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. The house of Judah 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 is region of Palestine which includes 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
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 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.
Zedekiah will be taken into Babylon after witnessing his sons deaths. It was the last thing that he saw. He will die in Babylon.
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:
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 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 .
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 here 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 arguments in favor of the ‘Jewish chosen people’ and the permanent divorce and removal of the ‘house of Israel’ from God’s grace. Those arguments have weak scriptural references forming sandy foundations at best and so I don’t want to waste any of my time addressing them. 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. Also, Jeremiah was given the task of rooting out and planting of nations and kingdoms. Jer 1:5-10
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:
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 the understanding. Event 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, the 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 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.
Jesus is refuge and liberty for the captive, bound, and brokenhearted.