Ezekiel 28:11–19, 25–26
Ezekiel records a series of judgment oracles against the nations in Chapters 25 through 38. The recurring themes in these indictments are that they “will know that I am the Lord” (28:23, 24, 26) or that “this is the declaration of the Lord God” (31:18; 32:16, 32; 36:15).
“Pride comes before destruction, and an arrogant spirit before a fall” (Prov. 16:18). These words of Solomon serve as an apt introduction to our passage this week. Ezekiel’s announcement of future judgment on the Phoenician city of Tyre contains references with an ancient context. “You were in Eden, the garden of God” (v. 13) and “you were an anointed guardian cherub” (v. 14) lead some interpreters to see this passage as a reference to the fall of the accuser (see also Isa. 14:12–15).
Past Glory (11–15)
“Lament for the king of Tyre.” A lament in the Old Testament was comparable to a lilting funeral dirge, most famously known through the Lamentations attributed to Jeremiah. These lyrics begin with the king in a position of glory, of renown, of splendor. Precious stones and gold and an exalted position all speak of a renowned past.
Hiram, king of Tyre in the days of Solomon, held an exalted position. He had provided gold, as well as cedar and cypress wood for the construction of the temple and Solomon’s palace in Jerusalem. After 20 years of partnership, Solomon granted Hiram “twenty towns in the land of Galilee” (1 Kings 9:11). Perhaps this is the former exalted position referenced in these verses.
One might consider that there was a connection between the repeated term “cherub” with the cherubim created for the temple. This is not likely, since the wood used for the cherubim was olive wood (1 Kings 6:23–28, 32). Throughout the references to Tyrian wood, only cypress and cedar were mentioned.
Does this prophecy relate to the ancient enemy of God, to the friend of Solomon or to some current king claiming to be God’s equal? Whoever he was, his pride caused him to plummet from his favored status.
Rebellion Denounced (16–19)
The prophecy indicates that the Tyrian king’s exalted position led to pride (see vv. 2–3), sin, dishonest trade practices and eventual destruction: “You have become an object of horror and will never exist again” (v. 19). Exegetist Karl Fredreich Keil traces the historical record back through Flavius Josephus to ancient historians, but his findings were inconclusive from extrabiblical sources. He points to Ezekiel 29:17–20 to confirm that God ultimately used the Babylonians to bring about judgment on Tyre.
Jesus clearly teaches that God honors humility and judges pride: “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matt. 23:12). Both James (4:6) and Peter (1 Pet. 5:5) quote from the Greek version of Proverbs 3:34: “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.” As Christians, may we learn this valuable lesson to be “lowly and humble in heart” (Matt. 11:29).
Hope Stirred (25–26)
When the time is right, God will return Israel to the land He promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. In the midst of their exile, these words must have stirred up hope within their ranks. Note that this promise rests on the holiness of God exhibited before the nations, rather than Israel’s worthiness. Those neighbors who have previously treated Israel contemptuously will face His judgment, and “they will know that I am the Lord” (v. 26).
Some may argue that the Jewish state of Israel is the fulfillment of this final prophecy of the chapter. In light of constant missile threats from Gaza and Lebanon — along with many Middle Eastern inhabitants who wish for the destruction of Israel as a nation —make a case that “when I execute judgments against all their neighbors” has yet to be accomplished.
Their hope was stirred; our hope is secure in Christ. May God’s holiness be made evident in our lives as we follow Christ.
By Douglas K. Wilson, Ph.D.
Wilson is dean of Christian Studies at University of Mobile in Alabama.