Isaiah 23:18
And her merchandise and her hire shall be holiness to the LORD: it shall not be treasured nor laid up; for her merchandise shall be for them that dwell before the LORD, to eat sufficiently, and for durable clothing.
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(18) Her merchandise and her hire shall be holiness to the Lord.—The words seem to reverse the rule of Deuteronomy 23:18, which, probably not without a reference to practices like those connected with the worship of Mylitta (Herod., i. 99), forbade gifts that were so gained from being offered in the Sanctuary. Here, it seems to be implied, the imagery was not to be carried to what might have seemed its logical conclusion. The harlot city, penitent and converted, might be allowed, strange as it might seem, to bring the gains of her harlotry into the temple of the Lord. Interpreted religiously, the prophet sees the admission of proselytes to the worship of Israel in the future, as he had seen it probably in the days of Hezekiah (Psalm 87:4). Interpreted politically, the words point to a return to the old alliance between Judah and Tyre in the days of David and Solomon (1Kings 5:1-12), and to the gifts which that alliance involved (Psalm 45:12).

For them that dwell before the Lord . . .—These were probably, in the prophet’s thoughts, the citizens of Jerusalem, who were to find in Tyre their chief resource both for food and raiment. Traces of this commerce after the return of the Jews from the captivity are found in Nehemiah 13:16, “men of Tyre” bringing “fish and all manner of ware” to the gates of Jerusalem. Of the more direct service we find evidence in the fact that Tyrians and Zidonians contributed to the erection of the second Temple, as they had done to that of the first (Ezra 3:7).

Isaiah 23:18. And her merchandise, &c., shall be holiness to the Lord. — The meaning of the prophet is extremely clear, namely, “that the time should come, after the restoration of Tyre, in which the Tyrians, out of reverence to the true God, would consecrate their wealth and gain to him, and would readily contribute that gain and wealth to the support of the teachers of true religion. In short, that the Tyrians should become converts to that religion. The reader will easily observe that the passage is metaphorical.” “The Tyrians were much addicted to the worship of Hercules, as he was called by the Greeks, or of Baal, as he is denominated in Scripture; but, in process of time, by the means of some Jews and proselytes, living and conversing with them, some of them also became proselytes to the Jewish religion; so that we find a great multitude of people from the sea-coast of Tyre and Sidon came to hear our Saviour; and he, though peculiarly sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, yet came into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon; and the first fruits of the gospel there was a Tyrian woman, a woman of Canaan, as she is called, a Syro-phenician by nation. When St. Paul, in his way to Jerusalem, came to Tyre, he found disciples there, who were inspired by the Holy Ghost, and prophesied; and with them he tarried seven days. In the time of Dioclesian’s persecution, the Tyrians were such sincere converts to Christianity that they exhibited several glorious examples of confessors and martyrs; and when the storm of persecution was blown over, under their Bishop Paulinus, they built an oratory, or rather a temple, for the public worship of God, the most magnificent and sumptuous in all Palestine. Eusebius produces this last occurrence in proof of the completion of Isaiah’s prophecy; and St. Jerome is of the same opinion. To these proofs we will only add, that as Tyre consecrated its merchandise and hire unto the Lord, so it had the honour of being erected into an archbishopric, and the first under the patriarchate of Jerusalem, having fourteen bishops under its primacy; and in this state it continued several years.” — Bishop Newton.

23:15-18 The desolations of Tyre were not to be for ever. The Lord will visit Tyre in mercy. But when set at liberty, she will use her old arts of temptation. The love of worldly wealth is spiritual idolatry; and covetousness is spiritual idolatry. This directs those that have wealth, to use it in the service of God. When we abide with God in our worldly callings, when we do all in our power to further the gospel, then our merchandise and hire are holiness to the Lord, if we look to his glory. Christians should carry on business as God's servants, and use riches as his stewards.And her merchandise - The prophecy here does not mean that this would take place immediately after her rebuilding, but that subsequent to the seventy years of desolation this would occur.

Shall be holiness to the Lord - This undoubtedly means, that at some future period, after the rebuilding of Tyre, the true religion would prevail there, and her wealth would be devoted to his service. That the true religion prevailed at Tyre subsequently to its restoration and rebuilding there can be no doubt. The Christian religion was early established at Tyre. It was visited by the Saviour Matthew 15:21, and by Paul. Paul found several disciples of Christ there when on his way to Jerusalem Acts 21:3-6. It suffered much, says Lowth, under the Diocletian persecution. Eusebius (Hist. x. 4.) says that 'when the church of God was founded in Tyre, and in other places, much of its wealth was consecrated to God, and was brought as an offering to the church, and was presented for the support of the ministry agreeable to the commandments of the Lord.' Jerome says, 'We have seen churches built to the Lord in Tyre; we have beheld the wealth of all, which was not treasured up nor hid, but which was given to those who dwelt before the Lord.' It early became a Christian bishopric; and in the fourth century of the Christian era, Jerome (Commentary in Ezekiel 26:7; Ezekiel 27:2) speaks of Tyre as the most noble and beautiful city of Phenicia, and as still trading with all the world. Reland enumerates the following list of bishops as having been present from Tyre at various councils; namely, Cassius, Paulinus, Zeno, Vitalis, Uranius, Zeno, Photius, and Eusebius (see Reland's Palestine, pp. 1002-101l, in Ugolin vi.) Tyre continued Christian until it was taken by the Saracens in 639 a.d.; but was recovered again by Christians in 1124. In 1280, it was conquered by the Mamelukes, and was taken by the Turks in 1516. It is now under the dominion of the Sultan as a part of Syria.

It shall not be treasured ... - It shall be regarded as consecrated to the Lord, and freely expended in his service.

For them that dwell before the Lord - For the ministers of religion. The language is taken from the custom of the Jews, when the priests dwelt at Jerusalem. The meaning is, that the wealth of Tyre would be consecrated to the service and support of religion.

For durable clothing - Wealth formerly consisted much in changes of raiment; and the idea here is, that the wealth of Tyre would be devoted to God, and that it would be furnished for the support of those who ministered at the altar.

18. merchandise … holiness—Her traffic and gains shall at last (long after the restoration mentioned in Isa 23:17) be consecrated to Jehovah. Jesus Christ visited the neighborhood of Tyre (Mt 15:21); Paul found disciples there (Ac 21:3-6); it early became a Christian bishopric, but the full evangelization of that whole race, as of the Ethiopians (Isa 18:1-7), of the Egyptians and Assyrians (Isa 19:1-25), is yet to come (Isa 60:5).

not treasured—but freely expended in His service.

them that dwell before the Lord—the ministers of religion. But Horsley translates, "them that sit before Jehovah" as disciples.

durable clothing—Changes of raiment constituted much of the wealth of former days.

Her merchandise and her hire shall be holiness to the Lord: he speaks not here of what the Tyrians would do immediately after their restitution, but some time after it, even in the days of the Messiah; of which even some of the Jewish rabbies understand it, and to which the prophets have a special respect in their several prophecies, and Isaiah among and above the rest of them. So this is a prophecy concerning the conversion of the Tyrians to the true religion, of the accomplishment whereof something is said Acts 21:3-5, and more in other authors.

It shall not be treasured nor laid up, either out of covetousness, or for the service of their pride and luxury, as they formerly did; but now they shall freely lay it out upon pious and charitable uses.

For them that dwell before the Lord; for the support and encouragement of the ministers of holy things, who shall teach the good knowledge of the Lord, who dwell in God’s house, and minister in his presence; the support of such persons being not only an act of justice and charity, but also of piety, and of great use and necessity to maintain and propagate religion in the world. Although this doth not exclude, but rather imply, their liberality in contributing to the necessities of all Christians.

And her merchandise, and her hire,.... Or, "but her merchandise", &c. not the same as before; or, however, not as carried on at the same time, but many ages after, even in the times of the Gospel; for this part of the prophecy respects the conversion of the Tyrians, in the first ages of Christianity; this is prophesied of elsewhere, Psalm 45:12 and was fulfilled in the times of the apostles, Acts 11:19 and so Kimchi and Jarchi say this is a prophecy to be fulfilled in the days of the Messiah (m); and then the trade of this people, and what they got by it,

should be holiness to the Lord; that is, devoted, at least, great part of it, to holy uses and service; that is, in defraying of all expenses in carrying on the worship of God, for the maintenance of Gospel ministers, and for the supply and support of the poor saints:

it shall not be treasured, nor laid up: in order to be laid out in pride and luxury; or to be kept as useless, to gratify a covetous disposition; or for posterity to come:

for her merchandise shall be laid up for them, that dwell before the Lord; part of what should be gained by trading, at least, should be laid by for religious uses, as is directed, 1 Corinthians 16:1 even for the relief of poor saints in general, who assemble together before the Lord, for the sake of his worship; and particularly for the support of the ministers of the Gospel, who stand before the Lord, and minister in holy things, in his name, to the people:

to eat sufficiently; that they may have food convenient for them, and enough of it; or, in other words, have a sufficient maintenance, a comfortable supply of food for themselves and families, and raiment also; as follows:

and for durable clothing; that they may have a supply of clothing, and never want a coat to put upon their backs. This prophecy, as it belongs to Gospel times, is a proof of the maintenance of Gospel ministers, that they ought to be liberally provided for; and care should be taken that they want not food and raiment, but have a fulness and sufficiency of both, and that which is convenient for them.

(m) So in Midrash, Kohelet, fol. 62. 3.

And her merchandise and her hire shall be {z} holiness to the LORD: it shall not be treasured nor laid up; for her merchandise shall be for them that dwell before the LORD, for sufficient food and for durable clothing.

(z) He shows that God yet by the preaching of the gospel will call Tyre to repentance and turn her heart from evil and filthy gain, to the true worshipping of God, and liberality toward his saints.

18. merchandise and hire are synonymous; the one is the literal, the other the metaphorical designation of the same fact.

holiness to the Lord] i.e. “dedicated” to Jehovah (in opposition to the letter of Deuteronomy 23:18). The word has no ethical sense; and the idea of “commerce as the handmaid of religion,” if by that it is meant that Tyre’s commerce is to be conducted in a religious spirit, is foreign to the passage. Tyre is still a “harlot” as of old, and her conversion to the true God does not appear to be contemplated here.

shall not be treasured nor laid up] as formerly, for the benefit of Tyre herself. Those that dwell before the Lord are the Jewish people, who according to another prophecy (ch. Isaiah 61:6) are the priests of humanity.

For durable read stately, as R.V. marg. The word is not found elsewhere.

Verse 18. - Her merchandise and her hire shall be holiness to the Lord. There is nothing intrinsically wrong or debasing in commerce. Rightly pursued, and engaged in with the view of devoting the profits made in it to good and pious ends, the commercial life may be as religious, and as acceptable to God as any other. The world has known many merchants who were Christians, in the highest sense of the word. Solomon in his best days was a merchant (1 Kings 9:27, 28; 1 Kings 10:22), but one who employed the wealth which he derived from commerce to the honor and glory of God. It shall not be treasured nor laid up. The merchants shall not lay it up in their own coffers, but expend it wisely and religiously. It shall be for them that dwell before the Lord; i.e. it shall be applied to religious uses - to the sustentation of ministers, the relief of the poor and necessitous among God's people, and other similar purposes. Such an employment of the gains made sanctifies commerce, and makes it a good and a blessed thing.

Isaiah 23:18This restoration of the trade of Tyre is called a visitation on the part of Jehovah, because, however profane the conduct of Tyre might be, it was nevertheless a holy purpose to which Jehovah rendered it subservient. "And her gain and her reward of prostitution will be holy to Jehovah: it is not stored up nor gathered together; but her gain from commerce will be theirs who dwell before Jehovah, to eat to satiety and for stately clothing." It is not the conversion of Tyre which is held up to view, but something approaching it. Sachar (which does not render it at all necessary to assume a form sâchâr for Isaiah 23:3) is used here in connection with 'ethnân, to denote the occupation itself which yielded the profit. This, and also the profit acquired, would become holy to Jehovah; the latter would not be treasured up and capitalized as it formerly was, but they would give tribute and presents from it to Israel, and thus help to sustain in abundance and clothe in stately dress the nation which dwelt before Jehovah, i.e., whose true dwelling-place was in the temple before the presence of God (Psalm 27:4; Psalm 84:5; mecasseh equals that which covers, i.e., the covering; ‛âthik, like the Arabic ‛atik, old, noble, honourable). A strange prospect! As Jerome says, "Haec secundum historiam necdum facta comperimus."

The Assyrians, therefore, were not the predicted instruments of the punishment to be inflicted upon Phoenicia. Nor was Shalmanassar successful in his Phoenician war, as the extract from the chronicle of Menander in the Antiquities of Josephus (Ant. ix. 14, 2) clearly shows. Elulaeus, the king of Tyre, had succeeded in once more subduing the rebellious Cyprians (Kittaioi). But with their assistance (if indeed ἐπὶ τούτους πέμπσας is to be so interpreted)

(Note: The view held by Johann Brandis is probably the more correct one-namely, that Shalmanassar commenced the contest by sending an army over to the island against the Chittaeans (ἐπὶ not in the sense of ad, to, but of contra, against, just as in the expression further on, ἐπ ̓ αὐτοὺς ὑπέστρεψε, contra eos rediit), probably to compel them to revolt again from the Tyrians. Rawlinson (Monarchies, ii. 405) proposes, as an emendation of the text, ἐπὶ του'τον, by which the Cyprian expedition is got rid of altogether.))

Shalmanassar made war upon Phoenicia, though a general peace soon put an end to this campaign. Thereupon Sidon, Ace, Palaetyrus, and many other cities, fell away from Tyrus (insular Tyre), and placed themselves under Assyrian supremacy. But as the Tyrians would not do this, Shalmanassar renewed the war; and the Phoenicians that were under his sway supplied him with six hundred ships and eight hundred rowers for this purpose. The Tyrians, however, fell upon them with twelve vessels of war, and having scattered the hostile fleet, took about five hundred prisoners. This considerably heightened the distinction of Tyre. And the king of Assyria was obliged to content himself with stationing guards on the river (Leontes), and at the conduits, to cut off the supply of fresh water from the Tyrians. This lasted for five years, during the whole of which time the Tyrians drank from wells that they hand sunk themselves. Now, unless we want to lower the prophecy into a mere picture of the imagination, we cannot understand it as pointing to Asshur as the instrument of punishment, for the simple reason that Shalmanassar was obliged to withdraw from the "fortress of the sea" without accomplishing his purpose, and only succeeded in raising it to all the greater honour. But it is a question whether even Nebuchadnezzar was more successful with insular Tyre. All that Josephus is able to tell us from the Indian and Phoenician stories of Philostratus, is that Nebuchadnezzar besieged Tyre for thirteen years in the reign of Ithobal (Ant. x. 11, 1). And from Phoenician sources themselves, he merely relates (c. Ap. i. 21) that Nebuchadnezzar besieged Tyre for thirteen years under Ithobal (viz., from the seventh year of his reign onwards). But so much, at any rate, may apparently be gathered from the account of the Tyrian government which follows, viz., that the Persian era was preceded by the subjection of the Tyrians to the Chaldeans, inasmuch as they sent twice to fetch their king from Babylon. When the Chaldeans made themselves masters of the Assyrian empire, Phoenicia (whether with or without insular Tyre, we do not know) was a satrapy of that empire (Josephus, Ant. x. 11, 1; c. Ap. i. 19, from Berosus), and this relation still continued at the close of the Chaldean rule. So much is certain, however - and Berosus, in fact, says it expressly - viz. that Nebuchadnezzar once more subdued Phoenicia when it rose in rebellion; and that when he was called home to Babylon in consequence of the death of his father, he returned with Phoenician prisoners. What we want, however, is a direct account of the conquest of Tyre by the Chaldeans. Neither Josephus nor Jerome could give any such account. And the Old Testament Scriptures appear to state the very opposite - namely, the failure of Nebuchadnezzar's enterprise. For in the twenty-seventh year after Jehoiachim's captivity (the sixteenth from the destruction of Jerusalem) the following word of the Lord came to Ezekiel (Ezekiel 29:17-18): "Son of man, Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon has caused his army to perform a long and hard service against Tyre: every head is made bald, and every shoulder peeled; yet neither he nor his army has any wages at Tyre for the hard service which they have performed around the same." It then goes on to announce that Jehovah would give Egypt to Nebuchadnezzar, and that this would be the wages of his army. Gesenius, Winer, Hitzig, and others, infer from this passage, when taken in connection with other non-Israelitish testimonies given by Josephus, which merely speak of a siege, that Nebuchadnezzar did not conquer Tyre; but Hengstenberg (de rebus Tyriorum, 1832), Hvernick (Ezek. pp. 427-442), and Drechsler (Isaiah ii. 166-169) maintain by arguments, which have been passed again and again through the sieve, that this passage presupposes the conquest of Tyre, and merely announces the disproportion between the profit which Nebuchadnezzar derived from it and the effort that it cost him. Jerome (on Ezekiel) gives the same explanation. When the army of Nebuchadnezzar had made insular Tyre accessible by heaping up an embankment with enormous exertions, and they were in a position to make use of their siege artillery, they found that the Tyrians had carried away all their wealth in vessels to the neighbouring islands; "so that when the city was taken, Nebuchadnezzar found nothing to repay him for his labour; and because he had obeyed the will of God in this undertaking, after the Tyrian captivity had lasted a few years, Egypt was given to him" (Jerome).

