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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Ezekiel 27

 

 

Verses 2-4

Ezekiel 27:2-4. Take up a lamentation for Tyrus — This alludes to the mournful lamentations used at funerals, wherein the mourning women recounted every thing that was valuable or praiseworthy belonging to the deceased, and then lamented the loss of him; and say, O thou that art situate at the entry of the sea — That art a sea-port, fitted by situation for carrying on trade with many countries: see Isaiah 23:1. Thou hast said, I am of perfect beauty — Thou hast boasted that thou hast every thing to render thee complete, and that there is nothing wanting to thee. Thy borders are in the midst of the seas — Thy dominions are not confined to the land, but extend far into the sea; where thou commandest without control, and sailest from place to place without interruption, to bring home thy riches. Thy builders have perfected thy beauty — Undoubtedly such a city as Tyre, which had store of riches, was built with great magnificence and beauty; but the following verses seem to show, that these words are chiefly to be understood of the builders of their ships, wherein the chief strength and glory of the Tyrians were placed.


Verses 5-7

Ezekiel 27:5-7. They have made thy ship-boards — The decks of thy ships; of fir-trees of Senir — By these are meant, the fir-trees which grew upon mount Hermon, which was anciently called Shenir, or Senir. They have taken cedars to make masts for thee — Though cedars have a thick, and not a lofty trunk, masts consisting of different parts may be made of different cedars duly sized, or properly shaped if of too large a size. Of the oaks of Bashan have they made thine oars — That they might be strong. The company of the Ashurites — That is, the Assyrians; have made thy benches of ivory — “Perhaps the seats in the cabins of the royal galleys.” Instead of the company of the Ashurites, &c., Bishop Newcome (with R. Salerno, Bochart, Houbigant, and some others, using a different pointing of the Hebrew word so rendered) reads the latter part of the verse thus: Thy benches have they made of ivory, inlaid in box from the isles of Chittim — That is, the islands and coasts of the Mediterranean. In this sense the Chaldee understands the clause. Corsica, with which no doubt the Tyrians traded, was famous for the box-tree; and we may easily allow that the benches of some of the Tyrian ships were adorned with streaks of ivory inlaid in that kind of wood which certainly would appear very beautiful. So Virgil would have thought, who uses such an emblem to set forth the beauty of young Ascanius:

“ — — Quale per artem Inclusum buxo, aut Oricia terebintho Lucet ebur.” — — — — ÆN. 10:135.

“Distinguish’d from the crowd he shines a gem Enchased in gold, or polish’d ivory set Amidst the meaner foil of sable jet.” — DRYDEN.

Fine linen with broidered work, &c., from Egypt — “Fine linen was one of the principal commodities of Egypt, and was a habit used for persons of the best quality; which shows to what an excess of vanity the Tyrians were come, to use such costly manufactures for sails to their ships. Suetonius, in his Life of Caligula, cap. 37, reckons this among several instances of that emperor’s extravagance, that he furnished his pleasure-boats with costly sails, and other expensive ornaments.” Blue and purple from the isles of Elishah was that which covered thee — “Blue and purple are elsewhere reckoned among those colours which set off the richest attire. The common clothing of the Tyrians was of these kinds, which were brought from the islands of the Ægean sea, particularly Coos, famed for purple among heathen authors. Elishah denotes the countries upon the coast of Greece: a part of Peloponnesus retains the name of Elis among the Greek writers.” — Lowth.


Verses 8-11

Ezekiel 27:8-11. The inhabitants of Zidon and Arvad were thy mariners — So great was the opulence and pride of the Tyrians, that they hired foreigners to do the more laborious and menial employments, and would do nothing else themselves than steer the vessels, priding themselves on being the most able pilots. Of Zidon, see note on Isaiah 23:4, and of Arvad, on Jeremiah 49:23. The ancients of Gebal, &c., were thy calkers — Thou employedst the inhabitants of Gebal for calking thy ships, as being remarkably skilful in that trade. Concerning Gebal, which was a province of Phenicia, see note on Psalms 83:7. All the ships of the sea were in thee — Ships from all parts came to trade with thee. They of Persia, &c., were in thine army — Thy citizens being all given to trading, thou madest use of foreign soldiers for thine army, when thy city was besieged. Bochart thinks that Lud denotes African Ethiopia; but Michaelis places this people westward in Africa. Both think Lud an Egyptian colony. The former, by Phut, understands the African Nomades: see Nahum 3:9. They hanged the shield and helmet in thee — In thy garrisons, which were kept in time of peace. The men of Arvad, &c., were upon thy walls — They defended thy walls, when they were assaulted by the king of Babylon’s army. And the Gammadims were in thy towers — It is very uncertain what people are here meant by this name. Mr. Fuller and Bishop Newcome think it probable they were a people of Phenicia. The Hebrew word is derived from one which signifies to be contracted, narrowed, &c., and Parkhurst is of opinion that these people were the inhabitants of the country about Tripoli in Syria, formerly called the αγκων, or Elbow, of Phenicia, from its being narrowed, and projecting into the sea in that form. Ludolphus conjectures they were Africans; the Chaldee paraphrase takes them to be Cappadocians. Dr. Spencer denominates them, “Parvula simulacra, plerumque cubitalia, in dominus aut turribus ethnicorum in earum tutelam, aut præsidium, collocata,” Little images, generally a cubit in length, placed upon the houses, or towers of the heathen, for their protections, or defence.


Verses 12-15

Ezekiel 27:12-15. Tarshish was thy merchant — Trafficked with thee. Of Tarshish, see note on Isaiah 2:16; Isaiah 23:1. Javan, Tubal, and Meshech — By Javan is to be understood Greece, in which sense Alexander is styled king of Javan, or Greece, Daniel 8:21. So the LXX. translate it here, and in that place of Daniel. And all Greece, except Peloponnesus, was anciently called Ionia. Tubal and Meshech are names usually joined together in Scripture. Two of Japhet’s sons are so called, Genesis 10:2. Bochart and Bishop Newcome, with others, suppose them to be the people afterward called Tibareni and Moschi, who are generally mentioned together, and were situated near the Euxine sea. They traded the persons of men — In buying and selling slaves in the markets. Bochart observes, that Pontus, to which the Tibareni extended themselves, was remarkable for slaves, and that the Grecian slaves were the most valuable of any. And vessels of brass in thy market — The Hebrew word נחשׁת here, generally translated brass, likewise signifies steel, and is so rendered by our interpreters, Psalms 18:34. And we may very well understand it so here; for the Chalybes, a people so called from their steel manufactures, lived in the neighbourhood of the Tibareni and Moschi, for which reason steel is called the northern iron, Jeremiah 15:12. By Togarmah, Bochart supposes Cappadocia is meant. Michaelis, however, prefers Armenia, which abounded in horses, and among the inhabitants of which a tradition prevailed, that they were descended from Thorgom. By Dedan, the above-mentioned critics, with Bishop Newcome, understand a city in the Persian gulf, now called Daden. To this place the inhabitants of the eastern isles, or seacoasts, brought their wares. Many isles were, or rather, had, the merchandise of thy hand — That is, many isles took thy manufactures, or bought commodities of thee; and, by way of return for them, brought thee in ivory, and other rarities from India, whither they traded. They brought these by way of present, says our translation; but it was rather by way of price, or return, for the commodities exported, and so it is rendered in some versions.


