Judgment on Tyre

Ezekiel 26-28

Alan Lewis
Elon, North Carolina
March 2018

One of the strongest evidences for the proof of Christianity is the fulfillment of prophecy.  One fourth of the Bible is prophecy.  These prophecies are specific and detailed.  There are not one or two but hundreds of them. Many are written centuries before they took place.  This is unique among other sacred scriptures of the world’s religions.  The Bible is like no other book in the world.

The Koran does not have prophecy like the Bible. Hindu scriptures do not.  Buddhist scriptures contain no prophecies which have been fulfilled.  Only God sees the future.  God says that He declares the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10).  Critics have some questions about this chapter but, as we will see, Ezekiel made some prophecies in these chapters which were literally fulfilled.

We are in the second part of the Book of Ezekiel.  The second part of the book deals with judgment on seven nations, seven Gentile nations.  Israel has already been judged. Last week, we looked at the judgment on four of those nations (Ammon, Moab, Edom and Philistia).  Today, we come to judgment on a fifth one, Tyre.  Ezekiel gives us three chapters on Tyre.  We know it by its Greek name but the Hebrew name is Tzor.  The Arabic name is Sour (Soar).Tyre3

Tyre was a port town north of Israel on the Mediterranean coast.  The city is a hundred miles north of Jerusalem.  It was the capitol of the Phoenician Empire.  The Phoenicians have been around since 7000 BC.  You may not know this but the Phoenicians were the ones who came up with the first alphabet.  Before the Phoenician alphabet, there was just picture writing, like cuneiform and hieroglyphics.  It was not a perfect alphabet.  It only had consonants.  The Greeks later added vowels but it was the first alphabet.

Tyre was the capitol of Phoenicia.  The city does not mean a whole lot to most people today.  Most of us have never heard of the city and do not know anything about it.  If you lived in Ezekiel’s day, you would have heard of it.  It was one of the greatest cities in the ancient world.  People all over the ancient world knew about this city.  It was famous.  What was it like?

Three Characteristics of Tyre

1. It was a beautiful city.

This city was known for its beauty.  God mentions this three times in Ezekiel 27.  Say to Tyre, who dwells at the entrances to the sea, merchant of the peoples to many coastlands, thus says the Lord God: “O Tyre, you have said, ‘I am perfect in beauty.’ 4 Your borders are in the heart of the seas; your builders made perfect your beauty (27:3-4 ESV).

Men of Arvad and Helech were on your walls all around, and men of Gamad were in your towers. They hung their shields on your walls all around; they made perfect your beauty (27:11 ESV). It was one of the most beautiful cities in the world at that time.

2. It was a wealthy city

Tyre was enormously wealthy.  Ezekiel 27 says that Tyre had “great wealth of every kind” (27:12, 18 ESV).  It was the commercial center of the ancient world.  It was like the Hong Kong of the ancient world.  How did Tyre get so rich?  They got rich through trade, international trade.  Tyre was the main seaport in Phoenicia.

Tyre was the center of commerce and trade.  They were the greatest traders in the world at that time.  People from all over the world came to Tyre to trade.  They traded with everyone.  They even traded with Israel and Judah (27:17).  Twenty nations are mentioned in Ezekiel 27 who traded with Tyre.

For God to predict the destruction of Tyre would be like if He predicted the destruction of some of the wealthiest cities in our day (New York City, London or Tokyo).  This was not just the death of a city but the death of a superpower.  Tyre was an economic superpower.  Then God goes one step further and says the city will become a place where fishermen dry their nets on (26:5).  This great commercial and urban center will be turned into a place to go fishing.

So why is God destroying Tyre?  God said that He was against Tyre (26:3).  Why?  What did they do?  Is God against trade?  Is He against commercial activity, buying and selling?  Is He against wealth and prosperity?  Is He against economic success? Is He against people making a profit? No. What is the problem?  Tyre was not only a wealthy city, it was a sinful city.

3. It was a sinful city

Tyre was a pagan city.  Tyre was part of ancient Phoenicia and the Phoenicians were Canaanites.  They worshipped Baal but that is not even mentioned in this section.  What sins does Ezekiel mention?

