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Who is the Prince of Tyre?

Question
Is the prince of Tyre Satan? (Ezekiel 28)
Answer
Ezekiel 28:2 (NKJV) Son of man, say to the prince of Tyre, "Thus says the Lord God: 'Because your heart is lifted up, and you say, 'I am a god, I sit in the seat of gods, in the midst of the seas,' yet you are a man, and not a god, though you set your heart as the heart of a god..."

Notice, "But you are a mere mortal and not a god, though you think you are as wise as a god." As one may see, this text in Ezekiel is speaking specifically of a "man" and not Satan, who is a fallen angel. While we are not sure exactly which king (Ethbaal III or Ithobal II), it is nonetheless a man. Ezekiel 28 goes on to announce judgments against Tyre (see Ezek. 26-27). Clearly, the text reveals arrogance and pride that are seen as reasons for divine judgment (Ezek. 27:19; cf. Prov. 6:17-8:13; 16:18).

However, although this text is speaking specifically of a man, some scholars see it implicitly referring to Satan's fall and his judgment. According to them, the application of this passage may extend to "any" - kings, people, demons, and Satan himself (1 Tim. 3:6).

From The New American Commentary:

...[An explanation] is to understand for the background of the lament an account of the fall of Satan not given in Scripture but alluded to elsewhere, especially in Isa 14:12-17. Ezekiel would have been relying on his listeners/readers' familiarity with such an account, and they would have understood the comparison between the fall of Satan and the fall of the king of Tyre. The difficulty of the text makes it unwise to insist upon a particular interpretation, but the latter traditional view appears to the present writer to account best for the language and logic of the passage.

From A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments:

I am a god, I sit in...seat of God...the seas - As God sits enthroned in His heavenly citadel exempt from all injury, so I sit secure in my impregnable stronghold amidst the stormiest elements, able to control them at will, and make them subserve my interests. The language, though primarily here applied to the king of Tyre, as similar language is to the king of Babylon (Is 14:13, 14), yet has an ulterior and fuller accomplishment in Satan and his embodiment in Antichrist (Da 7:25; 2Th 2:4; Rev 13:6). This feeling of superhuman elevation in the king of Tyre was fostered by the fact that the island on which Tyre stood was called "the holy island" [Sanconiathon], being sacred to Hercules, so much so that the colonies looked up to Tyre as the mother city of their religion, as well as of their political existence. The Hebrew for "God" is El, that is, "the Mighty One."

References

Cooper, L. E. The New American Commentary Vol. 17: Ezekiel. In Logos Bible Software. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1994.

Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., Brown, D. A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments. In Logos Bible Software. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997.

Answer by Joseph R. Nally

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (IIIM).