In Ezekiel 28, I have understood that this is referring to the King of Tyre. However, I’ve heard parts of it referred to as describing Satan’s fall, especially verses 11 and following. Could this be a dual meaning in this chapter?
Let’s read together verses 11-19. First of all, the context is set in verse 1 that Ezekiel is prophesying regarding the king of Tyre. This is the plain meaning of this verse and we have no other scriptures that would indicate that we should take the passage in any other way. Verses 1-10 talk about the pride of the king of Tyre and describe him as one who has “set thy heart as the heart of God.” In other words, he has put himself in the place of God. Due to this pride, he was going to be destroyed and killed. Verses 1-10 are the clear prophecy regarding Tyre. Verses 11-19 constitute a lamentation regarding the king of Tyre. The lamentation is a figure of language that compares and contrasts both the blessings of God as the result of righteous behavior with the curse of God as a result of wicked behavior. The conclusion is that the person being lamented either has fallen or will fall as a result of his sin. Having this in mind, when we read verses 11-19 we must understand that this is figurative language describing the former blessing of the king of Tyre when he was being faithful to God. Remember that the king of Tyre, at one time, was a friend of David and helped to build the temple. The passage goes on to describe the subsequent ruin of the king after losing faith and putting his trust into material possessions. We should also keep in mind that Ezekiel is not describing just one kingship, but a dynasty of kings. The expression “king of Tyre” doesn’t refer to just one man, but to the succession of kings that governed Tyre.
The figurative language that Ezekiel uses describes the great blessings that were once shed on this dynasty. These blessings were comparable to Eden, God’s garden. Although we don’t know much regarding God’s relationship with non-Jewish people in the Old Testament, we know that God still observed them and extended salvation to them. In this regard, the king of Tyre was like the anointed cherub; he walked in the mountain of God and in the midst of the stones of fire–all figurative language describing a relationship with God that was approved. Notice verse 15 says that he was “perfect in his ways.” Again, this emphasizes that a right relationship with God was maintained for a while. But then the kings started to choose wickedness over righteousness and lost their good relationship with God. This was due both to sinful commerce and pride on the part of the kings of Tyre. Notice the relationship changed. He was cast out of the mountain and destroyed so that he could no longer approach God to have a relationship with Him. We have additional language describing the pride of the king of Tyre in verse 17. In verses 18 and 19 we have the final promise of destruction and bewailment of those who knew the king in his former glory.
This is highly figurative language and as such we should be careful only to interpret it in light of clear biblical teaching. Verses 1 and 11 are clear that this is speaking regarding the king of Tyre. In the absence of other clear Biblical teaching regarding Satan’s fall, it would be a very unwise course of action fraught with questionable hermeneutics to declare this scripture as a description of the fall of Satan.
There are some, however, who do interpret this passage in this way. Those who do are they who have a point to prove regarding their doctrine of Premillennialism. They are eager to go forth into such highly figurative passages such as this and apply them readily to Satan in order to justify their fanciful interpretations of the book of Revelation particularly in regard to the 1000 year reign of Christ on earth. It did not take me very long to find a reference to this 1000 years when looking at one of their commentaries. Those who interpret this passage in this way argue for the following things:
1) That the mention of Eden in this passage is referring to a literal place upon the earth before God created the Garden of Eden we read about in Genesis 1.
2) That the mention of this person being a cherub of God meant that he was literally a cherub or an angel in the presence of God.
3) That the “mountain of God” refers to a literal pre-Adamic kingdom upon the earth over which Satan ruled upon a literal throne.
4) That the expression “cast to the ground” in verse 17 means that he was literally cast out of heaven.
Such an exegesis of this passage of scripture simply cannot be taken seriously as it completely ignores the immediate context regarding the destruction of the city of Tyre (chapters 26 and 27) and the clear language that chapter 28 is referring to the fall of the king of Tyre. It also ignores the clear statement in verse 12 regarding this section of scripture being a lamentation–a type of a figure of speech. In other words, it is not to be taken literally, but is figurative in nature.
It also ignores one of the primary accusations against the king–material corruption. Verses16 and 18 state that it is because of merchandising that the king was being brought down and his subsequent pride as a result of the great material wealth that came and went through the city of Tyre. Why would Satan be concerned with material wealth if he was a cherub or angel of God?
We better stay with the clear teaching of scripture in the immediate context as to what these things are referring. Now there are some lessons to be learned from this passage regarding what God thinks about materialism and pride. Certainly these lessons could be applied to anyone who would lift themselves up as God and act in such a way so as to be materialistic and boastful so that he no longer shows a dependency upon God. In this sense, as an application of the lessons that we can learn from the fall of the king of Tyre, we can apply this passage to anyone who would be prideful and materialistic, and that may very well apply to Satan. However, it is fanciful to say that this passage contains DIRECT references to the history of Satan.