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23. Prophecy About Tyre

The burden of Tyre. Howl, ye ships of Tarshish; for it is laid waste, so that there is no house, no entering in: from the land of Chittim it is revealed to them. 2Be still, ye inhabitants of the isle; thou whom the merchants of Zidon, that pass over the sea, have replenished. 3And by great waters the seed of Sihor, the harvest of the river, is her revenue; and she is a mart of nations. 4Be thou ashamed, O Zidon: for the sea hath spoken, even the strength of the sea, saying, I travail not, nor bring forth children, neither do I nourish up young men, nor bring up virgins. 5As at the report concerning Egypt, so shall they be sorely pained at the report of Tyre. 6Pass ye over to Tarshish; howl, ye inhabitants of the isle. 7 Is this your joyous city, whose antiquity is of ancient days? her own feet shall carry her afar off to sojourn. 8Who hath taken this counsel against Tyre, the crowning city, whose merchants are princes, whose traffickers are the honourable of the earth? 9The Lord of hosts hath purposed it, to stain the pride of all glory, and to bring into contempt all the honourable of the earth. 10Pass through thy land as a river, O daughter of Tarshish: there is no more strength. 11He stretched out his hand over the sea, he shook the kingdoms: the Lord hath given a commandment against the merchant city, to destroy the strong holds thereof. 12And he said, Thou shalt no more rejoice, O thou oppressed virgin, daughter of Zidon: arise, pass over to Chittim; there also shalt thou have no rest. 13Behold the land of the Chaldeans; this people was not, til the Assyrian founded it for them that dwell in the wilderness: they set up the towers thereof, they raised up the palaces thereof; and he brought it to ruin. 14Howl, ye ships of Tarshish: for your strength is laid waste. 15And it shall come to pass in that day, that Tyre shall be forgotten seventy years, according to the days of one king: after the end of seventy years shall Tyre sing as an harlot. 16Take an harp, go about the city, thou harlot that hast been forgotten; make sweet melody, sing many songs, that thou mayest be remembered.

17And it shall come to pass after the end of seventy years, that the Lord will visit Tyre, and she shall turn to her hire, and shall commit fornication with all the kingdoms of the world upon the face of the earth. 18And her merchandise and her hire shall be holiness to the Lord: it shall not be treasured nor laid up; for her merchandise shall be for them that dwell before the Lord, to eat sufficiently, and for durable clothing.

1. The burden of Tyre. Tyre was very wealthy, and highly celebrated, both on account of the variety and extent of its commercial intercourse with all nations, and on account of the flourishing colonies which sprang from it: Carthage, which was the rival of the Roman Empire, Utica, Leptis, Cadiz, and other towns, which also sent every year a present to Tyre, by which they acknowledged that they looked on Tyre as their mother. Isaiah threatens its destruction, because it had been hostile to the people of God, as we may infer from what is said by Ezekiel; for we ought carefully to attend to the cause of the destruction, because it was the design of the Prophet to shew that God testifies his fatherly regard to his people by opposing all her enemies. (Ezekiel 26:2.) Some think that this refers to the storming of Tyre by Alexander, who took it with great difficulty. But the argument on which they rely, that Isaiah mentions Chittim, 101101     A slight change of spelling makes it necessary to remind the reader of the English Bible, that the “Chittim” were the descendants of Kittim, (Genesis 10:4,) a son of Javan, and grandson of Japheth. — Ed.
    FT359Et les papiers des marchans espars çà et là;” — “And the merchants’ accounts scattered hither and thither.”

    FT360Les Egyptiens;” — “The Egyptians.”

    FT361 The Roman stadium or furlong = 125 paces = 625 feet. A Roman mile = 1000 paces = 5000 feet. An English mile = 1760 yards = 5280 feet. Therefore a Roman mile is to an English mile as 5000 to 5280, or as 125 to 132; and the number of English miles is to that of Roman miles in the inverse ratio of 132 to 125; so that 200 stadia = 25 Roman miles = somewhat less than 24 English miles. It ought to be remembered, that the author does not profess to state the exact distance, but gives it in round numbers. — Ed

    FT362 “The seed of Sihor.” — Eng. Ver. שחר, (shīchōr,) and יאור, (yĕōr,) are the Hebrew and Egyptian names of the Nile. The first, according to its etymology, means black, and corresponds to Μέλας and Melo, of Greek and Latin names of the same river, all derived from the color of the water, or the mud which it deposits.” — Alexander

    FT363 “As at the report concerning Egypt.” — Eng. Ver. Luther’s version runs thus:— “Gleichwie man erschrak, da man von Egyptian hörete; also wird man auch erschrecken, wenn man von Tyrus hören wird;” — “Like as they were terrified when they heard of Egypt; so will they also be terrified when they shall hear of Tyre.” — Ed

    FT364 “Tyre at this time was seated on an island; after Alexander’s conquest it was rebuilt on the continent.” — Stock

    FT365Leurs registres et papiers de comtes;” — “Their records and account-books.”

    FT366 “The trade carried on by the Phoenicians of Sidon and Tyre,” says an able historian, “was extensive and adventurous; and both in their manners and policy, they resemble the great commercial states of modern times, more than any people in the ancient world.” After mentioning the navigation to Tyre as the earliest route of communication with India, he goes on to say, “To this circumstance, which, for a considerable time, secured to them a monopoly of that trade, was owing, not only the extraordinary wealth of individuals, which rendered the ‘merchants of Tyre, princes and her traffickers the honorable of the earth,’ (Isaiah 23:8,) but the extensive power of the state itself, which first taught men to conceive what vast resources a commercial people possess, and what great exertions they are capable of making.” He adds in a note, “The power and opulence of Tyre, in the prosperous age of its commerce, must have attracted general attention. In the prophecies of Ezekiel, who flourished two hundred and sixty years before the fall of Tyre, there is the most particular account of the nature and variety of its commercial transactions that is to be found in any ancient writer; and which conveys, at the same time, a magnificent idea of the extensive power of that state.” — Robertson’s Historical Disquisition concerning the Knowledge which the Ancients had of India

    FT367 “There is no more strength.” — Eng. Ver. “There is no mound now left.” — Stock

    FT368 “The Lord hath given a commandment against the merchant-city.” — Eng. Ver. “Jehovah hath given a charge concerning Canaan.” — Stock.
has little force. By that name the Hebrew writers unquestionably denote the Macedonians, but under this word they likewise include other nations, such as the Greeks, and the countries that were beyond the sea. Nebuchadnezzar employed in that siege not only his own soldiers, but also foreigners, whom he brought from Greece and other places. It is for a reason altogether different, as we shall immediately see, that he mentions the Greeks, namely, that henceforth they will not take their ships to Tyre for the sake of carrying on merchandise.

But from the conclusion of this chapter I draw an argument for a contrary opinion, for Isaiah speaks of the restoration of Tyre, and it was never restored after having been stormed by Alexander. Besides, when I compare Ezekiel’s words with those of Isaiah, I think that I see one and the same prediction. Now, he does not speak of Alexander, but of Nebuchadnezzar; and I cannot doubt that it must be explained in that manner. Not only so, but in the days of Ezekiel and Isaiah that city was under the dominion of a king, but historians relate that, when it was stormed by Alexander, it had been brought to the form of a republic. And if we consider the object of the prophecy, we shall be sufficiently confirmed in this opinion, for his aim is to comfort the Jews by threatening that the inhabitants of Tyre, by whom they had been oppressed, will not pass unpunished. For it would have been highly inconsistent that the Lord should punish other nations, and that this nation, which had been not less hostile, should escape punishment altogether, or be punished five hundred years afterwards. Every conjecture, therefore, leads us to this conclusion, that we should expound this passage as relating to Nebuchadnezzar.

Howl, ye ships of Tarshish. He employs various figures of speech, according to his custom, in illustrating the ruin of Tyre, in order to obtain greater credit to the prediction; for a plain narrative would have been ineffectual, or would not have exerted a powerful influence on minds naturally dull and sluggish, and therefore he sets before their eyes a lively portrait. This calamity, he declares, will be very grievous, because it will be felt even in distant countries. He bids the “ships howl,” because, when Tyre has been destroyed, they will have nothing to do. The ships of the Cilicians are particularly mentioned by him, because, being neighbors, they traded often and extensively with the inhabitants of Tyre; and Cilicia is called by the Hebrews “Tarshish.” It was impossible that there should not have arisen great inconvenience to that country at the destruction of Tyre; not only because commerce ceased for a time, but also because the articles of merchandise were carried off, and there was a disturbance of commercial relations 102102    {Bogus footnote} as usually happens when the fortunes of rich men have been overthrown.

That there may be no entering in from the land of Chittim. What I have translated “that there maybe no entering in,” is explained by some to signify, that there may be no house “into which you can enter,” but I think that I have faithfully conveyed the Prophet’s meaning. And yet he does not mean that the Cilicians or the Greeks will be hindered from entering, but that they will not hold intercourse with Tyre as they were formerly accustomed to do, because it will not be, as formerly, a mart of nations.

Those who think that the Prophet speaks of the defeat accomplished by Alexander, separate this clause of the verse “from the land of Chittim” from what goes before, and connect it thus, “from the land of Chittim it was revealed to them.” But, on the contrary, I join it differently in this way, “From not going from the land of Chittim;” that is, that the Greeks may no more enter as they were formerly accustomed to do. By the word “Chittim,” he means both the Greeks and the western nations; as if he had said “There will be an end put to commerce with the Greeks, so that they will no longer take their ships thither.” Under this designation he includes also the inhabitants of Cyprus, 103103    {Bogus footnote} Sicily, and Italy, and other nations.

This was revealed to them. These words may be understood to refer both to the Greeks and to the inhabitants of Tyre. If they refer to the inhabitants of Tyre, the meaning will be, “When the report of the ruin of the city shall reach them, they will put an end to their wonted voyages, for they will avoid that harbour as they would avoid a rock;” and this is the meaning which I more readily adopt. Yet I do not reject the other interpretation, that the Prophet confirms his prediction, as we commonly speak of a thing that is certain, “Let this be regarded as addressed to you.”

2. Be silent, ye inhabitants of the islands. This is intended to place in a more striking light the ruin of Tyre. There is a change of number in the word island; for although he uses the singular number, yet he means the islands of the Mediterranean sea, and the countries beyond the sea, especially the neighbors who frequently performed voyages to Tyre, and traded with it. He enjoins on them silence and stillness, because they will perform no more voyages to Tyre. He bids them “be silent” like persons who are stunned, on account of the grievous calamity which has befallen them, so that they do not even venture to open their mouth; for it was impossible that the nations who traded there should not feel it to be a heavy stroke, when a mercantile city like this was ruined, just as at the present day Venice or Antwerp could not be destroyed without inflicting great injury on many nations.

The merchants of Sidon. He mentions the inhabitants of Sidon in an especial manner, not only on account of their vicinity, but because they had a common origin. Sidon was highly celebrated, but greatly inferior to Tyre. Situated on the sea-shore, it was two hundred furlongs 104104    {Bogus footnote} distant from Tyre, and appeared both to be so near it, and to be so closely connected with it by trade, that the poets frequently took Tyre for Sidon, and Sidon for Tyre. The Sidonians, therefore, were unquestionably greater gainers than others by imports and exports, and also by sales and merchandise, in consequence of being so near, and trading with it continually; for the wealth of Tyre overflowed on them, and, as the saying is, they flew under its wings. The result was, that they suffered more severely than others by the destruction of Tyre, and therefore the Prophet afterwards says, (verse 4,) Be ashamed, O Sidon.

Who replenished thee. He adds this general expression, either because it was filled with crowds and multitudes of men, when strangers flocked to it from various and distant countries, or because they who performed voyages to it for the sake of gain did, in their turn, enrich the city.

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