A Lament for Tyre
The Phoenicians were the greatest traders of the ancient world. They bartered goods throughout the Mediterranean, traveling as far as Spain and England and the West African coast, incredible distances for small ships with rudimentary maps and no more than the stars to guide them.
The ancient city of Tyre was partly destroyed by Alexander in 333 BC, rebuilt somewhat by the Romans, and destroyed again by the Muslims in 1291 AD. And later it was partially rebuilt
1The word of the LORD came again unto me, saying, 2Now, thou son of man, take up a lamentation for Tyrus; say unto Tyrus,
- thou that art situate at the entry of the sea,
The names Tyre and Sidon were famous in the ancient Near East. They are also important cities in the Old and New Testaments. Both are now located in Lebanon, with Tyre 20 mi south of Sidon and only 12 mi north of the Israel-Lebanon border. Today each is just a shadow of their former selves.
Tyre (called Sour in Arabic today) was constructed on a rock island a few hundred yards out into the Mediterranean. In fact, the city took its name from this rock island. Tyre comes from the Semetic sr (Hebrew Sor, Arabic Sur, Babylonian Surru, Egyptian Dr,) meaning rock.
- which art a merchant of the people for many isles,
Thus saith the Lord GOD; O Tyrus, thou hast said, I am of perfect beauty.
- 4Thy borders are in the midst of the seas,
The city of Tyre was originally an island which Alexander the Great later joined to the mainland by a causeway. In time the causeway was enlarged by rubble and sand deposits washed up by waves. AN 1873 map shows Tyre as it was in 322 BC, and later as a peninsula stretching out into the Mediterranean Sea. Evidence of Tyre’s ancient harbours can still be seen on the peninsula’s north and south sides.
- thy builders have perfected thy beauty.
- 5They have made all thy shipboards of fir trees of Senir:
se’-nir (senir; Saneir): This was the Amorite name of Mt. Hermon, according to Deuteronomy 3:9 (the King James Version “Shenir”).’ But in 1 Chronicles 5:23 Songs 4:8, we have Senir and Hermon named as distinct mountains. It seems probable, however, that Senir applied to a definite part of the Anti-Lebanon or Hermon range. An inscription of Shalmaneser tells us that Hazael, king of Damascus, fortified Mt. Senir over against Mt. Lebanon.
- they have taken cedars from Lebanon to make masts for thee.
The Cedars of God (Arabic: أرز الربّ Arz ar-Rabb “Cedars of the Lord”) in Bsharri mountain is one of the last vestiges of the extensive forests of the Lebanon cedar, that once thrived across Mount Lebanon in ancient times. Their timber was exploited by the Phoenicians, Israelites, Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Romans, and Turks. The wood was prized by Egyptians for shipbuilding; the Ottoman Empire used the cedars in railway construction.
- 6Ofthe oaks of Bashan have they made thine oars;
Bashan (/ˈbeɪʃən/; Hebrew: הַבָּשָׁן, ha-Bashan; Latin: Basan or Basanitis) is a biblical place first mentioned in Numbers 21:33, where Og the king of Bashan came out against the Israelites at the time of their entrance into the Promised Land, but was utterly routed (Numbers 21:33–35; Deuteronomy 3:1–7).Og’s Bashan extended from Gilead in the south to Hermon in the north, and from the Jordan river on the west to Salcah on the east. Along with the half of Gilead it was given to the half-tribe of Manasseh (Joshua 13:29–31). Golan, one of its cities, became a Levitical city and a city of refuge (Joshua 21:27).
- the company of the Ashurites have made thy benches
Great trade in ivory was carried on by the Assyrians (Ezek. 27:6; Rev. 18:12). It was used by the Phoenicians to ornament the box-wood rowing-benches of their galleys
- of ivory, broughtout of the isles of Chittim.
Some centuries prior to Josephus, this designation had already become a general descriptor for the Mediterranean islands. Sometimes this designation was further extended to apply to Romans, Macedonians or Seleucid Greeks.
- Fine linen with broidered work from Egypt was that which thou spreadest forth to be thy sail;
This textile was made in Egypt between the 10th-15th century C.E. It is linen embroidered with blue linen and the dimensions are 17 x 10 cm. The embroidery is 8.5 cm. The textile is currently in the Ashmolean Museum
In ancient Egypt, linen production was a labor-intensive process requiring soaking of the flax, beating to separate the fibers, twisting loose fibers together, spinning them into thread, and finally, weaving the threads into cloth. Surviving fragments of cloth dating to about 5000 B.C. indicate the Egyptians were doing this in Neolithic times. Strong, quick to dry and cool to the skin, linen remained the central fiber in Egyptian life long after wool had become widely used by other cultures of the Mediterranean and Near East starting around 2000 B.C. Linen doesn’t take dye well and most Egyptian linen kept its natural shade or was bleached white. They knew how to harvest green flax and make green linen from it — green clothing was a status symbol because the color was strongest when new.
- blue and purple from the isles of Elishah was that which covered thee.
Eli’shah. (God is salvation). The eldest son of Javan. Genesis 10:4. The residence of his descendants is described in Ezekiel 27:7, as the isles of Elishah, whence, the Phoenicians obtained their purple and blue dyes. Some connect the race of Elishah with the Aeolians, others with Elishah, and in a more extended sense, Peloponnesus, or even Hellas
The ancient world’s purple dye industry developed from extracting a fluid from a Mediterranean mollusk, the murex. Not only did the people of the Phoenician coast develop this industry, they specialized in shipping this very valuable commodity all over the Mediterranean world.
- 8The inhabitants of Zidon and Arvad were thy mariners: thy wise men, O Tyrus, thatwere in thee, were thy pilots.
- 9The ancients of Gebal and the wise menthereof were in thee thy calkers:
Caulking is both the processes and material (also called sealant) to seal joints or seams in various structures and some types of piping. The oldest form of caulking is used to make the seams in wooden boats or ships watertight, by driving fibrous materials into the wedge-shaped seams between boards.
- 12Tarshish wasthy merchant by reason of the multitude of all kind of riches; with silver, iron, tin, and lead, they traded in thy fairs.
Tarshish (Hebrew: תַּרְשִׁישׁ) occurs in the Hebrew Bible with several uncertain meanings, most frequently as a place (probably a large city or region) far across the sea from the Land of Israel and Phoenicia.
Some 19th-century commentators believed that Tarshish was Britain, including Alfred John Dunkin who claimed “Tarshish demonstrated to be Britain” (1844), George Smith (1850), James Wallis and David King’s The British Millennial Harbinger (1861), John Algernon Clarke (1862), and Jonathan Perkins Weethee of Ohio (1887). This idea stems from the fact that Tarshish is recorded to have been a trader in Tin, Silver, Gold and Lead  which were all mined in Cornwall. This is still reputed to be the ‘Merchants of Tarshish” today by some Christians.
- 13Javan, Tubal, and Meshech, they were thy merchants: they traded the persons of men and vessels of brass in thy market.
The IVP Bible Background Commentary lists Magog, Meshech, Tubal, and Togarmah as “sections or peoples in Asia Minor” [Turkey].
- 14They of the house of Togarmah traded in thy fairs with horses and horsemen and mules.
- 15The men of Dedan were thy merchants;
- many isles werethe merchandise of thine hand:
- they brought thee fora present horns of ivory and ebony.
- 16Syria was thy merchant by reason of the multitude of the wares of thy making: they occupied in thy fairs with emeralds, purple, and broidered work, and fine linen, and coral, and agate.
- 17Judah, and the land of Israel, they were thy merchants: they traded in thy market wheat of Minnith, and Pannag, and honey, and oil, and balm.
- 18Damascus wasthy merchant in the multitude of the wares of thy making, for the multitude of all riches; in the wine of Helbon, and white wool
- .19Dan also and Javan going to and fro occupied in thy fairs: bright iron, cassia, and calamus, were in thy market.
- 20Dedan was thy merchant in precious clothes for chariots.
- 21Arabia, and all the princes of Kedar, they occupied with thee in lambs, and rams, and goats: in these were theythy merchants.
- 22The merchants of Sheba and Raamah, they were thy merchants: they occupied in thy fairs with chief of all spices, and with all precious stones, and gold.
- 23Haran, and Canneh, and Eden, the merchants of Sheba, Asshur, and Chilmad, were thy merchants.24These were thy merchants in all sorts of things, in blue clothes, and broidered work, and in chests of rich apparel, bound with cords, and made of cedar, among thy merchandise.
- 25The ships of Tarshish did sing of thee in thy market: and thou wast replenished, and made very glorious in the midst of the seas.