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The Eagles, The Cedar, And The Vine
Again we find God speaking to the people, through His servant, in parable form. The first part of the parable refers to Nebuchadnezzar’s former onslaught upon Palestine and the captivity of the king of Judah.
“And the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, Son of man, put forth a riddle, and speak a parable unto the house of Israel; and say, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: A great eagle with great wings and long pinions, full of feathers, which had divers colors, came unto Lebanon, and took the top of the cedar: he cropped off the topmost of the young twigs thereof, and carried it unto a land of traffic; he set it in a city of merchants. He took also of the seed of the land, and planted it in a fruitful soil; he placed it beside many waters; he set it as a willow-tree. And it grew, and became a spreading vine of low stature, whose branches turned toward him, and the roots thereof were under him: so it became a vine, and brought forth branches, and shot forth sprigs”-vers. 1-6.
In the great eagle we have a picture of the Chaldean monarch, who had flown, as it were, on mighty wings from Babylon to the land of Israel where he “took the highest branch of the cedar”; that is, he carried Judah’s king into captivity. Babylon itself is the city of merchants mentioned here, for at this time it was the great commercial center of all Asia.
After deposing Jehoiakim, and a little later his son Jehoiachin, Nebuchadnezzar took Jehoiakim’s brother Mattaniah, changed his name to Zedekiah, and set him over the kingdom of Judah, doubtless hoping that he would rule in subservience to himself. The brief reign of Jehoiachin is passed over almost unnoticed here. Zedekiah is pictured as the spreading vine of low stature. He did not possess any of the qualities that make for a successful administrator. He was loyal neither to the God of Israel nor to his heathen overlord, but began plotting almost immediately with the ruler of Egypt to free himself from Babylon’s thralldom. There is no contradiction in speaking of him as a willow, and a spreading vine. The figure refers of course to what is now called the weeping willow, which is of vine-like appearance.
“There was also another great eagle with great wings and many feathers: and, behold, this vine did bend its roots toward him, and shot forth its branches toward him, from the beds of its plantation, that he might water it. It was planted in a good soil by many waters, that it might bring forth branches, and that it might bear fruit, that it might be a goodly vine. Say thou, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Shall it prosper? shall He not pull up the roots thereof, and cut off the fruit thereof, that it may wither; that all its fresh springing leaves may wither? and not by a strong arm or much people can it be raised from the roots thereof. Yea, behold, being planted, shall it prosper? shall it not utterly wither, when the east wind toucheth it? it shall wither in the beds where it grew”-vers. 7-10.
This second great eagle was the king of Egypt, Pharaoh-Hophra, with whom Zedekiah sought to make a league in order to secure his assistance in throwing off the Chaldean yoke. But God had decreed that no such cabal should prosper. Egypt was as a bruised reed, and reliance upon it was in vain and doomed to end only in worse conditions for Judah than if Zedekiah had kept the oath of allegiance to Nebuchadnezzar. What Zedekiah failed to see was that God had given Judah into the hands of the Chaldeans as a punishment for their many sins and abominable idolatries. It behooved them, therefore, to bow the head in submission to the yoke and not to attempt a revolt against it.
The divine interpretation of the parable is given in the verses that follow:
“Moreover the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, Say now to the rebellious house, Know ye not what these things mean! Tell them, Behold, the king of Babylon came to Jerusalem, and took the king thereof, and the princes thereof, and brought them to him to Babylon. And he took of the seed royal, and made a covenant with him; he also brought him under an oath, and took away the mighty of the land; that the kingdom might be base, that it might not lift itself up, but that by keeping his covenant it might stand. But he rebelled against him in sending his ambassadors into Egypt, that they might give him horses and much people. Shall he prosper? shall he escape that doeth such things? shall he break the covenant, and yet escape? As I live, saith the Lord Jehovah, surely in the place where the king dwelleth that made him king, whose oath he despised, and whose covenant he brake, even with him in the midst of Babylon he shall die. Neither shall Pharaoh with his mighty army and great company help him in the war, when they cast up mounds and build forts, to cut off many persons. For he hath despised the oath by breaking the covenant; and behold, he had given his hand, and yet hath done all these things; he shall not escape. Therefore, thus saith the Lord Jehovah: As I live, surely Mine oath that he hath despised, and My covenant that he hath broken, I will even bring it upon his own head. And I will spread My net upon him, and he shall be taken in My snare, and I will bring him to Babylon, and will enter into judgment with him there for his trespass that he hath trespassed against Me. And all his fugitives in all his bands shall fall by the sword, and they that remain shall be scattered toward every wind: and ye shall know that I, Jehovah, have spoken it”-vers. 11-21.
That which was difficult for Israel to realize was that their own God was now arrayed against them, and He it was who had exalted Nebuchadnezzar and given him authority over the nations; so that it was in his power to remove or set up kings at his own will.
While, doubtless, Nebuchadnezzar himself was unaware of the divine counsels, nevertheless, he acted under the guidance of that Jehovah whom he knew not, when he took Jehoiachin into captivity and set up the puppet king Zedekiah with whom he had made a covenant, and who had sworn by a solemn oath that he would rule as his representative in Jerusalem. By his vacillation and crafty plotting, Zedekiah aroused the ire of his overlord and exposed himself to the indignation of God, the Judge of all the earth, who loves truth and hates deceit and falsehoods Therefore Ezekiel predicted that the wretched king of Judah, who had despised the oath he had taken and violated the covenant to which he had agreed, should be taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar and carried to Babylon, there to learn in bitterness and sorrow the folly of trifling with God and scheming to thwart His counsels. But although all was so dark for Judah at that time, God had not forgotten His promise to David that he should never want a man to sit upon his throne; and so in due time Israel’s restoration should take place and a Son of David rule in Jerusalem and on Mount Zion, over all the earth.
“Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: I will also take of the lofty top of the cedar, and will set it; I will crop off from the topmost of its young twigs a tender one, and I will plant it upon a high and lofty mountain: in the mountain of the height of Israel will I plant it; and it shall bring forth boughs, and bear fruit, and be a goodly cedar: and under it shall dwell all birds of every wing; in the shade of the branches thereof shall they dwell. And all the trees of the field shall know that I, Jehovah, have brought down the high tree, have exalted the low tree, have dried up the green tree, and have made the dry tree to flourish: I, Jehovah, have spoken and have done it”-vers. 22-24.
This “tender shoot” is the Man whose name is the “Branch” of Zechariah 6:12, who shall grow up in His place and build the temple of the Lord. He is “Great David’s Greater Son,” the “Root and Offspring of David” (Revelation 22:16), whom God designates in Zechariah 3:8 as “My Servant the Branch.” Of Him, Isaiah prophesied that He should be as “A Rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots” (11:1).
When He came in God’s appointed time He was rejected by His own people, but when He returns in power and might He will take the kingdom and administer the affairs of this universe for the glory of God and the blessing of all mankind. Then the high tree of Gentile supremacy will be cut down, and the low tree of Judah shall be made to flourish when the kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of our God and His Christ. This is decreed by Him who cannot lie, and will be brought to pass in the day of Jehovah’s power.
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Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Ezekiel 17". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany