Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. NATIONAL SELFISHNESS IS SIN. Nations have their vices as well as individual persons. If the leaders of a nation cherish evil purposes or pursue evil plans, unchecked by the subjects of the realm, the whole nation contracts guilt. Yet if one person or more, moved by better feelings, discountenances the national deed, that person is exculpated from the common blame, and shall be owned by God. The protection of Noah and his family, of Lot and his daughters, amid the general destruction, proves the fatherly care of God for individuals. The single grain in a heap of chaff shall be cared for by God.
II. AN OFFENSE DONE TO A NATION IS AN OFFENSE AGAINST GOD. Tyre had rejoiced in Jerusalem's overthrow. Instead of lamenting Israel's sins, the people of Tyre had room only for one thought-their own selfish advantage. The trade of Jerusalem would flow to Tyre. This calamity in Israel would bring a talent or two of gold into the pockets of Tyrian traders. What base ground for jubilation! No matter what suffering or humiliation the Jews may endure, Tyre would add to the smart by taunt and triumph. But God is not deaf. Into his ears every sound of selfish boasting came. He weighs every thought and word of man in his balances of justice. That selfish taunt will not float idly on the summer gale. It is a grief to Jehovah, and he will repay. "The Lord executeth righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed. In all human affairs, individual or national, God has a real interest. He will never be left out of the account.
III. SELFISH PLANS ABE DOOMED TO REVERSE. Tyre had said, "I shall be replenished." God said, "I will make her like the top of a rock." Tyre had "reckoned without her host." Instead of security, she was to be inundated with invasion. Instead of wealth, there should be want. Instead of glory, desolation. Her selfish hope should burst like a bubble. The golden eggs she expected soon to be hatched proved to be the eggs of a cockatrice. Selfish greed is a bad investment. The desire to promote our national interests, to the injury of another nation, is not patriotism; it is selfish envy and pride. Triumph over another's fall is base, is diabolic.
IV. SECULAR LOSSES OFTEN BRING REAL GAIN. "They shall know that I am the Lord." This is a gain of the noblest kind - a gain that is abiding and permanent. Such knowledge is better than rubies. The bulk of men will not learn this lesson in the day of prosperity, but in the cloudy days of adversity, when all earthly good has vanished, the lesson stands out clearly before their eyes. Some earthly sciences are best learnt in the dark. This knowledge of God is best learnt in the dark hour of affliction. For when all human calculations have failed, and all human plans have collapsed, men are compelled to feel that an unseen hand has been working, an unseen Being has been presiding in their affairs. Of a truth, "the Lord reigneth." - D.
I. THE SIN OF TYRE. "Son of man, because that Tyre hath said against Jerusalem, Aha! she is broken that was the gate of the peoples; she is turned unto me: I shall be replenished, now that she is laid waste." The sin which is here charged against Tyre is extreme and cruel selfishness. There is no evidence in this chapter that the Tyrians were animated by any hostile feelings towards the Jews, as the Ammonites, Edomites, and Philistines were. But Tyre was a great and prosperous commercial city, and the inhabitants thereof rejoiced in the destruction of Jerusalem because they thought that they should profit thereby. This is made quite clear in the verse before us. The Tyrians are represented as speaking of Jerusalem as "she that was the gate of the peoples." The plural expresses the fact, says the 'Speaker's Commentary,' "that many peoples passed through Jerusalem as the central place on the highway of commerce. This was eminently the case in the reign of Solomon, when for the time Jerusalem became the mart to which was gathered the trade of India and of the far East. The fame of its early greatness as the emporium of Eastern commerce still clung to Jerusalem, and this city, even in decadence, kept up enough of its original trade to be viewed with jealousy by Tyre, who owed her greatness to the same cause, and in the true spirit of mercantile competition exulted in the thought that the trade of Jerusalem would now be diverted into her markets." Their greed of gain had rendered them unfeeling and even cruel in their attitude towards their suffering neighbors, with whom in former times they had been in friendly relations. They rejoiced at the calamity of others because they believed it would contribute to their prosperity. They exulted in the downfall of others if it was likely to promote their own rise. This spirit is unbrotherly, selfish, mean, cruel. It is utterly opposed to the Divine will, and awakens the stern displeasure of the Almighty. Here is solemn admonition to persons, companies, societies, and nations, who would secure prosperity without regarding the means which they employ to do so. Are there not many today who care not who is impoverished if only they are enriched, who suffers if only they succeed, or who sinks provided that they rise? However their spirit may be tolerated or even approved by men, it is abhorrent unto God.
II. THE JUDGMENT OF GOD.
1. Its Author. "Therefore thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I am against thee, O Tyre, and will cause many nations to come up against thee, as the sea causeth his waves to come up." God himself in his providence brought upon Tyre the punishment of her extreme selfishness and cruel boastings against fallen Jerusalem. Ill fares it with any city which has the Lord against it.
2. Its instruments. "I will cause many nations to come up against thee... I will bring upon Tyre Nebuchadnezzar King of Babylon," etc. (Ver. 7). Nebuchadnezzar had conquered many kingdoms. He was a "king of kings," and the army which he led against Tyre was recruited from "many nations." He was the first instrument employed by God to punish Tyre for her sin. And ages afterwards, Alexander and his forces inflicted terrible sufferings and losses upon the people of the proud city.
