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The Fallen Prince Of Judah
This chapter brings the present series to an end. In it God shows why the promises made to Judah of old seemed to fail of fulfilment. These had been predicated on the obedience of the people. But both they and their rulers had forfeited all title to blessing by their corrupt behavior. The Lord makes this plain, although He speaks in parabolic form as He so frequently does in this book.
“Moreover, take thou up a lamentation for the princes of Israel, and say, What was thy mother? A lioness: she couched among lions, in the midst of the young lions she nourished her whelps. And she brought up one of her whelps: he became a young lion, and he learned to catch the prey; he devoured men. The nations also heard of him; he was taken in their pit; and they brought him with hooks unto the land of Egypt”-vers. 1-4.
In the previous chapters we have seen exposed the guilt of the people. Now the Lord makes manifest the wickedness of their kings. While only two are brought definitely before us, suggesting that this lamentation was intended to exercise the conscience of Zedekiah; yet the same evil ways had characterized all the last four kings of Judah. We may think of both Judah and Jerusalem, the capital city, as represented by the mother lioness. God had said of old through Jacob, “Judah is a lion’s whelp” (Genesis 49:9); and Balaam had depicted the nation that he could not curse, in the same way: “Behold the people shall rise up as a great lion, and lift up himself as a young lion” (Numbers 23:24). It is true the same figure is used of other tribes than Judah, as Gad (Deuteronomy 33:20), and Dan (Deuteronomy 33:22). But here in Ezekiel it is evident that Judah is in view, as the royal tribe with her place in Jerusalem. From this tribe He was to come, through David’s line, who should be the Lion of the tribe of Judah, who shall fulfil at last all the promises of God (Revelation 5:5).
Upon the death of the godly king Josiah, his son Jehoahaz, or Shallum, as he is otherwise called, was crowned king in his father’s stead. He is the young lion spoken of here. But he proved to be an unprincipled weakling, and was taken captive by Pharaoh-Necho and carried down to Egypt, never to return to the land of Palestine.
“Now when she saw that she had waited, and her hope was lost, then she took another of her whelps, and made him a young lion. And he went up and down among the lions; he became a young lion, and he learned to catch the prey; he devoured men. And he knew their palaces, and laid waste their cities; and the land was desolate, and the fulness thereof, because of the noise of his roaring. Then the nations set against him on every side from the provinces; and they spread their net over him; he was taken in their pit. And they put him in a cage with hooks, and brought him to the king of Babylon; they brought him into strongholds, that his voice should no more be heard upon the mountains of Israel”-vers. 6-9.
When it became apparent that it was hopeless to look for the return of Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, whom the king of Egypt had set up in place of his brother, was recognized as king; but after eleven years he was carried to Babylon. Then in their desperation the people of Judah turned to the son of Jehoiakim, a youth of eighteen years of age, whose name closely resem- bled that of his father, Jehoiachin, or Jeconiah. He seems to be the young lion referred to here, as it was he and not his father whom Judah herself chose as king. But his reign was for less than four months, for Nebuchadnezzar came again into the land and carried him away in chains to Babylon, setting up Mattaniah, older brother of the deposed king, in his stead, and changing his name to Zedekiah. It was he who sat on the throne at this time; and it was his heart and conscience that this lamentation over the departed glory of the throne of David, was designed to reach; but alas, he was too far gone in the path of self-will to heed the message addressed to him. Therefore the fate of all the three kings before him might well serve as a warning to him. Actually because of his perversity he was to suffer worse things than any of them, for his sons were to be slain before his eyes, and then those eyes were to be put out and he himself carried as a blind and brokenhearted man to Babylon.
“Thy mother was like a vine, in thy blood, planted by the waters: it was fruitful and full of branches by reason of many waters. And it had strong rods for the sceptres of them that bare rule, and their stature was exalted among the thick boughs, and they were seen in their height with the multitude of their branches. But it was plucked up in fury, it was cast down to the ground, and the east wind dried up its fruit: its strong rods were broken off and withered; the fire consumed them. And now it is planted in the wilderness, in a dry and thirsty land. And fire is gone out of the rods of its branches, it hath devoured its fruit, so that there is in it no strong rod to be a sceptre to rule. This is a lamentation, and shall be for a lamentation”-vers. 10-14.
In this part of the lamentation God reverts to a figure formerly used. Judah was like a vine, which at one time had been fruitful and had spread abroad because of the blessing of the Lord when she walked in obedience to His Word. So rich was her fruitage that she is represented as a great vine with many spreading branches, supported by strong rods that the clusters of grapes might be properly harvested. But a change had come about because of her revolt from the law of God. She had chosen the path of self-will, and so the surrounding nations were permitted to destroy her branches, and the east wind of adversity wrought havoc with her fruit. Now she was as a broken, withered vine planted in the desert where all was waste and dry. Moreover, the fire of judgment had devoured the rods and the branches until at last “there was no sceptre to rule.” The last of her kings was about to go into captivity, and she should never know again a king of David’s line until He shall come, whose right it is to reign, our Lord Jesus Christ, who shall yet sit upon the throne of His father David and build again the tabernacle of David that is fallen down.
The departed sceptre may seem to be in contradiction of Genesis 49:10, “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver” (or the ruler’s staff) “from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto Him shall the gathering of the people be.” But here it is evidently the tribal sceptre, not the royal sceptre, that is in view. Judah remained a distinct and separate tribe until Shiloh-the Prince of Peace-came the first time, only to be rejected. Jacob’s prophecy shall have its complete fulfilment when He comes again and the people shall gather together unto Him, owning Him as their rightful King.
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Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Ezekiel 19". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent