The Real Ruler of Tyre

Ezekiel 28

Alan Lewis
Elon, North Carolina
March 2018

We are studying the Book of Ezekiel and right now we are in the second part of the book.  God appeared to Ezekiel, called him to be a prophet and gave him a message to speak.  Ezekiel received words from God to deliver to people.  The first words he received was that judgment was coming to Jerusalem (Ezekiel 1-24).

The northern kingdom had already gone into captivity over a hundred and thirty years earlier but many thought that the southern kingdom could never fall.  It had the Temple.  God was there.  That made it indestructible but God left His Temple and judged His own people, as the Babylonians came in destroyed the Temple, slaughtered the city and took many people as captives.

The second words he received from God were about judgment falling on Gentile nations around Israel.  We find these words in Ezekiel 25-32 and they describe judgment on seven nations all judged because of their treatment of Israel.  That is interesting to think about.  God judges Gentile nations based on how they treat the Jews.  Many nations today are anti-Semitic.  Their fate will be similar to these seven nations.   God will come against these nations, just like He came against the Jews in Jerusalem.  After they are judged, God says this:

“‘No longer will the people of Israel have malicious neighbors who are painful briers and sharp thorns. Then they will know that I am the Sovereign Lord.  This is what the Sovereign Lord says: When I gather the people of Israel from the nations where they have been scattered, I will be proved holy through them in the sight of the nations. Then they will live in their own land, which I gave to my servant Jacob. They will live there in safety and will build houses and plant vineyards; they will live in safety when I inflict punishment on all their neighbors who maligned them. Then they will know that I am the Lord their God.’” (28:24-26 ESV)

Ezekiel 26-28 deal with judgment on two more nations, Tyre and Sidon.  Both of these were port cities right on the Mediterranean.  They were close to each other (about twenty miles apart).  They are in Lebanon today.  They were Canaanite cities.  Sidon was a son of Canaan.  He was his firstborn son (Genesis 10:15) in the Book of Genesis.  That made him the great-grandson of Noah.

The focus of these three chapters is on Tyre.  We began looking at Tyre last week.  Ezekiel has two chapters on the city of Tyre and one chapter on the king of Tyre.  Why did he write a chapter about the king of Tyre?  The king was the personification of the city.  Today, we will be talking about the king of Tyre.

Today, we are going to go deep.  You are going to see some very advanced material in this chapter.  If you can’t handle meat or are a spiritual vegetarian, this is the wrong class for you.  This is a very controversial chapter.  If you read commentaries or go online, you will read all kinds of different things about this chapter.  This chapter actually debunks some myths that people have about Satan.  There are two main interpretations of this chapter.

Two Main Interpretations of the Chapter

1. The King of Tyre is a HUMAN RULER

This is the modern view.  The chapter is just referring to some ancient king, some ancient Phoenician king.  We actually know his name.  The ruler of Tyre who was in power when Ezekiel wrote this was Ithobaal III.  He reigned from 591 to 573 BC. Many scholars who write commentaries on Ezekiel, even some evangelical scholars, believe that this is just talking about him.  What arguments do they give for the view that this is a human ruler?

The passage does not use the words “devil,” “Satan” or “fallen angel.”  If you read the entire chapter, you will not see those words anywhere.

The chapter is all about the King of Tyre but, interestingly, the word “king” is never used in Ezekiel of angels.  It is only used of human kings (17:12; 19:9; 21:19; 24:2; 26:7; 29:2-3,18; 30:10,21; 31:2; 32:2,11),

Furthermore, the king of Tyre is called a man.  Ezekiel 28:1-2 says, “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” (ESV). He was a man.  He lived in Tyre (28:2), not heaven.

He dies a violent death at the hand of foreigners (28:8, 10).  He was turned into ashes (28:18).  People would see his dead body lying on the ground (28:18).  Angels do not die.   Angels don’t die but this person did.  They are not physical beings.  They are not born and they don’t die.

Before he was judged, this king did a lot of trading and engaged in violence. 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 (28:16 ESV).

There is not going to be any trading in heaven.  We will not be trading baseball cards and there will not be any buying or selling.  Satan did not commit an act of violent in heaven.  He did not assault anyone.  Al of these are reasons that some say that this is only talking about a human ruler of Tyre, although perhaps poetically.

2. The King of Tyre is an ANGELIC RULER

That has been the predominate view of most people in church history, since the second century.  According to this view, Ezekiel 28 is talking about the creation and fall of Satan, as well as the fall of a human king.

Part of the chapter describes a supernatural being who rebelled against God.  They believe it is talking about a mighty angel in heaven who rebelled against God and was kicked out of heaven. This view goes all the way back to the second century.  It was held by Origin, Tertullian, Chrysostom, Augustine and many others.  It is a very old Christian interpretation.

The arguments used against this view sound good but they are extremely weak.  Biblical commentators who use these arguments make great scholars but terrible theologians.  The word “Satan,” “devil” and “fallen angel” are not found in the text at all.

They are absolutely right but read Genesis 3 sometime and you will not find those words there either.  The chapter mentions a serpent but he is not called a fallen angel, just one of the animals that God made (a snake) and yet every Christian believes that Satan was the one in the garden who tempted Eve.

The word king is never used in Ezekiel of an angel.  That is true but Jesus is a king.  He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords, so the word “king” can be used of a man or of God.  It can also be used of an angel.  There are angels in the Bible called kings and princes (Daniel 10:12-13; 12:1).  Satan is the ruler of this world (John 12:31).  He is called “the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2).

Evidence for the Angel Interpretation

There are several hints in the text that the angel interpretation might be correct.  Let me point them out.

First, the first leader is called “a prince” (28:2).  The second leader is called a “king” (28:12).  One is called the prince of Tyre and one is called the king of Tyre.  They are separate words in Hebrew.  The word for “prince” is nageed.  The word for “king” is melek. Now this is very interesting.

The world called him a king.  He called himself a king but God called him only a prince.  From a human perspective, he was the supreme ruler of Tyre but if you looked behind the scenes, you would find another force and another power and another spirit which energized the prince of Tyre and he was the real ruler of Tyre.  That was Satan.  He was the power behind the throne. The prince of Tyre was just his puppet.  This was a satanic king.

That is a scary thought.  Satan is involved in politics today.  He has influence today.  He works through political leaders and nations who do his bidding without even knowing it.  We do not have to look to pagan nations.  He has had some influence in some of the leaders of our own country in pushing unbiblical legislation and fomenting dissension all over the country.

Second, the prince of Tyre is said to be a man (28:2, 9) but the King of Tyre is said to be an angel (28:14).  The king of Tyre is called a cherub.[1]  Today, we think of cherubs as cute little chubby babies but, in the Bible, they are angels. The first reason is that one was called a prince and one was called a king.  The second reason is that one was called a man and one was called an angel.

Third, many of the descriptions in this chapter could not possibly refer to the prince of Tyre.  They could only refer to one person and that is Satan.  This king was not in Eden, the garden of God (28:13).  There were only three people in Eden: Adam, Eve and Satan.  The prince of Tyre was never there.  When Adam left, there was a flaming sword.  No one could go back and get in.

He never was on the holy mountain of God (28:14).  He was not an angel.  He was not a cherub, guarding the holiness of God.  He did not live in Eden or on a burning holy mountain where God’s throne is.  He never stood directly in God’s presence and walked among the stones of fire (28:14).  He was never in the mountain of God and was never exiled from the mountain of God (28:16).

He was not blameless from the day he was created (28:14).  He was neither blameless, nor a direct creation of God.  In fact, all of the human race, including this pagan king were born in sin.  We are all sinful from birth.  We did not live a perfect life until one day we decided to sin and disobey God

Satan’s Creation

What does this chapter tell us about Satan?  The city was just a reflection of the king and the king was just a reflection of Satan himself, the one who energized and empowered him. The king of Tyre was a type of Satan.  The rebellious king was a type of a rebellious angel.  What was his original state?

1. He was beautiful

“Son of man, take up a lament concerning the king of Tyre and say to him: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: “‘You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. (28:12 NIV)

You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone adorned you (28:13 NIV)

You corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor. (28:17 NIV)

If you put these together, you see that Satan when he was created was beautiful and bright.  He was adorned with every precious stone.  In fact, God said that not only was he beautiful but he was PERFECT IN BEAUTY.  He would have won all of the beauty contests.  He was the most beautiful of all created beings. Today, we think of the devil as an ugly, grotesque creature and he is but he was not created that way.

2. He was wise

Today, have a lot of dumb blond jokes.  If you had a choice, which would you be: look really good on the outside but have nothing on the inside (beautiful and stupid) or look really bad on the outside but have a lot on the inside (ugly but highly intelligent).  Satan had both.  He was the most beautiful of all created beings and he was wise.  He was “full of wisdom” (28:12).  The one who tempted Eve was very crafty.

3. He was perfect

You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you. (28:15 NIV)

Satan was not only perfect but was called “the seal of perfection” (28:12 NIV).  He is the model of perfection.  Why is this important?  When God created Satan, he was not Satan.  He was absolute perfection.  God did not create the devil. He did not create evil.  Satan was created perfect.  He chose to be evil.

4. He was exalted

God created a hierarchy of beings.  He created animals.  He created people above them and angels above people.  There are also ranks of angels.  Satan was not just an angel, he was a cherub.   Cherubs are guardian angels.  They guard God’s throne and His holiness.  They guarded the tree of life in the garden of Eden.  This being is called in the KJV “the cherub which covers.”Cherubs are the highest order of created beings.  They are like super angels, top angels.  They are very powerful beings.

Satan was not just one of the top angels, he was a leader over the other cherubs.  He was not just a cherub, he was an “anointed cherub” (28:14).  He was distinguished from the other cherubs.  The word anointed means “messiah.”  They are different forms of the same word.  Anointed is ma-shock.  Messiah is ma-she-ock.  If Michael was an arch angel, Satan was an arch cherub, which made him not just the highest angels but the highest of all God’s creatures.

Was Satan the Worship Leader in Heaven?

This idea is all based on one verse that comes from this chapter.  Ezekiel 28:13 says, “Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created.” (KJV) [2]

This is a reference to wind and percussion instruments.  Many believe that Satan was the first worship leader in heaven.  They believe that he was the first musician, the heavenly choir director.  The problem with this view is that it only comes from one verse in the Bible and is only found in one translation (KJV).

If you read any other modern version, you will find a different reading.  The ESV reads “crafted in gold were your settings and your engravings.”  The NIV says, “Your settings and mountings were made of gold.”  The NLT reads, “all beautifully crafted for you and set in the finest gold.”  Both translations are possible in Hebrew but the second one fits the context better, which deals with precious stones, not a heavenly choir.

Fall of Satan

You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you. 16 Through your widespread trade you were filled with violence, and you sinned. So I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God, and I expelled you, guardian cherub, from among the fiery stones. 17 Your heart became PROUD on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor. (28:15-17 NIV)

This passage gives us the origin of evil.  It gives us the first sin.  The first sin was not human.  It was angelic.  What was the sin?  The first sin in the universe was pride.  The power and beauty and wisdom all went to his head.  The same thing happens today.

KNOWLEDGE can lead to pride.  Paul says that knowledge puffs up (I Corinthians 8:1).  Educated people often look down on uneducated people.  Many with college degrees say they could never date someone with just a high school diploma.

BEAUTY can lead to pride.  Beautiful women can look down on women who are ugly.  They think they are better than them.

WEALTH can lead to pride.  If you live in a nice house, you might look down on someone who just lives in a trailer.  The king of Tyre was up to his eyeballs in wealth.  He wore all kinds of jewels.  Tyre was the commercial and trading center of the ancient world.

POWER can lead to pride.  If people have any kind of power over you, it often goes to their head.  They think they are more important.  The king of Tyre had incredible power.  Kings in the Ancient Near East had absolute power.  He had no checks and balances like we have today.

This king had no constitution limiting his power.  He could do whatever he wanted to do.  Power corrupts.  For this king, the power went to his head and he began to think that he was a god.

The word of the Lord came to me: 2 “Son of man, say to the ruler of Tyre, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: “‘In the pride of your heart you say, “I am a god; I sit on the throne of a god in the heart of the seas.” (28:1-2 ESV).

S. Lewis Johnson pointed out that Muhammad Ali said that he was the greatest but he never said that he was God.  When the king of Tyre said it, God mocked him.  He said tell that to the man who is cutting your throat (28:9).  Ithobaal III had so much power that it went to his head and he thought he was a god.  Today, no one even knows who he is.  If you go on the Internet, you will find nothing about him.  He is not even important to history.

What is the lesson of this chapter?  The world takes this sin and makes it a virtue.  We have Gay Pride celebrations.  In the Bible, pride is something that God hates (Proverbs 6:16-17; 8:13; 16:5).  Pride means revolt and rebellion against God.  It signifies independence from God.  It is a satanic sin.

We see from this chapter that He not only hates it; He judges it. The king of Tyre fell because of pride and so did Satan, the one who inspired him.  Pride goes before destruction, and an arrogant spirit before a fall. (Proverbs 16:18).  As Jesus says, “For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (NIV).

[1] The LXX says that he is WITH a cherub but the Hebrew calls him a cherub (MT).

[2] “Tabrets” is plural of tabret which is a timbrel or tambourine.  Pipes are wind instruments, like a flute or recorder.

2 Responses to The Real Ruler of Tyre

  1. Thanks for this study, enjoyed it

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