1 In the eleventh year, on the first day of the month, the word of the Lord came to me: 2 “Son of man, because Tyre said concerning Jerusalem, ‘Aha, the gate of the peoples is broken; it has swung open to me. I shall be replenished, now that she is laid waste,’ 3 therefore thus says the Lord God: Behold, I am against you, O Tyre, and will bring up many nations against you, as the sea brings up its waves. 4 They shall destroy the walls of Tyre and break down her towers, and I will scrape her soil from her and make her a bare rock. 5 She shall be in the midst of the sea a place for the spreading of nets, for I have spoken, declares the Lord God. And she shall become plunder for the nations, 6 and her daughters on the mainland shall be killed by the sword. Then they will know that I am the Lord.
7 “For thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will bring against Tyre from the north Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, king of kings, with horses and chariots, and with horsemen and a host of many soldiers. 8 He will kill with the sword your daughters on the mainland. He will set up a siege wall against you and throw up a mound against you, and raise a roof of shields against you. 9 He will direct the shock of his battering rams against your walls, and with his axes he will break down your towers. 10 His horses will be so many that their dust will cover you. Your walls will shake at the noise of the horsemen and wagons and chariots, when he enters your gates as men enter a city that has been breached. 11 With the hoofs of his horses he will trample all your streets. He will kill your people with the sword, and your mighty pillars will fall to the ground. 12 They will plunder your riches and loot your merchandise. They will break down your walls and destroy your pleasant houses. Your stones and timber and soil they will cast into the midst of the waters. 13 And I will stop the music of your songs, and the sound of your lyres shall be heard no more. 14 I will make you a bare rock. You shall be a place for the spreading of nets. You shall never be rebuilt, for I am the Lord; I have spoken, declares the Lord God. – Ezekiel 26:1-14 ESV
In this prophecy, God turns His attention north, focusing on the Phoenician city of Tyre, located on the northwestern coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Tyre was one of the oldest cities in the near east and was a profitable trading port, using its fleet of ships to transport goods from distant ports. The prophet, Isaiah, referred to Tyre as an “exultant city whose origin is from days of old” (Isaiah 23:7 ESV).
“Tyre became an important maritime city of the ancient Near East, being involved in great commercial and colonial enterprises throughout the Mediterranean area, the Red Sea, and the Indian Ocean. With the rise of Assyria to power, Tyre periodically submitted to Assyria’s lordship, paying tribute out of the abundance of her wealth (as in the cases of Esarhaddon and Ashurbanipal). Whenever possible, however, Tyre rebelled against the Assyrian power and withstood the Assyrian retribution in the security of its island fortress (as in the case of Sennacherib). As Assyria began to decline in strength, Tyre exerted her complete independence. Tyre was in this latter condition when these oracles were delivered.” – Ralph H. Alexander, Ezekiel
God delivers this divine oracle concerning Tyre “In the eleventh year, on the first day of the month” (Ezekiel 26:1 ESV). While there is much debate as to the exact timing of this message, it would seem that it refers to a date after the fall of Jerusalem. In the New Living Translation, verse one reads: “On February 3, during the twelfth year of King Jehoiachin’s captivity, this message came to me from the Lord.”
This dating places the oracle at the time when Nebuchadnezzar first entered Jerusalem and took control of the city and the nation of Judah.
Then King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came to Jerusalem and captured it, and he bound Jehoiakim in bronze chains and led him away to Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar also took some of the treasures from the Temple of the Lord, and he placed them in his palace in Babylon. – 2 Chronicles 36:6-7 NLT
Nebuchadnezzar replaced the deposed Jehoiakim with his son, Jehoiachin, but his reign would only last three months.
In the spring of the year King Nebuchadnezzar took Jehoiachin to Babylon. Many treasures from the Temple of the Lord were also taken to Babylon at that time. And Nebuchadnezzar installed Jehoiachin’s uncle, Zedekiah, as the next king in Judah and Jerusalem. – 2 Chronicles 36:10 NLT
The Phoenicians rejoiced over the Babylonian seizure of Jerusalem because they viewed Judah as a threat to their trading business. While they controlled the sea routes, the Judahites controlled the lucrative land routes to the east. With Jerusalem’s fall, they hoped to profit from Babylon’s presence in the region. And there had been no love lost between Phoenicia and Judah over the years. The prophet, Joel, accuses them of plundering Judean cities and selling off citizens of Judah as slaves.
