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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

Ezekiel 17


Under the parable, of two eagles and a vine, is shewed God's judgment upon Jerusalem for revolting from Babylon to Egypt. God promiseth to plant the cedar of the Gospel.

Before Christ 593.

Verse 2

Ezekiel 17:2. Put forth a riddle That is to say, a continued metaphor, or figurative speech; an allegory. The prophets frequently offer their instruction under this kind of enigmatical parables. Our Saviour complied with this taste of the easterns in his Gospel. See Calmet.

Verse 3

Ezekiel 17:3. A great eagle, &c.— This great eagle represents Nebuchadrezzar, according to all the interpreters; his greatness, long wings, beautiful, abundant, and well-coloured plumage, denote the force and greatness of his empire, the rapidity of his conquests, and the number of his subjects. The Scripture has in more places than one described this prince under the figure of an eagle. See Jeremiah 48:40; Jeremiah 49:22.Daniel 7:4; Daniel 7:4. By his coming to Lebanon, and taking the highest branch of the cedar, is meant his invasion of Judaea, his investing the city of Jerusalem, and taking king Jehoiachin and the princes captive. See Calmet.

Verse 4

Ezekiel 17:4. Carried it into a land of traffick Babylon and the country round it, being the seat of universal monarchy, must of consequence have been a place of great trade. Strabo tells us, that the merchants who travelled by land to Babylon, went through the country of the Arabians called Scenitae; and their vessels of great burden came up the Euphrates to the walls of the city from the Persian Gulf: in short, the multitude of the people, and the riches of Babylon, brought from all quarters of the world great numbers of merchants.

Verse 5

Ezekiel 17:5. He took also of the seed, &c.— He took also [a cion] of the product of the land, and set it in the planting ground. He placed it, &c. Hereby is meant Zedekiah, who was of the seed royal, whom Nebuchadrezzar established king in Judea.

Verse 6

Ezekiel 17:6. A spreading vine of low stature This implies, that though Zedekiah was opulent and at ease, yet he was without force, without authority, and wholly dependent on the king of Chaldea.

Verse 7

Ezekiel 17:7. There was also another great eagle That is, Pharaoh Apries, king of Egypt, a great and powerful prince, though less so than the king of Babylon. Zedekiah made an alliance with him, whereupon an army of Egyptians came to his assistance, and. raised the siege of Jerusalem. See Jeremiah 37:5; Jeremiah 37:21. Instead of great, we may read, large wings; and the last clause may, be rendered, And shot forth its branches under him, from the furrows where it was planted, that he might water it.

Verse 8

Ezekiel 17:8. It was planted It had been planted.

Verse 9

Ezekiel 17:9. It shall wither, &c.— It shall altogether wither; nor shall the mighty arm or great company cause it not to be plucked up by the roots. It is very plain from the 17th verse, that by the mighty arm, &c. is meant the king of Egypt, whose assistance the Lord foretels should be useless to protect Zedekiah from the Chaldeans, who are in the next verse well compared to a parching wind, which blasts the fruits of the earth, and makes every thing look naked and bare. See Houbigant: who instead of east wind in Eze 17:10 reads vehement wind; and instead of furrows—orders or rows.

Verses 12-14

Ezekiel 17:12-14. Is come to Jerusalem Came to Jerusalem, and took the king, &c. Ezekiel 17:13. And he took of the king's seed, and struck up a covenant with him, and laid him under an oath; he took also the mighty of the land. Ezekiel 17:14. That the kingdom might be in a low condition, or, in subjection, and might not lift, &c.

Verse 17

Ezekiel 17:17. Make for him, &c.— Support him in the war, when they, that is to say, the Chaldeans, cast up mounts, and build forts, &c. Houbigant.

Verse 19

Ezekiel 17:19. Mine oath That is, given and received in my name. For kings in their covenants swore each by the name of his God, as Jacob and Laban did formerly in mount Gilead.

Verse 20

Ezekiel 17:20. And will plead with him there And will judge him there, will be avenged upon, or will reckon with him. Zedekiah was brought to Nebachadrezzar at Riblah, where he was condemned to lose his eyes. The prophet insinuates here, that Nebuchadrezzar would judge him afresh at Babylon. It is certain that Zedekiah died there.

Verses 22-23

Ezekiel 17:22-23. I will also take, &c.— I will also take of a branch of the high cedar, and I will give out from the top of his young suckers a tender twig: I will crop it off, and will plant it, &c. Ezekiel 17:23. In the mountain, &c. And it shall send forth shoots, and give blossoms, and grow up to a good cedar, Houbigant. We have here a striking promise of the restoration and establishment of the kingdom of Judah. The terms in which the prophesy is conceived, agree only with the reign of the Lord Jesus Christ. In vain do the Jews pretend to explain them of Zerubbabel, or of the Maccabees: the state of the Jews, under both one and the other, was by no means proportioned to the expressions which we read here. Who ever saw in their person, a cedar planted upon a high mountain, which became fruitful, and shot forth its branches on all sides, stretching itself out in such a manner that the birds came and reposed under its shadow? Nothing of all this corresponds properly to any but Jesus Christ, who collected together in his church, and under his empire, all the birds of heaven; that is to say, all those who through grace arose above earthly things, and attached themselves to God alone by the profession and possession of Christianity. And why may not this prophesy have a reference to the increase of this church and empire to the end of time? See Calmet.

Verse 24

Ezekiel 17:24. I the Lord have brought down I the Lord bring down the high tree, and exalt the low; have dried up the green tree, but will make the dry tree flourish; I the Lord have spoken, and will do it. Many commentators suppose, that this alludes to the debasement of Zedekiah, and the elevation of Jechoniah: but it seems more agreeable to the preceding verses to understand it of the kingdom of Christ; which by degrees was to be exalted above all the kingdoms of the world, and at length put an end to them, itself continuing unto all eternity. See Daniel 2:35; Daniel 2:44; Daniel 7:27. Luke 1:33. 1 Corinthians 15:24.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, We have here,

1. The riddle and parable which Ezekiel is ordered to put forth to them; not that God would wrap up in obscure expressions their approaching doom; but that, engaged by this method of proposing it, they might pay greater attention to the warning.
2. The explication of the riddle to the rebellious house of Judah, that they might not plead ignorance, but be left without excuse.
[1.] The great eagle, is Nebuchadrezzar; his great and long wings represent his vast dominions; and his coming to Lebanon, his invasion of the land of Judaea. Jeconiah is the highest branch cropped by him; and the top of the young twigs the princes of the land, and the seed-royal, which he carried into captivity to a land of traffic, to Babylon, the great mart and seat of the empire. Zedekiah is the seed of the land, whom he set with great circumspection, as the word signifies, in the fruitful field of Judaea; having exacted from him an oath of allegiance, and thereupon appointed him king over much people, represented by great waters; having taken the mighty of the land as hostages for his fidelity; that, weakened by their loss, Zedekiah might be the less inclined or able to rebel; and that though the kingdom still remained, it might be base, reduced, and dependent upon the king of Babylon; and by keeping of his covenant it might stand, and flourish, though not in its former splendour, yet with comfort, peace, and dignity; as a vine, though of a low stature, whose branches turned towards Nebuchadnezzar, and the roots spread under him; safe and protected by his power, though subject to his disposal: and in this state it became a vine, and brought forth branches. The royal family increased, and for a while the people prospered under Zedekiah's government; and might have grown greater, could they have been content with their station. Note; When by the providence of God we are reduced, it is our wisdom, and will be our comfort, to submit, and make the best improvement of our present state; and then we shall find some good arising to us out of the evil.

[2.] The other great eagle, is the king of Egypt, with large and extensive dominions, though not equal to the king of Babylon. To him Zedekiah inclined; and though he was very flourishing in his present state under the dominion of Nebuchadnezzar, yet he could not bear his subjection, and turned his branches, sent his ambassadors to Egypt, in order to obtain infantry and cavalry to support him in the rebellion that he meditated; and to be watered by the furrows of her plantation, as Egypt was by the Nile, hoping to be enriched and made great by this alliance with the Egyptians. But they who are discontented with the state that Providence allots them, only plague themselves by fighting against God, and aggravate the miseries under which they are so impatient, as was Zedekiah's case. For,

[3.] God denounces his doom. So far from being watered by Egypt, the vine shall wither in the furrows where it was planted, as a tree blasted by the east wind. It shall be plucked up by the roots, and the fruit cut off; and this without great power or many people, any army being sufficient to destroy that nation which God hath devoted to ruin. How can a wretch so perfidious, a covenant-breaker, hope to escape? By an oath God pronounces sentence on the rebellious king, ungrateful to his benefactor who left him a prince, when he might have bound him as a prisoner: false to the oath of God, and faithless to his engagements, God will punish him for his perjury. His Egyptian allies shall help in vain; and instead of succouring Jerusalem, shall be beaten themselves. Zedekiah's own forces, as cowards, shall flee, unable to stand in the day of battle; part slain with the sword, and the shattered remains scattered to the four winds. Thus deserted and helpless, he shall be taken in God's snare, delivered a prisoner to the victorious king of Babylon, whose covenant he broke; and die in captive bands in the land of Chaldea, the righteous vengeance due to his crimes: and when this prediction should be fulfilled, then at least he should be made to know that the Lord had spoken it, Note; (1.) Oaths are sacred things: they who trifle with them shall bear their judgment. (2.) Sinners will not now believe the threatenings of God against them; but the time will come, when they will be terribly convinced of their truth by fatal experience.

2nd1y, In the midst of the threatened desolations we have a gracious promise to support the hopes of God's people, who might be ready to fear that the royal line of David would be extinct, and the promise of the Messiah, who was to descend from him, be disappointed.
1. God will raise the tabernacle of David from its ruins: out of the cedar, the Jewish nation, from the highest branch, the royal family of Judah, God will crop off a tender one, the Messiah, and will plant it upon an high mountain and eminent; in the mount of God in glory, whither the Saviour ascended after his resurrection; or in his church on earth, the spiritual mount Zion; and thence his boughs shall spread, fill the earth with fruit, and afford a safe shelter for fowl of every wing: penitent sinners of all nations shall fly to him, and dwell under his shadow with delight, protected from every evil, and singing among the branches, happy in the experience of his love and favour. Some apply this to Zerubbabel, in whom the house of David revived; but, whatever reference it might have to him, we may venture to affirm, that a greater than Zerubbabel is here.

2. God will be glorified in his work. All the trees of the field, the nations of the earth, converted by the preaching of the Gospel, shall know that I the Lord 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; which some interpret of the destruction of the Chaldean monarchy, and the restoration of the Jewish people: others, of the rejection of the Jews, and the calling of the Gentiles, who seemed as a withered and dry tree, respecting all spiritual life: and others, more generally, of the destruction of the kingdom of Satan, and the exaltation of the kingdom of Christ, which shall in the latter day spread universally. I the Lord have spoken, and have done it; his word being as sure as if it were already accomplished. See the Critical Annotations.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Ezekiel 17". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.