Tyre is an ancient city spoken of in scripture. Its inhabitants were the civilization which invented the alphabet. This is also the city where Jezebel came from. According to the writings in scripture, it was ruled over by none other than the devil himself. A prophecy was given whereby the city would be utterly destroyed and flattened to the ground and that fishermen would spread their nets out to dry on its bare surface. And yet many of the wealthy inhabitants of Tyre escaped to the sea, to their colony in Africa which would become Rome’s main rival for mastery of the world. We will start by looking at some of the biblical references related to Tyre, and then go through some of the history and significant wars leading to its destruction.
In scripture Tyre is first prominently mentioned in relation to king Solomon, having made a covenant with him to supply cedar and skilled craftsmen for the temple in Jerusalem in exchange for Solomon supplying the island with agricultural products.
2 Chronicles 2:7-9 Therefore send me at once a man skillful to work in gold and silver, in bronze and iron, in purple and crimson and blue, who has skill to engrave with the skillful men who are with me in Judah and Jerusalem, whom David my father provided. Also send me cedar and cypress and algum logs from Lebanon, for I know that your servants have skill to cut timber in Lebanon; and indeed my servants will be with your servants, to prepare timber for me in abundance, for the temple which I am about to build shall be great and wonderful. And indeed I will give to your servants, the woodsmen who cut timber, twenty thousand kors of ground wheat, twenty thousand kors of barley, twenty thousand baths of wine, and twenty thousand baths of oil.
Tyre was the foremost producer of luxury goods and the major trader and naval power in the region. Ezekiel 26-28 is a long prophecy describing Tyre’s beauty and wealth and also foretelling its annihilation. The three chapters have countless similarities with the judgement of Mystery Babylon in Revelation 17-18. Here is a snippet of the chapter referring to Tyre’s trading glory:
Ezekiel 27:12-24 “Tarshish was your merchant because of your many luxury goods. They gave you silver, iron, tin, and lead for your goods. Javan, Tubal, and Meshech were your traders. They bartered human lives and vessels of bronze for your merchandise. Those from the house of Togarmah traded for your wares with horses, steeds, and mules. The men of Dedan were your traders; many isles were the market of your hand. They brought you ivory tusks and ebony as payment. Syria was your merchant because of the abundance of goods you made. They gave you for your wares emeralds, purple, embroidery, fine linen, corals, and rubies. Judah and the land of Israel were your traders. They traded for your merchandise wheat of Minnith, millet, honey, oil, and balm. Damascus was your merchant because of the abundance of goods you made, because of your many luxury items, with the wine of Helbon and with white wool. Dan and Javan paid for your wares, traversing back and forth. Wrought iron, cassia, and cane were among your merchandise. Dedan was your merchant in saddlecloths for riding. Arabia and all the princes of Kedar were your regular merchants. They traded with you in lambs, rams, and goats. The merchants of Sheba and Raamah were your merchants. They traded for your wares the choicest spices, all kinds of precious stones, and gold. Haran, Canneh, Eden, the merchants of Sheba, Assyria, and Chilmad were your merchants. These were your merchants in choice items—in purple clothes, in embroidered garments, in chests of multicolored apparel, in sturdy woven cords, which were in your marketplace.
Clearly there is an emphasis on luxury goods throughout this above description. Now lets compare this with the prophecy of Mystery Babylon:
Revelation 17:11-13 And the merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her, for no one buys their merchandise anymore: merchandise of gold and silver, precious stones and pearls, fine linen and purple, silk and scarlet, every kind of citron wood, every kind of object of ivory, every kind of object of most precious wood, bronze, iron, and marble; and cinnamon and incense, fragrant oil and frankincense, wine and oil, fine flour and wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, and bodies and souls of men.
The resemblance is undeniable. Many interpret Mystery Babylon to be referring simply to Rome, but there is definitely a Tyrian connection to be made here.
Following the description of Tyre’s beauty and naval empire there is a fearsome prophecy of extinction:
Ezekiel 27:32-36 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? 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. 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. 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. The merchants among the people shall hiss at thee; thou shalt be a terror, and never shalt be any more.
Ezekiel 26:3-5 Therefore thus says the Lord God: ‘Behold, I am against you, O Tyre, and will cause many nations to come up against you, as the sea causes its waves to come up. And they shall destroy the walls of Tyre and break down her towers; I will also scrape her dust from her, and make her like the top of a rock. It shall be a place for spreading nets in the midst of the sea, for I have spoken,’ says the Lord God; ‘it shall become plunder for the nations.
This is not just a prophecy of capture or plunder. Being made like the “top of a rock” and a place bare enough for fishermen to dry their nets on speak to total annihilation. Not only will Tyre be taken over by hostile forces, but they will raze its buildings to the ground and render it uninhabitable. Rarely is a biblical prophecy so harsh in describing a future judgement.
The king of Tyre: Lucifer
The first portion of Ezekiel 28 prophesies to the prince of Tyre, while the last half refers to the “king.” Why is this subtle detail important? The “prince” of Tyre refers to the human ruler, but the “king” is referring to Lucifer, the invisible ruler of the city.
Ezekiel 28:11-15 Moreover the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Son of man, take up a lamentation for the king of Tyre, and say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord God:
“You were the seal of perfection,
Full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.
You were in Eden, the garden of God;
Every precious stone was your covering:
The sardius, topaz, and diamond,
Beryl, onyx, and jasper,
Sapphire, turquoise, and emerald with gold.
The workmanship of your timbrels and pipes
Was prepared for you on the day you were created.
“You were the anointed cherub who covers;
I established you;
You were on the holy mountain of God;
You walked back and forth in the midst of fiery stones.
You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created,
Till iniquity was found in you.
Clearly the above passage is not referring to a human ruler. Was the human king of Tyre in the garden of God? Created with pipes and musical instruments built in? Can the human ruler of Tyre be called the “anointed cherub”? On the mountain of God? Walking back and forth among the fiery stones?
Obviously the “king” of Tyre is a reference to Lucifer and not the city’s mere human ruler.
Nebuchadnezzar and Alexander’s Attacks
The destruction of Tyre was supposed to have been fulfilled by Nebuchadnezzar, but he was unsuccessful in this mission and could not take the island. From 586–573 BC Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Tyre. Although commanding the most powerful empire in the world, he could not break their defenses, which were considered impregnable. In addition, Tyre maintained naval superiority and could ferry in food and resources, bypassing the siege. As a result, the Babylonians had to abandon the siege. This is failed mission is mentioned later on in Ezekiel:
Ezekiel 29:18-19 “Son of man, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon caused his army to labor strenuously against Tyre; every head was made bald, and every shoulder rubbed raw; yet neither he nor his army received wages from Tyre, for the labor which they expended on it. Therefore thus says the Lord God: ‘Surely I will give the land of Egypt to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon; he shall take away her wealth, carry off her spoil, and remove her pillage; and that will be the wages for his army. I have given him the land of Egypt for his labor, because they worked for Me,’ says the Lord God.
So for a while it seemed as if Tyre had escaped fate and that the prophecy would not come true. Far from destruction they were in fact only growing in prosperity, sending out colonies to Africa and Spain to supply them with silver and trading products. In 333BC the Tyrians pushed their luck a little too hard as Alexander the Great (widely considered the greatest general of all time) entered the territory. He requested that the Tyrians would allow him to make an honorary sacrifice to their god Melqart in their island city. The Tyrians rebuffed Alexander, suggesting he sacrifice in their sister city on the mainland and forbidding him access to their island. Enraged, Alexander destroyed the mainland city and threw its rubble into the sea to build a land-bridge to the island city. Even today Tyre is no longer an island, but a peninsula due to this act. The Greek forces crossed this bridge with siege engines and sacked the island city. He flattened Tyre and sold its remaining inhabitants into slavery.
When Alexander broke down the walls of Tyre, all of the wealthiest and most powerful inhabitants had already been planning several steps ahead. Tyre had full naval supremacy and thus they moved their families, resources, and wealth to one of the Tyrian colonies known as “Carthage.” This African base would soon rival Rome for mastery of the globe. When Alexander broke through, it was mostly the poor and soldiers who were left to bear the brunt of the Greek hostility. The city had already been evacuated of much of its treasure, merchandise, ships, women and children.
Carthage: Tyre 2.0
At the conclusion of the siege, the ancient historian Diodorus of Sicily mentions:
“….all except a few were cut down fighting, in number more than seven thousand. The king sold the women and children into slavery and crucified all the men of military age. These were not less than two thousand. Although most of the non-combatants had been removed to Carthage, those who remained to become captives were found to be more than thirteen thousand.”
So Tyre lived on, in its African colony Carthage. Carthage controlled most of the north African shoreline as well as Spain and several Mediterranean islands. The influx of wealthy Tyrian refugees could only cause the city to expand and prosper in even greater measures than before. The commercial success of Carthage brought jealousy to Rome, a city eager for war and conquest. Much of Rome’s early wealth came from plunder and tribute from conquered territory. Rome however, lacked a real navy and thus it appeared there would be no way they could take over the lucrative Mediterranean trade routes.
The 1st and 2nd Punic Wars
1st: The Mamertines, a group of mercenaries on Sicily being attacked by Syracuse, appealed to both Rome and Carthage for assistance. This resulted in a competition among the two formerly friendly great powers for control of this sphere of influence. Rome was powerful only on land while Carthage dominated the seas and was also reasonably strong on land. Fortunately for Rome there just so happened to have been a Carthaginian naval vessel which ran had aground on Roman territory. The Romans reverse-engineered this Carthaginian design and began a massive construction project using this ship as a template for their own navy, immediately building 120 ships. There was one major innovation however, which was the “corvus.” This was a bridge with a pike on the end that could be lowered onto the enemy ship when in close proximity. The Roman legions would then storm the enemy ship, turning the naval battle into a land battle and thus the vessel would be easily captured. Although Carthage had a larger territory and greater wealth, they lost the war due to the innovative Roman strategies and adaptability. Carthage was stuck with a treaty requiring them to pay the Romans 3,200 talents of silver (82,000 kg) as well as handing over Sicily and its surrounding islands.
2nd: In 219 BC the famous Carthaginian general Hannibal laid siege to Saguntum, a city under Roman protection. The Romans soon formally declared war on Carthage. This initiated the second Punic war, the WW2 of its time and the most destructive ancient battle to have ever happened. Over 750,000 would die in this conflict; a record given the ancient world’s low population. Hannibal was in a difficult situation. The Romans now controlled the seas, and the only land route from Spain to Italy would be through the treacherous Alps. Unbelievably the general somehow managed to cross this mountain range with his entire army despite all of the hostile tribes in the area as well as the cold weather and lack of supplies; even the war elephants made it across. The Romans were completely caught off guard by this strategic maneuver and immediately put on the defensive. Hannibal won battles at Ticinus, Trebia, and Lake Trasimene, and the Romans under the general Fabian begin using scorched earth tactics and avoiding open engagement. Eventually the armies met in the battle of Cannae, where Hannibal brought a force of 50,000 mercenaries against a larger Roman army of 85,000 legionaries. Employing the “double envelopment” tactic, he slaughtered the Roman legions while losing less than 6,000 of his own troops. Roman allies began to defect en-mass to Hannibal, including most of southern Italy. Hannibal then began to march towards the ultimate prize: the city of Rome.
With all this victory it seems surprising that Carthage could still manage to lose the war. The city was not willing to send any serious reinforcements to their general or to conscript an army of citizens however. They were not willing to fight a total war like the Romans. The civilian population was known to be hostile and uncooperative to their military leaders, sometimes crucifying generals who failed in battle. Hannibal was not given enough resources, siege equipment, and reinforcements from Carthage to take Rome, although he was on their doorstep. The Carthaginian armies fought by the other general Hasdrubal, soon suffered defeat in Spain, cutting off supplies. Eventually Hannibal was forced to return to Africa with all his military gains lost. Scipio invaded Africa and defeated Hannibal’s army, resulting in heavy war indemnities. 300,000kg of silver were required, Carthage was required to destroy all of their ships except 10 (to ward off pirates), they lost all of its territory except for the area directly surrounding the city, and they were forbidden to wage any war without permission from Rome. Rome was now the undisputed dominant power in the world and would be for the next 600 years. All of this loss was entirely preventable if Carthage had been willing to put their all into the fight like Rome. Carthage had the clear advantage and could have easily won if they were willing to supply and reinforce their general so that he could capture Rome. Instead, Carthage would soon suffer total destruction and extinction from the face of the earth.
Total Annihilation: The Third Punic War
Rome’s ally Numidia, an African state neighboring Carthage, took advantage of the weakness of their former master and began raiding the countryside around Carthage. Carthage decided to fight back, but lost in battle against the Numidians. This alone would be bad enough, but to add insult to injury Rome considered this a violation of treaty since permission had not been first requested. Rome laid out an ultimatum, requiring the inhabitants of Carthage to completely destroy their own city and rebuild it 16km inland. This of course was an impossible request, but especially given Carthage was a seafaring culture and had no experience apart from the waters. Upon their refusal, Rome laid siege to and broke into the city. The slaughter was unlike anything previous. Killing squads were rotated to avoid the Roman troops being too traumatized by the continuous massacre of civilians. The civilians who survived the onslaught were all sold into slavery and the city was burnt and leveled to the ground.
The Roman general Scipio Africanus understood that there would come a time when Rome too would meet a destructive fate. Here is a quote from the Roman general Scipio:
“After musing by himself a long time and reflecting upon the inevitable fall of cities, peoples and empires, as well as of individuals, upon the fate of Troy, that once proud city, upon the fate of the Assyrian, the Median, and afterwards of the great Persian empire, and most recently of all, of the splendid empire of Macedon, either voluntarily or otherwise the words of the poet [Homer] escaped from his lips:
The day shall come in which our sacred Troy
And Priam, and the people over whom
Spear-bearing Priam rules, shall perish all.
Being asked by Polybius in casual conversation (for Polybius had been his tutor) what he meant by using these words, Polybius says that he did not hesitate to frankly name his own country, for whose fate he feared when he considered the mutability of human affairs. And Polybius wrote this down just as he heard it”
-- (excerpt from “Carthage Must Be Destroyed,” by Richard Miles)
Afterwards, the leaders sowed the city soil with salt. This meant no crops or gardens would ever be able to grow in that ground and thus the city would never be inhabited in the future. This the gruesome biblical prophecy of utter desolation was finally fulfilled.
Why such harsh judgement?
So we see the biblical prophecy against Tyre was fulfilled only partially on Tyre itself, but moreso on its spiritual successor Carthage. To understand why total destruction was given rather than capture, we must look at the sins of Carthage. They were focused greatly on material wealth and luxury over personal virtue and sacrifice. This resulted in them having no standing army except for mercenaries which could be hired from neighbors. Ezekiel 16:49 “Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.”
And yet this was far from their worst sin.
Moloch worship and child sacrifice were invented by the Phoenicians (Tyre and colonies). The name “Moloch” is related to the Tyrian god “Melqart.” Baal Haamon is another god which required child sacrifice. The word “Haamon” means “burning,” and there would be a fire burning continuously around the god’s statue where live children or infants would be thrown to. If a major commercial voyage was to take place, a pledge would sometimes be made where upon the vessel returning successfully, a child would be offered to the god in thanks. Even as the city Carthage was being destroyed, the last act of the leadership was the leader’s wife sacrificing her children in the fire, then leaping into the flames herself.
Here is a historical description of the practice
“The fullest and most dramatic description comes from the pen of the Sicilian historian Diodorus: ‘There was in their city a bronze image of Cronus [the Greek equivalent of Baal Hammon], extending its hands, palms up and sloping towards the ground, so that each of the children when placed thereupon rolled down and fell into a sort of gaping pit filled with fire.’ The third-century-BC philosopher and biographer Cleitarchus also evoked the ghastly image of the limbs of the children contracting and their open mouths looking as if they were laughing as they were consumed by the fire. According to the first-century-AD Greek writer Plutarch’s On Superstition, parents avoided sacrificing their own infants by replacing them with purchased street children, whose mothers would lose the fee they had been paid if they cried or mourned for their lost offspring. Loud music was also played at the sacrificial area to drown out the victims’ screams.”
-- (excerpt from “Carthage Must Be Destroyed,” by Richard Miles)
One of the justifications for Israel’s slaughter of the Canaanites was the child sacrifice they were engaged in, among other things.
Leviticus 20:2 “Again, thou shalt say to the children of Israel, Whosoever he be of the children of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn in Israel, that giveth any of his seed unto Molech; he shall surely be put to death: the people of the land shall stone him with stones.”
Jeremiah 32:35 “And they built the high places of Baal, which are in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire unto Molech which I commanded them not, neither came it into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.”
Abortion and the family
The family is no longer considered important. Marriage is falling. Relationships are temporary with indefinite boyfriend/girlfriend setups. Boomers and Millennials blame each other for everything wrong in the world and do not consider the other’s views. Worst of all, abortion is prominent.
Never before had there been a culture so enthusiastic in sacrificing their children. Throughout human history children were considered a precious gift. Other cultures such as the Greek Spartans considered women who died in childbirth as heroes equivalent to soldiers who died in war. Carthage on the other hand thought of children as disposable commodities. The westernized world is the exception, just like Carthage, where wealth and convenience are valued over family, committing this abomination against God to have the parents sacrifice their own children through abortion just to have a little extra wealth and leisure time and avoid “inconvenience.”
We would do well to remember the Roman general Scipio’s words, that no empire ever does last forever. We are beginning to see many parallels between the western world and Carthage and this is not a good place to be. Rather than being willing to pay for orphanages or group homes, we complain about the economic burden that would take place if we had to take care of these children. The blood cries out from the ground and the vials of wrath are continuously filling. What happens when the vials overflow? Carthage found out the hard way and perhaps it will not be long before we do as well. We have to reject abortion and be willing to do what it takes to take care of unwanted children. Even if orphanages are not a perfect solution, they are a better one than death. We need to be willing to bear the expense. Allowing children to be killed thoughtlessly and conveniently will bring the blood upon the hands of our civilization. That is a far heavier price to pay than any expense to take care of unwanted children.
Malachi 4:6 And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.
Proverbs 11:4 Riches profit not in the day of wrath: but righteousness delivereth from death.