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Take up a lamentation for Tyrus. The dirge over the merchant-city that follows, the doom sic transit gloria mundi, worked out with a fullness of detail which reminds us of the Homeric catalogue of ships ('Iliad,' 2:484-770), is almost, if not altogether, without a parallel in the history of literature. It can scarcely have rested on anything but personal knowledge. Ezekiel, we must believe, had, at some time or other in his life, trod the sinful streets of the great city, and noted the mingled crowd of many nations and in many costumes that he met there, just as we infer from Dante's vivid description of the dockyards of Venice ('Inf.,' 21.7-15) that he had visited that city. Apart from its poetic or prophetic interest, it is for us almost the locus classicus as to the geography and commerce of that old world of which Tyre was in some sense the center. We may compare it, from that point of view, with the ethnological statements in Genesis 10:1-32.; just as, from the standpoint of prophecy, it has to be compared with Isaiah's "burden" against Babylon (Isaiah 13:1-22; Isaiah 14:1-32.), and with St. John's representation of Rome as the spiritual Babylon of the Apocalypse (Revelation 18:1-24.).
We begin with the picture of the city, situate at the entry (Hebrew, entries), or harbors of the sea. Of these Tyre had two—the northern, known as the Sidonian; the southern, as the Egyptian. There she dwelt, a merchant of the peoples, that came, in the wider sense of the word (see Ezekiel 26:15), from the isles of the Mediterranean. I am perfect in beauty. The boast here put into the mouth of the city appears afterwards as the utterance of its ruler, or as applied to him (Ezekiel 28:2, Ezekiel 28:15-17). We are reminded of Genoa, la superba.
In the midst of the seas; literally, in the heart (Revised Version). The words were true of the island-city, but Ezekiel has already present to his thoughts the idealized picture of the city under the figure of its stateliest ship. The builders are ship-builders, and in the verses that follow we have a picture of the Bucentaur of the Venice of the ancient world.
Fir trees of Senti. The name appears in Deuteronomy 3:9 and Song of Solomon 4:8 as Shenir; in 1 Chronicles 5:23 it is spelt as here. From Deuteronomy 3:9 we learn that it was the Amorite name for Hermon, as Sirion was the Sidonian name. In 1 Kings 5:10 Hiram King of Tyro appears as supplying Solomon with the fir and cedar timber mentioned here for the erection of his palace, the house of the forest of Lebanon (1 Kings 7:2). The fir tree was more commonly used for ships, the cedar for houses (Virgil, 'Georg.,' 2.444). The Hebrew for "boards" is unique in its form as a plural with a dual form superadded to indicate that each plank had its counterpart on the other side of the ship.
The high plateau of Bashan, the region east of the sea of Galilee and the Jordan, now known as the Hauran, was famous then, as it is now, for its oak forests and its wild cattle (Psalms 22:12). The company of the Ashurites, etc.; better, with the Revised Version, they have made thy benches of ivory inlaid in boxwood. The Authorized Version follows the present Hebrew text, but the name of the nation there is not the same as that of the Assyrians, and corresponds with the Ashurites of 2 Samuel 2:9—an obscure tribe of Canaanites, possibly identical with the Geshurites. A difference of punctuation or spelling (Bithasshurim for Bath-asshu-rim) gives the meaning which the Revised Version follows; thasshur being used in Isaiah 41:19 and Isaiah 60:13 for the box tree, or perhaps cypress, or larch, as forming part of the glory of Lebanon. The use of ivory in ship or house building seems to have been one of the arts for which Tyre was famous. So we have the ivory palace of Ahab, after he had married his Sidonian queen (1 Kings 22:39) and those of the monarch who had married a Tyrian princess in Psalms 45:8 (see also Amos 3:15). For the use of such inlaid wood in later times, see Virgil, 'AEneid,' 10:137. Either the ivory or the wood is said to come from the isles of Chittim. The word was about as wide in its use as the "Indies" in the time of Elizabeth. Josephus ('Ant.,' 1.6. 1) identifies it with Cyprus, which perhaps retains a memorial of it in Citium. The Vulgate, as in Numbers 24:24, identifies it here with Italy, and in Daniel 11:30 translates the "ships of Chittim" as trieres et Romani, while in 1 Macc. 1:1, it is used of Greece as including Macedonia. In Genesis 10:4 the Kittim appear as descended from Javan, i.e. are classed as Greeks or Ionians. The ivory which the Tyrians used probably came from Northern Africa, and may have been supplied through Carthage or other Phoenician colonies. A supply may have come also from Ethiopia through Egypt, or from the Red Sea ports, with which the Phoenicians carried on a trade with Arabia. Inlaid ivory-work, sometimes in wood, sometimes with enamel, is found both in Egyptian and Assyrian remains ('Dict. Bible,' s.v. "Ivory").
For the fine linen of Egypt, the Byssus famous in its commerce, see Genesis 41:42; Exodus 26:36. This, which took the place of the coarse canvas of the common ships, was made more magnificent by being embroidered with purple or crimson, with gold borders. The ship of Antony and Cleopatra had purple sails, which, as they swelled out with the wind, served as a banner. The ancient ships had no flags or pennons. So the Revised Version renders, of fine linen, was thy sail, that it might be to thee for an ensign. The word for "sail" in the Authorized Version is rendered" banner" in Psalms 60:4; Isaiah 13:2, and "ensign" in Isaiah 11:12. The isles of Elishah. The name appears in Genesis 10:4 as one of the sons of Javan. It has been identified, on the ground chiefly of similarity of sound, with Ells, Hellas, or AEolia. Laconia has been suggested as being famous for the murex which supplied the purple dye. The Targum gives Italy. Sicily also has been conjectured. The murex is common all over the Mediterranean, but Cythera and Abydos are named as having been specially famous for it. Probably, as in the case of "Chittim," the word was used with considerable latitude. The latter clause of the verse describes the awning over the deck of the queenly ship. Was Ezekiel describing what he had actually seen in the state-ship of Tyro?
The two cities are named as tributaries of Tyro from which she drew her sailors, the Tyrians themselves acting as captains and pilots. Zidon (now Saida) is named in Genesis 10:15 as the firstborn of Canaan, and was older than Tyre itself (Isaiah 23:2, Isaiah 23:12). Arvad is identified with the Greek Aradus, the modern Ruad, an island about two miles from the coast, about two miles north of the mouth of the river Eleutheros (Nahr-el-Kebir). It is scarcely a mile in circumference, but was prominent enough to be named here and in Genesis 10:18; 1 Chronicles 1:16. Opposite to it on the mainland was the town of Antaradus. For mariners, the Revised Version gives rowers.
The ancients of Gebal. The word is used in the sense of "elders" or "senators," the governing body. Gebal, for which the LXX. gives Biblii, is identified with the Greek Byblus. The name appears in Psalms 83:7 in connection, among other nations, with Tyre and Asshur, as allied with them against Israel; in Joshua 13:5 as near Lebanon and Hermon; in 1 Kings 5:18 (margin Revised Version) as among the stonemasons who worked with Hiram's builders. Byblus was situated on an eminence overlooking the river Adonis between Beirut and Tripoli. Its modern name, Gebail, retains the old Semitic form, and its ruins abound in marble and granite columns of Phoenician and Egyptian workmanship. The work of the caulkers was to stop the chinks of the ship, and the men of Gebal appear to have been especially skilful in this. We note that the metaphor of the ship falls into the background in the latter clause of the verse, and does not appear again.
Persia. The name does not meet us in any Old Testament book before the exile, Elam taking its place. It was just about the time that Ezekiel wrote that the Persians were becoming conspicuous through their alliance with the Modes. So we find it again in Ezekiel 38:5; Daniel 5:28; Daniel 8:20; 2 Chronicles 36:20, 2 Chronicles 36:22; Ezra 1:1; Ezra 4:5; Esther 1:3. Here they are named as mercenaries in the Tyrian army. Lud. The LXX. and the Vulgate, led by the similarity of sound, give Lydians. In Genesis 10:13 the Ludim appear as descendants of Mizraim, while Lud in Genesis 10:22 is joined with Elam and Asshur as among the sons of Shem. Its combination with "Phut" (i.e. Libya) here and in Jeremiah 46:9 is in favor of its referring to an African nation (comp. also Ezekiel 30:5; Isaiah 66:19). Phut. Both the LXX. and the Vulgate give Libyans. In Genesis 10:6 the name is joined with Cash and Mizraim. The Lubim (Libyans) are named as forming part of Shishak's army in 2 Chronicles 12:3; 2 Chronicles 16:8, and in Nahum 3:9 and Jeremiah 46:9 as closely allied with the Egyptians. Ezekiel names Phut again as sharing in the fall of Tyre (Ezekiel 30:5), and as serving in the army of Gog (Ezekiel 38:5). Mr. R. S. Peele is inclined to identify them with the Nubians.
(For Arvad, see Ezekiel 27:8.) Gammadim. The LXX. translates "guards" (φύλακες); the Vulgate, Pygmies, probably as connecting the name with Gamad (equivalent to "a cubit"). The Targum gives "watchmen;" Gesenius, "warriors:" Hitzig, "deserters." The name probably indicates that they were the flower of the Tyrian army—the life-guards (like the "Immortals" of the Persians) of the merchant-city. On the whole, we must leave the problem as one that we have no data for solving. The grouping with Arvad, however, suggests a Syrian or Phoenician tribe. They hanged their shields. The custom seems to have been specially Phoenician. Solomon introduced it at Jerusalem (So Ezekiel 4:4). The sight of the walls thus decorated, the shields being sometimes gilt or painted, must have been sufficiently striking to warrant Ezekiel's phrase that thus the beauty of the city was "made perfect" by it. The custom reappears in 1 Macc. 4:57.
Tarahish. The description of the city is followed by a catalogue raisonnee of the countries with which she traded. Here we are on more certain ground, there being a general consensus that Tarshish, the Greek Tartessus, indicates the coast of Spain, which was pre-eminent in the ancient world for the metals named (Jeremiah 10:9). The ships of Tarshish (1 Kings 22:48; Isaiah 2:16) were the larger merchant-vessels that were made for this distant traffic. Like all such names, it was probably used with considerable latitude, and it is worth noting that both the LXX. and the Vulgate give Carthaginians. Probably the chief Phoenician colonies in Spain, notably, of course, Carthago Nova, were offshoots from Carthage, in which, by the way, we trace the old Hebrew Kirjath (equivalent to "city"). Traded in thy fairs; better, with the Revised Version, traded for thy wares; i.e. they bartered their mineral treasures for the goods brought by the Tyrian merchants. The same Hebrew word appears in Ezekiel 27:14, Ezekiel 27:16, Ezekiel 27:19, Ezekiel 27:22, Ezekiel 27:23, but is not found elsewhere in the Old Testament, and may have been a technical word in Tyrian commerce. The LXX. gives ἀγορά; the Vulgate, nundinae, which seems to have suggested the Revised Version.
Javan (father of Elishah, Tarshish, Kittim, and Dodanim, and son of Japheth, Genesis 10:2, Genesis 10:4) stands generically for Greece, and probably represents Ionia. Tubal and Meshech are sons of Japheth in Genesis 10:2, and are always grouped together, except in Psalms 120:5, where Meshech appears alone, and in Isaiah 66:19, where Tubal is named, but not Meshech. In Ezekiel 32:26 they are associated with Elam and Asshur (Assyria); in Ezekiel 38:2, Ezekiel 38:3 and Ezekiel 39:1 with Gog. The two names probably represented the tribes on the southeast coast of the Black Sea. Here the chief traffic was in slaves, the Tyrian traders probably buying them in exchange for their manufactured goods, and selling them to the cities of Greece as well as Phoenicia. In Greek history the names appear as Tibaroni and Moschi (Herod; 3.94; Xenophon, 'Anab.,' 5.5. 2, etal.). In Joel 4:6 Tyriaus are represented as selling Israelites as slaves in Greek cities (Hebrew "sons of Javan"). Thrace and Scythia were at all times the chief countries from which Greece imported her slaves. Vessels of brass. Here, as throughout the Old Testament, we should read "copper," the mixed metal which we know as "brass" not Being known to ancient metallurgy. Copper-mines were found near the Caucasus, and Euboea was also famous for them. The region was also noted for its iron.
Togarmah. The name appears in Ezekiel 38:6 as an ally of Gog, in Genesis 10:3 as a son of Gomer. Jerome identifies it with Phrygia, others with Cappadocia, but there is a wider consensus for Armenia, which was famous for its horses and mules (Xenophon, ' Anab.,' 5. 34; Strabo, 11.14. 9; Herod; 1.194).
The men of Dedan. The name occurs again in Ezekiel 27:20, and has already met us in Ezekiel 25:13 (where see note). Here the words probably refer to the many isles of the Persian Gulf or the Red Sea. So the ships of Solomon and Hiram—ships of Tarshish (name used generically for merchant-vessels)—brought ivory among their other imports, starting from Ezion-Geber (1 Kings 9:26; 1 Kings 10:22). Ebony came from Ethiopia and India. Virgil, indeed, names the latter country as the only region which produced it ('Georg.,' 2.115). Ceylon is at present one of the chief sources of supply. The LXX. curiously enough gives Rhodians, the Hebrew letters for d and r being easily mistaken by copyists.
Syria; Hebrew, Aram. The LXX. which gives ἀνθρώπους, seems to have read Adam (equivalent to "man"), another instance of the fact just referred to. And this has led many commentators (Michaelis, Ewald, Hitzig, Furst) to conjecture, following the Peshito Version, that Edom must have been the true reading. As regards the products named, we know too little of the commerce of Edom to say whether it included them in its exports, and the fact that the broidered work of Babylon had been famous from of old (Joshua 7:21), and that it was also the oldest emporium for precious stones, may be urged in favor of the present reading, and of taking Aram in its widest sense as including Mesopotamia. On the other hand, the mention of onyx, sapphire, coral, pearls, topaz, in Job 28:16-19, the local coloring of which is essentially Idumaean, supports the conjectural emendation. Emeralds (comp. Exodus 28:18). Some writers identify it with the carbuncle. It meets us again in Ezekiel 28:13. The fine linen (butz) is different from that of Ezekiel 28:7 (shesh) and appears only in the later books of the Old Testament (1 Chronicles 4:21; 2 Chronicles 3:14; Esther 1:6, etal.). It was probably the byssus of the Greeks, made of cotton, while the Egyptian fabric was of flax. Coral. The Hebrew (ramoth) occurs only here and in Job 28:18. "Coral" is the traditional Jewish interpretation, but the LXX. transliterates, and the Vulgate gives secure. Agate is found here and in Isaiah 54:12, and has been identified with the ruby or carbuncle. In Exodus 28:19 and Exodus 39:12 the English represents a different Hebrew word.
Judah and the land of Israel. The narrow strip of land occupied by the Phoenicians was unable to supply its crowded population. It was dependent on Israel for its corn and oil and the like in the days of Solomon (1 Kings 5:9-11) and continued to be so to those of Herod Agrippa (Acts 12:20). Minnith appears in Judges 11:33 as a city of the Ammonites near Heshbon, and the region of Ammon was famous for its wheat (2 Chronicles 27:5). Minnith wheat probably fetched the highest price in the Tyrian markets. Pannag is found here only. The versions, Targum, LXX; give "ointments" (μύροι), Vulgate, balsam. Most modern commentators take it as meaning sweetmeats, the syrup of grape-juice, possibly something like the modern rahat-la-koum of Turkish commerce. Possibly, like Minnith, it may have been a proper name the significance of which is lost to us. Honey was at all times one of the famous products of Palestine (Judges 14:8; 1 Samuel 14:27; Psalms 19:10; Exodus 33:3).
Damascus. The chief expert of the great capital of Syria was the wine of Helbon. The name occurs only here in the Old Testament. The LXX. gives Chel-ben; the Vulgate, as if it described the quality of the wine, vinum pingue. It has been identified with Aleppo and with Chaly-ben, but both of these places are too remote from Damascus, and Mr. J. R. Porter ('Dict. Bible,' s.v.) finds it in a place a few miles from Damascus, still bearing the name, and famous as producing the finest grapes in Syria. Strabo names the wine of Chalybon as the favorite drink of the Persian kings, and Athenaeus (Ezekiel 1:22) says the same of the wine of Damascus. The name appears in Egyptian monuments in conjunction with Kedes, as a Hittite city, and Brugsch ('Geogr. AEgypt.,' 2:45) agrees with Porter as to its position. White wool. The adjective has been taken as a proper name (Smend) "wool of Zachar,' the region being identified with Nabatheaea, which was famous for its sheep. The LXX. gives "wool of Miletus," the city most famous in Greek commerce for its woollen fabrics.
Dan also; Hebrew, Vedan. The Authorized Version, following the Vulgate, takes the first syllable as the common conjunction "and;" but no other verse in the chapter begins in this way, and the Revised Version is probably right in giving the Hebrew word as its stands. Dan, it may be added, was hardly likely to have been singled out of all the tribes after the mention of Judah and Israel, especially as it had shared in the exile of the ten tribes. Smend identifies it with Waddan, between Mecca and Medina, or with Aden. Javan, too. already named in Ezekiel 27:13, can scarcely here be Greece, though it may possibly refer to Greek traders. It also has been identified conjecturally with an Arabian city. The words, going to and fro, have been rendered "from Uzal" (Genesis 10:27), the ancient name of the capital of Yemen, in Arabia; or, as in the Revised Version, with yarn. The bright iron describes the steel used for sword-blades, for which Yemen was famous. Cassia (Exodus 30:24; Psalms 45:8) and calamus (Exodus 30:23; So Exodus 4:14) both belong to the class of perfumes for which Arabia was famous. It is probably the Acorns fragraas, the "sweet cane" of Isaiah 43:24; Jeremiah 6:20.
Dedan (see Ezekiel 27:15). Here probably we have another portion of the same race. The precious clothes for riding (Revised Version) were probably of the nature of the carpets used then as now as saddle-cloths—the ephippia of the Greeks—in Persia and other parts of Asia. Compare "ye that sit on rich carpels," in Judges 5:10 (Revised Version). So the Vulgate, tapetibus ad sedendum. The LXX. gives κτήνη ἔκλετα, as though it referred to horses.
Arabia. The word, commonly in connection with Dedan, is used in the limited sense which attaches to it in the Old Testament (2 Chronicles 9:14; Isaiah 21:13; Jeremiah 25:24)for the tribes of what in Greek and Roman geography were known as Arabia Deserts. Kedar. The name (equivalent to "black-skinned") appears as that of the second son of Ishmael (Genesis 25:13). The black tents of Kedar (Psalms 120:5; So Psalms 1:5) indicate a nomadic tribe of the Bedouin type, famous, as in Isaiah 60:7 and Jeremiah 49:28, Jeremiah 49:29, for their flocks of sheep and camels. They appear, also, as having cities and villages in Isaiah 42:11. The name is used in later rabbinic writings for all the inhabitants of Arabia.
Sheba. The Sabaea of the Greeks. It is applied, in Genesis 10:7 and 1 Chronicles 1:9, to a grandson of Cush; in Genesis 10:28 and 1 Chronicles 1:22, to a son of Joktan; and in Genesis 25:3 and 1 Chronicles 1:32, to a grandson of Abraham. Geographically, in Ezekiel's time it probably included the South-Arabian region, that of Yemen, or Arabia Felix, and was famous, as in the history of the Queen of Sheba, for its gold, gems, and spices (1 Kings 10:1, 1 Kings 10:2; Psalms 72:10, Psalms 72:15). Raamah. Named in Genesis 10:7 as father of the Cushite Sheba, and probably, therefore, connected with it ethnologically and geographically. The chief of all spices had probably a technical name, like the "principal spices" of Exodus 30:23 and So Exodus 4:14 for the genuine balsam, the product of the Amyris opobalsamum, which is found between Mecca and Medina. The precious stones includes onyx, rubies, agates, and cornelians found in the mountains of Hadramant, and the jaspers and crystals of Yemen. In the Rhammanitae, mentioned by Strabo as a Sabaean tribe (16:782), we have, perhaps, a survival of the old name.
Haran and Canaeh, etc. From Arabia we pass to Mesopotamia. Haran (Genesis 11:31) stands for the Carrhae of the Romans, situated at the point where the old military and commercial roads bifurcated Cowards Babylon and the Delta of the Persian Gulf in the one direction, and Canaan in the other. It appears in Genesis 24:10 and Genesis 29:4 as the city of Nahor, in Mesopotamia (Aram-Naharaim, equivalent to "Syria of the two rivers"), or, more definitely, in Parian-Atom, which lies below Mount Masius, between the Khabour and the Euphrates. It is famous in Roman history for the defeat of Crassus by the Parthians. Caaneh. The eastern of the two roads just mentioned ran on to Calneh (of which Cauneh is a variant), named in Genesis 10:10 as one of the cities built by Nimrod. It is probably represented by the modern Niffer, about sixty miles southeast of Babylon. It is named in Isaiah 10:9 in connection with Carehemish, in Amos 6:2 with Hamath the great, as conquered by the Assyrians. It has been conjecturally identified by the Targum and other ancient writers with Ctesiphon, but (?). Eden; spelt differently in the Hebrew from the Eden of Genesis 2:8. It is probably identical with the Eden near Thelassar (Td. Assar) of Isaiah 37:12 and 2 Kings 19:12, where, as here, it is connected with Haran as among the Assyrian conquests. Its site has not been determined, and it has been placed by some geographers in the hill-country above the Upper Mesopetamian plains; by others near the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates. The position of the Eden of Amos 1:5, near Damascus, points to a Syrian town of the same name. The merchants of Sheba. The recurrence of the name after the full mention of the people in Verse 22 arises probably from the fact that they were the carriers in the commerce between the Mesopotamian cities just named and Tyre. Asshur. The name may stand (Smend), as it commonly does, for Assyria as a country; but its juxtaposition with the names of cities has led some geographers to identify with a city Sum (Essurieh) on the west bank of the Euphrates, above Thapsacus (the Tiphsah of 1 Kings 4:24), and on the caravan-route which runs from Palmyra (the Tadmor of 2 Chronicles 8:4) to Haran. Chilmad. The name is not found elsewhere. The LXX. gives Charman, a town near the Euphrates, mentioned in Xenophon, 'Anab.,' 1.5. 10, as Charmaude. It can scarcely have been a place of much general note, but may have had some special reputation which made it prominent in Tyrian commerce.
In all sorts of things; better, with the Revised Version, in choice wares. Hebrew, articles of beauty; or, as in margin of the Authorized Version, "excellent things." The words have been variously interpreted,
(1) by Ewald, as "suits of armor;"
(2) by Keil, as "stately dresses;"
by Havernick, as "works of art" generally. The description in detail that follows is so vivid as to give the impression that Ezekiel had seen the merchants of Sheba unloading their camels and bringing out their treasures as they arrived at Tyro. The blue clothes (wrappings of blue, as in the Revised Version) were the purple robes of Babylon, which were famous all over the world. The words that follow are somewhat obscure, but are probably rightly translated by Keil, "embroidered of twisted yarn, in-wound, and strong cords for thy wares." The yarn may have been used for the cordage of the Tyrian ships. The words, made of cedar, are in this rendering taken as an adjective, equivalent to "firm" or "strong" (so Furst).
The verse beaus a new section, and glides back into the original metaphor of the ship, as in Ezekiel 27:4-9. The ships of Tarshish are used generically for merchant-ships. The catalogue of the commerce ends with Ezekiel 27:24, and the more poetic imagery reappears. It was, as centering in herself all that they brought to her that the merchant-city was very glorious in the midst of the waters. For sing of thee, read, the ships of Tarshish were thy caravans (Revised Version). The word has also the sense of "wall," as in Jeremiah 5:10 and Job 24:11; and this, describing the ships as the "wooden wails" of Tyre, gives a tenable sense here.
Thy rowers have brought thee. The metaphor goes on its course. The state-ship is in the open sea, and the east wind, the Euroclydon of the Mediterranean (Acts 27:14), blows and threatens it with destruction (comp. Psalms 48:7). In that destruction all who contributed to her prosperity were involved. The picture reminds us of the description of the ship of Tarshish in Jonah 1:4, Jonah 1:5. The city shall be left, in that terrible day, in the heart of the seas (Revised Version).
The suburbs. The word is so translated in Ezekiel 45:2, and Ezekiel 48:17, and is used of the pasture-lands round the cities of refuge in Numbers 35:2. Here it is probably used in a wider sense for the coast-lands of Phoenicia, or even for the "waves" that washed the shores of the island-city. The Vulgate gives classes (equivalent to "fleets").
