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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical

Ezekiel 17

 

 

Verses 1-24

6. The Riddle about the Royal House of David ( Ezekiel 17.)

1And the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, 2Son of Prayer of Manasseh, put forth a riddle, and speak a parable unto [for] the house of Israel 3 And say, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, The great eagle, with great wings, with long wing-feathers, full of feathers, which had divers colours, came unto Lebanon, and 4 took the topmost branch [leafy crown] of the cedar. The topmost of its shoots he cropt off, and brought it to the land of Canaan; in a city of merchants Hebrews 5set it. And he took of the seed of the land, and put it in a seed field; took 6 it to many waters, set it as a willow. And it sprouted, and became a spreading vine, of low stature, so that its branches might turn toward him [the eagle], and its roots should be under him; and it became a vine, and produced 7 branches, and shot out leafy twigs. And there was another great eagle with great wings and many feathers; and, behold, this vine turned languishingly in its roots toward him [the other eagle], and shot forth its branches toward him, 8that he might water it, from the beds of its planting. In a good field by many waters was it planted, to produce leaves and to bear fruit, to become a 9 splendid vine. Say, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Will it thrive? will he not pull up the roots thereof, and cut off the fruit thereof, that it wither? In all the leaves of its shoots it shall wither; and not by a great arm or by 10 many people will it have to be lifted up from its roots. And [yea], behold, it is planted, will it thrive? will it not utterly wither as soon as the east wind 11 touches it?—And the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, 12Say now to the house of rebelliousness, Know ye not what this is? Say, Behold, the king of Babylon came to Jerusalem, and he took its king and its princes, and 13 he brought them to himself to Babylon. And he took of the royal seed, and made a covenant with him, and caused him to enter into an oath; and the 14 rams [strong ones] of the land he took: That it might be a kingdom of low condition, that it might not lift itself up; that his covenant might be kept, 15that it might stand. And he rebelled against him, so that he sent his messengers to Egypt, to give him horses and much people—Shall he prosper? shall he escape that doeth this? And he broke the covenant, and should he escape? 16As I live—sentence of the Lord Jehovah—surely in the place of the king that made him king, whose oath he despised, and whose covenant 17 he broke, with him in the midst of Babylon he shall die. And not with great power and much people shall Pharaoh act with him in the war [battle], in casting 18 up a mount and in building a siege-tower, to cut off many souls. And [yea] he despised the oath, to break the covenant; and, behold, he gave his hand: and all this he did; he shall not escape 19 Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah, As I live, surely My oath which he despised, and My covenant 20 which he broke, I give upon his head. And I spread My net upon him, and he is taken in My snare, and I bring him to Babylon, and I contend with him there because of his treachery which he hath committed against Me 21 And all his fugitives in all his squadrons, they shall fall by the sword, and those that remain shall be scattered to every wind; and ye know that I, Jehovah, have spoken.

22Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, And I take of the topmost branch [of the leafy crown] of the high cedar, and set [give]; from the topmost of its shoots will I:23 crop off a tender one, and I plant it upon a mountain high and exalted. On the elevated mountain of Israel will I plant it, and it bears leaves and produces fruit, and becomes a glorious cedar: and under it there dwell all birds of every wing; in the shadow of its branches shall they dwell 24 And all the trees of the field know that I, Jehovah, brought down the high tree, exalted the low tree, made the green tree wither, and made the dry tree to flourish; I, Jehovah, spake and did.

Ezekiel 17:3. Sept.: ... ὁς ἐχει το ἡγημα εἰσελθειν εἰς τ.Λιβανον—

Ezekiel 17:4. ... εἰς πολιν τετειχισμενην—Vulg.: … in urbe negotiatorum

Ezekiel 17:5. ... ἐπιβλεπομενον ἐταξεν αὐτο. Vulg: … et posuit illud in terra pro semine … in superficie posuit illud.

Ezekiel 17:7. ... ποτισαι αὐτην συν τω βωλω της φυτειας αὐτης. (Another reading: כנפה, alarum instar produxit. מערנת, ab areola. Syr. and Arab.; see Ezekiel 17:10.)

Ezekiel 17:9. Another reading: חתעלח, interrog.

Eze 17:10. ... συν τω βωλω ἀνατολης αὐτης ξηρανθησεται.

Eze 17:17. ... ποιησει προς αὐτον Φκραω πολεμον—

Ver20. ... κ. ἀλωσεται ἐν τη περιοχη αὐτου.—(Another reading: במעלו, propter scelus efus. על מעלי Syr.)

