Today: [Ezekiel 17] The Final Parable in the Old Testament. In our chapter today, we find the last and final parable given, of 11 parables found in the Old Testament. It is interesting to discover when parables are used in different sections of the bible and when they are not. There are absolutely no parables in the New Testament other than those found in the teachings of Jesus. There is a reason for this, revealed today in our teaching of the parable of the 2 great eagles in chapter 17 of Ezekiel.
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[Eze 17:1-24 KJV] 1 And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, 2 Son of man, put forth a riddle, and speak a parable unto the house of Israel; 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: 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. 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. 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.
In the progression of prophetic words given by Ezekiel up to this point in our study, Ezekiel 17 is unique in that it is presented in parable form. There are 11 parables in the Old Testament and this one is the last in verses 1-11 of our chapter. This number is compared to 41 parables in the New Testament, specifically the gospels, 52 in all. It is interesting that outside the 4 gospels and the teachings of Jesus, there are no parables to be found. In other words as familiar as Jesus’ disciples were to Jesus use of parables, they do not seem to have ever employed them in their teaching or preaching. Why might this be? Jesus once explained to the 12 why He used parables:
[Mat 13:10-11 KJV] 10 And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? 11 He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.
Apparently in this statement, the apostles were given to know that parables were given as hidden truth which was not necessary to use in teaching the church after the resurrection because as Jesus said “unto you (those who follow Christ) it is given to know…”
Nevertheless, in our parable in Ez. 17 we see two eagles that represent two nations, Babylon and Egypt. You would do well to mark that imagery and think of it in your own dreams and visions that you might receive from the Lord: eagles appearing in dreams or visions may very well be God speaking to you of the nation or nations.
The first eagle that becomes a spreading vine is Babylon from the north. The eagle comes to Lebanon and takes the highest branch of the cedar which represents the dynasty of king David under king Zedekiah. The eagle takes they highest branch of the cedar and snaps off its young twigs and carries the remained to a city of merchants. The branch is the legitimate heir of the throne, David’s eldest son Jehoiachin who was in fact carried into captivity. The two twigs were the succeeding kings Jehoahaz and Jehoikim that were made kings the first by Egypt and the second by the king of Babylon. In verse 5 the first great eagle then takes of the “seed of the land” again speaking of David’s line and makes Zedekiah king, who is the king at the time that Ezekiel speaks this parable.
The message to Zedekiah is given to expose the vacillation and weak policies of the 4 kings that came after Josiah, each more wicked than the last. Verse 6 rehearses for us the overspreading colonialism of the Babylonian invasion during which 1000’s of Judeans were marched into captivity, of which Ezekiel is one, writing from the captivity this parable by the river Chebar. The parable is not intended to tell Zedekiah in the south what he does not know, but to give him the overview of events from Jehoiachin down to his ruinous reign as the last king of the line of David before Christ Himself.
After the arrival of the first eagle in verse 3 we see a second eagle arrives (v. 7). The second eagle is Egypt, which represents the false hope of Judah to escape Babylonian rule through the mercenary assistance of the Pharaoh. The second eagle also brings a spreading vine that bended toward the kingdom of Judah, but only to enrich itself and bear fruit for its own nefarious purposes. The king of Egypt allowed Zedekiah to court his favor, but never hand any real intent to relieve the Babylonian invasion, but rather to bleed the treasuries of Jerusalem dry till there was nothing left, then leaving the remnants of the people to the ravages of Chaldea.
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; 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? 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. 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]. 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: 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].
Having given the parable of the eagles in verses 1-10, Ezekiel is given the explanation of the parable to send to the court of Zedekiah. The king of Babylon indeed did come, like the first eagle and carry the kings and princes of David into captivity, and set up a vassal king to do his bidding. In setting up puppet kings, the king of Babylon enforced a covenant with him for the purposes of diminishing the kingdom of Judah from the status of a nation to that of a mere province in the Chaldean empire. After the Babylonians returned to Chaldea after their first invasion, taking their captives with them, Jerusalem sent emissaries to Egypt, asking them to come and defend them from the Babylonian threat that now gripped the land of Judah.
The message given in reply from the Lord was that Egypt was a false hope. Not only would Judah be totally destroyed by the king of Babylon, Egypt would also fall to the might of Chaldea. All of this was disappointing in the extreme to the people and the king because from the time of Isaiah to Ezekiel the overwhelming sentiment of the population and the ruling class that the only hope they had of remaining a nation lie in assistance from Egypt and Ethiopia in the south. Because of this lack of reliance upon God the prophets over and over was that Israel’s hope only lay in the Lord and to look outward for deliverance from surrounding nations constituted betrayal and infidelity against God.
For us in the modern day we might look at these events and wonder how a geopolitical policy of the king of Judah would be construed as a religious treachery by the priests and the prophets in the religious sector. In our day, we separate by an impenetrable firewall, things secular and things sacred. The church and religious matters are one thing, political issues are quite another, and never the twain shall meet. Because of this secular exclusion of matters of faith and public policy, religious matters are considered to be private and personal having no place (allegedly) in affairs of state. The reading of this chapter to understand its message comes with a great disconnect for us under western democracy. Nonetheless the message of God is clear, He will not be excluded from matters on the national scene. In our country, there have been laws in place since the 1950’s that penalize any church or churchman from getting too heavily involved in the political arena or foreign policy. The pastor who speaks to deeply into the political risks the forfeiture of the privileged status of his church. The message couldn’t be clearer: keep to your place and shut up, or else!
To all of this God’s word speaks clearly. Our heavenly Father will not be excluded from the public square. To do so is to court in our day the disaster by example to us that destroyed the line of David and the once bright and shining kingdom of Solomon the Great. To all of this devastation an ultimate promise of restoration is given in the last verses of the chapter. The branch that was destroyed and led into captivity, the line of David would be repatriated to the holy land once again, and the nations represented by the eagles would be destroyed. Today, ancient Egypt and Babylon lie in the ash heap of history, yet the nation of Israel stands, brought back to life by the hand of God as a demonstration of His sovereignty over the affairs of men.
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