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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Ezekiel 17

 

 

Verse 1

Ezekiel 17:1 And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,

Ver. 1. And the word of the Lord came.] In the foregoing chapter God had threatened the inhabitants of Jerusalem for violating their covenant with him; and here he threateneth them no less for breach of covenant with men. In case of disobedience to himself, he showeth much patience many times; but in case of disloyalty to a lawful sovereign, against oath especially, he is quick and severe in his executions.


Verse 2

Ezekiel 17:2 Son of man, put forth a riddle, and speak a parable unto the house of Israel;

Ver. 2. Son of man, put forth a riddle.] Acue acumen, sharpen a sharpening, or whet a whetting. The prophet might have expressed God’s mind in fewer words; but then it would not have taken so deep an impression. Parents must whet God’s word upon their children, [Deuteronomy 6:7] ministers upon their people, and Christians upon one another for the increase of love and good works. [Hebrews 10:24] Riddles exercise the wit, and parables help the memory, and excite both attention and affection.


Verse 3

Ezekiel 17:3 And say, Thus saith the Lord GOD A great eagle with great wings, longwinged, full of feathers, which had divers colours, came unto Lebanon, and took the highest branch of the cedar:

Ver. 3. A great eagle with great wings.] An eagle, that king of birds, is a fit emblem of an emperor; (a) as it is here of Nebuchadnezzar the Great. [Ezekiel 17:12 Jeremiah 48:40; Jeremiah 49:22] Monarchs, as eagles, have quick eyes, long talons, fly high pitches, aim at great matters, strive to get above all others, choose themselves high and firm seats, &c. See Job 39:27-30, with the notes. Ajax is called αιτος, an eagle, in Pindarus; so is King Pyrrhus in Plutarch, and took delight in that title. The Spaniard was well laughed at by Captain Drake and his forces when they took Santo Domingo, 1585, and found in the townhall the King of Spain’s arms, and under them a globe of the world, out of which issued, not a well-plumed eagle, but a flying home, with this inscription, Non sufficit orbis the world is not enough. We could not so well bridle his Pegasus at Santo Domingo, yet we put a stop to him at Jamaica; but we have lately pulled his plumes in Flanders to some purpose, by gaining from him Dunkirk, now (b) held by the English, and likewise Berghen, another place of great strength, now held by the French; the good news whereof came to us yesterday, being June 27, 1658. Praised be the holy name of God for ever.

Came unto Lebanon,] i.e., Unto Judea, which lieth near the forest of Lebanon, which forest also lieth in the way from Babylon to Judea.

And took the highest branch of the cedar.] Taleam, the top branch. This was Jeconiah. [2 Kings 24:12]


Verse 4

Ezekiel 17:4 He cropped off the top of his young twigs, and carried it into a land of traffick; he set it in a city of merchants.

Ver. 4. He cropped off the top of his young twigs,] i.e., The nobles carried into captivity with their king, as is to be seen Ezekiel 17:12. So true is that saying of the Rabbis, Nulla est obiectio in lege quae non habet solutionem in latere, There is no riddle in the law that hath not a solution by the sides of it; and so little cause had that Jesuit, Barradius, to borrow an argument from this text to prove the Scriptures to be a riddle and obscure.

And carried it into a land of traffic.] Babylonia was so. See Revelation 18:11. Rome is so, where all things are saleable and soluble. Omnia Romae vaenalia; as was long since complained.

He set it in a city of merchants.] Some city of Babylon, saith Diodat, assigned to the Jews, which was commodious for traffic, to keep them from all thoughts of war and state policy.


Verse 5

Ezekiel 17:5 He took also of the seed of the land, and planted it in a fruitful field; he placed [it] by great waters, [and] set it [as] a willow tree.

Ver. 5. He took also of the seed of the land.] No foreigner, but one of their own country, and of the blood royal too - viz., Zedekiah. This was a great mercy; as that most spitefully done of Attilus, king of Suecia, to make a dog king of the Danes; as did likewise Gunno, king of the Danes, make a dog king of Norway, appointing counsellors to do all things under his title and name.

