God Himself speaks today, using a “riddle.” Spelled “chiydah” in Hebrew, the noun means “a difficult question.” God also calls the chapter, Ezekiel 17, a “parable,” with “mashal” often meaning a “proverb.” (A “saying” that should have impact on how one leads his life!) “Mashal” as a verb literally means “to rule, govern.”
Having labeled His Speech, His Sermon, God proceeds with the story of “Two Eagles!”
One of which represents King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. God’s chosen instrument to “chasten” sinful Judah. The other eagle is Pharaoh, ruler of Egypt. The man God refused to use as a corrector of Judah, clearly not God’s “rod” at this time.
Get ready now, pure history: “Thus saith the Lord GOD; A great eagle with great wings, longwinged, full of feathers, which had divers colours (Nebuchadnezzar), came unto Lebanon (Israel, Judah), and took the highest branch of the cedar (King Zedekiah). He cropped off the top of his young twigs, and carried it into a land of traffick (business, commerce); he set it in a city of merchants (Babylon). He took also of the seed (the ‘best’ of Judah’s citizens) of the land, and planted it in a fruitful field; he placed it by great waters, and set it as a willow tree. 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.” Verses 2-6, Judah (the ten thousand or so already in captivity, her “intelligentsia,” including Ezekiel) being this “willow tree” and this “vine.” God wanted to measurably “bless” Judah, even in captivity!
And Judah should have submitted to this situation. Yielding to the “discipline” of the Lord!
But Zedekiah (the unwise King of Judah) refused to “submit” to Babylon, even though already living there in some freedom, being allowed some dignity! He turned (against God’s counsel, both from Ezekiel and Jeremiah) toward a supposed “ally” of Judah, Egypt … her Pharaoh, the second “eagle” in the chapter.
Zedekiah apparently broke a treaty he had signed with Nebuchadnezzar, a pact to peacefully live in this (ordained of God) foreign land. For “70 years,” Jeremiah prophesied. (Jeremiah 25:11)
Our verses continue: “There was also another great eagle with great wings and many feathers (Pharaoh): and, behold, this vine (Zedekiah as leader of Judah) did bend her roots toward him, and shot forth her branches toward him, that he might water it by the furrows of her plantation.” Verse 7, outrageous disloyalty to Nebuchadnezzar.
Which unfaithful (lying, sneaking) act brought God’s Wrath upon Judah’s leadership … even more furiously than earlier! Not keeping one’s word! God explains this better than I can, this insurrection. ”
But he (Zedekiah) rebelled against him (Nebuchadnezzar) in sending his ambassadors into Egypt, that they (the Egyptians) 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?” Verse 15
Therefore … “Shall it (Judah, the vine) prosper? Shall it not utterly wither, when the east wind toucheth it? It shall wither in the furrows where it grew.” God’s “whipping” obstinate Judah, her king anyway … even when Judah was already being “whipped!” Oh, how slowly we sometimes learn God’s lessons!
Yes, here God hates oath-breaking! “As I live, saith the Lord GOD, surely in the place where the king dwelleth that made him king (Nebuchadnezzar had placed Zedekiah on the throne, in the first place), whose oath he (Zedekiah) despised, and whose covenant he brake, even with him IN THE MIDST OF BABYLON HE SHALL DIE. Neither shall Pharaoh with his mighty army and great company make for him in the war (no help from Egypt, not a bit), by casting up mounts, and building forts, to cut off many persons: seeing he (Zedekiah) despised the oath by BREAKING THE COVENANT, when lo, he had given his hand (signed the treaty with Babylon), and hath done all these things, HE SHALL NOT ESCAPE.” Verses 17-18, and Zedekiah did ultimately die in Babylon!
God in politics!
Plus all this, one more assault on Jerusalem and Judah will yet occur, in 586 BC, where nearly all the remaining Jews will be deported to Babylon!
What a dark chapter!
The “wages” of sin!
Until … its last three verses!
And there we get a glimpse of brighter days ahead!
“Thus saith the Lord GOD; I will also take of the highest branch of the high cedar (Israel), and will set it; I will crop off from the top of his young twigs a tender one (the Messiah), and will plant it upon an high mountain and eminent. In the mountain of the height of Israel will I plant it: and it (He, Jesus) 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 (protection). 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.” Verses 22-24, the Messiah Jesus!
Jesus, God’s “tender one.”
Jesus, the “low tree” exalted!
Jesus, the “flourishing tree” now!
Jesus, coming again!
Wow, after all those eagles and kings … Good News!
— Dr. Mike Bagwell
Folks, I remember reading this chapter time and time again as a teenager, wondering “What does this all mean?” Well, today I think I finally have a better “grasp” on God’s “parable” of the two eagles! I have enjoyed you all studying with me this Saturday morning in June.