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LAMENTATION FOR THE MISERABLE FATE AWAITING THE PRINORS AND PEOPLE OF ISRAEL (Chap. 19)
EXEGETICAL NOTES.—Ezekiel 19:1-9. The prophet foresees the capture and exile of the Princes into Egypt and Babylon. This judgment to come on Israel is described under the parable of lion’s whelps taken in a pit.
Ezekiel 19:1. “A lamentation.” “A dirge or elegy: a species of Hebrew poetry characteristic of the melancholy fate of those who are the subject of it, and the doleful feelings to which it gives utterance. Sometimes, as in that over Saul and Jonathan, it is exquisitely tender and pathetic. The royal personages here referred to, designated princes of Israel, were in reality those of the kingdom of Judah. They are so called because they were the only legitimate rulers of the Hebrew people. Those who had reigned over the ten tribes were, so far as the theocracy is concerned, merely usurpers.”—(Henderson.)
Ezekiel 19:2. “Thy mother.” The mother of the people is Jerusalem (Ezekiel 21:20; Galatians 4:25). “A lioness.” “The people appear as a lioness on the ground of Genesis 49:9, to which passage the couching in particular refers (comp. Numbers 23:24; Numbers 24:9; Isaiah 29:1), because it was a royal people, of equal birth with other independent and powerful nations, as this royal nature was historically displayed, especially in the times of David and Solomon. The highest development of this lion-nature, the true verification of Genesis 49:9-10, first came to pass in the future, in the appearance of the Messiah, the Lion of the tribe of Judah” (Revelation 5:5).—Hengstenberg. “She lay down among lions.” These lions are the other kingdoms of the world, the Gentile nations. Jerusalem—the people of Israel—lay down among them when she took her place in the family of nations (2 Samuel 7:9). “She nourished her whelps among young lions.” “The whelps of the mother are the sons of the King of Israel. The bringing up of these among lions points to the fact that the kingdom of Israel was of equal birth with the mighty kingdoms of the heathen world.”—(Hengstenberg).
Ezekiel 19:3. “It learned to catch the prey; it devoured men.” “The ignoble side of the lion-nature is here brought to view. The distance, however, is not very great: there is a close connection between the two sides. By the constitution of human nature, arrogance is inseparably connected with high rank, and therewith a rude barbarity towards all who stand in the way of self-will. He only who walks with God can escape this natural consequence; and the walk of faith is not the attainment of every man. It should, however, be the attainment of every man among the people of God; and where it fails, and the corrupt nature unfolds itself without resistance, there the vengeance of God takes effect. Jehoahaz proved to be a barbarous tyrant toward his own subjects; whereas, according to its constitution, the kingdom of Israel should exhibit a heroic power against the enemies of the people of God. For this reason he was punished.” (Hengstenberg). “The thought is the following:—Why has Israel put itself upon a level with the heathen nations, and adopted the rapacious and tyrannical nature of the powers of the world? The question involves the reproof that Israel has struck out a course opposed to its divine calling, and will now have to taste the bitter fruits of this assumption of heathen ways.”—(Keil).
Ezekiel 19:4. “And they brought him with chains unto the land of Egypt.” The Heb. word means properly hooks, or rings, which were fastened in the noses of wild beasts, to which a chain or cord was attached in order to drag them about (Ezekiel 29:4). This describes the fate of Jehoahaz, which is related in 2 Kings 23:31, etc. The fetters which were fastened upon him correspond to the ring by which wild beasts were led about against their will (2 Kings 19:28).
Ezekiel 19:5. “Now when she saw that she had waited, and her hope was lost.” “While circumstances seemed to hold out some promise of the restoration of Jehoahaz, the Jewish people cherished some hope, but having been disappointed, their hope at last expired.”—(Henderson). “Then she took another of her whelps, and made him a young lion.” This was Jehoiachin (2 Kings 24:8, etc.
Ezekiel 19:6. “And he went up and down among the lions.” Jehoiachin affected great magnificence among the kings of the earth. He was ambitious to be numbered among the great lions of the nations (Jeremiah 22:14-15). “And learned to catch the prey, and devoured men.” Jehoiachin, to gratify his ambition was guilty of oppression and bloodshed (Jeremiah 22:13-17).
