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In Ezekiel 28:2 it says,"

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.

Who is being described here, in context with this passage? Commentaries have ranged from "an earthly ruler" during the time of Ezekiel to Satan himself, without a lot of agreement.

Is it an earthly prince, either past or future? Or is it something more?

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2 Answers 2

While it is quite common for Christian readers to identify the king of Tyre in Ezekiel 28 (and the king of Babylon in Isaiah 14) with the satan, my opinion is that this is unsustainable from the text alone, and must be assumed by the reader.


The function of Ezekiel's prophecies

Taken at face value, the book of Ezekiel consists of thirteen prophetic revelations that came to Ezekiel over a period of twenty-two years. All thirteen major sections are dated, with the earliest (chapter 1–7) in 592 BC, and the latest (chapter 29.17–30.19) in 570 BC.

An overview of each major sections reveals a consistent theme: Ezekiel is prophesying judgment on Judah and neighboring nations and cities, with Babylon as the primary instrument of God's judgment. Nations that will be judged include: Judah, Ammon, Moab, Edom, Philistia, Tyre, Sidon, Egypt, Assyria, Elam, and 'Gog of Magog'. The thirteen prophecies aren't arranged in the order they came to Ezekiel, however. Instead, they are generally grouped according to what nation Ezekiel is speaking against.

There are brief visions of angels enacting God's will, allegorical depictions of Jerusalem, and an overtly supernatural defeat of Gog and Magog. But even with these proto-apocalyptic elements, the book of Ezekiel remains focused entirely on the earthly nations. The function of Ezekiel's prophecies is to denounce the wrongdoing of contemporary kingdoms and call for judgment upon them.


Ezekiel 26–28

Ezekiel's oracles against Tyre fill the whole of his sixth prophecy, chapters 26–28. Chapter 26 predicts the conquest of Tyre by Nebuchadnezzar. Chapter 27 raises a lament over the city's extensive trade and renowned beauty.

When we arrive at chapter 28, with the focus coming onto 'the prince of Tyre' and 'the king of Tyre', the reader has little reason to think Ezekiel is now talking about the devil, rather than the king of the city that has filled the previous two chapters.


Are the 'prince' and the 'king' two people?

Ezekiel specifies a 'prince' (28.2) and a 'king' (28.11) as the recipients of his criticism. It was not uncommon for a king to also be called a prince within Hebrew thought (e.g. 2 Samuel 5.2-3, where both titles are used for David), and in any case the Hebrew word for 'prince' (nagiyd, נגיד) can simply mean 'ruler', 'leader', or 'commander'.

Additionally, all of the details in Ezekiel's description of the 'prince' correspond directly to his description of the 'king':

  • He is beautiful and wise (verses 3,7 / 12-14,17)
  • His heart became proud (2,5-6 / 17)
  • His sin is violence stemming from his wealthy trade (4-5 / 15-16,18)
  • God will overthrow him in the sight of the world (7-10 / 16-19)

This kind of parallelism is replete in prophetic texts, including Ezekiel. Just for comparison, Ezekiel 26 has the phrase 'Thus says the Lord YHWH' three times, each followed by a message concerning Tyre. One would have sufficed, but the repetition drives the point home. Consequently, I understand the 'prince' of 28.2 and the 'king' of 28.12 as referring to the same individual. I will hereafter simply call him the 'king' of Tyre.


The king and the city

When we read through Ezekiel 28, we find the king's story to be the following: He was blessed with wisdom, beauty, and widespread trade, seated on the sea. But with the great wealth of his trade, he became arrogant and violent. Because of this sin, the king would be destroyed by foreign invaders sent by God.

This story is identical to what we find in Ezekiel 26–27, where the prophet condemned the Tyre itself. The city was beautiful (27.3-4,11), filled with trade (all of 27), and seated on the sea (26.5,17; 27.3,32). God would send foreign invaders to conquer the city (26.3-14).

Readers who find in this prophecy the satan base it entirely upon 28.13-14,16. There they see the references to a 'cherub' in the 'garden of God in Eden' as proof of this interpretation. But reading the king of Tyre as a supernatural angelic figure glosses over, and is completely incongruent with, the statement that he is 'but a man' (as opposed to 'a god'; 28.2,9) and that he would be killed by 'the uncircumcised, by the hand of foreigners' (28.10), and that his chief sin emerged from his wealthy trade (28.4-5,15-16,18). Rather, the references to the king of Tyre as a 'cherub' who was in 'Eden' should be understood as a metaphor that describes the king's great privilege and blessing, and hence just how terrible his condemnation is.

Keeping chapter 28 in context with chapters 26–27, the most internally consistent reading is that the king's fate is wrapped up with that of his city. In other words, the king of Tyre is a human, who Ezekiel expects to be killed when Nebuchadnezzar conquers and destroys the city of Tyre.


Who is the king of Tyre?

Ezekiel dates this prophecy to the 'eleventh year' on the 'first day [of the first month]'. The dating of Ezekiel's prophecies is based on the number of years of 'the exile of King Jehoiachin' (Ezekiel 1.2), which would date chapters 26–28 to the year 586 BC. This was shortly after Nebuchadnezzar had conquered Jerusalem and destroyed the first temple, so Ezekiel anticipates the king of Babylon to soon march against Tyre. Based on the overall context and the dating of the prophecy,

The king of Tyre of Ezekiel 28 was Ithobaal III

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When you say "this is unsustainable from the text alone," are you referring to the local context of Ezekiel or the greater context of a whole canon? –  Caleb Apr 24 at 19:07
    
The local context of Ezekiel, which is what I've tried to restrict my answer to. (Though, taking up a systematic approach to the whole bible, I don't see that there either.) –  Mark Edward Apr 24 at 20:27
    
@MarkEdward Thank you for your response! Yours, although a minority response, bears some support with historical evidence, as Tyre was independant during this time, and a case could be made for Ezekiel's prophesying it's conquest. However, the question asked for the "Prince" of Tyre, rather than the "King". Is there any support for the "Prince to be the same as the "King"? Or are we to 'presuppose' that the prophet is describing one and the same person? –  Tau Apr 25 at 1:13
    
@user2479 That is actually addressed in the third section of my answer, with the heading Are the 'prince' and the 'king' two people?. –  Mark Edward Apr 25 at 1:22
    
@MarkEdward (Cont.) If the 'Hebrew expression"(prince/king) mean one and the same, why a completely different narrative for each, rather than a 'continuing on' of describing the same individual? –  Tau Apr 25 at 1:28

The Problem with taking a "Literal" approach to this passager is that the prophet doesn't take a literal approach.

In the previous chapter, where we must begin if we are to understand this passage, it says,(Ezek. 27:1-4)

The word of the LORD came again unto me, saying , 2 Now, thou son of man, take up a lamentation for Tyrus; 3 And say unto Tyrus, O thou that art situate at the entry of the sea, which art a merchant of the people for many isles, Thus saith the Lord GOD; O Tyrus, thou hast said , I am of perfect beauty. 4 Thy borders are in the midstb of the seas, thy builders have perfected thy beauty.

Who is named 'Tyrus' and how do you 'speak' to an individual named Tyrus? God is using Ezekiel to direct His Word toward the nation of Tyrus/Phoenicia, and He is addressing them as if they were 1 man, although in reality they are many people. Therefore the Context of Ezekiel's prophecy is not of addressing a particular sin of a particular individual, rather He is addressing "Tyrus" as a "type", or representitive of what the nation of Tyrus is. It would be the same if the prophet had said "America", and then went on to describe what "America" was like.

So when we get to Chapter 28, God is still addressing "types" but now the "type" is the ruler of Tyrus, better known as the "Prince of Tyrus" This "type" of the rulers of Tyre proclaim they are "God". Because of their merchandising they have become very wealthy, and because of their interaction with many other peoples they have become very 'wise' or knowledgeable. It is important to note the prophet doesn't single out any particular ruler of Tyre, rather these are the characteristics of the "Prince of Tyre".

So when we get to Ezek. 28:11 we see a dramatic shift. We are 'used' to seeing types, but now we have a different type:

Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying , 12 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. 13 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 . 14 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. 15 Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created , till iniquity was found in thee.

This text has been much debated, by both Hebrew and Christian scholars. Since there is no 'clear view' of ha-Satan(the opposer) as seen in Job 1, the view most prevelent amonst Jewish sources is that he's God's 'prosecuting attorney' for which we constantly need to call on God to prevail against. A reference can be found here.

The Christian view, on the other hand, sees Satan as the "Prince of Darkness". Jesus says in John 8:44,

"Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it".

Therefore, from the early church fathers, there has been a view that Ezek. 28:14 is a reference to Satan; referenced from a link here.

One 'may' have made a case for "Ithobaal" III, as being the "Prince of Tyre", but in order to make a case for Ithobaal III as the King of Tyre, one has to accept that, 1)He was in Eden, the Garden of God; 2)Every precious stone was your covering the day you were created, 3)You were the anointed cherub that covereth, and I have created you so; 4)You were upon the holy mountain of God, and walked up and down the mountain of fire; 5)You were perfect from the day you were created, until iniquity were found in thee; 6)The result was that you were cast out of the mountain of God, and God will(in the future) destroy thee o covering cherub." Early church fathers, and most commentaries agree, from the language references that it cannot with certainty be Ithobaal III, as he was 'not in the Garden of Eden', not upon the Holy Mountain of God(as viewed by the Children of Israel in Mount Sinai, 'did not' walk on the mountain of fire, was not 'the anointed cherub'-this one is important because 'anointing in the Old Testament signified God's specific charism(or oil) poured out on an individual to fulfil a particular purpose(prophet, priest, or king). Since there is no record of any prophet 'anointing' Ithobaal III, there can be no mistake in identifying him as 'the anointed cherub'.

