NEBUCHADNEZZAR’S LONG SIEGE
True to the prophecy, not long after the fall of Jerusalem, the king of Babylon came against Tyre. But Tyre was confident. Had not the city resisted Shalmaneser for five years, causing that king to give up the siege? Nebuchadnezzar attacked confident Tyre, and the siege was on. Five years passed but Nebuchadnezzar did not give up the siege. Seven years passed, ten years, and still Tyre resisted. Surely the king of Babylon would give up the attempt and go home, so the Tyrians must have thought. But the siege went on. Twelve years passed. Tyre still resisted. Finally, after thirteen years, the siege engines of Nebuchadnezzar prevailed. Tyre fell. The city was razed.
How costly was that campaign to the king of Babylon! What hardships for the soldiers: “Every head was rubbed bald, and every shoulder was pealed bare; yet neither he nor his army won any return from the campaign which he directed against Tyre.” (Ezek. 29:18, AT) The treasures of Tyre eluded Nebuchadnezzar. How so? During the long siege the bulk of the treasures had been transferred to a small island about half a mile from the mainland.
Was Nebuchadnezzar to go unpaid? No. He had performed services for Almighty God in destroying Tyre. So Jehovah foretold how he would compensate the king of Babylon: “Behold, I am giving the land of Egypt to Nebuchadrezzar, king of Babylon; and he shall carry off her abundance, and shall despoil her and prey upon her, to pay his army. As a return for the campaign which he directed against Tyre, I am giving him the land of Egypt, because they rendered a service to me.” (Ezek. 29:19, 20, AT) Shortly afterward the king of Babylon conquered Egypt and received the spoils as payment for reducing proud, Mammon-worshiping Tyre to a heap of rubble.
NEW TYRE, THE ISLAND CITY
The mainland city was no more. The Tyre that existed now was an island city of about 150 acres. To get as many people on the island as possible the Tyrians built their houses several stories high. In time Tyre again became a strong and prosperous city. And again Tyre’s god was mainly Mammon. What riches poured into the city! Describing new Tyre, the island city, God’s prophet Zechariah said: “Tyre built herself a stronghold, and heaped up silver like dust, and gold like the mud of the streets.”—Zech. 9:3, AT.
Tyre once again felt proud and secure. The Greek historian Diodorus Siculus wrote: “Tyre had the greatest confidence owing to her insular position and fortifications, and the abundant stores she had prepared.” But the wrath of Jehovah was still upon Tyre. God’s prophet made this pronouncement upon the wealthy island city: “The LORD, however, will dispossess her, and smite her wealth into the sea, and she shall be consumed by fire.”—Zech. 9:4, AT.
The time came for Jehovah Most High to smite Tyre’s “wealth into the sea.” In the year 333 B.C. Alexander of Macedon defeated the Persian king Darius at the battle of Issus. Alexander now turned his attention to Tyre. When Alexander arrived Tyre sent out an embassy with presents. Alexander asked to enter the city to offer sacrifice in the great temple of Melkarth. The Tyrians refused. They were willing to have the Macedonian monarch as friend but not as master. Alexander, enraged at the stubbornness of the Tyrians, determined to take the city. But how? Tyre was an island.
ALEXANDER BUILDS A CAUSEWAY
So as to attack Tyre’s walls, Alexander put his army to work building a causeway to the island. Where did Alexander find materials to build his causeway? Why, from the massive ruins of old Tyre. Alexander’s men salvaged stones and timber and began building a causeway about 200 feet wide. When more construction materials were needed, Alexander ordered all the debris of the ruined city scraped up and dumped into the water. Alexander, as the historian Arrian relates, scraped off the very dust of old Tyre to build his causeway. Thus old Tyre, the mainland city, completely perished, even as God had long before foretold through the prophet Ezekiel: “I will scrape her very dust from her, and will make her a bare rock. . . . Your stones and timber and dust shall be sunk in the heart of the waters.”—Ezek. 26:4, 12, AT.
Alexander continued work on the causeway. Progress was made difficult by repeated attacks by Tyrian naval vessels. Sometimes the Tyrians fired a hail of missiles; sometimes they taunted Alexander’s soldiers, saying that it was a most noble sight to see these conquerors carrying burdens on their backs like so many beasts. Inflamed by the taunts and inspired by the presence of Alexander, the soldiers exerted themselves strenuously. Eventually Alexander realized he could not succeed without a navy.
From Cyprus and Sidon, from Aradus (Arwad) and Byblus, Alexander obtained many naval vessels. Finally the Macedonian conqueror amassed an armada of some 200 ships. He now had a navy stronger than Tyre’s. With the Tyrian navy bottled up in the harbor, Alexander went to work in earnest.
Soon the causeway was extended to the city walls, walls that towered to a height of 150 feet. The battering rams went to work. The battle was tremendous. Both sides fought like lions. Continually the Tyrians hurled red-hot sand down upon the attackers. Alexander brought up siege engines to hurl arrows, stones and burning torches upon the besieged. Alexander constructed enormous towers about twenty stories high; the topmost platforms towered to a height of more than 160 feet. These towers bristled with weapons. At last, after seven months of besiegement, in August, 332 B.C., Alexander’s soldiers scaled the walls, his battering rams breached the walls and his navy forced its way into Tyre’s harbor. Tyre fell.
Because of its stubborn resistance Alexander set the city afire, put 8,000 Tyrians to the sword, impaled 2,000 of them and sold 30,000 into slavery. Thus with the destruction of the island city by Alexander the Great, the words of God’s prophets concerning the downfall of ancient Tyre attained complete fulfillment—nearly two hundred years after Zechariah foretold it, nearly three hundred years after Ezekiel and Jeremiah foretold it, more than three hundred years after Joel foretold it and more than four hundred years after Amos and Isaiah foretold it!
VISITORS TO TYRE
In the years that followed Alexander’s conquest of Tyre, the island city managed to rebuild itself a number of times, only to be conquered by many nations. The last trace of Tyre’s independent existence was taken from it by the Roman emperor Augustus. A.D. 638 Tyre was captured by the Moslems, and in 1124 Tyre was taken by the crusaders. The crusaders lost it in 1291, when the city was razed almost to a heap of stones. After its capture by the Turks in 1516, Tyre soon became a desolation. When Sandys visited Tyre about 1619 he said: “This once famous Tyre is now no other than a heap of ruins.”
In 1697 Maundrell said of Tyre: “Its present inhabitants are only a few poor wretches harbouring themselves in the vaults, and subsisting chiefly upon fishing, who seem to be preserved in this place by Divine Providence as a visible argument how God has fulfilled his word concerning Tyre, viz., That it should be as the top of a rock, a place for fishers to dry their nets on.”
In 1751 the Swedish naturalist Hasselquist visited Tyre and said: “Here are about ten inhabitants, Turks and Christians, who live by fishing.”
In 1838 Dr. Robinson visited Tyre and later wrote in his Biblical Researches: “I continued my walk along the whole western and northern shore of the peninsula, musing upon the pomp and glory, the pride and fall, of ancient Tyre. Here was the little isle once covered by her palaces and surrounded by her fleet. . . . But alas! . . . Tyre has indeed become ‘like the top of a rock, a place to spread nets upon!’ The sole remaining tokens of her more ancient splendour—columns of red and gray granite, sometimes forty or fifty heaped together, or marble pillars—lie broken and strewed beneath the waves in the midst of the sea; and the hovels that now nestle upon a portion of her site present no contradiction of the dread decree, ‘Thou shalt be built no more.’”
Today the inhabitants of Tyre are not many more than when Dr. Robinson made his visit. Called Es Sur (the old name in Arabic), Tyre is a mere village of about 5,000 people and is built around the north end of the former island. Alexander’s causeway is still there; and the ancient island, now a peninsula, is connected right with the mainland by a tongue of land almost half a mile broad. Once a center of world commerce, Tyre now carries on an insignificant trade in cotton and tobacco; and its fishermen have acres of desolate space to spread out their nets to dry.
The Bible reader looks upon Tyre with great interest, for few cities afford more striking evidence of the absolute certainty of Jehovah’s prophetic Word. “Who has been ruined like Tyre in the heart of the sea?” spoke God’s prophet when Tyre was market of the world and mistress of the seas. “Now you are wrecked in the seas, in the depths of the waters; your cargo and all your crew are sunk in the heart of you. . . . You have come to an awful end, and shall be no more forever.”—Ezek. 27:32, 36, AT.
above excerpted from w59 5/15
my note: Some significant development has occurred in the metropolitan area of Sur, Lebanon, certain streets of which spill out onto the peninsula created by Alexander’s causeway, silting, and the (former) island of Tyre. Ushu was the name of the mainland city in times past; now it seems Sur/Sour refers to the city nearest the ancient ruins, now a demarcated cultural preservation site. Current population estimates as of 2012 are ~120,000 inhabitants.
It ought to naturally follow that an astute Bible reader would next think,”Say, what about Ezekiel 26:14?” “And I will make you a shining, bare surface of a crag. A drying yard for dragnets is what you will become. Never will you be rebuilt; for I myself, Jehovah, have spoken,’ is the utterance of the Sovereign Lord Jehovah.”
If a modern city overlaps with the ancient city sites, both mainland and insular, does this mean that Ezekiel’s prophecy was incorrect?
1. Paul (the apostle) visited Tyre in the first century C.E. So the Bible itself testifies to the fact that it was inhabited at that time.
Acts Chapter 21: Now when we had torn ourselves away from them and put out to sea, we ran with a straight course and came to Cos, but on the next [day] to Rhodes, and from there to Pat′a·ra. 2 And when we had found a boat that was crossing to Phoe·ni′cia, we went aboard and sailed away. 3 After coming in sight of the island of Cy′prus we left it behind on the left side and sailed on to Syria, and landed at Tyre, for there the boat was to unload [its] cargo. 4 By a search we found the disciples and remained here seven days. But through the spirit they repeatedly told Paul not to set foot in Jerusalem. 5 So when we had completed the days, we went forth and started on our way; but they all, together with the women and children, conducted us as far as outside the city. And kneeling down on the beach we had prayer 6 and said good-bye to one another, and we went up into the boat but they returned to their homes. 7 We then completed the voyage from Tyre and arrived at Ptol·e·ma′is, and we greeted the brothers and stayed one day with them.
2. God’s Judgment was not directed at geographical coordinates, but rather at a hubristic human dynasty and their willing subjects. Alexander executed or enslaved the survivors of ancient Tyre, and the structures they built were thrown into the heart of the sea.
Various peoples have inhabited it since, but the cities erected were new developments with new residents. Not the people to whom the prophecy was uttered.