And all that handle the oar, etc. The picture is, perhaps, figurative. As Tyre itself was the great state-ship, so the other ships may stand for the other Phoenician cities that beheld her downfall. Looking to the picture itself, it presents the rowers and others as feeling that, if the great ship had been wrecked, there was little hope of safety for them, and so they leave their ships and stand on the coast wailing. (For casting dust, as a sign of mourning, see Joshua 7:6; 1 Samuel 4:12; Job 2:12, et al.; for "wallowing in the dust," Jeremiah 6:26; Jeremiah 25:34; Micah 1:10-16. For the "baldness" and "sackcloth" of Verse 31, see Ezekiel 7:18.)
As in other instances of extreme sorrow, the inarticulate signs of grief pass after a time into spoken words. What city is like Tyrus, etc.? What parallel can be found in the world's history, either for her magnificence or her fall? The shipwreck of her fortunes (we are still in the region of the prophet's metaphors) would be utter and irretrievable.
A lamentation for Tyre.
In the previous chapter the prophet denounced judgment on Tyre; in this chapter he utters a lamentation over the doomed city. The one is in the spirit of vengeance, the other in the spirit of sympathy. The prophet thus reveals to us two elements in the Divine treatment of sin—first the wrath that punishes, then the tenderness that commiserates.
I. TYRE IS IN A LAMENTABLE CONDITION. At present she is wealthy and prosperous. But the prophet looks into the future and sees her doom approaching. Therefore he sings her funeral dirge while the thoughtless city still revels in luxury. Christ uttered his lament over Jerusalem before a shadow of approaching calamity had fallen on the wicked city.
1. It is lamentable to be living under a doom of destruction. In ignorance, unbelief, or carelessness, men enjoy life although they are guilty of sins that must bring down the wrath of Heaven. "As in the days that were before the Flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark" (Matthew 24:38). But to thoughtful spectators such unseemly gaiety is only a source of profound distress. Surely if men would but look up, the sword of Damocles above their heads should arrest the untimely mirth. It is fearful for the wise to be lamenting over the approaching fate which the foolish will not perceive.
2. It is more lamentable to be living in the sin that deserves this doom. Sin is worse than its punishment. Whatever men may believe about the future, the present case of the sinner is most deplorable. If he glories in his shame, that shame is only the more lamentable. The most wretched condition of the prodigal son is that before he has come to himself, when he revels insanely in his degradation.
II. THE CONDITION OF TYRE EXCITES COMMISERATION IN THE SERVANT OF GOD. Ezekiel does not merely threaten vengeance, he bewails the ill-fated city. It was the crowning fault of Jonah that he had no pity for Nineveh (Jonah 4:1). No one is fit to speak of future punishment who is not moved to tenderness by a contemplation of its woes. A harsh denunciatory style is not in harmony with the example of Hebrew prophecy, much less does it agree with the New Testament model.
1. Sin should not destroy pity, but excite it. Jerusalem was most wicked; therefore Christ wept (Luke 19:41).
2. The heathen call for our commiseration. Missionary enterprises are founded on two great motives—the claims of Christ, and the pitiable condition of the Christless. Human brotherhood should excite sympathy for the condition of the most remote. This was here seen in Judaism; much more is it to be looked for in Christianity.
3. We should be most concerned at the sin and danger of our friends. Tyre was an old ally of Israel. If the Jews had been more faithful, possibly the Phoenicians might have been saved. Our negligence may be to blame for the fate of our friends.
III. THE LAMENTATION FOR TYRE DID NOT SAVE THE CITY.
1. Lamentation will not save without repentance. The fear of future punishment will not give a means of escape from that punishment. We must go farther to a confession of sin and a desire for a better life.
2. The lamentation of others will not save the impenitent. Ezekiel's elegy did not deliver Tyre. Even Christ's tears did not save Jerusalem.
3. The cross of Christ is the supreme condition of salvation. Our own tears, a prophet's tears, even Christ's tears, will not save. But Christ's death brings deliverance for all who will have it, by atoning for sin and reconciling the sinner to God. When no prophet's lamentation will move the hardened sinner, the sight of Christ on the cross dying for him should melt him to penitence.
(last clause, "Thou hast said, I am of perfect beauty")
AEstheticism as a religion.
The craze for aestheticism has been exalted into the creed of a new religion. It is well so see once for all what this means, and how hollow, foolish, and fatal are its pretensions.
I. AESTHETICISM AS A RELIGION IS THE WORSHIP OF BEAUTY.
1. It is more than the enjoyment of beauty, which is innocent and even helpful to a right appreciation of God's wonderful works. Beauty implies harmony and refinement; it excludes everything harsh and coarse. So far it is good.
2. AEstheticism is more than the effort to produce beauty. This aim of art is good.
3. It is more also than the consecration of beauty to the service of religion. This is right; we should bring our best to God; religion should be honored with the homage rendered to it by art.
4. But aestheticism as a religion makes an idol of the sacrifice, by putting the beauty, which should be enlisted in the service of God, in the place of God himself. It is bowing the knee to beauty. It sees nothing higher than the perfection of grace and color and melody. This is as much idolatry as the Hottentot's adoration of a hideous fetish.
II. AESTHETICISM AS A RELIGION MAY BE JOINED TO THE GREATEST ERRORS. The beautiful is not always the true. There are lovely lies and there are ugly truths. By exalting the idea of the beautiful above all else, we sacrifice truth wherever the two do not agree. Thus the sterner facts of life are ignored and its less attractive duties left out of account.
III. AESTHETICISM AS A RELIGION RISKS MORALITY. It is satisfied with something lower than the beauty of holiness. If it rose to the celestial beauty, it could not afford to discard goodness, for all beauty that admits evil is corrupted with moral ugliness; but this is not perceived by the religion of aestheticism. Therefore there is a degradation of the very idea of beauty. Too often this is in danger of falling even lower, till Beauty becomes a tempter to sin.
IV. AESTHETICISM AS A RELIGION WILL NOT SATISFY THE SOUL. A man cannot live on the perpetual contemplation of a lily. Too much beauty cloys. The soul needs the sustenance of solid truth. It requires inward spiritual grace. In the hour of temptation and in the season of great sorrow the religion of beauty utterly fails. It may charm the sentimental; it has no spell for the suffering; it cannot save the fallen; it has no evangel.
V. AESTHETICISM AS A RELIGION CANNOT AVERT RUIN. Tyre was proud of her beauty and confident in it. But this was only a piece of senseless self-deception. Her imposing palaces did not keep back the invader; they rather invited his ruthless armies. She found no security in the vain boast, "I am of perfect beauty." There is no redemption in aestheticism. The sinner will not find here any refuge from the doom of his guilt. It would be a poor diet for unfallen angels; for fallen men it is assuredly no healing balm. Beauty has been brought down to shame and suffering. No culture of art or literature will lift the refined mind out of the danger that threatens "the common herd" of sinners. Cultured and rough people must come through the same strait gate of penitence and walk the same narrow way of the footsteps of Christ if they would hope for salvation.
Among the wares that the Phoenicians imported into Asia were Greek slaves. "With the persons of men … did they trade for thy wares" from Javan and elsewhere. Thus early have we a picture of that hideous traffic in human flesh which is desolating the continent of Africa in our own day.
I. THE SLAVE-TRADE IS CARRIED ON TO A TREMENDOUS EXTENT. This is no small evil. Every traveler into the interior of Africa writes of its wide prevalence; Whole provinces, vast regions as big as European kingdoms, are completely wrecked and depopulated. We are here face to face with one of the most gigantic evils of the human race.
II. THE SLAVE-TRADE IS DIABOLICALLY CRUEL. There is cruelty in the very seizing of innocent human beings, depriving them of their liberty, tearing them from their families, driving them from their native villages, and exporting them to foreign countries, there to live in perpetual bondage. But, the manner in which this process is carried out aggravates the cruelty of it immensely. No proper provision is made for the transport of great companies of men, women, and children through vast regions of African forest to the coast, and thence by sea to their destination. By far the larger portion of the stolen victims perish on the way, after suffering piteously.
III. THE SLAVE-TRADE IS AN OUTRAGE ON HUMANITY. All slaves are our fellow-men. The Greek slaves of antiquity were higher in race than their captors. But we have no reason to believe that they were treated so cruelly as the African slaves are treated by the Arabs. The modern slaves are lower in civilization than their captors—they cannot Be lower in morals. But it is the more shameful that a powerful people should oppress these children of nature. They are human, and God "hath made of one blood all nations of men" (Acts 17:26). Mankind is insulted in the person of the slaves and degraded to the level of devilry in that of their hunters.
IV. THE SLAVE-TRADE IS A WRONG IN THE SIGHT OF HEAVEN. The notion that the Arabs are civilizing Africa, and even preparing for Christianity by leading the native people out of their heathen darkness to the belief in one God and the higher life of Mohammedanism, is not encouraged by the reports of those who have witnessed what is happening on the spot. On the contrary, the enforced conversion of whole tribes who are terrorized by the slave-hunters cannot mean any real advance in religion, while the awful wickedness of the trade carried on by these Mohammedan missionaries is one of the greatest sins in the sight of God.
V. THE SLAVE-TRADE MUST BE STOPPED. NO crusade could be more needed or more blessed in its result than one that was wisely directed for the suppression of this curse of Africa. Christianity is the inspiration of philanthropy. Christ infuses an enthusiasm of humanity in his true followers. Christians should not rest till they have done all that in them lies to suppress the vile, cruel slave-trade.
Great waters of affliction.
The troubles that are to overtake Tyro in the Chaldean invasion are compared by the prophet to a sea of great waters into which the rowers have brought the ship—an image that would come home to a maritime people.
I. SOULS MAY HAVE TO ENCOUNTER GREAT WATERS OF AFFLICTION.
1. Their troubles are multitudinous. People talk of "a sea of troubles," referring to the number of distresses that they have met with.
2. Their troubles are restless. They come with changes, and they make disturbance like the ceaseless tossing and moaning of the sea.
3. Their troubles are aggressive. The great waters roll in waves, beat against the ship, sweep her deck, and threaten to dash her to pieces. Troubles are not merely negative evils like cold and darkness; they are positive in their activity, and they threaten to dash the soul to destruction.
4. Their troubles are overwhelming. The waves pour over the ship, the great waters threaten to drown the sailor.
5. Their troubles are deep. Fathoms deep the sinking ship goes down in the black, engulfing waters. So souls sink in sorrow and despair.
II. THESE GREAT WATERS OF AFFLICTION MAY BE FOUND WHERE ONLY PROSPERITY IS EXPECTED. The Phoenicians were not helpless landsmen. Familiar with the sea from their childhood, they regarded it as the highway of their commerce. Their wealth was got by trading over its waters. Yet the treacherous sea can turn against. its most trusting children. None dread it so much as sailors who have learnt its power and their own helplessness when it rises in its fury. It often happens that calamity meets a man in his most familiar haunts. Where he looks for a blessing he meets with a curse. This is possible with all earthly things. Therefore the most confident is not secure against trouble.
III. TOO OFTEN MEN BRING THEMSELVES INTO THEIR GREATEST TROUBLES. "Thy rowers have Brought thee into great waters." Instead of keeping to the sheltered. course in the lea of the cliffs, the heedless rowers have pulled out into a reach of water where the sea is running high. It is no fault of the waters that the ship is thus thrust into danger. Men rush headlong into trouble by folly and sin. They have no right to set down the consequences to the inscrutable mystery of Providence.
IV. GOD IS THE ONE REFUGE FROM THE GREAT WATERS OF AFFLICTION.
1. He may still the waters. As Christ quieted the storm on Gennesaret, so will he still tumults of trouble. Our course is to pray for help, and trust him where we can do nothing for ourselves.
2. He may draw us out of the waters. Thus David says, "He sent from above, he took me, he drew me out of many waters" (Psalms 18:16). Christ put forth his hand and saved Peter from perishing (Matthew 14:31). When circumstances cannot be altered, we may be uplifted and saved from sinking in them.
3. He may be with us on the waters. It may not be possible to alter circumstances nor to remove us from them. Then we may be strengthened to withstand them, as St. Paul's ship was strengthened when the sailors undergirded it.
"With Christ in the vessel, I smile at the storm."
An incomparable doom.
The dreadful doom of Tyre is regarded as without parallel. Consider why this is so.
I. THE GREATEST SIN BRINGS THE GREATEST DOOM. All men do not sin equally, and all will not be punished to the same extent—some with few stripes, others with many stripes. Tyre sinned grievously, therefore Tyre was to be punished grievously. It is not the man who thinks himself the lightest sinner who will certainly be let off with the smallest amount of punishment. We are not to be our own judges and the assessors of our own guilt. There will be many great surprises in the day of judgment. The heaviest doom will be for those who knew the right way and yet did not walk in it (Luke 12:47, Luke 12:48). Therefore there will be heavier penalties even than those earned by Tyre. Christ says it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for Bethsaida and Chorazin, for the heathen Phoenician cities had not the opportunities that were afforded to the Galilaean towns in which Christ had labored (Luke 10:13). If London sins like Tyre, London's doom must be greater than Tyre's, for a city of Christendom has privileges which the pagans never enjoyed.
II. THE GREATEST DOOM WILL BE FELT IN CONTRAST TO THE HIGHEST PROSPERITY. The fall of Tyre was most appalling because her previous splendor had been most imposing. Dives writhing in agony in Hades arrests attention because he was previously enjoying the greatest luxury. The contrast is not merely a striking dramatic effect for the outside observer. It produces the most intense results in the feelings of the sufferer. We feel by contrast, and the greater the contrast the keener are our feelings. Thus a millionaire brought down to destitution feels the hardships of the poor-house far more acutely than the beggar who has never been accustomed to more sumptuous fare. Souls that have tasted of Christ's grace must suffer more agonies, if they become castaways at last, than souls that have never experienced its blessedness.
III. THE GREATEST DOOM MAY BE AVERTED. These things are written for our instruction—to warn us to flee from the approaching wrath, not to paralyze us with hopeless dismay. Tyre was overthrown, and its foundations became drying-grounds for the fisherman's nets exactly as Ezekiel had predicted (Ezekiel 26:5). The threats of future punishment are equally certain so long as the sin that rouses them remains. But Christ has come to destroy the curse of sin and to free the soul from its doom. It is foolish to seek some faint encouragement from risky attempts to minimize the prospect of future punishment, and so to lull the soul to sleep in its peril. There can be no use in exaggerating the statements of Scripture, nor can there be any wisdom in making the least of them. True wisdom lies in recognizing the unspeakable horror of sin and its doom to the full, and then turning to Christ for deliverance from the sin as much as from its penalties.
A great surprise.
All the neighboring inhabitants are astonished at the terrible and unexpected fate of strong, proud Tyre. The dramatic event sends a shock of amazement through all the region round about. This great surprise is instructive.
I. MEN EXPECT THE CUSTOMARY TO CONTINUE. The intellect is conservative. Novelty is unlocked for. We believe that the future will be like the past for no other reason than that, on the whole, things seem to be stable and the course of the world uniform. But every now and then the unexpected happens, as though to warn us that things may not continue forever in their present quiet state. The antediluvians were too much accustomed to the regular rotation of the seasons to believe Noah's preaching. Vesuvius had slumbered for unknown years before the great eruption overthrew Herculaneum and Pompeii, and the consequence was that its foot was covered with buildings. People have but faint apprehensions of Divine judgment because life runs on at present in its old groove.
II. SUPERFICIAL PROSPERITY IS OFTEN MISTAKEN FOE SOLID SECURITY. Tyre was so great and rich and beautiful that her neighbors had never anticipated her downfall. There is no surprise at the destruction of poor little pastoral kingdoms like Ammon and Moab. But when a nation that is in the foremost rank of the world's progress is smitten down, men are simply confounded. Thus the destruction of Tyre surprised her neighbors, as the sack of Rome by the Goths astounded the contemporaries of St. Augustine and St. Jerome. Men have to learn that splendor is not strength, and that prosperity is not its own security.
III. PEOPLE MAY BE TAKEN FOR A TIME AT THEIR OWN ESTIMATE. Tyre boasted of her magnificence. "Thou hast said, I am of perfect beauty" (Ezekiel 27:3). She prided herself in her strong sea-walls, and until they were tested in battle none knew that they were not strong enough to withstand the shock of the northern invader. The Church is proud of her orthodoxy, her splendor, her strength, and thus she may lead simple minds to trust in her certain safety. But all such boasting brings no real strength. It goes down at a touch from hard realities. Then the deceived are dismayed. In the end the discovery brings shame on the head of the boasters.
IV. A FEARFUL CALAMITY IS ASTOUNDING. We use big words, but we fail to comprehend their meaning; and even when our own language is translated into fact we are surprised at seeing what it really meant. There is a tendency to water down the strong language of Scripture. No doubt this is largely due to a reaction against the coarse literalism of earlier ages. A revolt from descriptions of future punishment which quiet, thinking people could not believe to be true of their own familiar acquaintances, has landed us in a region of mild theology. But there are stern and terrible realities in God's judgments on that horrible thing sin. When these are witnessed assuredly they will give a great surprise to complacent people who are now content to imbibe the thinnest dilutions of Scripture doctrines of coming judgment.
HOMILIES BY J.R. THOMSON
The beauty, glory, and replenishment of the city of Tyre.
This portion of Ezekiel's writings evinces a very remarkable acquaintance with the geography and the economics of the then known world. Perhaps the prophet, living in the heart of a great Oriental monarchy, and in intercourse not only with his countrymen, but with men of various nationalities, may have acquired something more of a cosmopolitan habit of mind than was common among the Jews. Certain it is that the commercial relations of Tyre are described with singular care and minute accuracy. It is evident that, in the view of Ezekiel, every society and community of men was in some way connected with the reign of God upon earth; that whilst in a special sense Jehovah was accounted the Sovereign of the Hebrews, there was a very important sense in which all peoples were subject to Divine authority, and were the objects of Divine regard and interest. The sympathies of Ezekiel, though patriotic, were far from being narrow and provincial. He was able, by the force of historical imagination, to consider Tyre as, for a time and for a purpose, the center of the life and activity of the world. Though inspired to foretell Tyre's destruction, the prophet was by no means insensible to Tyre's beauty and splendor, to the magnificent range of the city's commerce and interests, to the importance of the city to the work and well-being of the nations. There may have been something of rhetorical art in thus dilating upon Tyre's glory in the very moment of foretelling Tyre's fall. But the religions motive was the strongest. Ezekiel wished to show that, however indispensable a city or a state may be in the view of men, God does not regard it as indispensable, and may even fulfill his purposes by bringing about its dissolution and destruction. In this brilliant sketch of the position of Tyre among the nations of the earth, we may recognize—
I. THE STATELINESS OF THE CITY'S BEAUTY.
II. THE SPLENDOUR OF THE CITY'S FLEETS.
III. THE SKILL OF THE CITY'S MARINERS.
IV. THE VALOR OF THE CITY'S ARMIES.
V. THE VASTNESS OF THE CITY'S TRADE. It is in this connection that Ezekiel introduces neighboring and even distant states, showing in detail in what manner each was connected with Tyre, what were the natural productions or manufactures which they brought to the world's great emporium. It was as a commercial port that Tyre was celebrated, and by its ships and its fearless, adventurous navigators distant lands were brought within the range of civilization.
VI. THE ABUNDANCE OF THE CITY'S WEALTH.
VII. THE GLORY OF THE CITY'S RENOWN.
VIII. THE HOLLOWNESS OF THE CITY'S PROSPERITY. NO wonder that Tyre was the envied of the nations; no wonder that men looked upon the city as secure of a long lease of opulence, of ease and luxury, of splendor, of power, and of fame. Yet beneath all this there was wanting the basis upon which alone can be surely reared the edifice of true prosperity. There was boasting and arrogance; but there was no humility, no subjection to the righteous sway of the Eternal King, no recognition of the sacred responsibilities which accompany the possession of advantages and acquisitions such as those of Tyre. Thus it was that in the time of trial the city was found incapable of enduring and of profiting by Divine discipline. It was founded, not upon the rock of righteousness and piety, but upon the shifting quick sands of worldly prosperity and renown. It fell, and great was the fall of it. "Every plant," said Jesus, "which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be plucked up."—T.
Ezekiel 27:26, Ezekiel 27:27
The metaphor employed in this passage by the poet-prophet is peculiarly appropriate. What so fitted to represent the maritime city Tyre as a gallant ship? In figurative language Ezekiel pictures the stateliness and prosperity, followed by the wreck and destruction, of the famous mistress of the seas.
I. TYRE IN ITS PROSPERITY IS LIKE A MAJESTIC AND RICHLY LADEN GALLEY. Commerce and wealth, maritime and military greatness, are characteristic of the famous Phoenician port; and these are represented as the freight of the vessel as she skims the surface of the smooth waters beneath the sunny skies.
II. TYRE IN ITS TIME OF TRIAL IS LIKE A GALLEY OVERTAKEN BY A SUDDEN AND VIOLENT TEMPEST. The vessel is built for calm weather, and is ill fitted to contend with storms. When war was waged against Tyre by "the king of kings," Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, then the power of "the queen of the seas" was put to the proof. Not that Tyre succumbed at once; the resistance offered was long and stubborn; the city was fighting for its life. It was not like a great and populous nation occupying an extensive territory, which may be vanquished, but cannot be exterminated. If the city upon the rock was captured and destroyed, Tyre was annihilated as well as conquered. Hence the severity of the struggle, which was a struggle, not for wealth and power merely, but for existence.
III. TYRE IN ITS DEFEAT AND DESTRUCTION IS LIKE A GALLEY WHICH, WITH ALL ITS CARGO, SINKS IN THE MIDST OF THE SEAS. The great waters and the east wind work their will. The rowers are powerless; skill and strength are of no avail. The richly laden vessel goes down with all her costly freight and gallant crew. Riches and magnificence, valor and experience, are powerless to save when the decree has gone forth that opportunities have been neglected, privileges have been abused, that moral laws have been violated, and that the God of nations has been defied. The lessons of history have been studied to little purpose if they have not taught us that "the Lord reigneth," that he "doeth according to his will among the inhabitants of the earth," that he "brings down the lofty from their seat." The multitude of the host and much strength are a vain refuge from the justice and the power of "the Lord of lords."—T.
The bewailing of the city.
Very picturesque and impressive is this representation of the effect produced upon the nations by the fall of Tyre. So world-wide was the city's commerce, that no people, however distant, could be unaffected by the catastrophe; and so awful was its fate, that no sensitive mind could contemplate it unmoved. To the vision of the prophet-poet, the galley labors and strains, and at last sinks in the waters of the Mediterranean. The dwellers upon the land and those who sail the sea gather together upon the shore to witness the shipwreck. Their cry and bitter wailing fill the air. Every sigma of humiliation and of mourning is exhibited by the spectators. A lamentation, a dirge, rises from the company of those deeply moved by sympathetic sorrow. They celebrate the glories of the past; they bear witness to present calamity and woe; they confess with terror that Tyre never shall be more. We trace in the demeanor and the language here depicted—
I. ASTONISHMENT AT THE SPECTACLE OF DESTRUCTION. The scene was so unexpected, so much in contradiction to all human anticipation and foresight, so revolutionary, so appalling, that amazement was the predominant emotion of those who witnessed it.
II. SENSE OF THE WORLD'S LOSS BY REASON OF THE SHIPWRECK. The earth seemed poorer for the overthrow and annihilation of Tyre—the leading seaport and commercial center of the nations. In Ezekiel 27:33 this loss is depicted, the loss alike of peoples and of kings. Riches and merchandise disappeared, engulfed with Tyre in the insatiable deep. The march of human civilization seemed to be arrested.
III. CONTRAST WITH THE REMEMBERED AND MEMORABLE PAST. Cities, like men, are sometimes best understood and appreciated when they are no more. Those who recollected Tyre's splendor would, in their old age, tell a new generation of the bygone wonders. "Who is there like Tyre, like her that is brought to silence in the midst of the sea?" The puny successors to the peerless seaport would point many a moral, and inspire many a regret for vanished glories.
IV. UNSETTLEMENT AND FOREBODING AS TO THE FUTURE. Astonishment is often associated with fear and trouble. When a vast calamity occurs, it is as if the fountains of the great deep were broken up. Men's hearts fail them for fear. What is to be the future of the world's history? What nation is secure? What throne is stable? What principle, what power, shall bear sway in coming times? There is but one answer to these questions, but one confidence that can never be shaken, "The kingdoms of the earth are the Lord's."—
HOMILIES BY J.D. DAVIES
Wreck of a stately ship.
There is a striking resemblance between a gallant ship and an empire. Many persons and orders are united in a state under one governor or captain. There is a unity amid diversity. A state, like a ship, has interchange of interests with other nations. Upon the skill and prudence of the pilot depends the prosperity of empire or ship. The whole life of Tyre was poured into the channel of commerce. Hence the figure would be readily appreciated.
I. THE COMPONENT PARTS OF THIS SHIP WERE GATHERED WORLD-WIDE. The timber was supplied from one country, iron from another, cordage from a third, sails from a fourth. Evidently God intended that nations should be linked together in interdependence. The commodities essential for civilization are wisely distributed through many lands, so that friendly intercommunion may be mutual advantage. National exclusiveness is substantial loss. No country is prosperous in the highest measure that is not willing to import learning and legislation, scientific inventions and natural products, from other lands. Tyre owed her greatness and her prosperity to a large and generous commerce. She was willing to receive from the most obscure or most distant people. The ripest sage can learn from a little child.
II. THE SHIP'S CREW. "Thy wise men, O Tyrus, that were in thee, were thy pilots." Sailors, helmsmen, and defenders were chosen of those most skilful for their particular work. Such a course is the only reasonable one; and yet, in the direction of political affairs, this course is often abandoned. Men are allowed to rule, or are chosen to rule, either in supreme or subordinate places, because of their pedigree, or their titles, or their wealth, or their arrogance. The interests of the state are imperiled, the safety of the state is jeopardized, by partiality or by partisanship. The only qualification for office is personal fitness. No one would entrust his life in a ship which was not commanded by a skilful and experienced captain.
III. THE SHIP'S BUSINESS. The proper business of a ship is usefulness. She has been constructed and manned to convey passengers and commodities from land to land. The over plus of material substance in one land may thus be conveyed to lands where lack is felt. Interchange promotes mutual advantage, mutual confidence, mutual good will. The nation so employed is a blessing to the world. Knowledge is diffused, healthy emulation is aroused, religious truth is disseminated.
IV. EVERY DETAIL OF A NATION'S COMMERCE HAS AN INTEREST IN THE MIND OF GOD. It is very noteworthy that God should have made known to Ezekiel all these particulars in the history and commerce of Tyre; for it is obvious that the prophet in Chaldea could have known them in no other way—unless, indeed, he had been there before the Captivity. Not an item in the mercantile transactions of Tyre but received the cognizance of God. Every purchase, every sale, obtained either his smile or his frown. Nor, if we reflect on the matter, need we wonder. If God takes an interest in all our personal affairs, so must he also in our united interests and in our public concerns. If he stoops to count the hairs of our head, he is only consistent with himself when he notes every legislative measure and every international transaction.
V. SELF-ESTEEM IS AN ELEMENT OF WEAKNESS. "O Tyrus, thou hast said, I am of perfect beauty." A well-built ship, well fitted and complete, is a thing of beauty. It has a charm for the eye. But herein lies a danger. If the owner be taken up with the beauty of his ship, he is prone to neglect her planks and bolts and cordage. The external brightness of a ship is no security against inward rottenness. So is it with the state politic. There may be many outward signs of prosperity—wealth, magnificence, high reputation, prosperous commerce—and yet there may be a worm at the root, a hidden leak that may founder the gallant ship. The only real element of stability is righteousness. The only true rampart of defense is the favor of Jehovah. Instead of self-esteem, there ought to be thankfulness. Instead of self-boasting, there should be trust in God.
VI. THE STOUTEST SHIP IS LIABLE TO WRECK. Every part in the construction and furniture of a ship is a human contrivance to harmonize with the forces of God in nature, and to resist what is perilous to life. Yet human contrivances are, at the best, imperfect. They cannot face, in serious battle, the material forces of God. Some simple occurrence in nature, such as a waterspout, an electric spark, or an earthquake, may shatter in a moment the staunchest ship. Sooner or later every ship finishes its career. Scarcely ever has a ship endured the natural period of a human life. If it has braved a thousand storms, it yields to natural decay, and falls to pieces in the harbor. Apart from God, there is nothing durable, nothing permanent.
VII. THE WRECK OF A NOBLE SHIP PRODUCES WIDESPREAD GRIEF. It is a spectacle distressing to the eye to see a fine ship wrecked upon a rocky coast. But as soon as the imagination takes in the full meaning of the event, the pain felt is greater. We think of the crew—all their privations and anxieties and final death. We think of desolate widows and orphaned children. We think of the loss of valuable property, the frustration of hopes, the impotence of human contrivances and skill, the blow to further enterprise, the sense of hidden danger which surrounds us all. Wider still and deeper is the terror awakened in men's minds when a flourishing empire succumbs to fierce invasion. Human hopes are crushed. Security to life and property is disturbed. A great panic spreads. Life in every place seems imperiled. If Type falls, what empire, what city, can be safe? Things material often receive rude disturbance, that we may find our security in that kingdom "which cannot be shaken."—D.
HOMILIES BY W. JONES
A celebration of remarkable prosperity.
"The word of the Lord came again unto me, saying, Now, thou son of man, take up a lamentation for Tyrus," etc. "We have here," says Hengstenberg," the lamentation over the fall of Tyre, announced in the foregoing chapter. First, its present glory is presented at full length to the view (Ezekiel 27:1-25); then its fall, the importance of which can only be understood from the knowledge of its glory. We must profoundly know the gloria mundi if we are to take to heart the sic transit gloria mundi." So the prophet sketches the riches and luxury, the power and glory, of the island-city. We have before us—
I. A CELEBRATION OF REMARKABLE PROSPERITY. Ezekiel exhibits several distinct features of the prosperity of Tyre.
1. Her advantageous situation. "Thou that dwellest at the entry [Hebrew, 'entrances'] of the sea … thy borders are in the heart of the seas." Being built on an island, the sea was accessible from every side of Tyre, and its ships might go forth into all seas with their merchandise. Those towns which are situated on navigable rivers, or on seaports, generally become rich and prosperous. The situation of Tyro was favorable both to its safety and to its commercial prosperity.
2. The grandeur of her buildings. "Thy builders have perfected thy beauty." In the architecture and construction of her edifices, Tyre occupied a distinguished position amongst the cities of her age (cf. Ezekiel 26:12, Ezekiel 26:17).
3. Her great riches, important handicrafts, and extensive commerce. In Verses 5-9 the riches of the proud city are indicated. In these verses "the state of Tyre appears under the figure of a splendid ship In the Tyrian state," says Hengstenberg, "the representation by the symbol of a ship was the more natural, as it was a maritime power. The capital lay like a ship in the midst of the sea, and was surrounded with a forest of masts." All the materials and fittings and furniture of this ship were of the best and richest materials, indicating the wealth and luxury of the Tyrians. Persons from other Phoenician cities are represented as serving in subordinate offices in the ship, while the chief offices were held by the Tyrians themselves, thus indicating that the powers of those cities were used to advance the prosperity of Tyre, while the Tyrians retained authority in their state in their own hands. Tyre was also famous for, and her prosperity was advanced by, her handicraftsmen. In both Verse 16 and Verse 18 we read of "the multitude of her handiworks." The prophet does not mention the nature of these arts and manufactures. But the Tyrians were skilful in the mechanical arts. Much beautiful artistic work in brass or copper in the temple which Solomon built was executed by Tyrian workmen (1 Kings 7:13-45). Moreover, Tyre was celebrated for the manufacture of costly robes, jewelry, etc. The wide extent of the trade of the island-city is exhibited by Ezekiel in this chapter (Verses 12-25). Without entering into the details of that account here, it will be clear to any one who will examine it that Tyre "traded with every part of the then known world, either immediately or through the medium of other nations." So great was her prosperity, riches, etc.
4. Her strong fortifications and military defenses. (Verses 10,11.) Here are walls and towns manned by mercenary soldiers for the protection of the city. There was a general tendency in commercial cities to employ mercenaries for their military service, "on account of the high wages which may be obtained by artisans in a thriving community compared with the ordinary pay of a soldier." To this tendency Tyre had conformed. In her service there were hardy mountaineers from Persia, Africans obtained through the commerce of Egypt, Phoenicians from Arvad, and the Gammadim, or valorous men, or bold champions—a designation, probably, of a troop eminent for bravery. Thus was Tyro favorably situated, splendidly built, abundant in riches, prosperous in trade, and efficiently guarded.
II. A CELEBRATION OF REMARKABLE PROSPERITY INORDINATELY GLORIED IN. "Thou, O Tyre, hast said, I am perfect in beauty" (Verse 3; cf. Isaiah 23:5, Isaiah 23:9). The Tyrians boasted themselves in their riches, prosperity, and power. In the next chapter this proud boasting is very strikingly exhibited (Verses 2-5). Pride, self-confidence, and sinful boasting the Tyrians had grown into by reason of their position, prosperity, and power. Babylon in the height of her glory and strength manifested a similar spirit. She said in her heart, "I shall be a lady forever … I am, and there is none else beside me," etc. (Isaiah 47:7, Isaiah 47:8). There is grievous sin and great danger in such pride of heart and presumption of speech. It is worse than vain for either a community or an individual to boast of worldly power or prosperity; for commanding power may soon be reduced to abject weakness, and conspicuous prosperity to deplorable destitution. "Thus saith the Lord, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might," etc. (Jeremiah 9:23, Jeremiah 9:24).
III. A CELEBRATION OF REMARKABLE PROSPERITY WITH A SIGNIFICANT OMISSION. In recounting the glories of Tyre, nothing is said of her religion or righteousness. The prophet makes no mention of her piety towards God, or her kindness or justice towards men. He praises her "for all that she had that was praiseworthy. He has nothing to say of her religion, her piety, her charity, her being a refuge to the distressed, or using her interest to do good offices among her neighbors; but she lived great, and had a great trade, and all the trading part of mankind made court to her." A nation is in a sad plight when its only glories are temporal and material, when it is not established and exalted by reverence and righteousness. In such case its glories are likely to be evanescent, its prosperity fleeting, and its power insecure.
IV. A CELEBRATION OF REMARKABLE PROSPERITY DISASTROUSLY TERMINATED. "Thy rowers have brought thee into great waters," etc. (Verses 26, 27). The figure of a ship, which was dropped while narrating the trade of Tyre, is here resumed, and her fall is depicted as a shipwreck. The great waters and the east wind, which in that district was marked by violent and continued blasts, indicate the sufferings and perils which issued in the overthrow of the proud city. Notwithstanding her secure situation, abundant riches, extensive commerce, and strong defenses, she has been reduced to ruins. "Nothing human," says Greenhill, "can protect a sinful city and people from the judgments of God. Tyrus was as strong a place as the world had; her walls, towers, ships, wise, strong men, could not do it. Tyrus was as rich a place as any under heaven—she had a multitude of riches; yet these kept her not from being brought into great waters. What power or art of man can keep off the wind from a ship when it is at sea? It is not in the power of all the seamen or mariners in the world to do it; neither can any number of men, or all men, keep off a judgment of God when it is coming upon a sinful place."
V. THE DISASTROUS TERMINATION OF REMARKABLE PROSPERITY VARIOUSLY REGARDED. (Verses 28-36.) Some would look upon the overthrow of Tyre:
1. With lamentation. "At the sound of the cry of thy pilots the suburbs shall shake," etc. (Verses 28-33). They bewail the fall of the island-city, not merely because of that catastrophe, but also because of its significance. If the queen of the sea is ruined, what city upon earth can be safe? (See our homily on Ezekiel 26:15-18.)
2. With affright. "All the inhabitants of the isles are astonished at thee, and their kings are horribly afraid, they are troubled in their countenance" (Verse 35). Alarm for their own safety would be joined with their amazement at the downfall of Tyre.
3. With scoffing. "The merchants among the peoples hiss at thee" in malicious joy. They who had been her rivals in commerce, and they who had envied her prosperity, would look upon the ruin of Type with rejoicing and scorn. Type had exulted in the destruction of Jerusalem, and when her evil day came there were those who exulted in her destruction. "The Lord is a God of recompenses, he shall surely requite."
CONCLUSION. Our subject has an impressive message to a nation like our own. In some respects we resemble the proud queen of the sea, particularly in our insular situation, our world-wide commerce, and our great power. Let us take heed that we do not resemble her in her sins—her selfishness, her self-sufficiency, her pride, her boasting. Only as our life as a nation is marked by righteousness and the fear of God have we any reliable guarantee for our continued permanence and prosperity.—W.J.
A picture of extensive commercial relations.
"Tarshish was thy merchant by reason of the multitude of all kind of riches," etc. The following topics are suggested for consideration.
I. THE DISTRIBUTION OF THE PRODUCTS OF CREATION IN THE VARIOUS COUNTRIES OF THE WORLD. We see from the verses before us that Type drew its supplies from and sent its productions to most or all the places of the then known civilized world. No country can supply its own inhabitants with all the necessaries and luxuries of life. Every country produces something which, if not needful, is desirable for other countries. No one can say to another, "I have no need of thee." In this arrangement we have an evidence of the wisdom and goodness of the Creator.
II. THE MUTUAL DEPENDENCE AND INTERCOURSE OF NATIONS ARISING OUT OF THE DISTRIBUTION OF THEIR RESPECTIVE PRODUCTS. Tyre had commercial relations with all the places mentioned in our text. Amongst these different peoples there was a mutual dependence. The interests not even of the mightiest and most extensive empire are absolutely self-contained or independent of others. The strong depend upon the weak at least for some things. Today Great Britain draws supplies for her countless and multifarious wants from every quarter and almost from every corner of the world, and sends her products to every part of the world. This mutual dependence and intercourse of nations helps forward the development and progress of mankind. It contributes to the recognition of excellence in others, though it may be of a type different from our own, to the enlargement of our views and ideas, so the promotion of peace, etc.
III. THE DUTY AND INTEREST OF NATIONS TO CULTIVATE PEACEFUL AND FRIENDLY MUTUAL RELATIONS. Mutual dependence and interests should beget mutual consideration. Misunderstandings and wars amongst nations are exceedingly prejudicial to commercial development and prosperity. Wars severely check both the cultivation and the distribution of the products of the countries which are engaged therein. They lay waste lands, they block up ports, they draw men away from peaceful and remunerative industries, and they tax national resources which might otherwise be profitably employed. A just and comprehensive view of commercial relations and the conditions of commercial prosperity would constitute a strong barrier against war and a powerful incentive to international peace and friendship.
"War's a game which, were their subjects wise,
Kings would not play at. Nations would do well
To extort their truncheons from the puny hands
Of heroes, whose infirm and baby minds
Are gratified with mischief; and who spoil,
Because men suffer it, their toy the world."
IV. THE DIVINE OBSERVATION OF COMMERCIAL RELATIONS AND PRACTICES. This minute and extensive recognition and enumeration of the dealings of Tyre with other places and peoples, in the inspired message of the prophet, implies such observation. God's law is coextensive with man's life. No province of our being and activity is beyond his authority. no transactions of our life escape his notice. Well does Matthew Henry say, "This account of the trade of Tyre intimates to us that God's eye is upon men, and that he takes cognizance 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." And Scott, "They who engage in commerce should remember that they are the servants of God, and learn to conduct their business according to the precepts of his Word, in submission to his providence, and with an aim to his glory."
V. THE SUPREME IMPORTANCE IN COMMERCE OF RIGHTEOUS PRINCIPLES AND PRACTICES. Selfish disregard of the interests of others (Ezekiel 26:2), proud boasting of her own power, prosperity, and glory (Verse 3; Ezekiel 28:2-5); and a debasing idolatry,—led to the overthrow of Tyre. Apart from righteousness, commercial and all other prosperity will pass away. Tyre was once the most famous city "in the world for trade and commerce. But," as Bishop Newton observes, "trade 'is a fluctuating thing; it passed from Tyre to Alexandria, from Alexandria to Venice, from Venice to Antwerp, from Antwerp to Amsterdam and London, the English rivaling the Dutch, as the French are now rivaling both. All nations almost are wisely applying themselves to trade; and it behooves those who are in possession of it to take the greatest care that they do not lose it. It is a plant of tender growth, and requires sun and soil and fine seasons to make it thrive and flourish. It will not grow like the palm tree, which with the more weight and pressure rises the more. Liberty is a friend to that, as that is a friend to liberty. But the greatest enemy to both is licentiousness, which tramples upon all law and lawful authority, encourages riots and tumults, promotes drunkenness and debauchery, sticks at nothing to supply its extravagance, practices every art of illicit gain, ruins credit, ruins trade, and will in the end ruin liberty itself. Neither kingdoms nor commonwealths, neither public companies nor private persons, can long carry on a beneficial flourishing trade without virtue, and[ what virtue teacheth, sobriety, industry, frugality, modesty, honesty, punctuality, humanity, charity, the love of our country, and the fear of God. The prophets will inform us how the Tyrians lost it; and the like causes will always produce like effects." ('Diss. on the Prophecies,' diss. 11)—W.J.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Ezekiel 27". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13