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Ezekiel 28

 

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
    Oracles Against the Nations
(25:1-32:32)
   
    Oracles Against Tyre
(26:1-28:19)
   
Tyre's King Overthrown Proclamation Against the King of Tyre Oracle Against Tyre Prophecy Against the King of Tyre Against the King of Tyre
28:1-10 28:1-10 28:1-10 28:1-5 28:1-10
(2b-5) (2b-5) (2b-10)   (2b-5)
(6b-10) (6b-10   28:6-10 (6b-10)
  Lamentation for the King of Tyre Lamentation Over the King of Tyre The Fall of the King of Tyre The Fall of the King of Tyre
28:11-19 28:11-19 28:11-19 28:11-19 28:11-19
(12c-19) (12c-13) (12c-19)   (12c-19)
  (14-15)      
  (16)      
  (17-19)      
Judgment on Sidon Proclamation Against Sidon Oracle Against Sidon Prophecy Against Sidon Against Sidon
28:20-24 28:20-23 28:20-23 28:20-23 28:20-23
(22b-23) (22b-23) (22b-23)   (22b-23)
    Restoration of Israel Israel Will Be Blessed Israel Delivered From the Nations
  28:24 28:24 28:24 28:24
Israel Regathered Israel's Future Blessing      
28:25-26 28:25-26 28:25-26 28:25-26 28:25-26

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the four modern translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. Chapter 28 is part of a larger literary unit (i.e., chapters 26-28), which denotes the fall of Phoenicia.

 

B. Phoenicia, once a friend of Israel (i.e., supplied materials for the temple), became a pagan empire exporting Ba'al worship (i.e., Jezebel, queen of Ahab, cf. I Kgs. 16:29-34; 18-19).

 

C. Phoenicia (like Edom) was a godless nation. Her pride and slave trade made her an example of human society functioning apart from God.

 

D. For many years I saw this chapter and Isaiah 14 as referring to Satan, but in context this cannot be. It is true that human leaders and Satan share the problem of pride, arrogance, and rebellion. Because the descriptions from the Garden of Eden are also used of the person of chapter 28, it is obvious to me this was the only passage in the Bible that described the fall of Satan.

But wait, this chapter is about the king of Tyre, as Isaiah 14 is about the king of Babylon. Yet, what about the Garden of Eden descriptions? The king of Tyre was not in the Garden of Eden; he was not a covering cherub!

The answer to this quandary came home to me when I realized that Pharaoh is also described in Garden of Eden metaphors in Ezekiel 31. Ezekiel uses Edenic metaphors. Because I am a conservative Christian who honors and respects Scripture, without even thinking about it, I assumed that for it to be true it must be "literal." I have come to realize it is "literary." Here are the two books that have helped me deal with my American, twentieth century, conservative biases.

1. How to Read the Bible For All Its Worth by Gordon Fee and Doug Stuart

2. Plowshares and Pruning Hooks: Rethinking the Language of Biblical Prophecy and Apocalyptic by D. Brent Sandy

Authorial intent, literary and historical context, and genre are the keys in interpreting the Bible!

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:28:1-10
 1The word of the Lord came again to me, saying, 2"Son of man, say to the leader of Tyre, 'Thus says the Lord God,
 "Because your heart is lifted up
 And you have said, 'I am a god,
 I sit in the seat of gods In the heart of the seas';
 Yet you are a man and not God,
 Although you make your heart like the heart of God —
 3Behold, you are wiser than Daniel;
 There is no secret that is a match for you.
 4By your wisdom and understanding
 You have acquired riches for yourself
 And have acquired gold and silver for your treasuries.
 5By your great wisdom, by your trade
 You have increased your riches
 And your heart is lifted up because of your riches —
 6Therefore thus says the Lord God,
 'Because you have made your heart
 Like the heart of God,
 7Therefore, behold, I will bring strangers upon you,
 The most ruthless of the nations.
 And they will draw their swords
 Against the beauty of your wisdom
 And defile your splendor.
 8They will bring you down to the pit,
 And you will die the death of those who are slain
 In the heart of the seas.
 9Will you still say, "I am a god,"
 In the presence of your slayer,
 Though you are a man and not God,
 In the hands of those who wound you?
 10You will die the death of the uncircumcised
 By the hand of strangers,
 For I have spoken!' declares the Lord God!"'"

