Ezekiel 27
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
This portion of Ezekiel's writings evinces a very remarkable acquaintance with the geography and the economics of the then known world. Perhaps the prophet, living in the heart of a great Oriental monarchy, and in intercourse not only with his countrymen, but with men of various nationalities, may have acquired something more of a cosmopolitan habit of mind than was common among the Jews. Certain it is that the commercial relations of Tyre are described with singular care and minute accuracy. It is evident that, in the view of Ezekiel, every society and community of men was in some way connected with the reign of God upon earth; that whilst in a special sense Jehovah was accounted the Sovereign of the Hebrews, there was a very important sense in which all peoples were subject to Divine authority, and were the objects of Divine regard and interest. The sympathies of Ezekiel, though patriotic, were far from being narrow and provincial. He was able, by the force of historical imagination, to consider Tyre as, for a time and for a purpose, the center of the life and activity of the world. Though inspired to foretell Tyre's destruction, the prophet was by no means insensible to Tyre's beauty and splendor, to the magnificent range of the city's commerce and interests, to the importance of the city to the work and well-being of the nations. There may have been something of rhetorical art in thus dilating upon Tyre's glory in the very moment of foretelling Tyre's fall. But the religions motive was the strongest. Ezekiel wished to show that, however indispensable a city or a state may be in the view of men, God does not regard it as indispensable, and may even fulfill his purposes by bringing about its dissolution and destruction. In this brilliant sketch of the position of Tyre among the nations of the earth, we may recognize -





V. THE VASTNESS OF THE CITY'S TRADE. It is in this connection that Ezekiel introduces neighboring and even distant states, showing in detail in what manner each was connected with Tyre, what were the natural productions or manufactures which they brought to the world's great emporium. It was as a commercial port that Tyre was celebrated, and by its ships and its fearless, adventurous navigators distant lands were brought within the range of civilization.



VIII. THE HOLLOWNESS OF THE CITY'S PROSPERITY. NO wonder that Tyre was the envied of the nations; no wonder that men looked upon the city as secure of a long lease of opulence, of ease and luxury, of splendor, of power, and of fame. Yet beneath all this there was wanting the basis upon which alone can be surely reared the edifice of true prosperity. There was boasting and arrogance; but there was no humility, no subjection to the righteous sway of the Eternal King, no recognition of the sacred responsibilities which accompany the possession of advantages and acquisitions such as those of Tyre. Thus it was that in the time of trial the city was found incapable of enduring and of profiting by Divine discipline. It was founded, not upon the rock of righteousness and piety, but upon the shifting quick sands of worldly prosperity and renown. It fell, and great was the fall of it. "Every plant," said Jesus, "which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be plucked up." - T.

There is a striking resemblance between a gallant ship and an empire. Many persons and orders are united in a state under one governor or captain. There is a unity amid diversity. A state, like a ship, has interchange of interests with other nations. Upon the skill and prudence of the pilot depends the prosperity of empire or ship. The whole life of Tyre was poured into the channel of commerce. Hence the figure would be readily appreciated.

I. THE COMPONENT PARTS OF THIS SHIP WERE GATHERED WORLD-WIDE. The timber was supplied from one country, iron from another, cordage from a third, sails from a fourth. Evidently God intended that nations should be linked together in interdependence. The commodities essential for civilization are wisely distributed through many lands, so that friendly intercommunion may be mutual advantage. National exclusiveness is substantial loss. No country is prosperous in the highest measure that is not willing to import learning and legislation, scientific inventions and natural products, from other lands. Tyre owed her greatness and her prosperity to a large and generous commerce. She was willing to receive from the most obscure or most distant people. The ripest sage can learn from a little child.

II. THE SHIP'S CREW. "Thy wise men, O Tyrus, that were in thee, were thy pilots." Sailors, helmsmen, and defenders were chosen of those most skilful for their particular work. Such a course is the only reasonable one; and yet, in the direction of political affairs, this course is often abandoned. Men are allowed to rule, or are chosen to rule, either in supreme or subordinate places, because of their pedigree, or their titles, or their wealth, or their arrogance. The interests of the state are imperiled, the safety of the state is jeopardized, by partiality or by partisanship. The only qualification for office is personal fitness. No one would entrust his life in a ship which was not commanded by a skilful and experienced captain.

