Isaiah 23:1
The burden of Tyre. Howl, ye ships of Tarshish; for it is laid waste, so that there is no house, no entering in: from the land of Chittim it is revealed to them.
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(1) The burden of Tyre . . .—The chapter calls us to enquire into the political relations of Tyre at the time of Isaiah. These we learn, partly from Scripture itself, partly from Assyrian inscriptions. In the days of David and Solomon there had been an intimate alliance between Israel and Hiram, King of Tyre. Psalm 45:12 indicates at least the interchange of kingly gifts, if not the acknowledgment of sovereignty by payment of tribute. Psalm 83:7, which we have some reason to connect with the reign of Uzziah, shows that this alliance had passed into hostility. The position of Tyre naturally threw it into more intimate relations with the northern kingdom; “its country was nourished by the king’s country” then as in the days of Herod Agrippa (Acts 12:20), and there seems reason to believe that the son of Tabeal, whom Pekah and Rezin intended to place upon the throne of Judah, was the son of a Tyrian ruler. (See Note on Isaiah 7:6.) It was, at this time, the most flourishing of the Phœnician cities, and had succeeded to the older fame of Zidon. The action of Ahaz in inviting the help of Tiglath-pileser against Israel and the Syrians had tended to make Tyre also an object of attack by the Assyrian armies. The prophecy now before us would seem to have been connected with that attack, and foretells the issue of the conflict on which Tyre had rashly entered. Upon that issue light is thrown by the inscriptions of the Assyrian kings. Sargon records that he “plundered the district of Samaria and the whole house of Omri,” and “reigned from Yatnan (Cyprus), which is in the midst of the sea of the setting sun . . . from the great Phœnicia and Syria. . . . to all the cities of remote Media” (Records of the Past, vii. 27). Sennacherib boasts of a victory over the land of the Hatti (i.e., Hittites); “fear overwhelmed Luti, the king of Zidon,” and “he fled to Yatnan, which is in the midst of the sea,” and the Assyrian “placed Tubalu” (the Tabeal of Isaiah) on the throne of the kingdom (Records of the Past, vii. 61). In anticipation of these events, the prophet utters his note of warning to the great merchant city. It seems more natural to connect it with those events, which came within the horizon of his vision, than to refer it, as some interpreters have done, to the later siege of Tyre by Nebuchadnezzar. The mention of the Chaldeans as having been subdued by the Assyrians, which fits in with Sargon’s and Sennacherib’s victories over Merôdach-baladan (Records of the Past, vii. 45, 59), who endeavoured to establish an independent kingdom in Babylon (see Note on Isaiah 39:1), and is, of course, entirely inapplicable to the time of Nebuchadnezzar, seems, indeed, to be decisive as to this question.

Howl, ye ships of Tarshish . . .—See Note on Isaiah 2:16. The prophet sees, as in vision, the argosies of Tyre speeding on their way homeward across the Mediterranean from Tarshish (Spain), and bids them raise their lamentation over the coming fate of their city. They will hear that their city has been taken, that there is no access to its harbours. At Chittim (Cyprus, or, probably, Citium, the chief Phœnician colony of the island), the tidings which burst upon them were as a revelation, confirming the vague rumours they had heard before.

Isaiah 23:1. The burden of Tyre — Tyre was an ancient and wealthy city, situated upon the Mediterranean sea, and for many ages one of the most celebrated cities in those parts of the world. The Greek geographer, Strabo, says, that after Sidon, it was the greatest and most ancient city of the Phenicians. Accordingly, Bishop Lowth makes no question but it is meant Joshua 19:29, where mention is made of the strong city Tyre, as existing when Canaan was divided by lot to the tribes of Israel. And it is mentioned also in the fragments of Sanchoniathon, the Phenician historian, who is reckoned to have lived about the time of Gideon, or somewhat later. In the days of David and Solomon it evidently appears to have been a place of great note, and it continued and increased in its commerce, wealth, population, and power, during the reigns of the subsequent kings of Israel and Judah. When Isaiah uttered this prophecy respecting its desolation, (which he did one hundred and twenty-five years at least before its accomplishment,) it stood firm in its strength and glory, abounded in riches, and was especially mighty in naval power, having lately conquered the navy which the Assyrians had brought against it. Yet this city, according to this prophecy, was destroyed, and that twice; first by Nebuchadnezzar, and long afterward by Alexander the Great. The former it withstood thirteen years, at the end or which time the inhabitants, wearied out by endless efforts, resolved to place the sea between them and their enemy, and accordingly passed into an island about half a mile from the shore, where, as Vitringa has proved at large from good authorities, a smaller city already stood, accounted a part of Tyre, and where had long been the principal station for ships. The city on the island was by this means greatly enlarged, and was afterward termed New Tyre. This stood out against Alexander seven months; and before he could take it he was obliged to fill up the strait which separated the island from the continent. Although this prophecy first and more directly respects the former destruction, yet it seems to have some reference to the latter also; only it is here foretold, that seventy years after the former destruction, and before the latter, Tyre should recover her former power and glory, which came to pass accordingly. This is the eighth and last discourse of the second part of Isaiah’s prophecies.

Howl, ye ships of Tarshish — By Tarshish, it seems, Tartessus in Spain is meant, a place which, in the course of trade, the Tyrians greatly frequented: see note on Isaiah 2:16. Howling and lamenting are ascribed to the ships by a known figure; for it is laid waste — It shall shortly be laid waste; so that there is no house, &c. — Every house, or warehouse, shall be shut up, and all trade shall cease. From the land of Chittim it is revealed to them — Namely, to the ships, that is, the negotiators and mariners of Tarshish, whose gain proceeded principally from Tyre, and whom the prophet here addresses; as if he had said, “Lament and deplore the mournful fall of this city, which you shall hear of while you are trafficking in the most distant parts of the Mediterranean sea.” Chittim, in Scripture, signifies all the countries lying upon that sea; and the words import that the news of the siege of Tyre should be dispersed through them all. Indeed, according to Jerome on Isaiah 23:6, when the Tyrians saw they had no other means of escaping except by sea, while some of them fled in their ships to the adjoining island, as mentioned above, others of them took refuge in Carthage, and in the islands of the Ionian and Ægean seas, from whence the news would easily reach Tarshish.

23:1-14 Tyre was the mart of the nations. She was noted for mirth and diversions; and this made her loth to consider the warnings God gave by his servants. Her merchants were princes, and lived like princes. Tyre being destroyed and laid waste, the merchants should abandon her. Flee to shift for thine own safety; but those that are uneasy in one place, will be so in another; for when God's judgments pursue sinners, they will overtake them. Whence shall all this trouble come? It is a destruction from the Almighty. God designed to convince men of the vanity and uncertainty of all earthly glory. Let the ruin of Tyre warn all places and persons to take heed of pride; for he who exalts himself shall be abased. God will do it, who has all power in his hand; but the Chaldeans shall be the instruments.The burden of Tyre - (see the note at Isaiah 13:1)

Howl - This is a highly poetic description of the destruction that was coming on Tyre. The ships of Tarshish traded there; and the prophet now addresses the ships, and calls upon them to lament because the commerce by which they had been enriched was to be destroyed, and they were to be thrown out of employ.

Ye ships of Tarshish - (see the note at Isaiah 2:16). The 'Tarshish' here referred to, was doubtless a city or country in Spain (Ταρτησσὸς Tartēssos), and was the most celebrated emporium to which the Phenicians traded. It is mentioned by Diod. Sic., v. 35-38; Strabo, iii. 148; Pliny, "Nat. Hist." iii. 3. According to Jeremiah 10:9, it exported silver; according to Ezekiel 27:12, Ezekiel 27:25, it exported silver, iron, tin, and lead, to the Tyrian market. In this chapter Isaiah 23:1, Isaiah 23:6, Isaiah 23:10, it is represented as an important Phenician or Tyrian colony. All the circumstances agree with the supposition that "Tartessus" in Spain is the place "here" referred to. The name 'Tartessus' (Ταρτησσὸς Tartēssos) is derived from the Hebrew תרשׁישׁ tarshiysh by a change simply in the pronunciation (see Bochart, "Geo. Sacra," iii. 7, and John D. Michaelis, "Spicileg. Geo. Heb." i.-82-103).

For it is laid waste - Tyre is laid waste; that is, in vision it was made to pass before the mind of the prophet as laid waste, or as it "would" be (see the notes at Isaiah 1:1).

So that there is no house - It would be completely destroyed. This was the case with old Tyre after the conquest by Nebuchadnezzar, and it remained so. See the analysis of the chapter.

No entering in - No harbor; no port; where the ships could remain, and with which they could continue to trade. Tyre was once better situated for commerce, and had greater natural advantages, than any port in the Mediterranean. Those advantages have, however, to a great extent passed away, and natural causes combine to confirm the truth of the divine predictions that it should cease to be a place of commerce. The merchandise of India, which was once conveyed overland through Babylon and Palmyra, and which found its natural outlet at Tyre, is now carried around the Cape of Good Hope, and will never again be restored to its old channel. Besides, Tyre itself, which once had so fine a harbor, has ceased to be a safe haven for large vessels. Robinson (George) says of its harbor, in 1830, 'It is a small circular basin, now quite filled up with sand and broken columns, leaving scarcely space enough for small boats to enter.

The few fishing boats that belong to the place are sheltered by some rocks to the westward of the island.' ("Travels in Syria and Palestine," vol. i. p. 269). Shaw, who visited Tyre in 1738, says of the harbor, 'I visited several creeks and inlets, in order to discover what provision there might have been formerly made for the security of their vessels. Yet, notwithstanding that Tyre was the chief maritime power of this country, I could not discover the least token of either "cothon" or harbor that could have been of extraordinary capacity. The coasting ships, indeed, still and a tolerably good shelter from the northern winds, under the southern shore, but are obliged immediately to return when the winds change to the west or south; so that there must have been some better station than this for their security and reception. In the N. N. E. part, likewise, of the city, we see the traces of a safe and commodious basin, lying within the walls; but which, at the same time, is very small, scarce forty yards in diameter.

Yet even this port, small as it is at present, is, notwithstanding, so choked up with sand and rubbish, that the boats of those poor fishermen who now and then visit this renowned emporium, can, with great difficulty, only be admitted' ("Travels," pp. 330, 331. Ed. fol. Oxon. 1738). Dr. Robin son says of the port of Tyre, 'The inner port Dr basin on the north was formerly enclosed by a wall, running from the north end of the island in a curve toward the main land. Various pieces and fragments of this wall yet remain, sufficient to mark its course; but the port itself is continually filling up more and more with sand, and now-a-days boats only can enter it. Indeed, our host informed us, that even within his own recollection, the water covered the open place before his own house, which at present is ten or twelve rods from the sea, and is surrounded with buildings; while older people remember, that vessels formerly anchored where the shore now is' ("Bib. Researches," vol. iii. p. 397).

From the land of Chittim - This means, probably, from the islands and coasts of the Mediterranean. In regard to the meaning of the word "Chittim," the following is the note of Gesenius on this verse: 'Among the three different opinions of ancient and modern interpreters, according to which they sought for the land of Chittim in Italy, Macedonia, and Cyprus, I decidely prefer the latter, which is also the opinion of Josephus ("Ant." i. 6, 1). According to this, Chittim is the island Cyprus, so called from the Phoenician colony, Kition, (Citium), in the southern part of the island, but still in such a sense, that this name Chittim was, at a later period, employed also in a wider sense, to designate other islands and countries adjacent to the coasts of the Mediterranean, as, e. g., Macedonia (Daniel 11:30; 1 Macc. 1:1; 8:5). This is also mentioned by Josephus. That Κίτιον Kition (Citium) was sometimes used for the whole island of Cyprus, and also in a wider sense for other islands, is expressly asserted by Epiphanius, who himself lived in Cyprus, as a well-known fact ("Adv. Haeres." xxx. 25); where he says, "it is manifest to all that the island of Cyprus is called Κίτιον Kition (Citium), for the Cyprians and "Rhodians" (Ῥόδιοι Rodioi) are called "Kitians" Κίτιοι Kitioi."

