In her 1888 theosophical treatise, The Secret Doctrine, Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky made the startling assertion that Ezekiel’s account of Tyrus from the Old Testament was actually about Atlantis. A search of the literature on Atlantis reveals little or no information on this idea, nor does a review of modern Bible commentaries and other interpretative works. The New Interpreter’s Bible (NIB), an encyclopedic reference intended primarily for clergy, provides a line-by-line interpretation of the entire Bible, along with overviews and summaries for each chapter. It’s not surprising to learn that there is no mention of Atlantis, or Madame Blavatsky for that matter, in any of the commentaries on Tyrus or Ezekiel. The scholarly consensus on Tyrus is that Ezekiel was referring to the Phoenician city-state of Tyre, the site of which still exists on the coast of modern-day Lebanon, about 50 miles south of Beirut.
Blavatsky’s assertion about Tyrus sounds ridiculous in light of the commentaries. But a careful study of what is actually written about Tyrus in the Old Testament will lead to some intriguing observations. Many of the descriptions of Tyrus given by Ezekiel, and the other prophets as well, paint a picture of a city that was far different, both historically and geographically, than the Phoenician city of Tyre. Although similar in some respects, Ezekiel’s Tyrus and the Phoenician Tyre seem to be two entirely different cities. What is even more intriguing is that Ezekiel’s description of Tyrus closely resembles the Atlantis described by Plato and many others.
At this point, it is important to be aware of the differences between the King James Version of the Bible (KJV), published in 1611, and the many modern translations produced since then. Much of the language of the KJV has been changed significantly in modern versions of the Bible resulting in descriptions of Tyrus much different from what is found in the KJV, whose language has been altered so much that the connection between Tyrus and Atlantis has become obscure or completely invisible. What has happened is that modern translations have incorporated the assumption that Ezekiel’s Tyrus was without a doubt the Phoenician city of Tyre, and the descriptions of the city have been changed accordingly.
A key passage in Ezekiel that links Tyrus to Atlantis can be found in the description of the city’s location given in Ezekiel 27:3. Here Tyrus is described as “situated at the entry of the sea.” This passage is important for two reasons. The first is that the sea mentioned is obviously the Mediterranean Sea and, secondly, because the entrance of the Mediterranean Sea is the Strait of Gibraltar. Even more specifically, the entrance can be said to lie on the Atlantic side of the Strait of Gibraltar. Why is this important? Because this matches the exact location of Atlantis given by Plato in his dialogue, the Critias. Plato said that the farthest part of the island of Atlantis reached to just outside the Pillars of Hercules (what the ancient Greeks called the Strait of Gibraltar) and faced the area of southwest Spain that was at that time called Gadeira.
The New Interpreter’s Bible commentary on the passage tells a different story. Ezekiel was said to be a master of metaphorical language and was, therefore, describing the Phoenician city of Tyre in a literary way. But the KJV passage is not written in the form of a metaphor and doesn’t really match the actual geographical circumstances of the Phoenician city. The city of Tyre lay on a small island, about a mile in length, and was situated a few hundred yards off the coast of present-day Lebanon, which of course lies on the easternmost shore of the Mediterranean Sea. It’s not really the entrance to anything.
The assumption that Tyrus was the Phoenician city of Tyre can readily be seen incorporated into the New International Version (NIV) of the Bible from 1978. The same passage describes the city, now referred to as Tyre, as “situated at the gateway of the sea.” Although this new translation more aptly and metaphorically describes the Phoenician city, it’s not really the same as what’s written in the KJV.
Two other passages from the King James Bible support Blavatsky’s idea that Tyrus was actually located outside the Strait of Gibraltar. Jeremiah 25:22 says that the kings of Tyrus, the kings of Zidon, and the kings of the isles were “beyond the sea,” which is very similar to Ezekiel’s description for the location of Tyrus. Isaiah 23:6, which is from Isaiah’s shorter but similar version of Ezekiel’s account of Tyrus, urges the “inhabitants of the isle” to “pass over to Tarshish” in order to avoid their imminent destruction. Tarshish is usually associated with the Roman city of Tartessos and was thought to be located in southwest Spain near present-day Cadiz, the same region that Plato said faced Atlantis. This then prompts the following question: if Ezekiel’s Tyrus really was the Phoenician city of Tyre, as scholars say, why would the inhabitants of the island, facing their imminent destruction, set sail for Tarshish, a distance of over 2000 miles to the west across the Mediterranean Sea and through the Strait of Gibraltar? Why not simply cross over to the mainland of what is now Lebanon, a few hundred yards away? Isaiah 23:6 makes much more sense if Tyrus was located just outside the Strait of Gibraltar, as Ezekiel seems to describe.
Throughout his account of Tyrus, Ezekiel used the phrase “in the midst of the seas” more than a half dozen times to describe the location of the island. It doesn’t really match the actual geographical circumstances of the Phoenician city of Tyre. Metaphorical license aside, a small island only a few hundred yards offshore and in relatively shallow coastal waters can hardly be described over and over again as lying in the midst of the seas. It seems unlikely that a supposed master of metaphor such as Ezekiel would overuse such a phrase in that manner.
The city of Cadiz, mentioned earlier, has an interesting history. One of the oldest cities in Europe, it is included by Strabo in his work Geography. Its ancient name was Gades, derived from the name of the surrounding region Plato referred to as Gadeira. Plato said this region in turn was named after Gadirus, the original king of the nearby part of Atlantis that reached almost to the Strait of Gibraltar. Noting their similarities, is it a stretch to assume that the name of Tyrus was also derived from Gadirus and that the city may have been a wealthy port on the coast of Atlantis facing Gibraltar?
Tyrus and Atlantis were both described as fabulously wealthy mercantile cities. Plato said the wealth of Atlantis “was greater than that of any previous dynasty of kings or likely to be accumulated by any later,” and that “because of the extent of their power they received many imports.” He also described in great detail the royal city of Atlantis. The massive Temple of Poseidon was covered inside and out with silver and gold. The wall surrounding the acropolis was fused over with the mysterious metal orichalc, which Plato said was second in value only to gold.
Ezekiel gave similar descriptions for the wealth of Tyrus and its extensive trade. Tyrus was “a merchant of the people for many isles,” and it “enriched the kings of the earth with the multitude of its riches and of its merchandise.”
Now, it’s true that the Phoenicians were very wealthy due to their extensive commerce. It can be argued just as easily that Tyrus was actually the Phoenician city that scholars say it was. However, the following description of Tyrus from Zechariah 9:3 is more reminiscent of Plato’s Atlantis than it is of a wealthy Phoenician city. It reads: “And Tyrus did build herself a stronghold, and heaped up silver as the dust, and fine gold as the mire of the streets.”
Ezekiel’s prophecy for the destruction of Tyrus matches Plato’s account of the destruction of Atlantis so closely that the two narratives are virtually identical. This is the case even though Plato’s date for the destruction of Atlantis, around 9500 BC, is far older than the date of Ezekiel’s prophecy from about 600 BC. Plato also wrote that the island of Atlantis was overwhelmed by dreadful earthquakes and floods and was then “swallowed up by the sea and vanished.” The sunken island was “the source of the impenetrable mud which prevents the free passage of those who sail out of the straits into the open sea.”
Ezekiel’s prophecy of destruction reads much the same: the Lord would bring up the deep upon Tyrus; great waters would cover it; Tyrus would fall into the midst of the seas in the day of its ruin; and it would be broken by the seas in the depths of the waters. One passage, Ezekiel 26:21, seems particularly relevant today: “I will make thee a terror, and thou shalt be no more: though thou be sought for, yet shall never be found again, saith the Lord God.” It’s a pretty accurate description even now of the intense interest in finding historical evidence of Atlantis.
One of the most intriguing prophecies concerning the destruction of Tyrus can be found in Ezekiel 28:16, where we learn that the city will be destroyed “from the midst of the stones of fire.” The NIB commentary notes that some language experts think the phrase “stones of fire” should be translated as “fire stones.” These words should sound familiar to students of Edgar Cayce’s work. He said that during the latter days of Atlantis, the word “Firestone” was the name used for the crystal which was the source of their power, and that the later misuse of the crystal led to their ultimate destruction. It was also known as the “terrible crystal” in earlier times, a phrase that also appears in the first chapter of Ezekiel, not in connection with Tyrus, but in his vision of the flying wheel.
In Ezekiel 28:16, the destruction of Tyrus seems to be associated with these mysterious “stones of fire” or “firestones.” Was Ezekiel really talking about the “terrible crystal” and the destruction of Atlantis here? The conventional explanation of this passage is rather more mundane in nature. From the NIB commentary we learn that the exact meaning of the phrase “stones of fire” is unclear, and that it may refer to the “red-hot coals” surrounding a sacrificial temple fire.
Aside from Ezekiel, and scattered references to the city throughout the other prophetic books, Isaiah 23 contains the next longest account of Tyrus. Although Isaiah obviously describes the same city as Ezekiel, he refers to it as Tyre in his account and speaks of the city in the past tense, as already destroyed. This is somewhat odd, because Ezekiel was believed to have conducted his prophetic ministry around 600 BC, and Isaiah was thought to have lived about 100 years earlier.
Even more fascinating, however, are the series of events described in Isaiah 24. This chapter chronicles a devastating apocalypse upon the earth. Even though Tyrus is not mentioned here, Isaiah 24 seems to be a continuation of the previous chapter about the city, because many of the apocalyptic events he describes are similar to Ezekiel’s prophecy for the destruction of the city. The NIB commentary says that Isaiah 24 is probably based on some unknown event long before Isaiah’s time. They don’t speculate on what that event was, but it’s doubtful the destruction of Atlantis was one of their choices. When the characteristics of these apocalyptic events are examined, and the fact that they immediately follow the chapter about Tyrus, what better event could Isaiah have been describing other than the destruction of Atlantis?
Isaiah wrote that “the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men left.” This is similar to Ezekiel and Zechariah, both of whom described the destruction of Tyrus by fire. It’s also reminiscent of the words of the psychic Ruth Montgomery, who said that prior to the sinking of Atlantis, massive volcanic eruptions occurred along the Atlantic Ridge.
Isaiah also alluded to a deluge, saying that the inhabitants of the earth have “broken the everlasting covenant” and later that “the windows on high are open.” The NIB commentary explains that this is a reference to the covenant God made with Noah never to inflict another flood upon the earth. What is interesting here is that God didn’t break the covenant this time; it was man himself who broke the covenant and defiled the earth and transgressed the laws. This is similar to Plato’s reason for the destruction of Atlantis: mankind had degenerated because of its pursuit of unbridled ambition and power and therefore brought down the wrath of Zeus upon itself. It’s also similar to the reason Ezekiel gave for the destruction of Tyrus: the prince of Tyrus had become corrupt and violent because of his wealth and in his arrogance, thought of himself as a god.
Finally, Isaiah describes what seems to be a pole shift but which the NIB interprets simply as a massive earthquake. Isaiah wrote: the earth is turned upside down; it shall reel to and fro like a drunkard; it shall be removed like a cottage; the Lord will shake the heavens; and the earth shall remove out of her place. Isaiah ends the chapter saying the moon shall be confounded and the sun ashamed. This last part describes what an observer on Earth might see if he looked towards the sky while the Earth’s crust shifted beneath his feet.
Many people believe that a pole shift marked the end of Atlantis. In their book, When the Earth Nearly Died, D.S. Allan and J.B. Delair have compiled a massive amount of evidence that such an event took place at the end of the last Ice Age. This occurred around 10,000 BC, which coincides with the date Plato and others have ascribed for the destruction of Atlantis.
Remains of the Phoenician city of Tyre still exist on the coast of Lebanon, and it has been designated a World Heritage site. No longer an island, it long ago became connected to the mainland, and is now part of the modern city of Sur. It seems that Ezekiel’s prophecy has never come to pass, if Tyrus was in fact the Phoenician city scholars say it was. If Tyrus really was Atlantis, however, as Madame Blavatsky said, then Ezekiel’s prophecy of destruction has long since been fulfilled. Only time and new evidence of Atlantis will prove if she was right.
David Hershiser is author of the book, Beyond the Pillars of Hercules, which offers more on the connection between Atlantis and the Bible. For more information, visit: http://www.sunonearth.com.