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Bible Commentaries

Ironside's Notes on Selected Books
Ezekiel 31

 

 


Verses 1-18

Chapter Thirty-one

Assyria’s Pride And Fall

In this chapter God, through His prophet, in a message given about two months later than the previous predictions, directs the attention of Pharaoh and his people to the judgment that had already fallen upon Assyria in order that Egypt might learn therefrom the folly of self-exaltation and independence of God. Assyria and Egypt had been the two greatest dominions in the world of their day prior to the meteor-like rise of the Babylonian empire. At one time it seemed as though Assyria was destined to rule the world, but that was not God’s plan. The day came when this great kingdom was utterly destroyed, and Chaldea became the outstanding Asiatic power, as Egypt was the outstanding African kingdom. The same God who had dealt with Assyria was now dealing with Egypt; and He called upon Pharaoh to learn a lesson from that which had taken place in Mesopotamia in order that he himself might be humbled before God ere the predicted judgment fell in all its fury upon him.

“And it came to pass in the eleventh year, in the third month, in the first day of the month, that the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, Son of man, say unto Pharaoh king of Egypt, and to his multitude: Whom art thou like in thy greatness? Behold, the Assyrian was a cedar in Lebanon with fair branches, and with a forest-like shade, and of high stature; and its top was among the thick boughs. The waters nourished it, the deep made it to grow: the rivers thereof ran round about its plantation; and it sent out its channels unto all the trees of the field. Therefore its stature was exalted above all the trees of the field; and its boughs were multiplied, and its branches became long by reason of many waters, when it shot them forth. All the birds of the heavens made their nests in its boughs; and under its branches did all the beasts of the field bring forth their young; and under its shadow dwelt all great nations. Thus was it fair in its greatness, in the length of its branches; for its root was by many waters. The cedars in the garden of God could not hide it; the fir-trees were not like its boughs, and the plane-trees were not as its branches; nor was any tree in the garden of God like unto it in its beauty. I made it fair by the multitude of its branches, so that all the trees of Eden, that were in the garden of God, envied it”-vers. 1-9.

The Assyrians were likened to a great cedar in Lebanon with outstretched branches and a forest-like shade under which the beasts of the field might find refuge, and in whose branches the birds of the heaven might build their nests. The same figure was afterwards used of Babylon as headed up in Nebuchadnezzar; and in a somewhat different way, a similar figure was used by our Lord Jesus Christ later on to depict the great world church which was to be developed as a result of the corruption of the Church by religious politics. This is seen in the parable of the mustard tree.

Assyria included that portion of Asia in which the garden of Eden originally had its place. It was a great oasis between the two rivers, the Euphrates and the Tigris, and just as Egypt was dependent upon the Nile so was Assyria dependent upon these mighty streams.

From a small beginning a vast empire had been built up in central Asia-an empire which one might have supposed would have stood for many centuries, but when it came to the height of its power its kings were so inflated with a sense of their own superiority and so carried away by their dependence upon their false gods that Jehovah dealt with them in judgment; and Nineveh and all the great cities of Assyria fell before vast floods and invading armies. Thus Babylon came to the front soon to assume world-dominion. Let Egypt learn from the fate of Assyria the folly of vaunting itself against God.

“Therefore thus said the Lord Jehovah: Because thou art exalted in stature, and he hath set his top among the thick boughs, and his heart is lifted up in his height; I will even deliver him into the hand of the mighty one of the nations; he shall surely deal with him; I have driven him out for his wickedness. And strangers, the terrible of the nations, have cut him off, and have left him: upon the mountains and in all the valleys his branches are fallen, and his boughs are broken by all the watercourses of the land; and all the peoples of the earth are gone down from his shadow, and have left him. Upon his ruin all the birds of the heavens shall dwell, and all the beasts of the field shall be upon his branches; to the end that none of all the trees by the waters exalt themselves in their stature, neither set their top among the thick boughs, nor that their mighty ones stand up in their height, even all that drink water: for they are all delivered unto death, to the nether parts of the earth, in the midst of the children of men, with them that go down to the pit”-vers. 10-16.

In this particular section God speaks retrospectively. Some have thought that these verses apply directly to Egypt inasmuch as Assyria had already fallen to rise no more until the coming day when this great kingdom will be revived under Messiah’s reign to share with Israel and with Egypt in the glory of Christ’s earthly kingdom. Of this we read in Isaiah 19:24. It seems clear that the prophet is still directing the attention of Pharaoh to that which God had wrought in connection with Assyria in order that he might learn a much-needed lesson as to his own utter inability to fight successfully against Jehovah. These verses depict the judgment that came on Assyria and carry us on to the doom of its leaders in the unseen world. We read, “They are all delivered unto death, to the nether parts of the earth, in the midst of the children of men, with them that go down to the pit.”

God had declared in Psalms 9:17, “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.” Hell here is not the lake of fire, the final doom of the unsaved, but it is the same as Hades in the New Testament, the place of departed spirits awaiting the final day of judgment. In that dark abode can be found all who have fought against God and died unrepentant, and all who have lived in neglect of His Holy Word and forgotten their obligations to walk in obedience to the revelation He has given. There are those who insist that Sheol is but the grave; but it speaks of something deeper far than any tomb. Men may build sepulchers and possess them themselves, but Sheol is the abode of the spirits that have to do with God after the death of the body. Verses 15 to 17 confirm this.

“Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: in the day when he went down to Sheol I caused a mourning: I covered the deep for him, and I restrained the rivers thereof; and the great waters were stayed; and I caused Lebanon to mourn for him, and all the trees of the field fainted for him. I made the nations to shake at the sound of his fall, when I cast him down to Sheol with them that descend into the pit; and all the trees of Eden, the choice and best of Lebanon, all that drink water, were comforted in the nether parts of the earth. They also went down into Sheol with him unto them that are slain by the sword; yea, they that were his arm, that dwelt under his shadow in the midst of the nations”-vers. 15-17.

The nations that had been in alliance with Assyria were struck dumb with astonishment and made to tremble in fear as those at the head of that mighty dominion were cut off with the sword and went down under divine judgment into Sheol-there to await the day when they would answer before God for their arrogant pride.

The reference to the trees of Eden has to do, as intimated, with the fact that the location of Eden as given in Genesis was the same as that of Assyria afterward. No people had been able to stand against Nebuchadnezzar. Destroyed by the triumphant Chaldean armies they, too, went down into Sheol with Assyria, unto those who before them had been slain by the sword. What hope then had Egypt to withstand the power of the Chaldeans when it was God Himself who had decreed that they should be used to visit judgment upon all nations!

“To whom art thou thus like in glory and in greatness among the trees of Eden? Yet shalt thou be brought down with the trees of Eden unto the nether parts of the earth: thou shalt lie in the midst of the uncircumcised, with them that are slain by the sword. This is Pharaoh and all his multitude, saith the Lord Jehovah”-ver. 18.

Let Pharaoh learn from what had taken place in Asia and understand that however he might seek to guard against destruction, so long as he lifted himself up against the God of Israel he but exposed himself to the same doom as that which had overtaken Assyria. This, says the prophet, is Pharaoh and all his multitude, for they, too, must suffer in the same way as their great sister kingdom.

 


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Bibliography Information
Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Ezekiel 31:4". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/isn/ezekiel-31.html. 1914.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, October 23rd, 2020
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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