Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, June 16th, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
For 10¢ a day you can enjoy StudyLight.org ads
free while helping to build churches and support pastors in Uganda.
Click here to learn more!

Bible Commentaries
Ezekiel 27

The Biblical IllustratorThe Biblical Illustrator

Verses 1-36

Ezekiel 27:1-36

Take up a lamentation for Tyrus.

A proud city

The men of the world are wise, choosing the fittest places for their own advantage and interest. Let us learn so much of the men of the world, to be wise for our spiritual interest, and seat ourselves near the waters of the sanctuary, that so, trading with God and Christ, we may abound with spiritual treasure.

2. Outward excellences lift up men’s hearts, beget vain confidences, and cause them to boast. This is the great wickedness of cities enriched by God, that they forget Him, and glory in external excellences.

3. No situation, strength, or outward advantage can secure proud cities.

4. Artists will put forth themselves to the utmost to show their skill. “Thy builders have perfected thy beauty”; they concealed not their art; what skill soever they had in architecture, they strove to manifest the same. (W. Greenhill, M. A.)

The sin of Tyre

To Ezekiel, as to the prophets generally, Tyre is the representative of commercial greatness, and the truth which he here seeks to illustrate is that the abnormal development of the mercantile spirit had in her case destroyed the capacity of faith in that which is truly Divine. The real god of Tyre was not Baal nor Melkarth, but the king, or any other object that might serve as a symbol of her civic greatness. Her religion was one that embodied itself in no outward ritual; it was the enthusiasm which was kindled in the heart of every citizen of Tyre by the magnificence of the imperial city to which he belonged. The state of mind which Ezekiel regards as characteristic of Tyre was perhaps the inevitable outcome of a high civilisation informed by no loftier religious conceptions than those common to heathenism. It is the idea which afterwards found expression in the deification of the Roman emperors--the idea that the state is the only power higher than the individual to which he can look for the furtherance of his material and spiritual interests, the only: power, therefore, which rightly claims his homage and his reverence. None the less, it is a state of mind which is destructive of all that is essential to living religion; and Tyre in her proud self-sufficiency was perhaps further from a true knowledge of God than the barbarous tribes who in all sincerity worshipped the rude idols which represented the invisible power that ruled their destinies. And in exposing the irreligious spirit which lay at the heart of the Tyrian civilisation the prophet lays his finger on the spiritual danger which attends the successful pursuit of the finite interests of human life. The thought of God, the sense of an immediate relation of the spirit of man to the Eternal and the Infinite, are easily displaced from men’s minds by undue admiration for the achievements of a culture based on material progress, and supplying every need of human nature except the very deepest, the need of God. The commercial spirit is indeed but one of the forms in which men devote themselves to the service of this present world; but in any community where it reigns supreme we may confidently look for the same signs of religious decay which Ezekiel detected in Tyre in his own day. At all events, his message is not superfluous in an age and country where energies are well-nigh exhausted in the accumulation of the means of living, and whose social problems all run up into the great question of the distribution of wealth. (John Skinner, M. A.)

The fate of Tyre

Why was Tyrus rebuked and stripped and humbled? Because it came to pass in the case of Tyrus, as it comes to pass in our case, that too much prosperity begets a spirit of sneering. And God will not have any sneering in His school. How did Tyrus sneer? She sneered religiously, which is the worst kind of sneering. “Because that Tyrus hath said against Jerusalem, Aha.” That “Aha” cost Tyrus her life. He who sneers at Jerusalem challenges God; he who mocks the humble poor defies high Heaven. Tyrus versus Jerusalem,--the case so limited, Jerusalem might go down; but so long as Jerusalem stands for godliness, the true worship, the right conception of things, he who offends Jerusalem has to fight Omnipotence. Can Tyrus fail? When Tyrus fails all the islands of the sea know of it: “Then all the princes of the sea shall come down,” etc. Behold them all!--princes of Polynesia coming down from their thrones, stripping themselves, themselves folding up the garments and putting them away, and then replacing the garments embroidered and golden with garments of trembling. Why? Because famed Tyrus has fallen. Howl, fir tree; for the cedar is fallen. We should learn from ruins. O vain man, poor boaster, you shall beg tomorrow! You that steep your arms to the elbows in gold shall write a begging letter ere the year closes. Riches make to themselves wings and fly away, and the great Babylon which you have builded is but a bubble in the air. Lay not up for yourselves riches where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: have riches in heaven; have riches in the word of God. See the uselessness of what is called environment. Tyrus had environment enough; her shipboards, trees of cedar; her masts made of the cedars of Lebanon; her oars of the oaks of Bashan; fine linen with broidered work from Egypt, blue and purple from the isles of Elishah; treasure upon treasure. So much for environment! We think if we had more pictures on the walls we should pray more; if we had a larger garden behind the house we should be more spiritually minded. It is not so. A man’s heaven is in his heart; a man’s hell is within. Moreover, what is environment? Who are we that we should define environment and say, Under such and such circumstances such and such moral issues would take place? Never! unless there be something more. Only the Spirit can make man right, and only Christ, according to the faith, to the Christianity which I solemnly accept, can get at the spirit with renewing and sanctifying energy. All other teachers are reformers. Christ is a Saviour. When Christ gets into a man’s heart, all the rest follows--all the cleanliness comes the same day, and on the morrow comes music, and on the third day comes the dawn of heaven. (J. Parker, D. D.)

The position of Tyre on land and sea

Part of the city was on an island, and part on the mainland. Alexander, the conqueror, was much embarrassed when he found so much of the city was on an island, for he had no ships. But his military genius was not to be balked. Having marched his army to the beach, he ordered them to tear up the city on the mainland and throw it into the water, and build a causeway two hundred feet wide to the island. So they took that part of the city which was on the mainland, and with it built a causeway of timber and brick and stone, on which his army marched to the capture of that part of the city which was on the island, as though a hostile army should put Brooklyn into the East River, and over it march to the capture of New York. That Tyrian causeway of ruins which Alexander’s army built is still there, and by alluvial deposits has permanently united the island to the mainland, so that it is no longer an island but a promontory. The sand, the greatest of all undertakers for burying cities, having covered up for the most part Baalbec and Palmyra and Thebes and Memphis and Carthage and Babylon and Luxor and Jericho, the sand, so small and yet so mighty, is now gradually giving rites of sepulture to what was left of Tyre. But, oh, what a magnificent city it once was! Mistress of the sea! Queen of international commerce! All nations casting their crowns at her feet! Where we have in our sailing vessels benches of wood, she had benches of ivory. Where we have for our masts of ships sails of coarse canvas, she had sails of richest embroidery. (T. De Witt Talmage.)

Responsibility of city rulers

Cities are not necessarily evils, as has sometimes been argued. They have been the birthplace of civilisation. In them popular liberty has lifted up its voice. Witness Genoa, Pisa, Venice. The entrance of the representatives of the cities in the legislatures of Europe was the deathblow to feudal kingdoms. Cities are the patronisers of art and literature. Cities hold the world’s sceptre. Africa was Carthage, Greece was Athens, England is London, France is Paris, Italy is Rome.

Commercial ethics are always affected by the moral or immoral character of those who have principal supremacy. Officials that wink at fraud, and that have neither censure nor arraignment for glittering dishonesties, always weaken the pulse of commercial honour.

So also of the educational interests of a city. There are cities where educational affairs are settled in the low caucus in the abandoned parts of the cities, by men full of ignorance and rum. It ought not to be so; but in many cities it is so. I hear the tramp of the coming generations. What that great multitude of youth shall be for this world and the next will be affected very much by the character of our public schools. Instead of driving the Bible out, you had better drive the Bible further in.

The character of officials in a city affects the domestic circle. In a city where grog shops have their own way, and gambling hells are not interfered with, and for fear of losing political influence officials close their eyes to festering abominations--in all those cities the home interests need to make imploration. The family circles of the city must inevitably be affected by the moral character or the immoral character of those who rule over them.

The religious interests of a city are thus affected. The Church today has to contend with evils that the civil law ought to smite; and while I would not have the civil government in anywise relax its energy in the arrest and punishment of crime, I would have a thousand-fold more energy put forth in the drying up of the fountains of iniquity. The Church of God asks no pecuniary aid from political power; but it does ask that, in addition to all the evils we must necessarily contend against, we shall not have to fight also municipal negligence. (T. De Witt Talmage.)

God’s observation of our business hours

“Thus said the Lord.” This account of the trade of Tyre intimates to us that God’s eye is upon men, and that He takes cognisance of what they do when they are employed in their worldly business, not only when they are at church, praying and hearing, but when they are in their markets and fairs, and upon the exchange, buying and selling, which is a good reason why we should in all our dealings keep a conscience void of offence, and have our eye always upon Him whose eye is always upon us. (M. Henry.)

Verses 12-23

Ezekiel 27:12-23

Tarshish was thy merchant by reason of the multitude of all kinds of riches.

The fairs of Tyre

Let us look in upon a world’s fair at Tyre. Ezekiel leads us through one department, and it is a horse fair. Underfed and overdriven for ages, the horses of today give you no idea of the splendid animals which, rearing and plunging and snorting and neighing, were brought down over the planks of the ships, and led into the world’s fair at Tyre, until Ezekiel, who was a minister of religion, and not supposed to know much about, horses, cried out in admiration, “They of the house of Togarmah traded in thy fairs with horses.” Here in another department of that world’s fair at Tyre, led on by Ezekiel the prophet, we find everything all ablaze with precious stones. Like petrified snow are the corals; like fragments of fallen sky are the sapphires; and here is a gate a-blush with all colours. What is that aroma we inhale? It is from the chests of cedar which we open, and find them filled with all kinds of fabric. But the aromatics increase as we pass down this lane of enchantment, and here are cassia and frankincense and balm. Led on by Ezekiel the prophet, we come to an agricultural fair, with a display of wheat from Minnith and Pannag, rich as that of our modern Dakota or Michigan. And here is a mineralogical fair, with specimens of iron and silver and tin and lead and gold. But, halt! for here is purple, Tyrian purple, all tints and shades, deep almost unto the black, and bright almost unto the blue; waiting for kings and queens to order it made into robes for coronation day; purple, not like that which is now made from the orchilla weed, but the extinct purple, the lost purple, which the ancients knew how to make out of the gastropod molluscs of the Mediterranean. Oh, look at those casks of wine from Helbon! See those snow banks of wool from the back of sheep that once pastured in Gilead! Oh, the bewildering riches and variety of that world’s fair at Tyre! (T. De Witt Talmage.)

Great fairs universal

But the world has copied these Bible mentioned fairs in all succeeding ages, and it has had its Louis the Sixth fair at Dagobert, and Henry the First fair on St. Bartholomew’s Day, and Hungarian fairs at Pesth, and Easter fairs at Leipsic, and the Scotch fairs at Perth (bright was the day when I was at one of them), and afterward came the London world’s fair, and the New York world’s fair, and the Vienna world’s fair, and the Parisian world’s fair, and it has been decided that, in commemoration of the discovery of America in 1492, there shall be held in this country in 1892 a world’s fair that shall eclipse all preceding national expositions. (T. De Witt Talmage.)

Damascus was thy merchant in the multitude of thy wares of thy making.

Home industries to be encouraged

It is the wisdom of a nation to encourage art and industry, and not to bear hard upon the handicraft-tradesman; for it contributes much to the wealth and honour of a nation to send abroad “wares of their own making,” which may bring them in the “multitude of riches.” (M. Henry,)

Verse 24

Ezekiel 27:24

These were thy merchants in all sorts of things.

Business troubles

Many of our business men are suffering trials and temptations from small and limited capital in business. This temptation of limited capital has ruined men in two ways. Sometimes they have sunk down under the temptation. They have yielded the battle before the first shot was fired. They blanched at the financial peril. The gloom of their countenances overshadowed even their dry goods and groceries. Despondency, coming from limited capital, blasted them. Others have felt it in a different way. They have said: “Here I have been trudging along. I have been trying to be honest, all these years. I find it is of no use. Now it is make or break.” The small craft that could have stood the stream is put out beyond the lighthouse, on the great sea of speculation. After a while the bubble bursts. Creditors rush in. The law clutches, but finds nothing in its grasp. The men who were swindled say: “I don’t know how I could ever have been deceived by that man”; and the pictorials, in handsome woodcuts, set forth the hero who in ten years had genius enough to fail for 150,000 dollars!

2. Many of our business men are tempted to over-anxiety and care. From January to December the struggle goes on. Even the Sabbath cannot dam back the tide of anxiety; for this wave of worldliness dashes clear over the churches, and leaves its foam on Bibles and prayer books. This excitement of the brain, this corroding care of the heart, this strain of effort that exhausts the spirit, sends a great many of our best men, in middle life, into the grave. Oh, I wish I could, today, rub out some of these lines of care; that I could lift some of the burdens from the heart; that I could give relaxation to some of these worn muscles! It is time for you to begin to take it a little easier. Do your best, and then trust God for the rest.

3. Many of our business men are tempted to neglect their home duties. It is often the case that the father is the mere treasurer of the family, a sort of agent to see that they have dry goods and groceries. The work of family government he does not touch. A man has more responsibilities than those which are discharged by putting competent instructors over his children, and giving them a drawing master and a music teacher.

4. Many of our business men are tempted to put the attainment of money above the value of the soul. There are men in all occupations who seem to act as though they thought that a pack of bonds and mortgages could be traded off for a title to heaven, and as though gold would be a lawful tender in that place where it is so common that they make pavements out of it. Salvation by Christ is the only salvation. Treasures in heaven are the only incorruptible treasures. (T. De Witt Talmage.)

Verse 26

Ezekiel 27:26

Thy rowers have brought thee into great waters.

“Thy rowers have brought thee into great waters”

This is truly applicable to sinners who are beginning to taste of the result of their sins--ungodly persons, who have chosen their own ways and followed their own devices, and now at last are finding that the way of transgressors is hard.

1. Certain transgressors are beginning to feel the result of wrong-doing in their circumstances. They have brought themselves from wealth to poverty by drunkenness, dishonesty, or vice.

2. Others who have not yet been afflicted by any outward providence are beginning to feel the sting of sin upon their conscience. This will, I trust, be used for their good.

3. O soul, thou art come now where thy sins compass thee about, and shut thee in on every side. Listen to me, while I speak to thee words which may seem harsh, but they are all meant in love to thee. If the waters be great today, what will they be ere long? If now thou canst not bear the wages of sin, what wilt thou do when they are paid thee in full? “What wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan?” Learn, I pray thee, this piece of timely wisdom. Thy rowers have brought thee into no quiet waters; they have found thee no harbours of delight: shall they any longer be thy rowers? Do this one thing to thine own soul if thou hast any sense left, or any pity on thyself; cry out against those who are ruining thee. Oh, that the Spirit of the Lord may help thee to break the oars and cast the rowers into the sea! Remember, also, that they have rowed thee into the stormy waters, but they cannot row thee out of them. Thou canst find no rest by continuing in sin, neither canst thou save thyself from thy present forlorn condition. O man, cry mightily unto God. He will hear thee.

I see another ship. It is not black with the grime of the world; it resembles the gilded barge of a mighty prince; but still, for all that, its rowers have brought it into great waters. This represents the self-righteous brought into distress. Many men are fondly persuaded that either they need no saving, or that they can save themselves. There is no end to the gallant show which self-righteousness can exhibit. No ship of Tyre can excel it. Yet to this glorious ship a trying voyage is appointed. Alas, my friend! thy rowers have brought thee into great waters. Think of the difficult journey which lies before you. The proposal is that you shall row yourself by your good works across yon sea of sin to the port of glory. Before you enter upon a matter it is well to count the cost. Do you not know that, if you are to be saved by obedience to the law of God, your obedience must be absolutely perfect? Look, sirs, you have been resting in your own righteousness; have you never sinned? Do you claim to have been absolutely perfect before your Maker from your childhood? Surely, you must have a brow of brass to make such a boast. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” Verily, my friend, “thy rowers have brought thee into great waters.” If thou art to be saved by thy works, see where thou art! Any one day thou mayest slip and stumble, and then what becomes of all thy past life? If this be thy style of standing before God, it is a poor standing indeed. Canst thou ever be sure that thou wilt be safe in an hour’s time? Come, my friend, canst thou be sure that thou hast done enough, and felt enough, and prayed enough, and given enough alms, and gone a sufficient number of times to the meeting house, or to the church? Canst thou be sure that it is well with thee even now? The religion of self-righteousness never proposes such a thing as security. It does not give the quiet of faith, much less the deep repose of full assurance. “Thy rowers have brought thee into great waters.” Uncertainty follows uncertainty, and the wind of fear tosses the billows of doubt.

There is a third case, the errorist in his difficulties. This is a very common sight in these wayward times. I might say to many a man who has ventured out to sea under the strong impulse of curiosity, trusting to his own proud intellect, “Thy rowers have brought thee into great waters.” The only safe course for a thoughtful man is to trust in God, and to accept the Scriptures as infallible truth. There is our anchorage. But there are men who cannot abide this; and, first of all, I think that they begin to get into great waters when they resolve to be guided by their own judgment and their own intellect, without submitting to the teachings of Christ. O my wise and thoughtful friend, do you know what will soon happen to you? You will probably fall under the domination of another’s intellect: you will become the shadow of some greater man. The man who will be guided by nobody is usually guided by someone more foolish or more knavish than himself. In the dogmas of modern thought there is not enough mental meat to bait a mousetrap: as to food for a soul, there is none of it; an ant would starve on such small gram. No atonement, no regeneration, no eternal love, no covenant: what is there worth thinking upon? “They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid Him.” They have taken away the light, the life, the love, the liberty of free grace, and they have given us nothing in the stead thereof but pretty toys, which they themselves will break before many days are past. How many who only meant to go a little from the old ways of truth have gone too far aside even for themselves! Truly, my speculative friend, “thy rowers have brought thee into great waters.”

Behold the backslider filled with his own ways. O wanderer from the Lord thy God, “thy rowers have brought thee into great waters.” You know how it begins: first of all, that holy, joyful walk with God is lost. It did not seem much merely to lose rapturous enjoyment; but it was much in itself, and it meant more. Then there came a loss of relish for the means of grace. Secret prayer was neglected, and the Bible was unread. The forms of religion were kept up longer than the enjoyment of it; but there was no life, no power in them. After that there came a general fault-finding with brethren, a quarrelling with sisters, a constant cavilling at this and that. Then there came a distaste for Christian company: godly people were too common place and prosaic. The love of something “brighter” called them away from solid conversation. Songs other than those of Zion began to be relished, and teachings not of the Bible were listened to. At last it went further: it came to actual and open sin, and ruin followed. O friend, “thy rowers have brought thee into great waters.” Oh, that He would come who owns thy barque, who shed His blood for thee! Oh, that He would step into thy vessel, and take the helm and turn thee round tonight by a great stroke of His almighty grace, and turn thy head to the port of peace! (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The east wind hath broken thee in the midst of the seas.

Broken by the east wind

In this splendid chapter the prophet describes Tyre under the image of one of her own merchant vessels. Looking at it simply as a piece of composition, what an extreme interest there is in this enumeration of the various races which were subject to this mighty city, and the lands from which she drew her supplies! We are reminded of the far-spreading colonies of the Anglo-Saxon race. We can almost hear the noise of her construction in the earlier verses, and see fine linen hoisted as her sail, whilst she is manned and piloted by her statesmen. Heavily laden with the choice merchandise of the East, she sails the seas, independent of the winds of heaven, because the galley slaves toil at treble banks of oars on either side. But their rowing brings her into great waters; she encounters the east wind, which breaks her in the heart of the sea; and in one day, pilots, rowers, men of war, and merchandise, are lost--all brought to silence in the midst of the sea. What a powerful conception of the great ship sinking in silence with all on board! One cry; the waves meet over her; and only a floating spar tells where she sank. So is it with many a life. The whole world is laid under contribution for its outfit. Bashan, Chittim, Egypt, bring their quota; and to all appearance, as it glides from its stocks upon the sea of life, a fair voyage awaits it, and large exchange of the wares of human industry and thought. But where Christ is not the Pilot, and His word not the chart, the rowers bring it into great waters, and it is broken by the east wind. O mariner! see to it that Christ is on board; for He only can still the tempest and speak peace, and guide thee out of the great waters. (F. B. Meyer, B. A.)


Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Ezekiel 27". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tbi/ezekiel-27.html. 1905-1909. New York.
Ads FreeProfile