And planted it in a fruitful field,] i.e., In Judea, that good land - as Rabahakeh also yieldeth it to have been, whatever Strabo saith to the contrary - where Zedekiah might have lived bravely and reigned prosperously, could he but have been content with his condition:

At Paris ut vivat regnetque beatus,

Cogi posse negat. ” - Horat., Epist. ii.

He placed it by great waters, and set it as a willow tree.] A well contented person grows up prosperously, as the willows by the water courses.


Verse 6

Ezekiel 17:6 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 sprigs.

Ver. 6. And it grew.] And yet it had a great fall - viz, from a tall cedar to a low vine. Zedekiah, though he had still the title of a king, and was not left without wealth and dignity, yet it was far inferior to that of his predecessors.

Magna repente ruunt, summa cadunt subito.

Whose branches turned toward him,] i.e., Toward Nebuchadnezzar, now the chief lord of the land. To him looked and leaned the lords of the land, and so long they did well, for they and the whole kingdom thrived.


Verse 7

Ezekiel 17:7 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.

Ver. 7. There was also another great eagle,] sc., Pharaoh, another potent monarch; why called an eagle, see on Ezekiel 17:3.

And, behold, this vine did bend her roots toward him.] Which was the worst chare for herself that ever she did. The devil of discontent put her upon this unhappy project, whereby, instead of mending herself, she soon marred all; so true is that of Solomon, "Wisdom is better than weapons of war: but one sinner destroyeth much good." [Ecclesiastes 9:18] Zedekiah little thought once ever to have been a king; Nebuchadnezzar made him so, whenas he might as well have refused him for the rebellions of his two predecessors. He had also dealt nobly with him, though his vassal, and would have defended him against any adverse power, &c., so that he had no reason at all to rebel, but that he was infatuated and besotted by ambition and avarice, which Plutarch finely and fitly calleth νοσηματα συμφυτα ταις δυναστειαις, diseases natural to potentates.


Verse 8

Ezekiel 17:8 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.

Ver. 8. It was planted in a good soil.] He was well enough, if he could have kept him so.

O fortunates homines, bona si sun norint!

But discontent enjoyeth nothing: Zedekiah liketh not to be a vine, he must be a cedar. Aut Caesar aut nullus. Either Caesar or nothing.


Verse 9

Ezekiel 17:9 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.

Ver. 9. Shall it prosper?] How should it? say. "Hath ever any waxed fierce against God (or his substitute) and prospered?" [Job 9:4] Is perfidy and perjury the right way to prosperity? I trow not.

Shall he not pull up?] He that is the great eagle, [Ezekiel 17:3] who would be upon them before they were aware.

Without great power, or many people,] i.e., For any great need there shall be of them, since the work shall be done with little ado. If the Chaldeans were but a few, and they all wounded men, they should yet rise up and burn this city, saith Jeremiah. See 2 Chronicles 24:23-24. It is no hard matter, we know, to pluck up a vine, root and branch; God telleth us in the next verse that he can do it with a wind - with a wet finger, as we say.


Verse 10

Ezekiel 17:10 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.

Ver. 10. Shall it not utterly wither?] As Jonah’s gourd did when smitten with a worm; as Phocas’s wall came down with a witness, because built upon mines of gunpowder - sin lay at the bottom, as one told him - which, being once fired, would blow up all.

When the east wind toucheth it.] Which is very hurtful to vines, saith, Columella. As all creatures, so the winds are God’s agents; as to purge the air - Rupertus calleth them the besoms of the air - and to refresh men’s spirits, so to execute many of God’s judgments upon his rebels, as here. Aliorum perditio nostra sit cautio; Let other men’s destruction be our instruction.

