New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary

Ezekiel 26:1 It happened in the eleventh year in the first day of the month that the word of Yahweh came to me saying- The LXX adds "the first month". Jerusalem fell in the eleventh year on the ninth day of the fourth month. This message was presumably taken to Tyre, as a warning for them not to rejoice at her fall. However some manuscripts read "the twelfth year". This would clear up the problem and explain more easily why Tyre is now being warned not to rejoice over Jerusalem's fall. The messenger who came to Babylon with the news of Tyre's fall in the tenth month of the eleventh year (Ez. 33:21) could have gone to Tyre too, or at least, another such messenger may have done.

Ezekiel 26:2 Son of man, because Tyre has said against Jerusalem, Aha, she is broken!- The judgments upon Tyre and Egypt are far longer than those upon the other five of the seven surrounding nations condemned by Ezekiel in this section. This is because of their relative size and importance, and their attraction to Judah as defenders against Babylon. The past tense is apparently used, but it seems (see on :1) that Jerusalem had not yet fallen. So the sense of the tense may be 'This is how you ought not to respond after you hear the news'.

The gate of the peoples is now is turned to me; I shall be replenished, now that she is laid waste- Jerusalem in Ez. 16 and Ez. 23 has been described as a whore, inviting men from all nations to come to her. She loved everything foreign, rather than the things of her God, and had thus acquired a name as an international metropolis; and Tyre now eagerly looked forward to replacing her in Canaan as this city.

Ezekiel 26:3 Therefore thus says the Lord Yahweh, Behold, I am against you, Tyre, and will cause many nations to come up against you, as the sea causes its waves to come up- The "therefore" reflects how God is deeply sensitive to the thoughts and even unexpressed hopes and fantasies of people and nations; and judges them accordingly. The figure of the sea is appropriate to Tyre as an island citadel.

Ezekiel 26:4 They shall destroy the walls of Tyre and break down her towers. I will also scrape her dust from her and make her a bare rock- The apparently invincible technology of this world cannot resist Divine judgment; and that applies to all our insurance policies of whatever form. The reference to "a bare rock" here and in :14 uses the same term as that about Zion in the time of her condemnation (Ez. 24:7,8). The phrase is used nowhere else. The connection would be in the impression that Zion was to be judged in the same way as Tyre, with the same hallmark of Yahweh's activity. Neither was superior to the other, as they both considered. Again and again, the prophets reveal that it is human pride and the sense of inherent superiority which is to be brought down.

Ezekiel 26:5 She shall be a place for the spreading of nets in the midst of the sea; for I have spoken it, says the Lord Yahweh; and she shall become a spoil to the nations- Tyre did revive at various times after the Babylonian invasion. So as noted on Ez. 25:11, we are to look for the final fulfilment in the last days. "The nations" who spoiled Tyre would refer to the various peoples confederate with the Babylonians and Greeks who effected Tyre's judgment. As noted on :4, the same kind of judgment was brought upon Tyre as upon Zion.

Ezekiel 26:6 Her daughters who are in the field shall be slain with the sword; and they shall know that I am Yahweh- "Daughters" can refer to confederate cities, and here the reference is to those towns and cities on the mainland who were connected with island Tyre. But did they really 'know Yahweh' through the Greek and Babylonian attacks upon Tyre? It seems that as noted on Ez. 25:11, this remains to be fulfilled in some latter day judgment of Tyre.

Ezekiel 26:7 For thus says the Lord Yahweh: Behold, I will bring on Tyre Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, king of kings, from the north, with horses, with chariots, with horsemen and a company, and many people- The language is that of the cherubim of Ez. 1; again we see how movements of peoples and armies on earth were under Divine control.
Ez. 26:3-14 speaks of how Babylon will surround and destroy Tyre. But this never happened- it was done by Alexander and the Greeks much later. So, did the prophecy just go unfulfilled? Ez. 29:17-20 explains that because the King of Babylon laboured so hard to take Tyre- even though he never actually succeeded- God would give him the land of Egypt as a reward. For me, this doesn't mean that the word of prophecy failed. Rather does it mean that God is open to a rethinking of plans and futures in accord with human response. Although all the conditions for Tyre's fall and Babylon's victory against her aren't given, evidently there must have been such unrecorded conditions; and they weren't fulfilled, hence Tyre was spared destruction by the Babylonians, and yet they were 'rewarded' for their part in the situation.

