Avraham ben Yaakov
EZEKIEL CHAPTER 27
"Now you, son of man, take up a lamentation for TZOR." (v 1). Ezekiel's prophecy in the previous chapter about the coming downfall of Tyre is now followed in the present chapter with an elaborate allegory about the calamity that was to befall this most successful ancient commercial superpower.
Tyre was a heavily fortified Phoenician island city situated "in the heart of the seas" approximately 3.5 miles from the Lebanese mainland. A line of mainland suburbs provided timber and water for the mother city, which amassed enormous wealth from its maritime trade. As we see from our present chapter, every kind of exotic luxury product poured into Tyre from all parts of the then-known world. The locations of her many different suppliers and trading partners as mentioned in this chapter stretch from Persia (v 10) and Media (= Kilmad v 23) in the east to Greece (v 13), Italy (=Elisha v 7) and Germany (= Togarmah, "Germamia" v 14) in the west, and from S. Russia (=Meshech, cf. Muscovy, v 13) in the north to the Red Sea coastal regions of Arabia (v 21) and Africa (Phut=Libya? Somalia ? v 10, Sheva= Ethiopia v 23) in the south.
Tyre 's great wealth and strength derived from her strategic position with "your borders in the heart of the sea" (v 4). "Because Tyre was situated in the sea and was destroyed in her place, Ezekiel depicts her allegorically as a most magnificent ship which was overloaded with cargo and was sunk by an east wind (see v 26), and because of the weight of the ship the sailors were unable to save it" (Metzudas David on v 5; cf. Rashi on v 26).
The prophesied downfall of Tyre was to come about because "you have said, I am of perfect beauty" (verse 3). "Until now, everyone used to say that Jerusalem was 'of perfect beauty, the joy of all the earth' (Lamentations 2:15), but now (after the destruction of the Temple by Nebuchadnezzar) you arrogantly say, 'I am of perfect beauty'" (Rashi ad loc.).
In verses 4-25 of our present chapter, the prophet paints a detailed picture of the exceptional wealth and glory that led to Tyre 's swelling pride, providing us with an abundance of fascinating information about the sophistication of trade and commerce in Biblical times. We should not think for a moment that the people of those times were simple and primitive.
"The rowers brought you into great waters: the EAST wind has broken you in the heart of the seas" (v 26). Tyre became subject to Nebuchadnezzar, who came from the east and to whom she paid tribute, after which she fell under the power of Persia , also in the east.
In verses 27ff Ezekiel prophesies that all of Tyre 's wealth together with her sailors and men of war would "fall into the heart of the seas" (i.e. they would fall prey to other powers) causing horror and consternation among all her former trading partners and allies, who would tear out their hair and rend their garments in bitter mourning over the fearful destruction of such a glorious, prosperous world power on account of her overweening arrogance.
After having addressed the CITY of TZOR in the previous chapter, the prophet is now told to turn to her RULER, the "Prince of TZOR", who was the very epitome of the maritime empire's arrogance. "Because your heart is lifted up and you have said 'I am a god, I sit in the seat of God in the heart of the seas', but you are a man and not a god, yet you set your heart as the heart of God" (v 2).
According to tradition, the "Prince of TZOR" is none other than Hiram king of Tyre , who was a friend of King David and collaborated with King Solomon in the building of the Temple in Jerusalem , and who is said to have lived for a thousand years! We learn from verse 15 of the present chapter that initially, "you were perfect in your ways from the day that you were created until iniquity was found in you". To have been a friend of the righteous King David and to have played a key role in the building of Solomon's Temple , Hiram must indeed have been a most exceptional CHASSID UMOS HA-OLAM (a saint of the nations of the world). Indeed our sages said that Hiram was one of thirteen who did not taste the taste of death (together with Enoch, Eliezer servant of Abraham, Methuselah, Eved Melech HaKushi, Batia daughter of Pharaoh, Serah daughter of Asher, the three sons of Korach, Elijah, Mashiach and Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi - Yalkut Shimoni). Hiram is listed as one of nine who entered the Garden of Eden while they were still alive (Avos d'Rabbi Nathan). But the same source cites the view that Hiram was removed from there and his place was taken by R. Yehoshua ben Levi (Avos d'Rabbi Nathan).
"You have been in Eden , the garden of God ; every precious stone was your covering." (v 13). This verse lists ten different kinds of precious stones, and is the foundation of the midrashic teaching that when God brought Eve to Adam in the Garden of Eden, He made him ten CHUPOS (marriage canopies). This midrash (which conceals much more than it reveals) is based upon the style of DRUSH known as "understanding one thing from another". The ten canopies are not mentioned directly in the Biblical text in Genesis, but since Ezekiel reveals the adornments enjoyed by Hiram in Eden , the midrash deduces that these were the adornments that God brought for Adam and Eve.
The above-mentioned view that Hiram was removed from Eden is also expressed in a lengthy midrash in Yalkut Shimoni giving a detailed description of an enormous phantasmagorical "sky-scraper" structure of seven "firmaments" that he built out of steel, glass and other materials, plating it with gold and studding it with precious stones, in order to provide a fitting throne for himself. This description brings to mind many modern expressions of the same kind of arrogance, such as the late lamented World Trade Center . The midrash concludes: "Hiram became arrogant because he had sent cedars for the Temple . The Holy One blessed be He said, I will destroy My House so that Hiram will not be able to vaunt himself over Me. What was his end? The Holy One blessed be He brought up against him Nebuchadnezzar, who raped his mother in front of his eyes and took him down from his throne and used to cut off two finger-breadths of his flesh every day and dip them in vinegar and make him eat them until he died a horrible death. And what happened to his palaces? The Holy One blessed be He tore apart the earth and hid them away for the righteous in the world to come" (Yalkut Shimoni).
In the words of Rabbi Yitzchak Luria (the "ARI"): "The matter of Hiram king of Tyre's arrogance arouses great wonder, but it may be understood in conjunction with teachings about Pharaoh king of Egypt, who was also very arrogant and said he was a god (see Ezekiel 29:3). Now all pride is in the neck (GARON, 'throat'), as it says, 'the daughters of Zion .walk with outstretched necks' (Isaiah 3:16). Now Pharaoh and Hiram are both rooted in the husks (KELIPOS) that have a hold on the neck of Zeir Anpin. This is why Pharaoh is called king of Egypt (MITZRAYIM) because Egypt is the "throat", which is very narrow (TZAR) indeed. Likewise TZOR is from the same root as MATZOR, like MITZRAYIM. The letters of Pharaoh rearranged make up the word OREPH (back of the neck), while the gematria of HIRAM is the same as that of GARON (with the kolel), because Hiram is on the side of the throat (the front of the neck) and not at the back (OREPH). All the husks that have their hold at the throat - causing constricted consciousness (MOCHIN D'KATNUS) - are greater than all the other husks, and their level is very great. This is why Pharaoh and Hiram, who both have their hold here, were very exalted and had the arrogance to turn themselves into gods. Pharaoh said, 'I do not know HASHEM' because he had no hold on the level of the expanded consciousness of HAVAYAH, and likewise Hiram said, 'I have sat in the seat of God (ELOKIM)' because his hold was on the level of ELOKIM, i.e. in the 'throat' but not in the head on the level of Havayah" (Sha'ar HaPsukim on Ezekiel ch 28).
Verses 20-24 prophesy the destruction of Tyre 's northern neighbor of Sidon , which would remove a pricking briar from the side of the House of Israel. (The "pricks" were well felt in Israel during the 2006 Lebanon war, when many rockets fired by Hizbullah forces from Sidon caused considerable damage.)
The downfall of Israel 's proud neighbors will have the see-saw effect of facilitating the return of the House of Israel from their exile among the nations (vv 25-26). Speedily in our times! Amen.
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By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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