Eze 17:22. ... καρδοιας αὐτων ἀποκνιω κ. καταφυτιυσω... ὑψηλον,

Eze 17:23. Κ. κρεμασω αὐτου ἐν ὀρει μετεωρω του Ἰσρ. κ. καταφυτευσωκ. ἀναπαυσεται ὑποκατω αὐτου παν θηριον, κ τα πιτεινα ὑπο την σκιαν αὐτου ἀναπαυσεται κ. τ. κληματα αὐτου ἀποκατασταθησεται.

EXEGETICAL REMARKS

After the preparatory hints in the preceding chapter, e.g. Ezekiel 17:13, the discourse, as in Ezekiel 12, turns specially to the subject of kingdom.

Ezekiel 17:1-10. The Riddle

Ezekiel 17:2. חוּד חִידָה, always in this connection ( Judges 14:12-13; Judges 14:16) means: to tie a knot of speech, which is to he loosed; according to others: from חָדַד, a sharp saying; but in how far sharp? (Comp. Doct. Reflec1.) What requires sharpened wits to understand it, is certainly too remote from the connection. חִידָה is in general the figurative speech, and therefore used in parallel with מָשָׁל (comp. Ezekiel 12:22); which may be, and for the most part Isaiah, in this form, especially as contrasted with the plain, literal statement. Designedly veiled, it is meant to rouse us to remove the veil, and thus with the process of reflection so much the deeper an impression is made. As the discourse is to be addressed to the house of Israel ( Ezekiel 17:12), there is no need for quoting, as Hitz. does, Ezekiel 16:44.

Ezekiel 17:3. The great eagle is Nebuchadnezzar, as Ezekiel 17:12 shows; and the same figure is employed in Jeremiah 48:40; Jeremiah 49:22, so majestic and powerful as well as strikingly appropriate, without for that reason being a specially Babylonian title, or an animal form appearing in the armorial bearings of the Babylonian rulers. The points of comparison are the royal character, the robber-conqueror element, the power of rapid flight, the sharp vision from which nothing can be concealed, the power of stroke; perhaps also Matthew 24:28. With great wings, points to the extent of dominion; with long wing-feathers, to the energy, especially of the military power; full of feathers, to the multitude of subjects; the divers colours, to the diversity of the subjugated nations in speech, customs, dress.—Lebanon, if it stands for Judah, does so because the latter represents the whole of Israel, and in this case, according to Hengst, “because the mountains in Scripture language mean kingdoms;” but rather, perhaps, inasmuch as for the king of Babylon Lebanon is the boundary of the land, the first sign of the Jewish land. More correctly, however, in connection with what follows, and in accordance with Ezekiel 17:12, it is taken as a symbol of Jerusalem; and that not so much because of the temple and the other palaces, as because of the king’s house, constructed of cedar beams, on Mount Zion, for which comp. 1 Kings 7:2; 1 Kings 10:17; 1 Kings 10:21; Jeremiah 22:23.—צַמֶּרֶת, a word peculiar to Ezekiel for the topmost foliage of the cedar, by which is meant in general what stands out prominently, namely, what stands out prominently in the house of David; so that from the generality of the expression we may include in the exposition “the princes” of Ezekiel 17:12-13. Hengst. happily: “the then royal court.” The more special statement follows in Ezekiel 17:4 : the topmost of its shoots, etc. The tip, the highest of the shoots which together form the topmost branch, with an allusion at the same time to his youthful years, means king Jehoiachin. Canaan, here the same is in Ezekiel 16:29. Comp. there. Ironically: yea, into a new Canaan! a low land as contrasted with the lofty Lebanon! Similarly Häv. The city of merchants does not necessitate our interpreting the “land of Canaan” as a land of merchandise, as most expositors take it, but side by side with the ironically Song of Solomon -called “Canaan” = Babylonia, there is placed in addition a special feature, for which comp. Introd. p19. The market of commerce in contrast with the king’s house! As in Babylon all possible products of commerce were huddled together, so in a manner also were huddled together the most diverse crowns and princes. Hengst. supposes that the Chaldean diplomacy is meant as being a policy of interests, as we also speak of international intrigues. “Self-interest is the point of comparison between politics and trade” ( Revelation 18.).

