Isaiah 23 Commentary

Judgment on Phoenicia (23:1-18)

Commerce was the source of Phoenicia’s power. Its merchant navy was well known throughout the ancient world, and Phoenician traders sailed to ports far and near. Phoenicia’s own ports, Tyre and Sidon, were among the most prosperous cities of the time, but because of their commercial greed and corruption they too will be destroyed.

The prophet pictures the scene in various places when Tyre falls. Phoenician traders who have sailed to Cyprus are shocked when they hear the news. The sea without Phoenician ships is like a mother without children. Egypt panics on hearing the news, because her valuable grain trade is now ruined (23:1- 5).

In former times the Phoenicians made colonies of other countries, but now they are forced to flee to other countries in search of refuge (6-7). The proud people are humiliated, and this humiliation has been brought upon them by God himself (8-9). In the far off port of Tarshish (in Spain) there is confusion and despair, because the city has depended much on Phoenician trade for its well-being. God has now destroyed Phoenicia, and there will be no escape for its greedy merchants (10-12). The nation that God uses to carry out his judgment on Phoenicia is Babylon (Chaldea) (13-14).

After an interval Phoenicia will revive, and will show the same interest as formerly in commercial activities. The prophet likens these activities to those of a prostitute, since they are guided by immoral greed and selfish desires, and give no thought for God’s standards (15-17). Nevertheless, God will receive glory even from Phoenicia. In due course God’s people will benefit from the wealth and merchandise of Phoenicia, and they will dedicate some of this to God (18; cf. Matt 15:21-28; Acts 21:2-6).

Privacy Policy