Friday, August 27, 2010

Ezekiel 28 - Was Satan the Anointed Cherub?

Traditional View

Traditionally, the passage of Ezekiel 28 is thought to refer to Satan. This is based mainly on two premises:
  1. Ezekiel 28:1 refers to the "prince of Tyre" whereas Ezekiel 28:11 refers to the "king of Tyre." It is said the "prince of Tyre" is a mere man because Ezekiel 28:2 says, "...yet you are a man", but Ezekiel 28:16 says the "king of Tyre" is a "covering cherub" and therefore is not a man but must be a heavenly being.

  2. Ezekiel 28:13 says the "king of Tyre" was "in Eden, the garden of God" and this cannot be said of any man alive at the time of Ezekiel's prophecy so therefore it must refer to Satan.
Thus, it is concluded by some, since the "king of Tyre" is a "cherub" and not specifically referred to as a man, and this being was "in Eden, the garden of God" and also wicked, it can be none other than Satan himself. Then after reaching this conclusion, the rest of the characteristics describing this king of Tyre are ascribed to Satan. This is how we end up with some of the traditional views of Satan.

A more-than-cursory study, however, will reveal there are many very good reasons to believe that the above interpretation is erroneous.

Satan as a Cherub?

The biblical description of a cherub is a very odd-looking creature and hard to imagine. Ezekiel himself describes cherubs (or cherubim as a plural in Hebrew) in Ezekiel 1:5-28 and 10:-5. There we see cherubs have the likeness of a man but have four faces (man, lion, ox & eagle), four wings (two above, two to cover their body), straight legs and calve's feet. They are burnished bronze in color, have hands under their wings and looked like burning coals of fire; like torches. Nowhere in scripture is Satan described in this manner. Instead Satan is always referred to the serpent, devil and dragon:
  • Genesis 3:1 - "serpent"
  • 2 Corinthians 11:3 - "the serpent [who] deceived Eve"
  • Revelation 12:9 - "the great dragon..., that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan"
  • Revelation 20:2 - "the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan"

Prince VS King

The Hebrew words translated "prince" (nagiyd) and "king" (melek) in Ezekiel 28:1 and 11 respectively are used interchangeably in many other places in scripture to refer to the same person. For instance, Saul is called nagiyd in 1 Samuel 10:1 and melek in 1 Samuel 12:1. So, just because two different words are used does not necessarily mean it is not the same person. Of course, it could simply refer to two men; one the prince and the other the king... exactly like it says.

Eden, the Garden of God

The phrase, "Eden, the garden of God" is used by the prophet Ezekiel in another prophecy. It is clear in that passage (Ezekiel 31) that taking this phrase as a literal reference to the garden of Eden in Genesis is a mistake. Instead it is a metaphor used to describe the nations of the world (God's garden called 'Eden') in which trees (nations; e.g. Assyria & Egypt) are planted by God and either flourish, making provision for trees around them, or are cut down (divine judgment) and left to die. Here are some examples:
  • Ezekiel 31:3-7 - Assyria is described as a tree: "Assyria was a cedar in Lebanon, with fine branches that shaded the forest, and of high stature; and its top was among the thick boughs...".
  • Ezekiel 31:8 - Other nations are described as trees: "The cedars in the garden of God could not hide it; the fir trees were not like its boughs, and the chestnut trees were not like its branches; no tree in the garden of God was like it in beauty".
  • Ezekiel 31:8 - Notice that Assyria and all other nations are located in "the garden of God".
  • Ezekiel 31:9 - This garden of God's is called "Eden" showing all other nations planted there: "I made it beautiful with a multitude of branches, so that all the trees of Eden envied it, that were in the garden of God".
  • Ezekiel 31:12 - The fall of Assyria is likened as a tree cut down: "...the most terrible of nations, have cut it down and left it; its branches have fallen on the mountains and in all the valleys; its boughs lie broken by all the rivers of the land; and all the peoples of the earth have gone from under its shadow and left it".
  • Ezekiel 31:16-18 - The nations that see the fall of Assyria are said to be trees of Eden: "I made the nations shake at the sound of its fall, when I cast it down to hell together with those who descend into the Pit; and all the trees of Eden, the choice and best of Lebanon, all that drink water, were comforted in the depths of the earth. They also went down to hell with it, with those slain by the sword; and those who were its strong arm dwelt in its shadows among the nations. 'To which of the trees in Eden will you then be likened in glory and greatness? Yet you shall be brought down with the trees of Eden to the depths of the earth; you shall lie in the midst of the uncircumcised, with those slain by the sword. This is Pharaoh and all his multitude,' says the Lord GOD".
As can be easily seen, it is impossible to take the expression of "Eden, the garden of God" in Ezekiel 31 passage literally as referring to the Garden of Eden of Genesis. Assyria, nor Egypt were ever in the Garden of Eden of Genesis. The phrase is clearly a colorful metaphor used by God to describe the nations of the world and their flourishment or their demise.

