Now that we’ve actually covered Ezekiel’s prophecy of Tyre in detail, I’d like to make some closing observations.
The Track Record
For a moment, let’s consider the way the Old Testament god operates. He does nothing halfway. One of the examples that really stands out to me is the story of Elijah versus the 450 prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18). Elijah offers them a challenge. Let Baal’s prophets prepare a sacrifice on an altar, but instead of lighting it, they can call on Baal to light it for them. Elijah will do the same thing, but call on Yahweh. The Israelites can then follow whichever god delivers. The prophets of Baal accept.
Elijah lets Baal’s prophets go first. They prepare their altar that morning and spend most of the day calling on Baal to light the sacrifice. Of course, nothing happens, even when they begin to cut themselves. Elijah mocks them: “Call louder, maybe your god is on a trip. Maybe he’s sleeping.” Finally, Elijah says they’ve had long enough. So he then prepares his own altar and the sacrifice, and he digs a trench around the altar. Before he calls on Yahweh, he has pitchers of water poured over the sacrifice until it soaks everything and fills the trench around the altar. He calls on his god, and fire immediately shoots down from the sky. Not only does it light the sacrifice, it completely consumes it. But it doesn’t stop there — it consumes the wood, the stones of the altar, and even all the water in the trench.
God went above and beyond anything that was expected. He didn’t simply light a sacrifice. He obliterated it in an inferno under the most unfavorable conditions imaginable, and he did it in such a way that was unquestionable. Not a single person present could have denied what just happened. And this isn’t the only time God operated in this way.
In Genesis 41, God gives Pharaoh two dreams. In the first, he dreams of 7 fat, healthy cows coming up out of the Nile, followed by 7 emaciated cows. The 7 emaciated cows eat the 7 fat cows. In the second dream, 7 fat ears of corn (or wheat) are consumed by 7 thin and blighted ears of corn (or wheat). Pharaoh can’t make sense of these dreams. But God doesn’t leave him confused — he provides someone who can decipher the dreams. Joseph tells Pharaoh that the two dreams mean the same thing. The region will soon experience 7 years of plentiful harvests, followed by 7 years of extreme famine. This interpretation gives Pharaoh time to prepare for the famine, propels Joseph to prominence, and brings Joseph and his family back together again.
While the dreams themselves were vague and symbolic, God provided a very specific interpretation complete with timelines. He didn’t leave anything up to uncertainty. While Pharaoh was presumably free to react to this news however he wanted, the message itself was crystal clear.
We could look at countless other examples and see that God had no problem being clear and specific. So why not be specific here? In the first post of this series, I pointed out that this prophecy fails on the surface, since Tyre wasn’t scraped clean and it’s still a city today. And in the last post, we saw that the prophecy even fails in the details. But even if it hadn’t failed in the details and only appeared to at the surface, why would God have allowed it to be so ambivalent? If Alexander was supposed to be part of the fulfillment, why not mention him specifically just as Nebuchadnezzar was mentioned? Isn’t it a little suspect that the only king specifically mentioned was the one already in power at the time of the writing? If “bare rock” really just meant momentarily brought low, why be so misleading? If “never be rebuilt” and “no more forever” really just meant that it would never be quite as awesome as it used to be, why not just say that?
As it stands, this prophecy can never be used to convince a skeptic, because it seems to fail on so many levels. And Christians who consider it a success have to overlook a number of issues, which means no one can use it as evidence. Christians and Jews will believe Ezekiel was inspired whether he was right about this or not, and skeptics can’t be convinced by it because of its many problems. So why was it recorded, if Ezekiel was truly inspired? The faithful don’t need it, and it only causes more doubts for everyone else.
To Sum Up
If God wants everyone to believe that the Bible is his divine message, it’s hard to see what motive he would have for including this prophecy. I hope it’s evident after considering all the specifics that this prophecy is simply a failure. Deuteronomy 18:20-22 gives us the litmus test for a prophet:
But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.’ 21 And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the Lord has not spoken?’— 22 when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.
By this standard, Ezekiel was not a true prophet. He was simply a Jew living in a difficult time trying to make sense of why God would allow his people to be so devastated. Perhaps a little jealousy and resentment caused him to make this pronouncement against Tyre — I don’t know. But whatever motivated him, it wasn’t divine revelation.
For the person who believes in the Bible’s inerrancy, it can be difficult to accept this conclusion. If Ezekiel is false, what other books of the Bible might be bogus? It takes a truly open-minded person to not close themselves off when faced with this, but to forge ahead with rigorous study and put their beliefs to the test, considering all possibilities. It’s difficult, but so worthwhile. And it’s the only honest way to live, really.
For anyone who’s still interested in this prophecy, I ran across a great article about it — and don’t worry, it’s much shorter than mine! You can find it here.