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Bible Commentaries

Peake's Commentary on the Bible

Isaiah 23

Verses 1-18

Isaiah 23. Oracle on Tyre.— The date and authorship are alike very uncertain. If by Isaiah, the occasion may be the siege of Tyre by Shalmaneser about 727– 722 (p. 59), the historicity of which, however, is questioned by some, or Sennacherib’ s invasion in 701. The text of 13 is very suspicious, and its interpretation very uncertain, or it might have helped to fix the date. Isaiah 23:15-18 is probably a post-exilic appendix. Isaiah 23:1-14 is perhaps best referred to Nebuchadnezzar’ s siege of Tyre, 585– 577 (p. 61).

The ships of Tarshish ( Isaiah 2:16 *) are on their way back to Tyre, and after they have left Kittim, i.e. Cyprus ( Numbers 24:23 f.*), they hear the news of Tyre’ s fate from ships in flight from that city. Let the inhabitants of Phœ nicia’ s coastland ( mg.) be dumb with grief and terror, she that has been enriched by the maritime trade of Zidon. The corn harvest of Egypt, whose fertility was created by the overflow of the Nile, was her revenue, and this revenue was the gain of the nations. The sea disowns her children, and Egypt is sorely troubled at the tidings of Tyre’ s fall, whether from the loss of her market, or from foreboding that Tyre’ s fate may be her own, is uncertain. Let the Phœ nicians emigrate to Tarshish, their most distant colony. Can this be the prosperous and ancient State whose enterprise had taken her citizens to such distant lands to trade and settle in them? Who has purposed this against Tyre? Tyre, the giver of crowns, who appointed the kings that governed her colonies, whose merchants are princes. It is Yahweh, whose design it is to humble those who are exalted in the earth. (The text and meaning of Isaiah 23:10 are uncertain.) Yahweh has stretched His hand over the sea, since it is by the sea that Tyre has relation with her colonies. He has commanded that the strongholds of Phœ nicia shall be destroyed. No more shall captured Zidon rejoice. Let her pass over to Cyprus; even there she will find no rest, for the long arm of the conqueror will reach her. (On Isaiah 23:13, see below.) The poem closes much as it began.

Isaiah 23:3 . Shihor: i.e. the Nile ( Jeremiah 2:18).— mart: render “ gain.”

Isaiah 23:4 . Omit “ stronghold of the sea” as a gloss.

Isaiah 23:10 . Heb. seems to mean, Just as the Nile in time of flood flows over the land, unhindered by its banks, so now Tyre’ s colonies may assert their independence, the restraint of Tyre being removed. Usually “ the girdle” is explained as a symbol of restraint, but generally its removal is a symbol of weakness. But this is very dubious, and the LXX read differently. Duhm emends “ Wail, fleet of Tarshish, there is no haven any more.”

Isaiah 23:11 . Canaan: i.e. Phœ nicia.

Isaiah 23:13 . Extremely difficult. Heb. may be translated in various ways. Of these RV is perhaps the best, but it involves some violence. The best suggestion perhaps is that of E. Meier, that we should read Kittim for Chaldeans. The general sense is then that no rest in Kittim is possible because the Assyrians have laid it also waste. The detailed interpretation is still very uncertain.

Isaiah 23:15-18 . For seventy years Tyre will sink out of notice and carry on her lucrative trade no longer. At the end of that period she will return to her former commercial activity. Yahweh will visit her, and she will make great gain by trading with all nations, but the treasure thus acquired will be dedicated to Yahweh to support His servants.

Isaiah 23:15 . seventy years: from Jeremiah 25:11 f; Jeremiah 29:10.— the days of one king: while the throne is held by one king, there is a continuity in policy, the state of things remains settled and unchanged, whereas on his death his successor may change everything.

Isaiah 23:16 . A quotation from the song mentioned in Isaiah 23:15.

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Bibliographical Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Isaiah 23". "Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". 1919.