Who hath taken this counsel against Tyre, the crowning city, whose merchants are princes, whose traffickers are the honourable of the earth? 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.Isaiah 23:8-9
Isaiah chapters 13-23 are primarily a series of pronouncements of judgement to different nations and peoples of the earth. Isaiah 23:1 proclaims the topic of this chapter, namely the coming judgement of Tyre. Tyre was an ancient city known for its seaport. It was a Phoenician city that was known for its trade. Because of its location on the Mediterranean coast it was well positioned for trade and had colonies as far away as Tarshish, which was in modern day Spain.
In verses 1-7 of this text, God addresses the judgement of Tyre, and seems to go from west to east in his revelation of this coming judgment. The nations are finding out about the judgement of Tyre. It is almost as the mariners, coming home from a long trip to sea, are finding out that they have no city in which to port.
What is said about this city in these verses?
- Tyre was a crowning city. The phrase could also be translated, “the giver of crowns.” Because of the riches of the city, trade with this city had created power and authority for leaders in the earth.
- Tyre was a merchant city. The city was known for its commerce. Its’ contacts and alliances around the world brought it great strength and riches. The merchants were “princes.” This speaks to the amount of riches and political clout that it had.
- Tyre was an honored city. Those from this city were so influential that they were honored throughout the then known world. Tarshish (in Spain), Cyprus, and Egypt are named in this chapter. This would cover a large portion of the Mediterranean world at the time.
This makes the question asked in verse 8 a reasonable question. The question is asked, “who hath taken this counsel against Tyre?” Who has something against this nation? It is handing out crowns! It is bringing riches! Its leaders are honored! Who would destroy it?
The answer comes in verse 9. “The Lord of Hosts hath purposed it…” The God of Israel is the one who has allowed and even caused for this to happen.
We must remember two important truths at this point.
First, the primary audience of the book of Isaiah is Judea. This is not to say that they are the only ones who would have read it, but that it was primarily for them. Secondly, this is a foretelling of what would happen. It had not yet happened.
The pagan gods of that time would have been described as involved in human history, but the purpose for their involvement would be for the lifting up of the nation that worshipped it. Contrast that with the purpose for the God of Judea in taking counsel against Tyre. He is doing it to “stain the pride of all glory and to bring into contempt all the honorable of the earth.” God is not doing this to make Israel prominent. He is not against men being honored or glorified. He is against people glorying in themselves apart from Him. It is pride found independent of the true God of the world that is at issue here. It is the pride and arrogance that says we can live independent of God, and that we are the source of our own power, wealth, and honor to which God is opposed. God is rightly jealous for any glory that is due to Him and Him alone.
Two passages of scriptures that stand out to me at this point:
But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.James 4:6
Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.1 Peter 5:5-7.
It is important for us to be responsible. We should take responsibility for our lives, work hard, and be wise with our decisions, time, and resources. At the same time, we must not begin to believe that we are the source of our own safety, security, wealth, power, and prestige. We must not be so independent in our thinking that we begin to believe that we do not need God. We must be aware of our own dependence on God in every area of our lives.
Is your life and attitude characterized by pride or humility?