Extract from Amos - Then and Now

 

Pages 39 - 43 dealing with Amos 1: 9 -10 about Tyre. This illustrates the structure used throughout the book of expositional commentary followed by an exhortational application.

"1:9-10                  Against Tyre

 In comparison to the previous two prophecies, that against Tyre lacks their intensity and detail.  Tyre is not to be the subject of wholesale demolition and the prophecy does not conclude with a “thus saith the Lord.”  Its history is not replete with antagonism against the Jewish dominions nor did it ever come under Jewish control.  In fact, its history is one of alliances; some advantageous to Israel and another decidedly disastrous.  Why then should Amos prophecy against Tyre?

 It is also assumed that Tyre is representative of Phoenicia as it was, for most of the era of the Israelite kingdoms, the dominant Phoenician city.  Phoenicia also included Sidon among its metropolises."

History

Tyre is an old city but little is known about its foundation.  For centuries, Tyre was subordinate to Sidon but, after the Philistines subdued Sidon, Tyre eventually gained pre-eminence in Phoenicia.  It played a great role in trade and shipping, and its navigators and craftsmen were considered to be excellent.  Tyre, like all the Phoenician cities, became subject to Egypt in the first half of the 15thcentury BC and remained so for around 300 years.

After the decline of Egypt, Tyre regained her independence and exercised authority over most of the Phoenician towns, at least as far north for king Hiram to have control over the forests of Lebanon in the time of David and Solomon.  Hiram actively struck up an alliance with Israel and furnished cedar and workmen to build David a house.  The friendly connection between the two kingdoms was advantageous to both, since David and Solomon needed the timber and the skilled artisans that Hiram could furnish, and Hiram needed the food products of the land of Israel (1King 5).  Hiram enlarged and beautified his capital, and engaged in commercial enterprises with Solomon (1King 9:26-28, 10:22).  His brilliant reign lasted 43 years.

In the time of Ahab of Israel, Ethbaal was king of Sidon and he gave to Ahab his daughter Jezebel in marriage.  This proved to be disastrous to Israel as she facilitated the rejuvenation of Baal-worship in the nation (1King 16:31).  

In the first half of the 9thcentury BC, Tyre became subject to Assyria, and her supremacy in Phoenicia came to an end.  However, her prosperity was not seriously checked as we may infer from Isaiah 23:8, which was written a century or so later.  Assyria was satisfied with the payment of tribute until the time of Tiglathpileser III (745-727BC), who laid a heavier hand upon her.  This led the king of Tyre to form a confederacy of the Phoenician cities against Assyria.  Shalmaneser IV subdued all except Tyre and, after Shalmaneser was killed, the king of Tyre recovered control of his territory.  This control was not certain until the decline of Assyria.  Tyre regained its independence, and its greatness is indicated by the fact that it resisted Nebuchadnezzar for 13 years (598-585BC).  Tyre eventually submitted to the Persians about 525BC and was a vassal state during the continuance of the Persian Empire.

It was by no means hindered in its commercial prosperity, and its enormous strength is seen in the brave and energetic resistance it made to Alexander the Great, the Macedonian king and military genius.  All Phoenicia submitted to him without opposition.  Tyre was willing to admit his superiority, but declined to receive him into the city.  This so angered Alexander that he commenced a siege that proved to be one of the most difficult undertakings in all his wars.  He had no fleet and was obliged to build a causeway from the mainland to the island.  This was pushed up to the wall of the city, which was finally breached, and the troops of Alexander forced their way in.  But even then the defenders would not yield, and the king himself had to lead the assault upon them and put them all to the sword.  It took Alexander about seven months to subdue the city.

Under the Seleucid kings who followed Alexander, Tyre rose again slowly, but never regained its former power and glory.  Tyre remained a centre of trade and industry in Roman times.  It is mentioned several times in the New Testament.  Christ visited its territory (Matt 15:21; Mark 7:24), and people came from there to hear him (Luke 6:17).  Herod Agrippa had trouble with Tyre, and a deputation came to visit him at Caesarea (Acts 12:20).  Paul travelled via Tyre on his journey from Asia to Jerusalem (Acts 21:6-7).

Prophecy

A reader of the history of the Phoenicians as it related to Israel would instinctively focus on the fact that they were primarily responsible for the increase of Baal worship in the northern Jewish kingdom (1King 16:31).  While the worship of Baal, the fertility-god par excellence of Canaan, had been around for many centuries it underwent a massive reactivation in Israel through Ahab’s Phoenician princess-wife, Jezebel.  However, this was not the sin that so antagonised Yahweh. 

Tyre was to be punished “because they delivered up the whole captivity to Edom, and remembered not the brotherly covenant” (1:9).  Their slave-trading is also condemned in Joel 3:4-6 and Ezekiel 27:13.  However, in the case of Tyre, its crime varies from that of Gaza (1:6) in that Tyreis only charged with delivering up the captives to Edom, and not with having carried them away.  They sold captives who somehow ended up in Phoenician territory.  While no specific event is identified, it is possible that they sold to the Edomites those of Israel that fled to Phoenicia for shelter or fell into their hands at times when Israel was under attack.  In doing so they cared not for hardships that would come upon these refugees, in order that they could make gain of them.  Keil alternatively suggests that Tyre “must have bought the prisoners from an enemy of Israel, and then disposed of them to Edom.”

The second defining sin tends to support the theory that it was Israelite refugees who were sold.  In committing the first sin they clearly overlooked the “brotherly covenant”; the treaty that was between Solomon and Hiram king of Tyre (1King 5:12) and was so personal that Hiram called Solomon his “brother” (1King 9:13).

Furthermore, the Jewish monarchs had upheld their side of the alliance in that no king of Israel or Judah ever made war upon Phoenicia.  Sadly, Tyre was motivated by making money.  It was “a marketplace for the nations” (Isa 23:3 NKJV) and “whose merchants were princes, whose traders were the honoured of the earth” (Isaiah 23:8 ESV).  This obsession with wealth and its accumulation meant that they would sell their brethren in order to make a profit.  They would have known why Edom wanted to own these Israelites, but the covetousness of Tyre fed the cruelty of Edom.  The lamentation for the king of Tyre found in Ezekiel 28:11-19 includes a powerful reference to the way that the Tyrians had no scruples when it came to making money:

“By the multitude of thy merchandise they have filled the midst of thee with violence, and thou hast sinned: therefore I will cast thee as profane out of the mountain of God: and I will destroy thee, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire” (Ezekiel 28:16).

Despite the impact of Phoenician idolatry on the kingdom of Israel, Tyre was judged for its inhumanity and treachery.  It allowed its acumen for business and the iniquity of its trading (Ezek 28:18) to endorse violations of basic human decency and honour.  It was this that brought fire on its palaces.

Fulfilment

Tyre was not obliterated, never to emerge as an entity again.  It is true that the modern Lebanese city of Sur is located in the vicinity of ancient Tyre but it is a modest flicker of its former grandeur and influence.  However, as predicted by Amos, its palaces were burned and its walls breached by an impatient Alexander who wanted to crush Tyre before punishing some rebels further south (Josephus, Ant. XI.viii.3-4).  

The Roman author Quintus Curtius Rufus, who based his report on earlier Greek sources, described the fall of Tyre in his “History of Alexander the Great of Macedonia.”  He included in his account, “Alexander ordered all but those who had fled to the temples to be put to death and the buildings to be set on fire.”

In essence, fire was to fall on Tyre in successive judgements from the Assyrians, Babylonians and Greeks.  Even though it took over four hundred years to work out, it was completed in accordance with the general description provided by Amos and, more significantly, the detailed proclamation recorded in Ezekiel 26.

Application:Tyre – the witness of fulfilled Bible prophecy– The story of Alexander’s siege of Tyre and its connection with Ezekiel 26 fascinated me from an early age.  My father, drawing on Werner Keller’s flawed masterpiece, “The Bible as History”, had an attentive listener as he linked up the prophetical declarations of Ezekiel with the military prowess of Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon and Alexander of Macedon.  In fact, as a skinny twelve-year-old, while completing a public speaking assignment, I regaled a first-year High School audience with what I considered to be something worth knowing.  The chalkboard was adorned with my amateur scratchings of mobile siege-towers and cartographic oddities.  My wholehearted patter flowed without hesitation as I was oblivious to the unenthusiastic, yet polite, response from my school-uniformed colleagues.  Even the English teacher looked bemused.  It was not the sort of presentation she expected and fulsome praise did not ensue.  Fulfilled Bible prophecy did not inspire rapture in the late 1960s.

In hindsight, it was unreasonable to expect that such an audience would be even remotely interested.  However, does fulfilled Bible prophecy, both current and past, motivate Christadelphians to develop their understanding and love of the Almighty?  I would venture to suggest that stories of long-fulfilled prophecies, no matter how impressive they are, may have lost their lustre in the ecclesia.  It is possible that the development of options that tend to confuse rather than confirm our understanding of how current events reflect Biblical prediction has discouraged a generation from delving into this aspect of Bible appreciation.

Regardless of this, we have the precise fulfilment of detailed prophecies dotted throughout Scripture.  They are indisputable and require no alternative spin.  They happened.  This, above all else, should convince us of the Divine inspiration of Scripture and give us total assurance that what we are reading is the Word of God.

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