Ezekiel 28 COMMENTARY (Pulpit)

Ezekiel 28
Pulpit Commentary
The word of the LORD came again unto me, saying,
Verse 1. - From the city the prophet passes to its ruler, who concentrated in himself whatever was most arrogant and boastful in the temper of his people. He is described here as a" prince," in Ver. 12 as "king," and the combination of the two words points probably to some peculiarity of the Tyrian constitution. "Prince" it will be remembered, is constantly used by Ezekiel of Zedekiah (Ezekiel 7:27; Ezekiel 12:20, el al.). The King of Tyro at the time was Ithobal or Ethbaal III. (Josephus, 'Contra Apion,' 1:21), who had taken part with Pharaoh-Hophra and Zedekiah in the league against Nebuchadnezzar, Ezekiel's description of what one may call his self-apotheosis may probably have rested on a personal knowledge of the man or of official documents.
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:
Verse 2. - I am a God. We are reminded of Isaiah's words (Isaiah 14:13, 14) as to the King of Babylon. Did Ezekiel emphasize and amplify the boasts of Ethbaal, with a side-glance at the Chaldean king, who also was lifted up in the pride of his heart (Daniel 4:30)? For like examples, see the boast of Hophra, in Ezekiel 29:3; and the praise given to Herod Agrippa by the Tyrians (Acts 12:21). It is noticeable that St. Paul's description of the man of sin (2 Thessalonians 2:4) presents the same picture in nearly the same words. I sit in the seat of God, etc. Tyro was known as the Holy Island (Sanchon., edit. Orelli, p. 36). The city was thought of as rising from its waters like the rock-throne of God. Though thou set thy heart. The words remind us of the temptation in Genesis 3:5. To forget the limitations of human ignorance and weakness, to claim an authority and demand a homage which belong to God, was the sin of the Prince of Tyre, as it had been that of Sennacherib, as it was of Nebuchadnezzar, as it has been since of the emperors of Rome, and of other rulers.
Behold, thou art wiser than Daniel; there is no secret that they can hide from thee:
Verse 3. - Thou art wiser than Daniel, etc. There is, of course, a marked irony in the words. Daniel was for Ezekiel - and there seems something singularly humble and pathetic in the prophet's reverence for his contemporary - the ideal at once of righteousness (Ezekiel 14:14) and of wisdom. He was a revealer of the secrets of the future, and read the hearts of men. His fame was spread far and wide through the Chaldean empire. And this was the man with whom the King of Tyro compared himself with a self-satisfied sense of superiority, and he found the proof of his higher wisdom in his wealth. Here, again, I venture to trace a side-thrust at Nebuchadnezzar and his tendencies in the same direction," Is not this great Babylon, which I have builded?"
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.
Verse 7. - I will bring strangers, etc. These are, of course, the hosts of many nations that made up the Chaldean army (comp. the parallel of Ezekiel 30:11 and Ezekiel 31:12). The beauty of thy wisdom is that of the city on which the prince looked as having been produced by his policy.
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.
Verses 8, 9. - The effect of the Chaldean invasion was to bring the king down to the nether world of the dead. In the use of the plural "deaths" we have a parallel to the "plurima morris imago" of Virgil ('AEneid,' 2:369). And this death was not to be like that of a hero-warrior, but as that of those who are slain in the midst of the seas, who fall, i.e., in a naval battle, and are cast into the waters. Would he then repeat his boast, I am God?
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.
Thou shalt die the deaths of the uncircumcised by the hand of strangers: for I have spoken it, saith the Lord GOD.
Verse 10. - The climax comes in the strongest language of Hebrew scorn. As the uncircumcised were to the Israelite (1 Samuel 17:36; 1 Samuel 31:4), so should the King of Tyro, unhonored, unwept, with no outward marks of reverence, be among the great cues of the past who dwell in Hades. Ezekiel returns to the phrase in Ezekiel 31:18; Ezekiel 32:24. The words receive a special force from the fact that the Phoenicians practiced circumcision before their intercourse with the Greeks (Herod., 2:104).
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.
Verse 12. - Thou sealest up the sum, etc. The noun is found only there and in Ezekiel 43:10, where it is translated "pattern," but is cognate with the word rendered" tale" (equivalent to "measure") of Exodus 5:13, and "measure" in Ezekiel 45:11. The probable meaning is, Thou settest the seal to thy completeness (perfection). Thou deemest that thou hast attained the consummation of all beauty and wisdom. The LXX. and the Vulgate give, "Thou art a seal;" and this suggests a parallelism with Jeremiah's works to Coniah (Jeremiah 22:24). The words were, of course, written with a keen irony. This was what the King of Tyro thought of himself.
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.
Verse 13. - Thou hast been in Eden, etc. The words are suggestive, as showing that Ezekiel was familiar with the history of Genesis 2. and 3. (compare the mention of Noah, in Ezekiel 15:14, 20). To him the King of Tyre seemed to claim a position like that of Adam before his fall, perfect in beauty and in wisdom, the lord of the creation. And in that fancied Eden he stood, so he thought, not like Adam, "naked and ashamed," but like one of the cherubim that guarded the gates of the primeval Paradise (Genesis 3:24), covered with all imaginable splendor. Ezekiel returns to the phrase in Ezekiel 31:8, 16, 18 and Ezekiel 36:35. Other instances meet us in Joel 2:3 and Isaiah 51:3. Every precious stone. All the stones named are found in the list of the gems on the high priest's breastplate (Exodus 28:17-20; Exodus 39:8-14). Three, however, of those gems are wanting - those in the third row of the breastplate - which are not named elsewhere; and the order is not the same. The LXX. makes the two lists identical, apparently correcting Ezekiel by Exodus. St. John (Revelation 21:19) reproduces his imagery in his vision of the foundation stones of the New Jerusalem, but naturally returns to the fullness of the symbolic number - twelve. Possibly the description of gold and bdellium and onyx (or beryl), as in Genesis 2:11, 12, may have suggested the thought that Eden was a land of jewels. The workmanship of thy tabret and pipes; better, the service. The Authorized Version and Revised Version follow Luther. Keil agrees as to "tabret" (so Genesis 31:27; Isaiah 5:12; elsewhere, as in Exodus 15:20 and Job 21:12, the Authorized Version gives "timbrels"), but takes the latter word (not found elsewhere) as identical with its feminine form, and meaning "female." He sees in the clause, accordingly, a picture of the pomp of the Tyrian king, surrounded by the odalisques of the harem, who, with their timbrels, danced to his honor as their lord and king (camp. Isaiah 23:16; Exodus 15:20; 1 Samuel 18:6). Havernick, who agrees with Keil, calls attention to a passage in Athenaeus (12:8. p. 531), in which Strafe, a Sidonian king, is said to have prepared for a great festival by bringing girls who played on the flute and harp from all parts of Greece. Others, however (Smend), find in both the words articles of jewelry, pearls perforated or set in gold (as in Exodus 28:20), and so see in them the conclusion of the description of the gorgeous apparel of the king. Furst takes the words as meaning musical instruments that were of gold set with jewels. Ewald, following out the Urim and Thummim idea, takes the gems as the subject of the sentence, and translates, "they were for the work of thine oracles and divining." On the whole, the interpretation given above seems preferable. In the day that thou wast created. The words point to the time of the king's enthronement or coronation. It was then that he appeared in all his supreme magnificence. Had Ezekiel been a witness of that ceremony?
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.
Verse 14. - The anointed cherub that covereth. The word for "anointed" is not found elsewhere, but is cognate in form with that which is commonly so rendered. The Vulgate, however, tracing it to another root, gives extentus et protegens, and is followed by Luther, Gesenius, Ewald, and others. Keil and Hengstenberg accept "anointed." The sequence of thought seems to be as follows: The splendor-of the King of Tyre had suggested the idea of Eden the garden of God. This, in its turn, led on to that of the cherub that was the warder of that garden (Genesis 3:24). The Paradise of God is pictured as still existing, and the cherub - we remember how prominent the word and the thing had been in Ezekiel's thoughts (Ezekiel 1:10; Ezekiel 10:1-16) - is there (according as we take the above words) either as its anointed, i.e. "consecrated," ruler, or as extending the protection of its overshadowing wings far and wide as the cherubim of the tabernacle extended their wings over the ark (comp. Exodus 25:20; Exodus 33:22; 1 Kings 8:7). Those cherubim, we may remember, were actually anointed (Exodus 30:26). The King of Tyro boasted that he was, like them, consecrated to his office as king "by the grace of God." In that earthly Paradise the prophet saw the "holy mountain of God," the Olympus, so to speak, of the Hebrews, the throne of the Eternal (compare the Meru of India, the Albard of Iran, the Asgard of German poetry). Isaiah's words as to the King of Babylon (Isaiah 14:13, 14) present a suggestive parallel. In the midst of the stones of fire. The words receive their interpretation partly from Genesis 3:24; partly from 2 Samuel 22:9, 15; Psalm 18:8, 12; Psalm 120:4. The cherub's sword of fire is identified with the lightning-flash, and that in its turn with the thunderbolts of God. Out of the throne of God went thunders and lightnings (Exodus 19:16). The "Flammantia maenia mundi" of Lucretius (1. 73) offers a suggestive parallel. The King of Tyre, like the King of Babylon (Isaiah 14:13, 14), is painted as exulting in that attribute of the Divine glory.
Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee.
Verse 15. - Thou wast perfect in thy ways. The glory of the King of Tyre was, the prophet goes on to say, conditional. He began his reign in righteousness, but afterwards iniquity was found in him. And the root of that iniquity was the pride of wealth engendered by the greatness of his commerce (Ver. 16). He was no longer like the cherub who guarded the Paradise of God, but like Adam when he was east out from it. Wealth and pride had tempted him to violence and to wrong, and he was no longer an "anointed" or consecrated, but a profaned and desecrated, king. The, "stones of fire," the thunders and lightnings of the Divine Majesty, should no longer protect him.
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.
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.
Verse 17. - Thine heart was lifted up, etc. In yet another point Ezekiel sees the fall of Adam reproduced in that of the Tyrian king. He had forfeited his beauty and his wisdom through the pride which sought for a yet greater glory by a false and counterfeit wisdom (Genesis 3:6). I will cast thee, etc. The words are better taken, as in the Revised Version, in the past tense, I have cast thee... I have laid thee before kings. Pride was to have its fall, as in Isaiah 23:9. The very sanctuaries, the temples which made Tyre the "holy island," were defiled by the iniquities through which the wealth that adorned them had been gained. The "fire," instead of being a rampart of protection, should burst forth as from the center of the sanctuary to destroy him. Is there an implied allusion to the fiery judgment that fell on Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10:2) and on Korah and his company (Numbers 16:35)? The doom of Sic transit gloria mundi was already passed on her.
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.
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.
Verse 19. - Thou shalt be a terror, etc. The knell of doom, as heard in Ezekiel 27:36, rings out again. The same judgment falls alike on the city and on its king. The question when and in what manner the prediction received its fulfillment has been much discussed. Josephus ('Ant.,' 10:11. 1; 'Contra Apion,' 1:19) states that Nebuchadnezzar besieged the island Tyre and Ithobal (Ethbaal III.) for thirteen years; that, on his father's death, leaving his Phoenician and other captives to be brought by slower stages, he himself hastened to Babylon, and that afterwards he conquered the whole of Syria and Phoenicia; but he does not say, with all the Tyrian records before him, that the city was actually captured by him. It has been inferred, indeed, from Ezekiel 29:18, that Nebuchadnezzar's siege of Tyre ended in, at least, partial failure, that he and his army had no "wages" for their work, i.e. that the spoil of the city was meager and disappointing. Possibly the merchant-princes of the city had contrived to carry off part of their treasures in their ships. On the other hand, it may be noted

(1) that the national historians of the ancient world (perhaps not of that only) willingly minimized the disasters of their country; and

(2) that the Phoenician fragment quoted by Josephus ('Contra Apion,' 1:21) simply for synchronistic purposes, shows a significant change of government following on the siege. Ithobal was "king" during the thirteen years, but afterwards "judges" were appointed, and these ruled for periods of two, or three, or ten months. All this indicates a period of confusion and anarchy, the consequence of some great catastrophe. As a whole, too, we have to remember that it was with Tyre, as with Babylon and with other nations. The prophecies against them had "springing and germinant accomplishments." What the prophet saw in vision, as wrought out in a moment of time, was actually the outcome of the slow decay of centuries, and of catastrophes separated from each other by long intervals of a dwindling history. The main facts of that history may be briefly stated. There was, as implied in Isaiah 23:17, a revival of commerce under the Persian monarchy, and of this we have traces in Nehemiah 13:16. Two hundred and fifty years after Nebuchadnezzar, Tyre was still so strongly fortified that Alexander the Great did not take it till after a seven years' siege (Died. Sic., 17:20; Arrian., 2:17; Q. Curtius, 4:2-4). It rose again into wealth and power under the Selencidare, and the Romans made it the capital of their province of Phoenicia. It appears as a flourishing town in Matthew 15:21; Acts 12:20; Acts 21:37, and is described by Strabo (16:2, 23), as having two harbors and lofty houses. From A.D. to 1125 it was in the hands of the Saracens. Saladin attacked it without success in A.D. . In A.D. , after Acre had been taken by storm by El-Ashraf, Sultan of Egypt, Tyro passed into his hands without a struggle. When it again passed into the power of the Saracens, its fortifications were demolished, and from that time it sank gradually into its present obscurity. The present Sur is a small town of narrow, crooked, and dirty streets, and the ruins of the old Phoenician city cover the suburbs to the extent of half a league round. The harbor is choked up with sand, and with remains of the old palaces and walls and temples, and is available for small boats only. The sea has swallowed up its grandeur. The soft on which the traveler stands is a mass of debris, in which marble, porphyry, and granite mingle with coarser stones. So it has come to pass that it is little more than "a place for the spreading of nets" and that the sentence, "Thou shalt never be any more," seems to be receiving its fulfillment. There was for it no prospect of an earthly restoration, still less that of a transfigured and glorified existence like that which, in the prophet's visions, was connected with Jerusalem.
Again the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
Son of man, set thy face against Zidon, and prophesy against it,
Verse 21. - Set thy face against Zidon. The relation of this city to Tyre was one of sufficient independence to justify a separate oracle for the completeness of the prophet's arrangement of his messages (Ezekiel 27:8; Joel 3:4; Jeremiah 25:22; Zechariah 9:2). It was sufficiently identified with it not to call for any long description. It is assumed that her sins were of the same kind and required a like punishment.
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.
Verse 22. - I will be glorified in... thee. The thought and the phrase come from Exodus 14:4; Leviticus 10:3. Ezekiel reproduces it in Ezekiel 39:13. God is glorified, or, as in the next clause, sanctified, when his power and holiness are manifested in righteous judgment. (For "sanctified," see Ezekiel 38:16: Numbers 20:13.)
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.
Verse 23. - Pestilence was the natural accompaniment of a siege. As in Ezekiel 14:19, blood probably points to death from this cause, as distinct from the slaughter threatened in the following clause.
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.
Verse 24. - There shall be no more a pricking brier. There is a special appropriateness in Ezekiel's imagery. The words had been used in Numbers 33:55 of the Canaanites at large (comp. Joshua 22:13). Ezekiel applies them to the cities which were the most conspicuous survivors of the old Canaanite races. Israel, he implies, had been wounded with those thorns and briers, had caught (as e.g., in the case of Jezebel) the taint of evil life and evil worship from those races; but for her there is, as in Ver. 25, the future of restoration, and when that future comes, the Canaanite cities, with their idolatries and vices, should have passed away forever.
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.
Verse 25. - My servant Jacob. The use of "Jacob" for "Israel" is not common in Ezekiel, but Ezekiel 20:5; Ezekiel 27:25; Ezekiel 34:25 may be noted as parallels.
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.
Verse 26. - Shall build houses, etc. The words sound almost like a direct quotation from Jeremiah 23:6 and Jeremiah 36:28; and, at all events, present a suggestive parallel. The restoration was to include also the blessing of confidence and hope; no longer a groundless and false confidence, like that of Jeremiah 2:37 and Jeremiah 48:13, but one resting on the fact that God was in very deed the Judge of all the earth. We may note, at the close of the chapter, how its juxtaposition of the two Phoenician cities seems to have been present to the mind of the Christ in his references to the judgment that should come upon both of them (Matthew 11:21; Luke 10:13). He himself, it will be remembered, passed through the coasts of Tyre and Zidon (Matthew 15:21), and probably, according to the best text of Mark 7:24, actually trod the streets of the latter city. They supplied some of the great multitude of Mark 3:8, who listened to his teaching.

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