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From the city the prophet passes to its ruler, who concentrated in himself whatever was most arrogant and boastful in the temper of his people. He is described here as a" prince," in Ezekiel 28:12 as "king," and the combination of the two words points probably to some peculiarity of the Tyrian constitution. "Prince" it will be remembered, is constantly used by Ezekiel of Zedekiah (Ezekiel 7:27; Ezekiel 12:20, el al.). The King of Tyro at the time was Ithobal or Ethbaal III. (Josephus, 'Contra Apion,' Ezekiel 1:21), who had taken part with Pharaoh-Hophra and Zedekiah in the league against Nebuchadnezzar, Ezekiel's description of what one may call his self-apotheosis may probably have rested on a personal knowledge of the man or of official documents.
I am a God. We are reminded of Isaiah's words (Isaiah 14:13, Isaiah 14:14) as to the King of Babylon. Did Ezekiel emphasize and amplify the boasts of Ethbaal, with a side-glance at the Chaldean king, who also was lifted up in the pride of his heart (Daniel 4:30)? For like examples, see the boast of Hophra, in Ezekiel 29:3; and the praise given to Herod Agrippa by the Tyrians (Acts 12:21). It is noticeable that St. Paul's description of the man of sin (2 Thessalonians 2:4) presents the same picture in nearly the same words. I sit in the seat of God, etc. Tyro was known as the Holy Island. The city was thought of as rising from its waters like the rock-throne of God. Though thou set thy heart. The words remind us of the temptation in Genesis 3:5. To forget the limitations of human ignorance and weakness, to claim an authority and demand a homage which belong to God, was the sin of the Prince of Tyre, as it had been that of Sennacherib, as it was of Nebuchadnezzar, as it has been since of the emperors of Rome, and of other rulers.
Thou art wiser than Daniel, etc. There is, of course, a marked irony in the words. Daniel was for Ezekiel—and there seems something singularly humble and pathetic in the prophet's reverence for his contemporary—the ideal at once of righteousness (Ezekiel 14:14) and of wisdom. He was a revealer of the secrets of the future, and read the hearts of men. His fame was spread far and wide through the Chaldean empire. And this was the man with whom the King of Tyro compared himself with a self-satisfied sense of superiority, and he found the proof of his higher wisdom in his wealth. Here, again, I venture to trace a side-thrust at Nebuchadnezzar and his tendencies in the same direction," Is not this great Babylon, which I have builded?"
I will bring strangers, etc. These are, of course, the hosts of many nations that made up the Chaldean army (comp. the parallel of Ezekiel 30:11 and Ezekiel 31:12). The beauty of thy wisdom is that of the city on which the prince looked as having been produced by his policy.
Ezekiel 28:8, Ezekiel 28:9
The effect of the Chaldean invasion was to bring the king down to the nether world of the dead. In the use of the plural "deaths" we have a parallel to the "plurima morris imago" of Virgil ('AEneid,' 2.369). And this death was not to be like that of a hero-warrior, but as that of those who are slain in the midst of the seas, who fall, i.e; in a naval battle, and are cast into the waters. Would he then repeat his boast, I am God?
The climax comes in the strongest language of Hebrew scorn. As the uncircumcised were to the Israelite (1 Samuel 17:36; 1 Samuel 31:4), so should the King of Tyro, unhonored, unwept, with no outward marks of reverence, be among the great cues of the past who dwell in Hades. Ezekiel returns to the phrase in Ezekiel 31:18; Ezekiel 32:24. The words receive a special force from the fact that the Phoenicians practiced circumcision before their intercourse with the Greeks (Herod; 2.104).
Thou sealest up the sum, etc. The noun is found only there and in Ezekiel 43:10, where it is translated "pattern," but is cognate with the word rendered" tale" (equivalent to "measure") of Exodus 5:13, and "measure" in Ezekiel 45:11. The probable meaning is, Thou settest the seal to thy completeness (perfection). Thou deemest that thou hast attained the consummation of all beauty and wisdom. The LXX. and the Vulgate give, "Thou art a seal;" and this suggests a parallelism with Jeremiah's works to Coniah (Jeremiah 22:24). The words were, of course, written with a keen irony. This was what the King of Tyro thought of himself.
Thou hast been in Eden, etc. The words are suggestive, as showing that Ezekiel was familiar with the history of Genesis 2:1-25 and Genesis 3:1-24. (compare the mention of Noah, in Eze 15:1-8 :14, 20). To him the King of Tyre seemed to claim a position like that of Adam before his fall, perfect in beauty and in wisdom, the lord of the creation. And in that fancied Eden he stood, so he thought, not like Adam, "naked and ashamed," but like one of the cherubim that guarded the gates of the primeval Paradise (Genesis 3:24), covered with all imaginable splendor. Ezekiel returns to the phrase in Ezekiel 31:8, Ezekiel 31:16, Ezekiel 31:18 and Ezekiel 36:35. Other instances meet us in Joel 2:3 and Isaiah 51:3. Every precious stone. All the stones named are found in the list of the gems on the high priest's breastplate (Exodus 28:17-20; Exodus 39:8-14). Three, however, of those gems are wanting—those in the third row of the breastplate—which are not named elsewhere; and the order is not the same. The LXX. makes the two lists identical, apparently correcting Ezekiel by Exodus. St. John (Revelation 21:19) reproduces his imagery in his vision of the foundation stones of the New Jerusalem, but naturally returns to the fullness of the symbolic number—twelve. Possibly the description of gold and bdellium and onyx (or beryl), as in Genesis 2:11, Genesis 2:12, may have suggested the thought that Eden was a land of jewels. The workmanship of thy tabret and pipes; better, the service. The Authorized Version and Revised Version follow Luther. Keil agrees as to "tabret" (so Genesis 31:27; Isaiah 5:12; elsewhere, as in Exodus 15:20 and Job 21:12, the Authorized Version gives "timbrels"), but takes the latter word (not found elsewhere) as identical with its feminine form, and meaning "female." He sees in the clause, accordingly, a picture of the pomp of the Tyrian king, surrounded by the odalisques of the harem, who, with their timbrels, danced to his honor as their lord and king (camp. Isaiah 23:16; Exodus 15:20; 1 Samuel 18:6). Havernick, who agrees with Keil, calls attention to a passage in Athenaeus, in which Strafe, a Sidonian king, is said to have prepared for a great festival by bringing girls who played on the flute and harp from all parts of Greece. Others, however (Smend), find in both the words articles of jewelry, pearls perforated or set in gold (as in Exodus 28:20), and so see in them the conclusion of the description of the gorgeous apparel of the king. Furst takes the words as meaning musical instruments that were of gold set with jewels. Ewald, following out the Urim and Thummim idea, takes the gems as the subject of the sentence, and translates, "they were for the work of thine oracles and divining." On the whole, the interpretation given above seems preferable. In the day that thou wast created. The words point to the time of the king's enthronement or coronation. It was then that he appeared in all his supreme magnificence. Had Ezekiel been a witness of that ceremony?
The anointed cherub that covereth. The word for "anointed" is not found elsewhere, but is cognate in form with that which is commonly so rendered. The Vulgate, however, tracing it to another root, gives extentus et protegens, and is followed by Luther, Gesenius, Ewald, and others. Keil and Hengstenberg accept "anointed." The sequence of thought seems to be as follows: The splendor-of the King of Tyre had suggested the idea of Eden the garden of God. This, in its turn, led on to that of the cherub that was the warder of that garden (Genesis 3:24). The Paradise of God is pictured as still existing, and the cherub—we remember how prominent the word and the thing had been in Ezekiel's thoughts (Ezekiel 1:10; Ezekiel 10:1-16)—is there (according as we take the above words) either as its anointed, i.e. "consecrated," ruler, or as extending the protection of its overshadowing wings far and wide as the cherubim of the tabernacle extended their wings over the ark (comp. Exodus 25:20; Exodus 33:22; 1 Kings 8:7). Those cherubim, we may remember, were actually anointed (Exodus 30:2, Exodus 30:6). The King of Tyro boasted that he was, like them, consecrated to his office as king "by the grace of God." In that earthly Paradise the prophet saw the "holy mountain of God," the Olympus, so to speak, of the Hebrews, the throne of the Eternal (compare the Meru of India, the Albard of Iran, the Asgard of German poetry). Isaiah's words as to the King of Babylon (Isaiah 14:13, Isaiah 14:14) present a suggestive parallel. In the midst of the stones of fire. The words receive their interpretation partly from Genesis 3:24; partly from 2 Samuel 22:9, 2 Samuel 22:15; Psalms 18:8, Psalms 18:12; Psalms 120:4. The cherub's sword of fire is identified with the lightning-flash, and that in its turn with the thunderbolts of God. Out of the throne of God went thunders and lightnings (Exodus 19:16). The "Flammantia maenia mundi" of Lucretius (1. 73) offers a suggestive parallel. The King of Tyre, like the King of Babylon (Isaiah 14:13, Isaiah 14:14), is painted as exulting in that attribute of the Divine glory.
Thou wast perfect in thy ways. The glory of the King of Tyre was, the prophet goes on to say, conditional. He began his reign in righteousness, but afterwards iniquity was found in him. And the root of that iniquity was the pride of wealth engendered by the greatness of his commerce (Ezekiel 28:16). He was no longer like the cherub who guarded the Paradise of God, but like Adam when he was east out from it. Wealth and pride had tempted him to violence and to wrong, and he was no longer an "anointed" or consecrated, but a profaned and desecrated, king. The, "stones of fire," the thunders and lightnings of the Divine Majesty, should no longer protect him.
Thine heart was lifted up, etc. In yet another point Ezekiel sees the fall of Adam reproduced in that of the Tyrian king. He had forfeited his beauty and his wisdom through the pride which sought for a yet greater glory by a false and counterfeit wisdom (Genesis 3:6). I will cast thee, etc. The words are better taken, as in the Revised Version, in the past tense, I have cast thee … I have laid thee before kings. Pride was to have its fall, as in Isaiah 23:9. The very sanctuaries, the temples which made Tyre the "holy island," were defiled by the iniquities through which the wealth that adorned them had been gained. The "fire," instead of being a rampart of protection, should burst forth as from the center of the sanctuary to destroy him. Is there an implied allusion to the fiery judgment that fell on Nadab and Abihu (Le Isaiah 10:2) and on Korah and his company (Numbers 16:35)? The doom of Sic transit gloria mundi was already passed on her.
Thou shalt be a terror, etc. The knell of doom, as heard in Ezekiel 27:36, rings out again. The same judgment falls alike on the city and on its king. The question when and in what manner the prediction received its fulfillment has been much discussed. Josephus ('Ant.,' 10.11. 1; 'Contra Apion,' 1.19) states that Nebuchadnezzar besieged the island Tyre and Ithobal (Ethbaal III.) for thirteen years; that, on his father's death, leaving his Phoenician and other captives to be brought by slower stages, he himself hastened to Babylon, and that afterwards he conquered the whole of Syria and Phoenicia; but he does not say, with all the Tyrian records before him, that the city was actually captured by him. It has been inferred, indeed, from Ezekiel 29:18, that Nebuchadnezzar's siege of Tyre ended in, at least, partial failure, that he and his army had no "wages" for their work, i.e. that the spoil of the city was meager and disappointing. Possibly the merchant-princes of the city had contrived to carry off part of their treasures in their ships. On the other hand, it may be noted
(1) that the national historians of the ancient world (perhaps not of that only) willingly minimized the disasters of their country; and
(2) that the Phoenician fragment quoted by Josephus ('Contra Apion,' 1.21) simply for synchronistic purposes, shows a significant change of government following on the siege. Ithobal was "king" during the thirteen years, but afterwards "judges" were appointed, and these ruled for periods of two, or three, or ten months. All this indicates a period of confusion and anarchy, the consequence of some great catastrophe. As a whole, too, we have to remember that it was with Tyre, as with Babylon and with other nations. The prophecies against them had "springing and germinant accomplishments." What the prophet saw in vision, as wrought out in a moment of time, was actually the outcome of the slow decay of centuries, and of catastrophes separated from each other by long intervals of a dwindling history. The main facts of that history may be briefly stated. There was, as implied in Isaiah 23:17, a revival of commerce under the Persian monarchy, and of this we have traces in Nehemiah 13:16. Two hundred and fifty years after Nebuchadnezzar, Tyre was still so strongly fortified that Alexander the Great did not take it till after a seven years' siege (Died. Sic; 17.20; Arrian; 2.17; Q. Curtius, 4.2-4). It rose again into wealth and power under the Selencidare, and the Romans made it the capital of their province of Phoenicia. It appears as a flourishing town in Matthew 15:21; Acts 12:20; Acts 21:37, and is described by Strabo (16.2, 23), as having two harbors and lofty houses. From A.D. 636 to 1125 it was in the hands of the Saracens. Saladin attacked it without success in A.D. 1189. In A.D. 1291, after Acre had been taken by storm by El-Ashraf, Sultan of Egypt, Tyro passed into his hands without a struggle. When it again passed into the power of the Saracens, its fortifications were demolished, and from that time it sank gradually into its present obscurity. The present Sur is a small town of narrow, crooked, and dirty streets, and the ruins of the old Phoenician city cover the suburbs to the extent of half a league round. The harbor is choked up with sand, and with remains of the old palaces and walls and temples, and is available for small boats only. The sea has swallowed up its grandeur. The soft on which the traveler stands is a mass of debris, in which marble, porphyry, and granite mingle with coarser stones. So it has come to pass that it is little more than "a place for the spreading of nets" and that the sentence, "Thou shalt never be any more," seems to be receiving its fulfillment. There was for it no prospect of an earthly restoration, still less that of a transfigured and glorified existence like that which, in the prophet's visions, was connected with Jerusalem.
Set thy face against Zidon. The relation of this city to Tyre was one of sufficient independence to justify a separate oracle for the completeness of the prophet's arrangement of his messages (Ezekiel 27:8; Joel 3:4; Jeremiah 25:22; Zechariah 9:2). It was sufficiently identified with it not to call for any long description. It is assumed that her sins were of the same kind and required a like punishment.
I will be glorified in … thee. The thought and the phrase come from Exodus 14:4; Le Exodus 10:3. Ezekiel reproduces it in Ezekiel 39:13. God is glorified, or, as in the next clause, sanctified, when his power and holiness are manifested in righteous judgment. (For "sanctified," see Ezekiel 38:16 : Numbers 20:13.)
Pestilence was the natural accompaniment of a siege. As in Ezekiel 14:19, blood probably points to death from this cause, as distinct from the slaughter threatened in the following clause.
There shall be no more a pricking brier. There is a special appropriateness in Ezekiel's imagery. The words had been used in Numbers 33:55 of the Canaanites at large (comp. Joshua 22:13). Ezekiel applies them to the cities which were the most conspicuous survivors of the old Canaanite races. Israel, he implies, had been wounded with those thorns and briers, had caught (as e.g. in the case of Jezebel) the taint of evil life and evil worship from those races; but for her there is, as in Verse 25, the future of restoration, and when that future comes, the Canaanite cities, with their idolatries and vices, should have passed away forever.
My servant Jacob. The use of "Jacob" for "Israel" is not common in Ezekiel, but Ezekiel 20:5; Ezekiel 27:25; Ezekiel 34:25 may be noted as parallels.
Shall build houses, etc. The words sound almost like a direct quotation from Jeremiah 23:6 and Jeremiah 36:28; and, at all events, present a suggestive parallel. The restoration was to include also the blessing of confidence and hope; no longer a groundless and false confidence, like that of Jeremiah 2:37 and Jeremiah 48:13, but one resting on the fact that God was in very deed the Judge of all the earth. We may note, at the close of the chapter, how its juxtaposition of the two Phoenician cities seems to have been present to the mind of the Christ in his references to the judgment that should come upon both of them (Matthew 11:21; Luke 10:13). He himself, it will be remembered, passed through the coasts of Tyre and Zidon (Matthew 15:21), and probably, according to the best text of Mark 7:24, actually trod the streets of the latter city. They supplied some of the great multitude of Mark 3:8, who listened to his teaching.
A prince's sin.
I. GREAT RESPONSIBILITY IS ATTACHED TO HIGH OFFICE. In the two previous chapters the prophet denounced judgment on the city of Tyre, and lamented its approaching accomplishment. Now he turns to the ruler of the city, selecting him for an ugly pre-eminence of guilt. This man is entrusted with the weal of the city. If Tyre is doomed, a heavy share of the blame must lie at his door. It is a fearful thing to be responsible for the fate of so great and splendid a community. In the sight of God accountability is always measured by power. Heedless men grasp hastily at the reins of government, little considering how severe must be the judgment of Heaven if they abuse their great trust. It is no light thing to be in a position of influence over our fellow-men. We need, therefore, especially to pray for the souls of princes and governors. The ambition that craves their privileges might be restrained if people considered the terrible questions that they will have to answer when called upon to give an account of their stewardship.
II. PRIDE IS THE BESETTING SIN OF HIGH OFFICE. The Prince of Tyre exclaims, "I am a God, I sit in the seat of God." There are many temptations to this sin of pride.
1. Power. Holding high office necessarily confers great influence. The man in power may really be a weak person, but he has great resources at his command. Thus he is inclined to think too much of himself, and to transfer to the score of his merits what really only belongs to his position.
2. Flattery. The prince is not the only person to blame. They are highly culpable who encourage him in a belief in his own greatness by their base adulation. All people in office need to beware of the honeyed words of those beneath them.
III. THE PRIDE OF HIGH OFFICE IS AN INSULT TO GOD. The prince compares himself to a god, and his throne to the seat of a god. This implies two evils.
1. Godlessness. Carrying out this notion in practice, the Prince of Tyre refuses to humble himself in the sight of Heaven. As all men bow to him, he is tempted to forget that he should look up to and bow before a higher Power.
2. Rebellion against God. The proud ruler usurps the place of God. He elects to become an earthly providence. He dispenses with any reference to the holy will of the Supreme, and sets up his own will as the highest authority.
IV. SIN IN HIGH OFFICE IS ESPECIALLY CULPABLE BECAUSE IT INVOLVES A MULTITUDE IN ITS EVIL EFFECTS. The effects are seen in its contagious influence and in, its punishment.
1. Its influence. The bad ruler is like Jeroboam, whose awful climax of wickedness was seen in the fact that he "made Israel to sin" (1 Kings 15:30). The power of a bad ruler is one that makes for wickedness. It sows seeds of sin broadcast. Society takes its fashion from the court, and then each order of the community from that next above it. It is a fearful thing to be the leader of a fashion of wickedness.
2. Its punishment. The ruler's sin brings misery on the nation. The people must reap the consequences of the misdeeds of their princes. Tyre's doom is the heavier because her prince is a bad man. Therefore
(1) the people should look well to the characters of the men they put in office;
(2) all persons in authority should dread the double guilt of brining ruin on the multitude as well as wrecking their own lives.
Wiser than Daniel.
I. THE TYPICAL WISDOM OF DANIEL. Evidently this wisdom was proverbial in the days of Ezekiel. The prophet implies that the fame of it had reached the province of Tyre. Consider its nature, its application, and its source.
1. Its nature.
(1) Insight. Daniel was able to discern the meaning of mysteries that baffled the ingenuity of the most skilful of the magi. The greatest wisdom is required to penetrate beneath the surface. Foolish people are shallow; wisdom dives into depths of truth.
(2) Foresight. Daniel had visions of the future. We speculate on the future; he saw it.
2. Its application.
(1) To human affairs. Daniel's wisdom was not expended on abstract problems; he did not even use it for that interpretation of nature which, since the days of Bacon, has yielded us such rich results; he employed it in the consideration of what was most nearly concerned with man. Here wisdom is most practically valuable; but it is just here that the application of it is most difficult.
(2) To large questions. Daniel did not spend his mind on little personal affairs. His vision swept empires. The highest wisdom is required for large public interests.
3. Its source.
(1) Springing from Divine inspiration. Daniel was trained in Chaldean lore, but he did not find his wisdom in that school. It was derived from his religion. We must connect it with his fidelity. He who dared the lions' den rather than be unfaithful to God was rewarded with heavenly wisdom. True wisdom is from above (James 3:17).
(2) Engaged in self-restraint. No doubt the simple living which Daniel chose in common with his three companions prepared him to receive light from God. Luxury and self-indulgence blind the eyes of the soul. Simplicity and self-restraint make a man most susceptible to the influences of Heaven.
II. THE MOCKERY OF WORLDLY WISDOM. The proud Prince of Tyre vainly pretends to excel this high wisdom of Daniel.
1. Its nature. It is "earthly, sensual, devilish" (James 3:15). The wisdom of the Prince of Tyre was seen in his successful management of the commercial affairs of his city. It did not touch the counsels of God; it had no bearing on the true welfare of the state; it gave no insight into the essentially corrupt condition of the city; it was entirely lacking in foresight of impending doom. But it was in a large measure successful in opening up new markets, favoring mercantile exchange, and generally promoting the trade interests of the community. This was its highest attainment. There are many people in the present day whose minds are entirely absorbed in similar subjects. They are keen men of business, and they imagine that their astuteness in making money is the height of wisdom. Flattered by temporary success, they despise all other considerations as dreamy. The intelligence that makes money is with them true wisdom; all else is but so much wasted thinking.
2. Its folly. This wisdom, when held to be supreme, is really foolishness, because then it blinds men to the great facts of life and eternity. It is bad to throw dust in the eyes of people, even if this be gold-dust. The supposed wisdom of the Prince of Tyre was one element that contributed to his ruin, because it prevented him from seeing approaching danger, in the confidence of his worldly success. The wisdom of the world is foolishness when it comes as a veil between us and truths that we need to know. Thus the proudly wise may perish, while the foolish in this world are endowed with heavenly wisdom, especially that highest wisdom of the gospel of Christ (1 Corinthians 1:24, 1 Corinthians 1:25).
The innocence of early days.
I. THERE IS AN INNOCENCE OF EARLY DAYS.
1. In the race. The Bible represents Adam and Eve as commencing life in primitive innocence. However we may interpret the narrative in Genesis-as literal history or as allegory—if we attach any inspired authority to it we must see that it points back to a time when man lived in childlike innocence and ignorance of evil.
2. In the nation. Even Tyre, wicked, corrupt Tyre, had once known better days. Nearly every people has traditions of a good age preceding the later corruptions. We do not see that the heathen are advancing. On the other hand, behind idolatry there are often to be discovered shreds of an ancient faith in one spiritual God. Thus the Vedas show a purer religion and a higher thought than are to be found in modern Hinduism. We may believe that God is educating the world, and yet see that vast portions of it do not as yet respond to the uplifting influences.
3. In the individual. Children begin life in innocency. Though they come into the world with hereditary tendencies to evil, those tendencies are at first latent, and until they have received the consent of the will they cannot be accounted elements of guilt. Concerning little children our Lord said, "Of such is the kingdom of God" (Mark 10:14).
II. THIS PRIMITIVE INNOCENCE AGGRAVATES THE GUILT OF LATER YEARS.
1. In the community. Man was not created corrupt. He cannot lay the charge of his sin against his Maker. There has been a fall. Degeneracy is especially evil. To go from good to bad and from bad to worse in a descending scale of wickedness is to be without excuse in sin.
2. In the individual. The child who has never known goodness can scarcely be blamed for living a bad life. He can hardly be said to have chosen evil rather than good, for he has had no alternative set before him. But it is otherwise with one who has begun well. Israel is the more to blame because her goodness was like the morning cloud (Hosea 6:4). The child of a Christian home is exceptionally wicked when he turns his back on the good influences of his early days, and deliberately descends into the lower paths of sin. There is this guilt with sin in some measure for all of us. For we have all turned aside. When the hardened sinner looks back on his child-days, when he remembers his simple, innocent life in the old home, when he sees his younger condition reflected in the frank countenance of some little child, be may well learn that his own self will be his accuser in the day of judgment.
III. THE INNOCENCE OF EARLY DAYS INSPIRES US WITH HOPES OF RESTORATION. Man is not naturally a brute. What he has been suggests what he may yet become. Absolute primitive innocence is indeed irrecoverably lost. The bloom of childhood can never be restored. Yet as Naaman's flesh became like the flesh of a little child after he had bathed seven times in the Jordan (2 Kings 5:14), it is possible to be converted, and become as a little child again (Matthew 18:3) in simplicity and a new purity of heart. This is the great Christian hope. The most abandoned sinner may, through Christ, be restored. He need not despair when he compares his present shame with his past innocence. The old fallen world may be recovered. The gospel of Christ goes forth to arrest the deepening degeneracy of mankind.
The judgment of Zidon.
I. PARTNERS IN GUILT WILL BE PARTNERS IN DOOM. Tyre and Zidon were constantly associated together by reason of their nearness to one another, and their common interests and actions. Zidon followed Tyre in its degenerate course of wickedness. Thus, like Sodom and Gomorrah, Type and Zidon were commonly named together as conjoined in an ugly pre-eminence of wickedness (e.g. Luke 10:14). There is no security in such companionship. We gain nothing by following a multitude to do evil (Exodus 23:2). When a large province rebels, there is more hope of immunity than when a few citizens behave seditiously, because the central government may not be strong enough to cope with the more serious disturbance. But in dealing with the Almighty such considerations do not apply. God can as easily destroy two cities as one. The number of sinners does not dilute the guilt of the separate individuals; it cannot mitigate their doom.
II. UNPROSPEROUS SINNERS WILL BE PUNISHED AS WELL AS PROSPEROUS ONES. Tyre was prosperous; Zidon was unprosperous. At least, the history of Zidon is that of a decline in influence compared with the growing importance of Tyre. The oldest and most prominent settlement of the Canaanites (Genesis 10:15), and the representative of the whole Canaanitish trade (Genesis 49:13), Zidon had gradually declined until it had become virtually, if not nominally, a dependence of Type. But though she reaped less earthly good from her wickedness, she did not therefore escape punishment. There is a superstitious notion that those people who suffer adversity on earth will be spared further punishment after death. But this notion is utterly without warrant, unless it can be proved that the last farthing is paid, and we can scarcely be bold enough to assert that anything of the kind has happened to the most unfortunate. Further, it is sometimes thought that failure exonerates. The evil deed is not carried out to perfection because the doer of it is hampered by external circumstances. This fact is no mitigation of his guilt. He would have consummated his wickedness had he been able to do so. Then he is guilty of the full completion of it, for the sin lies in the intention. Lastly, it is perhaps secretly thought that obscurity will hide from judgment. It was not so with Zidon. God sees all.
III. GOD IS CONCERNED WITH WHAT WE REGARD AS SECONDARY IN IMPORTANCE. He even gets glory through his just treatment of such a second-rate place as Zidon. God is too great to need to confine his attention to what is only of primary importance. As this is true of judgment, so it is also true of redemption. God does not only get glory through "pestilence and blood." His highest glory is seen in the redemption of the world. This redemption is not only for the great and notable. Second-rate characters are not beneath the attention of Christ. His salvation is for all—for the obscure, the neglected, the unfortunate.
It is a relief to turn from repeated threatenings of approaching doom to the voice of gracious promises. We have here a gleam of sunshine breaking for a moment through the clouds of judgment. As there was light in the land of Goshen while a plague of darkness fell on the rest of Egypt (Exodus 10:23), so now the Jews are to be blessed when every neighboring nation lies in ruins. The home-gathering of the Jews is their great expected blessing, which stands out in strong contrast with the hopeless desolation of the heathen. A wider Christian vision will desire to see in this a type of that great spiritual restoration which is for all the people of God, and for all who are willing to become his people, even though they now belong to lost heathen races. A Jewish prophet predicted this wider and more glorious future (Isaiah 19:25).
I. THE FRUIT OF DIVINE REDEMPTION IS A GREAT HOME-GATHERING. It was so physically with Israel; it is so spiritually with Christians.
1. Sin scatters. It drives men from God, banishes them from their old privileges, breaks up the brotherhood of fellow-men, and destroys the true family spirit. All evil is a solvent of society.
2. Christ restores.
(1) To God. The first departure was from God. Where the parent is, there is the home. We leave our home in leaving God; in restoration we first come hack to God. The first great result of it is a return of the soul to communion with God.
(2) To the home. Israel is restored to Palestine, the land flowing with milk and honey. The redeemed are now restored to what is better than Caanan even in its palmy days—to the kingdom of heaven brought down to the earth. Here the Christian may eat of the tree of life and drink of the river of water of life. Here no pricking briars may grow.
(3) To Christian fellowship. The home is the abode of the family. By redemption Christ heals enmity, destroys selfishness, inspires sympathy, draws and binds souls together. This is the earthly blessedness of the Divine recovery.
II. THIS GREAT HOME-GATHERING IS FOR THE GLORY OF GOD. God was to be glorified in the punishment of the wicked (Ezekiel 28:22). But he gains a fresh glory from redemption. When Israel is restored God "shall be sanctified in them in the sight of the heathen." The holiness of God will then be made apparent to the world. The restoration of Israel reveals the power and goodness of God, and shows how he cares for and saves the people who acknowledge him. In a much higher way the redemption of the world sanctifies God by revealing his holiness.
1. It shows his power over sin. He restrains the wicked, that those who obey his Word may have freedom to do so.
2. It shows his recovering grace. The Jews had sinned and had been banished as a punishment for their wickedness, in which they resembled the heathen. But they were penitent, and, being pardoned, they were also restored. There is greater glory in redemption than in retribution. If God conquers sin, not by destroying the sinner, but by converting him, God's holiness is most fully glorified. There is nothing on earth that so sanctifies God, by revealing him in separate, supreme goodness, as the triumphs of the gospel. Nebuchadnezzar glorified God, but Cyrus more so. God was glorified in the destruction of Jerusalem; he was more glorified in the preaching of St. Paul.
I. CHRISTIANS MAY ENJOY CONFIDENCE. This is named as part of the blessedness of the restoration: "Yea, they shall dwell with confidence." Confidence is good on many accounts.
1. It glorifies God. To be forever doubting, questioning, and fearing shows an unworthy want of appreciation of God's glorious redemption. We honor God by taking him at his word, and quietly trusting in his grace.
2. It confers peace on the soul. We can possess our souls in quietness when we have confidence. Diffidence keeps up a sense of perpetual unrest.
3. It inspires energy. "They shall build houses, and plant vineyards." So long as the restored Jews expected to be surprised at any moment by their foes and driven away again from their homes, they would not have much heart to build up the walls of Zion. Tents are sufficient for sojourners. Confidence, however, will give a motive for laying good foundations and building solid structures. The confident Church will launch out in daring enterprises, or carry on long patient toil in sure expectation of enduring results.
4. It gives leisure for service. The distrustful workmen must carry the sword as well as the trowel, and thus be hampered in their work. Confidence dismisses fear of danger. The confident servant of God may give himself wholly to his Master's work.
5. It wins others to confidence. Timorous Christians will make but few converts, but one person's confidence infuses a corresponding confidence in others.
II. TRUE CONFIDENCE IS BASED ON SAFETY. Confidence is a feeling; safety is a fact. The one is only justified by the other. Confidence without security is mere bravado. There is no security in the bare sense of safety. Thus often they are most confident who have least reason to be so. The first inquiry is as to facts, not feelings. If we lack confidence our business is not to endeavor to stimulate it, to lull fear with spiritual opiates, or to rouse assurance with spiritual intoxicants. Such conduct is as foolish as it is dangerous. The right course is to look into the question of the justification of confidence. If we want to know whether the house will stand, let us have its foundations examined. When we can be assured of safety, confidence will be a natural result.
III. THE SAFETY ON WHICH TRUE CONFIDENCE IS BASED IS ACCOMPLISHED BY THE REDEEMING WORK OF GOD. The Jews were to dwell in confidence when God had destroyed the power of their enemies. Thus they were to "despise them round about them." It is shown in the Old Testament as well as the New that the sources of confidence as well as the grounds of safety are not to be found in man. We are not to be confident nor to count ourselves safe because of anything we have done, or because of our assurance of our own strength and resources. Our confidence is in God; therefore the feeblest souls may be confident, as the weakest of men may be quite safe within a strong fortress. Judgment reveals God to the wicked. Thus Zidon knows that God is the Lord (Ezekiel 28:22). Redemption reveals him still more to his people, to those who trust and acknowledge him. They will be confident when they are brought by the gracious goodness of the Lord to know him by experience as indeed "their God."
HOMILIES BY J.R. THOMSON
The height of arrogance.
In addressing the Prince of Tyre, the prophet is in reality dealing with what may be called the national spirit pervading the proud and mighty city—a spirit regarded as embodying itself in the person of the chief ruler. The claim made by Tyre, and disputed by the prophet, is a claim to virtual divinity. Exalted above other cities, Tyre deems itself superior to human infirmity and to human fortune. This attitude God resents; and his representative here declares it to be the deep-seated and ultimate reason and cause of Tyre's approaching overthrow and destruction.
I. THE GROUND OF THIS ARROGANT CLAIM.
1. There is on the part of Tyre an assumption of extraordinary wisdom, superior to that of Daniel, a wisdom from which no secret can be hidden.
2. By the exercise of this singular wisdom and understanding, the city has devised means, such as the enterprise of its merchants, by which it has accumulated riches, and has filled its treasuries with store of gold and silver and all the conveniences and luxuries which wealth can purchase.
3. The eminent position among the nations which Tyre has thus attained, the honor accorded to it, its weight in political relations, have so lifted up its heart that it claims to be a god, and to sit in the seat of God. By this must be understood a claim and assumption to be superior to the need of any Divine care or protection, to be independent of all assistance of any kind, to be secure against the assault of any foe, and even against the mutability characteristic of the human lot. This is arrogance beyond what is to be found even in the wisest and the greatest of mankind.
II. THE VANITY AND FOLLY OF THIS ARROGANT CLAIM. A state is a human institution; and although it undoubtedly embodies the Divine idea and principle of authority requiring submission, although there is such a thing as national character and national life, still every earthly and human institution, beginning in time, ends in time, and participates in human weakness and ignorance. They who claim deity for aught earthly cannot understand what Deity is, how it is creative and not created, eternal and not transitory, immutable and not shifting, perfect and not subject to development and dissolution. To know one's self is true wisdom; he who forgets or disclaims his humanity is the subject of illusion, and illusion which must be speedily and irretrievably dispelled.
III. THE SINFULNESS OF THIS ARROGANT CLAIM. The assumption of Tyre is rebuked and censured, not as a violation of good taste, not as an insult to other nations, but as a defiance of the Lord of all. To claim unfailing wisdom and irresistible power is to assume the attributes, to aspire to the throne, of the Eternal. Pride has been reckoned as one of the seven deadly sins. It is indeed pernicious in its effect upon the character of those who suffer it to take possession of their being and to control the habits of their life. It is offensive and injurious in its influence upon human society. But primarily it is a sin against God—the placing of the creature in that supreme position which is God's of right, and God's alone.
IV. THE DISPROOF OF THIS ARROGANT CLAIM. Events occur which dispel human illusions, confound human vanity, and unmask human pretensions. In the days of its prosperity and power, men, ever ready to flatter and to worship the great, were too ready to concede the extravagant and monstrous claims Tyre advanced. But the time of trial comes, and their baselessness and absurdity are exposed. Evils which a Divine power would avert prove able to assault and master the pretentious and self-confident. The one great lesson of human history is this—man is but man, and not God.
V. THE PUNISHMENT OF THIS ARROGANT CLAIM. In the zenith of its prosperity, the acme of its power, Tyre is confronted by a force mightier than its own. The agency is the king and army of Babylon; but the great Actor in the awful scenes which transpire is none other than the Eternal himself. The forces of Tyre are defeated, the fleets of Tyre destroyed, the walls of Tyre razed, the wealth of Tyre dispersed, the city of Tyre itself demolished. "Wilt thou yet say before him that slayeth thee, I am God? but thou shalt be a man, and no God, in the hand of him that slayeth thee." Here is something more than disproof; here is reversal, refutation, annihilation. Pride is humbled to the dust; and the proud are scattered and are no more.—T.
The folly of worldly wisdom.
It might not have occurred to an ordinary observer that Tyre owed its position to its wisdom, and its downfall to an unwise confidence in that wisdom. Bat the Prophet Ezekiel looked below the surface, and traced the arrogance and presumptuous ungodliness of the great city to its claim to worldly prudence, sagacity, and skill, which, being substituted for true and Divine wisdom, became the occasion of the city's downfall and destruction.
I. THE RANGE AND REALITY OF WORLDLY WISDOM. It has respect to earthly good, prescribing means by which health of body, riches and luxuries, worldly honor, etc; may be attained. It bounds its regards by the horizon of earth and time. It employs instrumentalities which experience approves as efficacious. It takes counsel of the prosperous and the honored. It pursues patiently and persistently aims which are mundane and which are within human reach, wasting no time (as it would say) upon ethereal sentiment, imaginary and ideal perfection, Utopian schemes.
II. THE FRUIT OF THIS WISDOM. The case of Tyre is to the point. The understanding and skill for which the Tyrian merchants and mariners were noted were not employed in vain. Success was their attestation and approval. Uncertainty is indeed distinctive of all human endeavor and undertaking. But a large measure of success may fairly be reckoned upon as likely to be secured by the use of means devised by the wisdom of this world. As a man soweth, so does he reap.
III. THE BOAST OF THIS WISDOM. Tyre claimed to be wiser than Daniel, and to be able to penetrate all secrets. There are those who would think it vulgar and contemptible to boast of their birth, their wealth, their honors, who, however, are not above boasting of their insight, sagacity, and prudence. They would never have fallen into errors which misled their neighbors! They would have known how to deal with such a person, how to contend with such difficulties, how to adapt themselves to such circumstances! Trust them to find their way, however intricate its windings!
IV. THE TRIAL OF THIS WISDOM. It is admitted that, in ordinary circumstances and times, worldly wisdom is sufficient to preserve a man and a nation from calamities, to secure to them many and real advantages. But every true student of human nature and human history is aware that times of exceptional probation and difficulty have to be encountered. It is so in the life of every man, it is so in the history of every people. The principles which served well enough before are useless now. The men of the world are at a loss, and know not whither to turn. The crisis has come: how shall it be met?
V. THE VANITY OF THIS WISDOM. Mere cleverness and fox-like keenness, mere experience upon the low level of expediency, are proved in times of trial to be altogether worthless. Deeply rooted convictions of Divine truth, and habits of reverential conformity to laws of Divine righteousness, "the fear of the Lord" (in the language of Scripture),—such are true wisdom. Anything short of this must issue in disappointment and powerlessness. Human expediencies may carry us a long way, but a point is reached where they fail, and where their worthlessness is made apparent. Such a point was reached in the history of Tyre, when it was found that wealth could not buy off the hostility of Babylon, and that mercenaries could not resist Babylonian arms or policy overcome Babylonian persistence.
VI. THE OVERTHROW AND CONFUSION OF THIS WISDOM. The language of the prophet upon this is singular and suggestive: "I will bring strangers upon thee, the terrible of the nations; and they shall draw their swords against the beauty of thy wisdom, and they shall defile thy brightness." The wisdom in which the Tyrians trusted, and which excited the admiration of their neighbors and rivals, could not withstand the attack of Oriental soldiery and tactics. It was boasted in days of prosperity; but in the day of adversity its strength was small.
VII. THE DISCREDITING AND CONTEMPT OF THIS WISDOM. There are times when professions are accepted as valid and trustworthy; but there are also times when professions are of no avail, and when solid facts and realities alone will abide. As in the case of Tyre, the wisdom which is weighed in the balances and is found wanting is utterly discredited. Men despise what formerly they praised. Such is the fate to which the wisdom of the worldly wise is doomed. "It is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the prudence of the prudent will I reject Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?"—T.
Sin and destruction.
No doubt the inspired prophet of the Lord saw in the fate of Tyro what was not discernible to worldly and enlightened minds. These would look for political causes and motives and consequences in the rise and fall of states. But Ezekiel saw below the surface. He knew that there was Divine action in and beneath the action of Tyre's enemies; and that there were reasons only recognizable by a reflecting and religious man for the awful disasters which he was commissioned to foretell.
I. THE OCCASIONS OF SIN.
1. We may discover what may be called material occasions of sin, in the wealth and prosperity, the fame and renown, the beauty and splendor, of Tyre. Circumstances of very different kinds may yet agree in suggesting evil thoughts, desires, and habits. Men lay the blame upon circumstances, but this is a very shortsighted method of proceeding.
2. There are moral promptings to sin which may spring out of the former. The heart is lifted up with exultation; a not unnatural confidence in possessions and resources springs up and asserts itself.
II. THE MANIFESTATIONS OF SIN. "Thou hast sinned' is the reproach addressed by God to the guilty city; and it is the reproach addressed to every nation and to every man that has yielded to temptations which should have been withstood, repelled, and mastered. The forms which sin assumes are innumerable, and vary with varying times and with varying states of society. The context refers to:
1. Iniquity, or the violation of Divine laws regulating men's relations among themselves and to God himself.
2. Violence, such as the powerful, willful, and haughty are given to exercise in their treatment of their inferiors.
3. Corruption and defilement, such as are certain to prevail where God is not honored, and where selfish ends inspire men's conduct.
III. THE PUNISHMENT OF SIN. This is:
1. By the decree of God. He is the Speaker throughout this passage. He claims to bestow privileges, and to call men to account for the manner in which those privileges are used. Whatever be the agency or instrumentality of chastisement and correction, it is by the Eternal Wisdom and Righteousness that it is inflicted.
2. In the case of national sin, the penalties are put in force through the instrumentality of neighboring nations. A barbarian horde, or a mighty sovereign and conqueror, has again and again been used as a "scourge of God." It would be wrong to attribute any moral superiority to the victorious people; they may be merely the rod, the sword, in the hand of the Lord of hosts.
3. Where the offence has been heinous, the visitation may be one involving complete destruction, as in the case of Tyre. The terms of threatening here recorded are of the strongest and most unsparing. "I will destroy thee;" "I will cast thee to the ground;" "I will bring forth a fire from the midst of thee; it shall devour thee." Such punishment is sometimes regarded as inconsistent with the attributes of a just and merciful King and Judge. But, whilst it may not be in our power to vindicate all the ways of God, it is certainly not for us to question the acts of him who is omniscient, and whose righteousness is without a flaw. There is nothing in Scripture to support the opinions of those who think that, because God is benevolent, therefore there is no such thing as punishment. There is a moral law which the Sovereign Judge will surely maintain and vindicate.
4. The punishment inflicted upon sinners shall be published far and wide. What is done by God in the exercise of punitive justice is done in the sight of all, and all shall be astonished. This publicity may surely be explained as an arrangement intended for the universal good—to impress upon the minds of all mankind the heinousness of iniquity, that they may "stand in awe, and sin not."—T.
Ezekiel 28:25, Ezekiel 28:26
The favor shown to Israel.
In the writings of Ezekiel, as in those of other prophets, we cannot but observe the remarkable conjunction of passages denouncing judgment with passages revealing Divine grace and promising Divine clemency. The attentive reader cannot but be surprised and charmed upon meeting with such a promise as is contained in these two verses, coming in between the denunciation of Tyre and the denunciation of Egypt. Undoubtedly, the fate of surrounding nations had relation to the history and prospects of Israel, though it would be presumption in us to define those relations too exactly. It was not a mere rhetorical art which led to the introduction of this portion of the prophecies just in this place. Yet we feel that its position both enhances its beauty and deepens its interest and significance.
I. THE FAVOR TO BE SHOWN TO ISRAEL IS IN CONTRAST TO THE FATE OF OTHER NATIONS. Tyre should perish from off the earth; Egypt should be trodden underfoot, and should be degraded in the scale of nations; but Israel should dwell in their own land with confidence.
II. THE FAVOR SHOWN TO ISRAEL IS CONSEQUENT UPON ISRAEL'S DEPRESSION, CONQUEST, AND CAPTIVITY. It is not to be supposed that Israel, because the chosen nation, was exempt from calamity and discipline. On the contrary, it was because, to some extent, the discipline was answering its intended purpose, that brightness followed the storm, that the winter of Israel's discontent was succeeded by the genial and happy springtime.
III. THE FAVOR SHOWN TO ISRAEL WAS, HOWEVER, UNDESERVED BY ISRAEL'S OWN CHARACTER AND ACTION. So it had been from the beginning. Israel was a rebellious and stiff-necked people, lapsing now into idolatry and again into murmuring or licentiousness. God had a purpose in Israel's election, and that purpose must needs be carried out. But in any case, it was no virtue, excellence, or merit in Israel that accounted for the forbearance continually and repeatedly extended towards the people of the covenant.
IV. THE FAVOR SHOWN TO ISRAEL WAS OWING TO THE CLEMENCY OF THE DIVINE RULER. Why such clemency was extended to Israel, and was withheld from Tyre, it may not be possible for us to explain. But there is no caprice in the government of God; justice and mercy are his attributes, and it would be folly in man to impugn them. Who is there who is not indebted to Divine long-suffering and loving-kindness? What nation has not been spared and delivered from its enemies, once and again in the course of its history? Certainly, the mercy of the God of Abraham towards the people that sprang from the father of the faithful was great and marvelous.
V. THE FAVOR SHOWN TO ISRAEL WAS MANIFEST IN THE DELIVERANCE OF THE PEOPLE FROM CAPTIVITY AND EXILE. They were "gathered from the people among whom they were scattered." Instead of being reduced to perpetual bondage or absorbed by their conquerors, the Hebrew people, though appointed to exile, were in due time redeemed from their subjection, dependence, and expatriation.
VI. THE FAVOR SHOWN TO ISRAEL WAS MANIFEST IN THEIR PEACEFUL RE-ESTABLISHMENT IN THEIR OWN LAND. It was the land given by Jehovah to his servant Jacob, the land of promise, the land of the covenant. God had his own wise purposes to work out by this replanting and resettling of the people of Israel upon the sacred soil. There it was appointed for them to dwell in safety and confidence, to build their houses and to plant their vineyards, and above all to worship the God of their fathers in his chosen sanctuary.
VII. THE FAVOR SHOWN TO ISRAEL WAS INTENDED TO AWAKEN THE ACKNOWLEDGMENTS OF GRATEFUL PIETY. The services and their motives may not always have been spiritual and pure, free from every taint of selfishness and self-satisfaction. The Israelites, thinking of the judgments God had executed upon all those who had despised them round about them, congratulating themselves that, whilst their foes had been humiliated or destroyed, they had been spared, restored, and blessed, may, perhaps, have allowed some feelings of self-righteousness to take possession of their hearts. Yet they could not fail to acknowledge Jehovah as their true Friend and mighty Deliverer; they could not but offer grateful sacrifices of adoring praise to him who had remembered them in their low estate; for his mercy endureth forever. They could not but know and confess him as the Lord their God.—T.
