Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
Against Tyre and Sidon - Ezekiel 26-28
The greater portion of these three chapters is occupied with the prophecy concerning Tyre, which extends from Eze 26:1 to Eze 28:19. The prophecy against Sidon is limited to Eze 28:20-26. The reason for this is, that the grandeur and importance of Phoenicia were concentrated at that time in the power and rule of Tyre, to which Sidon had been obliged to relinquish the hegemony, which it had formerly possessed over Phoenicia. The prophecy against Tyre consists of four words of God, of which the first (Ezekiel 26) contains the threat of destruction to the city and state of Tyre; the second (Ezekiel 27), a lamentation over this destruction; the third (Eze 28:1-10), the threat against the king of Tyre; the fourth (Eze 28:11-19), a lamentation over his fall.
In four sections, commencing with the formula, "thus saith the Lord," Tyre, the mistress of the sea, is threatened with destruction. In the first strophe (Eze 26:2-6) there is a general threat of its destruction by a host of nations. In the second (Eze 26:7-14), the enemy is mentioned by name, and designated as a powerful one; and the conquest and destruction emanating from his are circumstantially described. In the third (Eze 26:15-18), the impression which this event would produce upon the inhabitants of the islands and coast-lands is depicted. And in the fourth (Eze 26:19-21), the threat is repeated in an energetic manner, and the prophecy is thereby rounded off.
This word of God bears in the introduction to the date of its delivery to the prophet and enunciation by him. - Eze 26:1. It came to pass in the eleventh year, on the first of the month, that the word of Jehovah came to me, saying. - The eleventh year of the exile of Jehoiachin was the year of the conquest and destruction of Jerusalem (Jer 52:6, Jer 52:12), the occurrence of which is presupposed in Eze 26:2 also. There is something striking in the omission of the number of the month both here and in Eze 32:17, as the day of the month is given. The attempt to discover in the words בּאחד an indication of the number of the month, by understanding לחדשׁ as signifying the first month of the year: "on the first as regards the month," equivalent to, "in the first month, on the first day of it" (lxx, Luther, Kliefoth, and others), is as forced and untenable as the notion that that particular month is intended which had peculiar significance for Ezekiel, namely, the month in which Jerusalem was conquered and destroyed. The first explanation is proved to be erroneous by Eze 26:2, where the destruction of Jerusalem, which occurred in the fifth month of the year named, is assumed to have already happened. The second view is open to the objection that the conquest of Jerusalem happened in the fourth month, and the destruction in the fifth (Jer 52:6 and Jer 52:12); and it cannot be affirmed that the conquest was of less importance to Ezekiel than the destruction. We cannot escape the conclusion, therefore, that the number of the month has been dropped through a corruption of the text, which has occurred in copying; but in that case we must give up all hope of being able to determine what the month really was. The conjecture offered by Ewald and Hitzig, that one of the last months of the year is intended, because Ezekiel could not have known before then what impression the conquest of Jerusalem had made upon Tyre, stands or falls with the naturalistic view entertained by these writers with regard to prophecy.
Tyre shall be broken and utterly destroyed
Eze 26:2. Son of man, because Tyre saith concerning Jerusalem, "Aha, the door of the nations is broken; it turneth to me; I shall become full; she is laid waste;" Eze 26:3. Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Behold, I will come upon thee, O Tyre, and will bring up against thee many nations, as the sea bringing up its waves. Eze 26:4. They will destroy the walls of Tyre, and throw down her towers; and I will sweep away her dust from her, and make her a bare rock. Eze 26:5. She shall become a place for the spreading of nets in the midst of the sea, for I have spoken it, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah; and she shall become booty for the nations. Eze 26:6. And her daughters which are in the land shall be slain with the sword; and they shall learn that I am Jehovah. - Tyre, as in the prophecy of Isaiah (Ezekiel 23), is not the city of that name upon the mainland, ἡ πάλαι Τύρος or Παλαίτυρος, Old Tyre, which was taken by Shalmaneser and destroyed by Alexander (as Perizon., Marsh, Vitringa, J. D. Michaelis, and Eichhorn supposed), but Insular Tyre, which was three-quarters of a mile farther north, and only 1200 paces from the land, being built upon a small island, and separated from the mainland by a strait of no great depth (vid., Movers, Phoenizier, II p. 288ff.). This Insular Tyre had successfully resisted the Assyrians (Josephus, Antt. ix. 14. 2), and was at that time the market of the nations; and in Ezekiel's day it had reached the summit of its greatness as mistress of the sea and the centre of the commerce of the world. That it is against this Tyre that our prophecy is chiefly directed, is evident from Eze 26:5 and Eze 26:14, according to which Tyre is to become a bare rock in the midst of the sea, and from the allusion to the daughter cities, בּשּׂדה, in the field, i.e., on the mainland (in Eze 26:6), as contrasted with the position occupied by Tyre upon a rocky island in the sea; and, lastly, from the description given in Ezekiel 27 of the maritime trade of Tyre with all nations, to which Old Tyre never attained, inasmuch as it possessed no harbour (vid., Movers, l.c. p. 176). This may easily be reconciled with such passages as Eze 26:6, Eze 26:8, and Ezekiel 27, 28, in which reference is also made to the continental Tyre, and the conquest of Tyre is depicted as the conquest of a land-city (see the exposition of these verses). - The threat against Tyre commences, as in the case of the nations threatened in Ezekiel 25, with a brief description of its sin. Tyre gave expression to its joy at the fall of Jerusalem, because it hoped to derive profit therefrom through the extension of its commerce and increase of its wealth. Different explanations have been given of the meaning of the words put into the mouth of Tyre. "The door of the nations is broken in pieces." The plural דּלתות indicates the folding doors which formed the gate, and are mentioned in its stead. Jerusalem is the door of the nations, and is so called according to the current opinion of expositors, because it was the centre of the commerce of the nations, i.e., as a place of trade. But nothing is known to warrant the idea that Jerusalem was ever able to enter into rivalry with Tyre as a commercial city. The importance of Jerusalem with regard to other nations was to be found, not in its commerce, nor in the favourable situation which it occupied for trade, in support of which Hvernick refers to Herodotus, iii. 5, and Hitzig to Eze 23:40-41, but in its sanctuary, or the sacred calling which it had received for the whole world of nations. Kliefoth has therefore decided in favour of the following view: That Jerusalem is called a gate of the nations, not because it had hitherto been open to the nations for free and manifold intercourse, but for the very opposite reason, namely, because the gate of Jerusalem had hitherto been closed and barred against the nations, but was now broken in pieces through the destruction of the city, and thereby opened to the nations. Consequently the nations, and notably Tyre, would be able to enter now; and from this fact the Tyrians hoped to derive advantage, so far as their commercial interests were concerned. But this view is not in harmony with the text. Although a gate is opened by being broken in pieces, and one may force an entrance into a house by breaking the door (Gen 19:9), yet the expression "door of the nations" cannot signify a door which bars all entrance on the part of the nations, inasmuch as doors and gates are not made to secure houses and cities against the forcible entrance of men and nations, but to render it possible for them to go out and in. Moreover, the supposition that "door of the nations" is equivalent to shutting against the nations, is not in harmony with the words נסבּא אלי which follow. The expression "it has turned to me," or it is turned to me, has no meaning unless it signifies that through the breaking of the door the stream of the nations would turn away from Jerusalem to Tyre, and therefore that hitherto the nations had turned to Jerusalem. נסבּה is the 3rd pers. perf. Niphal of סבב, for נסבּה , formed after the analogy of נמס, etc. The missing subject to נסבּה is to be found ad sensum in דּלתות העמּים. It is not the door itself, but the entrance and streaming in of the nations, which had previously been directed towards Jerusalem, and would now turn to Tyre. There is no necessity, therefore, for Hitzig's conjecture, that אמּלאה should be altered into מלאהּ, and the latter taken as the subject.
Consequently we must understand the words of the Tyrians as signifying that they had regarded the drawing of the nations to Jerusalem, i.e., the force of attraction which Jerusalem had hitherto exerted upon the nations, as the seat of the divine revelation of mercy, or of the law and judgment of the Lord, as interfering with their endeavour to draw all nations to themselves and gain them over to their purposes, and that they rejoiced at the destruction of Jerusalem, because they hoped that henceforth they would be able to attract the nations to themselves and enrich themselves with their possessions. This does not require that we should accredit the Tyrians with any such insight into the spiritual calling of Jerusalem as would lie beyond their heathen point of view. The simple circumstance, that the position occupied by Jerusalem in relation to the world apparently interfered with the mercantile interests of the Tyrians, would be quite sufficient to excite a malignant pleasure at the fall of the city of God, as the worship of God and the worship of Mammon are irreconcilably opposed. The source from which the envy and the enmity manifesting itself in this malicious pleasure took their rise, is indicated in the last words: "I shall fill myself, she (Jerusalem) is laid waste," which Jerome has correctly linked together thus: quia illa deserta est, idcirco ego implebor. המּלא, to be filled with merchandise and wealth, as in Eze 27:25. On account of this disposition toward the kingdom of God, which led Tyre to expect an increase of power and wealth from its destruction, the Lord God would smite it with ruin and annihilation. הנני עליך, behold, I will come upon thee, as in Eze 13:8; Jer 50:31; Nah 3:5. God will lead a powerful army against Tyre, which shall destroy its walls and towers. Instead of the army, "many nations" are mentioned, because Tyre is hoping to attract more nations to itself in consequence of the destruction of Jerusalem. This hope is to be fulfilled, though in a different sense from that which Tyre intended. The comparison of the advancing army to the advancing waves of the sea is very significant when the situation of Tyre is considered. היּם is the subject to כּהעלות, and the Hiphil is construed with ל instead of the accusative (compare Ewald, 292c with 277e). According to Arrian, ii. 18. 3, and Curtius, iv. 2. 9, 12, and 3. 13, Insular Tyre was fortified all round with lofty walls and towers, which were certainly in existence as early as Nebuchadnezzar's time. Even the dust of the demolished buildings (עפרהּ) God would sweep away (סחיתי, ἁπ. λεγ., with a play upon שׁחתוּ), so that the city, i.e., the site on which it had stood, would become a bare and barren rock (צחיח סלע, as in Eze 24:7), a place where fishermen would spread out their nets to dry. "Her daughters" also, that is to say, the towns dependent upon Tyre, "on the field," i.e., the open country - in other words, their inhabitants - would be slain with the sword.
In Eze 26:7-14 the threat is carried still further. - Eze 26:7. For thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Behold, I will bring against Tyre Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, from the north, the king of kings, with horses, and chariots, and horsemen, and a multitude of much people. Eze 26:8. Thy daughters in the field he will slay with the sword, and he will erect siege-towers against thee, and throw up a rampart against thee, and set up shields against thee, Eze 26:9. And direct his battering-rams against thy walls, and throw down thy towers with his swords. Eze 26:10. From the multitude of his horses their dust will cover thee; from the noise of the horsemen, wheels, and chariots, thy walls will shake when he shall enter into thy gates, as they enter a city broken open. Eze 26:11. With the hoofs of his horses he will tread down all thy streets; thy people he will slay with the sword, and thy glorious pillars will fall to the ground. Eze 26:12. They will make booty of thy possessions, and plunder thy merchandise, destroy thy walls, and throw down thy splendid mansions, and sink thy stones, thy wood, and thy dust in the water. Eze 26:13. I will put an end to the sound of thy songs, and the music of thy harps shall be heard no more. Eze 26:14. I will make thee a bare rock; thou shalt be a place for the spreading of nets, and be built no more; for I Jehovah have spoken it, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah. - Nebuchadnezzar, the great king of Babylon, - this is the meaning of the rhetorical description in these verses, - will come with a powerful army (Eze 26:7), smite with the sword the inland cities dependent upon Tyre. (Eze 26:8, compare Eze 26:6), then commence the siege of Tyre, destroy its walls and towers (Eze 26:8 and Eze 26:9), enter with his army the city in which breaches have been made, put the inhabitants to death (Eze 26:10 and Eze 26:11), plunder the treasures, destroy walls and buildings, and cast the ruins into the sea (Eze 26:12). Nebuchadrezzar, or Nebuchadnezzar (for the name see the comm. on Kg2 24:10, is called king of kings, as the supreme ruler of the Babylonian empire, because the kings of conquered provinces and lands were subject to him as vassals (see the comm. on Isa 10:8).
