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Bible Commentaries

Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms

Ezekiel 19

The Second Cycle—Chapters 8-19

THE second cycle (ch. Ezekiel 8:1 to Ezekiel 19:14) is separated from the first by an interval of a year and two months. The date is here the sixth year after the captivity of Jehoiachin, the sixth month, the fifth day, about five years before the destruction of Jerusalem. A vision here also forms the introduction, a song the close in ch. Ezekiel 19, in the midst of prophetic discourses that elucidate the vision, obviate objections, and form a bridge between it and the mind. The historical starting-point and the tendency also are similar. The prophet here also strives against the political dreams, represents the destruction as inevitable, and points to repentance as the only way of safety.

The vision is here far more comprehensive than in the first cycle. It occupies four whole chapters. It gives a complete representation of the sins of the people; and here accordingly is unfolded what in the first vision is only indicated concerning the punishment. Common to both visions is the delineation of the theophany itself, and in particular the description of the cherubim. The former delineation is supplemented by that here given only in details.

Ch. Ezekiel 8 contains the exposition of the guilt—the delineation of the four abominations of Jerusalem; ch. Ezekiel 9, the first punishment—Jerusalem filled with dead bodies; ch. Ezekiel 10, the second punishment—Jerusalem burnt; ch. Ezekiel 11:1-12, the third—God’s vengeance follows the survivors of the catastrophe. The close consists of comfort for the captives, who are already in exile with Ezekiel, and on whom the inhabitants of Jerusalem proudly look down; of these will God Himself take care, after the total disappointment of all human hopes (vers. Ezekiel 11:13-21). The prophet then sees still (vers. Ezekiel 11:22-23) how the glory of the Lord leaves the temple; and then the ecstasy comes to an end (vers. Ezekiel 11:21, Ezekiel 11:25).

Verses 1-9

Ezekiel 19. A song here forms the close of the whole cycle from ch. Ezekiel 8, as in ch. Ezekiel 7 at the close of that beginning with ch. Ezekiel 1. The song first laments the miserable fate that awaits the kingdom ( Ezekiel 19:1-9); then the sad lot of the people, who sink back into the state in which they were formerly in the journey through the wilderness.

The lament concerning the princes goes at once to the facts, that were matter of history at the time when these words were spoken,—the carrying away of Jehoahaz into Egypt ( Ezekiel 19:1-4), and that of Jehoiachin to Babylon ( Ezekiel 19:5-9). But as prophecy deals not with the purely past, and the parallel lamentation concerning the people refers to the future, we must assume that the prophet regards those facts of the past as types of that which will befall the present Zedekiah; so that we have to suppose a break after Ezekiel 19:9, or a “Whoso readeth, let him understand;” “Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.” Quite analogous is ch. Ezekiel 31, where the fall of the king of Assyria is presented as a type of that of the king of Egypt: there also the history is a concealed prophecy. Only in this way also is explained the strange circumstance, that Jehoahaz and Jehoiachin are arranged one immediately after the other; and Jehoiakim, standing historically between them, is omitted. Though he was a more important personage than either, and reigned much longer, and though his reign presented abundant matter for lamentation, as the beginning of the Chaldean servitude and the first taking of Jerusalem fall in it; and even a second, occasioned by his revolt, in which the king himself lost his life, took place under him; yet he belonged not to this connection, as the carrying away of Zedekiah into a heathen land, and specially into Babylon, is to be foreshadowed.

Ezekiel 19:1-9. And take thou up a lamentation for the princes of Israel, 2. And say. How is thy mother a lioness? she lay down among lions, among ravening lions she reared her whelps, 3. And she brought up one of her whelps, and he became a ravening lion, and learned to catch the prey: he devoured men. 4. And the heathen heard of him: he was taken in their pit; and they brought him with rings to the land of Egypt. 5. And she saw that she had waited; her hope was lost: and she took another of her whelps; she made him a ravenous lion. 6. And he walked in the midst of the lions; he became a ravenous lion, and learned to catch the prey: he devoured men. 7. And he knew his widows, and laid waste their cities; and the land was desolate, and its fulness, through the noise of his roaring. 8. And the heathen gave against him round about from the provinces, and spread their net over him: he was taken in their pit. 9. And they put him in ward in rings, and brought him to the king of Babylon: they brought him into the nets, [111] that his voice should no more be heard on the mountains of Israel.

