If you wanted to get a good picture of what happens when a leader lets power go to his head so that he considers himself God to the people, one good example would be the king of Tyre. Of course, there are many kings in the Bible who let pride and power be there downfall. But the king of Tyre was a true tyrant who typifies another coming ruler who will appear in the last days before Jesus’ triumphant return.
Chapters 26 through 28 of Ezekiel are about God’s judgment on the ancient Phoenician city of Tyre (now Lebanon) and its turn against God’s people, Israel. More specifically, Ezekiel includes a lament over the king of Tyre (591-573 BC) for exalting himself above the one, true God. Likewise, in chapter 28, God pronounces judgment upon nearby Sidon because of its treatment against Israel (28:20-24). However, God promises that a time will come when he will rescue Israel from her enemies and restore his chosen nation securely to their land (28:25-26).
What brought on God’s judgment upon Tyre and its king, in the first place? At one time, Tyre was an ally of Israel. King Hiram I (980-947 BC), who was on friendly terms with King David and King Solomon, provided cedar-trees, carpenters, and masons who built David a house (2 Samuel 5:11). After David died, Hiram sent an embassy to Solomon (1 Kings 5:1) which prompted Solomon to arrange that Hiram send him timber of cedar and fir from Lebanon. The wood was used by Solomon for building the Temple of God on the Holy Mountain of Zion, Jerusalem. In addition, the Sidonians who were “servants of Hiram” (1 Kings 5:6) and the “stone-squarers” (1 Kings 5:18) were men of Gebal (modern Jerbail) north of modern Beirut (Pictorial Bible Dictionary, “Hiram”).
As a result, God abundantly blessed the nation for being a blessing to Israel just as God said he would do in accordance with his promise to faithful Abraham many centuries earlier: “I will bless them that bless thee…” (Genesis 12:3). The Pictorial Bible Dictionary reports, “Both Solomon and Hiram were Semites and keen business men. Solomon not only supplied Hiram with vast quantities of wheat and olive oil annually for food (1 Kings 5:11), but he surrendered to Hiram 20 ‘cities’ of Galilee (9:10-13).” (ibid). Even though Hiram was not pleased when Solomon gave a certain nickname to these cities, the two friends built a navy, supplied with shipmen, who made expeditions, and delivered exotic goods from far away lands (1 Kings 9:28; 10:22). (ibid.) Indeed, those were good, productive, peaceful times.
In the centuries that followed, however, relations broke down between Israel and Tyre. Just as human nature usually reveals, when blessings abound that’s when evil starts to take over. Men’s hearts turn corrupt as they allow pride to overtake humility. That’s when they turn from the one true living God, and “serve the creature rather than the Creator that made them,” (Romans 1:24-32).
Through the Prophet Ezekiel, God rebukes Tyre and it’s tyrant king in the form of a lament, a passionate expression of grief or sorrow. (Oxford Dictionary) The city, once allied with Israel, was now gloating because it saw Jerusalem’s downfall as an opportunity for gain (26:1-2). The leader and their inhabitants were in serious error thinking that the beautiful city, strategically sitting on a rock island, safely protected them against any invasion. God was therefore going to cast judgment on Tyre, thus keeping true to his Word concerning those who opposed Israel: “…and I will curse them that curseth thee,” (Gen. 12:3b).
Though the city and its king were riding high in their haughtiness, Tyre would eventually be brought down low to face its own defeat and eventual destruction starting with one named, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon (26:7-14). Tyre would also become a spoil for other nations like Assyria, Egypt and Greece. Alexander built a causeway and took the city. It became as the prophet recorded, “‘…a place for the spreading of nets in the midst of the sea, for I have spoken,’ declares the LORD God, ‘and she will become a spoil for the nations,'” (26:5).
The lament over the impending doom of Tyre is a detailed description of what happens when a nation goes against God and his people. The cry of the LORD is, “‘O Tyre, you have said, ‘I am perfect in beauty,’” (27:3). Yes, it was a magnificent merchant city where many nations from all over the world traded and transacted business. The economy was booming and great riches were gained. But all of it would be lost because the people were lost in their own vanity and self-sufficiency. Naturally, their trading partners would turn against them. So God says to Tyre, “‘All the inhabitants of the coastlands are appalled at you, and their kings are horribly afraid; they are troubled in countenance. The merchants among the people hiss at you; you have become terrified, and you will be no more,’” (27:35-36).