It shall wither in the furrows where it grew,] i.e., In Egypt, where it rained not, but was all watered by furrows drawn from Nile, to run into all their fields. Here this vine should thrive, one would think, if anywhere - viz., in moist and fat furrows but it could not, because blasted by God’s curse.


Verse 11

Ezekiel 17:11 Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,

Ver. 11. Moreowr, the word of the Lord came unto me, saying.] God had one saying more to this rebellious house by way of explication here, and another of application for comfort and encouragement to the better sort among them. [Ezekiel 17:22-24]


Verse 12

Ezekiel 17:12 Say now to the rebellious house, Know ye not what these [things mean]? tell [them], Behold, the king of Babylon is come to Jerusalem, and hath taken the king thereof, and the princes thereof, and led them with him to Babylon;

Ver. 12. Know ye not what these things mean?] q.d., It is much you should not. There is no such great difficulty in the parable, but that ye are self-blinded, and will not see far off; either your wits serve you not in the things of God, or if they do, you will make believe otherwise. Are ye not, therefore, rightly called a "rebellious house"

Tell them.] For their learnings, and that they may be left without excuse. See on Ezekiel 17:4.


Verse 13

Ezekiel 17:13 And hath taken of the king’s seed, and made a covenant with him, and hath taken an oath of him: he hath also taken the mighty of the land:

Ver. 13. And hath taken an oath of him.] An oath of allegiance. Heb., Hath brought him into an execration, or an oath with cursing, that he shall be true and loyal to him, and hold his kingdom of him as his liege lord, and pay him tribute. This, though we find not in the book of Kings, yet from what we here find, we are sure it was so.


Verse 14

Ezekiel 17:14 That the kingdom might be base, that it might not lift itself up, [but] that by keeping of his covenant it might stand.

Ver. 14. That the kingdom might be base.] The mighty of the land being taken away, {as Ezekiel 17:13} and the spirits of the vest imbased by burdens and oppressions in their estates and liberties.

But that by keeping of his covenant.] The breach whereof was the break neck of the state, as it hath been of many others, and will be shortly of the Turks - who hold that there is no faith to be kept with dogs, that is, with Christians - and of the Popes, who hold that there is no faith to be kept with heretics, that is, with Protestants; and for all others, it is written by an Italian, no stranger to the court of Rome, that their proverb is, Mercatorum eat, non regum, stare iuramentis, that it is for merchants, and not for monarchs, to stand to their oaths. Shall such stand? shall they thus escape by iniquity?


Verse 15

Ezekiel 17:15 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]? or shall he break the covenant, and be delivered?

Ver. 15. But he rebelled against him.] As Ottocarus, king of Bohemia, did against Rodolphus, the first emperor of Germany, by the instigation of his queen; and as Ladislaus, king of Hungary, did against Amurath, the Turkish emperor, by the encouragement of Capistranus, the Pope’s agent, to the very great reproach of the Christian religion.


Verse 16

Ezekiel 17:16 [As] I live, saith the Lord GOD, 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.

Ver. 16. As I live.] So surely will I punish perjury and treachery. Histories are full of examples in this kind, and I have elsewhere recited some of them. That of Henry III of France, related by a reverend man, (a) deserves to be memorised: After great differences between him, the Cardinal, and Duke of Guise, he was reconciled unto them, confirmed the reconciliation with many oaths, took the sacrament upon it, and gave himself to the devil, body and soul, in case he meant or should attempt anything against them. Yet, saith the story, he caused the Duke to be killed in his own presence, and the Cardinal, his brother, the next day after. Here was breach of covenant; but did he prosper, escape, do such things, and have deliverance? No; within eight months after, he was slain by a friar in the midst of his army.


Verse 17

Ezekiel 17:17 Neither shall Pharaoh with [his] mighty army and great company make for him in the war, by casting up mounts, and building forts, to cut off many persons:

Ver. 17. Neither shall Pharaoh.] God will cause the strongest sinew in the arm of flesh to crack. See Psalms 33:10-11.


