Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New TestamentEZEKIEL 15
PARABLE OF THE CORRUPT VINE TREE
Some commentators have missed the point altogether in this little chapter. Howie, for example, stated that, "The vine tree was fit only for the production of fruit";F1 but he overlooked the fact that this particular vine was classed with the "trees of the forest" (Ezekiel 15:2), and not with the noble vines which were always in the vineyard. The vine under consideration here is therefore the vine that represents apostate Israel. This vine is variously described in the versions and translations, as bastard, degenerate, wild, corrupt, foreign, strange, etc. The figure is that of a totally useless wild vine in the forest, fit only for fuel, and, for that matter, not very good fuel!
The simple message of this chapter is that, "Jerusalem was useless either for the production of fruit or anything else and was fit only for burning."F2 This chapter is particularly addressed to the overthrow of, "The false notion of the Israelites that God cannot afford to overthrow them because they are the `election of God,' and in that priority they must be favored over other nations."F3
G. A. Cooke attempted to make a poem out of this chapter, but without much success.F4 Our reaction to the "poetry" pretended in many of the present-day versions and translations is that the imaginative scholars have produced some of the lousiest poetry we have ever seen! Based upon the fact that much of the wisdom literature did follow a metrical scheme, "It is natural enough to suspect that this passage also was written in poetical form; but, upon closer examination, this supposition is untenable."F5
This parable of the Corrupt Vine (Ezek. 15) is one of three reaching through Ezek. 17, "Which show that there is not any hope of deliverance for Jerusalem."F6
The Biblical figure of Israel as God's vine is found throughout the Bible, notably in Isa. 5:1ff; Jer. 2:21ff; Hos. 10:1; Ps. 80:8-19; etc.; but, as F. F. Bruce noted, "These Old Testament references are reflected in the New Testament,"F7 where Jesus Christ our Lord appears as "The True Vine," that is, "The True Israel of God" (John 15:1-8). This is one of the most important revelations in all the Bible, for it shows, that as far as the old racial Israel goes, they, as a race, are out of it forever. Only Jesus Christ is God's Israel in this generation; and all of God's Israel, in any true sense, upon this earth today, enjoy that status as members of the "spiritual body of Christ," which is his holy Church. No one is excluded; Jew and Gentile alike are welcome upon exactly the same terms. No one belongs to God as a result of any racial status, and no one is denied a place in God's family upon the basis of race. "Whosoever will may come!"
And the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, Son of man, what is the vine-tree more than any tree, the vine-branch which is among the trees of the forest? Shall wood be taken thereof to make any work? or will men take a pin of it to hang any vessel thereon? Behold, it is cast into the fire for fuel; the fire hath devoured both the ends of it, and the midst of it is burned: is it profitable for any work?
What is the vine tree. that is among the trees of the forest ... more than other trees ..
(Ezekiel 15:2)? The vine of this question is not the noble, cultivated vine that once illustrated the Chosen People of God, but the wild, degenerate vine among the trees of the forest. It bears no fruit except inedible, bitter grapes; and the question here requires the answer that, as far as the wood of this vine goes, it is just about as worthless as wood could be, fit only for fuel.
Will men take a pin of it to hang any vessel thereon
(Ezekiel 15:3)? This requires a negative answer and carries the meaning that one cannot even make a peg upon which to hang a pot, out of wood taken from the vine.
Burned at both ends and scorched in the middle
(Ezekiel 15:4). In its perfect state the wood is practically worthless; but, What if it has been cast into the fire, the two ends have been burnt, and the middle is scorched and half burnt; what then?F8 We especially appreciate Bunn's answer to that question. He wrote, It will not even make good charcoal!F9
The application of Ezek. 15:4 to the state of Israel is that they had already had both ends burned, at Samaria in 622 B.C., and at Jerusalem in 597 B.C., the middle, under Zedekiah still remaining, but still fruitless and ready again to be cast into the fire.
The time element was cited by Taylor. "Jerusalem was left charred in the days of Jehoiachin. The city had been spared from total destruction in the capture of the city in 597 B.C., but it was fit for nothing more than to be thrown back into the fire to be utterly consumed."F10
The great problem with Jerusalem was fruitlessnesss. All of the great prophets of God and even the Savior himself had warned all men that, "Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit shall be hewn down and cast into the fire" (Matthew 7:9). In this connection, see Mark 11:13ff and Luke 13:6if). What an appropriate example this parable of the wild vine was!
Behold, when it was whole, it was meet for no work: how much less, when the fire hath devoured it, and it is burned, shall it yet be meet for any work! Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah: As the vine-tree among the trees of the forest, which I have given to the fire for fuel, so will I give the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And I will set my face against them; they shall go forth from the fire, but the fire shall devour them; and ye shall know that I am Jehovah, when I set my face against them. And I will make the land desolate, because they have committed a trespass, saith the Lord Jehovah.
Only when we come to Ezek. 15:6,7 does the Lord himself make the divine application of the little parable. The news is devastating. God will set his face against them; the citizens of Jerusalem shall be given to the fire for fuel!
"During Israel's better days, a prophet had compared her to a noble vine, `the choicest among the nations in God's sight'; but Ezekiel corrected such a notion, because it was no longer true. Israel is now no longer a noble, cultivated vine, but a corrupt degenerate vine, identifiable in every way with the wild vine `among the trees of the forest,' useless for anything but fuel."F11
The conclusion here is that, Israel possesses no superiority over any other nations, just like the vine which possesses no superiority over other woods, but is even inferior; and likewise Israel is inferior to other nations in her fruitless condition; "And Israel is therefore given up to the fire."F12
Footnotes for Ezekiel 15
1: Carl G. Howie in the Layman's Bible Commentary, p. 41.
2: Henry H. Halley's Bible Handbook (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House), p. 301.
3: Carl Friedrich Keil, Keil-Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company), p. 191.
4: International Critical Commentary, p. 157.
5: WE, p. 193.
6: Charles Lee Feinberg in Ezekiel (Moody Press), p. 83.
7: F. F. Bruce in the New Layman's Bible Commentary, p. 874.
8: Albert Barnes' Commentary, 336.
9: John T. Bunn in the Broadman Bible Commentary (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1871), p. 271.
10: J. B. Thompson, p. 131.
11: G. R. Beasley-Murray in the New Bible Commentary, Revised, p. 673.
12: Carl Friedrich Keil, Keil-Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company), p. 193.