Isaiah 23:  The Burden of Tyre, A Merchant City

And it shall be, at the end of seventy years, that the Lord will visit Tyre. She will return to her hire, and commit fornication with all the kingdoms of the world on the face of the earth.  Her gain and her pay will be set apart for the Lord; it will not be treasured nor laid up, for her gain will be for those who dwell before the Lord, to eat sufficiently, and for fine clothing. Isaiah 23:17,18

 

The oracle of judgment contained in chapter 23 is directed against Tyre, the wealthy Phenician seaport that lay along the Mediterranean coast just north of Israel.  The harbor of this materialistic city would be destroyed and its greatness eclipsed.  In the roll call of peoples due to face the divine wrath we realize that every culture of man will surely be judged by God.

Key Verses: 23:1, 23:9, 23:12-13

Cross over (23:1-6).  Tyre and Sidon were twin Phoenician centers, ports planted on the Mediterranean coast just north of Israel.  The Phoenicians had colonies throughout the Mediterranean and many commercial ties with Egypt.  This roused the suspicions of Assyria and led to a temporary destruction of the ports.  The people fled and “crossed over” their colonies or trading partners.

23:1 burden For similar phrasing, see 13:1.  Tyre was besieged several times over a period of about 400 years before it was finally laid waste by Alexander the Great in 332 B.C.  Cyprus had close commercial ties with Tyre (Ezek. 27:6), as did Solomon (1 Kin. 5:1-8-11).  The prnoun it refers to the report that Tyre had fallen.

23:15 Seventy years Symbolizes a full measure of time, a life time.

23:17 Will deal is a translation of the Hebrew verb “to visit.”  Although the verb can express God’s merciful visitation on His people, here the verb is used to express God’s judgment (24:21).  Commit fornication is a metaphor for forming economic alliances with anyone that enriched her, regardless of ethics.

23:18 Tyre’s pay would be set apart, or “regarded as holy,” for the Lord.  This was not a violation of Deut. 23:18, which forbade bringing a harlot’s pay to the temple.  Tyre’s destruction was part of the Lord’s war against the unrighteous.  The spoils would belong to Him as the Victor.

Burden (Heb. Massa’)

This noun is a derivative of the verb nasa’ which means “to lift up” or “to carry away.”  Massa’ refers to something that is taken or carried such as a present, tribute or message.  It is also translated oracle when God uses His prophets to convey judgment against someone or some nation.  Isaiah frequently used this term in what are commonly known as the “oracles against the nations,” where he spoke of God’s judgment on different kingdoms.  Translating the word as burden emphasizes that Isaiah carried and delivered God’s indictments against the nations.


The Oracle concerning Tyre

23 1  The burden against Tyre. Wail, you ships of Tarshish! For it is laid waste, So that there is no house, no harbor; From the land of Cyprus it is revealed to them. 2  Be still, you inhabitants of the coastland, You merchants of Sidon, Whom those who cross the sea have filled. 3  And on great waters the grain of Shihor, The harvest of the River, is her revenue; And she is a marketplace for the nations. 4  Be ashamed, O Sidon; For the sea has spoken, The strength of the sea, saying, “I do not labor, nor bring forth children; Neither do I rear young men, Nor bring up virgins. 5  When the report reaches Egypt, They also will be in agony at the report of Tyre. 6  Cross over to Tarshish; Wail, you inhabitants of the coastland! 7  Is this your joyous city, Whose antiquity is from ancient days, Whose feet carried her far off to dwell? 8  Who has taken this counsel against Tyre, the crowning city, Whose merchants are princes, Whose traders are the honorable of the earth? 9  The Lord of hosts has purposed it, To bring to dishonor the pride of all glory, To bring into contempt all the honorable of the earth. 10  Overflow through your land like the River, O daughter of Tarshish; There is no more strength. 11  He stretched out His hand over the sea, He shook the kingdoms; The Lord has given a commandment against Canaan To destroy its strongholds. 12  And He said, “You will rejoice no more, O you oppressed virgin daughter of Sidon. Arise, cross over to Cyprus; There also you will have no rest.” 13  Behold, the land of the Chaldeans, This people which was not; Assyria founded it for wild beasts of the desert. They set up its towers, They raised up its palaces, And brought it to ruin. 14  Wail, you ships of Tarshish! For your strength is laid waste

15  Now it shall come to pass in that day that Tyre will be forgotten seventy years, according to the days of one king. At the end of seventy years it will happen to Tyre as in the song of the harlot: 16  “Take a harp, go about the city, You forgotten harlot; Make sweet melody, sing many songs, That you may be remembered.” 17  And it shall be, at the end of seventy years, that the Lord will visit Tyre. She will return to her hire, and commit fornication with all the kingdoms of the world on the face of the earth. 18  Her gain and her pay will be set apart for the Lord; it will not be treasured nor laid up, for her gain will be for those who dwell before the Lord, to eat sufficiently, and for fine clothing.