Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
PARABLE OF THE
EAGLES, AND THE
CROPPING OF THE
ZEDEKIAH INSTEAD OF
HIMSELF, AS THE
RIVAL OF THE
The date of the prophecy is between the sixth month of Zedekiah's sixth
year of reign and the fifth month of the seventh year after the carrying
away of Jehoiachin, that is, five years before the destruction of
2. riddle--a continued allegory, expressed enigmatically, requiring
more than common acumen and serious thought. The Hebrew is derived
from a root, "sharp," that is, calculated to stimulate attention and
whet the intellect. Distinct from "fable," in that it teaches not
fiction, but fact. Not like the ordinary riddle, designed to puzzle, but
to instruct. The "riddle" is here identical with the "parable," only
that the former refers to the obscurity, the latter to the likeness of
the figure to the thing compared.
3. eagle--the king of birds. The literal Hebrew is, "the great eagle." The symbol of the Assyrian supreme god, Nisroch; so
applied to "the great king" of Babylon, his vicegerent on earth
(Jer 48:40; 49:22).
His "wings" are his great forces. Such symbols were familiar to the
Jews, who saw them portrayed on the great buildings of Babylon; such as
are now seen in the Assyrian remains.
long-winged--implying the wide extent of his empire.
full of feathers--when they have been renewed after moulting; and so
in the full freshness of renovated youth
Answering to the many peoples which, as tributaries, constituted the
strength of Babylon.
divers colours--the golden eagle, marked with star-like spots,
supposed to be the largest of eagles [BOCHART].
Answering to the variety of languages, habits, and costumes of the
peoples subject to Babylon.
came unto Lebanon--continuing the metaphor: as the eagle frequents
mountains, not cities. The temple at Jerusalem was called "Lebanon" by
the Jews [EUSEBIUS],
because its woodwork was wholly of cedars of
Lebanon. "The mountain of the Lord's house"
Jerusalem, however, is chiefly meant, the chief seat of civil
honor, as Lebanon was of external elevation.
took the highest branch--King Jeconiah, then but eighteen years old,
and many of the chiefs and people with him
(2Ki 24:8, 12-16).
The Hebrew for "highest branch" is, properly, the fleece-like
tuft at the top of the tree. (So in
The cedar, as a tall tree, is the symbol of kingly elevation (compare
4. land of traffic . . . merchants--Babylon
(2Ki 24:15, 16),
famous for its transport traffic on the Tigris and Euphrates. Also, by
its connection with the Persian Gulf, it carried on much commerce with
5. seed of the land--not a foreign production, but one native in the
region; a son of the soil, not a foreigner: Zedekiah, uncle of
Jehoiachin, of David's family.
in a fruitful field--literally, a "field of seed"; that is, fit for
propagating and continuing the seed of the royal family.
as a willow--derived from a Hebrew root, "to overflow," from its
fondness for water
Judea was "a land of brooks of water and fountains"
6. vine of low stature--not now, as before, a stately "cedar"; the
kingdom of Judah was to be prosperous, but not elevated.
branches turned toward him--expressing the fealty of Zedekiah as a
vassal looking up to Nebuchadnezzar, to whom Judah owed its peace and
very existence as a separate state. The "branches" mean his sons and the
other princes and nobles.
The roots . . . under him--The stability of Judah depended on Babylon.
The repetition "branches" and "springs" is in order to mark the
ingratitude of Zedekiah, who, not content with moderate prosperity,
revolted from him to whom he had sworn allegiance.
7. another . . . eagle--the king of Egypt
The "long-winged" of
is omitted, as Egypt had not such a wide empire and large armies as
vine . . . bend . . . roots towards him--literally, "thirsted after
him with its roots"; expressing the longings after Egypt in the Jewish
heart. Zedekiah sought the alliance of Egypt, as though by it he could
throw off his dependence on Babylon
(2Ki 24:7, 20;
Jer 37:5, 7).
water it by . . . furrows of . . . plantation--that is, in the
garden beds (Judea) wherein (the vine) it was planted. Rather, "by"
or "out of the furrows." It refers to the waters of Egypt, the Nile
being made to water the fields by means of small canals or "furrows";
these waters are the figure of the auxiliary forces wherewith Egypt
tried to help Judah. See the same figure,
But see on
"furrows where it grew."
8. It was planted in a good soil--It was not want of the necessaries
of life, nor oppression on the port of Nebuchadnezzar, which caused
Zedekiah to revolt: it was gratuitous ambition, pride, and ingratitude.
9. Shall it prosper?--Could it be that gratuitous treason should
prosper? God will not allow it. "It," that is, the vine.
he . . . pull up--that is, the first eagle, or Nebuchadnezzar.
in all . . . leaves of her spring--that is, all its springing
without great power or many--It shall not need all the forces of
Babylon to destroy it; a small division of the army will suffice because
God will deliver it into Nebuchadnezzar's hand
10. being planted--that is, "though planted."
east wind--The east wind was noxious to vegetation in Palestine; a
fit emblem of Babylon, which came from the northeast.
wither in . . . furrows where it grew--Zedekiah was taken at Jericho,
on Jewish soil
"It shall wither, although it has furrows from which it expects
continual waterings" [CALVIN],
12. Know ye not--He upbraided them with moral, leading to intellectual,
hath taken the king--Jeconiah or Jehoiachin
(2Ki 24:11, 12-16).
