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Isaiah 23.8-18 NOTES

Isa. 23:8-28 EXEGESIS

Part 1: God Is Just (Isaiah 23:8-12)

8 Who planned this against Tyre, the bestower of crowns, whose traders are princes, whose merchants are the honored ones of the earth? 9 The Lord of Armies planned it, to desecrate all its glorious beauty, to disgrace all the honored ones of the earth. 10 Overflow your land like the Nile, daughter of Tarshish; there is no longer anything to restrain you. 11 He stretched out his hand over the sea; he made kingdoms tremble. The Lord has commanded that the Canaanite fortresses be destroyed. 12 He said, "You will not celebrate anymore, ravished young woman, daughter of Sidon. Get up and cross over to Cyprus-even there you will have no rest!"

No one takes up a taunt like God. His woes are devastating and terrifying.
To start, God picks up the primary theme of this section: who is really in charge here - the nations or God? Who should you really put your trust in - the nations or God?

Tyre's commercial trading empire was incredible and unparalleled. No one saw it coming to an end. (Well, no one except God.) Look at that description of Tyre: they were so wealthy they could make kings! Their regular traders were so powerful they were treated like royalty! Their common merchants were held in the highest esteem by everyone!

Tyre's vast influence will be gone. Why? How? Because God Almighty -- the Lord of Armies -- has decided that it would be so. And there would be nothing Tyre could do about it. Eventually, human rulers cross a line of arrogance that God cannot leave unchecked. That's what happened at Babel. Nebuchadnezzar and Herod are two highlighted examples later in the Bible. (Coincidentally, men from Tyre were the ones stroking Herod's ego to the point that God ended his life - Acts 12.)

Back to verse 10. This is a disputed verse -- translated literally is "Cross over your land, like the Nile, daughter of Tarshish, there is no more waistband". This could mean (1) people of Tarshish should turn to agriculture like in Egypt because they can no longer trade for food with Tyre. Or (2) because Tyre is no longer there to dominate trade, Tarshish can become a merchant powerhouse. Or (3) Tarshish will soon be in the same kind of trouble as Tyre and so the people should flee. The point is that, per verse 11, God has brought this mighty city down and so all nations should tremble before Him. The Phoenicians used to be Canaanites; God probably used that term here to remind of their ancient animosity for God.

Sidon doesn't escape notice. It was the parent city of Tyre only to be eclipsed by Tyre's better geography. Sidon was the next stop to Cyprus, a very important trading stop in the Mediterranean (for example, Acts 13). But even the people fleeing from Tyre or Sidon to Cyprus would have no rest. (This is literally true; inscriptions indicate that King Sargon of Assyria conquered Cyprus in 709 BC.) (Remember, few of these prophecies are dated. It's probable that they were given sometime during the decade after Ahaz died in 715 BC.)

In other words, there is no escaping God's justice. (By the way, "delayed" justice is not the absence of justice because God metes out perfect eternal justice on the other side of death.)

Part 2: God Is Active (Isaiah 23:13-14)

3 Look at the land of the Chaldeans-a people who no longer exist. Assyria destined it for desert creatures.
They set up their siege towers and stripped its palaces. They made it a ruin. 14 Wail, ships of Tarshish, because your fortress is destroyed!

So, here's a deep dive into history. I've already taken some rabbit trails today, so I'll keep this one short. [Aside on the value of time limits and the need to keep a "teaching plan": you always want to make sure that the rabbit trails you follow do not prevent you from thoroughly covering what's actually important in a Bible passage!]

Chaldea, depending on how you define it, is the ancient civilization. Abraham came from there (Gen 11). "Chaldean" is the name given to any of the nomadic tribes that lived throughout the region. Babylon was the chief city, and over time he terms "Chaldean" and "Babylonian" would be used interchangeably. At different moments in history, the Chaldeans would be the most important peoples in the entire Persian Gulf region.

But Assyria was able to dominate them without much trouble. This once-great people would be subjugated. But here's where things get interesting: after a few generations, later Chaldeans would rise up against Assyria and conquer it -- the "Neo-Babylonians". So, just as the Assyrians eliminated and plundered the Chaldeans, so later Chaldeans (Babylonians) would eliminate and plunder the Assyrians. Then the Persians would arrive. Then the Greeks. Then the Romans. Then the Muslims. And on and on. No one should feel too secure.

Isaiah's point is simple, though. Just as God did away with the Phoenicians, God did away with the Chaldeans. Why would anyone feel secure in themselves? This doesn't mean that God wiped them out completely! But God ended them as they were. Whatever civilization that rose from the ashes, even if it took the same name, would be something new.

Part 3: God Is Honored (Isaiah 23:15-18)

15 On that day Tyre will be forgotten for seventy years-the life span of one king. At the end of seventy years, what the song says about the prostitute will happen to Tyre: 16 Pick up your lyre, stroll through the city, you forgotten prostitute. Play skillfully, sing many a song so that you will be remembered. 17 And at the end of the seventy years, the Lord will restore Tyre and she will go back into business, prostituting herself with all the kingdoms of the world throughout the earth. 18 But her profits and wages will be dedicated to the Lord. They will not be stored or saved, for her profit will go to those who live in the Lord's presence, to provide them with ample food and sacred clothing.

So, this is a strange passage. Lots of debate over what it means, exactly. Not sure why Lifeway chose to include it, as opposed to other passages. Basically, no one can agree on how it was or would be fulfilled. What it seems to mean is straightforward: God will bring about Tyre's downfall; after 70 years Tyre will rebuild and become a commercial powerhouse again, but their profits will benefit God's people. The point is that God is in control.

But can we leave it at that? No, Bible readers want to know exactly how this prophecy was fulfilled. And there are no obvious candidates.

The most common explanation I read (from conservative Bible scholars) is that this parallels Jerusalem's exile. Tyre was conquered at about the same time as Jerusalem and released at about the same time as Jerusalem (possibly). And Tyre helped Ezra rebuild the walls and temple of Jerusalem.

There are also plenty of other times in the following centuries when Tyre was oppressed (and eventually destroyed by Alexander in 332 BC), and any of those could be in mind. Or, these things haven't happened yet. Or, "70 years" is intended to be symbolic of a "complete era". (And which king?) Because there is no clear answer (and because the New Testament doesn't address this prophecy), we have to accept that we don't know for certain how it was/will be fulfilled.

[By the way, that could open a brief conversation about the difficulty of understanding prophecy. Last week, we talked about all of the levels within God's prophecies. This week reminds us that prophecies aren't always that "clean". The book of Revelation is a perfect encapsulation of this; we want to know what it means and we debate what it means, but we probably won't know what it means until God Himself explains it to us.]

God is risque in His choice of words. Basically, He doubles-down on the prostitute imagery. (We don't know what song this is quoting, but it seems to be a well-known song from the day associated with a prostitute.) Tyre obtained its riches by prostituting itself to the nations. And it will do so again when it is restored. In fact, she will sell herself to every nation on the earth. But she won't get to keep her "earnings" -- they will go toward God's people in Jerusalem. See how risque that is? It's on the verge of saying that God is pimping Tyre for Jerusalem's benefit. (The point is that this is intended to be an insult -- all of Tyre's commercial work is no better than prostitution.) Offense intended!

Wrapping Up

There are some big-picture questions and topics that could be addressed with respect to this passage.

1. What human institutions do we think of as being permanent or unassailable? Do we think that America will be here forever and ever? Will our military always be world-dominant? Do we rest in the security that our bank will always safely keep our money? Once we start placing our faith and trust in human institutions rather than God, we are setting ourselves up for the kind of fall that God talked about in these verses.
2. How would we rank the importance of these things: money, power, influence, work, physical security? Where would faithfulness and trust in God fit? Any time our relationship with God drops to the bottom of a list like that, we're in trouble.
3. How does God's view of material blessing differ from people's? How does God's view of the purpose of "work and profit" differ from people's? How does God's definition of "success" differ from people's? Why should we care?
4. What are ways we can say that we have seen God's control over the flow of human history? What are ways we might misunderstand what God is doing in human history?

Those lead to a big-picture personal application. We, as individual Americans, cannot control America's relationship with God. What can we do? We can follow God in our homes and churches and live for God in our communities. We can vote our Christian consciences and pray for our leaders. But we don't do that so America will pass policies that benefit us economically or stroke our egos! No, that would be selfish and self-centered. We pray for and serve our country because we should want what's best for everyone around us. That's how we stay focused on what is right and Godfearing.

Rather than pray for God's swift judgment on the wicked nations in our world (God is going to bring judgment against them with or without our prayer!), we should pray for their repentance and healing. What nation will you pray for today, that they would repent and turn from their wicked ways and call out to God for forgiveness and healing?


Isaiah 23:8 "Who hath taken this counsel against Tyre, the crowning [city], whose merchants [are] princes, whose traffickers [are] the honorable of the earth?"

Tyre had very high international prestige.

It is amazing that this city would be thought of as vulnerable to war. It had been a city of people who worked and were honorable people. This city was the home of honest merchant seamen. They were not low-class people out to cheat someone, they were thought of as princes.

Isaiah 23:9 "The LORD of hosts hath purposed it, to stain the pride of all glory, [and] to bring into contempt all the honorable of the earth."

"Pride of all glory": This furnished the reason the Lord of Hosts brought the overthrow of Tyre, their arrogance stemming from the city's prestige. They were foolish to rely on human glory.

Even though they were honorable men, they were filled up with pride. Their pride was offensive to God, because they did not give God any of the credit for their successes. They were puffed up with self pride.

God allows this to happen to them to cause them to realize where their strength comes from. This example stands out, not just for them, but for all who hear of it. Pride goeth before a fall.

Isaiah 23:10 "Pass through thy land as a river, O daughter of Tarshish: [there is] no more strength."

The prophecy invited the colonies of Tyre to exercise their freedom in taking advantage of the city's fall.

Stop looking to Tyre, because Tyre is no more. This is saying flow over the land as a river out of its banks does.

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."

The Lord had caused the downfall of the territory of Canaan, which included Tyre and Sidon.

Sennacherib might have sent the troops, but this is the hand of the LORD. The sea, in this instance, is speaking of the masses of people. The LORD spoke destruction on Tyre. Every city in the area looked on at the destruction, and learned it could have been them.

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."

A city once noted for its freshness and revelry (verse 7), will become like a used up old woman, piecing together what is left. God used the Assyrians to crush her (contrast the virgin daughter of Zion in 37:22).

This is a warning, that even Zidon will be attacked and overcome. Chittim is Cyprus. They are to flee to Cyprus before any of the trouble starts.

Verses 13-18: The Chaldeans refers to the founders of the Neo-Babylonian Empire, including Nebuchadnezzar
who besieged and destroyed Tyre. The Assyrian people thought of themselves as being an older people than the Chaldeans, but the Assyrians were conquered by them (in 612 B.C.).

The prophet predicts that Tyre will be laid waste, yet will survive, being forced to sing as a harlot, meaning she would no longer enjoy her independence but would have to pander to the desires of her conquerors.

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."

The example of the Chaldeans, another name for the Babylonians, reminded Tyre of their hopelessness against Assyria. Assyria ravaged Babylon (in 689 B.C.).

Behold, just means, take a look at. Chaldea was originally a small territory in southern Babylonia. Chaldeans are natives of Chaldea. They were natives of the area of Mount Ararat. This area had been under siege as well, and destroyed.

The Assyrians had destroyed it. They did not kill all of the people, just destroyed their property.

Isaiah 23:14 "Howl, ye ships of Tarshish: for your strength is laid waste."

Isaiah is saying, they will cry out with mourning for the destruction that has come. This is speaking of those who traded with Tarshish by ship. They will not be able to trade anymore.

Verses 15-16: "Sing as a harlot ... forgotten ... remembered": Harlots sang to draw attention to themselves, attention not so hard to obtain in ancient days. Like those harlots, the people of Tyre were invited to sing songs drawing attention to their earlier prosperity.

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 a harlot."

The devastation of Tyre was not permanent. A little village remains on the site of the ancient city to the present day. The time frame of the 70 years is obscure.

It seems the prophecy of the fall of Tyre is that Tyre will not be restored until 70 years later. Tyre had been prominent in not only their commercial enterprise, but in politics as well. This will be no more, until after their restoration.

Sometimes the conditions of the people cannot change until the death of the king and another takes power. The harlot, many times, was a musician, as well as one selling her body.

Isaiah 23:16 "Take a harp, go about the city, thou harlot that hast been forgotten; make sweet melody, sing many songs, that thou mayest be remembered."

A harlot might sing sweet songs to entice the men. This however, is speaking of this city as if it were a harlot. This city had been selfish and worldly, not interested in the things of God.

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 earth."

With God's help the city was to return.

The reason they had this problem, in the first place, was because they had eliminated God from their lives. We will find that the problem they had, will bring them to God. We find now, their whole outlook on trade is different.

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 clothing."

Even Tyre's sinful gain was to support Judah as her colonies once supported her.

Praise God, they have learned their lesson. Their profits from their trade are not used for their own greed now. They have dedicated their work to the Lord. They will have their needs taken care of, but their excess will go to God's work.

Merchandise being holiness to the Lord, means that even their transactions in daily business are dedicated to the LORD.

I know by now, you are asking, how can this help us today? We must realize from this, that without God we are bound to fail. With Christ, I can do all things. When we carry on our day to day lives selfishly, seeking gain for only ourselves, we are headed for destruction.

When all that we do is dedicated to God, and we share with others less fortunate than ourselves, we cannot fail.

Isa. 23:8-18 - Utley


8Who has planned this against Tyre, the bestower of crowns, Whose merchants were princes, whose traders were the honored of the earth? 9The Lord of hosts has planned it, to defile the pride of all beauty, To despise all the honored of the earth. 10Overflow your land like the Nile, O daughter of Tarshish, There is no more restraint. 11He has stretched His hand out over the sea, He has made the kingdoms tremble; The Lord has given a command concerning Canaan to demolish its strongholds.

23:8-12 This poetic form is united by the use of the verb "planned" (lit. "advised" or "purposed," BDB 419, KB 421, Qal perfect, cf. vv. 8,9; 14:24, 26, 27; 19:12,17). There is an intentionality behind history-YHWH! The kingdoms of this world make their plans (v. 8), but the God of creation also makes His (v. 9).

23:8: The verb (BDB 742, KB 815, Hiphil participle) means "to crown." It could refer to 1. crown bestower (NASB, NRSV, NJB, REB) 2. crown wearer (TEV, NKJV, Peshitta)

23:10 The rival maritime empire of Tarshish is invited to expand and overflow because of the destruction of Phoenicia. An alternate understanding of the phrase is in the Septuagint, "Till your land; for no more ships come out of Carthage." This is followed by the REB, "Take to the tillage of your fields, you people of Tarshish; for your market is lost." Your trading days are over, just settle down and farm your own land.

23:11 "He has stretched His hand out over the sea" See note at 14:26.

▣ "He has made the nations tremble" The verb (BDB 919, KB 1182, Hiphil perfect) is used of YHWH "shaking" several things. 1. mountains, 5:25 2. heavens, 13:13 3. Sheol, 14:9 4. sea, 23:11 5. YHWH Himself, 28:21 6. those who feel secure, 32:10,11 7. nations, 64:2 and once of Judah as she opposes YHWH in 37:29.

▣ "Canaan" This could refer to Tyre as the only good fortress/harbor on the Canaanite coast or Canaan as a way of referring to the merchant kingdom of Phoenicia.

12He has said, "You shall exult no more, O crushed virgin daughter of Sidon.
Arise, pass over to Cyprus; even there you will find no rest."

23:12 In this chapter Phoenicia (NIV) is called by the name of its old capital, "Sidon," and its new current capital, "Tyre."

▣ "Arise, pass over to Cyprus; even there you will find no rest" Some see this as referring specifically to the king of Sidon, "Lulli," fleeing from the Assyrian army to Cyprus in 701 b.c., where he was killed (JB footnote, p. 1177). This is surely possible, but not certain. Hebrew poetry is ambiguous.

13Behold, the land of the Chaldeans-this is the people which was not; Assyria appointed it for desert creatures-they erected their siege towers, they stripped its palaces, they made it a ruin. 14Wail, O ships of Tarshish, For your stronghold is destroyed. 15Now in that day Tyre will be forgotten for seventy years like the days of one king. At the end of seventy years it will happen to Tyre as in the song of the harlot: 16Take your harp, walk about the city, O forgotten harlot; Pluck the strings skillfully, sing many songs, That you may be remembered. 17It will come about at the end of seventy years that the Lord will visit Tyre. Then she will go back to her harlot's wages and will play the harlot with all the kingdoms on the face of the earth. 18Her gain and her harlot's wages will be set apart to the Lord; it will not be stored up or hoarded, but her gain will become sufficient food and choice attire for those who dwell in the presence of the Lord.

23:13 "the land of the Chaldeans" This seems to refer to the destruction of Babylon (not Neo-Babylon) by Assyria (cf. chapters 13-14). There are two "Babylons" mentioned in the Prophets.
1. small semi-autonomous region close to the mouth of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers that rebelled against Assyria and was invaded and their capital "Babylon" destroyed by Sargon II (722-705 b.c.), who took the Babylonian throne name "King of Babylon." Then it would refer to the Babylonian kings
a. Merodach-baladan, reigned 721-710 and again 703-702 b.c. (He sent messengers to Hezekiah in 712 b.c., cf. II Kgs. 20:12-21; Isaiah 39)
b. Shamash-shum-ukim, son of Esarhaddon, 681-669 b.c. and rival brother to Ashurbanipal [669-633 b.c.] who was made king of Assyria
2. a new (i.e., "new") Babylon appeared on the scene in 626 b.c. with the rise of Nabopolassor (626-605 b.c.), the father of Nebuchadnezzar II (605-562 b.c.). Nabopolassor was instrumental in the fall of Asshur (one Assyrian capital) in 614 b.c. and Nineveh (the main Assyrian capital) in 612 b.c. (see of "Brief Historical Survey of the Powers of Mesopotamia" in Appendix Three).
▣ "it" Does this refer to the Chaldean capital Babylon or Sidon/Tyre? In context it refers to Babylon destroyed by Sargon II in 710 or Sennacherib in 689 b.c. Tyre would look like Babylon. Assyria, Neo-Babylon, and Alexander the Great are coming!!!

▣ "for desert creatures" This term (BDB 850 II) denotes wild desert animals of some kind. It has the added connotation of being inhabited by the demonic (cf. NIDOTTE, vol. 3, p. 79, and NEB, REB translations).

23:15 "for seventy years" The time designation appears here and in v. 17. It seems to allude to a complete time (from 7 x 10, see SPECIAL TOPIC: SYMBOLIC NUMBERS IN SCRIPTURE at 11:12). Notice some of its usages in Scripture.
1. revenge, Gen. 4:24
2. age of Terah when Abram was born, Gen. 11:26
3. seventy in Jacob's family moved to Egypt, Exod. 1:5
4. seventy elders during the Wilderness Wandering Period, Exod. 24:1,9; Num. 11:16,24,25 (also Ezek. 8:11)
5. number of Abimelech's brothers who were killed, Jdgs. 9:56
6. expected life span, Ps. 90:10 (double is a special blessing from God, Job 42:16)
7. the plague of YHWH killed 70,000, II Sam. 24:15; I Chr. 21:14
8. Ahab's seventy sons, II Kgs. 10:1,6,7
9. seventy year judgment: a. Judah in Babylon, Jer. 25:11; Dan. 9:2; Zech. 7:5; b. Tyre, Isa. 23:15
10. Jesus sent out seventy, Luke 10:1,17
11. forgiveness 70 times 7, Matt. 18:22

▣ "like the days of one king" This phrase designates the expected reign of a monarch. Seventy years was the time span for a normal life, but here it refers to a very long reign, which probably shows the symbolic nature of the round number.

23:17-18 The riches of Phoenicia will flow to God's restored people (note also 18:7 and 45:14, which denote
similar actions). Phoenicia will not respond to the witness of Israel, but will remain pagan (i.e., Ba'al worship).


Isaiah 23:8

Who hath taken this counsel? Who can have conceived the thought of destroying a city at once so powerful and so conducive to the advantage of other states? The answer is given in the next verse. The crowning city; i.e. "the dispenser of crowns." Either to the governors of her colonies, or perhaps to the other cities of Phoenicia Proper. It is not quite clear whether the kings of those cities needed the sanction of Tyro to confirm them on their thrones, or not. The Hebrew word used must certainly be rendered "crowning," and not "crowned." Whose merchants are princes. Not actually sovereigns, but the chief men in the state under the king. Traffickers; literally, Canaanites. But the ethnic name seems to have early acquired the secondary meaning of "traders" (see Proverbs 31:24; Job 41:6).

Isaiah 23:9

The Lord of hosts hath purposed it; rather, hath counseled it. The word is the same as that used in the opening clause of Isaiah 23:8. God has conceived the thought of destroying Tyre, for the reasons which the prophet proceeds to specify:
1. To stain the pride of all glory; or, of all beauty. Not that "glory" or "beauty" are displeasing to him, or provoke his envy, as the heathen thought (Herod; 7.10, § 4) but that those who "pride" themselves on their glory and beauty offend him.
2. To bring into contempt all the honorable of the earth; i.e. to render contemptible those whom the world honors, though they do not deserve honor.

Isaiah 23:10

Pass through thy laud as a river; rather, overflow thy land, as the Nile. Shake off all restraint; that is, give thy desires free vent-be no longer cramped and confined by the restrictions of the metro-polls. Tartessus is addressed, as the leading colony, and perhaps the one most oppressed; and in her person all the colonies are called on to shake themselves free of the mother city. There is no more strength; rather, there is no more a girdle; i.e. there is nothing that need restrain yon-the power of Tyre is gone!

Isaiah 23:11

He stretched out his hand over the sea, By "he" we must understand "Jehovah" (see Isaiah 23:9). God has smitten Tyro-the great maritime power-destroyed its dominion, and set its subject cities free. He shook the kingdoms; i.e. not only Tyre, but the other cities of the Phoenician coast, each of which had its own king. Against the merchant city; rather, against Canaan. Phoenicia is called "Canaan," as England is often called "Britain." So the "SyroPhoenician woman" of Mark 7:26 is "a woman of Canaan" in Matthew 15:22.

Isaiah 23:12

He said. Jehovah continues his threatenings. The oppressed virgin, daughter of Sidon-or rather, the oppressed virgin-daughter of Sidon-may he either. Tyre, which, according to some, was built by fugitives from Zidon, or Phoenicia generally, of which Zidon, as the "firstborn" (Genesis 10:15), was a sort of mother. Pass over to Chittim (comp. Isaiah 23:6). Chittim (Cyprus) was a nearer refuge than Tarshish, and far more easily reached; but, on the other hand, it was much less safe. Sargon and Esarhaddon both of them exercised dominion over it; and when Abdi-Milkut, King of Sidon, fled there in the reign of the latter, the Assyrian monarch pursued him, caught him, and "cut off his head". Still, it was so often sought by princes flying from Phoenicia when attacked by Assyria, that cuneiform scholars call it "the usual refuge of the Phoenician kings". There also shalt thou have no rest. Cyprus submitted to Sargon, and again to Esarhaddon. It was included in the dominions of Asshur-bani-pal. After Nebuchadnezzar's conquest of Tyre, it was annexed by Egypt (Herod; 2.182), on the conquest of which country by Cambyses it became Persian. The Phoenicians had "no rest" there after Assyria had once found her way to the island.

Isaiah 23:13

Behold the land of the Chaldeans (comp. Isaiah 13:19; Isaiah 47:1, Isaiah 47:5; Isaiah 48:14, Isaiah 48:20). Like Jeremiah and Ezekiel, Isaiah knows the people as Chahleans (Kasdim), the capital as Babylon. Kaldi, in the inscriptions, is a rare word, and the name of a not very important tribe. Yet Berosus uses the term to designate the whole nation. This people was not; rather, is not; i.e. "is no more a people"-"has ceased to exist." Sargon conquered Babylon in B.C. 710, and made himself king, ruling it, together with Assyria, until B.C. 705, when it rebelled and recovered its independence. Sennacherib reconquered it in B.C. 704, and again in B.C. 700, when he made his eldest son viceroy. Esarhaddon ruled over both countries, as did Asshur-bani-pal. Though later Babylon reasserted her independence, and became a great empire, yet Isaiah was justified, at almost any period of his life after B.C. 710, in speaking of her as non-existent. Till the Assyrian founded it for them that dwell in the wilderness. There is no "till" in the original. The clause is separate and independent, not connected grammatically with the preceding. Nor does it assert that the Assyrians "founded" Babylon for any one, but only that they "established" it, or "appointed" it to be a habitation for "the beasts of the desert" (comp. Isaiah 13:21; Isaiah 34:14; Jer 1:1-19 :39, etc.). The prophet views the Assyrians as intending to reduce Babylon to ruins, and leave it waste and uninhabited. The towers thereof; i.e. the siege-towers requisite for reducing so strong a city. They raised up; rather, they made bare (cf. Habakkuk 3:9). He brought it to ruin. "He" is "the Assyrian." The case of Babylon is adduced to increase the alarm of Tyro, by reminding the inhabitants of what the Assyrians had done to a town greater and stronger than their own. The allusion is probably to certain severities of Sargon's in B.C. 710, which, however, are rhetorically exaggerated. It was never the policy of the Assyrians to depopulate or destroy Babylon.

Isaiah 23:14

Howl, ye ships of Tarshish (comp. Isaiah 23:1). The ships that traded with Tarshish, not those belonging to Tarshish, are intended. Your strength is laid waste; rather, your stronghold; i.e. Tyre itself. The elegy ends as it began, with a statement of the bare fact. Alexander's destruction of the city was the final and complete fulfillment of the prophecy. The captures by Esarhaddou, by Asshur-bani-pal, and by Nebuchadnezzar, were anticipations of the final one, and partial fulfillments of the prophecy.

Isaiah 23:15-18

TYRE'S RESTORATION TO PROSPERITY AND CONVERSION TO JEHOVAH. After an interval, expressed by the symbolic number of" seventy years," Tyre is to rise from her ashes, and become once more a prosperous state, resuming her former occupation of a "merchant city," and once more making great gains, which she will devote to the service of Jehovah. St. Jerome thought that this prophecy had not been accomplished in his day. If so, it cannot be said to have been accomplished yet; unless, indeed, Tyre may be regarded as representing the commercial spirit, which. under Christianity, is not necessarily alien from religion, but shows itself sometimes altogether friendly to the Church, supplying ways and means for ten thousand philanthropic and
praiseworthy enterprises (Isaiah 23:18).

Isaiah 23:15

Tyro shall be forgotten; i.e. "shall cease to occupy men's thoughts, as a factor in politics-shall pass out of their calculations, and count for nothing." Seventy years. "Forty years" and "seventy years" are the chief representatives in Scripture of an indefinite time. The week of creation seems to have given to seven its quasi-sacred character, which passed from the primary number to the corresponding decimal one. The sacred use of "seventy" appears first in the "seventy elders" who accompanied Moses to the covenant-feast on Sinai (Exodus 24:9). After this, "seventy 'talents are mentioned as the weight of the bronze offerings for the tabernacle (Exodus 38:29), and "seventy" shekels as the weight of the silver bowls offered by the heads of tribes when the tabernacle was set up (Numbers 7:13-85). The "indefinite" us, of "seventy" is most apparent in such expressions as that of Genesis 4:24, "If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, surely Lamech seventy and sevenfold;" and that of Matthew 18:22, "I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven." "Seventy" seems also to be indefinite in Exodus 15:27; Numbers 33:9; Judges 1:7; Judges 12:13; 2 Samuel 24:15; 1Ki 5:15 : 1 Chronicles 21:14, etc. It is absurd to count the "seventy years" of the present passage, as some do, from the accession of Nebuchadnezzar to the death of Nabonidus, for neither did Tyro begin to be forgotten in the first year of the one prince, nor did she immediately recover herself on the death of the other. According to the days of one king; or, like the days of one king. The period, whatever its length, should be to Type "like the days of one king;" i.e. unchanging, without hope. Oriental kings prided themselves on maintaining an unaltered policy (of. 2 Kings 25:27; Isaiah 14:17). Shall Tyre sing as an harlot; literally, it shall be to Tyre as [in] the song of the harlot. A particular song seems to be meant, part of which the prophet proceeds to quote in the next verse.

Isaiah 23:16

Take an harp. Harlots in the East, and indeed in the West also in ancient times (Her; 'Epist.,' 1.14, 1. 25), were expected to be musicians. The harp and the guitar were their usual instruments. Forgotten harlot. In addressing. Tyro as a "harlot," the prophet does not seem to mean more than that her aims were, or at any rate had been, selfish and worldly, such as sever between man and God. She had pursued wealth for the enjoyments that it brought her, not in order to make a good use of it. Hers had been the covetousness which is "idolatry" (Colossians 3:5).

Isaiah 23:17

The Lord will visit Tyre. In mercy, not in judgment (cf. Jeremiah 27:22; Jeremiah 29:10). She shall turn to her hire; i.e. "to her commerce," to her former mode of life. But with the difference noted in Isaiah 23:18.

Isaiah 23:18

Her merchandise and her hire shall be holiness to the Lord. There is nothing intrinsically wrong or debasing in commerce. Rightly pursued, and engaged in with the view of devoting the profits made in it to good and pious ends, the commercial life may be as religious, and as acceptable to God as any other. The world has known many merchants who were Christians, in the highest sense of the word. Solomon in his best days was a merchant (1 Kings 9:27, 1 Kings 9:28; 1 Kings 10:22), but one who employed the wealth which he derived from commerce to the honor and glory of God. It shall not be treasured nor laid up. The merchants shall not lay it up in their own coffers, but expend it wisely and religiously. It shall be for them that dwell before the Lord; i.e. it shall be applied to religious uses-to the sustentation of ministers, the relief of the poor and necessitous among God's people, and other similar purposes. Such an employment of the gains made sanctifies commerce, and makes it a good and a blessed thing.