Ezekiel 28:1-26

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YHWH’s “word” or message again came to Ezekiel. The Targum refers to this message as a “word of prophecy from before the Lord.” (28:1) As at other times, Ezekiel was addressed as “son of man,” a mortal in the service of the eternal God YHWH. The message was for the prince or ruler of Tyre (Hebrew, tsor; Tyre [LXX]). “Thus says the Lord YHWH, Because your heart [is] proud and you say, I [am] a god; in the seat of gods, I sit in the heart of the seas” (sea [LXX], possibly meaning in a secure position as one surrounded by the protective barrier of water). “And you [are] a man, and not a god, and you make your heart like the heart of a god.” The reference to the “heart” may be understood to indicate that the ruler of Tyre imagined in his inner self that he possessed the wisdom associated with the “heart” or inmost being of a god. Although a mere mortal, the ruler of Tyre felt secure and not limited in carrying out his enterprises and plans and, therefore, viewed himself as being the equal of a deity. The Targum says about him, “no need of you exists,” indicating that he was not indispensable. (28:2)

The initial “look” focuses attention on the ruler of Tyre, identifying him as “wiser than Daniel.” This could mean that he regarded himself as the man who was wiser. Although a contemporary of Ezekiel, Daniel apparently had become well known for his wisdom. Those who do not believe the book of Daniel to be historical conjecture that the Daniel mentioned in the book of Ezekiel is some well-known folk hero. They point to the fact that the spelling of the name is different. There is no yod (Y) and so the name may be read as “Danel.” Different spellings for the same name, however, are not uncommon. One example is that there are two spellings for the Babylonian monarch who conquered Jerusalem — “Nebuchadnezzar” and “Nebuchadrezzar.” (2 Kings 24:1; Jeremiah 21:2) Like Daniel who came to be known for revealing mysteries, the prince of Tyre is identified as one from whom no secret was hidden or one who imagined that to be the case. The Septuagint rendering implies that the ruler of Tyre was not wiser than Daniel. “Are you wiser than Daniel? Have not the sages instructed you in their knowledge?” (28:3; see the Notes section)

With the application of his wisdom and understanding relating to trade, the ruler of Tyre had acquired wealth for himself and amassed gold and silver in his treasuries. The Septuagint rendering suggests that it was not by his knowledge and prudence that the ruler of Tyre had gained power and filled his treasuries with gold and silver. (28:4)

By the abundance of his wisdom or skill in trade, the ruler of Tyre had increased his wealth, and his wealth caused him to be arrogant in his “heart” or his inmost self. The Septuagint expresses the thought somewhat differently. “By the abundance of your wisdom and your trade, did you increase your power? Did your heart become arrogant [by reason of] your power?” (28:5)

“Therefore” (in view of the attitude of the ruler of Tyre), the Lord YHWH declared, “Because you make your heart like the heart of gods [god or a god (LXX), 28:6], therefore, look, I will bring foreigners against you, terror-inspiring nations, and they will draw their swords against the beauty of your wisdom [against you and the beauty of your knowledge (LXX)] and defile your splendor [bring down your beauty to destruction (LXX)].” (28:7) The reference to making the heart like the heart of gods may be understood to mean that the ruler of Tyre imagined himself to be the equal of a god because of what he had accomplished by his wisdom or skill. (28:6) Therefore, YHWH purposed to use the warriors of various nations (“foreign pests from the nations” [LXX]) or ruthless warriors from the nations) to punish him for his haughtiness and to bring about his downfall. His wisdom or skill would then prove to be useless, no longer beautiful or splendid, and the ruler’s own splendor or magnificence would be defiled or would cease to exist. (28:7; see the Notes section.) The terror-inspiring foreign warriors would bring him down “into the pit” or the realm of the dead. “In the heart of the seas [sea (LXX)]” or on the high seas, he would die the death like those of the mortally wounded. (28:8)

“Before the face” or in the presence of those who would be slaying him, would the ruler of Tyre still say, “I [am] a god” even though he was but a “man and not a god in the hand [or power] of those wounding [him]?” The implied answer is, No. (28:9) According to the declaration of the Lord YHWH, the ruler of Tyre would die the “death of the uncircumcised at the hand of foreigners.” This indicated that he would perish in dishonor as a man who had no favorable standing among God’s people. He would die at the hand of foreign warriors. The Septuagint rendering could be understood to mean that he would perish “among the crowd of the uncircumcised” at the “hands of foreigners [foreign hands (P967)].” (28:10)

Again YHWH’s word or message (“word of prophecy” [Targum]) came to Ezekiel. (28:11) Addressed as “son of man,” or as a mortal in the service of the eternal God YHWH, Ezekiel was told to raise a lamentation or dirge over the “king of Tyre and say to him, Thus says the Lord YHWH, You [were] sealing proportion [whatever has the right proportion and, therefore, that which is flawless or perfect].” He is then described as “full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.” The “sealing” could be understood to indicate that the king, in his own person, put a confirmatory seal on what constituted one who was in possession of wisdom and beauty or splendor. In the Septuagint, he appears to be represented as a seal impression of a likeness or pattern and is referred to as a “crown of beauty.” Modern translations vary in their renderings of the Hebrew participle that means “sealing.” “You set the seal on perfection.” (REB) “You were a seal of perfection.” (NAB, revised edition) “You were the model of perfection.” (NLT) “You were once an example of perfection.” (TEV) (28:12)

The king of Tyre is represented as having been “in Eden, the garden of God” (“in the delight of the paradise of God” [LXX]). This may be descriptive of the ideal location of Tyre. To the east of the city rose the Lebanon Range, with its magnificent cedars. On the well-watered lower mountain slopes closest to Tyre, grain, grapevines, and fruit and nut trees flourished. The king was impressively arrayed in splendid garments and magnificently adorned. He appeared as a man covered with precious and semi-precious stones — carnelian or ruby, topaz, beryl, chrysolite, onyx, jasper, sapphire, turquoise or garnet, and emerald. The settings and sockets were gold. Possibly the words “your settings and your sockets in you” may indicate that the precious and semi-precious stones were mounted in gold settings. The “day” the king was created perhaps refers to the day he was installed as king (or when the Tyrian dynasty had its start), and it would have been then that he was given magnificent royal apparel and the dazzling ornamentation that had been prepared for him. Another interpretation found in modern translations identifies the “day” as the when the future king was born. The day of birth, however, does not fit the context, for the reference is not to a specific king of Tyre but to the Tyrian dynasty or line of monarchs. (28:13; see the Notes section.)

There is a question as to whether the king of Tyre is identified as being a “cherub, an anointed one,” one that is “covering” as with outstretched wings or whether he is represented as being with this cherub. Depending on the vowel pointing, the first word preceding “cherub” either means “you” or “with the.” If the reference is to the king of Tyre as the cherub, he would have been “anointed” or installed as ruler, and in his official capacity he would have been like a cherub, providing protection for his subjects. In the Targum, there is no reference to a cherub. Regarding the king of Tyre, it says that he was “anointed for a kingdom” and that God had given him greatness. The Hebrew text portrays the king of Tyre as being “on the holy mountain of God” and walking about “in the midst of stones of fire.” Possibly this imagery serves to express the secure position in which the king of Tyre found himself as if under divine protection and able to walk about on glowing coals without experiencing any harm. Another possible meaning for the expression “stones of fire” is made explicit in a number of modern translations. “You lived on my holy mountain and walked among sparkling gems.” (TEV) “You walked among gems that dazzled like fire.” (CEV) “You walked among the gems that shined like fire.” (NCV) The Targum contains an interpretation that significantly departs from the wording of the Hebrew text. It says that the king of Tyre looked with contempt upon the holy mountain (where YHWH’s temple was located) and wanted to exercise dominion over the “holy people” or God’s own people. (28:14; see the Notes section regarding the Septuagint rendering.)

During the reigns of kings David and Solomon, the king of Tyre or the ruling dynasty, was on friendly terms with the nation of Israel. (2 Samuel 5:11; 1 Kings 5:1-12; 1 Chronicles 14:1; 2 Chronicles 2:3-16) Possibly it is with reference to this early time that the king of Tyre is referred to as “blameless” in his “ways from the day” he was “created.” That circumstance changed, and the Tyrian dynasty became hostile to the Israelites. (Joel 3:4-8; Amos 1:9, 10) It was then that “iniquity was found” in the king of Tyre. (28:15)

The abundance of the trade carried out under the direction of the king of Tyre “filled [his] midst with violence [storerooms with lawlessness (LXX)], and [he] sinned.” He made himself guilty of the violent and sinful acts that were linked to commerce. This would have included failure to live up to agreements, fraudulent commercial transactions, and the cruelty and abuses associated with the slave trade. (Joel 3:4-8; Amos 1:9, 10) As a consequence, he would be deprived of his secure position on the “mountain of God.” The significance of the next phrase about the “cherub” depends upon whether the king of Tyre is regarded as the cherub or whether the king of Tyre was “with the cherub.” Both meanings are found in modern translations. “I [YHWH] have destroyed you, O shielding cherub, from among the stones of fire.” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) “I have thrown you down from the mountain of God and destroyed you, guardian winged creature, amid the coals.” (NJB) “The guardian cherub banished you from among the stones that flashed like fire.” (REB) “The cherub drove you out from among the fiery stones.” (NAB, revised edition) According to the Septuagint, the king of Tyre was “wounded from the mountain of God, and the cherub led [him] out from the midst of the fiery stones.” The oldest extant Greek text (P967) indicates that the “cherub” led him in a wounded state “from the mountain of God.” (28:16)

The king of Tyre’s “beauty,” or the grandeur, prosperity, and luxury that he enjoyed, made him arrogant in his “heart” or his inmost self. He corrupted his “wisdom,” skill, or expertise in commercial ventures because of the splendor he came to possess and which caused him to have an exalted view of himself and to act in senseless or evil ways. Therefore, YHWH determined to cast him down from his lofty position. Before the “face of kings” or before them, YHWH would place him in a debased condition so that they might gaze upon him. According to the Septuagint, the divine objective was for the king of Tyre to become an “example,” apparently a warning example. (28:17)

Through the “unrighteousness” or dishonesty of his commerce, the king of Tyre incurred great guilt, causing his sanctuaries to be profaned. Part of the ill-gotten gains would have been presented as gifts or offerings to the deities that were worshiped in these sanctuaries and thus would have defiled them. On account of the corruption, YHWH purposed to use the instrument of his choosing to bring severe punishment upon the king of Tyre and his subjects. It would be as if a fire burst forth from the king of Tyre (as he was responsible for fraudulent practices that led to retribution) and then consumed him. He would come to his end as if the fire had reduced him to ashes on the ground “before the eyes of everyone seeing” him. According to the Septuagint, God would bring the “fire from the midst” of the king of Tyre, and he would reduce him to ashes upon the ground. The Targum indicates that God would bring nations as strong as fire against the king of Tyre, and they would destroy him. (28:18)

Everyone among the peoples who knew the king of Tyre would be aghast. He would become “terrors” (“destruction” [LXX]). This could mean that the king of Tyre would come to a frightful end. Another possible significance could be that his downfall would terrify those who came to know about it, for it would lead them to conclude that they could suffer the same fate because their position was less secure than his had been. The king of Tyre (or the Tyrian dynasty) would cease to exist for all time to come. The Targum says that God would make him as if he had never existed. (28:19)

Again YHWH’s “word” or message came to Ezekiel. The Targum refers to this message as a “word of prophecy from before the Lord.” (28:20) Addressed as “son of man,” a mortal in the service of the eternal God YHWH, Ezekiel was told to set his “face toward Sidon,” focusing his attention on Sidon, and then to prophesy against the city. Sidon was a prominent seaport about 22 miles (c. 35 kilometers) north of Tyre. Although Tyre had been a Sidonian colony, it became more prominent than Sidon, the former principal Phoenician city. (28:21)

Ezekiel was directed to quote the words of the Lord YHWH, “Look, I am against you, O Sidon, and I will be glorified in your midst, and they will know that I am YHWH when I execute judgments in her and I am sanctified [or reveal my holiness] in her.” The initial “look” served to focus attention on what YHWH was about to do. His action against Sidon by means of the instrument of his choosing would glorify him as the only true God who fulfills his word as made known through his prophets. Everyone who would come to know about the execution of the previously announced punitive judgments against Sidon would know or come to recognize this. The holiness of YHWH would be revealed, for the merited judgment would demonstrate that he, the holy God, will punish those who persist in acting corruptly or lawlessly. (28:22)