His army consists of war-chariots, and cavalry, and a great multitude of infantry. קהל are co-ordinate, so far as the rhetorical style is concerned; but in reality עם־רב is subordinate to קהל , as in Eze 23:24, inasmuch as the קהל consisted of עם־רב. On the siege-works mentioned in Eze 26:8, see the comm. on Eze 4:2. הקים צנּה signifies the construction of a roof with shields, by which the besiegers were accustomed to defend themselves from the missiles of the defenders of the city wall while pursing their labours. Herodotus repeatedly mentions such shield-roofs as used by the Persians (ix. 61. 99, 102), though, according to Layard, they are not to be found upon the Assyrian monuments (see the comm. on Nah 2:6). There is no doubt that מחי קב signifies the battering-ram, called כּר in Eze 21:27, though the meaning of the words is disputed. מחי , literally, thrusting or smiting. קבלו, from קבל, to be pointed either קבלּו or קבלּו (the form קבלּו adopted by v. d. Hooght and J. H. Michaelis is opposed to the grammatical rules), has been explained by Gesenius and others as signifying res opposita, that which is opposite; hence מחי קבלו, the thrusting or demolishing of that which stands opposite. In the opinion of others, קבל is an instrument employed in besieging; but there is nothing in the usage of the language to sustain either this explanation or that adopted by Hvernick, "destruction of his defence." הרבותיו, his swords, used figuratively for his weapons or instruments of war, "his irons," as Ewald has very aptly rendered it. The description in Eze 26:10 is hyperbolical. The number of horses is so great, that on their entering the city they cover it with dust, and the walls shake with the noise of the horsemen and chariots. 'כּמבואי עיר מב, literally, as the marchings into a broken city, i.e., a city taken by storm, generally are. The simile may be explained from the peculiar situation of Insular Tyre. It means that the enemy will enter it as they march into a land-fortress into which a breach has been made by force. The words presuppose that the besieger has made a road to the city by throwing up an embankment or dam. מצּבות עזּך, the memorial pillars of thy might, and the pillars dedicated to Baal, two of which are mentioned by Herodotus (ii. 44) as standing in the temple of Hercules at Tyre, one of gold, the other of emerald; not images of gods, but pillars, as symbols of Baal. These sink or fall to the ground before the overwhelming might of the foe (compare Isa 46:1; Isa 21:9, and Sa1 5:3). After the slaughter of the inhabitants and the fall of the gods, the plundering of the treasures begins, and then follows the destruction of the city. בּתּי המדּה are not pleasure-houses ("pleasure-towers, or garden-houses of the wealthy merchants," as Ewald supposes), for there was not space enough upon the island for gardens (Strabo, xvi. 2. 23), but the lofty, magnificent houses of the city, the palaces mentioned in Isa 23:13. Yea, the whole city shall be destroyed, and that so completely that they will sweep stones, wood, and rubbish into the sea. - Thus will the Lord put an end to the exultation and rejoicing in Tyre (Eze 26:13; compare Isa 14:11 and Amo 5:23). - The picture of the destruction of this powerful city closes with the repetition of the thought from Eze 26:5, that Tyre shall be turned into a bare rock, and shall never be built again.