I also regard this as the correct view to take; though without wishing to maintain that the words might not be understood as implying the failure of the siege, quite as readily as the uselessness of the conquest. But on the two following grounds, I am persuaded that they are used here in the latter sense. (1.) In the great trilogy which contains Ezekiel's prophecy against Tyre (Ezekiel 26-28), and in which he more than once introduces thoughts and figures from Isaiah 23, which he still further amplifies and elaborates (according to the general relation in which he stands to his predecessors, of whom he does not make a species of mosaic, as Jeremiah does, but whom he rather expands, fills up, and paraphrases, as seen more especially in his relation to Zephaniah), he predicts the conquest of insular Tyre by Nebuchadnezzar. He foretells indeed even more than this; but if Tyre had not been at least conquered by Nebuchadnezzar, the prophecy would have fallen completely to the ground, like any merely human hope. Now we candidly confess that, on doctrinal grounds, it is impossible for us to make such an assumption as this. There is indeed an element of human hope in all prophecy, but it does not reach such a point as to be put to shame by the test supplied in Deuteronomy 18:21-22. (2.) If I take a comprehensive survey of the following ancient testimonies: (a) that Nebuchadnezzar, when called home in consequence of his father's death, took some Phoenician prisoners with him (Berosus, ut sup.); (b) that with this fact before us, the statement found in the Phoenician sources, to the effect that the Tyrians fetched two of their rulers from Babylon, viz., Merbal and Eirom, presents a much greater resemblance to 2 Kings 24:12, 2 Kings 24:14, and Daniel 1:3, than to 1 Kings 12:2-3, with which Hitzig compares it; (c) that, according to Josephus (c. Ap. i. 20), it was stated "in the archives of the Phoenicians concerning this king Nebuchadnezzar, that he conquered all Syria and Phoenicia;" and (d) that the voluntary submission to the Persians (Herod. Isaiah 3:19; Xen. Cyrop. i. 1, 4) was not the commencement of servitude, but merely a change of masters; - if, I say, I put all these things together, the conclusion to which I am brought is, that the thirteen years' siege of Tyre by Nebuchadnezzar ended in its capture, possibly through capitulation (as Winer, Movers, and others assume).

The difficulties which present themselves to us when we compare together the prophecies of Isaiah and Ezekiel, are still no doubt very far from being removed; but it is in this way alone that any solution of the difficulty is to be found. For even assuming that Nebuchadnezzar conquered Tyre, he did not destroy it, as the words of the two prophecies would lead us to expect. The real solution of the difficulty has been already given by Hvernick and Drechsler: "The prophet sees the whole enormous mass of destruction which eventually came upon the city, concentrated, as it were, in Nebuchadnezzar's conquest, inasmuch as in the actual historical development it was linked on to that fact like a closely connected chain. The power of Tyre as broken by Nebuchadnezzar is associated in his view with its utter destruction." Even Alexander did not destroy Tyre, when he had conquered it after seven months' enormous exertions. Tyre was still a flourishing commercial city of considerable importance under both the Syrian and the Roman sway. In the time of the Crusades it was still the same; and even the Crusaders, who conquered it in 1125, did not destroy it. It was not till about a century and a half later that the destruction was commenced by the removal of the fortifications on the part of the Saracens. At the present time, all the glory of Tyre is either sunk in the sea or buried beneath the sand - an inexhaustible mine of building materials for Beirut and other towns upon the coast. Amidst these vast ruins of the island city, there is nothing standing now but a village of wretched wooden huts. And the island is an island no longer. The embankment which Alexander threw up has grown into a still broader and stronger tongue of earth through the washing up of sand, and now connects the island with the shore - a standing memorial of divine justice (Strauss, Sinai und Golgotha, p. 357). This picture of destruction stands before the prophet's mental eye, and indeed immediately behind the attack of the Chaldeans upon Tyre - the two thousand years between being so compressed, that the whole appears as a continuous event. This is the well-known law of perspective, by which prophecy is governed throughout. This law cannot have been unknown to the prophets themselves, inasmuch as they needed it to accredit their prophecies even to themselves. Still more was it necessary for future ages, in order that they might not be deceived with regard to the prophecy, that this universally determining law, in which human limitations are left unresolved, and are miraculously intermingled with the eternal view of God, should be clearly known.

But another enigma presents itself. The prophet foretells a revival of Tyre at the end of seventy years, and the passing over of its world-wide commerce into the service of the congregation of Jehovah. We cannot agree with R. O. Gilbert (Theodulia, 1855, pp. 273-4) in regarding the seventy years as a sacred number, which precludes all clever human calculation, because the Lord thereby conceals His holy and irresistible decrees. The meaning of the seventy is clear enough: they are, as we saw, the seventy years of the Chaldean rule. And this is also quite enough, if only a prelude to what is predicted here took place in connection with the establishment of the Persian sway. Such a prelude there really was in the fact, that, according to the edict of Cyrus, both Sidonians and Tyrians assisted in the building of the temple at Jerusalem (Ezra 3:7, cf., Isaiah 1:4). A second prelude is to be seen in the fact, that at the very commencement of the labours of the apostles there was a Christian church in Tyre, which was visited by the Apostle Paul (Acts 21:3-4), and that this church steadily grew from that time forward. In this way again the trade of Tyre entered the service of the God of revelation. But it is Christian Tyre which now lies in ruins. One of the most remarkable ruins is the splendid cathedral of Tyre, for which Eusebius of Caesarea wrote a dedicatory address, and in which Friedrich Barbarossa, who was drowned in the Kalykadnos in the year 1190, is supposed to have been buried. Hitherto, therefore, these have been only preludes to the fulfilment of the prophecy. Its ultimate fulfilment has still to be waited for. But whether the fulfilment will be an ideal one, when not only the kingdoms of the world, but also the trade of the world, shall belong to God and His Christ; or spiritually, in the sense in which this word is employed in the Apocalypse, i.e., by the true essence of the ancient Tyre reappearing in another city, like that of Babylon in Rome; or literally, by the fishing village of Tzur actually disappearing again as Tyre rises from its ruins - it would be impossible for any commentator to say, unless he were himself a prophet.

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