ISAIAH CHAPTER 23.
The Oracle Concerning Tyre.
THE FALL OF TYRE. — V. 1. The burden of Tyre, the proud Phoenician metropolis, which withstood the attacks of several Assyrian armies and endured a siege of thirteen years by Nebuchadnezzar, but was destroyed by Alexander the Great after a siege of seven months: Howl, ye ships of Tarshish, the great merchant vessels of that day, named after the city of Tartessus in Spain with which much of the world’s commerce was carried on; for it, Tyre, the center of the world’s markets, is laid waste, so that there is no house, not one of them being left in the city on the mainland after the siege of Nebuchadnezzar, no entering in, neither into buildings nor even into the harbor after Alexander had destroyed the city on the island; from the land of Chittim, the island of Cyprus, whose capital was Citium, it is revealed to them, the sailors and merchants of Tyre, returning from a long voyage, receiving the news of the city’s destruction at this, their last landing-place before reaching Phoenicia. V. 2. Be still, namely, with amazement and horror, ye inhabitants of the isle, those of the coast country of Phoenicia in general and of New Tyre in particular; thou whom the merchants of Zidon, the second great commercial city of Phoenicia, that pass over the sea, have replenished, both by founding the city and by making it one of the world’s chief markets. V. 3. And by great waters, by maritime trade and transportation, the seed of Sihor, “dark-colored,” applied to the Nile, the harvest of the river, the products of the rich lowlands of Egypt, is her revenue, that with which Tyre traded not only along the Mediterranean coast, but far inland as well; and she is a mart of nations, what was gathered in her became profitable merchandise to all nations. V. 4. Be thou ashamed, trembling with the disgrace of it all, O Zidon, Phoenicia in general; for the sea hath spoken, even the strength of the sea, the fortress of Tyre, which was located on an island at some distance from the coast, saying, I travail not nor bring forth children, neither do I nourish up young men nor bring up virgins. Tyre, bereaved of all her children by Ivar, was like a childless woman. There was nothing but rock and sea left where formerly the rich city had stood. V. 5. As at the report concerning Egypt, when the sad news concerning the fall of Tyre shall reach Egypt, so shall they be sorely pained at the report of Tyre, because this meant not only a severe reduction in the trade of Egypt, but also the removal of one of the bulwarks against the enemy. Moreover, those who escaped from Tyre would have to flee to the remote corners of the earth. V. 6. Pass ye over to Tarshish, the commercial metropolis of Spain, the colony where the last Phoenician ships might be found; howl, ye inhabitants of the isle, all those living along the coast of the Mediterranean, the fugitives with the inhabitants, since they all were included in the calamity which had come upon Tyre. V. 7. Is this your joyous city, whose antiquity is of ancient days? That was the end of all her proud self-glorification. Her own feet shall carry her afar off to sojourn, rather, “whose feet carried her afar to settle,” not only over her trade routes, but also in locating colonies in distant countries. The doom of Tyre having been pictured thus, the prophet proceeds to preach the glory of Jehovah. V. 8. Who hath taken this counsel against Tyre, the crowning city, which dispensed crowns to the rulers of its colonies, whose merchants are princes, whose traffickers are the honorable of the earth? The wealth of these men, together with their connections in distant lands, gave them a position of power and influence like that of rulers. V. 9. The Lord of hosts hath purposed it, He who has the fortunes of all men in His hands, to stain the pride of all glory, to profane, to bring shame upon that which the Tyrians wrongfully elevated, and to bring into contempt all the honorable of the earth, so that both they and their temples and idols would he disgraced and humiliated. The result is that the colonies gain their independence. V. 10. Pass through thy land as a river, overflowing it like the Nile, without interference and hindrance from fallen Tyre, O daughter of Tarshish, the Spanish colony of Tyre; there is no more strength, literally, “not is there any more a dam.” The fate of Tyre is now further described for the benefit of the colonies: v. 11. He, Jehovah, stretched out His hand over the sea, as the One who has absolute power over all the forces of nature; He shook the kingdoms, putting them in commotion to carry out His plans. The Lord hath given a commandment against the merchant city, literally, “against Canaan,” which here designates Phoenicia only, to destroy the strongholds thereof, chiefly the bulwarks of Tyre. V. 12. And He said, Thou shalt no more rejoice, O thou oppressed virgin, daughter of Zidon, Tyre and all Phoenicia being disgraced now as a result of the conquest. Arise, pass over to Chittim, emigrating to Cyprus, since the home country was in the hands of the enemies; there also shalt thou have no rest, for the colony would not welcome the former oppressors. V. 13. Behold the land of the Chaldeans, whence the destroyers came; this people was not, who at first did not figure in history, till the Assyrian founded it for them that dwell in the wilderness, for a section of the Assyrian empire had at first been assigned to them for settlement; they set up the towers thereof, that is, the Babylonians erected their siege-towers against Tyre, they raised up the palaces thereof, rather, “utterly destroyed its castles”; and he brought it to ruin, its bulwarks were overthrown. V. 14. Howl, ye ships of Tarshish; for your strength is laid waste. Cp. v. 1. Thus the Lord punishes those who exalt themselves and are proud in their idolatrous hearts.
THE RESTORATION OF TYRE. — V. 15. And it shall come to pass in that day, at the time when this prophecy would be fulfilled, that Tyre shall be forgotten seventy years, the length of the Chaldean supremacy, according to the days of one king, the reference to this period being as of a time during which the lot of Tyre will be uniformly bad. After the end of seventy years shall Tyre sing as an harlot, the fate of Tyre will be according to the song of the harlot, a portion of which is now quoted: v. 16. Take an harp, or zither, go about the city, thou harlot that hast been forgotten; make sweet melody, with pleasant playing, sing many songs that thou mayest be remembered, the trade of Tyre being compared with the business of a harlot because both serve mammon and, in part, the lowest desires of the flesh. The methods of Tyre are now represented as having success. V. 17. And it shall come to pass after the end of seventy years that the Lord will visit Tyre, in mercy, to give her another opportunity to repent, and she shall turn to her hire, the gain of her trade being compared to the price of prostitution, and shall commit fornication with all the kingdoms of the world upon the face of the earth, because she would court merchants from all nations and admit any one for the sake of gain. V. 18. And her merchandise and her hire shall be holiness to the Lord, by a disposition of God of which probably many of the Tyrians were not aware; it shall not be treasured nor laid up, concealed for her own use; for her merchandise shall be for them that dwell before the Lord, His disciples, to eat sufficiently, and for durable clothing, to be taken care of in the proper manner, with changes of raiment according to the custom of the time. There seems to be no doubt that this prophecy refers to the Christian era. We know that Jesus visited the neighborhood of Tyre, Matt. 15, 21, that Paul found disciples there, Acts 21, 3-6, that it afterward was a powerful Christian bishopric, its cathedral being one of the most splendid of the early days. Other phases of the prophecy concerning Tyre are given by other prophets.