Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Ch. 26–28 Prophecy against Tyre
The three chapters 26–28 are occupied with Tyre, containing threats of her destruction in various forms.
First, ch. 26. Literal prophecy of Tyre’s destruction at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar.
Secondly, ch. 27. Dirge over the downfall of Tyre under the figure of a gallant ship steered into dangerous waters and suffering shipwreck.
Thirdly, ch. 28. The pride and fall of the prince of Tyre.
Ch. 26 Prophecy of Tyre’s destruction
The prophecy has these divisions:
(1) Ezekiel 26:1-6. The sin of Tyre, and therefore her downfall.
(2) Ezekiel 26:7-14. The instrument of her destruction, Nebuchadnezzar.
(3) Ezekiel 26:15-18. Dismay of the princes at the news of her ruin. Their sorrow and lament over her.
(4) Ezekiel 26:19-21. Repetition and confirmation of the threat against her. She shall be plunged into eternal darkness, with those dead of old, never more to rise among the living.
And it came to pass in the eleventh year, in the first day of the month, that the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,1. first day of the month] The 11th year of Jehoiachin’s captivity was that in which Jerusalem was taken. On the 9th day of the 4th month of this year the city was stormed, and on the 10th day of the 5th month it was destroyed (Jeremiah 52:6; Jeremiah 52:12). The present prophecy assumes the destruction of the city (Ezekiel 26:2). The month is not stated. If the 11th year be read in Ezekiel 33:21 (see there), fugitives announcing the fall of the city reached the prophet on the 5th of the 10th month of that year. The prophecy is probably later than this date, and the month may be the 11th or 12th.
1. All prophecy is moral, is based on moral considerations. What the prophet aims his threats against is not the prosperity of Tyre, but its pride of heart, which was rebellion against Jehovah, God over all. The humiliation of Tyre was morally as good as its ruin, in so far as it shewed that there were higher forces in the world than itself.
Son of man, because that Tyrus hath said against Jerusalem, Aha, she is broken that was the gates of the people: she is turned unto me: I shall be replenished, now she is laid waste:2. The sin of Tyre: her rejoicing over the calamity of Judah, in the hopes that it will further her interests.
Aha, she is broken] Rather: aha! the gate (door) of the peoples is broken, it is turned unto me. (“Door” is plur. having leaves, or by attraction of peoples.) The idea appears to be that Jerusalem or Judah was a door barring the entrance to Tyre, which being broken and turned or opened towards Tyre the nations would stream with their commerce towards her. The kingdom of Judah lay across the great commercial routes from the south, and no doubt intercepted much of the merchandise that otherwise would have reached Tyre, and probably exacted custom on that which was allowed to pass. The natural sense of “door of the nations” would be door into the nations (Nahum 3:13; Zechariah 11:1), and the idea would be that the door was now opened for Tyre to enter. The sense remains the same: that which stood between Tyre and the nations is removed.
2. Prophecy is always ideal in its delineations. Its threats and promises are alike hyperbolical whether they concern Israel or the nations. And in regard to fulfilment the same general principles must be applied to all prophecies, those of redemption and those of calamity alike. The former are not fulfilled at once, nor at all literally, neither need we expect immediate or literal fulfilment of the latter. At the same time in regard to both it must be maintained that the prophets imagined the fulfilment as they describe it. This, however, is part of their idealism; the moral element is always the main thing in their prophecies. What they predict is the exhibition of Jehovah’s moral rule of the world; the form in which they clothe this exhibition may not be quite that given in history.
Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against thee, O Tyrus, and will cause many nations to come up against thee, as the sea causeth his waves to come up.3. The punishment of Tyre. Many nations shall be brought up against her (Ezekiel 26:3); her dust shall be scraped from her into the sea, leaving her a naked rock, a place for drying nets (Ezekiel 26:4-5), and her dependent cities on the mainland shall be laid waste (Ezekiel 26:6).
3. the sea causeth his waves] The comparison is powerful. It is not the succession, but the multitude and overwhelming power of the waves that is referred to.
And they shall destroy the walls of Tyrus, and break down her towers: I will also scrape her dust from her, and make her like the top of a rock.4. like the top of a rock] like a naked rock, ch. Ezekiel 24:7. Tyre stood upon a small island of rock separated from the mainland by a narrow strait. She shall be swept from her place, and her dust scraped into the sea, leaving her island site a bare rock, cf. Ezekiel 26:12.
It shall be a place for the spreading of nets in the midst of the sea: for I have spoken it, saith the Lord GOD: and it shall become a spoil to the nations.5. The threat is repeated Ezekiel 26:14.
And her daughters which are in the field shall be slain by the sword; and they shall know that I am the LORD.6. daughters … in the field] i.e. her dependent towns on the mainland, ch. Ezekiel 16:46, Ezekiel 30:18. Tyre at this time was at the head of the Phœnician confederation of cities, cf. Ezekiel 27:8-11.
For thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will bring upon Tyrus Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, a king of kings, from the north, with horses, and with chariots, and with horsemen, and companies, and much people.7. The correct spelling, Nebuchadrezzar (Ezekiel 29:18, Ezekiel 30:10), the name being Nabû-Kudurri-usur, “Nebo protect the crown!” Schrader KAT, p. 361 (on 2 Kings 24:1).
a king of kings] the king. Ezra 7:12; Daniel 2:37. Already the king of Assyria had said, “Are not my princes altogether kings?” Isaiah 10:8; Isaiah 36:4.
and companies, and] and a company, and. LXX. reads: company of much people (very many nations), which may be the meaning of the Heb.
7–14. Jehovah’s instrument in Tyre’s destruction, Nebuchadnezzar
The description is graphic: the advance of the assailant with his great army (Ezekiel 26:7); the siege with the powerful train of engines (8, 9); the assault, and capture and sack of the city (10–12), which is left a joyless ruin, a naked rock in the midst of the sea, never again to be built (13, 14).
He shall slay with the sword thy daughters in the field: and he shall make a fort against thee, and cast a mount against thee, and lift up the buckler against thee.8. The cities and villages, dependencies of Tyre in the mainland, naturally are the first to suffer. Then the siege of the insular city itself is taken in hand. The order is precise: first the “fort” or moveable tower from which the archers shot so as to counteract the defensive efforts of the besieged (cf. Ezekiel 4:2); then the “mount” or embankment, which in this case was a dam thrown across the narrow strait, in order to gain access to the walls; then the “buckler” or shield, i.e. probably the testudo or roof of shields under cover of which the besiegers operated, and finally (Ezekiel 26:9) the battering engines.
And he shall set engines of war against thy walls, and with his axes he shall break down thy towers.9. engines of war] or, engines of assault, i.e. battering engines. “Axes” is lit. swords, i.e. irons.
10 seq. The assault and capture and sack of the city. The description is graphic in the extreme. When the conqueror enters the dust following the march of his cavalry shall cover the city; the walls shall shake at the rushing of his chariots in the streets; and the city shall be given up to slaughter and plunder.
By reason of the abundance of his horses their dust shall cover thee: thy walls shall shake at the noise of the horsemen, and of the wheels, and of the chariots, when he shall enter into thy gates, as men enter into a city wherein is made a breach.
With the hoofs of his horses shall he tread down all thy streets: he shall slay thy people by the sword, and thy strong garrisons shall go down to the ground.11. thy strong garrisons] thy strong (or, proud) pillars. The word is almost always used of a pillar having religious meaning, particularly the obelisk dedicated to Baal (2 Kings 10:26). The rendering “pillars of thy strength,” those in which Tyre confided and thought her strength to lie (Ges.), is rather out of the way here; more naturally, her proud or majestic pillars, cf. Ezekiel 24:21; Ezekiel 24:25.
And they shall make a spoil of thy riches, and make a prey of thy merchandise: and they shall break down thy walls, and destroy thy pleasant houses: and they shall lay thy stones and thy timber and thy dust in the midst of the water.
And I will cause the noise of thy songs to cease; and the sound of thy harps shall be no more heard.
And I will make thee like the top of a rock: thou shalt be a place to spread nets upon; thou shalt be built no more: for I the LORD have spoken it, saith the Lord GOD.14. the top of a rock] a naked rock, Ezekiel 26:4.
Thus saith the Lord GOD to Tyrus; Shall not the isles shake at the sound of thy fall, when the wounded cry, when the slaughter is made in the midst of thee?15–18. Commotion among the princes of the sea caused by her fall; they mourn and take up a lament over Tyre (17, 18)
15. the isles shake] the coast-lands, the island-like countries on the seaboard.
the sound of thy fall] might mean “at the report of thy fall,” but here by a strong hyperbole the prophet appears to represent the crash of the city’s fall and the cries of the wounded as being heard in the neighbouring coasts, ch. Ezekiel 27:28, Ezekiel 31:16; cf. Jeremiah 49:21.
Then all the princes of the sea shall come down from their thrones, and lay away their robes, and put off their broidered garments: they shall clothe themselves with trembling; they shall sit upon the ground, and shall tremble at every moment, and be astonished at thee.16. In token of mourning the princes of the sea, the rulers of the principalities and cities on all sea, coasts, shall descend from their thrones, lay aside their royal robes and sit on the ground (Lamentations 2:10).
clothe themselves] Or, be clothed, i.e. be enveloped in, be wholly tremblings; cf. Ezekiel 7:27.
And they shall take up a lamentation for thee, and say to thee, How art thou destroyed, that wast inhabited of seafaring men, the renowned city, which wast strong in the sea, she and her inhabitants, which cause their terror to be on all that haunt it!17. of seafaring men] lit. inhabited from the seas.
cause their terror] Rather: caused. A.V. “all that haunt it” has taken the ref. to be to the sea, which is almost necessary, though the present text is literally all her inhabitants, referring to the city. The phrase “caused their terror to be” occurs several times in ch. Ezekiel 32:17 seq. with a different construction (b for l), but the sense here can hardly be different, viz., made their terror felt. To say, however, that Tyre and her inhabitants made their terror felt by all her inhabitants is very unnatural. The pronoun must refer to the “seas.” The phrase “inhabited from the seas” is also peculiar; “inhabited” means having inhabitants, not, drawing inhabitants.
17. How art thou destroyed from the sea—the renowned city!
She that brought her terror—on all her inhabitants.
17, 18. Lament of the princes over Tyre.
Now shall the isles tremble in the day of thy fall; yea, the isles that are in the sea shall be troubled at thy departure.18. the isles] See on Ezekiel 26:15. The form of plur. nowhere else occurs, and appears to be adopted in order to gain a parallelism to “isles” (ordinary form) in the next clause. The phrase “at thy departure,” lit. outgoing is strange; but might have a parallel Psalm 144:14.
The elegy seems confined to Ezekiel 26:17, but probably through explanatory amplifications that have crept into the text, Ezekiel 26:18 has also been drawn into it. LXX. reads in a shorter form:
18. And the isles shall be terrified—at the day of thy fall.
Ezekiel 26:18 can hardly refer to the memory of Tyre’s fall, but to the fall itself, Ezekiel 27:27 (Ezekiel 32:10), which being represented as future, is unsuitable to the dirge in the mouth of the princes. The verse hardly belongs to the dirge but forms the transition to the next strophe, Ezekiel 26:19-21. In the phrase “all her inhabitants” it seems necessary with A.V. (Ew.) to refer “her” to the sea, or with Corn. to alter the pronoun in order to gain this sense.
For thus saith the Lord GOD; When I shall make thee a desolate city, like the cities that are not inhabited; when I shall bring up the deep upon thee, and great waters shall cover thee;19. Tyre shall be overwhelmed in the great waters, and brought down to the pit, with them dead from of old; she shall never, be inhabited nor found any more.
When I shall bring thee down with them that descend into the pit, with the people of old time, and shall set thee in the low parts of the earth, in places desolate of old, with them that go down to the pit, that thou be not inhabited; and I shall set glory in the land of the living;20. when I shall bring] Rather in connexion with Ezekiel 26:19 : when I shall make thee a desolate city … then I shall bring thee down. The prophet regards Tyre’s sinking beneath the waters as her entrance upon the descent into the pit, the place of the dead, just as frequently elsewhere (ch. 32) he snakes the grave the entrance into the underworld of the dead. Cf. Isaiah 14:11; Isaiah 14:19.
that descend into the pit] Rather: them that are gone down into the pit, unto the people. The common phrase “they that go down to the pit” should be rendered: that are gone down (past). Ezek. always says with them that are gone down, Ezekiel 28:8, Ezekiel 31:14 : cf. Isaiah 14:19; Isaiah 38:18.
The “people of old time” are those dead from of old, Ezekiel 32:27; Lamentations 3:6; Psalm 143:3; hardly with more definite ref. to the Flood, Job 22:15.
low parts of the earth] the nether parts, i.e. in the underworld of the dead (Ezekiel 31:14, Ezekiel 32:18-24; Lamentations 3:55; Psalm 63:9), which was held to be situated in the bowels of the earth or under the earth.
in places desolate of old] According to the textual tradition (Baer, Ezek.) the true reading is like places …, so LXX., Vulg. The prophet gives Tyre a personality; when buried under the sea she goes down into the abode of the dead, and possibly he regards the “places desolate of old” as also gone down and gathered in the underworld. For “that go down,” that are gone down.
and I shall set glory] Such an antithesis is entirely unnatural; something further must be said of Tyre in continuation of “thou shalt not be inhabited.” Either: nor set (thy) glory, (reading 2 fem., with final y otiose), a phrase, however, nowhere else occurring; or else the reading presumably before LXX. must be accepted: nor arise (stand forth) in the land of the living (tithyççebi).
I will make thee a terror, and thou shalt be no more: though thou be sought for, yet shalt thou never be found again, saith the Lord GOD.21. make thee a terror] lit., terrors or destructions—I will utterly destroy thee, Ezekiel 27:36, Ezekiel 28:19; cf. Psalm 73:19. On “make” cf. Ezekiel 16:38.
The passage Ezekiel 29:17-21 states that Nebuchadnezzar received no adequate reward for the service against Tyre which he served for Jehovah. History records his thirteen years’ siege of Tyre, but is silent as to the issue of it. It is not known (1) whether he took the city, or (2) whether it capitulated, or (3) whether he retired from it. On the whole the second supposition may be most probable. At any rate neither the king nor his army received wages for his service. The prophecy was not literally fulfilled. Now