Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
Against the Prince of Tyre - Ezekiel 28:1-19
As the city of Tyre was first of all threatened with destruction (Ezekiel 26), and then her fall was confirmed by a lamentation (Ezekiel 27), so here the prince of Tyre is first of all forewarned of his approaching death (Eze 28:1-10), and then a lamentation is composed thereon (Eze 28:11-19).
Fall of the Prince of Tyre
Eze 28:1. And the word of Jehovah came to me, saying, Eze 28:2. Son of man, say to the prince of Tyre, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Because thy heart has lifted itself up, and thou sayest, "I am a God, I sit upon a seat of Gods, in the heart of the seas," when thou art a man and not God, and cherishest a mind like a God's mind, Eze 28:3. Behold, thou art wiser than Daniel; nothing secret is obscure to thee; Eze 28:4. Through thy wisdom and thy understanding hast thou acquired might, and put gold and silver in thy treasuries; Eze 28:5. Through the greatness of thy wisdom hast thou increased thy might by thy trade, and thy heart has lifted itself up on account of thy might, Eze 28:6. Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Because thou cherishest a mind like a God's mind, Eze 28:7. Therefore, behold, I will bring foreigners upon thee, violent men of the nations; they will draw their swords against the beauty of thy wisdom, and pollute thy splendour. Eze 28:8. They will cast thee down into the pit, that thou mayest die the death of the slain in the heart of the seas. Eze 28:9. Wilt thou indeed say, I am a God, in the face of him that slayeth thee, when thou art a man and not God in the hand of him that killeth thee? Eze 28:10. Thou wilt die the death of the uncircumcised at the hand of foreigners; for I have spoken it, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah. - This threat of judgment follows in general the same course as those addressed to other nations (compare especially Ezekiel 25), namely, that the sin is mentioned first (Eze 28:2-5), and then the punishment consequent upon the sin (Eze 28:6-10). In Eze 28:12 מלך is used instead of נגיד, dux. In the use of the term נגיד to designate the king, Kliefoth detects an indication of the peculiar position occupied by the prince in the commercial state of Tyre, which had been reared upon municipal foundations; inasmuch as he was not so much a monarch, comparable to the rulers of Bayblon or to the Pharaohs, as the head of the great mercantile aristocracy. This is in harmony with the use of the word נגיד for the prince of Israel, David for example, whom God chose and anointed to be the nâgīd over His people; in other words, to be the leader of the tribes, who also formed an independent commonwealth (vid., Sa1 13:14; Sa2 7:8, etc.). The pride of the prince of Tyre is described in Eze 28:2 as consisting in the fact that he regarded himself as a God, and his seat in the island of Tyre as a God's seat. He calls his seat מושׁב , not "because his capital stood out from the sea, like the palace of God from the ocean of heaven" (Psa 104:3), as Hitzig supposes; for, apart from any other ground, this does not suit the subsequent description of his seat as God's mountain (Eze 28:16), and God's holy mountain (Eze 28:14). The God's seat and God's mountain are not the palace of the king of Tyre, but Tyre as a state, and that not because of its firm position upon a rocky island, but as a holy island (ἁγία νῆσος, as Tyre is called in Sanchun. ed. Orelli, p. 36), the founding of which has been glorified by myths (vid., Movers, Phoenizier, I pp. 637ff.). The words which Ezekiel puts into the mouth of the king of Tyre may be explained, as Kliefoth has well expressed it, "from the notion lying at the foundation of all natural religions, according to which every state, as the production of its physical factors and bases personified as the native deities of house and state, is regarded as a work and sanctuary of the gods." In Tyre especially the national and political development went hand in hand with the spread and propagation of its religion. "The Tyrian state was the production and seat of its gods. He, the prince of Tyre, presided over this divine creation and divine seat; therefore he, the prince, was himself a god, a manifestation of the deity, having its work and home in the state of Tyre." All heathen rulers looked upon themselves in this light; so that the king of Babylon is addressed in a similar manner in Isa 14:13-14. This self-deification is shown to be a delusion in Eze 28:2; He who is only a man makes his heart like a God's heart, i.e., cherishes the same thought as the Gods. לב, the heart, as the seat of the thoughts and imaginations, is named instead of the disposition.
