Ezekiel 19 - Outline of Ezekiel (Book Notes menu page)
In the preceding chapter, the LORD declared that "The soul that sinneth, it shall die." The LORD does not punish the children for their fathers' sins. But rather, every man is judged according to the condition and orientation of his own heart.
     Punishment for sin is not passed down from father to son, for the son of a wicked father can turn from sin, to the LORD, and receive true righteousness and eternal life. However, the son, who persists in the wicked ways of his father, will die in his own sins.
     Likewise, the righteousness of a godly man does not apply to his wicked father or to a wicked son.
     These truths were illustrated in the lives of Judah's kings. Observe the succession of good versus bad kings, from the time of Isaiah to the time of Ezekiel (for further detail, see the Chart of Israel's Kings & Prophets):
The focus, of the present chapter (ch.19), is upon the wicked descendants of righteous King Josiah.
A Lamentation for the Princes of Israel
1. Moreover take thou up a lamentation for the princes of Israel,
2 And say, What [is] thy mother?
A lioness: she lay down among lions,
she nourished her whelps among young lions.
3 And she brought up one of her whelps: it became a young lion,
and it learned to catch the prey; it devoured men.
4 The nations also heard of him; he was taken in their pit,
and they brought him with chains unto the land of Egypt.
The final four 'princes' of Israel (ie., kings in Jerusalem) are lamented in this chapter.
None are mentioned by name. However, from the historical allusions, three are readily discerned. These three were sons of good king Josiah (1Chr 3:15-16). Josiah, like the few good kings before him, had stood in the strength of the LORD. But his descendants turned from the LORD and gave themselves to the ways of the world.
The order of their reign:
  1. Jehoahaz {also called Shallum}, Josiah's fourth son, reigned 3 months.
  2. Jehoiakim {also called Eliakim}, Josiah's second son, reigned 11 years.
  3. Jehoiachin {also called Jeconiah, and Coniah}, Josiah's grandson, Jehoiakim's son, reigned 3 months.
  4. Zedekiah {also called Mattaniah}, Josiah's third son, reigned 11 years.
Regarding the character, reigns, and fates of these kings, see the references in the discussion below.
...what is thy mother? A lioness {HB=labiyah, one that roars}...
From the time that Jacob blessed his children, the tribe of Judah bore the insignia of 'a lion' {HB='ariy} (Gen 49:8-10). The right to reign would belong to Judah's descendants. Thus King David and his descendants came from this tribe. By Jacob's description, the reign of the rightful kings would be powerful {as a young lion}, victorious {over enemies, and prey}, wise, invincible and unshakeable {as an old lion, HB=labiy'}. Only fools would think to arouse the anger of such a formidable foe.
     The right to reign would belong to this tribe "until Shiloh come." 'Shiloh' {ie., the One whose right it is} refers to the Lord Jesus Christ, who is also known as "the Lion of the tribe of Judah" (Rev 5:5,6). At His first coming, after presenting Himself as Israel's King by riding a donkey's colt into Jerusalem, He shed His blood as the Lamb of God. At His second coming, His garments will be stained as He tramples the grapes of wrath (Jacob hinted at both events, in Gen 49:11, cp. Mat 21:4,5; Isa 63:2,3).
     Under King David's reign, and during much of Solomon's reign, Jerusalem was at the peak of her power. But the quality of the kingdom declined terribly, as subsequent kings turned their people away from the Lord. About a hundred years before Ezekiel's day, Isaiah had declared God's judgment upon Jerusalem, referring to the city as "Ariel" {ie., Lion of God, HB='ari'el} (Isa 29:1,2). The powerful city would be brought down, due to her sins, despite her hypocritical religious rituals. Isaiah used a play on words saying that "Ariel... shall be unto me as Ariel." That is, under the LORD's judgment, the 'Lion of God' would become 'a fiery hearth' or 'a place of burning' {alternate meanings for the same spoken sounds. eg., the word translated 'altar,' in Eze 43:15,16, is HB='ari'eyl}.
     Here, in Eze 19:2, the LORD refers to Jerusalem as a 'Lioness' (HB=labiyah, a roaring one). The use of the feminine gender emphasizes the fierce nature of those in power (as a mother lion defends its cubs). In Eze 22:25-27, the fierce and selfish character of the rulers, who "catch {tear in pieces} the prey" and "devour men," is described, with similar terms (although with the usual word for lion {HB='ariy}. cp. Zeph 3:1-4).
...she lay down among lions, she nourished her whelps among young lions.
  • The word 'whelps' {HB=gur} refers to 'young ones' or 'cubs.'
  • 'Young lions' {HB=kef-eer', lit., 'covered ones'}. These are adolescent lions, whom their elders have protected and prepared to succeed them. Often, the term is used in contexts where the 'young lions' are demonstrating their prowess against a prey.
Jerusalem (under the direction of her kings) associated herself with the powerful heathen nations around her. She raised her whelps {ie., the princes who would become kings} in the vicious, self-serving ways of the ungodly rulers of those nations. [The terms 'lions' and 'young lions' are frequently used in reference to such nations. eg., Eze 32:2 (re: Egypt); Nah 2:11-13 (re: Nineveh); Jer 4:7 (re: Babylon)]
...she brought up one of her whelps... it learned to catch the prey; it devoured men.
Jehoahaz was so wicked, that after only 3 months on the throne, he was deposed and taken away by Pharaoh to Egypt (2Kin 23:31-34; 2Chr 36:1-4), as Jeremiah had foretold (Jer 22:11,12, where Jehoahaz {meaning 'whom Jehovah holds as His possession'} is called Shallum {'retribution'}). The violence and injustice of Jehoahaz (and the brother who succeeded him) is further described in Jer 22:13-17.
5 Now when she saw that she had waited, [and] her hope was lost,
then she took another of her whelps, [and] made him a young lion.
6 And he went up and down among the lions,
he became a young lion, and learned to catch the prey, [and] devoured men.
7 And he knew their desolate palaces, and he laid waste their cities;
and the land was desolate, and the fulness thereof, by the noise of his roaring.
8 Then the nations set against him on every side from the provinces,
{2Kin 24:2}
and spread their net over him: he was taken in their pit.
9 And they put him in ward in chains, and brought him to the king of Babylon:
they brought him into holds
{ie., strongholds, prison, restraints},
that his voice should no more be heard upon the mountains of Israel.
...she took another of her whelps, and made him a young lion.
After deposing Jehoahaz, Pharaoh installed his brother on the throne, changing his name from Eliakim {'established by God'} to Jehoiakim {'established by Jehovah'} (2Kin 23:34-37). Indeed, the Lord GOD of Israel had established the kingdom. But king Jehoiakim did not recognize or serve Him.
...he went... among the lions... became a young lion... learned to catch the prey, and devoured men.
Like Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim was nothing but a heathen king, who sought nothing but self-advancement. Jer 22:13-18
     But Jehoiakim was more destructive, to the nation of Israel (v.7), because of his much longer reign. cp. Prov 28:15,16
     Beginning early in his reign, the LORD spoke, through Jeremiah, against this king's wickedness (Jer 26:1-24; 36:1-32). Jehoiakim's total disregard for God's Word was evident as he burned Jeremiah's writings, and would have killed the prophet, if the LORD had not protected him.
...then the nations... spread their net...
...put him in ward {ie., a cage} in chains... brought him to the king of Babylon...
The LORD punished Jehoiakim for his wickedness, at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon (2Kin 24:1-6; 2Chr 36:5-7).
     Ezekiel's wording suggests that he was captured like a vicious animal.
Jeremiah foretold that the disposal of Jehoiakim's body would be like that of an animal (Jer 22:18,19). Although he was "bound... in fetters, to carry him to Babylon" (2Chr 36:6), there is no record that he actually arrived there. Apparently, he perished on the journey, and his carcass was discarded by the roadside (as foretold in Jer 36:30).
...they brought him in holds, that his voice should no more be heard upon the mountains of Israel.
After Jehoiakim was deposed, his son Jehoiachin {also called Jeconiah, both names meaning 'established by Jehovah'} was installed on the throne. Three months later, he was deported to Babylon (2Kin 24:6-16; 2Chr 36:8-10). Ezekiel was among the captives, at that time.
     Here (Ezekiel ch.19), in this lamentation for the princes of Israel, Jehoiachin's brief reign is overshadowed by that of his father. However, Jehoiachin's wickedness, at the age of 18, was already so deep that the LORD declared that no son of his would ever reign from David's throne (Jer 22:24-30, where 'Coniah' is a derogatory abbreviation of 'Jeconiah'). [In the name 'Yah-kun-Yahu' the root 'kun' means 'established, prepared, made ready.' Thus, Jeconiah was 'for Jehovah prepared by Jehovah.' However, the LORD's name occurs only once, in the name Coniah, for this man was now 'prepared by Jehovah' for destruction (cp. the use of HB=kun, translated 'ready' in Job 18:12).]
10. Thy mother [is] like a vine in thy blood, planted by the waters:
she was fruitful and full of branches by reason of many waters.
11 And she had strong rods for the sceptres of them that bare rule,
and her stature was exalted among the thick branches,
and she appeared in her height with the multitude of her branches.
12 But she was plucked up in fury,
she was cast down to the ground, and the east wind dried up her fruit:
her strong rods were broken and withered; the fire consumed them.
13 And now she [is] planted in the wilderness, in a dry and thirsty ground.
14 And fire is gone out of a rod of her branches, [which] hath devoured her fruit,
so that she hath no strong rod [to be] a sceptre to rule.
This [is] a lamentation, and shall be for a lamentation.
...thy mother is like a vine in thy blood...
In v.10-14, the analogy changes. Jerusalem, which had been like a lioness, had become like "a vine in thy blood."
     The kingdom which had once been strong, like a cedar, had become a lowly vine, subservient to Babylon (eg., Eze 17:3-6). It is pictured as standing in its own blood... the blood guiltiness of its sin... the blood in which it was about to perish (cp., 15:6-8; 16:38).
...planted by the waters: she was fruitful and full of branches by reason of many waters...
When the LORD planted Israel in the land, they were fruitful, because He blessed and provided for them. Deu 8:7-9; Psa 80:8-11; Eze 17:8
...and she had strong rods for sceptres... and her stature was exalted...
When they enjoyed God's blessing, the nation had several good kings {eg., David, Solomon... Hezekiah, Josiah}. These 'rods' {HB=matteh, branch, staff} were strong because the LORD was their strength. Under the just rule of godly kings, Israel had stood strong among the nations.
...but she was plucked up in fury... her strong rods were broken... fire consumed them.
But because the nation had turned from Him to false gods and ungodly living, the LORD had withheld His blessings and was determined to root them out of the land. By His wrath, the strength of her kings had been broken (eg., v.4,8,9). Where there had once been fruitfulness, the land of Israel had become a physical and spiritual desert. The fires of judgment were already kindled. Isa 5:5,6; Eze 15:4; 17:8-10
     This lamentation is almost entirely in the past tense, until the last two verses. When Ezekiel gave this message, the kings to whom he had alluded, in the first twelve verses, had all been removed, and the nation was on the verge of collapse. In v.13,14, Ezekiel addresses the situation which was then current, and sees the end rapidly approaching.
...and fire is gone out of a rod of her branches...
...so that she hath no strong rod to be a sceptre to rule...
After Jehoiakim and Jehoiachin were removed, Nebuchadnezzar had installed Jehoiakim's brother, Mattaniah {'gift of Jehovah'}, in his place, and renamed him Zedekiah {'justice (or, righteousness) of Jehovah'}. 2Kin 24:17-20; 2Chr 36:11-13
     Zedekiah was a weak king (he was 'no strong rod'), being under the dominion of Babylon, but chiefly because he failed to trust and obey the LORD who has all power. On several occasions, he had heard God's Word, at the mouth of Jeremiah, but he vacillated until it was too late to heed His counsel.
     He swore, by the LORD, that he would honor his covenant with Nebuchadnezzar. (The new name, assigned by Nebuchadnezzar, may have been intended to remind the king to keep his oath.) But he broke his covenant and sought help from Egypt. It was this rebellion, for which "fire is gone out" from the last of Israel's kings, to complete the destruction of Jerusalem (Eze 17:15,16; Jer 52:3). Zedekiah, like his ungodly brothers before him, would be taken in the net of God's judgment (Eze 17:20).
This is... and shall be for a lamentation.
The decline of the nation, and the loss of prior kings was reason for grief.
But the agony would become grievous, with the removal of the last king, and the fall of the nation, less than five years after this message (cp. Eze 8:1; 20:1).
     See Lam 4:20, where 'the anointed of the LORD' refers to this final king. The people had placed their hopes in a political ruler, rather than in the One who had established his reign. The nation and its kings were identified by the name of the LORD. Yet, they neither knew nor served Him. Therefore, in the perfect balance of God's justice, they would be judged according to the ungodly ways which they had chosen.

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