Ezekiel 17:5. The seed of the land denotes, as contrasted with a foreign ruler, and specially with a Babylonian viceroy, one of the native royal family ( Ezekiel 17:13), namely, Zedekiah (Introd. p6). But in the difference between the “top of its shoots” ( Ezekiel 17:4) and the “seed of the land,” there is set forth prominently a difference between Zedekiah and Jehoiachin ( Matthew 1:12). It is not so much, perhaps, the policy of Nebuchadnezzar, as Hengst. puts it, “in order to secure for him the sympathies of the people,” as rather the considerateness, the clemency of the procedure, that is meant to be brought out.—בִּשְׂדֵה זֶרָע, in a seed field, which is described more particularly in what follows. What is meant is the as yet favourable circumstances, as Judah was neither a “sterile land,” nor even an exhausted soil.—קָח with kametz ( Hosea 11:3), see Häv. on the passage, a resuming of the preceding וַיִּקַּת. The many waters portray the fertile situation, in harmony with צַפְצָפָה, a word peculiar to Ezekiel, which Gesenius derives from the inundated, well-watered soil which the willow loves. There is no need for supplying a comparative כְּ, as the accusative is an apposition. The LXX. derive it from צָפָה: he caused it to be watched over. So also the Syriac Version.

Ezekiel 17:6. If a humiliation is implied in the illustration used: “as a willow,” the statement that it became a vine may possibly be meant to make up for this. But however luxuriantly the vine stretched out, yet it was no longer the Davidic cedar, as is specially indicated by the low stature ( Ezekiel 17:14); which at the same time forms the transition to the intentional לִפְנוֹת׳, that it was to continue turned toward the Babylonian ruler, and subject to him with all its growth and with the roots of its existence and vigour. (Klief.: it was not to stretch out its branches toward its own post, etc.) וַתְּי לְנֶפֶן, a short repetition, to prepare for what now follows ( Ezekiel 17:7), as being the opposite of what was intended. The “carefully selected” (Häv.) form of expression (בַּדִּים and פּארֹת) brings out in strong colours the overweening self-conceit.

Ezekiel 17:7. נֶשֶׁר־אֶתָד, another, as distinguished from the one pointed out emphatically in Ezekiel 17:3. Comp. Ezekiel 17:15. The description is similar to that in Ezekiel 17:3, but more meagre, corresponding to the inferior position of the Egyptian king in respect of power. In כָּפַן there is a certain play upon the word נֶּפֶן. The meaning is (comp. Ezekiel 17:6) plainly to turn strongly in some particular direction,—is it to wind because of hindrance from the soil in which it had been planted? or is it to languish, to thirst after, portraying the vehement self-willed longing?—The “watering” is probably not without allusion to the process of irrigation peculiar to Egypt by means of the overflow of the Nile.—From the beds, etc, i.e. from the spot where it had been planted by Babylon, went forth its leaning toward Egypt, which marks already the discontent, the ingratitude, the unfaithfulness, and thus paves the way for Ezekiel 17:8. Comp. besides Ezekiel 17:5.—אַדָּרֶת, according to some, from a root “to be wide” (to have it comfortable); according to others, from a root “to be strong.”

Ezekiel 17:9. The difficulty of the riddle is presented for solution; the consequence to be foreseen from such conduct is put as a question. According to Häv, with an expression of displeasure; according to others, ironically. But the prophet does not in this case utter his own sentiment, but what the Eternal says. The divine sentence may be learned from the riddle. From the additional question annexed to it, it follows that the first question is to be answered in the negative. (Comp. Matthew 21:40 sq.; Ezekiel 20:15 sq.) צָלַת is: to force a way in, to force a way through, to come forward. Keil in his exposition takes it as a neuter: will it succeed, prosper? and what follows, in his translation also, indefinitely: will they not pull up? etc, instead of referring it to Nebuchadnezzar. The roots have respect to his existence as king; the fruit is the produce, the result of this royal existence by Nebuchadnezzar’s grace; there is no special allusion to Zedekiah’s children ( 2 Kings 25:7). All the leaves of its shoots = the whole productive energy and vital force which such a kingship in any way showed. The subject is the vine, as also in Ezekiel 17:10. The common interpretation Isaiah, Nebuchadnezzar will not need for this purpose his whole power, specially his whole military forces. But לְמַשְּׂאוֹת (a feminine infinitive form), in accordance with the interpretation of Ezekiel 17:17, is rather to be understood of the lifting up again from the roots, into which it has sunk down withered. [Häv.: And without great power and without much people, scil. it will parch up (?), when one pulls it up from ts root, that is to say, without the expected help of Egypt he will sink. Hengst.: Nebuchadnezzar, who did indeed, according to Jeremiah 34, lead a numerous army against Jerusalem, did not require to make so great preparations ( Deuteronomy 32:30; Leviticus 26:8). The taking away with the roots = the total annihilation of the national existence, Mark 11:20; Matthew 3:10; Luke 3:9.]

Ezekiel 17:10. A strengthening repetition ( Ezekiel 17:9) to produce greater attention. Comp. besides Ezekiel 17:8. The east wind

Very appropriate for the Babylonians, dwelling in the east, as well as in the figure, because it is dangerous for plants—is employed in conclusion to disguise for the second time, quite after the manner of a riddle, the instrument of punishment.—With a mere touch, and on the spot of his ungrateful oride, he will find his judgment.

Ezekiel 17:11-21. The Interpretation

Ezekiel 17:12. Because now “the house of Israel,” to whom the riddle was proposed, are to know the meaning, are in any case to have the riddle interpreted to them by the prophet, although they are called a house of rebelliousness ( Ezekiel 2:5-6), the case before us is a different one from that in Matthew 13:10 sq, and from that in Isaiah, to which Jesus there refers back. We are to think of the exiles as favourably distinguished from those at Jerusalem.—For the interpretation, comp. Ezekiel 17:3, and 2 Kings 24:11 sq.; Jeremiah 24:1; Jeremiah 29:2.—The princes of Jerusalem along with the king, the “topmost branch” in the riddle of which Jehoiachin is the top-shoot ( Ezekiel 17:4).

Ezekiel 17:13. Comp. Ezekiel 17:5; Jeremiah 41:1; 1 Kings 11:14; 2 Kings 24:17 (Introd. p6). In reference to the vassal’s oath of fidelity, see 2 Chronicles 36:13.—The אֵלֵי׳ cannot perhaps be taken as a simple resumption of the “princes” of the preceding verse, yet they may be understood as included. But the expression is to be interpreted especially from 2 Kings 24:14; 2 Kings 24:16. Hitz.: the owners of property, rich proprietors, artisans, and warriors. The intention ( Ezekiel 17:6) is clearly expressed in Ezekiel 17:14; the parties in question were not so much meant to be hostages.—Keil: “that he might keep his covenant, that it might stand.”

Ezekiel 17:15. Comp. Ezekiel 17:7; likewise 2 Kings 24:20. The Egyptian was to support him with that which was peculiar to Egypt ( Deuteronomy 17:16), and which Zedekiah needed. Did the latter wish to appoint the riders for the horses?—The much people refers back to Ezekiel 17:9, and likewise to the question of Ezekiel 17:10, which is at the same time explained.—The answer is given in Ezekiel 17:16 in a divine utterance, such as we have in Ezekiel 17:9, only that the terms are still stronger, taking the well-known form of an oath.—Comp. Ezekiel 12:13-17. And not with great power, etc, refers back to the “horses and much people” of Ezekiel 17:15, and is meant to explain the statement in Ezekiel 17:9. Pharaoh is the subject. The meaning Isaiah, either that he will not be willing to render Zedekiah the expected help, or that he will not be able. Comp. Jeremiah 37:5; Jeremiah 37:7. The “acting,” on which it depends, turns out insignificant—nothing more than a feeble demonstration on the part of Egypt. [Hengst.: Pharaoh will leave his protegé in the lurch, when he is hard pressed by his enemies. That the Chaldean needs no great military force against Jerusalem ( Ezekiel 17:9), finds its explanation here in the circumstance that the Egyptians, against whom alone such a force was necessary, do not come to its help with such a force.]—The march of the Egyptian auxiliary army took place when Jerusalem was besieged by the Chaldeans. Comp. in this connection on Ezekiel 4:2. To cut off, etc, draws attention to the fact of how necessary powerful help would be in such a situation.

Ezekiel 17:18. The riddle is interpreted, but the divine discourse lingers still over the breach of oath and covenant, because such acting on Zedekiah’s part, with what is implied in it, is still to be judged and to have sentence pronounced upon it by Jehovah.

Ezekiel 17:19, just like Ezekiel 17:16. It is not only that every oath, and hence also this oath, is of a religious character, and that the despising of it necessarily compromised the God of Israel in the eyes of the heathen; but still farther, considering the clemency of Nebuchadnezzar in making such a covenant, as Jehovah’s instrument, Jehovah’s goodness was turned into lasciviousness.—Comp. besides Ezekiel 11:21; Ezekiel 9:10.

