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Isaiah 23:1 The burden of Tyre. Howl, you ships of Tarshish! For it is laid waste, so that there is no house, no entering in. From the land of Kittim it is revealed to them- LXX has "Carthage" for "Tarshish". Carthage was a colony of Tyre, and so they would mourn the fall of their mother city; and therefore as LXX "men no longer arrive from the land of the Citians".

This chapter seems 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; see on :17.

It's impossible to choose which of the various sieges of Tyre this chapter may refer to. And the later references to a 70 year period don't fit anything [so far as we currently know]. Such prophecies as this could be an example of apocalyptic imaging, whereby a picture is presented of a panorama of events, although each element of the panorama may be fulfilled at a different time. This would mean that the entire prophetic picture presented here never happened all together at one time to Tyre. However I discern in many prophecies elements which simply were never fulfilled and by their nature, will not be. And so I prefer to consider these prophecies as conditional, and they present potential scenarios which factor in a whole range of human responses, both obedient and disobedient. Not all of them will therefore fulfill, according to the principle of Jer. 18:8-10, that God's stated intentions about the nations may not come about if there is repentance.

Isaiah 23:2 Be still, you inhabitants of the coast, you whom the merchants of Sidon, that pass over the sea, have replenished-
Tyre was originally a colony of Sidon; the terms are at times interchangeable (:4). Ethbaal is called "king of Tyre" by Josephus (Antiquities 8.3.2), but "king of the Sidonians" in 1 Kings 16:31. Some of Tyre's coins celebrate it as "the metropolis of the Sidonians".

Isaiah 23:3 On great waters-
Or, "by the great waters", the Mediterranean.

The seed of the Shihor, the harvest of the Nile, was her revenue. She was the market of nations- The seed in view is the grain of Egypt, transported to the mouth of the Nile [here called the Sihor] where the Phoenicians bought it and then sold it throughout the nations.

Isaiah 23:4 Be ashamed, Sidon-
The reference is still to Tyre; see on :2.

For the sea has spoken, the stronghold of the sea, saying, I have not travailed, nor brought forth, neither have I nourished young men, nor brought up virgins- Their pride was in the claim that they were full of young men and women and wealth which they hadn't had to labour for. This is effectively a denial of the curse in Eden; but judgment would come for them all the same. And :10 LXX says that the collapse of trade would mean they would have to "till thy land", returning to working the land in the sweat of their face as prophesied in Genesis, rather than boasting that they had avoided that aspect of the curse. This is strangely relevant to our society, where again every effort is vainly made to try to overcome that ancient curse.

Isaiah 23:5 When the report comes to Egypt, they will be in anguish at the report of Tyre-
Perhaps because there were colonies of Tyre there, or because the Egyptian merchandise of :3 was no longer being bought by the Tyrians. And the fall of Tyre would be a message to the Egyptians that the northern invader would soon reach them. In Isaiah's context he is teaching Judah the weakness of Egypt, upon whom they were always inclined to trust.

Isaiah 23:6 Pass over to Tarshish! Wail, you inhabitants of the coast!-
LXX "Depart ye to Carthage". The people of Tyre fled to their colonies such as Carthage when the city was besieged. There is historical evidence for this. We see here that "Tarshish" referred to the colonies of Tyre, reached by the long distance ships called "ships of Tarshish" just as fast British merchant boats were known as "Indiamen"; and was where they fled to by ship when they were besieged. This ought to close down all speculation that "Tarshish is Britain". This fleeing of refugees by ship from Tyre is noted in history, especially when Alexander finally ruined Tyre. And Layard found representations of it on the monuments of Nineveh, suggesting this also happened when the Assyrians of Isaiah's time besieged the city. We see the prophecy having multiple fulfillments over time; see on :1.

Isaiah 23:7 Is this your joyous city, whose antiquity is of ancient days, whose feet carried her far away to travel?-
The sense may be a mixture of the Hebrew and LXX, in that she was to flee into exile in her own ships, which had once been her pride: "Was not this your pride from the beginning, before she was given up?". The condemnation of Tyre as being a joyous city which would be ruined is intended to connect with Isaiah's condemnations of Jerusalem for feasting rather than fasting (Is. 22:2; 32:13). He intends them to look at the fall of others for the same behaviour; and we too can look at the fall of others contemporary with us as well as in history, and take warning.

Isaiah 23:8 Who has planned this against Tyre, the giver of crowns, whose merchants are princes, whose traffickers are the honourable of the earth?-
The answer of "Yahweh" is given in the next verse, but the question is perhaps posed in this way in order to elicit repentance. For in all the oracles against the nations which began in Is. 13, there is always an appeal for repentance. For it was God's hope that a remnant of repentant Gentiles would join a remnant of His repentant people in His reestablished Kingdom in Judah. She was to understand that her giving of crowns to her colonies and declaration of her merchants as royal princes was all just playing around at creating a kingdom. She needed to humble herself beneath the reality of Yahweh's Kingdom.

Isaiah 23:9 Yahweh of Armies has planned it, to stain the pride of all glory, to bring into contempt all the honourable of the earth-
We note that the primary issue with the king of Tyre in Ez. 27,28 was not his idolatry, but his pride and playing God. This is what is so utterly abhorrent to God. And we must have that same perspective. Throughout Ez. 27 and Ez. 28 Tyre is portrayed as having a fake tabernacle and temple, an imitation Zion; and her prince was therefore enthroned there as if he were Yahweh. He consciously "set his heart" on this fantasy. The Ugaritic documents reveal that the kings of that time considered themselves to be Divine, the human reincarnation of a god who had died and was now rising again. But the king of Ez. 28, perhaps Itobaal II or Azemilcus, was consciously impersonating the Yahweh religion of Zion. Isaiah begins his prophecy with the statements that all pride in the eretz promised to Abraham was to be brought down- whether in Judah or in the Gentile nations such as Tyre within that territory. But this bringing down of pride was in the hope that they might repent. 

Isaiah 23:10 Pass through your land like the Nile, daughter of Tarshish. There is no restraint any more-
The text is very obscure here, and the LXX makes more sense: "Till thy land; for ships no more come out of Carthage". They could no longer rely upon trade between Tyre and her colonies, so they must till their own land, returning to agriculture for their basic needs. This would then connect with my suggestion on :4 that the people of Tyre were boasting they need not "till their land" in the spirit of the curse in Eden, but rather considered they had rather cleverly got around that curse by their trading. It would also make sense why the fall of the king of Tyre in Ez. 28 is described with allusion to the fall of Adam in Eden; Tyre was to suffer the same judgment as Adam, for all their boasting that they had avoided it.

Isaiah 23:11 He has stretched out His hand over the sea, He has shaken the kingdoms. Yahweh has ordered the destruction of Canaan’s strongholds-
"Canaan" can be translated as AV "the merchant city", referring again to Tyre. Or it could be that Tyre is being likened to one of the cities of Canaan, all of which were to fall before Joshua-Jesus. Note that the  "Syro-Phoenician woman" of Mk. 7:26 is "a woman of Canaan" in Mt. 15:22. The shaking of the kingdoms may have in view an earthquake from Yahweh which would destroy Tyre (rather than a protracted siege); and Yahweh's stretching out His hand over the sea recalls the Red Sea and His miraculous intervention to judge Egypt. This kind of thing features in all the prophecies against the nations from Is. 13 onwards. There was the potential that they would be destroyed by supernatural Divine judgment as Sodom was. This didn't happen, because the potential prophetic scenario didn't come about; not least because Judah didn't repent and the Kingdom of God was not reestablished there as potentially possible. Judgment still came upon Tyre but in a somewhat reduced and different form to that originally intended.

Isaiah 23:12 He said, You shall rejoice no more, you oppressed virgin daughter of Sidon. Arise, pass over to Kittim. Even there you will have no rest-
As explained on :2, Tyre was the "daughter of Sidon" in that originally she had been a colony of Sidon. With the city besieged, the people of Tyre would flee by boat to their colonies in Kittim (Cyprus) and also Carthage (see on :6). But they had no rest on Cyprus because Sargon and Esarhaddon both conquered it; and when Abdi-Milkut, King of Sidon, fled there, Esarhaddon had him beheaded. There are inscriptions which call it "the usual refuge of the Phoenician kings". But Cyprus was included in the dominions of Asshurbanipal and so was never a stable place of rest for Tyrians. 

Isaiah 23:13 Behold, the land of the Chaldeans. This people was not until the Assyrians founded it for those who dwell in the wilderness. They set up their towers; they overthrew its palaces, they made it a ruin-
Although Babylon later conquered Assyria, initially Assyria conquered Babylon. It was made 'not a people' by the Assyrians, and they made Babylon deserted, a place for the wilderness dwellers, i.e. the wild animals. This judgment of Babylon by Assyria was to be repeated when Babylon fell much later (Is. 13:21; 34:14). "They set up their towers" in the sense that they 'made them bare' (as in Hab. 3:9) and overthrew it until it was just a ruin. The implication is that the Assyrians were to do this to Tyre, and would move on from there to do the same to Jerusalem, who should likewise not trust in its apparently impregnable defences. But Assyria didn't destroy Tyre as envisaged here. This didn't happen, because the potential prophetic scenario didn't come about; not least because Judah didn't repent and the Kingdom of God was not reestablished there as potentially possible. Judgment still came upon Tyre but in a somewhat reduced and different form to that originally intended. Various Assyrians besieged Tyre at different times (Shalmaneser V, Sargon II, Sennacherib, Esarhaddon and Ashurbanipal); as did the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar II, and then Alexander of Macedon. As explained on :1, elements of this prophecy came true in those various invasions, but the intended scenario was the direct destruction of Tyre by Yahweh. And this didn't happen. See on :14.

Isaiah 23:14 Howl, you ships of Tarshish, for your stronghold is laid waste!- The destruction of Tyre was tragic for the people in the ships of Tarshish, for they were the people of Tyre who had used their ships to flee into exile (:6,12). There is no way that these ships of Tarshish refer to the shipping of the British empire. The context here makes them clearly refer to the vessels belonging to Tyre. The language of ships and mourning is all used in Rev. 18 of the fall of latter day Babylon. My suggestion is that the judgments upon Tyre didn't fully come about at the time and was therefore transferred, reapplied and rescheduled to latter day Babylon.

Isaiah 23:15 It will come to pass in that day that Tyre will be forgotten seventy years, according to the days of one king. After the end of seventy years it will be to Tyre like in the song of the prostitute-
As demonstrated on :17, the 70 years is meant to connect with the 70 years exile of Judah. But that 70 years was not a literal period because it was dependent upon Judah's repentance. It could be that during that same period, Tyre was to be "forgotten", also in exile in places like Carthage (:6,12). The 70 year period was also to be the length of Babylon's dominion; Judah's revival was to coincide with the fall of Babylon. "The days of one king" may refer to one dynasty or kingdom, "king" being put for "kingdom" as in Dan. 7:17; 8:21. And this may have been the intention here too; that Babylon was to dominate Tyre for 70 years and then she would revive. Their revival and turning to Yahweh in covenant relationship was intended to coincide with Judah's acceptance of the new covenant at the restoration (:18). But this was the prophetic potential; none of the parties concerned repented.


Isaiah 23:16 Take a harp; go about the city, you prostitute that has been forgotten. Make sweet melody. Sing many songs, that you may be remembered-
This may be a quotation from the song or ballad of the prostitute in :15. The song of the elderly prostitute may be a song of repentance, regretting a profligate life that now cannot serve her. She had been forgotten by God as Judah were during the 70 years of exile (s.w. Is. 49:14). And Judah like Tyre was forgotten of all her former lovers (s.w. Jer. 30:14). In response to singing this song, Yahweh visits Tyre in mercy and restoration (:17); we can therefore assume that this song is one of repentance. The songs make her "remembered"- before God. For that is how the word is generally used, many times. "Sweet melody" is used of singing to God in a way He finds sweet (Ps. 33:3).

Isaiah 23:17 It will happen after the end of seventy years that Yahweh will visit Tyre-
God gave a prophecy about Tyre the generation before Judah went into exile for 70 years. He said that Tyre would be forgotten for 70 years and then would be visited by Yahweh and revived (Is. 23:17). Surely this was in order to prepare those who had ears to hear to the fact that if God could operate like this with Tyre, how much more could He revive and "visit" His beloved people after 70 years. For the same language of visiting after 70 years is used about them (Jer. 27:22; 29:10); divine visitation can be in mercy, grace and revival, and not always in judgment.

We note that the later prophecies about Tyre in Ezekiel state that Tyre is to be permanently destroyed and not revived. We can assume therefore that what we read here about Tyre's revival and entering covenant with Yahweh, donating her wealth to His people (:18 LXX) was command more than prediction. Or at best it was conditional prophecy, requiring Tyre's repentance. But this didn't happen, and the projected reestablishment of God's Kingdom in Judah under a Messianic ruler was precluded anyway by Judah's impenitence. Hence Ezekiel's later prophecies of total destruction of Tyre, with the implication in Ez. 47:20 that the territory of Tyre would be incorporated within the borders of Israel's revived Kingdom.

And she shall return to her wages, and will play the prostitute with all the kingdoms of the world on the surface of the earth- LXX "And she shall be a mart for all the kingdoms of the world on the face of the earth". This makes more sense, seeing that her profits are to be devoted to Yahweh (:18).

Isaiah 23:18 Her merchandise and her wages will be holiness to Yahweh. It will not be treasured nor laid up; for her merchandise will be for those who dwell before Yahweh, to eat sufficiently, and for durable clothing
- Unless we read with the LXX here and in :17, we have the situation of a prostitute's earnings being devoted to Yahweh, which was forbidden under the law. So LXX: "And her trade and her gain shall be holiness to the Lord: it shall not be gathered for them, but for those that dwell before the Lord, even all her trade, to eat and drink and be filled, and for a covenant and a memorial before the Lord". This would then be saying that the Divine intention would be fulfilled- Tyre would repent and enter the new covenant with Yahweh which His repentant people would also enter; and they would not keep their restored wealth for themselves, but rather donate it to "those who dwell before Yahweh" in Zion. This never happened after seventy years nor at any time, because Tyre didn't want to repent and neither did Judah; and so the barest essence of it will be fulfilled in the latter day repentance of all nations around Israel, and their entering covenant relationship with Yahweh.