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.



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.





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.”




                                    The Parable of the Lion’s Whelps (vs. 1-9)


·         THE LION-LIKE CHARACTER OF ISRAEL. This character was

especially given to the tribe of Judah, from which the royal family came

(Genesis 49:9). There should be something of the better nature of the

lion in the people of God.


Ø      Strength. With one blow of his paw the lion can break the neck of a bull.

The nation of Israel was strong. The Church of God is strong with the

might of God. God does not only save His children as weak creatures

needing His shelter; He inspires them with strength.


Ø      Freedom. The lion is not a domestic animal, trained to wear the yoke

like the patient ox. When he is caught and caged his proud spirit is broken.

In a state of nature he roams at large over the desert. God gives liberty to

His people. They are not His slaves; they are His free men.


Ø      Rule. The lion is regarded as the king of the forest. Israel in her

greatness ruled over her neighbors politically; but spiritually she has

since extended that rule over the civilized world. There is power

and a ruling influence over minds in the Church of Christ.


Ø      Majesty. The lion looks more brave than he is. His lordly mane and

noble bearing, and the thunder of his roar that echoes through the

woods at night, impress men with a sense of awe. God has called

His people to a position of greatness and honor.




Ø      The disastrous fate of the first whelp. Jehoahaz behaves ill, and is

carried in chains to Egypt (II Kings 23:32-34).


o        His great sin is that he worked destruction. “It devored men.” Sin is

hurtful to ethers as well as to the sinner. When a man is in a position of

power and influence this is especially the case. But “no man liveth unto

himself.”  (Romans 14:7  We are responsible for the harm done by

our sin.


o        His punishment is loss of liberty and banishment. The lion is taken in a

pit, shackled with chains, and carried off to Egypt. Power to work ill will

not last forever. The liberty that is abused in sin will be taken away.

They who are unfaithful to God will be banished from God’s inheritance.


Ø      The similar fate of the second whelp. Jehoahaz is followed by Jehoiakim

and Jehoiachin, not only on the throne, but in evil conduct and in

consequent punishment.


o        There is a succession in sin. This is not by natural inheritance nor by

inevitable fate, but by a gathering together of various common

influences, especially that of example. Yet the fate of former sinners

should be a warning to their successors. Men are too ready to copy

the misdeeds of predecessors, without waiting to consider the

consequences of those misdeeds.


o        There will be a succession in punishment. The resources of judgment

are not exhausted. The band 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

to Babylon; but the doom of the two was essentially the same. Moreover,

in both cases, as the villagers assemble in a circle to catch a destructive

lion, the neighbouring nations joined in the work of Egypt and

Babylon. Sinners make many enemies.





                                    The Downfall of the Princes (vs. 1-9)


For the interpretation of this figurative and poetical portion of Ezekiel’s

prophecies, reference must be made to the close of the Second Books of

Kings and of Chronicles, where the obscure and humiliating history of the

last days of the monarchy of Judah is briefly recorded. Ezekiel’s dirge

concerns partly what had already taken place, and partly what was

immediately about to happen. The lessons to be learned from the history and

the lamentation are of a general character. The fate of the kings — if so

they may be called — Jehoahaz and Jehoiachin, is certainly instructive. But

it would not be just to separate between the rulers and the ruled, both of

whom alike “did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord.”

(I am concerned that the same thing is happening in America today -

remember Jeremiah was a contemporary of Ezekiel and his message was

“The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means;

and my people love to have it so:  and what will ye do in the end thereof?”

CY - late 2021)



compared to lions, nourished by the lioness their dam, among the whelps.

Spruging from the royal stock, and a knowledge as being in the succession,

they occupied in due time the throne of their fathers. This arrangement was

in fulfillment of the promise made by Jehovah to David, that there should

not fail a man to sit upon the throne of the royal bard.



that the young lion should catch its prey and even devour men. But when

the princes are compared to such bloodthirsty and carnivorous beasts, it is

implied that they were in the habit of oppressing and robbing their subjects,

and treating them with violence and cruelty. As a matter of fact, the two

princes referred to did conduct themselves in a tyrannical and unjust




THEMSELVES. The nations are described by the poet prophet as hearing

of the ravening of the lions, and as setting themselves against them,

spreading a net, digging a pit, and, by the use of customary devices, taking

the noxious marauder. The first-mentioned prince was taken captive into

Egypt, the second to Babylon. They are depicted as led in chains, as put in

ward, and of the second it is poetically observed that “his voice was no

more heard upon the mountains of Israel.” As far as history enables us to

judge, these princes met with the reward due to their ungodliness, violence,

rapacity, and treachery.




Jehoiachin had been wise, and had learned the lesson publicly pronounced

by the doom of Jehoahaz, he might have escaped ruin, we cannot tell. But

by disregarding that lesson he sealed his fate. How often it happens in

human affairs that the most obvious and powerful lesson, enforced by

striking actual examples, makes no impression upon the mind of the young,

self-willed and irreligious!






Ø      Princes should not rely upon their high descent, their birth, their

ancestral clams to respect.


Ø      Princes should not use their power and the influence of their station for

their own personal emoluments or pleasures.


Ø      Princes should be wise, and order their doings by the precepts of

Divine righteousness.


Ø      Princes should remember the instability of thrones and the uncertainty of

life and prosperity, and accordingly should be diligent in their endeavors

for the public good.





                                    Kingly Power Abused (vs. 1-9)


Without doubt, the main cause of Israel’s fall was the waywardness and

vice of her kings. With few exceptions, they gave themselves up to evil

ways. Corruption at the fountainhead became corruption in all the streams

of national and domestic life. Idolatry was the root; and tyranny, anarchy,

violence, and cruelly were the branches. This soon became intolerable to

the surrounding nations.



shepherd is to his flock, the king should be to his people. He is intended to

live and think and plan for their good. Wisdom, not self-will, ought to be

his supreme counselor. As an army cannot succeed without a commander;

as a ship cannot voyage prosperously without a pilot; as a family cannot do

well without a parent; so a kingdom must have a ruler. The administration

of justice and of defense must have a living head. The appointment of a

king, whether he be human or Divine, is a necessity for a nation’s

prosperity; and that king will be either a blessing or a curse.


·         KINGLY POWER MAY BECOME SELFISH. The man who is

exalted to the highest place of honor is so exalted that he may serve the

nation. But, in a measure, he holds an irresponsible office. There is no

higher power which can control or restrain him. Hence there is a great

temptation for the abuse of office. The man may use his power to

aggrandize himself, to increase his pleasures or his magnificence. Setting

aside prudence, wisdom, benevolent regard for others, he may become

arrogant, self-willed, tyrannical. The lower appetites of his nature may rule

him, and the effect will be as if a beast ruled the people. Though a lion is

chief among wild animals, he is but a beast still; and the worst features of

the untamed lion were manifest in the kings of Israel and of Judah.



young lion learned “to catch prey, it devoured men.” He who was set over

the people to preserve life, to afford protection to their interests, perverted

his high office, destroyed those he was appointed to save. The king is set in

the stead of God, to reward obedience, and to punish transgression; by the

abuse of his office he becomes an Apollyon, an ally of Satan. He destroys

his people’s peace, destroys their fortunes, destroys their lives. His misrule

encourages violence on the high ways, private murder, civil war, foreign

invasion, An evil king is a fount of death the nation’s executioner.



nations set against him on every side… and spread their net over him: he

was taken in their pit.” He who is unjust and violent in dealing with his

own people will be unjust and insolent in dealing with surrounding nations.

But neighboring kings are more free to resent and punish royal insolence

than are the subjects of the monarch. Hence it often happens that

retribution comes from the mutual consent of foreigners. There is One who

rules among the nations, higher that the highest king, and He can employ

a thousand methods to restrain and chastise a tyrant. At times God employs

the subjects of the realm; sometimes He employs death; sometimes He

employs a foreign army — a foreign league. It is a perilous thing to tamper

with righteousness.



                        A Lamentation for Fallen Princes (vs. 1-9)


“Moreover, take thou up a lamentation for the princes of Israel, and say,

What was thy mother?” etc. Here are three preliminary inquiries.


1. Who is addressed by the prophet? Or, whom are we to understand by

the pronoun “thy”? “What was thy mother?”Jehoiachin is addressed,”

says the ‘Speaker’s Commentary.’ Hengstenberg says, “The address is to

the man Judah, the people of the present.” And Schroder, “The address is

directed to the people.” But, as we shall see, the people are probably

represented by the lioness; and if such be the case, it is hardly congruous to

say that they are addressed in the pronoun “thy;” for that would represent

them at once as the “mother” and the offspring.


2. Who is represented by thy mother, a lioness? According to Schroder,

the mother of the people is Jerusalem” (compare Galatians 4:25, seq.;

Lamentations 1:1). The general opinion is that the mother represents

the people of Judah or of the whole Israel. Hengstenberg, “The mother is

the people in itself.” Matthew Henry, “He must compare the kingdom of

Judah to a lioness.” Scott, “The Jewish Church and nation is represented

under the image of a lioness.” ‘Speaker’s Commentary,’ “The people

represented by Judah.”


3. Who are represented by the two whelps? (vs. 3, 5.) It is generally

agreed that by them are set forth the two princes for whom this lamentation

is made, and that by the first whelp which “became a young lion” is

signified Jehoahaz (II Kings 23:30). But opinion is divided as to

whether the other whelp which was “made a young lion” represents

Jehoiakim or Jehoiachin. Hengstenberg, Schroder, and the ‘Speaker’s

Commentary’ say that it was Jehoiachin, for this amongst other reasons,

that he “was not appointed by a foreign prince out of order, like his father

Jehoiakim, but succeeded regularly with the consent of the people

(II Kings 24:6).” But it is difficult to see how vs. 6 and 7 can be applied to

him, seeing that he reigned only three months and ten days (II Chronicles 36:9).

On the other hand, if we take vs. 5-9 as applying to Jehoiakim, then the ninth

verse presents this difficulty, that it represents the prince as being carried into

Babylon as a prisoner, and there brought into strongholds, and his voice never

more heard upon the mountains of Israel; whereas it is said in II Kings 24:6 that

Jehoiakim slept with his fathers;” and in Jeremiah 22:19, “He shall be buried

with the burial of an ass, drawn and cast forth beyond the gates of Jerusalem.”

But, as Dr. Milman remarks, “There is much difficulty about the death of Jehoiakim;”

for in addition to the stated merits just quoted from II Kings and Jeremiah, in

II Chronicles 36:6 it is said that Nebuchadnezzar “bound him in fetters

to carry him to Babylon.” Whether we conclude that Jehoiakim or

Jehoiachin is referred to in vs. 5-9, difficulties meet us which perhaps at

present cannot be completely cleared away. On the three questions at

which we have glanced, the following remarks of Greenhill are deserving

of quotation: “It is said ‘thy mother’ in reference to each prince. Jehoahaz,

what is thy mother?’ Jehoiakim, ‘what is thy mother?’ By ‘mother’ here is

meant Jerusalem and the kingdom of Judah. Great cities and kingdoms are

in a metaphorical sense mothers; they bring forth kings; they elect, crown,

and set them up to rule.” But leaving questions of disputed interpretation,

let us look at those aspects or illustrations of historical and moral truths

which this lamentation sets forth. We discover here:



mother? A lioness: she couched among lions, in the midst of the young

lions she nourished her whelps.” “The people appears as a lioness,” says

Hengstenberg, “on the ground of Genesis 49:9, to which passage the

couching in particular refers (compare Numbers 23:24; 24:9; Isaiah 29:1),

because it was a royal people, of equal birth with other independent and

powerful nations, as this royal nature was historically displayed, especially

in the times of David and Solomon The whelps of the mother are the sons

of the King of Israel The bringing up of these among lions points to the

fact that the kingdom of Israel was of equal birth with the mighty kingdoms

of the heathen world.” And Schroder says excellently, “That she ‘lay

down’ among the neighboring royal states betokens majestic repose and

conscious security — the fearless one exciting fear by imposing power.”

The power and prosperity thus indicated were especially realized during

the later years of the reign of David and the greater portion of that of

Solomon. Of this we have evidence in 1 Chronicles 14:17; 24:26-28;

II Chronicles 9.


·         ROYAL POSITION AND POWER ABUSED. “And she brought up

one of her whelps; he became a young lion: and he learned to catch the

prey, he devoured men.” The young lion is intended to represent Jehoahaz,

who was raised to the throne by the people (II Kings 23:30). “He was

an impious man,” said Josephus, “and impure in his course of life.” “And

he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his

fathers had done” (II Kings 23:32). And, according to our text, during

his brief reign he abused his kingly power by oppressing his subjects. Then

we have the abuse of kingly power in another sovereign (vs. 5-7). It we

take this as referring to Jehoiakim, it is difficult to see how it can be

appropriately said that “she took another of her whelps, and made him a

young lion,” seeing that he was raised to the throne by Pharaoh-Necho

(II Kings 23:34). But in other respects the description here given suits

him well (compare  vs. 6-7 with II Kings 23:35-37). Josephus says that “he

was of a wicked disposition, and ready to do mischief: nor was he either

religious towards God or good-natured towards men” (‘Ant.,’ 10:5. 2).

Again, if we translate v. 7 as in the ‘Speaker’s Commentary,’ “he knew

his palaces” (both Hengstenberg and Schroder translate “his” in this clause,

and not “their” as in the Authorized Version), the reference to Jehoiakim

becomes yet more clear; for he had a passion for building splendid edifices,

and he gratified it by injustice and oppression (Jeremiah 22:13-19). By

both these princes their position and power were wickedly abused. Rank

and might should be used in accordance with the will of God and for the

good of man. Kings should employ their power for the protection and

prosperity of their subjects.


                        “Since by your greatness you

Are nearer heaven in place, be nearer it

In goodness. Rich men should transcend the poor.

As clouds the earth; raised by the comfort of

The sun, to water dry and barren grounds.”



But these princes used their power for the oppression and impoverishment

of their subjects.


“When those whom Heaven distinguishes o’er millions,

Profusely gives them honor, riches, power,

Whate’er the expanded heart can wish; when they,

Accepting the reward, neglect the duty,

Or worse, pervert those gifts to deeds of ruin,

Is there a wretch they rule so mean as they, —

Guilty at once of sacrilege to Heaven,

And of perfidious robbery to men?”




also heard of him; he was taken in their pit, and they brought him with

chains unto the land of Egypt (compare II Kings 23:31-34). There is here

an allusion to the custom, when the news arrives that a lion or other

savage beast is committing mischief, of assembling on all sides to seize and

slay it” (C.B. Michaelis). The “chains,” “hooks,” or “rings,” by which

Jehoahaz is said to have been brought into Egypt, refer to the custom of

putting a ring “through the nose of animals that require to be restrained, to

attach to it the bridle by which they are led, by which also their power of

breathing can be lessened” (compare II Kings 19:28). Jehoiakim also was

stripped of the power which he had abused. “The nations set against him

on every side from the provinces; and they spread their net over him,” etc.

