Ezekiel 26
Biblical Illustrator
I am against thee, O Tyrus.
That vengeance belongs unto God is emphatically declared in the book of God (Romans 12:19). And exemplary is the vengeance with which the Almighty has from time to time visited, not only those who had either arrayed themselves in hostility against Himself, His Word, or His servants; but those who had, without His sanction, either assailed or oppressed His people Nor individuals merely, but assemblages of men, — nay, cities, — and even nations, have often, in a sudden and calamitous overthrow, borne memorable testimony to the truth of these remarks. My text refers to an occasion of the kind. The Tyrians, so called from their chief city, Tyre, but also known by the name of Phoenicians, were at one time the most commercial, most opulent, and, at the same time, proudest people of the oriental world. Shipbuilding was prosecuted to a vast extent at this celebrated place. The carrying trade, too, of most of the mercantile world was in the hands of the Tyrians; besides which the city was the grand depot for the rarest and richest productions of distant nations. Gold, spices, and precious stones from Ethiopia, and the coast of Arabia; — emeralds, fine linen and embroidery work, coral, agate, and wool of delicate hue as well as texture, from Damascus and other parts of Syria; — chests of cedar for bestowing fragrancy on splendid apparel, and splendid apparel itself in ample quantity, from Mesopotamia and other bordering countries; — wheat, honey, oil, and balm, as well as wrought iron, steel, and aromatic gums, from various quarters of Palestine; — silver, iron, tin, and lead, from Tarshish, a place itself of considerable maritime trade; — brazen vessels, and, alas! slaves, from Ionia; — lambs, with other creatures used as provisions, from Arabia; — and ivory from sundry parts of the east: — all these commodities, useful, ornamental, costly, elegant, and various, brought in abundance into Tyre, were sold in her fairs and markets; whence they were exported, or otherwise dispersed, into different and distant countries, cities, and provinces. The consequence was, that Tyre spread itself till it was nearly twenty miles in circumference; containing, 'tis probable, nearly one million of souls. Further, such was the luxurious prodigality that sprung from the opulence which flowed in upon Tyre from her vast commerce, that not only were the people very generally clad in costly stuffs, dyed of the richest hues — among the rest the far-famed Tyrian purple — but even the very sails of their ships were "of fine linen, with embroidered work from Egypt." This minuteness in description has appeared scarcely less than necessary to a proper comprehension of the force of that declaration in the text: "I (God) am against thee, O Tyrus." Having learned from the detail how commercial, great, and splendid, how strong, opulent, and well-peopled a city Tyre was, we can easily deem how it was that the Tyrians, lifted up with pride, and full of self-confidence, had, in their hearts, set at nought the power of Almighty God, thinking that their mountain stood too strong for even His arm to shake. It was, in effect, we conclude, through such a spirit as this that they vaunted themselves over the Jewish people, and spoke scornfully of Jerusalem; though fully aware, at the same time, that the former were under the special patronage of God, and that the latter was the most favoured seat of His majesty and glory on earth. Such, then, as has been described, was the famous city of Tyre when the prophet Ezekiel was commanded to denounce it as marked out for particular judgment by the Most High. The reason is given in verse

2. Jerusalem had been taken and sacked by Nebuchadnezzar; but this should have been far, very far from ministering to the Tyrians occasion of self-gratulation and triumph. Yet did the latter not confine themselves to the manifestation of a selfish and brutal joy at the misfortunes of their Jewish neighbours — to a mere rejoicing over the circumstance that the trade of Jerusalem would from that time flow in Tyrian channels. There is but too full evidence of the fact that they went further than this — that they became ready purchasers of all the spoil which could be wrung from the unhappy people; and, not content even with thus abetting the cruelty and rapacity of others, bought with avidity the wretched Jews themselves — bought them in great numbers, and either kept or transferred them as slaves. "Therefore, thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I am against thee, O Tyrus." On the particulars of the denunciation that follows, a very long and awful one, I need not dwell. My design next carries me to view the accomplishment of those predictions of vengeance which Ezekiel was thus commissioned to pour forth against the devoted city. "Passing," says a celebrated traveller, "by Tyre, from curiosity only, I came to be a mournful witness of the truth of the prophecy that Tyre, the queen of nations (queen of the sea, too, was she styled); that Tyre, the queen of nations, should be a rock to fishers to dry their nets on: two wretched fishermen with miserable nets had just given over their occupations." "On the north side of Tyre," says another traveller, Maundrell, "there is an old Turkish ungarrisoned castle; besides which you see nothing here but a mere babel of broken walls, pillars, vaults, etc.; there not being so much as one entire house left. Its present inhabitants are only a few wretches harbouring themselves in the vaults, and subsisting themselves chiefly upon fishing; who seemed to be preserved in this place by Divine Providence, as a visible argument how God has fulfilled His word concerning Tyre." Has not God then shown Himself indeed "against Tyrus"? Be it our endeavour, next, to inquire into the use which we should ourselves, with God's help, make of this interesting piece of Bible history.

1. First, then, we may the more clearly discern the force of that scripture that "vengeance belongs to God" alone; to whom it must be left to repay evils or injuries done, derived, or wished against His people. The people of God are to repose their cause in the hands of God. And why are they so to act? Why, when the injuries which they receive are great and unquestionable, may they not themselves endeavour to take an adequate revenge? Because the truly religious temper, which only God can approve, is a temper that can have no affinity with a revengeful disposition. Neither is the retribution that God inflicts at all allied to revenge. It is the righteous chastisement of a lawgiver, whose statutes, holy, just, and good, have been inexcusably transgressed, and His authority set at nought, by those on whom the visitations fall.

2. We are taught from our subject that God will not fail to avenge, as far as shall be proper, His people, of their inveterate and irreclaimable adversaries.

3. We are taught by this scripture the severity of the Divine vengeance, when once the long-suffering of God has reached its limit, as well as the absolute impossibility of anyone's escaping or avoiding the terrible effects of the aroused anger of the Almighty Jehovah. Long may His patience be tried, ere that holy anger be excited, but when once kindled, how resistless and destructive is its power. Dreadful, truly, is their condition who, being still in their sins, have God "against" them. Alarming would be the danger of that traveller who, unarmed, should discover a lion advancing towards him, in a path out of which he could not turn to escape the terrible beast; with which again, personal contest would be to all appearance hopeless. Yet would some possibility of escape in such a case exist. Aid, unknown to the stranger, might be at hand. To another object, a different kind of prey, the attention of the savage creature might be drawn off. Presence of mind, aiding the happy execution of some sudden thought, might render the jeoparded stranger victorious, or put him in unlocked for safety. Nay, the lion might, unstung by hunger, or with the magnanimity that some have been fond of ascribing to this animal, allow the other, unhurt, quietly to pass him. Such things have indeed happened. But no probabilities exist — no possibility exists, that he against whom God cometh as an avenging adversary, will be able to avoid encountering Him, and perishing in the encounter. None. His purposes change not; their execution nought can hinder. And as for God's not troubling Himself about the evil that He cannot but see — think what is His own character. First, is He not of an infinite wisdom, purity, and holiness? Then think what He has done for sinful man, when a believer, repentant, and reformed; not because of man's own merit in being such, but when he is such; — given to him, that is, everlasting life in happiness and glory. Think of these things, and then let common sense answer the question, whether this all-holy and all-beneficent Being will or will not take notice of — will or will not tremendously punish — the unbelieving, impenitent, and unholy?

(W. M. Wade.)

Behold, I will bring upon Tyrus Nebuchadrezzar King of Babylon.
Sermons by Monday Club.
I. WHAT WERE THE GROUNDS OF HER JUDGMENT. She was judged for her sins.

1. She abused the privilege of civilisation. Tyre was the most cultivated state of antiquity, invented letters, weights and measures, money, arithmetic, the art of keeping accounts. She made her painting and sculpture and architecture and music and letters, all her skill and learning and refinement, instruments of corruption.

2. Tyre abused also the privilege of commerce. The Tyrians were a nation of merchants. But there are two classes of merchants. There are those who aim to develop new countries, to introduce new crops and arts and industries, to elevate races, to make commerce the servant of God. There are others who make everything bend to gain. A prince or an entire people may thus abuse the privilege of commerce. So Tyre abused her privilege.

3. She abused the privilege of her intimate connection with the Jewish people. In the enjoyment of this distinction she stood alone. Tyre was a bulwark of Israel, covering Zion as the wing of the cherub covered the altar. In the unscrupulousness of her lust of empire and gain she broke the "brotherly covenant," and when Jerusalem fell she rejoiced in her overthrow. To her unscrupulousness nothing was too sacred to be turned to profit.

II. THE DELAY OF THE JUDGMENT. The method of God, sometimes, is swift retribution, as with Sodom and Gomorrah, sometimes slow, as with Tyre. She was long in filling her measure of guilt. Over two hundred years before the siege of Nebuchadnezzar, Joel prophesied against her. A few years later Amos took up the prophecy, then Isaiah in , Ezekiel in 590, Zechariah in 487. Yet the judgment delayed. She suffered calamities, but always rose above them. The prophecies were not literally fulfilled. The Christian era came in. Tyre still stood; Shalmaneser had besieged it; Nebuchadnezzar had invested it by sea and land for thirteen years, and conquered it; Alexander the Great, in , after a frightful siege of six months, had stormed, captured, and destroyed it, massacring thousands of its inhabitants, and selling thirty thousand into slavery. But after each disaster it had arisen anew, In the days of , in the fifth century, it was still standing, a city powerful and opulent. It was still flourishing eight hundred years later, in the times of the Crusades. It was the seat of a Christian bishopric. It had stood over twenty-five hundred years. The prophecies against it were nearly two thousand years old. Was the Bible, then, which had proved true in prophecies against Egypt and Nineveh, and Edom and Judah, to be found at fault here?

III. THE LITERAL FULFILMENT OF JUDGMENT. In the year 1291 the Sultan of Egypt laid siege to the strong city of Ptolemais or Acre. Terror spread through the crusaders' kingdom. Tyre shared it. Capture meant massacre and slavery. Ptolemais fell on the very day on which the evil news reached Tyre. At vespers the people in mass forsook their city. In panic and haste they embarked upon their galleys, and went out never to return. The Mahometan came. He overthrew the city. He choked one of the matchless harbours with the ruins. He cast into the sea, statues and columns and the huge stones of warehouses and palaces. He set the last fire to her splendour. He scraped the rock. Standing amid the ruins we may see the dust and ashes of her conflagration, the broken marble columns beneath the sea and scattered upon the shore, the fishers' nets spread upon the rock, and feel, with every traveller who thus stands, that the last prophecy concerning her must also prove true, "That shalt be built no more."

1. The fate of Tyre is a warning to those engaged in traffic. Beware of the iniquity of traffic, of the pride, the luxury, the unscrupulousness, the atheism.

2. The fate of Tyre exalts the Word of God. If we look upon its ruins simply as a record of fulfilled prophecy, they force the conviction, This is the accomplishment of the Word of God, the one thing on earth amid the vast mutations of time, as passes unceasingly the glory of the world, which is unchangeable.

(Sermons by Monday Club.)

And they shall make a spoil of thy riches.
Scholars and artists have mourned for ages over the almost universal destruction of the works of ancient genius. I suppose that many a second-rate city, in the time of Christ, possessed a collection of works of surpassing beauty, which could not be equalled by all the specimens now existing that have been discovered. The Alexandrian library is believed to have contained a greater treasure of intellectual riches than has ever since been hoarded in a single city. These, we know, have all vanished from the earth. The Apollo Belvidere and the Venus de Medicis stand in almost solitary grandeur to remind us of the perfection to which the plastic art of the ancients had attained. The Alexandrian library furnished fuel for years for the baths of illiterate Moslems. I used myself frequently to wonder why it had pleased God to blot out of existence these magnificent productions of ancient genres It seemed to me strange that the pail of oblivion should thus be thrown over all to which man, in the flower of his age, had given birth. But the solution of this mystery is found, I think, in the remains of Herculaneum and Pompeii. We discover that every work of man was so penetrated by corruption, every production of genius was so defiled with uncleanness, that God, in introducing a better dispensation, determined to cleanse the world from the pollution of preceding ages. As when all flesh had corrupted his way, He purified the world by the waters of the flood, so, when genius had covered the earth with images of sin, He overwhelmed the works of ancient civilisation with a deluge of barbarism. It was too bad to exist: and He swept it all away.

(F. Wayland.)

And I will cause the noise of thy songs to cease.
Monday Club Sermons .
The classics tell of a lake called Avernus, which means "birdless." A poisonous vapour arises from its foul waters. Birds attempting to fly across it fall stupefied into its bosom. The eagle's wing becomes powerless, and gradually the proud bird sinks down, until its lifeless body floats upon the dark waters. The nightingale loses by degrees her power of song, and at length the sweet singer falls trembling into the waves of death. This may be a fiction; it is nevertheless a picture of life. There is a lake of sinful pleasure lying along our path. Heedless of it, many spread their wings of strength and beauty upon its outer shore. They think to go a little beyond its margin, and then return. But the spell is on them. Before they are aware the wing has lost its strength and the voice its charm. The momentum gained bears them onward and down until they sink in the dark and fatal flood.

(Monday Club Sermons .)

Shall not the isles shake at the sound of thy fall?
As when a great merchant breaks, all that he deals with are shocked by it, and begin to look about them. Or when they see one fail and become bankrupt, of a sudden, in debt a great deal more than he is worth, it makes them afraid for themselves, lest they should do so too. Thus the isles, which thought themselves safe in the embraces of the sea, when they see Tyrus fall, shall tremble and be troubled, saying, What will become of us?" And it is well, if they make this use of it, to take warning by it not to be secure, but to stand in awe of God and His judgments.

( M. Henry.)

I will make thee a terror, and thou shalt be no more.
All prophecy is moral, is based on moral considerations. What the prophet aims his threats against is not the prosperity of Tyre, but its pride of heart, which was rebellion against Jehovah — God over all. The humiliation of Tyre was morally as good as its ruins, in so far as it showed that there were higher forces in the world than itself.

(A. B. Davidson.).

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