Ezekiel 27



1 “The word of the LORD came again unto me, saying,

2 Now, thou son of man, take up a lamentation for Tyrus;”

Take up a lamentation for Tyrus. The dirge over the merchant-city that follows,

the doom sic transit gloria mundi (thus passes the glory of the world),  worked

out with a fullness of detail which reminds us of the Homeric catalogue of

ships (‘Iliad,’ 2:484-770), is almost, if not altogether, without a parallel in

the history of literature. It can scarcely have rested on anything but

personal knowledge. Ezekiel, we must believe, had, at some time or other

in his life, trod the sinful streets of the great city, and noted the mingled

crowd of many nations and in many costumes that he met there, just as we

infer from Dante’s vivid description of the dockyards of Venice (‘Inf.,’

21:7-15) that he had visited that city. Apart from its poetic or prophetic

interest, it is for us almost the locus classicus (a classic case or example)

as to the geography and commerce of that old world of which Tyre was in

some sense the center.  We may compare it, from that point of view, with the

ethnological statements in Genesis 10.; just as, from the standpoint of prophecy,

it has to be compared with Isaiah’s “burden” against Babylon (Isaiah 13., 14.),

and with John’s representation of Rome as the spiritual Babylon of the

Apocalypse (Revelation 18.).


3 “And say unto Tyrus, O thou that art situate at the entry of the sea,

which art a merchant of the people for many isles, Thus saith the

Lord GOD; O Tyrus, thou hast said, I am of perfect beauty.”

We begin with the picture of the city, situate at the entry

(Hebrew, entries), or harbors of the sea. Of these Tyre had two — the

northern, known as the Sidonian; the southern, as the Egyptian. There she

dwelt, a merchant of the peoples, that came, in the wider sense of the

word (see ch. 26:15), from the isles of the Mediterranean. I am

perfect in beauty. The boast here put into the mouth of the city appears

afterwards as the utterance of its ruler, or as applied to him (ch.28:2, 15-17).

We are reminded of Genoa.



Aestheticism as a Religion (v. 3)


“Thou hast said, I am of perfect beauty.”  The craze for aestheticism has

been exalted into the creed of a new religion. It is well to see once for all

what this means, and how hollow, foolish, and fatal are its pretensions.




Ø      It is more than the enjoyment of beauty, which is innocent and even

helpful to a right appreciation of God’s wonderful works. Beauty

implies harmony and refinement; it excludes everything harsh and

coarse. So far it is good.


Ø      AEstheticism is more than the effort to produce beauty. This aim of

art is good.


Ø      It is more also than the consecration of beauty to the service of religion.

This is right; we should bring our best to God; religion should be

Honored with the homage rendered to it by art.


Ø      But aestheticism as a religion makes an idol of the sacrifice, by

putting the beauty, which should be enlisted in the service of

God, in the place of God Himself. It is bowing the knee to

beauty. It sees nothing higher than the perfection of grace and

color and melody. (I cite the works of Robert Maplethorpe in

its desecrations, the excesses of Hollywood, and violent and

carnal Hip-Hop – CY – 2014)  This is as much idolatry as the

Hottentot’s adoration of a hideous fetish. 



GREATEST ERRORS. The beautiful is not always the true. There are

lovely lies and there are ugly truths. By exalting the idea of the beautiful

above all else, we sacrifice truth wherever the two do not agree. Thus the

sterner facts of life are ignored and its less attractive duties left out of




satisfied with something lower than the beauty of holiness. If it rose to the

celestial beauty, it could not afford to discard goodness, for all beauty that

admits evil is corrupted with MORAL UGLINESS; but this is not perceived

by the proponents  of aestheticism. Therefore there is a degradation of the

very idea of beauty. Too often this is in danger of falling even lower, till

Beauty becomes a tempter to sin.



SOUL. A man cannot live on the perpetual contemplation of a lily. Too

much beauty satiates. The soul needs the sustenance of solid truth. It

requires INWARD SPIRITUAL GRACE!   In the hour of temptation

and in the season of great sorrow the religion of beauty utterly fails.

It may charm the sentimental; it has no spell for the suffering; it cannot

save the fallen; it has no evangel.



was proud of her beauty and confident in it. But this was only a piece of

senseless self-deception. Her imposing palaces did not keep back the

invader; they rather invited his ruthless armies. She found no security in the

vain boast, “I am of perfect beauty.” There is NO REDEMPTION in

aestheticism. The sinner will not find here any refuge from the doom of his

guilt. It would be a poor diet for unfallen angels; for fallen men it is

assuredly no healing balm. Beauty has been brought down to SHAME and


the refined mind out of the danger that threatens “the common herd” of

sinners. Cultured and rough people must come through the same strait

gate of penitence and walk the same narrow way of the footsteps of Christ

if they would hope for salvation.  (Matthew 7:13-14)


4 “Thy borders are in the midst of the seas, thy builders have

perfected thy beauty.”  In the midst of the seas; literally, in the heart (Revised

Version). The words were true of the island-city, but Ezekiel has already

present to his thoughts the idealized picture of the city under the figure of

its stateliest ship. The builders are ship-builders, and in the verses that

follow we have a picture of the Bucentaur of the Venice of the ancient



5  “They have made all thy ship boards of fir trees of Senir: they have

taken cedars from Lebanon to make masts for thee.” Fir trees of Senir.

The name appears in Deuteronomy 3:9 and Song of Solomon 4:8 as Shenir;

in I Chronicles 5:23 it is spelled as here.  From Deuteronomy 3:9 we learn that

it was the Amorite name for Hermon, as Sirion was the Sidonian name. In

I Kings 5:10 Hiram King of Tyre appears as supplying Solomon with the fir and

cedar timber mentioned here for the erection of his palace, the house of the

forest of Lebanon (I Kings 7:2). The fir tree was more commonly used for ships,

the cedar for houses (Virgil, ‘Georg.,’ 2:444). The Hebrew for “boards” is

unique in its form as a plural with a dual form superadded to indicate that

each plank had its counterpart on the other side of the ship.


6 Of the oaks of Bashan have they made thine oars; the company of

the Ashurites have made thy benches of ivory, brought out of the

isles of Chittim.”  The high plateau of Bashan, the region east of the sea of

Galilee and the Jordan, now known as the Hauran, was famous then, as it is

now, for its oak forests and its wild cattle (Psalm 22:12). The company of

the Ashurites, etc.; better, with the Revised Version, they have made thy

benches of ivory inlaid in boxwood. The Authorized Version follows the

present Hebrew text, but the name of the nation there is not the same as

that of the Assyrians, and corresponds with the Ashurites of II Samuel

2:9 — an obscure tribe of Canaanites, possibly identical with the

Geshurites. A difference of punctuation or spelling (Bithasshurim for

Bathasshu-rim) gives the meaning which the Revised Version follows;

thasshur being used in Isaiah 41:19 and 60:13 for the box tree, or perhaps

cypress, or larch, as forming part of the glory of Lebanon. The use of ivory

in ship or house building seems to have been one of the arts for which Tyre

was famous. So we have the ivory palace of Ahab, after he had married his

Sidonian queen (I Kings 22:39) and those of the monarch who had

married a Tyrian princess in Psalm 45:8 (see also Amos 3:15). For

the use of such inlaid wood in later times, see Virgil, ‘AEneid,’ 10:137.

Either the ivory or the wood is said to come from the isles of Chittim.

The word was about as wide in its use as the “Indies” in the time of

Elizabeth. Josephus (‘Ant.,’ 1:6. 1) identifies it with Cyprus, which perhaps

retains a memorial of it in Citium. The Vulgate, as in Numbers 24:24,

identifies it here with Italy, and in Daniel 11:30 translates the “ships of

Chittimas trieres et Romani, while in I Maccabees 1:1, it is used of Greece as

including Macedonia. In Genesis 10:4 the Kittim appear as descended

from Javan, i.e. are classed as Greeks or Ionians. The ivory which the

Tyrians used probably came from Northern Africa, and may have been

supplied through Carthage or other Phoenician colonies. A supply may

have come also from Ethiopia through Egypt, or from the Red Sea ports,

with which the Phoenicians carried on a trade with Arabia. Inlaid ivory

work, sometimes in wood, sometimes with enamel, is found both in

Egyptian and Assyrian remains (‘Dict. Bible,’ s.v. “Ivory”).


7 “Fine linen with broidered work from Egypt was that which thou spreadest

forth to be thy sail; blue and purple from the isles of Elishah was that which

covered thee.” For the fine linen of Egypt, the byssus famous in its

commerce, see Genesis 41:42; Exodus 26:36. This, which took the

place of the coarse canvas of the common ships, was made more

magnificent by being embroidered with purple or crimson, with gold

borders. The ship of Antony and Cleopatra had purple sails, which, as they

swelled out with the wind, served as a banner. The ancient ships had no

flags or pennons. So the Revised Version renders, of fine linen, was thy

sail, that it might be to thee for an ensign. The word for “sail” in the

Authorized Version is rendered “banner” in Psalm 60:4; Isaiah 13:2, and

“ensign” in Ibid.ch. 11:12. The isles of Elishah. The name

appears in Genesis 10:4 as one of the sons of Javan. It has been

identified, on the ground chiefly of similarity of sound, with Elis, Hellas, or

AEolia. Laconia has been suggested as being famous for the murex which

supplied the purple dye. The Targum gives Italy. Sicily also has been

conjectured. The murex is common all over the Mediterranean, but Cythera

and Abydos are named as having been specially famous for it. Probably, as

in the case of “Chittim,” the word was used with considerable latitude. The

latter clause of the verse describes the awning over the deck of the queenly

ship. Was Ezekiel describing what he had actually seen in the state-ship of



8 “The inhabitants of Zidon and Arvad were thy mariners: thy wise

men, O Tyrus, that were in thee, were thy pilots.”

The two cities are named as tributaries of Tyre from which she

drew her sailors, the Tyrians themselves acting as captains and pilots.

Zidon (now Saida) is named in Genesis 10:15 as the firstborn of

Canaan, and was older than Tyre itself (Isaiah 23:2, 12). Arvad is

identified with the Greek Aradus, the modern Ruad, an island about two

miles from the coast, about two miles north of the mouth of the river

Eleutheros (Nahr-el-Kebir). It is scarcely a mile in circumference, but was

prominent enough to be named here and in Genesis 10:18; I Chronicles 1:16.

Opposite to it on the mainland was the town of Antaradus. For mariners,

the Revised Version gives rowers.


9 “The ancients of Gebal and the wise men thereof were in thee thy

calkers: all the ships of the sea with their mariners were in thee to

occupy thy merchandise.”  The ancients of Gebal. The word is used in the

sense of “elders” or “senators,” the governing body. Gebal, for which the

Septuagint gives Biblii, is identified with the Greek Byblus. The name appears in

Psalm 83:7 in connection, among other nations, with Tyre and Asshur,

as allied with them against Israel; in Joshua 13:5 as near Lebanon and

Hermon; in I Kings 5:18 (margin Revised Version) as among the

stonemasons who worked with Hiram’s builders. Byblus was situated on

an eminence overlooking the river Adonis between Beirut and Tripoli. Its

modern name, Gebail, retains the old Semitic form, and its ruins abound in

marble and granite columns of Phoenician and Egyptian workmanship. The

work of the caulkers was to stop the chinks of the ship, and the men of

Gebal appear to have been especially skillful in this. We note that the

metaphor of the ship falls into the background in the latter clause of the

verse, and does not appear again.


10 “They of Persia and of Lud and of Phut were in thine army, thy men

of war: they hanged the shield and helmet in thee; they set forth thy

comeliness.”  Persia. The name does not meet us in any Old Testament book

before the exile, Elam taking its place. It was just about the time that

Ezekiel wrote that the Persians were becoming conspicuous through their

alliance with the Medes. So we find it again in ch. 38:5; Daniel 5:28;

8:20; II Chronicles 36:20, 22; Ezra 1:1; 4:5; Esther 1:3. Here they are named

as mercenaries in the Tyrian army. Lud. The Septuagint and the

Vulgate, led by the similarity of sound, give Lydians. In Genesis 10:13

the Ludim appear as descendants of Mizraim, while Lud in Ibid. v. 22 is

joined with Elam and Asshur as among the sons of Shem. Its combination

with “Phut” (i.e. Libya) here and in Jeremiah 46:9 is in favor of its referring

to an African nation (compare also ch.30:5; Isaiah 66:19). Phut. Both the

Septuagint and the Vulgate give Libyans. In Genesis 10:6 the name is joined

with Cash and Mizraim. The Lubim Libyans) are named as forming part of

Shishak’s army in II Chronicles 12:3; 16:8, and in Nahum 3:9 and Jeremiah 46:9

as closely allied with the Egyptians. Ezekiel names Phut again as sharing in the

fall of Tyre (ch.30:5), and as serving in the army of Gog (ch. 38:5).

Mr. R. S. Peele is inclined to identify them with the Nubians.


11 “The men of Arvad with thine army were upon thy walls round

about, and the Gammadims were in thy towers: they hanged their

shields upon thy walls round about; they have made thy beauty

perfect.” (For Arvad, see v. 8.) Gammadim. The Septuagint translates

guards (φύλακες - phulakes); the Vulgate, Pygmies, probably as

connecting the  name with Gamad (equivalent to “a cubit”). The Targum gives

“watchmen;” Gesenius, “warriors:” Hitzig, “deserters.” The name probably

indicates that they were the flower of the Tyrian army — the life-guards

(like the “Immortals” of the Persians) of the merchant-city. On the whole,

we must leave the problem as one that we have no data for solving. The

grouping with Arvad, however, suggests a Syrian or Phoenician tribe.

They hanged their shields. The custom seems to have been specially

Phoenician. Solomon introduced it at Jerusalem (Song of Solomon 4:4).

The sight of the walls thus decorated, the shields being sometimes gilt

or painted, must have been sufficiently striking to warrant Ezekiel’s phrase

that thus the beauty of the city was “made perfect” by it. The custom

reappears in I Maccabees 4:57.


12Tarshish was thy merchant by reason of the multitude of all kind of

riches; with silver, iron, tin, and lead, they traded in thy fairs.”

Tarashish. The description of the city is followed by a

catalogue raisonnee of the countries with which she traded. Here we are

on more certain ground, there being a general consensus that Tarshish, the

Greek Tartessus, indicates the coast of Spain, which was pre-eminent in

the ancient world for the metals named (Jeremiah 10:9). The ships of

Tarshish (I Kings 22:48; Isaiah 2:16) were the larger merchant vessels

that were made for this distant traffic. Like all such names, it was

probably used with considerable latitude, and it is worth noting that both

the Septuagint and the Vulgate give Carthaginians. Probably the chief

Phoenician colonies in Spain, notably, of course, Carthago Nova, were

offshoots from Carthage, in which, by the way, we trace the old Hebrew

Kirjath (equivalent to “city”). Traded in thy fairs; better, with the

Revised Version, traded for thy wares; i.e. they bartered their mineral

treasures for the goods brought by the Tyrian merchants. The same

Hebrew word appears in vs. 14,16,19, 22-23, but is not found

elsewhere in the Old Testament, and may have been a technical word in

Tyrian commerce. The Septuagint gives ἀγορά – agora – market - the

Vulgate, nundinae, which  seems to have suggested the Revised Version.


13Javan, Tubal, and Meshech, they were thy merchants: they traded

the persons of men and vessels of brass in thy market.”

Javan (father of Elishah, Tarshish, Kittim, and Dodanim, and

son of Japheth, Genesis 10:2, 4) stands generically for Greece, and

probably represents Ionia. Tubal and Meshech are sons of Japheth in

Ibid. v. 2, and are always grouped together, except in Psalm 120:5,

where Meshech appears alone, and in Isaiah 66:19, where Tubal

is named, but not Meshech. In ch.32:26 they are associated with

Elam and Asshur (Assyria); in ch.38:2-3 and 39:1 with Gog. The

two names probably represented the tribes on the southeast coast of the

Black Sea. Here the chief traffic was in slaves, the Tyrian traders probably

buying them in exchange for their manufactured goods, and selling them to

the cities of Greece as well as Phoenicia. In Greek history the names

appear as Tibaroni and Moschi (Herod., 3:94; Xenophon, ‘Anab.,’ 5:5. 2,

etal.). In Joel 3:6 Tyrians are represented as selling Israelites as slaves in

Greek cities (Hebrew “sons of Javan”). Thrace and Scythia were at all

times the chief countries from which Greece imported her slaves. Vessels

of brass. Here, as throughout the Old Testament, we should read

“copper,” the mixed metal which we know as “brass” not Being known to

ancient metallurgy. Copper-mines were found near the Caucasus, and

Euboea was also famous for them. The region was also noted for its iron.



The Slave Trade (v. 13)


Among the wares that the Phoenicians imported into Asia were Greek

slaves. “With the persons of men… did they trade for thy wares” from

Javan and elsewhere. Thus early have we a picture of that hideous traffic in

human flesh which is desolating the continent of Africa in our own day.

(This was written two to three centuries back – CY – 2014)



EXTENT. This is no small evil. Every traveler into the interior of Africa

writes of its wide prevalence; Whole provinces, vast regions as big as

European kingdoms, are completely wrecked and depopulated. We are

here face to face with one of the most gigantic evils of the human race.



