TYRE, THE CITY CAST INTO THE SEA
A. Ralph Johnson
Tyre was actually two cities, a large mainland city on the shore of the Mediterranean, about 20 miles south of its sister city, Sidon, and a smaller island fortress about half a mile from the mainland. The island was about half a mile wide and three-fourths mile long. Because of the necessity of fresh water, area for agriculture, and raising animals, fuel, and space for growth, the mainland city, was the larger. The island fortress was primarily for refuge. The main city and port were on the mainland. It is obvious that the timber and other items of trade were not first ferried out to the island and then shipped to distant ports. Likewise, imports were obviously not first shipped to the island and then ferried to the mainland to do commerce with surrounding cities.
During the time of Solomon, King Hiram of Tyre, helped with supplies to build the temple (1Chron. 22:4). However, over the years, an alienation developed between the two peoples.
About 870 BC Joel writes,
Joel 3:4 Yea, and what are ye to me, O Tyre, and Sidon, and all the regions of Philistia? Will ye render me a recompense? and if ye recompense me, swiftly and speedily will I return your recompense upon your own head. 5 Forasmuch as ye have taken my silver and my gold, and have carried into your temples my goodly precious things, 6 and have sold the children of Judah and the children of Jerusalem unto the sons of the Grecians, that ye may remove them far from their border; 7 behold, I will stir them up out of the place whither ye have sold them, and will return your recompense upon your own head; 8 and I will sell your sons and your daughters into the hand of the children of Judah, and they shall sell them to the men of Sheba, to a nation far off: for Jehovah hath spoken it.
About 784 BC Amos warned:
Amos 1:9 Thus saith Jehovah: For three transgressions of Tyre, yea, for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they delivered up the whole people to Edom, and remembered not the brotherly covenant: 10 but I will send a fire on the wall of Tyre, and it shall devour the palaces thereof.
Isaiah, before 700 BC foretold that Tyre would be “laid waste” (Isa. 23:1). Tyre would be “forgotten for 70 years” (Isa. 23:15), and afterwards would “play the harlot with all the kingdoms of the world.” Thus we see that the destruction and length of the period under the rule of Babylon was prophesied long before the fulfillment.
Jeremiah, in the forth year of Jehoiakim about 600 BC, warned that Nebuchadnezzar would destroy Tyre (Jer. 25:9, 22). Tyre, like Jerusalem, was to lay waste for 70 years (Jer. 25:11-12). Thus we see that the destruction by Nebuchadnezzar was never intended to end Tyre’s existence. Rather, Jeremiah prophesied that Tyre would serve Nebuchadnezzar (27:3, 6-7). Mainland Tyre fell after Jerusalem in 586 BC.
The reasons for this judgment were:
Jer. 25:3. “…I have spoken unto you, rising up early and speaking; but ye have not hearkened. 4 And Jehovah hath sent unto you all his servants the prophets, rising up early and sending them, (but ye have not hearkened, nor inclined your ear to hear,) 5 saying, Return ye now every one from his evil way, and from the evil of your doings, and dwell in the land that Jehovah hath given unto you and to your fathers, from of old and even for evermore; 6 and go not after other gods to serve them, and to worship them, and provoke me not to anger with the work of your hands; and I will do you no hurt. 7 Yet ye have not hearkened unto me, saith Jehovah; that ye may provoke me to anger with the work of your hands to your own hurt. 8 Therefore thus saith Jehovah of hosts: Because ye have not heard my words…”
Ezekiel 26:1 And it came to pass in the eleventh year, in the first day of the month, that the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, 2 Son of man, because that Tyre hath said against Jerusalem, Aha, she is broken that was the gate of the peoples; she is turned unto me; I shall be replenished, now that she is laid waste: 3 therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Behold, I am against thee, O Tyre, and will cause many nations to come up against thee, as the sea causeth its waves to come up.
Ezekiel 28:1 The word of Jehovah came again unto me, saying, 2 Son of man, say unto the prince of Tyre, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Because thy heart is lifted up, and thou hast said, I am a god, I sit in the seat of God, in the midst of the seas; yet thou art man, and not God, though thou didst set thy heart as the heart of God; --
Ezekiel 28:6 therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Because thou hast set thy heart as the heart of God, 7 therefore, behold, I will bring strangers upon thee, the terrible of the nations; and they shall draw their swords against the beauty of thy wisdom, and they shall defile thy brightness. 8 They shall bring thee down to the pit; and thou shalt die the death of them that are slain, in the heart of the seas.
Nebuchadnezzar was able to break down the walls of the mainland city but was unable to conquer the citadel on the island. He laid siege for thirteen years, and it seems that when they finally submitted, it was mostly a treaty agreement to live under the authority of the Babylonians. Ezekiel, at the end of a thirteen year siege, indicated Nebuchadnezzar had been able to gain little of their wealth (Ezek. 26:7-14; 29:17-18).
Ezek. 29:18 Son of man, Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon caused his army to serve a great service against Tyre: every head was made bald, and every shoulder was worn; yet had he no wages, nor his army, from Tyre, for the service that he had served against it.
Nehemiah, who wrote AFTER the 70 years captivity, had problems with the men of Tyre who brought things and sold them on the Sabbath, contrary to the Law (Neh. 13:16).
It is interesting that the final fulfillment of casting the city into the sea was accomplished by the Greeks, to whom Tyre had sold Israelites as slaves (Joel 3:6).
Our primary focus here is on the prophecies in Ezekiel, chapter 26.
3 Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against thee, O Tyrus, and will cause many nations to come up against thee, as the sea causeth his waves to come up.
Notice that the prophecy indicates that Tyre was not to end with Nebuchadnezzar. “Many nations” were to come up against her, like sea waves rolling in one after another.
Ezek. 26:4 And they shall destroy the walls of Tyrus, and break down her towers: I will also scrape her dust from her, and make her like the top of a rock. 5 It shall be a place for the spreading of nets in the midst of the sea: for I have spoken it, saith the Lord GOD: and it shall become a spoil to the nations. 6 And her daughters which are in the field shall be slain by the sword; and they shall know that I am the LORD.
There are four parts to this.
Ezek 26:7 For thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will bring upon Tyrus Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, a king of kings, from the north, with horses, and with chariots, and with horsemen, and companies, and much people. 8 He shall slay with the sword thy daughters in the field: and he shall make a fort against thee, and cast a mount against thee, and lift up the buckler against thee. 9 And he shall set engines of war against thy walls, and with his axes he shall break down thy towers. 10 By reason of the abundance of his horses their dust shall cover thee: thy walls shall shake at the noise of the horsemen, and of the wheels, and of the chariots, when he shall enter into thy gates, as men enter into a city wherein is made a breach. 11 With the hoofs of his horses shall he tread down all thy streets: he shall slay thy people by the sword, and thy strong garrisons shall go down to the ground.
Skeptics have claimed that this never happened because the island citadel was never conquered by Nebuchadnezzar. However, it is clear that Nebuchadnezzar’s role was never meant to include destruction of the island fortress. It says that he would make a fort against her, and cast up a mount against her…and set engines of war against her walls, and that by reason of the abundance of his horses, dust would cover her, and the walls would shake at the noise of the horsemen, and the wheels of the chariots when he entered their gates. Since the island was more than a half mile from shore, this obviously was not intended to refer to it. You don’t cast up mounts or raise dust riding horses and chariots in the sea. The island city did not even have room enough for such a large number of horsemen and chariots to enter her gates, if they could have ridden through the half-mile of water.
The question they raise here is that if Nebuchadnezzar failed to conquer the island city, how could his horses have “tread down all thy streets”? The answer is rather obvious. He trod down all the streets of the city his horses were predicted to tread down – those of the mainland city.
According to Diodorus Siculus it was conquered. He identifies Ethbaal, or Ithobalus, as king of Tyre when Nebuchadnezzar destroyed it.
