The Fall of Satan in Ezekiel 28

Last time we saw that Isaiah has nothing to say about the fall of Satan. But how can we deny these explicit words?

A Guardian Cherub of Old Testament Times

A Guardian Cherub of Old Testament Times

You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God…You were anointed as a guardian cherub…You were on the holy mount of God…you were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you…So I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God, and I expelled you…Your heart became proud on account of your beauty…So I threw you to the earth.

The Phoenicians

Ezekiel, like Isaiah, wrote prophecies against various countries, and this one is against the king of Tyre. Tyre was the most prominent of several cities of Phoenicia; today we call the area Lebanon.

The Phoenicians were known for two things. First, they were a sea-faring people who traveled extraordinary distances from Palestine and created colonies all over the Mediterranean. They had important settlements along the coast of North Africa and down the western coast, in Spain, and on many islands that would become part of Italy.

Their most famous colony was Carthage, which became the ruling power of the Mediterranean. In fact, it was the Punic (Phoenician) wars between Rome and Carthage that made Rome into a world power. You may remember Hannibal, who led his army (with elephants) over the Alps to fight the Romans. Throughout more than fifteen years of war, Hannibal won every battle until the battle of the fall of Carthage.

Secondly, the Phoenicians were known as great traders who controlled the Mediterranean trade routes for hundreds of years. Both David and Solomon were buddies with Tyre’s King Hiram, and when Solomon built ships to sail the Gulf of Aqaba Hiram sent experienced sailors to help him in this new venture.

The Phoenician King of Tyre

Ezekiel tells the king of Tyre where he has gone wrong.

In the pride of your heart you say, ‘I am a god; I sit on the throne of a god in the heart of the seas.’ But you are a mere mortal and not a god…By your great skill in trading you have increased your wealth, and because of your wealth your heart has grown proud.

Because you think you are wise, as wise as a god, I am going to bring foreigners against you, the most ruthless of all nations…and you will die a violent death in the heart of the seas. Will you then say, ‘I am a god,’ in the presence of those who kill you? You will be but a mortal, not a god.

Ezekiel continues continues by pointing out the king’s advantage:

Your were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone adorned you: carnelian, chrysolite, and emerald, topaz, onyx and jasper, lapis lazuli, turquoise and beryl…You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you.

Before now, the passage clearly described a man; and a man remains in view. The passage does not suddenly and mysteriously begin to address the fallen Satan instead of the king of Tyre; it addresses the king of Tyre throughout.

The reference to Eden is a metaphor that simply underscores the king’s advantage. His kingdom was like a perfect garden—like Eden. Ezekiel refers to the King of Tyre metaphorically as a guardian cherub, which is another allusion to Genesis.

Satan is no Guardian Cherub!

However, those who think this passage refers to Satan in Eden encounter a difficulty in identifying Satan as a ‘guardian cherub’. The cherub of Genesis was not Satan, but another being posted to guard against trespassers. It could not have been Satan.

The king of Tyre should have been a guardian of his privileged empire, but he was not. Ezekiel describes the king’s misuse of his advantaged position:

You were on the holy mount of God; you walked among the fiery stones. You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you. Through your widespread trade you were filled with violence, and you sinned. So I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God, and I expelled you, O guardian cherub, from among the fiery stones.

Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor. So I threw you to the earth; I made a spectacle of you before kings. By your many sins and dishonest trade you have desecrated your sanctuaries…I reduced you to ashes on the ground in the sight of all who were watching. All the nations who knew you are appalled at you.

This chapter has nothing to do with an angelic rebellion and its leader. Rather, it describes wickedness related to violence, dishonest trade, and unnamed sins. The king had all the advantages, but his very success led to the haughtiness to say in his heart, ‘I am a god.’ This is the story of a king living in history, not of an angel acting in prehistory.

Why are the passages from Isaiah and Ezekiel so similar if they refer to different people? The tendency toward pride and self-exaltation is a common failing of kings. Neither Isaiah nor Ezekiel has anything to say about the fall of Satan.

Next time we will see if the New Testament provides any support.

Articles in this series:

Is the Fall of Satan a Myth?
The Fall of Satan in Isaiah 14
The Fall of Satan in Ezekiel 28
The Fall of Satan in Revelation 12
The Fall of Satan in the Book of Enoch
Satan in the Old Testament
Was Satan the Serpent in Eden?
Was Satan in the Desert with Jesus?
Does Satan Exist?
Do Demons Exist?

