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Bible Commentaries
Ezekiel 17

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary


Ezekiel 17:0


Parable of Two Eagles and A VineThe Eagles and the VineThe Allegory of the EaglesThe Parable of the Eagles and the VineThe Allegory of the Eagle
Ezekiel 17:1-6Ezekiel 17:1-10Ezekiel 17:1-10Ezekiel 17:1-6Ezekiel 17:1-10
(vv. Ezekiel 17:3-6)(vv. Ezekiel 17:3-8)(vv. Ezekiel 17:3-6)
Ezekiel 17:7-10(vv. Ezekiel 17:7-8)Ezekiel 17:7-8(vv. Ezekiel 17:7-8)
(vv. Ezekiel 17:9-10)(vv. Ezekiel 17:9-10)Ezekiel 17:9-10(vv. Ezekiel 17:9-10)
Zedekiah's RebellionThe Parable Is Explained
Ezekiel 17:11-21Ezekiel 17:11-21Ezekiel 17:11-21Ezekiel 17:11-15Ezekiel 17:11
Ezekiel 17:12-18
Ezekiel 17:16-18
Ezekiel 17:19-21Ezekiel 17:19-21
Israel Exalted at LastAllegory of the CedarGod's Promise of Hope
Ezekiel 17:22-24Ezekiel 17:22-24Ezekiel 17:22-24Ezekiel 17:22-24Ezekiel 17:22-24

READING CYCLE THREE (see “Guide to Good Bible Reading”)


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the four modern translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

Verses 1-6

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ezekiel 17:1-6 1Now the word of the LORD came to me saying, 2”Son of man, propound a riddle and speak a parable to the house of Israel, 3saying, 'Thus says the Lord GOD, “A great eagle with great wings, long pinions and a full plumage of many colors came to Lebanon and took away the top of the cedar. 4He plucked off the topmost of its young twigs and brought it to a land of merchants; he set it in a city of traders. 5He also took some of the seed of the land and planted it in fertile soil. He placed it beside abundant waters; he set it like a willow. 6Then it sprouted and became a low, spreading vine with its branches turned toward him, but its roots remained under it. So it became a vine and yielded shoots and sent out branches.”

Ezekiel 17:2 This verse has two parallel IMPERATIVES.

1. “propound a riddle,” BDB 295, KB 295, Qal IMPERATIVE, cf. Judges 14:12-19

2. “speak a parable,” BDB 605 II, KB 647, Qal IMPERATIVE, cf. Ezekiel 12:23; Ezekiel 16:44; Ezekiel 17:2; Ezekiel 18:2; Ezekiel 20:49; Ezekiel 24:3

The term “riddle” (BDB 295, note the relation of the verb, BDB 295, and noun, BDB 295) means a statement that needs to have some information hinted at or supplied to be understood (cf. Proverbs 1:6).

The term “parable” (BDB 605 II, note the relation of the VERB, BDB 605 II, and NOUN, BDB 605 II) implies a brief poetic structure, possibly a proverb which uses comparison as a way to illustrate truth.

Ezekiel has been using highly figurative language to convince the exiles of the just and sure judgment of Jerusalem.

Ezekiel 17:3 “a great eagle” The imaginary bird (eagle or vulture, a large bird of prey) is described as

1. “great,” BDB 152

2. “great wings,” BDB 152 construct BDB 489

3. “long pinions,” BDB 74 construct BDB 7

4. “rich in plumage,” BDB 570 construct BDB 663

5. “of many colors,” BDB 955

This is a description of the large mercenary and conscripted army of Babylon who captured Jerusalem in 605, 597, 586, 582 B.C. In this context it is the 597 B.C. exile (i.e., “took the top of the cedar”) of Ezekiel and thousands of other craftsmen and leaders, which is alluded to (cf. Ezekiel 17:12-13; Ezekiel 2:0 Kgs. 24:24, 2 Kings 24:15).

“Lebanon” This is imagery referring to Judah. Possibly it is used because the parable will involve tall cedars and Lebanon was famous for hers (cf. Ezekiel 31:3).

“top” This term (BDB 856) is found only in Ezekiel (i.e., Ezekiel 17:3, Ezekiel 17:22; Ezekiel 31:3, Ezekiel 31:10, Ezekiel 31:14). Its etymology is unknown. The meaning is derived from the context.

