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Isaiah 23 (Phoenicia: Tyre, Sidon)

The oracles continue. This final judgement is of Tyre. This is the famous ancient Phoenician city of explorers and mariners. Modern day Lebanon on the Mediterranean Sea. As a reminder, they supplied lumber for King Solomon's Temple.

The sailors from Tyre, while at sea in Cyprus, learn that their homes and harbors are destroyed.

The inhabitants of the coastland are told to be silent. Specifically, Sidon is called out. This is a sister middle eastern, Phoenician city to Tyre found in modern day Lebanon. Her revenue came from the wheat exported from the Nile "...she was the market of nations."

  • Sidon is told to be ashamed.
  • the sea states that it has not birthed or raised children
  • Egypt will be in anguish when it hears that Tyre is in trouble.

In verse 6, the oracle specifically names Tarshish (trading partner from modern Spain).

  • Wail, inhabitants of the coastland.
  • Is this your jubilant city?
  • this ancient city?
  • who has colonized distant lands?

In other words, Isaiah is taunting them. They thought the were too big to fail. They had too much success. Dominated. Also, it's interesting to think of how old a civilization is to be called "ancient" by Isaiah...

Then, in verse 8, Isaiah cuts to the chase.

  • Who has planned this against the crown giver, merchant princes, world wide honored traders?
  • The Lord of hosts has planned it to defile the pride
  • there is no more restraint
  • He has stretched His hand out over the sea.
  • He made the kingdoms tremble
  • The Lord has given a command concerning Canaan to demolish its strongholds
  • Sidon will exult no more
  • Flee to Cyprus, but you won't find rest.

With the oracle complete, Isaiah explains.

Verse 13 is a little confusing. it starts with, "Behold the land of the Chaldeans (Babylonians)" but then speaks of Assyria. The Ryrie footnotes says that the Lord would punish Tyre through the Chaldeans (Babylonians), who would raze all but the island city.

Verse 14 repeats the command to "Wail, O ships of Tarshish..."

Verses 15 and 16 promises that a day is coming when Tyre will be forgotten for 70 years. Then they'll have to walk around like a singing harlot to be remembered.

Yikes. In verse 17, Isaiah promised that at the end of the 70 years the Lord would visit Tyre. Then she would go back to harlot wages and play the harlot for the whole world.

The Ryrie footnote for verses 15-17 include

  • the 70 years was from Nebuchadnezzar's conquest until the fall of Babylon, Tyre was weak and poor
  • Under the Persians, she gained some of her former power
  • until Alexander the Great demolished the island city in 332

Conclusion to Chapters 13-23

This is the end of the oracles against the nations. Isaiah shifts focus from individual nations to the whole world.

In the Warren Wiersbe commentary on Isaiah, Be Comforted, he has some insightful conclusions after trekking through the judgements and oracles of these 11 nations.

  • God is in control of the nations. He does what He wants.
  • God hates the sin of pride
  • God judges nations on how they treat one another (even though (except Judah) they are not under God's law; they are held responsible for evil behavior.)
  • God always has a word of promise and hope for His people.

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