A prophecy against Tyre: Wail, you ships of Tarshish! For Tyre is destroyed and left without house or harbor. From the land of Cyprus word has come to them. Be silent, you people of the island and you merchants of Sidon, whom the seafarers have enriched. On the great waters came the grain of the Shihor; the harvest of the Nile was the revenue of Tyre, and she became the marketplace of the nations. Be ashamed, Sidon, and you fortress of the sea, for the sea has spoken: “I have neither been in labor nor given birth; I have neither reared sons nor brought up daughters.” When word comes to Egypt, they will be in anguish at the report from Tyre. Cross over to Tarshish; wail, you people of the island. Is this your city of revelry, the old, old city, whose feet have taken her to settle in far-off lands? Who planned this against Tyre, the bestower of crowns, whose merchants are princes, whose traders are renowned in the earth? The Lord Almighty planned it, to bring down her pride in all her splendor and to humble all who are renowned on the earth. Till your land as they do along the Nile, Daughter Tarshish, for you no longer have a harbor. The Lord has stretched out his hand over the sea and made its kingdoms tremble. He has given an order concerning Phoenicia that her fortresses be destroyed. He said, “No more of your reveling, Virgin Daughter Sidon, now crushed! “Up, cross over to Cyprus; even there you will find no rest.” Look at the land of the Babylonians, this people that is now of no account! The Assyrians have made it a place for desert creatures; they raised up their siege towers, they stripped its fortresses bare and turned it into a ruin. Wail, you ships of Tarshish; your fortress is destroyed! At that time Tyre will be forgotten for seventy years, the span of a king’s life. But at the end of these seventy years, it will happen to Tyre as in the song of the prostitute: “Take up a harp, walk through the city, you forgotten prostitute; play the harp well, sing many a song, so that you will be remembered.” At the end of seventy years, the Lord will deal with Tyre. She will return to her lucrative prostitution and will ply her trade with all the kingdoms on the face of the earth. Yet her profit and her earnings will be set apart for the Lord ; they will not be stored up or hoarded. Her profits will go to those who live before the Lord , for abundant food and fine clothes. – Isaiah 23:1-18
God turns His attention to the City of Tyre in this passage. I had to do some research into the geographic context of this passage. I must say after spending considerable time looking at maps and reading bible dictionary entries it does not seem much more clear than when I started. The geographic location of Tarshish is not clear, but could be near present day Spain. The location of the city of Tyre is apparently more clear and near present day Lebanon in the middle east. It was apparently a rock promontory jutting out into the Mediterranean Sea. A port city with excellent access the the “ships of Tarshish” which were large sea going vessels that could ply the Mediterranean.
The City of Tyre clearly relied on its port and harbor for its livelihood. So for God to say that the homes and harbor would be lost would be tantamount to saying that the city is lost. Both Sidon and Tyre seem to be thriving port cities surviving on trade from the Nile Delta and beyond. They are self-sufficient and do not seem to need to rely upon God.
The prophecy then predicts that these great cities will be humbled. The City of Tyre will “be forgotten for seventy years, the span of a king’s life.” At the end of this “exile” from the eyes of the world the city will regain its place in the region and “will ply her trade with all the kingdoms on the face of the earth.” But the difference will be that Tyre will devote the profit and riches to God. The proceeds of the city’s trade will be “set apart for the Lord ; they will not be stored up or hoarded. Her profits will go to those who live before the Lord”.
This is an interesting passage with what appears to be multiple layers of meaning. I think there is a general warning here about relying on the riches and wealth of this world for fulfillment and happiness. Success and the fruit of our labors are not in themselves bad. It is the value and position that material things hold in our lives that God wants us to be careful about. If we come to rely on our trade at the expense of a reliance on God then we must divest ourselves of these things until we can achieve a proper perspective.
Prayer: God help us to keep our material wealth and worldly success in proper perspective.