3. Its nature. Several features of the punishment of Tyre are exhibited by the prophet.
(1) Siege. "They shall destroy the walls of Tyre, and break down her towers... and he shall make forts against thee," etc. (Vers. 8-10). Nebuchadnezzar besieged insular Tyre for thirteen years. Very great must have been the miseries of the people during those weary years.
(2) Spoliation. "She shall become a spoil of the nations... and they shall make a spoil of thy riches, and make a prey of thy merchandise," etc. (Ver. 12). The riches in which they had prided themselves, and in the hope of the increase of which they had exulted in the downfall of Jerusalem, would be seized and possessed by others. The beautiful houses of their merchant-princes would be destroyed and their city ruined. (3) Slaughter. "Her daughters which are in the field shall be slain with the sword... he shall slay thy people with the sword." The daughters in the field are the cities on the mainland which were dependent on Tyre, or submitted to her supremacy, with special reference, perhaps, to Palaetyrus, or Old Tyre, "the suburb of the insular Tyre, standing on the shore." We are not aware of any record of the extent of the slaughter by Nebuchadnezzar and his army. Probably it was very great. When Alexander besieged Tyre, fearful was the slaughter of the inhabitants thereof. "Besides eight thousand men slain in the attack, two thousand were crucified after the city was taken" (Kitto). (4) Complete and irretrievable overthrow. "They shall destroy the walls of Tyre, and break down her towers: I will also scrape her dust from her, and make her a bare rock," etc. (Vers. 4, 5,14, 19-21). This part of the prophecy was not fully accomplished until centuries had passed away. Nebuchadnezzar, as we have said, besieged Tyre for thirteen years. He would be able soon to take Palaetyrus, on the mainland, which was dismantled, if not entirely destroyed, by him. Whether at the end of the thirteen years he took the island-city is uncertain. The suggestions of the 'Speaker's Commentary' on the point seem to us very probably correct: "Nebuchadnezzar was indeed determined not to leave this city, once the vassal of the Assyrian, independent, and persevered until Tyre gave in. Nebuchadnezzar may then have insisted upon his right, as a conqueror, of entering the island-city with his army; but the conquest was probably barren of the fruits he had expected so far as spoil was concerned (cf. Ezekiel 29:18), and Nebuchadnezzar, having asserted his majesty by reducing the city to vassalage, may have been content not to push matters further, and have willingly turned his forces in another direction." More than two centuries later, Alexander besieged Tyre. At that time the city "was completely surrounded by prodigious walls, the loftiest portion of which, on the side fronting the mainland, reached a height of not less than a hundred and fifty feet." The island on which it was built was nearly half a mile from the mainland. And as Alexander had no fleet, its situation made his task a difficult one. The difficulty was thus overcome: The harbor of Tyre to the north being "blockaded by the Cyprians, and that to the south by the Phoenicians," afforded Alexander an opportunity for constructing the enormous mole, or breakwater, which joined the island to the mainland. This mole was two hundred feet wide, and was composed of the ruins of Palaetyrus, the stones and the timber and the dust of which were thus laid in the midst of the waters (Ver. 12). Across the mole Alexander marched his forces, and soon made himself master of insular Tyre. Having done so, in addition to the ten thousand who were slain, thirty thousand of the inhabitants, including slaves, free women, and free children, were sold for slaves. But even after the Chaldean invasion under Nebuchadnezzar, Tyre" never regained independence, but was great and wealthy under Persian, Greek, and Roman masters.... It was never again a world-power, capable of raising itself again in its own might against the kingdom of God. In the present condition of Tyre we note the fulfillment of Ezekiel's predictions. In A.D. it formed part of the conquests of Khalif Omar, who, however, dealt leniently with the inhabitants, and the city for many years enjoyed a moderate degree of prosperity. The ruin of Tyre was due to the Sultan of Egypt, who, in the year A.D. , took possession, the inhabitants (who were Christians) having abandoned it without a struggle. The Saracens thereupon laid it in ruins, and did not allow the former inhabitants to return. In the first half of the fourteenth century it was visited by Sir John Mandeville, who found it in that state of desolation in which it has remained ever since" ('Speaker's Commentary'). Of modern travelers we quote the testimony of M. Renan as to its present state: "No great city which has played so important a part for centuries has left fewer traces than Tyre. Ezekiel was a true prophet when he said of Tyre,' They shall seek for thee, and thou shalt be no more' (Ezekiel 26:21). A traveler who was not informed of its existence might pass along the whole coast, from La Kasmie to Ras-el-Ain, without being aware that he was close to an ancient city.... Tyre is now the ruin of a town built with ruins."
III. THE LAMENTATION FOR TYRE. (Vers. 15-18.)
1. The deep and widespread impression made by her destruction. "Thus saith the Lord God to Tyre; Shall not the isles shake at the sound of thy fall," etc.? (Ver. 15). The coasts and islands of the Mediterranean are represented as shaking at the fall of the proud city, because her fall would denote the instability of all things. When Tyre is overthrown, what place can be deemed secure?
2. The consternation produced by her destruction. "Then all the princes of the sea shall come down from their thrones," etc. (Ver. 16). By "the princes of the sea," we should probably understand the chief men in "the settlements of the Phoenicians in the Sidonian and Tyrian period along the various coasts, in Cyprus, Rhodes, Malta; in Spain, Sicily, Sardinia," etc. These are represented as changing their splendid robes for the garb of mourners, as coming down from their exalted and luxurious seats and sitting upon the ground. Persons in great affliction or sorrow are frequently represented as seated or prostrate upon the ground (cf. Job 2:8, 13; Isaiah 3:26; Isaiah 47:1; Lamentations 2:10). Shakespeare, in 'King John,' makes Constance say -
"My grief's so great, 3. The lamentation awakened by her destruction. "And they shall take up a lamentation for thee, and say to thee, How art thou destroyed," etc.! Thus would the fall of the prosperous island-city be bewailed by neighboring peoples. CONCLUSION. Certain lessons stand out with impressive clearness and force. 1. The insecurity of worldly greatness, glory, and power. 2. The heinousness of the sin of selfishness. 3. The evanescence of the prosperity which is attained without regard to the rights or interests of others. - W.J.
3. The lamentation awakened by her destruction. "And they shall take up a lamentation for thee, and say to thee, How art thou destroyed," etc.! Thus would the fall of the prosperous island-city be bewailed by neighboring peoples.
CONCLUSION. Certain lessons stand out with impressive clearness and force.
1. The insecurity of worldly greatness, glory, and power.
2. The heinousness of the sin of selfishness.
3. The evanescence of the prosperity which is attained without regard to the rights or interests of others. - W.J.
I. THE FACT UPON WHICH THIS JEALOUSY WAS BASED, i.e. THE FORMER PROSPERITY OF JERUSALEM. According to the poetical language of the prophet, Jerusalem had been "the gate of the peoples." In the reign of Solomon especially, and to some extent subsequently, the metropolis of the Jewish people had been an emporium of commerce. Its situation in some degree fitted it to be the center of communication between the great Eastern countries, and Egypt on the south, and the Mediterranean and its traffic Westwards. We are not accustomed to think of Jerusalem in this light; but this verse in Ezekiel's prophecies brings before our minds the unquestionable fact that there was a time when this city was a mart in which the surrounding nations were wont to exchange their produce and their commodities.
II. THE REJOICING TO WHICH THIS JEALOUSY LED, i.e. IN THE DOWNFALL OF JERUSALEM. "She is broken," was the exulting exclamation of Type upon beholding the distress of her rival. That Jerusalem deserved her fate there is no room for doubting; yet it was not generous in Type thus to triumph over the misfortunes and calamities of her neighbor. The wealth and prosperity of the Jewish capital was about to end; the days of her glory were over; her streets were to be forsaken; the caravans of the merchants were no more to thread their way through the proud gates of the city. And in this change, in these disasters, Type rejoiced.
III. THE HOPE WITH WHICH THIS JEALOUSY WAS ASSOCIATED, i.e. THE EXTENSION OF THE PROSPERITY OF TYRE. The Phoenician city anticipated that she would gain what Jerusalem was about to lose: "I shall be replenished, now that she is laid waste." The greatness, opulence, and renown of Tyre were such that it seems scarcely credible that her prosperity could be affected by anything which could happen to a small and inland capital such as Jerusalem. Yet it is evident that the Tyrian spirit was a spirit of selfishness, exclusiveness, and grasping. Nothing was too great for Tyre's ambition, nothing too small to be beneath her notice and cupidity.
IV. THE MEANNESS WHICH THIS JEALOUSY REVEALED. In what follows Ezekiel displays the pomp, splendor, and magnificence of the great seaport of Phoenicia; it is strange that he should put in the forefront of his address to Tyre this imputation of littleness. There is a reason for this; it may be that the prophet spoke, not only as a patriot who resented Type's jealousy, but as a religious teacher for whom moral distinctions were all-important, and for whom a moral fault was of more consequence than all material splendor.
V. THE DISPLEASURE WHICH THIS JEALOUSY EXCITED IN THE MIND OF THE DIVINE KING AND JUDGE. "I," says God - "I am against thee, O Tyre!" The city which had envied and hated his own Jerusalem, the seat of his worship, and the metropolis of his chosen; the city which was pained by Jerusalem's prosperity, and which rejoiced in Jerusalem's fall, - incurred the indignation as well as the disapproval of the Most High. For dispositions were revealed discreditable to human hate, ire, and repugnant to Divine purity. Because Tyre was against Jerusalem, the Lord God was against Tyre. - T.