[111] Luther, “and they kept him.” מצודה is not “hold’’ (against this are the plural, and the mention of Babylon in the foregoing passage), but net ( Ecclesiastes 9:12; comp. here 12:13, 32:3). For the taking of so dangerous a wild beast many nets were necessary.

The “how” ( Ezekiel 19:2) is an exclamation of surprise (comp. Ezekiel 16:30) at the former glory, which, as this glory is now vanished, is in reality a bitter lamentation. The address is to the man Judah, the people of the present. The mother is the people in itself. The people appears as a lioness on the ground of Genesis 49:9, to which passage the couching in particular refers (comp. Numbers 23:24, Numbers 24:9; Isaiah 29:1), because it was a royal people, of equal birth with other independent and powerful nations, as this royal nature was historically displayed, especially in the times of David and Solomon. The highest development of this lion-nature, the true verification of Genesis 49:9-10, first came to pass in the future, in the appearance of the Messiah, the Lion of the tribe of Judah ( Revelation 5:5). Before, however, this highest development could take place, the people must first sink so deep as to resemble a worm rather than a lion. For in the kingdom of God the way is per ardua ad astra: there is no state of exaltation without the corresponding state of humiliation. The whelps of the mother are the sons of the king of Israel. The bringing up of these among lions points to the fact that the kingdom of Israel was of equal birth with the mighty kingdoms of the heathen world. In Ezekiel 19:3 the figure of the lion is otherwise applied. The ignoble side of the lion-nature is here brought to view. The distance, however, is not very great: there is a close connection between the two sides. By the constitution of human nature, arrogance is inseparably connected with high rank, and therewith a rude barbarity towards all who stand in the way of self-will. He only who walks with God can escape this natural consequence; and the walk of faith is not the attainment of every man. It should, however, be the attainment of every man among the people of God; and where it fails, and the corrupt nature unfolds itself without resistance, there the vengeance of God takes effect, Jehoahaz proved to be a barbarous tyrant toward his own subjects; whereas, according to its constitution, the kingdom of Israel should exhibit a heroic power against the enemies of the people of God. For this reason he was punished. To the mother here corresponds, in 2 Kings 23:30, the people of the land, who, after Josiah fell in the battle with the Egyptians, made Jehoahaz king. To that which is said here concerning his disposition, corresponds 2 Kings 23:32, “And he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his fathers had done.” On Ezekiel 19:4, Chr. B. Michaelis says: “There is an allusion to the custom, when the news arrives that a lion or other savage beast is committing mischief, of assembling on all sides to seize and slay it.” The ring lays on the wild beast the necessity of following whither it will not (comp. 2 Kings 19:28). In reality, the fetters correspond to the ring. 2 Kings 23:33-34 gives the historical commentary: “And Pharaoh-Necho fettered him at Kiblah, in the land of Hamath, . . . and took him and brought him to Egypt, and he died there.”

In Ezekiel 19:5 f. the second type of the fate awaiting Zedekiah is still more definite than the first, because Zedekiah, like Jehoiachin, was also to be carried away to Babylon. The co-operation of the people in the elevation of Jehoiachin to the throne is not mentioned in the narrative, as it is expressly in the case of Jehoahaz. But respect to the wishes of the people is implied in his being the son of Jehoiakim. “And she saw that she had waited, her hope was lost:” that is, while she waited, namely, for the return of Jehoahaz from Egypt. Jehoiachin also ( Ezekiel 19:6) exposed the bad side of the lion-nature. In accordance with our passage, it is said of him ( 2 Kings 24:9), notwithstanding his reign of only a few months, “he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father had done.” The knowing in Ezekiel 19:7 denotes the practising of brutalities. His, that is, the king’s widows, are the widows whom he, as king, was bound to protect. His widows are at the same time their, the people’s, widows, the wretched and suffering, the personœ miserabiles. The subject is the king as a lion, as a hard and cruel man. There is an abridged comparison here: he acts towards the wretched, whom he was called on to protect, as one who injures a widow confided to his protection. The fulness of the land is that which lives and moves in it. The lion roars when he is about to rend; and this rending is to be added to the roar, as only thus the effect ascribed to the roar is explained. “Gave against him” ( Ezekiel 19:8): what they gave is not said. It is to be supplied from the connection—every one his gift, his contribution, to make him harmless. The provinces are the surrounding countries, as parts of the Chaldean empire; comp. 2 Kings 24:2, according to which the Syrians, Ammonites, and Moabites were summoned against Jehoiakim, the father of Jehoiachin. Ezekiel 19:9 b returns to Ezekiel 19:8 b, to give prominence to the object of the whole procedure.

