For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2003 James Melough

17:1.  “And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying,”


17:2.  “Son of man, put forth a riddle, and speak a parable unto the house of Israel;”


God’s speaking to them in riddle and parable was for the same reason that the Lord spoke unto a later generation in parables, as it is written, “... without a parable spake he not unto them,” Mt 13:34.  It was so that the believers, enlightened by the Holy Spirit, would understand what was incomprehensible to the unbelieving; the same principle operating today in regard to Scripture, for woven into its literal language is a spiritual message discernible only to the eye of obedient faith.  I say obedient faith, because the disobedient believer, by his disobedience which grieves and/or quenches the Holy Spirit, and thereby cuts off His ministry of enlightenment, places himself at the same disadvantage as the unbeliever.


For example, the Lord on the evening of His resurrection, joined the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, “And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself,” Lk 24:27.  The scriptures were the OT, for the NT hadn’t then been written, yet we search the OT in vain for even His name, but obedient faith sees Him revealed in those scriptures just as clearly as did those two disciples to whom He expounded them, for it is in the typological language of the OT that God has given that revelation.


It is suggested that the reader examine some of those symbolic pictures by checking TYPES on this same web site.


17:3.  “And say, Thus saith the Lord God; A great eagle with great wings, long-winged, full of feathers, which had divers colors, came unto Lebanon, and took the highest branch of the cedar:”


17:4.  “He cropped off the top of his young twigs, and carried it into a land of traffick; he set it in a city of merchants.”


The great eagle with great wings, and long and many multicolored feathers, was Nebuchadnezzar and his Babylonian army, the long wings portraying the vast extent of his empire; and the many colors being generally taken to indicate the variety of peoples within the empire.  Lebanon here represents all Israel, for the Temple, which was the center of Israel’s religious life, was frequently referred to as Lebanon because its wood was of Lebanon cedar 


His taking the highest branch was a poetic way of saying that he took king Jehoiakin captive in 597 BC, the land of traffick to which he was carried being the land of Babylon; and the city of merchants, the city of Babylon, see 2 Ki 24-25.


17:5.  “He took also of the seed of the land, and planted it in a fruitful field; he placed it by great waters, and set it as a willow tree.”


The “seed of the land” was Zedekiah whom Nebuchadnezzar made king in Jerusalem in place of Jehoiakin; the “fruitful field” where he “planted” him being Palestine.


“... by great waters” may have reference to Israel’s springs and pools of water, though it seems more likely that the reference is to the metaphoric use of Babylon’s two great rivers, the Tigris and the Euphrates as representing the whole of Babylonia, the statement thus being that in her God-ordained submission to Babylon, Israel would prosper.


17:6.  “And it grew, and became a spreading vine of low stature, whose branches turned toward him, and the roots thereof were under him: and it became a vine, and brought forth branches, and shot forth sprigs.”


This is a poetic description of Israel’s multiplication in the land during the early years of Zedekiah’s reign, the “him” toward whom the branches turned, and under whom the roots grew, being Nebuchadnezzar to whom the nation of Israel was subject.


17:7.  “There was also another great eagle with great wings and many feathers: and, behold, this vine did bend her roots toward him, and shot forth her branches toward him, that he might water it by the furrows of her plantation.”


This second great eagle was Egypt to which Israel turned in hope of throwing off Babylon’s yoke; the “furrows of her plantation” referring to the multitudinous irrigation ditches by which the land of Egypt was watered.  Israel wanted to be “watered,” i.e., supported by Egypt rather than by Babylon.


17:8.  “It was planted in a good soil by great waters, that it might bring forth branches, and that it might bear fruit, that it might be a goodly vine.”


This is the repeated reminder of the fact that God had planted Israel in fertile, well watered Palestine, to live there for His glory, in submission to Babylon, not to Egypt.


17:9.  “Say thou, Thus saith the Lord God; Shall it prosper?  shall he not pull up the roots thereof, and cut off the fruit thereof, that it wither? it shall wither in all the leaves of her spring, even without great power or many people to pluck it up by the roots thereof.”


God Himself, using Babylon as His instrument, would bring Israel down because of her sin in thus violating the covenant by which she had agreed to be subject to Babylonian dominion.  She as God’s people dishonored Him by violating the covenant which she had promised to keep.  It was the equivalent of her having broken covenant with Him.


17:10.  “Yea, behold, being planted, shall it prosper? shall it not utterly wither, when the east wind toucheth it? it shall wither in the furrows where it grew.”


In Scripture, the east is invariably associated with evil, and since the wind is a symbol of the Holy Spirit, the east wind here speaks of His judgment of rebel Israel.


17:11.  “Moreover, the word of the Lord came unto me, saying,”


17:12.  “Say now to the rebellious house, Know ye not what these things mean? tell them, Behold, the king of Babylon is come to Jerusalem, and hath taken the king thereof, and the princes thereof, and led them with him to Babylon;”


17:13.  “And hath taken of the king’s seed, and made a covenant with him, and hath taken an oath of him: he hath also taken the mighty of the land:”


Here the symbolic language is interpreted, the certainty of fulfillment being declared in that it is spoken of as already accomplished.  Nebuchadnezzar would come and carry Jehoiakin and all his officers prisoners to Babylon.


The reference in verse 13 is to Nebuchadnezzar’s having made Zedekiah king instead of the deposed Jehoiakin.


17:14.  “That the kingdom might be base, that it might not lift itself up, but that by keeping of his covenant it might stand.”


The purpose of God’s judgments was that Israel might first be humbled, and then be blessed and established, but under the dominion of Babylon.


17:15.  “But he rebelled against him in sending his ambassadors into Egypt, that they might give him horses and much people.  Shall he prosper? shall he escape that doeth such things? or shall he break the covenant, and be delivered?”


Zedekiah rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar, and sought aid from Egypt; but God denounced his treachery in having broken the covenant he had made with the Babylonian king, and which he had solemnly sworn to keep.  God Himself would punish that breach of covenant.


17:16.  “As I live saith the Lord God, surely in the place where the king dwelleth that made him king, whose oath he despised, and whose covenant he brake, even with him in the midst of Babylon he shall die.”


Because of his treachery Zedekiah would die in the country of the king who had made him, Zedekiah, king of Judah, i.e., he would die in Babylon, and he did, see 2 Ki 25:1-7.  His death is not recorded in Scripture, but the absence of any mention of him after his having been blinded and taken prisoner to Babylon is universally accepted as implying that he did die there.


17:17.  “Neither shall Pharaoh with his mighty army and great company make for him in the war, by casting up mounts, and building forts, to cut off many persons:”


Pharaoh, with all his great army, and instruments of war, would be powerless to aid Judah in the day when God would bring the Babylonians against her.  And since Egypt represents the world of business and pleasure, the more important truth being declared in Egypt’s failure to deliver Judah is that the world with all its wealth and resources is powerless to deliver any man’s soul from death.


17:18.  “Seeing he despised the oath by breaking the covenant, when, lo, he had given his hand, and hath done all these things, he shall not escape.”


Judah had broken her promise by breaking the solemn covenant she had entered into with Babylon, and for that deliberate transgression she would perish.


17:19.  “Therefore thus saith the Lord God; As I live, surely mine oath that he hath despised, and my covenant that he hath broken, even it will I recompense upon his own head.”


This indicates that Zedekiah in agreeing to the terms of the covenant with Babylon, had sworn by the name of Jehovah to keep his part of the agreement, so that in breaking it he wasn’t just making himself a liar: he was also dishonoring God, so that his punishment must be all the more severe.


17:20.  “And I will spread my net upon him, and he shall be taken in my snare, and I will bring him to Babylon, and will plead with him there for his trespass that he hath trespassed against me.”


As a fowler spreads his net to capture a bird; or as a hunter sets his trap for an animal, so would God lay hold upon Israel, and plead, i.e., enter into judgment against her in Babylon; for in the final analysis her sin was against God, as is every sin which man commits.


17:21.  “And all his fugitives with all his hands shall fall by the sword, and they that remain shall be scattered toward all winds: and ye shall know that I the Lord have spoken it.”


“... all his hands” means “all his best troops.”  They would fall by the sword of the Babylonians, and the fugitives who might manage to escape would be scattered amongst all the surrounding nations, the fulfillment of the threat in 586 BC being proof that Ezekiel was indeed the Lord’s spokesman.


17:22.  “Thus saith the Lord God; I will also take of the highest branch of the high cedar, and will set it; I will crop off from the top of his young twigs a tender one, and will plant it upon an high mountain and eminent:” 


The reference here is clearly to the millennial reign of the Lord Jesus Christ the “tender one,” for Zedekiah was the last king of Judah; and since a mountain is the biblical symbol of a king and/or kingdom, the high and eminent mountain refers to Israel’s occupying first place amongst the millennial nations, and her King, the Messiah, reigning as King of kings, and Lord of lords, over all the rulers of the nations in the Millennium.


17:23.  “In the mountain of the height of Israel will I plant it: and it shall bring forth boughs, and bear fruit, and be a goodly cedar: and under it shall dwell all fowl of every wing: in the shadow of the branches thereof shall they dwell.”


Its being planted on the mountain height of Israel means that the Lord Jesus Christ will be established as King over Israel, but since she will be supreme amongst the nations, it follows that His dominion will be over all the kingdoms of the millennial earth.  Its bringing forth boughs and bearing fruit speaks of the phenomenal abundance that will be world-wide in the Millennium; and the fact that the fowls will dwell safely under the branches of the tree speaks of the fact that there will be peace on that earth, the nations beating their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks, and learning war no more, see Isa 2:4.


17:24.  “And all the trees of the field shall know that I the Lord have brought down the high tree, have exalted the low tree, have dried up the green tree, and have made the dry tree to flourish: I the Lord have spoken and have done it.”


The trees of the field represent all the people of the earth, the high tree brought down being the Beast who will rule in the Tribulation; the exalted low tree being the Lord Jesus Christ Who was willing to take the lowest place here on earth at His first advent.  The dried up green tree appears to represent the Beast cast into the lake of fire at the end of the Tribulation; while the once dry tree - Christ obedient even unto death - will flourish eternally.


“I the Lord have spoken and have done it.”  The assurance of the fulfillment of all this is guaranteed by the fact that God Who cannot lie, speaks of it as already accomplished.  Nothing can prevent the complete fulfillment of His words.

[Ezekiel 18]


     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough