5-6 The Anointed Cherub
Ezekiel 28:13-15: “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
they tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou
wast created. Thou are 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. Thou wast perfect in thy
ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in
It is assumed that this refers to Satan once having been
in Eden, totally perfect, but because of his pride, he had been cast
1. The words “devil” , “satan”
and “angel” do not occur in this chapter, nor in the rest
of Ezekiel. The context shows this is a prophecy about the King of
Tyre; the preceding chapter 27 is an oracle against Tyre, and now
chapter 28 speaks specifically about the King of Tyre. Ezekiel chapters
27 and 28 clearly hold together as a literary unit. The city of Tyre
and the King of Tyre are described in similar terms, e.g. "perfect in
beauty" (compare 27:3 and 28:12; 27:16,17 with 28:13; 27:33 with
28:16). The passage plainly speaks of the King of Tyre, not anything
that happened at the beginning of the world.
2. It is commonly believed that Satan was thrown out of
heaven into Eden, or that he gained access to Eden in order to tempt
Adam and Eve, but this passage says that this person was in Eden before
he sinned and was cast out when he sinned. The garden of Eden was on
the earth, not in heaven (its boundaries are given in Gen. 2: 8-14),
therefore the casting out was not out of heaven.
3. The person was to “die the deaths of the
uncircumcised” (Ez. 28;10), but angels cannot die (Lk. 20:35-36).
That a man is referred to is confirmed by v. 9: “thou shalt be a
man...in the hand of him that slayeth thee”. Verse 2 defines him
as the “prince of Tyrus”.
4. “Thou was perfect in thy ways,” is no
proof that a super-human person is being spoken of, seeing that the
word is applied to Noah, Abraham, Job and David (Gen. 6: 9; 17:1; Job
1:1; Ps. 18:23 & 25).
5. “Perfect in thy ways from the day that thou
wast created,” refers to this man being “perfect”
(upright) from the time of his spiritual birth - which is how the word
“created” is used in Ezekiel 21:30 and Psalm 102:18 (cp. 2
6. “Thou hast been in Eden”, refers to where
the king of Tyre was in place, not in time. Pharaoh and Assyria are
similarly described as being a “cedar in Lebanon”, no
“tree in the garden of God was like unto him in his beauty...all
the trees of Eden envied him...yet shalt thou be brought down with the
trees of Eden unto the nether parts of the earth: thou shalt lie in the
midst of the uncircumcised” (Ez. 31:2,3,8,9,16,18). Thus "You
have been in Eden" has similarities with the language used by Ezekiel
about Egypt in Ez. 31. Egypt is described in language which recalls the
trees in the garden of Eden, watered by many waters- and then cut down.
In the same way as the Garden of Eden was ended, so would Egypt be.
The trees in Eden are not to be taken literally, they
represent the nations whom Pharaoh and Assyria conquered, possibly
referring to the fact that they were all within the old geographical
boundaries of the garden of Eden. Pharaoh being the greatest of the
trees in Eden and the most appealing maybe, suggests that he was taking
to himself the place of the tree of knowledge, which was in the midst
of Eden and probably the most attractive of them all, seeing that it
fascinated Eve so much with its tempting fruit. Pharaoh was not
literally that tree, but in the parable he was making himself like it.
Similarly the king of Tyre is likened in this parable to the cherubim
7. There are numerous parallels between Isaiah 14 and
Ezekiel 28. We have shown that Isaiah 14 was not concerning satan but
about a human king. Ezekiel 28 and Ezekiel 31, are also about such
human kings, each of whom went through the same pattern of being used
by God for His purpose, getting proud in what He used them to achieve,
blaspheming the God of Israel and therefore being punished.
8. As with Isaiah 14, Ezekiel 28 is one of a series of
prophecies about various nations, in this case about Tyre.
9. “Thou art wiser than Daniel” (v. 3) is no
proof that a super-human being is referred to; this is an illustration
of Luke 16: 8: “And the lord commended the unjust steward,
because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are in their
generation wiser than the children of light”.
10. “Thou art the anointed cherub…and I
have set thee so” (Ez. 28:14) shows that God was in control of
11. According to misreadings of Ez. 28:15 "Thou wast
perfect in thy ways till iniquity was found in thee" and Jn. 8:44 "the
devil was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth,
because there was no truth in him", those who believe in a personal
devil are faced with a contradiction- was the devil originally a
sinner, or, was he once perfect but fell?
12. Eden was a geographical area on earth known to
Ezekiel's readers- this is how it is used elsewhere in Ezekiel (Ez.
27:23; 31:8,9; Is. 51:3; Gen. 13:10). 'Eden' was not understood as a
historical reference to the garden of Eden in early Genesis, but rather
to a known nation / region of Ezekiel's time.
1. We have seen that “the king of Tyrus” (v.
12) is the subject of this prophecy. Verses 4 and 5 describe him as
getting rich by his trading in silver and gold, and getting proud
because of this - much more applicable to a human king than to an
angel. His sin is defined in Ez. 28:15,16: "The iniquity of your
trading... by the multitude of your trading... you have sinned". The
sin in view wasn't some Angelic rebellion against God.
2. Tyre occupied a privileged position in its
relationship to Israel. David and Hiram had been close friends (2 Sam.
5:11; 1 Kings 5:1,6,7,10), and Hiram and Solomon had made a league in
which Hiram supplied materials for the building of the temple (1 Kings
5:12,17,18). The language of Ezekiel 28:13-18 is taken from Israelitish
worship and used symbolically for the relationship of Israel and Tyre
(by implication suggesting the divine favour which rested upon Tyre
because of its association with Israel). Consider the following:
a) ‘Every precious stone was thy covering’
(v.13); ‘thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones
of fire’ (v. 14). This is an allusion to the stones set in the
breastplate of the high priest of Israel (Ex. 39:10-14).They were
‘stones of fire’ because of the way they would shine when
exposed to the brilliance of the Shekinah glory of the sanctuary. They
symbolized the twelve tribes of Israel (Ex. 39:14). The king of Tyre
walked in the midst of these stones of fire when he moved among the
children of Israel (as in the preparation of the materials for the
temple). The position of Israel in the divine purpose provided a
‘covering’ for Tyre on the basis of the decree in Genesis
12: 3: “I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that
curseth thee’. God blessed the house of Potiphar because of
Joseph: ‘...the LORD blesses the Egyptian’s house for
Joseph’s sake; and the blessing of the Lord was upon all that he
had in the house, and in the field’ (Gen. 39:5). Similarly, Tyre
was ‘covered’ by Israel.
b) ‘Thou art the anointed cherub that
covereth’ (v. 14). The cherubim were figures of beaten gold at
either end of the mercy seat (Ex. 37: 7-9). Their wings overshadowed
the mercy seat with which they were of one piece (Ex. 25:19-20).
Although the translation of the Hebrew is uncertain (accepting the
A.V.), the suggestion may be that Tyre as a great mercantile power was
privileged to cast its ‘wings’ over Israel. It was the
abuse of this exalted position that was a factor in the ruin of Tyre
c) “Thou wast upon the holy mountain of God’
(v. 14). This holy mountain is Mt. Zion, the future site of God’s
house of prayer for all people (Is. 2: 2-3; 56: 7). This ‘holy
mountain of God’ is on the earth, not symbolically in heaven as
J.W.’s assert (see Ez. 20:40).
