The prophet’s communication in respect to Tyre is marked, at the commencement, by his prefixing the date when he received this word of judgment from the Lord. It was in the eleventh year after King Jeconiah had been led into captivity; and thus it was also in the eleventh year of the reign of King Zedekiah, and the same year that the city of Jerusalem finally fell into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar. As we consider the prophecy on Tyre, it must be kept in mind that the city was actually divided into two sections – one of which was built upon the coastline of the Mediterranean Sea, and the other built on an offshore island close by. In some parts of the prophecy, reference is made to people and a city upon the land; but there can be no doubt that the city that is spoken of as the seat of commercial power and greatness is the sea-surrounded rock and city, which was perched (so to speak) in pride and security among the waters. If we keep this in view, then we shall have no difficulty in discerning between the different parts of the prophet’s delineation; and we shall also find that the judgment that was prophesied is in perfect accordance with the outcomes of the Lord’s Providence, in respect to the city of Tyre.
The word uttered by Ezekiel against Tyre falls into three parts, which are distributed into the same number of chapters. The first – contained in this chapter – specifically records the sin for which Tyre was destined to become the object of Divine retribution, the severe and terrible overthrow that was to be brought upon her greatness, and the means and instruments that were to be employed in effecting it. The second part – which occupies the entirety of chapter 27 – is a lamentation over the downfall of so much earthly magnificence, busy merchandise, and long-continued prosperity. And the last – which takes up nearly all of chapter 28 – consists of another lamentation, which is more immediately addressed to the king of Tyre; and it forms a sort of elegy upon the humiliation and dishonor which were to come over all his pride and vainglory, which had towered high above everything human, and had even vaunted itself against the Most High!
The message contained in this 26th chapter falls into several divisions: the sin of Tyre, her coming doom, the instruments and means of executing it, and the effect to be produced on other nations by her sad and miserable downfall. The first of these divisions is dispatched in a single verse: “Son of man, because Tyre hath said against Jerusalem, Aha! broken is the gate of the people: it has turned itself to me; I shall be replenished; she is become desolate” (verse 2). The mind of Tyre is uttered in a few broken sentences; but these indicate plainly enough her satisfaction at the destruction of Jerusalem, and the hope she entertained of turning it to a profitable advantage for herself. Tyre was a city of merchants, who were all bent on the one goal of pursuing their worldly trade and increasing their gains; and so she is represented as contemplating the fall of Jerusalem in a commercial light. To some extent, Jerusalem had been a business-rival; for her gate had been a marketplace where the inland traders of different countries had met to sell their goods. And now that Jerusalem had fallen into the hands of the Babylonians, Tyre imagined that the tide of merchandise which had hitherto flowed in that direction would now find its way to her.
The coming doom of Tyre is described with graphic energy, in four simple verses (3-6). Nowhere else in prophecy do we find such a striking and minute description of the melancholy change which was to take place in the circumstances of Tyre, and of the utter fall to which she was to be reduced. And then we are shown the part which Nebuchadnezzar was predicted to take in the punishment of Tyre; for the victorious assault of that monarch was only the commencement of Tyre’s degradation. It is plainly foretold that he and his army would enter the city by storm, spread terror and dismay among its inhabitants, and generally inflict a blow upon the strength and prosperity of the city. But what Nebuchadnezzar did was only paving the way for what was yet to be completed by many other hands. In short, the final and ultimate destruction of the city of Tyre was not to be completed overnight by Nebuchadnezzar; rather, it was to be a progressive work of demolition and trouble, until she became a helpless and hopeless ruin. Even today, the remains of her former magnificence lie forever buried; she will never again be the homestead of merchant-princes, but only the abode of fishermen. So surely does the Word of God travel on to its accomplishment – even though ages may elapse in the process, and seeming impossibilities have to be vanquished before the appointed result can be reached.
Since the Tyre that is here spoken of is a picture of all enemies of the Church, the Lord is here showing us how graciously He has always watched over His people for good – notwithstanding their unworthiness. The spiritual Tyre shall be thrown down, and Christ’s Church shall triumph over her! May the Lord give us grace to be found among His faithful people, who shall be preserved safely under the blood of Jesus; and not among those who are worldly-wise and prudent in their own conceit, who shall meet an awful end of destruction and woe, as the city of Tyre did!
Lord, we repent of times when we have possessed a spirit of worldly-mindedness, as Tyre had – which causes us to rejoice over the disadvantages and hardships of others, when it helps to further our own selfish gains. Give us grace so that our one and only desire may be to be found in Christ Jesus, and to be found written among the living in the spiritual Jerusalem above! Amen.
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illustration taken from The Art Bible, 1896