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Tyre


Tyre, City: Egyptian Port. Photo Jona Lendering.
Remains of a destroyed city: Tyre's Egyptian Port.
Tyre (Phoenician רצ, ṣūr, "rock"; Greek Τρος; Latin Tyrus): port in Phoenicia and one of the main cities in the eastern Mediterranean.

History Photos Texts

In 598/596 BCE, king Jehoiachin and the Jewish elite had been led away as prisoners to Babylonia. In the eleventh year, shortly after the final capture of Jerusalem by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar (587/586), the prophet Ezekiel had a vision of the capture of Tyre.

As it happened, the city would not be captured at all: in the following year, king Ithobaal III of Tyre concluded a treaty with Nebuchadnezzar. The text, here offered in the Contemporary English Version, is valuable as a source for the splendor and wealth of Tyre.

Ezekiel Announces the Fall of Tyre (Ez. 26-28)

The Lord spoke to me on the first day of the month. He said:

Ezekiel, son of man, the people of the city of Tyre have celebrated Jerusalem's defeat by singing

"Jerusalem has fallen!
It used to be powerful,
a center of trade.
Now the city is shattered,
and we will take its place."

Because the people of Tyre have sung that song, I have the following warning for them: I am the Lord God, and I am now your enemy! I will send nations to attack you, like waves crashing against the shore. They will tear down your city walls and defense towers. I will sweep away the ruins until all that's left of you is a bare rock, where fishermen can dry their nets along the coast. I promise that you will be robbed and that the people who live in your towns along the coast will be killed. Then you will know that I am the Lord.

King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia is the world's most powerful king, and I will send him to attack you. He will march from the north with a powerful army, including horses and chariots and cavalry troops. First, he will attack your towns along the coast and kill the people who live there. Then he will build dirt ramps up to the top of your city walls and set up rows of shields around you. He will command some of his troops to use large wooden poles to beat down your walls, while others use iron rods to knock down your watchtowers. He will have so many horses that the dust they stir up will seem like a thick fog. And as his chariots and cavalry approach, even the walls will shake, especially when he proudly enters your ruined city. His troops will ride through your streets, killing people left and right, and your strong columns will crumble to the ground. The troops will steal your valuable possessions; they will break down your walls, and crush your expensive houses. Then the stones and wood and all the remains will be dumped into the sea. You will have no reason to sing or play music on harps, because I will turn you into a bare rock where fishermen can dry their nets. And you will never rebuild your city. I, the Lord God, make this promise.

The people of the nations up and down the coast will shudder when they hear your screams and moans of death. The kings will step down from their thrones, then take off their royal robes and fancy clothes, and sit on the ground, trembling. They will be so shocked at the news of your defeat that they will shake in fear and sing this funeral song:

The great city beside the sea
is destroyed!
Its people once ruled the coast
and terrified everyone there.
But now Tyre is in ruins,
and the people on the coast
stare at it in horror
and tremble in fear.

I, the Lord God, will turn you into a ghost-town. The ocean depths will rise over you and carry you down to the world of the dead, where you will join people of ancient times and towns ruined long ago. You will stay there and never again be a city filled with people. You will die a horrible death! People will come looking for your city, but it will never be found. I, the Lord, have spoken.


The Lord said:
Ezekiel, son of man, sing a funeral song for Tyre, the city that is built along the sea and that trades with nations along the coast. Tell the people of Tyre that the following message is from me:

Tyre, you brag about
your perfect beauty,
and your control of the sea.
You are a ship
built to perfection.
Builders used cypress trees
from Mount Hermon
to make your planks
and a cedar tree from Lebanon
for your tall mast.
Oak trees from Bashan
were shaped into oars;
pine trees from Cyprus
were cut for your deck,
which was then decorated
with strips of ivory.
The builders used fancy linen
from Egypt for your sails,
so everyone could see you.
Blue and purple cloth
from Cyprus
was used
to shade your deck.
Men from Sidon and Arvad
did the rowing,
and your own skilled workers
were the captains.
Experienced men from Byblos
repaired any damages.
Sailors from all over
shopped
at the stores
in your port.
Brave soldiers from Persis,
Lydia, and Libya
served in your navy,
protecting you with shields
and helmets,
and making you famous.
Your guards came from
Arvad and Cilicia,
and men from Gamad
stood watch in your towers.
With their weapons
hung on your walls,
your beauty was complete.

Merchants from southern Spain traded silver, iron, tin, and lead for your products. The people of Greece, Tubal, and Meshech traded slaves and things made of bronze, and those from Beth-Togarmah traded work horses, war horses, and mules. You also did business with people from Rhodes, and people from nations along the coast gave you ivory and ebony in exchange for your goods. Edom traded emeralds, purple cloth, embroidery, fine linen, coral, and rubies. Judah and Israel gave you their finest wheat, fancy figs, honey, olive oil, and spices in exchange for your merchandise. The people of Damascus saw what you had to offer and brought you wine from Helbon and wool from Zahar. Vedan and Javan near Uzal traded you iron and spices. The people of Dedan supplied you with saddle blankets, while people from Arabia and the rulers of Kedar traded lambs, sheep, and goats. Merchants from Sheba and Raamah gave you excellent spices, precious stones, and gold in exchange for your products. You also did business with merchants from the cities of Harran, Canneh, Eden, Sheba, Asshur, and Chilmad, and they gave you expensive clothing, purple and embroidered cloth, brightly colored rugs, and strong rope. Large, seagoing ships carried your goods wherever they needed to go.

You were like a ship
loaded with heavy cargo
and sailing across the sea,
but you were wrecked
by strong eastern winds.
Everything on board was lost -
your valuable cargo,
your sailors and carpenters,
merchants and soldiers.
The shouts of your drowning crew
were heard on the shore.
Every ship is deserted;
rowers and sailors and captains
all stand on shore,
mourning for you.
They show their sorrow
by putting dust on their heads
and rolling in ashes;
they shave their heads
and dress in sackcloth
as they cry in despair.
In their grief they sing
a funeral song for you:
"Tyre, you were greater
than all other cities.
But now you lie in silence
at the bottom of the sea.
Nations that received
your merchandise
were always pleased;
kings everywhere got rich
from your costly goods.
But now you are wrecked
in the deep sea,
with your cargo and crew
scattered everywhere.
People living along the coast
are shocked at the news.
Their rulers are horrified,
and terror is written
across their faces.
The merchants of the world
can't believe what happened.
Your death was gruesome,
and you are gone forever."


The Lord God said:
Ezekiel, son of man, tell the king of Tyre that I am saying:

You are so arrogant that you think you're a god and that the city of Tyre is your throne. You may claim to be a god, though you're nothing but a mere human. You think you're wiser than Daniel and know everything. Your wisdom has certainly made you rich, because you have storehouses filled with gold and silver. You're a clever businessman and are extremely wealthy, but your wealth has led to arrogance!

You compared yourself to a god, so now I, the Lord God, will make you the victim of cruel enemies. They will destroy all the possessions you've worked so hard to get. Your enemies will brutally kill you, and the sea will be your only grave.

When you face your enemies, will you still claim to be a god? They will attack, and you will suffer like any other human. Foreigners will kill you, and you will die the death of those who don't worship me. I, the Lord, have spoken.


The Lord said:
Ezekiel, son of man, sing a funeral song for the king of Tyre and tell him I am saying:

At one time, you were perfect, intelligent, and good-looking. You lived in the garden of Eden and wore jewelry made of brightly colored gems and precious stones. They were all set in gold and were ready for you on the day you were born. I appointed a winged creature to guard your home on my holy mountain, where you walked among gems that dazzled like fire.

You were truly good from the time of your birth, but later you started doing wicked things. You traded with other nations and became more and more cruel and evil. So I forced you to leave my mountain, and the creature that had been your protector now chased you away from the gems.

It was your good looks that made you arrogant, and you were so famous that you started acting like a fool. That's why I threw you to the ground and let other kings sneer at you. You have cheated so many other merchants that your places of worship are corrupt. So I set your city on fire and burned it down. Now everyone sees only ashes where your city once stood, and the people of other nations are shocked. Your punishment was horrible, and you are gone forever.
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History Photos Texts
Jona Lendering for
Livius.Org, 2012
Revision: 6 Aug. 2012
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