The Burden of Tyre - Part VI
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bibles, please, to the book of Isaiah, chapter 23. We have been following the natural divisions in the book, and we are in the third section of the book, which began with chapter 13 and concludes with chapter 23. We have referred to this section as the Book of Burdens , because practically every chapter, or at least every natural division, begins with words similar to these with which chapter 23 begins—namely, “the burden of.”

We learned that the word burden is a word that is used to describe a message which is related to judgment . In this section of the book of Isaiah, we have found God through His prophet Isaiah pronouncing judgment upon ten nations that had to do with the nation of Israel.

We pointed out to you when we began the study of this particular section that when Isaiah recorded these words, all of it was prophecy. That is, all of it was related to the future as far as he was concerned. As we read it, we recognize that some of it is related to history and some of it is still related to prophecy, because some of these prophecies have not been fulfilled.

We have looked at some chapters in detail because there was much to say about them related to the future. We have looked at other chapters only in passing because there would be within those chapters only a phrase or two which would indicate there was still something related to the future in connection with them. Because we could not tie them up with a great many different passages of Scripture, we did not see the need in taking the time to give to you the vain imaginings of the mind of men, because those vain imaginings are worthless.

Tyre In History

As we come to chapter 23, we are going to look at it somewhat in detail, because the Bible has quite a bit to say about the city of Tyre. Keep in mind that the city of Tyre, about which we are going to read, was originally located on the coast of Palestine on the border of the Mediterranean Sea. It was one of the Phoenician cities which was known for its culture and for its great development in a time when a great many nations were greatly underdeveloped. It was one of the greatest maritime nations that this world has ever seen, having a huge navy that sailed not only the Mediterranean Sea, but the seas of the world, carrying on trade with points as far away as India and in the other direction places as far away as Spain and Great Britain.

This city of Tyre comes into contact with the nation of Israel in the days of Solomon. Solomon hired Hiram of Tyre to produce enough men to build him an armory, a palace, and a temple. He also hired Hiram to train for him a number of men who could operate a great fleet of ships which could sail to many points of the world and bring back all of the great riches which made Solomon's kingdom such a tremendous kingdom in that period of history.

As Solomon left the throne, the nation of Israel began to decline and her influence over these various cities was not as great as it might have been. Instead of those cities obeying the wishes of the kings of Israel, those cities began to make demands upon the nation of Israel; and because they violated the covenant that God made with Abraham—namely, “I will bless them that bless thee, and curse them that curse thee”—God pronounced the curse upon the city of Tyre.

Destruction of Tyre Prophesied

The destruction of the city of Tyre, prophesied by Isaiah, is presented in chapter 23 of the book of Isaiah. We will think about it as we read along, keeping in mind the basic facts which I have presented to you. Reading from verse 1:

Isaiah 23

1The burden of Tyre. Howl, ye ships of Tarshish; for it is laid waste, so that there is no house, no entering in: from the land of Chittim it is revealed to them.

Let's pause for a moment and recognize what we have read. Isaiah, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, could look down through the corridors of time to the extent of 300 years and see the fleets of Tyre coming back to the city of Tyre and instead of finding the home port and the safe harbor, finding the entire city in ruin and finding the people running to the island of Cyprus for refuge. That is the meaning of the word Chittim .

The ships of Tarshish here are the ships of Tyre. They were called the ships of Tarshish because their main merchandise which they transported, though they transported much, was from the tin mines of Spain and the tin mines of Great Britain. The name Tarshish , which is applied in the Scriptures both to Great Britain and to Spain, began to be applied to these ships.

Isaiah says to them, “Howl as ye return to your home port, for it is no more, and rush to the island of Cyprus for refuge.” At the island of Cyprus they had heard the first inkling of the destruction as they entered the port of Cyprus on their way back home. It was told them, “Tyre is under siege.” The men who captained the ships said, “What difference does that make? It has been under siege for thirteen years.”

City Destroyed By Nebuchadnezzar

We are going to learn before we're through with this chapter that Nebuchadnezzar was the individual who laid siege to the city of Tyre and kept it under siege for thirteen years. It took him thirteen years before he could battle down the walls and lay the city waste. When they said, “Tyre is in trouble,” the captains of the ships said, “It doesn't mean anything. Nebuchadnezzar has been outside the gates of Tyre for thirteen years.” Then they said, “Ah, but this time the gates have fallen, and the city is on fire, and the harbor is filled with the wrecks of the boats, and there is no way for you to make it home.”

Look at verse 2:

Isaiah 23

2Be still, ye inhabitants of the isle [coastline] ; thou whom the merchants of Zidon, that pass over the sea, have replenished.

All of the cities along the coast of Phoenicia had prospered because Zidon, the mother-city, had built them and replenished them from time to time. Look at verse 3, where we read:

Isaiah 23

3And by great waters the seed of Sihor, the harvest of the river, is her revenue; and she is a mart of nations.

Look at the word Sihor . You could put the word Nile in there, because that is another name for the Nile River which flowed down through the land of Egypt, and because Egypt at this particular time was paying tribute to Tyre, this passage of Scripture reminds us that much of the wealth with which Tyre was able to trade with all the nations of the then known world came from the harvest of Egypt as the Nile River overflowed the land. They were able to transport grain around the world and bring back tin, precious jewels and spices in return.

In verse 4, we read:

Isaiah 23

4Be thou ashamed, O Zidon: for the sea hath spoken, even the strength of the sea, saying, I travail not, nor bring forth children, neither do I nourish up young men, nor bring up virgins.

This, of course, is an address to Zidon, which was the mother-city of Tyre. Tyre was originally a colony of the city of Zidon, but the colony outshone the mother-country as the United States of America, a colony at one time, has outshone the mother-country, Britain. This prophecy is a figurative address to the city of Zidon, to weep and to be concerned, because the sea will produce no more cities like the city of Tyre.

Reason for God's Judgment

In verse 5, we read:

Isaiah 23

5As at the report concerning Egypt, so shall they be sorely pained at the report of Tyre.

This is not as good a translation as it might be. What it actually says is, “At the report concerning Tyre, so shall Egypt be sorely pained.” Egypt knew that the fall of Tyre placed her next in line for the invasion of Nebuchadnezzar. We read in verse 6:

Isaiah 23

6Pass ye over to Tarshish; howl, ye inhabitants of the isle [coast lands] .

The idea is, “Get on your ship and get out of here. Get to Britain, get to Spain, get somewhere, because the city has fallen.” Then Isaiah says in verse 7:

Isaiah 23

7Is this your joyous city, whose antiquity is of ancient days? her own feet shall carry her afar off to sojourn.

“Is this the city of which you have been so proud? The city's inhabitants will go themselves to some other place to live, because of the sad condition of judgment upon the city.” Then Isaiah asks a question in verse 8:

Isaiah 23

8Who hath taken this counsel against Tyre, the crowning city, whose merchants are princes, whose traffickers are the honourable of the earth?

“Who hath dared to do this to the city of Tyre, whose merchant men are princes, and whose citizens are the honorable men of the earth? Who would dare to do a thing like this?” Isaiah answers in verse 9:

Isaiah 23

9The LORD of hosts hath purposed it…

“You want to know who is responsible. God is responsible.” Somebody might ask, “Why would God do this to the city of Tyre?” Isaiah answers in the last part of verse 9:

Isaiah 23

9…to stain the pride of all glory, and to bring into contempt all the honourable of the earth.

That verse simply means that God will not stand for man or nations to glory in His presence. When men began to boast, be they individuals or nations, God says, “Enough,” and He visits judgment upon them. As long as an individual or a nation stays humble, the Bible says that God will dwell with them, but when the individual or the nation becomes full of himself, then God has nothing left to do but pass judgment upon the nation or individual. Look at verse 10:

Isaiah 23

10Pass through thy land as a river, O daughter of Tarshish: there is no more strength.

The phrase “daughter of Tarshish” represents all of the cities that had been under the thumb of the navy of Tyre, which is called the navy of Tarshish. Isaiah said, “You do not need to be afraid of this navy any more. Spread out. They have kept you hemmed into a little territory. They have said how far you can go. Spread out. Do anything that you want now, because the navy of Tyre can do nothing about it any more,” because, in verse 11:

Isaiah 23

11He stretched out his hand over the sea, he shook the kingdoms: the LORD hath given a commandment against the merchant city, to destroy the strong holds thereof.
12And he said, Thou shalt no more rejoice, O thou oppressed virgin, daughter of Zidon: arise, pass over to Chittim; there also shalt thou have no rest.

Chittim , in this verse, as Chittim in the first verse, is the island of Cyprus, which is close by to the city of Tyre. God said, “Go ahead and run over to Cyprus. Try to escape the judgment of God there. You won't. You won't find any more rest in Cyprus than you found in Tyre.”

Let us pause for a moment and recognize that you can't run away from God. If you try to escape the judgment of God, you can't flee to the farthest corners of the world and escape Him. Read Psalm 139 and hear how the Psalmist tried to escape God, and find out it cannot be done.