It could also be used of the Macedonians, because they were descended from the Cyprians and Rhodians. That most of the cities of Cyprus were Phenician colonies, is expressly affirmed by Diodorus (ii. 114; compare Herod. vii. 90), and the proximity of the island to Phenicia, together with its abundant supply of productions, especially such as were essential in shipbuilding, would lead us to expect nothing else. One of the few passages of the Bible which give a more definite hint in regard to Chittim is Ezekiel 27:6, which agrees very well with Cyprus: "Of the oaks of Bashan do they make them oars; thy ships' benches do they make of ivory, encased with cedar from the isles of Chittim." The sense of this passage is, that the fleets coming from Tarshish (Tartessus) to Tyre, would, on their way, learn from the inhabitants of Cyprus the news of the downfall of Tyre.'

It is revealed to them - If we understand "Chittim" to denote the islands and coasts of the Mediterranean, it means that the navigators in the ships of Tarshish would learn the intelligence of the destruction of Tyre from those coasts or islands where they might stop on their way. Tyre was of so much commercial importance that the news of its fall would spread into all the islands of the Mediterranean.


Isa 23:1-18. Prophecy Respecting Tyre.

Menander, the historian, notices a siege of Tyre by Shalmaneser, about the time of the siege of Samaria. Sidon, Acco, and Old Tyre, on the mainland, were soon reduced; but New Tyre, on an island half a mile from the shore, held out for five years. Sargon probably finished the siege. Sennacherib does not, however, mention it among the cities which the Assyrian kings conquered (thirty-sixth and thirty-seventh chapters). The expression, "Chaldeans" (Isa 23:13), may imply reference to its siege under Nebuchadnezzar, which lasted thirteen years. Alexander the Great destroyed New Tyre after a seven months' siege.

1. Tyre—Hebrew, Tsur, that is, "Rock."

ships of Tarshish—ships of Tyre returning from their voyage to Tarshish, or Tartessus in Spain, with which the Phœnicians had much commerce (Eze 27:12-25). "Ships of Tarshish" is a phrase also used of large and distant-voyaging merchant vessels (Isa 2:16; 1Ki 10:22; Ps 48:7).

no house—namely, left; such was the case as to Old Tyre, after Nebuchadnezzar's siege.

no entering—There is no house to enter (Isa 24:10) [G. V. Smith]. Or, Tyre is so laid waste, that there is no possibility of entering the harbor [Barnes]; which is appropriate to the previous "ships."

Chittim—Cyprus, of which the cities, including Citium in the south (whence came "Chittim"), were mostly Phœnician (Eze 27:6). The ships from Tarshish on their way to Tyre learn the tidings ("it is revealed to them") of the downfall of Tyre. At a later period Chittim denoted the islands and coasts of the Mediterranean (Da 11:30).The destruction of Tyre, from God, for their pride, Isaiah 23:1-14. The time of her rising again, Isaiah 23:15-17, and conversion to God, Isaiah 23:18.

The burden of Tyre; the prophecy of the heavy calamity and destruction of Tyre; which now stood in its strength and glory, being seated in an island, upon a rock, abounding in riches, mighty in naval power, having lately conquered that navy which the Assyrians brought against them. Yet this city was, according to this prophecy, destroyed; and that twice, first by Nebuchadnezzar, and long afterward by Alexander the Great. And although this prophecy seem directly and properly to respect the former destruction, yet it seems to have some reference to the latter also; only it is intimated, that after seventy years Tyrus should recover her former power and glory, before her second and final destruction.

Howl, ye ships; either,

1. Properly; to which howling and lamenting is ascribed by a known figure called prosopopoeia: or,

2. Metonymically, the merchants and owners of ships, who had much commerce with this illustrious mart.

Of Tarshish; either,

1. Of Tarsus, a great port of Cilicia, which anciently had the dominion of that part of the sea; or,

2. Of the ocean, which is so called, 1 Kings 10:22 Psalm 48:7 Isaiah 2:16.

It is laid waste; it shall shortly be laid waste; which was fulfilled not by Shalmaneser, as some would have it; for though he straitened it for some time, yet he never took it; but by Nebuchadnezzar.

No entering in; so effectually wasted, that there is not a house left in it, nor any merchants or others that go into it, either to trade in it, or to repair it.

It is revealed to them: the sense of the words thus rendered may be this, it, i.e. this burden or destruction of Tyre, is, i.e. shall be, revealed, declared or made known, unto them; either,

1. To the Tyrians, to whom this notice should be sent concerning the preparations of their enemies against them: or,

2. To the ships, by which he means their owners or merchants,

from the land of Chittim; which may be here mentioned, either because they first had and gave them notice of it, as was now said; or because their last and sorest destruction was brought upon them by Alexander, who was of the land of Chittim, as is affirmed by that very ancient and venerable, though apocryphal writer, /APC 1Ma 1:1 8:5. But this place is otherwise rendered, both by ancient and later interpreters, which seems to be more natural and easy, and no less agreeable to the Hebrew text; either thus, that she is laid waste, so that there is no house, nor entering or coming in (to wit, for traffic)

from the land of Chittim, is made known to them, to wit, to the ships or merchants that used to resort thither for traffic: or rather thus, for it is laid waste, so that there is no house, (not any houses left for the citizens to dwell in,) nor entering or coming in (to wit, of merchants) from the land of Chittim; she (to wit, her people) is removed or gone into captivity, as this word properly signifies, and is rendered, Isaiah 38:12. And for the last Hebrew word, lamo, which is rendered to them, (which is the only objection against this interpretation,) it is only added as an elegancy of the Hebrew language, and hath no further signification, as it is also Psalm 58:7, and as the particle lo, which signifies the same thing, and such other pronouns, are frequently redundant and insignificant in the Hebrew text, as hath been oft observed by grammarians and interpreters. He mentions

the land of Chittim, because this was an eminent place for shipping and trading, as is manifest from Numbers 24:24 Ezekiel 27:6 Daniel 11:30, and therefore doubtless had great dealings and commerce with Tyre, and may here be put synecdochically for all other countries which traded with her. It is not necessary, for the understanding of this text, to determine what Chittim is, whether it was Italy, or Greece, or the islands in those parts; it is sufficient to know that it was a seafaring place in the Midland Sea; and so much startled and concerned in the destruction of Tyre.

The burden of Tyre,.... Or a prophecy concerning the destruction of it. The Targum is,

"the burden of the cup of cursing, to give Tyre to drink.''

This was a famous city in Phoenicia, which exceeded in renown and grandeur all the cities of Syria and Phoenicia (h), and was much known for its trade and navigation, for which it was well situated by the sea; and indeed new Tyre stood in it, about half a mile from the shore, before it was joined to the continent by Alexander the great: but this seems to be old Tyre, and, was upon the continent, which was built by the Phoenicians before the Trojan war (i), and two hundred and forty years before the temple of Solomon (k). It had its name "Tzur", in the Hebrew language, from whence it is called Tyre, from the rock on which it was built, that word so signifying. It is written here without a vau; and it is a rule with the Jews (l), that whenever this word is written full, with all its letters, it is to be understood of the city of Tyre; but if wanting, it designs Rome; and Cocceius interprets the whole prophecy of the antichristian city.

Howl, ye ships of Tarshish; not of Carthage, as the Septuagint version; but of Tartessus in Spain, which traded with Tyre, and from whence the Phoenicians are said to have large quantities of gold and silver. Some interpret it Tarsus, a seaport in Cilicia, which lay nearer to Tyre, the same place the Apostle Paul was of, Acts 22:3 though by Tarshish may be meant the sea, as it sometimes is, and as the Targum and Jarchi here interpret it, and so designs ships in general; or, as the Targum, those that go down in the ships of the sea; or all sorts of persons, from every quarter, that sailed in ships to Tyre, and traded with it; these are now called to mourning and lamentation, because their commerce with it was now over:

for it is laid waste; not Tarshish, but Tyre; and this was done, not by Shalmaneser king of Assyria, who indeed besieged it for the space of five years, but took it not; the Tyrians with twelve ships scattered his fleet, and took five hundred of his men, this was when Elulaeus was king of Tyre (m); nor by Alexander the great; for though it was besieged and taken by him, yet before his time it had been besieged by Nebuchadnezzar thirteen years, and at last was taken by him, when Ithobalus was king of it (n): and this seems rather intended here, since seventy years after this it was to be restored again, which best accords with those times, as will be seen hereafter:

so that there is no house, no entering in; no port or haven open to go in at, no shops to vend their goods in, no warehouses to lay them up in, nor inns to lodge at, as well as no private houses for the inhabitants to dwell in, all being destroyed by the enemy:

from the land of Chittim it is revealed to them; Chittim was one of the sons of Javan, as was also Tarshish, by whom the isles of the Gentiles were divided, Genesis 10:4 from whom the Ionians or Grecians descended; so that Chittim seems to design some part of Greece, or isles belonging to it. The Macedonians are called by this name; and Alexander the Macedonian is said to come out of the land of Chittim, as in the Apocrypha:

"And it happened, after that Alexander son of Philip, the Macedonian, who came out of the land of Chettiim, had smitten Darius king of the Persians and Medes, that he reigned in his stead, the first over Greece,'' (1 Maccabees 1:1)

"Beside this, how they had discomfited in battle Philip, and Perseus, king of the Citims, with others that lifted up themselves against them, and had overcome them:'' (1 Maccabees 8:5)

hence some think he is designed here, and the destruction of Tyre by him; and the words may be rendered, "from the land of Chittim he is revealed", or "appears unto them"; that is, as Jarchi glosses it, the destroyer to the men of Tyre, though he by Chittim understands the Cuthites. Josephus says (o) Chittim the son of Javan possessed the island Chethima, now called Cyprus, and from hence all islands, and most maritime places, are called Chittim by the Hebrews; and observes, that one of the cities of Cyprus is called Citium. And in the lamentation for Tyre, Ezekiel 27:6, we read of the isles of Chittim; by which are meant perhaps the isles in the Aegean and Ionian seas, who traded with Tyre, and from these first came the tidings of Tyre's destruction to the ships or merchants of Tarshish; which agrees with a Hebrew exposition mentioned by Jarchi,

"from the land of Chittim is revealed to the men of Tarshish the destruction of Tyre; for the inhabitants of Tyre fled to Chittim, and from thence the rumour was heard.''

The sense which R. Joseph Kimchi gives of the passage, as his son David relates, is this,

"Chittim were merchants that went to Babylon, and told them that they might go to Tyre, and would be able to take it, and they would help them, and carry them there by sea.''

But it seems more likely that those trading people, by going from one country to another, got knowledge of the design of the Babylonians against Tyre, and acquainted that city with it. Some join the words, "from the land of Chittim", to the preceding, thus, "no entering in from the land of Chittim, it is revealed", or made known; that is, it is some way or other made known to the merchants of Chittim (p) that there is no entrance into Tyre, the city being laid waste and its port ruined, so that it is in vain for them to send their ships; to which the Septuagint in some measure agrees,


The {a} burden of Tyre. Howl, ye ships of {b} Tarshish; for {c} it is laid waste, so that there is no house, no entering in: from the land of {d} Chittim it is {e} revealed to them.

(a) Read Geneva Isa 13:1

(b) You of Cilicia that come here for merchandise.

(c) Tyrus is destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar.

(d) By Chittim they meant all the isles and countries west of Palestine.

(e) All men know of this destruction.

1. The returning ships are apprised, at the last stage of their voyage, of the disaster that has overtaken their mother-country. Ships of Tarshish may mean here, literally, “ships trading with Tarshish” (Tartessus) at the mouth of the Guadalquivir in Spain. See on Isaiah 2:16.

it is laid waste] The unexpressed subject is best left indefinite,—“a destruction has been wrought.”

no house, no entering in] i.e. “no house (harbour) to enter in.” Cf. ch. Isaiah 24:10 “every house is shut up so that none can enter.” The last word, however, might be joined with the following clause, which would then run: since leaving the land of Chittim, &c. The vessels learn of the fall of Tyre, not at Cyprus, but on their voyage thence. The Chittim are the inhabitants of Kition, in the south of Cyprus, rounded by the Phœnicians. The name was extended to the whole island, and ultimately in biblical usage to the islands and coasts of the Mediterranean (Daniel 11:30).

it is revealed to them] whether by rumour from flying vessels, or by eye-sight as they approached the shore, does not appear.

Verses 1-14. - THE BURDEN OF TYRE. We here reach the last of the "burdens" - the concluding chapter of the series of denunciatory prophecies which commenced with Isaiah 13. It is an elegy "in three stanzas, or strophes" (Cheyne) - the first extending from ver. 1 to ver. 5; the second, thence to ver. 9; and the third from ver. 10 to ver. 14. An undertone of sadness, and even of commiseration, prevails throughout it, the prophet viewing Tyre as a fellow-sufferer with Israel, persecuted and oppressed by the fame enemy, Assyria, which was everywhere pushing her conquests, and had recently extended her dominion even over Babylon (ver. 13). This last allusion fixes the date of the prophecy to a time subsequent to B.C. 710, when the Assyrian monarch, Sargon, first conquered the country, and took the title of king (G. Smith, 'Epanym Canon,' p. 86). Verse 1. - Howl (comp. Isaiah 13:6, 31). The expression is common in the prophets (see Jeremiah 4:8; Jeremiah 25:34, etc.: Ezekiel 21:12; Ezekiel 30:2; Joel 1:5, 11, 13; Zephaniah 1:11; Zechariah 11:2, etc.). Ye ships of Tarshish. "Ships of Tarshish" are first mentioned in connection with the trade carried on by Solomon. Apparently, the term there designates a certain class of ship rather than those engaged in a particular trade (see the comment on 1 Kings 22:48 in the 'Speaker's Commentary,' vol. 2. p. 623). Here, however, Phoenician ships, actually engaged in the trade with Tartessus, may be intended. Tartessus was a very ancient Phoenician settlement in the south of Spain, beyond the Pillars of Hercules, and was the center of a most important and lucrative commerce (see 1 Kings 10:22; Herod., i. 163; Ezekiel 27:12, etc.). In the present passage the returning fleet of merchantmen is addressed, and told that the harbour to which they are hastening is closed, the city desolate. From the land of Chittim. "Chittim" here, as in Genesis 10:4, and elsewhere generally, is probably Cyprus, whose most ancient capital was called by the Greeks Kitten (see Joseph, 'Ant. Jud,' 1:6, § 1). The name "Chittim" is not improbably a variant of "Khittim," "the Hittites," who may have been the first to colonize the island. A fleet from the Western Mediterranean would naturally touch at Cyprus on its way to Tyro, and would there learn the calamity. Isaiah 23:1The prophecy commences by introducing the trading vessels of Phoenicia on their return home, as they hear with alarm the tidings of the fate that has befallen their home. "Howl, ye ships of Tarshish; for it is laid waste, so that there is no house, no entrance any more! Out of the land of the Chittaeans it is made known to them." Even upon the open sea they hear of it as a rumour from the ships that they meet. For their voyage is a very long one: they come from the Phoenician colony on the Spanish Baetis, or the Guadalquivir, as it was called from the time of the occupation by the Moors. "Ships of Tarshish" are ships that sail to Tartessus (lxx inaccurately, πλοῖα Καρχηδόνος). It is not improbable that the whole of the Mediterranean may have been called "the sea to Tarshish;" and hence the rendering adopted by the Targum, Jerome, Luther, and others, naves maris (see Humboldt, Kosmos, ii. 167, 415). These ships are to howl (hēlı̄lū instead of the feminine, as in Isaiah 32:11) because of the devastation that has taken place (it is easy to surmise that Tyre has been the victim); for the home and harbour, which the sailors were rejoicing at the prospect of being able to enter once more, have both been swept away. Cyprus was the last station on this homeward passage. The Chittim (written in the legends of coins and other inscriptions with Caph and Cheth) are the inhabitants of the Cyprian harbour of Citium and its territory. But Epiphanius, the bishop of Salamis in the island of Cyprus, says that Citium was also used as a name for the whole island, or even in a still broader sense. Cyprus, the principal mart of the Phoenicians, was the last landing-place. As soon as they touch the island, the fact which they have only heard of as a rumour upon the open sea, is fully disclosed (niglâh), i.e., it now becomes a clear undoubted certainty, for they are told of it by eye-witnesses who have made their escape to the island. The prophet now turns to the Phoenicians at home, who have this devastation in prospect.
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