Monthly Archives: March 2014

Visualizing Isaiah 23: Tyre is laid waste

Isaiah 23 is an oracle concerning the famous Phoenician port city of Tyre. The Mediterranean world of Egypt, Tarshish, Cyprus, and the neighboring city of Sidon, would be affected by the fall of Tyre.

More details about the prophecy concerning Tyre are given in Ezekiel 26-28. Nebuchadnezzar is named as one of the kings who will bring about the fall of Tyre. He besieged Tyre for 13 years (585-572 B.C.), immediately after the destruction of Jerusalem. The people of Tyre fled from their mainland city to the island about ½ mile offshore. But Tyre was to be destroyed by many nations. Alexander the Great came to Tyre in 332 B.C. Most of the cities in his path surrendered, but the people of Tyre prepared to resist him. The more powerful Greeks used the debris of the desolate mainland city to build a causeway to the island. Alexander’s army captured the island city in seven months.

Ezekiel says the city “will be built no more” (Ezekiel 26:14). The mainland city has never been rebuilt. From my first visit to Tyre in 1967, I continued to visit the city until 1975, and then again in 2002. Political and military conditions have made it impossible to visit more times.

The diagram below hopefully will help to explain what we have briefly explained here. It was prepared by my friend Steven Sebree of Moonlight Graphic Works for one of my books which is currently out of print.

The mainland has not been rebuilt since the destruction by Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians (585-572 B.C.).

The mainland city has not been rebuilt since the destruction by Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians (585-572 B.C.). The causeway to the island was built by Alexander the Great in 332 B.C.

By 315 B.C. the island city was rebuilt, but was populated by Carians from SW Asia Minor. The present city of Tyre occupied the island and the causeway. The photo below shows a view to the west of a Roman arch built over the causeway built by the Greeks. The island city is visible beyond the arch.

A Roman arch built on the causeway built by Alexander the Great. View West. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A Roman arch on the causeway built by Alexander the Great. The view is to the west and the modern island city. There is no city on the mainland. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Visualizing Isaiah 22: Shebna cut a tomb for himself

Shebna, the steward over the household of David, is to be replaced by Eliakim the son of Hilkiah. He will have the key of the house of David with power to open and shut. Consider the use of this text by Jesus in Revelation 3:8.

Thus says the Lord GOD of hosts, “Come, go to this steward, to Shebna, who is over the household, and say to him: What have you to do here, and whom have you here, that you have cut out here a tomb for yourself, you who cut out a tomb on the height and carve a dwelling for yourself in the rock? Behold, the LORD will hurl you away violently, O you strong man. He will seize firm hold on you and whirl you around and around, and throw you like a ball into a wide land. There you shall die, and there shall be your glorious chariots, you shame of your master’s house. I will thrust you from your office, and you will be pulled down from your station. In that day I will call my servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, and I will clothe him with your robe, and will bind your sash on him, and will commit your authority to his hand. And he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David. He shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open. And I will fasten him like a peg in a secure place, and he will become a throne of honor to his father’s house. (Isaiah 22:15-23 ESV)

D. J. Wiseman comments on this text and a discovery possibly related to it.

The historical background of the prophecies of Isaiah is provided by a number of contemporary records. One inscription, on a rock lintel from a tomb, was read by Avigad in 1953: ‘This is the (the sepulcher of Shebna) yahu who is over the house. There is no silver or gold here, but only (his bones) and the bones of his slave-wife with him. Cursed be the man who breaks this open.’ (Illustrations from Biblical Archaeology, 60)

Shebna inscription from a tomb. British Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Shebna inscription from a tomb in Silwan. British Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This tomb inscription was discovered in 1870 by Charles Clermont Ganneau in the village of Silwan. Following the 1967 war David Ussishkin and Gabriel Barkay examined numerous tombs in Silwan. For more information about the inscription, see Lost Treasures of the Bible by Fant and Reddish (154-157).

Visualizing Isaiah 21: a watchtower

Isaiah 21 contains oracles concerning Babylon, Edom, and Arabia. The watchman is to describe what he sees. From his watchtower where he stood day and night he was able to announce the fall of Babylon.

For thus the Lord said to me: “Go, set a watchman; let him announce what he sees. When he sees riders, horsemen in pairs, riders on donkeys, riders on camels, let him listen diligently, very diligently.” Then he who saw cried out: “Upon a watchtower I stand, O Lord, continually by day, and at my post I am stationed whole nights. (Isa 21:6-8 ESV)

More information about the role of the watchman may be found in Ezekiel 3 and 33. The photo below shows a watchtower reminiscent of Biblical times.

Watchtower at the Ibex Garden, Yad Hashmona. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Watchtower at the Ibex Garden, Yad Hashmona. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Visualizing Isaiah 20: Sargon the king of Assyria

For many years there was no reference to Sargon II (722-705 B.C.) in the available Assyrian records. Yet, the prophet Isaiah, writing at the time of the Assyrian captivity of the northern kingdom of Israel, mentions Sargon’s campaign against Ashdod.

In the year that the commander in chief, who was sent by Sargon the king of Assyria, came to Ashdod and fought against it and captured it– (Isaiah 20:1 ESV)

The palace of Sargon was discovered by Emile Botta at Khorsabad in 1843. This was the period of “monumental” discoveries in archaeology. Both the British Museum and the Louvre have impressive artifacts from the palace of Sargon. The photo below shows Sargon (on the left) receiving one of  his ministers.

Sargon II received a minister. British Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Sargon II receives a minister. British Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

D. J. Wiseman explains the historical context of what happened at Ashdod.

In 716 bc Sargon sent his army commander (turtan; the *‘tartan’) to war against the Arabs in Sinai. This led to the reception of tribute from the pharaoh Shilkanni (Osorkon IV) of Egypt and from Samsi, queen of the Arabs. Despite these Assyrian successes, the people of Ashdod displaced their Assyrian-nominated ruler, Ahimetu, by a usurper Iadna (or Iamani) who initiated yet another Syro-Palestinian league against Assyria, doubtless relying on Egyptian help. In 712 bc the same turtan was sent to conquer Ashdod (Is. 20:1), which was reduced to the status of an Assyrian province. Since Azaqa (’Azeqah or Tell es-Zakariye) on the Judaean border near Lachish surrendered in this campaign, it will be seen how narrowly independent Judah escaped a further invasion. Iamani fled to Nubia for refuge, only to be extradited to Nineveh by the ruler Shabaka. (The New Bible Dictionary, 3rd edition)

One hundred twenty years after the discovery of Sargon’s palace, archaeologists working at Ashdod discovered fragments of a cuneiform stele of Sargon II at Ashdod. For more information about the discovery and a photograph of it see “Sargon II, Ashdod, and Isaiah 20:1” here.

This inscription tells of the building of Sargon's palace. Louvre. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This inscription tells of the building of Sargon’s palace. Louvre. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.