in the very seizing of innocent human beings, depriving them of their

liberty, tearing them from their families, driving them from their native

villages, and exporting them to foreign countries, there to live in perpetual

bondage. But, the manner in which this process is carried out aggravates

the cruelty of it immensely. No proper provision is made for the transport

of great companies of men, women, and children through vast regions of

African forest to the coast, and thence by sea to their destination. By far

the larger portion of the stolen victims perish on the way, after suffering




slaves are our fellow-men. The Greek slaves of antiquity were higher in

race than their captors. But we have no reason to believe that they were

treated so cruelly as the African slaves are treated by the Arabs. The

modern slaves are lower in civilization than their captors — they cannot Be

lower in morals. But it is the more shameful that a powerful people should

oppress these children of nature. They are human, and God “hath made of

one blood all nations of men” (Acts 17:26). Mankind is insulted in the

person of the slaves and degraded to the level of devilry in that of their




HEAVEN. The notion that the Arabs are civilizing Africa, and even

preparing for Christianity by leading the native people out of their heathen

darkness to the belief in one God and the higher life of Mohammedanism,

is not encouraged by the reports of those who have witnessed what is

happening on the spot. On the contrary, the enforced conversion of whole

tribes who are terrorized by the slave-hunters cannot mean any real

advance in religion, while the awful wickedness of the trade carried on by

these Mohammedan missionaries is one of the greatest sins in the sight of



  • THE SLAVE-TRADE MUST BE STOPPED. No crusade could be

more needed or more blessed in its result than one that was wisely directed

for the suppression of this curse of Africa. Christianity is the inspiration of

philanthropy. Christ infuses an enthusiasm of humanity in His true

followers. Christians should not rest till they have done all that in them lies

to suppress the vile, cruel slave-trade.


14  They of the house of Togarmah traded in thy fairs with horses and

horsemen and mules.” Togarmah. The name appears in ch.38:6 as an ally of

Gog, in Genesis 10:3 as a son of Gomer. Jerome identifies it with

Phrygia, others with Cappadocia, but there is a wider consensus for

Armenia, which was famous for its horses and mules (Xenophon, ‘ Anab.,’

5. 34; Strabo, 11:14. 9; Herod., 1:194).


15 “The men of Dedan were thy merchants; many isles were the

merchandise of thine hand: they brought thee for a present horns of

ivory and ebony.”  The men of Dedan. The name occurs again in v. 20, and

has already met us in ch.25:13 (where see note). Here the words

probably refer to the many isles of the Persian Gulf or the Red Sea. So the

ships of Solomon and Hiram — ships of Tarshish (name used generically

for merchant-vessels) — brought ivory among their other imports, starting

from Ezion-Geber (I Kings 9:26; 10:22). Ebony came from Ethiopia

and India. Virgil, indeed, names the latter country as the only region which

produced it (‘Georg.,’ 2:115). Ceylon is at present one of the chief sources

of supply. The Septuagint curiously enough gives Rhodians, the Hebrew letters

for d and r being easily mistaken by copyists.


16Syria was thy merchant by reason of the multitude of the wares of

thy making: they occupied in thy fairs with emeralds, purple, and

broidered work, and fine linen, and coral, and agate.”  Syria; Hebrew,

Aram. The Septuagint. which gives ἀνθρώπους anthropousman -

seems to have read Adam (equivalent to “man”), another instance of the fact

just referred to. And this has led many commentators (Michaelis,

Ewald, Hitzig, Furst) to conjecture, following the Peshito Version, that

Edom must have been the true reading. As regards the products named, we

know too little of the commerce of Edom to say whether it included them

in its exports, and the fact that the broidered work of Babylon had been

famous from of old (Joshua 7:21), and that it was also the oldest

emporium for precious stones, may be urged in favor of the present

reading, and of taking Aram in its widest sense as including Mesopotamia.

On the other hand, the mention of onyx, sapphire, coral, pearls, topaz, in

Job 28:16-19, the local coloring of which is essentially Idumaean,

supports the conjectural emendation. Emeralds (compare Exodus 28:18).

Some writers identify it with the carbuncle. It meets us again in ch.28:13.

The fine linen (butz) is different from that of v. 7 (shesh) and

appears only in the later books of the Old Testament (I Chronicles 4:21;

II Chronicles 3:14; Esther 1:6, etal.). It was probably the

byssus of the Greeks, made of cotton, while the Egyptian fabric was of

flax. Coral. The Hebrew (ramoth) occurs only here and in Job 28:18.

“Coral” is the traditional Jewish interpretation, but the Septuagint

transliterates, and the Vulgate gives secure. Agate is found here and in

Isaiah 54:12, and has been identified with the ruby or carbuncle. In

Exodus 28:19 and 39:12 the English represents a different Hebrew word.



17Judah, and the land of Israel, they were thy merchants: they traded

in thy market wheat of Minnith, and Pannag, and honey, and oil,

and balm.” Judah and the land of Israel. The narrow strip of land

occupied by the Phoenicians was unable to supply its crowded population.

It was dependent on Israel for its corn and oil and the like in the days of

Solomon (I Kings 5:9-11) and continued to be so to those of Herod

Agrippa (Acts 12:20). Minnith appears in Judges 11:33 as a city of

the Ammonites near Heshbon, and the region of Ammon was famous for

its wheat (II Chronicles 27:5). Minnith wheat probably fetched the

highest price in the Tyrian markets. Pannag is found here only. The

versions, Targum, Septuagint, give (μύροι muroi - ointments), Vulgate,

balsam.  Most modern commentators take it as meaning sweetmeats, the syrup

of  grape-juice, possibly something like the modern rahat-la-koum of Turkish

commerce. Possibly, like Minnith, it may have been a proper name the

significance of which is lost to us. Honey was at all times one of the

famous products of Palestine (Judges 14:8; I Samuel 14:27; Psalm 19:10;

Exodus 33:3).


18Damascus was thy merchant in the multitude of the wares of thy

making, for the multitude of all riches; in the wine of Helbon, and

white wool.”  Damascus. The chief expert of the great capital of Syria was

the wine of Helbon. The name occurs only here in the Old Testament. The

Septuagint gives Chel-ben; the Vulgate, as if it described the quality of the

wine, vinum pingue. It has been identified with Aleppo and with Chalyben,

but both of these places are too remote from Damascus, and Mr. J. R.

Porter (‘Dict. Bible,’ s.v.) finds it in a place a few miles from Damascus,

still bearing the name, and famous as producing the finest grapes in Syria.

Strabo (Ezekiel 15. p. 735) names the wine of Chalybon as the favorite

drink of the Persian kings, and Athenaeus (1:22) says the same of the wine

of Damascus. The name appears in Egyptian monuments in conjunction

with Kedes, as a Hittite city, and Brugsch (‘Geogr. AEgypt.,’ 2:45) agrees

with Porter as to its position. White wool. The adjective has been taken as

a proper name (Smend) “wool of Zachar,’ the region being identified with

Nabatheaea, which was famous for its sheep. The Septuagint gives “wool of

Miletus,” the city most famous in Greek commerce for its woolen fabrics.


19 “Dan also and Javan going to and fro occupied in thy fairs: bright

iron, cassia, and calamus, were in thy market.”  Dan also; Hebrew, Vedan.

The Authorized Version, following the Vulgate, takes the first syllable as the

common conjunction “and;” but no other verse in the chapter begins in this way,

and the Revised Version is probably right in giving the Hebrew word as its stands.

Dan, it may be added, was hardly likely to have been singled out of all the tribes

after the mention of Judah and Israel, especially as it had shared in the exile of the

ten tribes. Smend identifies it with Waddan, between Mecca and Medina,

or with Aden. Javan, too. already named in v. 13, can scarcely here be

Greece, though it may possibly refer to Greek traders. It also has been

identified conjecturally with an Arabian city. The words, going to and fro,

have been rendered “from Uzal” (Genesis 10:27), the ancient name of

the capital of Yemen, in Arabia; or, as in the Revised Version, with yarn.

The bright iron describes the steel used for sword-blades, for which

Yemen was famous. Cassia (Exodus 30:24; Psalm 45:8) and calamus

 (Exodus 30:23; Song of Solomon 4:14) both belong to the class of perfumes for

which Arabia was famous. It is probably the Acorns fragraas, the “sweet cane”

 of Isaiah 43:24; Jeremiah 6:20.


20Dedan was thy merchant in precious clothes for chariots.”

Dedan (see v. 15). Here probably we have another portion

of the same race. The precious clothes for riding (Revised Version) were

probably of the nature of the carpets used then as now as saddle-cloths —

the ephippia of the Greeks — in Persia and other parts of Asia. Compare

“ye that sit on rich carpets,” in Judges 5:10 (Revised Version). So the

Vulgate, tapetibus ad sedendum. The Septuagint  gives κτήνη ἔκλετα

ktaenae eklekta – precious clothes - as though it referred to horses.


21Arabia, and all the princes of Kedar, they occupied with thee in

lambs, and rams, and goats: in these were they thy merchants.”

Arabia. The word, commonly in connection with Dedan, is used in the limited

sense which attaches to it in the Old Testament (II Chronicles 9:14; Isaiah 21:13;

Jeremiah 25:24) for the tribes of what in Greek and Roman geography were

known as Arabia Deserts. Kedar. The name (equivalent to “black-skinned”)

appears as that of the second son of Ishmael (Genesis 25:13). The black tents

of Kedar (Psalm 120:5; Song of Solomon 1:5) indicate a nomadic tribe of the

Bedouin type, famous, as in Isaiah 60:7 and Jeremiah 49:28-29, for their

flocks of sheep and camels. They appear, also, as having cities and villages

in Isaiah 42:11. The name is used in later rabbinic writings for all the

inhabitants of Arabia.


22 “The merchants of Sheba and Raamah, they were thy merchants:

they occupied in thy fairs with chief of all spices, and with all precious

stones, and gold.”  Sheba. The Sabaea of the Greeks. It is applied, in

Genesis 10:7 and I Chronicles 1:9, to a grandson of Cush; in Genesis 10:28

And I Chronicles 1:22, to a son of Joktan; and in Genesis 25:3 and

I Chronicles 1:32, to a grandson of Abraham. Geographically, in

Ezekiel’s time it probably included the South-Arabian region, that of

Yemen, or Arabia Felix, and was famous, as in the history of the Queen of

Sheba, for its gold, gems, and spices (I Kings 10:1-2; Psalm 72:10,15).

Raamah. Named in Genesis 10:7 as father of the Cushite Sheba,

and probably, therefore, connected with it ethnologically and

geographically. The chief of all spices had probably a technical name, like

the “principal spices” of Exodus 30:23 and Song of Solomon 4:14

for the genuine balsam, the product of the Amyris opobalsamum, which is

found between Mecca and Medina. The precious stones includes onyx,

rubies, agates, and cornelians found in the mountains of Hadramant, and

the jaspers and crystals of Yemen. In the Rhammanitae, mentioned by

Strabo as a Sabaean tribe (16:782), we have, perhaps, a survival of the old



23Haran, and Canneh, and Eden, the merchants of Sheba, Asshur,

and Chilmad, were thy merchants.”  Haran and Canneh, etc. From Arabia we

pass to Mesopotamia.  Haran (Genesis 11:31) stands for the Carrhae of the

Romans, situated at the point where the old military and commercial roads

bifurcated towards Babylon and the Delta of the Persian Gulf in the one

direction, and Canaan in the other. It appears in Genesis 24:10 and

29:4 as the city of Nahor, in Mesopotamia (Aram-Naharaim, equivalent to

Syria of the two rivers”), or, more definitely, in Parian-Atom, which lies

below Mount Masius, between the Khabour and the Euphrates. It is

famous in Roman history for the defeat of Crassus by the Parthians.

Canneh. The eastern of the two roads just mentioned ran on to Calneh (of

which Canneh is a variant), named in Genesis 10:10 as one of the cities

built by Nimrod. It is probably represented by the modern Niffer, about

sixty miles southeast of Babylon. It is named in Isaiah 10:9 in

connection with Carchemish, in Amos 6:2 with Hamath the great, as

conquered by the Assyrians. It has been conjecturally identified by the

Targum and other ancient writers with Ctesiphon, but (?). Eden; spelled

differently in the Hebrew from the Eden of Genesis 2:8. It is probably

identical with the Eden near Thelassar (Tel- Assar) of Isaiah 37:12 and

II Kings 19:12, where, as here, it is connected with Haran as among the

Assyrian conquests. Its site has not been determined, and it has been placed

by some geographers in the hill-country above the Upper Mesopotamian

plains; by others near the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates. The

position of the Eden of Amos 1:5, near Damascus, points to a Syrian town

of the same name. The merchants of Sheba. The recurrence of the name

after the full mention of the people in v. 22 arises probably from the fact

that they were the carriers in the commerce between the Mesopotamian

cities just named and Tyre. Asshur. The name may stand as it

commonly does, for Assyria as a country; but its juxtaposition with the

names of cities has led some geographers to identify with a city Sum (Essurieh)

on the west bank of the Euphrates, above Thapsacus (the Tiphsah of I Kings

4:24), and on the caravan route which runs from Palmyra (the Tadmor of

II Chronicles 8:4) to Haran. Chilmad. The name is not found elsewhere.

The Septuagint gives Charman, a town near the Euphrates, mentioned in

Xenophon, ‘Anab.,’ 1:5. 10, as Charmande. It can scarcely have been a

 place of much general note, but may have had some special reputation

which made it prominent in Tyrian commerce.


24 “These were thy merchants in all sorts of things, in blue clothes, and

broidered work, and in chests of rich apparel, bound with cords,

and made of cedar, among thy merchandise.”  In all sorts of things; better,

with the Revised Version, in choice wares. Hebrew, articles of beauty; or, as in

margin of the Authorized Version, “excellent things.” The words have been

variously interpreted:


  • as “suits of armor;”
  • as “stately dresses;”
  • as “works of art” generally.


The description in detail that follows is so vivid as to give the impression that

Ezekiel had seen the merchants of Sheba unloading their camels and bringing

out their treasures as they arrived at Tyre. The blue clothes (wrappings of blue,

as in the Revised Version) were the purple robes of Babylon, which were famous

all over the world. The words that follow are somewhat obscure, but are

probably rightly translated “embroidered of twisted yarn, inwound,

and strong cords for thy wares.” The yarn may have been used for

the cordage of the Tyrian ships. The words, made of cedar, are in this

rendering taken as an adjective, equivalent to “firm” or “strong”.


25 “The ships of Tarshish did sing of thee in thy market: and thou wast

replenished, and made very glorious in the midst of the seas.”  The verse

begins a new section, and glides back into the original metaphor of the ship,

as in vs. 4-9. The ships of Tarshish are used generically for merchant-ships.

The catalogue of the commerce ends with v. 24, and the more poetic imagery

reappears. It was, as centering in herself all that they brought to her that the

merchant-city was very glorious in the midst of the waters. For sing of thee, read,

the ships of Tarshish were thy caravans (Revised Version). The word has also the

sense of “wall,” as in Jeremiah 5:10 and Job 24:11; and this, describing the ships

as the “wooden walls” of Tyre, gives a tenable sense here.


26 “Thy rowers have brought thee into great waters: the east wind hath

broken thee in the midst of the seas.  27 “Thy riches, and thy fairs, thy

merchandise, thy mariners, and thy pilots, thy calkers, and the occupiers

of thy merchandise, and all thy men of war, that are in thee, and in all thy

company which is in the midst of thee, shall fall into the midst of the seas in

the day of thy ruin.” Thy rowers have brought thee. The metaphor goes on its

course. The state-ship is in the open sea, and the east wind, the Euroclydon

of the Mediterranean (Acts 27:14), blows and threatens it with

destruction (compare Psalm 48:7). In that destruction all who contributed

to her prosperity were involved. The picture reminds us of the description

of the ship of Tarshish in Jonah 1:4-5. The city shall be left, in that terrible

day, in the heart of the seas (Revised Version).


The troubles that are to overtake Tyro in the Chaldean invasion are

compared by the prophet to a sea of great waters into which the rowers

have brought the ship — an image that would come home to a maritime

people.  Souls may have to encounter great waters of affliction.  Too

often men bring themselves into their greatest troubles.  Thy rowers have

brought thee into great waters.” Instead of keeping to the sheltered course in

the lea of the cliffs, the heedless rowers have pulled out into a reach of water

where the sea is running high. Men rush headlong into trouble by folly and sin.


AFFLICTION.  He may still the waters. As Christ quieted the storm on

Gennesaret (Mark 4:35-41), so will He still tumults of trouble in our lives.

Our course is to pray for help, and trust Him where we can do nothing for

ourselves. It may not be possible to alter circumstances nor to escape from them. 

Then we may be strengthened to withstand them, as Paul’s ship was strengthened

when the sailors undergirded it (Acts 27).


“With Christ in the vessel, I smile at the storm.”



National Shipwreck (vs. 26-27)


The metaphor employed in this passage by the poet-prophet is peculiarly

appropriate. What so fitted to represent the maritime city Tyre as a gallant

ship? In figurative language Ezekiel pictures the stateliness and prosperity,

followed by the wreck and destruction, of the famous mistress of the seas.



LADEN GALLEY. Commerce and wealth, maritime and military

greatness, are characteristic of the famous Phoenician port; and these are

represented as the freight of the vessel as she skims the surface of the

smooth waters beneath the sunny skies.



BY A SUDDEN AND VIOLENT TEMPEST. The vessel is built for calm

weather, and is ill fitted to contend with storms. When war was waged

against Tyre by “the king of kings,” Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, then the

power of “the queen of the seas” was put to the proof. Not that Tyre

succumbed at once; the resistance offered was long and stubborn; the city

was fighting for its life. (Many liberal cities of the United States fulfill

the teaching of Proverbs 7:22-23, in living out their carnal agenda “He goeth

after her straightway, as an ox goeth to the slaughter, or as a fool to the

correction of the stocks; Till a dart strike through his liver; as a bird

hasteneth to the snare, and knoweth not IT IS FOR HIS LIFE!” -

CY – 2014) It was not like a great and populous nation occupying an

extensive territory, which may be vanquished, but cannot be

exterminated. If the city upon the rock was captured and destroyed, Tyre

was annihilated as well as conquered. Hence the severity of the struggle,

which was a struggle, not for wealth and power merely, BUT FOR





OF THE SEAS. The great waters and the east wind work their will. The

rowers are powerless; skill and strength are of no avail. The richly laden

vessel goes down with all her costly freight and gallant crew. Riches and

magnificence, valor and experience, are powerless to save when the decree

has gone forth that:


Ø      opportunities have been neglected,

Ø      privileges have been abused,

Ø      that moral laws have been violated, and

Ø      that the God of nations has been defied.


 The lessons of history have been studied to little purpose if

they have not taught us;


Ø      that “the Lord reigneth (Psalm 97:1),

Ø      that He “doeth according to his will among the inhabitants of

the earth”  (Daniel 4:35),

Ø      that He “brings down the lofty from their seat.”  (Isaiah 26:5)


 The multitude of the host and much strength are a

vain refuge from the justice and the power of “the Lord of lords.”


28 “The suburbs shall shake at the sound of the cry of thy pilots.”

The suburbs. The word is so translated in ch. 45:2, and 48:17, and is used of the

pasture-lands round the cities of refuge in Numbers 35:2. Here it is probably used

in a wider sense for the coastlands of Phoenicia, or even (as in the margin) for the

“waves” that washed the shores of the island-city. The Vulgate gives classes

(equivalent to “fleets”).


29 “And all that handle the oar, the mariners, and all the pilots of the

sea, shall come down from their ships, they shall stand upon the

land;  30 And shall cause their voice to be heard against thee, and shall cry

bitterly, and shall cast up dust upon their heads, they shall wallow

themselves in the ashes:  31 And they shall make themselves utterly bald for

thee, and gird them with sackcloth, and they shall weep for thee with

bitterness of heart and bitter wailing.”  And all that handle the oar, etc. The

picture is, perhaps, figurative. As Tyre itself was the great state-ship, so the other

ships may stand for the other Phoenician cities that beheld her downfall. Looking

to the picture itself, it presents the rowers and others as feeling that, if the

great ship had been wrecked, there was little hope of safety for them, and

so they leave their ships and stand on the coast wailing. (For casting dust,

as a sign of mourning, see Joshua 7:6; I Samuel 4:12; Job 2:12, et al.;

for “wallowing in the ashes, Jeremiah 6:26; 25:34; Micah 1:10-16. For the

“baldness” and “sackcloth” of v. 31, see ch. 7:18.)


32 “And in their wailing they shall take up a lamentation for thee, and

lament over thee, saying, What city is like Tyrus, like the destroyed

in the midst of the sea?”  33 “When thy wares went forth out of the seas,

thou filledst many people; thou didst enrich the kings of the earth with

the multitude of thy riches and of thy merchandise. 34 In the time when

thou shalt be broken by the seas in the depths of the waters thy merchandise

and all thy company in the midst of thee shall fall.  35 All the inhabitants of

the isles shall be astonished at thee, and their kings shall be sore afraid, they

shall be troubled in their countenance.  36 The merchants among the people

shall hiss at thee; thou shalt be a terror, and never shalt be any more.”

As in other instances of extreme sorrow, the inarticulate signs of grief pass

after a time into spoken words. What city is like Tyrus, etc.?  What parallel can

be found in the world’s history, either for her magnificence or her fall? The

shipwreck of her fortunes (we are still in the region of the prophet’s metaphors)

would be utter and irretrievable.


All men do not sin equally, and all will not be punished to the same extent —

Some with few stripes, others with many stripes.  (Luke 12:47-48)  Tyre sinned

grievously, therefore Tyre was to be punished grievously. It is not the man who

thinks himself the lightest sinner who will certainly be let off with the smallest

amount of punishment. We are not to be our own judges and the assessors

of our own guilt. There will be many great surprises in the day of judgment.

The heaviest doom will be for those who knew the right way

and yet did not walk in it (Ibid.). Therefore there will be heavier penalties

even than those earned by Tyre. Christ says it will be more tolerable for Tyre and

Sidon in the day of judgment than for Bethsaida and Chorazin, for the heathen

Phoenician cities had not the opportunities that were afforded to the Galilaean

towns in which Christ had labored (Ibid. ch. 10:13).  If New York City, Los

Angeles or Washington, D.C., sins like Tyre, their doom must be greater than

Tyre’s, for a city of Christendom has privileges which the pagans never enjoyed.



A Great Surprise (v. 35)


All the neighboring inhabitants are astonished at the terrible and unexpected fate of

strong, proud Tyre. The dramatic event sends a shock of amazement through all the

region round about. This great surprise is instructive.



promise of His coming?  For since the fathers fell asleep, all things

continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.”  (II Peter 3:4)

The intellect is conservative. Novelty is unlooked for. We believe that the

future will be like the past for no other reason than that, on the whole, things

seem to be stable and the course of the world uniform. But every now and

then the unexpected happens, as though to warn us that things may not

continue forever in their present quiet state. The antediluvians were too much

accustomed to the regular rotation of the seasons than to believe Noah’s

preaching. Vesuvius had slumbered for unknown years before the great

eruption overthrew Herculaneum and Pompeii, and the consequence was

that its foot was covered with buildings. People have but faint

apprehensions of Divine judgment because life runs on at present in its old




SECURITY. Tyre was so great and rich and beautiful that her neighbors

had never anticipated her downfall. There is no surprise at the destruction

of poor little pastoral kingdoms like Ammon and Moab. But when a nation

that is in the foremost rank of the world’s progress is smitten down, men

are simply confounded. Thus the destruction of Tyre surprised her

neighbors, as the sack of Rome by the Goths astounded the contemporaries

of St. Augustine and St. Jerome. Men have to learn that splendor is not

strength, and that prosperity is not its own security.  (This should be

a great warning to America who has departed from Jehovah and has

instituted gods of MATERIALISM in His place.



ESTIMATE. Tyre boasted of her magnificence. “Thou hast said, I am of

perfect beauty” (v. 3). She prided herself in her strong sea-walls, and

until they were tested in battle none knew that they were not strong

enough to withstand the shock of the northern invader. The Church is

proud of her orthodoxy, her splendor, her strength, and thus she may lead

simple minds to trust in her certain safety. But all such boasting brings no

real strength. It goes down at a touch from hard realities. Then the

deceived are dismayed. In the end the discovery brings shame on the head

of the boasters.



but we fail to comprehend their meaning; and even when our own language

is translated into fact we are surprised at seeing what it really meant. There

is a tendency to water down the strong language of Scripture. (Following

the influence of Satan when he asks “Hath God said?” – Genesis 3:1 -CY –

2014)  No doubt this is largely due to a reaction against the coarse literalism

of earlier ages.  A revolt from descriptions of future punishment which quiet,

thinking people could not believe to be true of their own familiar acquaintances,

has landed us in a region of MILD THEOLOGY!   But there are stern and

terrible realities in God’s judgments on that horrible thing SIN!   When these

are witnessed assuredly they will give a great surprise to complacent people

who are now content to imbibe the thinnest dilutions of Scripture doctrines

of coming judgment.



Wreck of a Stately Ship (vs. 1-36)


There is a striking resemblance between a gallant ship and an empire. Many

persons and orders are united in a state under one governor or captain.

There is a unity amid diversity. A state, like a ship, has interchange of

interests with other nations. Upon the skill and prudence of the pilot

depends the prosperity of empire or ship. The whole life of Tyre was

poured into the channel of commerce. Hence the figure would be readily




WORLD-WIDE. The timber was supplied from one country, iron from

another, cordage from a third, sails from a fourth. Evidently God intended

that nations should be linked together in interdependence. The

commodities essential for civilization are wisely distributed through many

lands, so that friendly intercommunion may be mutual advantage. National

exclusiveness is substantial loss. No country is prosperous in the highest

measure that is not willing to import learning and legislation, scientific

inventions and natural products, from other lands. Tyre owed her greatness

and her prosperity to a large and generous commerce. She was willing to

receive from the most obscure or most distant people. The ripest sage can

learn from a little child.


  • THE SHIP’S CREW. “Thy wise men, O Tyrus, that were in thee, were

thy pilots.” Sailors, helmsmen, and defenders were chosen of those most

skilful for their particular work. Such a course is the only reasonable one;

and yet, in the direction of political affairs, this course is often abandoned.

Men are allowed to rule, or are chosen to rule, either in supreme or

subordinate places, because of their pedigree, or their titles, or their wealth,

or their arrogance. The interests of the state are imperiled, the safety of the

state is jeopardized, by partiality or by partisanship. The only qualification

for office is personal fitness. No one would entrust his life in a ship which

was not commanded by a skilful and experienced captain.


  • THE SHIP’S BUSINESS. The proper business of a ship is usefulness.

She has been constructed and manned to convey passengers and

commodities from land to land. The surplus of material substance in one

land may thus be conveyed to lands where lack is felt. Interchange

promotes mutual advantage, mutual confidence, mutual good will. The

nation so employed is a blessing to the world. Knowledge is diffused,

healthy emulation is aroused, religious truth is disseminated.  (Jesus said,

“Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature!”

(Mark 16:15)



INTEREST IN THE MIND OF GOD. It is very noteworthy that God

should have made known to Ezekiel all these particulars in the history and

commerce of Tyre; for it is obvious that the prophet in Chaldea could have

known them in no other way — unless, indeed, he had been there before

the Captivity. Not an item in the mercantile transactions of Tyre but

received the cognizance of God. Every purchase, every sale, obtained

either HIS SMILE or HIS FROWN!   Nor, if we reflect on the matter,

need we wonder. If God takes an interest in all our personal affairs, so

must He also in our united interests and in our public concerns. If He

stoops to count the hairs of our head (Luke 12:7), He is only consistent

with Himself when He notes every legislative measure and every

international transaction.  (And that does include “Roe v. Wade”

and all the other anti-religious laws or decisions made in Washington,

D.C., in our local towns, and in our own hearts  CY – 2014)



hast said, I am of perfect beauty.” A well-built ship, well fitted and

complete, is a thing of beauty. It has a charm for the eye. But herein lies a

danger. If the owner be taken up with the beauty of his ship, he is prone to

neglect her planks and bolts and cordage. The external brightness of a ship

is no security against inward rottenness. So is it with the state politic.

There may be many outward signs of prosperity — wealth, magnificence,

high reputation, prosperous commerce — and yet there may be a worm at

the root, a hidden leak that may founder the gallant ship. The only real

element of stability is RIGHTEOUSNESS!  The only true rampart of

defense is THE FAVOR OF JEHOVAH!   Instead of self-esteem,

there ought to be thankfulness.  Instead of self-boasting, there should

be trust in God.  (And to think that the National Education Asssociation

is all for teaching self-esteem [but to what purpose] and all against

God being allowed in the classroom, even at Christmas!  YOU FIGURE!

CY – 2014)



construction and furniture of a ship is a human contrivance to harmonize

with the forces of God in nature, and to resist what is perilous to life. Yet

human contrivances are, at the best, IMPERFECT!   They cannot face, in

serious battle, the material forces of God. Some simple occurrence in nature,

such as a waterspout, an electric spark, or an earthquake, may shatter in a

moment the staunchest ship. Sooner or later every ship finishes its career.

Scarcely ever has a ship endured the natural period of a human life. If it has

braved a thousand storms, it yields to natural decay, and falls to pieces in

the harbor. Apart from God, THERE IS NOTHING DURABLE,




GRIEF. It is a spectacle distressing to the eye to see a fine ship wrecked

upon a rocky coast. But as soon as the imagination takes in the full

meaning of the event, the pain felt is greater. We think of the crew — all

their privations and anxieties and final death. We think of desolate widows

and orphaned children. We think of the loss of valuable property, the

frustration of hopes, the impotence of human contrivances and skill, the

blow to further enterprise, the sense of hidden danger which surrounds us

all. Wider still and deeper is the terror awakened in men’s minds when a

flourishing empire succumbs to fierce invasion. Human hopes are crushed.

Security to life and property is disturbed. A great panic spreads. Life in

every place seems imperiled. If Type falls, what empire, what city, can be

safe? Things material often receive rude disturbance, that we may find our

security in that kingdom “WHICH CANNOT BE SHAKEN!”



"Excerpted text Copyright AGES Library, LLC. All rights reserved.

Materials are reproduced by permission."


This material can be found at:



If this exposition is helpful, please share with others.