III. THE SHIP'S BUSINESS. The proper business of a ship is usefulness. She has been constructed and manned to convey passengers and commodities from land to land. The over plus of material substance in one land may thus be conveyed to lands where lack is felt. Interchange promotes mutual advantage, mutual confidence, mutual good will. The nation so employed is a blessing to the world. Knowledge is diffused, healthy emulation is aroused, religious truth is disseminated.

IV. EVERY DETAIL OF A NATION'S COMMERCE HAS AN INTEREST IN THE MIND OF GOD. It is very noteworthy that God should have made known to Ezekiel all these particulars in the history and commerce of Tyre; for it is obvious that the prophet in Chaldea could have known them in no other way - unless, indeed, he had been there before the Captivity. Not an item in the mercantile transactions of Tyre but received the cognizance of God. Every purchase, every sale, obtained either his smile or his frown. Nor, if we reflect on the matter, need we wonder. If God takes an interest in all our personal affairs, so must he also in our united interests and in our public concerns. If he stoops to count the hairs of our head, he is only consistent with himself when he notes every legislative measure and every international transaction.

V. SELF-ESTEEM IS AN ELEMENT OF WEAKNESS. "O Tyrus, thou hast said, I am of perfect beauty." A well-built ship, well fitted and complete, is a thing of beauty. It has a charm for the eye. But herein lies a danger. If the owner be taken up with the beauty of his ship, he is prone to neglect her planks and bolts and cordage. The external brightness of a ship is no security against inward rottenness. So is it with the state politic. There may be many outward signs of prosperity - wealth, magnificence, high reputation, prosperous commerce - and yet there may be a worm at the root, a hidden leak that may founder the gallant ship. The only real element of stability is righteousness. The only true rampart of defense is the favor of Jehovah. Instead of self-esteem, there ought to be thankfulness. Instead of self-boasting, there should be trust in God.

VI. THE STOUTEST SHIP IS LIABLE TO WRECK. Every part in the construction and furniture of a ship is a human contrivance to harmonize with the forces of God in nature, and to resist what is perilous to life. Yet human contrivances are, at the best, imperfect. They cannot face, in serious battle, the material forces of God. Some simple occurrence in nature, such as a waterspout, an electric spark, or an earthquake, may shatter in a moment the staunchest ship. Sooner or later every ship finishes its career. Scarcely ever has a ship endured the natural period of a human life. If it has braved a thousand storms, it yields to natural decay, and falls to pieces in the harbor. Apart from God, there is nothing durable, nothing permanent.

VII. THE WRECK OF A NOBLE SHIP PRODUCES WIDESPREAD GRIEF. It is a spectacle distressing to the eye to see a fine ship wrecked upon a rocky coast. But as soon as the imagination takes in the full meaning of the event, the pain felt is greater. We think of the crew - all their privations and anxieties and final death. We think of desolate widows and orphaned children. We think of the loss of valuable property, the frustration of hopes, the impotence of human contrivances and skill, the blow to further enterprise, the sense of hidden danger which surrounds us all. Wider still and deeper is the terror awakened in men's minds when a flourishing empire succumbs to fierce invasion. Human hopes are crushed. Security to life and property is disturbed. A great panic spreads. Life in every place seems imperiled. If Type falls, what empire, what city, can be safe? Things material often receive rude disturbance, that we may find our security in that kingdom "which cannot be shaken." - D.

The word of the Lord came again unto me, saying, Now, thou son of man, take up a lamentation for Tyrus, etc. "We have here," says Hengstenberg," the lamentation over the fall of Tyre, announced in the foregoing chapter. First, its present glory is presented at full length to the view (Vers. 1-25); then its fall, the importance of which can only be understood from the knowledge of its glory. We must profoundly know the gloria mundi if we are to take to heart the sic transit gloria mundi." So the prophet sketches the riches and luxury, the power and glory, of the island-city. We have before us -

I. A CELEBRATION OF REMARKABLE PROSPERITY. Ezekiel exhibits several distinct features of the prosperity of Tyre.

1. Her advantageous situation. "Thou that dwellest at the entry [Hebrew, 'entrances'] of the sea... thy borders are in the heart of the seas." Being built on an island, the sea was accessible from every side of Tyre, and its ships might go forth into all seas with their merchandise. Those towns which are situated on navigable rivers, or on seaports, generally become rich and prosperous. The situation of Tyro was favorable both to its safety and to its commercial prosperity.

2. The grandeur of her buildings. "Thy builders have perfected thy beauty." In the architecture and construction of her edifices, Tyre occupied a distinguished position amongst the cities of her age (cf. Ezekiel 26:12, 17).

3. Her great riches, important handicrafts, and extensive commerce. In Vers. 5-9 the riches of the proud city are indicated. In these verses "the state of Tyre appears under the figure of a splendid ship In the Tyrian state," says Hengstenberg, "the representation by the symbol of a ship was the more natural, as it was a maritime power. The capital lay like a ship in the midst of the sea, and was surrounded with a forest of masts." All the materials and fittings and furniture of this ship were of the best and richest materials, indicating the wealth and luxury of the Tyrians. Persons from other Phoenician cities are represented as serving in subordinate offices in the ship, while the chief offices were held by the Tyrians themselves, thus indicating that the powers of those cities were used to advance the prosperity of Tyre, while the Tyrians retained authority in their state in their own hands. Tyre was also famous for, and her prosperity was advanced by, her handicraftsmen. In both Ver. 16 and Ver. 18 we read of "the multitude of her handiworks." The prophet does not mention the nature of these arts and manufactures. But the Tyrians were skilful in the mechanical arts. Much beautiful artistic work in brass or copper in the temple which Solomon built was executed by Tyrian workmen (1 Kings 7:13-45). Moreover, Tyre was celebrated for the manufacture of costly robes, jewelry, etc. The wide extent of the trade of the island-city is exhibited by Ezekiel in this chapter (Vers. 12-25). Without entering into the details of that account here, it will be clear to any one who will examine it that Tyre "traded with every part of the then known world, either immediately or through the medium of other nations." So great was her prosperity, riches, etc.

4. Her strong fortifications and military defenses. (Vers. 10,11.) Here are walls and towns manned by mercenary soldiers for the protection of the city. There was a general tendency in commercial cities to employ mercenaries for their military service, "on account of the high wages which may be obtained by artisans in a thriving community compared with the ordinary pay of a soldier." To this tendency Tyre had conformed. In her service there were hardy mountaineers from Persia, Africans obtained through the commerce of Egypt, Phoenicians from Arvad, and the Gammadim, or valorous men, or bold champions - a designation, probably, of a troop eminent for bravery. Thus was Tyro favorably situated, splendidly built, abundant in riches, prosperous in trade, and efficiently guarded.

II. A CELEBRATION OF REMARKABLE PROSPERITY INORDINATELY GLORIED IN. "Thou, O Tyre, hast said, I am perfect in beauty" (Ver. 3; cf. Isaiah 23:5, 9). The Tyrians boasted themselves in their riches, prosperity, and power. In the next chapter this proud boasting is very strikingly exhibited (Vers. 2-5). Pride, self-confidence, and sinful boasting the Tyrians had grown into by reason of their position, prosperity, and power. Babylon in the height of her glory and strength manifested a similar spirit. She said in her heart, "I shall be a lady forever... I am, and there is none else beside me," etc. (Isaiah 47:7, 8). There is grievous sin and great danger in such pride of heart and presumption of speech. It is worse than vain for either a community or an individual to boast of worldly power or prosperity; for commanding power may soon be reduced to abject weakness, and conspicuous prosperity to deplorable destitution. "Thus saith the Lord, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might," etc. (Jeremiah 9:23, 24).

III. A CELEBRATION OF REMARKABLE PROSPERITY WITH A SIGNIFICANT OMISSION. In recounting the glories of Tyre, nothing is said of her religion or righteousness. The prophet makes no mention of her piety towards God, or her kindness or justice towards men. He praises her "for all that she had that was praiseworthy. He has nothing to say of her religion, her piety, her charity, her being a refuge to the distressed, or using her interest to do good offices among her neighbors; but she lived great, and had a great trade, and all the trading part of mankind made court to her." A nation is in a sad plight when its only glories are temporal and material, when it is not established and exalted by reverence and righteousness. In such case its glories are likely to be evanescent, its prosperity fleeting, and its power insecure.

IV. A CELEBRATION OF REMARKABLE PROSPERITY DISASTROUSLY TERMINATED. "Thy rowers have brought thee into great waters," etc. (Vers. 26, 27). The figure of a ship, which was dropped while narrating the trade of Tyre, is here resumed, and her fall is depicted as a shipwreck. The great waters and the east wind, which in that district was marked by violent and continued blasts, indicate the sufferings and perils which issued in the overthrow of the proud city. Notwithstanding her secure situation, abundant riches, extensive commerce, and strong defenses, she has been reduced to ruins. "Nothing human," says Greenhill, "can protect a sinful city and people from the judgments of God. Tyrus was as strong a place as the world had; her walls, towers, ships, wise, strong men, could not do it. Tyrus was as rich a place as any under heaven - she had a multitude of riches; yet these kept her not from being brought into great waters. What power or art of man can keep off the wind from a ship when it is at sea? It is not in the power of all the seamen or mariners in the world to do it; neither can any number of men, or all men, keep off a judgment of God when it is coming upon a sinful place."


1. With lamentation. "At the sound of the cry of thy pilots the suburbs shall shake," etc. (Vers. 28-33). They bewail the fall of the island-city, not merely because of that catastrophe, but also because of its significance. If the queen of the sea is ruined, what city upon earth can be safe? (See our homily on Ezekiel 26:15-18.)

2. With affright. "All the inhabitants of the isles are astonished at thee, and their kings are horribly afraid, they are troubled in their countenance" (Ver. 35). Alarm for their own safety would be joined with their amazement at the downfall of Tyre.

3. With scoffing. "The merchants among the peoples hiss at thee" in malicious joy. They who had been her rivals in commerce, and they who had envied her prosperity, would look upon the ruin of Type with rejoicing and scorn. Type had exulted in the destruction of Jerusalem, and when her evil day came there were those who exulted in her destruction. "The Lord is a God of recompenses, he shall surely requite."

CONCLUSION. Our subject has an impressive message to a nation like our own. In some respects we resemble the proud queen of the sea, particularly in our insular situation, our world-wide commerce, and our great power. Let us take heed that we do not resemble her in her sins - her selfishness, her self-sufficiency, her pride, her boasting. Only as our life as a nation is marked by righteousness and the fear of God have we any reliable guarantee for our continued permanence and prosperity. - W.J.

Tarshish was thy merchant by reason of the multitude of all kind of riches, etc. The following topics are suggested for consideration.

I. THE DISTRIBUTION OF THE PRODUCTS OF CREATION IN THE VARIOUS COUNTRIES OF THE WORLD. We see from the verses before us that Type drew its supplies from and sent its productions to most or all the places of the then known civilized world. No country can supply its own inhabitants with all the necessaries and luxuries of life. Every country produces something which, if not needful, is desirable for other countries. No one can say to another, "I have no need of thee." In this arrangement we have an evidence of the wisdom and goodness of the Creator.

II. THE MUTUAL DEPENDENCE AND INTERCOURSE OF NATIONS ARISING OUT OF THE DISTRIBUTION OF THEIR RESPECTIVE PRODUCTS. Tyre had commercial relations with all the places mentioned in our text. Amongst these different peoples there was a mutual dependence. The interests not even of the mightiest and most extensive empire are absolutely self-contained or independent of others. The strong depend upon the weak at least for some things. Today Great Britain draws supplies for her countless and multifarious wants from every quarter and almost (if we may use the expression) from every corner of the world, and sends her products to every part of the world. This mutual dependence and intercourse of nations helps forward the development and progress of mankind. It contributes to the recognition of excellence in others, though it may be of a type different from our own, to the enlargement of our views and ideas, so the promotion of peace, etc.

III. THE DUTY AND INTEREST OF NATIONS TO CULTIVATE PEACEFUL AND FRIENDLY MUTUAL RELATIONS. Mutual dependence and interests should beget mutual consideration. Misunderstandings and wars amongst nations are exceedingly prejudicial to commercial development and prosperity. Wars severely check both the cultivation and the distribution of the products of the countries which are engaged therein. They lay waste lands, they block up ports, they draw men away from peaceful and remunerative industries, and they tax national resources which might otherwise be profitably employed. A just and comprehensive view of commercial relations and the conditions of commercial prosperity would constitute a strong barrier against war and a powerful incentive to international peace and friendship.

"War's a game which, were their subjects wise,
Kings would not play at. Nations would do well
To extort their truncheons from the puny hands
Of heroes, whose infirm and baby minds
Are gratified with mischief; and who spoil,
Because men suffer it, their toy the world."


IV. THE DIVINE OBSERVATION OF COMMERCIAL RELATIONS AND PRACTICES. This minute and extensive recognition and enumeration of the dealings of Tyre with other places and peoples, in the inspired message of the prophet, implies such observation. God's law is coextensive with man's life. No province of our being and activity is beyond his authority. no transactions of our life escape his notice. Well does Matthew Henry say, "This account of the trade of Tyre intimates to us that God's eye is upon men, and that he takes cognizance of what they do when they are employed in their worldly business, not only when they are at church, praying and hearing, but when they are in their markets and fairs, and upon the exchange, buying and selling, which is a good reason why we should in all our dealings keep a conscience void of offence, and have our eye always upon him whose eye is always upon us." And Scott, "They who engage in commerce should remember that they are the servants of God, and learn to conduct their business according to the precepts of his Word, in submission to his providence, and with an aim to his glory."

V. THE SUPREME IMPORTANCE IN COMMERCE OF RIGHTEOUS PRINCIPLES AND PRACTICES. Selfish disregard of the interests of others (Ezekiel 26:2), proud boasting of her own power, prosperity, and glory (Ver. 3; Ezekiel 28:2-5); and a debasing idolatry, - led to the overthrow of Tyre. Apart from righteousness, commercial and all other prosperity will pass away. Tyre was once the most famous city "in the world for trade and commerce. But," as Bishop Newton observes, "trade 'is a fluctuating thing; it passed from Tyre to Alexandria, from Alexandria to Venice, from Venice to Antwerp, from Antwerp to Amsterdam and London, the English rivaling the Dutch, as the French are now (1754) rivaling both. All nations almost are wisely applying themselves to trade; and it behooves those who are in possession of it to take the greatest care that they do not lose it. It is a plant of tender growth, and requires sun and soil and fine seasons to make it thrive and flourish. It will not grow like the palm tree, which with the more weight and pressure rises the more. Liberty is a friend to that, as that is a friend to liberty. But the greatest enemy to both is licentiousness, which tramples upon all law and lawful authority, encourages riots and tumults, promotes drunkenness and debauchery, sticks at nothing to supply its extravagance, practices every art of illicit gain, ruins credit, ruins trade, and will in the end ruin liberty itself. Neither kingdoms nor commonwealths, neither public companies nor private persons, can long carry on a beneficial flourishing trade without virtue, and[ what virtue teacheth, sobriety, industry, frugality, modesty, honesty, punctuality, humanity, charity, the love of our country, and the fear of God. The prophets will inform us how the Tyrians lost it; and the like causes will always produce like effects." ('Diss. on the Prophecies,' diss. 11) - W.J.

The metaphor employed in this passage by the poet-prophet is peculiarly appropriate. What so fitted to represent the maritime city Tyre as a gallant ship? In figurative language Ezekiel pictures the stateliness and prosperity, followed by the wreck and destruction, of the famous mistress of the seas.

I. TYRE IN ITS PROSPERITY IS LIKE A MAJESTIC AND RICHLY LADEN GALLEY. Commerce and wealth, maritime and military greatness, are characteristic of the famous Phoenician port; and these are represented as the freight of the vessel as she skims the surface of the smooth waters beneath the sunny skies.

II. TYRE IN ITS TIME OF TRIAL IS LIKE A GALLEY OVERTAKEN BY A SUDDEN AND VIOLENT TEMPEST. The vessel is built for calm weather, and is ill fitted to contend with storms. When war was waged against Tyre by "the king of kings," Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, then the power of "the queen of the seas" was put to the proof. Not that Tyre succumbed at once; the resistance offered was long and stubborn; the city was fighting for its life. It was not like a great and populous nation occupying an extensive territory, which may be vanquished, but cannot be exterminated. If the city upon the rock was captured and destroyed, Tyre was annihilated as well as conquered. Hence the severity of the struggle, which was a struggle, not for wealth and power merely, but for existence.

III. TYRE IN ITS DEFEAT AND DESTRUCTION IS LIKE A GALLEY WHICH, WITH ALL ITS CARGO, SINKS IN THE MIDST OF THE SEAS. The great waters and the east wind work their will. The rowers are powerless; skill and strength are of no avail. The richly laden vessel goes down with all her costly freight and gallant crew. Riches and magnificence, valor and experience, are powerless to save when the decree has gone forth that opportunities have been neglected, privileges have been abused, that moral laws have been violated, and that the God of nations has been defied. The lessons of history have been studied to little purpose if they have not taught us that "the Lord reigneth," that he "doeth according to his will among the inhabitants of the earth," that he "brings down the lofty from their seat." The multitude of the host and much strength are a vain refuge from the justice and the power of "the Lord of lords." - T.

Very picturesque and impressive is this representation of the effect produced upon the nations by the fall of Tyre. So world-wide was the city's commerce, that no people, however distant, could be unaffected by the catastrophe; and so awful was its fate, that no sensitive mind could contemplate it unmoved. To the vision of the prophet-poet, the galley labors and strains, and at last sinks in the waters of the Mediterranean. The dwellers upon the land and those who sail the sea gather together upon the shore to witness the shipwreck. Their cry and bitter wailing fill the air. Every sigma of humiliation and of mourning is exhibited by the spectators. A lamentation, a dirge, rises from the company of those deeply moved by sympathetic sorrow. They celebrate the glories of the past; they bear witness to present calamity and woe; they confess with terror that Tyre never shall be more. We trace in the demeanor and the language here depicted -

I. ASTONISHMENT AT THE SPECTACLE OF DESTRUCTION. The scene was so unexpected, so much in contradiction to all human anticipation and foresight, so revolutionary, so appalling, that amazement was the predominant emotion of those who witnessed it.

II. SENSE OF THE WORLD'S LOSS BY REASON OF THE SHIPWRECK. The earth seemed poorer for the overthrow and annihilation of Tyre - the leading seaport and commercial center of the nations. In Ver. 33 this loss is depicted, the loss alike of peoples and of kings. Riches and merchandise disappeared, engulfed with Tyre in the insatiable deep. The march of human civilization seemed to be arrested.

III. CONTRAST WITH THE REMEMBERED AND MEMORABLE PAST. Cities, like men, are sometimes best understood and appreciated when they are no more. Those who recollected Tyre's splendor would, in their old age, tell a new generation of the bygone wonders. "Who is there like Tyre, like her that is brought to silence in the midst of the sea?" The puny successors to the peerless seaport would point many a moral, and inspire many a regret for vanished glories.

IV. UNSETTLEMENT AND FOREBODING AS TO THE FUTURE. Astonishment is often associated with fear and trouble. When a vast calamity occurs, it is as if the fountains of the great deep were broken up. Men's hearts fail them for fear. What is to be the future of the world's history? What nation is secure? What throne is stable? What principle, what power, shall bear sway in coming times? There is but one answer to these questions, but one confidence that can never be shaken, "The kingdoms of the earth are the Lord's." -

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