Ezekiel 26:1-21

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YHWH’s “word” or message again came to Ezekiel. The Targum refers to this message as a “word of prophecy from before the Lord.” According to the extant Hebrew text, this was in the “eleventh year” after the exile of King Jehoiachin. The date, however, is incomplete. Although the first of the month is mentioned, the month is not specified. In the Septuagint, there also is no reference to the month. Manuscript evidence from the Septuagint varies respecting the year. There are manuscripts that agree with the reading of the Masoretic Text, but the oldest extant Greek text (P967) says the “tenth year” and Codex Alexandrinus says the “twelfth year.” Various assumptions have been made regarding what the original reading of the Hebrew text may have been, and these have been incorporated in a number of modern translations. “This word of the LORD came to me on the first day of the first month in the eleventh year.” (REB) “On the first day of the eleventh month of the eleventh year, the word of the LORD came to me.” (NAB, revised edition) “In the eleventh month of the twelfth year, on the first day of the month, the word of the LORD came to me.” (NIV, copyright 2011) (26:1)

As at other times, Ezekiel was addressed as “son of man,” as a mortal in the service of the eternal God YHWH. The city of Tyre (“Sor” [LXX], a transliteration of the Hebrew designation for Tyre) is represented as rejoicing over the conquest of Jerusalem and saying, “Aha [Good (LXX)]! Broken [are] the gates of the peoples, swung open to me. I will be filled now that she has been devastated.” The thought appears to be that Tyre rejoiced with malicious glee because of benefiting from the destruction of Jerusalem. Instead of continuing to pass through Jerusalem, the wealth accumulated from trade would come to Tyre, greatly enriching the city. (26:2; see the Notes section.)

In view of the attitude that Tyre (or the Tyrians) displayed, the Lord YHWH declared his judgment against the city, with the introductory “look” focusing attention on what he determined to do. He would bring many nations (or warriors from numerous nations) against the Tyre, and they would resemble the waves that are cast up in the sea. (26:3) The warriors from these nations would “destroy the walls of Tyre” and demolish the “towers” of the city. YHWH is then quoted as saying, “I will scrape her soil from her and make her a bare rock.” This indicated that the site of Tyre would be leveled. Ancient histories confirm that the mainland part of Tyre was completely destroyed for the construction of a causeway or mole to the island city. According to Diodorus Siculus of the first century BCE (Book XVII, 40, 4), Alexander the Great “demolished what was called Old Tyre [mainland Tyre] and set many tens of thousands of men to work carrying stones to construct a mole two plethra [about 200 feet (c. 61 meters)] in width. He drafted into service the entire population of the neighboring cities and the project advanced rapidly because the workers were numerous.” In the first century CE, Quintus Curtius Rufus (Histories of Alexander the Great, ) Book IV, ii, 18, 19) wrote, “A great amount of rocks was available, supplied by Old Tyre …” (26:4)

The leveled site of the city would become a place where fishers would spread out their nets. As a mainland coastal city that included an island in the Mediterranean, Tyre is fittingly described as being “in the midst of the sea.” The Lord YHWH decreed that Tyre would become a “spoil to the nations.” According to the Jewish historian Josephus (Against Apion, I, 21), King Nebuchadnezzar “besieged Tyre for thirteen years in the days of Ithobal, their king.” Nothing is said about how the Tyrians were affected and what losses they incurred. Ezekiel 29:17-20 reveals that, despite the tremendous efforts of the warriors under the command of Nebuchadnezzar, there were no “wages,” suggesting that the campaign did not result in any gain commensurate with the effort that had been involved. It was not until 332 BCE, in a siege that lasted from January to July, that Alexander the Great with his troops reduced Tyre to the condition portrayed in the prophetic words. In the first century CE, Quintus Curtius Rufus wrote the following about the fate of the city after the conquest of Alexander the Great: “The extent of the bloodshed can be judged from the fact that 6,000 fighting-men were slaughtered within the city’s fortifications. It was a sad spectacle that the king’s fury then provided for the victors: 2,000 [Tyrians], by the killing of whom the rage subsided, now hung fastened to timbers all along the huge expanse of the beach.” (26:5)

The “daughters” of Tyre were nearby towns or villages in a dependent relationship with the city. They were “in the field” or in surrounding territory of the mainland. The inhabitants of those towns or villages would perish by the sword of warfare. As this had been previously revealed, the people would “know” or come to recognize YHWH as the God who had determined this punitive judgment for them. (26:6)

The attack against Tyre would come from the “north.” Troops would not be traveling westward through the arid desert, but would march northward from the east and then take a northerly route to the west. YHWH purposed to use “Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon.” As Babylon was then the dominant power in the region, Nebuchadnezzar is referred to as a “king of kings.” YHWH is quoted as saying that Nebuchadnezzar would be coming with horses, chariots, cavalrymen, and a throng of “many people” or a great military force of many warriors. (26:7; see the Notes section.)

Nebuchadnezzar with the warriors under his command would “slay with the sword” the “daughters,” or the people of the towns or villages “in the field” or on the mainland. These towns or villages were dependent on Tyre and, therefore, are designated as “daughters.” Against Tyre, Nebuchadnezzar would erect a siege wall or have a siege wall built. The “mound” that would be thrown up likely would have been a ramp that could be used for rolling the battering rams against the city wall. The raising of a shield against Tyre could refer to arranging the essential protection for the warriors from the defenders of Tyre. (26:8; see the Notes section.)