d) ‘Thou hast defiled thy sanctuaries by the
multitude of thine iniquities’ (Ez. 28:18). This verse may imply
that Tyre had set up forms of worship similar to that of Israel. Hiram
was ‘ever a lover of David’ and rejoiced with Solomon in
the building of the temple ( 1 Kings 5: 1-12). The king of Tyre would
so doubt have learned about God’s kingdom in Israel from these
two kings of Israel. Or, the verse may be interpreted this way:
Tyre’s sanctuaries were in Israel when the divine presence and
favour were manifest. But Tyre failed to appreciate its privileged
association with Israel. When Nebuchadnezzar came down into Jerusalem
(586 B.C.), the prince of Tyrus said: ‘Aha, the gate of the
peoples is broken, it has swung open to me; I shall be replenished, now
that she is laid waste’ (Ez. 26:2 R.S.V.). In so saying, Tyre had
spoken her own nemesis according to the decree of Genesis 12: 3:
‘I will...curse him that curseth thee’. Tyre, in her
self-centred, mercantile interests, had profaned the sanctuaries and
was herself to be reduced to ashes.
e) ‘I will 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’ (v. 18). Tyre
could not with impunity violate her privileged relationship with
Israel. When Nadab and Abihu treated the sacred as secular,
‘there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they
died before the LORD’ (Lev. 10: 2). Similarly, Tyre had failed to
make a difference between the holy and unholy. It was, therefore, to be
reduced to ashes - devoured like Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19:
The above points are taken from Ron Abel, Wrested
Scriptures, (South Croydon: C.A.T., 2005 ed.) pp. 171-173, Section
3. The question still has to be answered as to why there
are so many allusions to the events in Eden in this chapter. It appears
that the prophecy of the fall of Tyre is being consciously framed to
mirror the fall of man, e.g. v. 2: “thou art a man”;
“man” is Adam in Hebrew, as if God is saying to
the prince of Tyre, “You are like Adam in this parable”.
Verse 17 tells how he will be brought to the ground - as Adam had to
return to the dust. The passage is often skim read, leading to the
assumption that the King of Tyre is being likened to the serpent in the
Garden of Eden, or to some Satan figure who fell from Heaven at that
time. But careful reading shows that the King of Tyre is being likened
to Adam in Eden, not to the serpent. Careful attention to the Hebrew
text supports this further. "Thou art the anointed cherub... and I have
set thee so" (Ez. 28:14) would be better rendered: "I had provided you
with a guardian cherub", or "I put a terrifying angel there to guard
you" (G.N.B.); "I will destroy thee, O covering cherub" (Ez. 28:16) is
better "The guardian cherub banished [or, destroyed] you", or "the
angel who guarded you drove you away" (G.N.B.)- with reference to the
cherubim keeping Adam from re-entering Eden. These translations are
justified at length in a fascinating article at
4. Another approach is suggested by recent
archaeological discoveries in the
region of Tyre. A number of sphinx have been discovered, which appear
to be a
Canaanite pagan rendition of the cherubim described earlier in Ezekiel
1 and 10. “A sphinx is merely a pagan cherub. The sphinx often
king's head, and an animal's body—the animal was usually regarded
as a god.
Head and body were a composite god: the deification of the king”
cherub-sphinx with a king’s head and animal’s body set on a
base of sculptured
mountains was discovered in nearby Sidon, apparently a deification of a
Tyre who is here described as being “upon the holy mountain of
God” (Ez. 28:14).
Phoenician and Ugaritic texts record the King of Tyre pronouncing that
“I am El”- exactly what we read him doing
Ez. 28:2, proclaiming that “I am God, I sit in the seat of
Hiram’s knowledge of the true God, it seems that subsequent Kings
of Tyre came
to put themselves in the position of God, seated between the cherubim
Zion, in the same way as the king of Assyria effectively aspired to the
thing - Phoenician inscriptions have been uncovered calling the king of
“Lord of the Heavens”. Even more amazingly, the jewels
described in v. 13 were
all found embedded in this sphinx-cherubim. The three jewels of the
missing from the list in v. 13 were also missing from the sphinx.
also describe Tyre as the “garden of God”, and reliefs of
Tyre as they did Eden have been found. Thus the king of Tyre had set up
blasphemous system of worship copying that of the temple and of Eden,
himself as God in the midst of it. Harry Whittaker makes a distinction
"the prince of Tyre" (Ez. 28:2) and "the king of Tyre" (Ez.