This is carried out still further in Eze 28:3-5 by a description of the various sources from which this imagination sprang. He cherishes a God's mind, because he attributes to himself superhuman wisdom, through which he has created the greatness, and might, and wealth of Tyre. The words, "behold, thou art wiser," etc. (Eze 28:3), are not to be taken as a question, "art thou indeed wiser?" as they have been by the lxx, Syriac, and others; nor are they ironical, as Hvernick supposes; but they are to be taken literally, namely, inasmuch as the prince of Tyre was serious in attributing to himself supernatural and divine wisdom. Thou art, i.e., thou regardest thyself as being, wiser than Daniel. No hidden thing is obscure to thee (עמם, a later word akin to the Aramaean, "to be obscure"). The comparison with Daniel refers to the fact that Daniel surpassed all the magi and wise men of Babylon in wisdom through his ability to interpret dreams, since God gave him an insight into the nature and development of the power of the world, such as no human sagacity could have secured. The wisdom of the prince of Tyre, on the other hand, consisted in the cleverness of the children of this world, which knows how to get possession of all the good things of the earth. Through such wisdom as this had the Tyrian prince acquired power and riches. חיל, might, possessions in the broader sense; not merely riches, but the whole of the might of the commercial state of Tyre, which was founded upon riches and treasures got by trade. In Eze 28:5 בּרכלּתך is in apposition to בּרב הכמתך, and is introduced as explanatory. The fulness of its wisdom showed itself in its commerce and the manner in which it conducted it, whereby Tyre had become rich and powerful. It is not till we reach Eze 28:6 that we meet with the apodosis answering to 'יען גּבהּ וגו in Eze 28:2, which has been pushed so far back by the intervening parenthetical sentences in Eze 28:2-5. For this reason the sin of the prince of Tyre in deifying himself is briefly reiterated in the clause 'יען תּתּך וגו (Eze 28:6, compare Eze 28:2), after which the announcement of the punishment is introduced with a repetition of לכן in Eze 28:7. Wild foes approaching with barbarous violence will destroy all the king's resplendent glory, slay the king himself with the sword, and hurl him down into the pit as a godless man. The enemies are called עריצי גּוים, violent ones of the peoples - that is to say, the wild hordes composing the Chaldean army (cf. Eze 30:11; Eze 31:12). They drew the sword "against the beauty (יפי, the construct state of יפי) of thy wisdom," i.e., the beauty produced by thy wisdom, and the beautiful Tyre itself, with all that it contains (Eze 26:3-4). יפעה, splendour; it is only here and in Eze 28:17 that we meet with it as a noun. The king himself they hurl down into the pit, i.e., the grave, or the nether world. ממותי חלל, the death of a pierced one, substantially the same as מותי ערלים. The plural ממותי and מותי here and Jer 16:4 (mortes) is a pluralis exaggerativus, a death so painful as to be equivalent to dying many times (see the comm. on Isa 53:9). In Eze 28:9 Ezekiel uses the Piel מחלּל in the place of the Poel מחולל, as חלל in the Piel occurs elsewhere only in the sense of profanare, and in Isa 51:9 and Poel is used for piercing. But there is no necessity to alter the pointing in consequence, as we also find the Pual used by Ezekiel in Eze 32:26 in the place of the Poal of Isa 53:5. The death of the uncircumcised is such a death as godless men die - a violent death. The king of Tyre, who looks upon himself as a god, shall perish by the sword like a godless man. At the same time, the whole of this threat applies, not to the one king, Ithobal, who was reigning at the time of the siege of Tyre by the Chaldeans, but to the king as the founder and creator of the might of Tyre (Eze 28:3-5), i.e., to the supporter of that royalty which was to perish along with Tyre itself. - It is to the king, as the representative of the might and glory of Tyre, and not merely to the existing possessor of the regal dignity, that the following lamentation over his fall refers.
Lamentation over the King of Tyre
Eze 28:11. And the word of Jehovah came to me, saying, Eze 28:12. Son of man, raise a lamentation over the king of Tyre, and say to him, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Thou seal of a well-measured building, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. Eze 28:13. In Eden, the garden of God, was thou; all kinds of precious stones were thy covering, cornelian, topaz, and diamond, chrysolite, beryl, and jasper, sapphire, carbuncle, and emerald, and gold: the service of thy timbrels and of thy women was with thee; on the day that thou wast created, they were prepared. Eze 28:14. Thou wast a cherub of anointing, which covered, and I made thee for it; thou wast on a holy mountain of God; thou didst walk in the midst of fiery stones. Eze 28:15. Thou wast innocent in thy ways from the day on which thou wast created, until iniquity was found in thee. Eze 28:16. On account of the multitude of thy commerce, thine inside was filled with wrong, and thou didst sin: I will therefore profane thee away from the mountain of God; and destroy thee, O covering cherub, away from the fiery stones! Eze 28:17. Thy heart has lifted itself up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom together with thy splendour: I cast thee to the ground, I give thee up for a spectacle before kings. Eze 28:18. Through the multitude of thy sins in thine unrighteous trade thou hast profaned thy holy places; I therefore cause fire to proceed from the midst of thee, which shall devour thee, and make thee into ashes upon the earth before the eyes of all who see thee. Eze 28:19. All who know thee among the peoples are amazed at thee: thou hast become a terror, and art gone for ever. - The lamentation over the fall of the king of Tyre commences with a picture of the super-terrestrial glory of his position, so as to correspond to his self-deification as depicted in the foregoing word of God. In Eze 28:12 he is addressed as חתם תּכנית. This does not mean, "artistically wrought signet-ring;" for חתם does not stand for חתם , but is a participle of חתם , to seal. There is all the more reason for adhering firmly to this meaning, that the following predicate, מלא חכמה, is altogether inapplicable to a signet-ring, though Hitzig once more scents a corruption of the text in consequence. תּכנית, from תּכן, to weigh, or measure off, does not mean perfection (Ewald), beauty (Ges.), faon (Hitzig), or symmetry (Hvernick); but just as in Eze 43:10, the only other passage in which it occurs, it denotes the measured and well-arranged building of the temple, so here it signifies a well-measured and artistically arranged building, namely, the Tyrian state in its artistic combination of well-measured institutions (Kliefoth). This building is sealed by the prince, inasmuch as he imparts to the state firmness, stability, and long duration, when he possesses the qualities requisite for a ruler. These are mentioned afterwards, namely, "full of wisdom, perfect in beauty." If the prince answers to his position, the wisdom and beauty manifest in the institutions of the state are simply the impress received from the wisdom and beauty of his own mind. The prince of Tyre possessed such a mind, and therefore regarded himself as a God (Eze 28:2). His place of abode, which is described in Eze 28:13 and Eze 28:14, corresponded to his position. Ezekiel here compares the situation of the prince of Tyre with that of the first man in Paradise; and then, in Eze 28:15 and Eze 28:16, draws a comparison between his fall and the fall of Adam. As the first man was placed in the garden of God, in Eden, so also was the prince of Tyre placed in the midst of paradisaical glory. עדן is shown, by the apposition גּן אלהים, to be used as the proper name of Paradise; and this view is not to be upset by the captious objection of Hitzig, that Eden was not the Garden of God, but that this was situated in Eden (Gen 2:8). The fact that Ezekiel calls Paradise גּן־עדן in Eze 36:35, proves nothing more than that the terms Eden and Garden of God do not cover precisely the same ground, inasmuch as the garden of God only occupied one portion of Eden. But notwithstanding this difference, Ezekiel could use the two expressions as synonymous, just as well as Isaiah (Isa 51:3). And even if any one should persist in pressing the difference, it would not follow that בּעדן was corrupt in this passage, as Hitzig fancies, but simply that גן defined the idea of עדן more precisely - in other words, restricted it to the garden of Paradise.
