Ezekiel 27: “For what it’s worth”….
Imagine that you grow vegetables and have a produce stand. You are producing more vegetable stock than you can sell. What’s more, your gardens are more than slightly vulnerable to the neighbors who like to run their ATV’s through your fields on occassion. You think you could really make a lot more money than you are pulling in right now because of your abundant produce. What do you do?
I asked this question to a friend of mine who specializes in business to business consulting. After a few moments of consideration, he said the strategy mostly likely to be successful was to find a partner to help expand your markets. BINGO!!! It turns out that is exactly what Israel and Judah, and specifically the rulers of Jerusalem had done.
They found a partner, a business partner, in the form of Tyre who we recognize today as the Phoenicians. There is ample documentation of this business relationship whithin Biblical scripture going all the way back to King David who recieved a shipment of fine wood from Tyre. Solomon continued the relationship. We have documentation of Queen Jezebel who was a daughter of Phoenician royalty married to a Prince of Jerusalem.
There is not a lot of detail about the specifics of the Trade Agreement between Jerusalem and Tyre. Historians make note of the access to Hebrew markets(Note 1 below) for Tyre’s trade goods as a result of the partnership. This is where Ezekiel steps in (Ezekiel chapter 27) to provide some valuable insight and it is from there that we begin to learn exactly why Ezekiel is mentioning Tyre at all in his writings. It turns out that the situation is more significant that would appear on the surface. But first, back to our vegetable stand….
I asked my friend, the business to business consultant, how would one go about finding a partner and establishing the partnership? The answer was, “Raise Capital”, capital to attract investors, capital to finance expansion, capital as collateral against investment risk. Hmmm. So Tyre, at the time had the greatest trading network in that part of the world. Ezekiel chapter 27 gives an extensive list of the kind of trade volume that they handled and an explicit list of trade inventory. It also mentions the types of goods and products being received from both Judah and Israel VS. 17 “Judah and Israel traded with you; they exchanged wheat from Minnith and confections,[e] honey, olive oil and balm for your wares.”
Along with a healthy trade agreement would come responsibility on the part of both parties to safeguard and protect the investment while goods were in route and payment was being collected and banked upon. From Jerusalem’s point of view, this would require yet more capital and a commit of military presence for security.
So, it should be striking as more and more apparent that “raising capital” in Bronze Age times (as much as at any point in history) by a ruling aristocracy would come in the form of raising taxes or increasing the burden carried by its people. Perhaps longer work was required. Perhaps a higher amount of product was required by the state leaving less for the actual population. Perhaps less services were spared for the people of Israel and Judah by their own princes in order to finance and maintain this lucrative trade agreement. The important thing to meditate upon, here in Ezekiel’s lament, is what it means to raise capital to a landlocked, desert bound country. What does raising capital mean to a corporation today? How far should one go? When is enough, enough?
In all of these speculative perhap’s, it would be the children who suffered most. And this is the point that Ezekiel hammered on the most when condemning the atrocities of the rulers of Jersusalem. Ezekiel called them out graphically for sacrificing their children, children who may have been deprived of food or adequate policing in the streets, children whose parents had to work longer hours to provide food for the table but remained in poverty, and children who grew to young men and inducted into security forces of the state and stationed with the forces of Tyre. In any regard it is clear that at least three prominent kings of Israel had extensive dealings with Tyre, and as there was a royal presence, it is plausible that there was a royal guard as well to protect the royal investment. Funny how times change, but the governmental/business situations do not.
Ezekiel doesn’t tell us in Chapter 27 too much about Tyre’s actions that deserved punishment – though many commentators focus on the wealth and the nature of the trade. We know from other narratives that Elijah chastised the married queen Jezebel for polluting the faith of the temple, but more on that in the next blog. All we get to consider here is that Tyre considered herself “Perfect in beauty” on the high sees – a very popular friend to be had.
Yet at the end of this lament, we see that all of those friends who are mentioned verse 33, “When your merchandise went out on the seas, you satisfied many nations;…”, they all abandon Tyre to her fate of being invaded over and over again. Ezekiels states that all the kings “…shudder with horror…” at Tyre’s downfall, but do nothing but hide their faces. No one comes to Tyre’s aid as no one came to Jerusalem’s aid.
It would appear that fair weather friends are easy to find, but hard to keep at your side. Ezekiel writes:
“Who was ever silenced like Tyre, surround by the sea?”
CHICAGO STYLE CITATION
1. Joshua J. Mark, “Tyre,” Ancient History Encyclopedia, last modified September 02, 2009, http://www.ancient.eu /Tyre/.