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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Ezekiel 27



Verse 2

2. A lamentation — Rather, dirge. (See also Ezekiel 19:1; Ezekiel 26:17; Ezekiel 28:12; Ezekiel 32:2.) So full of lifelike detail is this “dirge” that Dr. Plumptre can say, “Ezekiel, we must believe, had at some time or other in his life trod the sinful streets of the great city and noted the mingled crowd of many nations, in many costumes that he met there, just as we infer from Dante’s vivid descriptions of the dockyards of Venice (Inferno, Ezekiel 21:7-15) that he had visited that city.”

Verse 3

3. At the entry — Literally, entries. Tyre was built on an island having a double harbor.

A merchant — See note Ezekiel 26:2.

I am of perfect beauty — This was the verdict of all antiquity. Travelers tried in vain to describe this princess of the seas. (Compare Nonnus, Dionysiaca, 40:311, etc.) “Greatly Dionysus rejoiced when he saw the city which the ocean god had bound with the liquid girdle of the waves. In shape she was like the crescent moon. As he looked it seemed a double wonder, since Tyre lies in the sea and is bound by the waves and yet belongs to the land. She seemed like a maiden floating motionless, half submerged in the waters.” A letter written in the fourteenth century B.C. reads, “Behold the palace of the city of Tyre: there is no palace of any other governor like unto it.” (For further description of Tyre see notes Ezekiel 26:2; Ezekiel 28:2; Ezekiel 28:12. Compare Scholar Gypsy, Arnold.)

Verse 4

4. Thy borders — Cornill reads, by a little change, the anchorage.

Thy builders have perfected thy beauty — Here begins a most beautiful picture of Tyre as a ship. Compare a very ancient description of a ship, written in Akkadian, which comes from Babylon: —

Its helm is of cedar (?) wood,

Its serpentlike oar has a handle of gold,

Its mast is pointed with turquoise,

Its side is of cedar from its forest,

Its awning is the palm (?) wood of Delvan, etc.

Sayce, Hibbert Lectures.

Compare also Iliad, 2:484-770, and Horace, Lib. I, Ode 14.

Verse 5

5. Fir trees [or, cypress] of Senir — Senir, or Shenir, was the Amorite name for Mount Hermon (Deuteronomy 3:9). Assyrian, Shaniru.

Cedars from Lebanon to make masts — Literally, a mast. The Egyptians and Hebrews, as well as the Phoenicians, depended upon Lebanon for their best timber. (See note Ezekiel 26:2; compare 1 Kings 5:10; 1 Kings 7:2.)

The cedar was ordinarily used for houses and fir trees for ships. Only the largest ideal ship — such as the prophet pictures Tyre to be — would need a cedar for a mast.

Verse 6

6. The company of the Ashurites have made thy benches of ivory, brought out of the isles of Chittim — R.V., “they have made thy benches [deck] of ivory inlaid in boxwood [larch], from the isles of Kittim.” Kittim, or Chittim, is generally connected with Kition in Cyprus and supposed to mean in a general sense “Cyprians.” (Compare Numbers 24:24.) Hommel, however, connects the word with the well-known Kheta, or Hittites, though specially applied to Cilicia or Cyprus; Jensen, with a Phoenician word, Kitti, referring to a people dwelling west of Cyprus; “perhaps the Greeks of Europe in Greece as well as in the regions west of it, perhaps all the other inhabitants of Italy included.” The isles of Chittim “certainly had a broad meaning in later times, being used much as ‘the Indies’ in the time of Elizabeth” (Daniel 11:30). Phoenicia enjoyed a great reputation for its work in ivory (1 Kings 22:39; Psalms 45:8). The “oaks of Bashan” were always celebrated (Isaiah 2:13; Zechariah 11:2).

Verse 7

7. Fine linen — R.V., “Of fine linen with broidered work from Egypt was thy sail, that it might be to thee for an ensign” (or, “cabin,” Davidson). An ancient sail of this kind, made of separate pieces tied together, and hauling up like a Venetian blind, can now be seen in the Liverpool museum (Wilkinson, 2:213 N.). Cecil Torr (Ancient Ships, 1894) gives pictures of ancient Phoenician ships, 700 B.C., with one mast and one yard carrying a square sail. This sail is formed of many pieces as also in an Athenian ship, 600 B.C. He shows that the sails of this era were generally of linen, though sometimes of the fiber of papyrus or of flax. They were often colored, vermilion being generally the badge of an admiral or monarch. In an Egyptian sail 600 B.C. several different colors are used. These ships had animals carved on the prows for figureheads and quite generally a huge eye “to see her way” says Torr; but more probably to guard her from the evil eye of the demons of the deep. On broidered work, see Ezekiel 16:10.

Blue and purple, etc. — R.V., “blue and purple from the isles of Elishah was thine awning.” This awning (literally, covering) may have been a cabin the sides and roof of which were composed of colored linen (Davidson). In the most ancient descriptions of a ship (see note Ezekiel 27:4) there is mention of a cabin.

The isles of Elishah must have some close connection with the son of Javan (Genesis 10:4). Movers identifies Elishah with Carthage because of Elissa, its founder. Dillmann locates it in South Italy. Sayce (Hastings’s Dictionary of the Bible, 1898), because of a Tel-el-Amarna letter from the king of Alasia (Egyptian, Alsa), locates it closer to the Mediterranean coast, possibly Cyprus. But this was not the usual name for Cyprus, and Thothmes III includes Alsa among his Syrian conquests. It seems better to say, as the dye was common in many parts of the Mediterranean, that this is probably a term referring to the isles of Greece or some one of its colonies. This dye, which cannot now be obtained, cost one hundred denarii (over twenty dollars) a pound in the last days of the Roman republic.

Verse 8

8. Zidon and Arvad — For Zidon see Ezekiel 28:21. Arvad (Genesis 10:18; 1 Chronicles 1:16) is often mentioned in the Tel-el-Amarna tablets. It was the most northern Phoenician port, very populous, and with magnificent artificially constructed harbors and a living spring which secured the inhabitants a water supply in case of invasion or siege. The “ships of the land of Arvad” are celebrated in the Assyrian texts. It is evident that at this time both Zidon and Arvad were dependents of Tyre.

Mariners — R.V., “rowers.” For the need of wise pilots see note, Ezekiel 26:2.

Verse 9

9. Gebal (Gu-ub-li) — or, Byblos (Psalms 83:7; Joshua 13:5; 1 Kings 5:18) — A celebrated city lying a little to the south of Arvad but north of Tyre and Sidon, constantly mentioned in the campaigns of the Assyrian kings from the ninth to the seventh centuries B.C. It is also supposed to be prominent in the Tel-el-Amarna letters, cir. 1400 B.C., under the form Gubla — though this may refer to another coast city, Gabula (Petrie, History, ii, p. 314). It was celebrated throughout the whole world for its worship of the goddess Ishtar (Ashteroth). The prophet represents the wisest men and officers (ancients, that is, elders) of this distinguished city serving on the great ship Tyre in inferior positions.

All the ships of the sea… were in thee — The bold figure of Tyre as a ship gives place to a more realistic description of the harbor and city, especially of the city bazaars.

Occupy thy merchandise Carry on thy trade. — Kautzsch.

