Daily Bible Studies
|Series Theme: Studies in Ezekiel 14-20 "A Kaleidoscope of Warnings" 3/4|
Chapter: Ezek 17
Passage 12: Ezek 17:1-8 - Parable of the Vine
A. Find Out
1. What did the Lord next tell Ezekiel to do? v.1,2
2. In the parable, who did what? v.3,4
3. What did it then do and with what result? v.5,6
4. What next appears? v.7a
5. What did the vine then do? v.7b
6. Where was the vine and what was supposed to happen? v.8
1. How does what follows differ from the style of what had gone before?
2. What is the role of the first eagle?
3. What are we told about the vine?
The interpretation of this parable comes in verses 11 onwards, but we will simply note the things that appear in the verses before us.
This parable starts out with a ‘great eagle'. (v.3) The thing about the picture of an eagle is that it is a creature that flies and travels and doesn't just stay in one place. This is a great eagle and is described as having “ long feathers and full plumage of varied colors.” These descriptions enhance its description as ‘great'. Even without looking down to see the interpretation, we can assume this is a great leader, no doubt a powerful king. Now this eagle comes to Lebanon , (v.3c) representative of Judah , where he breaks a piece off the top of one of the cedars and carries it away to a land of merchants where he plants it. (v.4) Again without looking at the interpretation in verse 11 onwards, we may assume the parable speaks of people and so the cedar is either a person or family, and the fact that the top of it is taken suggests a king or leader is taken . It is taken from its homeland and transplanted far away. Babylon at the time was probably the best example of a prosperous nation, a nation of merchants.
There we find this seed taken and planted in fertile soil (v.5) by abundant water (i.e. ideal conditions) where it grew into a luxuriant but low spreading vine (v.6). The branches turned towards the ‘eagle' but it's roots remained under it (i.e. kept its individuality). But then comes another great eagle (v.7) and the branches turn towards it for water, although it had plenty where it was (v.8) The implication is that what was taken from Lebanon by the first leader, grew in its new land and flourished there, but as soon as another big leader appeared on the horizon they turned towards him, even though they were flourishing in the new land.
1. God sees the big picture involving all nations.
Chapter: Ezek 17
Passage 13: Ezek 17:9-18 - Interpretation
A. Find Out
1. What does the Lord say will happen to this vine? v.9,10
2. What is the start of the interpretation of this parable? v.11,12
3. What had then happened with what outcome? v.13,14
4. But what did that king do? v.15
5. So what will happen to that king? v.16
6. With what outcome? v.17,18
1. From this interpretation who clearly are the two eagles?
2. What two sets of Israelites are mentioned in the story?
3. What is the warning given in the parable?
Thus we come on to the interpretation of this parable as God's word. (v.11). The first ‘eagle' is not named as such but he is clearly the invading king of Babylon (v.12), Nebuchadnezzar. He carries off the king of Jerusalem , who is therefore the topmost part of the cedar, and takes him to Babylon . This would have been king Jehoiachin (2 Kings 24:12-15).
Having done that Nebuchadnezzar then took one of royal family and made him king in Judah (v.13) and made a treaty with him (v.14). This would have been Zedekiah (2 Kings 24:17).
Now the fact is that Zedekiah was a worse king spiritually (see 2 Chron 36:11-16) and he obviously relied upon a friendship with the king of Egypt (who is obviously the second eagle), and he rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar (v.15) and so God's word comes that this king that he will die in Babylon (v.16) and Egypt will not be able to help him (v.17) and this will happen because he broke the covenant, both with God and with Nebuchadnezzar. We see this fulfilled in 2 Kings 25:1-5.
Thus this parable is clearly a warning to Zedekiah of what is going to happen to him. In this apparently harsh period of history we must keep in mind the Lord's grace and mercy displayed again and again: “The LORD, the God of their fathers, sent word to them through his messengers again and again, because he had pity on his people and on his dwelling place. But they mocked God's messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the LORD was aroused against his people and there was no remedy.” (2 Chron 36:15,16) The truth is that these warnings came to these foolish kings again and again. Nothing happened in a hurry.
1. Judgment only comes after plenty of warnings.
2. Jesus has become the ‘judgment' for us.
Chapter: Ezek 17
Passage 14: Ezek 17:19-21 - Summary Conclusion
A. Find Out
1. What will the Lord do with this king? v.19a
2. Why? v.19b
3. How will that come about? v.20a
4. Why? v.20b
5. What will happen to his support? v.21a
6. What will be the end result? v.21b
1. What has caused the Lord to act against this king?
2. What will happen to this king?
3. How will all his support be removed?
So much of what has gone before speaks of a king who is almost certainly King Zedekiah. He had been portrayed in the parable as a seed that been planted by the first eagle, Nebuchadnezzar, and became a vine but his allegiance had turned from Nebuchadnezzar to the king of Egypt . He had been warned that he would be taken to Babylon and would die there as God's judgment on him. All that has already been declared.
Now, as if to rub it in and ensure there is no mistaking what God is saying, it is said again here in these three verses in summary form. The Lord now makes an oath that it will happen (v.19a), that because there had been a covenant between Himself and Israel, and Israel (in the form of Zedekiah) had broken that covenant (v.19c) He would bring down on him the judgment that the covenant had spoken about. The covenant that Moses instigates spoke of both blessings and curses (see Deut 28) and what was now taking place had been clearly spoken of in those curses. They had been warned and they had accepted that warning and so now it was being fulfilled.
It will be as if the Lord will catch or net this king (v.20a) and will take him to Babylon (v.20b) where he will die, and it is all because he was unfaithful to God and abused his role as the leader of God's holy people (v.20c).
It may be that this king puts his trust in his army and his supporters but when it comes to it his army will flee and will then fall before the enemy (v.21a). They will be of no use to him. And indeed any survivors of the army (and perhaps people) will be scattered (v.21b) so there will be no hope of them being raised up again. No, this rout is terminal. This IS the end for this king. Be under no illusions there is no hope for you!
1. God's judgment comes only after many warnings.
2. When God's judgment comes there is NO escaping it.
Chapter: Ezek 17
Passage 15: Ezek 17:22-24 - And Yet Hope
A. Find Out
1. What did the Lord say He would do? v.23
2. Where would He plant it? v.23a
3. What would it do? v.23b
4. With what effect? v.23c
5. Who will know what as a result? v.24
1. Summarise the Lord's activity?
2. What will be the end result in terms of growth?
3. What will be the result in terms of effect?
This chapter has seen a parable of a tree top taken and other seeds planted as the Lord has spoken of His dealings with Jehoiachin and then Zedekiah. They had let the Lord down as leaders of His people and so now He speaks of action that He will subsequently take to produce a tree that will do His bidding. He will take a piece from the topmost part of a cedar (v.22) and plant it on a mountain top. That mountain will be in Israel (v.23) and there it will grow and flourish. As a result birds of every kind will nest and find shelter in this tree and it will be a haven and a blessing to many.
Finally, as a result of His work, all the other ‘trees' will know that He brought down the original tall tree and He made the other smaller tree grow (v.24). He is the God who brings down the green (strong) tree and raises up the dry (weaker) tree.
Isaiah had used similar language to the ‘shoot' language here when he declared, “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit,” (Isa 11:1) referring to Jesus. The cedar refers to David's dynasty out of which Jesus came. When He speaks of ‘planting' this new tree, He is establishing it in Israel, a king of His choosing. As He said through the Psalmist, “I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill.” (Psa 2:6) Zion, a high point in Jerusalem , was referred to as a hill or even a mountain. It may not have been particularly high but in the Lord's economy it was high – important and significant. Thus this new ‘tree' would be planted (established) on this ‘mountain'. When these latter kings of Israel were brought down by Nebuchadnezzar, it would be seen and it would be realised that this was a work of the Lord, as will be true when the second tree (Jesus) was established in Jerusalem.