Ezekiel 17:20. See on Ezekiel 12:13. The “contending,” the going into court with him, involves the punishment.— Ezekiel 15:8-8. Instead of מִבְרָתָו (Qeri: מִבְרָחָיו), fugitives, the Chaldee reads: מִבחרָיו, “chosen ones” ( Ezekiel 12:14). So also Hitzig. He who thinks to save himself by flight—hence the whole military forces of Israel are driven into flight—shall be slain by the sword. But for the people left over, for all the remnant generally, the fate in store is the same as in Ezekiel 5:10; Ezekiel 5:12. Bitter experience brings them to know and understand, although, alas! too late, that God had spoken by the mouth of His prophet.

Ezekiel 17:22-24. The Prediction

With a very beautiful variation the close of our chapter, which follows, takes the form of the theme of the riddle at the beginning. The threatening colours there are exchanged here for those rich in promise.

Ezekiel 17:22. וְ, marking a continuation; but as the לָקַח is that of Nebuchadnezzar, there is rather an antithesis. Ingeniously Hitzig: “Jehovah, who is Himself in Deuteronomy 32:11 and Exodus 19:4 compared to an eagle, appears upon the scene, confronting the former one ( Ezekiel 17:3).” And He who asserts His dignity in opposition to him, whom neither Jerusalem nor Egypt is able to oppose, can really do so: אָנִי, with emphasis. He does as Nebuchadnezzar does, and yet He does so quite differently! He brings low that which would fain be high; He exalts that which is apparently reduced to nothing ( Ezekiel 17:24). Of the topmost branch, etc. Thus the illustrious original house of David (the cedar) is still in existence; and not only the royal family, but its royal position as well (the topmost branch). And thus the statement is modified, that ( Ezekiel 17:3) the great eagle took the topmost branch of the cedar. The הָרָמה here, which is wanting in the former case, is not without significance. Thus the matter presents itself to God s eye. His taking is really “giving” (וְנָתָתִּי).—In Ezekiel 17:4 we have אֵת־ראֹשׁ, here מֵרא̇שׁ; so that in spite of the taking away of Jehoiachin, his kingdom is still supposed to continue. The definition added: a tender one, may be interpreted of the planting, shoots of this kind being generally used; still better, perhaps, of a child ( Luke 2:12). The Chaldee paraphrases: of his children’s children a little child. At all events, it cannot here mean a thing small and insignificant, as Hengst. supposes, nor something weak. [Hitzig takes “tender” as = youthful; but this idea lies already in the word “shoot.” Comp. on Ezekiel 17:4. Tender youth, which is just childhood, is indicated by the stronger expression.]—אֶקטֹף, decisio significant mortem, Isaiah 53:8; Daniel 9:26 (Cocc.).—The contrast lying at the foundation is a twofold one,—to Jehoiachin too ( Ezekiel 17:4), but much more to Zedekiah ( Ezekiel 17:5), in whose case “planting” is spoken of. In the same direction chiefly the contrast of the mountain also is kept. It is the contrast to the low country generally,—on the one hand to the Canaan of Babylon, on the other to the Canaan of Jerusalem ( Ezekiel 16:3). The partic. pass, תָּלוּל (only here), adds to the natural height an extraordinary exaltation besides, whether it be to serve as a powerful counteractive to the depression that has taken place, or whether it be to hint already at the approaching glory of Ezekiel 17:23. A farther designation of the mountain is given in Ezekiel 17:23. The elevated mountain of Israel is not Zion directly as such, nor Zion in the wider sense, as embracing also Mount Moriah, as must of course be the view taken if appeal is made to Ezekiel 20:40 ( Isaiah 2:2; Micah 4:1); but Jerusalem is here meant, in the same way as in Ezekiel 17:3 it was spoken of as “Lebanon.” Comp. there. ( Ezekiel 34:13-14.) Hence restoration (in accordance with Ezekiel 16.), and that with increased splendour. Because such restoration of Jerusalem, of Judah, is brought about by means of the royal child of David’s line, in thought the reference to Zion may predominate, Psalm 48:3 [ Psalm 48:2], Psalm 2:6, Psalm 68:17 [ Psalm 68:16]. That the kingdom of God, the kingdom of heaven, springs from the Jews for the whole world, is aptly symbolized by the planting of the royal shoot in the royal city, and by what now follows. It is to be observed that the mountain is a mere foil, the typical substratum, and that it neither “comes into view as the seat and centre of the kingdom of God,” nor does it even “denote this kingdom itself;” but the kingdom and all its glory are conceived of as in the shoot of David, and represented as proceeding from him, behind whom all else steps into the background. Klief. alone correctly: “the person of the Messiah will grow into His kingdom, which becomes the spiritual home of all the nations of the world.” However historical, yet the promised personality is in this respect kept in an ideal shape. Fulfilling what is typical, becoming the full embodiment of what was shadowed forth by Israel, he attains to what he is meant to be; he realizes completely his idea, which has to do with mankind generally. The foliage is in order to the shadow. The fruit, as being a tree, as it must be, perhaps also one which yields nourishment to those to whom it gives shelter ( Isaiah 11:1). As in Ezekiel 17:8 we had אַדָּרֶת, so here אַדִּיר: what Zedekiah had not become as a “vine,” that He who is here meant is as a “cedar,” so as to fulfil the promise given to David regarding his posterity. For the clause: and under it there dwell, etc, comp. Ezekiel 31:6; Daniel 4:9, 12]; Matthew 13:32. An emblem of the universal sovereignty, to which all submit themselves, but in which also they rejoice and put their confidence (in the shadow, etc.).—The expression: all birds of every wing, points to Noah s ark of safety, Genesis 7:14. The meaning is: all the different nations and families of men upon earth, Ezekiel 31:6; Ezekiel 31:12; see also Psalm 8:7; Psalm 8:9 [ Psalm 8:6; Psalm 8:8], Psalm 84:4 [ Psalm 84:3]. A contrast alike to Ezekiel 17:6 and Ezekiel 17:7!

Ezekiel 17:24. All trees, etc, are the collective ruling powers of this world, the princes and kings of the earth.—הַשְּׂרֶה looks back perhaps to Ezekiel 17:5 (8); other than mere earthly kingdoms Nebuchadnezzar and his compeers are able neither to found nor to rule.—The bringing low of the high tree, just as correspondingly the exalting of the low tree, refers specially to Jehoiachin; while the making the green tree to wither, and the making the dry tree to flourish, in accordance with Ezekiel 17:9 sq, point back to Zedekiah, inasmuch as through him the kingdom in Judah came to ruin. The revivification of this kingdom, the sending forth of shoots from that which withered with Zedekiah, and the raising up again of the seed of David from the humiliation of Jehoiachin,—all this is accomplished by Jehovah through the Promised One (I, Jehovah, spake and did). Hitzig, like most, takes the sentence as a general thought ( 1 Samuel 2:7). In form it is kept general, but its import is certainly special, referring to what lies before us. Only the thing to be considered is the right interpretation. According to Hengst, of course, the high tree is the worldly sovereignty; the low tree, David or his family; the green tree, Nebuchadnezzar’s sovereignty of the world at the time.

DOCTRINAL REFLECTIONS

1. The form of the discourse here, just as in the case of our Lord, who has developed the parable into one of His ordinary modes of teaching, is to be explained chiefly from the object in view,—partly as it was designed for a circle of hearers, or rather or readers, which, although mixed up in all sorts of ways with higher interests, is yet to be thought of as living mainly in the world of sense, and especially as bound fast in the misery of the exile, and sympathizing in the false and faithless policy prevailing at the time in Jerusalem; partly as it might recommend itself to the prophet in the political circumstances by which he was surrounded. The mashal before us in Ezekiel goes, therefore, far beyond mere popular illustration. Still less is it to be explained away from the æsthetic standpoint, as merely another rhetorical garb for the thought.

2. As in the parable the emblematic form preponderates over the thought, so also here. What the prophet is to say to Israel is said by the whole of that mighty array of figurative expression, for which the animal and vegetable worlds furnish the figures. But the eagle does what eagles otherwise never do; and what is planted as a willow grows into a vine; and the vine “is represented as falling in love with the other eagle” (J. D. Mich.). The contradictory character of such a representation, and the fact that in the difficulties to be solved ( Ezekiel 17:9 sq.) the comparison comes to a stand, and the closing Messianic portion in which the whole culminates, convert the parable into a “riddle.” A trace of irony and the moral tendency, such as belong to the fable, are not wanting.

3. As to the predictions in this chapter, see what is said on Ezekiel 12, Doct. Reflec4, pp136, 137. As respects the time, Ezekiel 17 stands between the 6 th month of the 6 th year and the 5 th month of the 7 th year of Jehoiachin’s captivity; and its contents, therefore, would probably be spoken from four to five years before the destruction of Jerusalem.

