Ezekiel 28:1—Who is the prince of Tyre?

Problem: Many conservative scholars equate the prince of Tyre with Satan. However, such statements as “you are a man, and not a god” (28:2) indicate that this is a reference to a human prince, not to Satan. Who is the prince of Tyre?

Solution: Evangelical scholars hold differing positions concerning the identity of the prince of Tyre. Some hold that the language in chapter 28 is highly poetic with figurative expressions that are designed to emphasize the arrogance of the prince of Tyre. These commentators understand this to be a human prince, although there is difference of opinion about exactly who this man would be. Some identify this prince as Ethbaal III who ruled from about 591 to about 572 b.c. Others identify him as Ithobal II, who may have been the same person under a different name. Some commentators propose that the language cannot be applied to any specific person, but is a personification of the city itself. The “king” serves as a symbol of the government and the people as a whole.

Other commentators propose that verses 1–11 refer to the human prince, but that verses 11–19 refer to Satan. Those who advocate this view point to the change of reference from “the prince (nagid) of Tyre” in verse 2, to “the king (melek) of Tyre” in verse 12. This change of reference from prince to king, coupled with such statements as “you were in Eden” (v. 13), “you were the anointed cherub” (v. 14), and “you were perfect in your ways from the day you were created” (v. 15) may indicate that this section is about Satan. To the contrary, others simply understand these phrases as hyperbolic (literary exaggeration) references to the human prince and king.

All conservative commentators agree, however, that chapter 28 is a prophecy against the city of Tyre and its ruler, whoever that might be. This ruler exalted himself above God and deserved the judgment that God would bring upon him. Although the specific identity of the prince and king of Tyre is a debated issue, the application of this passage extends to all those who exalt themselves in pride and arrogance against God, whether they be kings, demons, or common people. And, of course, Satan himself is the ultimate example of all such proud creatures (cf. 1 Tim. 3:6).

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This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.