Series: Thru the Bible
Message: The King of Tyre & the fallen Cherub
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The King of Tyre & the fallen Cherub
Last week we left off with God pronouncing judgment on the NATION of Tyre through Ezekiel. Tyre was a national port of trade and in chapter 27 MUCH was stated to describe the types of trade this nation was involved in and between what nations they were involved with trade.
It appears that Tyre did not so much connect dots – this nation with that nation – but that they themselves would purchase goods and then become the merchant through which other nations would purchase goods from other nations. It might be a stretch to call Tyre a profiteer because other nations were getting rich by conducting trade with them and those greatly mourned its collapse. Tyre was simply a middle man, if you will. A hub of merchandise from all over that part of the world and it has its national judgment pronounced over it by Ezekiel in the former chapter.
Now in chapter 28, Ezekiel begins with judging the earthly leader of that nation. I say, “earthly leader” because, as we addressed not that long ago back in Daniel chapters 10-11, we saw clearly that at least in areas of immediate world importance, there is both demonic and angelic warfare going on behind the scenes.
In several places in scripture, including Daniel, these spiritual warriors are often referred to as princes and rulers. Usually this is not confusing, but there are some unique aspects to this chapter which makes it necessary to at least mention before we get started.
So this first segment from verse 1 on through to verse 10 are all clearly addressing the physical human King of Tyre at the time of Ezekiel.
“(1) The word of the LORD came to me:
(2) “Son of man, say to the ruler of Tyre: This is what the Lord GOD says: Your heart is proud, and you have said:
I am a god; I sit in the seat of gods in the heart of the sea. Yet you are a man and not a god, though you have regarded your heart as that of a god.
(3) Yes, you are wiser than Daniel; no secret is hidden from you!
(4) By your wisdom and understanding you have acquired wealth for yourself. You have acquired gold and silver for your treasuries. (5) By your great skill in trading you have increased your wealth, but your heart has become proud because of your wealth.”
(6) Therefore this is what the Lord GOD says:
Because you regard your heart as that of a god, (7) I am about to bring strangers against you, ruthless men from the nations. They will draw their swords against your magnificent wisdom and will defile your splendor. (8) They will bring you down to the Pit, and you will die a violent death in the heart of the sea.
(9) Will you still say: I am a god, in the presence of those who kill you? Yet you will be shown to be a man, not a god, in the hands of those who kill you.
(10) You will die the death of the uncircumcised at the hands of strangers. For I have spoken. This is the declaration of the Lord GOD.”
Now, what we are about to read is one of the most puzzling portions of scripture I’ve ever dealt with. It has a sister passage of lesser difficulty in Isaiah 14 but this passage introduces some interesting new difficulties unique to Ezekiel.
Prophets often see weird things and are shown illustrative visions. In the great majority of cases, these do not introduce any real puzzles because they are usually explained in one way or another somewhere in the same passage or at least within the same book. Here in Ezekiel however, we see something which I believe is unique. You have a prophecy which clearly has a real human object – the King of Tyre and Tyre itself as a nation. However, then there is this clear depiction of a fallen cherub. While there are some similarities between the King of Tyre and this cherub being described, there are perhaps more dissimilarities – at least on the surface. This has led many to wonder if it is a parallel or a dual-reference with satan himself being the actual party being described.
MANY commentators make a good case for how all this is simply mixed imagery drawn from surrounding nations and I cannot completely set that possibility aside. We saw the same in Isaiah 14 and in fact, I am going to go back over some of what we covered in that chapter, as we press forward here.
The real problem I have is that, if this is only a colorful metaphor for the actual physical King of Tyre – I don’t see the point!
Before we get to verse 11, God has already called out and judged both Tyre and the King of Tyre so IF verses 12-19 are about the King of Tyre, why the imagery and why repeat the same basic judgment over him a second time only deeply cloaked in metaphor? And why compare the King of Tyre to any heavenly creature – especially a cherub?
Now as you are reading the description of this creature, it would be easy to assume this is referring to satan, as many in Church history have done. However, there is one portion of this description of him which I cannot figure out how it even COULD apply to ANY heavenly creature.
So with that under our belt let’s read these verses.
“(11) The word of the LORD came to me:
(12) “Son of man, lament for the king of Tyre and say to him: This is what the Lord GOD says:
You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. (13) You were in Eden, the garden of God. Every kind of precious stone covered you: carnelian, topaz, and diamond, beryl, onyx, and jasper, sapphire, turquoise and emerald.
Your mountings and settings were crafted in gold; they were prepared on the day you were created.
(14) You were an anointed guardian cherub, for I had appointed you. You were on the holy mountain of God; you walked among the fiery stones. (15) From the day you were created you were blameless in your ways until wickedness was found in you.
(16) Through the abundance of your trade, you were filled with violence, and you sinned.
So I expelled you in disgrace from the mountain of God, and banished you, guardian cherub, from among the fiery stones.
(17) Your heart became proud because of your beauty; For the sake of your splendor you corrupted your wisdom. So I threw you down to the earth; I made a spectacle of you before kings.
(18) You profaned your sanctuaries by the magnitude of your iniquities in your dishonest trade. So I sent out fire from within you, and it consumed you. I reduced you to ashes on the ground in the sight of everyone watching you.
(19) All those who know you among the nations are appalled at you. You have become an object of horror and will never exist again.”
You are all familiar with this passage and its sister passage in Isaiah 14 as well as its common spiritual interpretation as if referencing satan. It is from the passage in Isaiah 14 that we even get the proper name Lucifer and apply it to satan. To be honest however, such an interpretation is not genuinely obvious from the words in Isaiah alone.
I fully admit that I have found it difficult to separate from my mind the lifelong held assumptions about satan and his fall from this passage, but it was something I had to do. You see, you cannot use prima facie understanding as proof of accurate interpretation. What you need is exterior testimony for corroboration.
What I am saying is that for the most part, all of my “proofs” that satan…
- used to be called Lucifer
- desired to exalt himself as equal with God
- desired to rule over the stars (or angels) of God
- was a covering cherub
- became corrupt because of his beauty
…largely come from these two passages. Being honest with myself, nowhere in these passages does it actually and directly use the more common names of satan, devil, that old serpent or even the dragon.
It just uses the term ‘shining one’ and ‘son of the morning’ in Isaiah and covering Cherub here in Ezekiel.
That these terms seem best fitted for a supernatural being seems obvious on some level for the name Lucifer as meaning “shining one, son of the morning or morning star” are names both befitting of and used for Jesus Himself. Also the term Cherub is clearly fitting only for a Cherub. Both Jesus and Cherubim are spiritual, and heavenly beings. Jesus of course being the Creator and Cherubs being created by Him, but both are nonetheless, spiritual, heavenly beings.
You might ask, IF this is referring to the King of Tyre – what human being after Adam or Eve could be said to have been in the Garden of Eden? Why attribute such to the actual, physical King of Tyre?
According to Genesis, cherubim were placed as guardians at the garden entrance following the sin of Adam and Eve (Gen.3:24). So that much makes more sense that it was referring to a real Cherub.
It has been suggested that the reason for such a comparison is that even as Adam and Eve fell from their lofty position from an ideal and even perfect environment, so too did the King of Tyre. If you remember, in chapter 27, the city is referred to as perfect by the King of Tyre.
Now the way in which this cherub could be seen to refer to the actual King of Tyre is, the few depictions which at least on the surface appear to speak of him as a human ruler. For how could an actual Cherub be…
- made a spectacle of before kings.
- reduced to ashes on the ground in the sight of everyone watching.
- Be appalled at by all among the nations who knew him
Now we know that rulers can be used metaphorically of evil spirits. In Daniel we saw Michael referred to as a Chief prince and the prince of Persia being an evil spirit with whom he was at war.
Ephesians 6 tells us that our struggle is not against humans, but those who influence them.
“(12) For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens.”
Some of the words like rulers, are synonyms for the word king. So IF this IS referring to satan’s fall then it is possible that those spectating kings, the eyes of those watching his fall and by extension the nations who knew him “could” refer to these various levels of angelic and demonic authority who exist in the spiritual realm and are at least in a passing way attached or associated with their natural country counterparts on the earth… like Persia or Tyre.
As we have noted in times past, angels as one class of spiritual beings, seem to be immediately involved and interested in humanity.
They are said to be present, watching, curious about mankind and salvation, they are messengers and apparently they fight against the angels that fell.
They are organized in military ranks, and evidently the chief or archangels appear to be over nations and their “soldiers” (angels) may even be assigned to certain cities, townships and regions in that country. Such SEEMS to be suggested at least in the story of the Gadarene demoniac. If you remember, before allowing the legion of demons to vacate the man and enter the swine, they plead with Jesus not to cast them out of the region and especially not to torment them by sending them into the abyss before the appointed time. [See Mark 5:1-20; Luke 8:26-39]
Also, the scriptures seem to identify Michael himself is specifically over Israel.
My two major issues are the idea of this cherub being made corrupt through trading? What and with whom could a Cherub do commerce?
Secondly, since there is sufficient evidence that it was satan either directly as the serpent or indirectly through a real serpent that deceived Eve in the garden I believe we are safe in assuming that satan’s fall predated our own.
If that is true, then before what nations was he ‘known’ and ‘appalled’ when he fell?
There were no nations that early on! As I said earlier, perhaps those nations were their spiritual counterparts. For if in the spiritual realm there is a spiritual prince of Persia with other spirits of lesser rank who work for him, could they not collectively be referred to the nation of Persia? I suppose that is possible, but again – there were no earthly nations yet, so it is a stretch to assume those future nations already had spiritual counterparts long before their inception.
Also, Isaiah 14 contains several titles that resemble those of Canaanite mythology, including references to Helel son of Shachar, the stars of El, the mountain of assembly, the recesses of Zaphon, and the divine title Most High. Ezekiel’s imagery also appears to reflect Mesopotamian and Canaanite mythology at certain points.
According to the comments of the translation team for the New English translation when referring to Isaiah 14 they say…
Apparently these verses allude to a mythological story about a minor god (Helel son of Shachar) who tried to take over Zaphon, the mountain of the gods. His attempted coup failed, and he was hurled down to the underworld.
Thus it is suspected that Isaiah borrows from this mythological imagery to describe the king of Babylon because he also had delusions of grandeur, which when not realized he was taunted for by the Israelites who returned from their exile under him.
So it is possible that such is being done here in Ezekiel with reference to the King ofTyre.
The similarities are the visions of grandeur and god-like aspirations, his being brought low and reduced to nothing before men, and their being shocked at his fall.
However, like Grogan observes
“It is a strange paradox that nothing makes a being less like God than the urge to be his equal, for he who was God stepped down from the throne of his glory to display to the wondering eyes of men the humility of God.”
So, we do not know with 100% certainty that this passage serves as a dual reference for satan, but I personally believe it does. If not by deliberate intention then by what we know of him, his fall and his future which I will set before you now in a few examples.
The first is found in a passage with Jesus describing either satan’s first fall from God or his secondary fall from heaven the place.
“(17) Then the seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name!” (18) So he said to them,“I saw satan fall like lightning from heaven. (19) Look, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions and on the full force of the enemy, and nothing will hurt you. (20) Nevertheless, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names stand written in heaven.”
The second almost certainly refers to a secondary fall of satan, though it “could” be referring to satan’s initial fall which would make that the only fall he ever realized.
You see, the first fall was before the sin of man and was spiritual. The way we know this is that scripture presents the devil and his angels as still able to approach God’s throne. 2Kings has fallen angles approaching God regarding the method by which King Ahab would die and we see satan himself as constantly being before God as the accuser of the brethren.
So on some level or another, he has had some audience with God, but in Revelation that comes to an end. It is found in Rev. 12:7-12,
“(7) Then war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. (8) But the dragon was not strong enough to prevail, so there was no longer any place left in heaven for him and his angels.
(9) So that huge dragon – the ancient serpent, the one called the devil and satan, who deceives the whole world – was thrown down to the earth, and his angels along with him.
(10) Then I heard a loud voice in heaven saying, “The salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the ruling authority of his Christ, have now come, because the accuser of our brothers and sisters, the one who accuses them day and night before our God, has been thrown down.
(11) But they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die. (12) Therefore you heavens rejoice, and all who reside in them! But woe to the earth and the sea because the devil has come down to you! He is filled with terrible anger, for he knows that he only has a little time!”
