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PROPHETICAL DIRGE ON THE KING OF TYRE, AS THE EMBODIMENT OF THE SPIRIT OF CARNAL PRIDE AND SELF-SUFFICIENCY OF THE WHOLE STATE. THE FALL OF ZIDON, THE MOTHER-CITY. THE RESTORATION OF ISRAEL IN CONTRAST WITH TYRE AND ZIDON (Chap. 28)
EXEGETICAL NOTES.—“In this chapter we have a sublime threnody on the prince of Tyre, couched in language of the keenest irony. His fall is first of all traced to his insufferable pride, which is described in the most glowing terms (Ezekiel 28:2-6). His merited punishment is next announced (7–10). The prophet, in obedience to the divine command, then proceeds to deliver the funeral dirge, exaggerating the dignity and magnificence of the fallen monarch, with which he contrasts his utter degradation (11–19). Then follows a prediction announcing the fall of the mother-city, Zidon (20–23). And the chapter concludes with promises of deliverance to the Jews, and their restoration to prosperity in their own land.”—Henderson.
Ezekiel 28:2. “The prince of Tyrus.” The monarch of Tyre, at the time of Ezekiel’s prophecy, was Ithbaal II. The latter part of this compound name implies his close connection with Baal, the Phœnician supreme God, whose representative he was. “I am a God, I sit in the seat of God.” “The seat of God is a seat which, in its absolute inaccessibleness, is like the seat of God in heaven. He sets or makes his mind like the mind of God; he has so pushed himself into the height that in his folly he arrogates to himself what God claims to Himself by right. It belongs to the nature of God, to be and to have all from Himself; to the nature of man, to derive all from the fulness of God. If man imagines himself to subsist as God in himself, this is the greatest of all perversities, which cannot remain unpunished, because God does not give His glory to another. The fundamental passage is Isaiah 14:14, where the king of Babylon compares himself with the Most High. The general divine name, Elohim, the Godhead, stands as usual, where there is a contrast of man and God, of earth and heaven.”—(Hengstenberg.)
Ezekiel 28:3. “Wiser than Daniel.” Daniel had, at this time (B.C. 588), been chief of the wise men of Babylon for about fourteen years. “Daniel’s wisdom must have been generally known and acknowledged, especially among the Jews in the Chaldean exile; for Ezekiel presupposes that the King of Tyre knew of Daniel, and certainly as one whom no other but himself excelled in wisdom; so that Daniel can be no mere Jewish celebrity, but must have proved his wisdom on the theatre of the world. To Daniel is ascribed not merely wisdom, but even a special kind of it, that to which nothing hidden was dark. The King of Babylon says of Daniel in Ezekiel 4:6, “I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in thee, and no secret troubleth thee.” Daniel had appeared as one from whom no secret was hidden in the very beginning of his career, and thereby laid the foundation of his prominent position.”—(Hengstenberg.)
Ezekiel 28:7. “The terrible of the nations.” The foreigners, barbarians, the terrible ones of the nations. These were the Chaldean foreigners, noted for their ferocity (Isaiah 1:11; Isaiah 25:2; Ezekiel 31:12).
Ezekiel 28:8. “Thou shalt die the deaths.” “Deaths, a peculiar form in the plural, to indicate emphatically the most violent death. The death of the king of Tyre is compared to that of those slain in a sea-engagement, and cast into the deep.”—(Henderson). “The plural here and Jeremiah 16:4 is a pluralis exaggerativus, a death so painful as to be equivalent to dying many times.”—(Keil).
Ezekiel 28:12. “Thou sealest up the sum.” The literal rendering is, “Thou art the one sealing the sun of perfection.” Seals were used for the purpose of authenticating or securing anything. When it is said, therefore, that the King was the seal of perfection, the meaning is, that he could not be surpassed in riches, splendour, or power. The sum-total of all that was illustrious concentrated in him. He vindicated to himself all that mortal could pretend to.”—(Henderson).
Ezekiel 28:13. “Thou hast been in Eden, the garden of God.” “The prophet places the monarch in the primitive abode of man, with which was associated every idea of pleasure and delight. It is quite a lowering of the subject to suggest with Michaelis that he might have had a summer residence in the beautiful valley of the cedars of Lebanon, whither he retired during the hot season of the year. Eden was called the garden of God because it was of His plantation, and formed the delightful scene of His Divine manifestations to the first pair To have been there conveys the idea of the most distinguished honour and felicity. Taking occasion from his reference to Eden, with which the Bible history connects the existence of bdellium and onyx-stones, Ezekiel, with his usual minuteness, gives a detailed account of the precious gems which adorned the regal state. The nine precious stones here specified correspond to those with the same names in the description of the high priest’s breastplate (Exodus 39:10-13).”—Henderson.
