Problems with Ezechiel's "prophecy" to the destruction of Tyre and dishonesty of J. McDowell and other apologists to this issue

Let we first read the text of the "prophecy". Ezechiel 26:

And it came to pass in the eleventh year, in the first day of the month, that the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, because that Tyrus hath said against Jerusalem, Aha, she is broken that was the gates of the people: she is turned unto me: I shall be replenished, now she is laid waste: Therefore thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I am against thee, O Tyrus, and will cause many nations to come up against thee, as the sea causeth his waves to come up. And they shall destroy the walls of Tyrus, and break down her towers: I will also scrape her dust from her, and make her like the top of a rock. It shall be a place for the spreading of nets in the midst of the sea: for I have spoken it, saith the Lord God: and it shall become a spoil to the nations. And her daughters which are in the field shall be slain by the sword; and they shall know that I am the Lord. For thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I will bring upon Tyrus Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, a king of kings, from the north, with horses, and with chariots, and with horsemen, and companies, and much people. He shall slay with the sword thy daughters in the field: and he shall make a fort against thee, and cast a mount against thee, and lift up the buckler against thee. And he shall set engines of war against thy walls, and with his axes he shall break down thy towers. By reason of the abundance of his horses their dust shall cover thee: thy walls shall shake at the noise of the horsemen, and of the wheels, and of the chariots, when he shall enter into thy gates, as men enter into a city wherein is made a breach. With the hoofs of his horses shall he tread down all thy streets: he shall slay thy people by the sword, and thy strong garrisons shall go down to the ground. And they shall make a spoil of thy riches, and make a prey of thy merchandise: and they shall break down thy walls, and destroy thy pleasant houses: and they shall lay thy stones and thy timber and thy dust in the midst of the water. And I will cause the noise of thy songs to cease; and the sound of thy harps shall be no more heard. And I will make thee like the top of a rock: thou shalt be a place to spread nets upon; thou shalt be built no more: for I the Lord have spoken it, saith the Lord God. Thus saith the Lord God to Tyrus; Shall not the isles shake at the sound of thy fall, when the wounded cry, when the slaughter is made in the midst of thee? Then all the princes of the sea shall come down from their thrones, and lay away their robes, and put off their broidered garments: they shall clothe themselves with trembling; they shall sit upon the ground, and shall tremble at every moment, and be astonished at thee. And they shall take up a lamentation for thee, and say to thee, How art thou destroyed, that wast inhabited of seafaring men, the renowned city, which wast strong in the sea, she and her inhabitants, which cause their terror to be on all that haunt it! Now shall the isles tremble in the day of thy fall; yea, the isles that are in the sea shall be troubled at thy departure. For thus saith the Lord God; When I shall make thee a desolate city, like the cities that are not inhabited; when I shall bring up the deep upon thee, and great waters shall cover thee; When I shall bring thee down with them that descend into the pit, with the people of old time, and shall set thee in the low parts of the earth, in places desolate of old, with them that go down to the pit, that thou be not inhabited; and I shall set glory in the land of the living; I will make thee a terror, and thou shalt be no more: though thou be sought for, yet shalt thou never be found again, saith the Lord God.


In practice, the city of Tyre was indeed besieged by Nebuchadnezzar. At that time, Tyre was composed of two different districts: one of them (the main one) was located on an island, and the other (the "suburbs") on the continent. The siege lasted for 13 years. Shortly before the fall of the continental part pf the city, its inhabitants fled to the insular part with their goods. When Nebuchadnezzar penetrated in the continental part, it was almost empty, and he could not plunder it. The, the inhabitants of Tyre negotiated their status and acknowledged the Babylonian domination. This time, the insular part of the city was not destroyed. So we face a first problem. The prophecy seems to be failed, since Nebuchadnezzar could not conquest the insular part of the city (the main one) and since he could not plunder it, as admitted by Ezechiel himself, who promises Nebuchadnezzar in the name of God that he will conquest and plunder Egypt in compensation (Ezechiel 29:17-20, see this other article).

Josh McDowell uses always the same arbitrarily splitting method with prophecies (like many theologians and Gospel authors), stopping eventually at a comma in order to give texts the wanted meaning afterwards. For him, only a part of the prophecy were related to Nebuchadnezzar's attack, all other parts (the fall and the plundering of the main part of Tyre) were fulfilled during the multiple attacks of the following centuries (Alexander the Great, etc.). That is no obvious in the light of the narration. A not influenced reader of this text would not come to the idea that most of the prophecy is not related to Nebuchadnezzar's attack. It is true that verse 3 says: "I am against thee, O Tyrus, and will cause many nations to come up against thee, as the sea causeth his waves to come up". But verse 7 ("I will bring upon Tyrus Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, a king of kings, from the north, with horses, and with chariots, and with horsemen, and companies, and much people") points out that "much people", "many nations", may refer to Nebuchadnezzar's army. Babylon was an empire which contained several nations. Moreover, in Ezechiel 28, the author issues a threat to the king of Tyre and he tells him that God will send « the most formidable foreign people » and that they will kill him. It cannot be about the conquest of Alexander the Great or even later ones, because the king of Tyre had changed several times since Ezechiels's and Nebuchadnezzar's time. By the way, after informations I read to this subject, the king of Tyre against whom Ezechiel wrote, Ithobaal III, had not been killed during Nebuchadnezzar's siege, contrary to Ezechiel's prediction.

Ezechiel 28:6-8

Therefore thus saith the Lord God; Because thou hast set thine heart as the heart of God; Behold, therefore I will bring strangers upon thee, the terrible of the nations: and they shall draw their swords against the beauty of thy wisdom, and they shall defile thy brightness. They shall bring thee down to the pit, and thou shalt die the deaths of them that are slain in the midst of the seas.

The third and last reason why Josh McDowell's interpretation is a problem, is the cause of the destruction of Tyre. The king of Judah had revolted against the Babylonian denomination, he was defeated by Nebuchadnezzar and Jerusalem was destroyed. Some tradesmen of Tyre were happy because they would now have an economic monopoly in their region. That is the reason why God decided to destroy Tyre forever (Ezechiel 26:1-2). Only for a trade jealousy story. After the Old Testament, the Israelites did much worse than only being happy about the misfortune of others for economical reasons, and they just "obeyed their God", see this article.

In comparison to the horror of Yahweh's commandments toward other people (or even its own), the mistake of the tradesmen of Tyre seems to be a very small trifle. The destruction of Tyre is immoral, the god in whose name Ezechiel speaks is partisan and unjust. But the problem is even bigger if the city was destroyed only under Alexander the Great or even later (for some apologists, the "definitive destruction" of Tyre happened during the XIIIth century AD). Indeed, during Nebuchadnezzar's assault, the continental inhabitants of Tyre could find refuge on the insular part of the city and did not die. The "culprits" are not the ones who are punished, they have not lost so much. But because of them, God should generate again and again destructions and massacres in this city for centuries, until Tyre were completely and definitively destroyed? Does it not bother Josh McDowell morally?

It is not impossible that Ezechiel's prophecy has a double meaning and that the understanding of Josh McDowell is possible also. After all, this « prophet » can have proceeded like the Greek oracles by having deliberately maintained such ambiguities in order to say afterwards that the prophecy has been fulfilled, even if it was failed (possibility to reinterpret the prophecy so that it works anyway). But even if it is not the case, if Ezechiel had no backup plan for his "prophecy" to be "fulfilled" even if things don't happen as he thought, theologians, by splitting "prophecies" arbitrarily afterwards, are equipped with a method which allows them to get the result they want, as I already explained for this "prophecy".

There is a last problem with this "prophecy" from Ezechiel: after him, the city of Tyre should have not been rebuild anymore. This point is litigious: a city "Tyre" existed by 0 AD (it is for example mentioned in the Gospel of Matthew) and still exist today (in Lebanon). Following explanations are given to overcome this difficulty. Either Ezechiel's prophecy concerned only a part of the city (the insular one), although it doesn't happen in the text, or the modern city were not built exactly on the ruins of the old one, which would justify the claim that this part of the prophecy has been fulfilled and the city was not rebuilt (although the modern city is located on the seaside, near the vestiges of the antic city which can be visited). I also heard that the prophecy has not been completely fulfilled yet and that Tyre will be destroyed once and for all (and this time never rebuilt). Yahweh has much anger for this small trade jealousy story!

After Josh McDowell, the probability for this "prophecy" to be "fulfilled" by chance was 1 to 7.5 multiplicated by 10 to the power of 7. In fact, for the reasons given above, this probability was equal to 1. And we admitted a more than litigious method. Without it, we have here a failed prophecy.