The tidings of the destruction of Tyre will produce great commotion in all her colonies and the islands connected with her. - Eze 26:15. Thus saith the Lord Jehovah to Tyre, Will not the islands tremble at the noise of thy fall, at the groaning of the wounded, at the slaughter in the midst of thee? Eze 26:16. And all the princes of the sea will come down from their thrones, and will lay aside their robes and take off their embroidered clothes, and dress themselves in terrors, sit upon the earth, and they will tremble every moment, and be astonished at thee. Eze 26:17. They will raise a lamentation for thee, and say to thee: How hast thou perished, thou who wast inhabited from out of the sea, thou renowned city, she who was mighty upon the sea, she and her inhabitants, who inspired all her inhabitants with fear of her! Eze 26:18. Now do the islands tremble on the day of thy fall, and the islands in the sea are confounded at thy departure. - הלא, nonne, has the force of a direct affirmation. קול מפּלה, the noise of the fall, stands for the tidings of the noise, since the noise itself could not be heard upon the islands. The fall takes place, as is added for the purpose of depicting the terrible nature of the event, at or amidst the groaning of the wounded, and the slaughter in the midst of thee. בּהרג is the infinitive Niphal, with the accent drawn back on account of the following Milel, and should be pointed בּהרג . The word איּים, islands, is frequently used so as to embrace the coast lands of the Mediterranean Sea; we have therefore to understand it here as applied to the Phoenician colonies on the islands and coasts of that sea. The "princes of the sea" are not kings of the islands, but, according to Isa 23:8, the merchants presiding over the colonies of Tyre, who resembled princes. כּסאות, not royal thrones, but chairs, as in Sa1 4:13, etc. The picture of their mourning recalls the description in Jon 3:6; it is not derived from that passage, however, but is an independent description of the mourning customs which commonly prevailed among princes. The antithesis introduced as a very striking one: clothing themselves in terrors, putting on terrors in the place of the robes of state which they have laid aside (see the similar trope in Eze 7:27). The thought is rendered still more forcible by the closing sentences of the verse: they tremble לרנעים, by moments, i.e., as the moments return - actually, therefore, "every moment" (vid., Isa 27:3). - In the lamentation which they raise (Eze 26:17), they give prominence to the alarming revolution of all things, occasioned by the fact that the mistress of the seas, once so renowned, has now become an object of horror and alarm. נושׁבת מיּמּים, inhabited from the seas. This is not to be taken as equivalent to "as far as the seas," in the sense of, whose inhabitants spread over the seas and settle there, as Gesenius (Thes.) and Hvernick suppose; for being inhabited is the very opposite of sending the inhabitants abroad. If מן were to be taken in the geographical sense of direction or locality, the meaning of the expression could only be, whose inhabitants spring from the seas, or have migrated thither from all seas; but this would not apply to the population of Tyre, which did not consists of men of all nations under heaven. Hitzig has given the correct interpretation, namely, from the sea, or out of the seas, which had as it were ascended as an inhabited city out of the bosom of the sea. It is not easy to explain the last clause of Eze 26:17 : who inspired all her inhabitants with their terror, or with terror of them (of themselves); for if the relative אשׁר is taken in connection with the preceding ישׁביה, the thought arises that the inhabitants of Tyre inspired her inhabitants, i.e., themselves, with their terror, or terror of themselves. Kimchi, Rosenmller, Ewald, Kliefoth, and others, have therefore proposed to take the suffix in the second יושׁביה as referring to היּם ot gnirre, all the inhabitants of the sea, i.e., all her colonies. But this is open to the objection, that not only is ים of the masculine gender, but it is extremely harsh to take the same suffix attached to the two ישׁביה as referring to different subjects. We must therefore take the relative אשׁר and the suffix in חתּיתם as both referring to היא וישׁביה: the city with its population inspired all its several inhabitants with fear or itself. This is not to be understood, however, as signifying that the inhabitants of Tyre kept one another in a state of terror and alarm; but that the city with its population, through its power upon the sea, inspired all the several inhabitants with fear of this its might, inasmuch as the distinction of the city and its population was reflected upon every individual citizen. This explanation of the words is confirmed by the parallel passages in Eze 32:24 and Eze 32:26. - This city had come to so appalling an end, that all the islands trembled thereat. The two hemistichs in Eze 26:18 are synonymous, and the thought returns by way of conclusion to Eze 26:15. איּין has the Aramaean form of the plural, which is sometimes met with even in the earlier poetry (vid., Ewald, 177a). צאת, departure, i.e., destruction.
