With the address to Tyre in chapter 23, the prophet brings to an end his oracles against the nations. It seems most fitting that since he began with the great city of the east, Babylon, that he should end with the great city of the west, Tyre.
The greatness of Tyre, unlike Babylon, consisted not in her military prowess or her conquests or her architecture or culture. It consisted in one thing: her ability to make money – and she did that very well. Tyre, the capital of Phoenicia, was not known for her ruler, but her ability to make rulers for other nations. In every sense for her, the perversion of the golden rule was the order of the day: The man with the gold makes the rules.
Her wealth lifted her up with pride, and seemingly, for that reason alone, God determined to bring her down.
Tyre’s condemnation was not for doing well. It was for leaving out God and trusting in self. Note that on this basis, all nations come under the condemnation of God. But Tyre was not likely to read Isaiah; the book was for Israel. Throughout this section, God is making a specific point: “If the glory of nations is nothing (chapters 13-14); if the scheming of nations is nothing (14-18); if the wisdom of nations is nothing (19-20); if the vision of the nation is nothing (21-22); if the wealth of the nations is nothing (23), then why trust the nations?” The point for Isaiah’s readers, Israel, is that she should trust only God. It is the same message for us.