28:1 "say to the leader of Tyre" At this time the leader of Tyre was Ittobaal, who had been the High Priest of Astarte and who assassinated the heir of Hiram I. Hiram's daughter was Jezebel, who was married to Ahab, king of Israel. Sennacherib appointed a later descendant, Ittobaal II (also known as Ethbaal II and Ithobalus II), king of Tyre (590-543 b.c.).

Tyre was the capital of the Phoenician empire. Tyrians were extremely arrogant because of their commercial prowess and their kings claimed to be descendants of the gods. This was also the claim of the Pharaohs of Egypt.

This section has caused great consternation to commentators. It seems to refer to a human king, but is described in supernatural terms (cf. Isa. 14:12-20). It is possible that Isaiah 14 refers to a military power that has gone beyond the bounds of pride and Ezekiel 28 refers to a commercial power that has gone beyond the bounds of pride (cf. vv. 2,9,16).

▣ "Because your heart is lifted up" See Special Topic at 11:19.

▣ "is lifted up" This verb (BDB 146, KB 170, Qal perfect) can have two senses.

1. positive

a. God, Isa. 5:16

b. Messiah, Isa. 52:13

c. God's ways, Isa. 55:9

d. God's true followers, II Chr. 17:6

2. negative

a. II Chr. 26:16; 32:25

b. Ps. 131:1 (the psalmist asserts he is not)

c. Pro. 18:12

d. Isa. 3:16

e. Jer. 13:15

f. Ezek. 16:50; 28:2,5,17

g. Zeph. 3:11

3. the noun is also used of haughty people

a. II Chr. 32:26

b. Ps. 10:4

c. Pro. 16:18

d. Jer. 48:29

4. as is the adjective

a. I Sam. 2:3

b. Ps. 101:5; 138:6

c. Pro. 16:5

d. Eccl. 7:8

e. Isa. 5:15

The major problem of mankind (and some angels) is pride (cf. 16:49; 24:21; 27:3; 28:2-6,9,17; Gen. 3:5; Isa. 10:12; 14:13,14; 23:8-12; 25:11-12; Jer. 48:29-30; Daniel 2-4, esp. 4:29-30; Zeph. 2:8-11; 3:11; I Tim. 3:6). Notice the Proverbs that deal with this sin: 11:2; 13:10; 16:18; 29:23.

I think pride, arrogance, and self-centeredness are the epitome of the attitude of independence and self-achievement, which characterizes the fall of Genesis 3. Salvation is a restoration of the image and likeness of God (Gen. 1:26-27) from the original creation. Intimate fellowship with God, for which humans were created, is possible again, even now in a fallen world. The evidence that salvation/conversion has occurred is that the new creation is selfless, not self-centered. Selflessness is analogous to Christlikeness, which is God's irreducible will for every Christian!

▣ "I am a god" Also see vv. 6 and 9. This possibly reflects the kings of Tyre's (esp. Ittbaal II) claims that they were part god, like Hercules. Tyre's chief deity, Melqart (i.e., "king of the city") was called the Tyrian Hercules.

▣ "I sit in the seats of the gods" This phrase is parallel with the next one. It is possibly a reference to Poseidon or Neptune.

▣ "In the heart of the seas" Tyre's unique physical location was a source of security and pride.

▣ "Yet you are a man and not God" Because of this phrase, repeated three times for emphasis in vv. 4, 8, and 9, it is obvious that this refers to the political leader of Tyre as representative of the whole nation. This would not fit Satan at all! But it might fit the political leader of I Thess. 2:4 (i.e., the Man of Lawlessness or the Antichrist).

