Her Earnings will be Set Apart for the LORD

23: 15-18

    DIG: Babylon, the symbol of strength and prestige in the East, was beaten by Assyria in 710 BC and again in 689 BC. What effect would recalling the destruction of both Babylon in the East and Tyre in the West have on Judah as they faced the Assyrian advance? What would they associate with the 70 years? In what sense will the LORD deal with Tyre? What will happen as a result of Tyre’s restoration? How does this compare with what Isaiah said about Egypt and Assyria (see 19:23-25)?

   REFLECT: Read Jonah 3:9-10. As a result of reading the Oracles Against the Nations in Chapters 13 to 23, could any of the nations mentioned by Isaiah have repented and been spared as Nineveh had been? Why or why not? How has the LORD restored you, or things in your life that you thought were gone forever? Was He glorified in it? Why or why not?

    After describing the destruction of Tyre, Isaiah now describes its restoration for a season. There is now a change in genre. Up to now he has written in Hebrew poetry, but now he begins writing in Hebrew prose. As in the oracle against Egypt (19:1-25), Isaiah adds a postscript to Tyre’s announcement of destruction (23:1-14). It is an addendum of Judah’s submission to ADONAI. His word is crystal clear. She was not to envy Tyre for her great wealth. Ultimately, everything Tyre owned will be returned to God and enjoyed by His people (2:2-3, 45:14, 49:22, 60:9-11). This section is a fitting summary to the Oracles Against the Nations in Chapters 13 to 23. Judah need not, in fact must not, prostitute herself to the Gentile nations. Instead, she should be true to her husband, the King of nations. If she will only obey His word, she will find that the nations, in fact, will come to her.

    At that time, Tyre will be forgotten for seventy years, the span of a king’s life. After Babylon destroyed Tyre, it was in ruins for seventy years, just as Judah was to be in ruins for seventy years. And during Babylon’s supremacy, for those seventy years, Tyre will be insignificant. But at the end of these seventy years . . . Tyre once again would become a leader of sea trade. Like a prostitute who had been forgotten, she returned to ply her trade singing the song of the prostitute (23:15). The prostitute is an apt symbol of Tyre, where everything she does is for money.

    Take up a harp, walk through the city, O prostitute forgotten! Play the harp well, sing many a song, so that you will be remembered (23:16). But then Isaiah says that Tyre will rise again like an old prostitute forced to return to her trade because of hunger, singing to attract her lovers. She will prostitute herself in the sense that she will sell her merchandise to whoever will pay for it. After seventy years, Tyre will again play the part of the prostitute in world trade. She will again regain the supremacy she had before her destruction. And much of this merchandise will be corrupting.

    In a figurative way, the music of Tyre will have an effect. After a dormant period she will realize something of her former importance as a trading city of the world. At the end of seventy years, ADONAI will deal with Tyre. She will return to her hire as a prostitute and will ply her trade with all the kingdoms on the face of the earth (23:17).

    Although she will once again be a prostitute, this time the profits from her trading would somehow benefit those who feared ADONAI. There was a new Tyre in the mind of God. Yet her profit and her earnings will be set apart for the LORD (23:18a). To be set apart means to be holy. This was the very word engraved on a plate of pure gold worn by the high priest (see my commentary on Exodus Gc – Make a Plate and Engrave On It: Holy to the LORD). A new spirit replaces the old mercenary one, not horded, but given freely. There would be a new harmony between Tyre and Zion for a season. But, alas, the island city of unprecedented wealth is gone and there is no mention of the nation of Tyre in the Messianic Kingdom.

    The fact that her earnings will be set apart for the LORD seems to go against the Pentateuch where it says: You must not bring the earnings of a female prostitute . . . into the house of ADONAI . . . because the LORD your God detests it (Deuteronomy 23:18). A prostitute’s earnings could not be given as an offering in the Tabernacle or the Temple. It is important to remember, however, that prostitution is symbolic of Tyre’s business practice of doing anything for money, and that there is nothing inherently immoral about trade or business.

    Her earnings will not be stored up or hoarded. Her profits will be for the benefit of those who live before ADONAI, for abundant food and fine clothes (23:18b). Who are those who live before the LORD? They were the Levites in the Temple of the LORD. Both Tyre and Judah (because they both came under the same domination of Babylonia), arise again after seventy years. Tyre arises to rebuild her trade and Judah arises to rebuild her Temple. At that point, they come together and some of the merchandise (not all) of Tyre becomes holy, or set apart for the LORD. Ezra 3:7 tells us that, Then (the Jews) gave money to the masons and carpenters, and gave food and drink and oil to the people of Sidon and Tyre, so that they would bring cedar logs by sea from Lebanon to Joppa, as authorized by Cyrus the King of Persia. The ships of Tyre will bring the cedars of Lebanon to the port of Joppa to be used to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. So it was during the period when Ezra came back from the seventy years of the Babylonian captivity that Tyre, for a season, was used by the LORD to rebuild His Temple.

    So it is to God that His people should look, not to the nations, for ultimately the Gentiles must look to Him as well. Moreover, all the wealth, which Gentile nations have amassed with such difficulty and effort must eventually be His to reallocate as He pleases. So in the final analysis, if the glory of the nations is nothing (Chapters 13-14), if the scheming of the nations is nothing (Chapters 14 and 18), if the wisdom of the nations is nothing (Chapters 18-19), if the vision of the nation is nothing (Chapters 21-22), and if the wealth of the nations is nothing (Chapter 23), then the questions is: Why trust the nations? The answer is clear. There is no reason to do so.81

 

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