The principal Phoenician seaport situated about thirty-two miles (52 kilometers) N of Mount Carmel and twenty-two miles (35 kilometers) S of Sidon. Tyre was known for its great antiquity (Isa. 23:1, 7), but just when it was founded as a colony by the Sidonians is not known. It is first mentioned after the conquest of the Promised Land in 1467 B.C.E., and at that time it was a fortified city. This mention of Tyre was in connection with the boundaries of Asher’s tribal territory. From the start, and all through its history, Tyre apparently remained outside Israel’s borders as an independent neighbor.—Josh. 19:24, 29; 2 Sam. 24:7.
Friendly relations existed at times between Tyre and Israel, notably during the reigns of David and Solomon. Skilled Tyrian workmen engaged in building David’s royal palace with cedar timber sent by Hiram the king of Tyre. (2 Sam. 5:11; 1 Chron. 14:1) The Tyrians also supplied David with cedar later used in the temple’s construction.—1 Chron. 22:1-4.
After David’s death King Hiram of Tyre furnished Solomon materials and assistance for the construction of the temple and other government buildings. (1 Ki. 5:1-10; 7:1-8; 2 Chron. 2:3-14) A half-Israelite son of a Tyrian worker in copper, who himself was a skilled craftsman, was employed in the construction of the temple. (1 Ki. 7:13, 14; 2 Chron. 2:13, 14) For their assistance the Tyrians were paid with wheat, barley, oil and wine. (1 Ki. 5:11, 12; 2 Chron. 2:15) In addition, Solomon gave the king of Tyre twenty cities, though the Tyrian monarch was not overly pleased with the gift.—1 Ki. 9:10-13.
Tyre in time became one of the great sea powers of the ancient world and her mariners and commercial fleet of “Tarshish” ships were famous for their voyages to faraway places. The king of Tyre and Solomon cooperated in a joint shipping venture for the importing of Ophir gold and other precious things.—1 Ki. 9:26-28; 10:11, 22; 2 Chron. 9:21.
In all the dealings the Tyrians had with Israel there is no indication that as a people they were interested in the worship of Jehovah; their association was particularly a commercial one. Racially they were Canaanites and religiously they practiced a form of Baal worship, their chief deities being Melkart and Astarte (Ashtoreth). Jezebel was the daughter of Eth-baal, who was king of the Sidonians (including Tyre) at the time Jezebel married Ahab, the king of the northern kingdom of Israel. Jezebel was infamous in her determination to blot out the worship of Jehovah.—1 Ki. 16:29, 31; 18:4, 13, 19.
CONDEMNED BY GOD
It was not, however, for the personal wickedness of Jezebel and her daughter Athaliah that Tyre came under heavy divine condemnation. Tyre grew to be very great at the expense of other peoples, including Israel. She was a manufacturer of metal objects, glassware and purple dyes, a trading center for the overland caravans, a great import-export depot. Along with this industrial and commercial growth came riches, conceit and pride. Her merchants and tradesmen boasted of being princes and honorable ones of the earth. (Isa. 23:8) Tyre in time also developed an attitude of opposition to Jehovah and conspired with neighboring nations against God’s people. (Ps. 83:2-8) So it was her bold defiance of Jehovah that eventually brought upon the city adverse judgment, downfall and destruction.
In the latter part of the ninth century B.C.E. Jehovah took note of this city’s arrogant attitude. He therefore warned her that she would be paid back in kind for robbing his people of gold, silver and many desirable things used, in turn, to beautify her temples. There was also to be an accounting for Tyre’s having sold God’s people into slavery.—Joel 3:4-8; Amos 1:9, 10.
Later the prophet Isaiah recorded a further pronouncement against Tyre, which indicated that she would be forgotten for “seventy years.” (Isa. 23:1-18) Years thereafter the prophet Jeremiah included Tyre among those nations that were singled out to drink the wine of Jehovah’s rage. (Jer. 25:8-17, 22, 27; 27:2-7; 47:2-4) As the nations mentioned in the prophecy of Jeremiah were to “serve the king of Babylon seventy years” (Jer. 25:8-11), this suggests that both the prophecy of Isaiah and that of Jeremiah related to Nebuchadnezzar’s campaign against Tyre.
Also through Ezekiel, a contemporary of Jeremiah Jehovah pointed to calamity for Tyre at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar. (Ezek. 26:1–28:19) Though Tyre had been like a pretty ship with multicolored sails and deck coverings and a prow inlaid with ivory, she would sink in the open sea. (Ezek. 27:3-36) Tyre’s ‘king’ (apparently the line of Tyrian rulers) haughtily boasted: “I am a god. In the seat of god I have seated myself.” But he was to be removed as profane and destroyed by fire.—Ezek. 28:2-19.
DESTRUCTION OF CITY
In the course of Nebuchadnezzar’s long siege against Tyre, the heads of his soldiers were “made bald” from the chafing of their helmets, and their shoulders were “rubbed bare” from carrying materials used in the construction of siegeworks. Since Nebuchadnezzar received no “wages” for serving as His instrument in executing judgment upon Tyre, Jehovah promised to compensate him with the wealth of Egypt. (Ezek. 29:17-20) According to the Jewish historian Josephus (Against Apion, Book 1, par. 21), the siege lasted thirteen years and cost the Babylonians a great deal. Secular history does not record exactly how thorough or effective Nebuchadnezzar’s efforts were. But the loss in lives and property to the Tyrians must have been great.—Ezek. 26:7-12.
When the Israelites returned from Babylonian exile, however, the Tyrians were able to assist in supplying cedar timbers from Lebanon for a second temple and resumed their trade with the rebuilt city of Jerusalem.—Ezra 3:7; Neh. 13:16.
Tyre’s conflict with Nebuchadnezzar, though great, was not to be the complete end for Tyre. A later prophetic pronouncement indicated that, though Tyre would build a rampart and pile up silver and gold, Jehovah himself would destroy her completely.—Zech. 9:3, 4.
Nearly 200 years after Zechariah’s prophecy was given it was fulfilled, in 332 B.C.E. Alexander the Great marched his army across Asia Minor, and in his sweep southward, paused long enough to give his attention to Tyre. When the city refused to open its gates, Alexander in his rage had his army scrape up the ruins of the mainland city and throw it into the sea, thus building a causeway out to the island city, all of this in fulfillment of prophecy. (Ezek. 26:4) With his naval forces holding the Tyrian ships bottled up in their harbor, Alexander set about to construct the highest siege towers ever used in ancient wars. Finally, after seven months the 150-foot-(46-meter-) high walls were breached. In addition to the 8,000 military men killed in battle, 2,000 prominent leaders were killed as a reprisal, and 30,000 of the populace were sold into slavery.
MENTIONED IN THE CHRISTIAN GREEK SCRIPTURES
Despite the city’s total destruction by Alexander, it was rebuilt during the Seleucid period, and in the first century C.E. it was a prominent port of call on the Mediterranean. During Jesus’ great Galilean ministry a number of people from around Tyre and Sidon came to hear his message and to be cured of their diseases. (Mark 3:8-10; Luke 6:17-19) Some months later Jesus personally visited the region around Tyre, on which occasion he cured the demon-possessed child of a Syrophoenician woman. (Matt. 15:21-29; Mark 7:24-31) Jesus observed that, had he performed in Tyre and Sidon the powerful works that he did in Chorazin and Bethsaida, the pagans of Tyre and Sidon would have been more responsive than those Jews.—Matt. 11:20-22; Luke 10:13, 14.