PHOENICIA TYRE AND THE KING OF TYRE
Today we are visiting an archaeological area that stretches from the north of Syria down the narrow coastal strip to the bay of Acre, called Phoenicia. This Greek name, Phoenicia, is related to one of its principal exports, a purple coloured material called Phoinix, which means purple or crimson.
However, the people who lived here called themselves Kena’ani. Does it ring a bell? Canaanites. And what did they call their country? Canaan. It’s a great experience visit these Biblical sites like Sidon. You are looking at Tower of Sagette at Sidon, which dates from the time of the crusaders.
We read in Judges 10:6 that the people of Israel adopted the idolatrous worship of the gods of the Sidonians. You are looking at a relief of the famous god Baal. Judges 10:7 tells us that once the Israelites adopted this heathen religion the Sidonians oppressed them.
While visiting here I thought of Mark 3:8 where it says that the people of Sidon heard about Jesus and walked all the way to Galilee to listen to His beautiful messages of salvation.
Another interesting place in ancient Phoenicia is Sarafand as the Lebanese call it. Do you remember the Biblical name? Zarephath. The prophet Elijah visited here and asked a widow for bread but she said she had only enough to make her last meal and then die of hunger.
Come with me to one of the most important cities of ancient Phoenicia. The modern Lebanese name is Jebeil, the Biblical name is Gebal and the Greek name is Biblos. Please take your pick.
In the foreground you see the ruins of the ancient Phoenician civilisation. The pillars in the background dates from the Roman period.
Whenever you see these cultic pillars in the ancient world there is a strong possibility that you would find a high place of sacrifice. So let’s look around. And here we find it. You are looking at something, which represents the cruellest act of antiquity. Humans were sacrificed on this high place of sacrifice.
When you read about the cruelty of the ancient Phoenicians and the debasing sensual religion they practised you can appreciate the fact that God allowed them to destroy themselves. I told my daughter and her friends in this sarcophagus at Biblos that God has placed within man the need to worship.
The devil knows this and he exploits this basic human need and offers us a selfish, perverted way of worship in order to destroy us. Let us worship God on His terms and be on the safe side. The Phoenicians of Biblos imported the raw papyrus plant from Egypt like the one you see here. After they processed it they exported the papyri finish, a kind of writing pad, to the nations of antiquity.
This is a sample of what the papyri looked like. This specific fragment comes from Elephantine island in Egypt and was written in 500 BC. Because Biblos was the world supplier of writing materials, scholars decided to name the Bible after Biblos. Let’s move on the next important Phoenician city.
Please excuse my poor photography, but this slide has great historical value to me. It was here at the ancient site of Tyre that my love for archaeology was born in May 1966. During low tide you will see these interesting ancient ruins protruding from the Mediterranean Sea. How did they get thrown in here? That’s an amazing story. (Medius = middle; terra = land)
The cuneiform records tell us that the Phoenicians called Tyre Ushu. The Greeks however called it Palaityros. The ancient city was built on the mainland of the narrow Phoenician coastline. About one kilometre off the mainland there used to be an island that the Phoenicians used as a harbour. I’ll do some more explanation in a minute.
The earliest reference to Tyre in contemporary historical sources is in the Tell el Amarna tablets of the 14th century BC. Milki, governor of Tyre, wrote these letters to pharaoh Akhenaten. Tyre used to be wealthiest and most powerful coastal city of antiquity. But this great city disappeared in the See, as we shall see in a moment.
This picture was taken from the island, which used to be a kilometre away from mainland Tyre. Today they are joined. The way it happened is an amazing fulfilment of prophecy. The prophet Ezekiel uses king of Tyre as a type of Satan and his kingdom. In other words, the literal ruler of Tyre becomes a type or example of the antitypical ruler of this world, the devil. A type is always a smaller reality helping us to understand a greater reality.
While the cruel Tyre was at the zenith of her power and wealth and prestige a prophet by the name of Ezekiel wrote this startling prophecy from Babylon in the year 592 BC.
Ezekiel 26:3, 4 “…Behold, I…will cause many nations to come up against thee…And they shall destroy the walls of Tyrus, and break down her towers…”
The Phoenicians worshipped Baal, the god of fertility. They had faith in him that he would protect their mighty city. They even sacrificed their little ones to him. They also worshipped the patron goddess of sexual love, called Ashtoreth. Later on the Greeks called her Aphrodite. The Babylonians called her Ishtar.
