A Prophecy Against Tzor (Tyre) ~ Part 1b ~ Yesha’yahu 23:1-10

In my last post, we began to examine the last of the prophecies that Yesha’yahu had received from Adonai against the nations surrounding Isra’el and Y’hudah, A Prophecy Against Tzor (Tyre) ~ Yesha’yahu 23:1-10. Unfortunately, I got caught up going down a rabbit trail, and we didn’t get beyond verse 1. In this post, we will explore the full passage.

In the twenty-third chapter of Yesha’yahu, we come to the final judgment pronounced on the nations surrounding Isra’el and Y’hudah. Here, judgment is declared on the Phoenician city of Tzor (Tyre), in present-day Lebanon not far from the northern border of Isra’el on the Mediterranean Sea. So capable a seafaring people were the people of Tzor that there has been speculation that they reached the shores of North America. [1] And, because they used their navy for commerce as well as for conquest, they grew very wealthy.

1 A prophecy about Tzor: Howl, you “Tarshish” ships, because the harbor is destroyed! On returning from Kittim, they discover they cannot enter it.

Even the people inhabiting Kittim, or the present-day island of Cypress, would hear about the judgment coming down on the city of Tzor.

Tzor was the southernmost major city of Phoenicia. It was a wealthy city, due to its development and control of sea trade. As an island city (with overflow population living on the mainland) its major port was easily protected. Tzor had established a trading colony on Tarshish. The ships of Tarshish were particularly impressive since they traveled so far between Tzor and Iberia. The destruction of Tzor prophetically described in this prophecy is difficult to pin down from the description made here. In the latter part of the eighth century and the early seventh century BCE, the Assyrians tried to take Tzor several times. However, the prophecy may also look forward to Nebuchadnezzar’s attack on Tzor (including a thirteen-year siege) in the sixth century and perhaps even to the final destruction of Tzor by Alexander the Great in 332 BCE. Cyprus was a large island about 75 miles west of Tzor and would have been the last port of call before reaching Tzor. [2]

2 Silence, you who live on the coast, you who have been enriched by the merchants of Tzidon crossing the sea.

Tzidon was another important Phoenician trade port north of Tzor. Its mention indicates that, though the prophecy was directed explicitly toward Tzor (the city closest to Yerushalayim), the whole of Phoenicia was under judgment. The silence following the defeat of Tzor would be a marked contrast to the bustle of commerce that once characterized her.

3 By the great water, the grain of Shichor, the harvest of the Nile, brought you profits. She was marketplace for the nations.

Phoenician merchants transported items from throughout the Mediterranean. The grain from Shichor represents the fruitful harvests of Egypt, shipped up the Nile and on to the coast. Standing out from the coast approximately six hundred yards from the mainland, the island city of Tzor and its harbor were secure from anything but a sustained siege. The waters were also deep enough to allow for heavily laden ships to approach and offload their cargoes. Dedicated to commercial activity, Tzor was supplied with food and other essentials. Ships from Tzor established colonies, including some on Cyprus and the North African city of Carthage, around the Mediterranean to draw on the resources of these areas, especially metals, and to funnel goods back and forth between the eastern and western Mediterranean. [3]

4 Shame, Tzidon, for the sea speaks; the fortress of the sea says, “I no longer have labor pains or bear children, yet I have raised neither boys nor girls.”

The sea here is personified to lament for its barrenness in the loss of Tzidon.

5 When the report reaches Egypt, they will be in anguish at the fate of Tzor.

Egypt will also lament because it had lost an important trading partner.

6 Cross over to Tarshish! Howl, you who live on the coast!

Because of the destruction of the Phoenician coastland, its inhabitants will have to disperse, some perhaps going as far as the trading colony Tarshish.

7 Is this your boisterous city, whose feet long ago in antiquity carried her off to found distant colonies?

The boisterous city is Tzor, the ancient city that established Tarshish as a colony. After it is destroyed, its inhabitants will flee to Tarshish.

8 Who planned this against Tzor, the city that once bestowed crowns, whose merchants are princes, whose traders are honored throughout the earth? 9 Adonai-Tzva’ot planned it to break the pride of all the arrogant, to humiliate all those who are honored everywhere on earth.

Tzor’s wealth had brought her enormous power and prestige. In answer to the question of verse 8, the prophecy proclaims that the One who planned the fall of the magnificent city of Tzor was none other than Adonai-Tzva’ot. Thus, this prophecy continues the teaching that God is sovereign over all nations.

10 People of Tarshish! Nothing restricts you now. You can flow freely over your land just like the Nile River. ~ Yesha’yahu 23:2-10 (CJB)

Now Tarshish will overflow with all the refugees from the destroyed cities of the Phoenician coastland.

In my next post, we continue to explore A Prophecy Against Tzor (Tzor) ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 23:11-25.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] Jon Courson’s Application Commentary Old Testament Volume 2.

[2] HCSB Study Bible

[3] The IVP Bible Background Commentary – Old Testament

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