HOMILIES BY J.D. DAVIES
Pride's terrible fall.
A real king incorporates in himself all that is best and mightiest in the people. The aims, and enterprises, and ambitions, and spirit of the nation should find a place in his breast. He is a mirror, in which the life of the empire is reflected. Whether he leads or whether he follows the bent of the nation's will (and, in part, he will do both), he becomes the visible exponent of the nation's life. All that is good in the empire, and all that is evil, blossoms in him. Hence this message.
I. SUPERIOR WISDOM LEADS TO SUCCESS IN COMMERCE. "With thy wisdom and with thine understanding thou hast gotten thee riches." So far, no sin was committed. It is God's will that the rocks of earth should disclose their treasures of silver and gold. It is God's will that the nations of the earth should interchange their products. The wisdom requisite for enterprise and commerce God himself gives. "Say not in thine heart, My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth; but thou shalt remember the Lord thy God, for he it is who giveth thee power to get wealth." Far-reaching sagacity, careful plan, prudent thrift, and bold adventure bring stores of wealth. "The hand of the diligent maketh rich."
II. COMMERCIAL SUCCESS LEADS TO STATE MAGNIFICENCE. More or less in every human breast there is a hunger for dignity, luxury, magnificent display. As soon as means are forthcoming this hunger will satiate itself. Nor is it merely a matter of personal satisfaction. It lends importance to the man; it lends importance to the state; it impresses other people—other nations—with a sense of superiority. It obtains homage and deference from men, and this is delicious. How otherwise can wealth be expended? The king cannot consume more food, unless it be to his injury. Expenditure on dress soon reaches its utmost limit. Therefore wealth can find outlets only on palatial buildings, pompous equipages, and martial defenses.
III. STATE MAGNIFICENCE BREEDS A SPIRIT OF VAIN ASSUMPTION. The tendency of all material possession is to foster a feeling of self-importance. The adulation of others strengthens this feeling. Every addition of influence or power contributes to this inward vanity. In proportion to a king's poverty of mind will he over-estimate his importance. He looks upon his granite ramparts and upon his vast armaments, and imagines himself unconquerable. All other monarchs flatter him. He is easily cajoled into the belief that he possesses a clear superiority among men—yea, positive supremacy. He conceives that be is cast in a mould unlike that of mortals—that he is deathless and divine. He demands honors which belong to God alone. Instead of making his perilous position secure by the ramparts of God's friendship, he makes God an enemy.
IV. PROFANE ASSUMPTION IS DESTINED TO A TERRIBLE REVERSE. "Thou shalt die the deaths of the uncircumcised by the hand of strangers." A castle built without foundation is sure, sooner or later, to fall. In proportion to the loftiness of the erection will, in such a case, be the greatness of the catastrophe. Instead of being secure and permanent as God, he will find himself vulnerable as a man, frail as a flower at noonday. The spears of those he had despised will pierce his flesh as they would the flesh of another man; and when another king—the king of terrors—riding furiously on his pale horse, shall confront him, his heart will be the victim of such remorse and shame as other mortals have never known. Better far not to be lifted up than to be lifted up and then cast down. The momentum of a body falling from a dizzy height is terrible: what is the momentum of a lost soul?
V. GOD'S WORD IS MIGHTIER THAN ALL HUMAN RESOURCES. "I have spoken it, saith the Lord God." In the largest sense it is true that we cannot go against the word of the Lord. God's word is the forthputting of his thought, purpose, will. It is omnipotent resolve interpreted into speech. "He spake, and it was done." A word becomes a world. A breath of God sweeps the earth like a tornado. A promise is a ladder by which we can climb to the skies; it is a ship that will bear us away safely to the eternal haven. One word of God is a feast that will nourish the life of our soul for ages. It is a refuge in which we may securely hide. Jehovah's word is a rampart, from behind which we may calmly defy ten thousand foes. It is a wall of fire that never has been broken through. That word is more worth than all bankers' coffers—than all Californian mines. It is a title-deed to immortality and to heaven.—D.
The glory and shame of Eden reproduced.
There is no reason why we should not regard the biblical narrative of Adam's trial and fall as fact and as allegory also. There is no real discrepancy between these two principles of interpretation. We are bound to accept it as a narrative of historical fact. Yet it is also an outline picture of every man's history. In each man's case there is the Edenic period of innocence, there is the crisis of first temptation, there is the fall, and then the banishment from Edenic joy. The circumstances of the first probation are more clearly and vividly reproduced in the case of a young prince than in any other. Hence the application to the King of Tyre.
I. THE KING CONSIDERED AS THE IDEAL MAN. Adam was placed in Eden as a monarch. He was placed in dominion over all creatures in earth, or air, or sea. This gave him a great "coin of vantage." In this respect he was made after the pattern of God—he was God-like. All that ministered to his needs was within his reach. Not a thing was denied to him that could meet a want or satisfy a just desire. His home was stored with every form of beauteous vegetation and with every kind of precious gem. And he was priest as well as king. He had access to God at all times. In him creation was summed up. In a similar position was the King of Tyrus placed. All material good was within his reach. There was no temptation to acquire wealth by unlawful means. Tyre and its possessions were to him as a garden, over which he could roam at large, He stood towards men in the stead of God—the dispenser of truth and justice. He was gifted with robust health and with abundant wisdom. He had all that heart could wish. He was placed in an Eden of abundance—"in Eden, the garden of God." Like Adam, he was on his trial.
II. THE TEMPTATION. To every man temptation comes. If his heart be not set upon the acquisition of spiritual riches—wisdom, holiness, and love—he will desire inordinately the lower good, and will break through lawful restraints in order to possess it. This is the core and essence of temptation. In this way the King of Tyre was tested. He was set up by God to exemplify righteousness, and to administer justice among the people. Nor among his own subjects only, but from his high position "the mountain of God"—he could have disseminated righteous principles among all the nations with whom Tyre traded. Yet in this respect the king egregiously failed. His love of gain was too great—was excessive. It overmastered his love of righteousness. What advantage he could not gain by fair and legitimate methods he extorted by violence. This is clear from Ezekiel 28:16, "By the multitude of thy merchandise they have filled the midst of thee with violence." If the king personally was not the prime instigator of these deeds, he connived at them through unprincipled or corrupt judges. His prosperity and glory made him vain and arrogant. Temptation came to pluck the forbidden fruit, and the king weakly yielded.
III. THE CRIME. The crime was selfishness, covetousness, avarice. This favored and fortunate man was placed in the possession of abundance. There was one thing he might not do. He might not rob others to enrich himself. The possessions of the foreigner ought to have been as much respected and protected as his own. But the devil whispered in his ear counsels of unrighteous enrichment, and he listened, wavered, succumbed. "Iniquity was found in thee." "Thou hast corrupted thy wisdom;" i.e. thou hast twisted it into cunning and craftiness. "Thou hast defiled thy sanctuaries by the multitude of thine iniquities, by the iniquity of thy traffic." He had imagined that no higher power than himself would supervise his deeds. "God is not observant of such things," said his wily tempter. "Thou shalt not surely die." This was his crime. His very brightness—his prosperity—brought him into scenes of new temptation. He might have blessed mankind; but he was set on selfish ends. He was in indecent haste to aggrandize self. He trampled on others' rights, on law and order, that he might swell his self-importance. He chafed against the idea that he, a king, was only a subject to a higher scepter. He would brook no interference with his proud will. This was his crime.
IV. THE RAVISHMENT. "I will cast thee as profane out of the mountain of God …. I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee." The exclusion from Eden is here repeated. The changes of fortune through which Adam passed, every one, in a measure, passes through also. "I will bring forth a fire from the midst of thee." No heavier punishment can be passed upon a man than banishment from God's favor. Where God is, there is safety; where God is not, there is ruin. Where God is, there is heaven; where he is not, there is hell. To be forsaken of God—this is despair and woe. God departed from Saul, and straightway he began to descend the slippery plane that landed him in destruction. Appearances are very delusive. The eye is easily deceived. Beneath a fair exterior of prosperity there is often incipient decay, yea, corruption hastening to final ruin. "Pride goeth before a fall." If we have made God our foe, not all the alliances and intrigues in the universe can save us from destruction.—D.
HOMILIES BY W. CLARKSON
The course and doom of arrogance.
This prophecy is directed against "the Prince [or, 'King'] of Tyre" (Ezekiel 28:1), and was doubtless meant lot him particularly; but it may be taken that he was representative of his court and of his people, and that the denunciation and doom here recorded apply to the state as well as to its head. We have suggested to us the course as well as the doom of arrogance.
I. IT BEGINS IN A DANGEROUS AND IRREVERENT COMPLACENCY. The consciousness of power or of priority is found to be a pleasant thing, and it need not be any wise associated with evil. 'It is often the gift of God; it is often the result of such natural advantages as Tyro possessed. It may give a pure and honest joy to the heart; and when it leads to gratitude and ends in blessing, it is good in every light and at every turn. But when, as is only too often the case, it gives rise to an unwholesome complacency of spirit, which ascribes too much to its own sagacity and too little to the Divine favor, then it stands on perilous ground (Ezekiel 28:4, Ezekiel 28:5). Indeed, it has already begun to depart from the highway of wisdom and goodness; for this is not the spirit of godliness, but of irreverence.
II. IT PASSES ON TO A WEAK AND FOOLISH EXAGGERATION, Its heart is "lifted up" (Ezekiel 28:2). It magnifies its own capacities, its own virtues, its own achievements. It conceals its own errors, defects, misdoings, so that they are not visible to its own eyes. It thinks much "more highly of itself than it ought to think," and supposes itself capable of accomplishing that to which it is wholly unequal. It thinks itself a Daniel (Verse 3) when it is not.
III. IT ENDS IN IMPIOUS PRESUMPTION. It says, "I am a god, I sit in the seat of God" (Verse 2). There have been many men and there have been some "world-powers"—Babylon, Macedon, Rome, Spain—who (which) have arrogated to themselves an authority and a power little (if any) short of the Divine. They have believes themselves able to act as a Divine providence, determining who or what should be raised up or cast down, supposing that their will could be impressed upon the institutions, or the peoples, or the Churches of their age. They have claimed a homage and assumed a function which belong to none but the Most High himself. Thus human arrogance places on its own haughty head the crown of a daring and impious assumption.
IV. IT BRINGS UPON ITSELF THE SEVERE CONDEMNATION OF GOD. (Text; see 2 Samuel 22:28; Isaiah 2:11; Daniel 4:37; Luke 1:51; James 4:6.)
V. IT IS DOOMED TO DESTRUCTION. (Verses 6, 10.) The strong terms of the text speak of:
1. The decisive and successful antagonism of those who have been despised, but who prove to be "terrible" and victorious (Verse 7, former part).
2. The loss of all that has been most prized (Verse 7, latter part).
3. Uttermost ruin (Verse 8). And this is the fate of the haughty-hearted. They suffer the most mortifying humiliation in the discovery to themselves and exposure to others of their false pretensions; the loss of their high position and forfeiture of all that they once held in so tight a grasp; the ruin, material or moral, which is fitly described as "death." They "go down to the pit."
Let us learn:
1. To guard our power and our success by cultivating the spirit of humility and of gratitude.
2. To gain the approval of our Lord by employing our position and our privilege to bless our neighbors, so that we may win his smile and not suffer his reproach.
3. To humble our heart, if it should be lifted up, that we may gain God's mercy and not endure the penalty of our sin.—C.
The insufficiency of circumstance, etc.
However we may interpret this imaginative passage (see Exposition), there are certain truths which are not only clear, but even brilliant to our sight as we regard it.
