Isaiah 23 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

(Read all of Isaiah 23)

Verse 1

[1] The burden of Tyre. Howl, ye ships of Tarshish; for it is laid waste, so that there is no house, no entering in: from the land of Chittim it is revealed to them.

Of Tyre — The prophecy of the heavy calamity and destruction of Tyre. Tyre was, according to this prophecy, destroyed; first by Nebuchadnezzar, and afterwards by Alexander the great. And tho' this prophecy seemed directly to respect the former destruction, yet it seems to have some reference to the latter also; only it is intimated, that after seventy years, Tyre should recover some former power and glory, before her second and final destruction.

Howl — To which howling and lamenting is ascribed by a known figure.

No house — So effectually wasted, that there is not an house left in it, nor any merchants or others that go into it, for traffick.

Chittim — He mentions the land of Chittim, because this was an eminent place for shipping and trading, and therefore doubtless had great dealings with Tyre. It may here be put for all other countries which traded with her. It is not necessary to determine what Chittim is; it is sufficient to know, that it was a seafaring place in the Midland Sea.

Verse 2

[2] Be still, ye inhabitants of the isle; thou whom the merchants of Zidon, that pass over the sea, have replenished.

Be still — Heb. be silent, boast no more of thy wealth and power.

The isle — Of Tyre, which was an island, 'till Alexander joined it to the continent. The title of islands is often given by the Hebrews to places bordering upon the sea.

That pass — That are a sea-faring people.

Replenished — With manners, and commodities.

Verse 4

[4] Be thou ashamed, O Zidon: for the sea hath spoken, even the strength of the sea, saying, I travail not, nor bring forth children, neither do I nourish up young men, nor bring up virgins.

Zidon — Zidon was a great city near Tyre, strongly united to her by commerce and league, and called by some the mother of Tyre, which they say, was built and first inhabited by a colony of the Sidonians.

The sea — That part of the sea in which Tyre was, and from which ships and men were sent into all countries.

The strength — Tyre might be called the strength of the sea, because it defendeth that part of the sea from piracies and injuries.

I travel not — I, who was so fruitful, that I sent forth colonies into other countries (of which Carthage was one), am now barren and desolate.

Verse 5

[5] As at the report concerning Egypt, so shall they be sorely pained at the report of Tyre.

Waters — By the sea, which is very fitly called the great waters, understand, cometh, or is brought to her.

The seed — The corn of Egypt, wherewith Egypt abounded. Sihor is the same as the Nile.

The harvest — The plentiful harvest of corn which comes from the inundation of the Nile; emphatically called the river.

The revenue — Is as plentifully enjoyed by her, as if it grew in her own territories.

A mart — A place to which all nations resort for traffick.

Verse 7

[7] Is this your joyous city, whose antiquity is of ancient days? her own feet shall carry her afar off to sojourn.

Antiquity — Being built before Joshua's time, Joshua 19:29.

Her feet — Whereas before, like a delicate lady, she would not set her foot to the ground, but used to be carried in stately chariots.

To sojourn — To seek for new habitations.

Verse 8

[8] Who hath taken this counsel against Tyre, the crowning city, whose merchants are princes, whose traffickers are the honourable of the earth?

Who — This is the word of God, and not of man.

The crowning city — Which was a royal city, and carried away the crown from all other cities.

Princes — Equal to princes for wealth, and power, and reputation.

Verse 9

[9] The LORD of hosts hath purposed it, to stain the pride of all glory, and to bring into contempt all the honourable of the earth.

The Lord — This is the Lord's own doing.

To stain — God's design is by this example to abase the pride of all the potentates of the earth.

Verse 10

[10] Pass through thy land as a river, O daughter of Tarshish: there is no more strength.

Pass through — Tarry no longer in thy own territories, but flee through them, into other countries, for safety and relief.

As a river — Swiftly, lest you be prevented.

Tarshish — O Tyre, which might well be called daughter of Tarshish, that is, of the sea, as that word is used, verse 1, and elsewhere, because it was an island, and therefore as it were, born of the sea, and nourished and brought up by it.

Verse 11

[11] He stretched out his hand over the sea, he shook the kingdoms: the LORD hath given a commandment against the merchant city, to destroy the strong holds thereof.

He — The Lord.

Shook — Heb. he made the kingdoms to tremble; the neighbouring and confederate kingdoms, who might justly quake at her fall, for the dreadfulness and unexpectedness of the thing; and because Tyre was a bulwark, and a refuge to them.

A commandment — Hath put this design into the hearts of her enemies, and given them courage to attempt, and strength to execute it.

Verse 12

[12] And he said, Thou shalt no more rejoice, O thou oppressed virgin, daughter of Zidon: arise, pass over to Chittim; there also shalt thou have no rest.

Virgin — So he calls her, because she had hitherto never borne the yoke of a conquering enemy.

Zidon — Tyre may be called the daughter of Zidon, because she was first built and possessed by a colony of the Zidonians.

No rest — Thither thine enemies shall pursue thee, and there shall they overtake the.

Verse 13

[13] Behold the land of the Chaldeans; this people was not, till the Assyrian founded it for them that dwell in the wilderness: they set up the towers thereof, they raised up the palaces thereof; and he brought it to ruin.

Behold — Thou Tyrians, cast your eyes upon the Chaldeans or Babylonians; who tho' now flourishing, grow far more glorious and potent, even the glory of kingdoms, yet shall certainly be brought to utter ruin.

This people — The Chaldeans at first were not a people, not formed into any commonwealth or kingdom, 'till Nimrod, the head and founder of the Assyrian monarchy, built Babel, Genesis 10:9,10, now the head of the Chaldean monarchy; which he built for those people, who then lived in tents, and were dispersed here and there in waste places.

He — The Lord.

To ruin — Will infallibly bring that great empire to ruin. He speaks of a future thing as if it were already past.

Verse 14

[14] Howl, ye ships of Tarshish: for your strength is laid waste.

Your strength — The city of Tyre, where you found safety and wealth.

Verse 15

[15] And it shall come to pass in that day, that Tyre shall be forgotten seventy years, according to the days of one king: after the end of seventy years shall Tyre sing as an harlot.

Forgotten — Neglected and forsaken.

Seventy years — During the time of the Jewish captivity in Babylon. Tyre was taken by Nebuchadnezzar, Ezekiel 26:7, a little after the taking of Jerusalem and was restored by the favour of the Persian monarchs after the return of the Jews.

One king — One royal race of Nebuchadnezzar, including his son, and his son's son, in whom his family and kingdom were to expire.

Sing — She shall by degrees return to her former traffick, whereby she shall easily entice the merchants of the world to trade with her, as harlots use to entice men by lascivious songs.

Verse 16

[16] Take an harp, go about the city, thou harlot that hast been forgotten; make sweet melody, sing many songs, that thou mayest be remembered.

Go about — As harlots use to do.

Thou harlot — So he calls Tyre, because she enticed the merchants to deal with her by various artifices, and even by dishonest practices, and because of the great and general uncleanness which was committed in it.

Verse 17

[17] And it shall come to pass after the end of seventy years, that the LORD will visit Tyre, and she shall turn to her hire, and shall commit fornication with all the kingdoms of the world upon the face of the earth.

Visit — In mercy.

Her hire — The Hebrew word properly signifies, the hire of an harlot.

Fornication — Shall trade promiscuously with people of all nations, as harlots entertain all comers.

Verse 18

[18] And her merchandise and her hire shall be holiness to the LORD: it shall not be treasured nor laid up; for her merchandise shall be for them that dwell before the LORD, to eat sufficiently, and for durable clothing.

Holiness — This is a prophecy concerning the conversion of the Tyrians to the true religion.

Laid up — Either out of covetousness, or for their pride and luxury, as they formerly did; but now they shall freely lay it out upon pious and charitable uses.

Shall be — For the support and encouragement of the ministers of holy things, who shall teach the good knowledge of the Lord. Although this does not exclude, but rather imply their liberality in contributing to the necessities of all Christians.