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Comparison Between Pharaoh's Power and that of Assyria
v. 1. And it came to pass in the eleventh year, after the captivity of Jehoiachin, in the third month, in the first day of the month, just two months later than the prophecy delivered in chapter 30, that the word of the Lord came unto me, saying,
v. 2. Son of man, speak unto Pharaoh, king of Egypt, by sending him the message here transmitted to time Lord's prophet, and to his multitude, the people of Egypt with all their wealth, for the country was then teeming with prosperity, Whom art thou like in thy greatness? The Lord intentionally prepares to make a full and detailed comparison, in order to bring out the lesson which lie wished to convey.
v. 3. Behold, the Assyrian, emperor and people, the entire nation, was a cedar in Lebanon, distinguished for beauty and excellence, with fair branches, that is, beautiful and thick of foliage, and with a shadowing shroud, with a thicket of branches which cast a solid shadow, and of an high stature; and his top was among the thick boughs, it reached lip into the very clouds of the sky.
v. 4. The waters, the fact that he grew in a well-watered spot, made him great, the deep set him up on high with her rivers running round about his plants, literally, "concerning the streams of the flood, she was going round about her planting," that is, about the place where the cedar was situated, and sent out her little rivers, the smaller irrigation streams, unto all the trees of the field. The Assyrian cedar thus received the first and full benefit of the stream's fertilizing strength, other trees being obliged to he satisfied with smaller canals. Assyria was blessed far above all nations in material prosperity of every kind.
v. 5. Therefore his height was exalted above all the trees of the field, he excelled in luxuriousness of growth, and his boughs were multiplied, so that sturdy branches were sent out in all directions, and his branches became long because of the multitude of waters when he shot forth, on account of the abundant moisture which enabled him to send forth new branches in every direction. Assyria, enjoying an almost incomparable prosperity, was able to found colonies as well as to bring smaller kingdoms into subjection, and all these tributary states contributed to the empire's further greatness.
v. 6. All the fowls of heaven made their nests in his boughs, and under his branches did all the beasts of the field bring forth their young, and under his shadow dwelt all great nations, that is, all the people of the nation and all the dependent states enjoyed a wonderful prosperity during the era of Assyria's greatness.
v. 7. Thus was he fair in his greatness, on count of the greatness which had been given him, in the length of his branches, because the tributary states contributed so much to his stature and strength; for his root was by great waters.
v. 8. The cedars in the garden of God could not hide him, could not out-top him, that is, all other nations and states of the world were outranked by Assyria in greatness and glory; the fir-trees, or cypresses, were not like his boughs, and the chestnut-trees, the plane-trees, noted for the thickness of their foliage, were not like his branches, nor any tree in the garden of God, in this case all the wide world, was like unto him in his beauty.
v. 9. I have made him fair by the multitude of his branches, as described in detail above, so that all the trees of Eden that were in the garden of God envied him, he was an object of envy throughout the world. Although the description is confined to Assyria, the object of the message directed to Pharaoh of Egypt is apparent at once, namely, to serve as a warning from the Lord, the Giver of all earthly prosperity, who is able both to grant and to withhold what men prize most highly on earth.
The Lesson of Assyria's Fall
v. 10. Therefore, thus saith the Lord God, here addressing the king of Assyria directly, although the object, bringing home the lesson to Pharaoh by means of the message, is unmistakable, because thou hast lifted up thyself in height, in blasphemous high-mindedness on account of a prosperity which was nothing but a gift from above, and he, the address here turning to the third person, hath shot up his top among the thick boughs, up into the very clouds, and his heart is lifted up in his height, in sinful and insulting pride,
v. 11. I have therefore delivered him into the hand of the mighty one of the heathen, namely, Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon; he shall surely deal with him, literally, "he will do, do to him," or, in modern form, he will surely do away with him; I have driven him out for his wickedness, the Lord rejecting Assyria from before His face.
v. 12. And strangers, foreign invaders, the terrible of the nations, the Chaldean soldiers, known for their fierceness, have cut him off and have left him, the picture of a tree that is felled being retained here; upon the mountains and in all the valleys his branches are fallen, all the tributary nations and provinces being lopped off, and his boughs, all the colonies and dependent cities, are broken by all the rivers of the land, as when a mighty tree, in falling down the mountainside, is shattered into little pieces; and all the people of the earth, formerly in dependence upon Assyria, are gone down from his shadow and have left him.
v. 13. Upon his ruin, as he has fallen headlong, thus presenting the picture of a carcass, shall all the fowls of the heaven remain, and all the beasts of the field shall be upon his branches, the very ones that had formerly been under his dominion now turning to birds and beasts of prey in tearing the carcass to pieces, that is, in deriving life from Assyria's downfall, in building themselves up on its ruins:
v. 14. to the end, with this final object in mind, that none of all the trees by the waters exalt themselves for their height, all other nations profiting by the example of Assyria, neither shoot up their top among the thick boughs, between the very clouds of the sky, neither their trees stand up in their height, in the same sinful pride, all that drink water, while they are deriving their strength from the Lord alone; for they are all delivered unto death, to the nether parts of the earth, to the underground kingdom of death, in the midst of the children of men, with them that go down to the pit. How foolish for the mighty of the earth to lift themselves up in sinful pride, when, after all, they are all weak and mortal men, entirely dependent upon the goodness of the God whose providence alone upholds them!
v. 15. Thus saith the Lord God, in describing the impression which the fall of Assyria made upon other nations and making the application to the case of Pharaoh, In the day when he went down to the grave, when the Assyrian world-power was destroyed, I caused a mourning, men stopping for a time to consider the calamity in horror and grief; I covered the deep for him, literally, "I veiled, on his account, the flood," that which had given him his life-giving power, and I restrained the floods thereof, holding back the various streams spoken of in verse 4, and the great waters were stayed; and I caused Lebanon to mourn for him, literally, "to become dark over him, in mourning over the fall of the mighty cedar Assyria," and all the trees of the field fainted for him. On account of the overthrow of Assyria the entire world was drawn into suffering, so that all sources of wealth and power were cut off.
v. 16. I made the nations to shake at the sound of his fall, foreseeing in his overthrow a similar calamity for themselves, when I cast him down to hell with them that descend into the pit, to the kingdom of death; and all the trees of Eden, the choice and best of Lebanon, spoken of in verses 8 and 9, all that drink water, shall be comforted in the nether parts of the earth, since mighty Assyria was obliged to share their fate in the realm of those destroyed from off the face of the earth.
v. 17. They also went down into hell with him, sharing the fate of Assyria, unto them that be slain with the sword; and they that were his arm, his auxiliaries, or allies, that dwelt under his shadow in the midst of the heathen, depending upon his military power. In concluding this paragraph and chapter, the application is made to Pharaoh, who is here once more directly addressed.
v. 18. To whom art thou thus like in glory and in greatness among the trees of Eden? among the various nations of the world, blessed by God, as they are, with many and great gifts of his goodness. Yet shalt thou be brought down with the trees of Eden, just as Assyria had been, unto the nether parts of the earth; thou shalt lie in the midst of the uncircumcised, the godless heathen, with them that be slain by the sword. Thus would the fate of Egypt he like that of Assyria. This is Pharaoh and all his multitude, so would it happen to him and all his people with their proud wealth and their boastful behavior, saith the Lord God. It is an easy matter for God to make an example and a spectacle of all His enemies.
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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Ezekiel 31". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent