Tyre—A Treacherous City
FEW cities of the ancient world were as treacherous as Tyre. The cities of Israel’s neighbors did not claim any friendly relations toward those who worshiped Jehovah God. At least for a time, Tyre, however, was very different.
Hiram the king of Tyre, for example, enjoyed friendly relations with the Judean kings David and Solomon. He assisted Solomon with materials and manpower in building the magnificent temple to Jehovah at Jerusalem. (1 Ki. 5:2-6; 2 Chron. 2:3-10) Later, Hiram and Solomon shared in an extensive shipping enterprise. At Ezion-geber on the Gulf of Aqabah, Solomon had built a fleet of ships. These ships were then jointly manned by servants of Solomon and skilled seamen sent by Hiram.—1 Ki. 9:26-28.
But friendly relations between Tyre and God’s covenant people Israel did not continue. Treacherously, Tyre eventually allied herself with Israel’s enemies. The inspired psalmist wrote: “Against your [God’s] people they plot craftily; they conspire against those whom you protect. They say, ‘Come, let us destroy their nation; let the name of Israel be remembered no more!’ Yes, they consult together with one mind, and against you they are allied: The tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites, Moab and the people of Hagar, Gebal and Ammon and Amalek, Philistia, with the inhabitants of Tyre.”—Ps. 83:4-8, New American Bible.
The treachery of Tyre went to the point where her slave markets were selling Israelites to the Greeks and the Edomites. There being no Scriptural reference to any direct warfare between Tyre and Israel, those sold may have been taken as captives by other peoples, thereafter coming into the hands of Tyrian slave traders. Or, it may be that the Tyrians made slaves of fleeing Israelites who sought refuge in Tyre and its vicinity.
On account of Tyre’s treachery, Jehovah, by means of his prophets, declared calamity for the city and her inhabitants. We read: “I 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) These prophetic words were progressively fulfilled with the passing of centuries.
Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar began the siege of Tyre sometime after destroying Jerusalem and her glorious temple. According to the first-century Jewish historian Josephus, the siege dragged on for thirteen years. During the long, exhausting siege, the heads of the soldiers were “made bald” from the chafing of their helmets, and their shoulders were “rubbed bare” from carrying materials used in constructing siegeworks. Yet, despite all this effort, Ezekiel 29:18 reports: “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.”
Secular history gives no indication as to how thorough or effective the Babylonian siege proved to be. From the prophetic description contained in the book of Ezekiel, however, we learn that the Tyrians sustained great loss in lives and property. (Ezek. 26:7-12) Evidently, then, the Babylonians received ‘no wages’ for their strenuous efforts in that they did not get what they had hoped to receive. Whatever spoils they took must have fallen far short of their expectations. This may have been because only the mainland city suffered calamity, whereas the island city, a short distance off the coast, escaped.
The indications are that Tyre recovered from the blow meted out to her by the Babylonians. When the Israelites returned to Judah and Jerusalem from Babylonian exile, the Tyrians supplied cedar timber from Lebanon for rebuilding the temple of Jehovah at Jerusalem. (Ezra 3:7) Years later, in the time of Nehemiah, Tyrian traders lived in Jerusalem and sold fish and a great variety of other merchandise in the city.—Neh. 13:16.
ALEXANDER THE GREAT’S SIEGE
But the prophetic word directed against Tyre was not dead. The city was yet to be stripped of all her glory. Emphasizing that Tyre had not experienced the final fulfillment of the prophecies directed against her, Jehovah God moved his prophet Zechariah to declare: “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) This and earlier prophecies witnessed a startling fulfillment in the year 332 B.C.E.
It was then that Alexander the Great of Macedonia, invading the Middle East, demanded that the cities of Phoenicia, including Tyre, submit to him. While the other cities gave their allegiance to Alexander, Tyre refused to open her gates to him. At the time the city was located on an island about half a mile (0.8 kilometer) from the mainland and protected by massive fortifications. The portion of the wall facing the mainland reached a height of not less than 150 feet (46 meters).
Faced with Tyre’s stubborn refusal to submit to him, Alexander began his siege of the city. Having no fleet, he ordered that old mainland Tyre be torn down and the debris used for building a mole or causeway to the island city. At the farther end of the causeway, measuring some 200 feet (61 meters) in width, he set up war engines and erected towers. Using fire ships, the Tyrians managed to destroy these towers and also damaged the mole. Undaunted, Alexander had the towers rebuilt and widened the mole. Realizing that he could not attain certain success without ships, Alexander got together a tremendous fleet from Sidon, Rhodes, Mallus, Soli, Lycia, Macedonia and Cyprus. Thus the inhabitants of Tyre lost free access to the sea. The fall of the city was sure.
Not wanting to drag out the siege, Alexander ordered the construction of floating siege equipment on which battering rams were mounted. His forces then pushed their way into Tyre’s two harbors and scaled her fortifications.
After having been besieged for seven months, Tyre fell. Confronted with desperate resistance even after the city was taken, Alexander’s men put Tyre to the flames. Besides the 8,000 Tyrians who were slaughtered in battle, 2,000 were later killed as a reprisal, and 30,000 were sold into slavery.
END OF TYRE’S GLORY
While Tyre experienced a number of revivals thereafter, Bible prophecy was fulfilled upon her. Today the former glory of Tyre is no more. Ruins and a small seaport, called Souro, mark the site. Regarding the place, the Encyclopædia Britannica (1971) notes that it “is of no particular significance; it had an estimated population of 16,483 in 1961.” (Vol. 22, p. 452) Thus the history of Tyre to the present day testifies to the correctness of the prophetic word:
“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.
The fate of Tyre clearly demonstrates that Jehovah God does not view treacherous action lightly. This should impress upon us the importance of knowing God’s will and sticking loyally to him. Just as he will not leave treachery unpunished, so, too, he will not fail to reward his loyal servants. “God is not unrighteous,” wrote the apostle Paul to fellow believers, “so as to forget your work and the love you showed for his name.”—Heb. 6:10.