I’ve said before that ‘debunking’ isn’t that interesting to me as an activity. At the same time, I care passionately about truth and truth-telling. So when someone crowed that the Bible’s divine origin was demonstrated by the fact that it had prophesied that certain cities would be destroyed and never rebuilt, I immediately thought of Tyre. Formerly the capital of the Phoenicians, it is now in Lebanon, and called ‘Sour’. Here is what Ezekiel had to say about Tyre (in Chapter 26):
7 For thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will bring against Tyre from the north Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, king of kings, with horses and chariots, and with horsemen and a host of many soldiers. 8 He will kill with the sword your daughters on the mainland. He will set up a siege wall against you and throw up a mound against you, and raise a roof of shields against you. 9 He will direct the shock of his battering rams against your walls, and with his axes he will break down your towers. 10 His horses will be so many that their dust will cover you. Your walls will shake at the noise of the horsemen and wagons and chariots, when he enters your gates as men enter a city that has been breached. 11 With the hoofs of his horses he will trample all your streets. He will kill your people with the sword, and your mighty pillars will fall to the ground. 12 They will plunder your riches and loot your merchandise. They will break down your walls and destroy your pleasant houses. Your stones and timber and soil they will cast into the midst of the waters. 13 And I will stop the music of your songs, and the sound of your lyres shall be heard no more. 14 I will make you a bare rock. You shall be a place for the spreading of nets. You shall never be rebuilt, for I am the LORD; I have spoken, declares the Lord GOD.
It was actually Alexander who tore down the old city and threw it into the sea, building a causeway from the mainland out of the island that, with added silt, means Tyre is now a promontory rather than an island, but Nebuchadnezzar also attacked it, and in fact it has been destroyed or damaged a number of times, including in the wars in Lebanon in the past few decades.
But here’s a satellite photo of modern Tyre/Sour (click for bigness).
Clearly there’s a substantial small city there. The population is estimated at about 117,000, though the wartorn nature of the region means that accurate censuses are hard to come by.
There’s been a lot of tapdancing by people trying to save the prophecy: here are a few examples:
It does depend on ones perspective! Was the original city rebuilt into the thriving city it was once on a time??
Not sure about ancienct populations, but I’d be pretty surprised if the ancient city had 117,000 inhabitants.
The statement that Tyre will never be rebuilt means more than the restructuring of stones, wood and mortar. Tyre will never regain international prominence as a world trader and colonizer. She will never be a rich, prosperous, flourishing, world power as she was in Ezekiel’s day. The denial of rebuilding goes far beyond a mere architectural project. It must include making Tyre into the person she was in the early sixth century BC. It must be kept in mind that the meaning is “you will never be rebuilt,” not “the city will never be rebuilt.”
The statement in 26:14 does not deny there would be buildings on the island. It means that Tyre would never be rebuilt into the commercial superpower she was in Ezekiel’s day. It means that the palaces and temples of Ezekiel’s day would forever lie deep underneath the ground (and the water!), never to be revived. It would in no way be rebuilt into the prosperous, powerful living entity she was at the time the oracle was given.
Chapter 26 verse 14 says (in part): “I will make you a bare rock. You shall be a place for the spreading of nets.” Have another look at the satellite photo: bare rock?
Someone else (actually, I think it was the SDA Bible Commentary) then said ‘Oh well, the island has been rebuilt but the prophecy meant the city on the mainland”. But if the ‘Romanium Stadium’ shown in the satellite image marks the location of the old city (which makes sense) it is clear that the modern city extends considerably inland and around that. Some of that area has been preserved for archaeological reasons, not built over, but that would be rather clutching at straws in prophecy terms.
I could keep going, there are lots more examples. But they’re all ways of explaining away or dancing around the contradiction.
You can’t have it both ways, if you care about truth. If the warrant for the Bible’s prophecies being reliable is the real-world evidence, you don’t then get to explain away the evidence when it’s inconvenient.