Isaiah 23 - Outline of Isaiah (Book Notes menu page)
I.C.10. The Burden of Tyre, 23:1-18
1. 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.
Tyre {meaning 'a rock'} - was a prominent city of the Phoenicians,
who were famous for their seafaring trade on the Mediterranean Sea and beyond. The Phoenicians and the Philistines are the same people, having migrated from Caphtor (probably Crete or Cyprus) to settle along the coastlands of Lebanon and Canaan. Jer 47:4,5
Tarshish - was a daughter city and colony established by Tyre.
It's probable location was on the southern coast of Spain, about 80 miles northwest of the straits of Gibralta.
howl ye ships of Tarshish; for it is laid waste...-
The picture is of the agony of sailors, returning from the distant colony, to find their home port in ruins. Homes and warehouses are destroyed. Sunken ships and burned piers have left the harbor inaccessible.
from the land of Chittim {ie., the island nation of Cyprus} it is revealed...-
The news of this tragedy had first reached them when they passed Cyprus. But, now they see the smoke of their city for themselves.
2 Be still, ye inhabitants of the isle;
thou whom the merchants of Zidon,
that pass over the sea, have replenished.
3 And by great waters the seed of Sihor,
the harvest of the river, [is] her revenue;
and she is a mart of nations.
be still {ie., be awestruck}, ye inhabitants of the isle {ie., coast, region}...-
The displaced residents, of the destroyed city, and their neighbors, along the coast, would be struck dumb by the destruction.
thou whom... Zidon {Sidon}... have replenished.- Sidon, located about 25 miles to the north,
had established and nourished Tyre as a daughter city. The two cities cooperated in promoting commerce by the sea.
by great waters the seed of Sihor... is her revenue...- Wheat from Egypt was an important cargo,
which was traded, in exchange for the wealth of the nations, in these port cities. (Sihor was on the eastern portion of Egypt's coast.)
4 Be 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.
5 As at the report concerning Egypt,
[so] shall they be sorely pained at the report of Tyre.
be thou ashamed, O Zidon... nor bring forth children...-
Sidon was about to know the shame of a childless woman, because her daughter city would be no more. Likewise, when the news of Tyre's destruction reached Egypt, they also would grieve for her loss.
6 Pass 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.
pass ye over to Tarshish... ye inhabitants of the isle...-
The survivors from Tyre are advised to flee to Tarshish.
Their own feet would carry them into their ships, and labor to secure their passage.
8 Who hath taken this counsel against Tyre, the crowning [city],
whose merchants [are] princes,
whose traffickers [are] the honourable of the earth?
9 The LORD of hosts hath purposed it, to stain the pride of all glory,
[and] to bring into contempt all the honourable of the earth.
Who hath taken counsel against Tyre, the crowning city,
whose merchants are princes... the honourable of the earth...-
In the mind of its contemporaries, this city, which promoted international trade and prosperity, and whose influence extended worldwide through her many colonies, must surely mark the epitome of human endeavor. Her businessmen were regarded, by the whole world, as royalty and as 'the honourable' {HB= kabad, heavy, weighty; ie., the most substantial, the most worthwhile} men of the earth.
Who would think to conspire against Tyre?
the LORD of hosts hath purposed it...-
The immediate cause of His judgment is given in Amos 1:9,10; Joel 3:1-8; Jer 47:3,4; Eze 26:2,3.
The LORD has purposed to reward Tyre for her mistreatment of Jerusalem and the Jewish people. stain {ie., profane, desecrate, defile} the pride {ie., excellency, pomp}... bring into contempt all the honourable of the earth.-
The judgment upon Tyre is illustrative of the final judgment upon ungodly men whom the world reveres as 'honourable.'
     In v.9, the LORD's perspective on these men is reflected in the negative connotation of the same word for 'honourable' (HB= kabad, heavy, weighty; ie., grievous, burdensome). He would 'bring them into contempt' {ie., uncover their lightness and insignificance}. cp. Isa 13:11; 14:24-27; Mal 4:1
     Also see the condemnation of the king of Tyre, who is a 'type' of Satan and the Antichrist, in Eze 28:3-8,12-18.
10 Pass through thy land as a river, O daughter of Tarshish:
[there is] no more strength.
11 He 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.
12 And 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.
13 Behold the land of the Chaldeans; this people was not,
[till] 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.
