ISAIAH - Chapter 23 - The Judgment of Phoenicia Print E-mail

ISAIAH – Chapter 23

The Judgment of Phoenicia – (Tyre & Sidon)

Sex and Slave Trafficking

Tuesday Morning Bible Study

January 21, 2014, the Year of Our Lord


Chapter 23 is the tenth and final of the ten burdens of chapters 13-23.  This is the burden of Tyre and the judgment of the Lord upon the merchants and the principle of trafficking.   This is a type of the pomp and pride of the satanic world system in its commercial aspects.  I believe we can rightly apply these judgments to the evils of sex trafficking in the United States as well as the nations of the world.


Tyre was a trading emporium on the Phoenician coast which all conquerors prized.  All major Phoenician cities were on the coast line of the Mediterranean.  Today these ports and cities mentioned in this chapter are part of Lebanon, Cyprus, Turkey, Syria, Tunisia, Malta, Egypt, and Morocco.  Phoenicia was not a nation, but a port culture around the Mediterranean made up of three continents and several nations.


Tyre’s dazzling splendor, proud self-sufficiency, and worldly wisdom had behind it the inspiration of Satan.  The inhabitants were Canaanite.


Thirteen sins of the Canaanites:


  1. Homosexuality
  2. Incest
  3. Inordinate affection
  4. Adultery
  5. Idolatry
  6. Profanity
  7. Bestiality
  8. Witchcraft
  9. Whoredom
  10. Murder
  11. Stealing
  12. Lying
  13. Beastality



God did not bring those calamities upon Tyre to show an arbitrary power; but to punish the Tyrians for their pride.  Many other sins reigned among them, but the sin of pride was the particular ground of God’s controversy with Tyre.  The Lord of hosts tells the world what he meant that all earthly glory is a withering thing.  Men’s learning, wealth, pomp, power and their glory can fade as the grass. 1 Pet. 1:24:  For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass.  The grass withers, and the flower falls away.”


Isa. 23: 1-7: “The burden of Tyre, Howl, you ships of Tarshish; for it is laid waste, so that there is no house, no entering in; from the land of Chittim it is revealed to them.  Be still you inhabitants of the isle; you whom the merchants of Zidon that pass over the sea, have replenished.  And by great waters the seed of Sihor, the harvest of the river is her revenue; and she is a mart of nations:  be ashamed, O Zidon; for the sea has spoken, even the strength of the sea, saying, I travail not, nor bring forth children, neither do I nourish up young men, nor bring up virgins.  As at the report concerning Egypt, so shall they be sorely pained at the report of Tyre.  Pass you over to Tarshish; howl you inhabitants of the isle.  Is this your joyous city, whose antiquity is of ancient days? Her own feet shall carry her afar off to sojourn.”


Tyre is laid waste – This is a graphic description of her desolation.  Her harbors are closed.  Her borders are desolate.  The sea, which had been her highway, is abandoned and Egypt (Sihor-Nile river), her ally is frightened at the report.  The desolation is then contemplated, and the inquiry in Verse 8 “Who has purposed this against Tyre?” (Vs. 9) The Lord of hosts has purposed it, to stain the pride of all glory, and to bring into contempt all the honorable of the earth.”


She was a crowning city that crowned her-self.  Her merchants are princes, and her traffickers, whatever country they go to, are the honorable of the earth, respected by all.  It does not appear that she brought trouble on herself by provoking her neighbors, but rather by tempting them with her wealth.  The inhabitants are so overwhelmed with grief that they are not able to express it.  The neighbors are amazed and are in pain for them.  Zidon is ashamed.  The rolling waves of the sea brought to Zidon this news from Tyre; and there the strength of the sea, a high spring tide, spoke. 


This passage is spoken using prophetic language.  As the Heavens and the earth declare the glory of God, I believe the prophet, Isaiah heard the sound of the sea declare the prophetic declaration. 


There are multiple interpretations to the passage:


  1. I travail not, nor bring forth children
  2. Neither do I nourish up young men
  3. Nor bring up virgins


I am still inclined to apply this to slave trafficking and sex trafficking.  There are some who have given a more noble meaning to those verses, but I am not one of those.


The decline of Phoenicia, says Isaiah, “will be no mere chance of history; it is the Lord’s set purposes”. 


Isa. 23: 10-14: “Pass through your land as a river, O daughter of Tarshish: there is no more strength.  He stretched out his hand over the sea, he shook the kingdoms; the Lord has given a commandment against the merchant city, to destroy the strong holds thereof.  He said, You shall no more rejoice, O you oppressed virgin, daughter of Zidon; arise pass over to Chittim; there also you shall have no rest.  Behold the land of the Chaldeans; this people was not, until the Assyrian founded it for them that dwell in the wilderness; they set up the towers, they raised up the palaces, and he brought it to ruin.  Howl, you ships of Tarshish; for your strength is laid waste.”


This refers to some of the inhabitants of Tyre fleeing in ships upon hearing that Nebuchadnezzar was about to take the city.  They took the wealth with them so he found nothing of value in the city when it was taken.  This and the 13 years of siege so enraged him that he destroyed the place completely.  The names Babylon and Chaldea are used interchangeably in Scripture.  The Babylonian or Chaldean brought Tyre to ruin.  Tyre ceased to be a place of importance for commerce and was unheard of in the far distant places where her ships used to be seen.


Then Isaiah declares definitely that for seventy years Tyre is to be forgotten.  Then after seventy years, she is to be visited by the Lord of hosts, and restored to a position of affluence.


23:15-17: “It shall come to pass in that day, that Tyre shall be forgotten seventy years according to the days of one king.”  The days of one king mean One dynasty or succession of kings, that of Nebuchadnezzar, his son, (Evil-Merodach), and his son’s son, Belshazzar. “After seventy years, Tyre shall sing as a harlot.  Take a harp go about the city, you harlot that has been forgotten; make sweet melody, sing many songs, that you may be remembered.  It shall come to pass after the end of seventy years that the Lord will visit Tyre, and she shall turn to her hire, and shall commit fornication with all the kingdoms of the world upon the face of the earth.”


This was the 70 years Judah was in captivity (Jer. 25: 9-14), the length of the Babylonian monarchy.  Nebuchadnezzar began his siege of Tyre in the first year of his reign and from then to the taking of Babylon by Darius and Cyrus was 70 years.  At that time the nations which had been taken captive to Babylon were to be released.  Jeremiah spoke of all these nations serving the king of Babylon.  Some were conquered sooner than others, but all were to be set free at the end of the 70 years, which were to be during the life of “him” (Nebuchadnezzar) and his sons.


Nebuchadnezzar was God’s chosen instrument of judgment.  Tyre was destroyed about the same time as Jerusalem was and lay as long in its ruins.  Nebuchadnezzar trampled on the pride of Tyre, and therein served God’s purpose; but with greater pride, for which God soon humbled him.


When Cyrus released the Jews, and encouraged them to rebuild Jerusalem, here released the Tyrians also, and encouraged them to rebuild Tyre.  The Lord will visit Tyre in mercy; for he will not contend forever.


She shall sing as a harlot, that has been some time under correction for her lewdness, but when she is set at liberty, she will use her old arts of temptation.  The Tyrians having returned from their captivity shall contrive how to force a trade, procure her goods, and be obliging to all customers; as a harlot that has been forgotten.  Tyre shall by degrees come to be the mart of nations again.  She shall return to her hire, to her traffic, and shall commit fornication with all the kingdoms of the world.  The love of worldly wealth is a spiritual whoredom, and therefore covetous people are called adulterers and adulteresses.


James 4: 4-5:  You adulterers and adulteresses, know you not that friendship of the world is enmity with God?  Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.  Do you think that the scripture says in vain, the spirit that dwells in us lusts to envy?  But He gives more grace.  Wherefore He says, God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.  Submit yourselves therefore to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”


Verse 18 is unfulfilled and looks forward to the days when Tyre will be blessed with a great turning to the Lord.


23:18: “Her merchandise and her hire shall be holiness to the Lord; it shall not be treasured nor laid up; for her merchandise shall be for them that dwell before the Lord, to eat sufficiently, and for durable clothing.”


Tyre was known as “traders in purple”.  They made beautiful fabric dyed purple from a snail which only grows in that part of the world.   Before the destruction of their trade, this fabric and dye was sold to royalty in the known world.  When Tyre turns to the Lord, the trade of Tyre, and all the gains of her trade shall be devoted to God, and employed in his service.  It shall not be hoarded, but it shall be laid out to acts of charity.  What they can spare from the maintenance of themselves and their families shall be for those that dwell before the Lord, for the priests, the Lord’s ministers and their families to eat sufficiently and have durable clothing. 


This means they will come to the knowledge of the true God and into communion with the Israel of God.


(I read yesterday that 70-nations have set themselves against Israel.)


  Tyre and Sidon were better disposed to religion in Christ’s time than the cities of Israel.


Matt. 11: 20-22: “Then Jesus began to upbraid the cities where most of His mighty works were done, because they did not repent.  Woe to you Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! If the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.  I say to you, it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the Day of Judgment that for you.”


We also meet with Christians at Tyre in Acts 21: 2-4:  We finding a ship sailing over to Phoenicia, went aboard, and set forth.  When we had discovered Cyprus, we left it on the left hand, and sailed into Syria, and landed at Tyre; for there the ship was to unlade her burden.  Finding disciples, we tarried there seven days. They said to Paul through the Spirit, that he should not go up to Jerusalem.”


Exodus 39:30: “They made the plate of the holy crown of pure gold, and wrote upon it writing, like to the engraving of a signet, HOLINESS TO THE LORD.”


The plate of the Holy Crown represents the Mind of Christ and the third sealing.


We must first give up ourselves to be holiness to the Lord.  When we are liberal in relieving the poor, and supporting the ministry, encouraging the gospel---then our merchandise and our hire are holiness to the Lord.


Zech. 14:9: “The Lord shall be king over all the earth; in that day shall there be one Lord, and his name one.” (Vs.20) “In that day shall there be upon the bells of the horses, Holiness unto the Lord; and the pots in the Lord’s house shall be like the bowls before the altar.  Yes, every pot in Jerusalem and in Judah shall be holiness unto the Lord of hosts; and all they that sacrifice shall come and take of them, and seethe therein; and in that day there shall be no more Canaanites in the house of the Lord of hosts.”


Carolyn Sissom, Pastor

Eastgate Ministries, Inc.

Scripture from K.J.V.; Dake’s Annotated Reference Bible

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