Nebuchadnezzar’s Siege of Tyre in Jerome’s Commentary on Ezekiel

in Vigiliae Christianae
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In order to elucidate the prophecies of Ezekiel, especially those against Egypt in Book 29, Jerome reconstructed the siege of Tyre by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar. He seems to have done this not so much on the basis of the predictions recorded in the Bible (to say nothing of accurate records), as by comparison with accounts of Alexander the Great’s siege of the same city more than two hundred years later. Jerome seems particularly dependent on the account of Alexander’s siege of Tyre given by Quintus Curtius Rufus. The following investigation broadens our understanding of the authors known and used by Jerome, the uses to which he put his historical reading, and the methods of his Biblical exegesis, especially historical reconstruction.

Nebuchadnezzar’s Siege of Tyre in Jerome’s Commentary on Ezekiel

in Vigiliae Christianae



Ezek. 29.18. F. HitzigDer Prophet Ezechiel (Leipzig: Weidmann1847) 227-32 also takes this verse to refer to the labour of constructing a causeway for siege engines but does not indicate that he is indebted to Jerome on this point. C. Keil Biblical Commentary on the Prophecies of Ezekiel trans. J. Martin (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark 1876) i 377 ii 12 likewise takes it that Ezekiel’s description of the siegeworks at Tyre and the taking of the city as well as his reference to the hard work of the besiegers presupposes the construction of an embankment to fill up the strait.


D. WisemanNebuchadrezzar and Babylon: The Schweich Lectures 1983 (Oxford: Oxford University Press for the British Academy1985) 26-9.


E. UngerBabylon die heilige Stadt nach der Beschreibung der Babylonier (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter1931) 282-94; J. Pritchard Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament 3rd ed. (Princeton: Princeton University Press 1969) 307-8; H. Katzenstein The History of Tyre: From the Beginning of the Second Millenium [sic] bce until the Fall of the Neo-Babylonian Empire in 538 bce ( Jerusalem: Schocken Institute 1973) 334; Wiseman (1985) 29 73-5.


Unger (1926); R. Dougherty Archives from Erech Neo-Babylonian and Persian Periods (Goucher College Cuneiform Inscriptions Vol. ii) (New Haven: Yale University Press 1933) 22-4 (no. 135) pl. xxvi; Wiseman (1985) 28. Katzenstein (1973) 332 assumes that this text refers to Nebuchadnezzar going ‘against’ Tyre not ‘to’ Tyre and taking personal command of the lengthy siege.


Ezek. 26.7-14. See G. CookeA Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Ezekiel (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark1936) 287-90; M. Vogelstein “Nebuchadnezzar’s Reconquest of Phoenicia and Palestine and the Oracles of Ezekiel” Hebrew Union College Annual 23 (1950-51) 199-207; N. Gottwald All the Kingdoms of the Earth: Israelite Prophecy and International Relations in the Ancient Near East (New York: Harper & Row 1964) 311-6; H. van Dijk Ezekiel’s Prophecy on Tyre (Ez. 261-2819): A New Approach (Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute 1968) 14-28; W. Zimmerli Ezekiel 2: A Commentary on the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel Chapters 25-48 trans. J. Martin (Philadelphia: Fortress Press 1983) 21-9 35-7.


Cooke (1936) 287329; Vogelstein (1950-51) 198; Zimmerli (1983) 118-9; D. Block The Book of Ezekiel Chapters 25-48 (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans 1997) 42 147-50.


Cooke (1936) 290; Vogelstein (1950-51) 215-7; Zimmerli (1983) 36-7; Block (1997) 42.


Pritchard (1969) 292295; see Katzenstein (1973) 278 288-91; Zimmerli (1983) 22-3.


Joseph.Ap. i.21 (156) cf. i.18 (116-27); FGrH 783 F 7; Katzenstein (1973) 325; Wiseman (1985) 27.


Joseph.Ap. i.21 (159); Keil (1876) 11; Pinches (1903) 401; W. Fleming The History of Tyre (New York: Columbia University Press 1915) 44; Vogelstein (1950-51) 198 219-20; Gottwald (1964) 312-3; K. Freedy & D. Redford “The Dates in Ezekiel in Relation to Biblical Babylonian and Egyptian Sources” Journal of the American Oriental Society 90 (1970) 469 481-4; Katzenstein (1973) 326 328; Zimmerli (1983) 118; Wiseman (1985) 27.


Gottwald (1964) 317-9; W. Lambert “Nebuchadnezzar King of Justice” Iraq 27 (1965) 2 7 10; Freedy & Redford (1970) 473 483; R. Thompson “Babylonian Supremacy under Nebuchadnezzar” in Cambridge Ancient History 1st ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1970) iii 215; A. Spalinger “Egypt and Babylonia: A Survey (c. 620 bc-550 bc)” Studien zur altägyptischen Kultur 5 (1977) 236-41; Wiseman (1985) 39-41; D. Wiseman “Babylonia 605-539” in Cambridge Ancient History 2nd ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1991) iii.2 229-31 235-6; Block (1997) 151; D. Vanderhooft The Neo-Babylonian Empire and Babylon in the Latter Prophets (Atlanta: Scholars Press 1999) 87-9.


J. FullerThe Generalship of Alexander the Great (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press1960) 206-16; A. Bosworth Conquest and Empire: The Reign of Alexander the Great (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1988) 65-7; S. English The Sieges of Alexander the Great (Barnsley: Pen & Sword Books 2009) 56-84.


C. Torrey“Alexander the Great in the Old Testament Prophecies,” in Vom Alten Testament: Karl Marti zum siegzigsten Geburstageed. K. Budde (Giessen: Alfred Töpelmann1925) 281-6; N. Messel Ezechielfragen (Oslo: Jacob Dybwad 1945) 48-51 101-2; L. Browne Ezekiel and Alexander (London: S.P.C.K. 1952) 4-5 21-3; cf. Cooke (1936) 290; Vogelstein (1950-51) 215-9; Zimmerli (1983) 24 37.


Rufin.Apol. ii.9 and Jer. Adv. Rufin. i.30 suggest that Jerome came late to the study of Greek perhaps not until his arrival in Antioch in 373; see A. Pease “The Attitude of Jerome towards Pagan Literature” Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association 50 (1919) 152; Kelly (1975) 8 13-4 17 39 49 59 72; Williams (2006) 28-9; A. Cain The Letters of Jerome: Ascetiscism Biblical Exegesis and the Construction of Christian Authority in Late Antiquity (Oxford: Oxford University Press 2009) 8 n. 34. He might therefore have been most comfortable with Latin sources where they were to be had.


Diod. Sic. xvii.46.5; Plut.Alex. 24.3.


Diod. Sic. xvii.43.4-5 46.1-2; Arr.Anab. ii.22.6-23.6.


Curt. iv.3.13 ed. Lucarini (2009) 49.


Diod. Sic. xvii.40.5 42.5-6; Plut.Alex. 25.1; Arr. Anab. ii.18.2-5.


Curt. iv.2.16-18; cf. Arr.Anab. ii.16.8-18.1 where Alexander’s speech outlining the justification for the siege of Tyre is addressed only to his commanders and as soon as the Tyrians have refused him entry into their city.


Diod. Sic. xvii.40.3; Just.Epit. xi.10.12-13.


Atkinson (1980) 317-8 suggests that this is due to a source Curtius shared with Diodorus. Cf. Ruth (1965) 379-80.


Curt. iv.2.10-12 3.19-20; see Atkinson (1980) 296305.


Curt. iv.3.20 ed. Lucarini (2009) 50-51.


Fleming (1915) 45.


N. Marriner et al.“Holocene Morphogenesis of Alexander the Great’s Isthmus at Tyre in Lebanon,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 104 (2007) 9218-23.


Curt. iv.3.6-7 4.5; see Atkinson (1980) 302308-9.


P. Booth“Shades of Blues and Greens in the Chronicle of John of Nikiu,” Byzantinische Zeitschrift 104 (2012) 555-61.


M. LutherLuthers Werke. Kritische Gesammtausgabe Schriften Teil 2 13. Band (Weimar: Hermann Böhlau1889) 428 622-3; Luther’s Works Vol. 19: Lectures on the Minor Prophets ii Jonah & Habakkuk ed. H. Oswald (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House 1974) 114; Luther’s Works Vol. 20: Lectures on the Minor Prophets iii Zechariah ed. H. Oswald (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House 1973) 90. Luther’s approach to Jerome is discussed in detail by J. Lössl “Martin Luther’s Jerome: New Evidence for a Changing Attitude” in Jerome of Stridon: His Life Writings and Legacy ed. A. Cain & J. Lössl (Farnham: Ashgate 2009) 237-51. For Jerome’s place in the late medieval and early modern period as whole see E. Rice Saint Jerome in the Renaissance (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press 1985).


See Hitzig (1847) 227-32; Keil (1876) i 377 ii 12; von Ewald (1880) 153-4; Gottwald (1964) 320.


E. LübeckHieronymus quos nouerit scriptores ex quibus hauserit (Leipzig: B.G. Teubner1872); H. Hagendahl Latin Fathers and the Classics: A Study on the Apologists Jerome and Other Christian Writers (Göteborg: Elanders 1958); idem “Jerome and the Latin Classics” Vigiliae Christianae 28 (1974) 216-27; cf. F. Glorié “Nouvelles sources de Saint Jérôme” Sacris Erudiri 18 (1967-8) 472-7.


Jer.Ep. xxii.30; see Kelly (1975) 41-4 84 250 252; Williams (2006) 25-7 54-5 134 161; N. Adkin Jerome on Virginity: A Commentary on the Libellus de virginitate servanda (Letter 22) (Cambridge: Francis Cairns 2003) 283-97.


Pease (1919) 158165. See also S. Rebenich “Der heilige Hieronymus und die Geschichte—Zur Funktion der Exempla in seinen Briefen” Römische Quartalschrift für christliche Altertumskunde und Kirchengeschichte 87 (1992) 29-46. Access to historical works were also necessary for the additions Jerome made to his translation of Eusebius’ Chronicle; Kelly (1975) 73-5; Williams (2006) 161-2.

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