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Parable of the Two Eagles (17:1-24)
International relations and international religion could not be separated, because vassalage to a foreign political power usually meant homage to a foreign god (see also Ezekiel 16:23-29). The two great empires with which Judah had to deal were Egypt and Chaldea (neo-Babylonia). Seldom in Judah’s history had she been more of a pawn on the international chessboard than she was now, with her sovereign rulers being switched at will by one king after another (see Introduction).
The riddle or allegory which is proposed by the prophet is transparent in its meaning and is directed at Jerusalem’s vacillation in foreign policy (about 588 b.c). The "great eagle with great wings and long pinions" represents Nebuchadnezzar, second ruler of the neo-Babylonian Empire. In 598 B.C. he took the "topmost" of the young twigs (Jehoiachin), and carried him captive into "a land of trade" and "a city of merchants" (Mesopotamia). There this twig grew and prospered in rich soil until it became a spreading vine. There is every reason to accept the fact that Jehoiachin, though a prisoner, was given preferential treatment. Evidence for this conclusion is found in contemporary Babylonian records which list provisions for the king and in Jeremiah 52:31-34, where his release from prison is described.
"Another great eagle with great wings and much plumage" refers to Pharaoh Hophra (588-569 B.C.), but the "vine" in this case is Zedekiah, whose allegiance is transplanted to Egypt. The question then is: Will this transplanting grow and prosper? Its roots are said to be so shallow that neither "a strong arm" nor "many people" will be required to uproot it. In fact, when the east wind (a probable reference to Nebuchadnezzar) blows on it, it will quickly wither (vs. 10).
The second section of the chapter deals with the fact that Zedekiah (Mattaniah) had taken an oath of allegiance in the Lord’s name. Reference to the captivity of 598 B.C. when king and princes were taken away introduces the fact that Nebuchadnezzar took "one of the seed royal and made a covenant with him, putting him under oath" (vs. 13). God’s good name was involved since Zedekiah took a throne name which probably means "as surely as the Lord is righteous I will be loyal." By breaking his covenant of fealty to Nebuchadnezzar, Zedekiah impugned the name and character of the Lord (vs. 19). Because of this deception and distortion Ziedekiah will die "in Babylon" (vs. 16). Moreover, the Egyptian armies which stimulated his defection from Chaldea will not help him in the distress of Jerusalem’s siege. History tragically fulfilled these predictions that Zedekiah would die somewhere in Mesopotamia and that Egypt would give no help during the siege. After the capture of the king, his troops "shall be scattered to every wind" (vss. 20-21).
God will take "a sprig from the lofty top of the cedar" even as Nebuchadnezzar had done. The Lord will plant "a tender one" on the high mountain, and it will become a noble cedar under which the beasts of the field will dwell and in which the birds of the air will nest. The climax of the chapter and its most profound thought are summarized in the concluding verse: "And all the trees of the field shall know that I the Lord bring low the high tree, and make high the low tree, dry up the green tree, and make the dry tree flourish." Neither Nebuchadnezzar nor Pharaoh Hophra holds the key to history, however great their power. God decides among the nations of the earth.
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"Commentary on Ezekiel 17". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://studylight.org/
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