Ezekiel 19:7. “And he knew their desolate palaces.” Some adopt the reading, “and he knew his widows and laid waste their cities.” “The knowing denotes the practising of brutalities. His, that is, the king’s widows, are the widows whom he, as king, was bound to protect. His widows are at the same time their, the people’s, widows, the wretched and suffering. The subject is the king as a lion, as a hard and cruel man. There is an abridged comparison here: he acts towards the wretched, whom he was called on to protect, as one who injures a widow confided to his protection. The fulness of the land is that which lives and moves in it. The lion roars when he is about to rend; and this rending is to be added to the roar, as only thus the effect ascribed to the roar is explained.” (Hengstenberg). “As in Isaiah 13:22, the word in question is used poetically of widowed palaces, i.e,. forsaken of their inhabitants, so here ironically.” (Lange).
Ezekiel 19:8. “The provinces.” “The provinces are the surrounding countries, as parts of the Chaldean empire; comp. 2 Kings 24:2, according to which the Syrians, Ammonites, and Moabites were summoned against Jehoiakim, the father of Jehoiachin.”—(Hengstenberg).
Ezekiel 19:9. “Brought him to the king of Babylon.” Jehoiachin was carried captive to Babylon, where, though a prisoner, he was treated with kindness by Evil-Merodach (2 Kings 25:27-30).
LAMENTATION OVER ISRAEL’S FALLEN ROYALTY
This lamentation is in the poetical form. Poetry is the natural companion of man’s spirit through all the heights and depths of life and feeling. The greatest sorrows and joys must find their truest and highest expression in poetry. Hence the Book of Psalms retains its place as the hand-book of devotion for the Church of God.
I. Israel’s kings had a noble origin (Genesis 49:9.) Their mother was Jerusalem—the city of God. “She lay down amongst the lions,” she took her place among the family of nations. In King David, God made of Israel a great name, like unto the name of the great men that are in the earth (2 Samuel 7:9). Had the chosen nation continued faithful they would have remained in peace and prosperity. The greatness of the eminence to which they had been raised by the providence of God, gives a depth of sadness to this lamentation now made over them.
II. Israel’s kings were corrupted by evil examples. The society of the great of the earth corrupted them in religion and morals (Ezekiel 19:6-7). They learned the worst vices of kings. Monarchs have special temptations arising from their position. They have opportunity to inflict the greatest wrongs upon mankind; such as tyranny, oppression, etc. They learn to “prey” upon men, yea, to “devour” them. Men are “devoured” when they are bereft of liberty and of life by tyrants.
III. The violence and cunning of Israel’s kings provoked the same in others. The lion had learned to catch the prey, and to affright the nations by the noise of his roaring. But he was not victorious. He only stirred up among the nations the same feelings which raged within himself, and provoked revenge (Ezekiel 19:8). The most powerful tyrants must reap the reward of their own doings. The measure they mete shall surely be measured to them again.
IV. The evil examples of Israel’s kings failed to teach the people wisdom. When they saw that their hope was gone they elected another king. This new king walked after the manner of the rest (Ezekiel 19:5-7). The nation suffered also under him as they must do under all bad kings. His projects were wicked, violent, and wild, fitly represented by the roaring of the lion. Nations some times become so maddened that they repeat those mistakes which, as they ought to know, must plunge them in ruin.
V. God has ways to punish the most powerful princes. God uses the passions and inventions of men to punish those who commit wickedness in high places. He has chains, pits, hunters, nets, and cages for wicked kings. Often by court intrigues and by the jealousies of nations He brings them to judgment. His judgments upon such may be long delayed, but they are sure to come in the end.
“Though the mills of God grind slowly, yet they grind exceeding small;
Though with patience He stands waiting, with exactness grinds He all.”
God will bring tyrants to an end. At last the lions’ roaring on the mountains dies away (Ezekiel 19:9). Sooner or later, “the wicked cease from troubling.”
1. The hopes of the wicked are not long-lived. They are soon dashed and disappointed. “The hope of unjust men perisheth,” and that easily and speedily (Proverbs 11:7). It is likened to a spider’s web or house, a little thing; a besom sweeps away the house and inhabitant together, and that in a moment: such is the hope of wicked men, it is suddenly and easily ruined. There is a difference between the hopes of the righteous and those of the wicked: “The hope of the righteous shall be gladness: but the expectation of the wicked shall perish” (Proverbs 10:28).
2. Corrupt states are so addicted to their princes that they will set them up to rule over them, though it be to their own ruin. Jerusalem, the lioness, sets “up another of her whelps, and makes it a young lion.” She put this whelp into the royal seat, and stirred him up to do lion-like, such things as did unto himself and Jerusalem also. She learned nothing by the loss of her former whelp, but proceeds in her old way, and would have lions, tyrants to be over her, she, being a lioness, very corrupt and wicked, couples with that Egyptian lion, Pharoah, and brings forth, advances a lion like themselves. The men of Shechem made Abimelech king, but he proved not only a bramble to scratch them, but a fierce and fiery lion to consume them. States had better consider whom they set over them, lest they become lions unto them.
3. Such as men live amongst and converse withal, such they prove. “He went up and down among the lions, and became a lion. Those lions he conversed with talked of making themselves great, of having their wills, of ruling by prerogative, and these things, and such like, were soon learned by this whelp. When Nebuchadnezzar was among beasts, he became brutish, and did as they did. Ill company is the Delilah that bewitches, defiles, and ruins many in their estates, bodies, and souls. David knew this, therefore he said, “Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity” (Psalms 6:8); and “I am a companion of them that fear thee” (Psalms 119:63).
4. They who converse with wicked ones do not only become wicked, but many times they prove eminently wicked. They exceed their teachers. Jehoiachin, by his converse with lions, became not only a lion to catch the prey, but such an one as devoured men, defiled widows, made desolate palaces, laid waste cities, and the land also. He went beyond other tyrants, he was an inventor of wickedness, and profited above others in his way, and came to a perfection of iniquity. It is incident to man’s nature to outstrip one the other, if not in good, yet especially in evil.
5. Tyranny is hateful unto heathens. “Then the nations set against him on every side.” Jehoiachin was such a roaring lion that the heathens would not endure him. Doubtless the princes of the nations were tyrannous themselves, yet this man exceeded so in his tyrannical practices that he incurred the displeasure and hatred of them all. Tyrants cease to be men, and become beasts; therefore here are called lions, and are ranked among wild savage creatures; which none can endure. When there are wild beasts in a land, all are against them, and often there is a mutual agreement and concurrence to destroy them. The nations agreed to hunt and take this lion.
6. God hath times, means, ways to catch lions, to deal with covetous and cruel men. When Jehoiachin made desolate the palaces, and wasted the cities and the land; then the Lord stirred up the nations. They were His net, His pit, His instruments to take this lion withal. God wants not means to take them; He hath nations at command, and can call them forth and set them to hunt lions when he pleases (Jeremiah 50:7. Tyrannical princes are not of long continuance. They are usually short-lived; either they lose their power, or their power and lives both. Jehoiachin roared and played the lion eleven years, and then he was taken in the pit of the nations and lost his power. So Jehoahaz before him. He tyrannized months, and then was taken. When potentates oppress and tyrannize, their ruin is at hand. God hath said, “Bloody men shall not live out half their days” (Psalms 55:23). And He makes it good. “He cuts off the spirit of princes, and is terrible to the kings of the earth” (Psalms 76:12).
8. God takes away wicked and tyrannical princes that it may be well with His people, that Zion may have the benefit of it. Jehoiachin was taken, chained, carried to Babylon, and put in strongholds, and why?—“that his voice should be heard no more upon the mountains of Israel;” that the people of God might not be terrrified with his roarings, nor torn with his teeth, but might enjoy freedom and safety. God, for the good of His people, destroys or drives out the wild beasts. “No lion shall be there” (Isaiah 35:9).—(Greenhill).
EXEGETICAL NOTES.—Ezekiel 19:10-14. The prophet laments for the destruction of the kingdom, and banishment of the people, under the parable of a wasted vine.
Ezekiel 19:10. “Like a vine in thy blood.” The royal vine of Judah was torn up when Jehoiachin was carried captive to Babylon. That vine was planted afresh in the person of Zedekiah, so that the life of the whole plant depended upon him. The very sap of that royal tree was his blood. Some render, “in thy likeness;” but this is forced, and gives no suitable meaning.
