Ezekiel 27:9
The ancients of Gebal and the wise men thereof were in thee thy calkers: all the ships of the sea with their mariners were in thee to occupy thy merchandise.
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(9) The ancients of Gebal.—“The ancients” is a thoroughly Semitic expression for the prominent men of a city. Gebal, the ancient Byblos, the modern Gébeil, and the Gu-ba-lu of the Assyrian inscriptions, was a famous Phœnician town just north of Beirût. Its site is still rich in ruins. Its people were famous builders, and according to the margin of 1Kings 5:18 (so also the Septuagint and Vulgate) were employed by Solomon on the work of the Temple. The representation is that the whole widely-dispersed Phœnician race were tributary to the works of Tyre. At this point the figure of the ship gives place for a time to plain language, the better to set forth the military resources and power of this great city.

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.Gebal - i. e., Byblos (modern Gebeil) in Phoenicia, the chief seat of the worship of Adonis, and situated on an eminence over-looking the river Adonis, north of Beirut, not far from the Mediterranean sea. The "ancients" is a term for the council that presided over maritime cities. 9. Gebal—a Phœnician city and region between Beirut and Tripolis, famed for skilled workmen (1Ki 5:18, Margin; Ps 83:7).

calkers—stoppers of chinks in a vessel: carrying on the metaphor as to Tyre.

occupy thy merchandise—that is, to exchange merchandise with thee.

The ancients; old experienced workmen.

Of Gebal; a town of Phoenicia near the sea, one of the four principal towns, to which belonged a jurisdiction over a fourth part of Phoenicia, mentioned Psalm 83:7, among the conspirators against Israel and the Giblites, 1 Kings 5:18. Natives of Gebal are called stone-squarers, people fitted for hard and servile works.

The wise men; skilful in their trades.

Were in thee; hired and dwelt in Tyre for gain’s sake, that they might be still employed.

Calkers; shipwrights, to build no doubt, as well as repair and strengthen, their ships.

All the ships of the sea; ships from all parts of the sea, full of mariners, not only to manage the ships at sea, but to offer their service to the Tyrians for bringing in or carrying out of their wares, so that they might reap the profit, whilst others did undergo trouble and danger of trafficking by sea; factors, and warehouse-keepers, and brokers.

The ancients of Gebal,.... A promontory of the Phoenicians, the same with the Gabale of Pliny (n), and with the land of the Giblites, Joshua 13:5. It was by the Greeks called Byblus; and so the Septuagint here render the words, the elders of Bybli or Byblus, a place once famous for the birth and temple of Adonis; it is now called Gibyle. Mr. Maundrell (o) says it is pleasantly situated by the seaside, and that at present it contains but a little extent of ground, yet more than enough for the small number of its inhabitants; it is compassed with a dry ditch, and a wall with square towers in it, at about every forty yards' distance; on its south side it has an old castle; within it is a church; besides which it has nothing remarkable; though anciently it was a place of no mean extent, as well as beauty, as may appear from the many heaps of ruins, and the fine pillars that are scattered up and down in the gardens near the town. The old experienced workmen of this place were employed by the Tyrians in mending and refitting their ships, and in the caulking of them, as follows:

the wise men thereof were in thee thy caulkers; or, "the strengtheners of thy breaches" (p), or "chinks"; the seams and commissures of the planks; which they stopped with tow, oakum, or such like stuff; at least this is what is used now, whatever might be by those wise men; and it seems by this that it was reckoned a very great art and mystery, and which only wise men were masters of, at least such the Tyrians employed. The Targum renders it,

"providing thy necessaries;''

as if they were the ships' husbands:

all the ships of the sea with their mariners were in thee to occupy thy merchandise; ships from all parts were in her harbours, which brought goods into her, and carried goods out of her, by way of merchandise. So the Targum,

"all that go down into the sea, and the ships; they were rowers, and they brought merchandise into the midst of thee;''

the goods of merchants from divers places; and carried back commodities again they traded for at Tyre; see Revelation 18:19.

(n) Nat. Hist. l. 5. c. 20. (o) Journey &c. p. 33, 34. (p) "roborantes scissuram tuam", Montanus; "instaurantes fissuras tuas", Munster, Tigurine version; "rimas tuas", Vatablus; "instauratores rupturaram tuarum", Piscator.

The ancients of Gebal and its wise men were in thee thy {d} calkers: all the ships of the sea with their mariners were in thee to exchange thy merchandise.

(d) Meaning, that they built the walls of the city, which is here meant by the ship: and of these were the builders of Solomon's temple, 1Ki 5:18.

9. ancients of Gebal] The elders, a title of honour or office, the magistrates. Probably also the “wise men thereof” is a semi-official title (cf. Ezekiel 27:8). The power of Tyre was exerted over all her dependencies (Ezekiel 26:17), in which men of the highest position entered all ranks of her service. Gebal (the classical Byblos, now Jubeil) is situated not far from the river Adonis (Ibrahim) somewhat over 20 miles N. of Beirut (Joshua 13:5; 1 Kings 5:18, R.V.). The town was devoted to the worship of Beltis (Astarte) and Adonis, cf. on ch. Ezekiel 8:14. The name appears in the Assyrian inscriptions, Del., Parad. p. 283.

thy calkers] Marg. stoppers of chinks, carpenters.

to occupy thy merchandise] to handle thy wares. The representation is that the great ship was attended on by all the ships of the sea with their sailors, who served her and delivered her wares to her, or were occupied about them (Ezekiel 27:27).

Verse 9. - The ancients of Gebal. The word is used in the sense of "elders" or "senators," the governing body. Gebal, for which the LXX. gives Biblii, is identified with the Greek Byblus. The name appears in Psalm 83:7 in connection, among other nations, with Tyre and Asshur, as allied with them against Israel; in Joshua 13:5 as near Lebanon and Hermon; in 1 Kings 5:18 (margin Revised Version) as among the stonemasons who worked with Hiram's builders. Byblus was situated on an eminence overlooking the river Adonis between Beirut and Tripoli. Its modern name, Gebail, retains the old Semitic form, and its ruins abound in marble and granite columns of Phoenician and Egyptian workmanship. The work of the caulkers was to stop the chinks of the ship, and the men of Gebal appear to have been especially skilful in this. We note that the metaphor of the ship falls into the background in the latter clause of the verse, and does not appear again. Ezekiel 27:9The 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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