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

31:1.  “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 to me saying,”


31:2.  “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.


31:3.  “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.”


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!


31:4.  “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 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 commerce.


31:5.  “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.”


The height here speaks of dominion over the nations, the boughs and branches referring to all the branches of Assyrian government.


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.


31:6.  “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.”


31:7.  “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.


31:8.  “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.”


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.


31:9.  “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.”


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.


31:10.  “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;”


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.


31:11.  “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.”


“... the mighty one of the heathen” was Nebuchadnezzar whom God had chosen to be His instrument for the destruction of Assyria.


31:12.  “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 (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 protection.


31:13.  “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 also evil.


31:14.  “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.”


“... trees by the waters” refers to prosperous nations.


“... 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.


31:15.  “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” 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.


31:16.  “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.”


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.


31:17.  “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.”


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 “nations.”


31:18.  “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.”


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.

[Ezekiel 32]


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