For all her brutality,
Tyre had represented stability.
—Daniel I Block (Ezekiel vol. 2)
One of the worst injustices in life is the breakdown of relationships into violence. I could recite the standard stereotype: drunken husband / fear-ridden wife—but this tragedy plays out in many different ways. The result is often predictable, though: the person who has been abused almost always returns to his or her abuser. To the outsider, this behaviour is ludicrous—even obscene—but it happens.
The first 14 verses of Ezekiel 26 dealt with God’s judgment on Tyre. The next few verses deal with how the surrounding nations responded to her demise. You would expect the beaten down nations to rejoice at the collapse of an oppressor. But strangely, they are shaken to their core and mourn.
. . .
These four short verses show four responses to the collapse of Tyre:
- As the news of Tyre’s fall spreads throughout the world, the nations tremble in fear.
- The rulers of other nations step down from their thrones at the news, and exchange their royal robes for the colourless garb of mourners.
- The rulers of the surrounding nations sat down on the ground and literally trembled at the horror of the news.
- The surrounding rulers will sang a death song: a lament for the fallen oppressor.
How you have vanished from the seas,
O city renowned,
once mighty on the sea,
you and your inhabitants,
who imposed your terror
on all the mainland!
Now the coastlands tremble
on the day of your fall;
the coastlands by the sea
are dismayed at your passing.
(v. 17-18, NRSV)
. . .
Were those nations right to mourn? It’s not a question Ezekiel ever bothered to answer. Often in Ezekiel we have statements of fact instead of moral judgments. In this case, human nature played out the way it always has: shock and fear at the loss of an oppressor.
In addition to being an oppressor, Tyre was the master of a number of trade routes. Tyre was the nation that kept things flowing smoothly. Sure, she could be a tough mistress—but she got the job done. Now that she was gone, the nations that were dependent on her oversight collapsed to the ground in bewilderment.
. . .
Can you see yourself in those surrounding nations? How much are we dependent upon the conveniences the world offers us? Do we wink at a little tyranny by big-business when we end up with a 30% off sale on our end? If some of the major world-wide oppressors began to fall—like dominoes before God’s finger—would we seize the opportunity to spread justice in the world, or morn the loss of an oppressor?
. . .
Almighty God, in comparison to you, the strongest forces in this world are nothing. Help us to be wise as we challenge the doctrine of modern-day oppressors. In Jesus’ name, Amen.