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Ezekiel 17:2-3 . Put forth a riddle. A parable, or ingenious allegory, that the acumen of the composition may attract attention from the rulers of Judah. This parable is likewise ingeniously explained by sacred criticism. The eagle is the king of Babylon, who is so called, because he was master of other kings, as much as the eagle is king of birds. His greatness marks the extent of his dominions; and the length of his wings, the rapidity of his conquests. Full of feathers, in opposition to eagles that made themselves bald, Micah 1:16; and which indicates the riches, the armies and resources of the empire. The variety of colour in his plumage, marks the gradation of honour, glory and majesty which distinguished his dominion. He came to Lebanon, that is, to Jerusalem, and took the highest branch of the cedar. He took Jeconiah, heir apparent to the throne of Judah, and the princes, the artists, and the guards, and carried them to the Euphrates, and the Chebar. 2 Kings 24:14. And being thus placed in cities of labour and trade, these artists were compelled to serve the king of Babylon, and his haughty lords. But here the good hand of the Lord encreased their number, and made them prosper, as the jews also prospered under Zedekiah while in alliance with the Babylonians.
Ezekiel 17:7 . There was also another great eagle. Apries, or as Origen reads, Vaphres, king of Egypt. He had many feathers, but was not full of feathers, as the king of Babylon. And Judah, a vine, not able to bear the weight of an eagle, did bend to him, as her ally and protection, though formerly the Almighty was her shield and defence. The vine did bend towards him to water its roots, as the Egyptians watered their corn fields from the Nile by machines which threw a small stream along the furrows of the wheat.
Ezekiel 17:9 . It shall wither in all its leaves, and branches, as in Ezekiel 17:8. This foretels how Zedekiah’s sons should be slain before their father’s eyes, as in Jeremiah 39:6.
Ezekiel 17:19 . Mine oath that he hath despised. The Lord’s covenant. Had Zedekiah remembered the injunction to the man that hath sworn to his hurt, and kept his word, he had reigned in Jerusalem, and would have prospered.
Ezekiel 17:22 . I will take of the highest branch. Not Zerubbabel, but Christ, to whom all power is given in heaven and earth. It was constant with the prophets in trouble to fly to Christ. Isaiah 7, 39. 40. Micah 5:0. See on Daniel 4:14-15.
We find the character of the conquerors of the earth described by devouring eagles, as in other places by wild beasts; because they destroy and exile the humankind, as those beasts devour and affright the flocks. The men who are cruel in conquest are not contemplated with approbation in the eyes of God or man.
The proneness of Judah to trust in Egypt for help, was at all times reprehended by the prophets; for the Egyptians perished at Carchemesh, and their own country was presently ravaged by the Babylonians. Oh my soul, never leave thou the Lord to trust in an arm of flesh. His counsel and his arm are at all times adequate for thy help.
God sends confusion on men who despise his counsel. Jaazaniah and Pelatiah, mentioned before, opposed the prophets, misguided the king, and ruined their country by most unfounded systems of superstition and politics, Nebuchadnezzar, after the reduction of the revolted jews, had granted them terms extremely lenient. After weakening their power by about twenty thousand men carried to distant provinces, he left Zedekiah in a situation to rise and prosper. But the wicked cannot rest. Hence the house of David and of Judah forfeited for ever the crown and the regal dignity. None of the Asmonean family ever afterwards rose to a rank higher than governor under a foreign power. Hence, though more than two thousand three hundred years are elapsed, the Hebrews have continued the basest of nations. Their condition among the christian powers has often been severe, but among the Hindoos, Dr. Buchanan asserts, it is much more despicable and mean.
The hope of Israel is, after all, in Jesus Christ alone. From among the young twigs God will take a tender one, and plant it in his holy mountain; yea, on the tops of the mountains, as the prophets have often said; and the fowls or gentile nations shall lodge in its branches. So our Saviour has said of the grain of mustard seed. If this be applied to Zerubbabel, it must be in a very limited sense, for very few of the gentiles in his presidency were proselyted to judaism. In Christ however we see a multitude of nations seeking shelter and defence under the shadow of his almighty wings; and happy and secure are they who know the joyful sound.
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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Ezekiel 17". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20