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Moreover take thou up a lamentation for the princes of Israel,
There is a tacit antithesis between this lamentation and that of the Jews for their own miseries, the causes of which, however, they did not inquire.
Take ... up a lamentation for the princes of Israel - i:e., of Judah, whose "princes" alone were recognized by prophecy; those of the ten tribes were, in respect to the theocracy, usurpers.
And say, What is thy mother? A lioness: she lay down among lions, she nourished her whelps among young lions.
And say, What is thy mother? - the mother of Jehoiachin, the representative of David's line, who was then in exile with Ezekiel. The "mother" is Judea: "a lioness," as being fierce in catching prey (Ezekiel 19:3), referring to her paganish practices. Jerusalem was called Ariel (the lion of God) in a good sense (Isaiah 29:1); and Judah "a lion's whelp ... a lion ... an old lion" (Genesis 49:9), to which, as also to Numbers 23:24; Numbers 24:9, this passage alludes.
She nourished her whelps among young lions she herself had "lain" among lions ie had contact with She nourished her whelps among young lions - she herself had "lain" among lions - i:e., had contact with the corruptions of the surrounding pagan, and had brought up the royal young ones similarly-utterly degenerate from the stock of Abraham. "Lay down," or "couched," is appropriate to the lion, the Arab name of which means 'the coucher.'
And she brought up one of her whelps: it became a young lion, and it learned to catch the prey; it devoured men.
She brought up one of her whelps: it became a young lion - Jehoahaz, son of Josiah, carried captive from Riblah to Egypt by Pharaoh-necho (2 Kings 23:33).
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 - Egypt, in the case of Jehoahaz, who probably provoked Pharaoh by trying to avenge the death of his father by assailing the bordering cities of Egypt (2 Kings 23:29-30).
He was taken in their pit - image from the pitfalls used for catching wild beasts (Jeremiah 22:11-12).
They brought him with chains - or hooks, which were fastened in the noses of wild beasts (see note, Ezekiel 19:9).
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.
Now when she saw that she had waited, and her hope was lost - i:e., that her long-waited for hope was disappointed, Jehoahaz not being restored to her from Egypt.
Then she took another of her whelps - Jehoiakim, brother of Jehoahaz, who was placed on the throne by Pharaoh (2 Kings 23:34), according to the wish of Judah.
And he went up and down among the lions, he became a young lion, and learned to catch the prey, and devoured men.
And he went up and down among the lions - imitated the recklessness, oppression, injustice, covetousness, and tyranny of the surrounding kings (Jeremiah 22:13-17).
And learned to catch the prey - to do evil, gratifying his lusts by oppression (2 Kings 23:17).
And he knew their desolate palaces, and he laid waste their cities; and the land was desolate, and the fulness thereof, by the noise of his roaring.
He knew their desolate palaces - i:e., claimed as his own their palaces, which he then proceeded to "desolate." The Hebrew literally means widows; hence, widowed palaces (Isaiah 13:22, "desolate houses and ... pleasant palaces"). Vatablus (whom Fairbairn follows) explains it, 'He knew (carnally) the widows of those whom he devoured' (Ezekiel 19:6). But thus the metaphor and the literal reality would be blended-the lion being represented as knowing widows. The reality, however, often elsewhere thus breaks through the vail.
The land was desolate, and the fullness thereof - all that it contained: its inhabitants.
Then the nations set against him on every side from the provinces, and spread their net over him: he was taken in their pit.
Then the nations set against him - the Chaldeans, Syrians, Moab, and Ammon (2 Kings 24:2).
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.
They put him in ward in chains - (2 Chronicles 36:6; Jeremiah 22:18) margin, 'hooks;' perhaps referring to the hook often passed through the nose of beasts; so, too, through that of captives, as seen in the Assyrian sculptures (see note, Ezekiel 19:4).
That his voice - i:e., his roaring (Ezekiel 19:7).
Should no more be heard upon the mountains - carrying on the metaphor of the lion, whose roaring on the mountains frightens all the other beasts. The insolence of the prince, not at all abated though his kingdom was impaired, was now to cease.
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.
Thy mother is like a vine in thy blood - a new metaphor, taken from the vine, the chief of the fruit-bearing trees, as the lion is of the beasts of prey (see Ezekiel 17:6).
In thy blood - `planted when thou wast in thy blood' - i:e., in thy very infancy; as in Ezekiel 16:6, when thou hadst just come forth from the womb, and hadst not yet the blood washed from thee. The Jews from the first were planted in Canaan to take root there (Calvin). Grotius translates, as margin, 'in thy quietness' - i:e., in the period when Judah had not yet fallen into her present troubles. The English version is better. Glassius explains it well, retaining the metaphor, which Calvin's explanation breaks, 'in the blood of thy grapes' - i:e., in her full strength, as the red wine is the strength of the grape: Genesis 49:11 is evidently alluded to.
She was fruitful ... by reason of many waters - the well-watered land of Canaan (Deuteronomy 8:7-9).
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.
She had strong rods for the sceptres - princes of the royal house of David. The vine shot forth her branches like so many "sceptres," not creeping lowly on the ground like many vines, but trained aloft on a tree or wall. The mention of their former royal dignity, contrasting sadly with her present sunken state, would remind the Jews of their sins, whereby they had incurred such judgments.
Her stature was exalted - (Daniel 4:11).
Among the thick branches - i:e., the central stock or trunk of the tree shot up highest "among its own branches" or offshoots surrounding it. Emblematic of the numbers and resources of the peoples. Hengstenberg translates, 'among the clouds.' But Ezekiel 31:3; Ezekiel 31:10; Ezekiel 31:14 supports the English version.
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.
But she was plucked up in fury - not gradually withered. The sudden upturning of the state was designed to awaken the Jews out of their torpor, to see the hand of God in the national judgment.
The east wind dried up her fruits - (note, Ezekiel 17:10).
And now she is planted in the wilderness, in a dry and thirsty ground.
Now she is planted in the wilderness. "Planted" - i:e., transplanted. Though already "dried up," in regard to the nation generally, the vine is said to be 'transplanted' as regards God's mercy to the remnant in Babylon.
In a dry and thirsty ground. Chaldea was well watered and fertile; but it is the condition of the captive people, not that of the land which is referred to.
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 of a rod of her branches. The Jews' disaster was to be ascribed, not so much to the Chaldeans as to themselves; the "fire out of the rod" is God's wrath kindled by the perjury of Zedekiah ( Ezekiel 17:18), who is meant by the "rod of her branches." "The anger of the Lord" against Judah is specified as the cause why Zedekiah was permitted to rebel against Babylon (2 Kings 24:20; cf. Judges 9:15), thus bringing Nebuchadnezzar against Jerusalem.
So that she hath no strong rod to be a sceptre to rule - no more kings of David's stock are now to rule the nation. Not at least until "the Lord shall send the rod of his strength (Messiah, Psalms 110:2; Isaiah 11:1) out of Zion," to reign first as a spiritual, then hereafter as a literal king.
This is ... and shall be for a lamentation. Part of the lamentation (that as to Jehoahaz and Jehoiakin) was matter of history as already accomplished; part (as to Zedekiah) was yet to be fulfilled; or, he explains it, this prophecy both is a subject for lamentation, and shall be so to distant posterity.
(1) The prophet utters an elegy over the fallen princes of David's royal line. Jerusalem, once "the lion of God," being valiant for the truth, was now become a mere beast of prey, feeding on the corrupt carcasses of the pagan idolatries around her, and as a savage lioness accustoms her cubs to her own ways, she reared the princes of the blood-royal in her own abominable practices. A people and their rulers generally act and re-act one upon the other, so that it might be said, "like prince like people" (cf. Hosea 4:9).
(2) The result of the violence of the Jewish princes was, they were made, in righteous retribution, to feel themselves the violence which they used against others. Those who terrify and enslave others are justly punished by being given over to terror and captivity themselves (Ezekiel 19:4; Ezekiel 19:8). Jehoiakim, not taking warning from the fatal effects to Jehoahaz of reckless violence, practiced every oppression and tyranny in gratification of his own insatiable cupidity (Jeremiah 22:13-17), and so fell into the same pit, being taken captive to Babylon, as Jehoahaz was taken captive to Egypt. As he had made desolate the palaces of others ( Ezekiel 19:7), so was his own palace desolated by Nebuchadnezzar, so far as his tenancy of it was concerned. All who make might their right shall rightly be made to feel the superior might of the Almighty Ruler and Judge of the earth.
(3) Jerusalem was once the flourishing vine of the Lord, and her princes its fruitful branches. She ones bare scions, such as David and Solomon, who wielded the sceptres of far-reaching dominion (Ezekiel 19:11). But unfaithfulness to her God marred all her prosperity and glory. She was plucked up in fury, cast down to the ground, her fruit dried up, her rods broken and consumed by the fire (Ezekiel 19:12). Behold the terrible consequences of sin! Iniquity makes the sinners to become as tinder, ready for destruction, when the fury of the Lord applies the flame.
(4) Jerusalem still has a root left, but it is as a root in a dry ground. She now is as a wild vine in a dry and thirsty wilderness (Ezekiel 19:13), bearing no fruit unto God, and having "no strong rod to be a sceptre to rule" (Ezekiel 19:14). The time is, however, ere long coming when "Yahweh shall send the rod of His strength out of Zion" (Psalms 110:2). Messiah shall come again as "the Deliverer," who "shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob" (Romans 11:26). He is not only a strong rod for the sceptre, but is Himself the true and living Vine. Let us by faith sit under His shadow with great delight, so we shall find His fruit sweet to the taste (Song of Solomon 2:3): and at His second coming we shall by sight enjoy His presence, and partake of the new and better fruit of the vine, which He will drink with His people in the Father's kingdom (Matthew 26:29).
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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Ezekiel 19". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20