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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged
Ezekiel 31

 

 

Verse 1

And it came to pass in the eleventh year, in the third month, in the first day of the month, that the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,

Not that Egypt was, like Assyria utterly to cease to be, but it was, like Assyria, to lose its prominence in the empire of the world.

In the eleventh year, in the third month - two months later than the prophecy delivered in Ezekiel 30:20.


Verse 2

Son of man speak unto Pharaoh king of Egypt and to his multitude; Whom art thou like in thy greatness? Son of man, speak unto Pharaoh king of Egypt, and to his multitude; Whom art thou like in thy greatness?

Whom art thou like in thy greatness? (Ezek. .) The answer is, Thou art like the haughty King of Assyria: as he was overthrown by the Chaldeans, so shalt thou be by the same.


Verse 3

Behold, the Assyrian was a cedar in Lebanon with fair branches, and with a shadowing shroud, and of an high stature; and his top was among the thick boughs.

Behold, the Assyrian was a cedar in Lebanon. He illustrates the pride and the consequent overthrow of the Assyrian, that Egypt may the better know what she must expect.

Cedar in Lebanon - often eighty feet high, and the diameter of the space covered by its boughs still greater: the symmetry perfect. (Compare the similar image Ezekiel 17:3; Daniel 4:20-22; when Nebuchadnezzar is compared to such a tree in the dream which he saw).

With a shadowing shroud - with an over-shadowing thicket.

His top was among the thick boughs - rather (Hengstenberg), 'among the clouds.' But the English version agrees better with the Hebrew [ `


Verse 4

The waters made him great, the deep set him up on high with her rivers running round about his plants, and sent out her little rivers unto all the trees of the field.

The waters made him great, the deep ... sent out her little rivers - the Tigris, with its branches and rivulets, or conduits for irrigation, was the source of Assyria's fertility. "The deep" is the ever-flowing water, never dry. Metaphorically, for Assyria's resources, as the 'conduits' are her colonies.


Verse 5

Therefore his height was exalted above all the trees of the field, and his boughs were multiplied, and his branches became long because of the multitude of waters, when he shot forth.

His branches became long, because of the multitude of waters, when he shot forth - because of the abundant moisture which nourished him in shooting forth-i.e, in whatever direction he shot forth. But see margin, 'when it (the deep - i:e., the Tigris) sent them (the multitude of waters) forth.'


Verse 6

All the fowls of heaven made their nests in his boughs, and under his branches did all the beasts of the field bring forth their young, and under his shadow dwelt all great nations.

All the fowls of heaven made their nests in his boughs - so "under it (the goodly cedar in the mountain of the height of Israel) shall dwell all fowl of every wing, in the shadow of the branches" (Ezekiel 17:23); the mustard-seed "becometh a tree, so that the birds of air come and lodge in the branches" (Daniel 4:12). The Gospel-kingdom shall gather all under its covert, for their good and for the glory of God, whereas the world-kingdoms gather men under themselves for evil and for self-aggrandizement (Matthew 13:32).


Verse 7

Thus was he fair in his greatness, in the length of his branches: for his root was by great waters.

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 8

The cedars in the garden of God could not hide him: the fir trees were not like his boughs, and the chestnut trees were not like his branches; nor any tree in the garden of God was like unto him in his beauty.

Cedars in the garden of God could not hide him - could not out-top him. No other king eclipsed him.

Garden of God - as in the case of the King of Tyre (Ezekiel 28:13, "Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God"), the imagery that is applied to the Assyrian king is taken from Eden; peculiarly appropriate, as Eden was watered by rivers that afterward watered Assyria (Pison, Gihon, Hiddekel, and Euphrates, Genesis 2:10-14). This cedar seemed to revive in itself all the glories of paradise, so that no tree there out-topped it.

The fir trees - the cypresses (Henderson).

The chesnut trees were not like his branches - `the plane trees' (Henderson) were not comparable to his branches.


Verse 9

I have made him fair by the multitude of his branches: so that all the trees of Eden, that were in the garden of God, envied him.

I have made him fair - it was all due to my free grace.


Verse 10

Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD Because thou hast lifted up thyself in height, and he hath shot up his top among the thick boughs, and his heart is lifted up in his height;

Because thou hast lifted up thyself in height, and he hath shot up his top. The change of persons is because the language refers partly to the cedar, partly to the person signified by the cedar.


Verse 11

I have therefore delivered him into the hand of the mighty one of the heathen; he shall surely deal with him: I have driven him out for his wickedness.

I have therefore delivered him into the hand of the mighty one of the heathen. Here the literal supersedes the figurative.

He shall surely deal with him - according to his own pleasure, and according to the Assyrian's desert. The last Assyrian king has been ascertained by the inscriptions to have been 'Asshur-ebid-ilut,' the second in succession from Sennacherib's son, Esar-haddon, who planted the settlement in Samaria from Babylon, Cuthah, Ava, Hamath, and Sepharvaim (2 Kings 17:24). His father, Asshur-bani-pal, or Sardanapalus III, probably lost his life in defending Nineveh from the attack of the Scythians, 634 BC. Asshur-ebid-ilut was the builder of the southeast palace of Nimroud. The final destruction of Nineveh was by the Medo-Babylonian army under Cyaxares and Nabopolassar (G.V. Smith); to either of these the expression refers, "the mighty one of the pagan." Before this, Sardanapalus had been driven to destroy himself, his wives, and his treasures in one vast funeral pile kindled by his own hand; and Arbaces the Mede, and Belesis a Babylonian priest, took Nineveh, 877 BC, (Ctesias). The destroyer of Nineveh is called "The mighty one" ( 'eeyl (Hebrew #410), a name of God), because he was God's representative and instrument of judgment (as Nebuchadnezzar subsequently was, Daniel 2:37-38).


Verse 12

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 rivers of the land; and all the people of the earth are gone down from his shadow, and have left him.

All the people of the earth are gone down from his shadow - under which they had formerly dwelt as their covert (Ezekiel 31:6).


Verse 13

Upon his ruin shall all the fowls of the heaven remain, and all the beasts of the field shall be upon his branches:

Upon his ruin shall all the fowls of the heaven remain, and all the beasts of the field - birds and beasts shall insult over his fallen trunk.


Verse 14

To the end that none of all the trees by the waters exalt themselves for their height, neither shoot up their top among the thick boughs, neither their trees stand up in their height, 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.

To the end that none of all the trees by the waters - i:e., that are plentifully supplied by the waters: nations abounding in resources.

Exalt themselves for their height - i:e., that the nations should not proudly be elated because of their greatness. Neither their trees stand up in their height - .i:e., trust in their height: stand upon it as their ground of confidence.

All that drink water. Fairbairn points (vocalizes) the Hebrew differently ['aleeyhem], instead of [ 'eeleeyhem (Hebrew #352)], so as, for "their trees," to translate, 'and that none that drink water may stand on themselves, because of their greatness.' But the usual reading is better, as Assyria and the confederate states throughout are compared to strong trees. The clause "all that drink water" marks the ground of the trees' confidence "in their height" - namely, that they have ample sources of supply. Henderson translates, 'that none that drink water may remain beside them in their height.' Maurer, retaining the same Hebrew, translates, 'that neither their terebinth trees may stand up in their height, nor all (the other trees) that drink water.' The English version seems best, except that for "trees" we may substitute terebinth trees, or else oak trees.

To the nether parts of the earth, in the midst of the children of men, with them that go down to the pit - (Ezekiel 32:18; Psalms 82:7, "Ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes").


Verse 15

Thus saith the Lord GOD In the day when he went down to the grave I caused a mourning: I covered the deep for him, and I restrained the floods 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 covered the deep for him - as mourners cover their heads in token of mourning. 'I made the deep that watered the cedar to wrap itself in mourning for him.' The waters of "the deep" are the tributary peoples of Assyria (Revelation 17:15, "The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues").

All the trees of the field fainted for him - literally, were faintness (itself); more forcible than the verb.


Verse 16

I made the nations to shake at the sound of his fall, when I cast him down to hell with them that descend into the pit: and all the trees of Eden, the choice and best of Lebanon, all that drink water, shall be comforted in the nether parts of the earth.

I made the nations to shake at ... his fall, when I cast him down to hell - Sheol or Hades, the unseen world; equivalent to 'I cast him into oblivion' (cf. Isaiah 14:9-11, "Hell from beneath is moved to meet thee at thy coming: it stirreth up the dead for thee, even all the chief ones of the earth").

All the trees of Eden shall be comforted because so great a king as the Assyrian is brought down to a All the trees of Eden ... shall be comforted - because so great a king as the Assyrian is brought down to a level with them. It is a kind of consolation to the wretched to have companions in misery.


Verse 17

They also went down into hell with him unto them that be slain with the sword; and they that were his arm, that dwelt under his shadow in the midst of the heathen.

They that were his arm, that dwelt under his shadow in the midst of the heathen - those who were the helpers or tools of his tyranny, and therefore enjoyed his protection (e.g., Syria and her neighbours). These were sure to share her fate. Compare the same phrase as to the Jews living under the protection of their king (Lamentations 4:20); both alike "making flesh their arm, and in heart departing from the Lord" (Jeremiah 17:5).


Verse 18

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 be slain by the sword. This is Pharaoh and all his multitude, saith the Lord GOD.

To whom art thou thus like in glory and in greatness among the trees of Eden? Application of the parabolic description of Assyria to the parallel case of Egypt. 'All that has been said of the Assyrian consider as said to thyself. To whom art thou so like as thou art to the Assyrian? To none.' He closes with the same question with which he began in Ezekiel 31:2, "Whom art thou like in thy greatness?" The lesson on a gigantic scale of Eden-like privileges abused to pride and sin by the Assyrian, as in the case of the first man in Eden, ending in ruin, was to be repeated in Egypt's case. For the unchangeable God governs the world on the same unchangeable principles; and sin also is unchangeable in its nature and in its awful consequences.

Thou shalt lie in the midst of the uncircumcised - as circumcision was an object of mocking to thee, thou shalt lie in the midst of the uncircumcised, slain by their sword (Grotius). Retribution in kind (Ezekiel 28:10).

This is Pharaoh - Pharaoh's end shall be the same humiliating one as I have depicted the Assyrian's to have been. "This" is demonstrative, as if he were pointing with the finger to Pharaoh lying prostrate-a spectacle to all, as on the shore of the Red Sea (Exodus 14:30-31). Compare also Isaiah 66:24.

Remarks:

(1) The greatness of Egypt no more secured it against a grievous downfall than the greatness of Assyria had secured it against its utter overthrow. Assyria had once been as a stately cedar, with fair branches above, and supplied with waters to nourish its roots beneath (Ezekiel 31:3-5). Wherever the Assyrian king extended his arms, prosperity had attended him: and many nations and peoples took shelter under his protection, just as the fowls and beasts avail themselves of the covert of a lofty and overshadowing tree (Ezekiel 31:6). No other king could eclipse his eminence (Ezekiel 31:8); so that he resembled a cedar which revived in itself all the glories of Paradise, so that no other tree was comparable to it. How great are the privileges, and how great also are the responsibilities of those who are thus placed in high positions, and distinguished by many excellent gifts!

(2) But the Assyrian king forgot that all his excellence and eminence were the gifts of God's grace, not due to any merit in himself. "I have made him fair," saith God (Ezekiel 31:9). This truth was lost sight of, and the Assyrian's "heart was lifted up in his height" (Ezekiel 31:10).

Therefore, in just retribution, instead of being in favour with God and with man, as he might have been by honouring God in all his ways., and by respecting the rights of his fellow-men, he became an object of "envy" to the peoples (Ezekiel 31:9), by haughtiness in his proud elevation (Ezekiel 31:10), and by oppression of those under him: then followed the day of his punishment. "Delivered up" by the hand of the righteous Judge "into the hand of the mighty one of the pagan," the representative and instrument of God's vengeance (Ezekiel 31:11), he was dealt with according to his sin, and, like a second Adam, "driven out for his wickedness." Then all the nations and peoples who had once sheltered under "his shadow left him" (Ezekiel 31:12); nay, as birds and beasts tread under foot the fallen trunk of the tree beneath which they had once taken shelter, so the very subjects of Nineveh insulted over its "ruin" (Ezekiel 31:13).

(3) How different the security afforded by the Gospel-tree! The Gospel-kingdom gathers all under its saving covert, for their present and eternal good and for the glory of God, and not for self-aggrandizement and to the hurt of men, as is the way of the kingdoms of this world (Ezekiel 31:6). Therefore it shall never fall, nor shall those who trust in its shadow (Ezekiel 17:23; Matthew 13:32) ever be confounded; because it is a kingdom that is established on the everlasting principles of the divine truth, righteousness, and love.

(4) The effect of God's judgments on the haughty ones of the earth is to abase the pride of man, "to the end that none of all ... exalt themselves for their height" (Ezekiel 31:14). The higher has been the past elevation of the proud, the deeper shall be their fall. The pit of hell beneath (Ezekiel 31:14; Ezekiel 31:16) is the appointed place of all who set themselves on high against God and His people. Their helpers, who were their "ruin," in deeds of violence, and all who have been confederate with them in sin, shall share their doom (Ezekiel 31:17). Others, too, who preceded them in sin-the great ones of the earth, who had been once, as it were, "choice trees of Eden," but who were cast down to hell through apostasy, shall feel a melancholy "comfort" in having so great a king as the Assyrian brought down to the same level with themselves, and a companion in misery (Ezekiel 31:16). Oh how terrible must be the torments of the lost, when the only consolation afforded them is the miserable one of having others to share their wretchedness!

(5) The Egyptian king resembled the Assyrian in his overweening and blasphemous pride: so therefore must he resemble him in his terrible fall; while all peoples shall point to him as an awful example of God's vengeance on proud transgressors-This is Pharaoh and all his multitude! How blessed it is to be among the meek followers of the Lamb, who, when God shall destroy the guilty, shall be eternally safe; yea, they shall adore the holy justice of God, when "they shall go forth and look upon the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against God; because their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh"! (Isaiah 66:24.)

 


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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Ezekiel 31:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/ezekiel-31.html. 1871-8.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, November 12th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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