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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 thee”.

Popular Interpretation

It is assumed that this refers to Satan once having been in Eden, totally perfect, but because of his pride, he had been cast out.


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 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 Cor. 5:17).

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 in Eden.

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 the cherub.

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.

Suggested Explanations

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 (vs. 4-5).

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: 24-25).”

The above points are taken from Ron Abel, Wrested Scriptures, (South Croydon: C.A.T., 2005 ed.) pp. 171-173, Section 8.

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 chapters 1 and 10. “A sphinx is merely a pagan cherub. The sphinx often depicted a 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” (1).

A large 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 king of 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 in Ez. 28:2, proclaiming that “I am God, I sit in the seat of God” (2).

With 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 on Mount Zion, in the same way as the king of Assyria effectively aspired to the same thing - Phoenician inscriptions have been uncovered calling the king of Tyre “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 breastplate missing from the list in v. 13 were also missing from the sphinx. Inscriptions also describe Tyre as the “garden of God”, and reliefs of cherubim guarding Tyre as they did Eden have been found. Thus the king of Tyre had set up a blasphemous system of worship copying that of the temple and of Eden, with himself as God in the midst of it. Harry Whittaker makes a distinction between "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 of the city"). He suggests that Tyre had installed a system of Yahweh worship similar to that which was in Jerusalem (perhaps a result of Hiram's relationship with Solomon and assistance in building Yahweh's temple)- but this 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 been pushed by the king of Tyre as far as it can go - “thou sealest up the sum” (imitation of God). No wonder a prophecy like Ezekiel 28 was necessary to 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 really are.


(1) Arthur Gibson, “The Diabolical Prince of Tyre”, The Testimony Vol. 46 (1976) p. 174.

(2) Descriptions of the sphinx-cherubim discovered and the references to the King of Tyre’s 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) p. 49.

(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.