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”
“I feel that we’re straining things a bit in wrangling over what “rebuild” means. It reminds me of Bill Clinton’s equivocation over the word “is”.
Nate if your response to studying contemporary contextual usage of a word and phrase in ancient literature (in the SAME BOOK no less) is to compare it to Clinton trying to avoid impeachment then the name of your blog is a euphemism and sorry but you are clueless as to how ancient literature is studied within contemporary usage. its a terrible ignorant position and insulting me by comparing me to Clinton is no better than William’s nonsense. You are really not really interested in a serious discussion and finding truth but simply bolstering your own point of view without regard to the facts. Its just not a serious approach to ancient literature. you can kid yourself all you want. Applied to any other document trying to claim that contemporary usage is of no importance or just “equivocation” in studying a document would have you laughed out of the room by any expert on the subject.
Look I get it. The church has not been very good in answering such charges as your own and yes Till got to fool you that his was the last word. You OBVIOUSLY were not aware that evidence from the Bible itself could answer your claims about rebuilding and are doing nothing but DESPERATELY begging that contemporary textual usage does not matter. It clearly caught you off guard but such is life. What more I have been able to read a number of your other posts and they suffer from the same lack of thoroughness but you are probably now at the point where like this issue showed you are not up to reassessing. So good luck with that but perhaps in a moment in your life it might dawn on you that you have not heard the best arguments against your position and certainty of it is a misplaced illusion.
“Tyre has always sat in the same place ”
Yes of course Nate the isthmus where the city is mostly centered that was created by Alexander was always there. Sigh….So factual.
Hey I thought sensed a different tone but its pretty much the standard for sceptics site. Lots of heat not much substance
I agree with William on one thing . There isn’t really much to this. If I stuck around your blog showing other deep weaknesses in your thinking it would only result in more Clinton insults and agenda based anger.
“unless, and only unless you say “rebuild” means only using the exact same materials, exact same footprint and exact same layout”
See typical atheist dishonesty . You’ve been corrected as to me claiming the “exact same materials ” but just repeating the same obvious lie once again. It pretty obvious I upset you by putting a fact that challenges your treasured false prophecy. After all if tyre were to slip away from you as an unfulfilled prophecy the whole stack of cards would come tumbling down
“”Yes, there was also a mainland portion of Tyre that Nebuchadnezzar destroyed, but he never reached Tyre proper”
Nate sorry I missed this before. As I suspect you know there is considerable difference of opinion as to what Mainland tyre was called and how it was seen. “Tyre proper” is not a solid point. Everything at the beginning of chapter 26 is consistent with a destruction of the mainland area. It creates no problem for the prophecy except for those that try to insist “many nations” like waves is restricted to Neb. Its amazing with your charge of twisting that the only way the passage stands as an unfulfilled prophecy is if you insist on ignoring contemporary contextual usage of words and twisting many nation like waves to be just Neb’s army.
Such is the mindset of the biased
I’m sorry if you feel frustrated by the discussion, but I at least am genuinely unclear about the distinction you’re making over “rebuilt.” In what way did Nehemiah rebuild Jerusalem that did NOT happen to Tyre? I think an answer to that would help me better understand your point.
“I’m sorry if you feel frustrated by the discussion”
Sorry Nate that won’t work as a spin. My frustration is not with discussion but ignorance and not really frustration with ignorance but the Clinton insult you tried to hurl. Poor form and right after your pretense at civility of different viewpoints.
“but I at least am genuinely unclear about the distinction you’re making over “rebuilt.””
to be honest I don’t know how you could be given I have stated it several times but if you want to go again then I can. Nehemiah went to rebuild the city while it was in waste according to his own words. Its pretty clear from that context that a city needs rebuilding while it is in a waste state even though people lived there and there were homes and I think an armory.
“In what way did Nehemiah rebuild Jerusalem that did NOT happen to Tyre?”
I don’t recall stating he accomplished the task. From a linguistic point of view the concern is with the context where the language is used. In Nehemiah’s case its used in the context of an occupied city yet still in waste.
As I have said before this is no mystery or odd usage
A half built car is still not built because it requires more building
A less than half built house cannot be said to be rebuilt
No city is built because it has some building a while most of it lays in ruin or underwater
It has nothing to do with Williams lie that I claim it has to be the same materials or shape or exact footprint. What it does have to do with is at least have the original area at least over half way built. Until then you cannot say the CITY has been rebuilt.