And they named their main gate after her, the Ishtar gate. And today we have the word Easter, from the ancient word Ishtar. When I took a picture of this modern citizen of Tyre, I thought of the potency of the words of the prophecy of Ezekiel. It predicted the impossibility the destruction of the greatest coastal city of antiquity. Let’s read on:
Ezekiel 26:12 “They will plunder your wealth and loot your merchandise; they will break down your walls and demolish your fine houses and throw your stones, timber and rubble into the sea.”
You are looking at an unfinished column from Baalbek, called Hajar El Quibly. The Stone of the pregnant woman. Quite enormous. These ladies thought that a close contact with this pillar might increase their fertility. I’m cannot tell you what the outcome was.
No wonder the Phoenicians ignored the prophecy. Who would bother to dump a 2000-ton pillar into the sea? If the temples and buildings at Baalbek were so enormous how much greater would the construction at Tyre be! But God’s unfailing Word said that the city would be dumped into the sea and we can believe it.
And here we see the literal fulfilment of a city that was really dumped into the sea. Please bear in mind that the prophet Ezekiel is using the ruler of Tyre as a type of Lucifer, the great prince of this world.
And if we know how ancient Tyre came to its end, it will help us understand how Satan and his kingdom will one day come to an end. How was this prophecy of the destruction of the wicked Tyre fulfilled? How did God stop them from offering precious human beings to the god of Moloch where they were burned alive?
The clay tablets discovered at ancient Babylon tell us that Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to the city of Tyre round about 583 BC. The siege lasted some 13 years before he could destroy the city.
The Phoenicians abandoned the old site and built a new city on the 140 acres island, one kilometre off the mainland.
Nebuchadnezzar fulfilled only the first part of the prophecy by destroying the city of Tyre on the mainland. The ruins of ancient Tyre instead of being dump into the sea remained there for almost three centuries, challenging the authenticity of Bible prophecy.
The prophet Daniel, who was a contemporary of the prophet Ezekiel, predicted that the Medo Persians would overthrow Babylon. It happened in 539 BC. But the ruins of ancient Tyre was still on dry land instead of in the sea.
But when the great prophetic clock struck, Alexander the Great defeated the Medo-Persian army at three successive battles. Granicus 334 BC. Issus 333. Arbela or Irbil in 331.
The nearby countries were so terrified at the tremendous speed with which he conquered the world that they surrendered before he even reached them.
But there was one king who would not surrender. The king of the new Tyre, who lived on the island one kilometre off shore. Guess what this great general did. He ordered his soldiers to build him a causeway to the island. And guess how they did it? They dumped the ruins of ancient Tyre into the see.
In my minds eye I see those strong Greeks soldiers dragging the ruins of the ancient city of Tyre into the waters of the Mediterranean Sea. Eventually they reached the island and after a battle of seven months conquered the rebel.
Meyer, in his book “Ancient History” page 121 writes: “Alexander the Great, after a most memorable siege captured the city of Tyre, and reduced it to ruins in B.C. 332. She never recovered from the blow. The larger part of the site of the once great city is now bare as the top of a rock; a place where the few fishermen who still frequent the spot spread their nets to dry”
Every time I visit Tyre during low tide and see the ruins the words of words of Ezekiel 26:1 come to my mind: “I will make you a bare rock, and you will become a place to spread fishing nets. You will never be rebuilt, for I the Lord have spoken, declares the Sovereign Lord.” What you are seeing right now, invites you to place your trust in the sure word of prophecy. The narrow causeway that Alexander
the Great built, grew bigger and bigger with the lapse of years. And this is what it looks like after more than two thousand years. You are looking at a fulfilled prophecy.
Before we look into the eschatological message of Tyre, the end time message let me quickly explain the concept of types in the Bible.
For instance, the ancient high priest is a type of Christ, the antitypical heavenly High Priest. The blood that the earthly high priest sprinkled on the Ark of the Covenant is a type of Christ’s life, which He offered up to meet the demands of His transgressed law.
A type helps us to understand the greater reality, the antitype. Inspiration saw it fit to use earthly objects to help us understand the invisible heavenly realities.
In a future lecture we are going to study about a woman who sits on a scarlet coloured beast with ten horns and seven heads. Eventually this great harlot, who also sits on water, will be destroyed by the ten horns and they will over lament her. When you read Revelation 17 and 18 you will discover 24 references to Ezekiel 26, 27 and 28.
In other words. If I possess knowledge of the fall of ancient Tyre and its prince, I will be able to understand the eventual fall of the great apostate religious system called Babylon at the end of time, as well as the ultimate fate of Satan.