–Matthew Henry Commentary, Ezekiel 28:11-19 paragraph I.
Ezek. 26:12 And they shall make a spoil of thy riches, and make a prey of thy merchandise: and they shall break down thy walls, and destroy thy pleasant houses: and they shall lay thy stones and thy timber and thy dust in the midst of the water.
The prophecy had begun, speaking of the nations rolling against Tyre like the waves of the sea, and how she would be scooped like the top of a rock. Then it singled out Nebuchadnezzar, as one of those nations, indicating the role he would play. In verse twelve, it returns to talking about “they” –the nations.
About 332 BC, Alexander the Great approached and after a brief stand, the people were forced to withdraw to the island Citadel, as they had in the past. Alexander was not to be denied. He ordered that the ruins of ancient Tyre be cast into the sea to build a causeway out to the Island.
Ezek. 26:13 And I will cause the noise of thy songs to cease; and the sound of thy harps shall be no more heard.14 And I will make thee like the top of a rock: thou shalt be a place to spread nets upon; thou shalt be built no more: for I the LORD have spoken it, saith the Lord GOD.
Here it cites the same prediction as in verse 5, with a few additional specifics. Skeptics zero in on the statement that it would be “built no more.” The problem is that it is claimed that Tyre was repeatedly referred to as a city through the centuries. At the time of Jesus, Tyre and Sidon were visited by Jesus. Even today, there is town called “Sour.”
There are several possible explanations but it seems the simplest is that he has reference to the casting of the rubble into the ocean. Normally, after destruction the stones and timbers were used to rebuild the city. This was not to be the case here.
It may also be observed that the island town (now a peninsula) is not the same as the mainland city, spoken of in our passage. Even today there is no city built on the original site of mainland Tyre.
Ezek 26:15 Thus saith the Lord GOD to Tyrus; Shall not the isles shake at the sound of thy fall, when the wounded cry, when the slaughter is made in the midst of thee? 16 Then all the princes of the sea shall come down from their thrones, and lay away their robes, and put off their broidered garments: they shall clothe themselves with trembling; they shall sit upon the ground, and shall tremble at every moment, and be astonished at thee. 17 And they shall take up a lamentation for thee, and say to thee, How art thou destroyed, that wast inhabited of seafaring men, the renowned city, which wast strong in the sea, she and her inhabitants, which cause their terror to be on all that haunt it! 18 Now shall the isles tremble in the day of thy fall; yea, the isles that are in the sea shall be troubled at thy departure. 19 For thus saith the Lord GOD; When I shall make thee a desolate city, like the cities that are not inhabited; when I shall bring up the deep upon thee, and great waters shall cover thee;
Some attempts have been made to claim the prophecy failed because verse 19 says he would bring the deep upon her. It is argued that the area was never covered with water. Of course, this is nonsense. The “deep” was brought upon the city when it was cast into the sea and covered by the waters.
Ezek 26:20 When I shall bring thee down with them that descend into the pit, with the people of old time, and shall set thee in the low parts of the earth, in places desolate of old, with them that go down to the pit, that thou be not inhabited; and I shall set glory in the land of the living; 21 I will make thee a terror, and thou shalt be no more: though thou be sought for, yet shalt thou never be found again, saith the Lord GOD.
Likewise, some attempt to use verse 21 to show that the prophecy failed because we know the site of Tyre. Again, it appears to be just speaking of the city being lost in the sea.
Regardless of suppositions made to discredit the Bible, the prophecy is so clear and the fulfillment so unique as to be a marvelous support for inspiration. How would the prophet know to pick this particular city, among several along the coast, to predict that it would be dumped into the sea, which was fulfilled 250 years later by Alexander the Great, when he scooped up the rubble to build a causeway out to the island? Incredibly shrewd “guess” to say the least. Even Sidon, Tyre’s sister city on the coast a few miles north, did not receive such a prophecy. Nor was it nor any other city ever so prophesied or recorded as being cast into the sea. By any fair consideration, this was indeed remarkable.