Ezekiel 28 – Against Satan, King of Tyre
A. The lamentation for the prince of Tyre.
1. (1-5) The sins of the prince of Tyre.
The word of the LORD came to me again, saying, “Son of man, say to the prince of Tyre, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD:
“Because your heart is lifted up,
And you say, ‘I am a god,
I sit in the seat of gods,
In the midst of the seas,’
Yet you are a man, and not a god,
Though you set your heart as the heart of a god
(Behold, you are wiser than Daniel!
There is no secret that can be hidden from you!
With your wisdom and your understanding
You have gained riches for yourself,
And gathered gold and silver into your treasuries;
By your great wisdom in trade you have increased your riches,
And your heart is lifted up because of your riches),”
a. The word of the LORD came to me again: This continues a series of prophecies Ezekiel made against Tyre, the great commercial harbor city of the Phoenicians, north of Israel.
b. Say to the prince of Tyre: The prophecies of Ezekiel 26-27 focused on Tyre as a city. Now Ezekiel will speak against the leader of the city, both in the sense of one man (the prince of Tyre) and a representation of the leadership of the city.
i. Ezekiel may have had a specific prince of Tyre in mind. “According to Phoenician annals the king of this time was Ithobal II (called Ithobalus II by Josephus). The prophecy has been dated shortly before the siege of Tyre by Nebuchadnezzar (585-573 B.C.) during the reign of Ithobal II.” (Feinberg)
c. Because your heart is lifted up: The fundamental sin of the prince of Tyre was pride. He said of himself, “I am a god” and gloried in his position of greatness in the midst of the seas. This was true of both the city and the ruler.
i. “Tyre regarded herself as all-powerful, superhuman and virtually eternal; she was possessed of wealth and wisdom above all other cities, and this led on to the incredible arrogance for which Tyre was notorious.” (Taylor)
d. Yet you are a man, and not a god: The prince of Tyre had a high opinion of himself, but God knew who he was. He was no god, merely a man. In his pride, he thought of himself as wiser than Daniel and wealthy beyond need (gathered gold and silver into your treasuries).
i. You are a man: “The king may imagine himself enthroned among the gods, but God sees reality for what it is, not what egomaniacs perceive it to be.” (Block)
ii. Wiser than Daniel: Even in his own day, Daniel was famous for his wisdom (Daniel 1:20, 2:20, 48) and God-given insight. This arrogant claim further exposed the pride of the prince of Tyre.
iii. The example of Daniel is also meaningful because Daniel “was a classic example of a man whose head was not turned by his success.” (Taylor)
e. Your heart is lifted up because of your riches: The great wealth of the prince of Tyre made him feel proud and invincible. He was smart in business (by your great wisdom in trade you have increased your riches), but his heart was lifted so high he thought of himself as a god.
i. Significantly, God did not condemn the prince of Tyre for the possession of riches, but for how those riches corrupted him. “Significantly, the prophet castigates him neither for his shrewdness nor for his amassed wealth. Neither brilliance nor riches is reprehensible; the problem arises in his response. The wisdom that had brought him his wealth led to hubris. It was this inordinate pride that provoked Yahweh’s ire.” (Block)
ii. The prince of Tyre was not the first or the last ruler corrupted by wealth and success. “Others whose heads were turned by prosperity were Sennacherib (II Kings 18:33-35), Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 3:15; 4:30); Pharaoh (Ezekiel 29:3); Herod (Acts 12:21-23).” (Feinberg)
2. (6-10) Judgment upon the prince of Tyre.
‘Therefore thus says the Lord GOD:
“Because you have set your heart as the heart of a god,
Behold, therefore, I will bring strangers against you,
The most terrible of the nations;
And they shall draw their swords against the beauty of your wisdom,
And defile your splendor.
They shall throw you down into the Pit,
And you shall die the death of the slain
In the midst of the seas.
“Will you still say before him who slays you,
‘I am a god’?
But you shall be a man, and not a god,
In the hand of him who slays you.
You shall die the death of the uncircumcised
By the hand of aliens;
For I have spoken,” says the Lord GOD.’”
a. Behold, therefore, I will bring strangers against you: Having lifted his heart as the heart of a god, the prince of Tyre could expect judgment soon. It would come from the most terrible of nations, and they would destroy the beauty and splendor of Tyre.
i. “If the prince has the audacity to claim prerogatives of deity, then let him prepare for a direct confrontation with the divine Lord of history.” (Block)
ii. I will bring strangers against you: “A foreign people, called strangers for their multitude, and to intimate how little regard they would have to the Tyrian glory; these strangers were the Babylonian forces.” (Poole)
b. They shall throw you down into the Pit: This possibly referred to the actual ruler of Tyre in Ezekiel’s day, or it referred to a future ruler of Tyre, or it was a vivid picture of the certainty of the downfall of Tyre’s leadership.
i. Splendor: “The expression refers to the radiance, the awe-inspiring glow, inherent in divine and royal items.” (Block)
ii. “Claims of deity and superhuman powers would mean nothing to the invaders, for they would be intent on defiling (literally, profaning) the luster of Tyre, which had made such outlandish claims to deity.” (Feinberg)
c. You shall be a man, and not a god: God promised that the judgment to come upon Tyre from foreign nations would humble the prince of Tyre, exposing his humanity to the world.
i. “This is the sad catastrophe of such as dream of a deity. Of which number were Caligula, Herod, Heliogabalus, Dioclesian, and other monsters, uncircumcised vice gods, as we may, in the worst sense, best term them.” (Trapp)
ii. “When you read Scripture, you find occasions when God judged arrogant rulers, such as Pharaoh, whom the Egyptians treated as a god (Exodus 5:2), Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 4), and Herod Agrippa (Acts 12). World leaders who ignore the Lord and act as if they are gods will all be exposed and judged.” (Wiersbe)
iii. You shall die the death of the uncircumcised: “A disgraceful death is conveyed by the phrase ‘the death of the uncircumcised’ (Ezekiel 28:10). Phoenicians practiced circumcision; so to be slain as an uncircumcised male would be to die a barbarian’s death.” (Alexander)
iv. “Because the king of Tyre uses language of himself that is appropriate to God alone, the king must become reacquainted with his humanity. There is no better teacher than death. Gods do not die; humans do.” (Vawter and Hoppe)
B. The lamentation for the king of Tyre.
1. (11-15) The glory of the privilege of the king of Tyre.
Moreover the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Son of man, take up a lamentation for the king of Tyre, and say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD:
“You were the seal of perfection,
Full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.
You were in Eden, the garden of God;
Every precious stone was your covering:
The sardius, topaz, and diamond,
Beryl, onyx, and jasper,
Sapphire, turquoise, and emerald with gold.
The workmanship of your timbrels and pipes
Was prepared for you on the day you were created.
“You were the anointed cherub who covers;
I established you;
You were on the holy mountain of God;
You walked back and forth in the midst of fiery stones.
You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created,
Till iniquity was found in you.
a. Take up a lamentation for the king of Tyre: Ezekiel 28:1-10 spoke to the prince of Tyre, and here Ezekiel spoke to the king of Tyre. His clear and curious description of the king of Tyre shows that this was indeed a ruler over the prince of Tyre, ruling over him in a spiritual sense. In the context of a lament for an arrogant human king, God spoke of the sin and the fall of the spiritual power behind that king.
i. The idea of a prophet speaking to the spiritual ruler or authority behind an earthly ruler is also present in Isaiah 14, where the description of the King of Babylon seems to go beyond any earthly king and describes Satan himself (Isaiah 14:12-14). We also see this idea in Daniel 10:10-20, where the angel Michael described his battle with a spiritual opponent he called the prince of Persia.
ii. “This chapter and Isaiah 14 throw light on the fall of Satan, and indicate that he was a created being who fell through pride.” (Wright)
iii. “As he viewed the thoughts and ways of that monarch, he clearly discerned behind him the motivating force and personality who was impelling him in his opposition to God. In short, he saw the work and activity of Satan, whom the king of Tyre was emulating in so many ways.” (Feinberg)
b. You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty: We immediately recognize this as describing a being higher than any earthly, human king. God did not describe the proud way the king of Tyre thought of himself, but as he actually was – a being of great perfection, wisdom, and beauty.
i. “Here we have the most graphic and illuminating portrayal of Satan to be found in the whole Bible. His original power and greatness, wisdom and beauty, and exalted position are all set forth.” (Morgan)
ii. Seal of perfection: “Seals functioned as insignias of authority and authenticity. Possession of the seal of a superior was a mark of great honor, signifying that one had been deputized to sign documents on his or her behalf.” (Block)
c. You were in Eden, the garden of God: These words to the king of Tyre show that this was no human king. The reference to Eden draws us back to the work of Satan in the form of a serpent described in Genesis 3. The power behind the prince of Tyre – the true king of Tyre – was Satan himself, the great adversary of God and humanity.
i. This clear identification makes us understand something about Satan. From Ezekiel 28 we learn of his high status before his fall. Satan himself was this being of great perfection, wisdom, and beauty.
d. Every precious stone was your covering: Before his fall, Satan was adorned with great glory and splendor. God Himself gave him such a covering, honoring the pre-fall Satan greatly.
i. The collection of gemstones not only speaks of prestige and honor, but also suggests priesthood, because many of these stones were also found in the high priest’s breastplate (Exodus 28:17-20).
ii. “The stones listed in this verse are similar to those on the high priest’s breastplate in Exodus 28:17–20. The order is different here in Ezekiel, which includes only nine of the twelve stones of Exodus 28:17–20. The LXX inserts all twelve stones from Exodus 28 into Ezekiel 28:13.” (Alexander)
iii. Matthew Poole described the gemstones in this manner: “The sardius; of a red, and by some said to be the ruby. Topaz; of a yellowish green. The diamond; of clear, waterish, sparkling colour. The beryl; of a sea-green colour, the best. The onyx resembles the whiteness of the nail of a man’s hand. The jasper; of divers colours, but the best green. The sapphire; of sky colour, or blue. The emerald; green interspersed with golden spots. The carbuncle; of flame colour.”
e. The workmanship of your timbrels and pipes was prepared for you: Before his fall, Satan had a significant role in the music of heaven, surrounding God’s throne. Isaiah 14:11 also makes mention of the stringed instruments associated with Satan before his fall.
i. Some take this to say that Satan was the “worship leader” in heaven because there are songs of worship mentioned in the Bible (Job 38:7; Revelation 5:9, 14:3, 15:3).
f. You were the anointed cherub who covers: This tells us that Satan, before his fall, was one of the privileged angelic beings surrounding the throne of God (cherubim were seen before in Ezekiel 1). The cherubim surrounding God’s throne cover it with their wings (pictured in the mercy seat of Exodus 25:20, 37:9, the representation of God’s throne). Satan was one of those covering cherubim.
i. The anointed cherub: “Not simply one cherub among many; he was the cherub par excellence.” (Block)
ii. “The anointed cherub was none other than Satan himself in his position of honor about the throne of God.” (Feinberg)
iii. “Hence, Satan may have been once the chief guardian of the throne of God.” (Wright)
iv. Some commentators believe this section of Ezekiel 28 speaks in the figures of pagan mythology, or that it represents Adam in Eden, and not Satan. That may fit with the idea of Eden, but not with the idea of Adam as the anointed cherub who covers.
g. I established You: This tells us that Satan, before his fall, had the great privilege of being established by God. Grasping or ambition did not gain his position. God gave him this unique position of great beauty, wisdom, adornment, and musical skill as the anointed cherub who covers.
h. You were on the holy mountain of God: We should regard this as the heavenly Zion, the heavenly reality of which earth is a representation. In this privileged place, Satan had great freedom of movement (you walked back and forth in the midst of fiery stones).
i. Hebrews 12:22 presents the idea of the mountain of God, Zion, as a representation of heaven.
ii. The fiery stones likely describe some adornment or perhaps describe the angelic beings known as seraphim (Isaiah 6:2). The name seraphim literally means “burning ones” or “fiery ones” and the context of Isaiah 6 suggests that this was another name for the cherubim surrounding God’s throne.
i. Till iniquity was found in you: Satan enjoyed this place of great status and honor until something happened; until iniquity was found in him. The following verses will describe something of the nature of that iniquity, as does Isaiah 14:12-15. Ezekiel here tells us of the source of the iniquity – Satan, the king of Tyre, himself. It was not placed in him by God, but found in him as a corruption of the good that God put in the anointed cherub who covers.
2. (16-19) The pride and iniquity of the king of Tyre.
“By the abundance of your trading
You became filled with violence within,
And you sinned;
Therefore I cast you as a profane thing
Out of the mountain of God;
And I destroyed you, O covering cherub,
From the midst of the fiery stones.
“Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty;
You corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor;
I cast you to the ground,
I laid you before kings,
That they might gaze at you.
“You defiled your sanctuaries
By the multitude of your iniquities,
By the iniquity of your trading;
Therefore I brought fire from your midst;
It devoured you,
And I turned you to ashes upon the earth
In the sight of all who saw you.
All who knew you among the peoples are astonished at you;
You have become a horror,
And shall be no more forever.”’”
a. By the abundance of your trading you became filled with violence within, and you sinned: Because Satan is spoken of here as the king of Tyre, God spoke of Satan’s sins in the same terms as Tyre’s sins. Tyre was a highly commercialized city-state focused only on winning a profit. Satan’s abundance of trading was found in his competitive spirit, his desire to be exalted above his associates (Isaiah 14:13-14).
i. The abundance of your trading: The dishonest business practices of the leaders of Tyre were a reflection of the dishonest, deceptive dealings of the spiritual power behind them. Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44) and comes only to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10).
ii. “The reference to trade in Ezekiel 28:16 shows that there is a blend of the king of Tyre and his master. The king traded for his own power. Satan sold his glory for violent rebellion, and was cast out from the mountain of God.” (Wright)
iii. This connection between Tyre and Satan shows that the devil can be in business just as much as in armies and war. “Tyre’s strength and influence were commercial rather than military, and it is interesting and suggestive that in this connection we find the most graphic and illuminating portrayal of Satan to be found in the whole Bible.” (Morgan)
b. You became filled with violence: Satan’s desire to exalt himself above his associates (Isaiah 14:13-14) led to some kind of violence. This has first reference to some kind of battle in heaven (as in Revelation 12:7), but also to violence against humanity made in the image of God (John 10:10).
i. This violence against humanity is perhaps explained by the idea that Satan rejected God’s plan to create an order of beings made in His image (Genesis 1:26), who would be beneath the angels in dignity (Hebrews 2:6-7a; 2 Peter 2:11), yet would be served by angels in the present (Hebrews 1:14; 2:7-8; Psalm 91:11-12) and would one day be lifted in honor and status above the angels (1 Corinthians 6:3; 1 John 3:2). Satan wanted to be the highest among all creatures, equal to God in glory and honor, and the plan to create man would eventually put men above angels. He was apparently able to persuade one-third of the angelic beings to join him in his rebellion (Revelation 12:3-4, 7, 9).
ii. If this is the case, it explains well Satan’s present strategy against man: to obscure the image of God in man through encouraging sin and rebellion, to cause man to serve him, and to prevent the ultimate glorification of man.
c. Therefore I cast you as a profane thing: This speaks of the expulsion of Satan from heaven, something that seems to still be in the future of God’s plan of the ages (Revelation 12:7-9). In fact, there are four falls of Satan and this refers to the second of the four; or perhaps the phrase I destroyed you means this refers to the fourth fall of Satan.
· Satan fell from glorified to profane (Ezekiel 28:14-16). This is what Jesus spoke of in Luke 10:18 when He says He saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. This is the only fall of Satan that has already happened.
· Satan will fall from having access to heaven (Job 1:12, 1 Kings 22:21, Zechariah 3:1) to restriction on the earth (Revelation 12:9).
· Satan will fall from his place on the earth to bondage in the bottomless pit for 1,000 years (Revelation 20:1-3).
· Finally, Satan will fall from the bottomless pit to the lake of fire, which we commonly know as hell (Revelation 20:10).
d. Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty: Satan’s sin was prompted by pride. With a swelled heart, drunk on his own sense of beauty and splendor, he made himself an opponent of God, because God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble (Proverbs 3:34, James 4:6, 1 Peter 5:5).
e. I cast you to the ground, I laid you before kings: Satan’s fall would be public and dramatic. As all the world would note Tyre’s fall, so all the world would note the fall of the king of Tyre, Satan himself. God’s judgment will come upon Satan in the sight of all.
f. You defiled your sanctuaries by the multitude of your iniquities, by the iniquity of your trading: The focus on winning profit corrupted and eventually ruined ancient Tyre. The focus on winning glory and honor corrupted and will ruin Satan.
i. “Tyre boasted numerous sanctuaries, and the temples of Tyre were the reason it was called the Holy Island by the ancients. These temples were profaned because the king’s sin was the occasion for their destruction.” (Feinberg)
g. You have become a horror: Much like the reaction of the nations in Isaiah 14:16-17, Ezekiel records that the nations will be horrified at the judgment that will come upon Satan. They will be horrified because it will mean to them that they also will be judged, and they will be horrified when they consider how greatly Satan has deceived them, leading to their own damnation.
i. This was true of literal Tyre, and already fulfilled. “Instead of being an object of adoration thou shalt be a subject of horror, and at last be destroyed with thy city, so that nothing but thy name shall remain. It was entirely burnt by Alexander the Great, as it had been before by Nebuchadnezzar.” (Clarke) It will also one day be true of Satan, the power and influence behind Tyre.
C. The prophecy against Sidon.
1. (20-23) God glorified through His judgment on Sidon.
Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Son of man, set your face toward Sidon, and prophesy against her, and say, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD:
“Behold, I am against you, O Sidon;
I will be glorified in your midst;
And they shall know that I am the LORD,
When I execute judgments in her and am hallowed in her.
For I will send pestilence upon her,
And blood in her streets;
The wounded shall be judged in her midst
By the sword against her on every side;
Then they shall know that I am the LORD.
a. Set your face toward Sidon: The city of Sidon was another Phoenician harbor city near Tyre. God had a word of judgment to speak against them.
i. Sidon “was a great city in Joshua’s time, Joshua 11:8, 19:28, and built by Sidon, Canaan’s son, Genesis 10:15, 1 Chronicles 1:13; a famous mart full of merchants, like Tyre, and as full of sin as riches.” (Poole)
ii. “In Ezekiel’s day, Sidon was not a very important state. In comparison with Tyre, its neighbor 40 km. (15 mi.) to the south, Sidon was insignificant though once it had been a formidable power.” (Vawter and Hoppe)
iii. “Usually the two cities are mentioned together (Isaiah 23:1-4; Jeremiah 47:4; Joel 3:4), but here Sidon is singled out for judgment by the Lord.” (Wiersbe)
b. I am against you, O Sidon; I will be glorified in your midst: The declaration that God will glorify Himself in Sidon gives the sense that they had sinned against His glory. Through His judgments, God would reveal Himself and show that He was hallowed in her.
i. “The fulfillment of this prophetic word is confirmed by Nebuchadrezzar’s Court Register, which mentions the king of Sidon along with other notables from conquered states.” (Block)
2. (24) Blessing to Israel in the judgments upon neighboring nations.
“And there shall no longer be a pricking brier or a painful thorn for the house of Israel from among all who are around them, who despise them. Then they shall know that I am the Lord GOD.”
a. There shall no longer be a pricking brier or a painful thorn for the house of Israel: When God brings His judgment upon Israel’s neighbors (as described in Ezekiel 25-32), it will be a relief to Israel. They would no longer be under threat from those who despise them.
i. “Perhaps there is an allusion to Jezebel, daughter of Ethbaal, king of Sidon, and wife to Ahab, king of Israel, who was the greatest curse to Israel, and the universal restorer of idolatry in the land, see 1 Kings 16:31. Sidon being destroyed, there would come no encourager of idolatry from that quarter.” (Clarke)
b. Then they shall know that I am the Lord GOD: God’s display of judgment against the nations would display to Israel (and the world) His holy and righteous nature. They would know Him as Yahweh (GOD) and as Adonai (Master, Lord).
3. (25-26) The promise to restore Israel.
‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “When I have gathered the house of Israel from the peoples among whom they are scattered, and am hallowed in them in the sight of the Gentiles, then they will dwell in their own land which I gave to My servant Jacob. And they will dwell safely there, build houses, and plant vineyards; yes, they will dwell securely, when I execute judgments on all those around them who despise them. Then they shall know that I am the LORD their God.”’”
a. When I have gathered the house of Israel from the peoples among whom they are scattered: Ezekiel looked forward to an aspect of the new covenant, the gathering of Israel once again as a people and into the land (Deuteronomy 30:3; Jeremiah 23:3, 32:37; Ezekiel 11:17, 36:24).
i. In God’s design the Babylonian exile would not last forever. After 70 years of exile and captivity, the Jewish people were allowed to go back to the promised land. Only about 50,000 of them did in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah, and when they did they did not return to a safe and secure land. This means that the promises of gathering back to the land were only partially fulfilled in the return from Babylonian exile. As part of the new covenant promises, there was a greater and perfect fulfillment to come, which can rightly be said to have reached a significant milestone in 1948.
b. Then they will dwell in their own land which I gave to My servant Jacob: This future, post-exilic promise shows that God’s plan for Israel in their land did not end with the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem; nor has it ended today.
i. “This brief message would be a source of encouragement to the exiles. Moreover, it was only a preview of the fuller development of the restoration message that would be given in Ezekiel 33-39.” (Alexander)
ii. The Puritan commentator John Trapp was one of those who rejected the idea that God still has some distinct place for Israel in His continuing plan of the ages. His explanation of the promise of Ezekiel 28:25 was: “Provided that they cleave close to me; otherwise I will out them again.” Yet such a condition is nowhere mentioned in this and similar promises.
iii. “One reason that so many theologians are believed when they say that God is through with the nation Israel is because God’s people are not acquainted with Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and the minor prophets. The theme song of these prophets is that God is not through with Israel as a nation.” (McGee)
c. They will dwell securely, when I execute judgments on all those around them who despise them: With his eye on the coming new covenant, Ezekiel looked for a secure restoration of Israel to their land – something only partially fulfilled in the present time.
i. “This point is emphasized rhetorically by the repetition of they will live securely and the presentation of concrete symbols of security: the construction of houses and planting of vineyards.” (Block)
ii. “All sources of danger, opposition, and ridicule for Israel would be removed from Canaan. Then they—both the antagonists and the Israelites—would realize that Yahweh alone is deity.” (Smith)
d. Then they shall know that I am the LORD: This beautiful restoration to the land in true peace and security, especially as an aspect of the new covenant, will be yet another way Yahweh reveals Himself to Israel and the world.
i. “The holy people are the channel through whom the Holy God reveals himself. There is no mention of judgments upon Israel: that is presumably thought of as a thing of the past.” (Taylor)