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Bible Commentaries
Ezekiel 17

Old & New Testament Restoration CommentaryRestoration Commentary

Verses 1-6

Eze 17:1-6

THE PARABLE OF THE TWO EAGLES

The prophecy of this chapter was directed against another false hope of the house of Israel, namely, the national conviction that God’s promises to the house of David was an unconditional guarantee that the prosperity of Israel would continue forever, no matter what the moral and spiritual condition of the people was. "They thought that God could not fail toward Zedekiah without reversing his ancient promises to the house of David. Here, the prophet revealed that Zedekiah would receive the due reward of his evil deeds; and, that despite that, God would yet fulfill all of his glorious promises to the Chosen People, though, from human observation, all appeared to be lost, the kingdom of David would be exalted in latter times.”

There would indeed be raised up one to sit upon the throne of David; but that spoke of Jesus’ resurrection from the grave, and his ascension to the right hand of God, those glorious events which far more than adequately fulfilled all of God’s promises to David (Acts 2:29-35).

Concerning the date of the chapter, the last preceding date mentioned by Ezekiel was in Ezekiel 8:1, which was 592 B.C. and the next date mentioned by the prophet (Ezekiel 20:1) was eleven months later. "From Ezekiel 17:20, it is clear that this prophecy was uttered a year or two earlier than the date given in Ezekiel 20:1, say, about 590 B.C.”

THE FIRST EAGLE

Ezekiel 17:1-6

"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 twigs."

The analogy here is called both a riddle and a parable. Indeed, it is both. How the clipping from the cedar became, first "as a willow tree," and later as a vine is not explained.

"The first eagle here represents the king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar.” "The great eagle’ mentioned here is from the Hebrew [~neser], which actually means the griffon vulture; and that is the basis for the Revised Standard Version rendition here.” It appears to us that a vulture is more in keeping with the personality of Nebuchadnezzar than an eagle!

"The cedar of Lebanon ..." (Ezekiel 17:3). is a reference to the land of Palestine.

"The topmost of the young twigs thereof ..." (Ezekiel 17:4). refers to the young king Jehoiachin.

"The seed of the land which was planted ..." (Ezekiel 17:5). is a reference to Zedekiah.”

"Fruitful soil ... many waters, etc...." (Ezekiel 17:5). These express the beauty and fertility of Palestine.

"Land of traffic ... city of merchants ..." (Ezekiel 17:5). These indicate Babylon, to which Jehoiachin and the first company of deportees were carried away.

"And the roots thereof were under him ..." (Ezekiel 17:6). "This means that Zedekiah’s dependence upon Babylon would not change.” The earlier statement here that "his branches turned toward him (the king of Babylon)" indicates the same thing. As long as Zedekiah remained true to his sworn allegiance to the king of Babylon, all went well with the kingdom; but his rebellion brought on the swift and total destruction of Jerusalem.

Verses 7-10

Eze 17:7-10

Ezekiel 17:7-10

There was also another great eagle with great wings and many feathers: and, behold, this vine did bend her roots toward him, and shot forth her branches toward him, that he might water it by the furrows of her plantation. It was planted in a good soil by great 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 GOD; Shall it prosper? shall he not pull up the roots thereof, and cut off the fruit thereof, that it wither? it shall wither in all the leaves of her spring, even without great power or many people to pluck it up by 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 furrows where it grew.

THE OTHER EAGLE

The other eagle depicted here was, of course, another vulture, fitting emblem indeed of the king of Egypt; and the vine bending its roots toward Pharaoh and shooting forth its branches toward him are references to the treachery of Zedekiah against his suzerain overlord, the king of Babylon, as he attempted against all the advice of God’s prophets, to form an effective alliance with Egypt.

God here stated the prophecy of the failure of such a maneuver by Zedekiah in the form of questions, the true meaning of which was summed up in Ezekiel 17:10, "It shall wither in the beds where it grew." Beasley-Murray identified this second vulture as Pharaoh-Hophra (Jeremiah 44:30).

"When the east wind toucheth it ..." (Ezekiel 17:10). "The hot, east wind blowing across the desert here was the armies of Babylon, led by Nebuchadnezzar.”

Verses 11-16

Eze 17:11-16

Ezekiel 17:11-16

"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 in 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."

GOD EXPLAINS THE MEANING

This heavenly explanation of what the story of the two vultures really meant is crystal clear, and there can be no further doubt of the destruction and death of Zedekiah, accompanied by the total ruin of Jerusalem.

"He took of the seed royal, and made a covenant with him ..." (Ezekiel 17:13). The person mentioned here was, "An uncle of Jehoiachin, named Mattaniah, whom Nebuchadnezzar made king of Judah under the name of Zedekiah (2 Kings 24:17), and from whom he took an oath.”

Verses 17-21

Eze 17:17-21

Ezekiel 17:17-21

"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 hath 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."

"Mine oath he hath despised ... and my covenant he hath broken ..." (Ezekiel 17:19). Here is the declaration that it was not merely his oath and covenant with the king of Babylon that Zedekiah had violated and despised, it was the oath and covenant of Jehovah himself. How was this?

"The indignant passion that breathes through this oracle is aroused by the fact that Zedekiah’s perfidy toward Nebuchadnezzar was in reality perfidy toward Yahweh himself, whose name he had solemnly invoked when had taken the oath of allegiance to the king of Babylon.”

This certainly constituted the ultimate aggravation of Zedekiah’s shameful guilt. "When Nebuchadnezzar formed that vassal treaty with Zedekiah, he was required to swear loyalty to him in the name of Jehovah. The oath may have been confirmed by the change of names from Mattaniah to Zedekiah (2 Kings 24:17). Mattaniah means `gift of God’; "and Zedekiah means `righteousness of Jehovah.’”

Up to this point in this chapter, the message has been simple and clear enough. God will indeed punish the treacherous Zedekiah, along with his evil advisers and the rebellious city; but the final three verses speak of something glorious yet in store for Israel.

Verses 22-24

Eze 17:22-24

Ezekiel 17:22-24

"Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: I will 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."

"This prophecy was fulfilled only in a Messianic sense.” "We have here a striking prediction of the kingdom of Messiah.” May noted that this scripture corresponds, "with the common designation of the Messiah as the Branch.”

There is actually another parable here, using the same figures with different interpretations from the same figures in the first part of the chapter. "The `tender one’ taken from the topmost twigs is the Messiah of the house of David (Jeremiah 23:5 f; Jeremiah 33:15).” Other Biblical examples of kingdoms sheltering beasts and birds are in Ezekiel 31:6; Ezekiel 31:12; Daniel 4:12; Daniel 4:21; and Mark 4:32.

The promise here revealed that God would indeed honor all of the sacred promises to David, but that he would do so with entirely different personnel from that of the apostate Israel as represented by the unfaithful and treacherous Zedekiah.

"All the trees of the field" (Ezekiel 17:24). "These are the rulers of the world and the nations governed by them.” The world-wide acceptance of Christ in his Messianic rule is indicated by this, but not in the sense that "the nations" shall be incorporated into God’s kingdom.

Unfaithful Jerusalem - Ezekiel 15:1 to Ezekiel 17:24

Open It

1. What is one of your favorite love stories? Why?

2. In what ways are you most like one or both of your parents?

Explore It

3. Why did God vow to treat the remnant of His people in Jerusalem like a vine thrown into the fire? (Ezekiel 15:6-8)

4. What reception did the allegorical Jerusalem get at the time of her birth? (Ezekiel 16:3-5)

5. Into what relationship did God enter with the woman when she was grown? (Ezekiel 16:8)

6. How are God’s blessings to His people described in the allegory Ezekiel told? (Ezekiel 16:9-14)

7. How did Jerusalem respond to God’s love and her good fortune? (Ezekiel 16:15-19)

8. With what nations did Jerusalem prostitute herself? (Ezekiel 16:23-29)

9. What punishment does God detail for Jerusalem’s unfaithfulness? (Ezekiel 16:35-43)

10. How would God reverse the fortunes of the Jews and the Canaanites in order to humble them? (Ezekiel 16:53-58)

11. What did God promise to do for Israel in the final analysis? (Ezekiel 16:59-63)

12. What is described in the parable told by Ezekiel? (Ezekiel 17:1-6)

13. How did the vine respond to the appearance of another eagle? (Ezekiel 17:7-8)

14. What fate did God predict for the "unfaithful" vine? (Ezekiel 17:9-10)

15. How did God explain the allegory of the two eagles and the vine? (Ezekiel 17:11-15)

16. What did God say would happen to the king who turned to Egypt for help? (Ezekiel 17:16-21)

17. After all of this destruction, what did God intend to do with a "shoot"? (Ezekiel 17:22-24)

Get It

18. How can some woods be useful even after they are burned?

19. According to the parable of the baby turned woman, what chance did Jerusalem have to thrive apart from God’s grace and favor?

20. What were the allegorical equivalents of some of the blessings enjoyed by Jerusalem as God’s people?

21. In what ways is idolatry portrayed in the parable of the woman?

22. What do you think is the greatest condemnation in the parable of the woman?

23. How do you imagine it felt to Jews to be compared unfavorably to Sodom?

24. What will likely happen if we seek earthly recourse for the bad circumstances God has allowed to happen to us?

25. How can we be certain that God will carry through on His words?

Apply It

26. How many ways can you list that God has blessed you as He blessed Israel?

27. How can you guard against the temptation to seek earthly allies rather than turning to God?

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Ezekiel 17". "Old & New Testament Restoration Commentary". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/onr/ezekiel-17.html.
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