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A lamentation for the princes of Israel under the parable of lions' whelps taken in a pit; and for Jerusalem, under the parable of a wasted vine.
Before Christ 593.
Ezekiel 19:1. A lamentation for the princes of Israel— The expression alludes to the mournful songs sang at funerals. This chapter is of that species which Bishop Lowth calls, "Poetical Parables." The style of itself is excellent, and the allegory well sustained. Houbigant, instead of princes, would read after the LXX, the prince; a reading which the following observations seem to countenance.
Ezekiel 19:2. What is thy mother? a lioness— Hereby is meant Jerusalem; the lions with which she was familiar, are the kings of the nations; the young lions which she produced, are the princes the successors of king Josiah, whose life and disgraces the prophet here points out.
Ezekiel 19:3. And she brought up one of her whelps— This is meant of Jehoahaz, who neglected to follow the good example of his father Josiah, and pursued the evil practices of his wicked predecessors. See his history, 2 Kings 23:32-33; 2 Kings 23:37.
Ezekiel 19:4. The nations also heard of him— But when the nations united together against him, he was taken, &c. and brought with a bridle or hook into the land of Egypt. Houbigant. See Isa 37:29 and Vitringa, vol. 2: p. 329.
Ezekiel 19:5. Then she took another of her whelps— Hereby is meant Jeconiah, who was placed upon the throne of Jerusalem by the Jews. The character which the prophet here gives of him, agrees perfectly well with him, and with him alone. His cruelty and wickedness are described in Ezekiel 19:6-7. 2Ki 24:8-9 and Jer. xxii, &c. His capture and captivity in Babylon are expressed Ezekiel 19:8-9, and in the other books of Scripture which we have quoted.
Ezekiel 19:7. And he knew their desolate palaces— And he destroyed their palaces. Houbigant, with the Chaldee and LXX.
Ezekiel 19:8. In their pit— The Arabs dig a pit where the lions are observed to enter; and, covering it slightly with reeds or small branches of trees, they frequently decoy and catch them. Pliny has taken notice of the same practice. Shaw, 172. 4to.
Ezekiel 19:9. And they put him in ward, &c.— And having put a bridle or hook upon him, they cast him into a cave. Houbigant. See on Ezekiel 19:4.
Ezekiel 19:10. Thy mother is like a vine, &c.— Thy mother is like a vine, which is planted by the waters. Houbigant. Others read it, Thy mother is like a vine of thy vineyard. We have here a second part of this mournful song, which respects Zedekiah. It is more obscure than the first, possibly because the prophet, speaking of what was future, meant to express himself more darkly. The Scripture frequently compares Judea and the Jewish people to a vine. See Houbigant and Calmet.
Ezekiel 19:11. And she had strong rods— Zedekiah had many sons, who were like branches coming forth from the tree whereof the prophet speaks here. This vine exalted and flattered herself with the multitude of her branches; Zedekiah forgot God, and imitated the crimes of Jehoiachim, whom the Scripture reproaches with pride, ambition, cruelty, and injustice. See Jeremiah 22:13-14; Jeremiah 22:30. In several countries they join the vines to trees, about which they wind themselves, and run very high. See Michaelis.
Ezekiel 19:12. But she was plucked up in fury— Nebuchadrezzar, irritated at the infidelity of Zedekiah, who, without any regard to his covenant, had entered into a league with the king of Egypt, came and besieged Jerusalem, took it, and put to death the sons of Zedekiah in the presence of their father. See 2 Kings 25:6-7. Thus the vine was torn up, cast to the ground, withered, and consumed in the fire. Fire in the Scripture most commonly denotes war.
Ezekiel 19:13. And now she is planted in the wilderness— Or in Judaea itself, which is made a wilderness. Houbigant. Other commentators suppose, that the prophet by this expression marks out the state of the Jewish captivity in Babylon. He uses, as is frequent with the prophets, the present tense for the future, to denote the certain accomplishment of the event.
