c. Prophecy regarding Jerusalem called in the text valley of vision.”
The prophet asks the meaning of the inhabitants ascending in a body the roofs of their houses. Although this is not expressly stated, it is to witness the advance of a hostile army against the city. But the universal gaiety and the noise of revelry that prevails in the streets show that the enemy is being viewed with proud disdain. For, as the sequel reveals, the inhabitants, as forgetful of God put their confidence in their defenses (ver. 1, 2a). To beat down their pride the prophet lets them see what lies ahead. Their men will be slain as fugitives from whom the will to face the enemy in courageous combat has departed. All the rulers will take to flight but only to be captured and bound together by the adversary. It will similarly deal with all such that abide in the city (vers. 2a, 3). In contrast to the gaiety that everywhere prevails the prophet is sad and weeps bitterly as he contemplates the ruin of the daughter of his people (Jerusalem). And he wishes to be left alone with his grief (v. 4). For the day will be one of destruction brought on by the Lord Himself through the agency of distant nations, as whose representatives only Elam and Kir are named. Their choicest valleys will be filled with the horses and chariots of the enemy (vv. 5-7).
The prophecy will be progressively fulfilled through the agency of the possessors of the world-power—Assyria, Babylon, Rome, the antichrist of the Gospel period.
But the Lord in the past has already been “uncovering the covering” of Judah, that is intermittently exposing His people to the wrath of invading armies of the heathen. With a view to possible reoccurrences of such catastrophes defences had been built. Already Solomon had erected an armory of cedars, which he called “the house of the forest of Lebanon” (; ). Jerusalem had been fortified by David and Hezekiah. In our prophecy the inhabitants of Jerusalem are next presented as seriously considering these measures of defence. First they inspect Solomon’s armory of cedars (v. 8). They next examine the walls of the city and find that there are many breaches in them. So they break down a specified number of houses in order to provide themselves with materials for repairing the walls (v. 9a, 10). They build a “reservoir between the two walls” and draw into it the water of pools that exist outside Jerusalem. “But they have not looked unto the maker thereof, neither had they respect unto him that fashioned it long ago.” The reference is to the pools. As natural wells fed by springs they are God’s handiwork. Jerusalem is the city of God. He is its maker and builder. They make use of the city, of its pools and fortifications in their warfare with the heathen. But as willingly forgetful of the Maker they put their confidence in their own ingenuity to save themselves in time of war (v. 9b, 11). And in defiance of the call to repentance they continue to hold feasts and to make merry as having as their slogan, “Let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die.” It is their answer to the announcement of still other judgments to come (v. 12, 13). This is their iniquity from which they shall never be purged. They are men reprobated. The Lord has revealed it in the prophets ear. Hence there is nothing incredible about the ability of the prophet to make such an announcement (v. 14).
d. Prophecy against Shebna the steward of the house..
Shebna is more than a manager of the king’s domestic or private concerns. He is close to the king. From statements occurring in the sequel it seems that he is vested with the authority of a prime minister over the inhabitants of Jerusalem. But he is proud, insolent, tyrannical, unbelieving and wicked, “the shame of the house of the Lord.” He oppresses the inhabitants and is not a father to them. As lifted up by pride he causes a sepulchre to be hewn out for himself in a rock on high, doubtless on the heights of Mt. Zion near the sepulchres of Judah’s kings whose equal he imagines himself to be. He is just inspecting his new sepulchre when the prophet as sent by the Lord conies to him and asks, “What hast thou here?” and, “Who hast thou here?” The questions mean: what gives thee the right to lay out for thyself a sepulchre in this selected place?” and, “who do you think to bury here?” (vv. 5, 16). The Lord will violently throw him as a ball into a wide land and there he shall die. But first he shall be cast down from his station (vv. 7-19). The Lord will replace him by Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, who will show himself a father to Jerusalem and Judah, and the key of authority of David’s house shall be given into his hand (vv. 20-22). He will be for a throne of glory to his father’s house. As a nail bears the vessels of the house that are hung thereon, so shall he be the stay of the descendents of his house and of their glory (vv. 23, 24). It is evident that it is Christ of whom the prophet here speaks. He is the true Eliakim.
But in that day the nail shall be removed and all that which was hung thereon shall be cut off (v. 25). This looks to the vanishing away of Eliakim as a type of Christ. But according to others the reference is to Christ’s suffering. We know of this Eliakim nothing beyond what is stated in this present message and in 36, 37.
9. Prophecy regarding Tyre.
a. The fall of Tyre.
In ancient times Phoenicia was a narrow strip of land extending along the east coast of the Mediterranean Sea from the city of Laodicea to the borders of Egypt and forming a part of the country of Canaan. Tyra was the commercial center of Phoenicia and the mart of the civilized world. “It was the nursery of arts and science and the city of of perhaps the most industrious and active people ever known.” It stood at the head of the Phoenician cities and had numerous and extensive colonies including Carthage the rival of Rome. The city was built on an island a mile long that ran parallel with the shore but was separated from it by a strait of the Mediterranean a mile wide It had two large harbors and the whole island was surrounded by a strong wall 150 feet in height. Its name “tyre,” “rock” was thus appropriate. Through the centuries and in fulfillment of prophecy the city was intermittently besieged and spoiled until the very site of it became unknown or undiscoverable by any of its ruins. And as the reasons of this judgment the prophets assign the pride and wickedness of the Tyrians, their joy over the calamities of the Israelites and their cruelty in selling them into slavery. The city was not finally destroyed till the conquest of Syria by the Turks in 1516. The modern Tyra is not this celebrated city but an insignificant place on the mainland.
The prophet calls to the mariners that sail in the ships of Tarshish to break forth in lamentation as the tidings have come from Chittim—the islands and maritime countries of the Mediterranean Sea—that Tyre has been destroyed (v. 1). The attention of the prophet is now concentrated directly on the doomed city (isle in the text), at the time the mart of the world, copiously replenished all the while with the rich harvest of Sibor—the river Nile—by trading vessels of Zidon. The prophet enjoins Tyre’s inhabitants to be mute with astonishment (vv. 2, 3). The seer next addresses Zidon, the other famous city of Phoenicia situate on its coast about 24 miles to the north of Tyre. There is a voice from the sea, more exactly from the fortress of the sea, by which is to be understood the insular city of Tyre as viewed from the mainland. “I travail not,” says the voice, “nor bring forth children, neither do I nourish up young men, nor bring up virgins.” It is Tyre personified bewailing the fact that she is as if she has never born children, meaning that she is destitute of inhabitants, in a word, destroyed. All there is now to be seen is the bare rock of the Island on which the city was built. The Zidonians are commanded of the prophet to be ashamed because of the fall of Tyre. (v. 4). Egypt especially shall be sorely pained when the report of Tyre’s fall comes to it (v. 5). It will conclude that all that now remains for the inhabitants of Tyre is to flee howling to distant Tarshish (v. 6). The prophet now contrasts what the city is with what it was. He asks, “Is this your joyous (city),” this heap of ruins! Consider the age of the city. “Its antiquity is of ancient days.” Its founding was being carried back 2,300 years. Men had come to think of it as the city eternal. But it shall pass away. And its inhabitants shall be carried away to a distant country there to sojourn as captives (v. 7).
From whom does this decree regarding Tyre proceed?—Tyre, the crowngiving city, whose merchants because of their opulence are princes and the honorable of the earth? “The Lord of hosts has purposed it to pollute the pride of all glory,”—particularly the ancient temples of Phoenicia and their idols,—and to render contemptible by casting down in the mire the honorable of the earth (vv. 8, 9).
The mind of the prophet is directed once more to Tarshish. He calls to the city, a colony of Tyre, to pass through its land as a river, seeing that there is no more girdle. The reference is here to Tyre. The proud city is lording it over her colonies. But Tyre shall be destroyed. With this restraint-girdle-removed also Tarshish will again be in a position to dispose of the produce of her soil as she chooses and thus no longer be compelled to transact only with Tyre (v. 10).
But through what agency will the Lord accomplish His purpose against Tyre? The answer is contained in the following verse. He will extend His hand over the sea, that is the nations, and stir up the kingdoms. And He will give command concerning Tyre (“Canaan” in the Hebrew text and “merchant city” in the versions) to destroy her strongholds (v. 11).
As has already been explained, Tyre will not be destroyed hastily within the compass of a few years and by a single conqueror, but gradually through the ages. During all this time Tyre will be an oppressed city that has ceased to rejoice. So the prophet foretells, “Thou shalt no more rejoice, O thou oppressed virgin of Zidon” (v. 12a). Tyre is comprehended in Zidon the other famous city of Phoenicia. They are partners and will thus be overtaken by a common ruin.
In view of what the future holds in store for Tyre (and Zidon) the prophet calls to its inhabitants to flee to Chittim in general Europe. But there also they shall find no rest because perhaps they are hated by those whom they formerly oppressed (v. 12b).
The prophet names the Chaldeans as representative of the nations and kingdoms through the instrumentality of which the Lord will realize His Word. The text states that “this people was not,” meaning that it did not appear as a world-power until it founded Assyria for the beasts of the wilderness, that is, until it supplanted Assyria as a world- power through the destruction of Nineveh its captial city (v. 13a). “They (the Chaldeans) set up the towers thereof; They raised up (destroyed) the palaces thereof; and brought it (Tyre) to ruin” (v. 13b). And so the prophet concludes this section of his discourse with again calling upon the ships of Tarshish to howl seeing that their “strength (the city of Tyre) is laid waste” (v. 14).
So here we have the prophet foretelling the initial destruction of Tyre by the possessor of the world-power (the Chaldeans) that was not to appear until a hundred years after the prophet’s death. This was possible because the great prophet speaking here was Christ and not Isaiah. This the rationalistic interpreters deny. Accordingly they insist that the prophecy has reference to the conquest of Tyre by the Assyrians. Isaiah knew about it therefore because it was an event that took place during his own lifetime. Now it is doubtless true that the king of Assyria did beseige Tyre even for five years; but according to Meander, as quoted by Josephus, he was unable to take the city.
b. Tyre’s recovery and impenitence.
The Chaldean or Babylonian world-power, when it shall once have made its appearance, will make an end of Tyre as the mart of the world. As a result she shall be forgotten of the,nations during all the seventy years of her subjugation to Babylonia (v. 15a). But at the end of this period, when Babylon as a world-power shall have been made to pass away, Tyre, as freed from the Babylonian yoke, will employ all her wiles to induce the nations to renew with her the trade-contacts that were broken off. In the imagery of the text, “after the end of seventy years shall Tyre sing as a harlot,” (v. b) that is carry on like a disregarded prostitute that has grown old in the service of sin yet cannot forget her gain and therefore goes about the city to attract men by her music and unchaste songs. The Lord by the prophet commands Tyre, “Take a harp, go about the city, thou harlot that hast been forgotten. Make sweet melody, sing many songs, that thou mayest be remembered (v. 16). Tyra must make an effort to entice the nations to renew with her their commercial intercourse. So God has determined. And the effort shall prove successful because He shall visit the city. By His providence the trade between Tyre and the nations will be renewed. The ancient wealth and grandeur will be recovered. The text reads here, “And it shall come to pass after the end of seventy years that the Lord will visit Tyre” (v. 7a). Thus her fornication with the nations will be resumed and continued, “And she shall turn to her hire, and shall commit fornication with all the kingdoms of the world upon the face of the earth” (v. 17b). Such is God’s will. For Tyre must fill her measure of iniquity in order that she may finally be blotted from the face of the earth. The city was taken by the Turks in 1516. “Since that time it has sunk into utter decay and is now a bare rock, ‘a place to spread nets upon,’ as the prophet Ezekiel foretold that it should be.” Also this prophecy was progressively fulfilled.
A word must be said about this imagery. Commerce and trade, though not as such sinful, is a totally depraved thing as carried on by the world that lies in darkness, the natural man. For the world is always wholly consecrated to self and God is not in all its thoughts. The activating principle here is the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, and the means employed deceit and violence. Verily also this business of buying and selling as conducted by the world is sheer idolatry; it is spiritual fornication pure and simple. Reprobated Tyre, as the commercial center of the world, was therefore indeed the chief of harlots. This, to be sure, is a hard doctrine that the prophet did not try mollify by some such theory as that of common grace.
b. The calling of the Tyrians according to the election in the gospel period (v. 18).
Tyre shall be destroyed but God has His people in the doomed city to be called in the Gospel period. And they shall consecrate the gain of their commerce unto the Lord, and it shall be used for the support of the Gospel ministry in Tyre. In the words of the text, “And her merchandise and her hire,”—this must be made to apply to the Tyre according to the election,—“shall be holiness to the Lord; it shall not be treasured up: for her merchandise shall be for them that dwell before the Lord, to eat sufficiently, and for durable clothing” (v. 18).
Underlying this prediction is the prophecy that God shall gather His church also from among the inhabitants of Tyre. Already when Christ was upon earth, converts from the borders of Tyre and Sidon came to see and to hear him; and he on His part honored these borders with His presence (; ; ). Paul found there disciples of the Lord ( ). In 355 the churches of Syria held a synod there. But the recovered glory of Tyre has completely departed. Today the city—the modern Sur—is a village of fishermen’s huts that numbers about 3,000 inhabitants. Thus has come to pass all the Lord has spoken.