God's Instruments of Judgment

We have been saying God has been visiting judgment, but what did God do? Did He send a bolt of lightening out of the sky? Did He cause an earthquake to destroy the city of Tyre? How did He do it? He did it in the same way that He causes the downfall of nations today. Will you remember that God does not use the miraculous unless there is a reason for it? If there is no need for God to interrupt the ordinary course of nature, He doesn't do it. He uses normal means unless there is a reason to do otherwise. He didn't use an earthquake. He didn't use a bolt of lightening. We are told how He destroyed the city of Tyre in verse 13:

Isaiah 23

13Behold the land of the Chaldeans; this people was not, till the Assyrian founded it for them that dwell in the wilderness: they set up the towers thereof [towers that have battering rams that can catapult stones against the walls of the city] , they raised up the palaces thereof; and he brought it to ruin.

Turn with me to the book of Ezekiel, chapter 26. Notice that Ezekiel prophesied in the same manner as did Isaiah. He was even a bit more specific in relation to his prophecy than was Isaiah in connection with the manner with which God brought about the downfall of this city. Notice beginning in verse 1:

Ezekiel 26

1And it came to pass in the eleventh year, in the first day of the month, that the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
2Son of man, because that Tyrus hath said against Jerusalem, Aha, she is broken that was the gates of the people: she is turned unto me: I shall be replenished, now she is laid waste:

Do you see why God visited her with judgment? It was because of her attitude toward the nation of Israel. Notice verse 3:

Ezekiel 26

3Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against thee, O Tyrus, and will cause many nations to come up against thee, as the sea causeth his waves to come up.
4And they shall destroy the walls of Tyrus, and break down her towers: I will also scrape her dust from her, and make her like the top of a rock.
5It shall be a place for the spreading of nets in the midst of the sea: for I have spoken it, saith the Lord GOD: and it shall become a spoil to the nations.
6And her daughters which are in the field shall be slain by the sword; and they shall know that I am the LORD.
7For thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will bring upon Tyrus Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, a king of kings, from the north, with horses, and with chariots, and with horsemen, and companies, and much people.
8He shall slay with the sword thy daughters in the field: and he shall make a fort against thee, and cast a mount against thee, and lift up the buckler against thee.
9And he shall set engines of war against thy walls, and with his axes he shall break down thy towers.
10By reason of the abundance of his horses their dust shall cover thee: thy walls shall shake at the noise of the horsemen, and of the wheels, and of the chariots, when he shall enter into thy gates, as men enter into a city wherein is made a breach.

That is as far as we will read. When you have time, read the rest of the chapter and the next and the next, because it all deals with the downfall of the city of Tyre. Keep in mind that when Isaiah and Ezekiel uttered these thoughts, they were prophecy. They did not occur until 200 hundred years after they were uttered. Look at them and remember that we are reading history, for history verifies what we have read in the Word of God. After a thirteen year siege, Nebuchadnezzar laid waste the city of Tyre.

Conquered By Alexander the Great

Did you notice in the first part of this chapter that Ezekiel did not only refer to the fact that Nebuchadnezzar had come against the city of Tyre, he said there would be a wave of nations come against the city, and that has been proven true by history. Notice in verse 4 a very interesting thing to me:

Ezekiel 26

4And they shall destroy the walls of Tyrus, and break down her towers: [notice] I will also scrape her dust from her, and make her like the top of a rock.

This is one of the most interesting statements of fulfilled prophecy I know anything about. If you are familiar with history, you know when it was fulfilled. Alexander the Great laid siege to the city of Tyrus, but the city of Tyrus after Nebuchadnezzar had laid it in waste, built out from the land on a manmade island so that it was completely surrounded by water. As Alexander the Great wanted to capture the island city of Tyrus—the old city was still there minor and insignificant, the new city was out there on the island—he was helpless. The ships of Tarsus were surrounding the city, and there wasn't anything Alexander the Great could do.

But you know, he was like the Communists. He didn't have a whole lot of arms like the Chinese Communists. He didn't have a whole lot of arms, but he had a lot of men and he had a lot of time. Do you know what he did? He tore down the old city of Tyre, and he dumped it in the sea, and he literally scraped the dirt down to bare rock and made a causeway from the old city of Tyre to the island city of Tyre. When the bridge was completed, he marched victoriously across that causeway with his battering rams, and he battered down the gates of the city and took it under his possession, and God's Word was fulfilled.

My, how we are to be pitied! We poor, ignorant people who believe the Bible. We poor, ignorant people who don't have any more intelligence than to believe that the Bible is the Word of God. I would like to ask you where there is a more distinct and definite proof of the inspiration of the Word of God than a minute detail like this that could be described 200 years before it ever happened? This is God's fulfilled Word.

Prophecy Yet to Be Fulfilled

Turn back to Isaiah, chapter 23, as we continue to look at this chapter, since it is the one that is under discussion, remembering that in verse 13, we learned who it was in this particular prophecy of Isaiah who was going to lay waste the city of Tyre this time: Chaldea, Assyria, and Nebuchadnezzar. Look now at verse 14:

Isaiah 23

14Howl, ye ships of Tarshish: for your strength is laid waste.

“Cry, weep, the end has come.” In verse 15 we are going to begin to read something entirely new because there is not one thing in history that faintly resembles what is recorded in this next paragraph. You say, “What do the commentators say about it?” Oh, they say a number of things about it. One thing they say is that this is an editorial appendix, that some editor reading the book of Isaiah decided that this should be put in right here. They are not really sure where he found it, but he picked it up somewhere and thought that this was a good place to stick it in. It didn't matter whether it had any real meaning at all.

Then other commentators, as we shall see before we get through with this chapter, relate what we read here to such insignificant things—insignificant in relation to the whole plan of God—as a missionary visit of the Lord Jesus Christ to Tyre and Zidon, when it is recorded in the Gospels that the Lord Jesus Christ left Capernium and went into the regions of Tyre and Zidon. Others say, “It was not really fulfilled at that time. It was fulfilled when the Apostle Paul made his first missionary journey.”

Look at these verses with me and see how far you have to stretch your imagination to let those interpretations be satisfactory. Someone says, “Oh, you know exactly what it means.” I know what I believe that the Bible indicates it means, and I would far rather stand here and tell you that I don't know what it means than to try to make it mean something that isn't even consistent with sensible thinking. Look now at verse 15:

Isaiah 23

15And it shall come to pass in that day, that Tyre shall be forgotten seventy years, according to the days of one king: after the end of seventy years shall Tyre sing as an harlot.
16Take an harp, go about the city, thou harlot that hast been forgotten; make sweet melody, sing many songs, that thou mayest be remembered.

We will stop our reading here for a moment. Why does God use words like this? Why does He refer to the city of Tyre as a harlot who has been out of business, forgotten for quite a while, and then has been able to go back into business again, taking a harp, going through the streets, and saying that she is ready to do business again? Why does God talk about a city like that? Because this city was a commercial center of the world, and when a city is wholly dedicated to a materialistic enterprise, or when an individual is wholly dedicated to materialism, God speaks of it as adultery. He always has. You will find that to be true throughout the Word of God.

For example, in the book of James, when we think of it from an individual standpoint, James says to men who are more interested in money than they are in God, “Ye adulterers and adulteresses.” He speaks to them in the terms of harlotry. This city that has been known for her great commercial enterprises has been described as a harlot who is out of business for seventy years, then comes back in the business again.

The Restoration of Tyre to Prominence

There is nothing in history that compares to these seventy years. Nothing. What do they mean? I don't know, but I believe that we will know, because of what is discovered in the last paragraph. Look at verse 17:

Isaiah 23

17And it shall come to pass after the end of seventy years, that the LORD will visit Tyre, and she shall turn to her hire, and shall commit fornication with all the kingdoms of the world upon the face of the earth.

That means that she will enter back into commerce with all the kingdoms of the world upon all the face of the earth. That means that Tyre is to become a great maritime center again. Tyre is to become a great seaport once again which will do business with all the nations of the world. Someone says, “Isn't it possible that she has been revived to some extent, and she is doing business of some sort that would maybe fit into this passage of Scripture, even though we don't know what the seventy years might stand for?” If you are familiar with the modern history of Tyre, you know that it is located in what is now called Lebanon, and it is referred to as the village of Sur, and it has less than a thousand inhabitants. It knows nothing about a navy, or even a merchant marine, and it is impossible for it to do any kind of maritime business with all the nations of the world.

If, by the farthest stretch of your imagination, you could fit some period of history, some period in the history of Tyre into verse 17, what are you going to do with verse 18? What does it say? Notice as we read verse 18:

Isaiah 23

18And her merchandise and her hire shall be holiness to the LORD: it shall not be treasured nor laid up; for her merchandise shall be for them that dwell before the LORD, to eat sufficiently, and for durable clothing.

What does this verse say? If language means anything at all, it means that the city of Tyre someday is going to be re-established as a great maritime center, a great commercial center, and the profits of her trading with the entire world are going to be used in the interest of the cause of God and the interest of the cause of righteousness.