I. THE INSUFFICIENCY OF FAVORABLE CIRCUMSTANCE. The Prince of Tyro was under such fortunate and enviable conditions that he is drawn by the prophet as a man who dwelt in the garden of Eden, in a perfect paradise; as one clothed with garments that shone with all precious stones; as one who was admitted, like the cherubim of the most holy place, to the very near presence of God; as one that stood, with the illustrious leader of Israel, on the sacred mount, and that saw, with him, the splendor of the Divine manifestation (Ezekiel 28:13,Ezekiel 28:14). Nothing was wanting that the craving heart of man could desire; he "sealed up the sum," or he "sealed completeness" (Fairbairn) (Ezekiel 28:12). He was "perfect in his ways" (Ezekiel 28:15); i.e. not perfect in the ways of wisdom and worth, but of pleasure and honor and privilege. He lacked nothing that would lend beauty or grandeur or delight to human life. But what availed it all without righteousness? No barrier of rocky walls or of surrounding sea would keep out the enemy when unrighteousness had bred corruption (Ezekiel 28:15), and corruption had ended in weakness and downfall. No wealth of favoring circumstance, no multiplication of earthly good, even though a man should have (as this king is imagined to have) the choicest advantages of different generations, will secure lasting good; that is only to be gained by righteousness, by a strong and virtuous character, by steadfast piety.
II. THE PERIL OF GREAT EXALTATION. "He that is down need fear no fall;" but he that is exalted may suffer a terrible humiliation—he may be cast out (or down) from the mountain on which he stood (Ezekiel 28:16, Ezekiel 28:17); he, the overshadowing cherub, may be ejected from the holy place, from the innermost chamber of sacred privilege, and be cast forth among the unholy (Ezekiel 28:16). Let those who are exalted beware, for there is an abasement possible to them of which the unprivileged have no need to be afraid. And they have no other security than in a humble heart, an obedient spirit, a life of integrity and devotion.
III. THE PENALTY OF PROFANATION. Tyre had "corrupted its wisdom" (Ezekiel 28:17); had "profaned its sanctuaries" (Ezekiel 28:18). Its traffic should have been, as it might have been, carried on in honesty and equity; but it had been depraved, it had become lawless and dishonest; its streets, that should have been the highways of peaceful industry and happy fellowship, had became the places of violence and iniquity (Ezekiel 28:18 and Ezekiel 28:16). That which was intended for the practice and illustration of virtue and excellence had become the scene and source of wrong and guilt. Therefore the righteous Judge would "profane" it (Ezekiel 28:16; Fairbairn), would "cast it out as profane" (Authorized Version); the fires of retribution would devour it (Ezekiel 28:18); its sad and shameful end would excite the awe and even the terror of the beholder (Ezekiel 28:19). Profanation means penalty. If we do wrong to that human spirit of ours which comes to us from God, and in which we may closely resemble him; if we defile that human body in which the Son of God himself was once clothed, and which should be the very sanctuary or temple of the Divine; if we profane that human life of ours which should be so sacred in our sight and may be so charged with blessing and crowned with fruitfulness and beauty;—then may we expect the severe condemnation and the serious visitation of the righteous Ruler of mankind. We have then "sinned "(Ezekiel 28:16); "iniquity is found" in us (Ezekiel 28:15). And there will come the wages of sin, the brand of iniquity—loss, sorrow, shame, death. But to the penitent there is reconciliation and return; for though "the wages of sin is death," yet "the gift of God is eternal life."—C.
The end of Divine judgment.
This severe condemnation of the idolatrous and vicious Zidon, coupled with the very gracious promise to Israel, with which the prophecy concludes, many instruct us—
I. WHY AND HOW GOD IS AGAINST US. "I am against thee, O Zidon" (Ezekiel 28:22). And we know that Jehovah was expressing his high displeasure and was warning of serious national disaster (Ezekiel 28:23) because of the iniquities of the state. The worst forms of religious superstition had long existed—idolatrous rites accompanied by immoral practices; the city was utterly corrupt; its condition called for Divine rebuke and chastisement. And the prophet delivers the one while he foretells the other, in the Name of the Lord. God may be "against" us. Not that he ever wishes us evil (Ezekiel 33:11); on the contrary, he always desires the return and restoration of the worst (Luke 15:7). But God is against us:
1. When our spirit and our life are wrong; when these are irreverent, immoral, unworthy, mischievous.
2. He then is seriously displeased with us, especially when his special kindness to us demands a very different return (John 3:19).
(1) rebukes us in his Word—he condemns us in the strong but yet the merciful language which his Son and his human spokesmen have uttered in his Name; and he
(2) chastens us,—he sends us, as individual souls, that which answers to the national distresses here announced (Ezekiel 28:23). He lets sickness and suffering, or defeat and disappointment, or opposition and overthrow, or bereavement and loneliness, come to our home or our heart; we are laid low; some "sword" goes through us, and we are among the slain.
II. HIS AIM JUDGMENT. Jehovah would smite Zidon, that that city, darkened in its mind by its long-continued guilt, might be enlightened; that it might understand that its licentious goddess was impotent to help in the hour of peril, and might know that God "was the Lord" (Ezekiel 28:22-24). God's purpose in permitting or in sending trouble to the home and sorrow to the soul, is restorative. He seeks to enlighten, and, by enlightening, to restore us.
1. He wishes us to understand clearly that the earthly forces and human attachments in which we have been putting our trust and seeking our satisfaction are wholly insufficient to us; that they break down when we most need their help; that they are vain; and that we are wrong.
2. He desires to lead us back to himself—to his side and to his service; to an absolute trust in his Son our Savior; and to a whole-hearted consecration to his holy service. And it is well worth while to suffer anything and everything that we may "know that he is Lord;" that we ]nay recognize in him the Savior in whom to hide, the Divine Friend whom we can love with all the strength of our soul, the Leader whom we can follow at every step, the Lord whom it is both our sacred duty and our lasting joy to serve in every sphere.
III. His PROMISE TO HIS PEOPLE. (Ezekiel 28:24, Ezekiel 28:26.) How far this prediction has been fulfilled is matter of sacred history; perhaps it is one of those promises which are only realized by "the springing and germinant" fulfillment of which Lord Bacon speaks. Beside
(1) the historical, there is
(2) the spiritual; and there is also
(3) the heavenly fulfillment.
Of these three, the second is found in the spiritual condition of those who, by a full surrender of spirit to their Divine Lord, find a perfect rest in him (Matthew 11:28; John 14:27; Philippians 4:7; Ephesians 3:16-19). The last will be found when the thorns and the briers which here are felt even in "the garden of the Lord" shall have been cut away by the strong hand of the Divine Husbandman, and there shall be beauty without decay, joy without suffering or satiety, life without any fear of death or of decline.
"Thorn without flowers; flowers on the thorn,
Then thornless, everlasting bloom.
Three crowns;—the first when Faith has worn,
And Hope the next, with brow still torn,
Love shall the last assume."
HOMILIES BY W. JONES
The Prince of Tyre; or, the expression and punishment of pride.
"The word of the Lord came again unto me, saying, Son of man, say unto the Prince of Tyre," etc. Following the prophecies concerning the city and state of Tyre, and completing them, Ezekiel delivers these concerning the king of the famous city. They apply to him, not only as a person, but as the representative of the people in their prosperity, power, and pride. "Throughout the East," says the 'Speaker's Commentary,' "the majesty and glory of a people were collected in the person of their monarch, who in some nations was not feared as a man, but actually worshipped as a god …. The prince is here the embodiment of the community. Their glory is his glory, their pride his pride. The doom of Tyre could not be complete without denunciation of the Prince of Tyre." Our subject has two chief divisions.
I. THE EXPRESSION OF PRIDE BY MAN. (Verses 2-6.)
1. Pride of personality. "Thine heart is lifted up, and thou hast said, I am a god" (Verse 2; cf. Isaiah 14:14). There are other instances of exceeding pride recorded in the sacred Scriptures; e.g. "Pharaoh King of Egypt … said, My river is mine own, and I have made it for myself" (Ezekiel 29:3). Nebuchadnezzar said, "Is not this great Babylon, which I have built for the royal dwelling-place?" etc. (Daniel 4:30). Herod accepted the homage of the people who greeted him as a god (Acts 12:21, Acts 12:22). But the Prince of Tyre, in claiming to be a god, goes beyond these examples. It is as if he upheld the city and state, maintained the prosperity and power of his people, and gave them all their glory. It is a claim of independence and self-sufficiency. In it pride reaches its most daring and blasphemous development, as weak, mortal, sinful man sets himself as a rival even unto God.
2. Pride of position. "I sit in the seat of God, in the midst of the seas" (Verse 2). This proud boast of the Tyrian prince is partly accounted for by "the situation of the island-city, full of luxury and beauty, in the midst of the blue water of the Mediterranean." Moreover, Tyre was regarded by many as a sacred island. Fairbairn says that "Sanchoniathon expressly calls it 'the holy island;' and it is known that the Tyrian colonies all reverenced it as the mother-city of their religion, not less than the original source of their political existence. It was only in the spirit of ancient heathenism to conclude that a state which was not only strong by natural position, and by immense maritime resources, but also stood in such close connection with the Divine, might be warranted in claiming, through its head, something like supernatural strength and absolute perpetuity of being."
3. Pride of wisdom. "Behold, thou art wiser than Daniel; there is no secret that they can hide from thee." Three facts concerning the wisdom of the Prince of Tyro are here brought to light.
(1) He laid claim to pre-eminent wisdom. He looked upon himself as being wiser than Daniel. It is implied that the extraordinary wisdom of Daniel was at this time generally and widely known and acknowledged. "The prophet presumes it to be acknowledged that Daniel stands on the highest stage of wisdom attainable by man." When he made known unto Nebuchadnezzar the dream which that monarch had forgotten, he did that of which the wise men of Chaldea had declared, "It is a rare thing that the king requireth, and there is none other that can show it before the king, except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh" (Daniel 2:11). Hence, as Hengstenberg remarks, for the Prince of Tyro "to declare himself wiser than Daniel, is at once to transcend the stage of man, and make himself equal with God."
(2) This wisdom had special reference to the discovery of secrets. The proud prince boasted that no secret could be hidden from him (Verse 3). The comparison with Daniel is still maintained. "The secret" of the forgotten dream of Nebuchadnezzar was revealed unto Daniel in a "vision of the night" (Daniel 2:19), and then communicated by him to the troubled king. And on a subsequent occasion that king said to him, "I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in thee, and no secret troubleth thee" (Daniel 4:9). But the Prince of Tyro boasted that his wisdom transcended even this; and from his proud boast we infer that his wisdom was not genuine. True wisdom humbles its possessor. Where it really is, as knowledge increases reverence also increases.
(3) The aim of this wisdom was the increase of their material riches. "By thy wisdom and by thine understanding thou hast gotten thee riches," etc. (Verses 4, 5), However great this wisdom might have been, however varied its manifestations, its great aim was the secular prosperity of the state. It did not look beyond the material and temporal to the spiritual and eternal. It was bounded by time and that little portion of this world over which the Prince of Tyre reigned. What a contrast it presents in this respect from the wisdom which is commended in the sacred Scriptures!
4. Pride of richer. (Verses 4, 5.) In our survey of Ezekiel 26:1-21 and Ezekiel 27:1-36, we noticed the abounding commercial prosperity of Tyre. Its merchants lived as princes. Its wealth was exceeding great. And as its king contemplated these immense riches his heart exulted in the sense of his own wisdom, importance, and power. "Thine heart is lifted up because of thy riches." In all self was supreme. In his treasures, in his wisdom, in his might, in the security of his situation, he recognizes no person or power greater than himself. Verily he regarded himself as a god.
