Thoughts on Ezekiel 28:14, ff.

“You were the anoint­ed cherub who cov­ers…” begins this famous pas­sage, and much has been said in an attempt to under­stand it.

Most com­mon, in my expe­ri­ence, is the belief that the prophet shifts focus from the king of Tyre to the pow­er behind him, Satan, who is pre­sumed to be the anoint­ed cherub who cov­ers. This is a sim­i­lar thing to when Jesus rebuked Peter, “Get thee behind Me, Satan,” speak­ing beyond Peter to the influ­ence of his words.

Assum­ing the anoint­ed cherub to be Satan, a his­to­ry of Satan is cre­at­ed work­ing back­ward from the pas­sage to sup­port the idea. How­ev­er, with­out the assump­tion that Satan is in view (he is nev­er called anoint­ed, a cherub, or a guard/coverer that I am aware of else­where), anoth­er inter­st­ing char­ac­ter shows up…

…That of an actu­al cherub that actu­al­ly guard­ed along with oth­ers of his kind. “So [God] drove out the man; and He placed cheru­bim at the east of the gar­den of Eden…” (Gen. 3:24, NKJV).

Is it pos­si­ble that one of these cheru­bim sinned? The Ezekiel pas­sage men­tions vio­lence. Is not a guard in a posi­tion to use vio­lence? Is not the guard of earth­’s great­est trea­sure in a posi­tion of hav­ing very valu­able mer­chan­dise to trade? Ezekiel men­tions this as well.

It makes more sense to me than the Satan the­o­ry, though there are still ques­tions to be raised. Ezekiel says that the king of Tyre is this anoint­ed cherub. He does­n’t say “is like” or any­thing else which would hint at a com­par­i­son or metaphor.

But what if the lan­guage is fig­u­ra­tive? What if the king is being com­pared to the anoint­ed cheru­bim which cov­er the ark of the covenant? The king, after all, has a lofty posi­tion, one of nobil­i­ty and hon­or. And in the descrip­tion of his fall, he would seem to be a type of the com­ing Beast men­tioned in Revelation.

I’m not entire­ly con­vinced of any of these, though I like the gar­den guard the­o­ry the best. Though I can­not make the con­nec­tion between Tyre and the gar­den, and it is quite the stretch to think that the king of Tyre is a lit­er­al cherub that once guard­ed (or, cov­ered) the gar­den of Eden.

I am very hes­i­tant to spir­i­tu­al­ize the pas­sage, as some are apt to do. The Bible is way too awe­some to sap it of lit­er­al mean­ing when­ev­er the chance arrises.

How have you under­stood Ezekiel 28:14 and the sur­round­ing con­text? Have you heard any oth­er ideas than the ones list­ed above?

4 thoughts on “Thoughts on Ezekiel 28:14, ff.”

  1. Hmmm. Nev­er heard of any of those the­o­ries so I can’t con­tribute there. But one thing I heard once was, “If a pas­sage can be tak­en lit­er­al­ly it should be.” That’s to say that usu­al­ly Scrip­ture should be tak­en lit­er­al­ly unless it is absurd to do so. An exam­ple being in Matthew when Jesus tells the dis­ci­ples that, “If your hand caus­es you to sin cut it off, and if your eye caus­es you to sin pluck it out.” It would be absurd to take that lit­er­al­ly because we’d all be with­out a hand an blind in one eye.

    As for the pas­sage you men­tioned, I’m not sure what I think about it just yet. You’ve caused me to think more about it though :).

    1. if hav­ing one less hand and one less eye allows you to free your­self from sin, then it sounds like a pret­ty good trade-off to me.

  2. I would love to take it lit­er­al­ly. I try to be lit­er­al as much as pos­si­ble unless the con­text indi­cates it is a sim­i­le, metaphor, hyper­bole, para­ble, or oth­er such things.

    Lit­er­al­ly, though, the king of Tire then would be called a cherub, which else­where are described as crea­tures with four faces, wheels, etc. It would be easy enough if the word “like” or “as” were insert­ed in there… “You are like the anoint­ed cherub that cov­ers,” would make all kinds of sense.

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Rick Beckman