That’s an even modern understanding of how the word is used. Try telling your friends you built a house and then carry them to the constructions site of a less than half finished house. they’ll tell you you are building it but its not built yet.
Its pretty simple and straightforward. If anyone is twisting it to mean one thing that would be your side not mine and Nehemiah’s context proves it.
Sorry for the typos. Hate this new keyboard
Would you also say that Jerusalem was never rebuilt? Also, it seems to me that the house analogy is not a perfect one. You’re right that it’s obvious when a house is unfinished — is it as obvious when we’re talking about a city? Where does the “over half” requirement come from?
As to the Clinton remark, that wasn’t meant as an insult, and I apologize if it came across that way. I think most of the Christians who comment here would tell you that I don’t tend to deal in insults.
I’m certainly not a scholar, nor do I study OT bible history, but here is a question that comes to my mind in this discussion:
Ezekiel writes that Tyre would be utterly destroyed and never again be rebuilt. Right? He further says a lamentation will arise that says Type has “vanished.” It will never be found again.
Taking this at face value, it means there will never be a city known as Tyre. Period.
Yet we know there is a place called Tyre in existence because it’s shown on geographical maps. Plus, people have visited there.
Maybe I’m missing the whole point but this is how I see it.
“Would you also say that Jerusalem was never rebuilt?”
No I wouldn’t
” Also, it seems to me that the house analogy is not a perfect one. You’re right that it’s obvious when a house is unfinished — is it as obvious when we’re talking about a city? ”
More so when over half the city is in ruins. I’ve seen people live in unfinished homes. I see no issue with the analogy.
“Where does the “over half” requirement come from?”
Not a requirement but 51% is the point at which it would be more in ruins than built so its a logical minimum
“As to the Clinton remark, that wasn’t meant as an insult”
Really can’t take it anyway else Nate and can’t see a possible motive that was respectful. That’s a pretty notorious political example of a guy trying to lie his way out of a situation and using word games to get there without being impeached. I don’t think you can dress that up into anything else.
“Taking this at face value, it means there will never be a city known as Tyre. Period. ”
Nan that’s a pretty good example of why when people say something is obvious or “face value” it means nothing except thats what they want it to be if they don’t back it up with any real data. That’s not even close to being face value unless you are redefining the meaning of the phrase.
There is not even a suggestion that the name would disappear or never be used of any other city. Sorry but its a ridiculous notion much less to think it deserves a “period ” at the end. Every single prophecy regarding Tyre is regarding a particular city not any city that could be known by that name at any future date
Thats like saying if the Bible says New Jerusalem will be unique this link disproves it
Are you saying the present city of Tyre is in an entirely different location than the one referenced in the prophecy? That is not a rhetorical question – I am still trying to fully understand your view.
Sorry, but I think you’re streching the point when you say that a future city by the same name of Tyre doesn’t count. Especially when it’s in the same (or nearly same) location.
“Sorry, but I think you’re stretching the point when you say that a future city by the same name of Tyre doesn’t count. ”
Nan by all means show me where in the Bible where there is a prophecy the name would never be used for another city. Its you that are stretching trying desperately to make the prophecy says something it never says . the prophecy is about the city that existed Period – and yes i can back it up because that IS what the passage states not anything about a name never being used.
Its kind of funny. One minute one of you is arguing that the actual word used in a similar context in the Bible does not count and now another is inventing prophecies that are not even in there
Hey Howie (love the name. always have )
I am saying the northern harbor area is the only occupied portion of the city Ezekiel refers to and that besides that the vast majority of the city lays in ruins or underwater and as such cannot qualify as being rebuilt
In other words exactly what the data and any close up of Sour shows. The center of Sour lays on the isthmus (and the north of it) that did not exist and could not be an area that Ezekiels prophecy refers to there being a city.
Pretty simple and straightforward
Mike, at what point was the prophecy fulfilled? I assume you know that throughout Tyre’s long history, most of the city did occupy even the spots where ruins are now…
If God, through Ezekiel, said the city would never be found again, and yet there is a city by that name in the very same general location, how can you in good conscious, continue to cling to your assertion that the prophecy was fulfilled?
