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Bible Commentaries
Ezekiel 31

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary


A.M. 3416. B.C. 588.

In this chapter the prophet is directed to put Pharaoh in mind of the dreadful fall of the king of Assyria, whose capital city was Nineveh, and who was much superior to him in power and greatness. The prosperity and grandeur of the Assyrian monarch, his vast empire and mighty sway, are set forth under the metaphor of a lofty, spreading cedar, fair and flourishing, and overtopping all the trees of the field, Ezekiel 31:1-9 . He shows Pharaoh how much he resembled him in pride, carnal confidence, and security, and then reminds him how the mighty tree of that monarchy was cut down and destroyed, what a noise it made among the nations by its fall, and what a warning it gave to all potent princes, to beware of pride and confidence in themselves and their own power, Ezekiel 31:10-17 . He leaves it to the king of Egypt to apply all this to himself, and in the destruction of the Assyrian empire to foresee the ruin of his own kingdom, Ezekiel 31:18 .

Verses 1-2

Ezekiel 31:1-2. In the eleventh year, in the third month, &c. This was another revelation upon the subject of the destruction of Egypt, imparted two months after that which is mentioned in the conclusion of the foregoing chapter. Whom art thou like in thy greatness? Thou pridest thyself, as if there never was any prince or king that could compare with thee. The prophet here asks a question, not to receive an answer from Pharaoh, but to answer it himself, as he does in the next and following verses, wherein he acquaints the king of Egypt that the king of Assyria was equally as powerful as he, and yet came to a miserable end; from whence he might learn, that he had no security for the continuance of his grandeur, but might be soon cast down as the king of Assyria had been.

Verses 3-9

Ezekiel 31:3-9. Behold the Assyrian This, says Archbishop Secker, seems an admonitory comparison of Pharaoh to the late Assyrian monarch, applied to Pharaoh, Ezekiel 31:18. By the Assyrian, compared here to a tall and fair cedar, such as grew in mount Lebanon, Archbishop Usher and Dr. Prideaux understand that king of Assyria whom some call Chyniladanus, others Saracus, of whom it seems the words of the Prophet Nahum ( Nah 3:18 ) are to be understood. In like manner Zephaniah joins the destruction of Assyria and the desolation of Nineveh together, Zephaniah 2:13. Nabopolassar, the king of Babylon, and Cyaxares, the king of Media, called by the names of Nebuchadonosor and Assuerus in Tobit, (chap. Ezekiel 14:15,) joining their forces together against him, besieged Nineveh, took it, and, after having slain the king, utterly destroyed that great and famous city, and put an end to that part of the Assyrian empire, Nabopolassar having before possessed himself of the other part, which was properly called the Babylonian empire. See Dr. Prideaux, p. 45. In this remarkable catastrophe the prophecies of Jonah, Nahum, and Zephaniah, foretelling the destruction of Nineveh, were fulfilled. His top was among the thick boughs He overtopped all the other flourishing trees. The waters made him great “As trees flourish by a river side, so the traffic of the several branches of the river Tigris, upon which Nineveh was situate, made that city and kingdom rich and populous, and she imparted her wealth and stores among the neighbouring provinces.” Lowth. Therefore his height was exalted, &c. He became greater than all the kings about him. The greatness of Nebuchadnezzar’s power and kingdom is set forth under the same emblem, Daniel 4:10, &c. All the fowls made their nests in his boughs Several nations applied to him for protection, and thought themselves and all their concerns safe under his government. Under his branches did all the beasts of the field bring forth, &c. Under the protection of his extensive empire did the people increase, and the countries become more populous. The cedars in the garden of God could not hide him, &c. He overtopped the goodly cedars, called in the Hebrew the cedars of God, Psalms 80:9; such fair ones as might be supposed to have grown in paradise. The expressions are all allegorical, signifying the super-eminent greatness of the king of Assyria, and how much more powerful he was than any other of the kings of that time. All the trees of Eden, &c. All the kings of the East envied him, and his greatness. So the Chaldee paraphrast.

Verses 10-14

Ezekiel 31:10-14. Because thou hast lifted up thyself Because thy pride hath still increased with thy prosperity. I have delivered him into the hand of the mighty one of the heathen Or, the mighty one of the nations, as the word גוים is rendered in the next verse. The word אל , eel, here rendered mighty one, though generally spoken of God, yet is sometimes applied to heroes, (see Ezekiel 32:21,) sometimes to angels, as excelling in strength, as Psalms 89:6. So God here says, he delivered the Assyrian into the hand of Nabopolassar, king of Babylon, who, joining his forces with those of the king of Media, made himself master of Nineveh, and of the king of Assyria, whose seat it was. And the terrible of the nations have cut him off The armies of the kings of Babylon and Media shall utterly destroy him and his empire, and leave him without life or power. Upon the mountains, &c., his branches are fallen As the limbs of a tree are broken by the fall, and those that rested under its shadow are frighted away and forsake the place, so the Assyrian’s power was overthrown in all the places of his dominion. Upon his ruin shall all the fowls of the heaven remain, &c. As the birds sit upon the boughs of a tree cut down, and the beasts browse upon its branches, so his dominions shall be a prey to the conquerors: or, his armies that are slain shall become meat to the birds and beasts. To the end that none of all the trees exalt themselves That his destruction may be a warning to other kings and potentates, to deter them from priding themselves in the time of their prosperity. For they are all delivered unto death The mighty men of the Assyrians were delivered to death as well as those of the meaner sort. The fall of the Assyrian was thus largely spoken of to convince the king of Egypt, if he would be instructed, that no human power, however great, was able to secure its possessor from the wrath of God and his judgments, or to maintain itself against his attacks.

Verse 15

Ezekiel 31:15. In the day when he went down to the grave This, and the following verses, are an elegant description of that consternation that seized the king of Assyria’s allies, at the suddenness of his downfall; the same metaphor being still pursued. I caused a mourning: I covered the deep for him The deep, that is said to have raised up this fair tree, Ezekiel 31:4, is now described as mourning at his downfall. I restrained the floods, and the great waters were stayed As if the streams had stopped their usual course on purpose to lament his fate. The meaning seems to be, that the great nations and numerous people under his dominions, or his confederates and allies, were all struck with astonishment at his fall. I caused Lebanon to mourn for him By Lebanon is probably signified Syria, which was in alliance with the king of Assyria. All the trees of the field fainted for him All the neighbouring princes lamented his ruin, and were disheartened at having lost their protector.

Verses 16-17

Ezekiel 31:16-17. I made the nations to shake at the sound of his fall Through fear and terror. When I cast him down to hell Rather, to the grave; with them that descend into the pit That die and are buried. All the trees of Eden, &c. The greatest kings on earth. All that drink water That partake of wealth and other worldly enjoyments; shall be comforted in the nether parts of the earth The deceased princes, confederates to the Assyrians, described here as so many stately trees and cedars, shall feel some mitigation of their calamities, when they see thee brought down as low as themselves: compare Ezekiel 32:31, and see notes on Isaiah 14:8-16, a passage exactly parallel to this. They also went down into hell Or, the grave; with him His allies underwent the same fate with himself, and were cut off in the common destruction. And they that were his arm His auxiliaries; that dwelt under his shadow Who lived under his protection; in the midst of the heathen Or, the nations: see on Ezekiel 31:11; namely, in several countries and provinces: see Lamentations 4:20. When the Assyrian power was overthrown, it was easy for the Chaldeans to subdue all its allies.

Verse 18

Ezekiel 31:18. To whom art thou thus like in glory? &c. To whom, among the great princes of the world, canst thou, O king of Egypt, be so fitly compared, with all thy glory and greatness, as to this king of Assyria, since, like him, thou shalt be thrown down from all thy pomp and grandeur to the lowest state of humiliation and ruin. Thou shalt lie in the midst of the uncircumcised Thou shalt be put among those of whom God makes no account. “Nations that admitted circumcision, held the uncircumcised in the utmost contempt. The Egyptians, at least the priests and the learned among them, were circumcised; but now they shall lie among the uncircumcised.” Michaelis. This is Pharaoh and all his multitude, saith the Lord God In this verse the latter part of Eze 31:2 is resumed, and the allegory, under which the Assyrian is represented, is applied to Pharaoh.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Ezekiel 31". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/ezekiel-31.html. 1857.
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