Ezekiel deals with the ancient city of Tyre more thoroughly than any other prophet. Three chapters (26-28) are devoted to this ancient Phoenician city, located on the Mediterranean Sea. Iain Duguid says that these three chapters in Ezekiel are three separate prophecies with one message, or put another way the same message is given in three different ways. I want to look at chapter 26, but before doing that I think it is best to understand a little about Tyre. Daniel Block tells us that Tyre was different from any of the other nations. Tyre was different because Tyre was a territorial state that was divided up into a series of political units. Each political unit had its own capital and reigning monarch.
Isaiah, who prophesied well before Ezekiel, writes of Tyre, “the bestower of crowns, whose merchants were princes, whose traders were the honored of the earth” (Isaiah 23:8) King David formed a trading alliance with Tyre (2 Samuel 5), and we all remember Queen Jezebel, who was the daughter of the king of Tyre. The influence of Jezebel on Israel helps us understand how worldly and idolatrous Tyre was. And we know that five of the Hebrew prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Amos, Zechariah) strongly denounced the city for its idolatry and gross wickedness.
So what does Ezekiel have to say in chapter 26? Quite simply Ezekiel is announcing the judgment of God on Tyre, including its total destruction. We may step back and say, okay this sounds like Old Testament prophecy. But let’s not be shortsighted. After all, is this prophecy simply God’s punishment on a pagan and idolatrous nation? Well, I think there is more to it. The primary revelation we can see from this chapter is God’s absolute sovereign power, his omnipotence.
When looking at the overall structure of the text, we can easily see what the prophet is saying. Ezekiel 26 is divided into 4 sections.
1) Vs. 1-6 – general terms of God’s judgment
2) Vs. 7-14 – Identification of the human agent who God will use to bring the judgment (Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon)
3) Response of international observers
4) The absolute and full destruction of Tyre
In looking at this structure, you find a repeated use of the first person. Three of the four sections contain this repeated linguistic usage. The first and last sections contain the most uses of the personal pronoun, “I”, and the chapter uses this language 14 times in the chapter. This type of language shows how very direct God is, which demonstrates his absolute power. Let’s take a look at some examples of how powerful God’s words are:
- Behold, I am against you, O Tyre, and will bring up many nations against you (vs. 3)
- Behold, I will bring against Tyre from the north Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon (vs. 7)
- And I will stop the music of your songs, and the sound of your lyres shall be heard no more. (vs. 13)
- I will make you a bare rock. You shall be a place for the spreading of nets. You shall never be rebuilt, for I am the Lord; I have spoken, declares the Lord God. (vs. 14)
In addition to the extensive use of the first person, Ezekiel uses the words Adonai Yahweh (Lord God) 6 times (vs. 3, 7, 14, 15, 19, 21). Adonai Yahweh is used at the beginning of each of the four sections and twice at the beginning and end of the 2nd and 4th sections. Again, what does this structure mean? When you have two names of God back to back, it is there to show emphasis. This unique structure of language emphasizes God’s power and his direct intervention in human history. God is sovereign over nations and world events.
The third section of the chapter displays this principle in a powerful way. “ Then all the princes of the sea will step down from their thrones and remove their robes and strip off their embroidered garments. They will clothe themselves with trembling; they will sit on the ground and tremble every moment and be appalled at you.” (vs. 16) As we read these verses in Ezekiel, we can sense the political and economic shaking of nations as God removes a lofty enemy. The surrounding princes literally stopped governing to lament the downfall of Tyre. This demonstrates the influence of Tyre, but also shows how God shakes and moves nations. Charles Feinberg writes that there were political, commercial, and religious ties between Tyre and the surrounding nations, and the fall of Tyre would have been considered a world calamity. The sovereign power of Adonai Yahweh can throw mountains into the sea. And at the times when he does this our world stops.
In Daniel chapter 5, we find another example of God shifting and moving nations. King Belshazzar held a feast and used the Temple vessels to drink wine and praise the gods of Babylon. Immediately God wrote on the palace wall, announcing his judgment. By the end of the chapter we find the kingdom changing hands to the Medes and Belshazzar is killed.
So when we read these passages, what should we gain in our thinking about God? Does he still move nations, does he still lift up kings and put down rebellion? We have a tendency to believe the stories in Ezekiel and Daniel, but not apply them to today. After all, how could God be controlling the mess we are in? God’s sovereign power is absolute. His power never has nor ever will change. Let us never be fragmented in our thinking, for God is always moving nations. No one can hold back his hand. There is no authority he cannot touch and put down. God’s sovereign power created the universe out of nothing, so he certainly can control leaders of nations. Take heart, for God is in control. He changes the times and seasons and does as he wills.
Arthur W. Pink writes, “My God is infinite in power! then ‘I will not fear what man can do unto me.’ My God is infinite in power, then ‘what time I am afraid I will trust in Him.’ My God is infinite in power, then I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep.”