1. God raises up and pulls down kings. He is sovereign Lord.
2. Ask Him to have eyes to see His activity across the earth.
Chapter: Ezek 18
Passage 16: Ezek 18:1-18 - Individiual Accountability (1)
A. Find Out
1. What proverb were they quoting? v.1,2
2. Why will that stop? v.3,4
3. Who does the Lord next describe? v.5-9a
4. What will happen to him? v.9b
5. Who next is described with what outcome? v..10-13
6. Who then is described with what outcome? v.14-17
7. What will happen to his father? v.18
1. Observe all the expressions of righteousness listed in these verses.
2. Observe all the expressions of unrighteousness in them.
3. What is the point the Lord is making in these verses?
Ezekiel receives a word from the Lord now (v.1) that deals with a proverb in common use in the land (v.2), a proverb that Jeremiah had also spoken again (Jer 31:29). The proverb says that children will pay for the sins of their fathers, a misunderstanding of Ex 20:5 and Ex 34:7 that actually suggests that sin will run through generations, bad examples being followed (though it doesn't have to). The Lord speaks against this error in understanding (v.3,4).
He first speaks of a righteous man (v.5), a man who clearly follows the Law in all its aspects (v.5-9a). He is clearly a righteous man and as such he will not die (v.9b). That's the starting place. Then He imagines that righteous man has an unrighteous son (v.10) and he lists the things that son does (v.10-13). That son will die for his sin – only he and not his father.
Now, He goes on, supposing that son has a son of his own and that son does not follow in his father's footsteps (v.14) and his righteous behaviour is listed (v.15-17) This son will not die (v,.17c) even though his father dies (v.18) for his wrongdoing.
Israel , in citing this proverb, had the ‘hard man' mentality in respect of God (see Mt 25:24) assuming the somewhat fatalistic outlook that you were doomed if your father had sinned, i.e. the family would suffer for the sin of the father. This creates a further bad attitude in respect of the Lord, a feeling of self pity and “so what does it matter if we sin” outlook. The Lord, spelling out these pictures with such detail of their behaviour, goes to some lengths to show that the behaviour of the individual has effects that stays with him. The chain of sin does not have to be continued and guilt will not flow to the next generation.
1. We are responsible for our own lives and accountable to God for them.
2. I do not have to follow the failure of my previous generations.
Chapter: Ezek 18
Passage 17: Ezek 18:19-24 - Individual Accountability (2)
A. Find Out
1. What did they ask and what did the Lord reply? v.19
2. What principle is declared with what 4 outworkings of it? v.20
3. What is the outworking of repentance? v.21,22
4. What does the Lord say about His own desires? v.23
5. But what happens when a righteous man turns to sin? v.24
1. How are sin and punishment linked here?
2. How are righteousness and life linked here?
3. What amazing heart expression of God is declared here?
These are quite remarkable and clear verses. They expand upon, or perhaps summarise what has just gone before. It starts from the people asking a question (v.19a), why a son doesn't share his father's guilt. The Lord reiterates what He has said before: although the father has sinned, if the son is righteous that is enough and he will live (v.19b).
The principle is reiterated: “The soul who sins is the one who will die.” (v.20a) Neither will share the guilt of the other (v.20b) and the righteous son will not suffer because of the guilty father; each will receive their appropriate reward according to what they have done (v.20c)
But then the principle of repentance is explored (v.21) so that if a wicked man repents, he will live. Indeed none of his previous offences will be remembered (v.22). Then comes a major declaration of the heart of God (which is repeated again at the end of the chapter) that the Lord does NOT delight in the death of anyone and would much prefer that they repent and are saved. (v.23) Hold on to that declaration; it is a major one!
But then comes the other side of the coin from that of repentance, that if a righteous man turns to sin (this does not refer to a one-off failure, but to a life of sin) then all his previous righteousness will count for nothing and he will reap the reward of sin (v.24).
The principles declared in these verses bring both assurance and warning. The ASSURANCE is that the cycle of sin can be broken and that forgiveness will follow repentance. Linked with this is the declaration that God doesn't want death but would much prefer repentance and life. The WARNING is that past good will not help cover up a life of sin if a person falls away. Heart direction is vital in assessing salvation.
