Ezekiel 27: Glory and Fall of Tyre
The preceding lessons were taken from the first portion of the book of Ezekiel (chapters 1-24), which chiefly deals with the impending fall of Jerusalem. The second portion covers chapters 25-32. It contains the prophecies on seven foreign nations, viz.: Ammon, Moab, Edom, the Philistines, Tyre, Zidon, and Egypt. Those on Tyre and Egypt are long, occupying several chapters each, the others are brief. Prophecies on the nations by Amos, Isaiah, and Jeremiah have already been referred to. Those by Ezekiel spring from a different point of view. Jerusalem has just been destroyed. The prophet thinks of the nations rejoicing over Judah's disaster, like Obadiah's picture of Edom. Shall they do this with impunity? Nay! they too shall be punished.
The message against Tyre was given in the year 586 B.C., just after the fall of Jerusalem. This was the eleventh year of Ezekiel's captivity, and the eleventh of Zedekiah's reign in Judah. (Ezek. 26:1; 2 Kings 25:2) At that time, Nebuchadnezzar was at "Riblah in the land of Hamath" (Jer. 52:9), which is on the river Orontes, some distance northeast of Tyre. From this point, Nebuchadnezzar conducted his siege of Tyre which, according to Josephus, lasted thirteen years - from 586-573. Ezekiel looked for a great fall of Tyre similar to that of Jerusalem, and depicts it in a most graphic manner, though history does not record the issue of this siege.
Tyre was a most difficult city to enter. It is spoken of in the days of Joshua as a strong city. (Josh. 19:29) The name Tyre means "rock." It was built on an island rock about half a mile from the main-land. Unlike other Phoenician cities, it formed a little kingdom in itself. Hiram, king of Tyre, built a house for David in Jerusalem. (2 Sam. 5:11) This same Hiram brought materials to Jerusalem to build the temple. The wood was hewn in Lebanon, taken to the sea, and sent in floats over seventy-five miles to Joppa. (2 Kings 5; 2 Chron. 2:16) He also furnished sailors for Solomon's navy when it went from Ezion-geber to Ophir for gold. (1 Kings 9:26)
Shalmanezer, king of Assyria, besieged Tyre about the year 721 B.C. at the time when he invested Samaria. The city was again besieged in 586 by Nebuchadnezzar, who was apparently unsuccessful. (See Ezek. 29:17, which was written sixteen years afterward.) Later, it was attacked by the Egyptians and then by the Persians, who brought the Tyrians under their rule. In these days, Tyre again supplied cedar wood for the building of the second temple. (Ezra 3:7) Finally, the city surrendered to Alexander the Great in 322 B.C. after a memorable siege of seven months. The conqueror achieved his victory by constructing a great mole between the main-land and the island, which remains to this day. Undoubtedly, the place was on an island in Ezekiel's day. He frequently speaks of it as being "in the midst of the sea."
Canon Driver considers this chapter (Ezek. 27) to be "one of peculiar archaeological and historical interest." Another writer says "it furnishes us, on some points, with details such as have scarcely come down to us respecting any city of antiquity, excepting Rome and Athens." How well equipped was this city! How well-defended! How widespread was her trading and how valuable her goods! Yet "thy riches, thy fairs, thy merchandise, thy marines, and thy pilots, thy calkers, and the occupiers of thy merchandise, and all thy men of war, that are in thee . . . shall fall into the midst of the seas in the day of thy ruin."
Tyre was a rock island city haying a king of its own. It was situated at the outer northern boundary of Philistia. Its citizens were merchant traders and abounded in wealth. All these facts bear out its signification, namely, knowledges of spiritual and celestial truths. (A. 425, 1154 and on) Zidon was neighbor to Tyre, about 20 miles north of it, at the extreme boundary of Philistia. The word Zidon means "fishing." This helps in understanding the significance of the two towns, and why they are so frequently mentioned together. "Tyre signifies interior knowledges, and Zidon exterior knowledges of spiritual things." (See A. 1201.) This signification is based upon the fact that the people of Tyre and Zidon at one time possessed the Ancient Word that is now lost, from which they cultivated the science of correspondences, and were in representative worship. (See S. 21, 102.) They therefore "signify the Ancient Church, but as to the knowledge of good and truth." (A. 5319)
From the above it is evident why Hiram, king of Tyre, furnished Solomon with cedar, and the beautiful brass vessels for the outer court of the temple. Cedar wood signifies the rational or spiritual person. The interior knowledges of good and truth can only be grasped by an enlightened rational faculty. These knowledges also furnish the vessels of worship in the outer plane of a personís life.
Tyre means, as already noted, "rock." Peter is the Greek word with the same meaning. Caesarea Philippi was on the borders of the land almost due east of Tyre. There Peter made the confession. "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." And the Lord said, "Upon this rock I will build My church." The interior knowledge of the spiritual truths of the Word proclaims the sole Divinity of the Lord. This is the ultimate basis or foundation of the Church.
Here in Ezekiel, however, is a picture of the greatness of Tyre, and of its fall. Knowledge is power. An interior knowledge of the truth brings great power. It confers intelligence, protection from evil, ability to serve others, wisdom, Divine worship, and increase in goods and truths. (Ezek. 27:1-25; P. P.) But when it is made to minister to the wishes of the natural person, then it is degraded and destroyed. The fall of Tyre succeed the destruction of Jerusalem. The one is a consequence of the other. Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, is the instrument in both cases. This implies that the spirit of serving self, or of ruling over and directing the affairs of people to suit self, destroys the Church in a person, and falsifies all the knowledges of good and truth from the Word. When we are made conscious by the Lord of the presence of this deep-seated evil in our life, and of its effects upon those things which we have been accustomed to regard as most precious, then we have a sorry experience before us, but rich in its reward to the repentant.