Destruction of Tyre
A detailed look at Ezekiel 26:1-21 and some faulty objections that skeptics have
As for the prophecy found in Ezekiel 26, the difference between a believer and a skeptic can boil down to a single word - the word "they" in verse 12.
The skeptics contend that the word "they" in verse 12 refers to Nebuchadnezzar's men in verses 7-11. And if that were true, then one could argue convincingly that the prophecy was not fulfilled.
But, the believers, including myself, contend that the word "they" in verse 12 refers to the "many nations" in verse 3 and the "nations" in verse 5. And if this is true, then one could argue convincingly that the prophecy was fulfilled. With this rendering of the word "they", Tyre was supposed to be attacked by a succession of nations, like the sea casting up its waves, one at a time, over time. And Tyre was indeed attacked by a succession of nations over time. Since the days of Nebuchadnezzar, Tyre has been conquered or ruled over by the Greeks, the Persians, the Romans, the Crusaders and the Arabs, who destroyed the city, again, in 1291.
Skeptics and believers can certainly agree that verses 7-11 are specifically about Nebuchadnezzar and his men. But, nowhere in those verses is the word "they" ever used. In fact, it almost seems that Ezekiel goes out of his way not to use the word "they." Take a look:
". . . I am going to bring against Tyre Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon . . ."
". . . He will ravage your settlements on the mainland . . ."
". . . he will set up siege works against you . . ."
". . . He will direct the blows . . ."
". . . with his weapons . . ."
". . . His horses will be so many . . ."
". . . when he enters your gates . . ."
". . . The hoofs of his horses will trample . . ."
". . . he will kill your people . . ."
Nebuchadnezzar is not the "many nations" referenced in verse 3. Instead, he is the first of the "many nations" referenced in verse 3. And the word "they" in verse 12 is not a continuation of the Nebuchadnezzar theme, but rather a continuation of the "many nations" theme of which Nebuchadnezzar is the starting point.
Only in verses 7-11 is Nebuchadnezzar specifically and unquestionably referred to. And in these verses, only the mainland of Tyre is addressed - never the island. The destruction of the island and the looting of the island, then, is the job of the "many nations" of verse 3. And many nations did attack, conquer and rule over the island.
As for the claim that Ezekiel 29:17 is an admission from Ezekiel that his prophecy about Tyre failed, because Nebuchadnezzar did not get any loot from Tyre, take a look again at verses 7-11. Those are indeed the only verses that specifically mention Nebuchadnezzar, and these verses do not refer to loot or plunder. Like the destruction of the island itself, the prophecy of plunder was to be carried out by the "many nations" of verse 3.
In verses 19-21, Ezekiel said that there would come a time when the city is "desolate," "no longer inhabited," and submerged underwater. I believe that this was fulfilled completely by Alexander when he tossed the ruins of mainland Tyre into the sea to build the land bridge that helped him to conquer the island of Tyre. Alexander's conquest brought an end - a permanent end - to the Phoenician Empire. And from that point on, the Phoenician city of Tyre ceased to exist. A city cannot be more desolate or more uninhabited than one that no longer exists. And yes, there is indeed a city called Tyre in modern-day Lebanon, and indeed it might be sitting on the exact same spot as the original Tyre. But this is Lebanon's Tyre - not the Phoenician Tyre that had taunted the Jews and had gloated over the destruction of the Holy City of Jerusalem. It was the Phoenician Tyre that Ezekiel was speaking of, and that city no longer exists:
"The principal ruins of the city today are those of buildings erected by the Crusaders. There are some Greco-Roman remains, but any left by the Phoenicians lie underneath the present town."
- Columbia Encyclopedia, Fifth Edition.