“With the hoofs of his horses shall he tread down all thy streets: he shall slay thy people by the sword, and thy strong garrisons shall go down to the ground. And they shall make a spoil of thy riches, and make a prey of thy merchandise: and they shall break down thy walls, and destroy thy pleasant houses: and they shall lay thy stones and thy timber and thy dust in the midst of the water.” — Ezekiel 26:11-12
In May of 1919, Adelaide Travis, an American Red Cross worker serving on the Western Front during World War I, wrote home from France, “We went to the front a week ago today: to Montdidiers, Amiens, Albert, Lens, Arras, St. Quentin, and back through the Forest of Compaigne. There is no use in my trying to describe the destruction and desolation up there. No description, picture, or amount of imagination would give you any idea of it. I was awfully shocked and after seeing it all I marvel that any of them are alive to tell what they have been through. It was just a tiny part of the British front that we saw but it has made a lasting impression on me that will last as long as I live.”1
Adelaide’s letter is one of hundreds of letters, photographs, and artifacts displayed in the National World War I Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri. Many American soldiers who took part in the defense of Europe during the “Great War” gave similar descriptions. They told of devastation on an unfathomable scale — bombed cities, villages so obliterated that only rubble remained, vast cemeteries, and huge swaths of landscape that looked like an uninhabited planet.
The descriptions of war-ravaged Europe during World War I sound similar to the devastation of the city of Tyrus (Tyre) prophesied by Ezekiel in today’s text. Our key verses relate that when God sent judgment, Tyre’s fortresses would be broken down, her people slain, her riches plundered, and the homes within her walls destroyed. What a graphic picture of “destruction and desolation”!
The main sins of Tyre were pride and materialism. Its people were self-sufficient and intent upon obtaining riches and all the pleasures and benefits those riches could supply. Scripture does not record that Tyre dealt dishonestly or aggressively with Judah. However, when Nebuchadnezzar conquered Judah, Tyre rejoiced in the fate that had befallen her competitor because it enhanced her control over commerce in the eastern Mediterranean.
In response, Ezekiel’s oracle against Tyre foretold that God would one day judge and punish this proud city and she would be demolished. Like other Ezekiel oracles, this one offered reassurance to Israel that God controls the destinies of the world’s nations. Israel’s foes would eventually be abased and Israel restored to greatness in God’s plan.
It is good to remember that Scripture tells us all nations and people will one day be humbled before God, and only the righteous will enjoy His eternal blessings. The judgment that fell upon Tyre should both warn and encourage all who fear God.
This chapter of Ezekiel continues the section that began in chapter 25, which proclaims judgment on seven nations around Judah. The focus of Ezekiel 26:1 through 28:19 is on Tyre.
Tyrus (referred to as “Tyre” in other places in the Bible) was the principal city of Phoenicia, and was located about thirty-five miles north of Carmel in what is now Lebanon. The city was built in two sections, with one part on the mainland and the other on a rocky island about a half mile away. This position made it a major commercial hub. Tyre competed with Judah for the lucrative trade of the region, with Tyre dominating the sea trade and Judah controlling the caravan routes at the time of Ezekiel’s prophecy.
The “eleventh year” mentioned in verse 1 refers to the eleventh year of the reign of Zedekiah, which was the year in which Jerusalem fell. Most Bible scholars feel these prophecies regarding Tyre were given shortly after the fall of Jerusalem because they reveal Tyre’s joy at the fall of their trade competitor.
Nations coming up against Tyre “as the sea causeth his waves to come up” (verse 3) would have been vivid imagery to the inhabitants of this seaport city, who were familiar with the destructive power of ocean waves. Just as waves are repetitive and unending, so would nations continue to war against Tyre over a span of time, including Nebuchadnezzar, Alexander the Great, and others. Since Tyre was a seemingly impregnable city, with a history of 2,300 years as a formidable fortress and walls up to 150 feet high, the proclamation that it would experience the ruin described in verses 4-5 must have seemed incomprehensible to those who heard it. “Daughters . . . in the field” (verse 6) refers to villages in the area that would suffer destruction similar to that of Tyre.
Verses 8-14 depict a progressing battle, with outlying villages defeated first. Ezekiel prophesied that Nebuchadnezzar would then “cast a mount” (erect a siege mound) to overthrow the city. “Engines of war” refer to battering rams used to breach the city’s walls; these were moved into place by the incoming army. These verses describe the carnage and chaos that would ensue as the army entered the city, and fighting that would move from street to street and from dwelling to dwelling. Verse 14 summarizes by giving a word-picture of destruction so complete that even the soil is stripped away, leaving bare rock only suitable as a place for mending nets. In fulfillment of verse 21, history records that ancient Tyre was indeed so completely annihilated that its exact location is uncertain. Although the area remained vacant for some time, eventually a city arose near the same site.
III. The condemnation of the nations
E. The condemnation of Tyre
1. The cause (26:1-2)
2. The promise (26:3-6)
3. The course (26:7-21)
a. The destruction of Nebuchadnezzar (26:7-14)
b. The lament of the princes (26:15-18)
c. The totality of desolation (26:19-21)
Like the proud city of Tyre, one day all ungodly nations and individuals will be judged by God. Let us prepare now to escape that fate!
1. “Devastated Lands.” The National WWI Museum and Memorial, accessed March 8, 2022. http://theworldwar.org/explore/exhibitions/past-exhibitions/devastated-lands.