28:3 "you are wiser than Daniel" To whom does this refer? Daniel, who was a contemporary of Ezekiel in the palace of Nebuchadnezzar, or to the famous Ugarit Danel of the Ugaritic Rash Shamra texts. See note at 14:14. When all is said and done, I still must go with Daniel of the Bible, but it is not an easy choice.

There is an obvious purposeful literary allusion to Genesis 1-3 in this chapter. The wisdom of the tree of knowledge (cf. Gen. 2:9,17; 3:3,11) here denotes commercial skills (cf. vv. 3-5). It was a wisdom that destroyed!

Notice all the different terms used in vv. 3-10.

1. wiser than Daniel, adjective, BDB 314

2. no secret hidden (cf. Dan. 8:26; 12:4,9)

3. wisdom, BDB 315

4. understanding, BDB 108

5. great wisdom, BDB 913, 315

6. the beauty of your wisdom, BDB 421, 315

7. possibly "splendor" (BDB 422) is parallel to wisdom in v. 7

Number 2 is obviously sarcasm (cf. E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech in the Bible, p. 810) or all are a series of self-descriptions.

28:4 "wisdom. . .acquired riches" There seem to be three sources of the arrogance of the Tyrian people: (1) wisdom; (2) power and wealth; and (3) beauty (cf. vv. 5,17; 27:3,4,10-11,25).

28:7 "strangers" The term (BDB 266, KB 267, Qal participle) refers to foreign invaders (cf. Isa. 1:7; 25:2,5; 29:5; 61:5; Jer. 5:19; 30:8; 51:2,51; Lam. 5:2; Ezek. 7:21; 11:9; 16:32; 28:7,10; 30:12; 31:12) who worship foreign (i.e., "strange") gods (cf. Deut. 32:16; Isa. 17:10; Jer. 2:25; 3:13; 5:19).

▣ "most ruthless of nations" Here this (BDB 792, lit. "terror-striking") refers to the Babylonians (cf. 30:11; 31:12; 32:12; Isa. 13:11). Nebuchadnezzar besieged the island fortress for over a decade and destroyed the city on the mainland (cf. 26:3-14; Hab. 1:6-8). Apparently the island fortress finally surrendered.

28:8 "the pit" See Special Topic at 3:18.

▣ "you will die the death of" This verse is referring to drowning (cf. 27:27,34). Remember Tyre is depicted as a beautiful, expensive cargo ship in chapter 27, which is destroyed by God's east wind and sinks with all cargo and all hands.

28:9 "Will you still say" The shocking claim to deity is emphasized in the Hebrew by a repetition of the Qal infinitive absolute and the imperfect verb of the same root, "say" (BDB 55, KB 65).

28:10 "the death of the uncircumcised" Since all peoples of Canaan practiced circumcision, mostly at puberty, this must refer to something else (cf. 31:18; 32:19,21).

1. uncircumcised people were thought to be residents of the lowest part of the underworld

2. a special category of the dead, like the unburied, possibly referring to children who died before puberty

The term "death" is plural, which denotes an awful death.

▣ "‘For I have spoken!' declares the Lord God" God's word is sure (cf. 5:17; 6:10; 12:25,28; 17:24; 21:32; 22:14; 24:14; 26:5,14; 30:12; 34:24; 36:36; 37:14; 39:5,8)!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:28:11-19
 11Again the word of the Lord came to me saying, 12"Son of man, take up a lamentation over the king of Tyre and say to him, 'Thus says the Lord God,
 "You had the seal of perfection,
 Full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.
 13You were in Eden, the garden of God;
 Every precious stone was your covering:
 The ruby, the topaz and the diamond;
 The beryl, the onyx and the jasper;
 The lapis lazuli, the turquoise and the emerald;
 And the gold, the workmanship of your settings and sockets,
 Was in you.
 On the day that you were created
 They were prepared.
 14You were the anointed cherub who covers,
 And I placed you there.
 You were on the holy mountain of God;
 You walked in the midst of the stones of fire.
 15You were blameless in your ways
 From the day you were created
 Until unrighteousness was found in you.
 16By the abundance of your trade
 You were internally filled with violence,
 And you sinned;
 Therefore I have cast you as profane
 From the mountain of God.
 And I have destroyed you,
 O covering cherub,
 From the midst of the stones of fire.
 17Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty;
 You corrupted your wisdom by reason of your splendor.
 I cast you to the ground;
 I put you before kings,
 That they may see you.
 18By the multitude of your iniquities,
 In the unrighteousness of your trade
 You profaned your sanctuaries.
 Therefore I have brought fire from the midst of you;
 It has consumed you,
 And I have turned you to ashes on the earth
 In the eyes of all who see you.
 19All who know you among the peoples
 Are appalled at you;
 You have become terrified
 And you will cease to be forever."'"

28:11 This is a new oracle, marked by the repeated literary marker "the word of the Lord came to me saying."

28:12 "lamentation" This is a funeral dirge, noted by a unique poetic beat. It is common in Ezekiel (cf. 2:10; 19:1,14; 26:17; 27:2,32; 28:12; 32:2,16). See note at 2:10.

▣ "the king of Tyre" This (BDB 572) is parallel to v. 2, "leader" (lit. "prince," BDB 617 only here in Ezekiel; only once in Isa. 55:4 and Jer. 20:1).

28:13-15 There seems to be a series of statements that go beyond the possibility of a mere human king.

1. the seal of perfection, v. 12

2. full of wisdom and beauty, v. 12

3. in the Garden of Eden, v. 13

4. clothed with colored/gems, v. 13

5. an anointed cherub who covers, vv. 14,16

6. in God's presence on God's mountain, v. 14

7. blameless, v. 15

Could this be the first true mention of Satan and his origin (see Origen, Tertullian, and Jerome)? All believers want more information about the origin and purpose of evil. However, this would be a strange context (i.e., God's judgment on surrounding nations) to be the only revelation on this subject. Pride and arrogance are characteristics of this fallen reality. YHWH judges pride! Ezekiel uses hyperbolic language from the Garden of Eden, not only here related to the king of Tyre, but also in chapter 31, related to Pharaoh, king of Egypt. See Contextual Insights, D.

28:13 "Every precious stone was your covering" This seems to be an allusion to the ephod (i.e., breastplate) of the High Priest (cf. Exod. 28:17,20; 39:10-14). Although the Masoretic Text lists only nine jewels, the Septuagint lists all twelve (sometimes the LXX reflects the more ancient text). The king of Trye is symbolized as

1. priestly

2. kingly

3. wealthy

 

▣ "settings and sockets" The MT has "tambourines" (BDB 1074, KB 1772, both say this is a textual corruption).

Sockets (BDB 666, refers to a jeweler's work of boring a hole, see KJ, NKJV, ASB, JB. The noun is used only two times. The verb means "piercing" or "boring').

▣ "On the day that you were created" It is assumed that the angelic realm is created (cf. v. 15; Ps. 104:4). Biblical faith is not an eternal dualism like Zoroastrianism, but the Bible is silent on when, how, and why. The Bible focuses on humans on this planet.

The two phrases "on the day that you were created" (cf. v. 15) and "I placed you there" (cf. v. 14) denote the authority and sovereignty of YHWH. Satan has no independent existence. He acts at YHWH's permission (cf. I Kgs. 22:19-28; Job 1-2; Zechariah 3).

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE DEMONIC (UNCLEAN SPIRITS)

28:14 "the anointed cherub" The term "anointed" (BDB 603, KB 596) is found only here in the OT. Its meaning is uncertain. Here are some theories.

1. cherub of expansion (BDB)

2. cherub that covereth

3. cherub with far-reaching wings

4. cherub of sparkling (i.e., "to illuminate," KB)

The LXX has "with the Cherubim," not one of them.

Cherubim are involved in several aspects of OT history.

1. they guard the Garden of Eden after mankind's fall, Gen. 3:24

2. they face inward on the Mercy Seat, the place of propitiation, Exod. 25:8; Ps. 80:1; 99; Isa. 37:16

3. they form YHWH's throne chariot, II Sam. 22:13; Ps. 18:10; Ezek. 1, 10

The descriptions in Ezek. 1:5-28 and 10:15-20 are similar to Rev. 4:6-9. However, Revelation does seem to blend the Cherubim with the Seraphim of Isaiah 6. See SPECIAL TOPIC: CHERUBIM at 1:5.

▣ "You were on the holy mountain of God" This is a different metaphor from the Garden of Eden (v. 13). This refers either to Mount Sinai (cf. Exodus 19-20; Ezek. 20:40) or to the mountain in the north where God dwells (cf. v. 16; Ps. 48:2; Isa. 14:13-14, similar to Ugaritic Ba'al poetry). Note that Psalm 50:2 uses similar descriptions of Mt. Zion (i.e., "perfect in beauty," cf. 28:12).

It was common in Ancient Near Eastern religious thought to view the gods as living on mountain tops (cf. Gilgamesh Epic). This is especially true for the Ugaritic Ba'al myth poems from Ras Shamra. The gods met and lived on a northern mountain called Saphon or Zaphon. Ba'al had a throne there built by Anath. The male god of Phoenician fertility worship was called Baal Saphon. This name has been found in Phoenician colonies around the Mediterranean. This northern mountain tradition, totally unrelated to Israel's holy Mt. Moriah (cf. 20:40), seems to be the source of the imagery of both Isa. 14:13-15 and Ezek. 28:14,16. See Roland de Vaux, Ancient Israel, vol. 2, pp. 279-281.

▣ "the stones of fire" This (BDB 6 construct BDB 77) can be translated "glittering gems." Some commentators try to link these with the jewels of v. 13, but that is a different metaphorical setting. This fire may be associated with God's personal presence (cf. Exod. 3:2; 13:21,22; 14:24; 19:18; 24:17; Deut. 1:33; 4:11,12,15,24,33,36; 9:3).

28:15 "blameless" This is a sacrificial term (BDB 1071) for "unblemished" (e.g., 43:22). Here the term denotes an original innocence. Humans were not created sinful, but "good" (cf. Gen. 1:31). Evil was an invader of original creation (cf. Genesis 3). This phrase relates to vv. 12-13. We learn from

1. verse 17 that pride corrupted original innocence and wisdom (see note at v. 3)

2. verse 18 that unfair and violent trade practices (cf. v. 16) brought God's judgment

Hyperbole and history are mixed together for powerful poetry.

28:16 "by the abundance of your trade" Obviously this is a reference to the historical king of Tyre (cf. v. 18).

▣ "Therefore I cast you as profane
 From the mountain of God"
Notice YHWH's sovereign judgment. The term "profane" (BDB 320, KB 319) means "polluted" and "defeated." This is a priestly word that Ezekiel uses often (32 times).

Note that this is not the same metaphor (i.e., Garden of Eden) as v. 13. This refers to a northern holy mountain.

NASB, NKJV,
REB"covering cherub"
NRSV, NIV"the guardian cherub"
TEV"the angel who guarded"
NJB"guardian winged creature"
JPSOA"shielding cherub"
LXX"the cherub brought thee out"

The feminine noun is found only here. The masculine form means "covering" or "screen" (i.e., used of the screens of the tabernacle, cf. Exod. 22:16; 35:17; 38:18; 30:40; 40:8,33; Num. 3:26), so it could denote one close to "the forgiving" God (i.e., the Ark).

The term (BDB 697 I) also denotes YHWH covering with His wings as a metaphor for protection. The cherub protected the Garden of Eden in Gen. 3:24 or more probably the angel protects the tree of life from Adam and Eve, lest they eat from it in the spiritual condition in which they find themselves (i.e., estrangement from God). So in this sense the cherub protects mankind from itself!

I must admit I am attracted to the Septuagint's understanding that the referent in this poetry is to Adam, who was escorted out of the Garden by a cherub (cf. James Moffatt translation and Edgar J. Goodspeed's translation of v. 14, "I placed you with the guardian Cherubim on the holy hill of God").

28:17 "I cast you to the ground;
 I put you before kings"
This again stresses the sovereignty of God (cf. v. 18). The mention of kings may

1. be an allusion to 26:16 (Tyre's trading partners, cf. v. 19)

2. be an allusion to the multi-national mercenary army of Babylon

Number 1 fits the context best.

Also note that the first phrase could be translated "I cast you to the earth," implying a fall from heaven (i.e., God's mountain), but probably it is a metaphor of rejection.

28:18 "You profaned your sanctuaries" The TEV has "You did such evil in buying and selling that your places of worship were corrupted." This is the only Bible text that uses "profane" in connection with a pagan sanctuary. One cannot separate life and worship!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:28:20-24
 20And the word of the Lord came to me saying, 21"Son of man, set your face toward Sidon, prophesy against her 22and say, 'Thus says the Lord God,
 "Behold, I am against you, O Sidon,
 And I will be glorified in your midst.
 Then they will know that I am the Lord when I execute judgments in her,
 And I will manifest My holiness in her.
 23For I will send pestilence to her
 And blood to her streets,
 And the wounded will fall in her midst
 By the sword upon her on every side;
 Then they will know that I am the Lord.
 24And there will be no more for the house of Israel a prickling brier or a painful thorn from any round about them who scorned them; then they will know that I am the Lord God."

28:20-24 This is the judgment against Sidon, another Phoenician city linked with Tyre.

28:21 As v. 2 starts out with a command "say" (BDB 55, KB 65,Qal imperative), so too, this judgment starts with two commands.

1. Set your face against, BDB 962, KB 1321, Qal imperative, cf. 6:2; 13:7; 15:7; 20:46; 21:2; 29:2; 35:2; 38:2

2. Prophesy, BDB 612, KB 659, Niphal imperative, cf. 4:7; 11:4; 13:17; 25:2; 29:2; 34:2; 35:2; 36:6; 38:2; 39:1

 

28:22

NASB, NKJV,
LXX, Peshitta"I shall be glorified"
NRSV, JPSOA,
NIV"I will gain glory"
NJB, REB"I will show My glory"

Ezekiel is all about the glory of YHWH! The glory is for the purpose of revelation. YHWH wants the people of Phoenicia to know Him. Judgment is an instrument of revelation (i.e., "I shall manifest My holiness in her," cf. v. 25). He is always acting for the redemption of those created in His image and likeness!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:28:25-26
 25'Thus says the Lord God, "When I gather the house of Israel from the peoples among whom they are scattered, and will manifest My holiness in them in the sight of the nations, then they will live in their land which I gave to My servant Jacob. 26They will live in it securely; and they will build houses, plant vineyards and live securely when I execute judgments upon all who scorn them round about them. Then they will know that I am the Lord their God."'"

28:25,26 The prophet again speaks of the hope of the restored people, the restored temple, and the restored covenant (cf. 11:17-20; 20:40-44). After the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple, Ezekiel's message changed to one of restoration. He even illustrates the New Covenant concept in 36:22-38. A new day is dawning!

28:26 "They will live in it securely. . .live securely" This term "securely" (BDB 105) is repeated for emphasis. It reflects YHWH's earlier promises (cf. Lev. 25:18,19; 26:5; Ps. 4:8; Jer. 23:5-6; 32:37; Ezek. 34:25-28; 38:8,11,14; 39:26; Zech. 14:11).

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Why was God so angry at Tyre?

2. Did Tyre ever fall to Nebuchadnezzar II?

3. What is a cherub?

4. Does the chapter describe the fall of Satan? Why or why noy?