Ezekiel 19

 

 

1 “Moreover take thou up a lamentation for the princes of Israel,”

The two sections of this chapter — vs. 1-9 and 10-14-are respectively two parables

of the same type as that of ch.2:10. The former telling nearly the same story under a

different imagery, the latter a reproduction of the same imagery, with a slightly

different application.  Lamentation. The same word as that used in ch.2:10.

The whole chapter finds a parallel in Jeremiah’s review of Josiah’s successors

(Jeremiah 22:10-30). It is noticeable that the princes are described as

being of Israel. The Septuagint gives the singular, “the prince,” and

scholars apply it to Zedekiah.

 

 

A Lamentation for the Princes of Israel (v. 1)

 

Ezekiel follows up his predictions of approaching judgment and his exhortations to

repentance with an elegy on the distresses of the princes of Israel.

 

  • THE FATE OF THE PRINCES STIRRED DEEP FEELINGS. It

became the inspiration of an ode. True poetry has its fountains in deep

emotion. Thus a living religion naturally finds expression in song, and the

spiritual experience of men is uttered in psalms. That religion which is

satisfied with the cold statements of intellectual propositions has not yet

touched the heart, and is no living experience. There is a fire of passion in

true devotion. On the other hand, when religion has been neglected or

outraged, a new range of emotions is called into play, and the fate of

sinners stirs feelings of profound grief in all who understand its dire distress

and have brotherly hearts to sympathize with others. The Book of

Lamentations may be taken as the reverse of the Book of Psalms. Psalmists

celebrate the emotions of true religion; the “Lamentations” is a dirge sung

over those who have been unfaithful to their religion. In any case, man’s

relation to religion is so intimate and vital that it should rouse deep feelings

in the heart of every one.

 

  • THE FATE OF THE PRINCES CONTAINED PECULIAR

ELEMENTS OF DISTRESS.

 

Ø      The princes enjoyed high rank. When they fell, their humiliation

and suffering were all the greater. Men envy high stations; but such

positions are liable to peculiar calamities, from which the lowly do

not suffer.

 

o       High positions attract attention. Princes are aimed at when

peasants are neglected. The leading families were torn from

their homes and carried off to Babylon, while the obscure

sons of the soil were left to till their fields.

 

o       High rank is no sure protection. A bodyguard surrounds princes.

But no guard can ward off the judgment of Heaven. God will

judge the great as surely as the lowly.

 

Ø      The princes came of a divinely favored line. They belonged to the

house of David — a house which had long enjoyed peculiar marks of

God’s favor, and which was thought to be sheltered by promises of

everlasting prosperity (e.g. Psalm 69). But no favoritism of Heaven

will protect against the consequences of sin. God’s promises of grace

are conditioned by man’s fidelity.

 

Ø      The ruin of the princes was in itself most lamentable. They did not

suffer from some temporary reverse of fortune. One after another they

were flung down from the throne and degraded to a miserable fate.

The consequences of sin are HEAVY and DISASTROUS!   No soul

can face them with equaninity.

 

Ø      The fate of the princes involved the sufferings of their people. The

princes, being leaders in sin, were first in punishment. Their primacy of

guilt was followed by a primacy of doom. But others suffered also in

various degrees, and the nation was involved in calamities. Thus the

responsibility of those in high stations is enlarged by the fact that they

bring trouble upon many by their misdeeds.

 

2  And say, What is thy mother? A lioness: she lay down among

lions, she nourished her whelps among young lions.”

What is thy mother? etc.; better, with the Vulgate, Septuagint, and

Keil, Why did thy mother, a lioness, lie down among lionesses? The image

may have been suggested by Genesis 49:9 and Numbers 23:24, or

perhaps also by Nahum 2:11-12. The lioness is Israel, the kingdom

idealized and personified. The lionesses among whom she had lain down

are the heathen kingdoms. The question asks why she had become as one

of them and adopted their cruelty and ferocity.

 

3 “And she brought up one of her whelps: it became a young lion, and

it learned to catch the prey; it devoured men.” The whelp, as v. 4 shows,

is Jehoahaz, also known as Shallum (Jeremiah 22:11), who “did evil” in the sight

of the Lord (II Kings 23:32), the words that follow pointing to cruelty and

oppression like that of Zedekiah. The passage finds a somewhat striking

parallel in AEschylus, ‘Agam.,’ 695-715.

 

4 “The nations also heard of him; he was taken in their pit, and they

brought him with chains unto the land of Egypt.”

The nations also heard of him, etc. The fact that lies under the

parable is that Egypt and its allies began to be alarmed as they watched the

aggressive policy of Jehoahaz, as men are alarmed when they hear that a

young lion is in the neighborhood, and proceed to lay snares for him. In

chains, etc.; literally, nose rings, such as were put into the nostrils of

brutes or men (ch. 38:4; II Kings 19:28; Isaiah 37:29). The mention of

Egypt points to the deportation of Jehoahaz by Pharaoh-Necho

(II Kings 23:34; Jeremiah 22:11).

 

5 “Now when she saw that she had waited, and her hope was lost,

then she took another of her whelps, and made him a young lion.

6 And he went up and down among the lions, he became a young

lion, and learned to catch the prey, and devoured men.”

The second lion whelp is identified by v. 9 with Jehoiachin.

For some reason or other, probably because he, as having “slept with his

fathers,” was not so conspicuous an instance of retribution, Ezekiel passes

over Jehoiakim (B.C. 607-599).

 

 7 “And he knew their desolate palaces, and he laid waste their cities;

and the land was desolate, and the fullness thereof, by the noise of

his roaring.  8 Then the nations set against him on every side from the

provinces and spread their net over him: he was taken in their pit.

9 And they put him in ward in chains, and brought him to the king of

Babylon: they brought him into holds, that his voice should no

more be heard upon the mountains of Israel.”  He knew their desolate

palaces; literally, widows; but the word is used figuratively in Isaiah 13:22,

in the sense of “desolate houses” (compare Ibid. ch. 47:8). So the Vulgate

gives didicit viduas facere; and Keil adopts that meaning here, “he knew, i.e.

outraged, the widows of Israel.” The Revised Version admits it in the margin.

The two words for “widows” and “palaces” differ in a single letter only, and

There may have been an error in transcription. On the whole, I adhere to the

Authorized Version and Revised Version (text). Currey explains, “He

knew (i.e. eyed with satisfaction) his palaces,” from which he had ejected

their former owners, as his father Jeboiakim had done (Jeremiah 22:15-16).

Ewald follows the Targum in a various reading of the verb, and gets

the meaning, “he destroyed its palaces.” Interpreting the parable, we have

Jehoiachin described as alarming Nebuchadnezzar and the neighboring

nations by his activity, and therefore carried off to Babylon as Jehoahaz had

been to Egypt. The young lion was to roar in chains, not on the “mountains

of Israel.”

 

10 “Thy mother is like a vine in thy blood, planted by the waters: she

was fruitful and full of branches by reason of many waters.”

Another parable comes close upon the heels of the first. Thy

mother; sc. Judah or Jerusalem, as the mother of Jehoiachin, who is still in

Ezekiel’s thoughts, and is addressed by him. In thy blood. (For the

comparison of the vine, see ch. 17:6.) No satisfactory meaning can

be got out of the words, the nearest being “in thy life, thy freshness,” the

sap of the vine being thought of as its blood; and critics have been driven

to conjectural readings or renderings. The Jewish interpreters, Targum,

Rashi, Kimchi, and margin of Revised Version, give, “in thy likeness,” sc.

like thee;” Keil, “in thy repose,” sc. in the period of quiet prosperity.

Hitzig boldly adopts a reading which gives, “a vine climbing on the

pomegranate;” but (?). The many waters reproduce the imagery of

Ibid. v.5.

 

11 “And she had strong rods for the sceptres of them that bare rule, and

her stature was exalted among the thick branches, and she appeared in

her height with the multitude of her branches.”  The verse describes generally

the apparent strength of the kingly line of David. The word for thick branches,

which occurs again in ch. 31:3, 10, 14, is taken by Keil and Furst as meaning “thick

clouds,” as describing the height to which the tree grew. So the Revised Version

(margin).

 

12 “But she was plucked up in fury, she was cast down to the ground,

and the east wind dried up her fruit: her strong rods were broken

and withered; the fire consumed them.  13 And now she is planted in

the wilderness, in a dry and thirsty ground.”  The parable, like that of

ch.17:10, describes the sudden downfall of Jerusalem and the kingly house.

The “dry ground” is Babylon, and the new “planting” indicates the

deportation of Jehoiachin and the chief men of Judah.

 

14 “And fire is gone out of a rod of her branches, which hath devoured

her fruit, so that she hath no strong rod to be a sceptre to rule. This

is a lamentation, and shall be for a lamentation.”  Fire is gone out.

The words are an echo of Judges 9:15. Zedekiah’s reign was to work

destruction for his people, as that of Abimelech had done.  (Judges 9

is worthy of study – this website – CY – 2014)

 

 

A Nation’s Rise and Fall (vs. 10-14)

 

If the emblem chosen to represent the Hebrew kings was a lion, “the lion of

the tribe of Judah,” the emblem of the nation was a vine. The vine was

indigenous in the land; the whole territory was a vineyard. As the vine is

chief among trees for fruitfulness, so Israel, on account of superior

advantage, was expected to be chief among the nations for spiritual

productiveness. The fruits of piety and righteousness ought to have

abounded on every branch.

 

  • HER FAME.

 

Ø      It was a vine of the noblest quality. Her sap was rich; like blood. She

was of the choicest sort. Abraham was the parent stock, and Abraham

was the highest kind of man — “the friend of God.”  (James 2:23)

 

Ø      This vine was well situated. Of all lands God had chosen Canaan for the

abode of His people. It had been chosen by unerring Wisdom, and

prepared by omnipotent power. It lay central among the nations; it had

natural excellence; it was the glory of all lands. Sharon and Carmel and

Lebanon are still the synonyms for splendid fertility.

 

Ø      This vine actually flourished. “Her stature was exalted.” “She had

strong rods.” Prosperity was not only possible; it was matter of fact.

The vine bare prolifically. During the reigns of David and Solomon

the people enjoyed an enviable prosperity.

 

o       Wealth increased.

o       Knowledge spread.

o       Religion flourished.

o       The people thronged to offer sacrifices.

o       The Sabbath was a delight.

o       A magnificent temple was erected.

o       The Jewish empire grew.

o       Surrounding nations honored the people that

God had so signally blessed.

o       Peace abounded in the land.

o       There was contentment, order, plenty, national

fame.

 

Such rapid progress had never been known. What had been thus

gained COULD HAVE BEEN MAINTAINED! The vine that has

so nobly borne fruit can bear fruit still.

 

  • HER FOLLY. The fault of Israel is here rather implied than expressed.

Her sin was unfruitfulness. Instead of pruning the rank branches of this

vine, the husbandmen allowed them to grow; and soon all the strength of

the tree ran out in branch and leaf.  Instead of caring for clusters of holy

fruit, “she had strong rods for the sceptres of them that bare rule.” The

nation was bent rather upon display, showy magnificence, military glory,

than upon the works of righteousness and religion. The rank and luxuriant

growths of idolatry took the place of fruitful piety. There was a fever of

self-exaltation. The people imagined they could live upon their past fame.

The kings became incarnations of selfishness, and the people, like a flock

of sheep, eagerly followed the base example (Jeremiah 5:31).  Unfruitfulness

was her folly and her curse. A vine is worse than useless unless it bears fruit;

and Israel was worse than useless in the world when she threw aside her

loyalty to God.

 

  • HER FALL. “She was plucked up in fury.” A storm swept over her,

which rooted her out of the ground. Here is depicted:

 

Ø      The vines prostrate state. It was laid low. This is a graphic description

of Israel’s defeat in war. In David’s day, no neighboring king dared to

whisper any defiance to Israel; now every surrounding army had made

raids upon her territory and despoiled her possessions. The capitals,

Jerusalem and Samaria, had been besieged and captured.

 

Ø      Demolition of the strong branches. The royal sceptre was broken. At

this moment the king was a vassal, under tribute to the King of Babylon.

Kingly rule was only a shadow and a pretense. Every strong arm in

Judaea was withered.  (Consider the poor leadership in the United

States over the last 25 years – See Isaiah 3:12 - CY – 2014)

 

Ø      The element of destruction had issued out of itself. “A fire is gone

out of a rod of her branches, which hath devoured her fruit.” This

language implies that it was the sin of her kings that brought about

this terrible downfall. Had it not been for internal vice and folly,

no foreign foe could have done Israel harm. For the arm of Jehovah

was round about her. (“When a man’s ways please the Lord, He

maketh even his enemies to be a peace with him.”  - Proverbs 16:7 –

Compare America prior to World War II and after 9/11 – CY – 2014)

Sin has always the seed of punishment within itself. The fire came

from within.

 

Ø      Yet there is a circumstance of hope. The vine is not left prostrate —

unrooted. The Divine Husbandman has intentions of future kindness.

The vine shall again be planted in the land of Israel; meanwhile “it is

planted in the wilderness, in a dry and thirsty ground.” This precludes

despair. This preservation of the vine nourishes hope. But compared

with former favors and privileges, this captivity is a barren wilderness.

Bare preservation of life is all that can there be expected. Such disaster

is A FITTING THEME FOR HUMAN LAMENTATION!   What

material for sorrow is supplied by WANTON GUILT!

 

 

   The Parable of the Destruction of the Vine (vs. 10-14)

 

The Jews have often been compared to a vine well cared for by God, and

the same comparison, on our Lord’s authority, may be applied to

Christians. In the present case we have a description first of the prosperity

of the vine, and then of the devastating ruin of it.

 

  • THE PROSPERITY OF THE VINE.

 

Ø      It was planted by the waters.   “He shall be like a tree planted

by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his

season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he

doeth shall prosper”  (Psalm 1:3).  Thus it was well nourished

and refreshed.  God cares for His children, and supplies their

wants. The river of the water of life is for their refreshment.

 

They cannot charge their sin to any failing in God’s grace.

 

Ø      It was fruitful. The early history of Israel shows that the people

of God could give some return in service and holy living. God’s

people have borne fruit in works of zeal and charity. This

fruitfulness is what is most looked for in the vine (John 15:5).

 

Ø      It was well developed. “Full of branches.” Israel grew in population.

The Church has grown in numbers. External prosperity has been seen

in the visible enlargment of Christendom.

 

Ø      It was influential. Its branches were so great that they became strong

rods for sceptres. Israel exerted royal influence. The Church has been

high in power. Weakness and limitation of influence cannot be pleaded

as excuses for the neglect of her mission.

 

Ø      It was honoured. “Her stature was exalted among the thick branches.”

The vine grew in height as well as in the breadth of her extending

branches. Israel stood high. The Church has received her full

recognition of honor.

 

  • THE RUIN OF THE VINE. All this former excellence did not prevent

a furious vengeance from falling upon the vine. Israel’s glorious history did

not save her from the doom of her sins. The past of the Church will be no

shield from the judgment which must fall on her present or future

faithlessness. The vine was grievously hurt.

 

Ø      It was plucked up. Israel was driven into exile. The sinner will lose

his old privileges.

 

Ø      It was cast to the ground. In place of the previous exaltation of its

lordly branches, there is to be a shameful humiliation as they are

torn down and strewn over the ground.

 

Ø      Its fruit was dried up. Old good deeds are forgotten in later sin. When

the soul is down in shame and mire, there is no longer power or

opportunity to perform the old useful service.  (I don’t read anywhere

in the Bible where David did anything worthwhile after his affair

with Bathsheba?  - CY – 2014)

 

Ø      Its sceptre-like rods were destroyed — broken, withered, and

consumed by fire. Power departs with the loss of the old position

and prosperity The fallen Church loses influence.

 

Ø      It is planted in the wilderness. The poor plant is left there to languish for

lack of water and nourishing soil. The doom of sin is to shrivel up and

fade away in a spiritual wilderness.

 

Ø      The worst fate comes from the vine upon itself. The fire proceeds from a

rod of her own branches. The royal family of Israel brought down

destruction on the nation. The sins of the Church produce its desolation.

The fire of judgment that consumes each sinner springs from his own evil

heart.

 

 

National Prosperity and National Ruin (vs. 10-14)

 

“Thy mother is like a vine in thy blood, planted by the waters,” etc. This

paragraph completes the lamentation for the princes of Israel. The figure is

changed from the lioness and the young lions to the vine and its branches

and fruit. This similitude is frequently used in the sacred Scriptures to

represent the people of Israel (ch. 15.; 17:5-10; Psalm 80:8-16; Isaiah 5:1-7;

Jeremiah 2:21). The parable before us presents two pictures.

 

  • A PICTURE OF NATIONAL PROSPERITY. (vs. 10-11.)

 

Ø      Some features of national prosperity.

 

ü      Favourable circumstances.A vine planted by the waters.”

Palestine, the land of the chosen people, was very favorably situated

in many respects. It was almost completely surrounded by natural

fortifications. On their northern frontier were the ranges of Lebanon;

from their southern frontier “stretched that ‘great and terrible

wilderness,’ which roiled like a sea between the valley of the Nile and

the valley of the Jordan.” On the east they were guarded by the eastern

desert and by “the vast fissure of the Jordan valley;” and on the west

by the Mediterranean, which, “when Israel first settled in Palestine,

was not yet the thoroughfare — it was rather the boundary and the

terror of the Eastern nations.” And to the Western world the coast of

Palestine opposed an inhospitable front, Moreover, the land in which

this vine was planted was remarkable for its fertility (compare

Numbers 13:27; Deuteronomy 8:7-9). Palestine, says Dean Stanley,

not merely by its situation, but by its comparative fertility, might

well be considered the prize of the Eastern world, the possession of

which was the mark of God’s peculiar favor; the spot for which the

nations would contend; as on a smaller scale the Bedouin tribes for

some ‘diamond of the desert,’ some ‘palm-grove islanded amid the

waste.’ And a land of which the blessings were so evidently the gift

of God, not as in Egypt of man’s labor; which also, by reason of its

narrow extent, was so constantly within reach and sight of the

neighboring desert, was eminently calculated to raise the thoughts

of the nation to the Supreme Giver of all these blessings, and to

bind it by the dearest ties to the land which He had so manifestly

favored.”

 

ü      Efficient rulers. She had strong rods for the sceptre of them that

bare rule.” There grew up in Jerusalem-Judah strong shoots of

David, able to rule (Genesis 49:10). All her kings were not eminent

either for capability or character; but some of them certainly were;

 e.g. David, Solomon, Asa. Jehoshaphat, Uzziah, Hezekiah, Josiah.

 

ü      Manifest progress. “She was fruitful and full of branches by reason

of many waters Her stature was exalted among the thick branches,

and she appeared in her height with the multitude el her branches.”

In the time of David and Solomon great was the prosperity of the

nation (I Chronicles 14:17; 29:26-28; II Chronicles 9.). Even under

Zedekiah (as we pointed out on ch. 17:5-6) an encouraging measure

of progress and prosperity might have been attained if he had

remained faithful to his engagements with the King of Babylon.

 

ü      The great source of national prosperity. She was fruitful and full of

branches by reason of many waters.” The many waters signify the

Divine blessing which ruled over Israel, the rich influx of grace.

The Israelites in a special sense owed their national existence and

power and prosperity TO JEHOVAH, THEIR GOD!   And IN

ALL TIMES AND PLACES  true and lasting national prosperity

 can only be attained by COMPLIANCE WITH THE LAW OF

GOD, and realization of His blessing.Righteousness exalteth a

nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34).

“The throne is established by righteousness  (Ibid. ch. 16:12);

“The God of Israel, He giveth strength and power unto His

people (Psalm 68:35).  He also bringeth princes to nothing;

He maketh the judges of the earth as vanity.”  (Isaiah 40:23)

 

  • A PICTURE OF NATIONAL RUIN. (vs. 12-14.)  Note the sudden

transition from the description of the prosperity of this vine to the

declaration of its destruction.  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 birthplace of kings, and therewith the Davidic

kingdom.

 

Ø      Some features of this ruin.

 

ü      Favorable circumstances are exchanged for adverse ones.

Formerly she was a “planted by the waters;” and now she

is “planted in the wilderness, in a dry and thirsty land.”

The expression is figurative, setting forth their

exile as a condition opposed to their growth and prosperity.

“Such a wilderness may even be in the midst of a cultivated land.

In some respects, Babylon was as a wilderness to those of the

people that were carried captive thither. They had lost :

 

o       their national life,

o       their ancestral estates, and

o       many of their religious privileges.

 

ü      Efficient rulers are no more.Her strong rods were broken and

withered; the fire consumed them She hath no strong rod to be a

 sceptre to rule.” The words, perhaps, refer to Zedekiah and his

miserable overthrow (II Kings 25:4-7). And there was no one to

retrieve their fallen fortunes, or to reign efficiently over the

remnant of them that was left in the land (compare Isaiah 3:6-8).

 

ü      Manifest progress is exchanged for DESOLATION and RUIN.

“She was plucked up in fury, she was cast down to the ground,

and the east wind dried up her fruit And fire is gone out of a

rod of her branches, which hath devoured her fruit.” The

commentary on these clauses we have in IIKings 25:8-26;

II Chronicles 36:17-20; Jeremiah 52:12-30; and in Lamentations.

 

Ø      The instrument of this ruin. “The east wind dried up her fruit” (compare

ch. 17:10; Hosea 13:15). The east wind points to the Chaldeans as the

instrument of the Divine judgment. The figure is appropriate, both because

the Chaldeans dwelt in the east, and because the east wind is often

injurious to vegetable life.

 

Ø      The cause of this ruin. “Fire is gone out of a rod of her branches, which

hath devoured her fruit.”  The fire goes out from the chief stem of the

branches: it does not take its rise from the Chaldees, but proceeds from

the royal family itself, which by its crimes called down the Divine

vengeance.  It was Zedekiah, by his base treachery towards

Nebuchadnezzar, that at last brought on the ruin (ch.17:15-21).

The desolation of kingdoms, usually have been by their own kings

And rulers, by those they have brought forth and set up; their follies,

cruelties, treacheries, have fired and consumed their kingdoms.”

 

  • CONCLUSION.

 

Ø      Prosperity, both individual and national, IS OF GOD!

 

Ø      Ruin, both individual and national, IS SELF-CAUSED!

The fire of one’s own unrighteousness kindles the wrathful

judgment of God.  Men first become parched, then the fire consumes

them. “O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself!”  (Hosea 13:9)

 

Ø      Sin invariably leads to SORROW!   It first causes lamentation to

the good, and then leads to general lamentation. Sin may be

committed amidst mirth and music, but it will speedily had to

mourning and woe. “This is a lamentation, and shall be for a

 lamentation.”  (v. 14)

 

The hand that smote Israel is strong to smite a faithless Christendom. The form

of the punishment may vary, but the essence of it will be unchanged. Jehoahaz

was sent to Egypt, Jehoiachin and Zedekiah to Babylon; but the doom of the

trio was essentially the same.

 

 

 

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