June 29 Explore the Bible: Pride, greed and destruction
Jun 26, 2014
By MARK A. RATHEL
The prophets of Israel and Judah preached God’s Word to the people of God; they also preached the message of God to the surrounding Gentile nations. Although the nations failed to receive the revelation of God’s Word, God held the nations accountable for moral principles understood by all people. For example, the prophet Amos pronounce God’s judgment against the nations surrounding Israel due to military brutality, forced enslavement, genocide, and infanticide (killing mothers and the infants in the womb). God reveals a basic understanding of morality through the human conscience (Rom. 2:14); therefore, God holds all people accountable.
Ezekiel condemned the nation of Tyre and its king. Tyre was a coastal Phoenician settlement that developed a prosperous maritime industry. The relationship between Tyre and the Israel had both positive and negative elements. David and Solomon built positive commercial relations with Tyre. Jezebel, the daughter of the Phoenician king, led God’s people into idolatrous practices.
What did Ezekiel teach about the dangers of pride and greed?
First, the prophet described the king of Tyre as displaying selfish, foolish pride (Ez. 28:1-10). The hubris of the king mirrored the pride of the nation. The nature of the king’s pride was a claim of divine status “in his heart.” The basis of the king’s pride is the great wealth that derived from the shipping industry (“heart of the sea”). The king claimed divine status, divine authority and divine wisdom. The king claimed divine wisdom, yet he lacked the wisdom of Daniel. Daniel exhibited true wisdom because the Jewish exile humbly attributed his wisdom to the source of wisdom—God (Dan. 2). Wise people acknowledge wealth and ability as a gift from God.
God proclaimed a judgment of a violent, shameful death for the king. Since the Phoenians practiced circumcision, the phrase “the death of the uncircumcised” describes a shameful death. In history, the Babylonians functioned as the agents of God’s judgment.
Second, the prophet detailed the folly of selfish pride (Ezek. 28:11-15). Conservative Bible scholars debate the identity of the one Ezekiel addressed in this section. Does Ezekiel continue to describe the king of Tyre? In support of this idea is the prophet’s description of the death of the one about whom he spoke (v. 19). Does Ezekiel describe the power behind the throne of Tyre, namely Satan? In support of this idea is the language of “seal of perfection,” presence in the garden of Eden (v. 13), anointed guardian cherub (v. 14), and being cast down to earth (v. 17). The passage is one of the most difficult to understand in the Old Testament, creating a need for interpretive humility.
The main point of the passage is clear. Ezekiel spoke a funeral lament before the death of the king. Rather than extolling the positive characteristics, the prophet described the prideful arrogance of the king. Pride corrupts the core of the person, whether a king, Satan or a 21st-century person. Many theologians identify pride as the foundational sin of Satan and humans.
Third, the prophet predicted the result of selfish pride (Ezek. 28:16-19). The Lord judged the sinful pride of Satan. Likewise, He judged the sinful pride of the king of Tyre. Ezekiel described the nature of the king’s sin and the nature of the judgment in three parallels. He identified the sins associated with prideful arrogance: violence (v. 16), corruption (v. 17) and religious profaning (v. 18). Pride elevates the individual above others resulting in potential violence because pride considers others of less worth. Pride corrupts the wisdom or thought processes.
The sin of pride contains its own judgment. The fire of judgment comes from within (v. 18). Pride consumes one from inside out. Pride leads to religious profaning.
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