4. Not only does Ewald call Ezekiel 17:22-24 “a short and beautiful picture of Messianic times,” but Hitzig gives a still more definite exposition: “the passage is an actual prediction, and in fact a Messianic one.” Bunsen makes our prediction be “partly fulfilled” in Zerubbabel (“the prince of the Jews after their return from the captivity, Ezra 1:8; 1 Chronicles 3:19; Matthew 1:12; Luke 3:27”), adding, however, that the glory of the new king as here described “goes far beyond that of Zerubbabel.” Similar is the view of Hengst, viz. that as Zerubbabel “in a certain sense did everything which God did generally for the Revelation -establishment and maintenance of the civil government in Israel,” he also might be regarded as included under the terms of the prediction, because Ezekiel has before his eye, “not the Messiah as an individual,” but “the whole family of David.” As against this view, Hävernick points (1) to the image of the cedar-shoot as a descendant of the house of David; and (2) to the context, where only personalities are spoken of (Jehoiachin, Zedekiah, Nebuchadnezzar). The oldest Jewish exposition understood the passage of King Messiah.

5. The kingdom of Judah, even although it had become idolatrous, yet could not (as Ziegler remarks) all at once be cast off—for David’s sake. The house and family of David appear like a stay and support in Judah. “For David, Jehovah cherishes an unceasing and solicitous regard throughout the whole history of this kingdom, just because this kingdom itself was to be nothing else than the link of connection between David and his Son κατʼ ἐξοχήν. David is the point always referred to in the history of this kingdom; he is the factor ever present and ever working in that history, just as the Son of David is the factor at work beyond.”

6. Hävernick has already pointed out the inner connection between the Messianic announcement here and that in the preceding Ezekiel 16:53-63. What is to be understood there by the turning of the misery and the restitutio in pristinum becomes quite clear to us by means of the prediction as to Messiah in our chapter.

7. The Church of God is not destined to disappear in the kingdoms of this world: but all the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of God and of His Anointed.

8. “Among the manifold predictions of the Lord’s Anointed and of His kingdom in the world, this of our prophet stands forth like a cedar; in this similitude, so grand, and yet so simple, he has most strikingly portrayed. the future salvation in its most universal significance and verity” (Umbreit).

9. Hengst. draws attention to the fact that at the close the interpretation of the symbol is not added,—“for the same reason that in Ezekiel there is no prophecy against Babylon, while the whole of the prophecies of Jeremiah find their close in such a prophecy. The prophet prophesied in the land of the Chaldeans, and had to exercise caution in view of the surrounding heathen.”

HOMILETIC HINTS

Ezekiel 17:1 sq. “Formerly, how they have broken God’s covenant; here, how they have not kept faith with men” (Luther).

Ezekiel 17:3 sq. “Princes also have no security against misfortune; those who are nearer the clouds are nearer the lightning also. They should not forget that they also are men, and that God alone is the King of kings” (Stck.).—“The eagle is an emblem of empire and dominion: he is called the king of birds. Pyrrhus, when saluted as an eagle by his soldiers, was much pleased, telling them that they had raised him on high with their weapons, as it were with wings” (à Lap.).—The important eagles in the history of Israel: Nebuchadnezzar, Pharaoh, Rome.

Ezekiel 17:4. “Thus many a one suffers in a strange land for the sin he has committed in his own” (Stck.).

Ezekiel 17:5. The soil is often better than the seed which is sown in it.

Ezekiel 17:6. Prosperity turns out for the advantage of but few men. Most grow on all sides and produce leaves, but bear no fruit, or bad fruit.

Ezekiel 17:7. Ingratitude makes no situation better, does not render dependent circumstances more pleasant, and brings to shame every one who is guilty of it, let the object of it be who he may.—It is not easy to rest contented with God’s ordering and leading; the discipline of the Spirit of God is needed for it: let my ways be pleasing in Thine eyes. We must give up our heart to the Lord, and keep it directed toward Him—our heart, with all the thoughts which come out of it, and which would fain be as God, yea, wiser than God.—Keep me in Thy paths, in the way which Thou Thyself showest me.

Ezekiel 17:8. Discontentment has driven many a one from a snug spot.

Ezekiel 17:9 sq. “When God wishes to punish the wickedness of men, He needs no great warlike host for the purpose” (O.).—Unfaithfulness beats its own master.—Those who have not God on their side, who have only their own wits, can be driven to flight in thousands by one.—“It is a bad thing to trust in man’s wisdom; take thou counsel with God, open His word, look to thy calling, ponder thy duty, and think of the end” (Stck.).

Ezekiel 17:10. The east wind of divine judgments.—Thus the place of fortune becomes the place of misfortune; the scene of wickedness, the scene of punishment; the theatre of ingratitude (toward God also), the theatre of ruin.

Ezekiel 17:11 sq. It is not all riddles that are interpreted to us; we are guessing away at many during our whole life; but we also make far too little use of the key of self-knowledge.—Misfortune it is said to be, while it is only crime.

Ezekiel 17:15 sq. The oath is to be kept to every one and by every one. Even by the emperor Sigismund to the “heretic” Huss!—“Kings, and those in high position generally, ought to be a good example to others. How much their example can build up as well as pull down!” (Stck.)—“If the Lord humbles one, he must bear the tribulation with patience, and not seek by forbidden means to extricate himself from it, Hebrews 12:7”(Tüb. Bib.).—“God avenges and punishes perjury with the greatest earnestness” (O.).—“For God is the truth, and will see to it that fidelity is upheld among men, and hence abhors all deceit and perjury. Even if we have promised anything by constraint which is in other respects unjust, we are not to break our word, because the name of God is to be dearer to us than all earthly advantages, Psalm 15:4” (Heim-Hoff.).—“The humiliations as well as the exaltations of earthly kingdoms are certainly foreseen and appointed by God” (Stck.).—How many a one is the architect of his own misfortune at least!—“The chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof!” said Elisha of Elijah.— Psalm 33:17.—“Think not to whom, but remember by whom, thou hast sworn an oath” (Jer.).—Why is there so much oath-breaking and perjury in Christendom itself even yet!?

Ezekiel 17:16. God lets man’s righteousness too get its rights, just because it means to be righteousness.—What Babylon has made, Babylon also destroys.—This is security, to be a plant of the heavenly Father’s planting, Matthew 15:13.—“The earth is everywhere the Lord’s, but to be laid with one’s fathers is certainly more pleasant.”

Ezekiel 17:17. The help of man is of no avail when God means to destroy. God’s help, on the other hand, avails even against man’s help. Zedekiah with Egypt, Nebuchadnezzar with Jehovah. Look at the copartneries for thyself, and bestow thy confidence accordingly. The latter firm is the more reliable.—Cursed is the man that trusteth in Prayer of Manasseh,, Jeremiah 17.—Men promise, and break their promise; God promises, and does not break His.

Ezekiel 17:19. God’s oath as against Zedekiah’s perjury.—God does not swear, and then fail to keep His oath: that shall be learned by experience by those who swear falsely, or who do not keep their oath.—If thou appealest to God as a witness, thou summonest Him also as a Judges, as an avenger!—We have never to do with men alone.

Ezekiel 17:20 sq. No one can escape God.—“The enemy’s sword is sharp; God’s sword is sharper still” (Stck.).—Comp. what is said to the Hebrews of the word of God.—God’s judgments are always meant to lead to the knowledge of Himself as well, and not merely of ourselves.

Ezekiel 17:22 sq. The riddle of Israel is the riddle alike of the human heart in its perversity, and of the heart of God in Christ.—The omnipotence and love of God join hands, and the result is the grace of God.—“Whosoever laid up this promise thoroughly in his heart would thereby be delivered from the region of vain political hopes and intrigues. The saying of Augustine applies here: ‘That which thou seekest Isaiah, but it is not where thou seekest it’ ” (Hengst.).—“Because the Church of Christ has been planted by God Himself, it shall certainly remain” (Cr.).—“The planting on Golgotha” (Witsius).

Ezekiel 17:23. “Babylon, and with it the whole series of the old world-powers, are dried up; David flourishes and bears fruit, and under the shadow of his offshoot the fowls of heaven dwell” (Hengst.).

Ezekiel 17:24. The history of the world is to be recognised as God’s government.—The divine government of the world culminates in Christ.—Everything turns out in the end according to God’s word.—(Fr. W. Krummacher preached in 1852 on Ezekiel 17:22-24 : “The Tree Christ, which God has prepared for us, (1) as to its nature, (2) as to its destiny.—Summer and winter the cedar is green, and never loses its leaves nor its verdure. The everlastingly green Tree of Life is Christ. No wood is more durable; so Christ is the indestructible foundation for our hopes, etc.—We are the branches in the Cedar of God. Our fruits are Christ’s, who produces them in us and by us. John and Peter, Paul and James, what boughs in that Cedar! and the Fathers and the Reformers, and all believers since, what a Tree! What a green, flourishing, fruit-laden array of branches that which sways around it! What a mighty, densely-foliaged, far-shadowing crown! and in the crown what gales, and zephyrs, and rustlings of holy life and divine love! Here there is promised to Christ and His cause nothing less than final triumph over the whole world.—The pompous glory of Babylon, Egypt, Rome, and Athens, where is it to be found?”)

 


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Ezekiel 17:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/ezekiel-17.html. 1857-84.

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