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TYRE’S FORMER GREATNESS, SUGGESTING A LAMENTATION OVER HER SAD DOWNFALL (Chap. 27)
EXEGETICAL NOTES.—“The lamentation commences with a picture of the glory of the city of Tyre, its situation, its architectural beauty, its military strength and defences (Ezekiel 27:3-11), and its wide commercial relations (Ezekiel 27:12-25); and then passes into mournful lamentation over the ruin of all this glory (Ezekiel 27:26-36).”—Keil.
Ezekiel 27:1-11. Introduction and description of the glory and might of Tyre.
Ezekiel 27:3. “At the entry of the sea.” This should be rendered, “by the entrances of the sea.” The description is that of insular Tyre with her two harbours, one on the north and the other on the south. The former was called the Sidonian harbour, because it was on the Sidonian side; and the latter the Egyptian, because of the direction in which it pointed. “A merchant of the people for many isles.” Rather, “the peoples unto.” Tyre is thus described as the mercantile emporium of the peoples of many sea coasts, both from the East and from the West. Thus Isaiah describes her as, “a mart of nations” (Isaiah 23:3).
Ezekiel 27:5. “They have made all thy ship boards of fir trees.” In Ezekiel 27:4-8, Tyre is described as a stately ship built of the best material, manned with the best marines and most skilful pilots. The allegory is broken off in the middle of Ezekiel 27:9, but it is resumed in Ezekiel 27:26, where this noble ship so well furnished and managed by able hands is at last wrecked in tempestuous seas.
Ezekiel 27:7. “Broidered work.” Devices were worked in the sails, so that they served also for the purpose of ensigns.
Ezekiel 27:10. “They set forth thy comeliness.” The meaning is, that Tyre must feel herself honoured in having so many nations to supply her with hired soldiers. The commercial greatness of the city rested upon a military basis.
Ezekiel 27:12-25 A description of the commerce of Tyre with all nations who delivered their productions in the market of this metropolis of the commerce of the world, and received the wares and manufactures of this city in return.
Ezekiel 27:12. “Tarshish.” This was “Tartessus,” in Spain, famed for its various metals, which were mostly exported to Tyre. It is probable that most of the “tin” was conveyed by the Phœnicians from Cornwall to Tarshish. “The enumeration of the different peoples, lands, and cities which carried on trade with Tyre commences with Tarshish in the extreme west, then turns to the north, passes through the different lands of Anterior Asia and the Mediterranean to the remotest north-east, and ends by mentioning Tarshish again, to round off the list.”—Keil.
Ezekiel 27:13. “Traded in the persons of men.” They were addicted to the slave-trade. To this day the Turkish harems are supplied with female slaves from Circassia and Georgia, such being remarkable for their beauty. Compare Joel 3:6.
Ezekiel 27:14. “House of Togarmah.” “The northern Armenians, who call themselves the house of Torgom, and claim Torgom, or Togarmah, the son of Gomer, as their founder. (Genesis 10:3; 1 Chronicles 1:6.) They inhabit the rough mountainous regions on the south side of the Caucasus. The country was celebrated for its breed of horses, which were in great request by the Persian kings.”—(Henderson).
Ezekiel 27:15. “Denda.” “An island, or commercial town in the Persian Gulf, established by the Tyrians to secure the trade of India, which abounded in ivory. The tusks resembling horns will account for the term being here employed.” “Ebony.” “Gesenius thinks the reason why this word is plural in the Hebrew, is that it was obtained only in planks split into pieces for transportation. Its great hardness made it an article of value.”—(Henderson.)
Ezekiel 27:25. “The ships of Tarshish.” “The prophet now returns from his enumeration of the various articles of commerce with which Tyre enriched herself, and the various countries with which she traded, to commemorate her fall. But just before entering upon that part of his subject, he stops for a moment to advert to her navy, by which her wares were conveyed to Spain and other coasts of the Mediterranean. The ships of Tarshish were, comparatively speaking, like our old Indiamen. They are called the walls of Tyre, for the same reason that we speak of our ships of war as the wooden walls of Old England. They were the glory and defence of the merchant city.”—(Henderson).
Ezekiel 27:26. “The east wind hath broken thee in the midst of the seas.” This wind, blowing from the direction of Lebanon, is the most violent of all in the Mediterranean (Psalms 48:8) Nebuchadnezzar is represented under this figure.
Ezekiel 27:31. “They shall make themselves utterly bald for thee.” Alluding to the Phœnician custom in mourning, which, on account of its connection with heathenish superstitions, was forbidden to Israel (Deuteronomy 14:1).
Ezekiel 27:32. “In the midst of the sea.” Thus showing that the prophecy is to be understood of insular Tyre.
Ezekiel 27:33. “Thou didst enrich the kings of the earth.” The custom dues levied on her wares were a source of wealth to the surrounding nations.
Ezekiel 27:36. “The people shall hiss at thee.” With the hiss of astonishment, as in 1 Kings 9:8.
When Tyre rejoices over Jerusalem, then the prophet rejoices over Tyre: this is the recompense of the pious. If we must not repay evil with evil, there still is with God a recompensing of evil with evil. All human and earthly things go out at last in lamentation. This is the lamentation of the spirit, that the world sows to the flesh, and of the flesh reaps corruption. With kettledrums and flutes the world begins, but it ends with wailing and misery. “We must profoundly know the gloria mundi, if we are to take to heart the sic transit gloria mundi.”—(Hengstenberg). Let no one boast of his strength or worldly elevation; how soon can the Lord, if His judgment should break forth, bring all to the dust of desolation! (Ezekiel 27:3-4; Jeremiah 9:23; Jeremiah 9:25). There is a perfection of beauty which is nothing else than ripeness for judgment. Beauty is a transient splendour, but the knowledge of the eternal, leads from glory to glory. In boasting one sees what things the heart is full of. Mark the contrast between Tyre and the daughter of the king, who is all beautiful within (Psalms 45:0). The security is very different: one is of faith, since we know that we are reconciled through Christ, and, even if the world should fall in ruin, can remain in peace; the other proceeds from unbelief, which has respect to men, walls, etc., and relies upon these. The buildings of men, and the building of God, namely, His church, against which not even the gates of hell can prevail. When people once surrender themselves to pride, pomp, and dissipation, they can hardly lay them aside again; nay, they often know not, from inconsideration and wantonness, what they should do (Deuteronomy 32:15, etc.). Every land has its peculiar gift from God, and the gifts of God must thus shamefully minister to the vanity of men. It is quite right to take into one’s service and pay qualified persons, but woe to him who makes flesh his arm, and whose heart departs from the Lord!
Men run through the wide world for the sake of merchandise, while the word of God, which makes rich without trouble, and imparts treasure which neither moth nor rust corrupts, nor can thieves steal, is so near us! The one pearl of great price Tyre did not make an article of traffic. What advantages it to gain the whole world if the soul suffers damage. Oh, how many gifts of God are in the service of sin? Great merchant-cities, great cities of sin. How often, and how many ways are men’s souls the objects of buying and selling (Ezekiel 27:13). With things perfectly beautiful man was certainly to occupy himself. But where are they to be found in the earthly sphere? (Colossians 3:2). That Tyre was so full and honoured, while Zion became always poorer and poorer, and sunk miserable—this formed a stumbling-block to the people of God, But what has become of all the fulness and glory of Tyre? Zion, on the other hand, has gloriously blossomed anew.
The glory of the earth shall become dust and ashes. The higher we reach, so much the more precipitous, and so much the deeper will be the fall. The element of our security can so easily become the element of our misery: here the sea, elsewhere gold, one’s position, &c. A person of high estate when cast down is lower than one who has always been in a humble position. The wind does not always fill our sails; it often also, and suddenly, tears them short and small. In prosperity men so rarely consider how vain it is, that in adversity they cry out the more loudly; but, alas! only upon the vanity of earthly things, and not upon the vanity of their earthly hearts. Remember that thou art dust, and bethink thyself that thou hast a soul. Fear is salutary, but there is also a fear which we again shake off, and which we do not suffer to warn us. The loss of earthly things gives such trouble and for the loss of heavenly things men will laugh! A Christian should not so mourn, but should smite his breast alike in prosperity and in adversity. Michael and Tyre (Ezekiel 27:32). Who is as thou? This it is proper to say only of God in reference to glory. In respect to nothingness, on the other hand, one of us is as another. Mournful times should be times of repentance.—The holy sense of the nil mirari. From Ezekiel 27:34 we learn, the end of earthly things, their scale value, and true estimation. All this world is nothing; how surely must there be what is something! But faith cries out of the depths to God. Contrast the glory of the children of God with the world’s glory.—(Lange).
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Ezekiel 27". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13