Ezekiel 17:4 The destination of the Judean society is described as

1. “to a land of trade,” BDB 488 II

2. “a city of traders,” BDB 746, and BDB 940, KB 1237, Qal PARTICIPLE

Back in Ezekiel 12:13 Chaldea is the destination of the exiles (cf. Ezekiel 1:3). The term Chaldea (BDB 505) may be related to the term Canaanite (BDB 489, “merchants” in Ezekiel 16:29, where they appear together).

Ezekiel 17:5 This is a description of the relatively easy treatment of the first exiles. They were settled by a canal and given limited autonomy.

NASBlike a willow” NKJV, NJB“like a willow tree” NRSV“like a willow twig” TEV“young plant”

This term (BDB 861) is found only here in the OT. It seems to be of onomatopoeic origin from the Arabic term for “rustling.” Context implies an easily germinating tree twig (cf. Ezekiel 17:22).

Ezekiel 17:6 This verse describes the low growth of the remaining Judeans in Judea. They were still in the Promised Land, but were very weak as a vassal nation (cf. Ezekiel 17:13-14).

Verses 7-10

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ezekiel 17:7-10 7”But there was another great eagle with great wings and much plumage; and behold, this vine bent its roots toward him and sent out its branches toward him from the beds where it was planted, that he might water it. 8It was planted in good soil beside abundant waters, that it might yield branches and bear fruit and become a splendid vine.” 9Say, 'Thus says the Lord GOD, “Will it thrive? Will he not pull up its roots and cut off its fruit, so that it withersso that all its sprouting leaves wither? And neither by great strength nor by many people can it be raised from its roots again. 10Behold, though it is planted, will it thrive? Will it not completely wither as soon as the east wind strikes it wither on the beds where it grew?”'“

Ezekiel 17:7 “another eagle” This refers to Egypt (cf. Ezekiel 17:15). Judah looked to Egypt for military aid and protection (i.e., Jeremiah 37:0).

Ezekiel 17:8 There is a series of Qal infinitive constructs. They describe in this verse (1) how Zedekiah viewed that an alliance with Egypt would help Judah or (2) a repeat of Ezekiel 17:5, illustrating that there was no need for Zedekiah to rebel and seek help from Egypt

1. that it might yield branches

2. that it might bear fruit

3. that it might become a splendid vine

Ezekiel 17:9-10 These are parallel and describe Judah's attempt to seek help from Egypt, but YHWH will not allow it.

Ezekiel 17:9 “leaves” This term (BDB 383) normally refers to the prey of a lion, killed and torn apart (cf. Ezekiel 19:3, Ezekiel 19:6; Ezekiel 22:25, Ezekiel 22:27). Only here does it refer to plucked leaves (although the same consonants with different vowels refer to plucked olive leaves in Genesis 8:11).

Ezekiel 17:10 “completely wither” This is an emphatic grammatical construction that uses the INFINITIVE ABSOLUTE and the IMPERFECT VERB of the same root (BDB 386, KB 384) together. The VERB is used twice in Ezekiel 17:9 and twice in Ezekiel 17:10.

“the east wind” This construct (BDB 924 and 870) is used as an active representation of God's power (ruah) to accomplish His purposes. The east wind is associated with judgments and the west wind with blessings.

1. the Lord directed an east wind. . .brought the locusts, Exodus 13:10

2. the Lord swept the sea back by a strong east wind, Exodus 14:21; Exodus 15:10

3. with the east wind, Thou does break the ships of Tarshish, Psalms 48:7

4. like an east wind I will scatter them (Israel) before the enemy, Jeremiah 18:17

5. completely wither as soon as the east wind strikes it (Judah), Ezekiel 17:10

6. the east wind dried up its (Israel) fruit, Ezekiel 19:12

7. the east wind has broken you (Tyre), Ezekiel 27:26

8. an east wind will come. . .his (Israel) spring will be dried up, Hosea 13:15

9. God appointed a scorching east wind, Jonah 4:8

10. an east wind is implied in Job 1:19 and Jeremiah 4:11

The west wind is mentioned once in Exodus 10:19 and implied in Numbers 11:31. Rain would come from a northwesterly direction.