The Two Sins of Tyre

What were the sins of Tyre?  Ezekiel mentions two of its chief sins.

1) Greed

It is not wrong to buy and sell things.  It is wrong to be covetous and greedy.  It is wrong to be materialistic.  It is wrong to trust in your riches and to think that is where your security, trusting in riches, rather than trusting in God.  It is wrong to make a god of your wealth. Paul said that “covetousness IS idolatry.” 

That is a little strange to have idolatry without idols, physical idols.  DESIRING things is not necessarily wrong.  HAVING things is not wrong.  ENJOYING things is not wrong.  Finding your ultimate source of happiness and fulfillment in things is IDOLATRY.  Many think that if they have wealth, then they have happiness.  They will have everything that need or want and often question whether they even need God.

They forget that everything that have was given to them by God.  Wealth can cause people to be blinded to their true spiritual state.  Revelation 3:17 says, “You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked” (NIV).  Many who are financially rich are spiritually poor.  That is why Jesus said, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15 ESV).

The only thing the city of Tyre thought about was money and wealth.  We see that in Ezekiel 26:1-3.

In the eleventh year, on the first day of the month, the word of the Lord came to me: 2 “Son of man, because Tyre said concerning Jerusalem, ‘Aha, the gate of the peoples is broken; it has swung open TO ME. I shall be replenished, now that she is laid waste,’ 3 therefore thus says the Lord God: Behold, I am against you, O Tyre (ESV)

What is going on here?  The Babylonians come in.  Jerusalem falls and Tyre rejoices.  Why?  Now they can get more business.  They benefited financially from Israel’s tragedy.  They made money off of disasters.

When the fall of Jerusalem took place, they thought of one thing and one thing alone, namely, how this would benefit them.  They said, “I shall be replenished, now that she is laid waste.”  Jerusalem controlled the land trade routes and Tyre controlled the sea trade routes.  Now, Tyre could get more revenue. They were already rich.  They were up to their eyeballs in wealth but now they could get richer.

There is another indication of the greed of Tyre that you might have missed.  Ezekiel 27:17 says, “Javan, Tubal, and Meshech traded with you; they exchanged human beings and vessels of bronze for your merchandise” (ESV).  Their trade was UNRIGHTEOUS (28:18).  Tyre engaged in the slave trade with Greece.  Slavery is based on greed and exploitation.  It is a way to get low cost labor.  Many think the Bible justifies slavery.  Here it is condemned.  Tyre thought that things were more important than people.

2) Pride

In our day, we use pride in a good sense.  If you are called proud in secular society it is a positive trait.  We have sitcoms called “The Proud Family.”  The Bible says that pride is something that God HATES.  He hates it in people.  Her hates it in churches.  He hates it in nations.

Two Signs of Pride

How do we know if we are proud?  What are the signs?  There are two of them.  The first sign of pride is when we overestimate our own abilities or importance.  We think we are wiser than Daniel; and no secret is hidden from us (28:3).  We almost think we are a god, like this king did and we have an inflated ego.

Paul says in Romans 12:3, “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned” (ESV).  Paul does not say, “Don’t think of yourself highly.”  He says “Don’t think of yourself MORE HIGHLY than you ought to think.”

The second sign of pride is feelings of superiority.  We look down on others.  We think we are better than others (prettier, smarter, richer, more educated, live in a bigger house, make more money, drive a nicer car).  As Americans, we often do what Tyre did.  We think we are superior to other countries, especially poor third world countries.  We believe in something called “American Exceptionalism.”  That is just a form of national pride.

The Pride of Tyre

What made the city of Tyre proud?  Where did the pride of Tyre come from?  There were several sources.

a) Its LEADER led to pride.

The word of the Lord came to me: 2 Son of man, say to the prince of Tyre, Thus says the Lord God: “Because your heart is proud, and you have said, ‘I am a god, I sit in the seat of the gods, in the heart of the seas,’ yet you are but a man, and no god, though you make your heart like the heart of a god—3 you are indeed wiser than Daniel; no secret is hidden from you; 4 by your wisdom and your understanding you have made wealth for yourself, and have gathered gold and silver into your treasuries; 5 by your great wisdom in your trade you have increased your wealth, and your heart has become proud in your wealth (28:1-5 ESV)

b) Its WEALTH lead to pride.

God said, “Your heart has become proud in your wealth” (28:5 ESV).  This still happens today.  There is nothing wrong with wealth but Jeremiah 9:23 says, “Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches.”

c) Its BEAUTY lead to pride.

They said, “I am perfect in beauty” (27:3).  There is nothing wrong with physical beauty but it can still cause pride today.

d) Its DEFENSES led to pride.

Tyre was most fortified cities in the ancient world. In fact, the word Tyre means “rock.”  It was hard to defeat militarily.  Many tried and failed.  The Assyrians put a siege on the city four times and failed The Assyrian rulers Shalmaneser V and Sargon II tried it (724–720 BC).  They did it for five years but were unsuccessful.  The Assyrian Sennacherib tried it (701 BC).  Esarhaddon tried it (671 BC) and so did Ashurbanipal (663 BC).

The Babylonians apparently did not learn the lessons of history.  They tried to do the same thing.  They put a siege around Tyre for thirteen years (586–573 BC).  The Babylonians put a siege around Jerusalem and they only lasted a year and a half.  They ran out of food and had to commit cannibalism just to survive.  The Babylonians successfully demolished the mainland city but did not completely destroy the city.

Tyre was a city in two locations. You might think of it like city and suburbs. There was mainland Tyre and island Tyre.  When Nebuchadnezzar invaded the country and wiped out the coastal city, people just fled to the island about a half a mile away and Nebuchadnezzar could not get to them.  It was an island fortress.  It was the Titanic of the ancient world but the Titanic was about to fall.

Judgment on Tyre

3 therefore thus says the Lord God: Behold, I am against you, O Tyre, and will bring up many nations against you, as the sea brings up its waves. 4 They shall destroy the walls of Tyre and break down her towers, and I will scrape her soil from her and make her a bare rock. 5 She shall be in the midst of the sea a place for the spreading of nets, for I have spoken, declares the Lord God. And she shall become plunder for the nations, 6 and her daughters on the mainland shall be killed by the sword. Then they will know that I am the Lord.

7 “For thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will bring against Tyre from the north Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, king of kings, with horses and chariots, and with horsemen and a host of many soldiers. 8 He will kill with the sword your daughters on the mainland. He will set up a siege wall against you and throw up a mound against you, and raise a roof of shields against you. 9 He will direct the shock of his battering rams against your walls, and with his axes he will break down your towers.

10 His horses will be so many that their dust will cover you. Your walls will shake at the noise of the horsemen and wagons and chariots, when he enters your gates as men enter a city that has been breached. 11 With the hoofs of his horses he will trample all your streets. He will kill your people with the sword, and your mighty pillars will fall to the ground. 12 They will plunder your riches and loot your merchandise. They will break down your walls and destroy your pleasant houses. Your stones and timber and soil they will cast into the midst of the waters. (26:3-12 ESV)

Every one of these prophecies was literally fulfilled but it was not fulfilled the way we might have expected.  Destruction came by means of invasion.  The one who started the invasion of Nebuchadnezzar.  He is called “king of kings”.  He came with chariots, horsemen and a lot of soldiers, set up a siege wall and broke down their towers and killed people.

God said that He would bring up many nations against Tyre, as the sea brings up its waves (26:3).  Many nations (not one nation) would be used in the cities destruction.  These nations were foreign nations.  God said that they would be ruthless nations (28:7).  These were extremely violent.  They were cruel and barbaric.  They killed children.  They raped women.  They slaughtered people.

Waves implies a series of nation.  Ezekiel predicted that there would be nation after nation attacking Tyre like waves crashing on the sea shore.  Nebuchadnezzar was just the first wave of attack.  Tyre was invaded six different times.  It was invaded by the Babylonians, Persians, Macedonians, Romans, Egyptians, and the Seleucids.

