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.
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.
Stay tuned for Part 5, where we will learn the extent of the destruction.
**Note: I have the Kindle edition of Flemming’s book, and most page numbers are difficult to determine.