Chapter 17:1-21 (ESV) - The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, propound a riddle, and speak a parable to the house of Israel; say, Thus says the Lord God: A great eagle with great wings and long pinions, rich in plumage of many colors, came to Lebanon and took the top of the cedar. He broke off the topmost of its young twigs and carried it to a land of trade and set it in a city of merchants. Then he took of the seed of the land and planted it in fertile soil. He placed it beside abundant waters. He set it like a willow twig, and it sprouted and became a low spreading vine, and its branches turned toward him, and its roots remained where it stood. So it became a vine and produced branches and put out boughs.
“And there was another great eagle with great wings and much plumage, and behold, this vine bent its roots toward him and shot forth its branches toward him from the bed where it was planted, that he might water it. It had been planted on good soil by abundant waters, that it might produce branches and bear fruit and become a noble vine.
“Say, Thus says the Lord God: Will it thrive? Will he not pull up its roots and cut off its fruit, so that it withers, so that all its fresh sprouting leaves wither? It will not take a strong arm or many people to pull it from its roots. Behold, it is planted; will it thrive? Will it not utterly wither when the east wind strikes it—wither away on the bed where it sprouted?”
Then the word of the Lord came to me: “Say now to the rebellious house, Do you not know what these things mean? Tell them, behold, the king of Babylon came to Jerusalem, and took her king and her princes and brought them to him to Babylon. And he took one of the royal offspring and made a covenant with him, putting him under oath (the chief men of the land he had taken away), that the kingdom might be humble and not lift itself up, and keep his covenant that it might stand. But he rebelled against him by sending his ambassadors to Egypt, that they might give him horses and a large army. Will he thrive? Can one escape who does such things? Can he break the covenant and yet escape?
“As I live, declares the Lord God, surely in the place where the king dwells who made him king, whose oath he despised, and whose covenant with him he broke, in Babylon he shall die. Pharaoh with his mighty army and great company will not help him in war, when mounds are cast up and siege walls built to cut off many lives. He despised the oath in breaking the covenant, and behold, he gave his hand and did all these things; he shall not escape. Therefore thus says the Lord God: As I live, surely it is my oath that he despised, and my covenant that he broke. I will return it upon his head. I will spread my net over him, and he shall be taken in my snare, and I will bring him to Babylon and enter into judgment with him there for the treachery he has committed against me. And all the pick of his troops shall fall by the sword, and the survivors shall be scattered to every wind, and you shall know that I am the Lord; I have spoken.”
Question to consider: Who are the two eagles in this parable?
We are not given any time references as to when Ezekiel received the word of the Lord. In this chapter, the parable and the meaning are given in two separate words so I have to wonder whether the meaning was given immediately after the parable or whether the elders living in exile along with Ezekiel were made to ponder it for a while.
It is worth noting that Jesus, as the Son of man, would also confound His listeners with parables about the new kingdom He came to establish with His blood. He gave explanations to His disciples, but for those who would not receive the kingdom, Jesus let them think He was speaking nonsense. For instance, Jesus spoke of unwise farming techniques like letting weeds grow among the wheat or scattering seed so liberally that it went outside the plowed field and fell among thorns, rocks, and walking paths.
In the case of Ezekiel, the parable spoke of two majestic and colorful eagles. Even though eagles are known to be birds of prey, the first eagle was obviously unique because it flew to the northern part of Israel to Lebanon and took twigs from the tops of its famous cedar trees and brought them to a city of merchants. It then planted seeds in fertile soil along abundant waters. Rather than the vine continuing to grow in a fertile place, it bent its roots and vines toward the second eagle for its care. The now absurdly weakened vine was easily cut down and made to wither.
Even in judgment, God had provided for Israel in exile. Nebuchadnezzar took the best and brightest of Israel along with king Jehoiachin and brought them into the merchant city of Babylon like the twigs from the cedars of Lebanon. In his place, He planted Zedekiah (the royal seed) and put him in a position to thrive. Rather than living with the relationship that had been established with the first eagle, Nebuchadnezzar, Zedekiah looked for the help of the second eagle, the Pharaoh Hophra of Egypt (Jeremiah 44:30), by sending ambassadors to seek the help of the Egyptian army against the Babylonians. God saw this as a despising of an oath. By violating his covenant with Nebuchadnezzar, Zedekiah associated God’s name with a lie, and God would judge Zedekiah for it. With Zedekiah’s failure, God Himself would provide the solution which we will read about tomorrow.
Dear heavenly father, thank You for providing for us living water and the bread of life that we may never be in want. May we find our rest in You instead of the things in this world that are perishing. Amen.