Ezekiel 19:14. And fire is gone out of a rod of her branches— This alludes to Ishmael, who conspired against Gedaliah, and perished not long after; so that no hope remained that any one of the royal blood of David would reign in Judges. See Jeremiah 41:1; Jer 41:18 and Houbigant. In chap. 17: the king of Judaea was compared to the highest branch of a cedar; and the king of Babylon to an eagle. With a like decorum, in the two beautiful parables of this chapter Judaea is compared to a lioness, and her king to a young lion; and the country is again represented, under the image of a fruitful, branching, and lofty vine.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, We have here,
1. The prophet commanded to take up a lamentation for the princes of Israel. Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jeconiah, and Zedekiah, whose mournful history would afford abundant matter for his grief. Note; We should not only weep with those that weep, but over those also who never shed a tear for themselves.
2. The Lord directs him what to say. Under the figure of a lioness and her whelps, he describes the kingdom and princes. The lioness, the mother, is the tribe of Judah, ravening, fierce, full of rapine and injustice; she lay down among lions, joined in affinity with the neighbouring nations, and contracted alliances with them. She nourished her whelps among young lions, brought up the young princes in principles of arbitrary power and oppression. Jehoahaz, one of them, became a young lion, grown up, and seated on the throne of his father Josiah, learned to catch the prey, and devoured men, exercising the most tyrannical sway, and sparing neither the properties nor lives of his subjects, as his covetousness, his rage, or his caprice governed him. The nations also heard of him, what oppression he used towards his people, and what designs he was forming to subdue his neighbours; and hereupon the Egyptians fell upon him, vanquished and led him away a prisoner into Egypt, where he died.
Despairing of his return, the Jewish people advanced Jehoiakim to the throne, with the consent of Pharaoh, and he trod in the wicked steps of his predecessor, alike ravenous, arbitrary, and oppressive. He learned to catch the prey, he devoured men, plundering his subjects, and sacrificing their lives to his resentment. And he knew their desolate palaces, ransacking them to discover the treasures concealed therein; and by his tyranny he drove his subjects from their cities, and made the land desolate through his roaring, neither their lives nor properties being any longer safe. The nations hereupon collected under Nebuchadrezzar, surrounded him as a beast with toils, and he was taken prisoner as a lion in a pit; they bound him in chains, and cast him into prison, where probably he quickly died, and was thrown on a dunghill, see Jer 22:18-19 and his roaring was silenced, no more the terror of the mighty in the land of the living.
2nd, The same persons, compared before to a lioness and her whelps, are here likened to a vine and its branches.
1. Thy mother, the Jewish nation, is like a vine in thy blood, which, laid at the root, is said to contribute to its fertility; planted by the waters, enjoying the greatest advantages and privileges; she was fruitful and full of branches by reason of many waters, grew rich and populous; and she had strong rods for the sceptres of them that bear rule, many princes sprung from her, whose dignity was great; or the royal family was numerous, either of Josiah or Zedekiah, to whom it may be referred; and her stature was exalted among the thick branches, the nation of the Jews was eminent and distinguished; and appeared in her height with the multitude of her branches, particularly in the glorious days of David and Solomon, when they were the admiration of the nations around them. But,
2. This vine was plucked up in fury. Having long provoked God by their sins, and Zedekiah by his rebellion filling up the measure of their iniquities, the country was utterly laid waste by the Chaldean army; the strong rods broken, withered, burnt; the king, princes, magistrates, slain or made captives. And now she is planted in the wilderness, in a dry and thirty ground, carried to Babylon, where they suffered hard servitude: or this respects the remnant left in Judaea, which by the ravages of the Chaldean army had been turned into a desert. And fire is gone out of a rod of her branches: the rod is Zedekiah, and his rebellion the fire which hath devoured her fruit, the people perishing by the famine, pestilence, and sword, during the siege of Jerusalem; so that she hath no strong rod to be a sceptre to rule, Zedekiah being the last king of the house of David, till the Messiah came. This is a lamentation and shall be for a lamentation: the past desolations were grievous; but, instead of coming to an end, succeeding generations would have fresh cause to bemoan their miseries.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Ezekiel 19". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19