporium, mart, which it must signify if ותהי should be referred to אי. The form סְחַר can denote only what is traded, or gain resulting from merchandise (Isaiah 45:14 and Proverbs 3:14). It is identical in meaning with סַחַר, Isaiah 23:18; Proverbs 3:14; Proverbs 31:18. [סְחַר is obviously the construct state, and is referred by Ewald to סַחַר, by Gesenius to an assumed form סָחָר.—D. M.].

Isaiah 23:4. נדלתי and רוממתי as Isaiah 1:2. [Delitzsch pertinently asks, “Who does not in these words hear Isaiah speak?”—D. M.].

Isaiah 23:5. בִּ before שׁמע marks coincidence, שֵׁמַע is the accusative of time.

Isaiah 23:7. ַעלִּיזָה (comp. Isaiah 22:2) involves perhaps an allusion to the Phœnician female name Elissa. &יוֹבִיל הֵבִיא=) is to lead, to bring. מרחוק afar (comp. on Isaiah 22:3).

Isaiah 23:11. מעזניה is treated by some, e.g., Olshausen, as an anomaly; by others it is supposed capable of explanation. We must agree with those who regard it as an anomalous form which has arisen by some oversight.

Isaiah 23:13. בַּחִין, Keri בַּחוּן from בָּחַן explorare is the specula, turris exploratoria. The word occurs only here. עוֹרְרוּ Pilel from ערר (= עָרָה nudum esse, Isaiah 22:6, עוּר Habakkuk 3:9) nudare, to make naked, i.e., to uncover by overturning. The conjugation Pilel only here, Pilpel Jeremiah 51:58. מַפֵלָה besides only Isaiah 25:2. Comp. מֵפָלָה Isaiah 17:1.


1. The Prophet in the first place calls upon the Tyrian mariners sojourning in Tarshish far from their home, to break forth into loud lamentation. as the tidings have come to them across the land of Chittim that their home is destroyed, and a return thither is no longer possible (Isaiah 23:1). Then in a brief word stillness, eternal silence is enjoined on insular Tyre, that had been hitherto the noisy centre of the Phœnician commerce, the great negotiator between Egypt with its abundance of products and the other nations (verses 2 and 3). Then Zidon is reminded of the shame it will feel, when, on coming to the site of Tyre, it will find no children there, but only the dead rock and unfruitful sea (verse 4). Egypt, too, learns the report, and is affrighted (Isaiah 23:5). Nothing remains for Tyre but to flee to Tarshish, as its ships can no more return to Tyre (Isaiah 23:6). Next, the Prophet makes a comparison between what Tyre was and what it is. The terrible blow falls on a joyous city having a wide dominion from ancient time (Isaiah 23:7). But from whom does this whole purpose respecting Tyre proceed? From Jehovah who humbles all pride (Isaiah 23:8-9), who liberates the nations hitherto oppressed by Tyre (Isaiah 23:10), who rules over sea and nations, in order to exercise judgment on the haughty Phœnicians, who now must flee into distant countries, to find even there no rest (Isaiah 23:11-12). But what people will be the instrument in Jehovah’s hand to execute this judgment? It will be the people of the Chaldaeans, hitherto not a nation, but who will one day make Assyria a habitation for the beasts of the desert. This people sets up its siege apparatus against Tyre, throws down the high buildings, and reduces the city to ruins (Isaiah 23:13). With the cry, “Howl, ye ships of Tarshish, for your strength is laid waste,” the discourse closes as it began (Isaiah 23:14).

2. The burden of Tyre——revealed to them.

Isaiah 23:1. Attention has properly been called to the fact that the first Massa (xiii.) was directed against Babylon, the greatest worldly power possessing supreme dominion on the land, the rich and luxurious consumer of all precious productions of the earth; and that, on the other hand, the last Massa has for its subject the first power on the sea, the centre of the world’s commerce, the great purveyor of all things that are costly, or that minister to enjoyment. Here too we can add that the worldly power first threatened with a Massa, is according to Isaiah 23:13 to execute the judgment on the one last threatened. The ships of Tarshish (comp. on Isaiah 2:16) are addressed by metonymy instead of the mariners sailing in them. The form of expression is singularly brief and concise. They are to howl בִּי שֻׁדַּד, i.e. that it has been laid waste, that a destruction, a devastation has taken place (Isaiah 15:1), and such a one as excludes the mariners from their house and home, and from a return home (בּוֹא the opposite of יָצָא, e.g., in designating the setting of the sun). מִן has a negative signification, and the force of an ecbatic conjunction, marking the result. That the destruction which renders it impossible for the Tyrian mariners to return home is the destruction of Tyre itself, is self-evident. The Prophet is too sparing of his words to say that. This sad news has come from the land of the Chittim to the Tyrian mariners far away from their home. The report reached Chittim first, and thence was carried to Tarshish. They do not learn the news in Chittim, but it comes from it; for the text is “from the land,” not “in the land.” The name Chittim is found in Citium, Κίττιον, Κίτιον, Κήτιον, the name of a considerable port in the island of Cyprus. The Chittim are then, in the first place, the inhabitants of the island of Cyprus. In a wider signification, however, the word denotes the islands and maritime countries of the Mediterranean Sea in general (Isaiah 23:12; Genesis 10:4; Jeremiah 2:10; Ezekiel 27:6; Daniel 11:30), comp. on Jeremiah 2:10. נִנְלָה (comp. Isaiah 22:14; Isaiah 38:12; Isaiah 40:5; Isaiah 53:1) intimates that the report received from the land of the Chittim was a sure one. Therefore they are summoned to howl.

3. Be still——of the nations.

Isaiah 23:2-3. The Prophet passes from the extreme west to the extreme east of the Mediterranean Sea. He calls now to the Tyrians themselves; דּמּוּ, i.e. be silent, be still (the word only here in Isaiah). He means evidently dumb, speechless amazement (comp. Exodus 15:16). אִי is terra maritima, including not only an island but also continental territory having a sea coast (comp. on Isaiah 11:11; Isaiah 20:6). Old Tyre was on the mainland and possessed no harbor. Insular Tyre lay 30 stadia north of Palae-Tyrus, and 3 stadia from the mainland. It had excellent harbors, the best on the whole coast of Palestine (Movers,Phoen. II., I., p. 176). As according to the latter part of Isaiah 23:2, only that Tyre can here be meant which the merchants that pass over the sea filled, we must understand insular Tyre under אִי. The word is masculine, but is here treated as feminine, as the feminine suffix in מִלְאוּךְ refers to אִי. The merchants of Zidon (which was an older city, comp. Justin Isaiah 18:3) filled Tyrus, says the Prophet. Zidon was itself a seaport town, but the port of Tyre was better. The Zidonians had in the 13th century, B. C., laid out a port and city on the rocky islands of Tyre (comp. Movers,Phoen. II., 313; Justin Isaiah 18:3; Isaiah 18:5). Hiram completed this plan by building the suburb Eurychoros on the east side of the smaller island, and the new city on this smaller island; and at the same time he connected the new city with the western or old city, which was on the larger island. It is readily conceivable that beside the Tyrians, chiefly Zidonian merchants and mariners filled the port and city of insular Tyre. How could old Egypt, a neighboring country, excelling as it once did, all the nations of the East in agriculture and industry, avoid coming into the liveliest intercourse with the great commercial centre, Tyre? The one was necessary to the other. Of late years Ebers in particular (Egypt and the Books of Moses I., p. 127 sqq.) has shown the ancient connection of Phœnicia with Egypt. The Phœnician alphabet, as can be positively demonstrated in regard at least to the greater part of the letters, is derived from the hieratic written characters of the Egyptians. “In the third millenium B. C.,” says Ebers,ut supra, p. 149, the Phœnicians stood in close intercourse with Egypt, learned from the subjects of the Pharaohs the cursive mode of writing, and communicated the same to all nations of Western Asia and of Europe.” But the Phœnicians received from the Egyptians, not merely intellectual, but also material goods for their own use, and to trade with distant regions: Isaiah 23:3, By great waters,i.e., by the Nile and the sea came the seed of Sihor, and the harvest of the river (comp. on Isaiah 19:7, where a like expression is to be noted) to Tyre, and so became the income of this city, what was gathered into it. Sihor שִׁחֹר Hebraized from Σῖρις the vernacular name of the Upper Nile, but as a Hebrew word formed from the root שָׁחַר, niger fuit, Job 30:30=the black river, Μέλας. The name Sihor denotes undoubtedly the Nile, Jeremiah 2:18; the places (1 Chronicles 13:5; Joshua 13:3; Joshua 19:26) are uncertain. The double designation seed of the Nile and harvest of the river is a poetic parallelism which resolves one conception into two, which, it is true, are not equivalent. What was sown and reaped on the Nile the Tyrians gathered in, not to keep it wholly for themselves, but only in order to secure commercial profit by selling it again. Translate the last clause of Isaiah 23:3, “And it (the income of Tyre, what was gathered into it) became the merchandise of the nations.” What the Tyrians brought in from Egypt goes out from them as profitable merchandise to all nations.

4. Be thou ashamed——of the isle.

Isaiah 23:4-6. Who should be more affected by the fate of Tyre than its mother Zidon in the north, and its neighbor and commercial friend Egypt in the south? Zidon is accordingly bidden to be ashamed at suffering the disgrace of seeing her offspring die out in the second generation. Early extinction of race was regarded as a punishment inflicted by God, and awakened the suspicion of either open or secret crime on the part of the person thus visited (comp. the Book of Job). For this reason want of children was a reproach (Genesis 30:23; Isaiah 4:1; Luke 1:25). By “the sea and the strength (fortress) of the sea,” most interpreters understand the city of Tyre itself, and the complaint I have not travailed nor brought forth,etc., is supposed to mean: I have lost again all the children born of me. But it must appear strange in the highest degree that Tyre, because it is situated in the sea, and lives from the sea, should itself be called “sea.” And “I have not brought forth,” etc.,” is something quite different from “I have lost again my children.” Jerome takes the words “I have not travailed,” etc., as words of the sea used metaphorically: “frustra divitias comportavi, . … illa dives illa luxuriosa et populorum quondam gaudens multitudine, in qua nascebatur turba mortalium, caterva puerorum, juventutis examina, cujus plateae virginum. … ac juvenum. … lusibus perstrepebant, nunc ad solitudinem redacta est.” But even according to this view a meaning is artificially put upon the figurative speech which is not necessarily contained in its terms. I believe that a literal, and not metaphorical interpretation suits better both the context and the words employed. Zidon comes to Tyre, her daughter, to look around her. But with shame must the mother behold the place empty where her daughter with her many children had dwelt. She sees nothing but the sea, and the natural bulwark on which the waves of the sea break, the bare rocks of insular Tyre. And the sea together with the bulwark calls to Zidon, ashamed at the sight: “I have not travailed,” etc., i.e. thou seekest children, but findest nothing else than rock and sea, which do not travail nor bring forth, nor nourish children. [Alexander seems to me to set forth in brief terms the correct view of Isaiah 23:4 : “The Prophet hears a voice from the sea, which he then describes more exactly as coming from the stronghold or fortress of the sea, i.e., insular Tyre as viewed from the mainland. The rest of the verse is intended to express the idea, that the city thus personified was childless, was as if she had never borne children.”—D. M.]. Isaiah 23:5. As Zidon is ashamed after the fall of Tyre so Egypt is terrified. Translate: “when the report comes to Egypt.” The concluding words of the verse seem to contain an empty pleonasm. But this is not the case. The Prophet intends to say: Egypt is affrighted, as the report (reaches, comes to) it, namely, the judgment of Tyre. The terror will correspond to the importance which the fall of Tyre must have both positively and negatively for Egypt. The words of the sixth verse I take as a call uttered by those who have heard the report concerning Tyre, first of all, by the Egyptians. These are forthwith impressed by the thought that nothing further remains for the surviving Tyrians to do than to flee with howling as far away as possible to the opposite end of the earth, to Tarshish. There is yet another reason why Tarshish is the place to which Tyre should flee. There, according to Isaiah 23:1, its ships are staying, which cannot return home, and which are now the only property and refuge of the mother country.

5. Is this your joyous——no rest.

Isaiah 23:7-12. These verses contain words of the Prophet. He contrasts what Tyre was once with what it is now. הזאת, etc., is a question. Must it so happen to you? Must this be your lot, as it were, the end of the song? And must such a conclusion follow the joyful beginning? We feel the antithesis between עליזה and the condition to which זאת points. A joyous, because glorious and powerful city was Tyre, and this foundation of its joy was deep and broad. For its origin (ַקדְמָהprincipium, origo, in Isaiah only here) dates from ancient time, and its power extended to the most distant countries. Herodotus, who was himself in Tyre, relates (II. 44) that the priests in the temple of Hercules had declared the age of the city and temple to be 2,300 years. As Herodotus was in Phœnicia in the year 450 b. c., this would carry back the founding of Tyre to the year 2,750 b. c., and Movers (II. 1, p. 135) finds this quite credible. Moreover, this age in comparison with that of the oldest Egyptian things of which we have accounts, would not be a very high one. Comp. Strabo XVI. 2, 22; Curt. IV. 4. Her feet carried her afar (see on Isaiah 22:3) to dwell. It cannot be objected to our explanation that Tyre reached by ship those distant places, and that therefore not flight into regions beyond the sea, but carrying away into captivity, therefore painful migration on foot is held out in prospect to her. For it is unjustifiable to press the expression “feet,” and we dare not think on a future migration to a distance, because such a thought is here inept. It would be proper in Isaiah 23:6, and also in Isaiah 23:12 it suits the connection; but in Isaiah 23:7 it makes the impression of tautology. Isaiah 23:8. But who is he who had the power to decree this concerning the rich old Tyre of far-reaching might? The Prophet in the following verses shows a great interest in answering this question. Tyre was not merely the wearer of crowns, but also the bestower of crowns (העטיר). This can hardly mean that she herself had crowned kings. (Comp. Hiram, 2 Samuel 5:11; 1 Kings 6:1; Jeremiah 27:3). For many cities had these, which are not for this reason called coronatrices. We must, therefore, think of dependent cities, either Phœnician (therefore the king of Tyre is called Great-king, comp. VaihingerinHerzog’s,R. Encycl. XI. p. 617 sqq.), or colonial cities. Of Tartessus (Herod. 1:163; Psalms 72:10) Citium and Carthage (originally) it is expressly stated that they had kings. Comp. Gesenius on this passage, Movers,Phœn. II. 1, p. 529 sqq.; especially p. 533, 535, 539. Jeremiah too mentions besides the kings of Tyre and Zidon also מַלְכֵּי הָאִיJer 25:22. Moreover, the rich and mighty metropolis had also in her midst citizens, who, though only merchants, equalled princes in wealth, pomp and power. How exactly too the Prophet distinguishes שָׂרִים and מְלָכִים. can be seen from Isaiah 10:8. The Phœnicians called their country כְּנַעַן and themselves Canaanites. But because they were the chief representatives of trade, merchants in general are called Canaanites; as at a later period Chaldean denoted an astrologer; Lombard, a money changer; and Swiss, a porter or body guard. Observe that here כנען stands for בנעני (comp. Genesis 15:2, Damascus for Damascene). Above all this pomp and power the might of Jehovah is highly exalted. He has decreed its destruction in order to profane (חִלֵּל) the pride of all glory.—This is to happen by delivering up and casting down into the mire of the earth. From the use of the expression “profane” the conclusion has not improperly been drawn that the Prophet had especially in his mind the famous, magnificent and ancient temples of Tyre (comp. Herodotusut supra). Jehovah purposed further by the ruin of Tyre to humble all the proud (proudest) of the earth. An essential part of this humiliation is that the colonies hitherto drained of their resources for the benefit of the mother country, and kept under rigorous restraint, now become free. This is illustrated by the instance of the most remote colony Tartessus. Tarshish (Isaiah 23:10) is now told that she may be independent, and may dispose freely of her own territory and products. This verse has been explained in a great variety of ways by the old interpreters. (Comp. Rosenmueller). Since Koppe the explanation which we have given is commonly adopted. As the Nile overflows Egypt (comp. Amos 8:8; Amos 9:5) so shall Tarshish (daughter of Tarshish, comp. on Isaiah 22:4) spread herself without restraint over her own land. This must have been previously prevented; and the phrase “there is no more girdle” must have a meaning that refers to this. The word מֵזַח is found besides only Psalms 109:19. Of the same signification is מְזִיחַJob 12:21. Both words can only denote in these places the girdle. This meaning does not well suit the passage before us. But it seems to me that the Prophet by the word “girdle” intends an allusion which is unintelligible to us. Possibly an octroi-line restricting commerce for the benefit of the lords paramount, a cordon or something of a like nature, was designated by a Phœnician term cognate with the Hebrew מֵזַח. How, and by what means does the Lord execute His purpose against Tyre? This is answered in Isaiah 23:11 in general terms. He sets the sea and the kingdoms of the earth for this purpose in motion. Here as little as in Isaiah 23:4 would I understand under “Sea,” Tyre (Hitzig), or all Phœnicia Knobel); nor do I take the expression he stretched out his hand,etc., as meaning that He simply reached His hand over the sea (Delitzsch); for does the Prophet imagine Jehovah to be dwelling on the other side of the sea? But the expression “to stretch the hand over the sea” denotes here, as in Exodus 14:21 (which place the Prophet had perhaps before his eye), such an outstretching of the hand as sets the sea in motion. And so הִרְניז denotes here not to put in terror, trembling; but to put in commotion in order that they may arise to execute what the Lord commands them (Isaiah 14:16). The second part, of the verse tells for what purpose the sea and kingdoms are put in motion. The Lord has given them a commandment (צִוָּה as Isaiah 10:6 : the pronominal object being omitted, as often happens) against Canaan (בְּנַעַן = Phœnicia, as the Phœnicians themselves gave the country this designation, comp. on Isaiah 23:8) in order to destroy (לַשְׁמִיד comp. on Isaiah 3:8) its bulwarks. The meaning of the whole verse is: Land and sea will conspire to destroy the bulwarks of Tyre. Tyre shall be successfully assailed both by land and sea. But Tyre shall be destroyed not merely for the moment, but permanently (although at first not forever, Isaiah 23:15 sqq.). This is the meaning of Isaiah 23:12. Tyre had been called “joyous” Isaiah 23:7. But the rejoicing shall depart from her. She is now a מעשקה a virgo compressa, vitiata (Pual only here comp. Isaiah 52:4), and such a one does not rejoice. That Tyre is here called “daughter of Zidon,” i.e., Zidonian, is perhaps not merely a generalization of the name Zidon, but possibly at the same time a blow designedly given to the pride of Tyre, which named herself on coins “the mother of the Zidonians” (comp. Movers,Phœn. II. 1, p. 94, 119 sq.), and perhaps called herself so in the time of Isaiah. Tyre must be punished, must be destroyed. Therefore the remnant are summoned to emigrate to Cyprus, into the hitherto dependent colony of Chittim, as the command had already been given (Isaiah 23:6) to pass over to Tarshish. But Tyre arrives in Chittim, not as mistress, but as an exile without power; a situation which excites in those who had been hitherto oppressed by her the desire to revenge themselves on her. Hence even there poor Tyre finds no rest.

6. Behold, the land——is laid waste.

Isaiah 23:13-14. We had been told (Isaiah 23:11-12) in general terms how Tyre should be destroyed, and Isaiah 23:13 informs us regarding the particular instrument, i.e., regarding the people that the Lord had destined to execute punishment. We receive from Isaiah 23:13 the impression that the prophetic vision is turned in another direction. It is as if his look were suddenly diverted from west to east. He sees suddenly before him to his own astonishment the land of the Chaldeans. The land of the Chaldeans, not the people! The people he might see everywhere marching, fighting. The land he can behold only in its own place. The very part of the earth’s surface where the country of the Chaldeans lay, apart from its relation to Tyre, was of great importance for the Prophet and his people. Thence should the destroyer of Jerusalem come; there should the people of Judah pass 70 years in captivity. And because the look of the Prophet is here for the first time directed to the Chaldeans, he is prompted to characterize them in brief terms. He does this with two, but with two very significant strokes. The first describes the past, the second the future of the people. He first declares—This is the people that was not. He certainly does not mean to say thereby, that the people of the Chaldeans was not at all, or was not in the physical sense. Could the Prophet have known nothing of Nimrod (Genesis 10:10), nothing of Ur of the Chaldeans, the original home of Abraham? But prophecy, in its grand style, confines, as is well known, the whole history of the world to a few kingdoms; and what does not belong to them is regarded as if it were not. But it was after the Assyrians that the Chaldeans first came upon the theatre of the world’s history. Hence from the prophetic view of history the Chaldeans appear to us a people that hitherto was not. But why does he say הָעָם, the people? If he had said “a people,” this would not have been at all singular. There were such nations without number. But the Chaldeans do not belong to the common nations. They were a leading nation. There were then in the sense of prophecy only two leading nations, i.e., representatives of the worldly power. The one was Assyria; the other, the Chaldeans, had not yet appeared. With the second stroke אַשּׁוּר י׳ לצ׳ he describes the future of the Chaldeans. I decidedly agree here with Paulus and Del. who regard אשׁוּר as the object of יסד placed absolutely before the verb. Ashur—this has it (viz.: the Chaldean nation) set, founded for the beasts of the desert.—This view alone suits the context. If we take Ashur as the subject, then we must connect it with לאהיה as the old versions and some modern interpreters do, but contrary to the Masoretic punctuation. “This people, which is not Assyria,” will then signify either; this people will be more fortunate than the Assyrians (were under Shalmaneser against Tyre), or: this people, when it will be no more Assyrian, or: which is not civilized as the Assyrians. This suffix in יסדה is then referred by all to Tyre. It is manifest that all these explanations of לא היה אשור are arbitrary. But if we take אשור according to the accents as subject of יסדה then this will mean: “Ashur has appointed them to be dwellers of the desert, i.e., Ashur has transplanted them to the Babylonian plain, and made of mountaineers dwellers of the desert.” It is then assumed that the Chaldeans after their first migration from the Carduchian mountains, which event belongs to a very early time, were subsequently strengthened by additional settlers sent by the Assyrian kings (So Knobel, Arnold in Herzog’sR.-Enc. II., p. 628 sqq.). It is certain that there were Chaldeans in Babylonia and in the Armenian mountains. The first point needs no proof; the second point is clear from the narrative of Xenophon (Cyrop. III. 1, 34; Anab. IV. 3, 4 sqq.; V. 5, 17; VII. 8, 25) and is determined by the statements of Strabo (12:3, 18 sqq.), and of Stephanus Byzantinus (s. v.Χαλδαῖοι), and is also generally acknowledged. It is also quite possible that the Chaldeans separated at a very early time, and that one part remained in the old seats, i.e., in the Karduchian mountains, while another part, pursuing the natural routes, i.e., the river-valleys, migrated to the south, and settled on the lower Euphrates. For according to the Assyro-Babylonian monuments, here lies the mat Kaldi or Kaldu. According to them it extended to the Persian Gulf (comp. Schrader,Cuneiform Inscriptions, p. 44). With this agree the classic authors who (as Strabo XVI. 1, 6, 8) designate this border of the Gulf and the swamps in which the Euphrates loses itself as lacus Chaldaici (Pliny VI. 31; comp. Strabo XVI. 4, 1, τὰ ἕλη τὰ κατὰ Χαλδαίους). That these regions were even in very remote times peopled by the Chaldeans, is established by the fact that the ancient Ur of the Chaldeans, the home of Abraham, has been lately discovered in Mugheir, which lies south-east of Babylon on the right bank of the Euphrates. For upon all the clay tablets found there in great number, the name U-ru-u, i.e., אוּר occurs (comp. Schraderut supra, p. 383 sq.). Schrader refers further to an inscription of king Hammurabi dating from the second millennium B. C., composed in the purest Assyrian, in which he states that “II and Bel, the inhabitants of Sumir and Accad (names of tribes and territories in South Babylonia) surrendered to his rule” (ibid. p. 42). From the language of this inscription it is clear that a Semitic people then dwelt in those regions. But this can have been none other than the people of the Chaldeans. In the tenth century B. C. Asurnasirhabal speaks of the mat Kaldu as a part of his dominion (ibid. p. 44). Resting on all these grounds Schrader utters the following judgment: We can assume that since the Chaldeans immigrated in the second or third millennium B. C. into these regions on the lower Euphrates and Tigris, they were uninterruptedly the proper ruling nation, the dominant one under all circumstances. On the other hand, they were certainly not aboriginal in the country. They found already there a highly cultivated people of Cushite or Turanian extraction, from whom they borrowed the complicated cuneiform mode of writing. If the Chaldeans on the lower Euphrates and Tigris were not aboriginal, it is natural after what has been said to assume that they migrated from the territories at the source of the Euphrates and Tigris into the region at the mouth of these rivers (comp. Ewald,Hist. I., p. 404 sq.). But it is a mere hypothesis derived from this passage, and entirely without evidence, to assume a transplantation of the Chaldeans in later times by Shalmaneser. It is also very questionable whether ציִּים can denote inhabitants of the desert; for the only place which is adduced, Psalms 72:9 ought to exclude the possibility of any other interpretation, in order to be able to counterpoise the weight of all other places where the word signifies “beasts of the desert.” It is questionable, too, whether the very fertile country of Babylon could be described as צִיָהbefore it was visited by the divine judgments (comp. 13; Jeremiah 1:0). Many attempts have been made at conjectural emendations of the passage. Ewald would substitute Canaanites, and Meier, Chittim for Chaldeans. Olshausen (Emendations of the Old Testament, p. 34 sqq.) would make much greater changes. But all these attempts are capricious and unwarranted. I have already remarked that the view proposed by Paulus and Delitzsch (taking Ashur as the object of יסד placed absolutely before it) alone corresponds to the context. Only in this way is something said of the Chaldeans that briefly, but completely, characterizes them. For they are then described as the people that hitherto had not appeared as the great worldly power, but that will now supplant the Assyrians in this character. There is yet another proof of the accuracy of our view. There are in this paragraph various allusions to the ninth chapter of Amos. Three times Amos employs in that chapter the Piel צִוָּה in the signification of “appoint, order, command,” in which meaning the word occurs here also (Isaiah 23:11). Amos again (Isaiah 23:5) twice makes use of the comparison with the overflowing Nile; comp. in our paragraph, Isaiah 23:10. In Amos 9:6, as in אשׁור יסדה לציים, the object of the sentence is placed first absolutely, and then repeated by means of a feminine suffix attached to יסד. In the word Ashur the Prophet has before him the idea of the country and of the city rather than that of the people. Hence the feminine suffix to יסד. Such constructions κατὰ σύνεσινoccur in Hebrew in the most varied forms.—יסד is constituere, to found, to establish (Habakkuk 1:12; Psalms 104:8). The Chaldeans, says Isaiah, make of Ashur, i.e., the country and city, but especially the city, as it were an establishment for beasts of the desert, i.e., a place of residence appointed for them as their legitimate possession and permanent property. Finally we must point to Zephaniah 2:13 sq., as the oldest commentary on this passage. For not only does Zephaniah say clearly what יסד לציים means, but we can also regard his words as a proof of the accuracy of our view in general. For they show that Zephaniah, too, understood this passage of the destruction of Nineveh. When Zephaniah (Isaiah 2:15) says of Nineveh “This is the rejoicing city,” had he not Isaiah 23:7 of our chapter in his eye? The words “and he will stretch out his hand” (Zephaniah 2:13) recall “He stretched out his hand” (Isaiah 23:11). Comp., too, in Zephaniah 2:13צִיָּה כַמִּדְבָּר with the צִיִּים before us. If then there are clear traces that Zephaniah, when he wrote the second chapter of his prophecy, had beside other passages in Isaiah (Isaiah 13:21; Isaiah 14:23; Isaiah 34:11) also this twenty-third chapter in his mind, and if he gives in his prophecy a description of the ruined Nineveh, which by the word צִי connects itself with our passage, and appears as a more detailed description of what is only slightly indicated by Isaiah, may we not in such circumstances be permitted to affirm that Zephaniah understood the place before us as we do? Further, there is contained in Zephaniah’s reference to this passage the proof that it must have been already in existence in his time, consequently in the reign of king Josiah (624 B. C.). If now Zephaniah did not hesitate to understand this passage of the destruction of Nineveh, we will not allow ourselves to be prevented from doing the same, either by the objection of Delitzsch that this would be the only place in which Isaiah prophesies that the worldly supremacy would pass from the Assyrians to the Chaldeans, or by the objections of others who regard it as absolutely impossible that in the time of Isaiah a destruction of Tyre by the Chaldeans should have been foretold. In regard to Delitzsch’s objection, I would wish it to be remarked that the prophecy of Isaiah is related to that of those who come after him, as a nursery is to the plantations that have arisen from it. Do not the germs of the later prophecies originally he to a large extent in the prophecy of Isaiah? Such a germ we have here. The words זה העם to לציים form a parenthesis which quite incidentally, in language brief and enigmatical, and probably not understood by the Prophet himself, deposit a germ which even Nahum and Zephaniah have only partially developed. Not till the time of Jeremiah and after the battle of Car-chemish, which determined Nebuchadnezzar’s supremacy in the earth, could it be completely unfolded. And if I assume that Isaiah could already prophesy the destruction of Nineveh by the Chaldeans, I must much more affirm that he could also predict the destruction of Tyre by the same people. The Assyrian invasion undoubtedly gave occasion to this prophecy. The Assyrians had a design on Egypt. The taking of Samaria, and the attacks on Judah and on the countries lying east and west of it, were only means to that end. We perceive from Isaiah 23:3; Isaiah 23:5 that Tyre then stood in close relation to Egypt. The power of the Tyrians on the sea was naturally of the greatest importance for Egypt. The Assyrians had therefore all the more occasion for depriving Egypt of this valuable ally. Let us add, that Isaiah had then to warn Judah most emphatically against forming an alliance with Egypt. Would not Tyre also have been an object of the untheocratic hopes which the unbelieving Jews placed in Egypt the ally of Tyre? This would aptly explain to us the reason why Isaiah lifted his voice against Tyre also. Israel should trust in no worldly power, therefore not even in Tyre. Tyre too is doomed to destruction; but it will not be destroyed by the Assyrians. This might then readily have been conjectured when the Assyrians were actually engaged in hostilities with Tyre. But it was a part of the task assigned to Isaiah to counteract the dread inspired by Assyria. He therefore declares expressly: another later nation that is not yet a people, namely, the Chaldeans will destroy Tyre. What follows (Isaiah 23:15 sqq.), agrees with this. The 70 years are undoubtedly the years of the Chaldean supremacy. As we observed already, the words זה חעם to ציים (Isaiah 23:13) are to be treated as parenthetical. With הקימו the Prophet proceeds to describe the action of the people of the Chaldeans, as the appointed instrument for the destruction of Tyre. They set up his watch-towers,i.e., the many set up the watch-towers belonging to the whole body (comp. touching this change of number Isaiah 1:23; Isaiah 2:8; Isaiah 23:23, 26; Isaiah 8:20). With Isaiah 23:14 the paragraph closes as it began.


[1]Heb. silent.

[2]And it became merchandise for the nations.

[3]this and the fallowing verbs in past tense.

[4]When the report comes to Egypt, they are forthwith in terror at the report concerning Tyre.

[5]Is this your lot, O joyous city?

[6]Her feet carried her afar to dwell.

[7]the crown-giver.

[8]Heb. to pollute.

[9]Heb. girdle.

[10]Or, concerning a merchantman.

[11]Heb. Canaan.

[12]Or, strengths.

[13]See Exegetical Comment.

Verses 15-18

b) The Restoration of Tyre

Isaiah 23:15-18

15          And it shall come to pass in that day,

That Tyre shall be forgotten seventy years,
According to the days of one king:
After the end of seventy years

14Shall Tyre sing as an harlot;

16     Take an harp, go about the city,

Thou harlot that hast been forgotten:
Make sweet melody, sing many songs,
That thou mayest be remembered.

17     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.

18     And her 15merchandise 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 1617durable clothing.


Isaiah 23:15. On the form נִשְׁבַּחַת comp. Ewald, § 194 b.

Isaiah 23:17. The He of the suffix is without Mappik. Comp. Ewald, § 247 d.

Isaiah 23:18. עתיק is ἅπ. λεγ. [The word in Arabic means old and then excellent.—D. M.].


1. After 70 years, which will have a character of unity as the period of the reign of one king, the wish will be fulfilled in Tyre that is expressed in a well-known song which advises a forgotten harlot, by singing and playing in the streets of the city, to cause herself to be again remembered (Isaiah 23:15-16). The Lord will again assist Tyre, she will renew her commercial intercourse, which is compared with amorous solicitation, with all the countries of the earth (Isaiah 23:17). But the gain of her harlotry will be consecrated to the Lord, and be assigned by Him to His servants for their rich enjoyment.

2.Isaiah 23:15-16. Regarding the expression In that day comp. on Isaiah 7:18. Seventy years shall Tyre be forgotten.—This is the duration of the Chaldæan supremacy, which according to Jeremiah (comp. my remarks on Jeremiah 25:11), lasted from the battle of Carchemish to the conquest of Babylon by Cyrus, consequently according to the information we now possess, from 605 (4) till 538 B. C., or 67 years. This period of 67 years may possibly, when we have more exact knowledge, be extended to quite 70 years or thereabouts. It can, however, be taken as a round number of 70 years, according to prophetic reckoning. Tyre will be so far forgotten, as it will be lost in the great empire of the world. This period of its being forgotten shall last 70 years according to the days of one king—The expression recalls Isaiah 16:14 : Isaiah 21:16; but the meaning is different. Here the emphasis lies on אחד. The Prophet intends to declare that this period will have for Tyre a character of unity. It will happen to Tyre under the successor as under the predecessor. The change of rulers will produce no alteration. This time of seventy years, during which Tyre will be forgotten, will bear as uniform a character as if the whole period were the time of the reign of only a single king. These words make the judgment heavier; there will be no alleviation of its severity. [This interpretation is preferable to the common one which makes king stand here for kingdom or dynasty.—D. M.]. After 70 years, what in a well-known song often sung by frivolous young people, is under a certain condition set forth in prospect to a courtesan who is no longer sought after, shall be fulfilled in the case of Tyre. She shall regain the lost favor. But the Prophet intends at the same time to say that Tyre must do as the harlot in order again to attain favor. Tyre shall, after 70 years, endeavor to recover the favor of the nations, and again employ her old commercial arts in order to form business connections. And the Lord will vouchsafe success. [The translation of the latter part of Isaiah 23:15, in the text of the E. V., cannot be fairly made out of the original Hebrew. The rendering in the margin is the right one. Isaiah 23:16 is a snatch of the song of the harlot, and might have the marks of a quotation. D. M.].

3. And it shall come——clothing.

Isaiah 23:17-18. That commercial intercourse is compared with unchaste intercourse has its ground herein that the former serves Mammon and the belly (taken in the widest sense). But mammon and the belly are idols, and idolatry is fornication (comp. Nahum 3:4). Tyre will return to her hire for harlotry (Micah 1:7), and will practise fornication with all the kingdoms of the earth. And her gain (Isaiah 23:3), or her hire as a harlot, will be holy unto the Lord.—It will not be kept by the gainers and laid up in the treasury (Isaiah 39:6), or concealed, hidden in the ground (חסן as a verb only here), but it will serve those who dwell before Jehovah (not stand, for to stand before the Lord marks the service of the priests in the temple, Deuteronomy 10:8; Judges 20:28, etc.), i.e. the Israelites in general, because the territory in which they dwell is the holy land, which has the house of Jehovah for its all-dominating centre. We may ask here how it is conceivable that the Lord can restore a people on which He has inflicted judgment, in order that it may begin again its old business of fornication; and how the wages of prostitution can be consecrated to the Lord, as in Deuteronomy 23:18 it is expressly forbidden to bring “the hire of a whore” into the house of God. I believe that the passage before us, which bears in this point a great resemblance to Isaiah 19:18 sqq., belongs to those utterances which must have been obscure to the Prophet himself, because the key to their interpretation is not furnished till they are fulfilled. This fulfilment, however, seems to be afforded by the Christian Tyre, respecting which we shall say more immediately. [“Instead of a queen reinstated on the throne, Tyre appears as a forgotten harlot suing once more for admiration and reward. This metaphor necessarily imparts a contemptuous tone to the prediction. The restoration here predicted was to be a restoration to commercial prosperity and wealth, but not to regal dignity or national importance.… Notwithstanding the apparent import of the figure, the conduct of Tyre is not in itself unlawful. The figure, indeed, is now commonly agreed to denote nothing more than commercial intercourse, without necessarily implying guilt. In ancient times when international commerce was a strange thing, and nearly monopolized by a single nation, and especially among the Jews, whose laws discouraged it for wise but temporary purposes, there were probably ideas attached to such promiscuous intercourse entirely different from our own. Certain it is that the Scriptures more than once compare the mutual solicitations of commercial enterprise to illicit love. That the comparison does not necessarily involve the idea of unlawful or dishonest trade, is sufficiently apparent from Isaiah 23:18.” Alexander. D. M.].

4. In regard to the fulfilment of this prophecy we can get at the right view only when we attend carefully to the peculiarity of the prophetic vision. The Prophet does not see every thing, but only the principal matters, and he sees all the chief things which are essentially identical, not one after the other, but as it were on one surface beside each other. Hence it happens that that appears to him an immediate effect, which in reality is the result of a long course of development extending over thousands of years. Hence frequently the appearance is as if “fulfilment did not correspond to the prophecy, while yet the fulfilment only happens in another way than it seemed from the point of view of the Prophet that it ought to happen. I have, to cite an example, shown in detail in my Commentary on Jeremiah , 50, 51, that Babylon was never destroyed by the hand of man. It has been various times captured. The conquerors injured the city, the one on this, the other on that part, but none of them at once so entirely destroyed it, as, according to Jeremiah 50, 51, apparently should have been done. And yet the final, result corresponds quite to the picture which Jeremiah draws of Babylon’s destruction. The same is the case here. Isaiah affirms two separate things: 1) Tyre shall be destroyed, and that by the Chaldæans; 2) It shall be restored after 70 years, and its wealth shall be serviceable to the kingdom of God. And these announcements have also on the whole been fulfilled; but because the separate constituents of the prophecy were accomplished at various times, widely apart from one another, the fulfilment, while it corresponds to the prophetic picture as a whole, is not evident in its details. Our prophecy does not refer to the siege by Shalmaneser, because the Prophet (Isaiah 23:13) expressly declares that he has the Chaldeans in view as the enemies that would cause the ruin of Tyre. After what has been already said I cannot acknowledge that there is anything to justify an alteration of the text. But the conflicts of Shalmaneser with Tyre can have furnished the occasion for our prophecy. The object at which the Assyrian, and afterwards the Babylonian rulers aimed for the extension and security of their kingdom towards the southwest, was the conquest of Egypt. The conquest of Syria, Phenicia, Palestine, Philistia and the adjoining territories of Arabia was only in order to the attainment of that end. The possession of Phenicia, that ruled the sea, was especially of the greatest importance for the war with Egypt, because Phenicia, with its fleet in the hands of the Assyrians, could be just as useful to them as, in the service of the Egyptians, it could be hurtful to them. For this reason the Prophet (Isaiah 23:5) depicts the terror which the capture of Tyre would produce in Egypt. For that party in Jerusalem that was disposed to rely on the alliance with Egypt against Assyria, the integrity of Tyre must for this reason be a matter of prime moment. We might say: they relied on Tyre as the right arm of Egypt. As now the Prophet combated the reliance on Egypt, he must also be concerned to destroy the false hopes that were placed on Tyre. He does this in our chapter, while he represents Tyre as a city devoted by the Lord to destruction (Isaiah 23:8 sqq.). Why should Judah trust in such a power and not rather in Him who is able to decree such a doom on the nations? To set this before his people for due consideration, was certainly the practical aim of Isaiah. But we must now inquire more precisely: Did Isaiah see himself prompted to this discourse before the campaign of Shalmaneser against Tyre, during the same, or after it? It is not indeed impossible for the Prophet to have uttered this prediction before the conflicts which Shalmaneser, according to the fragment of Menander in Josephus (Antiqq. IX. 14, 2), carried on with the Tyrians; but any ground in facts for making this assumption is entirely wanting. It is also in itself not impossible for Isaiah to have composed the prophecy after the blockade of Tyre had been raised, perhaps at the same time with those prophecies against Egypt (18, 19, 20), and against the nations whose subjugation was a necessary preliminary to attacking Egypt (15, 16, Isaiah 21:11 sqq.). We might even appeal in support of this view to Isaiah 20:6, where under הָאִי הַזֶּה it would be proper to understand Phenicia and specially Tyre. But this prophecy belongs to the year 711 B. C., consequently to a time when the blockade of Tyre by Shalmaneser was long past. For Shalmaneser was in the year 722 already dead. But now it is certainly less probable that a Prophet should make a matter the subject of a prophecy at a time when this matter has been partially disposed of and engages less the general interest, than that he should do this at a time when the matter in question is going on, and is attracting the greatest attention. I therefore hold it to be more probable that our prophecy was delivered before the year 722, and that it consequently belongs to a time when the conflict with Tyre was still lasting. The prophecy published at this juncture was, moreover, intended to tell the Israelites that the Assyrians would not conquer Tyre, as then seemed likely, but that the Chaldeans would do so. The prophecy then belongs to the same time as chapter 28 (comp. the introduction to 28–33), which first assails the Egyptian alliance, and, as we will there show, must have been composed before the capture of Samaria (comp. Isaiah 28:1), and therefore before the contemporaneous blockade of Tyre (comp. Schrader,ut supra, p. 155). The blockade by Shalmaneser and his successor Sargon, although the expression ἐκαρτέρησαν in Menander would warrant our inferring a final surrender, does not seem to have been attended with consequences particularly hurtful to the Tyrians. The Assyrians were themselves interested in sparing the resources of the Tyrians, that they might use them for their own advantage. From this time till the commencement of the Chaldean wars there is a complete gap in the history of Phenicia (Movers, II., I., p. 400). That Nebuchadnezzar besieged Tyre is now no more disputed by any one. That the siege lasted thirteen years has at least great internal probability. Josephus states it on the authority of Philostratus (Antiqq. X. 11, 1) and of the Tyrian Menander (although, without expressly mentioning his name, Contra Apion, 1, 21). We have, besides, the authority of the prophet Ezekiel (26–28, Isaiah 29:16 sqq.). But the question is: Did Nebuchadnezzar also destroy Tyre? On this subject many needless words have been used by those who thought that the honor of prophecy absolutely required that Tyre should have been destroyed at once and directly by Nebuchadnezzar. This did not happen, and is by no means necessary to save the credit of prophecy. We know from Herodotus (II. 161) and Diodorus (I. 68) that the Egyptian king Apries, who was cotemporary with Nebuchadnezzar, undertook a successful expedition against the Phenicians who had hitherto been his allies. How would this be conceivable if Phenicia (to which doubtless Tyre is to be reckoned) had not been for the Egyptians the country of an enemy, i.e., a Babylonian province? According to the account already mentioned, which Josephus (Contra Apion I. 21) communicates from Tyrian sources, there arose difficulties in regard to the succession to the throne of Tyre after the thirteen years’ siege. A king Baal ruled for ten years after Itobaal, in whose reign the siege began. But then follow two judges, one high-priest, then again two judges, who govern in conjunction with a king. The duration of these governments was, in the case of some of them, very brief. At last the Tyrians procure for themselves a king from Babylon in the person of Merbaal, and after his death they obtain from the same place his brother Hiram. For, according to 2 Kings 25:28, there were, beside Zedekiah, other captive kings in Babylon. If now Nebuchadnezzar brought the royal family with him to Babylon, is not that a proof of his having conquered Tyre? (comp. Movers,ut supra, p. 460 sqq.). So much is established, that Tyre, since the close of the conflicts with Nebuchadnezzar, ceased to be an independent state. Although it was not destroyed, which would not have served the interests of the Chaldeans, it became a province of the Babylonian empire, whence it passed over into the hands of the Persians, Grecians and Romans, as Jerome on Ezekiel 27:0 says: “Quod nequaquam ultra sit regina populorum nec proprium habeat imperium, uti habuit sub Hiram et ceteris regibus, sed vel Chaldœis vel Macedonibus vel Ptolemœis et ad postremum Romania servitura sit.” The conquest by Nebuchadnezzar was the act in the world’s history which originated the complete destruction of Tyre, though its ruin was not all at once effected. This act had involved in it what should take place in the future, and this future gradually unfolded the significance of that act which was such a beginning as presaged the coming end, as was the earnest of the final doom of Tyre. Its capture by Alexander the Great (333 B. C.; comp. Curt. 4:7 sqq.; Arrian II. 24) was one of the chief events in the accomplishment of its predicted ruin. But Tyre outlived even this visitation. Curtius says expressly: “Multis ergo casibus defuncta et post excidium renata, nunc tamen longa pace cuncta refovente sub tutela Romanœ mansuetudinis acquiescit.” Who can help thinking here on the restoration which Isaiah, Isaiah 23:15 sqq., promises to the city? Isaiah indeed promises this restoration after 70 years. But these 70 years denote only the duration of the rule of the Chaldeans. The Prophet sees only one master of the Phenician capital—the Chaldeans (Isaiah 23:13). This is the relative defect in his vision. He sees too the restoration immediately after the disappearance of this one enemy. This is likewise a relative defect. For, as in reality the destruction of Tyre had many distinct stages, so also was it with the restoration. The occasion and starting point of the restoration is seen by the Prophet in the passing away of this one arch-enemy. But to Isaiah this flourishing anew of Tyre was only a revival of its commerce, and this was really the fact. Thus Jerome on Ezekiel 27:0 states that Tyre “usque hodie perseverat ut omnium propemodum gentium in illa exerceantur commercia.”Pliny, however, remarks (Hist. Nat. V. 17): “Tyrus olim clara. …. nunc omnis ejus nobilitas conchylio atque purpura constat.” Tyre became afterwards a Christian city. When our Lord was upon earth, longing souls came from the borders of Tyre and Zidon to see and to hear Him; and He, on His part, did not disdain to honor these borders with His presence (Mark 3:8; Luke 6:17; Matthew 15:21). Paul found there (Acts 21:3 sqq.) a Christian church. In the beginning of the fourth century Methodius was bishop of Tyre. In 315 a church erected there at great expense was dedicated by Eusebius of Cæsarea. In 355 a Synod convoked by the Eusebians against Athanasius was held there. In 1125 it was taken by the crusaders and incorporated in the kingdom of Jerusalem. In 1127 it became the seat of an archbishop. William of Tyre, the celebrated historian, occupied the see of Tyre from the year 1174. Not till the end of the 13th century did the Saracens destroy the fortifications. After Alexander the Great had connected Tyre with the main land by means of a mole, it ceased to be an island, and it is now a village of fishermen’s huts, with about 3,000 inhabitants (Sur). All that the Prophet announced has thus in fact been fulfilled. But in the language of prophecy and in the language of its fulfilment, divine thoughts clothe themselves in such strangely different forms that only he can perceive the identity who understands how to combine the long-drawn lines of history into one picture in perspective. This picture will exactly correspond to that of the Prophet. [The remarks of our author, when carefully studied, vindicate the Prophet from the charge of even a relative error. The Prophet does not say that the predicted restoration of Tyre should all at once take place on the expiration of seventy years, or the close of the rule of the Chaldeans. The requirement of the prophecy is satisfied if Tyre should begin to flourish after its deliverance from the Chaldean oppression. The Spirit of God again saw in the capture of Tyre by Nebuchadnezzar the germinant force which would issue in its final complete destruction, and accordingly foretells that the ruin of Tyre would follow that event. But whether this should happen at once, or in the course of time, is not declared. Nebuchadnezzar brought Tyre to ruin; for his capture of it led to its entire destruction, though there intervened a long line of operations and issues which it required many ages to develop. The remark of Abarbanel, that has been often quoted, is here in point, “that it is the custom of the prophets in their predictions to have respect at once to a near and remote period, so that prophecies pointing to very distant times are found among 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.” There is no mistake made by Isaiah in the picture which he drew. It fully served the object intended by God. The relative mistake is in the exponent of the prophecy.—D. M.]


