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Bible Commentaries

Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary

Ezekiel 17

Verses 1-10

EZEKIEL - CHAPTER 17

TWO GREAT EAGLES PARABLE

Verses 1-10:

Verse 1 certifies that the word of the Lord came to Ezekiel, directing him to tell, in a riddle and parabolic form, of the future humiliation and exaltation of Israel, 2 Peter 1:20-21.

Verse 2 calls upon him to put forth a riddle, "a dark saying," and speak a parable to the house or nation of Israel. The term "parable" from Hebrew "mashal" corresponds with the Gk. term "parable." It is also called a riddle (Heb chaddah), because of the underlying allusion to the coming fate of Zedekiah, King of Judah, who was seeking an alliance with Egypt, against God’s command, Deuteronomy 17:16.

Verse 3 describes a great eagle, a bird of prey, that Ezekiel saw. It had great, long wings and multi-colored full feathers. It soared into Lebanon, northern Israel, and took for itself the highest branch of the renowned cedar tree, high above the earth. The great eagle, king of the birds, is Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, v. 21. The great wings symbolize the wide spread of his dominion. The long pinions, full of many colored feathers seem to signify the spread of his army to rule over a variety of races and languages throughout his empire. The phrase "come unto Lebanon" seems to refer to Jerusalem with its royal palace so lavishly rich with the red cedars of Lebanon. That he (Nebuchadnezzar) took the "highest branch of the cedar," refers to the taking of Jehoiachin, king of Judah, of the Davidic family, 2 Kings 24:12. Both Nebuchadnezzar and Cyrus, as conquering kings, were compared to an eagle, Jeremiah 46:11; Jeremiah 48:40; Jeremiah 49:22. Moses spoke of God as bearing His people on eagle’s wings, Exodus 19:4; Deuteronomy 32:4.

Verse 4 describes how he (Nebuchadnezzar) cropped off the top of his (Judah’s) "Young twigs," alluding to Jehoiachin, only 18 years of age when he assumed the reigns of government, 2 Kings 24:8; 2 Kings 24:15-16. He was carried away, with his house of Judah, into Babylon, which joins the Persian Gulf, an ancient center of commercial traffic. Self-interest is the very heart of negotiations for politics, commerce, and trade, as well as the source of all wars, James 4:1-2; 1 Timothy 6:10. It was good, profitable business for Nebuchadnezzar to remove Jehoiachin from Judah, where he traded with Egypt, and set in his place a governor over Judah who would trade with Babylon, See? Nahum 3:4; Isaiah 23:15. Thus both politics and trade are referred to as adultery in the Scripture, Revelation 14:8; Revelation 17:2.

Verse 5 relates how God took Israel "the seed of the soil," of Judah, and planted her in a "fruitful field" by "great waters," or many waters, and set it as a "willow tree." The Chaldeans appointed Zedekiah of the old native royal family of Judah, as their subject, to keep his own people under servitude to Babylon, 2 Kings 24:17; Isaiah 44:4. Judaea was a land of brooks and fountains, with willows, Deuteronomy 8:7-9; John 3:23.

Verse 6 explains that this position of Zedekiah’s reign over Judah, while a subject of Nebuchadnezzar, was like a low spreading vine, weak in comparison with the cedar of Lebanon, that symbolized the earlier independent reign of David. The vine (Judah) spread out, but not upward, was not elevated. Thus Zedekiah ruled Judah, as a vassal, for the Chaldeans, and Nebuchadnezzar. He was always compromisingly turned "toward him," (Nebuchadnezzar) but was never elevated.

Verse 7 describes another great eagle, v. 3. She too had "great wings," a wide span of political influence, and many "feathers," though not multi-colored, as the other; She represents Egypt, with whom Judah had been consorting in trade and commerce negotiations and compacts, v. 15. But she was inferior to Babylon at the time, both in royal grandeur and disciplined armies. This vine of Judah attempted to secure closer ties to Egypt because Zedekiah had become tired of the other eagle, Babylon, 2 Kings 24:7; 2 Kings 24:20; 2 Chronicles 36:13. He applied to Egypt for help, hoping to gain independence from the king of Babylon, so as to establish his own independent throne.

