Problem: The city of Tyre survived
Verses: Ezekiel 26:7-14; Status: Serious

For about 15 years, the city of Tyre was under seige from King Nebuchadnezzar. The prophet Ezekiel, evidently writing while this was happening, predicted Tyre's sack and total ruin by Nebuchadnezzar. This is Ezekiel 26:7-14:

7 For thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will bring against Tyre from the north Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, king of kings, with horses and chariots, and with horsemen and a host of many soldiers. 8 He will kill with the sword your daughters on the mainland. He will set up a siege wall against you and throw up a mound against you, and raise a roof of shields against you. 9 He will direct the shock of his battering rams against your walls, and with his axes he will break down your towers. 10 His horses will be so many that their dust will cover you. Your walls will shake at the noise of the horsemen and wagons and chariots, when he enters your gates as men enter a city that has been breached. 11 With the hoofs of his horses he will trample all your streets. He will kill your people with the sword, and your mighty pillars will fall to the ground. 12 They will plunder your riches and loot your merchandise. They will break down your walls and destroy your pleasant houses. Your stones and timber and soil they will cast into the midst of the waters. 13 And I will stop the music of your songs, and the sound of your lyres shall be heard no more. 14 I will make you a bare rock. You shall be a place for the spreading of nets. You shall never be rebuilt, for I am the LORD; I have spoken, declares the Lord GOD. (ESV)

This is not just a vague prophecy of Tyre's destruction some time in the future. It tells us precisely who will be responsible: Nebuchadnezzar. However, his seige ended in 573 BC with a negotiated settlement. He never did destroy the city, and so Ezekiel's prophecy did not occur. Ezekiel gets one thing right: Tyre wasn't rebuilt after the seige - because it wasn't destroyed.


Stephen McCormick (who gave permission to be named) wrote to me, to suggest that perhaps the people of Tyre repented of their sins in response to the prophecy, and so God did not carry out his threat. Something similar happens in the events of Jonah 3.

This is not a terrible suggestion, but it does suffer from the fact that this repentence, if it occurred, is not recorded, and so the reader of the Bible is left with the wrong idea about what the significance of this prophecy actually is. As it stands, it seems to be a straightforward statement about future events.

The strongest reply

The Tektonics website notes that, at one point, the prophecy refers to the invaders as "they", and argues that "they" are someone else: the "many nations" mentioned at verse 3. This is a very unnatural reading - I expect everyone reading Ezekiel 26 for the first time thinks that "they" refers to Nebuchadnezzar's troops, rather than anyone else.

In any case, most of the prophecy refers to "he", which can only mean Nebuchadnezzar. Verses 10-11 tell us that "he" will enter through the city gates, trampling through all of the streets, and killing the people. But "he" never did. So the problem still stands, even if we ignore the "they" sentences.

Tyre was an island city, with associated suburbs on the mainland. Tektonics claims that these verses refer only to such suburbs, but I don't see why they should. The island was Tyre proper - as shown by verses 4-5 predicting that Tyre would become "a bare rock ... in the midst of the sea". These verses surely indicate that Ezekiel understood "Tyre" to mean the island. So when he predicts that Nebuchadnezzar would rampage through all of Tyre's streets, he must mean on the island.

Further support for my position comes from verse 8: "He will kill with the sword your daughters on the mainland." These "daughters" are the mainland suburbs, and so it's clear that Ezekiel distinguishes between them and Tyre proper. In the following verses, he predicts that Nebuchadnezzar will bring devastation not only to "your daughters" but also to "you" - which must therefore mean Tyre itself.

Never rebuilt?

Despite Ezekiel saying it would never be rebuilt, Tyre exists to this day (the island and mainland having been connected now), and its inhabitants are even mentioned, in the present tense, several times in the New Testament (e.g. at Acts 12:20).

Updated: 2010-10-17

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