ISAIAH 23, 24, 25, 26 and 27
Tyre was the major seaport and trading centre on the Mediterranean coast of the Middle East. It was founded before 2000 BC and was a centre of colonisation that included Carthage in North Africa. A substantial part of Tyre was originally built on two rocky outcrop islands half a mile distant from the mainland shore, and it was heavily fortified. Consequently, in 572 BC, Nebuchadnezzar (of Babylon) captured the mainland part of the city but, not until Alexander the Great, in 332 BC, was the island fortress captured and destroyed. Sidon was another powerful city on that coastline, 25 miles further north. Tarshish was possibly Tartessus, in Spain – the place that Jonah may have been fleeing to.
The message from God is that Tyre is a proud city, always seeking to maximise its profits, regardless of morality and method, and that he will personally humble it. This judgment applies also to Tyre’s colonies and neighbouring cities, including Cyprus. The destruction of Tyre will occur swiftly and last for seventy years – incidentally, the length of Judah’s exile in Babylon – and her money will eventually find its way into God’s hands. All this in Isaiah 23. There is much more detail about Tyre’s destiny in Ezekiel 26 – 29.
The next four chapters in Isaiah, 24-27, speak of the Last Days blessing and judgment upon the earth by the Lord. The surface of the earth will be removed (rather like an old road surface is cut back to its foundations), and the material discarded, since it has been defiled by its human inhabitants, who have broken all covenants with God – in particular that in Genesis 9:8-17. The earth is under a curse of decay, as are all its life forms. After that, the whole structure is shaken and split, broken up and rejected, along with the punishment of the heavenly powers on the day of the Lord’s return.
Chapter 25 seems to be an interlude in the prophecy but may be a description of the happiness of the righteous, who have been spared this destruction and rejoice over God’s justice and mercy. One of the often-forgotten truths of scripture (see 2 Peter 3:13) is that in the Age to Come, there will be a completely new earthly creation – permeated by a new Heaven too – the home of the Righteous! There will be seas and mountains, feasting and celebrating, with everything you could want, and without everything you don’t want! In particular, the ‘shroud’ that covers all nations – which we call ‘death’ – will be swallowed up and removed from our sight and our presence for ever!
More celebration and praise in Isaiah 26! Just towards the end of that chapter are some telling verses: “We have not brought salvation to the earth, and the people of the world have not come to life. But your dead will live, Lord; their bodies will rise – let those who dwell in the dust wake up and shout for joy – your dew is like the dew of the morning; the earth will give birth to her dead”. Throughout the prophecy of Isaiah, there are long-distance references to the restoration of all things and the general resurrection of humans on the Last Day. Life cannot be lived without hope, and without some knowledge of the real life beyond the present age.