1. Repentance is the door to salvation and life.
2. Ongoing Sin is the cause for the judgment of God.
Chapter: Ezek 18
Passage 18: Ezek 18:25-32 - Individual Accountability (3)
A. Find Out
1. What were Israel saying and what was the Lord's retort? v.25,29
2. What did He reiterate about a righteous man falling away? v.26
3. What does He reiterate about the man who repents? v.27,28
4. What does the Lord say He will do? v.30a
5. What does He call them to do? v.30b,31
6. What overall heart principle does He finally declare? v.32
1. Why do you think Israel were saying God was unjust?
2. What principles of assessing outcomes was He using?
3. And what was His overall feeling behind it all?
There are two cases in the latter half of this chapter of the Lord picking up on Israel 's complaints and they both start with the word, “Yet.” “ Yet you ask, `Why does the son not share the guilt of his father ?” (v.19) and now, “ Yet you say, `The way of the Lord is not just.” (v.25) It is possible that their charge of unjustness was because they didn't want to be judged in any instance.
They declare He s unjust (v.25a) but the Lord responds that it is they who are unjust (v.25b). He goes on to reiterate His decision making: If a righteous man falls away (not just a one off sin) then he will answer for it (v.26). On the other hand if an unrighteous man comes to repentance then he will be saved (v.27,28). Again the Lord argues back against Israel who say He is unjust (v.29) by saying it is they who are unjust. The truth is that their not wanting sin to be punished would be injustice. Sin deserves to be punished. Where sin is renounced and repentance is observed, then it is only just that forgiveness follows. Look, says the Lord, it is your ways and your thinking that is wrong (implied) and so I will judge you for your wrong doing (v.30). Look, the way out is through repentance; that is what will save you. Look, come to your senses, get rid of these wrong things and this wrong thinking, put them away and get a new heart and a new spirit, and thus be saved (v.31).
Then comes again that revelation of the Lord's heart that we saw previously in v.23 that the Lord gets no pleasure from people dying because of their sin. He is a God who is love (1 Jn 4:8,16) and His desire is for the good of people, for their salvation, not their destruction. The outcome is in their hands: ongoing sin will be judged and death will follow, but repentance will open the door for forgiveness and salvation and life.
1. God does not delight in bringing judgment.
2. The way of escape is always there; it is called repentance.
Chapter: Ezek 19
Passage 19: Ezek 19:1-9 - Two Lion Cubs
A. Find Out
1. What is the next passage supposed to be? v.1
2. How was their ‘mother' described? v.2
3. What happened to one of her cubs? v.3,4
4. So what did she do? v.5
5. How did he behave? v.6,7
6. But what happened? v.8,9
1. How do you think the description of these verses is important?
2. Who do you think the lioness might be?
3. What is the point about the two lion cubs?
We come to what is described as a ‘lament' (v.1) which is a song usually sung at a funeral, although in the case of the prophets it was actually a warning of what would happen or an explanation of what has happened, events giving cause to anguish. It is a lament over the ‘princes' or kings or leaders of Israel . It comes in the form of an allegory but, unlike the parable of chapter 17, it is not interpreted and so we have to speculate as to its specific meaning.
Their ‘mother' (‘their' being Israel ) is pictured as a lioness (v.2) and ‘she' raises her cubs, and specifically one cub, presumably a king or prince or leader, from what v.1 says. This cub is violent (v.3) and eventually the other nations rise up against him and he is taken to Egypt (v.4).
Because of this the mother raises another cub (v.5) who becomes strong and who becomes even more violent (v.6,7). As a result other nations come against him (v.8) and he is taken to Babylon (v.9). That is the account as it appears, but what does it mean?
Josiah had been the last good king (for most of his time) `but after him his son Jehoahaz (2 King 23:31) ruled for a very short while before he was carried off to Egypt (2 Kings 23:33). Jehoiakim was the next king (v.34) and the Babylonians attacked and Jehoiachin followed and he eventually was taken to Babylon (2 Kings 24:15). Zedekiah followed and was the last king of Israel and he too rebelled and was eventually taken to Babylon . Perhaps this lament came before he had rebelled, as a warning to him.
The truth is that the history of the last kings of Israel is a steady story of woe, of foolishness and of rebellion and therefore of subjection to either Egypt or Babylon , under the corrective hand of God. They learnt nothing!
