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Bible Commentaries
Ezekiel 31

Smith's Bible CommentarySmith's Commentary

Verses 1-18

Shall we turn now to Ezekiel, chapter 31.

In chapters 29 and 30 of Ezekiel, he was prophesying concerning the judgment of God that was to come against the nation of Egypt, who was like a reed when Israel sought to lean upon it, it broke and only injured Israel. They were, of course, warned about leaning upon Egypt, but the warnings were not heeded and thus Egypt became as a broken staff and did not really help Israel except only temporarily when Pharaoh Haaibre came against Babylon for a time and they stopped the siege against Jerusalem for a short period.

Now in chapter 31 he begins a prophecy against the Pharaoh himself. And in this prophecy against the Pharaoh, he turns to more or less a parable in which he likens the Egyptian leader to a great cedar tree in Lebanon. Now Lebanon used to be famous for its huge cedar trees. And, of course, you remember that the king of Tyre, Hiram, made a covenant with Solomon to provide the cedars, with David and with Solomon to provide the cedars for the building of the temple in Jerusalem. And so in a parabolic way, the Lord speaks of the parable, really, of the Pharaoh as a giant cedar in Lebanon.

It came to pass in the eleventh year, in the third month ( Ezekiel 31:1 ),

This would be the eleventh year of king Zedekiah, or 586 B.C.

The word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Son of man, speak unto Pharaoh king of Egypt, and to his multitude; Who are thou like in greatness? ( Ezekiel 31:1-2 )

Egypt, of course, was a great, powerful empire in the ancient world. It was one of the world empires, or the world-dominating, or leading empires, and always a force to be reckoned with. "Who are you like?" And he likens them unto the Assyrians, who were also a great world power. It was the Assyrians who conquered over the Northern Kingdom of Israel. And so they are like unto Assyria.

[They are like] a cedar in Lebanon with fair branches, and a shadowing shroud, of high stature; the top among the thick boughs. And the waters made him great ( Ezekiel 31:3-4 ),

That would be the Nile River.

the deep set him on the high with her rivers running round about his plants, and sent out her little rivers unto the trees of the field ( Ezekiel 31:4 ).

The tributaries and the delta area where the Nile spread out in the delta and that rich farm land.

Therefore his height was exalted above the trees of the field, and his boughs were multiplied, his branches became long because of the multitude of waters, when he shot forth. And all of the fowls of heaven made their nest in his boughs, and under his branches did all the beasts of the field bring forth their young, and under his shadow dwelt all great nations ( Ezekiel 31:5-6 ).

So Egypt was one of the great nations and overshadowed the other nations. Notice the parable here, the birds lodged in the branches. This is also said by Daniel of Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian kingdom. But bringing it into the New Testament, we remember Jesus gave a kingdom parable, "The kingdom of heaven is like unto a mustard seed, which is a small little seed, but it was planted and it grew into a tree. And the birds of the air came and lodged in it" ( Luke 13:19 ). Now, in a parabolic way, birds are always thought of in an evil sense. You remember that when the seed was planted and it fell by the wayside, the birds of the air plucked it up so that it wasn't able to take root and they were likened unto the evil one who comes and plucks the Word of God out of a person's heart so that it doesn't have any effect.

So in that kingdom parable of the mustard seed that grew into a tree, first of all, that is abnormal. A mustard seed is not a tree seed, it is a bush, but there was this abnormal growth. It grew into a tree and all of the birds came and lodged in it. Is a parable, really, of the Gentile church that would become a haven for every kind of bird that exists. And so we look at the Gentile church today and see all the weird birds lodging in its branches. It's amazing the things that have been brought into the church, incorporated as a part of Christianity, and the people who have taken on the name or the title of Christian. But, of course, it certainly reminds us of what Jesus said, "Not all who say, 'Lord, Lord,' are going to enter into the kingdom of heaven" ( Matthew 7:21 ). So Jesus is referring to the fact that as the Gentile church grows, the abnormal type of growth, that it is not a healthy, solid growth, that it is become the haven for birds.

Now here, "The fowls of the heaven made their nest in the boughs." That is, these other nations conquered by... these other peoples conquered by Egypt.

Thus was he fair in his greatness, in the length of his branches: for his root was by the great waters. And the cedars in the garden of God could not hide him: and the fir trees were not like his boughs, and the chestnut trees were not like his branches; nor any tree in the garden of God was like unto him in his beauty. I have made him fair by the multitude of his branches; so that all the trees of Eden, that were in garden of God, envied him ( Ezekiel 31:7-9 ).

The great cedar. A parable, of course, of Egypt, how it became such a great nation, the envy of other nations.

Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Because thou hast lifted up thyself in height, and hath shot up his top among the thick boughs, his heart is lifted up in his height; and I have therefore delivered him into the hand of the mighty one of the heathen; and he shall surely deal with him: I have driven him out for his wickedness ( Ezekiel 31:10-11 ).

So the Pharaoh, judgment is pronounced upon him and again the reason for the judgment, notice carefully, is his pride. Because his heart was lifted up for his height, for his greatness. "Pride cometh before destruction, a haughty spirit before the fall" ( Proverbs 16:18 ).

It is extremely difficult for men to handle a position of power or authority. I think one of the hardest things in the world is to be in a position of ruling over other men, because there is always that danger of pride coming in. And looking at your position and saying, "Look what I have done."

You remember, and we'll get to it, you remember it trustfully, for about four years ago when we were in Daniel and we'll be getting there pretty soon again, when Nebuchadnezzar was looking over Babylon, no doubt walking through the hanging gardens, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, and walking through this beautiful garden and this fabulous city that he had built, walls three hundred feet high, eighty feet thick. And he said, "Is not this the great Babylon that I have built?" And a voice came from heaven saying, "Hey, the watchers have been watching you, and your heart has been lifted up with pride." And Nebuchadnezzar came to Daniel and said, you know, told him of this experience of hearing this voice saying that the watchers had been watching and saw his pride and God was going to bring him into judgment, and Daniel says, "Hey, walk carefully. Be careful." About a year later, again old Nebuchadnezzar was boasting in his greatness, "The great Babylon that I have built," and the voice came from heaven and said, "That's it, you've had it." And he had a period of insanity where for seven seasons he lived with the animals in the field. He ate grass like the oxen. His hair grew like feathers, and the dew of the heaven settled on him. And he lived like a wild man until he knew that the God in heaven is the one who sets upon the kingdoms those whom He will.

The pride was the thing that brought Nebuchadnezzar to this place of being broken, until seven seasons had passed over him, and then God restored and he made that tremendous proclamation, declaring his belief and faith in the God of heaven who establishes upon the kingdoms those whom He would. Now, all the way along through history, from the beginning, pride is a destroyer. It has destroyed so many. Shakespeare has the statement in one of his plays, "Cromwell, flee from pride, for by this sin did the angels fall." Satan said, "I will exalt my throne." And here is the Pharaoh of Egypt being lifted up with pride, and yet, God says, "I will destroy, I will deliver him to the hand of mighty one of the heathen, and he shall surely deal with him. And I have driven him out for his wickedness." So God was to use Nebuchadnezzar the mighty one of the heathen to destroy the Pharaoh.

And, of course, Jeremiah was making a similar prophecy. He was telling those in Jerusalem, "Now don't trust in the Pharaoh. Don't lean upon Egypt. For Egypt also will be destroyed by Babylon. Egypt will not be a real help." And, of course, they wouldn't listen to Jeremiah and they finally, of course, went down to Egypt, and there at Tahpanhes, he took and put these rocks down and he said, "Above these rocks," he buried these rocks. He said, "Above these rocks Nebuchadnezzar will build his throne and rule in Egypt." And, of course, it was fulfilled.

The strangers, the terrible of the nations, have cut him off, and have left him: upon the mountains and in all the valleys his branches are fallen, his boughs are broken by rivers of the land; and all the people of the earth are gone down from his shadow, and have left him. Upon his ruin shall all the fowls of heaven remain, and all the beasts of the field shall be upon his branches: To the end that none of all of the trees by the waters exalt themselves for their height, neither shoot up their top among the thick boughs, neither their trees stand up in their height, all that drink water: for they are delivered unto death, to the nether parts of the earth, in the midst of the children of men, with them that go down to the pit. Thus saith the Lord GOD; In the day when he went down to hell [Sheol in the Hebrew] I caused a mourning: I covered the deep for him, I restrained the floods thereof, and the great waters were stayed: and I caused Lebanon to mourn for him, and all of the trees of the field fainted for him. And I made the nations to shake at the sound of his fall, when I cast him down to hell with them that descend into the pit: and all the trees of Eden, the choice and the best of Lebanon, all that did drink water, shall be comforted in the nether parts of the earth. And they also went down into hell with him, unto them that be slain with the sword; and they that were his arm, and that dwelt under his shadow in the midst of the heathen. To whom art thou thus like in glory and in greatness among the trees of Eden? Yet shalt thou be brought down with the trees of Eden to the nether parts of the earth: thou shalt lie in the midst of the uncircumcised with them that be slain by the sword. This is Pharaoh and all his multitude, saith the Lord ( Ezekiel 31:12-18 ).

So that destruction and being cast down to hell is predicted by God to be the destiny of the Pharaoh of Egypt.


Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Ezekiel 31". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/csc/ezekiel-31.html. 2014.
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