by William J. Stewart
“You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God… You were the anointed cherub who covers; I established you; you were on the holy mountain of God… You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, till iniquity was found in you.” These words appear in Ezekiel 28:12, 14, 15. Just as Isaiah 14 (see last week) has been applied by many to Satan, so it has been with Ezekiel 28. Is Satan the “anounted cherub” spoken of? Let us consider Ezekiel 28 today.
We noted last week from Isaiah a series of prophecies against various nations. Among them was a burden pronounced against Babylon, which included chapter 14. Likewise in Ezekiel, we would do well to consider the greater context. Much is said against Jerusalem and its inhabitants in the book, but beginning at chapter 25, we find a proclamation against Ammon, Moab, Edom and Philistia. Then, in chapter 26 and through chapter 28, a word is brought against Tyre. The latter part of chapter 29 speaks against Sodom, and then from chapter 29 through 32, the prophet speaks against Egypt. The content of chapter 28 must be understood in the midst of this context. It is in the midst of a series of rebukes, and specifically, in the midst of a 3 chapter rebuke of Tyre.
Let us for a few moments consider the content of Ezekiel 28:
The Lord tells the prophet whom these things are about. “Son of man, say to the prince of Tyre…” Later, in verse 12, the prophet is told, “Son of man, take up a lamentation for the king of Tyre…” Nowhere in the text does the prophet indicate that his message refers to Satan. That is an application made by men, not by the prophet or the word he received from the Lord.
The proclamation against the prince of Tyre addresses his haughty pride. He boasted of himself, “I am a god, I sit in the seat of gods, in the midst of the seas”. The Lord very abruptly answers such a claim in these words, “Yet you are a man, and not a god…” Can there be any doubt that this speaks of the prince of Tyre alone? Satan was not, is not, nor ever will be “a man”.
Since he counted himself a god, it is no surprise that he also esteemed himself to be of excellent wisdom. The great wisdom of Daniel had no doubt been spread beyond the borders of Babylon. He may have been regarded among the wisest in his generation. The Lord is not saying that the ruler of Tyre is wiser than Daniel, it is a statement intended to mock his self-elevation (compare Zechariah 9:2).
He had acquired great wealth, as verse 4-5 indicate, but failed to realize, as James calls us to do, that “…every good gift and every perfect gift is from above…” (James 1:17). Sadly, as the case is with many who acquire great wealth, a spirit of self-sufficiency and arrogant pride is found.
This accumulation of wealth is surely not a description of the devil. Has Satan “…gathered gold and silver…” into treasuries or increased his riches via “trade”? These are clearly words directed exclusively to the prince of Tyre.
Through the prophet, the Lord reveals the fate of the Tyrian leader. Because he exalted himself, and reckoned himself a god, God would use a mighty nation, “…the most terrible of the nations…” to destroy his greatness.
He would be brought down to the “pit”, and be slain in the midst of the seas. The Hebrew word shachath, from which “pit” is translated, only appears in Scripture this once. It holds the idea of corruption, destruction, or entrapped in a ditch or a grave. The word comes from shuwach, meaning to bow down or to humble. Though he carried his head high and exalted himself above all others, he would be brought low and slain.
Again, the Lord pointedly states, “…you shall be a man, and not a god, in the hand of him who slays you.” (v 9). His arrogant pride would be brought low before his conquerors. In his death, he would be die outside the favour of God, for he did not favour the Lord.
Does our text fit as a description of Satan thus far? What terrible nation destroyed Satan? Perhaps the “pit” might cause one to think of Satan, but as noted above, this is the only occurrence of this word in the Hebrew text. It is not the same word commonly used for “pit”. And even if it were, how often in the OT do references to the “pit” speak of Satan? Again, the devil was not slain, and he did not die. Neither would “uncircumcised” be a valid description of Satan. “Circumcised” and “uncircumcised” are used exclusively in Scripture of humans.
Here, we find a new revelation given to Ezekiel, a lamentation upon the king of Tyre. Is there a difference between the “prince of Tyre” (v 2) and the “king of Tyre” (v 12)? The Hebrew word which is rendered “prince” appears just this once in Scripture, and is defined by Strong’s as, “…a commander (as occupying the front), civil, military or religious; generally (abstractly, plural), honorable themes: – captain, chief, excellent thing, (chief) governor, leader, noble, prince, (chief) ruler.” There is no reason to suppose that the two declarations are not against the same ruler.
What shall we make of the various phrases used to speak of the king of Tyre? “You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God… You were the anointed cherub who covers… You were perfect in all your ways…” It is possible that these things are spoken of in a mocking manner by the Lord, given the haughty spirit of the king (compare v 3). It is also possible that these things are accurate descriptions of the high place which the Lord blessed the king with, from which he also fell by his arrogance. Which it is, I must admit I am uncertain. Thus, let us consider both options.
|You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty||As in verse 3, where the Lord mocked the Tyrian ruler’s wisdom, He does so again. This time, speaking of him as having perfect or complete wisdom and beauty to match. Though the king so thought of himself, he would be brought low and humbled.||Since every good and perfect gift is from the Lord (James 1:17), the king of Tyre may have been blessed with great wisdom and beauty by the Lord. However, failing to recognize the Lord as the source of his blessings, the king would be brought low.|
|You were in Eden, the garden of God||Eden was the perfect paradise created by God. The king, so blinded by his own glory had created his own Eden, over which he was ruler. All was his in his garden of perfection.||God had exalted this man to great stature, such that his abode was as close as could be found on earth to compare with the Eden of old.|
|Every precious stone was your covering: the sardius, topaz, and diamond, beryl, onyx, and jasper, sapphire, turquoise, and emerald with gold.||A reference to the wealth which this man was afforded, but sadly counted as his own doing. These listed are precious stones which would be gathered from all areas of the world.|
|The workmanship of your timbrels and pipes was prepared for you on the day you were created.||Instruments of joy were ready for the day of his ascension to the throne (the day you were created). From the very beginning of his rule, the king of Tyre seems to have enjoyed high esteem and celebration.|
|You were the anointed cherub who covers||As a cherub was set at the gate of the garden of Eden, perhaps the king is here pictured as the guardian of his own Eden, Tyre. Of course, the cherub in Eden was appointed by the Lord to the service rendered; the king of Tyre appointed himself over his own Eden.||The mercy seat, from which God would speak to the children of Israel, had two cherubim covering it. They guarded, as it were, the seat of God.
Though the king of Tyre was merely a man, the figure speaks to the great duty God conferred upon him, and truly, upon rulers of every nation.
|You were on the holy mountain of God; you walked back and forth in the midst of fiery stones||The holy mountain of God is generally a reference to Zion, the place of God’s dwelling with His people. If he assumed the place of a god, then surely his domain was equal to the presence of God among His people. It was so, but only in his own eyes.||The holy mountain of God is generally a reference to Zion, the place of God’s dwelling with His people. It may indicate God’s presence with the king of Tyre and blessing upon him, though he failed to recognize and appreciate it.|
|You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, till iniquity was found in you.||If a god, then he is perfect, right? Why then was iniquity found in him? He was perfect in his own eyes, and perhaps the eyes of his citizens, but God would expose the sins of this man to the world.||He walked in righteousness at one time, but soon he became arrogant in his spirit, and sinned against the Lord.|
Much of the aforementioned descriptions appear again, but now as God pronounces His judgment against the king of Tyre. It is noteworthy that mention is made of the king’s trading in verse 5, 16 and 18. Whatever this ruler’s trading practices were, it brought out violence in him, and is identified as one of his iniquities (v 18). His wickedness brought profanity, destruction, and corruption.
God pointedly says that he would lay the king before other kings, that they might gaze upon his humility. He would be visible to all, and be a horror to them. The glory which the Lord had given him would be taken away, and nothing but shame would remain.
Finally, it is said that the king of Tyre “…shall be no more forever.” The Lord would bring him down, and destroy him. He would cease to be upon the face of the earth. As formerly said, the most terrifying of the nations would come upon him, and bring destruction.
Can the things from verse 12 through verse 19 be written about Satan? It is nothing more than man’s supposition that Satan could ever have fit any of the descriptions presented in the text. Nowhere in Scripture is a single description used here applied to the devil. The continual reference to trading indicates that indeed we are speaking about an earthly king who exalted himself, not about Satan. What wealth did Satan ever acquire by trading? What commodities did he deal in? Preposterous.
The need to satisfy curiosity regarding the nature and being of Satan before the incident recorded in Genesis 3 is no doubt the motivating factor in some to apply the content of Ezekiel 28 and Isaiah 14 to Satan. The careful Bible student, who seeks only to know what the Lord has revealed, and not to go beyond will accept that the Lord has not told us about Satan’s character or actions aside from what is revealed in Scripture. Neither Ezekiel 28 nor Isaiah 14 reveal anything of the character or actions of Satan, for they are not written of him.