Ezekiel 27:6
Of the oaks of Bashan have they made your oars; the company of the Ashurites have made your benches of ivory, brought out of the isles of Chittim.
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(6) The company of the Ashurites have made thy benches of ivory.—The literal rendering of this clause (with two words of doubtful meaning left blank) is, they made thy . . . of tooth (ivory), daughter of . . . The sense will depend upon the filling up of these blanks. For the first there need be no difficulty. The word is used in Exodus 26:16 of the boards of the tabernacle, and here it is undoubtedly used of some planking about the ship; but it is in the singular number. It is hardly likely, therefore, to mean “benches” (i.e., seats for the oarsmen), since there were usually two or three tiers of these on each side of the ship. It is now generally taken collectively of the planking of the deck. If the Hebrew text, as it stands, is quite correct, we must read the other word “daughter of Ashurites,” for there is no authority for rendering “daughter” by company. It is difficult or impossible to make any intelligible sense of this; but if the two Hebrew words now written separately be joined together, we shall have “in box-wood,” the word being the same as in Isaiah 60:13. There will still be a little doubt, as there is so often in Scripture, as to the exact wood intended, whether box-wood or the sherbin-cedar; but the general sense is plain—“ they have made thy deck of ivory, inlaid in box-wood.”

Isles of Chittim.—Chittim is the Old Testament name for Cyprus, and hence “isles of Chittim” (as in Jeremiah 2:10) stands for the islands and coasts whose fleets, in coming to the East, made their rendezvous at Cyprus. Thither were brought both the ivory from the African coast and the precious woods from various quarters.

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.The company ... ivory - Rather, "thy benches (or, deck) made they of ivory with boxwood" (or, larch), i. e., boxwood inlaid with ivory.

The isles - (or, coasts) of Chittim is a phrase used constantly for Greece and the Grecian islands. It may probably be extended to other islands in the Mediterranean sea Genesis 10:5, and there ivory may have been brought from the coasts of North Africa.

6. Bashan—celebrated for its oaks, as Lebanon was for its cedars.

the company of … Ashurites—the most skilful workmen summoned from Assyria. Rather, as the Hebrew orthography requires, "They have made thy (rowing) benches of ivory inlaid in the daughter of cedars" [Maurer], or, the best boxwood. Fairbairn, with Bochart, reads the Hebrew two words as one: "Thy plankwork (deck: instead of 'benches,' as the Hebrew is singular) they made ivory with boxes." English Version, with Maurer's correction, is simpler.

Chittim—Cyprus and Macedonia, from which, Pliny tells us, the best boxwood came [Grotius].

Oaks; of pines, say some; of chesnut-trees, say others: but, since oaks, and those of Bashan, are famous in sacred dendrology, I know not why we should not keep to our own version, since the primary notation of the Hebrew leads us to it.

The company of the Ashurites: as we read these words, there arise many difficulties in the expounding them. If the conjecture of the learned Bochart be well considered, it will seem very probable the words would be better rendered thus; Thy benches they have made of ivory, with box brought out, &c. For the isles of Chittim afforded many amid large box trees, Whereas ivory, or the elephant’s tooth, we know, is the merchandise of other countries, and the elephant a foreigner to all the parts of Europe; nor are the teeth of elephants of that largeness to afford breadth for seats and benches; nor shall we find any such company of Ashurites, if we inquire for them. I shall therefore subscribe to that learned man in the opinion, that here are two words read divided, and by mistake translated as divided words, which ought to have been read in one word, and so translated as it is in Isaiah 41:19, where we translate Myvah, box; then all is plain, and the sense this, That from the isles, and parts about the Ionian, Ægean, and other seas of the Mediterranean, where this box tree is native, as in Corsica, Apulia, &c. and of great growth and firmness, fit to saw into boards for benches, they were conveyed to Tyrus, where their artists inlaid these box boards with ivory, and made them beautiful seats in their galleys and ships. Of the oaks of Bashan have they made thine oars,.... To row the ships with; for their ships probably were no other than galleys, which were rowed with oars, as were the ships of first invention. Bashan was a country in Judea where oaks grew; see Isaiah 2:13. The country of Judea in general was famous for oaks; it abounded with them in the times of Homer (t), who speaks of Typho being buried in a country abounding with oaks, among the rich or fat people of Judea; and he seems to design Bashan particularly, of which Og was king, whom he calls Typho, and of whose bed he makes mention in the same place; hence several places in Judea had their names from the oaks which grew, there, as Elonmoreh, Allonbachuth, Elonmeonenim, Elontabor, and Elonbethhanan, Genesis 12:6 and which one would have thought were fitter to make their ships of; but of these only their oars were made:

the company of the Ashurites have made thy benches of ivory, brought out of the isles of Chittim; the benches for the towers to sit on, or for others in the cabin and decks; but that these should be wholly of ivory is not very probable; nor was ivory brought from the isles of Chittim, but from other parts; nor is it easy to say who the company of the Ashurites were; some say the Assyrians; but why they should be so called is not plain. Jarchi makes to be but one word, which signifies box trees, as it is used in Isaiah 41:19 and he supposes that these benches, or be they what they will, were made of box trees covered or inlaid with ivory. So the Targum,

"the lintels of thy gates (the hatches) were planks of box tree inlaid with ivory;''

which box, and not the ivory, was brought from the isles of Chittim; either from Cyprus, where was a place called Citium; or from Macedonia, from whence box was fetched; or from the province of Apulia, as the Targum; where there might be plenty of it, as in Corsica, and other places, where particularly the best box grows, as Pliny (u) says. Jerom interprets Cittin of Italy; and Ben Gorion says (w) that Cittim are the Romans.

(t) ', . Homer. Iliad. 2. Vid. Dickinson, Delphi Phoenicix. c. 2. p. 13, 16. (u) Nat. Hist. l. 10. c. 16. (w) Heb. Hist. l. 1. c. 1. p. 7.

Of the oaks of Bashan have they made thy oars; the company of the Ashurites have made thy benches of ivory, brought out of the isles of {c} Chittim.

(c) Which is taken for Greece and Italy.

6. The oars of the great ship were made of oaks of Bashan; cf. Isaiah 2:13; Zechariah 11:2. The term “oars” occurs in another form, Ezekiel 27:27, but probably with no difference of meaning. The rest of Ezekiel 27:6 should read: thy deck they made of ivory (inlaid) in sherbin wood from the isles of Chittim (the words bath teasshur should no doubt be read bitheasshur, in theasshur). This tree is mentioned as growing in Lebanon, Isaiah 41:19; Isaiah 60:13; it is usually considered to be the tree called in Arabic sherbîn, a species of cedar. Others contend for box or larch. The term “deck” is literally “board,” e.g. of the boards of the sanctuary, Exodus 26:15 seq. Chittim is Cyprus, called after the town Kition (Larnaka), but probably the name embraced the coasts of Asia Minor and Greece or perhaps even of Italy (Daniel 11:30; 1Ma 1:1; 1Ma 8:5).Verse 6. - 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 (Psalm 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 Psalm 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.,' 1:06. 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"). Tyre shall be broken and utterly destroyed

Ezekiel 26:2. Son of man, because Tyre saith concerning Jerusalem, "Aha, the door of the nations is broken; it turneth to me; I shall become full; she is laid waste;" Ezekiel 26:3. Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Behold, I will come upon thee, O Tyre, and will bring up against thee many nations, as the sea bringing up its waves. Ezekiel 26:4. They will destroy the walls of Tyre, and throw down her towers; and I will sweep away her dust from her, and make her a bare rock. Ezekiel 26:5. She shall become a place for the spreading of nets in the midst of the sea, for I have spoken it, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah; and she shall become booty for the nations. Ezekiel 26:6. And her daughters which are in the land shall be slain with the sword; and they shall learn that I am Jehovah. - Tyre, as in the prophecy of Isaiah (Ezekiel 23), is not the city of that name upon the mainland, ἡ πάλαι Τύρος or Παλαίτυρος, Old Tyre, which was taken by Shalmaneser and destroyed by Alexander (as Perizon., Marsh, Vitringa, J. D. Michaelis, and Eichhorn supposed), but Insular Tyre, which was three-quarters of a mile farther north, and only 1200 paces from the land, being built upon a small island, and separated from the mainland by a strait of no great depth (vid., Movers, Phoenizier, II p. f.). This Insular Tyre had successfully resisted the Assyrians (Josephus, Antt. ix. 14. 2), and was at that time the market of the nations; and in Ezekiel's day it had reached the summit of its greatness as mistress of the sea and the centre of the commerce of the world. That it is against this Tyre that our prophecy is chiefly directed, is evident from Ezekiel 26:5 and Ezekiel 26:14, according to which Tyre is to become a bare rock in the midst of the sea, and from the allusion to the daughter cities, בּשּׂדה, in the field, i.e., on the mainland (in Ezekiel 26:6), as contrasted with the position occupied by Tyre upon a rocky island in the sea; and, lastly, from the description given in Ezekiel 27 of the maritime trade of Tyre with all nations, to which Old Tyre never attained, inasmuch as it possessed no harbour (vid., Movers, l.c. p. 176). This may easily be reconciled with such passages as Ezekiel 26:6, Ezekiel 26:8, and Ezekiel 27, 28, in which reference is also made to the continental Tyre, and the conquest of Tyre is depicted as the conquest of a land-city (see the exposition of these verses). - The threat against Tyre commences, as in the case of the nations threatened in Ezekiel 25, with a brief description of its sin. Tyre gave expression to its joy at the fall of Jerusalem, because it hoped to derive profit therefrom through the extension of its commerce and increase of its wealth. Different explanations have been given of the meaning of the words put into the mouth of Tyre. "The door of the nations is broken in pieces." The plural דּלתות indicates the folding doors which formed the gate, and are mentioned in its stead. Jerusalem is the door of the nations, and is so called according to the current opinion of expositors, because it was the centre of the commerce of the nations, i.e., as a place of trade. But nothing is known to warrant the idea that Jerusalem was ever able to enter into rivalry with Tyre as a commercial city. The importance of Jerusalem with regard to other nations was to be found, not in its commerce, nor in the favourable situation which it occupied for trade, in support of which Hvernick refers to Herodotus, iii. 5, and Hitzig to Ezekiel 23:40-41, but in its sanctuary, or the sacred calling which it had received for the whole world of nations. Kliefoth has therefore decided in favour of the following view: That Jerusalem is called a gate of the nations, not because it had hitherto been open to the nations for free and manifold intercourse, but for the very opposite reason, namely, because the gate of Jerusalem had hitherto been closed and barred against the nations, but was now broken in pieces through the destruction of the city, and thereby opened to the nations. Consequently the nations, and notably Tyre, would be able to enter now; and from this fact the Tyrians hoped to derive advantage, so far as their commercial interests were concerned. But this view is not in harmony with the text. Although a gate is opened by being broken in pieces, and one may force an entrance into a house by breaking the door (Genesis 19:9), yet the expression "door of the nations" cannot signify a door which bars all entrance on the part of the nations, inasmuch as doors and gates are not made to secure houses and cities against the forcible entrance of men and nations, but to render it possible for them to go out and in. Moreover, the supposition that "door of the nations" is equivalent to shutting against the nations, is not in harmony with the words נסבּא אלי which follow. The expression "it has turned to me," or it is turned to me, has no meaning unless it signifies that through the breaking of the door the stream of the nations would turn away from Jerusalem to Tyre, and therefore that hitherto the nations had turned to Jerusalem. נסבּה is the 3rd pers. perf. Niphal of סבב, for נסבּה , formed after the analogy of נמס, etc. The missing subject to נסבּה is to be found ad sensum in דּלתות העמּים. It is not the door itself, but the entrance and streaming in of the nations, which had previously been directed towards Jerusalem, and would now turn to Tyre. There is no necessity, therefore, for Hitzig's conjecture, that אמּלאה should be altered into מלאהּ, and the latter taken as the subject.

Consequently we must understand the words of the Tyrians as signifying that they had regarded the drawing of the nations to Jerusalem, i.e., the force of attraction which Jerusalem had hitherto exerted upon the nations, as the seat of the divine revelation of mercy, or of the law and judgment of the Lord, as interfering with their endeavour to draw all nations to themselves and gain them over to their purposes, and that they rejoiced at the destruction of Jerusalem, because they hoped that henceforth they would be able to attract the nations to themselves and enrich themselves with their possessions. This does not require that we should accredit the Tyrians with any such insight into the spiritual calling of Jerusalem as would lie beyond their heathen point of view. The simple circumstance, that the position occupied by Jerusalem in relation to the world apparently interfered with the mercantile interests of the Tyrians, would be quite sufficient to excite a malignant pleasure at the fall of the city of God, as the worship of God and the worship of Mammon are irreconcilably opposed. The source from which the envy and the enmity manifesting itself in this malicious pleasure took their rise, is indicated in the last words: "I shall fill myself, she (Jerusalem) is laid waste," which Jerome has correctly linked together thus: quia illa deserta est, idcirco ego implebor. המּלא, to be filled with merchandise and wealth, as in Ezekiel 27:25. On account of this disposition toward the kingdom of God, which led Tyre to expect an increase of power and wealth from its destruction, the Lord God would smite it with ruin and annihilation. הנני עליך, behold, I will come upon thee, as in Ezekiel 13:8; Jeremiah 50:31; Nahum 3:5. God will lead a powerful army against Tyre, which shall destroy its walls and towers. Instead of the army, "many nations" are mentioned, because Tyre is hoping to attract more nations to itself in consequence of the destruction of Jerusalem. This hope is to be fulfilled, though in a different sense from that which Tyre intended. The comparison of the advancing army to the advancing waves of the sea is very significant when the situation of Tyre is considered. היּם is the subject to כּהעלות, and the Hiphil is construed with ל instead of the accusative (compare Ewald, 292c with 277e). According to Arrian, ii. 18. 3, and Curtius, iv. 2. 9, 12, and 3. 13, Insular Tyre was fortified all round with lofty walls and towers, which were certainly in existence as early as Nebuchadnezzar's time. Even the dust of the demolished buildings (עפרהּ) God would sweep away (סחיתי, ἁπ. λεγ., with a play upon שׁחתוּ), so that the city, i.e., the site on which it had stood, would become a bare and barren rock (צחיח סלע, as in Ezekiel 24:7), a place where fishermen would spread out their nets to dry. "Her daughters" also, that is to say, the towns dependent upon Tyre, "on the field," i.e., the open country - in other words, their inhabitants - would be slain with the sword.

In Ezekiel 26:7-14 the threat is carried still further. - Ezekiel 26:7. For thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Behold, I will bring against Tyre Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, from the north, the king of kings, with horses, and chariots, and horsemen, and a multitude of much people. Ezekiel 26:8. Thy daughters in the field he will slay with the sword, and he will erect siege-towers against thee, and throw up a rampart against thee, and set up shields against thee, Ezekiel 26:9. And direct his battering-rams against thy walls, and throw down thy towers with his swords. Ezekiel 26:10. From the multitude of his horses their dust will cover thee; from the noise of the horsemen, wheels, and chariots, thy walls will shake when he shall enter into thy gates, as they enter a city broken open. Ezekiel 26:11. With the hoofs of his horses he will tread down all thy streets; thy people he will slay with the sword, and thy glorious pillars will fall to the ground. Ezekiel 26:12. They will make booty of thy possessions, and plunder thy merchandise, destroy thy walls, and throw down thy splendid mansions, and sink thy stones, thy wood, and thy dust in the water. Ezekiel 26:13. I will put an end to the sound of thy songs, and the music of thy harps shall be heard no more. Ezekiel 26:14. I will make thee a bare rock; thou shalt be a place for the spreading of nets, and be built no more; for I Jehovah have spoken it, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah. - Nebuchadnezzar, the great king of Babylon, - this is the meaning of the rhetorical description in these verses, - will come with a powerful army (Ezekiel 26:7), smite with the sword the inland cities dependent upon Tyre. (Ezekiel 26:8, compare Ezekiel 26:6), then commence the siege of Tyre, destroy its walls and towers (Ezekiel 26:8 and Ezekiel 26:9), enter with his army the city in which breaches have been made, put the inhabitants to death (Ezekiel 26:10 and Ezekiel 26:11), plunder the treasures, destroy walls and buildings, and cast the ruins into the sea (Ezekiel 26:12). Nebuchadrezzar, or Nebuchadnezzar (for the name see the comm. on 2 Kings 24:10, is called king of kings, as the supreme ruler of the Babylonian empire, because the kings of conquered provinces and lands were subject to him as vassals (see the comm. on Isaiah 10:8).

His army consists of war-chariots, and cavalry, and a great multitude of infantry. קהל are co-ordinate, so far as the rhetorical style is concerned; but in reality עם־רב is subordinate to קהל , as in Ezekiel 23:24, inasmuch as the קהל consisted of עם־רב. On the siege-works mentioned in Ezekiel 26:8, see the comm. on Ezekiel 4:2. הקים צנּה signifies the construction of a roof with shields, by which the besiegers were accustomed to defend themselves from the missiles of the defenders of the city wall while pursing their labours. Herodotus repeatedly mentions such shield-roofs as used by the Persians (ix. 61. 99, 102), though, according to Layard, they are not to be found upon the Assyrian monuments (see the comm. on Nahum 2:6). There is no doubt that מחי קב signifies the battering-ram, called כּר in Ezekiel 21:27, though the meaning of the words is disputed. מחי , literally, thrusting or smiting. קבלו, from קבל, to be pointed either קבלּו or קבלּו (the form קבלּו adopted by v. d. Hooght and J. H. Michaelis is opposed to the grammatical rules), has been explained by Gesenius and others as signifying res opposita, that which is opposite; hence מחי קבלו, the thrusting or demolishing of that which stands opposite. In the opinion of others, קבל is an instrument employed in besieging; but there is nothing in the usage of the language to sustain either this explanation or that adopted by Hvernick, "destruction of his defence." הרבותיו, his swords, used figuratively for his weapons or instruments of war, "his irons," as Ewald has very aptly rendered it. The description in Ezekiel 26:10 is hyperbolical. The number of horses is so great, that on their entering the city they cover it with dust, and the walls shake with the noise of the horsemen and chariots. 'כּמבואי עיר מב, literally, as the marchings into a broken city, i.e., a city taken by storm, generally are. The simile may be explained from the peculiar situation of Insular Tyre. It means that the enemy will enter it as they march into a land-fortress into which a breach has been made by force. The words presuppose that the besieger has made a road to the city by throwing up an embankment or dam. מצּבות עזּך, the memorial pillars of thy might, and the pillars dedicated to Baal, two of which are mentioned by Herodotus (ii. 44) as standing in the temple of Hercules at Tyre, one of gold, the other of emerald; not images of gods, but pillars, as symbols of Baal. These sink or fall to the ground before the overwhelming might of the foe (compare Isaiah 46:1; Isaiah 21:9, and 1 Samuel 5:3). After the slaughter of the inhabitants and the fall of the gods, the plundering of the treasures begins, and then follows the destruction of the city. בּתּי המדּה are not pleasure-houses ("pleasure-towers, or garden-houses of the wealthy merchants," as Ewald supposes), for there was not space enough upon the island for gardens (Strabo, xvi. 2. 23), but the lofty, magnificent houses of the city, the palaces mentioned in Isaiah 23:13. Yea, the whole city shall be destroyed, and that so completely that they will sweep stones, wood, and rubbish into the sea. - Thus will the Lord put an end to the exultation and rejoicing in Tyre (Ezekiel 26:13; compare Isaiah 14:11 and Amos 5:23). - The picture of the destruction of this powerful city closes with the repetition of the thought from Ezekiel 26:5, that Tyre shall be turned into a bare rock, and shall never be built again.

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