Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough
2003 James Melough
“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 to me saying,”
“Son of man, speak unto Pharaoh king of Egypt, and to his multitude; Whom art
thou like in thy greatness?”
This prophesy against Pharaoh and his people, was
given to Ezekiel on June 21, 587 B.C., and began with the rhetorical question,
“Whom do you consider your equal in greatness?” and it is obvious that had
they answered their reply would have been, “No one!” for they considered
themselves the greatest of all nations.
“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
The Egyptians were asked to consider the once great
Assyria which had invaded Egypt in 633 B.C., but which had been in turn
vanquished by Babylon, the nation God had now appointed to be the destroyer of
Egypt. Assyria had once been as great among the nations as is the Lebanon
cedar among trees, her greatness overshadowing the nations as does the cedar
the other trees of the forest. But she had been destroyed, her conqueror
being Babylon, the nation that God was now going to use as His instrument to
destroy Egypt. What hope therefore could Egypt entertain of surviving the
coming attack by Babylon!
“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 reference here is to the fact that some of
Assyria’s most important cities were located in the vicinity of the Tigris
River which aided greatly in the development of their wealth and importance.
The “little rivers” were the tributaries and canals of the Tigris. Relative
to this river, the Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary makes the
following pertinent comment, “... the imagery ... is taken from Eden;
peculiarly appropriate, as Eden was watered by rivers that afterwards watered
Assyria (Gen 2:10-14).” Symbolically, rivers may represent the nation’s
“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.”
The height here speaks of dominion over the
nations, the boughs and branches referring to all the branches of Assyrian
Multitude of waters may refer to the abundant water
of the Tigris River and its tributaries, but it is more likely to be symbolic
of the multitude of people over which Assyria had dominion.
“All the fowl 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.”
“Thus was he fair in his greatness, in the length of his branches: for his
root was by great waters.”
The figure continues to be of Assyria as the great
protector and guardian of all the nations, the branches, root, and waters
having the same meaning here as in verses 4 and 5.
“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.”
The garden of God here is clearly not Eden, but
rather the hyperbolic description of the world, the language continuing to be
the metaphoric description of Assyria’s greatness, the trees being symbolic of
the nations. and “the garden of God” being the poetical description of the
world. Assyria was the greatest of the nations.
“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.”
It was God Who had made Assyria great, promoting
him to dominance, so that the other nations envied him, Eden continuing to be
the poetical description of the world.
“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;”
Assyria’s exalted God-given position of greatness
over the nations, instead of producing gratitude to God, had instead begotten
arrogant pride as though its dominance had been achieved by its own efforts.
Egypt, and many a nation since then, has been guilty of the same folly, as has
many a man. It was this same sin that brought about Lucifer’s fall.
The switch from “thou” to “he” and “his” is because
the words are addressed both to the cedar and to the king of Assyria.
“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
“... the mighty one of the heathen” was
Nebuchadnezzar whom God had chosen to be His instrument for the destruction of
“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 (beside) all the rivers of the land; and all the
people of the earth are gone down from his shadow, and have left him.
The “strangers, the terrible of the nations” were
the Babylonians, the word “terrible” being also rendered most ruthless:
most barbarous. Their cutting off and leaving Assyria, means that they
had cut her down as a lumberjack fells a tree, leaving it lying on the
ground. Assyria had fallen to Babylon in 609 B.C. The mountains and valleys
in the present context mean the rulers and the common people respectively of
all the formerly subservient lands, while the rivers represent their
commerce. They had been left without Assyria’s governmental care and
“Upon his ruin shall all the fowls of the heaven remain, and all the beasts of
the field shall be upon his branches:”
Beyond the literal statement relative to the fowls
and beasts dwelling amongst the ruins of Assyria’s towns and villages may lie
a further spiritual truth related to the fact that the fowls are the
scriptural symbol of Satan and his evil spirits of the air, see Mt 13:4,19;
while the beasts speak of the natural man as opposed to the spiritual, so that
the additional truth being declared is that Babylonian dominion would be
marked by the equivalent evil. This is not to imply that the rule of Assyria
was spiritually good, but rather that the spiritual dominion of Babylon was
“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.”
“... trees by the waters” refers to prosperous
“... all that drink water” refers to literal trees
growing in the presence of abundant water; but beyond the literal water lies
the symbolic reference to earth’s human masses, whose kings are supported by
the very people over whom they rule. The warning is to kings not to exalt
themselves in pride, or to seek dominion over other rulers. They are all mere
men, all subject to death; all, as to their bodies, destined for the grave;
and as to their souls, destined to enter the nether world, which prior to
Christ’s resurrection was divided by a great gulf which separated the region
of bliss from that of torment, see Lk 16:22-26. (Since the Lord’s
resurrection Paradise is now in heaven).
“The pit” always refers to hell, which is the abode
of the unbelieving dead until the resurrection of death, when the unbeliever,
body, soul, and spirit, will be cast into the lake of fire.
“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” is related to the fact
that the seas - called here “the deep” - represent earth’s human masses, and
their being covered is a hyperbolic way of saying that they covered their
heads in mourning at Assyria’s downfall.
“... restrained the floods thereof” and the staying
of “the great waters” continues to emphasize that the prosperity of Assyria’s
dependent nations was restrained or diminished by her destruction.
As the cedars of Lebanon furnished the most
valuable timber; and the “trees of the field” represent the common people, the
reference here to both continues to speak of the mourning associated with
Assyria’s fall: rulers and commoners alike bewailed that fall, for both were
weakened economically by it.
“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.”
All people were adversely affected by Assyria’s
destruction; but there was a modicum of comfort for those who had died and
gone to hell, when the dead Assyrians joined them there, this being a
demonstration of the adage that misery loves company. The statement is
relative, however, for there is no comfort in that terrible place.
“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
Joining the slain Assyrian king in hell were those
“that were his arm,” i.e., his supporters; and those “that dwelt under his
shadow,” i.e., under his dominion or protection. Death, to which all earthly
things are subject, is the great leveler.
“... heathen” in the present context means
“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
It is to be kept in mind that all the above
references to fallen Assyria were to remind Egypt that she should not
entertain any expectation of surviving a conflict with Babylon, since Assyria,
which had been greater than she, had been vanquished by Babylon.
“... uncircumcised” is used here as a disparaging
term to describe a shameful death.