There is, however, another point to be observed in connection with this expression, namely, that the epithet גן אלהים is used here and in Eze 31:8-9; whereas, in other places, Paradise is called גן יהוה (vid., Isa 51:3; Gen 13:10). Ezekiel has chosen Elohim instead of Jehovah, because Paradise is brought into comparison, not on account of the historical significance which it bears to the human race in relation to the plan of salvation, but simply as the most glorious land in all the earthly creation. the prince of Tyre, placed in the pleasant land, was also adorned with the greatest earthly glory. Costly jewels were his coverings, that is to say, they formed the ornaments of his attire. This feature in the pictorial description is taken from the splendour with which Oriental rulers are accustomed to appear, namely, in robes covered with precious stones, pearls, and gold. מסכּה, as a noun ἁπ. λεγ.., signifies a covering. In the enumeration of the precious stones, there is no reference to the breastplate of the high priest. For, in the first place, the order of the stones is a different one here; secondly, there are only nine stones named instead of twelve; and lastly, there would be no intelligible sense in such a reference, so far as we can perceive. Both precious stones and gold are included in the glories of Eden (vid., Gen 2:11-12). For the names of the several stones, see the commentary on Exo 28:17-20. The words 'מלאכת תּפּיך וגו' s - which even the early translators have entirely misunderstood, and which the commentators down to Hitzig and Ewald have made marvellous attempts to explain - present no peculiar difficulty, apart from the plural נקביך, which is only met with here. As the meaning timbrels, tambourins (aduffa), is well established for תּפּים, and in Sa1 10:5 and Isa 5:12 flutes are mentioned along with the timbrels, it has been supposed by some that נקבים must signify flutes here. But there is nothing to support such a rendering either in the Hebrew or in the other Semitic dialects. On the other hand, the meaning pala gemmarum (Vulgate), or ring-casket, has been quite arbitrarily forced upon the word by Jerome, Rosenmller, Gesenius, and many others. We agree with Hvernick in regarding נקבים as a plural of נקבה (foeminae), formed, like a masculine, after the analogy of נשׁים, פּלּגשׁים, etc., and account for the choice of this expression from the allusion to the history of the creation (Gen 1:27). The service (מלאכת, performance, as in Gen 39:11, etc.) of the women is the leading of the circular dances by the odalisks who beat the timbrels: "the harem-pomp of Oriental kings." This was made ready for the king on the day of his creation, i.e., not his birthday, but the day on which he became king, or commenced his reign, when the harem of his predecessor came into his possession with all its accompaniments. Ezekiel calls this the day of his creation, with special reference to the fact that it was God who appointed him king, and with an allusion to the parallel, underlying the whole description, between the position of the prince of Tyre and that of Adam in Paradise.
(Note: In explanation of the fact alluded to, Hvernick has very appropriately called attention to a passage of Athen. (xii. 8, p. 531), in which the following statement occurs with reference to Strato, the Sidonian king: "Strato, with flute-girls, and female harpers and players on the cithara, made preparations for the festivities, and sent for a large number of hetaerae from the Peloponnesus, and many signing-girls from Ionia, and young hetaerae from the whole of Greece, both singers and dancers." See also other passages in Brissonius, de regio Pers. princ. pp. 142-3.)
The next verse (Eze 28:14) is a more difficult one. אתּ is an abbreviation of אתּ, אתּה, as in Num 11:15; Deu 5:24 (see Ewald, 184a). The hap. leg. ממשׁח has been explained in very different ways, but mostly according to the Vulgate rendering, tu Cherub extentus et protegens, as signifying spreading out or extension, in the sense of "with outspread wings" (Gesenius and many others.). But משׁח does not mean either to spread out or to extend. The general meaning of the word is simply to anoint; and judging from משׁחח and משׁחה, portio, Lev 7:35 and Num 18:8, also to measure off, from which the idea of extension cannot possibly be derived. Consequently the meaning "anointing" is the only one that can be established with certainty in the case of the word ממשׁח. So far as the form is concerned, ממשׁח might be in the construct state; but the connection with הסּוכך, anointing, or anointed one, of the covering one, does not yield any admissible sense.