Thus will Tyre, covered by the waves of the sea, sink into the region of the dead, and vanish for ever from the earth. - Eze 26:19. For thus saith the Lord Jehovah, When I make thee a desolate city, like the cities which are no longer inhabited, when I cause the deep to rise over thee, so that the many waters cover thee, Eze 26:20. I cast thee down to those who have gone into the grave, to the people of olden time, and cause thee to dwell in the land of the lower regions, in the ruins from the olden time, with those who have gone into the grave, that thou mayest be no longer inhabited, and I create that which is glorious in the land of the living. Eze 26:21. I make thee a terror, and thou art no more; they will seek thee, and find thee no more for ever, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah. - Not only will ruin and desolation come upon Tyre, but it will sink for ever into the region of the dead. In this concluding thought the whole threat is summed up. The infinitive clauses of Eze 26:19 recapitulate the leading thoughts of the previous strophes, for the purpose of appending the closing thought of banishment to the under-world. By the rising of the deep we are to understand, according to Eze 26:12, that the city in its ruins will be sunk into the depths of the sea. יורדי , those who go down into the pit or grave, are the dead. They are described still further as עם עולם, not "those who are sleeping the long sleep of death," or the generation of old whom all must join; but the people of the "old world" before the flood (Pe2 2:5), who were buried by the waters of the flood, in accordance with Job 22:15, where עולם denotes the generations of the primeval world, and after the analogy of the use of עם עולם in Isa 44:7, to describe the human race as existing from time immemorial.
In harmony with this, חרבות are the ruins of the primeval world which perished in the flood. As עם עולם adds emphasis to the idea of יורדי בור, so also does בּחרבות מעולם to that of ארץ תּחתּיּות. Tyre shall not only descend to the dead in Sheol, but be thrust down to the people of the dead, who were sunk into the depths of the earth by the waters of the flood, and shall there receive its everlasting dwelling-place among the ruins of the primeval world which was destroyed by the flood, beside that godless race of the olden time. ארץ תּחתּיּות, land of the lowest places (cf. Eze 32:18, Eze 32:24), is a periphrasis for Sheol, the region of the dead (compare Eph 4:9, "the lower parts of the earth"). On 'ונתתּי צבי וגו Hitzig has observed with perfect correctness: "If we retain the pointing as the first person, with which the place assigned to the Athnach (-) coincides, we must at any rate not regard the clause as still dependent upon למען, and the force of the לא as continued. We should then have to take the clause as independent and affirmative, as the accentuators and the Targum have done." But as this would give rise to a discrepancy between the two halves of the verse, Hitzig proposes to alter נתתּי retla ot seso into the second person ונתּתי, so that the clause would still be governed by למען לא. But the want of agreement between the two halves of the verse does not warrant an alteration of the text, especially if it lead to nothing better than the forced rendering adopted by Hitzig, "and thou no longer shinest with glory in the land of the living," which there is nothing in the language to justify. And even the explanation proposed by Hvernick and Kliefoth, "that I no longer produce anything glorious from thee (Tyre) in the land of the living," is open to this objection, that "from thee" is arbitrarily interpolated into the text; and if this were what Ezekiel meant, he would either have added לך or written נתתּיך. Moreover, the change of the person is a sufficient objection to our taking נתתּי as dependent upon למען, and supplying לא. ונתתּי is evidently a simple continuation of והושׁבתּיך. And nothing but the weightiest objections should lead us to give up a view which so naturally suggests itself. But no such objections exist. Neither the want of harmony between the two halves of the verse, nor the context, - according to which Tyre and its destruction are referred to both before and immediately after, - forces us to the adoption of explanations at variance with the simple meaning of the words. We therefore adhere to the natural interpretation of the words, "and I set (establish) glory in the land of the living;" and understand by the land of the living, not the theocracy especially, but the earth, in contrast to the region of the dead. The words contain the general thought, that on and after the overthrow of the glory of the ungodly power of the world, He will create that which is glorious on the earth to endure for ever; and this He really does by the establishing of His kingdom. - Tyre, on the contrary, shall become, through its fate, an object of terror, or an example of sudden destruction, and pass away with all its glory, not leaving a trace behind. For Eze 26:21, compare Isa 41:12 and Psa 37:36. וּתבקשׁי, imperf. Pual, has Chateph-patach between the two u, to indicate emphatically that the syllable is only a very loosely closed one (vid., Ewald, 31b, p. 95).