Miles to go...

I have miles to go... please pray each day for the next leg of my Biblical journey!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Day 61 & 62: Tyre: Prophecy Failed or Fulfilled?

The Seige of Tyre 332 BC. (Public Domain)

Ezekiel 26:1-6

New Living Translation (NLT)
2On February 3, during the twelfth year of King Jehoiachin’s captivity,[a] this message came to me from the Lord:“Son of man, Tyre has rejoiced over the fall of Jerusalem, saying, ‘Ha! She who was the gateway to the rich trade routes to the east has been broken, and I am the heir! Because she has been made desolate, I will become wealthy!’“Therefore, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am your enemy, O Tyre, and I will bring many nations against you, like the waves of the sea crashing against your shoreline. They will destroy the walls of Tyre and tear down its towers. I will scrape away its soil and make it a bare rock! It will be just a rock in the sea, a place for fishermen to spread their nets, for I have spoken, says the Sovereign Lord. Tyre will become the prey of many nations, and its mainland villages will be destroyed by the sword. Then they will know that I am the Lord.


I have to admit, I am lousy with geography. When I started reading in Ezekiel about the prophecy regarding Tyre's demise, I had to get online and see what I could find out about it. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that a city called Tyre is still on the maps in the same general vicinity as the ancient seaport that was supposed to have been destroyed! 

It really didn't disturb me too much. So much of Biblical prophecy is still unfolding even today, that I would have normally just brushed it off and thought no more about it. But a link caught my eye. It was an article claiming that the Bible was not inerrant, and that Ezekiel was a false prophet, because the city of Tyre still exists in Lebanon.

Ok, that shook me up. Obviously there are a lot of people who don't share my perspective that many of the prophecies in the Old Testament are still in the process of fulfillment. So if someone were to ask me about this, how would I respond? I decided I'd better dig into it and figure out what to say. Besides, it seems that the Holy Spirit has continually challenged me throughout these last two months, and I'm sure this won't be the last twister He throws in my direction before my 90 day journey through scripture has been completed. Even though I feel a little mentally and emotionally exhausted from the pace of my reading schedule and the depths to which I must dig in order to understand and then share the answers, God seems to give me the stamina that I need to get through it. Weary or not, I feel richly rewarded at the end of each chapter.

Ok, so Tyre. Is it pronounced like 'tire' or 'tear'? Apparently the answer depends on where you live. We Americans generally pronounce it like 'tire', but it seems that the proper pronunciation is 'tear'. That's how I say it; 'tear'. It just sounds prettier to me. Anyway, the question needs to be answered. If it still exists, then what of Ezekiel's prophecies? For the answers, I've poured over a half dozen different websites, some of which included a lengthy list of extra-Biblical sources. I'll be happy to provide the sites where I obtained the second-hand (to me) information, but since I haven't read the books and documents that are referenced by the authors of those websites, I won't cite the sources of my sources. How's that for a mouthful?

Tyre was one of the most ancient cities on the Mediterranean, dating back to around 2700 BC. Because of its location, it was very one of the most prosperous trading centers in the entire world. It was from here that King Hiram had sent cedar trees, carpenters, masons and builders to help build Solomon's temple and the other important structures long before Ezekiel predicted its ruin.

But as will happen with any city that becomes very prosperous and densely populated, it became a place of violence and bloodshed, religious diversity and idolatry, and every other type of sin. What ticked God off the most though was the greed, pride, and jealousy directed at Jerusalem, and how collectively, the Tyrians rejoiced in Jerusalem's misfortunes, and attempted to profit from them. They hated the Jews so much that they had started selling them off as slaves to the Greeks, primarily to rid the land of their presence. (That part is in Joel 3:6, but isn't found in Ezekiel.)

Nobody back then would have ever thought Tyre could be destroyed. Not only did it have a phenomenal naval fleet, its geography provided a natural defense that made it nearly impregnable. The city was actually divided; the mainland, and a small rocky island about a half mile off the eastern coast. The force of the winds between the mainland and the island were prohibitive to bridging the two areas, and the water was so deep around the island city that any sort of attack would have had to been made from ships in the tumultuous waters. It's no surprise, then, that during Nebuchadnezzar's 13 year seige against the mainland, the majority of the inhabitants relocated to the island.

I'm going to quote a lot of scripture here, so bear with me. You'll notice that the dates provided in scripture are dates that are consistent with our calendar. In the KJV, however, the dates are given according to the Hebrew calendar. I prefer the way the NLT gives dates that are understandable to me. However you look at it, the dates, in correlation to the year of Jehoichin's captivity, make this one of the easiest prophecies in scripture to place in an accurate time frame, because the date of his captivity is universally accepted as beginning in the year 597 BC. Ezekiel gives several specific years that correlate to the captivity throughout the prophecy (portions of which are included also in chapters 20, 24, and 29) and can be verified with both Biblical and additional historical records. Keep in mind, prophecies, by their very definition, are predictions given before the events occur.

Ezekiel 26:7-14, 19-21

New Living Translation (NLT)

“This is what the Sovereign Lord says: From the north I will bring King Nebuchadnezzar[b] of Babylon against Tyre. He is king of kings and brings his horses, chariots, charioteers, and great army. First he will destroy your mainland villages. Then he will attack you by building a siege wall, constructing a ramp, and raising a roof of shields against you. He will pound your walls with battering rams and demolish your towers with sledgehammers. 10 The hooves of his horses will choke the city with dust, and the noise of the charioteers and chariot wheels will shake your walls as they storm through your broken gates. 11 His horsemen will trample through every street in the city. They will butcher your people, and your strong pillars will topple.
12 “They will plunder all your riches and merchandise and break down your walls. They will destroy your lovely homes and dump your stones and timbers and even your dust into the sea. 13 I will stop the music of your songs. No more will the sound of harps be heard among your people. 14 I will make your island a bare rock, a place for fishermen to spread their nets. You will never be rebuilt, for I, the Lord, have spoken. Yes, the Sovereign Lord has spoken!
 19 “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will make Tyre an uninhabited ruin, like many others. I will bury you beneath the terrible waves of enemy attack. Great seas will swallow you. 20 I will send you to the pit to join those who descended there long ago. Your city will lie in ruins, buried beneath the earth, like those in the pit who have entered the world of the dead. You will have no place of respect here in the land of the living. 21 I will bring you to a terrible end, and you will exist no more. You will be looked for, but you will never again be found. I, the Sovereign Lord, have spoken!”

So here, in a nutshell, are the predictions of Ezekiel:

  • Many nations would come against Tyre like waves of the sea
  • Tyre would be made bare like a rock
  • Nebuchadnezzar would destroy the mainland
  • The city would be torn down and the debris thrown into the midst of the water
  • The site would become a place for fishermen to spread their nets
  • The city would never be rebuilt.
While reading through all the information I've found on various websites, it occurs to me that many people think that just because a prophecy is able to be verbalized in five minutes, that the fulfillment of it should happen in one fell swoop. Couple that with the inclination for many nay-sayers to overlook the first prediction and thus assuming that Nebuchadnezzar would be entirely responsible for bringing the city to its ruination, and you have the substance of the disagreement. Oh yeah, and the little tidbit about it still being on the map. We'll get to that.

Chronologically, here's how the events played out. Nebuchadnezzar's armies began their siege against the mainland villages of Tyre shortly after Ezekiel's prophecy, and didn't stop for thirteen years. After the Babylonians had destroyed most of the mainland and killed those who had not moved to the island, Tyre reached a truce with Babylon without the island city having been compromised. This completes Nebuchadnezzar's portion of the prophecy.

It was a couple hundred years later when Alexander the Great entered the picture and more of the prophecy began being fulfilled. He had been warring against the Persians, traveling southward toward Egypt, calling on all the Phoenician cities to open their gates. It was his goal to prevent the cities from being used by the Persian fleets against him. Tyre wasn't about to obey Alexander's request, though. This made Alexander mad, so he began dismantling the ruins of Old Tyre, the mainland region, and used the debris to begin building a 200' wide causeway between it and the island region. Prophecy fulfilled: The old city of Tyre on the mainland was essentially torn down and thrown into the midst of the water. 

Tyre fought back with a vengeance. They had the advantage, both defensively and aggressively, because they had an enormous naval presence. They were causing Alexander's troops a world of hurt until he figured out he'd better get some help. So he gathered a fleet of ships from countries he'd conquered, and more from countries he applied pressure to, and ended up with a naval force that included Sidon, Cyprus, and 7 other nations. Now Alexander had the upper hand, and the prophecy about many nations coming against Tyre had been fulfilled. The causeway did get completed, the island's walls were breached, and there was a widespread slaughter in the streets and on the square. Those who had not been killed were sold into slavery.

None of the events described thus far in Ezekiel's prophecy are disputed. Non-Biblical historical records verify all of this. Even if we stopped right there, one would have to admit that there is no way that Ezekiel could have accurately guessed all these events when he first predicted them. Remember, a couple or three hundred years have now come and gone since Ezekiel's prophecies. 

A history textbook once used in high schools and colleges gives credence to two other aspects of the prophecy. It should be noted that Phillip Myers was a secular historian and was not writing from a Biblical perspective when he wrote that Tyre never fully recovered, and that for the most part, the original site of the city was bare as a rock. He wrote that fishermen regularly use the area as a place to spread their nets to dry. Prophetic? Check.

But what about the city not being rebuilt? Remember, Old Tyre was the mainland. It has been completely lost, buried under water. A 12th century traveler by the name of Benjamin of Tudela journaled that he found New Tyre to be a beautiful city with an exquisite harbor and first class sugar crops. From the top of the walls around New Tyre, one could see the ancient city of Tyre beneath the water. If one ventured out by boat toward the coastland, the ruins of the marketplaces, the streets, and the palaces were still clearly visible in the seabed. 

By the 20th century, a theological historian by the name of George Davis wrote that the remains of the ancient city had long been buried beneath the changing Mediterranean coastline, which is now a peninsula. In his book Fulfilled Prophecies That Prove The Bible he includes a photograph of Syrian fishermen hauling in their nets, taken where ancient Tyre is believed to have been located.

That leaves the final prophecy in question. The prophecy that Tyre would never be rebuilt and would be lost forever. This is what is hotly disputed. But is it really a failed prophecy? Is it even possible that the prophecy has not yet been fulfilled? 

The prophecy has not failed, and has already been fulfilled. How?

Neither the mainland city of Old Tyre nor the island city of New Tyre exist today. Even after Alexander the Great brought partial destruction to the island, the city continued to come under attack for centuries. In 193 BC, the city was attacked, plundered and burned. Between 1085 and 1155 AD, Tyre was frequently besieged by Egypt. In 1291, the city ultimately came to her ruin by the Sultan Halil. By the late 17th century, all that remained were "a few poor wretches" who subsisted primarily on fishing. In 1837, an earthquake devastated the remaining structures so completely that the area was not even passable.

A new city named Tyre was erected, however, and is now a thriving seaport community with a population of around 60,000. It should not be confused with the Biblical mainland city of Old Tyre, or with the Biblical island city of New Tyre. Although it is widely considered to be the same city founded in 2700 BC or thereabouts, there is no physical connection between modern Tyre and the cities of old. For a very long time, there was virtually nothing there at all. I'm not sure when the current version of the city was built, because even Wiki didn't provide that information. Regardless, the ruins that one can visit today aren't from the Phoenician cities of Tyre, but are of buildings erected during the Crusades. The modern day city of Tyre is on a peninsula that did not even exist in ancient times, and even the geographic location of the original cities has long been buried beneath water and sand.


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