Ezekiel 27:18
Damascus was your merchant in the multitude of the wares of your making, for the multitude of all riches; in the wine of Helbon, and white wool.
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(18) Wine of Helbon.—Helbon is identified with a village of the same name, three and a half hours north of Damascus, rich in ruins, and still devoted to the culture of the vine, from which the costliest wine of the country was made. It was probably the same with the wine of Chalybon, so much prized in Persia.

27:1-25 Those who live at ease are to be lamented, if they are not prepared for trouble. Let none reckon themselves beautified, any further than they are sanctified. The account of the trade of Tyre intimates, that God's eye is upon men when employed in worldly business. Not only when at church, praying and hearing, but when in markets and fairs, buying and selling. In all our dealings we should keep a conscience void of offence. God, as the common Father of mankind, makes one country abound in one commodity, and another in another, serviceable to the necessity or to the comfort and ornament of human life. See what a blessing trade and merchandise are to mankind, when followed in the fear of God. Besides necessaries, an abundance of things are made valuable only by custom; yet God allows us to use them. But when riches increase, men are apt to set their hearts upon them, and forget the Lord, who gives power to get wealth.Helbon - Chalybon, near Damascus, whose wine was a favorite luxury with Persian kings.

White wool - A product of flocks that grazed in the waste lands of Syria and Arabia.

18. Helbon—or Chalybon, in Syria, now Aleppo; famed for its wines; the Persian monarchs would drink no other. Damascus; a very ancient and wealthy city of Syria, and the royal city.

The wares of thy making; see the phrase Ezekiel 27:16.

For the multitude of all riches: though the Tyrians had many rich and lovely commodities, yet it pleased the Damascenes to bring chiefly two of their commodities in exchange, richest wines to please the palate of the luxurious Tyrians, and finest wool to clothe their pride.

Halbon; this place I meet no where else; Ptolemy hath Chalinonis in Syria, perhaps they may be it. Others, to save trouble, make it a common name; sweet, or smooth, or fat wine; for

Helbon comes from a word that signifies fat. Damascus was thy merchant in the multitude of the wares of thy making,.... Of the many things manufactured at Tyre, the inhabitants of Damascus, once the chief city of Syria, took some:

for the multitude of all riches: in lieu of the vast quantity of rich things there made, they traded with them for them:

in the wine of Helbon, and white wool; Helbon very probably is the same with the Chalybon of Ptolemy (p), which he places in Syria; a place famous for wine, as Strabo (q) reports; the kings of Persia, he says, through riches fell into luxury, so that they would have wheat brought from Assos in Aeolia, and Chalybonian wine out of Syria, and water from Eulaeus (the river Ulai in Daniel 8:2), which was lightest of all; and so Athenaeus (r) says, the kings of the Persians drink only Chalybonian wine; which, says Posidonius, was made at Damascus in Syria, from whence the Persians transplant vines: Helbon is thought to be the same with Aleppo; the grapes there are all white, and make a strong wine, as Monsieur Thevenot (s) relates; and who also observes, that the wines of Damascus are treacherous and strong: and the wool they bought was such as it came off of the backs of the sheep, and the purer and whiter sort of it; which was brought to Tyre, and by them bought, and dyed purple, for which dye the Tyrians were famous.

(p) Geograph. l. 5. c. 15. (q) Ibid. l. 12. p. 505. (r) L. 1. c. 22. (s) Travels, part 2. B. 1. c. 5. p. 25. & c. 7. p. 33.

Damascus was thy merchant in the multitude of the wares of thy making, for the multitude of all riches; in the wine of Helbon, and white wool.
18. wares of thy making] the multitude of thy works, i.e. the works done for Tyre, all of which are hers.

multitude of all riches] or, because of every kind of riches.

wine of Helbon] This is repeatedly mentioned as a choice wine in the Assyrian inscriptions (Schrad. KAT. p. 425). The Persian kings also preferred it on their table. Cf. Hosea 14:7, Song of Solomon 8:11. The place is identified with Chalbûn, N.E. of Damascus.

white wool] Possibly, wool of Zachar, though a place of this name is unknown.Verse 18. - 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 (Ezekiel 15. p. 735) names the wine of Chalybon as the favorite drink of the Persian kings, and Athenaeus (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. The lamentation commences with a picture of the glory of the city of Tyre, its situation, its architectural beauty, its military strength and defences (Ezekiel 27:3-11), and its wide-spread commercial relations (Ezekiel 27:12-25); and then passes into mournful lamentation over the ruin of all this glory (Ezekiel 27:26-36).