Also we know that Jude looks back on the fall of angels saying,
“(5) But I want to remind you, though you once knew this, that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. (6) And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day; (7) as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. (8) Likewise also these dreamers defile the flesh, reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries. (9) Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!”– Jude 1:5-9
Then we have the statement of the character of satan in John 8:44,
“You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.”
On any level, satan very well may have been a particular variety of cherub – an anointed guardian cherub. He appears to have been special, though that may NOT be the same thing as being personally unique.
He is referred to in Ezekiel as the sealer of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. He is bejeweled with 9 gems. Nine is considered the number of divine completeness or finality, which makes sense since he was just called the divine sealer of perfection. He is said to have walked among the fiery stones which we saw earlier in Ezekiel is in fact where Cherubs walk beneath the throne of God. At any rate, he seems to have fallen from some exalted and lofty position. How he took a third of the angels of heaven with him I do not know. We like to presume that he had some direct authority over them and that is not completely unwarranted, but it is also never clearly stated.
One curious thing is that Ezekiel is the ONLY known person in human history to have ever actually seen and thus described Cherubs. When we read the accounts of Ezekiel seeing these Cherubim, they add absolutely nothing to the account of what was happening other than the majesty of their persons and the majesty of God Whom they serve. A very strong case could be made that the historical account and the objectives of God in giving Ezekiel these visions could have met their intended objectives without even the mention of a single Cherub, much less a detailed description of them and their general habitat. So I am led to ask, why mention them at all? Why reveal to this ONE MAN Ezekiel what these spiritual creatures look like and what they do and where they dwell? It doesn’t seem unreasonable to me that it was to further reveal who this cherub was in this chapter – as being a description of satan himself and his fall.
Why compare Cherubs – any Cherub to this King of Tyre? Cherubs do not rule over anything so far as we know. Certainly nothing in Ezekiel describes them as such. Far from sitting ON thrones themselves they are set before us as serving God and His throne room. So why compare these servants with an earthly king?
I believe that God used the King of Tyre to set the stage for revealing something about the literal fall of satan rather than the other way about. The convenience of it is similar to that of Isaiah’s comparison with the King of Babylon. As a result we know more about our enemy. He fell from lofty heights, but was always a created being who was designed to serve God – not rule. Even so, earthly rulers only do so at God’s design and bidding and wield no power of their own, but only authority delegated to them by the ONLY TRUE king and that God Himself.
Now for the remainder of the chapter. We know that Sidon was directly connected with Tyre. In fact in the time of Jesus, the names “Tyre and Sidon” were spoken of as ONE unified region, rather than two separate nations. [See Matt. 15:21; Mk. 3:8; 7:24,31; Luke 5:17…etc.]
According to Gill, Jamieson, Fausset and Brown,
Sidon was an ancient city, near to Tyre, and in confederacy with it, greatly given to idolatry and superstition. It was famous for its fishery and later for its wide extended commerce. According to Genesis 10:15, Sidon was founded by Canaan’s first-born. Tyre was actually an offshoot from it, so that it was involved in this same prophesied overthrow by the Chaldeans as Tyre. It is mentioned separately, because its idolatry (Ashtaroth, Tammuz, or Adonis) infected Israel more than that of Tyre did (Ezekiel 8:14; Judges 10:6; 1Kings 11:33). The notorious Jezebel was a daughter of Zidonian king.
“(20) The word of the LORD came to me:
(21) “Son of man, turn your face toward Sidon and prophesy against it. (22) You are to say: This is what the Lord GOD says:
Look! I am against you, Sidon, and I will display My glory within you. They will know that I am the LORD when I execute judgments against her and demonstrate My holiness through her.
(23) I will send a plague against her and bloodshed in her streets; the slain will fall within her, while the sword is against her on every side. Then they will know that I am the LORD.
(24) “The house of Israel will no longer be hurt by prickling briers or painful thorns from all their neighbors who treat them with contempt. Then they will know that I am the Lord GOD.
(25) “This is what the Lord GOD says:
When I gather the house of Israel from the peoples where they are scattered and demonstrate My holiness through them in the sight of the nations, then they will live in their own land, which I gave to My servant Jacob.
(26) They will live there securely, build houses, and plant vineyards. They will live securely when I execute judgments against all their neighbors who treat them with contempt. Then they will know that I am the LORD their God.”