These next three chapters of Ezekiel provide profound insight into the question of why the Book of Ezekiel in the first place. These chapters beginning with Ezekiel 26 touch on some very contemporary issues that we face globally today. At the same time, we get some explanation as to why the judgments are pronounced so completely across the population of Judah and Jerusalem specifically during the Babylonian conquest. Lets set the stage.
Three years after the beginning of the final siege on Jerusalem by Babylon, Ezekiel is given a new oracle regarding the fate of a nation very close to Israel and Judah. It’s not good news either. Ezekiel chapter 26 begins a small trilogy section on the nation of Tyre. It goes sort of like this:
Chapter 26 (The brief and blunt pronouncement of Tyre’s fate) –> Chapter 27 (Poetic lament illustrating the finer points of the destruction of Tyre, and just why it is so sad) –> Chapter 28 ( A chapter pretty much dedicated to why the Israelites should care, and what message should they get out of this).
The phrase “like waves of the sea” is used to describe how destruction will come to the nation of Tyre. Now, in historical terms, Tyre is known to us as Phoenicia, the great trading nation of the Mediterranean Sea. So the ocean metaphor is appropriate, but it seems that there is a more practical intention for using that analogy of destruction. It is often said that no man is an island; meaning that one who stands alone is very vulnerable. Phoenicia was no different and relied upon its extensive trading agreements and alliances to fuel its economic power, and ensure that it had strength to maintain its established domain. More importantly, because of its exuberant prosperity, other nations actively pursued a stable relationship with them. We could say it was a popular thing to do to foster a normalized trading relationship. Therefore, it would seem that political and military threats were minimized. To quote Billy Squire: “….Everybody wants you”.
For destruction to be complete then, Phoenicia would have to become isolated and everyone turn away from them. To coin another phrase, “…the bigger they are, the harder they fall.” Phoenicia’s fall (Tyre’s fall) is great indeed. Over time they are invaded by Babylon for 12 years. Alexander the Great’s campaign burns the city and isolates what’s left of them onto their last remaining island. Egypt and Rome battle over what remains of the area until there is no more Tyre and eventually we are left with what is today’s Lebanon. So, there are your waves of the sea, one invasion come sweeping in after another.
But why should Ezekiel care? He’s sitting in the middle of the Babylonian desert along with the thousands of other Jewish captives…over 550 miles away as the crow flies. Not to mention that his entire focus is pretty much on the spiritual condition of his own people and the dire warnings about his own nation’s impending collapse.
Further, why should we care that Ezekiel cared?
The answer to these questions is indeed critical. It brings perspective to much of what Ezekiel spends so much of his time criticizing the Jerusalem government about. In the next three blog entries, I’ll go further into this impactful section of the Book of Ezekiel where we will discover a range of socio-economic factors that can be traced directly to the conditions of social injustice that ultimately lead to the downfall of Jerusalem. It will become painfully obvious as well that, because of these three chapters in Ezekiel, the content and warning of the Book of Ezekiel, is extremely contemporary and revealing into the nature of our culture today.
Next up, What’s it like “getting in bed” with neighboring sailors/businessmen and the ultimate example of “fair weather friends”. Stay tuned.