Ezekiel 19:11. “Strong rods.” “These represent princes of the royal house. In her prosperous state, the Jewish kingdom, so far from resembling one of those vines which creep upon the ground, was comparable to one trained up by the side of a wall, or supported by a tree. Some of these are carried to a great height, such as that mentioned by Schulz, the stem of which was a foot and a-half in diameter, and about thirty feet high, while its branches formed a tent of upwards of fifty feet square.”—(Henderson.) “Thick branches.” The branches of forest trees. The once lowly vine now appears towering above oaks and cedars, yet is still without fruit (Ezekiel 15:6).
Ezekiel 19:12. “But she was plucked up in fury, she was cast down to the ground.” “Without the intervention of anything further, there follows its splendid growth, like a lightning flash from the clear heavens, the complete overthrow of the vine, i.e. of Jerusalem—Judah, the birth-place of kings, and therewith the Davidic kingdom. While Ezekiel 19:2-9 bewailed the existing kings, both as bearers of the Davidic royalty, and at the same time as suggestive, by their fate, to the actual king; now Zedekiah, as he with whom the Davidic kingdom is subverted, becomes the subject of the lament, just as if everything had already happened.”—(Lange).
Ezekiel 19:13. “And now she is planted in the wilderness.” Figuratively describes the captivity, when David’s stock was transplanted into the “wilderness” of Babylonia (Ezekiel 20:35).
Ezekiel 19:14. “And fire is gone out of a rod of her branches, which hath devoured her fruit.” Zedekiah was the vain-glorious rod of this vine. The very rod itself supplied the fire which burned up the whole tree. “It was his revolt from Nebuchadnezzar which caused that monarch to march his army into Judea, take Jerusalem, and carry the Jews captive to Babylon. Thus an end was put to the vine and its branches—a consummation which every Jewish patriot must deeply have bewailed.”—(Henderson.) “This is for a lamentation, and shall be for a lamentation.” “The lamentation is (properly was, with prophetic anticipation of the future) for a lamentation: it is not the fancy of a gloomy seer, but the prediction of a lamentation, which will actually flow in a thousand voices from the mouth of the people. What Ezekiel here pronounces, the people will too soon be compelled to repeat after him. His lamentation is, as it were, the sowing, out of which a rich harvest of lamentation grows. At present the sky is full of joyous music to the people; but very soon it will be said: “My harp is turned to mourning, and my flute to the voice of weeping.”—(Hengstenberg.)
LAMENTATION FOR THE KINGDOM OF JUDAH
Two things concerning the fate of the kingdom of Judah, most of all, sorely touched the prophet’s mind and heart.
I. It was fallen from a high estate. Judah was once a goodly vine, and blest above all others. She was the planting of the Lord. Her elevation to the greatest privileges serves sadly to reveal the depth of her fall.
II. It was doomed to destruction. The destruction was sudden and overwhelming. For immediately before she was full of happiness and splendour, great among the nations, and wielding the rod of power. Their destruction was brought about by the wrath of God. “She was plucked up in fury” (Ezekiel 19:12). When nations cease to acknowledge God, He turns the glory and growth of centuries into a desert. National sins spread like fire, and wrap whole kingdoms in the flames of destruction. The end of sin is “lamentation”—for individuals, for nations. Judah’s kingdom fell, like others before and after it, because it failed to maintain righteousness. There is only one king who can deliver the nations and reign over them for ever and ever. “The Messianic hope was bound up with the Davidic kingdom, whose subversion is here illustrated, and its fulfilment is shown in this, that He who appeared in the world, declared, not without reference to this chapter,’ I am the true vine’ ” (Lange).
1. States and kingdoms, ruined in times of war and trouble, flourish again in times of quiet and silence. Tyranny, oppression, wars, pull down, root up, destroy; but when there is peace and rest, it is otherwise. “They built and prospered,” and why? they had “rest on every side.” When roaring lions are taken away, and men of peaceable and quiet spirits succeed, then the vine grows, then the land prospers, then breaches are repaired.
2. It is through the goodness and blessing of God that wasted kingdoms do become as vines, and flourish again. “Thy mother is like a vine, fruitful and full of branches by reason of many waters.” God watered the kingdom with blessings; He gave peace, He gave the poor strength to labour, He rained upon them, and gave sap to the vine, that she was fruitful. When God lays waste his vineyards, then He commands “the clouds that they rain no rain upon it” (Isaiah 5:6); but when He causes it to flourish, then He calls forth the rain, He moistens the spirits of men of all sorts, to contribute their help, thoughts and counsels for the good of the kingdom. He stirs up the spirits of men to be doing for the public; He gives people planted by Him many waters, many blessings.
3. When mercies are multiplied, men are apt to abuse them, and swell with the enjoyment of them. This metaphysical vine, the kingdom of Judah, had “strong rods her stature was exalted among the thick branches, and she appeared in her height with the multitude of her branches.” She grew up again to a height, greatness. She had a multitude of branches, variety of mercies, and these swelled her so, that she became proud, insolent, and despised others. Prosperity is a dangerous thing, and hath hazarded many. The Babylonian kingdom was so rich, great, populous, and plentiful that it was called “the lady of kingdoms,” and she herself said, “I shall be a lady for ever.” She prided herself in her prosperity (Isaiah 47:5; Isaiah 47:7), so spiritual Babylon (Revelation 18:7). “I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow.” After Hezekiah had received many mercies, “his heart was lifted up” (2 Chronicles 32:23-25). Rehoboam, when he was strengthend in the kingdom, “forsook the law of the Lord, and all Israel with him; “here was a sad effect of prosperity (2 Chronicles 12:1). This people were seldom the better for mercies and blessings bestowed upon them; “I spoke unto thee in thy prosperity, but thou saidst, I will not hear. This hath been thy manner from thy youth, that thou obeyest not my voice” (Jeremiah 22:21). She had forgotten the caution the Lord gave her in the days of her infancy (Deuteronomy 8:11-14).—(Greenhill).
“And now she is planted in the wilderness.” This wilderness was Babylon, which was a fruitful, pleasant, and well-watered country; the city and land were the “glory of kingdoms (Isaiah 13:19). It had variety of rivers (Psalms 137:1). Now if this were the nature of the country, how is it here called a wilderness? It is so called, not in respect of itself, but in reference to the Jews, who being captives therein, were as in a wilderness. In a wilderness, a man is destitute of all comforts and exposed to many dangers; so were the Jews in Babylon.
1. They were destitute of comforts. They came naked into Babylon, where they were amongst a people of a barbarous and unknown tongue, that knew nothing of God; there they had no form of a Church or State; they had no life, but were as dry bones (Ezekiel 37:11). There they were captives; Babylon was a prison unto them, and prisons of what kind soever are not pleasing. Prisoners endure much hunger and thirst, and doubtless so did the Jews in Babylon. Though there were plenty, yet they had little enough, and therefore it was a “dry and thirsty land” to them.
2. They were exposed to many dangers. They were amongst those that mocked and hated them. The Babylonians were “bitter and hasty, terrible and dreadful” (Habakkuk 1:6-7). They were like wild beasts in the wilderness, and sought, upon all occasions, to make a prey of the poor captive Jews. They got the three children into the fiery furnace, Daniel into the lion’s den, and Haman attempted the total ruin of them. “She is planted.” Before (Ezekiel 19:12), it is said, “the fire consumed them.” What is consumed in the fire is burnt to ashes, and how can that be planted? He doth not say the whole vine was burnt, but her “strong rods” were broken off and burnt; some were burnt and consumed by famine, some by the plague, some by the sword (2 Chronicles 36:17). “The king of the Chaldees slew their young men with the sword;” but “they that escaped the sword he carried away to Babylon, where they were servants to him and his sons” (2 Chronicles 36:20). If it should be granted that the whole vine was dried up, withered, and burnt to ashes, yet these words may bear a good and sound sense, viz., thus:—they may be understood of Jehoiachin and those that were with him in Babylon at that time when they were spoken; for the words run in the present tense, “she is planted,” not, she shall be planted, for Zedekiah and those that escaped the sword were carried alter this prophecy to Babylon.—(Greenhill.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Ezekiel 19". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/
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