Verses 16-20

Ezekiel 27:16-20. Syria was thy merchant, &c. — From what is said here, we may conclude that the inhabitants of Tyre were exceedingly industrious, skilful in arts, and politic; for here almost all nations are described as bringing their respective commodities to Tyre, to give in exchange for the wares or manufactures of that place; which shows to what a vast height they carried their manufactures, and what immense profits they must have gained, since, it seems, they were able to purchase all kinds of precious stones, and the richest commodities of the world, with their own manufactures. Judah and Israel were thy merchants — Both the kingdom of the two tribes, and that of the ten. They traded in thy market wheat of Minnith — Minnith was a place belonging to the Ammonites, 11:33, and was noted for excellent wheat, great quantities of which the Jews brought to Tyre, the Tyrians having none of their own growth, but being supplied therewith by the Jews and Israelites, from the growth of their own or the neighbouring countries: see 1 Kings 5:9-11; Ezra 3:7; Acts 12:20. And Pannag — This is a word not elsewhere to be found, supposed by some to be the name of a place; by others, more probably, taken for some rich ointment, or gum. The Vulgate translates it balsam. In the wine of Helbon — Helbon is supposed to be that part of Syria which is called Chalybonitis by Ptolemy; and white wool — Bochart understands this to be wool of a bright purple colour. The LXX. and Chaldee render it, wool from Miletus, a place famous for that commodity. Dan also, &c. — Grotius thinks that Dan in the kingdom of Israel can scarcely be meant here; and finds that a city called Dana is placed by Ptolemy in the island of Ceylon. Dedan, &c., in precious clothes for chariots — Either these were rich coverings which were flung over the horses when harnessed to chariots, or else coverings for the seats of the chariots.


Verses 21-24

Ezekiel 27:21-24. Arabia, &c., occupied with thee — Hebrew, ידן סחרי, were the merchants of thy hand; that is, they took off thy manufactures (see Ezekiel 27:15 ) in exchange for cattle, in which their substance chiefly consisted. Of Kedar and its flocks, see notes on Isaiah 21:16-17; Isaiah 60:7. The merchants of Sheba and Raamah — These were people of Arabia Felix, dwelling near the Persian gulf. They traded in the rich products of their own country, namely, spices, precious stones, and gold, in which it abounded: see note on 1 Kings 10:1; 1 Kings 10:10. Haran, and Canneh, and Eden — By Haran here, it seems, the place is meant where Abraham dwelt when he came out of Ur of the Chaldees, (see Genesis 11:31,) called Charræ by the Romans, and noted for the defeat of Crassus. Canneh some suppose to be the same place that is called Calneh, Amos 6:2, or Calno, Isaiah 10:9, a city near the Euphrates. Others take it for Ctesiphon, a noted city situate upon the river Tigris. Eden is joined with Haran, 2 Kings 19:12, as it is here. The merchants of Sheba — There were two Shebas, as there were two Dedans; one descended from Raamah. (Genesis 10:7,) the other from Jokshan, Abraham’s son, Genesis 25:3. As the 22d verse is explained of the former, so the latter may be understood here: they were both in Arabia. And Chilmad — Both the Chaldee and LXX. explain this by Carmania. In chests of rich apparel, &c. — The rich apparel here spoken of was carefully packed up in chests of cedar, to give these clothes a fine scent, and preserve them from putrefaction.


Verse 25

Ezekiel 27:25. The ships of Tarshish did sing of thee, &c. — Ships of Tarshish signify sometimes in Scripture any trading or merchant ships; and in this general sense the expression seems to be used here: the prophet, having already reckoned up the principal countries which traded with Tyre, now adds, in comprehensive terms, that all merchants, or traders, sung or spake great things of her riches: see note on Isaiah 2:16. In the midst of the seas — Through all the islands of the sea, the sea-coasts, and from one part to another.


Verse 26

Ezekiel 27:26. Thy rowers have brought thee into great waters — The prophet here begins to change the subject, and now, in metaphorical language, speaks of the danger into which the rulers and statesmen of Tyre had brought her by their pride and ill-concerted measures. He compares her to a ship, impelled by its own rowers into a very tempestuous sea, by which is meant their war with the Chaldeans. See a similar comparison Isaiah 33:23. Great troubles are frequently signified by great waters. The east wind hath broken thee — By this is signified the Chaldean army coming from the east: as if he had said, As the violence of the east wind occasions many shipwrecks in the sea, so the army of thy enemies, coming upon thee, shall ruin thy strength and glory, and leave thee like a wreck cast upon the shore. “This is a proper allegory,” says Bishop Warburton, “with only one real sense; and it is managed by the prophet with that brevity and expedition which a proper allegory demands, when used in the place of a metaphor.” Grotius refers to Horace, lib. 1. ode 14, as an allegory very similar to this of the prophet.


Verses 27-32

Ezekiel 27:27-32. Thy riches, &c., and all thy company, shall fall into the midst of the seas — Shall be as utterly ruined and destroyed as if they were sunk in the sea by a shipwreck. Or, this may signify their falling in a sea- fight. The suburbs shall shake, &c. — The cry of thy wounded seamen shall make the inhabitants of the suburbs shake for fear: See Ezekiel 26:15. The mariners, &c., shall come down from their ships — Seafaring men, finding no encouragement to follow their employment, now thy traffic is destroyed, shall lay aside their trade, and mourn over thee. They shall stand upon the land — Bishop Newcome reads, upon the shore, understanding it of “the shore of the adjoining island, from which they viewed the conflagration of their city.” St. Jerome tells us, from the ancient histories of the Assyrians, that when the safety of the city was despaired of, great numbers of Tyrians secured themselves and their riches in their ships. See notes on Isaiah 23:1; Isaiah 23:12. And shall cause their voice to be heard against thee — Or rather, over thee, as the LXX. and Vulgate translate it. And shall cry bitterly — For the common ruin, and their own share in it. And shall cast up dust upon their heads — Shall use expressions of the deepest mourning and lamentation. They shall wallow themselves in ashes As having bid a final farewell to all ease and comfort. They shall make themselves utterly bald for thee — Another expression of public sorrow. And — They, who used to wear fine linen; shall gird them with sackcloth According to the custom of great mourners. And shall weep for bitterness of heart — Instead of singing, as formerly, their merry songs. And in their wailing they shall take up a lamentation for thee — The words allude to the public lamentations made at funerals. See note on Jeremiah 9:17-18. Saying, What city is like Tyrus — Did ever any city come down from such a height of prosperity to such depth of adversity? Like the destroyed in the midst of the sea — Alas! what was once her safeguard, and the source of her wealth, is now her grave.


Verses 33-36

Ezekiel 27:33-36. When thy wares, &c. — When thy wares or manufactures were transported through the seas to every part, thou filledst many people Didst supply the wants, or minister to the luxuries and pleasures, of many nations. Time was when thy wares, those of thy own making, and those that passed through thy hands, were exported to all parts of the world; then thou filledst many people, and didst enrich the kings of the earth and their kingdoms. But in the time when thou shalt be broken — As a ship that is wrecked at sea; thy merchandise and all thy company shall fall — They that used to be enriched by thee, shall be ruined with thee, as is usual in trade. All the inhabitants of the isles shall be astonished — Wondering greatly that ever such a change should be effected, that Tyre should fall. And their kings shall be sore afraid — Sensible how much less able they are to resist the conqueror and defend themselves than thou wast, and not knowing whom he will next attack. They shall be troubled in their countenance — They shall not be able to conceal the discomposure of their minds, but will show it evidently in their countenances. The merchants among the people shall hiss at thee — By way of insult and derision; as men are apt to despise those in adversity, whom they courted and respected in prosperity. The Chaldee Paraphrase renders it, They shall be astonished; and this sense agrees better with the lamentations of the seafaring men, mentioned in the foregoing verses.

The following reflections by Bishop Newton, on the fall of Tyre, are peculiarly worthy of the reader’s attention: “Such hath been the fate of this city, once the most famous in the world for trade and commerce. But 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 rivalling the Dutch, as the French are now rivalling both. It behooves those who are in possession of it, to take the greatest care that they do not lose it. 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, practises 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 the like effects.”

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Ezekiel 27:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/ezekiel-27.html. 1857.

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