1 John 2:15-17, brought out the meaning of the world which is forbidden to Christians. "Now to define what worldliness is. Remark, first, that it is determined by the spirit of a life, not the objects with which the life is conversant. It is not the ' flesh,' nor the 'eye,' nor 'life,' which are forbidden, but it is the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eye, and the pride of life.... Look into this a little closer. The lust of the flesh. Here is affection for the outward: pleasure, that which affects the senses only: the flesh, that enjoyment which comes from the emotions of an hour, be it coarse or be it refined. The pleasure of wine or the pleasure of music, so far as it is only a movement of the flesh. Again, the lust of the eye. Here is affection for the transient, for the eye can only gaze on form and color; and these are things that do not last. Once more, the pride of life. Here is affection for the unreal - men's opinion, the estimate which depends upon wealth, rank, circumstances. Worldliness, then, consists in these three things - attachment to the outward, attachment to the transitory, attachment to the unreal, in opposition to love for the inward, the eternal, the true; and the one of these affections is necessarily expelled by the other." In this view of worldliness, Type was representative of the world. She gloried in her secure situation, her commercial prosperity, her great riches, etc. We remark that the exultation of the world over the Church -
I. IS BITTER AND BOASTFUL. "Tyre hath said against Jerusalem, Aha! she is broken that was the gate of the peoples" etc. (Ver. 2). As we have already shown (in our homily on the chapter as a whole), this unseemly triumphing arose from the selfishness which anticipated that the fall of Jerusalem would promote the commercial prosperity of Type. But probably this was not the only reason for the rejoicing of the Tyriana in the ruin of the sacred city. The antagonism between their religion and the religion of the Jews would increase their joy at the downfall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple. "Only thirty-four years before the destruction of Jerusalem," says Mr. Twisleton, "commenced the celebrated reformation of Josiah ( B.C. 622). This momentous religious revolution (2 Kings 22., 23.) fully explains the exultation and malevolence of the Tyrians. In that reformation Josiah had heaped insults on the gods who were the objects of Tyrian veneration and love; he had consumed with fire the sacred vessels used in their worship; he had burnt their images and defiled their high places - not excepting even the high place near Jerusalem, which Solomon the friend of Hiram had built to Ashtoreth the queen of heaven, and which for more than three hundred and fifty years had been a striking memorial of the reciprocal good will which once united the two monarchs and the two nations. Indeed, he seemed to have endeavored to exterminate their religion, for in Samaria (2 Kings 23:20) he had slain upon the altars of the high places all their priests. These acts, although in their ultimate results they may have contributed powerfully to the diffusion of the Jewish religion, must have been regarded by the Tyriaus as a series of sacrilegious and abominable outrages; and we can scarcely doubt that the death in battle of Josiah at Megiddo, and the subsequent destruction of the city and temple of Jerusalem, were hailed by them with triumphant joy as instances of Divine retribution in human affairs." Moreover, it is very probable that some of the predictions of the Hebrew prophets concerning Tyro in its relation to Jerusalem were known to the people of the island-city, and increased the bitterness of their joy over the calamities of the Jews. "In the Messianic announcements, the homage of Tyre to Jerusalem, and its incorporation into the kingdom of God, were expressly celebrated" (see, as examples, Psalm 45:12; Psalm 87:4; Isaiah 23:18). "Without doubt," says Hengstenberg, "these bold hopes of Zion were known in Tyre, and caused much bad blood in the proud queen of the sea." And still there are those who, worldly in spirit, are bitter against the Church of God. They deride its noblest enterprises; they ridicule its vital beliefs; they mock its most cherished hopes. If Christians are rigid and scrupulous in their religious duties and observances, the world reproaches them for their narrowness and Pharisaism. If Christians stumble and fall, the world rejoices in their overthrow and scoffs at their religion. But the exultation of the world over the Church -
II. IS VAIN. The things from which the world draws its satisfaction, and upon which it rests its hopes, are uncertain and delusive. Tyre rejoiced in her security, her riches, her commercial prosperity; but these things failed her in her time of need. That these things are unstable, impermanent, transient, is a truth which no one attempts to deny. How vain, then, to exult in the ascendancy which such things give! The world's triumph, even at the best, is more in appearance than reality. "The world passeth away, and the lust thereof." But the essential elements of the Church's life are real and abiding verities. The Church may be brought down very low, but it shall rise again. Its course leads on to splendid triumph. But the ungodly world shall sink. Its rank and fiches, its pomp and power and pleasures shall pass away as the dreams of night fade before the light and the activities of day.
III. IS OBSERVED BY THE LORD GOD. He knew and took notice of the cruel triumph of proud Tyro over prostrate Jerusalem. He made known the fact of that triumph to his servant Ezekiel on the banks of the Chebar. He still observes the attitude of the world towards his Church. No persons or powers can exalt themselves against his people without attracting the notice of his ever-watchful eye (cf. 2 Chronicles 16:9; Psalm 34:15, 16; 1 Peter 3:12, 13).
IV. WILL BE PUNISHED BY THE LORD GOD. "Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I am against thee, O Tyre," etc. (Vers. 3, 4). The Lord here proclaims himself against Tyre, and threatens to strip the proud city of her boasted pomp, prosperity, and power. He would break down her defenses, level her to the ground, make an utter end of her, leaving nothing but the bare rock on which she had stood. The defenses of the irreligious world are subtle policies, material riches, social power, etc. These are all impermanent things. And should they endure, the time comes when they will fail to meet the needs of those who put their trust in them. If no other punishment awaited the votaries of this world, surely this would be a heart-crushing, a heart-breaking one, to awake to the sad realization of the stern truth that the objects for which they had striven in life, which they had looked upon as their chief good, and in which they had trusted, were vain, having no power or fitness to answer the deep cravings of their souls, or to help them in the awful needs of their being. "Whose confidence shall break in sunder, and whose trust is a spider's web;" "And their hope shall be the giving up of the ghost." - W.J.
I. THE GREATNESS OF TYRE. The elements of this greatness, the causes which conspired to produce it, were many and various. There may be noticed:
1. Its commanding maritime situation. Partly upon a rock, partly upon the mainland, Tyre sat - a queen. To the east, the north, the south, were countries which poured their produce into the Phoenician port; before her, to the west, were the waters of the great sea, upon whose shores lay the great states and cities of the ancient world. Tyre was thus the highway of the nations.
2. Its commerce. This was carried on with all the known countries accessible to the Tyrian fleets. Her supremacy upon the sea gave Tyre a foremost position among the nations; her adventurous mariners not only visited every port of the Mediterranean, they passed the Pillars of Hercules, and traded with "the islands of the West."