II. THE PUNISHMENT OF PRIDE BY GOD. (Ezekiel 27:6-10.) Since "pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall," the Prince of Tyro must soon meet with a severe check to his unbridled arrogance. The prophet proclaims his doom. Notice:
1. The nature of this punishment.
(1) The abasement of his glory. "They shall draw their swords against the beauty of thy wisdom, and they shall defile thy 'brightness" (Ezekiel 27:7). We have seen that the great end for which the Prince of Tyro employed his wisdom was the promotion of their mercantile success, and the consequent increase of their riches. So that the beauty of his wisdom was the commercial prosperity of the state, which he viewed as its choicest result. Their affluence and success, their luxury and splendor, would be diminished, and their glorying in these things would be abased.
(2) The slaughter of his life. "They shall bring thee down to the pit; and thou shalt die the deaths of them that are slain in the heart of the seas. The plural is used here—deaths, because the king, the central personage, the animating breath of the whole people, as the king is called in Lamentations 4:20, dies as it were many deaths-dies in each of his slain subjects" (Hengstenberg). Here is death in dishonor: "The deaths of them that are slain in the heart of the seas." "For kings to be slain by foreigners is dishonorable; when slain, not to be buried as kings is a greater dishonor; to be cast out, and drowned as common men, is a height of dishonor." Here is death in sin: "Thou shalt die the deaths of the uncircumcised by the hand of strangers." The uncircumcised denotes the heathen world in contradistinction to the covenant people of God. The death of the uncircumcised is the exact opposite of "the death of the righteous ' (Numbers 23:10).
2. The Author of this punishment. "Thus saith the Lord God … Behold, I will bring strangers upon thee,'" etc. (Lamentations 4:7). God himself, in the operations of his providence, would thus bring down his pride of heart and vain-glorious boasting.
3. The instruments of this punishment. "I will bring strangers upon thee, the terrible of the nations." The Chaldeans were strangers to the Tyrians. They are not mentioned (in Ezekiel 27:1-36.) amount the peoples who traded with Tyre. They were a people of a strange language, and their army was drawn from countries which were strange to the proud people of the island-city. And they were "terrible." They were powerful and violent beyond all others in that age—the dread conquerors of all whom they assailed. They came against Type, and, after long persistence, humbled the proud city.
4. The consequence of this punishment. "Wilt thou say before him that slayeth thee, I am God" but thou art man, and not God, in the hand of him that woundeth thee" (Lamentations 4:9). The proud boasting of the Prince of Tyre would be effectually silenced. He would learn not only that he was not a god, sitting in the seat of God, but a man, whose honor could be laid in the dust, and who could be slain by a world-power mightier than that in which he had gloried. God will certainly bring down the pride of those who exalt themselves against him. "The lofty looks of man shall be brought low, and the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the Lord alone shall be exalted" (Isaiah 2:11). This was strikingly exemplified in Pharaoh (cf. Exodus 5:2; Exodus 12:29-32), in Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 4:29-37), and in Herod (Acts 12:21-23).
5. The certainty of this punishment. "I have spoken it, saith the Lord God" (Lamentations 4:10). And his word did not fail of fulfillment.
1. The danger of prosperity generating pride. "When flowers are full of heaven-descended dews, they always hang their heads; but men hold theirs the higher the more they receive, getting proud as they get full" (Beecher). Let the prosperous guard against this danger.
2. The certainty of pride meeting with punishment. (Cf. Psalms 138:6; Proverbs 11:2; Proverbs 16:5,Proverbs 16:18; Proverbs 18:12; Proverbs 29:23; Matthew 23:12; James 4:6.)—W.J.
Man in impressive aspects.
"Moreover the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, take up a lamentation upon the King of Tyrus," etc. This lamentation for the Prince of Tyre presents considerable difficulties to the expositor. It has been interpreted from various points of view, which we need not discuss here. Different meanings also have been assigned to many of its clauses. Two things of great importance to a correct understanding of it, however, seem to us quite clear.
1. That in the King of Tyre here we have the representation of an ideal person, who stands for the Tyrian monarchy. "The kings of Type," says Fairbairn, "are personified as one individual, an ideal man—one complete in all material excellence, perfect manhood."
2. That a deep vein of irony runs through the description of the perfections and splendors of this ideal prince. "This ideal man, the representative of whatever there was of greatness and glory in Type, and in whom the Tyrian spirit of self-elation and pride appears in full efflorescence, is ironically viewed by the prophet as the type of humanity in its highest states of existence upon earth. All that is best and noblest in the history of the past he sees in imagination meeting in this new beau-ideal of humanity." This irony implies that the Prince of Tyre had a very exaggerated sense of his own greatness and glory; otherwise it would be pointless anti inapt. This paragraph presents to us man in three impressive aspects.
I. MAN IN A MOST EXALTED CONDITION AND MOST FELICITOUS CIRCUMSTANCES. (Ezekiel 28:12-15.)
1. Here is a most exalted condition. This condition is variously described. "Thou sealest up the sum" (Ezekiel 28:12). "To seal means to seal up and close that which is complete (cf. Daniel 9:24; Job 9:7). To seal the sum is to make up the whole measure of perfection." The King of Tyre is said to be "full of wisdom: In our homily on the foregoing paragraph we noticed that he boasted of his wisdom (cf. Ezekiel 28:3-5). He was probably praised and flattered because of it. With truth Greenhill observes, "When princes know a little in anything, they are applauded and. magnified for knowing men; but if they have got some deeper insight into things than others, then they are deified." This king is also represented as "perfect in beauty:' In form and features, in expression and action, he deemed himself perfect. Or the Tyrians regarded their monarchy as perfect in its order and power and splendor. "Thou wast perfect in all thy ways from the day that thou wast created" (Ezekiel 28:15).
2. Here are most felicitous circumstances. (Ezekiel 28:13, Ezekiel 28:14.)
(1) Delightful residence. "Thou wast in Eden, the garden of God." The reference is probably to the luxuriousness and beauty and grandeur of Tyre. The king had lived there in the full enjoyment of its countless comforts and its various pleasures, realizing as it were a paradisiacal existence.
(2) Royal splendors. "Every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, the topaz, and the diamond" etc. "The precious stones with which the king is bedecked bring the glory of his rank to outward view." He had jewels in great abundance, and rich variety, and of rare luster and beauty. "Full many a gem of purest ray serene" glittered upon his person. Music is mentioned as another element of the royal state and glory. "The workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was in thee; in the day that thou wast created they were prepared." The accession of the king to the throne was celebrated with musical honors and rejoicings. Or perhaps the clause means that the Tyrian monarchy was thus inaugurated. In either case, music was one of the delights of the royal court of Tyre.
(3) Illustrious station (Ezekiel 28:14). "Thou wast the anointed cherub that covereth." The cherub was an ideal combination of creature life in highest forms and fullest perfection; and the cherubs in the temple were consecrated and anointed with oil (Exodus 40:9). And as a king the Prince of Tyre was anointed, and was looked up to, or looked upon himself, as the embodiment of perfection. Moreover, as the cherubim with outstretched wings covered the mercy-seat, so the King of Tyre covered his people with his protection. The prophet goes on to say, "Thou wast upon the holy mountain of God," which the 'Speaker's Commentary' explains thus: "The cherub was in the temple on the holy mountain, so the Prince of Tyre was presiding over the island-city, rising like a mountain from the deep." But "the holy mountain of God" may be simply a figure denoting a very exalted station. The prophet continues: "Thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire." Various and conflicting are the interpretations of this clause. It probably means that his state apartments were decorated with precious stones like those mentioned in Ezekiel 28:13 (cf. Ezekiel 1:27), and that he walked in the midst of their glittering splendor. Here, then, notwithstanding that the exact meaning of some parts of the text is uncertain, we have a picture of a man in very exalted condition and very felicitous circumstances.
II. MAN IN A MOST EXALTED CONDITION AND MOST FELICITOUS CIRCUMSTANCES FALLING INTO HEINOUS SINS, (Ezekiel 28:16-18.) Unrighteousness was found in this exalted prince. Two forms of sin in particular are charged against him.
1. Injustice in commerce. "By the multitude of thy traffic they filled the midst of thee with violence, and thou hast sinned …. By the multitude of thine iniquities, in the unrighteousness of thy traffic, thou hast profaned thy sanctuaries." Great traffic occasions great temptation. When men are devoted to merchandise, their path is beset by moral perils. They will be tempted to achieve commercial success by unworthy or unrighteous means—means which the unsophisticated conscience condemns as sinful, but which the commercial world allows and practices under plausible names. "The constant excitement of selfishness and covetousness connected with trade can only be effectually counteracted by the grace of God." "They that desire to be rich fall into a temptation and a snare," etc. (1 Timothy 6:9, 1 Timothy 6:10).
2. Pride of person and position. "Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness." The pride of this prince has already met with deserved rebuke. "Thine heart is lifted up because of thy riches" (Ezekiel 28:5); "Thine heart is lifted up, and thou hast said, I am a god, I sit in the seat of God, in the midst of the seas" (Ezekiel 28:2). Secular prosperity often begets pride, and pride (as in the case of the King of Tyre) corrupts wisdom. Hengstenberg observes truly, "The foundation of wisdom is humility, which sees things as they are, has an open eye for its own weakness and the excellences of others, and is on its guard against dangerous undertakings, as David says in Psalms 131:1, 'O Lord, my heart is not haughty,' etc. The 'brightness' received into the heart blinds the eye, so that one regards himself alone as great, and everything else as small, and rushes wantonly into dangers for which he is not prepared, and enters on paths which lead to perdition; as, for example, Tyre undertook the combat against the flourishing Chaldea monarchy. God does not need to appear as a Deus ex machined in the judgment upon the proud, who wantonly brings himself to ruin."
III. MAN IN EXALTED CONDITION AND FELICITOUS CIRCUMSTANCES, HAVING FALLEN INTO HEINOUS SINS, VISITED WITH SEVERE PUNISHMENT. Three features of the punishment of the proud Prince of Tyro are exhibited by the prophet.
1. His forcible removal from his exalted condition and felicitous circumstances. "Therefore have I cast thee as profane out of the mountain of God; and I have destroyed thee, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire." He had gloried in his wealth and power and grandeur, and he should be deprived of them all.
2. His open degradation. "I have cast thee to the ground, I have laid thee before kings, that they may behold thee." "Formerly," says Hengstenberg, "in its brightness a spectacle of wonder and envy for kings, Tyro is now become for them a spectacle of astonishment and spiteful joy in its terrible downfall" (cf. Ezekiel 27:36). This was the appropriate punishment of excessive pride. The punishment corresponded with the sin. "When pride cometh, then cometh shame: but with the lowly is wisdom" (Proverbs 11:2; Proverbs 16:18; Proverbs 18:12).
3. His utter destruction. "Therefore have I brought forth a fire from the midst of thee, it hath devoured thee, and I have turned thee to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all them that behold thee." The fire signifies the wrath of God in the punishment of sin; and the effect of that wrath would be the complete destruction of the Tyrian monarchy. Here is an important fact. The destructive fire springs out of the midst of that which is to be destroyed. "All God's judgments upon sinners take rise from themselves; they are devoured by a fire of their own kindling." "The fire of lust and covetous desire draws after it the other fire of judgment."
CONCLUSION. Several important lessons are enforced by this subject. We mention three of them.
1. The unsatisfactoriness of temporal prosperity when dissociated from righteous principles and intelligent piety.
2. The peculiar moral perils of successful traders, whether as communities or individuals.
3. The necessity of resisting the earliest risings of pride.—W.J.
God glorified in the execution of judgment.