A comparison with Eze 28:16, where כּרוּב הסּוכך occurs again, will show that the ממשׁח, which stands between these two words in the verse before us, must contain a more precise definition of כּרוּב, and therefore is to be connected with כּרוּב in the construct state: cherub of anointing, i.e., anointed cherub. This is the rendering adopted by Kliefoth, the only commentator who has given the true explanation of the verse. ממשׁח is the older form, which has only been retained in a few words, such as מרמס in Isa 10:6, together with the tone-lengthened a (vid., Ewald, 160a). The prince of Tyre is called an anointed cherub, as Ephraem Syrus has observed, because he was a king even though he had not been anointed. הסּוכך is not an abstract noun, either here or in Nah 2:6, but a participle; and this predicate points back to Exo 25:20, "the cherubim covered (סוככים) the capporeth with their wings," and is to be explained accordingly. Consequently the king of Tyre is called a cherub, because, as an anointed king, he covered or overshadowed a sanctuary, like the cherubim upon the ark of the covenant. What this sanctuary was is evident from the remarks already made at Eze 28:2 concerning the divine seat of the king. If the "seat of God," upon which the king of Tyre sat, is to be understood as signifying the state of Tyre, then the sanctuary which he covered or overshadowed as a cherub will also be the Tyrian state, with its holy places and sacred things. In the next clause, וּנתתּיּך is to be taken by itself according to the accents, "and I have made thee (so)," and not to be connected with בּהר קדשׁ. We are precluded from adopting the combination which some propose - viz. "I set thee upon a holy mountain; thou wast a God" - by the incongruity of first of all describing the prince of Tyre as a cherub, and then immediately afterwards as a God, inasmuch as, according to the Biblical view, the cherub, as an angelic being, is simply a creature and not a God; and the fanciful delusion of the prince of Tyre, that he was an El (Eze 28:2), could not furnish the least ground for his being addressed as Elohim by Ezekiel. And still more are we precluded from taking the words in this manner by the declaration contained in Eze 28:16, that Jehovah will cast him out "from the mountain of Elohim," from which we may see that in the present verse also Elohim belongs to har, and that in Eze 28:16, where the mountain of God is mentioned again, the predicate קדשׁ is simply omitted for the sake of brevity, just as ממשׁח is afterwards omitted on the repetition of כּרוּב הסּוכך. The missing but actual object to נתתּיך can easily be supplied from the preceding clause, - namely, this, i.e., an overshadowing cherub, had God made him, by placing him as king in paradisaical glory. The words, "thou wast upon a holy mountain of God," are not to be interpreted in the sense suggested by Isa 14:13, namely, that Ezekiel was thinking of the mountain of the gods (Alborj) met with in Asiatic mythology, because it was there that the cherub had its home, as Hitzig and others suppose; for the Biblical idea of the cherub is entirely different from the heathen notion of the griffin keeping guard over gold. It is true that God placed the cherub as guardian of Paradise, but Paradise was not a mountain of God, nor even a mountainous land. The idea of a holy mountain of God, as being the seat of the king of Tyre, was founded partly upon the natural situation of Tyre itself, built as it was upon one or two rocky islands of the Mediterranean, and partly upon the heathen notion of the sacredness of this island as the seat of the Deity, to which the Tyrians attributed the grandeur of their state. To this we may probably add a reference to Mount Zion, upon which was the sanctuary, where the cherub covered the seat of the presence of God. For although the comparison of the prince of Tyre to a cherub was primarily suggested by the description of his abode as Paradise, the epithet הסּוכך shows that the place of the cherub in the sanctuary was also present to the prophet's mind. At the same time, we must not understand by הר Mount Zion itself. The last clause, "thou didst walk in the midst of (among) fiery stones," is very difficult to explain. It is admitted by nearly all the more recent commentators, that "stones of fire" cannot be taken as equivalent to "every precious stone" (Eze 28:13), both because the precious stones could hardly be called stones of fire on account of their brilliant splendour, and also being covered with precious stones is not walking in the midst of them. Nor can we explain the words, as Hvernick has done, from the account given by Herodotus (II 44) of the two emerald pillars in the temple of Hercules at Tyre, which shone resplendently by night; for pillars shining by night are not stones of fire, and the king of Tyre did not walk in the temple between these pillars. The explanation given by Hofmann and Kliefoth appears to be the correct one, namely, that the stones of fire are to be regarded as a wall of fire (Zac 2:9), which rendered the cherubic king of Tyre unapproachable upon his holy mountain.
