Ezekiel 31 – Parable of the Cedar of Lebanon & The Downfall of Tyre

I’ve read a little about Jezebel, she’s bad news.  I think she’s mentioned in the Book of Revelation too.  So I want to…

The main streets extended from city walls to converge at the royal palace of King Aghrish. Clay tablets found in the palace have led archaeologists to conclude that Ebla was destroyed about 2250 BC.

In the palace of this great kingdom; Ebla’s real treasure; a library of the Royal Archives containing more than 17,000 clay tablets was uncovered. These tablets; recording an important period in Syria history; are the earliest written documents in Syria, among these was the world’s earliest bilingual dictionary.

Ezekiel 31
Parable of the Cedar of Lebanon

1 And it came to pass in the eleventh year, in the third month, in the first day of the month, that the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,

The fifth oracle against Egypt.

“Eleventh year…third month…first day of the month” – June 21, 587 B.C.; the ninth date in Ezekiel.

2 Son of man, speak unto Pharaoh king of Egypt, and to his multitude; Whom art thou like in thy greatness?

3 Behold, the Assyrian was a cedar in Lebanon with fair branches, and with a shadowing shroud, and of a high stature; and his top was among the thick boughs.

“Behold, the Assyrian” – a great nation that had fallen.  In 609 B.C. Pharaoh Neco went to Carchemish to help the Assyrian empire, which was reeling from Babylonian attacks.  The effort failed and Assyria passed from history.

“Was cedar” – the beginning of another allegory.

“Lebanon” – known for its cedar trees.

Ugarit, Syria
Nowadays called Ras Shamra (Headland of Fennel in Arabic), 16 km to the north of Lattakia. This is the site of Ugarit, the kingdom that had a golden past in administration, education, diplomacy, law, religion and economics between 16th and 13th centuries BC.

Ugarit is one of the few Bronze Age sites in the Middle East which offers identifiable remains to the casual visitor and not simply to the specialist. It has been described as “probably the first great international port in history”.

4 The waters made him great, the deep set him up on high with her rivers running round about his plants, and sent out her little rivers unto all the trees of the field.

5 Therefore his height was exalted above all the trees of the field, and his boughs were multiplied, and his branches became long because of the multitude of waters, when he shot forth.

6 All the fowls of heaven made their nests in his boughs, and under his branches did all the beasts of the field bring forth their young, and under his shadow dwelt all great nations.

7 Thus was he fair in his greatness, in the length of his branches: for his root was by great waters.

8 The cedars in the garden of God could not hide him: the fir trees were not like his boughs, and the chestnut trees were not like his branches; nor any tree in the garden of God was like unto him in his beauty.

“Garden of God” – the note of pride is introduced.

9 I have made him fair by the multitude of his branches: so that all the trees of Eden, that were in the garden of God, envied him.

10 Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Because thou hast lifted up thyself in height, and he hath shot up his top among the thick boughs, and his heart is lifted up in his height;

11 I have therefore delivered him into the hand of the mighty one of the heathen; he shall surely deal with him: I have driven him out for his wickedness.

From this site in ancient times, a good deal of the Eastern Mediterranean’s trade with Mesopotamia was conducted; and much of the later Phoenician commercial and cultural expansion took its inspiration, not least through the development of the alphabet.

Yes, it is the kingdom that gave humanity the first alphabet in the world. Experts have confirmed the connection between this alphabet and other alphabets in common use nowadays. This alphabet is still preserved on a clay tablet at the National Museum in Damascus.

“Mighty one of the heathen” – probably Nabopolassar; or possibly Nebuchadnezzar.

12 And strangers, the terrible of the nations, have cut him off, and have left him: upon the mountains and in all the valleys his branches are fallen, and his boughs are broken by all the rivers of the land; and all the people of the earth are gone down from his shadow, and have left him.

 “Strangers, the terrible of the nations” – Babylon.

13 Upon his ruin shall all the fowls of the heaven remain, and all the beasts of the field shall be upon his branches:

14 To the end that none of all the trees by the waters exalt themselves for their height, neither shoot up their top among the thick boughs, neither their trees stand up in their height, all that drink water: for they are all delivered unto death, to the nether parts of the earth, in the midst of the children of men, with them that go down to the pit.

Tiharkah kneeling in obeisance to the falcon god Horus with an offering of two clay jars
Taharqa, (the Biblical Tiharkah), who reigned from 690 B.C. to 664 B.C. was a black African king from the Sudan and the third sovereign, but the most famous, of the ‘black Pharaohs’ that ruled the 25th Dynasty of Egypt (II Kings 19:9).

He was crowned king in Memphis, Egypt and he wore the double serpent (uraeus cobra) on his forehead to show his rule over Egypt and Nubia. He was a descendant of the Biblical Cush (Gen. 10:6, 7) and was most famous for his construction work throughout Egypt and Nubia, especially his renovation of old temples.

15 Thus saith the Lord GOD; In the day when he went down to the grave I caused a mourning: I covered the deep for him, and I restrained the floods thereof, and the great waters were stayed: and I caused Lebanon to mourn for him, and all the trees of the field fainted for him.

16 I made the nations to shake at the sound of his fall, when I cast him down to hell with them that descend into the pit: and all the trees of Eden, the choice and best of Lebanon, all that drink water, shall be comforted in the nether parts of the earth.

“Nations…shake” – as at Tyre’s fall.

“Shall be comforted” – because the mightiest of tees had jointed them in the grave (Sheol).

17 They also went down into hell with him unto them that be slain with the sword; and they that were his arm, that dwelt under his shadow in the midst of the heathen.

“Them that be slain with the sword” – those who met a premature death.

18 To whom art thou thus like in glory and in greatness among the trees of Eden? yet shalt thou be brought down with the trees of Eden unto the nether parts of the earth: thou shalt lie in the midst of the uncircumcised with them that be slain by the sword. This is Pharaoh and all his multitude, saith the Lord GOD.

“Thou” – the Egyptian pharaoh.

“Yet shalt thou” – it would happen to pharaoh as it had happened to Assyria.

The Downfall of Tyre

The Phoenician city of Tyre, in modern Lebanon, was an important commercial center located on the Mediterranean coast.  It consisted of both a mainland city and an island city one half mile offshore, both well-fortified.

Syria Map & Sites
People of Syria were the inventors of those simple-looking magic-working signs, called alphabets; through which most of the literatures of the world are preserved.

No invention compares in importance with that of the alphabet, developed and disseminated by the merchants and scribes of ancient Lebanon. It was from these Phoenicians, who called themselves Caananites, that the Greeks derived their letters, in turn passing them on to the Romans and the Slavs, and hence to all people of Europe.

The Aramaeans in turn likewise borrowed these symbols and passed them on to the Arabians, who transmitted them to the Persians and Indians and other peoples of Asia, as well as to the inhabitants of Africa. Had the people of Syria rendered no other service, this would have been enough to mark them out among the greatest benefactors of humanity.

Tyre was occupied by the middle of the third millennium B.C.  It is first mentioned in the records of Syrian city of Ebla and again in the Egyptian execration texts of the 18th century B.C.  It also appears in the Amarna Letters and in the Ugaritic texts.

The city suffered from the invasions of the Sea Peoples around 1200 B.C., but became highly prosperous during the Iron I Age.  It sent its ships all over the world during the early first millennium and was instrumental in founding the city of Carthage in northern Africa in the 9th century B.C.

Hiram of Tyre provided workmen and cedar trees for the construction of David’s palace in Jerusalem (2 Sam 5:11) and also supplied cedars (1 Kgs 5:1-12) and craftsmen (1 Kgs 7:13-47) for Solomon’s temple.

Ahab, king of the northern kingdom of Israel from approximately 874 to 853 B.C., married a princess from Tyre, the infamous Baal worshipper Jezebel (1 Kgs 16:31-32).  Jezebel was the daughter of Ethbaal, who seized the throne of Tyre in 1887 B.C. and ruled for 32 years.

He had been a priest of Astarte, and Jezebel appears to have shared his devotion to the fertility gods of Canaan.  This was a high point in Tyre’s history.

Therefore, it isn’t surprising from a political point of view that the Israelite house of Omri desired to be on good terms with the Tyrians and so arranged the marriage between his son Ahab and Jezebel.

During the 7th century B.C. Tyre struggled to remain independent of Assyria.  It was defeated at Ashkelon when, with the support of Tirhakah of Egypt, it sought to resist Esarhadon of Assyria.

Ebla, Syria
This hill is 40 km south of Aleppo. It is the site of important and recent archaeological discoveries. Excavations in the Tel (hill in Arabic) have revealed a very old civilization considered to be the oldest in Syria, that of Ebla, which flourished in the 3rd and 2nd millenniums BC.

In 1955 the discovery of a basalt altar, now on show in the Aleppo Museum, revealed the importance of Ebla. Subsequent archaeological expeditions uncovered a city surrounded by a circular inner wall with four great gates and outer fortifications containing towers.

Ezekiel wrote his prophecy against Tyre during the 11th year of Jehoiakim’s captivity.  Ezekiel had stated with respect to Tyre that God would:

“Scrape away her rubble and make her a bare rock” (Eze 26:4) and

“Throw [her] stones, timber and rubble into the sea: (Eze 26:12).

Tyre was literally scraped bare like a rock.  Today, the famed causeway is an isthmus as a result of encroaching sand.

With the death of Alexander, Tyre fell under the influence of the Greek kingdoms (first the Ptolemies of Egypt and then the Seleucids of Syria). 

She began to emerge again as an important trade city during the Seleucid period and once again exerted considerable influence over the Jewish state. 

By the time the Romans had assumed control of the eastern Mediterranean, Tyre was a major city of the region and a transportation center (see Acts 21:3-7)

The region of Tyre and Sidon served as something of a retreat area for Jesus and his disciples (Matt 15:21), and people flocked from Tyre to hear His message (Mk 3:8).

…study her a bit more.