“What do you have against me, Tyre and Sidon and you cities of Philistia? Are you trying to take revenge on me? If you are, then watch out! I will strike swiftly and pay you back for everything you have done. You have taken my silver and gold and all my precious treasures, and have carried them off to your pagan temples. You have sold the people of Judah and Jerusalem to the Greeks, so they could take them far from their homeland.” – Joel 3:4-6 NLT
This love-hate relationship between Tyre and Jerusalem was not going to end well for either city. Jerusalem was already under the threat of complete annihilation by the Babylonians, but Tyre believed itself to be immune from destruction. They had weathered the earlier Assyrian onslaught that brought an end to the northern kingdom of Israel, so they assumed they would enjoy a similar fate with the Babylonian invasion. But God had other plans for the Phoenicians and their well-fortified city.
“I will bring many nations against you, like the waves of the sea crashing against your shoreline. They will destroy the walls of Tyre and tear down its towers. I will scrape away its soil and make it a bare rock!” – Ezekiel 26:3-4 NLT
God promised to completely eradicate this island fortress, bringing successive waves of enemies against them, all in retaliation for their unjust treatment of His chosen people.
“The siege of Tyre by Nebuchadnezzar lasted for thirteen years (ca. 586-573 B.C.). Under King Ba’ali II, Tyre accepted Babylonian suzerainty and was ruled by ‘judges.’ However, when Babylonia declined in power, Tyre regained her independence once again. This brief freedom lasted till the second ‘wave’ of destruction brought her into submission to the Persians around 525 B.C. Tyre’s remaining history demonstrated the continuing ‘waves’ of conquerors: the resistance to Alexander the Great, eventuating in her collapse; her initial resistance to the Seleucid kingdom of Antiochus III, terminating in her becoming part of that kingdom; her submission to Rome; and her fall to the Saracens in the fourteenth century A.D., after which she never again regained any importance. God was faithful to bring the ‘many nations’ against Tyre in successive ‘waves’ of conquest.” – Ralph H. Alexander, Ezekiel
The prophet, Isaiah, pronounced another divine oracle against them, predicting their eventual fall from power and prominence.
Wail, you trading ships of Tarshish,
for the harbor and houses of Tyre are gone!
The rumors you heard in Cyprus
are all true.
Mourn in silence, you people of the coast
and you merchants of Sidon.
Your traders crossed the sea,
sailing over deep waters.
They brought you grain from Egypt
and harvests from along the Nile.
You were the marketplace of the world.
But now you are put to shame, city of Sidon,
for Tyre, the fortress of the sea, says,
“Now I am childless;
I have no sons or daughters.”– Isaiah 23:1-4 NLT
God warns the prideful Phoenicians that their coastal fortress will suffer a similar fate as that of Jerusalem. It too will come under the relentless attack of King Nebuchadnezzar’s forces as they lay siege to its seemingly impenetrable walls.
From the north I will bring King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon against Tyre. He is king of kings and brings his horses, chariots, charioteers, and great army. First he will destroy your mainland villages. Then he will attack you by building a siege wall, constructing a ramp, and raising a roof of shields against you. He will pound your walls with battering rams and demolish your towers with sledgehammers. The hooves of his horses will choke the city with dust, and the noise of the charioteers and chariot wheels will shake your walls as they storm through your broken gates. His horsemen will trample through every street in the city. They will butcher your people, and your strong pillars will topple. – Ezekiel 26:7-11 NLT
At this point in history, Tyre consisted of two sister cities. One was on the mainland and was connected to a second city located on an island in the Mediterranean Sea. They were connected by a narrow isthmus. The Babylonian forces would destroy the mainland city, forcing the eventual surrender of the fortified city on the island.
God warns that Tyre will experience a devastating defeat that will leave the city destroyed and demoralized, never to rise to its former prominence again. When God states, “You shall never be rebuilt” (Ezekiel 26:14 ESV), He is not predicting that Tyre will no longer exist as a city but that it will never enjoy its former glory as an influential and powerful force in the region.
This city that had once gloated over its wealth would be plundered by the Babylonians. Its riches would be hauled away in carts, never to be seen again. Its fortified walls would be torn down, with the stones thrown into the sea. The lovely homes that lined its cobbled streets would become rubble and its former inhabitants would become lifeless corpses. Their fate is sealed because the sovereign Lord has declared it.
English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.