You don’t need to answer that. It’s obvious that any further discussion on this is futile.
“Mike, at what point was the prophecy fulfilled? I assume you know that throughout Tyre’s long history, most of the city did occupy even the spots where ruins are now”
Its last destruction that leads it to now never being rebuilt
That would have been long after the time of Christ. Why do you suppose God was so angry with them during Ezekiel’s time, centuries before any of them were born?
This is a general comment and not really directed at Mike. It’s mostly for anyone who has stuck with us so far.
This prophecy is taken from Ezekiel 26, and I really encourage everyone to go read it — it’s only 21 verses. The prophecy makes a series of very specific pronouncements. First, verse 2 says that God is angry with Tyre because it hoped to gain from Jerusalem’s recent destruction. So would it make sense for God to punish later generations? Just something to consider.
Verse 3 says that many nations would be brought against Tyre. Verse 4 says they would break down her walls and towers and turn her into a bear rock (Tyre’s name means “rock”).
Verse 6 says Tyre’s “daughters on the mainland” will be killed , which references the mainland suburbs of Tyre and shows that the main city was on the island.
Verse 7 says that Nebuchadnezzar will bring this destruction. According to history (and Ezekiel 29), Neb did destroy the mainland sections, but was not able to take the island, even though verses 9-11 say he would. Simply didn’t happen.
Verse 12 changes from the pronoun “he” (Neb) to the pronoun “they.” Maybe this refers to the “many nations” mentioned earlier, or maybe it refers to Neb’s army. No one knows. The actual island did not fall until Alexander the Great took it, around 250 years later. But he quickly rebuilt it, and it remained a vitally important regional power for many, many more centuries.
When Alexander took it, he built a causeway to the island in order to reach the walls. Over the years, sediment buildup turned the island into an isthmus, so some of the geographical features have changed over time.
Contrast this history withEzekiel’s prophecy in chapter 26 where it says people will lament over the loss of Tyre. And verses 14 and 19-21 say that it will never be rebuilt or inhabited. Tyre’s history just doesn’t match up. At least it doesn’t to me, but people should definitely look into it for themselves and see what they think.
“If God, through Ezekiel, said the city would never be found again, and yet there is a city by that name in the very same general location, how can you in good conscious, continue to cling to your assertion that the prophecy was fulfilled? ”
A) Have we finally come off the preposterous notion that merely a name affixed to any city anywhere in the middle east would negate the prophecy. Probably not right? That’s why the discussion has no point to it. that was totally ridiculous there being no such claim in the prophecy
B) I’ve already answered this before. Verse 21 is within the context of the land being covered by the deep (sea) in verse 19. that has not been “found” under the sea (theres actually been relatively little archaeology done. You are familiar with the term “quote mining” right. it applies to the Bible. You cannot just swoop into a verse take an expression and run with it without looking at the context.
“That would have been long after the time of Christ. Why do you suppose God was so angry with them during Ezekiel’s time, centuries before any of them were born?”
And exactly who said he was? The tyrians were gone long before that. However if you chose to live in place where God has said he has “cursed” it does not require anger for you to see destruction. Edom has a similar history. Lands and cities were object lessons for future generations it does not need mean anger. Are you about to slide off into an Immoral God argument? Those are usually quite weak and I have no problem addressing them but its tangential
At any rate Nate this isn’t a game of 50 questions where you bounce from one thing to the next. Will you now address the contextual contemporary usage of the word rebuild in Nehemiah? Claiming that it has no bearing what a contemporary document within the same Bible and situation states was not a serious nor logically defensible claim
” First, verse 2 says that God is angry with Tyre because it hoped to gain from Jerusalem’s recent destruction. So would it make sense for God to punish later generations? Just something to consider.”
this has been answered above in my last post
“Verse 3 says that many nations would be brought against Tyre. Verse 4 says they would break down her walls and towers and turn her into a bear rock (Tyre’s name means “rock”).”
yes but like the waves of the sea one nation after another its very poetic and very specific – not one attack lead by one nation but many.
“Verse 6 says Tyre’s “daughters on the mainland” will be killed , which references the mainland suburbs of Tyre and shows that the main city was on the island.”
Utterly False. like Till you cling to this for dear life like its the only possible translation but its not tenable. The idea of cities being slain by the sword is nonsensical. People are slain by the sword and its utterly at odds with the usage of the term in the Bible which to every verse I have found never is used that way.. As you should know most translations historically have translated this your daughters in the field but of course sceptics in the model of Till will have none of a perfectly legit and more consistent use of the term because daughters in the field works only for the mainland tyre and that spoils their unfulfilled prophecy.
“Verse 7 says that Nebuchadnezzar will bring this destruction. According to history (and Ezekiel 29), Neb did destroy the mainland sections, but was not able to take the island, even though verses 9-11 say he would.”
Again false – 9-11 says he would take the mainland city and he did. the language of war makes this clear as he describes a conventional land siege complete with multiple war engines and as previously indicated by the fact that “daughters in the field” is far more logical and consistent with being slain by the sword
“Verse 12 changes from the pronoun “he” (Neb) to the pronoun “they.” Maybe this refers to the “many nations” mentioned earlier, or maybe it refers to Neb’s army. No one knows.
but yet just coincidentally not only does Alexander come along and do everything in verse 12 but the water level rises and buries more of tyre and again just coincidentally more nations come against it as the “they” in addition to alexander and today most of it will never see being built because the UN has designated it as a world heritage site
Like I have said before its just so remarkable how these unfulfilled prophecies end up…. well… being fulfilled
Oh, is that what you’ve been waiting for? I disagree with your assertion that Nehemiah informs the meaning of Ezekiel’s prophecy — here’s why:
Each passage gives its own context. Nehemiah states that Jerusalem needed to be rebuilt, particularly the walls. This doesn’t mean that every building had been knocked to the ground, but it had suffered substantial destruction at the hands of Babylon.
With Tyre, it never reached a point where all buildings were torn down or all inhabitants slaughtered either, though Ezekiel said they would. Tyre was sacked a few times in its long history — Alexander’s being the most notable — but it was always rebuilt and always kept the same identity. However, the context of the prophecy says that it would cease to exist. In other words, it would be destroyed, and it would never be rebuilt. It would simply cease to be. That’s a very different context than what Nehemiah was talking about with Jerusalem. It would be illogical to borrow Nehemiah’s context when Ezekiel provides his own.
Some of Tyre’s ruins are now under water. Some of them are under modern Tyre. And some of them are visible on parts of the island. None of that changes the fact that Tyre has continued to exist since long before Ezekiel was ever born. Just like every ancient city, its features, geography, and borders have changed. But it is still the same city, and it still sits in the same place.
I’m sorry we couldn’t find a way to see eye to eye on this issue, but I think we’ve both probably said about all we can on it. If you’d like to add anything, feel free. I don’t anticipate having much more to say.
Here’s a picture showing the original city wall as well as blue dashed lines showing the present coastline:
From this picture the submerged portion under water is the island of hercules which was not within the tyre city walls.
Here’s a picture showing urban areas of tyre which shows the northern harbor is inhabited:
Satelite pictures show the same. Now these are just pictures, but the following document has some very useful information about the population of historic Tyre:
Click to access F-Tyre_107-140.pdf
It’s a long document, but here is a key quote:
“the historic city, which forms only 6.7% of the total area of Sour, with residential areas amounting to 13% of the total inhabited zones in the city, is home to close to 17.3% of the total population of Sour. Population densities are the highest in the city at 500 persons/hectare.”
Page 123 shows population of the different regions of Tyre.
So not only are the historic parts of Tyre inhabited, it is thriving and is the most densely populated region of the entire city of Tyre.
Now not only do we find that the historic part of the city is still inhabited, the population of the city has expanded even further out along the isthmus to the east making this city the 4th most populated city in all of Lebanon and it houses one of the nation’s major ports.
I would have a hard time trying to convince someone that this data matches up with the parts in Ezekiel describing how it will not be inhabited, made desolate, will be no more, and will never be found again.
Actually, I haven’t heard the “fields” thing before — I’ll check that out. I do know that the ESV translates it as “mainland,” which I find significant. Also, as I understand it , the name “Tyre” seems to refer to the rocky island it sits on, which wouldn’t make much sense if it started on the mainland. Also, its ports were on the island, which is another reason to think that the city proper Sat there. Finally, several places in ch 26-28 talk about it being in the heart of the sea and compare it to a boat that would sink. Those descriptions don’t make sense to a mainland city.