28:12). which he sees as a reference to the Tyrian god Melkart ("King
the city"). He suggests that Tyre had installed a system of Yahweh
similar to that which was in Jerusalem (perhaps a result of Hiram's
relationship with Solomon and assistance in building Yahweh's temple)-
had become mixed with the worship of Melkart (3). “Thou sealest
up the sum” (v.
12). The Hebrew for “sum” can also mean “pattern,
imitation” - as if God is
saying that He is aware that this replica of His system of worship has
pushed by the king of Tyre as far as it can go - “thou sealest up
(imitation of God). No wonder a prophecy like Ezekiel 28 was necessary
expose his sin!
According to the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible
Commentary: "This feeling of superhuman elevation in the king of Tyre
was fostered by the fact that the island on which Tyre stood was called
"the holy island" [Sanconiathon], being sacred to Hercules and Melkart,
so much so that the colonies looked up to Tyre as the mother city of
their religion". "The city was thought of as rising from the waters
like the rock-throne of God" (4). This would explain why the King of
Tyre is criticized for saying "I am a God, I sit in the seat of God"
(Ez. 28:2). It would also explain all the allusions to Israelite
worship- he was setting himself up as a rival to Zion, dressing himself
in clothing featuring all the jewels in the High Priestly breastplate
(Ex. 28:15-20); the word used for his "workmanship" with those jewels
in Ez. 28:13 is used in Ex. 31:3,5; 35:31 of the workmanship of the
tabernacle and associated garments. Note how Ez. 27:22 says that Tyre
traded in "all precious stones". The King of Tyre claimed to be
"perfect in beauty" (Ez. 28:12)- just as Zion was described earlier in
Ezekiel in the same terms (Ez. 16:14).
5. In section 1-1-1 and Digression 3, we noted that the
Genesis record alludes to various incorrect pagan myths which Israel
had encountered, and seeks to deconstruct them and refocus their terms
upon the real issues- sin and sinful people. Ez. 28:11-19 is perhaps
another example. Here, the king of Tyre is likened to a cherub dwelling
in Eden, the garden of God. However, the Genesis record stresses that
the cherubim dwelt not in the garden, but east of it. It
would therefore seem that Ez. 28:11-19 is alluding to some pagan story
of the garden of Eden, and re-focussing the myth upon a real, known
human being on earth- i.e. the king of Tyre. Other examples of this
kind of re-focussing of pagan myths onto the real enemies-
sinners and sinful nations- are to be found in section 1-1-1. Cassuto points out that the Ezekiel
reference to the cherub 'walking in the midst of the stones of fire' is
an allusion to Ugaritic poetry which speaks of 'stones of fire'.
Ezekiel does the same thing in Ez. 31:8,9, where he references pagan
ideas about Eden, the cherubim etc., and re-focuses them upon Pharaoh,
king of Egypt. It could even be argued that Ezekiel's detailed visions
of the cherubim in Ez. 1 and 10 are a deconstruction of Babylonian and
underlying Canaanite myths about the cherubim- showing who the cherubim
Gibson, “The Diabolical Prince of Tyre”, The Testimony Vol. 46 (1976) p. 174.
of the sphinx-cherubim discovered and the references to the King of
claim to be “El” are to be found in R. D.
Barnett, "Ezekiel and Tyre", Eretz-Israel Vol.
9 (1969), p. 9 (Jerusalem: Israel
Exploration Society). The King of Tyre claiming to be El
is also referenced in W. F. Albright, Yahweh and the Gods of Canaan
(London: Athlone Press, 1968)
(3) H.A. Whittaker, The Very Devil (Wigan:
Biblia, 1991) p. 33.
(4) Ralph Woodrow, Was Satan Once An Angel In
Heaven? (Riverside, CA: Ralph Woodrow Evangelistic Association,
1968) p. 7. Woodrow was one of the few, if not the only, popular
American Evangelical preacher of the 20th century who spoke out against
the popular view of Satan.