There is nothing in history that has ever happened to Tyre like that. I mentioned a moment ago what some of the commentators say. They say that the Apostle Paul visited the city of Tyre, and he led a few people to the Lord, and they got together and said, “Let's give everything we have to God,” and it was a fulfillment of verse 18.

Beloved, I would just rather say that I don't know what it means than to be that ridiculous, for that is ridiculous. This passage of Scripture says that the commercial enterprises in Tyre will be used for the righteousness of God in the cause of righteousness. Is there anything in Scripture that would lead us to believe that the city of Tyre will be resurrected to a place of prominence in the end times? Remember what we have been trying to keep before you in the study of the book of Isaiah—that all of these nations which are in the near and middle east are going to be on the forefront of the stage by and by, and some of them are already emerging out of the antiquity of the past into the modern setup of the present. All that we need to do is keep our eyes on the area and see it begin to come to pass.

Tyre In the Millennium

Turn to Psalm 45 and recognize what we refer to as a Messianic Psalm. A Messianic Psalm is a Psalm that speaks of the Lord Jesus Christ in relation to His coming again. This is not just a peculiar idea of mine; this is a consensus of conservative Bible scholars. Psalm 45 begins with these words:

Psalm 45

1My heart is inditing a good matter: I speak of the things which I have made touching the king: my tongue is the pen of a ready writer.

The king, of course, is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ. Then in verse 6, the individual who is speaking of the king, speaks about His throne:

Psalm 45

6Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre [or a sceptre of righteousness] .
7Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.

This is quoted in the book of Hebrews as a definite reference to the Lord Jesus Christ, so we know that it is talking about His throne. Where is His throne? Somebody says, “Oh, it is in Heaven. Don't you know that that is where He is?” But, He is not sitting on His throne in Heaven. You can't find one passage of Scripture that says He is. He is sitting on His Father's throne. His throne will be on this earth some day, and He is coming back to this earth, and when He does, we read in verse 8:

Psalm 45

8All thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia, out of the ivory palaces, whereby they have made thee glad.

The songwriter has taken this verse of Scripture and let it apply to His first coming, but it applies to His second coming. Look at verse 9:

Psalm 45

9Kings' daughters were among thy honourable women: upon thy right hand did stand the queen in gold of Ophir.
10Hearken, O daughter, and consider, and incline thine ear; forget also thine own people, and thy father's house;
11So shall the king greatly desire thy beauty: for he is thy Lord; and worship thou him.

Did the Lord Jesus Christ have any children? If you follow this word daughter through the Scripture, you will find that it is a word that is always applied to cities . No, the Lord Jesus Christ had no children, save those whom He has redeemed, such as you and me. This word daughter refers not to ordinary individuals; it refers to cities . Look now at verse 12:

Psalm 45

12And the daughter of Tyre shall be there with a gift; even the rich among the people shall intreat thy favour.

That is as far as we will read. You read the rest of the Psalm when you have time. What are we reading in Psalm 45? That when the Lord Jesus Christ comes back to this earth to establish His righteous reign, the city of Tyre will be among the cities that will play a large part in the support of the reign of righteousness which is yet to be. If the city of Tyre is going to be a prominent city in the millennial reign of Christ, we need not be surprised if we see her begin to emerge out of the antiquity of the past into the rushing torrent of the present.

Turn over a few pages to Psalm 87, and read another Messianic Psalm. The first verse reads:

Psalms 87

1His foundation is in the holy mountains.

Whose foundation? The foundation of the Lord Jesus Christ. Notice verse 2:

Psalm 87

2The LORD loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob.

God has a special love for the city of Jerusalem, and that is the reason the Lord Jesus Christ is going to set up His reign there someday. In verse 3:

Psalm 87

3Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God. Selah.

As the Psalmist speaks of the glorious things of the city of God, he says in verse 4:

Psalm 87

4I will make mention of Rahab and Babylon to them that know me: behold Philistia, and Tyre, with Ethiopia; this man was born there.

Rahab, we learned when we were studying the burden in relation to Egypt, is Egypt. Egypt and Babylon will be active in the end-time. We have talked about Philistia and Tyre in this lesson, and we have talked about Ethiopia. The Psalmist goes on to say that these individual nations and cities are all going to have a very vital part in the reign of the Lord Jesus Christ upon the earth. If they are, if they are going to be worldwide important nations, they are going to have to emerge out of the sloth of forgetfulness in which they are and become prominent again.

Conclusion

As we bring our study of the Book of Burdens to a close, may I remind you again that we are living in momentous times. The nations and the cities of the near and the Middle East are making noises that are being heard around the world. Keep your eyes on that section of the world, and bit by bit see the Word of God fulfilled, for His Word never fails. He said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My Word will not pass away.”


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