The Prophecy of Tyre’s Destruction

Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am against you, Tyre, and I will bring many nations against you, like the sea casting up its waves. (Ez. 26.3)

Every surfer and coastal dweller knows that waves arrive in sets. Except for extraordinary events, such as Tsunamis, the usually prominent waves come in repeatable series with lulls separating the wave events. So, when Ezekiel’s prophecy mentions “many nations” and “like the sea casting up its waves”(26.3), the informed reader would know that Tyre’s destruction would be accomplished by different forces and not all at one time during the campaign of Nebuchadnezzar. Also, the subject of the destruction is specific: the independent political entity who grew rich and haughty from the monopoly of maritime trade. So, even if a city named Tyre exists in the country of Lebanon today, and shares the same location, it doesn’t have any of its namesake’s advantages of independent sovereignty, monopoly, and power.

Phoenician Trade Network (Akigka)

Thus, Nebuchadnezzar’s campaign was the first set of waves to afflict haughty Tyre. He destroyed or subjugated the island’s support system on the Lebanon Mainland. Tyre, during Nebuchadnezzar’s siege, had to have fresh water (and other necessities) supplied by sea. A Mainland Tyre existed as a supply depot for the island fortress which could, normally, easily barge out what the islanders needed. Though the city state survived, it was greatly afflicted by the Babylonian tyrant.

The independent city state of the island fortress of Tyre was razed by Alexander who built a causeway out from the mainland in 332 B.C.E. Still, Antigonus needed to lay siege against a revived Tyre in 315 B.C.E. to subject it again. In 126 B.C.E., it received independence from the Seleucids (Greek) in it’s desperate attempt to regain the glory and power it once enjoyed. Since the island became a peninsula, however, after Alexander’s engineering feat, no natural advantage remained where it could support itself against siege, and so, by Roman times it was administered by regional powers and independence disappeared.

Siege of Tyre (public domain)

The strength of Tyre derived from its wealth, which was a product of it’s virtual monopoly of trade to the lands west of the Fertile Crescent. The Tyrians were expert sailors who controlled commerce in the Mediterranean, generally. Natural land barriers and hostile kingdoms prevented traders from exploiting all the overland routes, and so, The Tyrians filled this lucrative gap and reaped the spoils.

The ancient Fertile Crescent, as it is called by some, was not a crescent at all and the idea misinforms a salient point. The Promised Land of Israel was “beautiful,” not because it was more scenic or filled with wonders. It was “beautiful” because of how it was situated in a sort of choke point between the two fertile areas in what, today, we term The Mideast. If we were to represent it pictorially, a bent dumbbell comes to mind instead of a crescent which is fat in the center. Geographical Israel constitutes a land bridge in the narrow area between the two fertile river valleys of both Egypt and Mesopotamia. This fact informs what Ezekiel wrote which cartographers and commentators often get wrong.

Cartographers (map makers) in the medieval era usually centered Israel and its capitol Jerusalem in the center of their charts following what is stated in Ezekiel 5.5: This is what the Sovereign Lord says: This is Jerusalem, which I have set in the center of the nations, with countries all around her. This probably speaks to God’s originally calling Abram to this area as a way to display His power and redemption in the midst of outside nations as sort of a witness to them.

Also, this “beautiful land” had certain other advantages besides being center stage. Trade routes crisscrossed Israel since each of the separate fertile regions enjoyed different products of commerce. Israel would have been exposed to other languages, peoples, and products. They could also act as middlemen dealing with these entities. Not only could God’s working in Israel be on display but also Israel could act as gatekeepers to others in areas of commerce. The Tyrians were jealous and greedy when they said: ‘Aha! The gate to the nations is broken, and its doors have swung open to me; now that she lies in ruins I will prosper’ (Ezekiel 26.2). Tyre was not satisfied to rule the Mediterranean Sea trade, she wanted the land routes too.

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