Ezekiel Chronology

Another important characteristic of the Ezekiel 31 VS the Ezekiel 28 passage is that chronologically speaking, Ezekiel 31 was given before the prophecy of Ezekiel 28. The book of Ezekiel is not arranged in chronological order. However, the prophecies it contains are dated by the prophet himself and can therefore be arranged in order. Most scholars agree Ezekiel seemed to date his prophecies based on the year of Jehoiachin's Captivity because that is the same year in which Ezekiel himself was taken captive from Judah to Babylon. Ezekiel dates his prophecies in the following order:

(Jehoiachin's Captivity)


Ezekiel 1-7 "thirtieth year, in the fourth month, on the fifth day of the month" 05-04-05 592 BC This is thought to be the 30th yr of Ezekiel's life, but the 5th yr in Babylon.
Ezekiel 8-19 "sixth year, in the sixth month, on the fifth day of the month" 06-06-05 591 BC
Ezekiel 20-23 "seventh year, in the fifth month, on the tenth day of the month" 07-05-10 590 BC
Ezekiel 24-25 "ninth year, in the tenth month, on the tenth day of the month" 09-10-10 588 BC
Ezekiel 29:1-16 "tenth year, in the tenth month, on the twelfth day of the month" 10-10-12 587 BC
Ezekiel 30:20 - 31:18 "eleventh year, in the first month, on the seventh day of the month" 11-01-07 586 BC
Ezekiel 26-28 "eleventh year, on the first day of the month" 11-05-01 586 BC Scholars agree this is the 5th month.
Ezekiel 33:21 - 39:29 "twelfth year of our captivity, in the tenth month, on the fifth day of the month" 12-10-15 585 BC
Ezekiel 32:1-16 "twelfth year, in the twelfth month, on the first day of the month" 12-12-01 585 BC
Ezekiel 32:17 - 33:20 "twelfth year, on the fifteenth day of the month" 12-12-15 585 BC Scholars agree this is the 12th month.
Ezekiel 40-48 "twenty-fifth year of our captivity, at the beginning of the year, on the tenth day of the month, in the fourteenth year after the city was captured" 25-01-10 572 BC Scholars agree this is the 1st month
Ezekiel 29:17 - 30:19 "twenty-seventh year, in the first month, on the first day of the month" 27-01-01 570 BC

So the metaphorical use of "Eden, the garden of God" as given in Ezekiel 31 is established before the Ezekiel 28 prophecy is given, thus establishing the contextual precedence. In other words, God uses the phrase originally as an obvious metaphor and then immediately uses it again in Ezekiel 28. Why, therefore, would the original use of the phrase change from metaphor to literal? I don't believe it would.


The Ezekiel 28 passage is not referring to Satan at all. Instead it is referring metaphorically to the rulers of the actual city of Tyre in Ezekiel's day that was to be mostly conquered by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon and finally finished off by Alexander the Great of Greece to complete the fulfilling of the prophecy. This helps expel many traditional beliefs about the spiritual being called "Satan."