Tyre’s End—a Chance Happening?
HAVE you ever heard of Sur? Perhaps not, for this seaport on the coast of Lebanon is not well known. It has an estimated population of less than 20,000. The inhabitants make a living mainly by fishing or by building small boats. Sur and its nearby ruins give little indication of the city’s former glory. Yes, this is all that remains of what was once the city of Tyre.
Already in the 11th century B.C.E., during the reigns of Judean kings David and Solomon, Tyre was the principal port of Phoenicia. (Compare 1 Kings 9:11, 26-28.) Her fleet plied the waters of the Mediterranean as far as Spain. Tyre became rich from her commercial activities, including slave trade.
But why has Tyre ceased to be an important city? Is it merely a coincidence?
There is clear evidence that the end of Tyre did not come about by chance. The Hebrew prophets foretold it centuries in advance. Why? Because the Tyrians, who at one time maintained friendly relations with the Judean kings, later turned traitorous, selling their former friends into slavery.
Among the prophetic announcements against Tyre are the following: “I [Jehovah] shall pay back your treatment upon your heads. Because . . . the sons of Judah and the sons of Jerusalem you have sold to the sons of the Greeks.” (Joel 3:4-6) “This is what Jehovah has said, ‘On account of three revolts of Tyre, and on account of four, I shall not turn it back, on account of their handing over a complete body of exiles to Edom, and because they did not remember the covenant of brothers. And I will send a fire onto the wall of Tyre, and it must devour her dwelling towers.’”—Amos 1:9, 10.
Such traitorous action was not going to be tolerated indefinitely by the Supreme Sovereign, Jehovah God. The facts of history undeniably establish that the prophecies about Tyre were fulfilled progressively.
The city experienced the first major blow at the hands of Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar in the sixth century B.C.E. The siege of Tyre, according to the first-century Jewish historian Josephus, lasted 13 years. (Against Apion, Book I, par. 21) The toll in lives and property must have been tremendous.
Also, Nebuchadnezzar’s soldiers were put under a great strain. Their heads were “made bald” from the chafing of their helmets, and their shoulders “rubbed bare” from carrying materials used in the construction of siegeworks. However, all the riches of Tyre did not come into the hands of the besiegers. The prophet Ezekiel, a contemporary of Nebuchadnezzar, wrote: “As for wages, there proved to be none for [Nebuchadnezzar] and his military force from Tyre for the service that he had performed against her.” (Ezek. 29:18) Why was this?
The city of Tyre was built on the mainland and on an island about a half mile (0.8 km) offshore. It appears that only the mainland city fell, whereas the island city did not. This explains why Tyre recovered so quickly from the blow that came to her. When the Israelites returned from Babylonian exile, the Tyrians already were able to supply timber for the rebuilding of the temple. (Ezra 3:7) Later, Tyrian merchants carried on a thriving business in Jerusalem.—Neh. 13:16.
Tyre’s Complete End Foretold
Nevertheless, Jehovah’s word was against Tyre. Her total end was yet future.
The Hebrew prophets Zechariah and Ezekiel declared: “Jehovah himself will dispossess [Tyre], and into the sea he will certainly strike down her military force; and in the fire she herself will be devoured.” (Zech. 9:4) “I [Jehovah] am against you, O Tyre, and I will bring up against you many nations, just as the sea brings up its waves. And they will certainly bring the walls of Tyre to ruin and tear down her towers, and I will scrape her dust away from her and make her a shining, bare surface of a crag. A drying yard for dragnets is what she will become in the midst of the sea.”—Ezek. 26:3-5.
Alexander the Great’s Siege
The year 332 B.C.E. witnessed the fulfillment of these and earlier prophecies regarding Tyre. Alexander the Great had launched his campaign of conquest in the Middle East.
After Sidon surrendered to him, Alexander led his army toward Tyre. A delegation of leading Tyrians, including the son of its King Azemilcus, met him and declared a willingness to comply with his requests. Alexander expressed the desire to be admitted into the city, to present an offering to Heracles (not Hercules, the mighty hero of Greek mythology, but the god Melkarth or Baal). Apprised of this by the delegation, the Tyrians adamantly turned down the request.
Since the outcome of Alexander’s conflict with the Persian King Darius was still in question, the Tyrians thought it in their best interests to deny entry to any Macedonian or Persian.* Their action prompted Alexander to act without delay.
Addressing his men, he said: “Friends and fellow soldiers, I do not see how we can safely advance upon Egypt, so long as Persia controls the sea; and to pursue Darius with the neutral city of Tyre in our rear and Egypt and Cyprus still in enemy hands would be a serious risk, especially in view of the situation in Greece. . . . But with Tyre destroyed, all Phoenicia would be ours, and the Phoenician fleet, which both in numbers and quality is the predominant element in the sea-power of Persia, would very likely come over to us.”—Arrian, The Campaigns of Alexander, Penguin Classics, pp. 131, 132.
Alexander’s officers were convinced, and Tyre came under siege. The initial efforts for the siege proved to be in harmony with Bible prophecy. Ezekiel had written: “I will scrape her dust away from her and make her a shining, bare surface of a crag.” (Ezek. 26:4) Alexander determined to build a mole or a causeway to the island city. For this purpose he used the stone and debris from the old mainland city.
As work on the causeway progressed, the Tyrians, with their ships, did everything they could to thwart the project. Countering their attacks, Alexander erected two towers at the far end of the mole. However, the Tyrians succeeded in setting these on fire. Alexander then commanded that the causeway be widened, providing additional space for towers. He also began assembling a tremendous fleet from Sidon, Rhodes, Mallus, Lycia, Macedonia and elsewhere, thus cutting off Tyre’s free access to the sea.
Whereas the construction of the causeway fulfilled prophecy, it was the naval campaign that brought about the fall of Tyre after a siege of seven months. According to Arrian, 8,000 perished during the siege, and 30,000 were sold into slavery.
Truly, the fall of Tyre cannot be attributed to mere chance. It happened according to the express purpose of Jehovah God because of Tyre’s own wicked conduct. This God of true prophecy could say with reference to himself: “Just as the pouring rain descends, and the snow, from the heavens and does not return to that place, unless is actually saturates the earth and makes it produce and sprout, and seed it actually given to the sower and bread to the eater, so my word that goes forth from my mouth will prove to be. It will not return to me without results, but it will certainly do that in which I have delighted, and it will have certain success in that for which I have sent it.”—Isa. 55:10, 11.
The destruction of Tyre is not just an event of the ancient past. It stands as an unchangeable guarantee that all the judgments of the Most High will be fulfilled. In his Word, Jehovah God has decreed the end of the entire ungodly system of things, in which treachery like that of Tyre abounds. (2 Pet. 3:9-12) We urge you to acquaint yourself with what the Bible says about this and how you can escape this fast-approaching calamity.
This is according to the account of the ancient historian Arrian. However, the historian Diodorus maintains that the Tyrians favored Darius.
“For you know this first, that no prophecy of Scripture springs from any private interpretation. For prophecy was at no time brought by man’s will, but men spoke from God as they were borne along by holy spirit.”—2 Pet. 1:20, 21.