Image via Wikimedia
Your observations and comments are welcome below.
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33 Responses to The Fall of Satan in Ezekiel 28

  1. michaeleeast says:

    I agree with your assessment of this passage entirely.

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  2. Pingback: The Fall of Satan in Isaiah 14 | Jesus Without Baggage

  3. Phil Johns says:

    Excellent Tim. Looking forward to the NT installment.

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  4. Sabio Lantz says:

    Nicely written. And great timing. See this comment on Scalia’s recent comment
    http://genealogyreligion.net/bedevilment-of-justice-scalia
    The author of that blog is brilliant — Ph.D. Anthropology and a law degree.
    So, since Satan is far from universal — who created him. Because it doesn’t not seem universally understood but a unique Christian creation.

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    • Thanks for the kind words Sabio! I read the article you suggested, and it is quite interesting. Belief in the existence of Satan is widespread among Christians, to say the least.

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    • sheila0405 says:

      “He’s more like an idiot legal savant who works within a particular metaphysical tradition.” Well, the author lost me with that statement. Name calling usually turns me off. I’d like details, too, about other religions, and how they view the sources of good and evil. Lots of statements here about history with no links so we can examine the matter more deeply. I was very disappointed in the article, myself. But I am very interested in what other religions are teaching.

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  5. sheila0405 says:

    This one I knew. I clearly remember reading this passage in Ezekiel. It was reading through the Bible, and Ezekiel in particular, when I realized that the theology of the Rapture/Left Behind was completely incoherent. That was in 1984, and it took me more than 30 years to finally get to where I am today. I am a Catholic, and we believe in a real Satan, but I am willing to see him as an allegory for the spirit of evil. By the way, are you going to address the book of Job? Satan appears before God to accuse Job of following God only because he has it good. I know that the whole book is just a story, and not literal, but it is interesting that the writer assumes his audience believes in a real Satan. I’m really enjoying having my beliefs challenged on this blog.

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    • Sheila, I will talk about Job but it may be in a different series on Satan. I don’t want this one to become too long and boring to people.

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    • michaeleeast says:

      You are right when you say that the Book of Job is a story.
      The figure of Satan is used as a kind of literary device.
      The whole of the story revolves around it.
      It was not necessarily meant to be taken literally.

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    • Sheila, interesting comment “I am a Catholic, and we believe in a real Satan…” When I was in my Master of Theology program at a Catholic University I had one professor (brilliant Ph.D) who was also a working Catholic Priest and he said on multiple occasions that the idea of a unique being of Satan was ridiculous and he couldnt wait for the church leadership to state it… (to which I agree).

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      • sheila0405 says:

        We even have the prayer to St Michael, which asks the archangel to “be defender against the wickedness and snares of the devil”. I’m a convert, so I took on all of what the Church teaches. But, as I said, I am open to taking another look at a real person called Satan. I certainly believe there is real good and real evil in the world, and a real Satan is an easy way to state a source of evil. The fact that human beings, who are inherently good, in my opinion, can sometimes do evil things is a mystery for the ages. It’s so hard to wrap one’s mind around evil when encountering it. Is a belief in a real Satan necessary to obtain eternal life? I’m not so sure.

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  6. Phil Johns says:

    Job is a favorite of the Word of Faith cult. ‘That which I feared has come upon me’ in that negative talking and thoughts will become reality. In the distant past I have read Job right through and it felt like a waste of time since there is no satisfying conclusion. It’s actually a rather silly story.

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  7. Pingback: The Fall of Satan in Revelation 12 | Jesus Without Baggage

  8. Now if Ezekiel would have predicted that Hooked on Phonics would become the Phoenicians greatest legacy thousands of years later I would have been impressed 🙂 Again, nice analysis here, seems pretty spot on to me. Keep em coming.

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    • Hooked on Phonics! Hilarious! However, some people might think it is a rather Punic joke. I have always wondered if smoking cigarettes is really Carthogenic.

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      • Well I figure if you can slide a joke into such a subject covering Ezekiel and Satan you gotta go for it! I had to look up the word “Punic” btw, had no idea what that meant. And wow, Carthogenic! I think we’re creating comedy here that only 5 or 10 people in this world (including us) would find funny! I’ll leave the one about Ezekeil Bread to someone else though 🙂

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  9. Pingback: The Fall of Satan in the Book of Enoch | Jesus Without Baggage

  10. Pingback: Satan in the Old Testament | Jesus Without Baggage

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