A Study in the Word – Isaiah 23:1-18


Tyre and Sidon formed the commercial capital of the Mediterranean region. This oracle is a fine example of judgment falling at the point where a strength had created pride of accomplishment. In two lament songs, Isaiah warned these cities of unavoidable punishment for their unrelenting sin (23:1-2).

The first lament: Tarshish (in Spain) was a trading partner. If Tyre were destroyed, the economy of Tarshish also would suffer. Tyre was the “market of nations” (23:3), but her economic base was tied strictly to trade. She focused on economic wealth rather than building her families (23:4). The collapse of Tyre and Sidon would have widespread effects on the economies of the entire Mediterranean area. From Egypt to Spain there would be anguish (23:5-7).

Tyre was an economic kingpin, but pride would lead to her downfall (23:8). She relied on wealth and purchased favors with bribes. Yahweh had two aspects to His plan: “to defile the pride of all beauty, To despise all the honored of the earth” (23:9). Perhaps Tarshish may see better days (23:10), but not Phoenicia (23:11-12). What is to happen to Babylon will also happen to Tyre (23:13).

The second lament: Tarshish will need to find a new economic base (23:14). Her partner Tyre will only be thought of in songs for seventy years (23:15-16). Even this reprieve will make no impact on the hearts or actions of the people (23:17).

Judah as well as Tyre needs to hear and heed Isaiah’s message. God intends that the wealth of a nation be used to honor Him. In the final judgment wealth will return to the One who gave it. Therefore, trust should not be placed in one’s ability, in what one has, or in the influence wealth can buy, but in the Lord who controls the world, its economies, and its nations (23:18).

Isaiah 13-23 begins with Babylon and closes with Tyre, but in each oracle Judah is also in Isaiah’s mind. When used wrongly, military might and economic wealth do not produce security. Judah must not trust in anything, any power, or any achievement; she must only trust in God. This message is not always explicit in these chapters, but it is always present. The message is intended to be heard by all who “dwell in the presence of the LORD” (23:18).

Dr. David Moore is a Baptist preacher in Pampa and an online instructor in Bible and theology for Taylor University and Nations University. Email: dm5867se@outlook.com