About Jesus   Steve Sweetman

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Isaiah 23

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The Prophecy About Tyre (ch. 23:1 - 18)                    


This chapter concerns Tyre.  Tyre is one of two coastal cities along the Mediterranean Sea in what would be present day Lebanon.  The other town is Sidon.  Both of these towns are mentioned in the New Testament gospel accounts. Both of these towns are very old.  Sidon dates back to at least 2000 B. C. and Tyre a little bit after 2000 B. C..  These two cities were shipping ports.  Tyre was noted for its export of purple die.  It is said that Tyre and Sidon are the gateway to Europe .  It is also said that Europe was discovered from leaving the ports of Tyre and Sidon.   


Verse 1 says, "Woe to the ships of Tarshish".  Just where Tarshish is located is debatable.  Some say its one of a number of Islands in the Mediterranean Sea.  Others say it is Spain , and yet others say it is as far away as Great Britain.  The point the Old Testament seems to make about Tarshish that concerns its location is that it is as far west in the known world back then as can be.  You might remember that Jonah tried to escape from God by boarding a ship to Tarshish.  The implication is that he was trying to run as far away from God and the place where he was to be as possible.  God wanted him east so he went far west.


Tarshish appears to be a trading partner with the Middle East.  Shipping was something the people of Tarshish was noted for.  So, when the text states that Tyre is destroyed, that would certainly affect the ships of Tarshish.


Verse 1 also specifically tells us how those in Tarshish knew that Tyre was destroyed.  Those in Cyprus told them.  This might well have taken place while a ship from Tarshish was at one of the ports of Cyprus.


The people of the island in verse 2 are probably in reference to the people of Cyprus since Cyprus was just mentioned in verse 1.


It might be debatable what destruction of Tyre Isaiah is talking about.  Shalmanesar was an Assyrian king who defeated the Northern Kingdom of Israel in 722 B. C..  He also attacked Tyre.  Nebuchadnezzar attacked Tyre as well when he invaded that part of the middle east, and when he took Daniel and other Israelis off toe Babylon in 586 B. C.   It's most probable that Isaiah might be thinking of Alexander the Great.  He caused the most destruction of Tyre in 332 B. C..


From 1187 B. C. to 724 B. C. Tyre was attacked 8 times, but of course the attack prior to Isaiah's time wouldn't be what this prophecy is about.


Verses 2 and 3 simply show how important Tyre became to all the known world.                      


Shihor in verse 2 is an Egyptian city.


Note Sidon in verse 4.  It was just a few miles north of Tyre.  The two towns were both seaports.  It appears that Sidon is connected in this judgment as well.  Even Egypt is in fear of what is happening in Tyre, as stated in verse 5.  This would only make sense because Tyre is economically important to the whole region, and really, the whole known world at the time.


You might view Tyre and Sidon as twin cities, especially in light of the fact that when they are mentioned in the Newt Testament, they're mentioned together. 


Note the word "island" in verse 6.  When Alexander the Great attacked Tyre , most people from Tyre fled to an island just off shore.  This is what Isaiah might be referring to.  It took about three years, but Alexander the Great actually built a mile long causeway from the mainland to this island.   When Tyre was subdued by Alexander, this was during his short 13 year reign where he took the Persian Empire away from the Persians and replaced it with his Greek Empire.  Alexander lived from 356 B. B. to 323 B. C..


In verse 7 we see that Tyre , like Jerusalem in the last chapter was a city of "revelry".  It was a party city.  One reason why we see God judging nations in the Bible is due to the spirit of revelry that penetrates the land.  I would suggest that the western world today is comprised of the same kind of revelry and thus can expect the same judgment as we see here in Isaiah 22 and elsewhere. 


Again in verse 8 we see the renown of the great city of Tyre.  It doesn't matter how great a city or nation is; it will fall to God's judgment when it refuses to submit to God's will.


Verse 8 asks the question, "Who planned the attack on Tyre"?  People would think in terms of other national leaders attacking the city, but verse 9 says differently.  It is the Lord Almighty who planned the attack.  Of course the Lord uses men like Alexander the Great to carry out His will, even though men like Alexander don't know they're being used by God. 


The reason stated in verse 9 for the attack is "pride".  So we have a couple reasons for judgment stated in this chapter.  One is revelry and the other is pride.  Pride is another fact of life for western nations these days.  The west will have its turn at judgment.  You can count on that. 


Verse 10 speaks of the daughter of Tarshish.  I believe that is in reference to Tyre.  Tyre might be the daughter of Tarshish because Tarshish does so much trading with her and derives much of her income and commerce. 


Note Phoenicia in verse 11.  This is the ethnic area where Sidon and Tyre are located in.  People in this area of the Middle East were called Phoenicians. 


Verse 11 seems to suggest an area wide devastation.  As I've said earlier, this might well be in reference to Alexander the Great's conquest of the whole area.  He is one of histories most highly respected warriors.  When it was all said and done, he conquered from western Africa to India , as well as the northern shore of the Mediterranean Sea before he died at the age of 33.      


Verse 12 speaks of those from Sidon crossing over the sea to Cyprus.  As I've also said earlier, when Alexander the Great invaded this part of the Middle East those along the Mediterranean coast line fled to islands in the sea, one of which would have been Cyprus.


Verse 13 speaks of Babylon and  Assyria.  It appears that Isaiah is using Babylon as an example of destruction.  That being said, it's important to know that some manuscripts actually have the word Cadlean instead of Babylon which would make more sense.  Babylon the empire was overtaken by the Medes and Persians, not the Assyrians.  Babylon the city would have fallen to the Assyrian empire, but not the empire of Babylon.  Canaan or the Caldeans however, did fall to the Assyrians.


Verse 14 speaks of the association again that Tarshish has with Tyre. These two cities depend on each other when it comes to trade and commerce.


Verse 15 speaks of the destruction of Tyre lasting 70 years.  At the moment I have no historical evidence of this taking place, but you can be sure it did.  We know that Tyre came back to life because we see it mentioned in the New Testament.


Verse 16 appears to be a song sung by a forgotten prostitute.  Tyre is compared to a prostitute who has long sense been forgotten but returns to the street with her harp and song.


The reason why Isaiah compares Tyre to a prostitute is seen in verse 17.  Since Tyre is a seaport, her wealth is made from trade with many nations.  In fact she prostitutes herself in order to make her wealth.  She is willing to trade with anyone and everyone, no matter if she has to compromise by doing so. 


Verse 18 ends this chapter.  It speaks to a future time when Tyre is seen serving the Lord.  We have to take this to mean after Jesus returns to this earth and rules from Jerusalem because Tyre hasn't served the Lord as yet.  We need to remember, in that day, as it is now; Tyre will be part of Israel.



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