Nations that go down to destruction are usually led by leaders who do not regard Israel as the people God has chosen to bring blessings upon the earth. The king of Tyre was one of these people. In fact, he was so conceited and arrogant that he thought of himself as God. God inspired Ezekiel to write, “Son of man, say to the leader [ruler, prince] 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 [God], in the heart of the seas’ yet you are a man and not God, although you make your heart like the heart of God…’” (28:2). He thought of himself wiser than the wisest man, having amassed riches all on his own power, thinking that everyone and everything revolved around him. No one could compare to him before or after for, in his heart, he was higher than God himself! (This is also reminiscent of the king of Babylon, Isaiah 14:4, 13-15 ).
Who was this king, anyway? According to historical data, the leader is named Ithobaal III (591-573 BC). He is reported to be the king mentioned in Ezekiel 28:2 at the time of the fall of Jerusalem. (NIV Archaeological Study Bible, An Illustrated Walk Through Biblical History and Culture, as cited in Wikipedia)
What is significant about this king is that his name, also spelled as Ethbaal, is found in First Kings 16:31. He is referred to as the king of Sidon but the historian, Josephus, also calls him a king of Tyrians as well as the Sidonians. His name literally means “with Baal” which gives you an idea of his inclination toward idolatry. He is the father of wicked Jezebel who also promoted idol worship in Israel. She was the wife of king Ahab who, according to First Kings 16:30, “…did more evil in the sight of the LORD more than all who were before him.” So, you can get a pretty good picture of the family background stemming from king Ethbaal’s notorious reputation.
Considering his role in Tyre’s downfall, it’s no wonder that God does not have good words to say about him and his self exaltation. In a vividly poetic way, Ezekiel goes on to record another lamentation over the king of Tyre in 28:11-19. He says to the prophet, “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 beauty,”‘” (v. 1). This reference to the king of Tyre is the same “prince” or “ruler” in verse 2. The Greek Septuagint Version (GSV) reads, “Son of man, take up a lamentation for the prince of Tyre and say to him….”
In a tone of sarcasm, the king is spoken to in the way he thinks of himself: “full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.” God places him “in the delight of the paradise of God,” literally rendered in Hebrew, “in Eden the garden of God,” (v. 13). Obviously, the king himself wasn’t literally in Eden. The garden of Eden, in this case, is used metaphorically just as it is used in connection with the King of Egypt and Assyria in Ezekiel 31. These were also enemies of Israel who would also succumb under God’s judgment. Assyria was once “a cedar of Lebanon” (v. 3), “beautiful in greatness” (v. 7), “No tree in God’s garden could compare with it in its beauty,” (v. 8d). God says, “I made it beautiful with the multitude of its branches; and all the trees of Eden [other nations?] which were in the garden of God, were jealous of it,” (v. 9).
God said that the king of Egypt would end up like the haughty king of Assyria and be brought down from “its tops in the clouds.” “I will give it into the hand of a despot of the nations; he will thoroughly deal with it. According to its wickedness I have driven it away,” (vss. 10-11). [NOTE: Ezekiel also refers to the garden of Eden in conjunction with Israel’s future and the restoration of the land: “And they [other nations] will say, ‘This desolate land has become like the garden of Eden….’” (36:35)].
In like manner, God would deal with the king of Tyre and his nation who once dwelt in productivity and prosperity like the garden of Eden. As long as it remained an ally of Israel, the king and his people would be overwhelmingly blessed, which it was. But when they turned against God’s people and became self-exalted and proud, the king of Tyre would be driven away from his paradise like God did to Adam and Eve when he set cherubim to guard the entrance of the garden to keep them out of paradise for good (Gen. 3:24).
Interestingly, while some translations read, “You [king of Tyre] are the anointed cherub who covers [lit., “guards”]” in 28:14, the Septuagint says, “From the day thou wast created thou wast with the cherub….” In verse 16, which says “…and I have destroyed you, O covering [lit., guardian] cherub, from the stones of fire” (New American Standard Bible, NASB), the Septuagint puts the Word of the LORD to the king of Tyre this way: “Of the abundance of thy merchandise (27:24-27) thou hast filled thy storehouses with its iniquity and hast sinned: therefore thou hast been cast down wounded from the mount of God, and the cherub has brought thee out of the midst of the stones of fire.” According to this version, the king of Tyre was not the anointed cherub, per se, but the man (28:2) who was, in type, like the first man Adam who was provided the cherub to keep him from re-entering his own garden of beauty (27:4).
In 28:13, God continues to say to the king, “…thou has bound upon thee every precious stone…” (GSV). According to Jamieson-Faucette-Brown Commentary,
So in Eden (Genesis 2:12), “gold, bdellium, and the onyx stone.” So the king of Tyre was arrayed in jewel-bespangled robes after the fashion of Oriental monarchs. The nine precious stones here mentioned answer to nine of the twelve (representing the twelve tribes) in the high priest’s breastplate (Exodus 39:10-13; Revelation 21:14, 19-21). Of the four rows of three in each, the third is omitted in the Hebrew, but is supplied in the LXX [Septuagint].
The “precious stones” and the reference to the king of Tyre who “walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire” (v. 14) alludes to his standing prior to turning against God and his holy nation. “Thou wast upon the holy mountain of God” and “thou wast in the stones of fire” (v. 14) reminds us of the shekinah glory of God that was seen by Moses, Nadab, and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel on Mount Sinai when God gave the ten commandments, written on stone, to Moses: Exodus 24:9-18. “And to the eyes of the sons of Israel the appearance of the glory of the LORD was like a consuming fire on the mountain top,” (v. 17, NASB). When Tyre’s leaders honored and respected Israel and the Law of God, they were in a manner of speaking, walking in the midst of the “stones of fire.” But when the king of Tyre turned against Israel and God’s Law, then the LORD would in a sense remove him from “the mountain of God.”
All of this pronouncement of judgment against Tyre and its king is significant to believers for it parallels future events concerning another “king” or leader who will set himself up as God before the coming of Christ. According to Bible prophecy, a world leader commonly known as the Antichrist, will make a seven-year covenant or agreement with Israel. But halfway through it, he will break the covenant and cause great desolation upon the nation (see Daniel 9:27). This is predicted to happen “at the time of the end” before Jesus returns.
Just at the king of Tyre claimed to sit on the seat of God claiming that he is God, so will this world leader. Note what the Prophet Daniel recorded: “Then the king will do as he pleases, and he will exalt and magnify himself above every god, and will speak monstrous things against the God of gods; and he will prosper until the indignation is finished, for that which is decreed will be done,” (Daniel 11:36). Evidently, he will fulfill what they say about any leader that is puffed up with power and pride: “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
At first, he will come in as though he is a great friend and ally of Israel. He will arrange an agreement with other nations for Israel to return to temple worship and animal sacrifices (Dan. 9:27) like the days of old. In Second Thessalonians this “man of lawlessness” will literally put his seat or throne in the Temple of God that the Jews will evidently rebuild at that time. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Thessalonian church,
Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God. (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4)
There will be an apostasy or “falling away” of the Christian faith. With the growing trend toward permissiveness, immorality, socialism, and dependency on government rather than God, these signs point to the times Jesus said would prevail before he appears in glory from heaven. And when the man of lawlessness is revealed, at the breaking of the covenant with Israel, then we’ll know how close we are to Christ’s second coming. Jesus stated that when “the abomination of desolation” comes as Daniel 9:27 prophesied (Matthew 24:15; Mark 13:14; Luke 19:20-24) then know that his coming is very close, “right at the door,” (Matt. 24:33).
The Good News is that just as God brought down the mighty king of Tyre, so will he do to the man of lawlessness, as well as all his followers, when he sends his Son to earth someday (Zechariah 14:1-11). Paul wrote,
Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness. (2 Thess. 2:8-12; also Rev. 13:1-18; 14:9-12; 19:20-21)
Here’s the Bluegrass Brethren singing, “We’ve A Story to Tell to the Nations”: https://youtu.be/UbPHxRKNMP8
Good News to YOU!