And now for the greatest revelation of the devil in the Old Testament. I’m going to read from verse 1 of chapter 28 and you will notice how the prophet first speaks to the literal ruler of literal Tyre and then how he switches over to invisible ruler the devil who controlled the prince of Tyre.
Ezekiel 28:1,2 “The word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, say to the PRINCE of Tyre, thus says the Lord God; Because your heart is proud, and you have said, ‘I am a god, I sit in the seat of the gods, in the heart of the seas’ yet you are but a man, and no god, though you consider yourself as wise as a god.”
It was common practise in those days for a ruler to declare himself a god. This was especially true for the pharaohs. Can we expect a repetition of this kind of religious blasphemy at the end of time during the great Babylonian apostasy? Yes!
Verse 5 7 “By your great wisdom in trade you have increased your wealth, and your heart has become proud in your wealth therefore thus says the Lord God: Because you consider yourself as wise as a god, therefore, behold, I will bring strangers upon you, the most terrible of the nations, and they shall draw their swords against the beauty of your wisdom and defile your splendour.”
Can we expect a magnificent end-time-religious apostate system that will be wealthy and proud, and doing business on a world wide scale? Yes. This is what Revelation 13 tells us.
But eventually the supporters of this false religious system will discover that they have been deceived and will destroy the harlot.
I am reading from verses 8-10 while you are looking at some of the tombs at Tyre: “They shall thrust you down into the Pit, and you shall die the death of the slain in the heart of the seas.
Will you still say, I am a god, in the presence of those who slay you, though you are but a man, and no god, in the hands of those who wound you? You shall die the death of the uncircumcised by the hand of foreigners; for I have spoken, says the Lord God.”
This is a typical cultic sculpture. A nude lady with a snake around her. These sensual as well as other terrible cruel practises caused the fall of the people and the prince of Tyre who thought he was divine.
In Revelation 12 we read about the dragon persecuting the woman because she does not worship the way he wants her to worship. It is very important to acquaint yourself with these prophecies concerning the end time. Let’s go back to the Ezekiel 28:11,12.
While the prophet saw the character and activities of the literal prince of Tyre in vision, inspiration lifted the veil between the seen and the unseen. And the prophet was permitted to see the invisible yet powerful being, the devil that the prince of Tyre served. The entire mood of chapter 28 changes. Listen to it:
Verse 11,12 “Moreover the word of the Lord came to me: Son of man, raise a lamentation over the king of Tyre, and say to him, Thus says the Lord God: You were the signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.”
This is the greatest revelation of the origin of Satan: his original perfection, his rebellion, his fall, his activities on our planet and his eventual destruction.
When he addressed the literal ruler of Tyre in verse 2, he spoke about the PRINCE. Now when he addresses the spiritual ruler of Tyre, he speaks about the KING.
Verse 13 tells us from whence Lucifer came: “You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering, carnelian, topaz, and jasper, chrysolite, beryl, and onyx, sapphire, carbuncle, and emerald; and wrought in gold were your settings and your engravings. On the day that you were created they were prepared.”
Before Lucifer chose the way of self pride, he was the most beautiful creature ever created. He lived in the presence of his Creator. God did not create a devil, Lucifer became one by choice.
On top of the Ark of the Covenant in the earthly sanctuary, there were two angels called cherubim who guarded the holy law of God. They represented real angels who respectfully guard God’s law in heaven. Did you know that Lucifer occupied this most solemn and responsible and lofty position in heaven? Lets read verse 14,15:
“You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you. You were on the holy mount of God; you walked among the fiery stones. “You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you.
Verse 17 “You heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendour. So I threw you to the earth; I made a spectacle of you before kings.
What a tragic story. He lived in the very presence of God. He saw God’s perfect character of love. Instead of allowing his beauty to make him humble, he became proud. The next two verses tell us about the destruction of this once beautiful being.
Verses 18,19 “…So I made a fire come out from you, and it consumed you, and I reduced you to ashes on the ground in the sight of all who were watching…you have come to a horrible end and will be no more.”
I’m looking forward to the time when the devil will be completely destroyed and everything will revert back to perfection, harmony and peace. In a future lecture from the book of Revelation we will study about an actual war that was started by Lucifer in heaven. We will study about the great battle between Christ and Satan on Calvary where he received a deadly wound. We will also look into the battle of Armageddon where Christ will be the final victor.
In the meantime you and I must guard against the wiles of this deadly enemy. He is not a myth, but real being who is all out to destroy us. If ever there was a time to study the Scriptures, it is now. If ever there was a time for us to stay close to Christ, it is now.
