God was ‘Tyre-d’! Tuesday, 20th Week in ordinary time – Ezekiel 28:1-10
Chapters 1-24 of Ezekiel dealt with oracles against Israel as a nation. Now chapters 25-32 focus on a special collection of judgment oracles against seven foreign nations. Chapters 25 to 32, in which our text is to be found, is sandwiched between the oracles of judgment against Israel (1-23) and the oracles of restoration (33-48). In doing this Ezekiel establishes a sequence of events. After Israel receives her judgment, God will begin a period of restoration. He will do this by first punishing the pagan nations who have profaned the holy people of God and their nation and then restore the land and the people of Israel themselves.
All nations have political enemies and Israel and Judah were no exceptions. The prophets always addressed their oracles against these enemy nations but they never did this by entering the nations in question, they never set foot on enemy soil to proclaim an oracle. Whenever they proclaimed an oracle against an enemy nation they always did so in Israel.
By doing this, Yahweh, Israel’s God, asserted dominance over all other nations and held other nations accountable for their deeds just as he did with Israel. God also demolished the claims by these nations to any divine authority by showing that they acted out of pride and hence they were destroyed; no god could help them nor stand against Yahweh. But by this, Israel was also assured that the attacks from these nations would not go unpunished.
In chapters 25 -32 there is a climactic order in the judgment of the seven nations. It begins with four small neighbouring nations of Ammon, Moab, Edom and Philistia to the more significant opponents like Tyre and Sidon (Chapters 26-28) and finally to the most important foe, Egypt (chapters 29-32).
Our text of today has jumped the judgment on the four minor nations to settle down in particular with the ‘Prince (read King) of Tyre’. Ezekiel vehemently opposes Tyre because it fought against Babylon with the help of Egypt thus attempting the thwart the inevitable judgment of Yahweh.
Tyre was an ancient city of the Phoenicians in what is now Lebanon. It appears for the first time in the Bible in Joshua 19:29. The city was actually composed of two parts, one on the mainland and the other on a rocky island about a half mile from the coast. Tyre developed a powerful shipping trade with the help of the Egyptian navy. Tyre with the help of Egypt held out against Nebuchadnezzar for 13 years after the fall of Jerusalem. Finally, Tyre fell to the Babylonians like a fully laden cargo ship that sinks on the high seas.(chapter 26)
The prophecies of Ezekiel 26 and 27 focused on Tyre as a city. Now Ezekiel will speak against the leader of the city, both in the sense of one man (the prince of Tyre) and a representation of the leadership of the city. According to Phoenician annals the king of this time was Ithobal II (called Ithobalus II by Josephus). The fundamental sin of the prince of Tyre was pride. He said of himself, “I am a god” and gloried in his position of greatness in the midst of the seas. This was true of both the city and the ruler.
The great wealth of the prince of Tyre made him feel proud and invincible. He was smart in business (“by your great wisdom in trade you have increased your riches”), but his heart was lifted so high he thought of himself as a god. Having lifted his heart as the heart of a god, the prince of Tyre could expect judgment soon. It would come from the most terrible of nations, and they would destroy the beauty and splendour of Tyre. God promised that the judgment to come upon Tyre from foreign nations would humble the prince of Tyre, exposing his humanity to the world.
Times and attitudes have not changed very much. There are still people in our own time and in our own society who believe that a high level of education, wealth and power give a kind of invincibility. It includes those who have great such wealth and power and those who struggle all their lives to get some of it. With money, anything can be bought; everyone has his price.
Yet, the lives of all, rich and poor, educated and illiterate, powerful and marginalised, can all be snuffed out in the twinkling of an eye. But our destiny is in God’s hands and the sooner we realise that, the better for our happiness and peace of mind.