“And say unto Tyrus, O thou that art situate at the entry of the sea, which art a merchant of the people for many isles, Thus saith the Lord God; O Tyrus, thou hast said, I am of perfect beauty.” — Ezekiel 27:3
The birthday of one of my best friends was approaching, and her cousin was planning a big celebration. This cousin knew my friend loved cherry cheesecake, so she asked me to make three of them for the occasion. I happily agreed.
Producing them took time. I shopped for supplies, prepared the crusts, and then mixed the filling ingredients. After the filling set up in the crusts, I meticulously placed cherries on top of each cheesecake in precise rows. The finished cheesecakes looked like they had come right off the cover of a cooking magazine! I was proud of the results of my efforts, and knew my friend would be delighted.
That evening I carefully loaded the cheesecakes into a big box so they would not slide around in the car on the way to the party. Upon arrival, I found a parking spot close to the walkway up to the porch, removed the cheesecakes from the box, and nudged the car door closed. It was dark, but the lights from inside the house shone brightly through the windows as I slowly moved along the walkway to the house. Glancing down at my cheesecakes, I once again felt a surge of pride that they had turned out so well.
Then disaster struck! I noticed some pipes in a small pile by the side of the path and carefully stepped around them, but there was a wire sticking up from the pile that I didn’t see. It caught on my dress and abruptly halted my forward movement. In a moment, the cheesecakes flew out of my hands and landed upside down in front of me. While they were in containers and escaped being covered with dirt, my masterpieces were a scrambled mess! I could do nothing but take them into the party as they were. My friend and the guests were kind and insisted that the cheesecakes tasted wonderful anyway, but the satisfaction I had felt in my creations was completely gone.
Today’s text relates the sad result of a different kind of pride. There is nothing wrong with feeling gratification about a job well done — the type of pride I had in my beautiful cheesecakes — but the pride of Tyre was a feeling of invincibility and a glorifying of human achievement in defiance of God. That was wrong, and as a result, Ezekiel prophesied that Tyre would be destroyed.
Our focus verse records that Tyre was a beautiful city. Historians tell us that the architecture was intricate, the land a paradise to the eyes, and the city enjoyed much wealth because it was a main seaport for the Middle East. Ships from all over brought their treasures to sell and trade there. The people of Tyre were proud of their city’s beauty, wealth, and culture, but all of it was soon to be destroyed because of pride — ruined like a mighty ship smashed apart at sea, with all its treasures and merchandise swallowed up in the dark waters. The mourning and lamentation of the loss of this magnificent city would be very great.
My cheesecakes were ruined in appearance, but I was the only one who mourned them. However, the mourning for Tyre would be widespread because that city was to be destroyed and never restored. Its pride and ungodliness brought judgment and total devastation.
The Bible tells us that God hates pride. Let’s be very careful not to fall into the same prideful self-exaltation that caused Tyre’s downfall!
Chapter 27 of Ezekiel continues the proclamation of judgment on Tyre recorded in Ezekiel 26:1 through 28:19. In the first two verses of this chapter, God instructed Ezekiel to make a lament for this great commercial city. In verses 3-11, Tyre is compared to a beautiful merchant ship. Three aspects of the ship’s magnificence are highlighted: her superior construction (verses 4–6), her impressive decoration (verse 7), and her skilled mariners (verses 8–11). Verses 12-25 are a literal description of Tyre as a renowned commercial center, and include a list of the wares she traded. The remainder of the chapter, verses 26-36, portray the wrecking of a mighty ship.
For centuries, Tyre had been the principal city of Phoenicia. It was a major trade hub on the Mediterranean coast because of its natural harbor; it was situated partially on the mainland and partially on a nearby island. Due to the availability of natural resources and the presence of skilled craftsmen, a ship-building industry thrived there that was renowned throughout the region. Artisans of Tyre passed down knowledge of techniques and proper usage of the available raw materials to succeeding generations. The local population also provided a supply of mariners proficient in navigational skills. Verse 13 records that “the persons of men” were part of the city’s commerce, an allusion to the active slave trade of Tyre.
The lengthy list of goods traded and transported by the ships of Tyre provides remarkable insight into the trade and commerce of the ancient world. The geographical extent of Tyre’s commercial ventures is highlighted in the middle section of this chapter, which catalogues locations throughout the Middle East where Tyre engaged in trade. Arvad (mentioned in verse 8) was the northernmost port city on the Phoenician coast. Zidon, another nearby city, is often coupled with Tyre in the Bible. Numerous other places are named as well.
The Hebrew word translated “mariners” in verse 8 is rendered “rowers” in verse 26 because it implies being propelled forward. The Hebrew root word for “pilot” in verses 8, 27, 28 and 29 alludes to one who handles ropes on a sailing ship. This creates a contrast in which the technical skills and expertise by which Tyre rose on the world stage (described in verses 1-25) would utterly fail to forestall her destruction (recorded in verses 26-36), making Tyre’s downfall truly lamentable.
III. The condemnation of the nations
E. The condemnation of Tyre
4. The lamentation on Tyre’s fall (27:1-36)
a. The glory of Tyre (27:1-11)
b. The influence of Tyre (27:12-25)
c. The desolation of Tyre (27:26-36)
We learn from the destruction of Tyre that a prideful, self-sufficient spirit will bring God’s judgment. Let’s take care to ensure that pride never creeps into our lives.