Verse 18

Ezekiel 17:18 Seeing he despised the oath by breaking the covenant, when, lo, he had given his hand, and hath done all these [things], he shall not escape.

Ver. 18. Seeing he despised the oath.] Despised it ex fastu quodam, out of pride and disdain, as the word signifieth, as Pascenius the Papist jeereth at King James for inventing the oath of allegiance. There is in our chronicles a memorable story of one Sir Ralph Percy, slain upon Hegely Moor, in Northumberland, by the Lord Mountacute, general for Edward IV He would in no way depart the field, though defeated; but, in dying, said, I have saved the bird in my breast, meaning his oath to King Henry VI (a) Had false Zedekiah done so, he had, for this once at least, escaped; but ambition - whose motto is said to be Sic mea fata sequor So I follow my destiny - was his ruin.


Verse 19

Ezekiel 17:19 Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD [As] I live, surely mine oath that he hath despised, and my covenant that he hath broken, even it will I recompense upon his own head.

Ver. 19. Surely mine oath.] Because taken by my name, so that I am deeply engaged, highly concerned in it.


Verse 20

Ezekiel 17:20 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 plead with him there for his trespass that he hath trespassed against me.

Ver. 20. And I will spread my net upon him.] See on Ezekiel 12:13. The history telleth us that when Zedekiah, with his nobles, were gotten into the plains of Jericho, and thought themselves out of danger, those great hunters the Babylonians caught him, and carried him to their king.


Verse 21

Ezekiel 17:21 And all his fugitives with all his bands shall fall by the sword, and they that remain shall be scattered toward all winds: and ye shall know that I the LORD have spoken [it].

Ver. 21. And all his fugitives.] See on Ezekiel 14:13-14.

They shall know.] Sero sapient: vexatio tandem dabit intellectum. All too late they shall aknowledge it.


Verse 22

Ezekiel 17:22 Thus saith the Lord GOD I will also take of the highest branch of the high cedar, and will set [it]; I will crop off from the top of his young twigs a tender one, and will plant [it] upon an high mountain and eminent:

Ver. 22. I will also take of the highest branch of the high cedar.] (a) Understand this great and precious promise of Zerubbabel and his successors, but especially of Christ and his kingdom. How oft in the prophets is he styled the "branch." [Isaiah 11:1] And how ordinary is it with God, after dreadful threats against the wicked, to come in with his attamen nevertheless for the comfort of his elect, who in their deepest distress have cause enough to encourage themselves in the Lord Christ their God, as did David at the sack of Ziklag. [1 Samuel 30:6] Here they are excited, in the loss of all else, to fetch comfort from Christ’s descent from David, his exaltation to the kingdom of the Church universal, his bounty and benefits, his bringing in the fulness of the Gentiles, and his setting forth of his Father’s glory.

A tender one.] Tenellum. Christ, of weak and low beginning.

And will plant it.] Upon Zion, [Psalms 2:6] spiritual especially. Upon Calvary, saith Theodoret, expounding the Septuagint, who render the text thus, I will hang it upon the high mountain of Israel.


Verse 23

Ezekiel 17:23 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 fowl of every wing; in the shadow of the branches thereof shall they dwell.

Ver. 23. In the mountain.] In the Church, that highest top.

And it shall bring forth boughs, &c.] Christ shall yield food and defence to all his.

All fowl of every wing,] i.e., The just, saith the Chaldee, who mind heavenly things, and mount upward.


Verse 24

Ezekiel 17:24 And all the trees of the field 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: I the LORD have spoken and have done [it].

Ver. 24. And all the trees of the field,] i.e., All men, high and low.

Have brought down.] This God loves to do, as heathens could say.

Have exalted the low.] Lavater thinks our Saviour alluded to this text in that parable [Matthew 13:3-8] of the grain of mustard seed.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Ezekiel 17:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/ezekiel-17.html. 1865-1868.

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