From the series of the Oracles of Isaiah.
Isaiah says that Tyre will be raised by the Babylonians and be abandoned for 70 years, while Ezekiel says it will be gone forever. People still live in the modern city of Tyre in Lebanon. What’s going on? In ancient times the city of Tyre was the capital of all trade in the Mediterranean. It was the crown jewel of prosperity. The city was in two parts, there was a town on the mainland, as well as one out on an island in the sea.
Although this is a posting on the oracles of Isaiah, there is a longer prophecy about Tyre in Ezekiel 26-28. The Ezekiel passage has a lot going on and deserves a post all its own, but we will look at it here briefly. One of the differences that must be remembered is that Isaiah was written before the exile to Babylon, where Ezekiel was written during the exile in Babylon. Ezekiel wrote over a period of 20 years, he was also a contemporary of Jeremiah and Daniel.
At the time of Isaiah’s writing Tyre was the main city of the Phoenician’s, and the center of what was world trade. Everything traded in the ancient world went through the hands of the Phoenicians. They ran the cargo ships and controlled all the cargo of the known world. We know they sailed as far as Scotland, and suspect they even made it to the Americas.
Isaiah speaks of the reaction of the cities of Tarshish, Cyprus, Sidon. These were all fellow Phoenician/Canaan ports. The Phoenicia had a huge empire of independent city states though out the Mediterranean. Modern geneticist have been able to show that 14% of the men living near the Mediterranean Sea have a Phoenician marker in their DNA.
Tyre was attacked by Shalmaneser V, who was assisted by the Phoenicians of the mainland, for five years. Nebuchadnezzar laid siege for thirteen years, without success, at this time the residents of the mainland city abandoned it for the safety of the island. A compromise peace was made in which Tyre paid tribute to the Babylonians. Cyrus the Great conquered Phoenicia/Canaan in 539 BC. With these collapses of Tyre the organizing head of this great trade center, the producers would have no way to move their goods. The only commerce left would have been the silk and spice trade coming overland from Asia, and when they arrived at the coast there would be no ships to continue on to the cities where the costumers were. Tyre was rebuilt but was never the great center of commerce that it had once been as the bulk of the organization moved to Carthage.
In 332 BC, the city was conquered by Alexander the Great, after a siege of seven months in which he built the causeway from the mainland to the island. The presence of the causeway affected water currents nearby, causing sediment to build up, turning the island into a peninsula. In 126 BC, Tyre regained its independence from the Greek Seleucids, and remained independent until Rome turned the area into a province in 64 BC.
A large sign which marks the ancient city of Tyre as protected cultural property according to the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict
In 2006 the ruins of the old city were placed under a “Heritage Alert” by UNESCO. No one lives there. Just as Ezekiel prophesied.