Ezekiel 28:1-19 is NOT about the Devil

[First posted April 26, 2012; part of our series on the controversial figure in Christian and other religions referred to as the “devil” or Satan who is mis-named “Lucifer” but let’s not get into all that in this introduction.  Other posts in this series, in case you have not read them, are:  

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This is an example of either mistranslation, or tampering with the original Hebrew verses. But let us give well-meaning scholarly Christian translators the benefit of the doubt;  we will presume that this was simply mistranslation, done unintentionally, not outright tampering with the original verses to fit Christian doctrine.

 

When you are after THE TRUTH, it does not help much to read the “Old” Testament in the Christian Bible; you have to read the Jewish/Hebrew English translations.  When you keep reading the same verses in any Christian translation of the Old Testament, you will keep seeing the devil and Jesus all over the OT.  You will begin to understand why this is so when you read one key verse —-Ezekiel 28:13—as one of many examples.

 

 

This requires a longer article than Isaiah 14 so please don’t lose interest while reading through ArtScroll Tanach [AST] and New American Study Bible [NASB]. And by the way, if you own a Study Bible whether Christian or Jewish, the background notes are helpful as far as history, geography, culture, word study are concerned; just don’t swallow the interpretation of verses without checking them out to your satisfaction, because Study Bibles have an agenda.

 

 

To understand any reading material, it helps to be aware of the following:  

  • Who is speaking [narrator, character]; 
  • who is being referred to.  
  • If there are three speakers, figure out who’s saying what.  
  • The narrator is always the invisible presence, so don’t forget him and his point of view.  
  • The other invisible Presence is of course the God of Israel who uses His prophets as His mouthpiece.
  •  Learn to recognize when the text suddenly shifts to metaphorical and figurative language.

 

Since these verses are in the book of Ezekiel, the narrator is the prophet Ezekiel.  It helps to know —

  • when he lived,
  • under which king in the divided kingdom, 
  • and which conquering power was threatening the nation of Israel. 
 

In brief, Ezekiel was among the Israelites who were exiled to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar in 597 BCE.  While in exile, he received his call to become a prophet, though he was of a priestly family, the son of Buzi the priest.  His wife was left behind in Israel so that when Jerusalem was under seige and would surely fall, he knew he would lose his wife, and the Israelites would lose their beloved Jerusalem.

 

 

Preceding chapters starting from Chapter 25 announce YHWH’s judgment on 7 gentile nations; Chapters 26 and 27 focus on Tyre and by Chapter 28, the focus further narrows to the king of Tyre.  With that in mind, read the two versions and see if you notice a difference in the rendering of certain  verses, specifically vs 13.  This time we will start with the Christian translation to get the gist of what’s going on in the chapter:

 

 

Image from www.irishoriginsofcivilization.com

Image from www.irishoriginsofcivilization.com

[NASB] – Tyre’s King Overthrown

1 The word of the LORD came again to me, saying, 
2 “Son of man, say to the leader of Tyre, 
‘Thus says the Lord GOD, 
“Because your heart is lifted up
 And you have said, ‘I am a god, 
I sit in the seat of gods In the heart of the seas ‘; 
Yet you are a man and not God, 
Although you make your heart like the heart of God – 
3 Behold, you are wiser than Daniel; 
There is no secret that is a match for you. 
4 “By your wisdom and understanding 
You have acquired riches for yourself 
And have acquired gold and silver for your treasuries. 
5 “By your great wisdom, by your trade 
You have increased your riches 
And your heart is  lifted up because of your riches – 
6 Therefore thus says the Lord GOD,
 ‘Because you have made your heart 
Like the heart of God, 
7 Therefore, behold, I will bring strangers upon you, 
The most ruthless of the nations. 
And they will draw their swords 
Against the beauty of your wisdom 
And defile your splendor. 
8 ‘They will bring you down to the pit, 
And you will die the death of those who are slain 
In the heart of the seas. 
‘Will you still say, “I am a god”
 In the presence of your slayer, 
Though you are a man and not God,
In the hands of those who wound you? 
10 ‘You will die the death of the uncircumcised 
By the hand of strangers, 
For I have spoken!’ declares the Lord GOD!'”
11 Again the word of the LORD came to me saying, 
12 “Son of man, take up a lamentation 
over the king of Tyre and say to him,
 ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, 
You had the seal of perfection, 
Full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. 
13 You were in Eden, the garden of God; 
Every precious stone was your covering: 
The ruby, the topaz and the diamond; 
The beryl, the onyx and the jasper;
The lapis lazuli, the turquoise and the emerald; 
And the gold, the workmanship of your settings and sockets, 
Was in you. 
On the day that you were created 
They were prepared. 
14 “You were the anointed cherub who covers, 
And I placed you there. 
You were on the holy mountain of God;
You walked in the midst of the stones of fire. 
15 “You were blameless in your ways 
From the day you were created 
Until unrighteousness was found in you. 
16 “By the abundance of your trade 
You were internally filled with violence, 
And you sinned; 
Therefore I have cast you as profane
From the mountain of God. 
And I have destroyed you, O covering cherub, 
From the midst of the stones of fire. 
17 “Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; 
You corrupted your wisdom by reason of your splendor. 
I cast you to the ground; I put you before kings, 
That they may see you. 
18 “By the multitude of your iniquities, 
In the unrighteousness of your trade 
You profaned your sanctuaries.
Therefore I have brought fire from the midst of you; 
It has consumed you, 
And I have turned you to ashes on the earth 
In the eyes of all who see you. 
19 “All who know you among the peoples
Are appalled at you; 
You have become terrified 
And you will cease to be forever.”
 

The way verse 13 is translated “You were in Eden, the garden of God” — it suddenly transports the reader from the reference to the earthly king of Tyre to a character in Eden–[AHA, who else?] the talking serpent— which Christian interpreters connect with Satan, the Devil.  Then, since the next few verses do not fit the serpent (covering of every precious stone), the thought of Lucifer comes to mind, “seal of perfection,” “full of wisdom,” “perfect in beauty.”  And to bolster all that,  “You were the anointed cherub” who was “on the holy mountain of God” and “walked in the midst of the stones of fire.”

 

What does one do with all these verses that seem to talk about the most beautiful of angels according to Christian teaching?

Strangely, and to their credit, the translators and interpreters of the NASB themselves do not connect these verses with Satan.   Surprised?  Notice how they explain the verses:

 

You were in Eden. “Like Adam (Gen. 2:15), Ezekiel continues to use imagery of the creation and the fall to picture the career of the king of Tyre (see 31:9,16, 18).

Every precious stone. Unlike Adam, who was naked (Gen. 2:25), the king is pictured as a fully clothed priest, ordained to guard God’s holy place.  The 9 stones are among the 12 worn by the priest (Ex. 28:17-20). (The Septuagint lists all 12).

vs. 14 cherub who covers.  The Genesis account has cherubim (plural) stationed in the border of the garden after the expulsion of Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:24).

vs 15  You were blameless . . . Until . . . The parallel to Gen 2-3 is clear (see Gen 6:9, 17:1).

vs 17.  cast you to the ground. Expulsion from the heavenly garden.

 

In fact, the commentary continues explaining the subsequent verses as related to the history of Israel, against the seven nations under judgment here, Sidon and Tyre, etc. There was not one reference to Satan in these notes!  It appears some modern biblical scholars are re-examining traditional interpretation and are more objective and careful in their interpretation of verses within the larger context and true to the progression of thought leading to the isolated “proof texts”.

 

With that in mind, please read the same verses in the Hebrew translation below and again, notice how verse 13 is translated:

 
Ezekiel 28:1-19
[AST] –
1 The word of HASHEM came to me, saying:
2 Son of Man, say to the prince of Tyre:
Thus said the Lord HASHEM/ELOHIM:
Because your heart has grown proud
and you have said, ‘I am a god:
I occupy the seat of God
in the heart of the seas!’ –
but you are a man and not a god,
though you set your heart like the heart of God!
3 Are you wiser than Daniel? Does no mystery perplex you?
4 Through your wisdom and discernment you have acquired
wealth for yourself and amassed gold and silver in your treasuries.
5 Through your abundant wisdom in your commerce,
you have increased your wealth,
and your heart became proud with your wealth.
6 Therefore, thus said the Lord HASHEM/ELOHIM:
Because you have set your heart like the heart of God,
7 therefore, behold, I am bringing foreigners upon you,
the fiercest of the nations, and they will draw their swords
against the beauty of your wisdom, and they will defile your splendor.
8 They will bring you down to the grave, and you will die
the death of the slain, in the heart of the seas.
9 Will you say, ‘I am a God,’ before your killer?
You are a man and not a god in the hand of your slayer!
10 You will die the death of the uncircumcised by the hand of foreigners,
for I have spoken – the word of the Lord HASHEM/ELOHIM.
11 The word of HASHEM came to me, saying:
12 Son of Man, take up a lamentation over the king of Tyre.
Say to him: Thus said the Lord HASHEM/ELOHIM:
Are you [Adam] the culmination of perfection,
full of wisdom, perfect in beauty?
13 Were you in Eden, the garden of God;
Was your canopy of every precious stone –
Odem, pitdah, and yahalom; tarshish, shoham,
and yashfeh; sapir, nophech, and barkas – and gold?
The work of your drums and wind instruments was in you;
They were established on the day of your creation.
14 You were a great sheltering cherub,
and it is I [who] granted you this;
You were upon the holy mountain of God;
you walked among fiery stones;
15 Perfect were you in your ways from the day of your creation –
until wrongdoing was found in you.
16 Because of your abundant commerce,
your midst filled with injustice and you sinned;
So I desecrated you from the mountain of God and destroyed you,
O sheltering cherub, from among the fiery stones.
17 Your heart became proud because of your beauty;
You corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor.
So I have thrown you to the ground
and I have set you before kings to gaze upon you.
18 By the multitude of your iniquities, 
by the dishonesty of your commerce,
you desecrated your sanctities;
so I drew out a fire from within you. It consumed you;
thus I made you into ashes upon the earth in the eyes of all who see you.
19 All who knew you among the peoples were astonished over you;
You were a terror, but you shall be no more, forever.
 
In modern lingo, ‘hey emperor without clothes, who do you think you are?’
 


In sum:  Adam, a man . . . king of Tyre, a man . . . angel, a messenger of God . . . .fallen angel, an invention of pagan idolatrous man-made religions which believe in dualism.

 

 

End of discourse.

 

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