King Nebuchadnezzar, with the warriors under his command, would strike against the walls of Tyre with a battering ram and break down the towers with axes (literally, “swords”). The Septuagint says that he would cast down the walls and towers of the city with “his swords.” (26:9)

The dust the many horses of the attackers would stir up would cover Tyre. Noise from cavalrymen, wheels, and chariots (“wheels of his chariots” [LXX]) would be so overwhelming as to shake the walls of the city. Nebuchadnezzar would enter the gates of Tyre as one would enter a city that had been breached (“from a plain” [LXX]). (26:10)

The “hoofs” of the horses would trample all the streets of Tyre, and the inhabitants of the city would be slain by the sword. Strong pillars would fall to the earth. According to the Septuagint, the foundation of Tyre’s power would be leveled to the ground. (26:11) Enemy warriors would seize the riches of Tyre as spoil and plunder the goods. They would break down the walls of the city and tear down the houses in which the people took delight. The troops would cast stones, timbers, and soil “into the midst of the waters.” This could have reference to the constructing of a causeway between the mainland and the island that occurred during the military campaign of Alexander the Great. (26:12) Music would cease from Tyre. YHWH is quoted as saying that he would stop the singing and that the sound of harps or lyres would no longer be heard. According to the Septuagint, he would cause the “multitude” of “musicians” in Tyre to cease. (26:13)

The Lord YHWH is quoted as saying that he would make Tyre into a bare rock where fishers would spread their nets. The reverses that befell Tyre over the centuries prevented the city from attaining the prosperity and importance that it once enjoyed. Possibly it is from this standpoint that one may understand that Tyre was not rebuilt or restored. (26:14)

At the sound of the fall of Tyre, the groaning of the wounded, and the slaughter of people in the city, the islands or coastlands would “shake.” The inhabitants would be filled with terror as if being shaken by a powerful earthquake. (26:15)

Princes, chieftains, or rulers (“from the nations” LXX]; not in P967) “of the sea” (“from the nations of the sea” [LXX]), or on the islands or coastlands that were associated with Tyre in commercial activity, would “step down from their thrones,” remove their robes (“remove the miters from their heads” [LXX]), and strip off their garments of variegated work or their embroidered garments. With trembling, they would clothe themselves, probably putting on sackcloth in expression of distress and mourning. They would seat themselves on the ground, tremble every moment, and stare in astonishment at Tyre, apparently over the calamity that had befallen city. (26:16)

The princes, chieftains, or rulers would raise a dirge over Tyre, saying, “How you have vanished, O inhabitress from the seas, O renowned city that was mighty on the sea” (dominated the Mediterranean Sea as a commercial power involved in extensive trade). Apparently on account of the dominant position of Tyre, the dirge next referred to the city as causing or spreading terror to “all her inhabitants,” probably meaning to all those residing nearby. (26:17) “In the day” or at the time of the fall of Tyre, islands or coastlands would tremble, indicating that the people living there would tremble in fear. The islands in the Mediterranean Sea, or the people inhabiting them, would be dismayed or disquieted because of the passing of Tyre. (26:18; see the Notes section.)

The Lord YHWH is quoted as declaring what he would be doing to Tyre or what he would let happen to the city. He would reduce Tyre to a ruin “like cities that are not inhabited,” effecting this by bringing up the “deep” over the city and covering it with “great waters” or with a large quantity of water. The Targum interprets this to mean that God would bring against Tyre “armies of nations” as “numerous as the waters of the deep” (or the sea), and many nations would cover the city. Like a destructive flood, warriors from numerous nations would sweep over Tyre. (26:19)

The quoted words attributed to YHWH personify Tyre, referring to the city as descending into the pit to which people long previously had descended at the time of their death. Tyre would then be made to dwell in the lowest part of the netherworld among ancient ruins “with those going down into the pit.” Tyre would not be inhabited. YHWH’s giving beauty “in the land of the living” could signify that the end of Tyre as if disappearing into the pit like a dead person would remove a serious blot from the land of the living and thus beautify that land. According to the Septuagint, Tyre would not “rise [again] on the land of life.” The Targum interprets the phrase as meaning that God would make the land of Israel joyful. (26:20)

The Lord YHWH decreed that he would make Tyre into a horror, apparently by reason of the fact that the city would be reduced to ruin. It would come to be as if it had never existed as the dominant commercial power in the region. The city would become like a place for which one might search but one which never would be found. (26:21; see the Notes section.)


Verse 2 of the Septuagint rendering indicates that Jerusalem “was broken” and then refers to nations as having been destroyed. The text continues, “she has turned to me — full, she was made desolate.” This could mean that, in her affliction, the people of Jerusalem cried out to God. Whereas Jerusalem had been filled with people, the city was reduced to ruins. The Targum refers to Jerusalem as having supplied goods to the nations.

Verse 7 identifies King Nebuchadnezzar as the instrument that would devastate Tyre. In the description that follows in this chapter, there are aspects that were not fulfilled until the time of Alexander the Great. So it appears that the military campaign of King Nebuchadnezzar may be regarded as the initial phase of the overthrow of Tyre, with the ultimate ruin coming much later in the time of Alexander the Great. The prophecy about Tyre may then be understood to have had a progressive fulfillment.

The rendering of the words of verse 8 in the Septuagint differs somewhat from the reading of the Masoretic Text. According to the Septuagint, Nebuchadnezzar would establish an “outpost” against Sur (Tyre), form a siege encirclement, construct a “palisade” all around Tyre, surround the city with weapons, and direct his “lances” against it.

The wording of verse 18 in the Septuagint is shorter than that of the Masoretic Text. “And the islands will have fear from the day of your fall.”

For verse 21, the wording in the Septuagint is shorter than that of the Masoretic Text. “I will give you over to destruction, and you will not exist any longer.”