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THE RIDDLE, OR PARABLE, OF THE GREAT EAGLE AND THE SPREADING VINE.
Riddles had always been popular with the Hebrews, but Ezekiel’s age was the age of AEsop, when teaching by riddle, fable, and allegory was most popular. This story of the eagle, like so many of AEsop’s fables, has a political bearing, illustrating in a vivid way the relation of the king Zedekiah to the great king Nebuchadnezzar. “It contains a statement of Nebuchadnezzar’s policy in his dealings with Judah, whose impartial accuracy could not be improved by the most disinterested historian” Expositor’s Bible. It was a protest against Jerusalem looking to Egypt for help against Babylon, and furnished an additional illustration of the ingratitude and treachery of Jerusalem to earthly as well as heavenly helpers.
2. A riddle… a parable It was a riddle because it was couched in dark language; it was a parable because of the comparison drawn between the material and the spiritual.
3. A great eagle with great wings This well described Nebuchadnezzar, swift, strong, and rapacious, whose mighty provinces were widespread (long-winged) and full of people (feathers), composed of all manner of nations, languages and manners (diverse colors). Wesley. The figure of the eagle as applied to conquerors was a common one and had also been used by Jeremiah of Nebuchadnezzar (Jeremiah 49:22).
The highest branch of the cedar The cedar was the royal tree of Palestine, as Lebanon was its most royal mountain. The highest branch of the cedar was the king Jehoiachin and the “top of his young twigs” (Ezekiel 17:4) symbolized the princes of the royal house (Ezekiel 17:12; Ezekiel 17:22).
4. Land of traffic Compare Ezekiel 16:29, where Chaldea is called “the merchants’ land.” Modern discoveries in Babylon have emphasized the appropriateness of the title, for literally tons of clay tablets have been digged up containing bills and deeds and business contracts of all sorts.
5. He took also of the seed of the land, and planted it It was Nebuchadnezzar who placed Zedekiah upon the throne (2 Chronicles 36:10; 2 Kings 24:17; Jeremiah 35:11). The “fruitful field” and “ great waters” indicate the beauty and comfort of his Palestinian kingdom (Deuteronomy 8:7-9; Deuteronomy 11:10-12), while the “as a willow” represents the possibility of its rapid and luxuriant development (Isaiah 44:4). The cedar sprout was not, as so many expositors seem to think, transformed into a willow tree or grapevine, but it was set close to great waters, as is a willow tree, and took the form of a vine rather than a tree.
6. Vine of low stature The Hebrew tree grew luxuriantly, but was, after all, more like a vine than like its ancestral cedar, for “its branches turned again to itself and its roots remained under it.” Kautzsch.
7. Another great eagle The king of Egypt.
This vine did bend her roots toward him Zedekiah began to look for nourishment to Egypt, although he had received his crown from Babylon (Ezekiel 17:5; Ezekiel 17:8; Ezekiel 17:13; Ezekiel 17:15). The figure is that this vinelike cedar, instead of striking its roots deep into its own native soil, where the Babylonian eagle had planted it, threw out its roots toward the Nile.
By the furrows R.V., “from the beds;” or as Cornill, “more than the beds in which it was planted.”
9. Shall it prosper Such ingratitude and perjury (Ezekiel 17:13) will bring upon it not only the loss of its fruit, but of its life. It shall be plucked up by the roots. It shall wither, etc. Rather, all her fresh springing leaves shall wither; neither with great power and many people shall any be able to lift it up again out of the roots thereof. Hitzig, Keil.
10. When the east wind toucheth it After having been pulled up it shall not take root again, but shall wither where it falls (xix, 12). “Its destruction shall come from the quarter where it derived its origin.” Skinner.
THE RIDDLE EXPLAINED, Ezekiel 17:11-24.
12. Is come Literally, came.
Hath taken Literally, took (also Ezekiel 17:13).
13. Hath also Literally, took also.
Taken an oath See 2 Chronicles 36:18.
