take thou up a lamentation for the princes of
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
scholars apply it to Zedekiah.
A Lamentation for the Princes of
Ezekiel follows up his predictions of approaching judgment and his exhortations to
repentance with an elegy on the distresses of the princes of
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.
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
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
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
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
The nations also heard of him, etc. The fact that lies under the
parable is that
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
(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
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
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
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
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
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
The “dry ground” is
deportation of Jehoiachin and the chief men
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
indigenous in the land; the whole territory was a vineyard. As the vine is
chief among trees for fruitfulness, so
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)
This vine was well situated. Of all lands God had
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.
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 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;
loyalty to God.
which rooted her out of the ground. Here is depicted:
Ø The vine’s prostrate state. It was laid low. This is a graphic description
whisper any defiance to
raids upon her territory and despoiled her possessions. The capitals,
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
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
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 –
Sin has always the seed of punishment within itself. The fire came
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
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.
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.
It was fruitful. The early history of
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).
It was well developed. “Full of
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.
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
recognition of honor.
a furious vengeance from falling upon the vine.
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.
It was plucked up.
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
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
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
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.”
in many respects. It was almost completely surrounded by natural
fortifications. On their northern frontier were the ranges of
from their southern frontier “stretched that ‘great and terrible
wilderness,’ which roiled like a sea between the valley of the
the valley of the
desert and by “the vast fissure of the
by the Mediterranean, which, “when
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
this vine was planted was remarkable for its fertility (compare
Numbers 13:27; Deuteronomy
“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
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
which ruled over
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
people” (Psalm 68:35). He also “bringeth princes to nothing;
He maketh the judges of the earth as vanity.” (Isaiah 40:23)
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,
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
of the punishment may vary, but the essence of it will be unchanged. Jehoahaz
trio was essentially the same.
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