DESTRUCTIVE POWER OF FALSE RELIGION
Let me tell you how king Etbaal and his daughter Jezebel destroyed Israel spiritually. It is of vital importance because the devil is still using this successful method.
At this very site of ancient Samaria an Israelite king by the name of Ahab lived. Etbaal, king of Tyre who was also a priest of Ashtoreth, the goddess of sexual love, lured him into a relationship with his daughter. This was the beginning of the end as far as the king and his people were concerned.
The earlier part of the book of Revelation warns against the destroying influence of Jezebel, in other words her false doctrines. The latter part warns against the wine of the false doctrine of the great harlot. The prophet John borrows his imagery from the Old Testament.
NAMES OF GODS CHANGED BUT NOT THEIR CHARACTER
While you are looking at some of the symbols of the ancient gods of Phoenicia, let me tell you how their names changed through the age. Lets ascent these steps and pay a visit to the temple of Jupiter.
Six of the original columns still stand in an unbroken row on the south side. They are 22 meters high and more than 2 metres in diameter. How did they get that beam up there? This is what my telephoto lens picked up. When I looked at this, I thought about the zeal with which these people worshipped their gods.
When the Phoenician god of Baal disappeared from the scene of history the Romans revived him, and called him Jupiter and the Greeks called him Zeus. In essence and character false religions have not changed. Only the names changed.
Archaeologists tell us that Jezebel trained her Baal priests here at Baalbek before bringing them to Samaria.
This is the Roman temple of Venus. Her Greek name is Aphrodite. And guess what? Her Phoenician name is Ashtoreth. And because she was the patron goddess of sexual love, prostitution as a religious rite was always practised in these temples.
How do we control the evil tendencies our fallen natures? As I looked at this huge cornerstone of the Jupiter temple my thoughts went out to another cornerstone, called Jesus Christ.
When I rely on Him for help and deny myself, I am safe. But when I build my faith on an emotional and a sensual kind of religious experience, I may follow in the dangerous footsteps of the worshippers of the heathen religions.
This huge pillar was discarded by the builders because of a crack. I told my daughter that the large component of emotion and sensualism destroyed millions of ancient worshippers. May God protect us against the crack of sensualism in our lives and in our worship. May we practise simple trust in Christ and His righteousness.
What happened to the sensual worship of Baal that caused the ruin of the ten tribes of Israel? A prophet by the name of Elijah preaches the message of Christ our righteousness and destroyed the deception.
The only reminder of this destructive cult at Baalbek is the ruined site of Baalbek. On the other hand the message of salvation through Jesus Christ is well and alive.
Elijah who testified here at Samaria is a type of the end-time Elijah’s who will be alive when Jesus comes again. On Mount Carmel Elijah brought only one sacrifice, the Lamb. End time Elijah’s will also bring just one sacrifice, the Lamb.
It’s an inspiration to visit the Cedars of Lebanon which grow high up on the mountains. Great men like Nebuchadnezzar and Solomon came here to fetch this special kind of wood for their temples.
During one of my visits I noticed the tragic death of one of these giants. He reminded me of the spiritual death of people. When you die spiritually you loose all your leaves of kindness.
Is there any thing one can do to give a dead cedar tree new value? Is there hope for a man or a woman who died spiritually?
Yes there is. A Lebanese artist by the name of Rudy Rachme decided to create an image of a human being on the dead Cedar tree. With a few slight alterations you see the back of someone who weeps. Let’s look at the other side of the trunk to see who it is.
With just a few alterations on the dead wood Rudi Rachme produced the face of a man. This simple work of art made a tremendous difference to this dead tree. He looked at another branch of the dead tree and saw another opportunity to produce this exceptional man.
What was the artist going to do about the most ugly and most unreachable branch of the dead Cedar? And what can God the heavenly Artist do for me, the most ugly and most unreachable sinner?
The artist Rudi Rachme changed that ugly dead branch into the most beautiful symbol of all, Jesus dying on the cross.
“When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of glory died, my richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride. See, from His head, His hands, His feet, Sorrow and love flow mingled down; did e’er such love and sorrow meet? Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
Since I, who was undone and lost, have pardon through His name and word; forbid it, then, that I should boast, save in the cross of Christ, my Lord.
Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were a tribute far too small; Love so amazing, so divine, Demands my life, my soul, my all.”
Are you a dead tree? Has sin destroyed you? God the Father the Master Artist offers to reproduce the image of His Son in your life and in my life. What is our response to His offer?