God depicts King Nebuchadnezzar as a mighty eagle and Zedekiah as a lowly branch that rebells against its ruler.
Ezekiel Chapter 17
Lessons from the text
Riddles and Parables God speaks to people in riddles and parables, but He also gives the interpretation thereof if it is too difficult for us to understand. God wants to give us knowledge. However, He knows that only certain people will accept the truth, and so He forms truths into parables and riddles so that only those who want to receive the truth will understand what is being said. As God told Isaiah:
[T]ell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed. Isa. 6:8-10
God speaks in parable so that people can see and hear yet still not understand. This is essential. If God plainly spoke to the Jews in His own voice, He would not be giving them the choice to ignore what He is saying. This is because God’s voice is so powerful that all who hear it immediately know it to be the voice of God. Since there were competing messages being prophesied among the Jews at the time, God wanted the people to freely choose who they would obey. God desires all to be saved, but He wants people to be saved because they choose to be saved, not because they were compelled into obedience. Therefore He sends His messages through people and in parables to all the world.
Sometimes, the parable is not understood not because a person does not want to understand but because the parable is too difficult for a person to understand. If your heart is hardened to the ways of God, whatever God says is so confusion that you will have difficulty understanding it. Therefore, when such is the situation, God will explain His own parables. Much of the Bible actually interprets and explains other parts of the Bible just for this reason. Today, God sends teachers and preachers to help us understand the Scriptures. He is making sure that those who want to understand have the means to understand by listening to men of understanding and by searching in the Scriptures themselves. Yet by speaking in parables, those who do not want to understand can simply walk away and ignore what they have heard; they can choose not to ask the preacher what he meant and choose not to go home and try to run references to understand the parable. The question is, which type of person will you be? Will you be the one who walks away with a death ear or the one who tries to understand what God is saying?
Verse by Verse Commentary
1-2 God puts forth a riddle to Israel. This is following the pattern of Isaiah 6:8-10 where God commands Isaiah to speak so that only those who want to hear from God will be converted.
3-4 A great eagles snaps off the top of a cedar tree and takes it to a marketplace. This is King Nebuchadnezzar who took the nobles and craftsman (the top of society) to Babylon (II Ki. 24:14).
5 The seed of the land has double meaning. First, it refers to the seed royal; Nebuchadnezzar took Jehoiachin’s brother, Zedekiah, and placed him as king in his brother place (II Ki. 24:17). Second, it refers to all the poor of the land who Nebuchadnezzar left to tend the vineyards and work the fields. He wanted the Jews to grow into a garden for him, thus he “planted” them in the rich soil, with is the land Israel.
6 As the Jews were left alone, they began to thrive. Yet they were lowly; their glory and stature were as a fragile vine. They also had to reach towards Nebuchadnezzar, showing dependence and obedience to Babylon. This actually fulfills the will of God, for He told the people to make themselves servants to Nebuchadnezzar (Jer. 27:5-11). The vine grew and brought forth sprigs because God was blessing the people for obeying His word to them.
7-10 Even though all was going well, the vine decided to set its eyes on another eagle to serve. This vine wanted a new master. In response, the first eagle will uproot and destroy the disloyal vine. Taken out of its garden, the vine will wither. This depicts when Zedekiah and Judah turned from serving Nebuchadnezzar and sought after Egypt for deliverance from Babylon (Jer. 37:5-7). God is asking the people to consider if such a decision is a wise one. For their rebellion against Babylon, they will be uprooted and destroyed.
11-18 After Ezekiel delivers the parable, God recognized that the people did not understand it. Since God wanted to Jews to heed the warning, He told Ezekiel to expound the parable to them.
19 God lays out the exact consequences for disobeying the command to serve Babylon. Even though Zedekiah swore an oath to serve Nebuchadnezzar, God treats it as if Zedekiah swore to Him. This is because Zedekiah swore by the Lord to be obedient to Nebuchadnezzar. Swearing in the Lord’s name is a grave thing and should never be down on pretense. See Numbers 30:2-16.
20 God states that He will take Zedekiah from his throne and send him to Babylon. See II Kings 25:1-7 for the fulfillment of this verse.
21 All those who have supported Zedekiah will be killed. See II Kings 25:7, 18-21 for the fulfillment of this verse.
22-24 Despite the judgments against Zedekiah, God promises to take one of the seed of Israel and exalt Him. This is Christ, for all of creation (all the fowls) will be put under His control. When Christ is magnified, all will recognize that God is the One who exalts and abases.
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