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Bible Commentaries

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

Ezekiel 26

 

 

Verse 1

An oracle concerning Tyre came to Ezekiel on the first of an unspecified month in the eleventh year of the captivity, namely, 587-586 B.C. According to Cooper, this year began on April23 , 587 B.C. [Note: Cooper, p252.] Some scholars speculate that the month was the eleventh month of this eleventh year and that in the process of textual transmission scribes accidentally omitted the number of the month because it was the same number as the year. Block reconstructed the date as February3 , 585 B.C, the date of the beginning of Nebuchadnezzar"s13-year siege of Tyre, which was also within a month after the news of the fall of Jerusalem reached Ezekiel. [Note: Block, The Book ... 48 , p35.]


Verses 1-6

A general prophecy of Tyre"s destruction26:1-6


Verses 1-19

B. Judgment on Tyre26:1-28:19

"When Jerusalem finally fell in586 , the only states that were still resisting the Babylonians were Egypt and Tyre. It is not coincidental, therefore, that of the foreign nations addressed by Ezekiel , these two are singled out for the brunt of his oracular volleys." [Note: Block, The Book . . . 48 , p32.]

The length of this oracle reflects the great significance of Tyre at this time in Israel"s history. Tyre (lit. "rock") was the principle city of Phoenicia and consisted of two towns: a fortified stronghold on a rocky outcropping one-half mile offshore, and a smaller community on the Mediterranean shoreline opposite this island town. King Hiram I had connected the two population centers with a causeway in the tenth century B.C. [Note: Taylor, p189.] Tyre was important because it was a major port, and therefore a commercial center, and a military center. It stood on the Mediterranean coast35 miles from the Sea of Chinnereth (Galilee) and100 miles from Jerusalem. Chapter25 contains prophecies against nations to the east and west of Israel, but now the Lord looked north.

Ezekiel"s prophecies of Tyre"s destruction are the longest ones against this city-state in the Old Testament (cf. Isaiah 23; Jeremiah 47:4; Amos 1:9-10; Zechariah 9:3-4). He saw that God would use Nebuchadnezzar to punish all the enemies of Israel, among which Tyre and Egypt (chs29-32) were particularly formidable.

"The biblical record first mentions the city as a strong, fortified town that formed part of the boundary of the inheritance of the tribe of Asher ( Joshua 19:29). Tyre was prominent in the days of David and Solomon and throughout the remainder of OT history. Hiram, Solomon"s contemporary, enlarged and beautified the city. Tyre became an important maritime city of the ancient Near East, being involved in great commercial and colonial enterprises throughout the Mediterranean area, the Red Sea, and the Indian Ocean. With the rise of Assyria to power, Tyre periodically submitted to Assyria"s lordship, paying tribute out of the abundance of her wealth (as in the cases of Esarhaddon and Ashurbanipal). Whenever possible, however, Tyre rebelled against the Assyrian power and withstood the Assyrian retribution in the security of its island fortress (as in the case of Sennacherib). As Assyria began to decline in strength, Tyre exerted her complete independence. Tyre was in this latter condition when these oracles were delivered." [Note: Alexander, " Ezekiel ," pp869-70. See also Zimmerli, Ezekiel 2 , pp22-23 , and Feinberg, p147 , for short histories of Tyre.]

The four major parts that make up this section alternate prophetic speeches (26; 28:1-10) and laments (27; 28:11-19).


Verse 2

Divine judgment would come on this city-state because its people rejoiced at Jerusalem"s destruction (cf25:3; Genesis 12:3; Proverbs 15:5 b). According to other prophets the Tyrians had also sold Jews as slaves to the Greeks and Edomites ( Joel 3:4-8; Amos 1:9-10). The Tyrians viewed Jerusalem"s destruction as advancing their commercial interests. The Tyrians controlled the sea routes, but Judah had controlled the land routes. Controlling trade routes enabled a nation to impose tolls and so obtain revenue. Now Jerusalem would cease to compete with Tyre for this income. The Babylonians thus opened Jerusalem"s gates to Tyre.

"When Judah was strong and subjugated Edom, she controlled the caravan routes to the Red Sea, thus hindering the Phoenician tradesmen from gaining all the profit they hoped for." [Note: Feinberg, p148.]

The prophetic perfect tense in Hebrew describes a future event as though it were past, as well as describing past events. Jerusalem fell on the tenth day of the fifth month of the nineteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar"s reign ( 2 Kings 25:8; Jeremiah 52:12), which was the eleventh year of Jehoiachin"s captivity. Dyer dated the fall of Jerusalem on July18 , 586 B.C. [Note: Dyer, " Ezekiel ," p1278.] Because of the absence of reference to the month of this prophecy, it is impossible to date it definitely before or after the fall of Jerusalem. Ezekiel , however, gave it before news of Jerusalem"s fall reached him and the other exiles (cf33:21).


Verse 3-4

The Lord would set Himself against Tyre and would bring up many nations against her, like waves against her shore. This was an apt description since both parts of ancient Tyre stood on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea. These nations would destroy Tyre"s defensive fortifications and would even scrape the site as clean as a rock (Heb. sela"), a play on the name of the city (Heb. sor).

"The siege of Tyre by Nebuchadnezzar lasted for thirteen years (ca586-573 B.C.). Under King Ba"ali II, Tyre accepted Babylonian suzerainty and was ruled by "judges." However, when Babylonia declined in power, Tyre regained her independence once again. This brief freedom lasted till the second "wave" of destruction brought her into submission to the Persians around525 B.C. Tyre"s remaining history demonstrated the continuing "waves" of conquerors: the resistance to Alexander the Great, eventuating in her collapse; her initial resistance to the Seleucid kingdom of Antiochus III, terminating in her becoming part of that kingdom; her submission to Rome; and her fall to the Saracens in the fourteenth century A.D, after which she never again regained any importance. God was faithful to bring the "many nations" against Tyre in successive "waves" of conquest." [Note: Alexander, " Ezekiel ," p870.]

Alexander the Great led the third "wave" of God"s judgment that destroyed the walls of fortified Tyre in332 B.C. He was the first to conquer both parts of the city in battle. He did so by enlarging the causeway from the mainland to the island and then attacking the island fortress by land and by sea. [Note: Cooper, pp251-52; Zimmerli, Ezekiel 2 , p24.]


Verse 5-6

Fishermen would someday use the site as a place to spread their nets to dry. The picture Ezekiel presented was that of the debris of the mainland city being pushed out into the sea where it would become a flat surface. Tyre would become spoil for the nations. Formerly she had spoiled the nations by taking their money in exchange for the commodities that she had traded. Furthermore, Tyre"s daughters (her dependent villages on the mainland) would also fall in battle. The fulfillment of this prophecy would convince many of the Tyrians that Yahweh was the true God.

"Babylon is a byword for godless government, and Tyre is a byword for pride and self-sufficiency ..." [Note: Cooper, p253.]

The Lord Jesus ministered in Tyre ( Matthew 15:21; Mark 7:24-31; Luke 6:17), and the residents responded positively to Him (cf. Matthew 11:21-22; Luke 10:13-14).


Verses 7-9

In an explanatory prophecy about Tyre"s destruction, the Lord promised to send Nebuchadnezzar as an invader from the north (cf. 2 Kings 25:21; Jeremiah 52:9). This is the first time Ezekiel identified the agent of God"s coming judgment on Tyre by name. He was a "king of kings" in that many rulers were subject to him (cf. Daniel 2:37). This would be the first "wave" of conquest, and the Lord described it more fully than the later ones. Nebuchadnezzar would come against Tyre with a great army, besiege the city, break down its walls, and slay many of the Tyrians. After defeating Jerusalem in586 B.C, Nebuchadnezzar proceeded north and attacked Tyre and its neighboring towns for thirteen years, beginning that same year.


Verses 7-14

The first "wave" of judgment26:7-14


Verse 10-11

Nebuchadnezzar"s many horses would raise much dust and cause a loud commotion as they breached the walls, entered the city, and trampled the streets of the mainland town. Many people would die, and Tyre"s strong pillars would fall. The pillars may refer to the leading inhabitants of the town and or to the prominent pillars in the temple of Melkart there (cf. 1 Kings 7:15). [Note: Wevers, p202. See Herodotus, Histories, 2:44.]

"Nebuchadnezzar destroyed mainland Tyre ..., but not the island stronghold. However, other evidence indicates that the island surrendered to Nebuchadnezzar in573-572 B.C." [Note: Dyer, " Ezekiel ," p1279.]


Verse 12

Tyre"s enemies ("they") would take much spoil from the city and would push its physical remains into the sea (cf. Zechariah 9:3-4). God accomplished this by the hand of Alexander the Great who used the rubble from the mainland town to widen the causeway (mole) to the fortress on the peninsula.


Verse 13-14

The Lord would silence the singing and music in Tyre (cf. Isaiah 23:16; Revelation 18:22). He would turn its site into a bare rock suitable for the drying of fishnets (cf25:5-6). Moreover the city would not rebuild on that site again, a very unusual phenomenon in ancient times. This is the fate that Yahweh decreed for Tyre.

""Shall never be rebuilt" might be better translated "will not be built-up again," that Isaiah , "will not go back to its former state," and does not imply that the island of Tyre would never again have any buildings or inhabitants at all." [Note: Stuart, p260.]


Verse 15-16

The Lord also revealed that other towns would tremble when they heard of Tyre"s overthrow. These were Tyre"s vassals along the coast and among the islands that depended on Tyre for their prosperity and protection. Tyre had colonies in many Mediterranean coastal regions: Cyprus, Rhodes, Malta, Spain, Sicily, Sardinia, the Balearic Islands, and Africa. [Note: Feinberg, p150.] The rulers of these communities would go into mourning and would fear because of what had overtaken their mother city (cf. Job 2:11-13; Jonah 3:6; Revelation 18:9). They would abdicate their thrones and submit to the enemy invaders.


Verses 15-18

The effect on Tyre"s allies26:15-18


Verse 17-18

They would lament Tyre"s fate and bemoan the destruction of such a mighty sea power, and they would acknowledge their own fear at the fall of Tyre. This brief lament is in the characteristic qinah or funeral dirge rhythm described previously. The Tyrians had rejoiced over Jerusalem"s fall ( Ezekiel 26:2), but these vassals demonstrated more wisdom by recognizing that the fall of Tyre meant judgment for them.


Verse 19-20

The Lord further promised that after He destroyed the city by deluging it with great waves of invaders (cf. Ezekiel 26:3), it would die like a person placed in a grave (cf31:16; 32:18 , 23-25 , 29-30). It would go down into Sheol, as it were, and so lose its glory. He pictured the island fortress as submerged beneath a sea of invaders that would bury it (cf31:14-18; 32:13-32; Isaiah 14:4-21).

"The most fearful prospect facing ancient mariners was to be caught in a storm and be "lost at sea."" [Note: Dyer, " Ezekiel ," p1279.]

Ezekiel mixed two metaphors for destruction in these verses: waves overwhelming a rocky seaside town, and a person going into the grave (pit, Sheol).


Verses 19-21

The demise of Tyre illustrated26:19-21


Verse 21

Terrors would overtake the people, and the city would exist no longer even though others tried to find it (cf27:26-35). They would search for the city on its former site but would discover that it was not there. In other words, it would enjoy no continuing importance in history. Today only a small fishing village exists on the site, and sailors use the rocks to dry their nets (cf. Ezekiel 26:14).

"The God who has chosen what is weak in the world also shames the strong by evidence of his power, so that no human being may boast in his presence ( 1 Corinthians 1:27-29)." [Note: Allen, Ezekiel 20-48 , p77.]

 


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Bibliography Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Ezekiel 26:4". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/ezekiel-26.html. 2012.

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