"Again the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, set thy face against Zidon," etc. Zidon was "an ancient and wealthy city of Phoenicia, on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea, less than twenty English miles to the north of Tyre," and on the extreme northwestern border of the land of Israel. The Hebrew word Tsidon signifies" Fishing," and indicates the earliest employment of its inhabitants. The land in the neighborhood of Zidon was of great fertility. "Adjoining the city there are luxuriant gardens and orchards, in which there is a profusion of the finest fruit trees suited to the climate." "The gardens of Zidon," says Dean Stanley, "are conspicuous even from a distance." In early times Zidon seems to have been a more important city than its neighbor, Tyro (cf. Joshua 11:8; Joshua 19:28). Homer, in his poems, makes no mention of Tyro, but several times he mentions Zidon and the Zidonians. But from the time of Solomon until the invasion of Nebuchadnezzar, Zidon appears to have been less influential than Tyro. Our text declares the judgment of God against Zidon, and that in that judgment he will be glorified; and it suggests that he is glorified.
I. IN THE REASONS OF HIS JUDGMENT. These reasons maybe arranged under two heads.
1. The conduct of the Zidonians in relation to himself. They were idolaters, worshipping Baal, the sun-god (1 Kings 16:31), and Ashtoreth as their tutelary goddess (1 Kings 11:5, 1 Kings 11:33; 2 Kings 23:13). It was from them that these idolatries had been introduced amongst the chosen people. The influence of Zidonian women upon the religious character of Solomon was most deplorable; and the marriage of Ahab to Jezebel, a Zidonian princess, was prolific of most disastrous consequences to the kingdom of Israel, both religiously and in other ways. The Zidonians might have obtained the knowledge of the true God from their neighbors the Israelites, and have turned to him in heart and life, if they had been so disposed. But instead of that, they corrupted Israel with their idols. Thus they robbed God of his rightful honor and praise. And his glory he will not give to another, neither his praise unto graven images (Isaiah 42:8).
2. The conduct of the Zidonians in relation to his people. We have already spoken of their evil influence over them religiously. In other ways they were troublesome to them. They had been as "a pricking brier" and "a grieving thorn" to Israel (Ezekiel 28:24). There is probably a reference in this verse to Numbers 33:55 and Joshua 23:13. And, like others of the neighbors of the Israelites, the Zidonians seem to have rejoiced in their troubles and distresses. They are said to have done "despite unto them" (Verse 24). They had made them smart with their contempt and derision. The Lord takes notice of this, and will judge them for it. Says Hengstenberg, "While the Lord chastises his own people with an unsparing rod, he visits the neighboring heathen nations for the wrong which they have done to his people, as if it were directed against himself, and verifies in them his word, 'He that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye' (Zechariah 2:8)." Thus we see that there were good reasons for this judgment. God does not punish any person or people without just cause.
"His work is perfect;
For all his ways are judgment;
A god of faithfulness and without iniquity,
Just and right is he."
"Righteousness and judgment are the foundation of thy throne" (Psalms 89:14); "Righteous and true are thy ways, thou King of the ages" (Revelation 15:3).
II. IN THE NATURE OF HIS JUDGMENT. "I will send into her pestilence, and blood in her streets; and the wounded shall fall in the midst of her, with the sword upon her on every side" (Verse 23). This judgment by pestilence and sword call hardly be said to have been executed in the invasion by Nebuchadnezzar, seeing that Zidon submitted to him apparently without offering any serious resistance. But this threatening of pestilence and sword may point to the sufferings of the Zidonians at a later period of their history, in consequence of their revolt against the Persians, to whom they were then subject. Zidon was at that time a wealthy and flourishing city; and the revolt would probably have been successful but for the treachery of Tennes, their king, who, in fulfillment of a compact with Artaxerxes Ochus, the Persian monarch, betrayed into his "power one hundred of the most distinguished citizens of Zidon, who were all shot to death with javelins. Five hundred other citizens, who went out to the king with ensigns of supplication, shared the same fate; and by concert between Tennes and Mentor, the Persian troops were admitted within the gates, and occupied the city walls. The Zidonians, before the arrival of Ochus, had burnt their vessels to prevent any one leaving the town; and when they saw themselves surrounded by the Persian troops, they adopted the desperate resolution of shutting themselves up with their families, and setting fire each man to his own house. Forty thousand persons are said to have perished in the flames. Tennes himself did not save his own life, as Ochus, notwithstanding his promise to the contrary, put him to death. The privilege of searching the ruins" ‹eze-7› for the gold and silver they contained was sold by Artaxerxes for money. But our point is that the character of this judgment contributes to the glory of God. Whether we refer the prophecy to the conquest by Nebuchadnezzar, or to the terrible transactions connected with the revolt against the Persian power, or to both, there was nothing arbitrary on God's part in the execution of the judgment. The Lord did not, as it were, go out of his way to inflict it. The Zidonians may be said to have brought it upon themselves. Yet all was regulated and controlled by the providence of God. The Divine punishment of sin is never an arbitrary infliction, but the natural working of a necessary law. The penalty is the natural consequence of the transgression. The suffering is the fruit of the sin.
III. IN THE EFFECT OF HIS JUDGMENT. A twofold effect is exhibited by the prophet.
1. Relief and blessing to the people of the Lord. "And there shall be no more a pricking brier unto the house of Israel, nor a grieving thorn of any that be round about them, that did despite unto them" (Verse 24). This refers not to the Zidonians alone, but to the other peoples who, being neighbors to the house of Israel, had been a trouble unto them. They "that are round about them, that did despite unto them," would cease to molest and distress them. "God s judgment on the ungodly tends to the good of his Church."
2. Acknowledgment of the supremacy of the Lord. Twice in this brief paragraph it is said of the Zidonians, "And they shall know that I am the Lord." (These words, which occur so frequently in this book, we noticed in Ezekiel 6:7, Ezekiel 6:10; Ezekiel 7:4.) The people of Zidon "must recognize or experience him in his operations, whom they obstinately refused to recognize willingly" (Hengstenberg). It is also said of the Israelites, "they shall know that I am the Lord God." In the relief afforded to them and the deliverances wrought for them they would recognize the presence and power and supremacy of Jehovah. Thus "the Lord of hosts is exalted in judgment, and God the Holy One is sanctified in righteousness" (Isaiah 5:16).—W.J.
Ezekiel 28:25, Ezekiel 28:26
God glorified in his dealings with his people under chastisement.
"Thus saith the Lord God; When I shall have gathered the house of Israel from the peoples among whom they are scattered," etc. In bringing to a close the prophecies against the heathen nations which bordered upon the Holy Land, Ezekiel briefly outlines the glorious restoration of the people of God in contrast to the judgments which destroyed those nations. He also declares that he will be sanctified in his people in the sight of the nations. His dealings with his people who were in captivity would be of such a character as to promote his honor in the eyes of the nations who were cognizant of those dealings. Thus the subject is presented to us of God glorified in his treatment of his people under chastisement.
I. IN HIS CARE FOR THEM WHILE THEY ARE UNDER CHASTISEMENT BECAUSE OF THEIR SINS. Our text is itself an evidence of this care. They needed some strong encouragement to counteract "the despondency which was now, after the opening of the siege of Jerusalem, the most dangerous foe" which they had to contend against. God recognized their need, and the inspiring promises of the text were a contribution towards its supply. Moreover, his purpose to gather them again and restore them to their own land necessitated the exercise of care over them during their exile. We have reason to believe that when his people are under chastisement they are the objects of his special care. This is taught, in his holy Word, especially in Malachi 3:3, "He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver." In purifying silver from its dross "the refiner not only places his crucible on a hot fire, but heaps fire around and above it. Under this process it at first throws out a dark and offensive smoke, which, as the heat and its effects increase, becomes less offensive, until it altogether ceases, and the silver becomes beautifully white. The point of requisite purity and perfection is when the refiner sees his own likeness reflected in the silver. How admirably does this illustrate the gracious process by which, through means of affliction, our heavenly Father carries on the work of purification in the hearts of his children!" The refiner of silver keeps his eye steadily on the furnace, lest the silver should be injured by the intense heat, and that he may see when the process is complete; so the great Refiner watches over his children when they are passing through the cleansing fires of Divine chastisement. Here, then, is encouragement to the people of God in seasons of trial. God himself is graciously observing you. His eye is constantly and tenderly upon you. In this fact there is also vindication of the Divine honor in relation to the afflictions of his people.
II. IN HIS REMOVAL OF THE CHASTISEMENT WHEN IT HAS ACCOMPLISHED ITS PURPOSE. "Thus saith the Lord; When I shall have gathered the house of Israel from the peoples among whom they are scattered," etc. (Verse 25), When the object for which the covenant people were sent into captivity was achieved, he brought them together and reinstated them in the land which he gave to his servant Jacob, "In that furnace of affliction the national tendency to idolatry was burnt out of the national heart, never to reappear;" and then they were delivered out of the furnace. In their restoration to their own land the nations would see that the Lord had not cast them off or forsaken them. "For the Lord will not cast off forever. For though he cause grief," etc. (Lamentations 3:31-33). Moreover, in that restoration there was a manifestation of the faithfulness, power, and goodness of the Lord to his people. Faithfulness in his remaining true to them and to his engagements to them, notwithstanding their former long-continued unfaithfulness to him. "If we are faithless, he abideth faithful; for he cannot deny himself." Power in his controlling the hearts and actions of men for the accomplish; meat of his purposes in relation to his people. And goodness in dealing with them so graciously, notwithstanding their ill desert. Thus would the Lord God be sanctified in them in the sight of the nations; And still he speedily removes the chastisements of his people when they have effected the purpose for which they were inflicted.
"Praise him still the same forever,
Slow to chide, and swift to bless."
III. IN HIS RESTORATION OF PEACE AND PROSPERITY TO THEM. "And they shall dwell securely therein; yea, they shall build houses, and plant vineyards," etc. (Verse 26). "As we have seen that the prophecies against the heathen reached, not merely to the particular nations, but to the world-power which they represented; as the same predictions are directed against Tyre by Ezekiel, against Babylon by Isaiah, and against the Apocalyptic Babylon by St. John; so this prophecy reaches far beyond a mere temporal restoration. It points to times of more permanent security, when from all nations and kingdoms the Church of Christ, the Israel of God, shall be gathered in, when the power of the world shall be for ever broken, and the kingdom of Christ shall be established forever" ('Speaker's Commentary'). Two blessings are particularly mentioned by the prophet.
1. Safety. "They shall dwell securely." Israel was not free from enemies and molestations after their return from captivity. Delivered from idolatry, yet their evil hearts broke out into other forms of sin; and distresses followed transgressions. Christian believers are not exempted from either enemies or trials. Yet we may say that "believers always dwell safely under the Divine protection, and may be quiet from the fear of evil." For "if God is for us, who is against us? In all these things we are more than conquerors, through him that loved us" (Romans 8:31, Romans 8:37; Hebrews 13:6; 1 Peter 3:13).
2. Prosperity. "They shall build houses, and plant vineyards, and dwell securely." These operations denote the return of prosperity to the people. And it is certain that at times they flourished considerably in their condition and circumstances. There is evidence of this in the sumptuous houses which they built for themselves. (cf. Haggai. ). In thus dealing with his people also the Lord would "be sanctified in them in the sight of the nations." But the text points onward to blessings yet in store for the Israel of God. Seasons of unprecedented power and prosperity await the Church in the future, when men everywhere shall know and acknowledge the Lord God. "All the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord" (Numbers 14:21). "In the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, of things in heaven, and things on earth," etc. (Philippians 2:10, Philippians 2:11). And in the heavenly Canaan shall be enjoyed the complete triumph, and the undisturbed peace, and the deep, eternal joy.
"And the temple again shall be built,
And filled as it was of yore;
And the burden be lift from the heart of the world,
And the nations all adore;
Prayers to the throne of heaven
Morning and eve shall rise,
And unto, and not of the Lamb
Shall be the sacrifice."
(P. J. Bailey.)
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Ezekiel 28". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Fifth Week after Epiphany