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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 15–21
Verses 15–21

The utter ruin of Tyre is here represented in very strong and lively figures, which are exceedingly affecting.

1. See how high, how great, Tyre had been, how little likely ever to come to this. The remembrance of men’s former grandeur and plenty is a great aggravation of their present disgrace and poverty. Tyre was a renowned city (Ezek. 26:17), famous among the nations, the crowning city (so she is called Isa. 23:8), a city that had crowns in her gift, honoured all she smiled upon, crowned herself and all about her. She was inhabited of seas, that is, of those that trade at sea, of those who from all parts came thither by sea, bringing with them the abundance of the seas and the treasures hidden in the sand. She was strong in the sea, easy of access to her friends, but to her enemies inaccessible, fortified by a wall of water, which made her impregnable. So that she with her pomp, and her inhabitants with their pride, caused their terror to be on all that haunted that city, and upon any account frequented it. It was well fortified, and formidable in the eyes of all that acquainted themselves with it. Every body stood in awe of the Tyrians and was afraid of disobliging them. Note, Those who know their strength are too apt to cause terror, to pride themselves in frightening those they are an over-match for.

2. See how low, how little, Tyre is made, Ezek. 26:19, 20. This renowned city is made a desolate city, is no more frequented as it has been; there is no more resort of merchants to it; it is like the cities not inhabited, which are no cities, and having none to keep them in repair, will go to decay of themselves. Tyre shall be like a city overflowed by an inundation of waters, which cover it, and upon which the deep is brought up. As the waves had formerly been its defence, so now they shall be its destruction. She shall be brought down with those that descend into the pit, with the cities of the old world that were under water, and with Sodom and Gomorrah, that lie in the bottom of the Dead Sea. Or, she shall be in the condition of those who have been long buried, of the people of old time, who are old inhabitants of the silent grace, who are quite rotted away under ground and quite forgotten above ground; such shall Tyre be, free among the dead, set in the lower parts of the earth, humbled, mortified, reduced. It shall be like the places desolate of old, as well as like persons dead of old; it shall be like other cities that have formerly been in like manner deserted and destroyed. It shall not be inhabited again; none shall have the courage to attempt the rebuilding of it upon that spot, so that it shall be no more; The Tyrians shall be lost among the nations, so that people will look in vain for Tyre in Tyre: Thou shalt be sought for, and never found again. New persons may build a new city upon a new spot of ground hard by, which they may call Tyre, but Tyre, as it is, shall never be any more. Note, The strongest cities in this world, the best-fortified and best-furnished, are subject to decay, and may in a little time be brought to nothing. In the history of our own island many cities are spoken of as in being when the Romans were here which now our antiquaries scarcely know where to look for, and of which there remains no more evidence than Roman urns and coins digged up there sometimes accidentally. But in the other world we look for a city that shall stand for ever and flourish in perfection through all the ages of eternity.

3. See what a distress the inhabitants of Tyre are in (Ezek. 26:15): There is a great slaughter made in the midst of thee, many slain, and great men. It is probable that, when the city was taken, the generality of the inhabitants were put to the sword. Then did the wounded cry, and they cried in vain, to the pitiless conquerors; they cried quarter, but it would not be given them; the wounded are slain without mercy, or, rather, that is the only mercy that is shown them, that the second blow shall rid them out of their pain.

4. See what a consternation all the neighbours are in upon the fall of Tyre. This is elegantly expressed here, to show how astonishing it should be. (1.) the islands shall shake at the sound of thy fall (Ezek. 26:15), as, when a great merchant breaks, all that he deals with are shocked by it, and begin to look about them; perhaps they had effects in his hands, which they are afraid they shall lose. Or, when they see one fail and become bankrupt of a sudden, in debt a great deal more than he is worth, it makes them afraid for themselves, lest they should do so too. Thus the isles, which thought themselves safe in the embraces of the sea, when they see Tyrus fall, shall tremble and be troubled, saying, “What will become of us?” And it is well if they make this good use of it, to take warning by it not to be secure, but to stand in awe of God and his judgments. The sudden fall of a great tower shakes the ground round about it; thus all the islands in the Mediterranean Sea shall feel themselves sensibly touched by the destruction of Tyre, it being a place they had so much knowledge of, such interests in, and such a constant correspondence with. (2.) The princes of the sea shall be affected with it, who ruled in those islands. Or the rich merchants, who live like princes (Isa. 23:8), and the masters of ships, who command like princes, these shall condole the fall of Tyre in a most compassionate and pathetic manner (Ezek. 26:16): They shall come down from their thrones, as neglecting the business of their thrones and despising the pomp of them. They shall lay away their robes of state, their broidered garments, and shall clothe themselves all over with tremblings, with sackcloth that will make them shiver. Or they shall by their own act and deed make themselves to tremble upon this occasion; they shall sit upon the ground in shame and sorrow; they shall tremble every moment at the thought of what has happened to Tyre, and for fear of what may happen to themselves; for what island is safe if Tyre be not? They shall take up a lamentation for thee, shall have elegies and mournful poems penned upon the fall of Tyre, Ezek. 26:17. How art thou destroyed! [1.] It shall be a great surprise to them, and they shall be affected with wonder, that a place so well fortified by nature and art, so famed for politics and so full of money, which is the sinews of war, that held out so long and with so much bravery, should be taken at last (Ezek. 26:21): I make thee a terror. Note, It is just with God to make those a terror to their neighbours, by the suddenness and strangeness of their punishment, who make themselves a terror to their neighbours by the abuse of their power. Tyre had caused her terror (Ezek. 26:17) and now is made a terrible example. [2.] It shall be a great affliction to them, and they shall be affected with sorrow (Ezek. 26:17); they shall take up a lamentation for Tyre, as thinking it a thousand pities that such a rich and splendid city should be thus laid in ruins. When Jerusalem, the holy city, was destroyed, there were no such lamentations for it; it was nothing to those that passed by (Lam. 1:12); but when Tyre, the trading city, fell, it was universally bemoaned. Note, Those who have the world in their hearts lament the loss of great men more than the loss of good men. [3.] It shall be a loud alarm to them: They shall tremble in the day of thy fall, because they shall have reason to think that their own turn will be next. If Tyre fall, who can stand? Howl, fir-trees, if such a cedar be shaken. Note, The fall of others should awaken us out of our security. The death or decay of others in the world is a check to us, when we dream that our mountain stands strongly and shall not be moved.

5. See how the irreparable ruin of Tyre is aggravated by the prospect of the restoration of Israel. Thus shall Tyre sink when I shall set glory in the land of the living, Ezek. 26:20. Note, (1.) The holy land is the land of the living; for none but holy souls are properly living souls. Where living sacrifices are offered to the living God, and where the lively oracles are, there the land of the living is; there David hoped to see the goodness of the Lord, Ps. 27:13. That was a type of heaven, which is indeed the land of the living. (2.) Though this land of the living may for a time lie under disgrace, yet God will again set glory in it; the glory that had departed shall return, and the restoration of what they had been deprived of shall be so much more their glory. God will himself be the glory of the lands that are the lands of the living. (3.) It will aggravate the misery of those that have their portion in the land of the dying, of those that are for ever dying, to behold the happiness of those, at the same time, that shall have their everlasting portion in the land of the living. When the rich man was himself in torment he saw Lazarus in the bosom of Abraham, and glory set for him in the land of the living.