Verse 8 indicates that Judah was well planted by great waters, in good soil, that it might "bear good fruit," and exist as a goodly vine. Had Zedekiah kept quiet, not grown greedy, perjured himself, under Nebuchadnezzar, as an hanging vine, he might have continued and prospered for many days more. See the will of God for His church, John 15:16; John 15:27.

Verse 9 directed Ezekiel to speak directly to Judah and Zedekiah. "Shall it prosper?" or "It shall not prosper, shall it?" Was Ezekiel’s message. For God does not make perjury and treason to prosper. He then affirms that Nebuchadnezzar will swoop down upon Jerusalem and Judah to destroy, root up her vine, destroy her fruit, causing her leaves (her hope) to wither, Jeremiah 37:10. It would be done, plucked up by the roots, without the necessity of even any great army, V. 17; 2 Kings 25:7; Jeremiah 34 ch.; Deuteronomy 32:30.

Verse 10 declares that when the east wind (the Chaldean army), touches this vine of Judah she shall wither with the anger of God against her for her sins, Joshua 4:8; Ezekiel 19:12.

Verses 11-21

PARABLES AND RIDDLES INTERPRETED

Verse 11-21:

REBELLION OF ZEDEKIAH AND THE RESULT

Verse 11 begins a formal interpretation of the parables and riddle of verses 1-10, continuing that interpretation through verse 21. It is introduced with the inspirational certification of Ezekiel, as also confirmed, 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21.

Verse 12 asks Ezekiel to explain to the captives in Babylon the meaning of the parables and riddles. He was to tell them that the king of Babylon had gone to Jerusalem and taken the King, Jehoichin and his princes and Zedekiah and transported them all to Babylon, v. 3; 2 Kings 24:11-16; Jer 1 ch.; Jeremiah 29:2.

Verse 13 adds that Nebuchadnezzar had also taken the king’s seed, and made a covenant with him, taken an oath with him, and taken the mighty (the leaders) of the land of Judah, 2 Kings 24:17. The king’s seed was Jehoiachin’s uncle (Mattaniah) whom Nebuchadnezzar made king under the name of Zedekiah, from whom he took an oath of fidelity of service to him, 2 Chronicles 36:13.

Verse 14 explains that the oath, of the covenant that Nebuchadnezzar extracted from Zedekiah was that they could live on the condition that they faithfully or loyally serve him, without revolt. For such loyalty to this heathen king, he and Judah were promised life, protection, and security from other invaders. The betrayal or treason of Zedekiah, against Nebuchadnezzar, in breach of his oath was very base, even for an heathen, Ecclesiastes 5:4-5.

Verse 15 related that he (Zedekiah) however, broke the covenant by sending ambassarors of good will into Egypt to secure "horses and much people," from this kingdom that was hostile toward Babylon, 2 Kings 24:20. Ezekiel was to raise the question, suggesting no prosperity would be found for Israel through such negotiations with Egypt, for the Lord had long before commanded Israel not to enter into any such compact, Deuteronomy 17:16; See also Isaiah 31:1; Isaiah 31:3; Isaiah 36:6; Isaiah 36:9. to enter such a covenant was a breach of her contract with God, and she could not expect to prosper in it, Ecclesiastes 5:4-5.

Verse 16 then certifies that the king (Zedekiah) would be transported to Babylon, where the king who made him king (Nebuchadnezzar) reigned, whose oath Zedekiah despised or treated lightly, and broke, Jeremiah 32:5. There, in Babylon, it was declared that Zedekiah should die; Which he did with both eyes punched out, in prison in Babylon, as recounted expressly, Jeremiah 52:8-11.

Verse 17 continues to prophesy that when war should come upon Zedekiah, the Pharaoh of Egypt would desert him, ignoring the pledge of help. Zedekiah got his horses for which he and Israel paid severely. But they received nothing further from Egypt: like the gambling kingpin, the saloon keeper, he sold them down the creek; in the hour of testing, as forewarned of the Lord, Jeremiah 37:7-8; Deuteronomy 17:16; Ezekiel 4:2; Jeremiah 52:4.

