Several cities and their civilizations are mentioned in the Bible as examples of religious, political, and economic power apart from God. The best known example is Babylon. Perhaps lesser known is Tyre, a port city located only a few miles north of the border of Israel in what is modern day Lebanon. Nothing of the original city of the industrious Phoenicians remains.
But at one time Tyre was one of the most prosperous cities in the world. Ezekiel 27 describes the commercial activity of Tyre and enumerates the products, their sources and the countries which trafficked in them. This chapter 27 is an important resource for historians on the commodities of the ancient world and how they were marketed.
One of the most valuable items in the list is ebony, mentioned only in verse 15. The ebony tree is native to southern India but is a close relative of the common persimmon of eastern North America. (Many woods are sold as ebony today but are from related trees or from different timbers with features like ebony). Ebony is the jet black heartwood obtained from older trees. Its color, dense grain and durability gave it value for wood carvers. One of the common items carved from ebony was idols. Likewise, ivory is easily worked, beautiful and durable and therefore often incorporated into ebony idols.
The immense wealth of the Phoenician trade enriched the city and led to the development of a sophisticated culture. Despite the wealth, the city was bankrupt morally and worshipped idols resulting in the judgement of God upon the city. Ezekiel 27 which begins with the boast of Tyre and a catalog of its trade ends with the solemn words of the last verse of the chapter "...and will be no more."