14 Howl, ye ships of Tarshish: for your strength is laid waste.
Pass through {ie., overflow} thy land as a river... there is no more strength {HB=maziyach, girdle, restraint}-
With the destruction of Tyre, Tarshish would be released from bondage to its mother city. The colony would be free to go its own way.
pass over to Chittim; there also shalt thou have no rest.-
Refugees from Tyre who fled to Chittim (Cyprus) would not find peace, because their enemy's reach would extend that far.
behold the land of the Chaldeans...- The enemy is identified as Babylon.
In the first part of v.11, "he" probably refers to Babylon's king, Nebuchadnezzar, who was fulfilling the Lord's purpose of judgment upon Tyre.
this people was not, till the Assyrians founded it...- The following explanation is from GWms:
Verse 13 will be clear if thus read: "Behold the land of the Chaldeans! That people did not exist at the time that the Assyrian founded it, ie., Tyre, (as a port) for them that dwell in the Wilderness; they (the Assyrians) set up its towers, they raised up its palaces; but he (Nebuchadnezzar) shall bring it to ruin."
     The argument is: Tyre boasted of its antiquity and strength (v.7). The prophet pointed to Assyria, a much more ancient and much stronger government, and urged that if it fell before the king of the Chaldeans, how much more surely would Tyre fall!
Howl, ye ships of Tarshish: for your strength {HB=ma'oz, protection, refuge, stronghold} is laid waste...
15. And 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.
16 Take an harp, go about the city, thou harlot that hast been forgotten;
make sweet melody, sing many songs, that thou mayest be remembered.
17 And 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.
...Tyre shall be forgotten seventy years, according to the days of one king... -
Tyre would lie waste for the duration of Babylon's power. This period of desolation corresponds to the duration of the Babylonian captivity of Jerusalem. Jer 25:8-12
...after the end of seventy years... she shall return to her hire...-
  • Tyre, like Jerusalem, would be restored.
    The remnant that returned to Jerusalem would rebuild the Temple and re-establish worship to Jehovah. Meanwhile, Tyre would return to her wordwide trade, in the idolatry of materialism. In this, she is representative of the system of gentile world dominion (Babylon the Great), which gives itself to false religion and fleshly self-indulgence, and which will eventually be completely destroyed (cp. Rev 17:3-5; 18:9-14).
  • The destruction of Tyre, by Babylon, is also foretold in Eze 26:1-21.
    However, that chapter speaks of Tyre's total destruction from which she would never be rebuilt. Several elements in the prophecy were not fulfilled by Nebuchadnezzar (eg., Eze 26:4,5,12,14).
       Following the Babylonian invasion, when Tyre was rebuilt, it was relocated from the mainland to an island about a half mile off shore, in order to make it secure from future invasions. However, Alexander the Great defeated the city, in 332 BC, by building a causeway from the mainland to the island. To obtain the needed fill material, he ordered that the ruins of the old city, including the dust scraped from the bedrock, should be cast into the sea (thus, literally and completely fulfilling Ezekiel's prophecy). Today, the site remains as described in Eze 26:14.
       [For more on the historic destruction of Tyre, see the Book Notes on Ezekiel ch. 26. NOTE: This link will open in this window. To return to Isaiah ch. 23, use the window 'Back' function, or the 'Book Notes' button.]
  • As mentioned earlier, the destruction of Tyre foreshadows the destruction of the system of gentile world dominion (Babylon the Great) spoken of in Revelation ch. 17 - 18. Read Ezekiel ch. 26 - 28 for a more complete picture of...
    • The severity and finality of her judgment, Eze 26
    • The excellencies of the city to be destroyed, Eze 27 (cp. v.8 above)
    • The perfections of her king to be deposed, Eze 28 (cp. v.9 above)
      [For more on the prophetic implications of the judgment of Tyre, see the Book Notes on Ezekiel ch. 27 and 28. NOTE: This link will open in this window. To return to Isaiah ch. 23, use the window 'Back' function, or the 'Book Notes' button.]
  • Just as hundreds of years elapsed between the invasions of Nebuchadnezzar and Alexander the Great, there is a great expanse of time between verse 17 and 18... and a startling transformation.
18 And 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.
her merchandise... shall be holiness to the LORD...-
The preceding verses tell of Tyre's historic destruction, and foretell the destruction of the system of gentile world dominion, which Tyre foreshadowed.
     This last verse foretells a future redemption and restoration of Tyre. Her skills, which were previously self-serving, will then be turned to the glory of God and to the support of His Kingdom. As Hiram king of Tyre supplied materials for construction of the Temple because of his love of king David, so the descendants of these people will someday give themselves to the service of the King on David's throne. cp. 1Kin 5:1-11; Psa 45:12; 72:10,11 (Both of these Psalms sing the glories of the coming King.)

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