Since from the context of the King of Tyre that God is speaking about Satan, there are 2 different individuals: one of the is the "Prince of Tyre", and the other is the "King of Tyre". The King of Tyre is Satan, he was the covering cherub from the beginning, Isa. 14:13-14 says,"

For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: 14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High

The context is the prophet is told to "take up this proverb against the King of Babylon" and yet it's clear He is not talking about "the King of Babylon", but who is 'directing' the KIng of Babylon, which is,"

How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!

In both the instances of the "King of Tyre" and the "King of Babylon" He is talking about Satan, although "Satan-The Opposer", was once "Lucifer-The Light Bearer". God DID NOT 'create' evil, everthing He created was good. Because this "cherub" dared oppose God, he was cast out of heaven, and became Satan who influences both the "Prince of Tyre and the "King of Babylon" to oppose God.

Since we have been taken in this direction in regards to the "King of Tyre", what does it say about the "Prince of Tyre"?

"He is a man, and not God, yet he exalts himself as God". Furthermore,(Ezek. 28:2)

"thou hast said , I am a God, I sit in the seat of God, in the midst of the seas;

We find this same figure in Dan. 11:37,

"Neither shall he regard the God of his fathers, nor the desire of women, nor regard any god: for he shall magnify himself above all.

Moreover, it also says,"(vs 45)

And he shall plant the tabernacles of his palace between the seas in the glorious holy mountain; yet he shall come to his end, and none shall help him".

The Prince of Tyrus, that we have established as a "type" is the Antichrist; "The King of Tyrus"(Satan) is "empowering him", so that he may 'appear' to men as "God", though he is just a man. 2 Thess. 2:3-4 says,"

3 Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; 4 Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.

So we see then, that the "Prince of Tyrus" can rightly be called the "Antichrist".

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Can you provide an explanation for why readers should make the jump from Ezekiel 28 to Isaiah 14, to Daniel 11, to 2 Thessalonians 2 (to 1 / 2 John, the only place 'antichrist' is actually mentioned)? You haven't actually shown the work on how we get from one text to the next. The answer is common, so I'm not challenging its place here. But without giving a reason for why those intertextual connections should be made, the answer as it stands is very inadequate. –  Mark Edward Apr 25 at 16:44
    
I have to agree with @MarkEdward here. I personally do hold that "the King of Tyre" is Satan (and feel like that can be supported from the text of Ezekiel 28). I'm not convinced the "prince" is the Antichrist rather than the ruler of Tyre at the time. You do make a number of "leaps" in your presentation. You simply assert "The King of Tyre is Satan" and then link the other texts. You need to first prove that from the context of Ezek 28 (not that you cannot use other scripture to support it, but you are not clear from Ezekiel how you equate it). Only then (cont.) –  ScottS Apr 25 at 20:20
    
(cont.) can you move to this logic "Since we have been taken in this direction in regards to the 'King of Tyre' [i.e. that it is Satan], what does it say about the 'Prince of Tyre'?" and have it mean anything toward your argument. –  ScottS Apr 25 at 20:21
    
@ScottS I was hoping to make my case w/o a lengthy dissertation(hint:'unreadable) explanation of how the 'language' doesn't support an "Ithobaal III" interpretation. Quite simply, the answer is in context: You can't equate A) Ithobaal=Prince of Tyre; to B) Ithobaal=King of Tyre, from a Literal(Historical/Grammatical) context; it's that simple. Therefore: If NOT/ Then WHAT? Since Satan=King of Tyre, does Satan=Prince of Tyre? Of course not! Since we have established that King of Tyre is not "Literally" the King of Tyre, but Satan, our context is "Figurative" and not "Literal". –  Tau Apr 25 at 22:06
    
@ScottS (cont.)If Figuratively Satan=King of Tyre, Then Figuratively, what does "Prince of Tyre" represent? We have had this discussion before about not 'mixing' Literal and Figurative contexts to suit our interpretations: God doesn't do it; neither should we. The representation that Scripture equates "man as God" is the Antichrist, of which we have abundant scriptures to prove. "Satan" is the King, "Antichrist" is the Prince; just as "Satan" gives all his 'power' to the "Antichrist"(Satan-being the 'dragaon' who gives his power to the Beast-Rev. 13) –  Tau Apr 25 at 22:20

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