Verse 10

10. Persia… Lud… Phut — The Persians appear for the first time in Ezekiel’s century as a national power (Toy). (See notes Daniel 5:28.) They were probably near relatives of the Medes, with whom they had a close alliance, and were at this time the enemies of Assyria. Toy, because of the parallel list (Ezekiel 30:5), changes Persia (Paras) to Cush. Lud originally came from Egypt (Genesis 10:13), and was her warm ally (Jeremiah 46:9) and suffered in her downfall (Ezekiel 30:5), though Genesis 10:22, points to a Semitic origin. A prehistoric migration into the Nile Delta might account for this divergence of statement. Jensen believes the people referred to are not the Lydians (Assyrian, Lu-ud-di) as has been commonly assumed, but some nomadic tribe of the Syrian desert living between Aram and Uz on one side and Babylonia on the other (Sunday School Times, February 11, 1899). George Adam Smith and many others believe them to have been Libyans (as LXX.). Put, or Phut, was of Hamitic origin and a close relative of the Ethiopians, Egyptians, and Canaanites (Phoenicians, Genesis 10:6). The nation appears in many places as a close ally of Egypt (Ezekiel 30:5; Jeremiah 46:9; Nahum 3:9). It also appears in the army of Gog (Ezekiel 38:5). Scholars have generally identified these people with various African nations, as the Nubians or Libyans. A text of Nebuchadnezzar states that in his thirty-seventh year in a campaign against Egypt he defeated “the soldiers of the city of Pudhu-yavan, a distant land which is within the sea,” from which Sayce draws the conclusion that “Phut of the Ionians” may have been Kyrene, or Pelusium, or some other settlement of the Greek mercenaries in Egypt. However, the names of towns migrate rapidly, and the use of the “yavan” as a descriptive term may indicate that there was an original Phut which was not “Phut of the Ionians.” Edward Glaser believes that he has found a Phut (Puta) in Southwest Arabia (Acad., 40:76), at which place, close to the base of the Gala Mountains, Mr. W. Bent has found an ancient harbor resembling closely that which is pictured on the Egyptian monuments as that of Punt, the land of incense. (See note Ezekiel 27:21.) Naville, however, is sure that Punt was on the African coast of the Red Sea (Deir el Bahari, 3:1898). It is at any rate plain that Tyre formed her army largely of mercenaries, and it is very natural that she should choose allies of Egypt in her defense against the aggressions of Assyria.

Hanged the shield and helmet in thee — So the walls were adorned (See Ezekiel 27:11 and Song of Solomon 4:4).

Verse 11

11. Arvad — See Ezekiel 27:8.

The Gammadim — R.V., margin, “valorous men.” No land or city of Gammad is known. Perhaps, as has been suggested, this was a technical term for the select corps of the Tyrian army — like the “Immortals” of the Persians or the “Old Guard” of Napoleon.

Verse 12

12. Tarshish was thy merchant — Josephus identifies Tarshish with Tarsus in Cilicia, and this view is still held by reputable Greek scholars, one of whom recently pointed out that from Ramses III to Ibrahim Pasha the Egyptian rulers sought timber for their navies in the Taurus, which would naturally explain why these great vessels were called “ships of Tarshish” (B.S.A., 16:300). Le Page Renouf has argued that Tarshish could not be philologically connected with Tartessus, but must have been a general name for Phoenicia, “the ships of Tarshish” always meaning in Scripture simply Phoenician ships. He quotes Psalms 48:7; Isaiah 23, where Tyre is called the “daughter of Tarshish,” and other biblical passages to sustain this conjecture (B.S.A., 16:138). Conder thinks it possible that there were several localities named Tarshish, one on the Asia Minor coast and another in Arabia, but thinks that Solomon’s trade with Tarshish (1 Kings 22:48) certainly could not refer to a Spanish port, since Carthage introduced Phoenician trade to Spain, and Carthage was not founded until several centuries after Solomon. He points out that trade with some point in Asia Minor in gold, silver, copper, and bronze (which supposes the existence of tin) is mentioned in the Tel-el-Amarna tablets about 1400 B.C. (The Bible and the East, 1896, p. 163). Semitic scholars are, however, almost unanimous in identifying Tarshish with Tartessus in Spain, which point was celebrated in ancient times for the productions mentioned in this verse. A “ship of Tarshish” does not mean that the ship or its timbers came from Tarshish, but that it traded with Tarshish (compare our East Indiaman, Australian clipper, American liner), and finally, since Tarshish was the extreme western limit of Mediterranean travel, all great merchant-men, whatever seas they sailed, came to be known as “ships of Tarshish” (Ezekiel 27:25; 1 Kings 22:48; Isaiah 2:16). See Sayce, High. Crit., 138; Brown, Hebrew and English Lexicon; Gesenius, last edition; Classical Review, 1895, p. 265.

Traded in thy fairs — Rather, traded for thy wares, or, brought as thy wares. Davidson says: “The representation is that all things brought to Tyre were hers; the nations offered them to her as tribute (Ezekiel 27:15). Spain was famous for the metals mentioned. (Compare for silver Jeremiah 10:9.) Probably Tarshish served as an entrepot for such products found farther north, as in the Cassiterides (Scilly Islands) and Cornwall.” For extended proof of ancient commerce see Introduction to Daniel, III, 2.

