Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Isaiah 23:14-18

Verse 14-18 “Howl, ye ships of Tarshish: for your strength is laid waste. And it shall come to pass in that day, that Tyre shall be forgotten seventy years, according to the days of one king: after the seventy years shall Tyre sing as an harlot. Take an harp, go about the city, thou harlot that hast been forgotten; make sweet melody, sing many songs, that thou mayest be remembered. And it shall come to pass after the end of seventy years, that the Lord will visit Tyre, and she shall turn to her hire, and shall commit fornication with all the kingdoms of the world upon the face of the earth. And her merchandise and her hire shall be holiness to the Lord, to eat sufficiently and for durable clothing.”

The ships of Tarshish are told to wail and howl (which is exactly what the merchant ships do in Revelation over the destruction of Babylon) for their major port of trade has been destroyed. Tyre is then forgotten for seventy years. While scholars try to make this fit the facts of what did happen in the past, it was not an exact fulfillment which leads us to the conclusion that there is a future fulfillment to this passage. Israel was taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar for seventy years, the number of years of their sin in not remembering to observe the Sabbath year rest of the land. (Found in book of Daniel) As the kingdom of Babylon lasted through the reign of one king’s family or dynasty, it was essentially the days of one king or kingdom. Tyre was also besieged by the Chaldees for thirteen years after the conquest of Israel had occurred. They finally came to an truce where Tyre acknowledged Babylon’s authority and paid a tribute, but was not conquered as Israel had been. Just as the Israelites were let go by Cyrus after the Medo-Persians conquered Babylon, so was Tyre released from the need to pay tribute and could go about their business on their own again. This however does not add up to seventy years for Tyre as it did for Israel, so the timing does not fit. Also, while Tyre may have traded with Israel, supplying their needs to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple, the profits from their trade were not dedicated to the Lord. They were dedicated to their own purses. So this verse still must be fulfilled as the rest of the passage does not truly apply to the past.

Now comes a true conundrum. We know that Babylon is not supposed to have any descendants left alive to carry on the name. It will only be inhabited by animals. So now we have to question, is the hypothesis that this passage is speaking of modern Babylon incorrect, or is it being more specific to its target than the entire country of America (if America is indeed Babylon)? Tyre was not an entire kingdom, it was simply a very wealthy, powerful port city. Could this verse be aimed at New York City? There was a vague description that seemingly better fit New Orleans in an early verse of the chapter, but some of that could apply equally well to New York City. NYC is also at the delta of a very muddy river, the Hudson River. While it is not near corn, which is what the product sold by Tyre for Egypt was, that may be stretching the comparison further than the Scripture allows. New York City ranks as the top global city in the world by the criteria that is used to determine the value of a city in the global arena. It is the pride of America and knowing some of the inhabitants of that city, I believe they think they are the pride of the world. Can they be separated out from America as Babylon when it comes to the prophecies that do not allow for her to ever rise again? Or does this speak of some other major port city? Given the description, I cannot think of another city that fits the description of such a wealthy, proud, port city as New York City. It is the crown jewel of the world if one accepts the ranking of global cities. But then, it says in Revelation that Babylon is the city that rules the kings of the world, so NYC would certainly fit the bill with the U.N. there. Here is where it gets confusing, and it is difficult to see about what city God may be speaking, unless there is another city or country that will rise to the same great height as NYC and America in the years (and I believe they are few) between now and the rise of antichrist. It must be remembered that I am not omniscient and all of this is hypothesis based on comparing Scripture to Scripture and applying logical deduction. There is plenty of room for error here.

If it is NYC (or maybe it is New Orleans, or some other port city on America's coastline) we need to ask, “Why would God need a port city in a place where there will be no inhabitants on the mainland?” The answer might simply be that no matter what the world will be like topologically after the Day of the Lord, there is a need for a port at this location for the sake of shipping. Maybe after seventy years the world will have gotten back on its feet enough to need a port of call for merchant ships at that location, as they need a stop over port to get to their destinations. It does say that the only purpose this city serves is to ply her trade by fornicating (in this case making money by selling her merchandise) with the rest of the world, only to then hand it over to the Lord so that his people may eat and be clothed. That seems to be her only purpose to exist. It does not seem that it is a great place where people take their families to go to live their lives, but that people live and serve there simply to service the port of call. It would seem that after seventy years, the Lord has mercy on the place, (obviously from that statement, God has had wrath on it before) and re-establishes it by giving it this job. Just as tax collecting was a “dirty” job, it may be that trading for profit is considered a less than holy type of job, (it is called fornicating after all) yet a job that must be done nonetheless.

There is another reference in the Bible that may refer to this same situation. Ps. 22:28-31 says, “For the kingdom is the Lord’s: and he is the governor among the nations. All they that be fat upon the earth shall eat and worship: all they that go down to the dust shall bow before him: and none can keep alive his own soul. A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation. They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done this.” This psalm is the one that speaks of Yeshua’s crucifixion. It ends with a prophecy about the millennium when the kingdoms will belong to the Lord. At the end it speaks of a seed, a remnant that will serve the Lord. It will be accounted or time will be marked off for them as tally marks to the length of a generation, which is thought in biblical understanding as seventy years. While some say a generation is forty years due to the wilderness wanderings, that is not quite correct. They were punished forty years because the Lord punished them a year for each day in which they searched the land. They searched for forty days, so their punishment was forty years. Also, the punishment only applied to those over twenty years of age, so the people of the generation that was punished would be at minimum, sixty years old when the punishment ended. Getting back to the verse, as to what it means that they are accounted to the Lord for a generation, I do not believe that this means that their service will only last seventy years. It says that they are accounted or time is marked off for a length of a generation or one assumes seventy years, then it says that they will come and declare the Lord’s righteousness. Either they only serve the Lord seventy years, or the only other conclusion is that it is seventy years before they begin to serve the Lord. They serve the Lord by declaring the Lord’s righteousness to the people who are yet to be born. They serve a holy purpose for the Lord. If that is what is meant here, that after seventy years this seed will serve the Lord, this verse could seem to be another verse referring to this small remnant group at Tyre whom the Lord will have serve Him in holiness by plying their trade for Him.

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