Prophecy Against Tyre (Isaiah 23) April 7
Chapter 23 is a prophecy against Tyre, a chief city of the Phoenicians—inextricably linked to Sidon, of which Tyre was the primary colony. Tarshish refers to lands in the west, generally Spain—where sat the Phoenician colony of Tartessus. Chittim (KJV) is translated Cyprus in the NKJV, although it can mean "western lands" generally (see NKJV margin). The Sidonians and Tyrians are told to "cross over" to these "western lands" (see verse 12). This is likely referring to their fleeing to Spain and their colonies in northwest Africa, such as Carthage. Shihor (verse 3) is generally recognized as another name for the Nile (see Jeremiah 2:18).
Verse 13 mentions "the Assyrian" (KJV) who founded Babylon (by implication) for the Chaldeans. This could refer back to the founding of Babel by Nimrod, from which Asshur went out to build various Assyrian cities (compare Genesis 10:8-12). In this sense the Assyrians founded Babylon—that is, the original empire of Babylon. But more likely this is referring to the later involvement of Assyria in that land, and to the city that had been reestablished under Assyrian rule more recently. Just as Babylon was brought to ruin (and would be again), so would Tyre be destroyed.
Sargon had completed the Assyrians' five-year siege of Tyre in 720 B.C. It is possible that this prophecy of Isaiah is out of chronological order and was actually given previous to many other prophecies we've been reading—back to before Tyre's fall. However, it seems more likely that Tyre's destruction referred to here is the one the Babylonians would bring about around 573 B.C.
Verses 15 and 17 refer to a 70-year period. This may refer to basically the same 70-year period Jeremiah refers to (Jeremiah 25:11-12)—the time from Nebuchadnezzar II beginning his reign to the fall of Babylon (609-539 B.C.). The "days of one king" may mean the days of one kingdom—that of Babylon—or possibly the lifespan of a man.
Of course, the prophetic statements here may all represent events that are yet to come. In the highlights on Isaiah 13, we saw how the ancient Babylonians became the Romans—as did many of the Phoenicians. Incidentally, this directly ties the Chaldeans and Phoenicians together, as they are in the current passage. In any event, the Phoenicians were the merchants of the ancient world. And they were also the merchants of the Middle Ages and Renaissance—the merchants of Venice and many other European cities having descended from the Syro-Phoenician traders spread across southern Europe.
Tyre was the "marketplace for the nations" (23:3). You can read about the rise of another "Tyre" as a great end-time trading block in Ezekiel 26:1-28:19. This trading block is referred to in Revelation 18 as Babylon. In Revelation 17, in a more religious context, we see a direct tie-in to Isaiah 23:17: "She will return to her hire, and commit fornication with all the kingdoms of the world on the face of the earth" (compare Revelation 17:2). Perhaps we can see a connection in the "virgin daughter of Sidon" (Isaiah 23:12)—that is, a supposed virgin but really a harlot (verse 16). Jezebel, daughter of the king of Sidon, was a direct type of the end-time religious and commercial system that will soon plunge the world into the final crisis leading up to the return of Christ (compare Revelation 2:20-23).
Further prophecies against Tyre can be found in Joel 3:4-8, Amos 1:9-10 and Zechariah 9:1-4.