Agnosticism, Atheism, Christianity, Culture, Faith, God, Religion, Truth

Prophecy Part 6: Tyre

This is the sixth part in a series of blog posts I’ve been doing about prophecies in the Bible (part 1 is here). The one I’d like to talk about today was one of the first ones that really hit me like a hammer when I first started examining the Bible’s claims critically. In my opinion, it’s extremely strong evidence that the Bible was not really inspired by God.

Ezekiel’s prophecy of Tyre is very interesting to look at. In fact, it’s one that is often used as evidence by both sides of the inerrancy debate. Ezekiel 26-28 details a prophecy against the island city of Tyre. It was a great trade center and features fairly prominently throughout the Bible.

Once Judah was led into captivity by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, Ezekiel prophesied destruction for Tyre, since they were glad at the destruction that had been wrought on Jerusalem. And the benefit of this prophecy is that it is very specific. Chapter 26 says that many nations would come against Tyre, and in verse 4, Ezekiel says that their walls and towers would be torn down, and it would be made a bare rock.

Then, in verses 7-14, Ezekiel is even more specific by saying that Nebuchadnezzar would come against the city. He will kill Tyre’s “daughters on the mainland” (vs 8 ) and direct a siege wall against them to destroy their walls. He would enter the city with his army and kill, plunder, and cast the debris into the sea. They would be a bare rock and never be rebuilt.

In fact, Nebuchadnezzar did bring his army against Tyre. And he did destroy the mainland suburbs of Tyre, just as was predicted in verse 8. He also besieged the city, as was predicted. But the similarities end there. He besieged Tyre for 13 years without success. Tyre finally signed a treaty with Nebuchadnezzar, but their city remained unharmed. Ezekiel even admits as much in 29:17-18 when he says that Nebuchadnezzar got nothing in his efforts against Tyre.

About 250 years later, Tyre did finally fall to Alexander the Great. And many Christians view this as the fulfillment of Ezekiel’s prophecy. But then why didn’t Ezekiel prophesy that Alexander would do it? God could have easily revealed that to him. Also, verses 7-14 show no apparent break in speaking about Nebuchadnezzar’s attack. Where is the indication that the actual destruction wouldn’t come for another 250 years?

And furthermore, Tyre was rebuilt shortly after Alexander defeated it. It was still a prominent trade center during the times of Jesus and Paul. In fact, Tyre is the 4th largest city in Lebanon today. That is a problem since Ezekiel says it would be utterly destroyed (26:14) to the point that no one would be able to find it again (26:21), and it would be “no more forever” (27:36).

Prophesying that Tyre would be gone forever is an immensely bold claim, and it’s also extremely important. It is one of the few biblical prophecies that we would actually be able to verify today, if it were true. So how do people answer it?

Taking the prophecy at face value isn’t going to work. That’s a shame, because if Tyre was still a “bare rock” as Ezekiel says, then it would be great proof of prophecy fulfillment. So instead, we have to think of other ways to explain it. One is to say that Ezekiel was only talking about the mainland portion of Tyre. This one is used quite often – some apologists even claim that Tyre was only on the mainland at this time and moved out to the island once Nebuchadnezzar besieged them. But this seems unlikely because Ezekiel often refers to Tyre as being “in the midst of the sea,” or “on the sea,” or “borders are in the heart of the seas,” etc (26:5, 17, 18; 27:4, 25, 26, 32; 28:2, 8). In fact, chapter 27 compares Tyre to a ship that will sink because of the destruction that God is bringing upon it. So trying to say this is the mainland is somewhat ridiculous. It also goes against the historical and archaeological evidence [src].

Sometimes, people try to explain the prophecy by noting that the city that exists today in that spot is actually called Sur. Therefore, it’s not the same city, and Ezekiel was right. However, “Sur” is the way Tyre is spelled in Arabic, and in Hebrew it’s “Tzur.” In fact, the Old Testament essentially spells it as “Tzur” – just check an interlinear Bible for the Hebrew translation of this passage. So the city still has the same name that it had back then.

Another explanation is that this is a prophecy against the people of the city, so when it says Tyre would never be rebuilt it’s just saying that it will never be those same people. But when you really start to think about it, this is also silly. Ezekiel himself says that Nebuchadnezzar was unable to take the city (Ezek 29:18-20), so God would give him Egypt instead (this is also something that doesn’t appear to have happened, by the way). But anyway, Nebuchadnezzar was unable to take Tyre. So those inhabitants were not defeated, and we have to wait for Alexander the Great to take the city. But this happened two or three hundred years later. So how could Ezekiel have been talking about the people of the city in his prophecy? All those people were dead and gone by the time the city fell to Alexander. Besides that, why bother even making the prophecy that the city would never be rebuilt if you’re only talking about the inhabitants? Who would possibly think those people would re-inhabit a city once they were dead?

Instead, about the only possibility we’re left with is that Ezekiel was merely being figurative. He didn’t really mean that the city would never be rebuilt. He simply meant that they would be punished in some way (this is where Alexander the Great fits in) and never come back to their former glory. I guess we can see why Ezekiel didn’t phrase it this way because it does seem to lose some of its grandeur. Of course, even then it’s hard to put your finger on exactly when this was fulfilled, because Tyre still enjoyed some prominence for a long time after Alexander took it.

But the benefit of saying that the prophecy is just figurative is that you can’t disprove it. Ezekiel could have said almost anything and it wouldn’t matter – whatever reality actually occurred would be the prophecy fulfillment. Everything is vague and non-specific so that we have no problem reading the fulfillment into whatever happens. It’s much like the fortune from a fortune cookie. They give a vague pronouncement that’s supposed to happen over an unspecified time so that if you really try, you can find the fulfillment to your fortune. The problem with this view is that there was no point in Ezekiel’s prophecy at all. The specific things he mentioned don’t really happen in the way he described. And even though he seems emphatic in at least 3 different places that Tyre would never be rebuilt, people just say that he didn’t mean that. What else could he have said if his true intention was that the city would never be rebuilt in any fashion at all? People who use this excuse in order to maintain the inerrancy of the Bible aren’t viewing this prophecy as any kind of proof (which is at least part of the reason it would have been given). Instead, they’ve made up their mind that it must be true, regardless of the facts. So there was really no point in even recording it.

This is one of the most blatant and obvious examples of a failed prophecy in the Bible. It is clear and specific, yet it did not come to pass. The conclusion is obvious: at the very least, Ezekiel was not a true prophet. At most, the entire Bible is uninspired. If you’re a firm Bible-believer (as I was), are you honest and brave enough to accept it for what it is? I hope you’ll think about it.

We’ll continue our study of Bible prophecies in the next post.

501 thoughts on “Prophecy Part 6: Tyre”

  1. Hi Hayden, thanks for the comment. You may be right; however, Deuteronomy 18:22 says that anyone who gives a false prophecy is not a true prophet.

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  2. Hey Nate, great article…except that now I don’t think there’s any point in me writing something about this. I was kind of really wanting to, but why bother when I can just link here? lol…

    I like the fact you bring up Deut. 18:22–I used that in a blog I co-Admin’d with a couple friends as part of disproving our old religion and the “spiritual authority” of its founder.

    Yeah, when the “Proof of the Bible” is fulfilled prophecy, and then you clearly see failed prophecies…you either have to accept the evidence, deploy a SWAT team of apologetics, or simply ignore it and hope it goes away. As you said, this Tyre business really hit me hard.

    My old religion also taught British Israelism (the US and UK and several Western European nations are ACTUALLY the Lost 10 Tribes of Israel and so Bible Prophecy concerning Israel applies to us!). Seeing that THAT was a load of rubbish was the last straw. It is important b/c if BI isn’t true, then all those prophecies in the OT about Israel that appear to have failed or been left unfulfilled really were (failed or unfulfilled).

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  3. Thanks for the really kind comment!

    I agree that issues like this one seem very cut and dry to me. If God were real, I don’t see why he wouldn’t actually have a real relationship with us in the way it’s described with many of the people in the Bible. Then we would all know that he’s there, and we’d know what he wants. Anyone who didn’t serve him would be making a clear choice. Whereas in our current system, many people would be lost out of sheer ignorance. Seems like injustice to me.

    But even if the God of the Bible was real and chose to communicate to us through the Bible, which is what I used to believe, then at the very least, those who study it to the lengths that you and I have should come away completely convinced that it’s true. We should not be able to study so deeply that we lose our faith. That just shouldn’t happen if what we’re studying is “THE TRUTH.”

    That’s where I really don’t get the Christians who have studied to the point of realizing the evidence for their beliefs is sketchy at best, but then keep believing anyway.

    Thanks again for the comment!

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  4. Thanks Blake. Looks like an interesting site. I obviously haven’t had time to dig into it fully yet, but I do disagree with this statement from their site:

    v13-14, 19-21 says Tyre will be permanently annihilated (via the above terrors).1 This is relevant because, far from benefiting from Jerusalem’s fall (as she boasted; see v2) this majestic Tyrian empire would instead have its characteristic progress viciously halted. In 332 b.c., at the hands of Alexander, we see (a) her empire was erased, (b) her structures left in waste, and (c) her peoples were replaced.

    This statement makes it seem as though Tyre was never a significant power ever again, but that’s simply not true. For at least 1500 years after Alexander’s siege, Tyre remained a vitally important city in that region. Even the Wikipedia article is a decent place to start for that information — in other words, it’s very accessible.

    Also, the site you referenced lands in favor of the prophecy by simply comparing how many things Ezekiel got right to how many he got wrong and going with whichever grouping is higher. In this case, since they show 6 things he got right and 3 that he got wrong, they call it a win. But is that really the best way to examine prophecy?

    One of the details they say Ezekiel got right is that Tyre’s wealth would be plundered by its enemies. But if Tyre was going to be defeated, isn’t it a given that it would be looted? The site also gives credit to the claim that people would spread nets on its remains. So as long as they can find people (in a coastal city) spreading fishing nets, they’re good.

    The thing I do appreciate about the site is that they do actually list some reasons for doubting the prophecy. Got to admire that kind of honesty, even if their overall evaluation system is a little off.

    Thanks again for the link! I didn’t know it was out there.

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  5. Yes, but I don’t find that argument persuasive. Repopulation was a very common practice back then –Babylon did the same thing to Jerusalem. Would anyone say that Jerusalem ceased to exist? And to link the city with its population doesn’t make sense anyway, since centuries passed between Ezekiel’s pronouncement and Alexander’s sacking of Tyre. None of the people Ezekiel were railing against were around then anyway — maybe we could say Tyre had ceased to exist long before Alexander ever showed up?

    I think an objective study of this issue creates a real problem for the Bible. The only way one can attempt to say Ezekiel’s prophecy was true is to twist the meaning of the passage. Instead of Tyre being utterly destroyed and never rebuilt, Tyre, like most ancient cities, went through periods of peace and unrest. Eventually, Alexander defeated it and displaced much of the population. But within a few years, it had already risen to high level of prominence again. Instead of never being rebuilt, it’s never been deserted.

    Ezekiel’s prophecy was simply not true.

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  6. “I think an objective study of this issue creates a real problem for the Bible. The only way one can attempt to say Ezekiel’s prophecy was true is to twist the meaning of the passage.”

    Actually this happens to be the crux of the matter. Like most atheists you have failed to address the language itself in its historical and linguistic context. Its pretty clear with the technique you employ in this article – This City Doesn’t Exist « Finding Truth.

    Basically find a picture of buildings in Tyre and pretend that the prophecy states ” there shall be no buildings (or as a verb no building)” . The strange thing is I could do the same with images of the ruins of Tyre both on Mainland and on the island portion. There are extensive ruins on both that without a shadow of a doubt have NOT been rebuilt and further more will NOT BE rebuilt because they are under UN world heritage site protection AND because as the prophecy eludes to a good deal of the ruins are under water. Funny thing with sites such as yours, as you did, they almost always show pictures of everything but the ruins to seemingly stack the deck. You have several in that article and yet not one of the ruins. Why does it matter? Simple. What escapes most atheists is doing a study to see what “rebuild” means in the Bible. Thats the proper scholarly way to address the issue regarding any piece of literature or ancient text. This does not employ any twisting whatsoever and in fact may even show that you have done the twisting. We do this by looking at the definition of Rebuild/Build and AND how it is used elsewhere. When we do this two interesting and critical question arises.

    Can a city that lay half in ruins (more than half since ruins lay under water)be said to be built ?
    and Can A city that has been half rebuilt be said to not be built?

    That could be argued by you and me but the proper way to did it would be to consult the book itself (Bible) and when we do your argument takes QUITE a hit. What we would need is a similar context of a destroyed city and as it turns out we have one – Jerusalem. In fact we have an entire book of the bible thats context is rebuilding a city – the book of Nehemiah. It uses this word often and in a way that betrays your understanding of it.

    It does so first in Nehemiah 2:5 where specific requests is Made by Nehemiah to go and build Jerusalem. Nehemiah has got a report that the city is in ruins and wishes to go and build it. to cut things short however when we read about the Jerusalem that needs to be built it already is occupied and has homes and buildings. It has nobles and rulers and is without a doubt occupied. Turns out as work begins in Chapter three the rebuilding takes place in proximity to homes and buildings that already exist of the repairers. Nehemiah has not come to “build” houses but gates and walls. in other words to build a complete city not a settlement – take the settlement that exists out of a ruin state.

    Given that we have rulers and priests and an entire infrastructure of government its safe to say we are not talking a few houses but a population of thousands living in homes right there in Jerusalem and yet Nehemiah comes because in the use of the people of that day the city is not built because it is too much in ruins. This is devastating to your idea that a city can lay half in ruins and still be considered built. This extensively detailed situation and use of the word build along with other biblical passage means no one of that time would consider a city with extensive ruins to be considered built. You have built a home when it is finished not when its half done. You have built/rebuilt a city when it is not over half still in ruins.

    The prophecy therefore stands and stands tall when a proper scholastic approach to determining the word and word usage is applied. Its an incredible prophecy since Christians did not force the UN to mak sure it will never be rebuilt and deeper research even shows fulfillment often not talked about that the sea would cover tyre. Today we know extensive ruins of Tyre are under water

    http://www.dailystar.com.lb/Culture/Art/1999/Mar-22/99428-tyre-yet-to-yield-all-its-treasures.ashx#axzz30RcBbMHy

    http://www.nature.com/news/2006/060102/full/news060102-11.html
    ” And Tyre, which was once an island, has been joined up to the mainland by silting, while much of the old land has sunk beneath the waves. “

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  7. Mike, let’s be honest, it’s you whose twisting things. You’re forced to say that “the passage doesn’t really mean what it says, you have to look at it like this… turn it like that… etc, etc.”

    There’s not just A building in modern day tyre, but a whole city. Ironically, alexander’s causeway added a lot of land that wasnt there before, so it actually grew. there’s still an active port. sure, there’s ruins, but if that’s what you’re going by, then all of antiquity was destroyed and never rebuilt – I guess god missed the rest of ’em.

    But wow, what a miracle, a city that is there really isnt! that is a miracle. you’ve explained it and therefore the bible must be perfect and delivered by god. praise jehovah.

    Jeremiah also prophesied that the Medes would destroy babylon, but they didnt. and the persians, who actually took babylon, didnt destroy it either, but took it whole without any resistance. so there’s another one that i am sure you would simply dismiss with, “when reading the text, it’s important to do so properly, that is, by assuming it is completely true despite the evidence, contrary to reality.

    The bible sure is a twisted mess of crap for something so perfect. You sure have low standards for your god.

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  8. “Mike, let’s be honest, it’s you whose twisting things. You’re forced to say that “the passage doesn’t really mean what it says, you have to look at it like this… turn it like that… etc, etc.” ”

    I did none of that so you start out with abject dishonesty. I took the word and showed in the very book you hate what it means within that context without any twisting whatsoever. That seems to angers you no end but the facts are what they are so I guess youwill just have to be angry with the facts

    “There’s not just A building in modern day tyre, but a whole city. ”

    there were multiple buildings in Jerusalem – it still needed to be built. Most of Modern tyre does not rest on ancient Tyre as you practically admit here

    “Alexander’s causeway added a lot of land that wasnt there before, so it actually grew. ”

    Precisely all of that causeway is not land ancient Tyre occupied as such it is irrelevant to the prophecy

    ” sure, there’s ruins, but if that’s what you’re going by, then all of antiquity was destroyed and never rebuilt”

    rebuilt cities do not have half the area of the old city still in ruins. Sorry (well not really). In addition to land above water on the Island there are significant ruins underneath which means over half the old city of tyre (not including mainland ruins). You are attempting to create a strawman that any ruins at all is what I referred to and its not only false – its obviously false

    “But wow, what a miracle, a city that is there really isnt! that is a miracle. you’ve explained it and therefore the bible must be perfect and delivered by god. praise jehovah. ”

    Your emotionalism betrays your lack of objectivity

    “Jeremiah also prophesied that the Medes would destroy babylon, but they didnt. and the persians, who actually took babylon, didnt destroy it either, but took it whole without any resistance. so there’s another one that i am sure you would simply dismiss with, ”

    Thats actually easier to brush aside because your facts are off. the Persians did destroy Bablylon and tore down its walls and crucified its occupants. You have not done your history lessons very well. they attacked Babylon TWICE.

    I am not new to these debates and I know how greatly it angers you that I can answer your claims effectively and with nothing but the facts of the text but they are what they are and you can complain about looking at word usage within a document but that is how scholarly work be done a so yes

    Praise Jehovah they show you wrong.

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  9. “The bible sure is a twisted mess of crap for something so perfect. You sure have low standards for your god.”

    Easy on the foaming at the mouth and spittle there sparky. Or at least get a kerchief. Like I said I have debated with atheists before. Those theatrics only tend to make me chuckle. Calm thyself and rip my points to shreds with facts. Engage in a substantive dialogue and I am game. Rhetoric is a man poor in logic’s game

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  10. I’m not angry and I dont hate the book. It just doesn’t say what you want it to; no reason for me to get angry over that. I can read very well, so when i read the text from any translation, it’s still incorrect, regardless of what you say.

    I dont care how many debates you’ve been in or not. If you need scholars to form an opinion, perhaps different scholars should have penned and translated the bible for the rest of us. I’m not even sure where a debate is warranted. the bible says “x” and “y” turned out to happen instead – pretty straight forward.

    LOL – you admit that jeremiah was wrong in that the medes, in fact, did not destroy babylon.

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  11. Ah well, there you go. i’m a poor man. i read things as they are written and try to let the writer speak for him/herself. I suggest giving that a shot, but you may not be as poor as i.

    and my friends call me sparkles, not sparky. you’re welcome to address me as william. name calling is a little juvenile, dont you think? and we’re not intimate enough for pet names just yet – plus, I’m not into dudes.

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  12. “Precisely all of that causeway is not land ancient Tyre occupied as such it is irrelevant to the prophecy”

    still part of the city, which was rebuilt (contrary to prophecy), which adjoins the ancient mainland to the ancient island – making it bigger.

    If ezekiel had prophesied that the city would fail to be destroyed by babylon, but then successfully destroyed by greece, only to be rebuilt even bigger – then we’d be on the same page.

    does your scholarly translation state it in such a way?

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  13. “I’m not angry and I don’t hate the book”

    That cat is out the bag. your emotions already betrayed you and the LOLs etc are continuing the trend

    ” I can read very well, so when i read the text from any translation, it’s still incorrect, regardless of what you say.”

    Like I stated rhetoric makes no point. I have shown from the very text how the word was used. You need to dispute that with facts not assertions. That’s how grown up intelligent dialogue is done

    “LOL – you admit that jeremiah was wrong in that the medes, in fact, did not destroy babylon.”

    You are fantasizing. All throughout the Bible the medes and Persians are combined as an alliance. Word usage will kill you again because that is apparent and multiple passages confirm it. Yes atheist like to distinguish the two and make them two different kingdoms one after each other but the Bible is very Medopersian oriented. Its a point you will not win unless you still think rhetoric is going to count for anything.

    “and my friends call me sparkles, not sparky. you’re welcome to address me as william. name calling is a little juvenile, dont you think?”

    I have no problem calling you William but we were well into the juvenile when you presumed to tell me what my standards were for my God was Lay of the juvenile behavior and I will have no reason to call you sparky which is hardly a name call anyway.

    “plus, I’m not into dudes.”

    and you actually think you are not being juvenile? I think we might as well pass communicating if its going to be at this level.

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  14. AHAHA, “my emotions betrayed me.” Thanks, Darth. haha. laughter is often a sign of great anger. I’m learning a lot.

    and yes, all throughout the bible, the medes and persians appear to be linked, but maybe someone should have told the medes and the persians – and I’m the one who doesnt know history? besides, jeremiah says “medes” not “medes and persians.” perhaps you’re not aware of what i am referencing?

    and mike, I am a juvenile, so i have an excuse.

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  15. “still part of the city, which was rebuilt (contrary to prophecy), which adjoins the ancient mainland to the ancient island – making it bigger.”

    Nope when the prophecy was made that area was out at sea. claiming that a city being built on the sea at a later day is a rebuilding of the one on land is poor logic. the only area on that actual ancient land is toward the northern harbor. It stretches for a couple blocks. the rest is in ruins protected from being rebuilt by the UN and under water as the links I provided show proof of as the Bible also alluded would happen. Its amazing that even in examples of so called fake prophecies so much ends up being fulfilled unable to be rebuilt because of Independent UN protection.

    Consistent with the use of the term in the Bible itself with no twisting whatsoever the ancient city of Tyre does not qualify as to being rebuilt. If that were so Nehemiah would not have gone to rebuild Jerusalem because it had many houses and even an armoury built already. A bunch of buildings while the rest of the ancient city remains in ruins will not cut it and the text and the usage of the term in the document in questions itself proves it.

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  16. “and mike, I am a juvenile, so i have an excuse.”

    Ah thanks. As I expected. I have a strict policy about not debating juveniles so alas you will have to babble on to yourself

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