In Eze 28:15, the comparison of the prince of Tyre to Adam in Paradise is brought out still more prominently. As Adam was created sinless, so was the prince of Tyre innocent in his conduct in the day of his creation, but only until perverseness was found in him. As Adam forfeited and lost the happiness conferred upon him through his fall, so did the king of Tyre forfeit his glorious position through unrighteousness and sin, and cause God to cast him from his eminence down to the ground. He fell into perverseness in consequence of the abundance of his trade (Eze 28:16). Because his trade lifted him up to wealth and power, his heart was filled with iniquity. מלוּ for מלאוּ, like מלו for מלוא in Eze 41:8, and נשׂוּ for נשׂאוּ in Eze 39:26. תּוכך is not the subject, but the object to מלוּ; and the plural מלוּ, with an indefinite subject, "they filled," is chosen in the place of the passive construction, because in the Hebrew, as in the Aramaean, active combinations are preferred to passive whenever it is possible to adopt them (vid., Ewald, 294b and 128b). מלא is used by Ezekiel in the transitive sense "to fill" (Eze 8:17 and Eze 30:11). תּוך, the midst, is used for the interior in a physical sense, and not in a spiritual one; and the expression is chosen with an evident allusion to the history of the fall. As Adam sinned by eating the forbidden fruit of the tree, so did the king of Tyre sin by filling himself with wickedness in connection with trade (Hvernick and Kliefoth). God would therefore put him away from the mountain of God, and destroy him. חלּל with מן is a pregnant expression: to desecrate away from, i.e., to divest of his glory and thrust away from. ואבּדך is a contracted form for ואאבּדך (vid., Ewald, 232h and 72c). - Eze 28:17 and Eze 28:18 contain a comprehensive description of the guilt of the prince of Tyre, and the approaching judgment is still further depicted. על cannot mean, "on account of thy splendour," for this yields no appropriate thought, inasmuch as it was not the splendour itself which occasioned his overthrow, but the pride which corrupted the wisdom requisite to exalt the might of Tyre, - in other words, tempted the prince to commit iniquity in order to preserve and increase his glory. We therefore follow the lxx, Syr., Ros., and others, in taking על in the sense of una cum, together with. ראוה is an infinitive form, like אהבה for ראות, though Ewald (238e) regards it as so extraordinary that he proposes to alter the text. ראה with ב is used for looking upon a person with malicious pleasure. בּעול רכלּתך shows in what the guilt (עון) consisted (עול is the construct state of עול). The sanctuaries (miqdâshim) which the king of Tyre desecrated by the unrighteousness of his commerce, are not the city or the state of Tyre, but the temples which made Tyre a holy island. These the king desecrated by bringing about their destruction through his own sin. Several of the codices and editions read מקדּשׁך in the singular, and this is the reading adopted by the Chaldee, Syriac, and Vulgate versions. If this were the true reading, the sanctuary referred to would be the holy mountain of God (Eze 28:14 and Eze 28:16). But the reading itself apparently owes its origin simply to this interpretation of the words. In the clause, "I cause fire to issue from the midst of thee," מתּוכך is to be understood in the same sense as תּוכך in Eze 28:16. The iniquity which the king has taken into himself becomes a fire issuing from him, by which he is consumed and burned to ashes. All who know him among the peoples will be astonished at his terrible fall (Eze 28:19, compare Eze 27:36).
If we proceed, in conclusion, to inquire into the fulfilment of these prophecies concerning Tyre and its king, we find the opinions of modern commentators divided. Some, for example Hengstenberg, Hvernick, Drechsler (on Isa 23), and others, assuming that, after a thirteen years' siege, Nebuchadnezzar conquered the strong Island Tyre, and destroyed it; while others - viz. Gesenius, Winer, Hitzig, etc. - deny the conquest by Nebuchadnezzar, or at any rate call it in question; and many of the earlier commentators suppose the prophecy to refer to Old Tyre, which stood upon the mainland. For the history of this dispute, see Hengstenberg, De rebus Tyriorum comment. (Berol. 1832); Hvernick, On Ezekiel, pp. 420ff.; and Movers, Phoenizier, II 1, pp. 427ff. - The denial of the conquest of Insular Tyre by the king of Babylon rests partly on the silence which ancient historians, who mention the siege itself, have maintained as to its result; and partly on the statement contained in Eze 29:17-20. - All that Josephus (Antt. x. 11. 1) is able to quote from the ancient historians on this point is the following: - In the first place, he states, on the authority of the third book of the Chaldean history of Berosus, that when the father of Nebuchadnezzar, on account of his own age and consequent infirmity, had transferred to his son the conduct of the war against the rebellious satrap in Egypt, Coelesyria, and Phoenicia, Nebuchadnezzar defeated him, and brought the whole country once more under his sway. But as the tidings reached him of the death of his father just at the same time, after arranging affairs in Egypt, and giving orders to some of his friends to lead into Babylon the captives taken from among the Judaeans, the Phoenicians, the Syrians, and the Egyptians, together with the heavy armed portion of the army, he himself hastened through the desert to Babylon, with a small number of attendants, to assume that government of the empire. Secondly, he states, on the authority of the Indian and Phoenician histories of Philostratus, that when Ithobal was on the throne, Nebuchadnezzar besieged Tyre for thirteen years. The accounts taken from Berosus are repeated by Josephus in his c. Apion (i. 19), where he also adds (20), in confirmation of their credibility, that there were writings found in the archives of the Phoenicians which tallied with the statement made by Berosus concerning the king of Chaldea (Nebuchadnezzar), viz., "that he conquered all Syria and Phoenicia;" and that Philostratus also agrees with this, since he mentions the siege of Tyre in his histories (μεμνημένος τῆς Τύρου πολιορκίας). In addition to this, for synchronistic purposes, Josephus (c. Ap. i. 21) also communicates a fragment from the Phoenician history, containing not only the account of the thirteen years' siege of Tyre by Nebuchadnezzar in the reign of Ithobal, but also a list of the kings of Tyre who followed Ithobal, down to the time of Cyrus of Persia.
(Note: The passage reads as follows: "In the reign of Ithobal the king, Nebuchadnezzar besieged Tyre for thirteen years. After him judges were appointed. Ecnibalus, the son of Baslachus, judged for two months; Chelbes, the son of Abdaeus, for ten months; Abbarus, the high priest, for three months; Myttonus and Gerastartus, the sons of Abdelemus, for six years; after whom Balatorus reigned for one year. When he died, they sent for and fetched Merbalus from Babylon, and he reigned four years. At his death they sent for his brother Eiramus, who reigned twenty years. During his reign, Cyrus ruled over the Persians.")
The siege of Tyre is therefore mentioned three times by Josephus, on the authority of Phoenician histories; but he never says anything of the conquest and destruction of that city by Nebuchadnezzar. From this circumstance the conclusion has been drawn, that this was all he found there. For if, it is said, the siege had terminated with the conquest of the city, this glorious result of the thirteen years' exertions could hardly have been passed over in silence, inasmuch as in Antt. x. 11. 1 the testimony of foreign historians is quoted to the effect that Nebuchadnezzar was "an active man, and more fortunate than the kings that were before him." But the argument is more plausible than conclusive. If we bear in mind that Berosus simply relates the account of a subjugation and devastation of the whole of Phoenicia, without even mentioning the siege of Tyre, and that it is only in Phoenician writings therefore that the latter is referred to, we cannot by any means conclude, from their silence as to the result or termination of the siege, that it ended gloriously for the Tyrians and with humiliation to Nebuchadnezzar, or that he was obliged to relinquish the attempt without success after the strenuous exertions of thirteen years. On the contrary, considering how all the historians of antiquity show the same anxiety, if not to pass over in silence, such events as were unfavourable to their country, at all events to put them in as favourable to their country, at all events to put them in as favourable a light as possible, the fact that the Tyrian historians observe the deepest silence as to the result of the thirteen years' siege of Tyre would rather force us to the conclusion that it was very humiliating to Tyre. And this could only be the case if Nebuchadnezzar really conquered Tyre at the end of thirteen years. If he had been obliged to relinquish the siege because he found himself unable to conquer so strong a city, the Tyrian historians would most assuredly have related this termination of the thirteen years' strenuous exertions of the great and mighty king of Babylon.
The silence of the Tyrian historians concerning the conquest of Tyre is no proof, therefore, that it did not really take place. But Eze 29:17-20 has also been quoted as containing positive evidence of the failure of the thirteen years' siege; in other words, of the fact that the city was not taken. We read in this passage, that Nebuchadnezzar caused his army to perform hard service against Tyre, and that neither he nor his army received any recompense for it. Jehovah would therefore give him Egypt to spoil and plunder as wages for this work of theirs in the service of Jehovah. Gesenius and Hitzig (on Isa 23) infer from this, that Nebuchadnezzar obtained no recompense for the severe labour of the siege, because he did not succeed in entering the city. But Movers (l.c. p. 448) has already urged in reply to this, that "the passage before us does not imply that the city was not conquered any more than it does the opposite, but simply lays stress upon the fact that it was not plundered. For nothing can be clearer in this connection than that what we are to understand by the wages, which Nebuchadnezzar did not receive, notwithstanding the exertions connected with his many years' siege, is simply the treasures of Tyre;" though Movers is of opinion that the passage contains an intimation that the siege was brought to an end with a certain compromise which satisfied the Tyrians, and infers, from the fact of stress being laid exclusively upon the neglected plundering, that the termination was of such a kind that plundering might easily have taken place, and therefore that Tyre was either actually conquered, but treated mildly from wise considerations, or else submitted to the Chaldeans upon certain terms. But neither of these alternatives can make the least pretension to probability. In Eze 29:20 it is expressly stated that "as wages, for which he (Nebuchadnezzar) has worked, I give him the land of Egypt, because they (Nebuchadnezzar and his army) have done it for me;" in other words, have done the work for me. When, therefore, Jehovah promises to give Egypt to Nebuchadnezzar as a reward or wages for the hard work which has been done for Him at Tyre, the words presuppose that Nebuchadnezzar had really accomplished against Tyre the task entrusted to him by God. But God had committed to him not merely the siege, but also the conquest and destruction of Tyre. Nebuchadnezzar must therefore have executed the commission, though without receiving the expected reward for the labour which he had bestowed; and on that account God would compensate him for his trouble with the treasures of Egypt. This precludes not only the supposition that the siege was terminated, or the city surrendered, on the condition that it should not be plundered, but also the idea that for wise reasons Nebuchadnezzar treated the city leniently after he had taken possession. In either case Nebuchadnezzar would not have executed the will of Jehovah upon Tyre in such a manner as to be able to put in any claim for compensation for the hard work performed. The only thing that could warrant such a claim would be the circumstance, that after conquering Tyre he found no treasures to plunder. And this is the explanation which Jerome has given of the passage ad litteram. "Nebuchadnezzar," he says, "being unable, when besieging Tyre, to bring up his battering-rams, besieging towers, and vineae close to the walls, on account of the city being surrounded by the sea, employed a very large number of men from his army in collecting rocks and piling up mounds of earth, so as to fill up the intervening sea, and make a continuous road to the island at the narrowest part of the strait. And when the Tyrians saw that the task was actually accomplished, and the foundations of the walls were being disturbed by the shocks from the battering-rams, they placed in ships whatever articles of value the nobility possessed in gold, silver, clothing, and household furniture, and transported them to the islands; so that when the city was taken, Nebuchadnezzar found nothing to compensate him for all his labour. And because he had done the will of God in all this, some years after the conquest of Tyre, Egypt was given to him by God."
(Note: Cyrill. Alex. gives the same explanation in his commentary on Isa 23.)
It is true that we have no historical testimony from any other quarter to support this interpretation. But we could not expect it in any of the writings which have come down to us, inasmuch as the Phoenician accounts extracted by Josephus simply contain the fact of the thirteen years' siege, and nothing at all concerning its progress and result. At the same time, there is the greatest probability that this was the case. If Nebuchadnezzar really besieged the city, which was situated upon an island inf the sea, he could not have contented himself with cutting off the supply of drinking water from the city simply on the land side, as Shalmanezer, the king of Assyria, is said to have done (vid., Josephus, Antt. ix. 14. 2), but must have taken steps to fill up the strait between the city and the mainland with a mound, that he might construct a road for besieging and assaulting the walls, as Alexander of Macedonia afterwards did. And the words of Eze 29:18, according to which every head was bald, and the skin rubbed off every shoulder with the severity of the toil, point indisputably to the undertaking of some such works as these. And if the Chaldeans really carried out their operations upon the city in this way, as the siege-works advanced, the Tyrians would not neglect any precaution to defend themselves as far as possible, in the event of the capture of the city. They would certainly send the possessions and treasures of the city by ship into the colonies, and thereby place them in security; just as, according to Curtius, iv. 3, they sent off their families to Carthage, when the city was besieged by Alexander.
This view of the termination of the Chaldean siege of Tyre receives a confirmation of no little weight from the fragment of Menander already given, relating to the succession of rulers in Tyre after the thirteen years' siege by Nebuchadnezzar. It is there stated that after Ithobal, Baal reigned for ten years, that judges (suffetes) were then appointed, nearly all of whom held office for a few months only; that among the last judges there was also a king Balatorus, who reigned for a year; that after this, however, the Tyrians sent to Babylon, and brought thence Merbal, and on his death Hiram, as kings, whose genuine Tyrian names undoubtedly show that they were descendants of the old native royal family. This circumstance proves not only that Tyre became a Chaldean dependency in consequence of the thirteen years' siege by Nebuchadnezzar, but also that the Chaldeans had led away the royal family to Babylonia, which would hardly have been the case if Tyre had submitted to the Chaldeans by a treaty of peace.
If, however, after what has been said, no well-founded doubt can remain as to the conquest of Tyre by Nebuchadnezzar, our prophecy was not so completely fulfilled thereby, that Tyre became a bare rock on which fishermen spread their nets, as is threatened in Eze 26:4-5, Eze 26:14. Even if Nebuchadnezzar destroyed its walls, and laid the city itself in ruins to a considerable extent, he did not totally destroy it, so that it was not restored. On the contrary, two hundred and fifty years afterwards, we find Tyre once more a splendid and powerful royal city, so strongly fortified, that Alexander the Great was not able to take it till after a siege of seven months, carried on with extraordinary exertions on the part of both the fleet and army, the latter attacking from the mainland by means of a mound of earth, which had been thrown up with considerable difficulty (Diod. Sic. xvii. 40ff.; Arrian, Alex. ii. 17ff.; Curtius, iv. 2-4). Even after this catastrophe it rose once more into a distinguished commercial city under the rule of the Seleucidae and afterwards of the Romans, who made it the capital of Phoenicia. It is mentioned as such a city in the New Testament (Mat 15:21; Act 21:3, Act 21:7); and Strabo (xvi. 2. 23) describes it as a busy city with two harbours and very lofty houses. But Tyre never recovered its ancient grandeur. In the first centuries of the Christian era, it is frequently mentioned as an archbishop's see. From a.d. 636 to a.d. 1125 it was under the rule of the Saracens, and was so strongly fortified, that it was not till after a siege of several months' duration that they succeeded in taking it. Benjamin of Tudela, who visited Tyre in the year 1060, describes it as a city of distinguished beauty, with a strongly fortified harbour, and surrounded by walls, and with the best glass and earthenware in the East. "Saladin, the conqueror of Palestine, broke his head against Tyre in the year 1189. But after Acre had been taken by storm in the year 1291 by the Sultan El-Ashraf, on the day following this conquest the city passed without resistance into the hands of the same Egyptian king; the inhabitants having forsaken Tyre by night, and fled by sea, that they might not fall into the power of such bloodthirsty soldiers" (Van de Velde). When it came into the hands of the Saracens once more, its fortifications were demolished; and from that time forward Tyre has never risen from its ruins again. Moreover, it had long ceased to be an insular city. The mound which Alexander piled up, grew into a broader and firmer tongue of land in consequence of the sand washed up by the sea, so that the island was joined to the mainland, and turned into a peninsula. The present Sr is situated upon it, a market town of three or four thousand inhabitants, which does not deserve the name of a city or town. The houses are for the most part nothing but huts; and the streets are narrow, crooked, and dirty lanes. The ruins of the old Phoenician capital cover the surrounding country to the distance of more than half an hour's journey from the present town gate. The harbour is so thoroughly choked up with sand, and filled with the ruins of innumerable pillars and building stones, that only small boats can enter. The sea has swallowed up a considerable part of the greatness of Tyre; and quite as large a portion of its splendid temples and fortifications lie buried in the earth. To a depth of many feet the soil trodden at the present day is one solid mass of building stones, shafts of pillars, and rubbish composed of marble, porphyry, and granite. Fragments of pillars of the costly verde antiquo (green marble) also lie strewn about in large quantities. The crust, which forms the soil that is trodden today, is merely the surface of this general heap of ruins. Thus has Tyre actually become "a bare rock, and a place for the spreading of nets in the midst of the sea;" and "the dwelling-places, which are now erected upon a portion of its former site, are not at variance with the terrible decree, 'thou shalt be built no more'" (compare Robinson's Palestine, and Van de Velde's Travels). - Thus has the prophecy of Ezekiel been completely fulfilled, though not directly by Nebuchadnezzar; for the prophecy is not a bare prediction of historical details, but is pervaded by the idea of the judgment of God. To the prophet, Nebuchadnezzar is the instrument of the punitive righteousness of God, and Tyre the representative of the ungodly commerce of the world. Hence, as Hvernick has already observed, Nebuchadnezzar's action is more than an isolated deed in the prophet's esteem. "In his conquest of the city he sees the whole of the ruin concentrated, which history places before us as a closely connected chain. The breaking of the power of Tyre by Nebuchadnezzar stands out before his view as inseparably connected with its utter destruction. This was required by the internal theocratic signification of the fact in its relation to the destruction of Jerusalem." Jerusalem will rise again to new glory out of its destruction through the covenant faithfulness of God (Eze 28:25-26). But Tyre, the city of the world's commerce, which is rejoicing over the fall of Jerusalem, will pass away for ever (Eze 26:14; Eze 27:36).
Prophecy Against Sidon and Promise for Israel
The threatening word against Sidon is very brief, and couched in general terms, because as a matter of fact the prophecy against Tyre involved the announcement of the fall of Sidon, which was dependent upon it; and, as we have already observed, Sidon received a special word of God simply for the purpose of making up the number of the heathen nations mentioned to the significant number seven. The word of God against Sidon brings to a close the cycle of predictions of judgment directed against those heathen nations which had given expression to malicious pleasure at the overthrow of the kingdom of Judah. There is therefore appended a promise for Israel (Eze 28:25, Eze 28:26), which is really closely connected with the threatening words directed against the heathen nations, and for which the way is prepared by Eze 28:24. The correspondence of נקדּשׁתּי בהּ (I shall be sanctified in her) in Eze 28:22 to נקדּשׁתּי בם (I shall be sanctified in them) in Eze 28:25, serves to place the future fate of Israel in antithesis not merely to the future fate of Sidon, but, as Eze 28:24 and Eze 28:26 clearly show, to that of all the heathen nations against which the previous threats have been directed.
And the word of Jehovah came to me, saying, Eze 28:21. Son of man, direct thy face towards Sidon, and prophesy against it, Eze 28:22. And say, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Behold, I will be against thee, O Sidon, and will glorify myself in the midst of thee; and they shall know that I am Jehovah, when I execute judgments upon it, and sanctify myself upon it. Eze 28:23. I will send pestilence into it, and blood into its streets; slain will fall in the midst of it by the sword, which cometh upon it from every side; and they shall learn that I am Jehovah. Eze 28:24. And there shall be no more to the house of Israel a malignant thorn and smarting sting from all round about them, who despise them; but they shall learn that I am the Lord Jehovah. - Jehovah will glorify Himself as the Lord upon Sidon, as He did before upon Pharaoh (compare Exo 14:4, Exo 14:16-17, to which the word נכבּדתּי in Eze 28:22, an unusual expression for Ezekiel, evidently points). The glorification is effected by judgments, through which He proves Himself to be holy upon the enemies of His people. He executes the judgments through pestilence and blood (vid., Eze 5:17; Eze 38:22), i.e., through disease and bloodshed occasioned by war, so that men fall, slain by the sword (cf. Eze 6:7). Instead of נפל we have the intensive form נפלל, which is regarded by Ewald and Hitzig as a copyist's error, because it is only met with here. Through these judgments the Lord will liberate His people Israel from all round about, who increase its suffering by their contempt. These thoughts sum up in Eze 28:24 the design of God's judgments upon all the neighbouring nations which are threatened in Ezekiel 25-28, and thus prepare the way for the concluding promise in Eze 28:25 and Eze 28:26. The figure of the sting and thorn points back to Num 33:55, where it is said that the Canaanites whom Israel failed to exterminate would become thorns in its eyes and stings in its sides. As Israel did not keep itself free from the Canaanitish nature of the heathen nations, God caused it to fell these stings of heathenism. Having been deeply hurt by them, it was now lying utterly prostrate with its wounds. The sins of Canaan, to which Israel had given itself up, had occasioned the destruction of Jerusalem (Ezekiel 16). But Israel is not to succumb to its wounds. On the contrary, by destroying the heathen powers, the Lord will heal His people of the wounds which its heathen neighbours have inflicted upon it. סלּון, synonymous with סלּון in Eze 2:6, a word only found in Ezekiel. ממאיר, on the contrary, is taken from Lev 13:51 and Lev 14:44, where it is applied to malignant leprosy (see the comm. on the former passage). - For השּׁאטים אותם, see Eze 16:57 and Eze 25:6.
Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, When I shall gather the house of Israel out of the peoples among whom they have been scattered, I shall sanctify myself upon them before the eyes of the heathen nations, and they will dwell in their land which I have given to my servant Jacob. Eze 28:26. They will dwell there securely, and build houses and plant vineyards, and will dwell securely when I execute judgments upon all who despise them of those round about them; and they shall learn that I Jehovah am their God. - Whilst the heathen nations succumb to the judgments of God, Israel passes on to a time of blessed peace. The Lord will gather His people from their dispersion among the heathen, bring them into the land which He gave to the patriarch Jacob, His servant, and give them in that land rest, security, and true prosperity. (For the fact itself, compare Eze 11:17; Eze 20:41; Eze 36:22.)