As we learned in the previous post, God has just told Ezekiel to stare. But this stare is different. How is it different? Remember that the Prophetic Stare has no power. It is simply a symbolic gesture through which God shines the light of his truth on something. In that way, this stare is the same as all the other times Ezekiel used the Prophetic Stare. But here in Ezekiel chapter 25, the stare is shining the light of truth on something very different…other nations!
It would seem to me that Ezekiel’s neighbors would have grown accustomed to Ezekiel’s prophecies pretty much always being focused on them and how sinful they were. So this was new. In Ezekiel 25, none of the prophecies are about the people of Israel. All the prophecies are about nations that bordered Israel. When Ezekiel starts railing against Ammon and Moab, Edom and Philistia, I wonder if the people slowly started to perk up. Maybe they were thinking, “Yes! Finally some judgment against our enemies!” I wonder if a crowd formed around Ezekiel.
As he stares, and as more and more of his neighbors start walking over to listen to him, Ezekiel just goes off. All those border countries, God says, are about to get slammed by Babylon. I wonder if the people were cheering! Maybe as he mentions each new enemy nation, the cheering grows louder and louder!
Skim through all four prophecies, and notice a phrase that is repeated. If you’ve been following this blog series through Ezekiel over the last few months, you probably know what phrase I’m talking about: “Then you will know that I am the Lord.” It is the most-repeated phrase in Ezekiel. Don’t let yourself get bored of it. We’ve heard it pretty much every chapter, and most times we’ve heard it multiple times per chapter. When something is repeated that much, we can tune it out. Don’t tune it out. Look it at, think about it. Why is God repeating it? What does this phrase tell us about God’s heart?
Remember that these mini-prophecies would never be heard by the four nations Ezekiel mentions in time for the prophecies to do any good. It is not like God is giving Ezekiel a prophecy for the Ammonites because he wants the Ammonites to somehow hear it and start believing in him and living for him so they can avoid an invasion by the army of Babylon. No, none of these mini-prophecies are messages for the nations the prophecies talk about. The mini-prophecies are for the benefit of the 10,000 Jews living with Ezekiel in Babylon. God desperately wants them to know that he is the Lord. That has been the point of all Ezekiel’s prophecies from day 1. Keep that in mind; God is a relational God who wants to be in a close relationship with his people. As you keep that in mind, now look at chapter 26.
In verse 1, we read that some time as passed. In chapter 24, the last time we had a date, it was nearly the end of the ninth year since Ezekiel and the Jews had been in exile in Babylon. Now here in chapter 26, a couple more years have passed. But thematically, the prophecy is the same as what we just heard in chapter 25, another prophecy against a nation that borders Israel. That nation is Tyre. But this is not a mini-prophecy. Scan through chapters 26, 27 and 28, and you’ll see that nearly the entire content of all three chapters is one big long prophecy against Tyre.
Tyre was a city located on the Mediterranean coast, just to the north of Israel. You can visit its ruins in the country of Lebanon.
At the time of Ezekiel, the city existed in two parts. One part was the old city on the coastline and the other part was the new city on an island just off the coast. What that means is that Tyre was a major seaport.
In Ezekiel chapter 26 God’s prophecy against Tyre is nearly identical thematically to the mini-prophecies in chapter 25: Tyre mistreated Israel, so God is going to allow Babylon to attack and defeat Tyre, and then they will know that he is the Lord. The only difference in this prophecy is simply that it adds a lot more detail. Read chapter 26 and you learn a lot about what ancient siege warfare was like, for example.
The prophecy against Tyre also includes a lament, which is the content of chapter 27. There we learn that Tyre was a grand city. It must have been beautiful and renowned in the ancient world. The prophecy in chapter 27 talks about how Tyre was located at a shipping and trading crossroads, and people from all over the known world passed through, seeking fame and fortune. As a maritime city, both chapters 26 and 27 use a lot of nautical terminology, imagery of the ocean and sailing. In the end though, as we read in chapter 27, verses 25-36, the city will be destroyed.
Scholars tell us that Babylon laid siege to Tyre for 13 years! Near total destruction eventually came to pass many years later when Alexander the Great also laid siege to the city.
Backup to Ezekiel’s day, though when Tyre was strong and prosperous, and its king was powerful. That brings us to chapter 28, which is yet another prophecy about Tyre, but this chapter is specifically about the king of Tyre. God gets to his central concern right away, and we’ll learn about that concern in the next post.