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This chapter is a lamentation (Eze 19:1) that Ezekiel is to take up. With this he expresses God’s sorrow for Jerusalem. The lamentation has two parts. In the first part (Eze 19:2-9) the mother of the princes of Judah is compared to a lioness. It is about the fate of the last kings of Judah. In the second part (Eze 19:10-14), the princes of Israel are represented in the familiar picture of a vine. In it we hear the lamentation over the fall of those princes.
The lamentation is to be taken up “for the princes of Israel” by which is meant the kings Jehoahaz and Zedekiah (Eze 19:1). They are indeed kings of Judah, but since Judah alone is left – and people from Israel also went to Judah over time – their kingship applies to all Israel.
The “mother”, the “lioness” (Eze 19:2), represents the royal tribe of Judah. The Lord Jesus is “the Lion from the tribe of Judah” (Rev 5:5). In a direct sense, it is about Hamutal, the mother of Jehoahaz and Zedekiah (2Kgs 23:31; 2Kgs 24:18; Jer 13:18). “The lions” between which the “mother” lies are the nations surrounding Israel. “The young lions” are the princes of those nations. “Her cubs” are her sons Jehoahaz and Zedekiah. “One of her cubs” (Eze 19:3) whom she reared and who becomes a young lion is Jehoahaz. His short reign is wicked (2Kgs 23:30-32). He is a bloodthirsty king, one who is guilty of violence. He exploits the people, he devours them.
The surrounding nations hear about him (Eze 19:4). Following the imagery of how one catches lions – in pits camouflaged with branches – Pharaoh Neco captures Jehoahaz. Neco brings Jehoahaz as an exile to Egypt, where he dies (2Kgs 23:33-34; Jer 22:10-12).
“She”, the mother, Hamutal, takes Zedekiah, “another of her cubs”, and makes him king (Eze 19:5). She does this after the capture and taking away of Jehoahaz. Zedekiah may have been made king by Nebuchadnezzar, but it may have been done through the intercession of Hamutal. She puts all her hope in him. It is a great evil when we put our hope in something or someone other than the Lord. This chapter is the chapter of false hope.
This Zedekiah goes around proudly among the surrounding peoples (Eze 19:6). He, the young lion, let not himself to be impressed by the other young lions. The same testimony sounds of him as of Jehoahaz (Eze 19:3).
Zedekiah is also a morally reprehensible man who has sexual intercourse with widows (Eze 19:7). His life bears the character of violence and destruction. His reign of terror, which is compared to the roar of a lion, paralyzes the land. Led by the king of Babylon, the surrounding nations come to him and take him captive (Eze 19:8). Like Jehoahaz, he is imprisoned (Eze 19:9). Jehoahaz goes into exile in Egypt and Zedekiah goes into exile in Babylon. Thus his voice, the roar of the lion Zedekiah, comes to an end.
The Withered Vine
In the second parable, Israel, “your mother”, is compared to a vine (Eze 19:10; Jer 2:21). It is a lush vine. The “strong branches” recall mighty rulers who have reigned on the throne of David (Eze 19:11). Zedekiah is the branch that rises up among the many branches. He is raised to the position of king above the princes of the house of David who surround him and shines in the midst of them. He seems to have a future because of the sons born to him, “the mass of his branches”.
However, the anger of the LORD kindles against him because of his wickedness (Eze 19:12). Therefore, he is taken away with wrath from kingship. This is done by “the east wind”, which is the Babylonians, who are the instrument of the wrath of God. That “east wind” causes all the fruit of the vine to dry up, that is, all the prosperity of the land to disappear.
The remnant of Israel is “planted in the wilderness”, that is, it is taken away to Babylon, “a dry and thirsty land” (Eze 19:13). Babylon is a fertile land at that time, but for the Israelite it is figuratively a land without fruit.
The fire that goes out from the branch (Eze 19:14) is an allusion to Zedekiah’s rebellion. That fire, however, consumes himself and those under his influence, “its shoots [and] fruit”. The result is that it is over and done with the reign of the house of David: there is “not … a strong branch” left in it.
Ezekiel sings this lamentation when judgment has not yet come upon Zedekiah. However, he sees in faith this end of the kingship and has deeply lamented over it. The course of events confirms his prophetic outlook and makes this lamentation in faith – “this is a lamentation” – become a lamentation about reality – “and has become a lamentation”.
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 19". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20