Tyre, a seaport city, was the main city of Phoenicia. The city was built in two parts: First, there was the main part of the city constructed on the mainland. Second, there was a fortress constructed about half a mile offshore. The community was very old, being mentioned even in the book of Joshua (19:29).
It was a very wealthy trading city and with its offshore fortress,it was considered impregnable. When the Assyrians overcame Israel’s northern kingdom in 722, they also attacked Tyre. While doing tremendous damage, they did not conquer the city. Nebuchadnezzar, as is indicated in the prophecy of chapter twenty-six, also attacked the city. While the text sounds like Nebuchadnezzar would destroy Tyre, it is not quite that specific and that’s not what happened. Note the Lord says he will bring many nations against Tyre. Nebuchadnezzar did inflict tremendous damage, but even though he besieged the city for thirteen years (587 – 572), he never conquered the fortress. That remained for Alexander the Great in 332 B.C. He scraped the ruins of the mainland city and used the rubble to build a causeway out to the island. While Tyre has been rebuilt several times, the old site of the city is desolate except for fishing boats and the drying nets of fishermen.
Why did God condemn Tyre?
There are two reasons and the first one stands out in the first part of chapter twenty-eight: pride.
But chapter twenty-eight presents an unusual problem: why does God describe the king of Tyre as He does? God calls him a “model of perfection,” living in the “garden of God” ordained by God as a “guardian cherub” (heavenly being), “blameless” in all his ways.
The passage has been open to a variety of interpretations, usually figuring the king of Tyre as a symbol of the fallen angel Satan. But this is hardly the sense Ezekiel’s readers would have figured out.
It is better to see the king of Tyre as one who, in the eyes of the world – including Israel – simply embodied these things. After all, how could anyone amass such wealth and power and wisdom (and he had to be wise, otherwise how could he become so rich). Perhaps God Himself is giving credence to these views. After all, He is sovereign in the affairs of men. But after all His success, he did not give credit to the source of all success, God. His foolish pride caused God to bring his downfall. This is the first reason for the condemnation of Tyre.
The second reason is given in chapter twenty-six and reiterated against Sidon, Tyre’s neighboring city at the end of chapter twenty-eight: she rejoiced in the destruction of God’s people. The people of God should take this to heart. Though reviled by the world, God has an abiding interest in us and love for us He does not have for others. We are His chosen people. They will be judged for their offenses against us. But we too should remember that when we turn on ourselves, we come under the same judgment. That’s why Christian unity is so important.