The Babylonians fulfilled the first part of the prophecy.  Nebuchadnezzar wiped out the coastal Tyre in the 6th century BC.  The Greeks fulfilled the second part of the prophecy.  Alexander the Great destroyed island Tyre.  He did not have a navy but his engineers built a land bridge from the mainland to the island.  They threw the stones into the midst of the sea, just like Ezekiel predicted.  How did he know that this would happen?  It took place two hundred and fifty years after the time of Nebuchadnezzar.Siege_tryre

Is This a False Prophecy?

Critics say that what Ezekiel said about Tyre never happened.  Ezekiel said that the city would be wiped out, destroyed and NEVER rebuilt (26:14) but there is only one problem.  It did not seem to happen in Ezekiel’s day or after his time.  Jesus went to Tyre.  He visited Tyre.  He healed people in Tyre.

That was where the Syrophoenician woman, who Jesus healed,  lived.  Mark 7:24 says, “And from there he arose and went away to the region of Tyre and Sidon And he entered a house and did not want anyone to know, yet he could not be hidden” (ESV)

In fact, the city exists to this very day.  You can visit Tyre today.  You can go to Tyre, Lebanon. It is in southern Lebanon. It is still one of Lebanon’s most beautiful cities. It is apparently the fourth largest city in Lebanon.  How do you answer the critics?  Did Ezekiel make a mistake?  No. I would make three observations

1) The modern city of Tyre is not on the site of the ancient city.

It is near the ancient site but not identical to it.  No city has been rebuilt over these ruins.  You can go online and see the ancient ruins.[1]

2) Alexandrian Tyre is not Phoenician Tyre.

Alexander the great rebuilt the city but it was no longer Phoenician Tyre.  Phoenician Tyre is gone forever, never to be rebuilt.  Alexander replaced it with a colony of Greeks.  It has the same name but it is another city.

3) The modern city of Tyre is not anything like the ancient city.

There is no comparison.  Tyre, Lebanon is not one of the greatest cities in the world.  It is not on the richest cities of the world.  It is not a place where all nations come to do trading or commerce.  It is just a tourist attraction and an archaeological site.  God did not say that no one would be there at all.  He said it was a place where people would dry their fishing nets.

Picture of Tyre

Ezekiel 26 is a PROPHECY of Tyre’s destruction.  Ezekiel 27 is a PICTURE of Tyre’s destruction.  This picture is poetic. Ezekiel was not only a prophet, he was a poet.  Tyre is picture as a ship, a sinking ship.  It will be a ship that no one ever expected to sink.  It will sink just like the Titanic did.  It will sink and all of its riches, merchandise and crew will sink with it (27:27, 34).  It will sink like a rock.  The reaction of the world is shock and fear.  The city experiences a death and goes to sheol (26:19-21).

After someone dies, there is a funeral.  Ezekiel is told to raise a lament over Tyre (27:1).  A lament is what you do at a funeral.  We have the death and funeral of a nation.  What is interesting here is that Ezekiel is told to lament this.  He is not to delight in their destruction.  Tyre rejoiced when Israel was destroyed but Israel was not to rejoice when Tyre was destroyed.  They were told to do the exact opposite.

Relevance Today

What is the relevance of this today?  History is going to repeat itself.  If you read Revelation 18, another great city falls.  This city was also known for its trading.  It is a wealthy city, the NT city of Babylon but it does not fall over hundreds of years.

It falls in an hour (Revelation 18:10).  It is destroyed, not by invasions, but by fire (Revelation 18:8) but this time there is rejoicing in heaven (Revelation 19:1-5) and they are commanded to rejoice (Revelation 18:20).  The only ones mourning are the merchants (Revelation 18:11-19) and some kings (Revelation 18:9-10)

This city was a little different from Tyre.  This city is not just a commercial center but a center of false religion.  It deceived all of the nations (Revelation 18:23) and killed the saints on the earth (Revelation 18:24).  This city was the dwelling place for demons (Revelation 18:2).

[1]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B3Eek96myEo

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