How do you respond to Ezekiel 26:1–21?

There are a number of specific prophecies against various cities in the Old Testament which were fulfilled (though some were not, see Jer. 18:6–10). The Lord’s prophecy against Tyre is one of the most impressive. The Lord says Nebuchadnezzar will ravage the seaport (vs. 7–11) and tear down all the buildings and throw the rubble into the sea (vs. 12–13, 19). Tyre will ultimately be made into “a bare rock, and…will become a place to spread fishnets.” It “will never be rebuilt” (vs. 4) and will, in fact, never again be found (vs. 21).

Not everything spoken of in this verse was fulfilled in the siege of Nebuchadnezzar. It was ultimately fulfilled by Alexander the Great more than two hundred years later. He pushed what little was left of Tyre after Nebuchadnezzar’s devastating siege into the sea as a means of building a land bridge to the island off the coast of the old city. Since he did not have a naval fleet, Alexander needed a way to reach and conquer the inhabitants of this small island where the old seaport used to thrive. The location now is indeed “a bare rock” with only a few small fishing villages to boast of. And you can guess where they spread their nets to dry!

Amazing prophecies like this demonstrate that Yahweh is the one true God and help prove that the Bible is his inspired Word. They exalt God’s sovereign control over world history and his unfathomable wisdom in using the plans of people to accomplish his own objectives. But we undermine the full magnitude of this divine wisdom if we reduce such prophecies to “crystal ball” previews of the future. A God who can creatively weave the free decisions of people as a means of carrying out his providential plan is greater than a God who needs to have everything settled ahead of time to carry out his plan.

In my estimation, as Alexander the Great was planning his campaign in this region, the sovereign Lord of creation was seizing this opportunity to fulfill the prophecy against Tyre he had given two centuries earlier. How much or how little supernatural intervention it may have taken for the Lord to ensure that Alexander the Great would fulfill these prophecies is uncertain. But if he had to influence him at all, there is no reason to think that he had to do it against the vicious character this king had already freely acquired. God is so shrewd he can use the wickedness of people’s hearts to accomplish his own ends (Gen. 50:20).

Of course, had the king and the people of Tyre repented of their sin, it might have been that none of this prophecy would have come to pass (see Jer. 18:7–10). If so, this prophecy against Tyre would have been understood along the same lines as the Lord’s canceled prophecies against other cities and nations who repented. The conditions would have been met to change God’s mind about Tyre’s decreed destruction.

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