The punitive judgment against Sidon would come in the form of a military attack. This would take place by YHWH’s permission and, therefore, he is quoted as declaring that he would be sending “pestilence” (“death” [LXX]) into Sidon and blood into the streets of the city. The inhabitants of Sidon would be weakened from lack of food and would have to endure under the unsanitary conditions that siege created, causing pestilence or infectious disease to spread among them. Once the enemy warriors entered the city, they would slay the defenders and the people, causing blood to be spilled in the streets. Those slain with the sword coming from every side would “fall in the midst” of Sidon. All who would be affected or come to know about these developments would “know” or come to recognize that the Lord YHWH is the God who unfailingly carries out his previously announced judgment and does not tolerate wickedness indefinitely. (28:23)

YHWH’s punitive judgment against the enemies of his people would result in relief for them. No longer would the “house” or people of Israel have to be subjected to those who would harm them like briers and thorns that tear into the flesh. YHWH’s people would no more be treated with contempt among hostile neighboring peoples. At that time, they would know or come to recognize that the Lord YHWH is the God who had fulfilled his word. (28:24)

Through Ezekiel, the Lord YHWH made known that he would gather the “house” or people of Israel from among the peoples in the various regions where they had been scattered as exiles. Among his restored people, YHWH would be sanctified “in the sight of the nations,” for people of other nations would come to recognize that he had made this restoration possible. The people of Israel would again reside in their own land, the very land that he had “given” to his “servant Jacob,” the forefather of the Israelites. YHWH’s promise that the descendants of Jacob would be given the land of Canaan was so certain of fulfillment that Jacob is identified the one who received the land. (28:25)

The Israelites would reside in security (“in hope” [LXX]) on their God-given land and build houses and plant vineyards there. They would be able to dwell there securely (“in hope” [LXX]) upon the execution of YHWH’s judgments against all surrounding peoples who had treated them with contempt. The fulfillment would mean that his people would “know” or come to recognize that he is the true God (“and the God of their fathers” [LXX, but not in P967] who can be relied upon to fulfill his word and who will execute punitive judgment upon those who act contrary to his will. (28:26)

Notes

A number of modern translations render the words of verse 3 in a manner that suggests that the prince of Tyre was not wiser than Daniel. “You think you’re wiser than Daniel and know everything.” (CEV) “What, are you wiser than Daniel? Is no secret beyond your grasp?” (REB) Oh yes, you are wiser than Daniel, nothing secret is too obscure for you!” (NAB, revised edition) “You think you are wiser than Danel, that no secret can be kept from you.” (TEV)

In verse 7, the oldest extant Greek text (P967) does not include the words “you and,” but corresponds to the reading of the Masoretic Text. The Targum refers to the “adornment of your wisdom,” suggesting that the ruler of Tyre did not possess real wisdom. There was only a pretended wisdom, comparable to an attractive covering that hid the reality.

There is uncertainty about which precious and semi-precious stones the Hebrew words found in verse 13 designate. The Greek terms may be rendered sardius, topaz, emerald, carbuncle, sapphire, jasper, silver, gold (but P967 omits “silver and gold”), ligyrion (stone of Liguria), agate, amethyst, chrysolite, beryl, and onyx. Regarding the king of Tyre, the Septuagint continues, “With gold, you filled your treasuries and the coffers by you.” The Targum provides a different interpretation. It represents the king of Tyre as delighting himself in his great prosperity and luxury as if he were residing in “Eden, the garden of the Lord.” Instead of mentioning gems, the Targum says that the king was granted riches, grandeur, and honor, with these being his adornment. The “settings” and “sockets” are identified as those of the king’s body — the orifices and organs on which his life depended. From the “day” he was created, these orifices and organs were prepared for him.

The wording of verse 14 in the Septuagint could be rendered, “With the cherub, I placed you on the holy mountain of God. In the midst of the fiery stones, you came to be.” There is a possibility that the Septuagint translator was governed by what he knew about ancient Tyre. If that is the case, the king’s being “with the cherub” could mean that he was under the protection of the principal deity of Tyre, Melqart (Melkart, Melkarth). On ancient Tyrian coins, this deity is depicted as riding a winged creature, a hippocampus (a mythological creature with the upper part of a horse and the lower part of a fish). The expression “mountain of God” could mean “great mountain,” a mountain that the worshipers of Melqart would have regarded as holy.