Tyre

The Bible records how the world famous port of Tyre would become a place for the spreading of nets in Ezekiel 26:4,5,12+14.

This ancient power had opposed God’s people of Israel, and against it the prophet, in the name of God, had thundered Divine judgment. The Tyrians were told:
1. That Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, would conquer Tyre (vv. 7-1 1).
2. That the city would be made desolate (v. 4).
3. That it would be thrown into the sea (v. 12).
4. That it would become a place to spread nets upon (v. 14).
5. That its maritime supremacy would cease forever (v. 17).

The ancient site of Tyre is located in modern day Lebanon on the Mediterranean coast just north of Israel. It was originally an ancient port in which most of the trading done in the ancient world was carried out. Great wealth, hustle and bustle – many merchants and valuable merchandise passed through its streets. The Tyrian merchants spread themselves wide accross the ancient world, setting up trading posts and colonies which all connected back to the main hub, the great city of Tyre itself.

In the time of David, Hiram the then King of Tyre, made a friendly alliance with Israel. He even built King David a palace (which is thought to have been found recently by archeologist Eilat Mazar in Jerusalem. She has discovered a royal building built in Phoenician style which carries all the hallmarks of being the very palace that the Bible records Hiram built for David). Hiram was also instrumental in the building of the first Jewish Temple in Jerusalem during the time of Solomon (see 1 Kings 5:1-18).

The Bible then goes on to record that this ancient Phoenician power opposed God’s people of Israel and broke its “brotherly covenant” with them. Ezekiel, the prophet of God, then spoke a prophecy to them – the details of which, wonderfully confirm that God is in control of the nations and this bears forth evidence of the Divine authorship of the Bible.

Outline of the Prophecy (Ezek 26)

  • Many nations would come against Tyre (v3).
  • The city would be made desolate and its walls broken down (v4).
  • Nebuchadnezzar (King of Babylon 630 – 562 BC), would conquer and plunder it (v 7-12).
  • Nebuchadnezzar would build a seige wall around it (v8)
  • Parts of the city would be thrown into the sea (v12).
  • That it would eventually become a place to spread nets upon and would not be rebuilt (v5 & v14).
  • That its maritime supremacy would end (v17).

When was it written?

Ezekiel wrote this chapter in 586 BC (we can find this out because of verse 1 which tells us it was the 11th year of the reign of King Zedekiah of Judah). This prophecy describes the fall of mainland Tyre to a Babylonian King, King Nebuchadnezzar. This was fulfilled in the year after this prophecy was written. What is even more amazing however, is that the prophecy continues to foretell the events of Alexander the Great’s siege against the island fortress of Tyre which was positioned a half mile off the coast of mainland Tyre. This happened 253 years later!

The Fulfillment of the prophecy (from http://www.padfield.com/1994/tyre.html)

After the destruction of Jerusalem and the carrying away of her king Zedekiah into captivity, “Nebuchadnezzar took all Palestine and Syria and the cities on the seacoast, including Tyre, which fell after a siege of 13 years (573 B.C.)” (E. A. Wallis Budge, Babylonian Life And History, p. 50). The inhabitants of Tyre fled to a rocky island half a mile offshore. The walls on the landward side of the island were 150 feet high. “The channel between Tyre and the mainland was over twenty feet deep, and frequently lashed by violent south-west winds. Their fortifications, they believed, would resist the strongest battering-ram yet devised. The city-walls stood sheer above the sea: how could any army without ships scale them? Shore based artillery was useless at such a range.” (Peter Green, Alexander of Macedon, p. 248).

On his way towards Egypt, Alexander the Great (356-323 BC) led his Macedonian troops to victory at Sidon and then continued south towards Tyre. Tyrian envoys met with Alexander and assured him that their city was at his disposal. “However, he put their goodwill to the test by expressing his wish to sacrifice at the shrine of Heracles inside the city; for the Tyrians recognized a Phoenician god who was identified by the Greeks as Heracles, and from this deity Alexander claimed descent. Tyrian goodwill unfortunately did not extend so far as to grant him the permission he sought. In short, they would not admit him into the city.” (David Chandler, Alexander 334-323 B.C., p. 41).

Alexander was tempted to bypass the island fortress and continue his march towards Egypt. He sent messengers to Tyre, urging them to accept a peace treaty. Believing themselves to be safe on their island, the Tyrians killed Alexander’s ambassadors and threw their bodies from the top of the walls into the sea. This act served only to anger Alexander and embitter his troops.

Alexander determined to build a mole to get his troops from the mainland to the island. The mole is said to have been at least 200 feet wide. It was constructed from stones and timber from the old city of Tyre on the mainland. In fulfillment of Ezekiel’s prophecy, the very foundation stones, timbers and dust of the city was cast “in the midst of the water” (Ezek. 26:12).

For a while the Tyrians laughed at Alexander’s project. At first they would row boats across the channel and harangue the Macedonians. Their laughter turned to concern when they saw the mole was going to be completed. The Tyrians ignited a barge and drove it into the first mole. The towers on the mole caught fire and several of Alexander’s men lost their lives. Alexander gave orders for the work to continue, and that the mole itself should be widened and more protective towers be built.

Alexander was able to obtain ships from Sidon, Greek allies and Cyprus to form a blockade around Tyre. When the mole was within artillery range of Tyre, Alexander brought up stone throwers and light catapults, reinforced by archers and slingers, for a saturation barrage. Battle engineers constructed several naval battering rams which smashed through the walls of Tyre. Though courageous, the Tyrians were no match for Alexander’s troops. Over 7,000 Tyrians died in the defence of their island. In contrast, only 400 Macedonians were killed.

The seven month siege, from January to July 332 B.C., was over. “The great city over which Hiram had once held sway was now utterly destroyed. Her king, Azimilik, and various other notables, including envoys from Carthage, had taken refuge in the temple of Melkart, and Alexander spared their lives. The remaining survivors, some 30,000 in number, he sold into slavery. Two thousand men of military age were crucified. Then Alexander went up into the temple, ripped the golden cords from the image of the god (now to be renamed, by decree, Apollo Philalexander), and made his long-delayed sacrifice: the most costly blood-offering even Melkart had ever received.” (Green, p. 262).

One historian wrote, “Alexander did far more against Tyre than Shalmaneser or Nebuchadnezzar had done. Not content with crushing her, he took care that she never should revive; for he founded Alexandria as her substitute, and changed forever the track of the commerce of the world.” (Edward Creasy, Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World, ch. 4).

Zechariah 9

Ezekiel is not the only place in the Bible that the destruction of Tyre is prophesied of. If you look at Zechariah 9 you will see this:

And Tyrus did build herself a strong hold, and heaped up silver as the dust, and fine gold as the mire of the streets. Behold, the Lord will cast her out, and he will smite her power in the sea; and she shall be devoured with fire. Zechariah 9:3-4

 

This of course is also a reference to the work of Alexander the Great and the fact that Tyre was destroyed in “the sea” – on its offshore island that Alexander built the mole to get to before destroying it with fire.