While the first part of the elegy refers to the kingdom, the second describes the existing condition of the people. It appears in the close of the Psalms 80 Psalm under the figure of a choice vine that is now wasted.

Verses 10-14

Ezekiel 19:10-14. Thy mother, it seems to thee, is like a vine planted by the waters: she was fruitful and full of branches from many waters. 11. And she had strong rods for sceptres of rulers, and her growth was high above the clouds; and she was conspicuous in her height, in the fulness of her branches. 12. And she was torn out in fury, cast to the earth, and the east wind dried up her fruit; and her strong rods were broken and dried up, fire consumed them. 13. And now she is planted in the wilderness, in a land of drought and thirst. 14. And fire went out of the rod of her branches, consumed her fruit; and there was not in her a strong rod, a sceptre for ruling. This is a lamentation, and shall be for a lamentation.

The people of the present are addressed in Ezekiel 19:10. His mother is the people in itself. The phrase, “it seems to thee,” properly, in thy idea or likeness, [112] points to this, that what is here said of the mother, the comparison with the vine to be utterly destroyed, applies pre-eminently to the people of the present, and calls out to them, iua res agitur, is equivalent to the saying, “Verily I say unto you, this generation shall not pass till all these things come to pass.” The many waters signify the divine blessing which ruled over Israel, the rich influx of grace. Ezekiel 19:11 refers especially to the glorious condition of the people in the time of David and Solomon, under whom Israel became a world-power like Assyria, of whom the same is said in ch. Ezekiel 31:3. [113] The east wind ( Ezekiel 19:2) is a figure of the divine judgment to be executed by the Chaldeans. The fire denotes the same divine judgment in its destroying character. [114] The wilderness ( Ezekiel 19:13) denotes the misery of the state of exile, in which the passing of Israel through the wilderness in the olden time repeated itself. Such a wilderness may even be in the midst of a cultivated land. The fire in Ezekiel 19:14 goes out from the chief stem of the branches: it does not take its rise from the Chaldees, but proceeds from the royal family itself, which by its crimes called down the divine vengeance. The fruit denotes the prosperity of the people. The prophet here dwells on that which Israel receives in the way of her works. She falls into utter destruction, until, with the appearance of the Messiah, through God’s unmerited grace, a new beginning is made, and the word is heard, “I am the true vine.” They who stop the ear against the word abide in death, to which they are doomed by their works. The lamentation is (properly was, with prophetic anticipation of the future) for a lamentation: it is not the fancy of a gloomy seer, but the prediction of a lamentation, which will actually flow in a thousand voices from the mouth of the people. What Ezekiel here pronounces, the people will too soon be compelled to repeat after him. His lamentation is, as it were, the sowing, out of which a rich harvest of lamentation grows. At present the sky is full of joyous music to the people; but very soon it will be said: “My harp is turned to mourning, and my flute to the voice of weeping.”

[112] דם=דמות ; comp. ἐ?ν παραβολῃ?͂?, Hebrews 11:19.

[113] עבות , “clouds,” gradually loses its plural meaning. From this Ezekiel has formed the new plural עבותים , which is found in him only in this meaning (Christol. iii. p. 157). It is properly, “over between the clouds.” It grows through between the clouds, and out above them. The suffix in קומתו refers to the royal family, the collection of the ruling rods; and this is also the subject in וירא . This is properly, they were seen, they appeared, displayed themselves openly, shone in the eyes of all.

[114] The strong rod is the collection of the strong rods or branches, that became sceptres of rulers in Ezekiel 19:11. This explains the construction with the plural. The suffix in אכלתהו refers not to the vine, but to the strong rod. The misfortune of the king, however, was at the same time that of the people.

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Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on Ezekiel 19". Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms.