“Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee.” — Ezekiel 28:17
Excess and moderation are words that can describe two different modes of living. The word excess is defined as “an amount of something that is more than necessary, permitted, or desirable; undue or immoderate indulgence.” Moderation, on the other hand, reflects avoidance of such extremes and a policy of “enough is enough.” As parents of teenagers, we sometimes wrestled with helping the young adults in our household understand the value of moderation in a variety of areas.
For example, one of our children concluded that his high school classmates were more affluent than we were, based upon the vehicles owned by their families. He declared that we were “poor” because the car we drove was of lesser value than the ones they drove. We assured him that God had provided very well for us, and that our vehicle fit in our budget, met our needs satisfactorily, and provided us with a reliable method of getting around. Why should we spend many thousands of dollars more to drive a status symbol? Today, we smile inwardly as we observe our children, who are now adults, passing on the same principles of moderate living to their children.
The prince of Tyre did not exemplify moderation. He had advantages beyond most people in the world of his time, and had a very high opinion of himself to go along with those advantages. In today’s text, we read that his heart was “lifted up.” He arrogantly considered himself as a god and assumed that he had become wealthy by his own wisdom and understanding. Rather than applying principles of humility and moderation to his life and kingdom, he thought of himself as wiser than Daniel, and gathered gold and silver into his treasuries. He chose to live in excess, pridefully elevating himself and his position to the level of a god.
It is noteworthy that God did not condemn the prince of Tyre for his riches. His own wisdom had brought him wealth, but that led to vanity and self-importance, and this inordinate pride drew God’s judgment.
Whatever our monetary resources, material possessions, or position in life, we must never allow pride or excess to rule us. Instead, we want to exemplify humility and moderation, understanding that everything we have comes from the hand of God. Our desire should be to elevate and honor Him, not ourselves!
Today’s text concludes the proclamation of judgment on Tyre that is recorded in Ezekiel 26:1 through 28:19; this portion is directed at “the prince of Tyrus” or “the king of Tyrus.” (In the Book of Ezekiel, “prince” and “king” are used interchangeably, as indicated in verses 2 and 12 of this chapter.) Many historians, including the Jewish historian Josephus, have identified this man as Ithobaal III. Ithobaal’s Hebrew name was Ethbaal, which means “with Baal” — he was one of numerous rulers of Tyre whose names referred to Baal, their god of weather and fertility. Josephus wrote that Nebuchadnezzar besieged Tyre for thirteen years, with at least seven of those years occurring during the reign of Ithobaal.1 The fact that he survived the siege undoubtedly added to his feelings of superiority and invulnerability that brought God’s condemnation.
Verses 1-10 of chapter 28 focus on the ruler’s sin of pride. The prince said of himself, “I am a god” (verse 2) and gloried in his supposed wisdom and greatness. Because he had an exalted opinion of himself and thought he was invincible, judgment was proclaimed against him. This judgment would come at the hand of strangers from “the terrible of the nations” (verse 7) who would destroy the beauty and splendor of Tyre. The “pit” in verse 8 is the standard Old Testament term indicating the place where lost souls go after death.
In verses 11-19, the lamentation shifts from a description of the pride that resulted in judgment on the prince of Tyre to a lament that contains many allusions to the sin in the Garden of Eden. Bible scholars interpret these verses in a variety of ways. Some feel that a figurative parallel is being drawn in these verses between the pride and overthrow of Ithobaal to the pride and fall of Satan from Heaven. Others propose that the highly figurative language in these verses was based on a paradise story of that era. Still others see it as a literal description of the fall of Satan.
However this passage is interpreted, the key point is that the lament contains a stern warning against pride. As a priest, Ezekiel must have recoiled at the audacity of a king elevating himself to god-like status when he was a created being like everyone else.
III. The condemnation of the nations
E. The condemnation of Tyre
5. The fall of the prince of Tyre (28:1-10)
a. The cause (28:1-5)
b. The course (28:6-10)
6. The lament for the king of Tyre (28:11-19)
a. His past position (28:11-15)
b. His punishment (28:16-19)
Let us ask God to reveal and remove any hint of pride and desire for excess from our hearts, and help us cultivate godly humility and moderation.
1. Josephus, Flavius, and William Whiston. 1860. Flavius Josephus against Apion. Philadelphia: D. McKay