Verse 18 states that Zedekiah too, for "giving his hand," as a pledge of agreement or fidelity, would not escape the breaking of the pledge without punishment. For such was a grave sin before God because of its character-weakening influence, 2 Kings 10:15; Ezra 10:19; Jeremiah 1:15; Lamentations 5:6.

Verse 19 calls upon Ezekiel to prophesy that God would judge Zedekiah, severely and without fail, for despising and breaking His covenant through entering into a trade and security compact with Egypt, against His spoken and written warning, Deuteronomy 17:16. Because Zedekiah took his oath with Nebuchadnezzar in the name of the God of Israel, this too was a breach of God’s law, once having used that name in a covenant he was to keep it faithfully, 2 Chronicles 36:13; Psalms 7:16.

Verse 20 adds that the Lord would spread His net over Zedekiah, as a snare of prey to bring him into Babylon, there to be punished by the heathen, and to die in prison with both eyes punched out, because he had willfully acted as if he were blind to the law of the Lord, Psalms 7:16; 2 Corinthians 4:3-4; Ezekiel 12:13; Ezekiel 20:36. Five years later, God brought him captive to Babylon where he was judged, saw both his sons and former helpers in Jerusalem slain before his eyes, then had his own eyes both punched out, dying in prison, in an heathen land, for his own sins, Ezekiel 20:36; Galatians 6:7-8; Jeremiah 52:8-11.

Verses 21 further warned that all of his fugitives, those about him in Judah and Jerusalem, where he had reigned under Nebuchadnezzar, till he attempted to enter a revolt with the pledge and hope of Egypt’s help, should fall by the edge of the sword, or be, scattered to the four winds of the earth, His hope of help from Egypt was to be blasted, as he turned to trust on Egypt’s gods, Psalms 115:4-9.

Verses 22-24

RESTORATION OF DAVID’S HOUSE

Verses 22-24:

Verse 22 calls upon Ezekiel to declare that the Lord would take of the highest branch of the high cedar and set it; Then He would crop off of the top twigs of that high cedar and plant a tender one upon an high and eminent mountain. The cedar was the house of David. The sprout was Zedekiah who by his rebellion would be cut off, lose his sovereignty, bringing judgment upon the house of Judah, but not totally destroying her, Genesis 49:10. The tender one from among the twigs seems to be a prophecy of our Lord, as a sprout, or root out of dry ground, Psalms 2:6; Isaiah 11:1; Isaiah 53:2; Isaiah 63:5; Jeremiah 23:5; Zechariah 3:8.

Verse 23 declares that the Lord would plant that one is the height of the mountain of Israel, even Mt Zion, Psalms 48:3; Ezekiel 20:40; Isaiah 2:2-3; Micah 4:1. This is to be realized in the golden millennial age, yet to come, perhaps not far away: This tree is to be evergreen, bearing food of fruit of every need. Under her branches of protection will come to dwell, or reside and trust, every kind of fowl from Eden’s garden, Ezekiel 31:6; Daniel 4:8-9; Daniel 4:12; Genesis 7:14. Perhaps this also alludes to men from every nation and tribe on earth, Matthew 13:32; Ezekiel 31:6; Daniel 4:12.

Verse 24 concludes that all the trees (governors or rulers) will come to know at that time that He, as Lord, has: a) brought down the high tree, b) exalted the low tree, and made the dry tree to flourish, as Lord and Life-giver of all creation, Acts 17:27-29. God brings down the mighty and lifts up the lowly among men and nations to the degree that they reverence and obey Him, Luke 18:18; James 4:6; James 4:10; 1 Peter 5:6; Daniel 2:44; Daniel 5:19; Daniel 5:22.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Blessed Hope Foundation and the Baptist Training Center.
Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Ezekiel 17". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/ezekiel-17.html. 1985.