3. Its wealth. Every nation paid tribute to Tyre. The exchange, the mart, of the world, it acquired and retained riches scarcely equaled.
4. Its splendor - such as is described by Ezekiel - was the natural result of the opulence of its enterprising merchants and sea-captains.
5. Its political power was out of all proportion to its territory, its population; its alliance was sought, and its hostility was dreaded.
II. THE ENEMIES OF TYRE. These were many and formidable. It is a sad symptom of human depravity that unusual prosperity should excite general dislike, jealousy, envy, and ill will. "Many nations came up against Tyre, as the sea causeth his waves to come up." But some of these adversaries Tyre could treat with derision or contempt. This was not so, however, with Babylon. A different type of civilization and national life was no doubt exhibited in the great kingdom of the East; but the population and armies of Babylonia were enormous, and the resources of the kingdom all but inexhaustible. When the King of Babylon turned his arms against Tyre, brave and powerful as was the regal city by the sea, there was no disguising the fact that the time of trial and of danger had come.
III. THE SIEGE AND CONQUEST OF TYRE. It is matter of history that the prophet's predictions were fulfilled. Nebuchadnezzar King of Babylon came up against Tyre, and, notwithstanding its boasted impregnability, laid siege to it, and directed against it all the vast military resources of his kingdom. For long years the siege was maintained. The besieged, having open communication by sea, were able to withstand the assaults of the enemy; and it was only the patience and indomitable perseverance of the Babylonians that gave them the final victory.
IV. THE DESTRUCTION AND DESOLATION OF TYRE. A more striking and detailed prediction than this was never uttered; and never was prediction more strikingly and literally fulfilled. The downfall of Tyre was complete. The walls and towers of the city were broken down. The rock upon which she stood - a stronghold of defiance - was left bare and desolate. The nets of the solitary fisher were spread where magnificence and revelry had reigned. Tyre became a spoil to the nations. Her dependencies were vanquished and destroyed with her; in her they had trusted, in her favor they had basked, and in her ruin they were overwhelmed. The destruction and desolation were in awful contrast to the light and glory, the splendor and power, of bygone days.
APPLICATION. The time of national greatness and prosperity is to any people a time of trial. Then especially does it behoove a nation to beware of pride and self-confidence. For the rebellious, contumacious, and ungodly there is assuredly retribution prepared. The King of all is God of hosts, and he never wants means and agencies to carry out his own righteous and judicial purposes. Resistance to God is vain; it can last but for a short time. And every nation must learn that the Lord is God alone. - T.
I. THE ENEMY - THE KING OF BABYLON. Tyre had many foes, but at most of them she could afford to laugh, for they had no power to carry their hostility into effect. But Nebuchadnezzar, the king of kings, was an enemy that none could despise. His power and his resources were such as to render him formidable even to the mightiest. Flushed with previous successes, confident in the irresistible force of his arms, this puissant monarch, in unconscious obedience to Divine behests, turned his sword against the proud mistress of the seas.
II. THE HOSTILE ARMY AND THE APPARATUS OF WAR. Ezekiel describes, with the accuracy and minuteness of one who beheld it, the force which the King of Babylon directed against Tyre. We see the dreaded conqueror of the nations advance from the north-east "with horses, and with chariots, and with horsemen, and a company of much people." The undertaking was only possible to a power which commanded abundance of military resources, and which was able to bring up successive reinforcements, and to continue warlike operations through the changing fortunes and the long delays often incident to ancient campaigns. All that was necessary for his purpose, Nebuchadnezzar knew, before he commenced operations, that he could command.
III. THE SIEGE. The several stages of this enterprise are described as by an eyewitness. First, engagements take place with the neighboring powers dependent upon and in alliance with Tyre. These are defeated, and their opposition is subdued. Then forts are constructed and a mount is raised from which the besiegers can direct their attack against the beleaguered city. Further, battering-engines are brought forward to play against the walls, and the towers are assaulted by the battle-axes of the besiegers. The dust raised by the galloping horses marks where the cavalry repel the sally from the garrison. The sights of warfare rise before the eye, its sounds salute and deafen the ear. Through long years these military maneuvers go forward with changing fortune; yet leaving the city weaker and less able, even with the open communication seawards, to sustain the siege.
IV. THE ASSAULT, CONQUEST, AND SUBJUGATION. At length the fatal breach is made in the city wall, and we seem to see the victorious army rush forward to overpower the gallant but now disheartened defenders. The walls shake at the noise of the horsemen, the wagons, and the chariots, as the conquerors pour into the streets of the city. The conquering troops, mad with long-delayed success, ride over and cut down every armed man they meet, and even slay the defenseless inhabitants with the sword. The famous city, which had boasted itself invincible and impregnable, is taken and occupied by the Babylonian forces.
V. THE SPOILING AND DESTRUCTION. The riches and merchandise fall a prey into the hands of the victors, who are satiated with booty. The monuments of Tyrian pride and grandeur are leveled in the dust. The fortifications are demolished, the pleasant houses, luxurious abodes of merchant-princes, are pulled down, and the stone and timber are flung into the sea. Precious goods are appropriated or wantonly destroyed. As ever in warfare, so here, the spoils go to the conquerors, Vae victis!
VI. THE DESOLATION AND WASTE. In those palaces and halls were once heard the songs of joy and of love, of feasting and of mirth - the strains of music vibrating from harp and lyre, and breathing from the tuneful flute. Now a mournful silence reigns, broken only by the cry of the sea-bird or the plash of the wind-smitten waves. In those harbors rode but lately the fleets laden with the commerce of the world, and Tyrian merchants gazed with pride upon their noble and richly laden argosies. Now the fisherman spreads his nets upon the deserted rocks, and looks wistfully over the forsaken roadsteads and the waste of waters where no sail curves before the wind or glitters in the sunshine. "The Lord has spoken it," and what he has said has come to pass. The Tyrian splendor and opulence were of this world, and they are no more. Sic transit gloria mundi! - T.
I. DIVINE PREDICTIONS ARE ALWAYS RIGHTEOUS IN THEIR SUBSTANCE. The predictions of pretentious men are usually trivial - the effect of a prurient curiosity. God's revelations of the future are always concerned in the rebuke of sin and in the furtherance of righteousness. As in the manufacture of cordage in our Government arsenals a worsted thread of a distinct color runs through every yard of rope, so through all God's dealings with men this principle of righteousness is ever prominent. What does not serve a righteous end is not of God.
II. DIVINE PREDICTIONS ARE CLEAR IN THEIR ANNOUNCEMENTS. There is no ambiguity, no double meaning, here. No one is left in doubt whether the event to happen is to be favorable or unfavorable. No one is left in doubt what place or people is the subject-matter of the prophecy. In this case every circumstance is narrated with as much minuteness of detail as if it were a piece of history acted before the eye of the speaker. The place to be overthrown, its peculiar situation and structure, its former greatness and splendor, the name of the invader, all his military enginery and tactics, the steps by which he should proceed, and the extent of his triumph, are announced beforehand with a dearness and definiteness that can only come from a superhuman source. The contents of the prophecy are often so unlikely in themselves that no human foresight, however shrewd, would conceive such issues; and the fulfillment of such improbable predictions most plainly indicate the operation of a Divine mind.
III. DIVINE PREDICTIONS ARE CERTAIN IN THEIR FULFILMENT. "I the Lord have spoken it, saith the Lord." The true prophet of Jehovah is modest and self-oblivious. He does not speak in his own name. He keeps himself in the background. His object is to exalt his Master and to gain homage for him. The predictions of God always take effect. For with God there is no future. He sees things distant as though they were near. Looking along the vista of ages, he perceives how every event unfolds from preceding event. The history of men and of nations is, to his eye, drawn out in long perspective. And his word is the mightiest force in the universe. "He spake, and it was done;" "By the word of the Lord were the heavens made;" "By the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked."
IV. DIVINE PREDICTIONS ARE MERCIFUL IN THEIR INTENTIONS. Wherefore did God declare beforehand this coming suffering and disaster? Was it not enough to endure the calamity when the destined hour came? As the main design was to promote righteousness, this shall be done, if possible, in a way of mercy. The prediction would serve to instruct and console the Jews in captivity. It would be beneficial for them to be convinced that Jehovah ruled in all the affairs of men. If the prophecy reached the ears of the King of Babylon, it would serve a good purpose for him to know that he was a servant of the King of heaven, that his army was under the control of God, and that the success of his military expeditions depended on the good will of Jehovah. And if the prophecy should be repeated in the ears of the Tyriaus, who can tell that some among them may repent and opportunely escape from the catastrophe? To foreshadow the dread event is an act of kindness, which the humble and teachable would appreciate. - D.
I. THE GRIEF AND LAMENTATION OF THOSE WHO SHARED IN THE CITY'S PROSPERITY AND GREATNESS, AND WHO LOSE AND SUFFER BY ITS FALL. Some survived the destruction of Tyre, to cherish the memory of days of wealth and feasting, haughtiness and boasting. Some escaped with life, but with the loss of all which to them made life precious. And others, who had brought their merchandise to the great Phoenician emporium, now found no market for the commodities they produced. For all such material loss gave sincerity and even bitterness to their mourning and woe.
II. THE GRIEF AND LAMENTATION OF THOSE WHO WITNESSED THE CITY'S DESTRUCTION, AND WHO WERE IMPRESSED AND APPALLED BY THE SPECTACLE. Ezekiel himself was one of these. Even the conquerors could scarcely fail to feel the pathos of the situation, and to cherish some sympathy for the city whose splendor and power their arms had brought to an end. The ruin of Tyre was a loss to the nations of the world. Embodying, as the city did, the world-spirit, civic and commercial greatness, it must needs have awakened poignant feelings of desolation in the hearts of many who had no personal, material interest in Tyrian commerce. The lesson of the frailty and perishableness of earthly greatness, even if its moral side was missed, could not but impress the historical imagination.
III. THE GRIEF AND LAMENTATION OF THOSE WHO IN AFTER-TIME INQUIRE FOR THE CITY WHOSE GREATNESS AND SPLENDOR ARE RECORDED IN TRADITION AND IN HISTORY. The traveler who, impelled by curiosity or by historical interest, seeks for the site of Tyre the magnificent, learns that every trace of the city has vanished. Some ruined, deserted cities, famous in story, leave behind them some ruin, some memorial, to which imagination may attach the traditions of the past. But for Tyre the traveler can only inquire from the waves that beat upon the shore, from the rocks where the fishermen spread their nets. "Though thou be sought for, yet shalt thou never be found again, saith the Lord God."
IV. THE TEMPORARY AND DEPARTED SPLENDORS OF EARTH SUGGEST BY CONTRAST ETERNAL AND UNFADING GLORY. Who can contemplate the ruin of such a city as Tyre without being reminded of "the city which hath foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God"? which the glory of God illumines with nightless splendor, and into which are brought the glory and honor of the nations? - T.
one affects, in some measure, the whole.
I. THERE IS MUTUAL INTERDEPENDENCE OF NATIONS. Nations, like individuals, have been incarnations of selfishness. They have tried to aggrandize for self alone, but they have failed, and in most cases the failure has been a disaster. In respect to material property obtained through commerce, it is emphatically true that the prosperity must be shared by others. God will not allow any nation to retain every particle of its riches within itself. To be most prosperous, it must make others partakers of its wealth. The real welfare of one nation may be the welfare of all. Stable prosperity is diffusive.
II. MATERIAL PROSPERITY IS POWER. It brings position, honor, and extensive influence. The isles and lands with which Tyre traded held her in high repute. Many of the traders in other parts grew rich, gained powerful influence, became in their circles princes, and sat upon thrones. It is power, less potent than knowledge - power of an inferior sort - yet it is a perceptible power. It gives leisure for investigation and discovery. It can purchase stores of good. It can be converted into various forms of utility.
III. MATERIAL PROSPERITY KS VERY INSECURE. It often awakens the envy and the cupidity of others. It germinates pride in its possessor, and not pride only, but also arrogance and oppressiveness. In the natural course of things reaction appears. The oppressed classes combine and rise. Offence given to another nation in a spirit of overbearing arrogance awakens resentment, provokes vengeance. The wealthy nation is over-confident in its security and in its natural defenses. But a little shrewdness or contrivance undermines every natural defense, or else confidence in men disappoints, and in an hour the fancied security is dissipated.
IV. THE FALL OF ONE NATION IS A GRIEF TO MANY NATIONS. "They shall take up a lamentation for thee, and say, How art thou destroyed, that wast inhabited of seafaring men, the renowned city!" Some selfish peoples would rejoice that a rival and a menace was overthrown. But others would be plunged into profound grief. Their traffic would be diminished, perhaps destroyed. Still worse, if Tyre, so mighty, so well-defended, be overthrown, what security have we? The downfall of Tyre shook the foundations of other empires, shook the hearts of many thoughtful men. It was evident that every kind of material defense was a broken reed.
V. TRUE LIFE IS THE ONLY TRUE GLORY. "I shall set glory in the land of the living." The only permanent life is a righteous life. Other life is ephemeral. This abides, this is eternal. Righteousness not only "exalts a nation," it consolidates and establishes it also. The" land of the living" is the empire of righteousness - the true holy land. The kingdom which is built on righteous principles is the kingdom of Christ. Every other kingdom has wood and hay and stubble intermixed with the gold and silver of sterling goodness. So far as righteous life prevails in any land on earth, so far will true and permanent glory abide there. All other foundations, all other defense, can and will be shaken. - D.
fall, etc.? These verses suggest the following observations.
I. THE JUDGMENTS OF GOD ARE SOMETIMES SO AWFUL AS TO FILL THE EXALTED AND MIGHTY WITH AMAZEMENT AND DISMAY. (Vers. 15, 16; cf. Jeremiah 4:7-9.) The isles are the islands of the Mediterranean, and places on the coast also are perhaps referred to. The princes are those of the various island and sea-board settlements, and the wealthy merchant-princes of prosperous commercial centers. Thus it was said of Tyre, "whose merchants are princes, whose traffickers are the honorable of the earth" (Isaiah 23:8). The fall of Tyre would cause them extreme astonishment and trembling for their own safety. The Divine retributions sometimes appall even the stoutest hearts, and lead the highly placed and powerful to realize (at least for a time) their weakness.
II. THE JUDGMENTS OF GOD SOMETIMES AWAKEN THE LAMENTATIONS OF THOSE WHO BEHOLD THEM. "They shall take up a lamentation for thee," etc. (Ver. 17). This verse seems to suggest that the fall of Tyre would be bewailed in mournful threnodies. It is instructive to notice what it was which the neighboring states lamented in the downfall of the island-city. The things which are particularized in the text are such as these: the eclipse of brilliant renown, "How art thou destroyed... the renowned city!" the destruction of distinguished power, "which was strong in the sea;" the overthrow of one which had been so formidable to others, "which caused their terror to be on all that haunt it." Worldly minds mourn the less of worldly prosperity. "When Jerusalem, the holy city, was destroyed" says Matthew Henry, "there were no such lamentations for it; it was nothing to those that passed by (Lamentations 1:12); but when Tyre, the trading city, fell, it was universally bemoaned. Note: Those who have the world in their hearts lament the loss of great men more than the loss of good men" But the ions patriot and prophet Jeremiah bewailed the destruction of Jerusalem in his unrivalled elegies. As Dr. Milman observes, "Never did city suffer a more miserable fate, never was ruined city lamented in language so exquisitely pathetic"
III. THE JUDGMENTS OF GOD SHOULD LEAD THOSE WHO BEHOLD THEM TO EXERCISE SERIOUS REFLECTION. Catastrophes like the fall of Tyre startle peoples and nations into short-lived concern or even alarm. They ought to lead to sober thought and earnest self-examination. They are fitted to impress salutary lessons and to direct to a salutary course of action. May we not say that they are designed to do so? "When God punishes, he does it not merely on account of the ungodly, who must feel such punishment, but also on account of other ungodly persons, that they may become better by such examples." This judgment upon Tyre was fitted to teach:
1. The limitation of human greatness. Unquestionably, Tyre was great; but she was not great enough to stand against the forces of Nebuchadnezzar, or, in after-times, against the might of Alexander. The greatest of human states is pitiably small when God arrays himself against it (cf. Ver. 3).