Ezekiel 28:14. “The anointed cherub that covereth.” Ezekiel, as a priest, employs imagery drawn from the Jewish temple. Like the cherubim overshadowing the mercy seat, the King of Tyre—a demi-god in his own esteem—spread his protecting wings over his dominions. “The holy mountain of God.” “To this his illimitable ambition aspired. In imagination he occupied Mount Zion, the dwelling place of the Most High.”—(Henderson). “Thou hast walked up and down.” As priest (1 Samuel 2:30; 1 Samuel 2:35).
Ezekiel 28:15. “Thou wast perfect in thy ways … till iniquity was found in thee.” “The rectitude with which the monarch commenced his reign may be illustrated by a reference to the history of Hiram (1 Kings 5:7); but having in process of time become corrupt through the uninterrupted commercial prosperity of the Tyrian state, he indulged in unscrupulous acts of injustice and cruelty, on account of which merited punishment is here denounced.”—(Henderson).
Ezekiel 28:18. “Thy sanctuaries.” The king is said to possess sanctuaries in regard to the ideal position ascribed to him (Ezekiel 28:14). “Any greatness consecrated by God, any glory imparted by Him, may be regarded as a sanctuary, the desecration of which by the foeffee is followed by desecration by the feudal lord. The idea of the sanctuary is that of separation from the world, which exerts all its destructive powers in vain against the gift imparted by God, so long as the possessor remains in the right position towards God.”—(Hengstenberg.) “From the midst of thee.” The king is here regarded as comprehending in himself the city and the people.
Ezekiel 28:20. “Against Zidon.” “Zidon was a very ancient Phœnician city, otherwise famous for its fishery, (hence its name from Zud ‘to fish’), and afterwards for its extended and flourishing commerce both by sea and land. It became so noted for the manufacture of glass and other articles of luxury, that the epithet Sidonia ars was used by the ancients to denote whatever was elegant or magnificent. According to Strabo, the Zidonians were celebrated for their skill in astronomy, philosophy, navigation, and all the liberal arts. Zidon was founded by the first-born of Canaan (Genesis 10:15); and was situated, according to Straoo, two hundred stadia to the north of Tyre. Favoured by its position on the coast of the Mediterranean, it early became celebrated for its commerce. In the time of Jacob, it is mentioned in connexion with shipping (Genesis 49:13); and in that of Joshua, it is celebrated as a ‘Great’ city (Joshua 11:8; Joshua 19:28). It lay within the boundary of the land assigned to the tribe of Asher; but was never conquered by the Israelites (Judges 1:31). At the present day, the town of Saida, a little to the west; occupies its site. It has a fine old ruined tower projecting far into the sea, with a bridge of many arches that was built to reach it. In Matthew 11:22, Tyre and Zidon are coupled together.” (Henderson).
Ezekiel 28:24. “A pricking.” The word occurs elsewhere only in Leviticus 13:51-52; Leviticus 14:44, and is used of the “fretting leprosy.” The Sidonian briar had wounded Israel.
Ezekiel 28:25. “And shall be sanctified in them in the sight of the heathen.” “These cities, which had been a constant source of annoyance to their neighbours, and to none more than to the Jews, being rendered powerless, the people of God, restored from Babylon to their own land, should enjoy all their ancient privileges, and all around them be compelled to ascribe to Jehovah, as their covenant God, the glory due to His name.”—(Henderson.)
THE KING OF TYRE
Consider the prophet’s description of this King.
I. As the incarnation of earthly pride and self-sufficiency. The pride and vain glory of the nation, the history of its prosperity and of the corruptions that led to its fall, are, by the imagination of the prophet, supposed to be embodied in an ideal Prince of Tyre. This prince is regarded as the incarnation of the carnal pride, self-sufficiency, and wickedness of the whole state. He is the sum-total of the wickedness of the entire nation, but his chief offence is pride; or rather pride is the spring and fountain of all his iniquities. His pride manifested itself in two forms:—
1. In assuming to be God. “Thou hast said, I am God, I sit in the seat of God” (Ezekiel 28:2). Beyond this, it is not possible for human arrogance to go. Not content with adopting the title of God, he must needs seize upon the functions of the Divine government. Many will not state this pretence in words, but they act as if neither God nor man had a right to say anything to them. Not to acknowledge God’s rights over us is to throw off His authority, and to become a God unto ourselves. In such a spirit as this to sit in judgment on His dealings, as if we could correct Him, is to commit a daring iniquity. It is “to snatch from His hand the balance and the rod.” His pride also showed itself:—
2. In the conceit of wisdom, (Ezekiel 28:3). As he thought that he possessed all wisdom in himself, so he would pray for none. In his own imagination he was wiser than Daniel, who was the wisest man of whose fame he had heard. The Chaldeans confessed Daniel’s wisdom (Daniel 2:10-11). He had done what they admitted was beyond human power. He stood upon the highest stage of wisdom attainable by man. For this prince to declare himself wiser than Daniel was to transcend the stage of humanity, and to make himself equal with God. And further, Daniel had predicted the coming of God’s universal kingdom (Daniel 2:44). This prince proudly thought that he could convict Daniel of error, seeing he had established himself as the God of this world. The prophet ascribes to Daniel a special kind of wisdom,—that to which nothing was dark or hidden (Daniel 4:9). “There is no secret that they can hide from thee,” says the prophet when interpreting the thoughts of this proud prince (Ezekiel 28:3). The prince of Tyre also boasted of his wisdom to get riches,—of that practical wisdom which can show material results that dazzle and impress the minds of men (Ezekiel 28:5-6). And Daniel also was remarkable for this kind of wisdom. He was a great public man, and not merely a solitary thinker. He was the statesman among the prophets. But we are not to. regard the prophet as merely making a comparison between one wise man and another, as this world counts wisdom. Daniel ascribed all his wisdom to God above. Therefore the wisdom of these two men could not be compared by the same scale (Daniel 2:20; Daniel 2:28-30; Daniel 2:45).
II. His punishment.
1. Great humiliation. The Chaldean foreigners, noted for their great ferocity, would descend upon the nation (Ezekiel 28:7). All the beautiful possessions acquired by this prince’s boasted wisdom would be spoiled. The oblivion and dishonour of the grave would be the fittest natural image of his humiliation. “They shall bring thee down to the pit” (Ezekiel 28:8). He would die many “deaths,” for as the king he would die in each of his slain subjects.
2. His great pretentions would not save him from destruction. “Wilt thou yet say before him that slayeth thee, I am God?” (Ezekiel 28:9). The hope that he cherished in the day of his prosperity will fail him before the enemy. Then will it be manifest that he is man and not God. In the day of adversity he shall have to learn another language.
3. He shall have punishment in kind. He defiled the nation by his pride, and now he is desecrated in turn. His “brightness” was to be “defiled,” his person to be profaned (Ezekiel 28:9). [The second “slayeth” in this verse should be rendered “profaneth.”] 4 His punishment demands a sad lamentation. Consider what he once was. He was highly endowed (Ezekiel 28:12). He enjoyed as it were, a glory like unto the first man in Paradise (Ezekiel 28:13). He once had the beauty of youth, and was in a state of comparative innocence (Ezekiel 28:15). Nations degenerate towards their old age. Now he had gone the way of old-world nations, who were all wrecked by pride (Ezekiel 28:17). It was sad to think of all his labours and pains coming to nought. All that exalts itself against God is nothing, and will come to nothing. He only that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.
Consider this Prince of Tyre:—
III. As a prelude of Antichrist. Antichrist is one who being only man claims to be God. The King of Tyre was a type of this man of sin (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4). In our own age there are various forms of this spirit of Antichrist.
1. The spirit of lawlessness. St. Paul speaks of this in 2 Thess. 7, 8, where “the mystery of iniquity” is literally “the mystery of lawlessness,” and “that Wicked,” that lawless one. The growing spirit of disregard to all authority, human and divine, is an instance of this apostacy. It is a state of things in which every man is a law unto himself.
2. “The religion of humanity.” This age in its pride of knowledge has produced some bold enough to make the blasphemous assertion that there is no God save humanity. And Unitarianism also has a natural tendency to drift into the same form of blasphemy. It shrinks from saying “Christ is God,” yet cannot rest in this denial, but boldly says “Man is God.”
3. Popery. When men lost their faith in Christ as the real, though invisible Head of His Church; when the God-man, because he could be no longer seen or touched or handled, appeared to be far off, they yearned for a substitute. They lent questionable honours and ambiguous titles to a Pope. They invested with the powers of Christ the man who had placed himself in the seat of Christ. All such blasphemies as these spring from one bitter root in human nature—the tendency in man to yield to the tyranny of the visible. The truth is forgotten, that “the Head of every man is Christ.” Wherever by the speculations or actions of men Christ is dethroned, there will not fail many to arise to claim the vacant seat.
THE PROPHECY AGAINST ZIDON
1. God’s aim in His judgments. It is to make Himself known what a dreadful, just, and holy God He is, and that He may be declared by men to be so. God would destroy Zidon by pestilence and war, that He might be glorified and sanctified in her. She would not give glory to God before; the Lord would therefore fetch His glory out of her by His judgments, and make others see the same, so that they might confess Him to be a God of power, justice, and holiness. (Psalms 9:16.)