1. When God warns and chastises, it is for us to learn and change.
Chapter: Ezek 19
Passage 20: Ezek 19:10-14 - Israel, the Vine
A. Find Out
1. How next does the Lord picture Israel ? v.10a
2. In what condition was it? v.10b,.11
3. But what happened to it? v.12
4. Where was it replanted? v.13
5. But what then happened to it? v.14a
6. With what result? v.14b
1. Read also Psa 80:8,9, Jer 2:20,21, & Ezek 17:6
2. How do these verses say what has recently happened to Israel ?
3. What do they say will yet happen to Israel ?
Again and again God speaks through His prophets and says the same thing. He warns, He encourages, He challenges and He rebukes, all in an endeavour to bring Israel back to Himself. Here in these five verses He very simply warns yet again. They are rapidly coming to the end of their time as a nation with kings. So once again the Lord portrays Israel as a vine (v.10a). We've looked up other verses and so we know it is a common picture that the Lord uses of them. He doesn't mention Israel by name but the picture is so common there is no doubt that this is who he is referring to.
This vine had been planted by water (v.10b), a phrase that has been used before (17:5), an indication of God's blessing and provision for them. As a result of His blessing they had grown strong (v.10b,11) but – and this is implied but not spoken – they had gone astray and so as a result they had been torn up (v.12). The east wind or wind from the east speaks of Nebuchadnezzar who had come again and again and pulled them down.
The rulers of Israel in Jerusalem had been taken by Nebuchadnezzar to Babylon (v.13), considered a desert place for them. One by one these last kings were taken by him to Babylonia . But then fire came (v.14) from one of its main branches – is this Zedekiah still back in Judah ? – and consumed it's fruit, all the good that was left (2 Kings 24:19). He had not learned from what had happened to the recent kings. He too rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar and he too would suffer the fruit of that. When the Lord looks at Israel , at this vine, what a terrible condemnation: “ No strong branch is left on it fit for a ruler's scepter.” (v.14) There was no further hope for this people under the kings, “and in the end he thrust them from his presence.” (2 Kings 24:20b)
1. God tries again and again to draw His people back to Himself.
2. Eventually He sees there is no hope down this particular path.
RECAP No.3 "Parables and Individual Accountability" Ch.17-19
In this third group of 9 studies we have seen :
Study No.12 : Parable of the Vine : Ezek 17:1-8
- an eagle plants a vine that turns to another eagle
Study No.13 : Interpretation : Ezek 17:9-18
- Nebuchadnezzar carries of Jehoiachin , Zedekiah warned
Study No.14 : Summary Conclusion : Ezek 17:19-21
- Zedekiah will end up in Babylon
Study No.15 : And Yet Hope : Ezek 17:22-24
- the Lord will take His own ‘shoot'
Study No.16 : Individual Accountability : Ezek 18:1-18
- children will not be responsible for sins of their fathers
Study No.17 : Individual Accountability (2) : Ezek 18:19-24
- present righteousness is what counts
Study No.18 : Individual Accountability (3) : Ezek 18:25-32
- repentance will always bring salvation
Study No.19 : Two Lion Cubs : Ezek 19:1-9
- allegories of the final kings of Judah
Study No.20 : Israel, the Vine : Ezek 19:10-14
- Israel , the vine, will be exiled (largely destroyed)
The prophecies in these chapters become increasingly personal and applicable to the final kings of Judah: Jehoahaz (2 King 23:31), Jehoiakim (2 Kings 23:34), Jehoiachin (2 Kings 24:15). and Zedekiah (2 Kings 24:18-). Each king was godless and self-centred and arrogant and thought they could do without the Lord and all ended up as prisoners of Nebuchadnezzar.
The warnings come in Zedekiah's reign and again there is this kaleidoscope of words and pictures that again and again and again say the same thing: your folly will be your downfall for the Lord will hold you accountable. It must primarily have been for Zedekiah and, if you like, this is God's last ditch stand of warning to try to get this foolish king to take action (repentance) to avoid the destruction of Jerusalem. No one after reading these chapters could say the Lord didn't warn them.
PART 4: "Past Failures & Coming Judgment" Ch.20
This final Part lays out Israel 's past failures and clearly shows what is about to happen. It can't be more clear!