New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary

Ezekiel 27:1 The word of Yahweh came again to me saying- The previous chapter has recorded the prophesied destruction of Tyre. Perhaps the idea was that as with the proclamation of Nineveh's destruction after forty days, so Tyre was intended to receive this message and repent. Perhaps this further prophecy was given because the first one had not been responded to as hoped for.

Ezekiel 27:2 You, son of man, take up a lamentation over Tyre-
A funeral dirge is recited after a demise; Tyre's destruction was so sure to happen that Ezekiel can therefore recite this before the event, but in the past tense. This is a clear example of the 'prophetic perfect' tense in Biblical Hebrew.

Ezekiel 27:3 And tell Tyre: You who dwell at the entry of the sea, who are the merchant of the peoples to many islands, thus says the Lord Yahweh: You, Tyre, have said, I am perfect in beauty-
Or, "you are a ship perfect in beauty". This poem about Tyre likens her to a great ship in the sea. The same phrase "perfect in beauty" is used of Jerusalem (Lam. 2:15; Ez. 16:14). Clearly Tyre considered herself as the holy city of God, and in Ez. 28 there are many allusions to the tabernacle. It seems Tyre was envious of Jerusalem's claim to be Yahweh's holy city, and rejoiced at the demise of Jerusalem and its temple, thinking that she would then replace it.

Ezekiel 27:4 Your borders are in the heart of the seas; your builders have perfected your beauty-
As noted on :3, it was Zion who was the perfection of beauty (Ps. 50:2). That beauty was taken away in the destruction of the temple (s.w. Lam. 1:6; 2:1), and so Tyre wrongly imagined that she would replace Zion.

Ezekiel 27:5 They have made all your planks of fir trees from Senir; they have taken a cedar from Lebanon to make a mast for you-
This is appropriate if in fact Tyre is being likened to a great ship (see on :3). We noted on :3 and :4 that Tyre was presenting itself as a fake and replacement Zion; the cedars of Lebanon were so associated with the Jerusalem temple that the temple is even called "Lebanon" in Zech. 11:1. So Tyre having the cedar of Lebanon as its mainstay and most focal point would suggest she was seeing the pagan temple in her midst, like the mast on the ship "Tyre", as replacing Zion.

Ezekiel 27:6 Of the oaks of Bashan have they made your oars; they have made your benches of ivory inlaid in boxwood from the islands of Kittim-
Is. 2:13 and Zech. 11:2 imply that oaks of Bashan were used in the Jerusalem temple, so again we have the impression that Zion was being 'imitated' by Tyre; see on Ez. 28:12. Whilst "benches" refers to the benches sat upon by the rowers of the ship "Tyre", this is the same Hebrew word more commonly used for the "boards" of the tabernacle (Ez. 26:15-29 etc.). All the time we see allusions to the tabernacle and temple of Zion; which Tyre was imitating, suggesting she was greater than Zion, and her gods than Yahweh.

Ezekiel 27:7 Of fine linen with embroidered work from Egypt was your sail, that it might be to you for a banner; blue and purple from the islands of Elishah was your awning-
Tyre is being likened to a glorious ship (see on :3). But again the descriptions recall that of the tabernacle, decked with embroidered work [which in the tabernacle was also made of material "from Egypt"], blue and purple (Ex. 25:4; 26:1,31). The ballad of the ship "Tyre" presents her as a floating, but fake, tabernacle.

Ezekiel 27:8 The inhabitants of Sidon and Arvad were your rowers. Your wise men, Tyre, were in you; they were your pilots-
The reference is to Tyre as a great ship (:3), captained by their own "wise men", with the local peoples as their "rowers". Tyre was famed for her wisdom, and her destruction reflects God's desire to judge and bring down all human pride. See on :28 for the connection of "rowers" with the ship of Tarshish used by Jonah.

Ezekiel 27:9 The old men of Gebal and the wise men of it were in you, your repairers of ship seams. All the ships of the sea with their mariners were in you to deal in your merchandise-
As noted on :8, all human wisdom comes to nothing before God's judgment. "Gebal" is LXX "Byblus", between Beirut and Tripoli. The latter day fulfilment of all this seems to be that the 30 or so nations listed here as confederate with Tyre will all be involved again in the final desolation of Israel and will be finally judged at the Lord's return. Thus Gebal is mentioned in Ps. 83:7 as one of the ten nations confederated under the aim of destroying Israel.

Ezekiel 27:10 Persia, Lud and Put were in your army, your men of war. They hung the shield and helmet in you; they set forth your beauty-
"Put" is LXX "Libya", and this and "Persia" are listed in Ez. 38:5 as members of the final alliance which will be judged in the last days. That is the point when these prophecies have their final fulfilment.

Ezekiel 27:11 The men of Arvad with your army were on your walls all around, and heroic men were in your towers; they hung their shields on your walls all around; they have perfected your beauty-
This is the sight that greeted Alexander the Great as he approached the island Tyre; but the seeming impregnability was destroyed by the Divine judgment at his hands.

Ezekiel 27:12 Tarshish was your merchant by reason of the multitude of all kinds of riches; with silver, iron, tin and lead they traded for your wares-
Tarshish is not the source of these metals, but rather the merchant in them, the "caravans" or transporters of them (:25). Any attempt to claim that tin from Cornwall in the UK therefore makes Tarshish equal Britain is desperate in the extreme. "Tarshish" traded directly with Tyre and there is no evidence that Britain every did so.  Tarshish was noted for its silver not its lead (Jer. 10:9), and the only place where these metals occur together in close proximity is at the site of Tartessus on the coast of Spain. For "Tarshish" both the LXX. and the Vulgate give "Carthaginians". Tartessus was one of the chief Phoenician colonies in Spain, called Carthago Nova, because it was a colony of Carthage. They were famed for their large trading vessels, which were used to trade with Tyre; and thus "ships of Tarshish" became a generic term for merchant ships.

Ezekiel 27:13 Javan, Tubal, and Meshech, they were your traffickers; they traded the persons of men and vessels of brass for your merchandise-
Javan is Greece, and Joel 3:6 mentions Tyre as selling Israelite slaves ["the persons of men"] to Greece. Tubal and Meshech were clearly not Tobolsk in Siberia and Moscow in northern Russia, as has been claimed by russophobic wishful thinkers; there is no evidence Tyre traded with those areas. They clearly refer to areas with which Tyre traded by sea. All the other areas listed are "coastlands", accessible to sea transport, and this consideration would make Tubal and Meshech probably refer to areas on the Black Sea coast or possibly southern Turkey.

Ezekiel 27:14 They of the house of Togarmah traded for your wares with horses and war horses and mules-
The identification of Togarmah with Armenia is difficult in that the current Armenia was not then noted for its horses, and it was landlocked, whereas this is a list of the coastal areas which Tyre traded with by sea. The identification with parts of modern coastal Turkey  is therefore to be preferred.

Ezekiel 27:15 The men of Dedan were your traffickers; many islands were the market under your control. They brought you in exchange horns of ivory and ebony-
Dedan would therefore likely be somewhere in the south with access to elephant tusks and "ebony" from India and Ethiopia. Solomon used ships to get these things via Ezion Geber (1 Kings 9:26; 10:22). So the "islands" or coastlands in view could be on the Persian Gulf or the Red Sea. But the problem with that view is that one ship could not travel directly from Tyre to those places, seeing there was no Suez Canal then built. The description of the nations here is in an intentional order. It begins in the far west at Tartessus in Spain, goes east through Javan [Greece], to the north west corner of Turkey (Tubal, Meshech) and it would make sense if the circular description now moves down to the islands of the Aegean. These were the "islands... under your control", and the men of Dedan [even if we insist Dedan was in the Persian Gulf] were the merchants. That is not quite the same as saying that Tyre's ships sailed to Dedan itself.

Ezekiel 27:16 Syria was your merchant by reason of the multitude of your handiworks. They traded for your wares with emeralds, purple, embroidered work, fine linen, coral and rubies-
Again we find here the things used in the tabernacle, priestly clothing and breastplate (Ex. 28:7,13,18,19; 39:12). This confirms the impression that the ballad of the good ship Tyre presents her as a fake, floating tabernacle. We are being set up to expect the utter destruction of this false system, which we indeed find in Ez. 28.

Ezekiel 27:17 Judah and the land of Israel, they were your traffickers. They traded for your merchandise wheat of Minnith, and confections, honey, oil and balm-
Here Judah and Israel, the special people of God, are mentioned as if they were treated by Tyre as just some other Gentile nations with whom they traded. And the style of the record here reflects that perspective. This too was to be a reason for Tyre's destruction; for God's people are special, and we too should treat them as such and not in the way we would relate to standard secular unbelievers. Tyre as a city state was always in need of food, and Palestine was a logical source for this.

Ezekiel 27:18 Damascus was your merchant for the multitude of your handiworks, by reason of the multitude of all kinds of riches, with the wine of Helbon and white wool-
This doesn't have to mean that the ships of Tyre went to Damascus, which is landlocked. Rather we can read as with GNB "The people of Damascus bought your merchandise and your products, paying for them with wine from Helbon and wool from Sahar".

Ezekiel 27:19 Vedan and Javan traded with yarn for your wares: bright iron, cassia and calamus were among your merchandise-
Cassia and calamus were used in the tabernacle rituals (Ex. 30:23,24; it is the "sweet cane" to be offered to Yahweh in Is. 43:24; Jer. 6:20). See on :16.

Ezekiel 27:20 Dedan was your trafficker in precious cloths for riding-
They "traded saddle blankets for your goods" (GNB).

Ezekiel 27:21 Arabia and all the princes of Kedar, they were the merchants of your hand. In lambs, rams, goats, in these were they your merchants-
These three animals were part of the tabernacle rituals; again we have the impression that Tyre is being presented as a fake tabernacle, a conscious imitation of Yahweh's shrine in Jerusalem. See on :16. We also find these three animals listed in the same order in Ez. 39:18, as the possessions of the confederacy of nations who will invade Israel in the last days under Gog, and be destroyed. The idea would be that the final fulfilment of this prophecy is at the Lord's return, although "Tyre" may be reapplied to "Babylon" or whoever leads that latter day confederacy. Such reapplication and shifting of fulfilment from one to another is common in Bible prophecy; we noted on Ez. 26 how the destruction of Tyre was intended to be done by Nebuchadnezzar, but this prophecy was reapplied and shifted to Alexander the Great. Likewise prophecies which have one context in the Old Testament are applied in a different context in the New Testament. Thus Rachel weeping for her children in Jeremiah is shifted to apply to the women weeping for their children at the time of Herod's massacre. See on :27.

Ezekiel 27:22 The traffickers of Sheba and Raamah, they were your traffickers. They traded for your wares with the chief of all spices and with all precious stones and gold-
Again this doesn't require the ships of Tyre to have gone to Sheba, the idea is that men from Sheba traded with Tyre. And again, these were all used in the tabernacle construction and rituals; spices (s.w. Ex. 25:6; 35:8), "precious stones" is the term used for the "costly stones" brought from Tyre and Lebanon for the foundation of the temple (1 Kings 5:17; 7:9-11); and gold was likewise throughout the sanctuary.

Ezekiel 27:23 Haran and Canneh and Eden, the traffickers of Sheba, Asshur and Chilmad, were your traffickers-
Men from throughout the eretz promised to Abraham worked for Tyre; she is presented as having relationships and economic control over the entire territory. This may be somewhat exaggerated, as Babylon was the greater power in the area; but the picture is thus painted because Tyre stands as representative of the latter day entity which shall be judged at the Lord's return.

Ezekiel 27:24 These were your traffickers in choice wares, in wrappings of blue and embroidered work and in chests of rich clothing, bound with cords and made of cedar, among your merchandise-
Again, this is all the language of the priestly robes and the tabernacle and temple construction- the words and ideas are all used elsewhere in that context: wrappings, blue, embroidered work, cords, cedar. As noted on :16, Tyre is presented as an imitation tabernacle which is to be judged.

Ezekiel 27:25 The ships of Tarshish were your caravans for your merchandise, and you were replenished, and made very glorious in the heart of the seas-
As explained on :12, the people of Tartessus [Tarshish] in Spain were famed for their large trading vessels, which were used to trade with Tyre; and thus "ships of Tarshish" became a generic term for merchant ships. They were the maritime equivalent of desert "caravans". "Very glorious" is the phrase translated "very grievous" about the sin of Sodom (Gen. 18:20). A parallel is being drawn because this proud, immoral system and city is about to likewise fall in judgment.

Ezekiel 27:26 Your rowers have brought you into great waters. The east wind has broken you in the heart of the seas-
This verse suddenly interrupts the description of her greatness and all the good thinks packed onto the good ship Tyre. The sudden east wind from God will destroy her; clearly there are similarities with the Jonah story, see on :28.

Ezekiel 27:27 Your riches, your wares, your merchandise, your mariners, your pilots, your repairers of ship hulls and the dealers in your merchandise, and all your men of war who are in you, with all your company which is in the midst of you, shall fall into the heart of the seas in the day of your ruin-
See on :28 for the connections with Jonah. The good ship Tyre, loaded with wealth and sailors from throughout the eretz promised to Abraham, was to capsize and sink to the bottom of the seas under Divine judgment. This is the punishment of Babylon and those confederate with her. It seems that what was here threatened upon Tyre didn't fully come to pass; but the essence of the prophecy will do, in that the prophecy is to be reapplied and transferred to Babylon. See on :21.

Ezekiel 27:28 At the sound of the cry of your pilots the suburbs shall shake-
"Pilots" is the word translated "captain" in Jonah 1:6, the only other usage of the word outside Ez. 27. The ship of Tarshish or Tyre was rowed into deep waters, "the heart of the seas" (:27), which is where Jonah was plunged into (Jonah 2:3). The connection with the Jonah story is perhaps the implication that Tyre could have repented as those sailors did, and the ship of Tyre would not have been wrecked as it was going to be. And of course the book of Jonah is the great example of where Divine judgment was stated but not carried out because of Gentile repentance. And this was exactly why Ezekiel is making this appeal to Tyre.

Ezekiel 27:29 All who handled the oar, the mariners and all the pilots of the sea shall come down from their ships. They shall stand on the land-
This is the very picture of Babylon's supporters, portrayed as mariners, 'standing' in mourning over her (Rev. 18:17). If we enquire why the judgments of latter day Babylon are portrayed in terms of Tyre's fall as described here in Ezekiel, I suggest the answer is as explained on :21. The prophecies of Tyre's fall could have happened in Ezekiel's time, within the context of the intended repentance of the exiles and the nations, and the reestablishment of a kingdom of God in Israel. But this didn't happen, and so the prophecies about Tyre have been transferred and reapplied to Babylon, to come to total fulfilment in the last days.

Ezekiel 27:30 And shall cause their voice to be heard over you, and shall cry bitterly and shall cast up dust on their heads, they shall wallow themselves in the ashes-
This is the bitter lamentation over Babylon of Rev. 18:8-10; casting dust on their heads is quoted and applied to the mourners for latter day Babylon in Rev. 18:19; see on :29. Wallowing in ashes was Zion's judgment (Jer. 6:26; 25:34); they had rejoiced at Zion's fall, but were to come to the same.

Ezekiel 27:31 And they shall make themselves bald for you, and clothe them with sackcloth, and they shall weep for you in bitterness of soul with bitter mourning-
This is the language of the exiles mourning for the destruction of Zion (Jer. 4:8; 6:26 and throughout Lamentations). The implication is that Zion was but a fake sanctuary of Yahweh, just as Tyre was. They would meet the same end.

Ezekiel 27:32 In their wailing they shall take up a lamentation for you and lament over you, saying, Who is there like Tyre, like her who is brought to silence in the midst of the sea?-
Babylon likewise is to be cast into the seas in the last days (Rev. 18:21), and those who traded with her shall wail and lament (Rev. 18:11); see on :21,29.

Ezekiel 27:33 When your wares went forth out of the seas, you filled many peoples; you enriched the kings of the earth with the multitude of your riches and of your merchandise-
The list of Babylon's merchandise in Rev. 18 is based upon the "wares" which are listed here as Tyre's trade. See on :29.

Ezekiel 27:34 In the time that you were broken by the seas in the depths of the waters, your merchandise and all your company fell in your midst-
The seas refer to the confederated nations who were to break her, and cause all her wealth and supporters to drown in the depths. Again we see the similarities with the ship of Tarshish in which Jonah was placed, which averted this catastrophe by repentance; see on :28.

Ezekiel 27:35 All the inhabitants of the islands are astonished at you, and their kings are horribly afraid; they are troubled in their face-
This suggests shock. The fall of Tyre is portrayed as coming suddenly and unexpectedly. But even in Alexander's time, she only fell after an extended siege. The impression of a sudden fall, akin to Babylon's plagues coming suddenly and being like a famine which came in one day (see on Rev. 18:8), means that we must look to the last days for the total fulfilment of the prophecy.

Ezekiel 27:36 The merchants among the peoples hiss at you; you are become a terror-
This could imply that the merchants who initially lamented the fall of Tyre because of their own personal loss therefrom, now change and hate her. For "hiss" suggests scorn. In the transference to Babylon, this would be the horns hating the whore (Rev. 17:16).

And you shall never again have any being- Tyre did revive, and suffered many more sieges and invasions, right up to the time of the crusades. So the prophecy didn't come fully true at the time, but it will do in its reapplied form in the last days.