The following comment from Ted and Bev Russell expands upon this: "The prophecy about Tyre (in Ez. 26) indicated that the place would be  scraped of her  dust and made  like the top of a rock, a place for spreading of nets, plundered for the nations,  cast  out, devoured with fire,  (Hosea, Amos and  Zechariah also), and never rebuilt, (Ez. 26:21) (11th year). However, later in Chapter 29, (27th year), we learn that Nebuchadnezzar and his soldiers would be given the land of Egypt, because they laboured strenuously  and long against Tyre, so long that the soldiers had rubbed heads and shoulders from their leather helmets and armour, (verse 18), but they did not overcome Tyre. So instead God would give Nebuchadnezzar  the land of Egypt, for wages. "Spoil and pillage from Egypt will be the wages that My servant will take from Egypt, instead of the reward I promised you at Tyre" ,  (verse 17, 18, 19). Nebuchadnezzar was " God's servant" , and even though he did a great service for God, in punishment at Tyre, (verse 18), God changed  the terms and conditions of his labour. He would not conquer Tyre, but he was given Egypt instead! Tyre was not laid bare, and not never rebuilt. It  thrived and still thrives. It had its ups and downs, with different conquerors, of course. To the best of my memory the peninsula that they built into the sea to defend themselves is not there now, but the seaside town is. It lays nets out, as a fishing town, but it is not bare. We have photos of us there. We know it was there  in NT times (Peter). Is it that God changes His mind? Did someone, (of whom there is no record), plead successfully for Tyre, like Lot did unsuccessfully for Sodom? Or is it that He tells us something, only a piece of the future at a time, and then we get a fuller picture later on? The prophesy  goes on and on  about Tyre's destruction, and one has to be quick to see the change of circumstance in a few verses in Ezekiel 29!  The complete destruction of Tyre has been used to show that the Bible is true, by some undiscerning folk, in past lectures, in our time, (with lantern slide pictures  of destruction there). Once world travel was easily available  and people more readily saw Tyre, that mistake  is not  made now. The point, (that the Bible is true), is better made elsewhere. 

We do not need to question God's prophesies. We can believe Him each time, and believe the changes He makes, as well. In this prophecy do we know a  reason why God changed his mind about utter and complete destruction of Tyre? It does indicate that we don't know everything, that we don't need to, and that God does not tell us. He decides what is best. Certainly the Bible record keeps us on our toes!   For then "They shall know that I am the Lord", Ez. 29:21".

To this I would add a comment from Is. 23:1,2,4,15,18. These verses seem to imply that if Tyre had howled in repentance and then been silent and ashamed, she would be ‘forgotten’ 70 years and then become devoted to Yahweh. This never happened. Yet the 70 year period is of course analogous to Judah’s 70 years in captivity, also without repentance.

Ezekiel 26:8 He shall kill your daughters in the field with the sword; and he shall make forts against you, and cast up a mound against you, and raise up the buckler against you- As noted on :7, this was not done by Babylon but by Greece under Alexander. The prophecy was reapplied and rescheduled, just as many Bible prophecies are; the original human preconditions for the first or ideal fulfilment did not come about.

Ezekiel 26:9 He shall set his battering engines against your walls, and with his axes he shall break down your towers- See on :8. This is the language of Alexander's invasion, not Nebuchadnezzar's. Alexander breached the walls by using battering rams attached to his ships.

Ezekiel 26:10 By reason of the abundance of his horses their dust shall cover you. Your walls shall shake at the noise of the horsemen, and of the wagons, and of the chariots, when he shall enter into your gates, as men enter into a city in which is made a breach- The noise of chariots and AV "wheels" recalls that of the cherubim of the opening visions. The human armies and chariots depicted here were under the direct control of the Angel cherubim. See on Ez. 13:13. Alexander conquered Tyre by making a breach in the southern wall, through which his army entered from the causeway they had built. The description of this fall of Tyre would have seemed impossible of fulfilment. For nobody thought that a causeway could be built enabling such military hardware to rumble into Tyre itself.

Ezekiel 26:11 With the hoofs of his horses shall he tread down all your streets; he shall kill your people with the sword; and the pillars of your strength shall go down to the ground-  See on :8. This is the language of Alexander's invasion, not Nebuchadnezzar's. But as with the judgments upon Judah, the scale of destruction was not quite as envisaged. Alexander killed 8,000 defenders of Tyre and sold the remaining 30,000 into slavery. This is not the scale of total destruction implied here, and so we must look to a latter day fulfilment.

Ezekiel 26:12 They shall make a spoil of your riches, and make a prey of your merchandise; and they shall break down your walls, and destroy your pleasant houses; and they shall lay your stones and your timber and your dust in the midst of the waters-
This was clearly done by Alexander the Great and not Nebuchadnezzar; although the rubble of the old Tyre was used by Alexander to build the causeway to island Tyre. According to Babylonian records, Tyre surrendered to Nebuchadnezzar and was not destroyed. So the prophecy was rescheduled and reapplied to him, and yet some of the language still doesn't ring true to what even Alexander did. So the ultimate reapplication will be in the latter day judgment of "Tyre" at the Lord's return.

Ezekiel 26:13 I will cause the noise of your songs to cease; the sound of your harps shall be no more heard- Tyre sung songs so that her memory would be preserved (Is. 26:13). But all such attempts to achieve permanence beyond the grave are doomed; and we have there a lesson. The idea may be that the only sound would be the music of the sea washing over her bare rocks (:14). But again this is the language of Zion's judgment (Is. 24:8; Jer. 7:34). There was to be the same hallmark stamped upon it. Zion was no better than Tyre of the Gentiles.

Ezekiel 26:14 I will make you a bare rock; you shall be a place for the spreading of nets. You shall be built no more: for I Yahweh have spoken it, says the Lord Yahweh- Tyre was rebuilt, to such an extent that it was besieged by the Crusaders in the 12th century. As noted on Ez. 25:11, this prophecy shall only come totally true in its latter day fulfilment.

Ezekiel 26:15 Thus says the Lord Yahweh to Tyre: shall not the islands shake at the sound of your fall, when the wounded groan, when the slaughter is made in the midst of you?- "Islands" can mean 'sea coasts' and would refer to the areas with whom Tyre traded, such as Philistia (Is. 20:6), south and east coasts of Arabia (Ez. 27:15) and Caphtor. The language of merchant partners mourning her fall is that regarding Babylon in Revelation. I have suggested on Ez. 25:11 that the intended scenario at Ezekiel's time didn't come about, because neither Judah nor the judged nations repented and turned to Yahweh. So the prophecies are to be rescheduled and reapplied; and perhaps the judgment of Tyre is to be reapplied in the last days to Babylon, just as the prophecies in this chapter about Nebuchadnezzar were reapplied to Alexander the Great. For judgment upon Babylon is not specifically mentioned in Ezekiel.

Ezekiel 26:16 Then all the princes of the sea shall come down from their thrones and lay aside their robes and strip off their embroidered garments: they shall clothe themselves with trembling; they shall sit on the ground and shall tremble every moment, being astonished at you- As noted on :15, this is more the language of the merchant partnes of Babylon in Revelation 17-19 mourning that the queen city of their trading system has come to a disgraceful end. But the fall of Tyre didn't mean, in Ezekiel's time, the loss of political power [coming down from thrones] for her trading partners; we are to look to the last days for the complete fulfilment.

Ezekiel 26:17 They shall take up a lamentation over you and tell you, How you are destroyed, who was inhabited by mariners, the renowned city, who was strong in the sea, she and her inhabitants, who caused their terror to be on all who lived there!- The peoples who traded with Tyre (see on :15) do not rejoice that an oppressor has fallen, but rather lament that their source of trade and profit has fallen. So "terror" here refers more to awe and respect rather than fear of an oppressor. "Lived there" is not the best translation; the word is used about marriage, and the idea is that her trading partners were as it were married to her in covenant.

Ezekiel 26:18 Now shall the islands tremble in the day of your fall; yes, the islands that are in the sea shall be dismayed at your departure- The "islands" refer to coastal areas who were associated with Tyre by trade (see on :15). 'Trembling at the fall' of Tyre is the same phrase used about Egypt (Ez. 32:10). The similarity is in that the same hallmark of Yahweh's judgment is seen upon all who are judged by Him. They were not mere victims of random event; the Divine hand was in the fall of all in whom His wayward people had trusted.

Ezekiel 26:19 For thus says the Lord Yahweh: When I shall make you a desolate city like the cities that are not inhabited; when I shall bring up the deep on you and the great waters shall cover you- The covering of island Tyre with the waters, which had seemed so impossible, was to parallel the waters of invading armies taking her over. And yet this was not fulfilled under Nebuchadnezzar nor really under Alexander; the city was rebuilt and was not left uninhabited; even under Alexander the majority of the population were not slain. So the main fulfilment is in the last days.

Ezekiel 26:20 Then will I bring you down with those who descend into the pit, to the people of old time, and will make you to dwell in the lower parts of the earth, in the places that are desolate of old, with those who go down to the pit- In her death, Tyre would go down to the grave with other Gentiles (Ez. 32:19) and be at rest there. So there is no sense at all that "the pit" included conscious beings. For death is unconsciousness. Tyre would no longer be seen as superior to others, for death was to be the great leveller- a principle which likewise applies today.

That you be not inhabited- After the Babylonian invasion, Tyre was inhabited; indeed Is. 23:15 speaks of a 70 year period of Tyre's desolation. But the final fulfilment therefore must be future, because as noted on Ez. 25:11, the whole series of prophecies in this section of Ezekiel was part of the wider Divine intention that the Gentiles along with Judah would repent after the Babylonian destruction and come into covenant with Him, 'knowing Yahweh'. But this didn't happen as God hoped and potentially enabled; and so the prophecies have their final fulfilment in the last days.

And I will set glory in the land of the living- This is the language of the restored Kingdom of God in Israel, where Zion will become characterized by "life" (Ez. 47:19). God's glory would be set there; as noted above and on Ez. 25:11, the intention was that the Gentiles along with Judah would repent after the Babylonian destruction and come into covenant with Him, 'knowing Yahweh'. But this didn't happen as God hoped and potentially enabled; and so the prophecies have their final fulfilment in the last days.

Ezekiel 26:21 I will make you a terror, and you shall no more be rebuilt; though you are sought for, yet you will never be found again, says the Lord Yahweh- But Tyre was rebuilt after the Babylonian invasion.  Indeed Is. 23:15 speaks of a 70 year period of Tyre's desolation. So the final fulfilment therefore must be future, as explained on Ez. 25:11.