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The Riddle Itself
v. 1. And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying,
v. 2. Son of man, put forth a riddle, a continued allegory with a hidden deeper meaning, and speak a parable unto the house of Israel, a story of a comparison based upon facts, showing the likeness of the figure to the thing compared,
v. 3. and say, Thus saith the Lord God, A great eagle, with great wings, pointing to a very extensive dominion, long-winged, symbolical of great energy, full of feathers, with many subjects and a large army, which had divers colors, a reference to the various nationalities combined in one empire, came unto Lebanon, representative of Jerusalem with its palaces and Temple built of cedar-wood from Lebanon, and took the highest branch of the cedar, the topmost of its shoots;
v. 4. he cropped off the top of his young twigs, the uppermost one, and carried it into a land of traffic, literally, "to the land of Canaan," that is, to a land which, in both its commercial ambitions and in its idolatry, was just like the heathen Canaan of old; he set it in a city of merchants. It is evident at once that the great eagle is Nebuchadnezzar, that the city is Babylon, and the shoot taken from the cedar of Jerusalem is Jehoiachin.
v. 5. He took also of the seed of the land, one of the native royal family of Judah, in this case undoubtedly Zedekiah, and planted it in a fruitful field, in very productive soil; he placed it by great waters, in a most fertile situation, and set it as a willow-tree, the well-watered location being such as the willow loves.
v. 6. And it grew and became a spreading vine, though no longer the cedar of David, of low stature, whose branches turned toward him, namely, they were intended to turn toward the eagle in humble submission, and the roots thereof were under him, deriving their strength from Babylon's practically exhaustless store; so it became a vine and brought forth branches and shot forth sprigs, always deriving its existence and vigor from Babylon, upon which it was dependent. If Zedekiah, so the text implies, had maintained his connection with the emperor of Babylon, his dependent position, then his kingdom might have had a steady growth. But here is where he made his mistake.
v. 7. There was also another great eagle with great wings, namely, the king of Egypt, and many feathers, with 'a large population and a mighty army; and, behold, this vine, although tributary to Babylon, did bend her roots toward him and shot forth her branches toward him, that he might water it by the furrows of her plantation, from the beds of its planting, with the assistance which Zedekiah hoped to get from the land of tine Nile.
v. 8. It was planted in a good soil, in a well-cultivated and well-watered field, by great waters that it might bring forth branches, and that it might bear fruit, that it might be a goodly vine. The thought is the same as that urged so often by Jeremiah when he admonished his countrymen and their ruler to submit to the rule of Nebuchadnezzar. It was not tyrannical oppression on the part of the Babylonian ruler which caused Zedekiah to revolt, but inordinate ambition, pride, and ingratitude.
v. 9. Say thou, namely, Ezekiel, in rebuking this spirit, Thus saith the Lord God, Shall it prosper? Shall he, the great eagle, Nebuchadnezzar, not pull up the roots thereof and cut off the fruit thereof that it wither? He would certainly punish rebellion in this manner. It shall wither in all the leaves of her spring, with its entire productive energy and vital force, even without great power or many people to pluck it up by the roots thereof, that is, the Chaldean king would not have to employ his whole military forces in bringing about the downfall of Judah.
v. 10. Yea, behold, being planted, shall it prosper? Will the southern kingdom be able to maintain itself against the Chaldean power? Shall it not utterly wither when the east wind toucheth it? very appropriately said of the Babylonians, who dwelt to the northeast of Canaan. It shall whither in the furrows where it grew, on the very spot of its ungrateful pride, in spite of the apparent chance which it had to continue its existence. It is usually the pride of the sinner which hastens his downfall, on account of his deliberately setting aside the Lord's will.
The Double Application of the Parable
v. 11. Moreover, the word of the Lord came unto me, saying,
v. 12. Say now to the rebellious house, literally, "the house of rebelliousness," the children of Israel, to whom this parable had been told as a warning, Know ye not what these things mean? Were they intellectually as well as morally stupid? Tell them, Behold, the king of Babylon is come to Jerusalem, 2 Kings 24:11 ff. ; Jeremiah 24:1; Jeremiah 29:2, and hath taken the king thereof, namely, Jehoiachin, and the princes thereof and led them with him to Babylon, theirs being the first company of exiles from Jerusalem;
v. 13. and hath taken of the king's seed, of the royal family, and made a covenant with him and hath taken an oath of him, the oath of allegiance as a tributary ruler, this man being Zedekiah himself; he hath also taken the mighty of the land, all the representatives of the wealthier class, the landowners and the artisans,
v. 14. that the kingdom might be base, of a low condition, of a very secondary rank, that it might not lift itself up, not develop enough strength to regain its independence, but that by keeping of his covenant it might stand.
v. 15. But he, the king of Judah, rebelled against him, namely, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, in sending his ambassadors into Egypt, 2 Kings 24:20, that they might give him horses and much people, come to his assistance with a strong army. Shall he prosper? Shall he escape that doeth such things? Or shall he break the covenant, his oath of fealty, and be delivered?
v. 16. As I live, saith the Lord God, the sovereign Ruler of the universe swearing his most solemn oath, surely, in the place where the king dwelleth that made him king, whose oath he despised, rejecting the obligation which it laid upon him, and whose covenant lie brake, even with him in the midst of Babylon he shall die. Zedekiah's revolt was an act of treachery, and was to be punished as it well deserved.
v. 17. Neither shall Pharaoh, upon whom Zedekiah depended, with his mighty army and great company, make for him in the war, as Zedekiah's ally in battle, by casting up mounts and building forts, to cut off many persons, in an effort to relieve the besieged city;
v. 18. seeing he despised the oath, valid and sacred as it was, by breaking the covenant, when, lo, he had given his hand, in a solemn pledge, and hath done all these things, he shall not escape, he was to pay the penalty of his perjury.
v. 19. Therefore, thus saith the Lord God, As I live, surely Mine oath that he hath despised, for it was made in the name of Jehovah, and My covenant that he hath broken, even it will I recompense upon his own head, in His punishment upon the perjurer.
v. 20. And I will spread My net upon him, like a fowler setting his traps for birds, and he shall be taken in My snare, and I will bring him to Babylon, these words coming true a few years later, and will plead with him there, contending with him as when a case is argued in court, for his trespass that he hath trespassed against Me, the accusation here involving also the punishment.
v. 21. And all his fugitives with all his bands, even the picked ones of his military forces, shall fall by the sword, and they that remain shall be scattered toward all winds, doomed to death though they escape the first onslaught; and ye shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken it, bitter experience teaching them what all the admonitions of the Lord's prophets had not been able to accomplish.
v. 22. Thus saith the Lord God, I will also take of the highest branch of the high cedar, a shoot of the royal house of David, and will set it, give it a place where it might grow; I will crop off from the top of his young twigs a tender one, tender both in age and in character, and will plant it upon an high mountain and eminent, in a position of power and magnificence;
v. 23. in the mountain of the height of Israel will I plant it, figurative for the exalted position of the Kingdom of Grace; and it shall bring forth boughs and bear fruit and be a goodly cedar, a glorious and beautiful tree; and under it shall dwell all fowl of every wing, representative of all nations; in the shadow of the branches thereof shall they dwell. Cf Matthew 13:32.
v. 24. And all the trees of the field, men throughout the world, shall know that I, the Lord, have brought down the high tree, the proud Zedekiah, have exalted the low tree, the lowly Messiah, have dried up the green tree, which the last king of Judah considered himself to be, and have made the dry tree to flourish, Cf Isaiah 53:2. I, the Lord, have spoken and have done it. The passage sets forth, in a most unmistakable fashion, the rise of the Messiah from His lowly origin, as a branch of the impoverished family of David, to be the King of His Church, which, under His benign and powerful rule, extends throughout the world and gathers into its communion men from every race and nation.
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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Ezekiel 17". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent