Did Ezekiel Prophesy Correctly About Tyre? (Part 4)

I earlier completed three posts about Ezekiel’s prophesy about the city of Tyre (for the first, start here). Additional research has given more clarity. This post presents additional conclusions concerning the history of the city and the nature of the prophesy in Ezekiel 26. I suggest you read the first three posts since this current post assumes you know the context set by them.

The Size of Tyre

Before we can understand the destruction of Tyre, we need to understand the scope of the city prior to Ezekiel’s day. A very interesting history of Tyre can be found in a book written by William Flemming, called The History of Tyre (New York: Columbia University Press, 1915)**. Flemming quotes Pliny, writing in about 75 A.D., as saying of Tyre “It’s circumference, including Palaetyrus, is nineteen miles.” If my math is correct, this would give an area of 28.6 square miles and a diameter of just over six miles. Contrast this to the size of the island itself, which Flemming describes as having been expanded by Hiram, but still small: “The island attained a circumference of twenty-two stadia, about two and half miles.” This would indicate that the island had a diameter of about three-fourths of a mile and had an area of less than half a square mile.

The six mile diameter is supported by a major artifact that still remains, a large stone structure called the Tomb of Hiram. Flemming explains: “Three miles distant from the modern town of Sur, and before the village of Hannawe, stands one the most remarkable monuments of ancient Tyre that time has spared. It is called the Kabr Hiram, the tomb of Hiram.” The town of Hannaouiye is about five miles from the coast of Tyre, Such an impressive monument would not likely have been built in the middle of nowhere or laying in a farmer’s field. but rather within the city where it could be viewed. This aligns well with Pliny’s description of the city’s diameter being abut six miles.

Nebuchadnezzar’s Attack

As both Ezekiel and secular history attest, Nebuchadnezzar attacked Tyre with the strongest army in the world at that time. After Nebuchadnezzar, Flemming tells us “Palaetyrus remained in ruins until the time of Alexander.” Nebuchadnezzar destroyed everything on the mainland but not conquering the island. If we take Pliny’s measurements, the area of the city being 28.6 square miles, and the island being about a half a square mile, then Nebuchadnezzar destroyed over 98% of the city, which remained destroyed until Alexander, who destroyed the remaining island holdout.

With Nebuchadnezzar destroying 98% of the city, modern skeptics try to have us believe that his failure to take the 2% that was on the small island was a failure of Ezekiel’s prophesy, maintaining that the island was the main part of the city and the mainland the minor portion. Rather, the facts point to Ezekiel being correct.

Further, the main portion of Ezekiel’s prophecy, or at least the portion about Nebuchadnezzar, could only have been in reference to the mainland city, not the island. Ezekiel says that those that come against Tyre will “slay with the sword your daughter villages in the fields; he will heap up a siege mound against you, build a wall against you, raise a defense against you. He will direct his battering rams against your walls . . .” (Ez. 26:8-9). An obvious but perhaps overlooked fact is that this physically cannot be done to the island, for the walls on the island went to the very edge of the sea. Anyone building a walled city on an island that is only three-fourths of a mile across would leave no room for an invading army to unload siege equipment and men, allow them to camp and use battering rams against the walls. If this could have been done, then Alexander would not have needed to build a roadway out to the island. Alexander literally fulfilled Ezekiel’s prophesy when he scraped the coastline clean and dumped it into the sea, making a roadway out to the island.

Therefore the prophesy of Nebuchadnezzar using siege engines and battering rams leads us to the 98% of the city that was on the mainland, for it is physically impossible to have siege engines against the island, with the exception of the way Alexander did it. With the context of v.8 speaking about the mainland city, and the mainland city being the main part of the city, it is plain that the prophesy pertained to the mainland. Flemming agrees when he says, speaking of Ezekiel’s prophesy, “A large part of this description must have related to Mainland Tyre. Means effective on the mainland could not be employed against the city in the sea.”

The island contained governmental palaces, office buildings, and temples, but the bulk of the city was clearly the mainland. With the prophesy being so clearly aimed at the mainland, we can only say that the portion of Ezekiel’s prophesy dealing with Nebuchadnezzar was literally fulfilled.

To see Part 5, where we learn the extent of the destruction, click here.

**Note: I have the Kindle edition of Flemming’s book, and most page numbers are difficult to determine.


About humblesmith

Christian Apologist & Philosopher
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5 Responses to Did Ezekiel Prophesy Correctly About Tyre? (Part 4)

  1. Nate says:

    Your points about size of the island portion in comparison to the mainland are interesting. But history still well attests (including Fleming’s book) that even from ancient times, Tyre was the island. The mainland section primarily consisted of its suburbs. I have no doubt that the suburbs were well populated and probably defended. But Tyre’s wealth came from trade, and its ports were on the island. The fact that the Tomb of Hiram is on the mainland is very interesting, but I don’t think it means that the center of Tyre was the mainland. Too many other sources indicate otherwise.

    As far as Nebuchadnezzar’s attack is concerned, I’ll be curious to see what you say about it in your next post. In Ezek 29:17-20, Ezekiel states that Nebuchadnezzar didn’t gain anything from his efforts against Tyre, and we know from other historical accounts that Nebuchadnezzar was unable to take the island of Tyre, which was its economic and political center. He did destroy the mainland portion, but the bulk of Ezekiel’s prophecy seems to be against Tyre itself, which he didn’t touch. I know you view the prophecy’s points about a siege mound and battering rams as indications that Ezekiel was only talking about the mainland, but I disagree. First of all, Ezekiel may have thought that Nebuchadnezzar would devise a way to still use those weapons against the island, as Alexander was able to do later. But that’s a minor point. I think the main reasons for thinking that Ezekiel was talking about the island are as follows:
    Tyre was already known as the island, not the mainland.
    Ezekiel refers to Tyre as being in the heart of the seas and compares it to a ship at sea — both of those closely match up with the island.
    In Chapter 27, Ezekiel talks at length about the riches of Tyre, especially in terms of its trade. This is obviously talking about Tyre, not the mainland.
    Chapter 28 is a prophecy about the death of the Prince of Tyre, which would presumably happen after the city’s fall. To me, this centers the whole prophecy on the island, which is where the prince lived.

    In the end, we’re still left with the fact that Ezekiel says Tyre would be utterly destroyed and never rebuilt, and that simply doesn’t happen. But I don’t want to jump ahead, in case you’re planning to cover some of this in your future posts.

    • humblesmith says:


      Well, first my plumbing blew up last night, then tonight WordPress zapped a bunch of my work. I had a lengthy post almost finished and it suddenly deleted it before I could post it. Argh. It will take me a few days to re-type the quotes and make the points again. Argh. Meanwhile, I’ll give you a quick response.

      Please don’t misunderstand……..I am NOT saying that the mainland of Tyre is the ‘real’ Tyre. I’m not even saying that the mainland is the most important. I readily admit that the island is prominent, the center of the government and culture. What I am denying is the idea that the island is the only important part of Tyre. From what I have been able to determine about the prominence of Tyre in the years just prior to Ezekiel, we cannot give the impression that the island was the sole center of importance and the mainland was a bunch of people herding sheep. Rather, Tyre was a huge, massive powerhouse with widespread influence. My main point is that Tyre was both the island and the mainland, with a huge sphere of influence. Compare that to how it was afterward, which was dirt poor, and there really is no legitimate continuity. I have all of that and the sources to support my claims, but WordPress zapped two or three nights of work. Stay tuned, I’ll eventually get it back. Argh. This happened once or twice before.

      • Nate says:

        Ah, sorry for the recent bad luck! That really sucks… 😦

        Anyway, thanks for the reply, and sorry I misunderstood your view of the mainland and the island. From what I’ve read, Tyre still remained extremely important and prominent after Nebuchadnezzar’s attack, and even after Alexander’s, so I’ll be curious to see what other sources you’ve come across. I have to say, I’ve found it hard to find very detailed sources on Tyre, especially ones that seem pretty objective — have you run into that as well?

        Good luck on the future posts. We may often disagree, but I do appreciate your approach to researching the issues. 🙂

  2. Nate says:

    Sorry that comment isn’t formatted better. I tried to do a numbered list, but apparently, the html for that doesn’t work in WP comments. Sorry… 😦

  3. Pingback: Did Ezekiel Prophesy Correctly About Tyre? (Part 3) | Thomistic Bent

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