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This chapter is a transitional chapter. The previous chapter deals with the common responsibility of Jerusalem. The next chapter is about personal responsibility. This chapter is about Zedekiah, the king of Judah. He is the representative of the people, while also being personally responsible to God.
Zedekiah, the present leader in Jerusalem, is contrasted with the future Son of David Who will lead God’s people. The former is compared to a low vine (Ezekiel 17:2-Ecclesiastes :), the latter to a stately cedar (Ezekiel 17:22-Jeremiah :).
Parable of the Two Eagles
The word of the LORD comes to Ezekiel (Ezekiel 17:1), where the LORD addresses him again as “son of man” (Ezekiel 17:2). Ezekiel is to give the people a riddle and speak a parable. A riddle is an obscure statement; it is something said in an indirect way that requires an explanation. A parable is the presentation of a spiritual truth by tangible images. The parable is a riddle explained by the LORD Himself (Ezekiel 17:11-Ecclesiastes :). Parables and riddles are used to attract attention and provoke thought in the hearers.
The great, beautiful eagle (Ezekiel 17:3) represents Nebuchadnezzar (Ezekiel 17:12), who is king of kings, as the eagle is king of birds. His great wings and long feathers indicate great power and dominion over a vast territory. The multicolored nature refers to the diversity of the peoples he has subjected to him. Lebanon, to which the eagle comes, represents Jerusalem because the palace and temple are made of cedar from Lebanon. David and Solomon used much cedar wood for their buildings; Solomon made cedars abundant in Jerusalem (1 Kings 10:27; 2 Chronicles 1:15).
The “cedar” is a picture of the house of David. The “crown of a cedar” represents Jehoiachin, the grandson of Josiah, the last descendant of the royal line. He is “the top” (Ezekiel 17:4). Together “with his offshoot”, that is, with a few more of the considerable ones, Jehoiachin is taken to “a land of merchants” – that is, the land of the Chaldeans – and to “a city of traders” – that is, Babylon (Ezekiel 16:29; 2 Kings 24:8-Nehemiah :).
Then the eagle takes some of “the seed of the land” and plants it in “in fertile soil”, that is, he appoints Zedekiah as king over fertile Judah (Ezekiel 17:5; 2 Kings 24:17). Through the kindness of the king of Babylon, the kingdom is able to develop well for some time under Zedekiah (Ezekiel 17:5-Joshua :). He does grow wide, but it became “low”, that is, subordinate.
Instead of submitting to the rule of Babylon, Zedekiah wants to shake off the yoke of Babylon (2 Kings 24:20). For this purpose he turns to “another great eagle”, that is Egypt (Ezekiel 17:7; Ezekiel 17:15). From him he expects his help, through him he wants to become great and strong and not through the king of Babylon, through whom he has become “a splendid vine” after all (Ezekiel 17:8).
The LORD pronounces His judgment on it (Ezekiel 17:9). Zedekiah’s efforts to use his roots to draw his life force from the other great eagle will bring nothing. On the contrary, from him his roots will be pulled out, that is, he will lose his independence and his posterity. Also everything that is still beautiful, all his princes, will wither away with Zedekiah. It will not take much strength or a numerous people to strip him of all his glory. The east wind (Ezekiel 17:10), that is the king of Babylon, will judge him, while Egypt will be unable to give him any help (Jeremiah 37:5-2 Samuel :). Jerusalem will be destroyed and Zedekiah dethroned.
Explanation of the Parable
The word of the LORD comes again to Ezekiel (Ezekiel 17:11). Perhaps some time has passed after the telling of the parable. They have had time to think about it. Ezekiel is commanded to make known the solution of the riddle to “the rebellious house”, that is, his fellow exiles (Ezekiel 17:12). Without reference to the pictures used, the LORD says that the king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and captured its king and princes and brought them to him in Babylon (Ezekiel 17:3-Numbers :). Then he took someone from the royal family, that is Zedekiah, and made him king (Ezekiel 17:13; Ezekiel 17:5-Joshua :). He made a covenant with him which he made him ratify with an oath (2 Chronicles 36:13).
Nebuchadnezzar removes all who might have some influence to incite rebellion. This leaves an insignificant, powerless kingdom (Ezekiel 17:14). It is made easy, as it were, for Zedekiah to keep the covenant he made with Nebuchadnezzar. By remaining faithful to the covenant, Judah can still continue to exist.
Yet Zedekiah rebels, for he refuses to bow under God’s discipline (Ezekiel 17:15). He seeks contact with Egypt to help him throw off the yoke of Babylon by sending him horses and many soldiers. The LORD responds, as it were with the utmost astonishment at such audacity, with three questions: “Will he succeed? Will he who does such things escape? Can he indeed break the covenant and escape?” The answer lies in the questions. He will not succeed in his purpose. He will not escape judgment because he does such things. He will not escape punishment, a punishment he deserves because of breaking his covenant that he made with the king of Babylon.
The LORD swears that Zedekiah will die in Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar’s dwelling place (Ezekiel 17:16). He mentions as the reason that Zedekiah has broken his oath that he made to Nebuchadnezzar to ratify the covenant made with him. The help Zedekiah has enlisted from Egypt will have no effect (Ezekiel 17:17). Nebuchadnezzar will carry out his siege of Jerusalem without any opposition from Egypt. Once again, the LORD says that Zedekiah and Jerusalem suffer this judgment because they have shamelessly broken the covenant with Nebuchadnezzar that was ratified by an oath (Ezekiel 17:18; 2 Chronicles 36:13). Zedekiah pledged his allegiance, but has not kept his oath. Therefore, he will not escape the just judgment of the LORD.
The LORD will bring Zedekiah’s unfaithful dealings down on his head (Ezekiel 17:19). He speaks of it as the breaking of His covenant. Zedekiah had made the covenant as a representative of the LORD. By breaking it he has cast reproach on the Name of the LORD. Therefore, the LORD will spread His net over him and take him captive to Babylon (Ezekiel 17:20). The LORD uses Nebuchadnezzar as His “net” to execute His judgment on Zedekiah. Once again, He points out that Zedekiah’s unfaithful act, his breach of word, was not committed primarily against Nebuchadnezzar but against Him, the LORD God.
By sending ambassadors to Egypt, he has despised the oath and broken the covenant. The LORD says of this “My oath” and “My covenant”. Such rebellion brings not only the displeasure of Babylon upon him, but also the punishment of the LORD. It indicates that agreements and commitments made by professors of God’s Name are as binding as if they were made with God in person. What applies here to nations, we must also apply to social and personal relationships. Breaking a treaty, a contract, a promise, or any other kind of covenant involves harming both God and the person.
Judgment will strike not only Zedekiah, but also all those who supported him in his unfaithfulness (Ezekiel 17:21). His troops may have fled, but they will not escape God’s judgment which He will execute by the sword of the enemies. The captured followers of Zedekiah will be removed from the land and scattered to all corners of the earth. Thus it will become clear that the LORD Himself has said it. What is said here has been fulfilled to the letter (2 Kings 25:3-Judges :).
The Twig of the LORD
After removing the unfaithful twig from the house of David, the LORD goes to work on behalf of His promises. He Himself will take a twig (Ezekiel 17:22). That He will plant as a shoot on a high and exalted mountain, which is Zion. Zion is high and exalted in the sight of the LORD because He has chosen it for His dwelling place (Psalms 48:2; Psalms 68:16Psalms 87:1-Exodus :; Isaiah 2:2; Isaiah 11:9). The young shoot is the Messiah, Christ, from the house of David (cf. Isaiah 11:1; Jeremiah 23:5; Zechariah 6:12). He will be the new King of His people.
This shoot will be tender and small at first, but will grow into a royal cedar (Ezekiel 17:23). Thus the Messiah will come as “a tender shoot”, as a “root out of parched ground”, without “[stately] form or majesty” (Isaiah 53:2). But “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end” (Luke 1:32-Micah :). He will give protection to all kinds of birds, that is, here, to all those who are connected to heaven, who bow to His authority.
All the other nations, “all the trees of the field”, will then know that He is the LORD (Ezekiel 17:24). They will know it in the first place because He has humbled the high tree – that is, proud, haughty Israel. In the second place, they will know it because He will exalt to great height the low tree – that is the humbled Israel, those who have confessed their guilt, the remnant, and above all the Messiah. All this will find its full fulfillment in the realm of peace. A foreshadowing of this is seen in the exaltation of Jehoiachin (2 Kings 25:27-Amos :).
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Ezekiel 17". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
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