Introduction and description of the glory and might of Tyre. - Ezekiel 27:1. And the word of Jehovah came to me, saying, Ezekiel 27:2. And do thou, O son of man, raise a lamentation over Tyre, Ezekiel 27:3. And say to Tyre, Thou who dwellest at the approaches of the sea, merchant of the nations to many islands, thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Tyre, thou sayest, I am perfect in beauty. Ezekiel 27:4. In the heart of the seas is thy territory; thy builders have made thy beauty perfect. Ezekiel 27:5. Out of cypresses of Senir they built all double-plank-work for thee; they took cedars of Lebanon to make a mast upon thee. Ezekiel 27:6. They made thine oars of oaks of Bashan, thy benches they made of ivory set in box from the islands of the Chittaeans. Ezekiel 27:7. Byssus in embroidery from Egypt was thy sail, to serve thee for a banner; blue and red purple from the islands of Elishah was thine awning. Ezekiel 27:8. The inhabitants of Sidon and Arvad were thy rowers; thy skilful men, O Tyre, were in thee, they were thy sailors. Ezekiel 27:9. The elders of Gebal and its skilful men were with thee to repair thy leaks; all the ships of the sea and their mariners were in thee to barter thy goods. Ezekiel 27:10. Persian and Lydian and Libyan were in thine army, thy men of war; shield and helmet they hung up in thee; they gave brilliancy to thee. Ezekiel 27:11. The sons of Arvad and thine army were upon thy walls round about, and brave men were upon they towers; they hung up their shields upon thy walls round about; they have made thy beauty perfect. - The lamentation commences with an address to Tyre, in which its favourable situation for purposes of trade, and the perfect beauty of which she was conscious, are placed in the foreground (Ezekiel 27:3). Tyre is sitting, or dwelling, at the approaches of the sea. מבואת ים, approaches or entrances of the sea, are harbours into which ships sail and from which they depart, just as מבוא העיר sa t, the gate of the city, it both entrance and exit. This description does not point to the city on the mainland, or Old Tyre, but answers exactly to Insular Tyre with its two harbours.

(Note: Insular Tyre possessed two harbours, a northern one called the Sidonian, because it was on the Sidonian side, and one on the opposite or south-eastern side, which was called the Egyptian harbour from the direction in which it pointed. The Sidonian was the more celebrated of the two, and consisted of an inner harbour, situated within the wall of the city, and an outer one, formed by a row of rocks, which lay at a distance of about three hundred paces to the north-west of the island, and ran parallel to the opposite coast of the mainland, so as to form a roadstead in which ships could anchor (vid., Arrian, ii. 20; Strabo, xvi. 2. 23). This northern harbour is still held by the city of Sur, whereas the Egyptian harbour with the south-eastern portion of the island has been buried by the sand driven against the coasts by the south winds, so that even the writers of the Middle Ages make no allusion to it. (See Movers, Phnizier, II. 1, pp. 214ff.).)

ישׁבתי, with the connecting i, which is apparently confounded here after the Aramaean fashion with the i of the feminine pronoun, and has therefore been marked by the Masora as superfluous (vid., Ewald, 211b). The combination of רכלת with 'אל איּים ר may be accounted for from the primary meaning of רכל, to travel about as a merchant: thou who didst go to the nations on many shores to carry on thy trade. Tyre itself considers that she is perfect in her beauty, partly on account of her strong position in the sea, and partly because of her splendid edifices.

(Note: Curtius, iv. 2: Tyrus et claritate et magnitudine ante omnes urbes Syriae Phoenicesque memorabilis. (Cf. Strabo, xvi. 2.22.))

In the description which follows of this beauty and glory, from Ezekiel 27:4 onwards, Tyre is depicted allegorically as a beautiful ship, splendidly built and equipped throughout, and its destruction is afterwards represented as a shipwreck occasioned by the east wind (Ezekiel 27:26.).

(Note: Jerome recognised this allegory, and has explained it correctly as follows: "He (the prophet) speaks τροπικῶς, as though addressing a ship, and points out its beauty and the abundance of everything. Then, after having depicted all its supplies, he announces that a storm will rise, and the south wind (auster) will blow, by which great waves will be gathered up, and the vessel will be wrecked. In all this he is referring to the overthrow of the city by King Nabuchodonosor," etc. Rashi and others give the same explanation.)

The words, "in the heart of the seas is thy territory" (Ezekiel 27:4), are equally applicable to the city of Tyre and to a ship, the building of which is described in what follows. The comparison of Tyre to a ship was very naturally suggested by the situation of the city in the midst of the sea, completely surrounded by water. As a ship, it must of necessity be built of wood. The shipbuilders selected the finest kinds of wood for the purpose; cypresses of Antilibanus for double planks, which formed the sides of the vessel, and cedar of Lebanon for the mast. Senir, according to Deuteronomy 3:9, was the Amoritish name of Hermon or Antilibanus, whereas the Sidonians called it Sirion. On the other hand, Senir occurs in 1 Chronicles 5:23, and Shenir in Sol 4:8, in connection with Hermon, where they are used to denote separate portions of Antilibanus. Ezekiel evidently uses Senir as a foreign name, which had been retained to his own time, whereas Sirion had possibly become obsolete, as the names had both the same meaning (see the comm. on Deuteronomy 3:9). The naming of the places from which the several materials were obtained for the fitting out of the ship, serve to heighten the glory of its construction and give an ideal character to the picture. All lands have contributed their productions to complete the glory and might of Tyre. Cypress-wood was frequently used by the ancients for buildings and (according to Virgil, Georg. ii. 443) also for ships, because it was exempt from the attacks of worms, and was almost imperishable, and yet very light (Theophr. Hist. plant. v. 8; Plinii Hist. nat. xvi. 79). לחתים, a dual form, like חמתים in 2 Kings 25:4; Isaiah 22:11, double-planks, used for the two side-walls of the ship. For oars they chose oaks of Bashan (משּׁוט as well as משׁוט in Ezekiel 27:29 from שׁוּט, to row), and the rowing benches (or deck) were of ivory inlaid in box. קרשׁ is used in Exodus 26:15. for the boards or planks of the wooden walls of the tabernacle; here it is employed in a collective sense, either for the rowing benches, of which there were at least two, and sometimes three rows in a vessel, one above another, or more properly, for the deck of the vessel (Hitzig). This was made of she4n, or ivory, inlaid in wood. The ivory is mentioned first as the most valuable material of the קרשׁ, the object being to picture the ship as possessing all possible splendour. The expression בּתּ־אשּׁרים, occasions some difficulty, partly on account of the use of the word בּת, and partly in connection with the meaning of אשּׁרים , although so much may be inferred from the context, that the allusion is to some kind of wood inlaid with ivory, and the custom of inlaying wood with ivory for the purpose of decoration is attested by Virgil, Aen. x. 137:

"Vel quale per artem

Inclusum buxo, aut Oricia terebintho

Lucet ebur."

But the use of בּת does not harmonize with the relation of the wood to the ivory inserted in wood; nor can it be defended by the fact that in Lamentations 3:3 an arrow is designated "the son of the quiver." According to this analogy, the ivory ought to have been called the son of the Ashurim, because the ivory is inserted in the wood, and not the wood in the ivory.

(Note: The Targum has paraphrased it in this way: דפּין דאשׁכרעין מכבשׁין בשׁן דפיל, i.e., planks of box or pine inlaid with ivory.)


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