2. The uncertainty of secular prosperity. Tyro was a rich and prosperous city; but where now are its riches, its great commerce, etc.? Fresh illustrations arise almost daily of the unreliableness of secular success, and the uncertain tenure of temporal possessions. "For riches certainly make themselves wings, like an eagle that flieth toward heaven."
3. The insecurity of those who seem most firmly established. The proud island-city seemed most securely founded and fortified. Her situation was a source of great strength and safety against any adversary. She was able to offer long and stubborn resistance to the powerful and victorious King of Babylon. But she was conquered; and now she is utterly demolished. The very strongest and most stable of cities or empires may slowly, decline into insignificance and feebleness, or speedily reel into ruin.
4. The ruinousness of sin. The intense selfishness and cruel boasting of Tyre against Jerusalem led to her overthrow. No state or kingdom can be strong apart from righteousness. Vice, injustice, oppression, cruelty, will bring the mightiest city or empire to ruin. "The throne is established by righteousness;" "Take away the wicked from before the king, and his throne shall be established in righteousness;" "The king that faithfully judgeth the poor, his throne shall be established forever." Lessons such as these the fall of Tyro should have impressed upon those who were affected by it. Others' miseries should be our monitors. When God's judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world should learn righteousness (Isaiah 26:9). - W.J.
set glory in the land of the living. Accepting this rendering as expressing the meaning of the original, and as applicable to Judah, we see in it -
I. A REMARKABLE DESIGNATION OF THE HOLY LAND. It is here called "the land of the living." Hengstenberg views "the land of the living" as standing in "contrast to Sheol, the land. of the dead, to which in the foregoing the inhabitants of Tyre are assigned." The expression seems to refer particularly to Palestine. The ' Speaker's Commentary' says, "The land of the living is the land of the true God, as opposed to the land of the dead, to which is gathered the glory of the world." And Matthew Henry, "The holy land is the land of the living; for none but holy souls are properly living souls." There was propriety in applying this designation to that land, because there:
1. The living God was known and worshipped. "In Judah is God known: his Name is great in Israel," etc. (Psalm 76:1, 2); "My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God," etc. (Psalm 42:2). The people of other lands had riches, honors, power; but they were idolaters. Their gods were no gods, but dead idols. In the highest sense no land can be called living whose deity or deities are dead, unreal, mere human inventions. To the people of Judah and Jerusalem the living and true God had revealed himself through law-giver, prophet, and. poet, and through his hand in their history as a nation.
2. The living Word was possessed. The sacred writings of the Jews are far superior to those of heathen nations. They were true: "the Word of truth" (Psalm 119:43, 142, 160). They were vital and lasting: ".living oracles" (Acts 7:38); "the Word of God, which liveth and abideth" (1 Peter 1:23). They were life-giving . "Thy Word hath quickened, me" (Psalm 119:50, 93). Moreover, their Scriptures were light-giving: "Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path" (Psalm 119:105, 130).
3. The living ordinances were observed. The pure worship of the living and true God was instituted and practiced there, and, after the return from the Captivity, without any admixture of idolatry. Worship, when it is directed to the true Object and offered in a true spirit, develops and strengthens the noblest life of the worshipper. To the pious Jews the means of grace were as "wells of salvation." In these respects, then, Palestine was appropriately called "the land of the living." And with even greater fullness and force may the designation be applied to this favored land of ours.
II. AN ENCOURAGING ASSURANCE CONCERNING THE HOLY LAND. "I shall set glory in the land of the living" Let us look at this assurance:
1. In its primary signification. By the side of the utter overthrow of Tyre, Ezekiel predicts the renewal of the Divine favor and of prosperity to Jerusalem. Brief as the clause is, it indicates the return of the people of Judah from captivity to their own land, the rebuilding of the temple of Jehovah, the re-establishment of religious ordinances, and the restoration of the sacred city. And all these things were in due season accomplished. And thus interpreted, the assurance given in the text is the more significant from the fact that, after their return home, the Jews never obscured the Divine glory by the practice of idolatry. They neither gave God's glory to another nor his praise unto graven images.
2. In its other and grander signification. The text prophetically points to the coming of the Messiah and the proclamation of the glorious gospel. In the work of redemption by Jesus Christ we have a much more illustrious display of the glory of God than in the return of the exiles from Babylon to Jerusalem, the rebuilding of the temple, etc. And this glory is ever increasing amongst men as the triumphs of the gospel are multiplied. The enemies of the cause of God are being vanquished by truth and love, and his true kingdom is constantly being established more and more deeply and widely in this world. And at length "all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord."
CONCLUSION. Even in the darkest seasons of its history there is always a bright and inspiring hope for the true Church of God. By its unfaithfulness it may bring upon itself severe chastisement from its great Head; but it shall arise from the dust purified and strengthened, and go forward in its glorious course, "fair as the moon, clear as the sun, terrible as an army with banners." - W.J.