Ezekiel 17 – A Riddle For The House Of Israel

Eze 17:1-2 And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Son of man, put forth a riddle, and speak a parable unto the house of Israel;

At the time of this ‘riddle’ the house of Israel had long before been taken into captivity into Assyria and the house of Judah (except for a Jerusalem remnant) suffered the same only a few years later. This remnant in Jerusalem had recently been taken into captivity in Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar. However, members of the royal family made a covenant with Nebuchadnezzar which permitted a residue to remain behind and care for the land under oath that they would cooperate with him.

Eze 17:3 And say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; A great eagle with great wings, longwinged, full of feathers, which had divers colours, came unto Lebanon, and took the highest branch of the cedar:

Lebanon was a region of Palestine which included Judah.

The great eagle in this verse is Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon.  The cedar is representative of the house of Judah, the highest branches being the royal family.  Jehoiakim, king of Judah was made servant of the king of Babylon along with Jehoiachin, his son, for rebellion against Babylon.

Eze 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. 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.

traffick – Canaan (humiliation) (son of Ham), the country inhabited by him

After continuing in rebellion against Babylon, Jehoiachin, now king of Judah, and his family (the young  twigs, princes of the kingdom) are removed from power and carried away into Babylon along with much of the house of Judah.  Then Nebuchadnezzar set Zedekiah (Jehoiachin’s uncle) as king over the land of Judah.

Eze 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: so it became a vine, and brought forth branches, and shot forth sprigs.  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.  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.

In rebellion to Nebuchadnezzar (and to God who had placed them under Babylonian rule), Zedekiah reached out to Egypt (the second great eagle) for military help against Babylon.  This was in vain and served only to provoke the anger of God.

Eze 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.  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.  11 Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, 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;

Notice that the riddle/parable is intended for the house of Israel to consider, but the content/prophecy of the parable is concerning the house of Judah and it’s kings.

Eze 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: 14 That the kingdom might be base, that it might not lift itself up, but that by keeping of his covenant it might stand. 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’s rebellion is not just against Nebuchadnezzar, but against against God.

Eze 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.

For his double-dealing, after witnessing the execution of his sons, Zedekiah was blinded.  It was the last thing that he saw.  He will die in Babylon dependent on those he betrayed for his every need.  Today if we held our leaders to their promises to the same standard as God held Zedekiah, we would soon eradicate our treacherous ruling class (self serving judges and politicians) here in America.

Eze 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: 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. 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. 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. 21 And all his fugitives with all his bands 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.

It is not by the power of Babylon and it’s king that Judah is come to ruin, but by the wrath of God for their rebellion against Him over the centuries.

Eze 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:

Even after all this there was left a small residue in the land of Judah and among them are children of the royal family whom God will Himself carry away and resettle in the mountain height of Israel (the people to whom this riddle is addressed to).

Eze 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. 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.

God will raise again the house of Israel but He will bring low the house of Judah in Jerusalem.  He will bring life back into the house of Israel and it will become like a great mountain, an eminent blessing among the nations of the earth even to the extent that they will come to rely on her presence in the world for peace and refuge.

God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good? Num 23:19  .

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The 17th chapter Ezekiel is hardly understandable when you’re forced to examine it from a conventional awareness of who the ‘house of Israel’ is.  By conventional, I mean that virtually all professing Christians (and everyone else in the world) confuse the Jews as identical with the ‘house of Israel’ and it’s descendants.  But that viewpoint directly conflicts with the context of the writing itself.  Allow me to bring the story up to date for those who are not familiar with the Old Testament and the children of Israel.

Jews are the descendants of the ‘house of Judah’ which is one of the branches of the Kingdom of Israel after the splitting up of the kingdom upon the death of Solomon (son of David).  The ‘house of Israel’ is the other kingdom, formed by God after the split.  This distinction between the two kingdoms (and the terminologies associated with them) is easily verified in many places in the Bible.  For example, see 2Kings 16:5-6 (mouseover the link) where the Jews, under King Ahaz (12th generation descendant of Solomon), are at war with Israel.  Incidentally, this is also the first occurrence in the Bible of the word ‘Jew’ and it is applied only to the people of the house of Judah.

The southern kingdom (house of Judah) is comprised of the descendants of Judah, Benjamin, and Levi.  Whereas the northern kingdom (house of Israel) is comprised of the descendants of the other 10 sons of Israel (Jacob); those being Ephraim, Manasseh, Rubin, Simeon, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, and Zebulun.  Ephraim and Manasseh are the sons of Joseph (whom Jacob adopted from Joseph as his own children because he was deprived of his beloved son Joseph when Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery as a young man and reported him killed to his father.

I’ve posted or will be posting on this subject to assist those who aren’t familiar with the Bible to get a good understanding of these distinctions.  I’ve heard many of the assumptive arguments in favor of the ‘Jewish chosen people’ and the permanent divorce and removal of the ‘house of Israel’ from God’s grace. 

At best, those arguments have weak scriptural references forming sandy foundations and so I don’t want to waste any of my time addressing them when I can more easily present a solid foundation based on our Father’s own Word.  Tradition is not a reliable foundation, Truth is.

At worst, these viewpoints present God and His Word as unreliable (in other words, untruthful).  For them to be right, God has to withdraw from previous promises/covenants which He has made with His people.  Don’t forget that Jeremiah was given the task of rooting out and planting of nations and kingdoms. Jer 1:5-10   When he started his mission, Jerusalem was the only remaining part of the kingdom and it is Jerusalem which is to be brought low and rooted out. Eze 17:23-24

Our Father has statements and covenants which He has made with His people and all of creation is watching to see if He is responsible to His Word.  I’ll provide an example of the dangers of thinking that God is not reliable to His Word:  Consider a conversation between person A and person B:

Person A:  Didn’t God promise David that he would not fail to have a descendant of his to reign upon the throne over Israel as surely as the sun, moon and stars retain their position?  Jer 33:17,20-211Ki 9:5
Person B:  I wasn’t aware of that until you pointed that out, but yes He did.
Then how is it that Judah did not have an Israelite king, let alone a king from the line of David from the time of the Babylonian captivity even up until this day?
Can’t you see?  Jesus Christ is that King!
The Jews do not accept Christ as their King and Savior.  In fact, they killed him.  Even to this day they reject Him.  And even if what you say were the case, Jesus didn’t come to them until many hundreds of years after the Babylonian captivity during which time they had gentile kings ruling over them.  They had no king then, and they still recognize no king
Sometimes God voids previous plans and makes new ones, better ones.  After all, new wine calls for new wine skins! 
God reconsiders His own Word??  You’re saying that God’s Word is not to be relied on!
God is Almighty!  He can do anything He wants!  Including changing His mind!  You are in danger of blasphemy if you don’t believe that!
If I hold God to His own Word and others do not, then who will God be pleased with?  How else can man have faith unless God’s Word were reliable Truth (steadfast).

I’m only a fellow seeker who hopes to lead you to a better and quicker understanding than you might otherwise find on your own.  But you have to read the Bible to assure yourself of what Truth is in it.  Only our Father can open a person’s eyes and ears to Truth.  Even the desire to know the Truth comes to a person only by the will of God and the presence of His Spirit.  So, prayer and a thoughtful read of the Bible should be your foundation.  If you’re primarily relying on other men’s notions, labors, and teachings to understand the Bible then me adding to that isn’t going to do you any good anyway.  READ THE BIBLE!  READ IT BECAUSE YOU CONSIDER IT VALUABLE !

In this 17th chapter of Ezekiel, the Jews have been subjugated by the Babylonians under King Nebuchadnezzar (the first great eagle).  The kingdom, under King Jehoiakim, has entered into a covenant with Nebuchadnezzar to peacefully submit to Babylonian rule in exchange for being allowed to remain in the land at Jerusalem.

But he and his son Jehoiachin rebelled and didn’t honor their covenant and as a result, King Jehoiachin and his family were taken away captive into Babylon.  In his place, in Jerusalem, Zedekiah (Jehoiachin’s uncle) was made king by Nebuchadnezzar in his stead.  However, in rebellion to Nebuchadnezzar (and to God who placed them under Babylonian rule), Zedekiah reached out to Egypt (the second great eagle) for military help against Babylon.  This was in vain and served only to provoke the anger of God.  Zedekiah’s sons are killed before his eyes and those of his house are taken away into Babylon.  This ends the rule of the house of David over that part of the house of Judah which was a remnant in Jerusalem.  Don’t forget though, that the house of Israel and much of the house of Judah had been taken away captive into Assyria during the Assyrian conquest of the land more than a century before the Babylonian subjugation.

Now with that bit of history on hand, keep in mind that this story is about the Jews and their situation with Babylon and that Ezekiel has been instructed to set forth this riddle to the house of Israel (headed by Ephraim, see Gen 48, Jer 31:8- ) who was taken away into captivity in Assyria more than a century earlier.

  • The riddle is set forth to the house of Israel to consider and understand
  • The tree/vine of this riddle are the Jews and the young twigs at the top of the cedar which are carried away by the first eagle to Babylon are the children of the royal family, the remaining line of David in Jerusalem
  • The first eagle is the King of Babylon.
  • The land of traffick / merchants is Babylon
  • The seed of the land are the residue of Jerusalem / Jews
  • The low willow is Zedekiah and his family
  • The second eagle is Pharaoh / Egypt
  • The east wind is difficulty from the east send by the hand of God
  • the high eminent mountain is Israel and the tender twig planted there is a seed and branch of David.  And it shall be a refuge for peoples from all over the earth.
  • all the trees of the field are the nations of the world
  • The high and green tree is Judah (Jerusalem more specifically)
  • The low and dry tree which is to flourish is the Lion of Judah on the mountain height of Israel.
  • When God speaks, it is forever settled in heaven.

Those who think that the Jews and Israel are one and the same must explain how God is bringing down and drying up Israel? and instead replanting the seed of David in Israel!  The whole notion is not only nonsensical when you hear it said, it is anti-Biblical and denies the steadfastness of God’s Word.  Remember, God considers Ephraim His firstborn.  Why would He say that if He didn’t mean it?  Why would He change His mind?  Was He wrong?  Of course not! Jer 31:8-

As for those who claim that God has done away with the house of Israel, if God has once and for all time divorced and put away Israel, then why is He sending them this riddle to understand and why is he grafting the seed of David in their land?  Those who claim the Jews are the only chosen people of God are unfortunately deprived of the understanding of prophecy and the good news and reliability of God’s Word.  God’s promise to maintain the line of David is maintained if it hadn’t been already.

At the time of this riddle, Jerusalem and the residue of the Jews in the land were brought down and the throne of David was replanted on the mountain height of Israel.  There they will flourish and become a goodly cedar for the peoples of the earth to take refuge.

As you look across the world and it’s history, what nation(s) might you consider as a fulfillment of this prophecy and who can receive this riddle.

Jesus is refuge and liberty for the captive, bound, and brokenhearted.

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