1. On Isaiah 23:1 sqq. “Commerce and seaports are not in themselves evil—but where commerce prospers and is in full bloom, there God’s gift and ordinance are to be recognised. Solomon engaged in commerce (2 Kings 10:28). When trade declines, this is to be looked upon as a punishment from the hand of God on account of the extortion practised by merchants. For a merchant shall hardly keep himself from doing wrong, and a huckster shall not be freed from sin (Sir 27:29). Sin is committed not only where merchants deal falsely, but also where they are proud of their riches and magnificence, and move along as princes and lords, and forget the poor, and at the same time neglect divine service, God’s word and sacrament.” Cramer. [This is quite too indiscriminate a censure of merchants and traders. Cicero (De Off. Lib. 1) expresses a similar opinion as to the necessity for hucksters to practise deceit in order to make a profit. Happily the book of Ecclesiasticus is not inspired Scripture, and Christianity has so far improved the spirit of men of business that the language of the Apocrypha as quoted above and of Cicero would not now be tolerated, but would be universally regarded as most unjust and calumniatory.—D. M.]

2. On Isaiah 23:8-9. “This place affords us consolation. As the threatening of the Prophet against Tyre was not vain, so also the tyranny of our adversaries will come to an end. Neither the Pope nor the Turk believes that they can fall—but they shall fall, as Tyre fell.” Luther.

3. On Isaiah 23:18. “Ego intelligo de futuro regno Christi, quod et ipsa Tyrus convertenda est ad Dominum. Dicit igitur, postquam reversa fuerit ad suas negociationes, imminebit regnum Christi, quod Tyrus quoque amplectetur, sicut testatur Acts 21:0.” Luther.

On Isaiah 23:18. They who dwell before the Lord—i.e., who believe on Him, will have: 1) their merchandise, 2) will eat and be satisfied, 3) will be well clothed. Therefore money and property, food and goodly apparel, are not to be condemned and renounced. This admits of practical application against monkery and the Anabaptists.” Cramer. [The original Anabaptists of Germany maintained a community of goods.—D. M.]


1. [On Isaiah 23:1-14. Why did God bring these calamities on Tyre? Not to show an arbitrary and irresistible power, but to punish the Tyrians for their pride (Isaiah 23:9). Many other sins, no doubt, reigned among them: idolatry, sensuality and oppression—but the sin of pride is fastened upon as that which was the particular ground of God’s controversy with Tyre. Let the ruin of Tyre be a warning to all places and persons to take heed of pride—for it proclaims to all the world that he who exalts himself shall be abased. After Henry.—D. M.]

2. [Isaiah 23:8-9. An appropriate text for a discourse on God’s moral government over the nations, Daniel 4:3.—D. M.]

3. On Isaiah 23:18. Concerning the right use of worldly goods: 1) We ought not to gather them as a treasure, nor to hide them. 2. We ought to consecrate them to the Lord, and therefore apply them: a) to sacred objects, b) for the wants of the body according to the will of the Lord.


[14]Heb. It shall be unto Tyre as the song of an harlot.


[16]Heb. old.


Copyright Statement
These files are a derivative of an electronic edition available at Public Domain.
Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Isaiah 23". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". 1857-84.