(vs. 8-9). The historical explanation is given in II Kings 24:1-2;

II Chronicles 36:5-6. Or, if vs. 8 and 9 be applied to Jehoiachin, we have

their explanation in II Kings 24:10-16. When kings and princes abuse

their power, in the providence of God it is taken away from them. Many

examples of this might he cited as:


Ø      Saul (1 Samuel 31.),

Ø      Zimri (1 Kings 16:8-20),

Ø      Jehoram (II Chronicles 21.),

Ø      Manasseh (II Chronicles 33:1- 11).


And, as Greenhill says, “Tiberius was poisoned or smothered by his

own nephew; Caligula slain by his own guard; Vitrellius was overthrown in

battle, taken prisoner, and drawn with a halter about his neck along the

streets, half naked, and after many outrages done unto him, he was killed

and cast into the Tiber. Leander, tyrant of Cyrena, was taken alive, and

being sewed into a leathern bag, was cast into the sea. Thirty tyrants were

slain in one day at Athens, by Theramenes, Thrasibulus, and Archippns,

who did it with seventy men.” The measure they had meted unto others

was measured also unto them. As they had done, so God requited them.

These things call for lamentation on the part of the patriotic and the pious.

When splendid opportunities are worse than neglected, and exalted

position and power are grievously abused, and princes oppress their

people, the wise and good do mourn. National sins and calamities should

awaken the sorrow of all lovers of their God and country.


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



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.




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



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


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.




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




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.




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



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



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.”




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.





                                    The Downfall of the City (vs. 10-14)


The transition is a bold one, from the figure of the lioness’s whelps to that

of the vine with its pride of growth and its clusters of fruit, and anon as

withered and scorched and ready to perish. Little is there of tenderness or

of sympathy in the prophet’s view of the degenerate scions of the royal

house of Judah. But when he comes to speak of Jerusalem, a sweeter

similitude rises before his vision; it is the vine that grew and flourished on

the sunny slopes of Judah, in all its fairness and fruitfulness, now, alas! to

be plucked up, cast down, broken, withered, and consumed with fire.




Ø      The city was well placed upon her hills; as the vine by the waters that

nourish and cheer the noble plant in the heat and drought of summer.


Ø      The city was noble of aspect; even as the vine of exalted stature, as she

appears in her height with the multitude of her branches.


Ø      The city was strong in her sway; as the vine with her vigorous and pliant

rods “for the skeptics of them that bear rule.”


Ø      The city was fruitful in great men and great thinkers and great deeds;

even as the vine that beat’s abundant clusters of rich grapes. There is

fondness and pride in these references to the sacred and beloved



·         JERUSALEM IN HER DESOLATION. It would seem that Ezekiel,

foreseeing what is about to come to pass, speaks of the ruin of the city as if

already accomplished. The vine in its wealth of foliage and of fruit is the

picture of the memory; the vine in its destruction is the sad vision of the

immediate future, and the foreboding seems a fact.


Ø      The city itself is besieged, taken, and dismantled.

Ø      The chief inhabitants are either slain or led away into banishment.

Ø      The princes are deprived of their power.

Ø      The city’s prosperity and pride, wealth and prowess, are all at an end.


·         JERUSALEM LAMENTED. The spectacle of a famous metropolis,

the seat of historic government and of a consecrated temple, reduced to

helplessness and disgrace, is a spectacle not to be beheld without emotion.

We are reminded of the language in which an English poet represents the

Roman conqueror, centuries afterwards, lamenting the sad but inevitable

fate of Jerusalem: —


                                    “It moves me, Romans;

Confounds the counsel of my firm philosophy,

That Ruin’s merciless ploughshare should pass o’er

And barren salt be sown on you proud city!”


·         APPLICATION.


1. The transitoriness and mutability of earthly greatness are very

     impressively brought before us in this passage. Sic transit gloria mundi

     (Thus passes the glory of the world).


2. Eminence and privilege are no security against the operation of

    righteous law.


3. Repentance and obedience are the only means by which it may be hoped

    that advantages will be retained, and further opportunities of useful service







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