2. It is the Lord that sends judgments upon cities and persons. “I will send into her pestilence, and blood into her streets.” It is the Lord gives commissions as to the prophets to prophecy judgments against a city, so to the judgments themselves, to come to and upon them. Let none stumble by looking at the instruments, they are the sword in God’s hand, He causes it to wound and to kill.—(Greenhill.)
I. Some general observations from hence, that wicked men are thorns.
1. Their acquaintance is not desirable. Familiarity with them is dangerous (Proverbs 24:1). They may be honourable or eminent, yet we should neither envy them nor affect their company: and why? “For their heart studieth destruction, and their lips talk of mischief.” They are the “seed of the serpent,” and cannot cordially close with the “seed of the woman.” There is enmity between their seeds. “The best of them is as a briar; the most upright is sharper than a thorn hedge.”
2. Answerable fruit is to be expected from them. Thorns and briers must bring forth fruit suitable for their natures. A corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit. Wickedness proceeds from the wicked, it is natural to them to do wickedly, and nothing else: fire comes out of brambles, and devours the cedars of Lebanon (Judges 9:15). The Lord’s servants should see to it, that briers and brambles overrun not all the field and, vineyard of God. They do grow high, great, spread, and are like to endanger much if they be not dealt with. There are thorns and briers in all places; there are state brambles, city thorns, and church briers: such were in the church of Galatia, which Paul wisheth were cut off (Galatians 5:12), because they scratched and troubled them: and David’s resolution was, to thrust away as thorns all the sons of Belial who troubled the state and city of Jerusalem (2 Samuel 23:6). And in Psalms 101:8, he saith, “I will early destroy all the wicked of the Land; that I may cut off all wicked doers from the city of the Lord.” Here was a man after God’s own heart, that would not suffer pricking thorns and grieving briers.
II. Some more general observations from the words of the verse.
1. The church and people of God live amongst thorns. The church is a lily among thorns (Song of Solomon 2:2). Jerusalem was amidst heathenish nations. Christ and His apostles were among scribes and Pharisees, whose spirits were thorny. Hence we ought to infer—
(1.) That God’s people ought to take heed how they walk. Men who live and walk among briers and thorns had need have their eyes in their heads; they may otherwise be entangled in the briers and miserably scratched.
(2.) Then it is not strange if God’s people be scratched sometimes by wicked men They will tear and rend their names, states, comforts, peace, privileges.
(3.) Then see a reason why God’s people cannot carry on His work with more speed. When thorns are in the way, things move slowly. When good seed was sown, the thorns hindered the growth of it. When Joshua went about taking Ai, there was Achan, a great thorn, in the way; when Nehemiah was in the work of the Temple, Tobias and Sanballat were thorns in the way.
2. The church and people of God shall not always be among briers and thorns. They shall have a time of freedom. “There shall be no more a pricking brier and a piercing thorn.” This was made good to the Jews in the letter after their return. The nations which had been thorns to them the Lord destroyed. This promise refers also to the Gospel times; the Lord is making way for it now. This should draw out our spirits in prayer unto the Lord to hasten the time, and that He would make good what he hath promised (Isaiah 55:13).
3. Wicked men have ill thoughts of God’s people. They slight them. The briers and thorns round about the house of Israel despised them and scorned them (Psalms 79:4).—Greenhill.
The Jews were scattered into the Eastern countries, over several provinces of the King of Babylon, and here the Lord promiseth to gather them out thereof, and to return them to their own land.
1. God’s people have no fixed, certain habitation in this world, but are subject to scatterings. The Church was “scattered throughout all the regions of Judea and Samaria” (Acts 8:1; Hebrews 11:37).
2. God hath a care of His scattered people. He will sanctify His name in bringing them into a safe and happy condition. They shall be brought into Canaan, that is into the Church, which Canaan represents. As the Jews were gathered out of Babylon, and the provinces thereof, into their own land, so shall all the elect be brought into the Church of God, where is peace, safety, and confidence, where they shall find God a habitation, a vineyard. (Isaiah 11:10). The Lord Christ was a great gatherer (Luke 11:23; Luke 14:16-17; Luke 14:21; Luke 14:23).
3. God’s end in gathering His people. That they may sanctify Him, and that He may be sanctified by them. God’s power, faithfulnes and goodness, appear in His gathering them and bringing them out of their enemies’ hands; and so way is made for His praise and honour, and that before their enemies.—(Greenhill).
God’s judgments on the ungodly tend to the good of His Church. God sets His own free at length. The promise has been fully made good through Christ, as Zacharias says, that we are “redeemed from the hand of our enemies to serve Him without fear.” (Luke 1:74.) Then do believers first come to their true and perfect rest, when all their bodily and spiritual enemies have been rooted out. This prophecy is fulfilled in the Christian Church, which is the true seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Those born under the Old Covenant were in bondage, while believers under the New Testament are free,—(Lange.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Ezekiel 28". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/
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