King’s seed,… the mighty of the lands 2 Kings 24:11, etc.; Jeremiah 24:1-2.
14. Might be base Humble, and without pretension. (Compare 1 Chronicles 29:14.) It was with this purpose that Nebuchadnezzar carried away the mighty of the land. Davidson. The Babylonian king wanted to keep this little kingdom which was so near to Egypt wholly dependent upon himself, but was prepared if it kept its covenant with him to protect it from harm that it might continue to stand as one of the “powers.”
15. He rebelled against him See the account in 2 Kings 24:0. The Egyptian king was Pharaoh Hophra (Jeremiah 44:30; Jeremiah 37:5.)
Egypt (Hebrews, Mitzraim). The Tel-el-Amarna tablets show that 1400 B.C. Egypt was called Misri (Assyr., Musri). It is now known that the Babylonians in later times changed the form and why they did so ( Zeilschrift fur Assyria, 4:268). The Bible word is derived from the most ancient form. The chief military strength of Egypt lay in its cavalry and chariot force (Exodus 14:7; 1 Kings 10:28; Isaiah 31:1). The monuments and papyri abundantly sustain this proposition.
16. In the midst of Babylon he shall die See Ezekiel 19:9.
17. Make for him Old English for help him. Egypt’s assistance shall be in vain. (See Jeremiah 37:5; Lamentations 4:17.)
19. Mine oath that he hath despised Not only against Nebuchadnezzar has Zedekiah rebelled, but against Jehovah. The oath was no doubt taken in Jehovah’s name, and it certainly had the approval of God’s prophet (Jeremiah 25:9-11; Jeremiah 27:9-17). The calamity falls upon Israel, not chiefly because of its lack of political acumen, but because of its sin against God. Compare the style of this utterance with that of the Arabians, who rebelled against Assur-banipal and explained their subsequent humiliation by saying, “It was because we broke the great oath of Assur and have sinned against the goodness of Assur-banipal.” Ezekiel Studien, p. 62.
20. I will spread my net upon him Compare Ezekiel 12:13.
I… will plead with him “Subject him to the consequences of his treachery, bringing it thereby to his knowledge that he is suffering the penalty of it” (Ezekiel 20:35-36; Ezekiel 38:22; Jeremiah 2:35). Davidson.
His trespass, etc. Rather, his unfaithfulness that he has committed against me.
21. Fugitives Perhaps, chosen ones, or choice men (Targum, Peshito).
22. I will also take… and will plant Jehovah will do better than Nebuchadnezzar and better than Pharaoh-Hophra. (See Ezekiel 17:3.) The Babylonian king failed in his attempt to make the kingdom of Israel “stand,” and the Egyptian king was a weak ally, but Jehovah will not fail.
The most learned Jewish rabbis have always interpreted this of the kingdom of the coming Messiah.
23. In the mountain of the height… will I plant it Compare Ezekiel 17:3; Ezekiel 20:40; Ezekiel 40:2; Isaiah 2:9; Isaiah 11:10; Micah 4:1-3. This new kingdom shall be conspicuous and fruitful, yea, it shall be a universal kingdom, for “all fowl of every wing” shall dwell under it (Ezekiel 31:6; Daniel 4:12). Babylon could only make of the Israelitish kingdom a “vine of low stature,” and Egypt could not do more; but Jehovah can make of it a mighty cedar crowning the mountain height. This was never realized until the Messianic kingdom was set up by the divine “Branch” on the holy hill of Zion. (Zechariah 3:8; Isaiah 53:2; Isaiah 11:1.) In the only fragment of a wall preserved from the most ancient mosque in Damascus is carved this sentence: “Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and thy dominion endureth throughout all generations” ( <19E513>Psalms 145:13; Daniel 2:44; Daniel 7:27).
24. And all the trees of the field shall know The other kingdoms shall be taught Jehovah’s majesty by his exaltation of the feeble and his punishment of the proud (1 Samuel 2:4-8; Luke 1:51-53).
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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Ezekiel 17". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany