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Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature


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The original position of this famous city was on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean, about midway between Egypt and Asia Minor, near the north-western frontier of Palestine. It was a colony of Zidon, and was founded before the records of history.

As early as the eleventh century before the advent of Christ, the Tyrians had become famous for skill in the arts. About 1142 B.C. (), their King Hiram sent cedar-trees to Jerusalem, and workmen who built David a house. A generation later, when Solomon, preparing to build the temple, sent to the same monarch for similar assistance, he said to him (), 'Thou knowest that there is not among us any that can skill to hew timber like unto the Sidonians.' He also () sent and fetched Hiram out of Tyre, a widow's son, filled with cunning to work all works in brass. In subsequent ages, every king coveted a robe of Tyrian purple, and Ezekiel () speaks of 'the multitude of wares of its making,'—emeralds, purple, and broidered work, and fine linen, and coral, and agate.

The commerce of Tyre was commensurate with its manufactures. Situate at the entry of the sea, it became a merchant of the people for many isles. It was inhabited by seafaring men, and was styled by way of eminence 'the merchant-city,' whose merchants were princes, whose traffickers were the honorable of the earth' (). Among their other colonies, whither 'their own feet carried them afar off to sojourn,' were Cyprus, Utica, and Carthage. In Ezekiel 27, Syria, Persia, and Egypt, Spain, Greece, and every quarter of the ancient world, are portrayed hastening to lay their most precious things at the feet of Tyre, who sat enthroned on ivory, covered with blue and purple from the isles of Elishah; while the Gammadims were in her towers, hanged their shields upon her walls round about, and made her beauty perfect.

Near the close of the eighth century before the Christian era, Shalmaneser, the king of Assyria who captured Samaria, was led by cupidity to lay siege to Tyre. He cut off its supplies of water which aqueducts had furnished, but wells within the walls supplied their place; and at the end of five years he gave up his blockade as hopeless.

It was against a city such as this, so confident, and to all appearance so justifiably confident, of sitting a queen forever, that several prophets, particularly Isaiah and Ezekiel, fulminated the denunciations which Jehovah dictated. They prophesied that it should be overthrown by Nebuchadnezzar, that it should revive, but at length be destroyed and never rebuilt.

Before a generation had passed away, according to Josephus, Philostratus, and the Seder Olam, Nebuchadnezzar came up, as had been predicted (), making a fort, casting a mount, and lifting up the buckler. At the end of thirteen years (about A.M. 3422) he took the city, and Tyre was forgotten seventy years, as had been foretold by Isaiah (). In the year B.C. 332 Tyre, which had been rebuilt on an island half a mile from the shore, and had again become a flourishing emporium for all the kingdoms of the world upon the face of the earth, 'and heaped up silver as the dust, and fine gold as the mire of the streets,' was assailed by Alexander the Great in the midst of his Oriental career of conquest. It sustained a siege of seven months, and was at length taken only by means of a mole, by which the island was turned into a peninsula, and rendered accessible by land forces. In constructing this mole Alexander made use of the ruins of the old city, and thereby fulfilled two prophecies (; ). So utterly were the ruins of old Tyre thrown into the sea, that its exact site is confessedly undeterminable.

The mole of Alexander has prevented Tyre from becoming insulated again. The revival of the city was long retarded by the rivalship of the newly-founded Alexandria, and by other causes, but it was at length partially restored, and was often the subject of contest during the crusades. It was in the hands of the Europeans till 1291, when it was finally yielded to the Muslims. Its fortifications, which were almost impregnable, were demolished, and it has never since been a place of consequence. Travelers of every succeeding century describe it as a heap of ruins, broken arches and vaults, tottering walls and towers, with a few starveling wretches housing amid the rubbish. It was half ruined by an earthquake in 1837. One of the best accounts of its present appearance is given by Dr. Robinson, who spent a sabbath there in 1838 (Biblical Researches, iii. 395): 'I continued my walk,' says he, 'along the shore of the peninsula, part of which is now unoccupied, except as “a place to spread nets upon,” musing upon the pride and fall of ancient Tyre. Here was the little isle, once covered by her palaces and surrounded by her fleets: but alas! thy riches and thy fame, thy merchandise, thy mariners and thy pilots, thy caulkers, and the occupiers of thy merchandise that were in thee—where are they? Tyre has indeed become like the “the top of a rock.” The sole tokens of her more ancient splendor—columns of red and gray granite, sometimes forty or fifty heaped together, or marble pillars—lie broken and strewed beneath the waves in the midst of the sea; and the hovels that now nestle upon a portion of her site present no contradiction of the dread decree, “Thou shalt be built no more.”'





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Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Tyre'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature".

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Wednesday, June 3rd, 2020
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
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