Isaiah - Chapter 23
[Isaiah 23:1] THE BURDEN OF TYRE. HOWL, YE SHIPS OF TARSHISH; FOR
IT IS LAID WASTE, SO THAT THERE IS NO HOUSE, NO ENTERING IN:
FROM THE LAND OF CHITTIM IT IS REVEALED TO THEM.
Tyre iמ Hebrew is “Tsor” meaning “Rock”. Tyre is how the Greeks pronounced
the name and perhaps the Phoenicians did as well
Tyre was the chief Phoenician city. The Phoenicians were identified as Canaanites
and considered themselves Canaanites though some have said they were another
stock superimposed on the original population.
Tyre had two parts: one part on the coast and one part on an island off the
coast. The part on the coast was populated largely by descendan\ts of Edom.
Ephraimites were also important in Tyrian enterprises and so were people
from the Israelite Tribes of Menasseh, Asher and Dan.
In “Lost Israelite Identity” there is quite a lot of information concerning Tyre and the Phoenicians.
There may be a link between Tyre and Troy.
Tyre in Rabbinical tradition was often taken to be synonymous with Edom and Rome. Rome was founded by people from Troy.
Troy has been identified as a place in present-day Turkey. Nevertheless it
may be that certain traditions associated with Troy actually relate more
to Tyre. In some medievel writings Troy even isexpressly presented
as interchangeable with Jerusalem. We will examine this further.
Chittim has been identified as Cyprus were the major city of Kittium was
located. Cyprus was termed the “Isle of Dan” by the Assyrians. Israelites
once ruled over Cyprus. Cyprus was linked with Crete. Cyrus Gordon proved
that the first language of Crete (Minoan A) was a Phoenician dialect. The
Phoenicians spoke a tongue similar to Hebrew. Hebrew may have been
imposed upon them and perhaps their original language had been a more “Hamitic”
On the other hand “Chittim” in Jewish sources was identified as Italy.
It appears that “Chittim” in Isaiah may indeed be Italy. The “ships of Chittim”
are mentioned in Daniel 11;30 and there they refer to the ships of Rome in
the first instance. The Book of Daniel (like other Prophetical works) describes
historical events that in part have already occurred but will happen again
with the same plot but different (though related) actors.
Tarshish was in Spain. It was linked to Phoenecia and Israel.
Malbim: <<Tarshish. This is the city of Tartessus in Ancient Spain.
It was linked with Tyre through shared responsibities and trade.>>
[Isaiah 23:2] BE STILL, YE INHABITANTS OF THE ISLE; THOU WHOM THE MERCHANTS
OF ZIDON, THAT PASS OVER THE SEA, HAVE REPLENISHED.
“ISLE” apparently the isle of Tyre.
ZIDON also spelt “Sidon”. The first major Phoenician city. Tyre was founded
by Sidonians. Tyre and Sidon were sometimes rivals, sometimes allies. “Sidonian”
in Greek writings was synonymous with Phoenician.
[Isaiah 23:3] AND BY GREAT WATERS THE SEED OF SIHOR, THE HARVEST OF
THE RIVER, IS HER REVENUE; AND SHE IS A MART OF NATIONS.
“SIHOR” another name for the Nile. Egypt was once a major grain exporter.
[It still could be. Today Egypt imports grain.] Phoenician ships traded
with Egypt and Egypt relied upon them to market its produce.
[Isaiah 23:4] BE THOU ASHAMED, O ZIDON: FOR THE SEA HATH SPOKEN, EVEN
THE STRENGTH OF THE SEA, SAYING, I TRAVAIL NOT, NOR BRING FORTH CHILDREN,
NEITHER DO I NOURISH UP YOUNG MEN, NOR BRING UP VIRGINS.
[Isaiah 23:5] AS AT THE REPORT CONCERNING EGYPT, SO SHALL THEY BE SORELY PAINED AT THE REPORT OF TYRE.
Zidon and Tyre the two chief Phoenician cities are in trouble.
[Isaiah 23:6] PASS YE OVER TO TARSHISH; HOWL, YE INHABITANTS OF THE ISLE.
Isiah is saying that refugees from Tyre will pass over to Tarshish in Spain.
So they did. They also took Israelites with them. They were taken over by
the Assyrians who used Tyrian ships to transport Israelite captives to Spain,
Gaul, and Britain. See “Lost Israelite Identity”.
[Isaiah 23:7] IS THIS YOUR JOYOUS CITY, WHOSE ANTIQUITY IS OF ANCIENT
DAYS? HER OWN FEET SHALL CARRY HER AFAR OFF TO SOJOURN.
[Isaiah 23:8] WHO HATH TAKEN THIS COUNSEL AGAINST TYRE, THE CROWNING
CITY, WHOSE MERCHANTS ARE PRINCES, WHOSE TRAFFICKERS ARE THE HONOURABLE OF
[Isaiah 23:9] THE LORD OF HOSTS HATH PURPOSED IT, TO STAIN THE PRIDE
OF ALL GLORY, AND TO BRING INTO CONTEMPT ALL THE HONOURABLE OF THE EARTH.
[Isaiah 23:10] PASS THROUGH THY LAND AS A RIVER, O DAUGHTER OF TARSHISH: THERE IS NO MORE STRENGTH.
Tarshish will overwhelmed with refugees from Phoeneicia like the waters of a river overflowing its banks.
[Isaiah 23:11] HE STRETCHED OUT HIS HAND OVER THE SEA, HE SHOOK THE
KINGDOMS: THE LORD HATH GIVEN A COMMANDMENT AGAINST THE MERCHANT CITY, TO
DESTROY THE STRONG HOLDS THEREOF.
[Isaiah 23:12] AND HE SAID, THOU SHALT NO MORE REJOICE, O THOU OPPRESSED
VIRGIN, DAUGHTER OF ZIDON: ARISE, PASS OVER TO CHITTIM; THERE
ALSO SHALT THOU HAVE NO REST.
The refugeees from Tyre were to move to Italy (Chittim) but to continue onwards from there to Tarshish in Spain.
[Isaiah 23:13] BEHOLD THE LAND OF THE CHALDEANS; THIS PEOPLE WAS NOT,
TILL THE ASSYRIAN FOUNDED IT FOR THEM THAT DWELL IN THE WILDERNESS: THEY
SET UP THE TOWERS THEREOF, THEY RAISED UP THE PALACES THEREOF; AND HE BROUGHT
IT TO RUIN.
“LAND OF THE CHALDEANS” means Babylon which was conquered and in part resettled
and rebuilt by Assyria. Babylon was destined to rebel against Assyria and
participate in its destruction. The Babylonians under Nebucahdnessar
would then conquer Tarshish in Spain where the Phoenicians of Tyre and Sidon
had taken refuge.
[Isaiah 23:14] HOWL, YE SHIPS OF TARSHISH: FOR YOUR STRENGTH IS LAID WASTE.
Tyre was the strength and sustained of Tarshish. It is brought low.
[Isaiah 23:15] AND IT SHALL COME TO PASS IN THAT DAY, THAT TYRE SHALL
BE FORGOTTEN SEVENTY YEARS, ACCORDING TO THE DAYS OF ONE KING: AFTER THE
END OF SEVENTY YEARS SHALL TYRE SING AS AN HARLOT.
Tyre will sing like an a worn-out whore trying to make a “comeback”.
[Isaiah 23:16] TAKE AN HARP, GO ABOUT THE CITY, THOU HARLOT THAT HAST
BEEN FORGOTTEN; MAKE SWEET MELODY, SING MANY SONGS, THAT THOU MAYEST BE REMEMBERED.
[Isaiah 23:17] AND IT SHALL COME TO PASS AFTER THE END OF SEVENTY YEARS,
THAT THE LORD WILL VISIT TYRE, AND SHE SHALL TURN TO HER HIRE, AND SHALL
COMMIT FORNICATION WITH ALL THE KINGDOMS OF THE WORLD UPON THE FACE OF THE
How this prophecy was fulfilled (if ever) is not clear. It may be that this
part of Isaiah’s message was meant solely for the future. Tyre was first
destroyed by the Assyrians then rebuilt, finally Alexander the great destroyed
[Isaiah 23:18] AND HER MERCHANDISE AND HER HIRE SHALL BE HOLINESS TO
THE LORD: IT SHALL NOT BE TREASURED NOR LAID UP; FOR HER MERCHANDISE SHALL
BE FOR THEM THAT DWELL BEFORE THE LORD, TO EAT SUFFICIENTLY, AND FOR DURABLE
The Encyclopedia Britannica says about Tyre:
modern Arabic Sur, French Tyr, or Sour, Latin Tyrus, Hebrew Zor, or
town on the Mediterranean coast of southern Lebanon, located 12 miles (19 km) north of the modern
border with Israel and 25 miles (40 km) south of Sidon (modern Sayda). It was a major Phoenician
seaport from about 2000 BC through the Roman period.
Tyre, built on an island and on the neighbouring mainland, was probably
originally founded as a colony of Sidon. Mentioned in Egyptian records of
the 14th century BC as being subject to Egypt, Tyre became independent when
Egyptian influence in Phoenicia declined. It later surpassed Sidon as a trade
centre, developing commercial relations with all parts of the Mediterranean
world. In the 9th century BC colonists from Tyre founded the North African
city of Carthage, which later became Rome's principal rival in the West.
The town is frequently mentioned in the Bible (Old and New Testaments) as
having had close ties with Israel. Hiram, king of Tyre (reigned 969–936),
furnished building materials for Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem (10th century),
and the notorious Jezebel, wife of King Ahab, was the daughter of Ethbaal,
“king of Tyre and Sidon.” In the 10th and 9th centuries Tyre probably enjoyed
some primacy over the other cities of Phoenicia and was ruled by kings whose
power was limited by a merchant oligarchy.
For much of the 8th and 7th centuries BC the town was subject to Assyria,
and in 585–573 it
successfully withstood a prolonged siege by the Babylonian king Nebuchadrezzar
Between 538 and 332 it was ruled by the Achaemenian kings of
Persia. In this period it lost its hegemony in Phoenicia but continued to
Probably the best-known episode in the history of Tyre was its resistance
to the army of the Macedonian conqueror Alexander the Great, who took it
after a seven-month siege in 332. He completely destroyed the mainland portion
of the town and used its rubble to build an immense causeway (some 2,600
feet [800 metres] long and 600–900 feet [180–270 metres] wide) to gain access
to the island section. After the town's capture, 10,000 inhabitants were
put to death, and 30,000 were sold into slavery. Alexander's causeway, which
was never removed, converted the island into a peninsula. Tyre was subsequently
under the influence of Ptolemaic Egypt and in 200 became part of the Hellenistic
Seleucid kingdom. It came under Roman rule in 64 BC and was renowned in Roman
times for its textiles and for a purple dye extracted from sea snails of
the genus Murex (the dye was said to be worth more than its weight in gold,
and purple cloth became a symbol of wealth and of royalty). By the 2nd century
AD it had a sizable Christian community, and the Christian scholar Origen
was buried there (c. 254). Tyre was under Muslim rule from 638 to 1124, when
it fell to the Crusaders, and until the 13th century it was a principal town
of the kingdom of Jerusalem. The Holy Roman emperor Frederick I Barbarossa,
who died on the Third Crusade, was buried in its 12th-century cathedral.
Captured and destroyed by the Muslim Mamluks in 1291, the town never recovered
its former importance. Excavations have uncovered remains of the Greco-Roman,
Crusader, Arab, and Byzantine civilizations, but most of the remains of the
Phoenician period lie beneath the present town. Areas of archaeological note
include the ruins of a Crusader church, a street with a 2nd-century mosaic
pavement and a double colonnade of white green-veined marble, Roman baths,
the ruins of a Roman-Byzantine necropolis, and the largest Roman hippodrome
ever discovered. Built in the 2nd century, the hippodrome hosted chariot
races with a capacity of 20,000 spectators. In 1984 UNESCO designated the
historic town a World Heritage site. In the late 20th century the ruins were
damaged by bombardment, most notably in 1982 and 1996 during Israeli offensives
in southern Lebanon. The site is threatened by urban growth, looting, and
the decay of stone because of airborne pollution. In 1998 UNESCO created
a special fund for the preservation and archaeological excavation of the
ancient treasures of Tyre. The economy of the town was upset by the unrest
of the late 20th century. Fishing remains a major source of income. Pop.
(1961) 16,483; (1991 est.) 70,000.
© 1999-2001 Britannica.com Inc.
The text of Isaiah-24 together with Part of the Commentary to Isaiah-24 was
inadvertnently attached to Isaiah-23 in the last posting. Below is a more
This is a very important chapter concerning the Lost Ten Tribes.