Recently I did a post on Facebook on how many Christians see the “Devil” as more knowledgeable than any human alive today hence his being able to deceive many and hold sway over their life.
One of the intriguing responses I received had to do with the identification of Satan being the prince of Tyre found in Ezekiel 28, a personality drawn to be wiser than Daniel and one who was found in Eden. The qualification goes on.
As always I advocate the place of the contextual background of the book. Without this, we will be reading our own understanding into the contents of this prophetic book.
The book of Ezekiel consists of thirteen prophetic revelations that Ezekiel saw over a period of twenty-two years. It is a book that is centered on theme of judgment.
Ezekiel is prophesied judgment on Judah and neighboring nations and cities, with Babylon as the primary instrument of God’s judgment. The nations that were to be judged include:
The thirteen prophecies aren’t exactly arranged in the order they came to Ezekiel but he employs apocalyptic language in communicating how the events were to play out. Essentially the prophecies in the book call wrongdoing of those kingdoms out and pronounce judgment upon them.
Some of these prophecies was communicated in the form of lamentations. The Hebrew word translated lamentation in the book is qiynah. Its general meaning is a dirge or lament, especially as sung by Jewish professional mourning women
. This lamentation follows the fall of a great personality.
So Ezekiel was made to sing the dirge of certain personalities and kingdoms that was to be no more. Their glory would be past and their rule cut short.
In the heart of the book we find ourselves in Ezekiel 26-28 where his oracles against Tyre fill the whole of his sixth prophecy. In chapter 26 he prophecies the conquest of Tyre by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. Then in chapter 27 he continues the lament over the city’s extensive trade and renowned beauty.
When we get to chapter 28, with the focus now coming onto ‘the prince of Tyre’ and ‘the king of Tyre’, he goes further to describe the personality of this ruler and why he was being cut down. At this point injecting “Satan” into the prophecy is probably one of the most unimaginable thing one can do. It’s a zero respect for exegesis.
Some would say that it is two personalities. That Satan was behind the face of the evil king driving him to whatever he does. One thing they forget is that Ezekiel had all the while being using imageries to reveal judgments over these nations and this lamentation was about the certain end of a man and not a spirit being known as Satan. We will see more of it.
In this chapter Ezekiel specifies a ‘prince’ (28.2) and a ‘king’ (28.11) as the recipients of his prophecy.
As recognized by Jewish understanding it is common for a king to also be called a prince. This is so because the Hebrew word for ‘prince’ (nagiyd, נגיד) can simply means ‘ruler’, ‘leader’, or ‘commander’.
In 2 Samuel 5.2-3, where both titles are used for David.
2 Also, in time past, when Saul was king over us, you were the one who led Israel out and brought them in; and the Lord said to you, ‘You shall shepherd My people Israel, and be RULER over Israel.’” 3 Therefore all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron, and KING David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the Lord. And they anointed David KING over Israel.
Let’s see the first ten verses from the ESV (English Standard Version);
28 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 “Son of man, say to the prince of Tyre, Thus says the Lord God:
“Because your heart is proud,
and you have said, ‘I am a god,
I sit in the seat of the gods,
in the heart of the seas,’
yet you are but A MAN, and no god,
though you make your heart like the heart of a god—
3 you are indeed wiser than Daniel;
no secret is hidden from you;
4 by your wisdom and your understanding
you have made wealth for yourself,
and have gathered gold and silver
into your treasuries;
5 by your great wisdom in your trade
you have increased your wealth,
and your heart has become proud in your wealth—
6 therefore thus says the Lord God:
Because you make your heart
like the heart of a god,
7 therefore, behold, I will BRING FOREIGNERS upon you,
the most ruthless of the nations;
and they shall DRAW THEIR SWORDS against the beauty of your wisdom
and defile your splendor.
8 They shall thrust you down into the pit,
and you shall die the death of the slain
in the heart of the seas.
9 WILL YOU STILL SAY, ‘I AM A GOD,’
in the presence of those who kill you,
THOUGH YOU ARE BUT A MAN, AND NO GOD,
in the hands of those who slay you?
10 You shall die the death of the uncircumcised
by the hand of foreigners;
for I have spoken, declares the Lord God.”(Emphasis mine)
From what we have read through Ezekiel 28, we find the king’s story to be the following: He was blessed with wisdom, beauty, and widespread trade, seated on the sea. But with the great wealth of his trade, he became arrogant and violent. Because of this sin, the king would be destroyed by foreign invaders sent by God.
This story is identical to what we find in Ezekiel 26–27, where the prophet condemned the city Tyre itself. The city was beautiful
3 and say to Tyre, who dwells at the entrances to the sea, merchant of the peoples to many coastlands, thus says the Lord God:
“O Tyre, you have said,
‘I am perfect in beauty.’
4 Your borders are in the heart of the seas;
your builders made perfect your beauty.
all the ships of the sea with their mariners were in you
to barter for your wares. (27:9b),
She shall be in the midst of the sea a place for the spreading of nets, for I have spoken, declares the Lord God. And she shall become plunder for the nations,
And they will raise a lamentation over you and say to you,
“‘How you have perished,
you who were inhabited from the seas,
O city renowned,
who was mighty on the sea;
she and her inhabitants imposed their terror
on all her inhabitants!
In their wailing they raise a lamentation for you
and lament over you:
‘Who is like Tyre,
like one destroyed in the midst of the sea? (26.5,17; 27:32).