Verses 11-21

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ezekiel 17:11-21 11Moreover, the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 12”Say now to the rebellious house, 'Do you not know what these things mean?' Say, 'Behold, the king of Babylon came to Jerusalem, took its king and princes and brought them to him in Babylon. 13He took one of the royal family and made a covenant with him, putting him under oath. He also took away the mighty of the land, 14that the kingdom might be in subjection, not exalting itself, but keeping his covenant that it might continue. 15But he rebelled against him by sending his envoys to Egypt that they might give him horses and many troops. Will he succeed? Will he who does such things escape? Can he indeed break the covenant and escape? 16As I live,' declares the Lord GOD, 'Surely in the country of the king who put him on the throne, whose oath he despised and whose covenant he broke, in Babylon he shall die. 17Pharaoh with his mighty army and great company will not help him in the war, when they cast up ramps and build siege walls to cut off many lives. 18Now he despised the oath by breaking the covenant, and behold, he pledged his allegiance, yet did all these things; he shall not escape.'“ 19Therefore, thus says the Lord GOD, “As I live, surely My oath which he despised and My covenant which he broke, I will inflict on his head. 20I will spread My net over him, and he will be caught in My snare. Then I will bring him to Babylon and enter into judgment with him there regarding the unfaithful act which he has committed against Me. 21All the choice men in all his troops will fall by the sword, and the survivors will be scattered to every wind; and you will know that I, the LORD, have spoken.”

Ezekiel 17:11-21 This is the interpretation of the allegory of Ezekiel 17:1-10 about the two great eagles.

Ezekiel 17:12 “Say” This is a Qal IMPERATIVE (BDB 55, KB 65), repeated for emphasis. YHWH is speaking to Judah through His prophet.

“the rebellious house” This is a characteristic phrase of Ezekiel referring to Judah (cf. Ezekiel 2:5, Ezekiel 2:6, Ezekiel 2:8; Ezekiel 3:9, Ezekiel 3:26, Ezekiel 3:27; Ezekiel 12:2[twice], Ezekiel 17:3, Ezekiel 17:9,25; Ezekiel 17:12; Ezekiel 24:3). Moses first called Israel rebellious (BDB 598) in Deuteronomy 9:7; Deuteronomy 31:27.

“the king of Babylon came to Jerusalem, took its king and princes, and brought them to him in Babylon” This exile is recorded in 2 Kings 24:0. The date would be 597 B.C.

Ezekiel 17:13 The new Babylonian puppet king was Jehoiachin's uncle, Mattaniah, whose name was changed to Zedekiah (cf. 2 Kings 24:17; 2 Chronicles 36:10).

Ezekiel 17:14 Nebuchadnezzar was hoping that the partial deportation would teach Judah a lesson and keep them a vassal nation (cf. Jeremiah 27:0), but it did not work (cf. Ezekiel 17:16).

Ezekiel 17:15 “But he rebelled” See 2 Kings 24:20. He (Zedekiah, King of Judah) rebelled

1. against the prophecy of Jeremiah (cf. Jeremiah 27:0 and 37)

2. by breaking his pledge to Nebuchadnezzar, which he had taken in YHWH's name (cf. Ezekiel 17:18; 2 Chronicles 36:13)

Ezekiel 17:16 “in Babylon he shall die” See Jeremiah 52:11.

Ezekiel 17:18

NASB, NJB“he pledged” NKJV, NRSV“gave his hand”

This is literally, “he gave his hand” (BDB 678, KB 733, Qal PERFECT). The giving of one's hand denoted

1. friendship, 2 Kings 10:15

2. pledge/oath, 1 Chronicles 29:24; 2 Chronicles 30:8; Ezra 10:19; Lamentations 5:6; Ezekiel 17:18

3. allowing one to do something, Exodus 10:25

4. giving power to, 2 Samuel 16:8

5. entrusting to, 2 Chronicles 34:16

6. giving authority to, Genesis 39:4, Genesis 39:8, Genesis 39:22

Ezekiel 17:19 This verse relates to Zedekiah's oath to Nebuchandezzar (cf. Ezekiel 17:13, Ezekiel 17:14). It was made in YHWH's name.

1. “As I live” - This is a wordplay on the covenant name for Judah's God, YHWH (see Special Topic at Ezekiel 2:4), cf. Numbers 14:21, Numbers 14:28; Isaiah 45:23; Isaiah 49:18

2. “My oath” - BDB 46, cf. Deuteronomy 29:14. This refers to YHWH's covenant promises which, when violated, become “a curse,” cf. Deuteronomy 29:19

3. “which he despised”

a. Judah, Ezekiel 16:59

b. Zedekiah, Ezekiel 17:16, Ezekiel 17:18, Ezekiel 17:19

4. “My covenant” See Special Topic: Covenant

Ezekiel 17:20 This is mentioned earlier in Ezekiel 12:13 and is documented in 2 Kings 25:7; Jeremiah 39:7; Jeremiah 52:11.

Ezekiel 17:21

NASB“choice men” NKJV“all his fugitives” NRSV, NJB“the pick of his troops” TEV“his best soldiers”

The MT has “his fugitives” (BDB 138), as do the Septuagint and Syriac versions. The term is found only here in the OT. The term “chosen” (BDB 103) is the reversal of the last two Hebrew letters.

“the survivors will be scattered to every wind” See note at Ezekiel 5:10.

Verses 22-24

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ezekiel 17:22-24 22Thus says the Lord GOD, “I will also take a sprig from the lofty top of the cedar and set it out; I will pluck from the topmost of its young twigs a tender one and I will plant it on a high and lofty mountain. 23On the high mountain of Israel I will plant it, that it may bring forth boughs and bear fruit and become a stately cedar. And birds of every kind will nest under it; they will nest in the shade of its branches. 24All the trees of the field will know that I am the LORD; I bring down the high tree, exalt the low tree, dry up the green tree and make the dry tree flourish. I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will perform it.”

Ezekiel 17:22-23 Again, at the end of a judgment oracle there is hope for a future for YHWH's covenant people (cf. Ezekiel 16:60-63).

Ezekiel 17:22 “young twigs a tender one” The concept of a “shoot,” “stem,” or “branch” (cf. Isaiah 11:1) becomes a Messianic symbol of the restoration of the Davidic seed (cf. 2 Samuel 9:0; Psalms 89:0). The Branch (cf. Isaiah 4:2; Isaiah 11:1; Isaiah 53:2; Jeremiah 23:5; Jeremiah 33:15; Zechariah 3:8; Zechariah 6:12; Acts 13:23; Romans 15:12) becomes the hope of all mankind for God to fulfill His promises to Israel and to the nations! Remember Genesis 3:15 is a promise to humanity made in YHWH's image, not Israel!

“on a high and lofty mountain” This refers to the supremacy of God's universal rule (cf. Micah 5:5) through His people (cf. Isaiah 2:2-4; Micah 4:1-4).

Ezekiel 17:23 “birds of every kind” This is a universal element, as is “all the trees of the field” in Ezekiel 17:24. Isaiah captures this same planting metaphor that reaches all the world in Isaiah 27:6. YHWH has an eternal redemptive plan for all the sons and daughters of Adam, not just Jacob's children!

Ezekiel 17:24 YHWH describes His control of His creation in a series of plant metaphors.

1. I bring down the high tree

2. I exalt the low tree (i.e., here)

3. I dry up the green tree

4. I make the dry tree flourish

Examples of #1,3 would be Egypt in Ezekiel 31:0 and Babylon in Daniel 4:0. An example of #2,4 would be the promises to restore Israel/Judah (Ezekiel 16:60-63; Ezekiel 17:24). In the NT the mustard seed and resulting bush become the symbol of a universal tree (cf. Matthew 13:31-32; Mark 4:30-32; Luke 13:18-19. Also note Daniel 4:12, Daniel 4:21), which is the kingdom of our God and His Christ!

The final statement, “I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will perform it,” is a key theological statement. Humans can depend on God's word, both His judgments and His promises! He is the creator and controller of all life! History/time are in His hands (cf. Ezekiel 12:25, Ezekiel 12:28; Ezekiel 22:14; Isaiah 14:24; Isaiah 55:11)!

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Ezekiel 17". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/ezekiel-17.html. 2021.
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