|Who is the “anointed covering cherub”?|
The dirge against the King of Tyre found at Ezekiel 28:12-18 has traditionally been interpreted as comparing him to the pre-rebel Satan, called an “anointed covering cherub.”
However, the LXX, as pointed out in the NWT-Ref Bible footnotes, presents a slightly different comparison. It says the King of Tyre was in the Garden of Eden with the anointed covering cherub (28:14) and that he was expelled by the cherub (28:16). Thus, it appears the LXX version has the King of Tyre being compared to Adam, not Satan, and associates the cherub with the faithful cherubs blocking the way into the garden seen in Genesis 3:24.
As mentioned, the NWT-Ref Bible footnotes show this to be an alternate way of handling the Hebrew text as seen in the LXX, and even the Syriac:
28:14 You are the [“You are the,” MTVg; by a different vowel pointing, “With the,” in agreement with LXXSy and Arabic.] anointed cherub that is covering, and I have set you [LXX, “With the cherub I set you”; Sy, “You happened to be with the anointed cherub that is covering, and I set you”]. On the holy mountain of God you proved to be. In the midst of fiery stones you walked about. 28:16b I shall destroy you, O cherub that is covering,[ LXX, “the cherub led you away.”] from the midst of the fiery stones.
Now if we incorporate those footnotes into the main text, we would have this reading:
28:14 With the anointed cherub that is covering I have set you. On the holy mountain of God you proved to be. In the midst of fiery stones you walked about. 28:16b I shall destroy you. The cherub led you away from the midst of the fiery stones.
This harmonizes with LXX Bibles in English:
28:14 From the day that thou wast created thou wast with the cherub: I set thee on the holy mount of God; thou wast in the midst of the stones of fire. 28:16b 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.The Apostle’s Bible
28:14 From the day that you were created you were with the cherub; I set you on the holy mount of God; you were in the midst of the stones of fire. 28:16b Therefore you have been cast down wounded from the mount of God, and the cherub has brought you out of the midst of the stones of fire.Apostolic Bible Polyglot
28:14 From which day you were created and were carefully prepared with the cherub being anointed by God, and encamping in the tent, even I put you on [mount the holy] of God; you existed among the midst of the stones of fire. 28:16b And were wounded from the mountain of God, and the overshadowing cherub led you from out of the midst of the stones of fire.New English Translation of the Septuagint, NETS:
28:13b-14 From the day you were created, I placed you with the cherub in a holy, divine mountain; you were born in the midst of fiery stones. 28:16b And you sinned and were wounded from God’s mountain, and the cherub drove you away from the midst of fiery stones.
New English Translation, NET Bible
28:14 I placed you there with an anointed guardian cherub; you were on the holy mountain of God; you walked about amidst fiery stones. 28:16b I defiled you and banished you from the mountain of God – the guardian cherub expelled you from the midst of the stones of fire.Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition, RSVCE
28:14 With an anointed guardian cherub I placed you;[a: Ezekiel 28:14 Heb uncertain] you were on the holy mountain of God; in the midst of the stones of fire you walked. 28:16b so I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God, and the guardian cherub drove you out from the midst of the stones of fire.New American Bible (Revised Edition), NABRE
28:14 With a cherub I placed you; I put you on the holy mountain of God, where you walked among fiery stones. 28:16b Therefore I banished you from the mountain of God; the cherub drove you out from among the fiery stones.Contemporary English Version, CEV
28:14 I appointed a winged creature to guard your home [a: I appointed a winged creature to guard your home: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.] on my holy mountain, where you walked among gems that dazzled like fire. 28:16b So I forced you to leave my mountain, and the creature that had been your protector now chased you away from the gems.As noted, the NET Bible has footnotes explaining these translation choices that compares the King of Tyre with Adam, his fall and banishment from Eden. In this case, the cherub is not Satan but is associated with the cherubs who blocked the way back into the garden. These footnotes are:
 Heb “you (were) an anointed cherub that covers and I placed you.” In the Hebrew text the ruler of Tyre is equated with a cherub, and the verb “I placed you” is taken with what follows (“on the holy mountain of God”). However, this reading is problematic. The pronoun “you” at the beginning of verse 14 is feminine singular in the Hebrew text; elsewhere in this passage the ruler of Tyre is addressed with masculine singular forms. It is possible that the pronoun is a rare (see Deut 5:24; Num 11:15) or defectively written (see 1 Sam 24:19; Neh 9:6; Job 1:10; Ps 6:3; Eccl 7:22) masculine form, but it is more likely that the form should be repointed as the preposition “with” (see the LXX). In this case the ruler of Tyre is compared to the first man [Adam], not to a cherub. If this emendation is accepted, then the verb “I placed you” belongs with what precedes and concludes the first sentence in the verse. It is noteworthy that the verbs in the second and third lines of the verse also appear at the end of the sentence in the Hebrew text. The presence of a conjunction at the beginning of “I placed you” is problematic for the proposal, but it may reflect a later misunderstanding of the syntax of the verse. For a defense of the proposed emendation, see L. C. Allen, Ezekiel (WBC), 2:91.
 Heb “and I expelled you, O guardian cherub.” The Hebrew text takes the verb as first person and understands “guardian cherub” as a vocative, in apposition to the pronominal suffix on the verb. However, if the emendation in verse 14a is accepted (see the note above), then one may follow the LXX here as well and emend the verb to a third person perfect. In this case the subject of the verb is the guardian cherub. See L. C. Allen, Ezekiel (WBC), 2:91.When reading this dirge, we have to keep in mind that it is directed to the King of Tyre. Yet, there is also a comparison to a person in the Garden of Eden. Having the subject change in verse 14 to being directed to Satan seems to present a disruption in the flow of the dirge, along with the description of being anointed. This produces questions like: Was Satan really anointed? May we conclude that God stationed a cherub in Eden that became Satan? These are interesting questions that seem to distract from the flow of the dirge.
However, if we follow the Adam interpretation, then the anointed covering cherub reference reminds us of the Temple-like references of Eden (entrance to the east, gold and onyx, and the presence of covering cherubs). Verses 13 and 15 could harmonize with Adam as well as Satan. In verse 16 the Adam interpretation would remind us of the cherubs blocking the way into the garden. Verse 17 is probably describing the Tyrian king with his “beaming” (NWT) or “glorious” (RNWT) splendor. (Compare with the related Isaiah 14:12, where the King of Babylon is called a “shining one.”)
In summary, the Adam interpretation in my view is free of the apparent disruption the Satan interpretation presents in verse 14, and is free of the questions about Satan that may be troubling to some. The Adam interpretation also has one advantage of adding another Temple-like reminder of cherubs being holy guardians like they were for the Temple.
By way of comparison, Isaiah 14:12 was once popularly thought to be about Satan’s fall, even revealing his pre-rebel name of Lucifer. Now though with increased reading comprehension and Bible scholarship, we know that Lucifer is a mistranslation and that this verse applies to the king of Babylon (as identified in Isaiah 14:4) and not to Satan. Similarly, Ezekiel 28:13-18 has also been popularly thought to be about Satan’s fall, even revealing his pre-rebel rank of cherub. But with increased Bible scholarship, this may also fall to the wayside with Lucifer. The King of Tyre evidently is being compared to Adam, and his fall from divine favor to Adam’s fall from divine favor. Thus while the pre-rebel Satan may have had the rank of cherub, we cannot safely use the dirge against the King of Tyre as proof.
When Satan began
If Ezekiel 28 was used to prove that Satan was in Eden when he began, then how do we know when he actually began? He still began in Eden, and we do not need Ezekiel 28 to show that, for we have Jesus’ clear words at John 8:44, that Satan “was a murderer when he began” and that “he is a liar and the father of the lie.” This is clearly referring to his deception in the Garden of Eden resulting in the first murders.
 Jehovah’s Witnesses first pointed out the LXX variants in the 1953 book New Heavens and a New Earth, pages 80-81. After noting the alternate translation of the LXX, it stated: “Our determining whether this is the correct reading of Ezekiel’s prophecy against the king of Tyre waits upon the discovery of an older Hebrew manuscript of Ezekiel’s prophecy that will agree with the Septuagint Version (LXX). In the meantime we shall hold to the traditional Masoretic Hebrew text, with which the Latin Vulgate agrees.” However, as noted in the NET Bible footnotes, this is not about manuscript primacy (LXX vs. MT), but about translation, specifically about repointing a pronoun. Corroborating this is the comment from the CEV, that this is a “difficult Hebrew text.” So this is a translation issue, not a manuscript issue.
- Is Satan Lucifer? jimspace3000.blogspot.com/2010/10/is-satan-lucifer-how-can-this-be-since.html
- From the Fall to the Ascent jimspace3000.blogspot.com/2011/04/from-fall-to-ascent-two-people-handsome.html