What makes us today any different from the people of Tyre, Gaza, Damascus, or Israel? In the three previous Bible studies from the book of Amos, we learned Damascus, Gaza, and Israel worshiped false gods - idols. Damascus battled against Israel and stole their land, and thought no one was strong enough to seek revenge against them. They could do as they pleased. Damascus, as the capital city, represented the whole nation of Aram and God spoke judgment against them for threshing Gilead, His people, with implements of iron. We today do similar things when we hurt people with our words or take something of theirs that does not belong to us.
The city of Gaza was part of Philistia. Throughout the Bible we read they often caused battles with the whole nation of Israelites because of wanting more land or taking the possessions and people of the region. Gaza, as one of the chief cities, represented the entire nation of Philistia in Amos’ prophecy. God pronounced judgment against them for taking the Promised Land from His children. More than that, He pronounced judgment on Philistia for kidnapping and selling the Israelites as slaves to other nations, often using Edom as the intermediary. Today we either know or have heard of people who were kidnapped and sold as slaves (human trafficking) or we pay and treat people so poorly that we in essence treat them as slaves. We might denigrate them, make them do the worst jobs, call them names or speak unkindly about them, and/or pay them a wage with which they cannot live.
This week in our study of Tyre, we will read of a nation who was like a brother to the Israelites, but who stabbed them in the back. A common way of saying this is that Tyre was two-faced, seeming to be on Israel's side, but taking opportunity to betray them.
· Do you recall a time when someone you thought was a friend betrayed your trust, or you found out they spoke badly about you to someone else?
· Do you remember ever treating a person this way?
Who was Tyre?
Tyre was a port city of the Phoenicians. The Greeks gave the Phoenicians their name because of what they made and supplied. Phoenicians were famous for their dyes, especially purple, which came from mollusk shells. The Greek name Phoinikes means “purple people.” The cloth the Tyrians dyed made them very prosperous.
“Tyre” comes from the Hebrew word tsor meaning “rock.” It was a Phoenician port city on the Mediterranean Sea west of Dan, which was on the northern border of Israel. Tyre was mostly an island city though it consisted of two parts. The island was its main trade center. Mainland Tyre, called Old Tyre, was about a half mile from the island. Tyre, the island, had walls reaching as high as 200 feet above the sea on the east. The placement of the trade center and the high walls around it made it very difficult to win a battle and gain entry into it. Today the city of Tyre is part of Lebanon.
Amos used Tyre, the main city of Phoenicia, to represent the whole nation of Phoenicia in his prophecy against them. Just as God judged the entire nations of Aram and Philistia, He judged against the whole nation of Phoenicia. Besides Amos, Isaiah 23:1-18, Jeremiah 25:22, Ezekiel 26:2-4, Joel 3:4-8, and Zechariah 9:1-4 record God’s judgments against Phoenicia.
The Charge against Tyre
Amos prophesied against Tyre, and by reference, the entire nation of Phoenicia in Amos 1:9-10. As we read and study these verses, we should examine the charge, history, judgment by God, and the fulfillment of God’s judgment against Tyre and Phoenicia. Besides this, we should reflect upon ourselves to determine if we, too, are guilty of similar sins for which we need to confess and earnestly repent and return to a right relationship with God.
In verse nine, Amos spoke God’s charge against Tyre. He said,
“Thus says the LORD, ‘For three transgressions of Tyre and for four I will not revoke its punishment because they delivered up an entire population to Edom and did not remember the covenant of brotherhood.’”
We must first remember the starting portion of verse nine is part of the prophetic form of which we learned in our second study called Amos and the Judgment of Damascus. “For three transgressions and for four” points out two main things. In biblical numerology three plus four is seven and seven represent completeness. The Phoenicians carried a complete measure of their guilt. They betrayed their covenant with Israel several times without questioning it. The second meaning of this prophetic form brings the implication they have sin multiplied upon sin and God will surely execute His punishment on them. God had looked away before, but now He pronounced His judgment on them and it would occur.
· God is merciful and wants each of us to return to a right relationship with Him; that’s why He waits before His judgment/punishment occurs.
· Have you repeatedly done something the Lord does not like or told you not to do and not gone to Him asking forgiveness and renewing your relationship with Him?
When we look at the words Amos used to convey God’s charge against Phoenicia, we learn better what Amos spoke. Our word “revoke” comes from the Hebrew word shuwb meaning to withdraw or turn back. God would not withdraw His judgment against Tyre/Phoenicia. Amos used the word cagar that we translate as “delivered up” to mean the Tyrians imprisoned and delivered to someone else something of value. Later in this verse we learn what that thing of value was. Amos said they delivered up an entire population to Edom. They sent people into captivity as slaves. The Tyrians did like the Philistines; they kidnapped and sold people into slavery. They, too, used Edom as the middleman for selling slaves like the Philistines. We will understand this better in the next section when we read about the history of the Phoenicians’ interactions with the Israelites.
One thing is different in the charge against the Phoenicians when compared to the charge against the Philistines. Amos said the Phoenicians did not remember their “covenant of brotherhood.” The Phoenicians did not recall or consider their covenant. Amos used a word common to the Israelites. Remember, he spoke these prophecies to Israel about the other nations so they could hear God’s judgment against the nations and recognize their own sinfulness while considering that of the neighboring nations. Amos used the word beriyth meaning “covenant.” Covenants were a pledge, alliance, or treaty between two people or nations. The Israelites covenanted with Jehovah, too, and were repeatedly unfaithful to Him. The covenant between the Israelites and Phoenicia was so close they considered themselves brothers. This covenant of brotherhood made the charge against the Phoenicians worse than the one against the Philistines. The Phoenicians were almost “blood kin” to the Israelites, and they betrayed them; worse, they sold them into slavery. The betrayal between brothers hurts more than between acquaintances; it cuts deeper because the trust was absolute. Examples of this type of betrayal occur in the records of Joseph’s brothers selling him to slave traders, and Jacob receiving Esau’s birthright through trickery.
· Have you ever experienced this level of betrayal?
· Have you ever betrayed a family member or someone who was as close as a brother?
The History of Tyre
Old Testament writers recorded the brotherhood interactions between the Israelites and Tyre. In 2 Samuel 5:11, we read of King Hiram of Tyre supplying cedar logs, carpenters, and stonemasons for David to build his house. First Kings 5:1 teaches us King Hiram sent servants to Solomon at his anointing reminding him of his friendship with the house of David. In 1 Kings 5:2-11 the chronicler recorded Hiram sent cedar and juniper logs along with servants and Solomon thanked him by sending food and olive oil. Later in their relationship, the writer of 1 Kings 9:11-14 & 27 recorded Hiram sent cedars, cypress, and gold to build Solomon’s palace and temple. Solomon thanked him by giving him possession of twenty Galilean cities. When Hiram saw the cities, though, he scoffed. He was not pleased. Most importantly, we must note King Hiram called Solomon his brother in verse thirteen. Hiram admitted to a relationship with the Israelites that was as close as blood brothers. The interactions between King Hiram and the kings of the Israelites received further notation in 1 Kings 10:22, 1 Chronicles 14:1, 2 Chronicles 8:18, and 2 Chronicles 9:10. Phoenicia and Israel had a close brotherly relationship.
If that is so why do we later read Tyre of Phoenicia and Philistia worked together? Writers in the Old Testament mentioned them together as sinning against God so they might have worked together and sold slaves to Edom as Phoenicia had done. The Psalmist recorded Philistia, Edom, and Tyre worked together against God and made a covenant with each other in Psalm 83:5-7. Jeremiah 47:4 says Gaza worked with Tyre and Sidon, the two chief cities of Phoenicia. Ezekiel 27:13 says the grandsons of Noah - Javan, Tubal, and Meshech - who were the forefathers of the people of the north (Phoenicia) sold men. Joel 3:4-8 records Phoenicia and Philistia sold the sons of Judah and Jerusalem to the Greeks. Tyre and the nation of Phoenicia broke the covenant of brotherhood they had with Israel as we note in each of these accounts. Many times they sold the captured Israelites as slaves to the Edomites who were distant blood relatives of the Israelites through Esau, Jacob’s brother.
How does this affect Israel’s sin? Why did Amos prophesy God’s judgment against Phoenicia to Israel? While Solomon was king and the Israelites were a united kingdom, Solomon enslaved his own kindred, the Israelites, with hard work to build his palace and God’s temple. He mistreated them and created a yoke too heavy for them to bear. Because of this, the Israelites of the north and east rebelled and refused to anoint Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, as king over the twelve tribes of Israel. Ten tribes chose Jeroboam I, Solomon’s servant. This caused the division of the nation of Israel into two kingdoms. Solomon’s treatment of his relatives caused a division in his nation. The Israelites were guilty of enslaving people by extraordinarily heavy work burdens. Solomon drove the people to build his palace and the temple. He did not have mercy for his people during that time.
Their neighboring nations, even one that was as close as a brother, and people within their own nation enslaved the Israelites. These people enslaved them because of the person or nation’s power and authority and because of their greed. Being enslaved or driven hard by a nation or unknown person is bad enough, but being pushed too hard or enslaved by a close person or relative is a betrayal. A covenant or bond between friends and family should encourage and strengthen us; it should give us heart to stand strong and firm with hope.
· Do we push people unnecessarily to do things because we want something? Are we being unmerciful and unkind?
· Does our desire to rise to the top or need for recognition in the community as a worthy leader cause us to step on and mistreat people?
The Judgment of Tyre
With verse ten, Amos pronounced God’s judgment against Tyre. He quoted the LORD saying,
“So I will send fire upon the wall of Tyre and it will consume her citadels.”
Just as Amos pronounced God’s judgment on Damascus and Gaza, he relayed a similar judgment on Tyre and the nation of Phoenicia. Two parts make up this judgment. Let’s consider them through a study of the Hebrew words.
Just as before, God said His fire-the supernatural flame that comes from Him, His anger and wrath-would blast upon Tyre. God would send it-let it loose-upon their wall. The wall the Phoenicians counted as their greatest weapon against enemies, God would destroy as if it were just dust. He is greater than their greatest thinkers, architects, and engineers. God is greater than the Phoenicians or their false gods. Numbers 21:28 and Isaiah 26:11 record God’s wrath as fire, too. God’s fire consumes and destroys completely those against whom He focuses it. His fire would completely destroy the people of Phoenicia. They would no longer be a people called Phoenicia because there would be no Phoenicia. The subjugating nations would disperse the people who used to call themselves Phoenicians. Those captives would acclimate to their new homes so they would not call themselves Phoenicians any longer. That is utter annihilation of a nation.
The second part of God’s judgment said the fire/wrath of God would “consume her [Tyre’s and Phoencia’s] citadels.” The 200 foot high wall surrounding the island of Tyre would crumble. God’s fire would completely consume their citadels-the fortresses and palace-upon the high rocky island and the mainland town of Old Tyre. His power, might, and omniscience would destroy them.
· Do we do things we think God won’t see and with which we can get away? Do you know when you do those things that they are wrong?
· God sees everything you do. He knows when you have walked away from the right and moral path. As the loving Father and Creator of each person, His punishment/discipline will come against the one who sins against Him and His laws-the right and moral path.
The Fulfillment of God’s Judgment against Tyre
As we learned in the judgments against Damascus and Gaza, three main empires ruled and overtook the nations of the near and middle-east during Old Testament times between 930 BC and 140 BC. These empires were the Assyrian Empire, the Neo-Babylonian Empire, and the Macedonian Empire. The first was a ruthless, killing, war machine who took few hostages, but either sold or dispersed throughout their kingdom the people they allowed to live. The second empire, the Neo-Babylonians, also known as the Chaldean Empire, took select people of the defeated nations into captivity and dispersed them throughout their empire. Alexander the Great led the Macedonian Empire to expand its borders after the Neo-Babylonian Empire declined in power. God’s judgment on Tyre and the nation of Phoenicia occurred through the Neo-Babylonian and Macedonian Empires.
In Jeremiah 27:1-11, God told the people of Tyre and Sidon that Nebuchadnezzar, king of the Neo-Babylonians, would attack them and take them into captivity. From 585-572 BC, Nebuchadnezzar besieged the mainland settlement of Old Tyre and Sidon. Most of the people of the mainland city of Old Tyre abandoned it for the safety of the island trade center. After that, the remaining people of Old Tyre and Sidon surrendered to Nebuchadnezzar. Because Nebuchadnezzar had no way to make a half mile long ramp from the mainland to Tyre’s island trade center, he could not besiege it or enter its gates. The Neo-Babylonian empire reigned 626-539 BC.
In 332 BC, historical annals record Alexander the Great of Macedon determined to gain entry to the island city of Tyre with its 200 foot high walls that were about twenty feet thick. Alexander’s army used the rubble from the decimation of the mainland town of Old Tyre to fill the waterway between the mainland and the island of Tyre. This made a ramp by which Alexander’s troops could cross and besiege the walls of Tyre’s trading center. Alexander breached the city wall, and either killed or enslaved its inhabitants. Ezekiel 26:7 prophesied this. Ezekiel 27 and 28 told of its occurrence and that it would cause Tyre’s worldwide trade to cease. Ezekiel 29 told of Sidon’s destruction, too. The last occurred through the Persian ruler, Artaxerxes, who caused them to submit to him. The people known as Phoenicians were no more after these empires warred against them.
· What wars are you battling? Are they in your life to get your attention and encourage you to return to God?
· What do you need to do to return to a right relationship with God?
o Are you willing to forgo using other people to get ahead or make more money?
o Will you covenant with God to follow in His ways and seek His guidance?
The people of Tyre relied upon its trade, wealth, and wall to protect them. Though they had a covenant of brotherhood with the Israelites, they traded it away to get ahead thinking nothing could stop them. They thought themselves unbreachable and untouchable. They relied on their wits, their walls, and their false gods to keep them safe.
God showed the Phoenicians and the Israelites He is greater than each of these things. He will exact His wrath on people who go against His children. God requires justice and so judges and punishes those who go against Him or His people, even if His children need the punishment. He is a loving Father and does not let His children stray too far or too long without corrective measures.
Tyre and Phoenicia carried the guilt of enslaving and selling the Israelites. They broke their covenant with Israel. Phoenicia worshiped false gods, too. The Israelites understood this and may have rejoiced that God would avenge them. Still, upon hearing Amos’ prophecies, Israel should have reflected upon their own actions, words, and attitudes and recognized their own sin. They caused their brethren to carry heavy burdens. They enslaved people to enrich themselves and so disobeyed God’s commandments, their covenant with Him. They broke covenant with God and with their brothers and sisters.
Amos’ prophecies do not just affect Israel and the other seven nations. They should affect us still today. God created us as He did them. We sin just as they did. As we strive to get ahead and be the best, we need to consider how we should do that. Do we think the ends justify the means?
Life is not about getting to an end goal, but about the journey. The journey comprises relationships with people around us and with the One True God, the God of creation. If we ignore or abuse the relationships we have with other people, we break covenant with our brothers and sisters, doubly so if those brothers and sisters are fellow believers.
Israel was to be a shining light that taught the surrounding nations about the One True God, Jehovah. Their sinfulness dimmed that light. Their sin was greater because they knew God’s laws and were in a covenant relationship with Him, yet they broke that covenant. As fellow believers in Jesus Christ, when we cause the light of the Gospel to dim because of our sin, we become like Israel in the Old Testament. Our lives should reflect and show the light of Jesus to the world. Our sins keep that from happening. We know God’s laws, love, mercy, and grace, but still concern ourselves more with the end goal than the journey. When doing that we dim the light of the Gospel and keep people from seeing God as He truly is. Amos spoke the prophecies of God to Israel for these reasons. We still hear God’s voice speaking to us for these same reasons.
· Can the people and nations around you see the glory, love, grace, and mercy of God shining through you?
· Do you need to turn back toward God and confess and repent earnestly?
We each must look into ourselves and make decisions about these.
Will you come or return to a covenant relationship with God through Jesus Christ?
Will you become a shining light of the Gospel
to the people and nations around you?