Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Ch. 28 The fall of the prince of Tyre
The chapter has three parts:
(1) Ezekiel 28:1-10. The sinful pride of the prince of Tyre and his destruction.
(2) Ezekiel 28:11-19. Lament over his fall and expulsion from the garden of God.
(3) Ezekiel 28:20-26. To this is added a prophecy against Sidon.
The word of the LORD came again unto me, saying,1–10. The sin of the prince of Tyre (Ezekiel 28:1-5), and his destruction (Ezekiel 28:6-10)
The prince of Tyre of the time was probably Ithobal II. It is not, however, any individual prince that the prophet threatens, but the ruler of Tyre, who is the embodiment of the spirit of the proud commercial city. The sin with which the prophet charges the prince is pride of heart and self-deification. The prince—who is but the impersonation of the spirit of the community—was very wise, wiser than Daniel (Ezekiel 28:3). His wisdom expressed itself and found scope in his commerce and manufactures and in his arts. These produced wealth and splendour, which led to ungodly arrogance (Ezekiel 28:4-5): the prince said, I am God, I dwell in the abode of God (Ezekiel 28:2). For this deifying of himself in his own mind he shall be brought down. Strangers, the most terrible of the nations, shall assail him, and he shall die the death of the uncircumcised—those whose bodies are unburied or unhonoured in their burial.
Son of man, say unto the prince of Tyrus, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Because thine heart is lifted up, and thou hast said, I am a God, I sit in the seat of God, in the midst of the seas; yet thou art a man, and not God, though thou set thine heart as the heart of God:2. am a God] I am God. Ezekiel speaks from his own point of view, which recognizes but one God, not from that of polytheism. The prince set his heart as the heart of God; he felt and acted as if divine. There is not the slightest allusion, of course, to actual worship being paid to the prince; it is his own feeling alone, his pride and self-exaltation, that is referred to.
I sit in the seat of God] Naturally the prince speaks of his own abode, Tyre; but he regards, it as divine. He is God and it is the seat of God. There is no doubt allusion to the idea that there was a seat of God or the gods; the prince identified Tyre with it. The beauty and splendour of the place, its richness and renown, possibly also its isolation, make it something not of the earth. In Isaiah 14 the king of Babylon affects to seat himself beside the Most High, here the prince of Tyre identifies himself with God.
Behold, thou art wiser than Daniel; there is no secret that they can hide from thee:3. wiser than Daniel] Cf. on ch. Ezekiel 14:14. The language appears ironical. It does not follow from the allusion that the story of Daniel was known in Tyre.
no secret … hide] Or, no secret is hidden. In Ezekiel 31:8 the word seems to mean “be equal to,” “come up to.” This sense would require a personal subject, which might be got if the term “no secret,” lit. no closed, could be taken as Numbers 24:3; Numbers 24:5 closed of eyes, i.e. inspired. The versions differ widely from one another.
Ezekiel 28:4 seq. The wisdom of the prince, who is but the incarnation of the spirit of the city, displayed itself in his commercial enterprise, in his skill in arts and manufactures, for which the Tyrians were famous, and thus he amassed such riches and surrounded himself with such splendour that he deemed himself God (Ezekiel 28:6). Already Homer calls the Sidonians poludaidaloi (Il. 23. 743).
Ezekiel 28:7 seq. His chastisement because of his self-deification. As Nebuchadnezzar affected to set himself in the sides of the North but was brought down to the sides of the pit, the prince of Tyre shall die an ignominious death. The “terrible” i.e. most terrible of the nations are the Chaldeans, cf. the prophet’s contemporary Habakkuk 1:6-10. See ch. Ezekiel 7:21; Ezekiel 7:24, Ezekiel 30:11, Ezekiel 31:12, Ezekiel 32:12.
the beauty of thy wisdom] The beauty is not regarded as the product of his wisdom, but rather as the expression of it, that in which it clothes itself. Cf. Ezekiel 28:12.
defile thy brightness] profane, cf. Ezekiel 28:17. The term “profane” is used on account of the prince’s assumption of divinity.
With thy wisdom and with thine understanding thou hast gotten thee riches, and hast gotten gold and silver into thy treasures:
By thy great wisdom and by thy traffick hast thou increased thy riches, and thine heart is lifted up because of thy riches:
Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Because thou hast set thine heart as the heart of God;
Behold, therefore I will bring strangers upon thee, the terrible of the nations: and they shall draw their swords against the beauty of thy wisdom, and they shall defile thy brightness.
They shall bring thee down to the pit, and thou shalt die the deaths of them that are slain in the midst of the seas.8. deaths of … slain] The death.
Wilt thou yet say before him that slayeth thee, I am God? but thou shalt be a man, and no God, in the hand of him that slayeth thee.9. but thou shalt be] Rather: whilst thou art man, and not God. The last clause “in the hand,” &c. is wanting in LXX.
Thou shalt die the deaths of the uncircumcised by the hand of strangers: for I have spoken it, saith the Lord GOD.10. deaths of the uncircumcised] the death. The term uncircumcised is employed by the prophet not in its usual sense but in reference to the dead, who suffer death from the sword, and whose bodies either lie unburied and dishonoured or are flung indiscriminately into the earth with no funeral honours. Deprivation of burial did not hinder the dead persons from descending into Sheol, the place of the dead, but the dishonour done them here followed them there, and they were subject to reproach. Cf. the same representation Isaiah 14:19-20, where it is an entire misconception to consider “stones of the pit” to refer to a paved mausoleum, and thus a sumptuous burial. The stones of the pit are the lowest pit.
Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
Son of man, take up a lamentation upon the king of Tyrus, and say unto him, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Thou sealest up the sum, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty.12. king of Tyrus] The prophet appears to use the terms king and prince (nagîd, or nasî) indifferently. LXX. of Ezek. reserves the term “king” for the rulers of Babylon and Egypt, except in general expressions like “kings of the earth,” or, of the nations (Ezekiel 27:33; Ezekiel 27:35, Ezekiel 32:10).
sealest up the sum] The term “sum” only again ch. Ezekiel 43:10 of the construction or idea of the temple, there rendered “pattern.” The verb is used of the work of God in ordering creation by weight and measure, Job 28:25; Isaiah 40:12-13. The phrase “thou sealest” is pointed as part. art the sealer of, but some MSS. and the ancient Versions read art the sealring of. To “seal” has always the natural sense, or means to close up, fasten up; it seems nowhere to mean to round off, complete or consummate. LXX. omits “full of wisdom,” and the first words are in parallelism to “the perfection of beauty.” This would suggest that the first words describe what the prince is or was, not what he did. The term rendered “sum” may mean symmetry (perfection), and the whole: thou wast the sealring of symmetry (perfection), and the perfection of beauty. In this case the prince is compared to a sealring of exquisite workmanship. On the other hand if part. be read, “thou wast the sealer of symmetry,” the conception of something impressing symmetry (upon all things) seems expressed. There might then be an allusion to the Wisdom; cf. the comparison of light to a seal Job 38:14.
12–19. Lament over the fall of the prince of Tyre
The passage is of extreme difficulty partly from the obscurity of several expressions in it, which do not occur again, and partly from allusions not now intelligible. The general drift of the passage is plain. (1) Ezekiel 28:12-15. The prince of Tyre is represented as a glorious being placed in Eden the garden of God. He was the perfection of beauty, was set on the mountain of God, and was perfect in his ways from the day he was created till iniquity was found in him. (2) Ezekiel 28:16-19. He fell from his high place through pride because of the multitude of his riches, and was therefore expelled from the garden of God.—Towards the end of the passage the allegory of a being in paradise is departed from and the actual circumstances of the prince and his city are more literally referred to. The text of LXX. diverges in important particulars from the Heb.
Particular difficulties, however, are numerous. 1. The expression “sealest up the sum,” Ezekiel 28:12 is very obscure. For the participle “sealest” the ancient versions read signet or ring. That there is reference to a ring seems plain from Ezekiel 28:13. 2. Again the cherub is referred to. There can be no doubt that the prophet has in his mind the story of Paradise (Genesis 2, 3). The cherub naturally belongs to the Paradise of God. In the Heb. text, as at present pointed (though the pointing is very anomalous) the prince is compared to the cherub, or said to be or have been the cherub. The text, however, permits the reading with or beside the cherub (v, 14, so LXX.). The prince sinned and was expelled from the garden of God where he was placed. The idea of the prophet is that pride and self-deification was the sin of the prince and caused his expulsion. This, however, in Ezek. is the sin of all the foreign princes or nations, Egypt no less than Tyre, and cannot be held part of a tradition of the Fall, or of paradise. That the prophet does refer to a fall and expulsion from paradise or destruction of the transgressor seems plain (Ezekiel 28:16-17). But any fall of the cherub is not hinted at anywhere in the Old Test.; on the contrary the cherubs are represented as watchers and protectors of the garden of God against men (Genesis 3:24). There are references in the Old Test. to the sin of higher beings (e.g. Genesis 6:1; Isaiah 24:21), but the prophet’s allusions to the cherubs in other places make it very improbable that he should think of them as sinning. 3. It is probable, therefore, that it is the history of the first man that floats before his mind. The term “created” applied to the prince would hardly be used of the cherub. It is not unlikely, however, that Ezek. is in possession of traditions regarding Paradise more ample than those in Gen. or different from them. At the same time the divergences may be due to his own tendency to idealize. The prince of Tyre is represented as wiser than all men, even than Daniel; and in Job 15:7-8 the first man born is spoken of as possessing supernatural wisdom. The prophet might have before his mind that Wisdom which was the first of God’s works of old (Proverbs 8), and his architect in creation, and who realized herself in the symmetry of the universe.
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.13. Thou host been] thou wast in Eden. The term rendered “covering” does not occur again. Possibly “emerald” and “carbuncle” should be transposed. These precious stones are mentioned in sets of three, being nine in number, to which LXX. adds three more, the ligure, the agate and the amethyst, as in the high-priest’s breastplate (Exodus 28:19), while Syr. reduces the number to eight. Possibly the original number may have been very much smaller.
thy tabrets and of thy pipes] It is obvious that timbrels and pipes are out of place here. It is also probable that the preceding words and gold should be disjoined from the list of precious stones. Render: and of gold was the workmanship of thy sockets and grooves. Reference is unmistakeably to the setting of precious stones, and while possibly a person might be supposed to be covered or clothed with the jewels mentioned, the phrase “thy sockets” seems to recall the figure of the ring. The phrase “was prepared” is wanting in LXX. and the last words “in the day that thou wast created” should probably go to the next verse.
Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire.14. Thou art the anointed] The word “thou” is pointed here anomalously as Numbers 11:15; Deuteronomy 5:24. It may more naturally be read with or beside. The terms rendered “anointed” and “that covereth” are wanting in LXX. (also in Ezekiel 28:16). No meaning can be attached to anointed cherub, probably: cherub with spreading wings. The other phrase “that covereth” is used to describe the cherubim over the mercy-seat whose wings covered it and (at least in the temple of Solomon) extended from wall to wall of the most holy place (Exodus 25:20; Exodus 37:9; 1 Chronicles 28:18). In these passages LXX. renders the word rightly “overshadowing.”
I have set thee] I set thee.
holy mountain of God] Different representations of the abode of God were current; it was sometimes spoken of as a mountain and sometimes as a garden. The mountain here is the same as the garden of Ezekiel 28:13, cf. Ezekiel 28:16. It is the abode of God, where the cherub was and where the prince was placed on the day when he was created. The allusion to the mount of assembly in Isaiah 14:13 is obscure. The combinations of Del. (Parad.) and Jeremias (Bab. Assyr. Vorstellungen vom Leben nach dem Tode) are controverted by Jensen, who makes it probable that Arâlu, the “mountain of the countries,” is not a special mountain on the earth, but the earth itself conceived as a mountain, under which lay the primary ocean. Neither is there the slightest foundation for the supposition that the prophet compares the prince of Tyre to a Gryph guarding treasure upon the mountain of God.
hast walked up and down] didst walk in the midst of (the) stones of fire. The “stones of fire” might be flashing precious stones (Assyr. aban ishâti, precious stone, Frd. Del., Par. p. 118); more probably there is some reference to the phenomena attending the divine presence and manifestation, ch. Ezekiel 1:13, Ezekiel 10:6, cf. Isaiah 6:6; Psalm 18:14. Among the Muhammedans the shooting stars are held to be thunderbolts hurled at the eavesdropping demons who pry into the divine secrets.
Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee.15. The sin and fall of the prince. The terms “the day when thou vast created” are very unsuitable if applied to the cherub. The sons of God existed before creation, Job 38:7.
By the multitude of thy merchandise they have filled the midst of thee with violence, and thou hast sinned: therefore I will cast thee as profane out of the mountain of God: and I will destroy thee, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire.16. By the multitude] Or, in the multitude.
they have filled] Or, thy midst (heart) was filled with wrong, and thou didst sin. LXX., thou didst fill.
therefore I will cast] therefore have I cast. The destruction of the prince is described as completed, lit. therefore have I profaned thee (casting thee) out of the mountain.
and I will destroy thee] More probably: and the (covering) cherub hath destroyed thee (driving thee) from the midst of the stones of fire. The construction as 1st pers. I have destroyed is possible, but quite improbable. The cherub is rather regarded as active in the expulsion from Paradise; in Genesis 3:24, he is represented as barring the return of those whom God had expelled.
With the words wanting in LXX. put in square brackets the verses would read: “Thou art the (a) seal of symmetry, [full of wisdom], and the perfection of beauty. 13 Thou wast in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, the topaz and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx and the jaspar, the sapphire, the carbuncle and the emerald; and gold was the workmanship of thy sockets and grooves in thee in the day that thou wast created” [they were prepared]. Or, drawing the last words to the beginning of Ezekiel 28:14. 14 “In the day that thou wast created I set thee with the [outspread, the covering] cherub, thou wast in the holy mountain of God, in the midst of the stones of fire [thou didst walk]. 15 Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee. 16 In the multitude of thy traffic thy midst was filled with wrong [LXX. thou didst fill], and thou didst sin: therefore I have profaned thee (and cast thee) from the mountain of God; and the [covering] cherub hath destroyed thee (driving thee) from the midst of the stones of fire.”
Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee.17. The prince’s sin was self-exaltation because of his beauty and wisdom. The prince is but the representative of the city and its inhabitants; the beauty of the one (Ezekiel 27:3) and the wisdom of the other (Ezekiel 27:8-9) are attributed to him. The prophet’s own deep humility before Jehovah makes him recoil from the self-exaltation of men elsewhere.
corrupted thy wisdom] i.e. lost thy wisdom over, or amidst, thy splendour. The tenses “I will cast” &c. are all perfects, the threat taking the form of an accomplished judgment.
that they may behold thee] i.e. as a spectacle to feast their eyes upon.
Thou hast defiled thy sanctuaries by the multitude of thine iniquities, by the iniquity of thy traffick; therefore will I bring forth a fire from the midst of thee, it shall devour thee, and I will bring thee to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all them that behold thee.18. defiled thy sanctuaries] profaned. The phrase occurs ch. Ezekiel 7:24; here, however, where the prince is spoken of, “sanctity” or personal sacredness rather than “sanctuary” seems the sense required. It is doubtful if the word can bear this meaning. LXX. reads: because of the multitude of thine iniquities in the wrong of thy traffic I have profaned thy sanctuaries, and I have brought forth a fire. The tenses are all in the perfect of threatening, and the threats here pass away from the prince and apply more to the city. On “fire” cf. ch. Ezekiel 19:14.
bring thee to ashes] have brought, perf. of threatening. Any reference to the Phenix, consumed in a self-kindled fire, has little probability. The idea of the city, of the spirit and activity of which the king is the embodiment, tends more and more to take the place of the idea of the king. This is evident from the closing words Ezekiel 28:19, which are identical with those referring to the city, ch. Ezekiel 27:36. For people read peoples as usual.
All they that know thee among the people shall be astonished at thee: thou shalt be a terror, and never shalt thou be any more.19. shalt be a terror] Cf. Ezekiel 26:21, Ezekiel 27:36.
Again the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,20–26. Prophecy against Sidon
See on ch. Ezekiel 25:1. The passage has three parts:
(1) Ezekiel 28:20-23. The Lord shall send great judgments on Zidon, by which means he shall get his greatness and holiness recognised, and they shall know that he is God. (2) Ezekiel 28:24. Thus shall all that vex Israel round about come to an end and cease. (3) Ezekiel 28:25-26. Israel when restored shall thus dwell securely, all that were hostile to her having been removed; and she shall know Jehovah her God to be God alone. These words suggest the explanation both of the judgments upon the nations and of the position which they occupy in the prophet’s Book. See introd to ch. 25.
Son of man, set thy face against Zidon, and prophesy against it,21. In Genesis 10:15 Zidon is the firstborn of Canaan, and it was probably the parent city of Tyre, which lies twenty miles further south. The modern town bears the name Saida. See chart of Sidon in Rawl. Phenic. p. 66.
And say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against thee, O Zidon; and I will be glorified in the midst of thee: and they shall know that I am the LORD, when I shall have executed judgments in her, and shall be sanctified in her.22. be glorified] Or, get me glory (honour). So for “be sanctified” get me sanctifying, or shew myself holy. To get sanctifying for himself is to get recognition as God alone, and that which God alone is. To “get glory” is a part of to get sanctifying.
For I will send into her pestilence, and blood into her streets; and the wounded shall be judged in the midst of her by the sword upon her on every side; and they shall know that I am the LORD.23. wounded … be judged] Rather: shall fall, or, fall thick, if the word be read as an intensive. The judgments on Zidon shall bring home to her that there is a great God and that He has sent them. This God is Jehovah God of Israel, God alone. The prophet speaks from his own belief.
And there shall be no more a pricking brier unto the house of Israel, nor any grieving thorn of all that are round about them, that despised them; and they shall know that I am the Lord GOD.24. “Brier” is “thorn” ch. Ezekiel 2:6 (slightly different form). The term “pricking” is used of the leprosy (Leviticus 13:51, fretting).
Thus saith the Lord GOD; When I shall have gathered the house of Israel from the people among whom they are scattered, and shall be sanctified in them in the sight of the heathen, then shall they dwell in their land that I have given to my servant Jacob.25. Read peoples for people.
sanctified in them] i.e. through them, in their restoration. Jehovah is sanctified through the chastisement of the nations who distress His people, and He is sanctified through His people’s restoration. On “sanctify” cf. Ezekiel 28:22.
my servant Jacob] Cf. ch. Ezekiel 37:25; the phrase already in Jeremiah 30:10, and frequently in Isaiah 40-66.
And they shall dwell safely therein, and shall build houses, and plant vineyards; yea, they shall dwell with confidence, when I have executed judgments upon all those that despise them round about them; and they shall know that I am the LORD their God.26. dwell safely] Or, with confidence, feeling secure, Jeremiah 23:6; Amos 9:14; Isaiah 65:21; Ezekiel 34:27; Ezekiel 38:8; Ezekiel 39:26. An illustration of the promise is seen in ch. 38–9.
know that I am the Lord] This oft-repeated phrase is not a mere formula. The prophet’s idea is that Jehovah does all, brings all calamities, causes all catastrophes and revolutions in states, and guides the fortunes of Israel in the sight of the nations, with one great design in view—to make himself, the true and only God, known to all mankind.