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Ezekiel 28:11-19 – Lament over the King of Tyre or Fall of Satan?

Summary

Ezekiel prophesies the fall of the king of Tyre in a highly symbolic lament. Some think this is an allegory of the fall of Satan.

Analysis

In a long set of prophecies about Tyre and its king, predicting their fall and destruction, Ezekiel creates this lament over the fall of the king of Tyre. The prophet symbolizes the arrogance and conceit of the king in mythological terms. He is compared to the beautiful, perfect, first human in paradise (28:12-13). The translation of 28:14 is difficult, and the king may be compared to a guardian angel (cherub), or perhaps he may have been appointed a guardian cherub. In any case, he is privileged to walk on the holy mountain of God, among the stones of fire. The point of these symbols is that the man had direct access to the presence and glory of God.

While we may be tempted to see Satan in these verses, as many ancient commentators did, the actual reference is to the king of Tyre. The king's arrogance and self-understood greatness is described in mythological terms, drawn from the Bible and the surrounding culture. These mythological attributes emphasize in striking visual symbols the greatness of his fall from the heights of power. The symbolism draws from the fall of Adam and other sources, and not from the fall of Satan, which comes much later in Jewish religion. Compare 31:8-9, which describe the pharaoh of Egypt in terms of Eden also.

Ezekiel 28:11-19

Lamentation over the King of Tyre

11 Moreover, the word of the Lord came to me: 12Mortal, raise a lamentation over the king of Tyre, and say to him, Thus says the Lord God:
You were the signet of perfection,*
   full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.
13 You were in Eden, the garden of God;
   every precious stone was your covering,
carnelian, chrysolite, and moonstone,
   beryl, onyx, and jasper,
sapphire,* turquoise, and emerald;
   and worked in gold were your settings
   and your engravings.*
On the day that you were created
   they were prepared.
14 With an anointed cherub as guardian I placed you;*
   you were on the holy mountain of God;
   you walked among the stones of fire.
15 You were blameless in your ways
   from the day that you were created,
   until iniquity was found in you.
16 In the abundance of your trade
   you were filled with violence, and you sinned;
so I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God,
   and the guardian cherub drove you out
   from among the stones of fire.
17 Your heart was proud because of your beauty;
   you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendour.
I cast you to the ground;
   I exposed you before kings,
   to feast their eyes on you.
18 By the multitude of your iniquities,
   in the unrighteousness of your trade,
   you profaned your sanctuaries.
So I brought out fire from within you;
   it consumed you,
and I turned you to ashes on the earth
   in the sight of all who saw you.
19 All who know you among the peoples
   are appalled at you;
you have come to a dreadful end
   and shall be no more for ever.

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10 February 2011

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