God would send foreign invaders to conquer the city
3 therefore thus says the Lord God: Behold, I am against you, O Tyre, and will bring up many nations against you, as the sea brings up its waves.4 They shall destroy the walls of Tyre and break down her towers, and I will scrape her soil from her and make her a bare rock. 5 She shall be in the midst of the sea a place for the spreading of nets, for I have spoken, declares the Lord God. And she shall become plunder for the nations,
7 “For thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will bring against Tyre from the north Nebuchadnezzar[a] king of Babylon, king of kings, with horses and chariots, and with horsemen and a host of many soldiers. 8 He will kill with the sword your daughters on the mainland. He will set up a siege wall against you and throw up a mound against you, and raise a roof of shields against you. 9 He will direct the shock of his battering rams against your walls, and with his axes he will break down your towers. 10 His horses will be so many that their dust will cover you. Your walls will shake at the noise of the horsemen and wagons and chariots, when he enters your gates as men enter a city that has been breached. 11 With the hoofs of his horses he will trample all your streets. He will kill your people with the sword, and your mighty pillars will fall to the ground. 12 They will plunder your riches and loot your merchandise. They will break down your walls and destroy your pleasant houses. Your stones and timber and soil they will cast into the midst of the waters.13 And I will stop the music of your songs, and the sound of your lyres shall be heard no more. 14 I will make you a bare rock. You shall be a place for the spreading of nets. You shall never be rebuilt, for I am the Lord; I have spoken, declares the Lord God.
Where many attribute this personality to the spirit being known as Satan is found in the following verses that state
“You were an anointed guardian cherub. I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God; in the midst of the stones of fire you walked. You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created, till unrighteousness was found in you.
In the abundance of your trade you were filled with violence in your midst, and you sinned; so I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God, and I destroyed you, O guardian cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire.
Your heart was proud because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor. I cast you to the ground; I exposed you before kings, to feast their eyes on you. By the multitude of your iniquities, in the unrighteousness of your trade you profaned your sanctuaries; so I brought fire out from your midst; it consumed you, and I turned you to ashes on the earth in the sight of all who saw you. All who know you among the peoples are appalled at you; you have come to a dreadful end and shall be no more forever. (Ezek. 28:12–19 ESV)
So in the midst of this prophecy would Ezekiel start to address a spirit being? Remember that this identified “anointed Cherub” had much trade done in dishonesty and would be destroyed by men and would be no more as people would be appalled that his glory was trampled on.
The term used here for the king of Tyre as a ‘cherub’ who was in ‘Eden’ should be understood as a metaphor that describes the king’s great privilege and glory not as a spirit but an exalted authority. The Complete Jewish Bible puts it this way;
You were a keruv, protecting a large region;
This speaks about the territorial coverage of this king. The word “covereth” is actually the Hebrew that means to protect. This is not the same imagery of the Cherub that bowed before the ark of God. This is a special reference to an exalted personality with power over a region. This power is one that was sanctioned by God.
Also it worth to note that mountains in scriptures signifies governments and kingdoms. So when it says the mountains of God. It is simply referring to authorities that God establishes to achieve his purposes. If the so called ruler then begins to see himself as the “Sovereign One” his pride becomes his downfall. The scriptures are replete with gentile kings who fall into this category.
This king was originally blameless—a wise king who gained great wealth (28:3-5)—but he became proud and violent; therefore, God cast him from the garden, which is also the “mountain of God”.
Also worthy to note is that the fall of Adam in the garden of Eden is used as a metaphor for the corruption of a king who in the end thought he could become like a god. Their ambitions driven by pride always became their route to destruction.
When you delve further into chapter 31, where Ezekiel draws a dirge for Pharoah he also employs a similar imagery with the garden of Eden.
It was beautiful in its greatness,
in the length of its branches;
for its roots went down
to abundant waters.
8 The cedars in the garden of God could not rival it,
nor the fir trees equal its boughs;
neither were the plane trees
like its branches;
no tree in the garden of God
was its equal in beauty.
9 I made it beautiful
in the mass of its branches,
and all the trees of Eden envied it,
that were in the garden of God.
10 “Therefore thus says the Lord God: Because it[b] towered high and set its top among the clouds,[c] and its heart was proud of its height, 11 I will give it into the hand of a mighty one of the nations. He shall surely deal with it as its wickedness deserves. I have cast it out. 1
The summary is this. The king of Tyre is a human, who Ezekiel expects to be destroyed when Nebuchadnezzar conquers and destroys the city of Tyre. According to the dating of the prophecy we can actually identify who this anointed Cherub is.
Ezekiel dates this prophecy to the ‘eleventh year’ on the ‘first day [of the first month]’. The dating of Ezekiel’s prophecies is based on the number of years of ‘the exile of King Jehoiachin’ (Ezekiel 1.2), which would date chapters 26–28 to the year 586 BC. This was shortly after Nebuchadnezzar had conquered Jerusalem and destroyed the first temple, so Ezekiel anticipates the king of Babylon to soon march against Tyre.
So based on the overall context and the internal dating of the prophecy from the book, this king of Tyre of Ezekiel 28 was Ithobaal III and not Satan. Neither will be the Antichrist as some also speculate.
It’s time for the church to realize the place of exegesis rather use tradition to read scriptures. We have empowered Satan through bad theology and many are walking in defeat.
Jesus has been made unto us wisdom. No other spirit being can possess more wisdom than you. This wisdom is breathed by the Holy Spirit. It is by this wisdom that we can see the heart of God in scriptures and our place in him.
By His grace which is a gift to us, we have been ordained to reign in life. Open your heart to the glory of the Lord resident in you and manifest sonship wherever you are.
Grace to you.