Verse 13

13. Javan, Tubal, and Meshech — Javan, brother of Tarshish (Genesis 10:2), is the well-known name for Ionian or Greek. The Tel-el-Amarna tablets, 1400 B.C., mention a Yivana who had been sent on a mission to Tyre by the Egyptian king. Cyprus was called the “island of the Ionians” by the Assyrians, and Sayce thinks Cyprus is meant when Javan is referred to by Ezekiel (Races, p. 46. For extent and character of the early Greek commerce see Introduction to Daniel, III, 2.) It is possible, however, that at this period the name had a wider application, being perhaps a racial term, which was beginning to be specifically used of the Greeks of the mainland. Tubal and Meshech are generally mentioned together in the Scriptures (Ezekiel 32:26; Ezekiel 38:2; Ezekiel 39:1), and appear in the Assyrian inscriptions as Tabali, Tubla, and Muska. They were famous as archers and were probably located in the interior of Asia Minor on the coast of the Black Sea. Professor Smith says: “Beyond Yavan were the coasts of Elisha, that was perhaps Sicily, and Tarshish, the great Phoenician colony in Spain. To all of these ships traded from Tyre and Sidon and Accho and Joppa. Their outward cargoes were Syrian wheat, oil, balm, with oriental wares, and they brought back cloth, purple and scarlet, silver, iron, tin, lead, and brass. Sometimes they carried west Hebrew slaves (Amos 1:9; Joel 4:6) and outlaws (Jonah 1:3), forerunners of the great Dispersion” (Historical Geography, p. 136).

Verse 14

14. Togarmah — Most scholars locate it in Armenia, which was noted in the ancient world for its horses and mules. The Armenians are said to call themselves “the house of the Thorgom” (Orelli). Delitzsch, however, thought it to refer to Cappadocia — which was called by Armenian writers, Gamir. It furnished soldiers for the army of Gog (Ezekiel 38:6), and was almost certainly an Indo-European race, closely related to the Gimirre, or Kimmerians, a tribe well known to the Assyrians (Genesis 10:2).

Verse 15

15. Dedan — This Dedan is perhaps different from the one mentioned in connection with Edom. (See note Ezekiel 25:13). Here Dedan appears not with Edom, but with the “isles,” or “coasts,” and it is, perhaps, better to read, with the Greek version, “Rhoda.” A famous colony of the Phoenicians existed at Rhodes. The people named seem to have brought to Tyre for a present (literally, for payment, or tribute) elephant tusks and ebony, which they doubtless had obtained from Ethiopia or India.

Verse 16

16. Syria — Hebrews, Aram. Many expositors follow the Peshito, “Edom;” but there is no good reason for leaving the Hebrew.

Aram-Naharim was the ancient name for a very wide region, embracing at least western Mesopotamia and northern Syria, and is constantly mentioned in the Assyrian texts. The Aramaeans are now known to have been the controlling element in Syria and Arabia as well as Mesopotamia, though the Assyrians did not call the populations west of the Euphrates Aramaeans, but Hittites or Amorites. Certainly the products named were widely scattered. Emeralds (or, carbuncles), coral (perhaps, pearls), and agate (or, ruby), would naturally be Edomite (compare Job 28:16; Job 28:19); the purple, and broidered work might be the wrought garments for which Babylon was famous (Ezekiel 23:6; Joshua 7:21), while the fine linen might be the Syrian byssus. The Syrians probably learned how to make this fine gauze from the Greeks. The Greeks called it καρπασος (Esther 1:6), and probably from its manufacture one town in Cyprus was called Karpaseia. (Compare Hastings’s Dictionary of the Bible, vol. 1.)

Verse 17

17. Minnith, and Pannag — The Minnith mentioned here is probably not the Amorite town mentioned in Judges 11:33 (vs. Bertholet, etc.), but may be the thing after which the town was named. (Compare note Ezekiel 27:16.) What it was no one knows. The Syrian translates “millet;” LXX., “ointment,” while many scholars would suggest “spices,” because these are prominent in other lists of the productions of the land of Canaan. (Compare Genesis 43:11.) It is possible that it was the technical name for a species of wheat — which was the greatest necessity supplied by Judah to Tyre (1 Kings 5:9-11; Acts 12:20). As R.V. suggests (margin), following the Mishna, pannag may be a species of confection, or Cornill may be right in reading donag (wax), but nothing is certain. The prophets did not like their countrymen to imitate the habits of the Canaanites (Old Hebrews, “traders”) in leaving the quiet simple life of agriculture for the more speculative, luxurious, and often dissolute career of the “traveling men” who were engaged in trade.

Verse 18

18. Damascus — This city, the wonder of the ancient world, still remains great because of its three highways — running to Egypt, Arabia, and Persia. It has been from the dawn of history the capital and chief city of Syria, and celebrated because “of the multitude of all kinds of riches” (R.V.). Schrader gives several texts in which the wine of Helbon is mentioned. Nebuchadnezzar brought his wine from the “country of Helbon” (Hi-il-bu-nu), and Strabo mentions that this was the favorite wine of the Persian kings. The locality has been identified with Halbun, very near Damascus, a place still celebrated for the finest vineyards in Syria.

Verse 19

19. Dan… and Javan… fairs — R.V. reads, “Vedan and Javan traded with yarn for thy wares.” For Javan see note Ezekiel 27:13. Kautzsch renders “Wedan and Javan of Uzal [Genesis 10:27] furnished thy wares.” Uzal would be identified with Sana in Arabia. There are iron mines in central Arabia (Doughty), and the steel of Sana is still held in high repute; but according to this interpretation the “Javan” seems out of place. MacPherson (Hastings’s Dictionary of the Bible, 1898) identifies this with the Dedan of Ezekiel 27:15, which he believes to be the same mentioned Ezekiel 25:13; but this makes this place too conspicuous among the countries bringing tribute to Tyre. The text is very difficult, but Halevy seems to have offered the best suggestion. He changes one letter and identifies Dan with Rodan (Revue Semitique, April, 1894. Compare note Ezekiel 27:15). This would join Rhodes and Cyprus (Ezekiel 27:13) or Rhodes and the Greeks of Asia Minor as traders with Tyre.

Bright iron — R.V., margin, “wrought iron.” Rhodes was famous from ancient times for its artificers, its ships, and its arms. At this very period the isles of Greece were capturing from Phoenicia the commerce of the world. (See Introduction to Daniel, III, 2.) Halevy believes the words translated bright… cassia, and calamus are technical terms for iron in the triple form of cakes (pig iron), flexible plates, and bars (Journal Asiatique and Revue Semitique).

Verse 20

20. Dedan — See Ezekiel 27:15 and Ezekiel 25:13.

Precious cloths for chariots — R.V., “for riding;” saddlecloths. (See R.V., Judges 5:10.)

Verse 21

21. Arabia — It is only recently that Arabia has been explored and its inscriptions examined. The result shows us why this country occupied such an important place in the ancient world. Two great kingdoms have been revealed in South Arabia: one, that of Saba (Sheba), reaching back to Solomon’s time, while the Minaean probably precedes it by many centuries (Glaser, Hommel). The inscriptions prove that this people had rather a high civilization, lived in walled towns, built magnificent temples, carried on agriculture, mining, and manufactures, had an elaborate code of civil law, honored women, who could even rule as queens, cultivated the fine arts, and enjoyed an extended commerce. Incense was the chief export and the basis of the nation’s wealth. Mr. Bent has discovered that it is still produced at Dhofar at the rate of nine thousand hundredweight annually and myrrh also in large quantities (Nineteenth Century, October, 1895). Gold was another leading export, the mines being located in central Arabia. (Compare Ezekiel 27:22.)

Kedar — a nomadic tribe in northern Arabia (Psalms 120:5; Song of Solomon 1:5) famous for its flocks, yet possessing “villages” (Isaiah 42:11.) In Assyrian inscriptions this tribe is located between Babylon and the Gulf of Akaba. (Compare Jeremiah 2:10; Isaiah 60:7; Jeremiah 49:28.) It may have been the king of these “Arabs” that Cambyses had to conciliate before crossing the desert. The term “Arab” in the Assyrian, as in the Bible writings, had a limited application and did not refer to the entire Sinaitic peninsula (Herodotus, Ezekiel 3:5).

Verse 22

22. Sheba — See note on “Arabia,” Ezekiel 27:21; Genesis 10:7; Genesis 10:28; 1 Kings 10:2; 1 Kings 10:10; Isaiah 60:6; Job 6:19; Jeremiah 6:20; Psalms 72:10; Psalms 72:15. In their inscriptions the Sabaeans distinguished themselves from the nomadic Arabs.

Raamah — The tribe is named in Genesis 10:7. Glaser thinks it was located on the Persian Gulf (at Regma); Cornill by a slight change instead of the merchants of reads “Havilah” (Genesis 2:11), which Glaser identifies with a district in central and Northeast Arabia.

Precious stones — Such as onyx, jasper, rubies, agate, and carnelians. (See also 1 Kings 10:2.)

Verse 23

23. Haran, etc. — Was this a swift glance at far-away districts: Haran (Genesis 11:31; Genesis 24:10; Genesis 29:4) standing for Mesopotamia; Canneh (Calneh or Calno, Genesis 10:10; Amos 6:2; Isaiah 10:9), located near Eridu (Eden); Babylonia and Asshur for Assyria? Or were these localities lying near Arabia; Eden being the modern Aden, and Asshur referring, as often in the Old Testament, to the wilderness of Shur; the other places being so far not identified? (Hommel.) Further light is needed. Mez reads, “Haran and the Edenites, Asshur and all the Medes were thy merchants” (Polychrome Bible).

The merchants of Sheba — LXX., they were thy dealers.

Verse 24

24. All sorts of things — Rather, fabrics of beauty. R.V., “choice wares.”

Blue clothes — R.V., “wrappings [bales] of blue.” (Compare Ezekiel 23:12.) The description is so vivid as to give the impression that Ezekiel had seen the merchants of Sheba unloading their camels and bringing out their treasures as they arrived at Tyre (Plumptre). Davidson translates chests by “treasures,” and shows that the term corresponding to rich apparel is used by the Assyrians of fabrics woven of different colored materials. In this case the “cords twined and durable” (bound with cords, and made of cedar) would be one of the articles of commerce. (See Ezekiel 16:10; Ezekiel 23:6; Esther 1:6; Joshua 7:21.) Toy translates “strangely bound skeins.”

Verse 25

25. Ships of Tarshish — See note Ezekiel 27:12.

Did sing of thee — Several versions have “served thee.” R.V., “were thy caravans.”

Glorious — LXX., heavy. The ship Tyre was laden to the water’s edge with treasure.

Verse 26-27

26, 27. The heavily laden ship is broken by the Euroclydon (Psalms 68:7; Acts 27:14) “in the heart of the seas” (R.V.), and her crew, her passengers, and all her wares (not “fairs”) sink into the sea.

In all thy company — Omit “in” (LXX.).

Occupiers of thy merchandise — R.V., margin, “exchangers.”

Verse 28

28. The suburbs — Or adjoining coast lands. R.V., margin, “waves.”

Verses 29-31

29-31. All those who have charge of other ships (nations) shall “hiss” in dismay (Davidson, compare 1 Kings 9:8) and lament over (not “against”) her, regretting their loss of trade, and perhaps fearing for themselves a like destruction. For the signs of mourning see Ezekiel 7:18; Joshua 7:6; Job 2:12; Jeremiah 6:26; Jeremiah 25:34. Professor Morris Jastrow, Jr., has shown that the custom of putting earth or dust upon the head is a very ancient custom among the Semites and is the survival of an act which originally formed part of the burial rites. He reproduces one of the oldest monuments of Babylon in which the corpses of the enemy are seen lying exposed to the vultures, the greatest misfortune that could befall a dead person (compare Appendix, chap. 32), while the dead soldiers of the victorious army are arranged in symmetrical rows beneath a funeral mound of earth. Those who were building the mound (the mourning comrades or relatives) had thrown off all their clothing, excepting a loin girdle of sackcloth, and carried upon their heads their baskets of earth. This custom led in after ages to the tearing or tearing off the garments of the mourners and the placing dust or earth upon their heads. The ashes so often mentioned were probably from the funeral expiatory sacrifice (Journal of the American Oriental Society, vol. 20:1899).

Verse 34

34. In the time when, etc. — R.V., margin, “Now thou art broken.”

Verse 35

35. Isles — Rather, as usual, coast.

Verse 36

36. People — Literally, peoples.

Shall hiss — Toy translates are shocked.

Terror — Literally, terrors (Ezekiel 26:21).


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Ezekiel 27:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.

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