Isaiah Chapter 23- “Kick’em when they’re down”
It’s no secret that today the relationship between Israel and the United States is strained, to say the least. As I write this post, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu is planning a trip to speak to the US Congress, at the same time the White House is boycotting the speech, and strategizing ways to thwart or distract his message. Petty stuff for sure. But this pettiness is an indicator that the current administration is willing to throw Israel under the bus if it’s politically beneficial.
Our nation should be careful how we treat Israel, as history has proven that nations that come against Israel do not fare well! God promised in Genesis 12:3
“I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:3)
The ancient city of Tyre is a case in point.
In chapter 23, the Lord brings burden against the ancient city of Tyre:
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. Be still, you inhabitants of the coastland, you merchants of Sidon, whom those who cross the sea have filled. And on great waters the grain of Shihor, the harvest of the River, is her revenue; and she is a marketplace for the nations. 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.” When the report reaches Egypt, they also will be in agony at the report of Tyre. (Isaiah 23:1-5)
According to history, the Phoenician city of Tyre (located in modern day Lebanon), stood as one of the most ancient and prosperous cities in history. Due to its advantageous geographical position and good ports, Tyre also became one of the wealthiest trading cities in history.
Tyre and Israel
At one time in history, Tyre was a friendly neighbor and trading partner with Israel. During the reigns of King David and King Solomon, Hiram, king of Tyre, provided building materials for the kings’ houses and the first temple. The bible records that Hiram sent cedar trees, carpenters, masons, and builders to Israel (2 Samuel 5:11, 1 Kings 5:1-18). In addition, the Tyrians were equally well known for their remarkable ability to navigate the seas. Second Chronicles documents that Hiram sent ships and “servants who knew the sea” to work with Solomon’s men in acquiring gold from foreign lands (2 Chronicles 8:18).
So what happened with Tyre? Why did they deserve judgment? Because the leaders of Tyre saw the difficulties Israel was experiencing, and they hatched a plan to profit from Israel’s troubles. The prophet Ezekiel gives us additional insight:
“Son of man, because Tyre has said against Jerusalem, ‘Aha! She is broken who was the gateway of the peoples; now she is turned over to me; I shall be filled; she is laid waste.'” (Ezekiel 26:2)
Tyre was planning to plunder the nation of Israel after the Assyrians left. The attitude of the leaders of Tyre is akin to watching a friend be severely beaten, then going through their pockets while they lay on the ground in agony!
And so God declares, through the prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel, a just punishment for Tyre; Tyre would experience what she planned for Israel.
In 585 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar attacked the city, but that was only a partial fulfillment. Tyre consisted of a mainland city, and an island city where they would retreat to in times of danger. The island city was impenetrable. Or so they thought. Read to what Ezekiel predicts:
They will plunder your riches and pillage your merchandise; they will break down your walls and destroy your pleasant houses; they will lay your stones, your timber, and your soil in the midst of the water. I will put an end to the sound of your songs, and the sound of your harps shall be heard no more. I will make you like the top of a rock; you shall be a place for spreading nets, and you shall never be rebuilt, for I the Lord have spoken,’ says the Lord God. (Ezekiel 26:12-14)
Just as Ezekiel predicted, in 332 B.C. Alexander the Great, having conquered the main city, found it deserted, the people had fled to island. Not to be outdone, Alexander commanded his army to tear down the mainland city, and dump all of the material into the sea to create a causeway – a land bridge – to reach the island.
This was the first time in history that this strategy had been used, but Ezekiel predicted it 200 years earlier! The Tyrians were defeated, their walls penetrated, and Alexander’s forces entered the city and devastated it. The Macedonians were so enraged by the stubborn resistance of the city that they showed no mercy.
Christianity in Tyre
Interestingly, Isaiah 23 gives a glimmer of hope for Tyre:
And it shall be, at the end of seventy years, that the LORD will visit Tyre. (Isaiah 23:17a)
Here judgment will last 70 years, but then “the Lord will visit Tyre.” Many believe this ties in with the fact that Christianity would come to Tyre. In Acts 21, the Apostle Paul ends up in Tyre on his way as a prisoner to Rome, and finds a thriving church there. To this day, Tyre, located in modern day Lebanon, has had a thriving Christian population.
But it does seem that in the end times, Tyre will return to her roots:
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 23:17b-18)
The phrase “She will return to her hire, and commit fornication with all the kingdoms of the world on the face of the earth” seems to link her with the woman in Mystery Babylon (Revelation 17-18).
Is the US a type of “Tyre?”
Since it’s rebirth in 1948, the United States has been, as Tyre was, a friend and ally that Israel could count on. And during that time, as Tyre was, the United States has emerged as the most prosperous and blessed nation in history. But our friendship seems to be waning, as is our position of blessing. I think it’s no coincidence that in the past several years, as the current US administration has turned away from Israel, the US is experiencing issue after issue, problem after problem. Something to think about.
Bottom line: As individuals, their may not be a lot we can do to improve the Israeli-US relationship, but we can pray for Israel. We should be praying that God would give our leaders a renewed heart for Israel!