13. the king's seed--Zedekiah, Jeconiah's uncle.
taken . . . oath of him--swearing fealty as a vassal to Nebuchadnezzar
also taken the mighty--as hostages for the fulfilment of the covenant;
whom, therefore, Zedekiah exposed to death by his treason.
14. That the kingdom might be base--that is, low as to national
elevation by being Nebuchadnezzar's dependent; but, at the same time,
safe and prosperous, if faithful to the "oath." Nebuchadnezzar dealt
sincerely and openly in proposing conditions, and these moderate ones;
therefore Zedekiah's treachery was the baser and was a counterpart to
their treachery towards God.
15. he rebelled--God permitted this because of His wrath against
horses--in which Egypt abounded and which were forbidden to Israel to
seek from Egypt, or indeed to "multiply" at all
Isa 31:1, 3;
DIODORUS SICULUS [1.45] says
that the whole region from Thebes to Memphis was filled with royal
stalls, so that twenty thousand chariots with two horses in each could
be furnished for war.
Shall he prosper?--The third time this question is asked, with an
indignant denial understood
(Eze 17:9, 10).
Even the heathen believed that breakers of an oath would not "escape"
16. in the place where the king dwelleth--righteous retribution. He
brought on himself in the worst form the evil which, in a mild form, he
had sought to deliver himself from by perjured treachery, namely,
Jer 32:5; 34:3; 52:11).
(Jer 37:7; 44:30),
the successor of Necho
Neither . . . make for him--literally, "effect (anything)
with him," that is, be of any avail to Zedekiah. Pharaoh did not
act in concert with him, for he was himself compelled to retire to
by casting up mounts, &c.--So far from Pharaoh doing so for Jerusalem,
this was what Nebuchadnezzar did against it
CALVIN MAURER, &c., refer it
to Nebuchadnezzar, "when Nebuchadnezzar shall cast up
18. given his hand--in ratification of the oath
and also in token of subjection to Nebuchadnezzar
19. mine oath--The "covenant" being sworn in God's name was really
His covenant; a new instance in relation to man of the treacherous
spirit which had been so often betrayed in relation to God. God Himself
must therefore avenge the violation of His covenant "on the head" of
the perjurer (compare
20. my net--
(Eze 12:13; 32:3).
God entraps him as he had tried to entrap others
This was spoken at least upwards of three years before the fall of
with Eze 20:1).
plead with him--by judgments on him
(Eze 20. 36).
21. all his fugitives--the soldiers that accompany him in his flight.
22. When the state of Israel shall seem past recovery, Messiah,
Jehovah Himself, will unexpectedly appear on the scene as Redeemer of
I . . . also--God opposes Himself to Nebuchadnezzar:
"He took of the seed of the land and planted it
(Eze 17:3, 5),
so will I, but with better success than he had. The branch he
plucked (Zedekiah) and planted, flourished but for a time, to perish at
last; I will plant a scion of the same tree, the house of David,
to whom the kingdom belongs by an everlasting covenant, and it shall be
the shelter of the whole world, and shall be for ever."
branch--the peculiar title of Messiah
(Zec 3:8; 6:12;
Isa 11:1; 4:2;
Jer 23:5; 33:15).
a tender one--Zerubbabel never reigned as a universal
king, nor could the great things mentioned here be said of him, except
as a type of Messiah. Messiah alone can be meant: originally "a
tender plant and root out of a dry ground"
the beginning of His kingdom being humble, His reputed parents of lowly
rank, though King David's lineal representatives; yet, even then, God
here calls Him, in respect to His everlasting purpose, "the highest
. . . of the high"
I . . . will plant it upon an high mountain--Zion; destined to be the
moral center and eminence of grace and glory shining forth to the
world, out-topping all mundane elevation. The kingdom, typically begun
at the return from Babylon, and the rebuilding of the temple, fully
began with Christ's appearing, and shall have its highest manifestation
at His reappearing to reign on Zion, and thence over the whole earth
(Ps 2:6, 8;
Isa 2:2, 3;
23. under it . . . all fowl--the Gospel "mustard
tree," small at first, but at length receiving all under its covert
the antithesis to Antichrist, symbolized by Assyria, of which the same
Antichrist assumes in mimicry the universal power really belonging to
24. I . . . brought down the high--the very attribute given to God
by the virgin mother of Him, under whom this was to be accomplished.
high . . . low tree--that is, princes elevated
. . . depressed. All the empires of the world, represented by
Babylon, once flourishing ("green"), shall be brought low before the
once depressed ("dry"), but then exalted, kingdom of Messiah and His
people, the head of whom shall be Israel