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Ezekiel 17



Parable of Two Eagles and A Vine The Eagles and the Vine The Allegory of the Eagles The Parable of the Eagles and the Vine The Allegory of the Eagle
17:1-6 17:1-10 17:1-10 17:1-6 17:1-10
  (3b-6) (3b-8)   (3b-6)
17:7-10 (7-8)   17:7-8 (7-8)
  (9-10) (9-10) 17:9-10 (9-10)
Zedekiah's Rebellion     The Parable Is Explained  
17:11-21 17:11-21 17:11-21 17:11-15 17:11
      17:19-21 17:19-21
  Israel Exalted at Last Allegory of the Cedar God's Promise of Hope  
17:22-24 17:22-24 17:22-24 17:22-24 17:22-24

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the four modern translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



 1Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, 2"Son of man, propound a riddle and speak a parable to the house of Israel, 3saying, 'Thus says the Lord God, "A great eagle with great wings, long pinions and a full plumage of many colors came to Lebanon and took away the top of the cedar. 4He plucked off the topmost of its young twigs and brought it to a land of merchants; he set it in a city of traders. 5He also took some of the seed of the land and planted it in fertile soil. He placed it beside abundant waters; he set it like a willow. 6Then it sprouted and became a low, spreading vine with its branches turned toward him, but its roots remained under it. So it became a vine and yielded shoots and sent out branches."

17:2 This verse has two parallel imperatives.

1. "propound a riddle," BDB 295, KB 295, Qal imperative, cf. Jdgs. 14:12-19

2. "speak a parable," BDB 605 II, KB 647, Qal imperative, cf. 12:23; 16:44; 17:2; 18:2; 20:49; 24:3

The term "riddle" (BDB 295, note the relation of the verb, BDB 295, and noun, BDB 295) means a statement that needs to have some information hinted at or supplied to be understood (cf. Pro. 1:6).

The term "parable" (BDB 605 II, note the relation of the verb, BDB 605 II, and noun, BDB 605 II) implies a brief poetic structure, possibly a proverb which uses comparison as a way to illustrate truth.

Ezekiel has been using highly figurative language to convince the exiles of the just and sure judgment of Jerusalem.

17:3 "a great eagle" The imaginary bird (eagle or vulture, a large bird of prey) is described as

1. "great," BDB 152

2. "great wings," BDB 152 construct BDB 489

3. "long pinions," BDB 74 construct BDB 7

4. "rich in plumage," BDB 570 construct BDB 663

5. "of many colors," BDB 955

This is a description of the large mercenary and conscripted army of Babylon who captured Jerusalem in 605, 597, 586, 582 b.c. In this context it is the 597 b.c. exile (i.e., "took the top of the cedar") of Ezekiel and thousands of other craftsmen and leaders, which is alluded to (cf. vv. 12-13; II Kgs. 24:24,15).

▣ "Lebanon" This is imagery referring to Judah. Possibly it is used because the parable will involve tall cedars and Lebanon was famous for hers (cf. 31:3).

▣ "top" This term (BDB 856) is found only in Ezekiel (i.e., 17:3,22; 31:3,10,14). Its etymology is unknown. The meaning is derived from the context.

17:4 The destination of the Judean society is described as

1. "to a land of trade," BDB 488 II

2. "a city of traders," BDB 746, and BDB 940, KB 1237, Qal participle

Back in 12:13 Chaldea is the destination of the exiles (cf. 1:3). The term Chaldea (BDB 505) may be related to the term Canaanite (BDB 489, "merchants" in 16:29, where they appear together).

17:5 This is a description of the relatively easy treatment of the first exiles. They were settled by a canal and given limited autonomy.

NASB"like a willow"
NKJV, NJB"like a willow tree"
NRSV"like a willow twig"
TEV"young plant"

This term (BDB 861) is found only here in the OT. It seems to be of onomatopoeic origin from the Arabic term for "rustling." Context implies an easily germinating tree twig (cf. v. 22).

17:6 This verse describes the low growth of the remaining Judeans in Judea. They were still in the Promised Land, but were very weak as a vassal nation (cf. vv. 13-14).

 7"But there was another great eagle with great wings and much plumage; and behold, this vine bent its roots toward him and sent out its branches toward him from the beds where it was planted, that he might water it. 8It was planted in good soil beside abundant waters, that it might yield branches and bear fruit and become a splendid vine." 9Say, 'Thus says the Lord God, "Will it thrive? Will he not pull up its roots and cut off its fruit, so that it withers—so that all its sprouting leaves wither? And neither by great strength nor by many people can it be raised from its roots again. 10Behold, though it is planted, will it thrive? Will it not completely wither as soon as the east wind strikes it — wither on the beds where it grew?"'"

17:7 "another eagle" This refers to Egypt (cf. v. 15). Judah looked to Egypt for military aid and protection (i.e., Jeremiah 37).

17:8 There is a series of Qal infinitive constructs. They describe in this verse (1) how Zedekiah viewed that an alliance with Egypt would help Judah or (2) a repeat of v. 5, illustrating that there was no need for Zedekiah to rebel and seek help from Egypt

1. that it might yield branches

2. that it might bear fruit

3. that it might become a splendid vine


17:9-10 These are parallel and describe Judah's attempt to seek help from Egypt, but YHWH will not allow it.

17:9 "leaves" This term (BDB 383) normally refers to the prey of a lion, killed and torn apart (cf. 19:3,6; 22:25,27). Only here does it refer to plucked leaves (although the same consonants with different vowels refer to plucked olive leaves in Gen. 8:11).

17:10 "completely wither" This is an emphatic grammatical construction that uses the infinitive absolute and the imperfect verb of the same root (BDB 386, KB 384) together. The verb is used twice in v. 9 and twice in v. 10.

▣ "the east wind" This construct (BDB 924 and 870) is used as an active representation of God's power (ruah) to accomplish His purposes. The east wind is associated with judgments and the west wind with blessings.

1. the Lord directed an east wind. . .brought the locusts, Exod. 13:10

2. the Lord swept the sea back by a strong east wind, Exod. 14:21; 15:10

3. with the east wind, Thou does break the ships of Tarshish, Ps. 48:7

4. like an east wind I will scatter them (Israel) before the enemy, Jer. 18:17

5. completely wither as soon as the east wind strikes it (Judah), Ezek. 17:10

6. the east wind dried up its (Israel) fruit, Ezek. 19:12

7. the east wind has broken you (Tyre), Ezek. 27:26

8. an east wind will come. . .his (Israel) spring will be dried up, Hos. 13:15

9. God appointed a scorching east wind, Jonah 4:8

10. an east wind is implied in Job 1:19 and Jer. 4:11

The west wind is mentioned once in Exod. 10:19 and implied in Num. 11:31. Rain would come from a northwesterly direction.

 11Moreover, the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 12"Say now to the rebellious house, 'Do you not know what these things mean?' Say, 'Behold, the king of Babylon came to Jerusalem, took its king and princes and brought them to him in Babylon. 13He took one of the royal family and made a covenant with him, putting him under oath. He also took away the mighty of the land, 14that the kingdom might be in subjection, not exalting itself, but keeping his covenant that it might continue. 15But he rebelled against him by sending his envoys to Egypt that they might give him horses and many troops. Will he succeed? Will he who does such things escape? Can he indeed break the covenant and escape? 16As I live,' declares the Lord God, 'Surely in the country of the king who put him on the throne, whose oath he despised and whose covenant he broke, in Babylon he shall die. 17Pharaoh with his mighty army and great company will not help him in the war, when they cast up ramps and build siege walls to cut off many lives. 18Now he despised the oath by breaking the covenant, and behold, he pledged his allegiance, yet did all these things; he shall not escape.'" 19Therefore, thus says the Lord God, "As I live, surely My oath which he despised and My covenant which he broke, I will inflict on his head. 20I will spread My net over him, and he will be caught in My snare. Then I will bring him to Babylon and enter into judgment with him there regarding the unfaithful act which he has committed against Me. 21All the choice men in all his troops will fall by the sword, and the survivors will be scattered to every wind; and you will know that I, the Lord, have spoken."

17:11-21 This is the interpretation of the allegory of vv. 1-10 about the two great eagles.

17:12 "Say" This is a Qal imperative (BDB 55, KB 65), repeated for emphasis. YHWH is speaking to Judah through His prophet.

▣ "the rebellious house" This is a characteristic phrase of Ezekiel referring to Judah (cf. 2:5,6,8; 3:9,26,27; 12:2[twice],3,9,25; 17:12; 24:3). Moses first called Israel rebellious (BDB 598) in Deut. 9:7; 31:27.

▣ "the king of Babylon came to Jerusalem, took its king and princes, and brought them to him in Babylon" This exile is recorded in II Kings 24. The date would be 597 b.c.

17:13 The new Babylonian puppet king was Jehoiachin's uncle, Mattaniah, whose name was changed to Zedekiah (cf. II Kgs. 24:17; II Chr. 36:10).

17:14 Nebuchadnezzar was hoping that the partial deportation would teach Judah a lesson and keep them a vassal nation (cf. Jeremiah 27), but it did not work (cf. v. 16).

17:15 "But he rebelled" See II Kgs. 24:20. He (Zedekiah, King of Judah) rebelled

1. against the prophecy of Jeremiah (cf. Jeremiah 27 and 37)

2. by breaking his pledge to Nebuchadnezzar, which he had taken in YHWH's name (cf. v. 18; II Chr. 36:13)


17:16 "in Babylon he shall die" See Jeremiah 52:11.


NASB, NJB"he pledged"
NKJV, NRSV"gave his hand"

This is literally, "he gave his hand" (BDB 678, KB 733, Qal perfect). The giving of one's hand denoted

1. friendship, II Kgs. 10:15

2. pledge/oath, I Chr. 29:24; II Chr. 30:8; Ezra 10:19; Lam. 5:6; Ezek. 17:18

3. allowing one to do something, Exod. 10:25

4. giving power to, II Sam. 16:8

5. entrusting to, II Chr. 34:16

6. giving authority to, Gen. 39:4,8,22


17:19 This verse relates to Zedekiah's oath to Nebuchandezzar (cf. vv. 13,14). It was made in YHWH's name.

1. "As I live" - This is a wordplay on the covenant name for Judah's God, YHWH (see Special Topic at 2:4), cf. Num. 14:21,28; Isa. 45:23; 49:18

2. "My oath" - BDB 46, cf. Deut. 29:14. This refers to YHWH's covenant promises which, when violated, become "a curse," cf. Deut. 29:19

3. "which he despised"

a. Judah, 16:59

b. Zedekiah, 17:16,18,19

4. "My covenant" See Special topic at 16:8


17:20 This is mentioned earlier in 12:13 and is documented in II Kgs. 25:7; Jer. 39:7; 52:11.


NASB"choice men"
NKJV"all his fugitives"
NRSV, NJB"the pick of his troops"
TEV"his best soldiers"

The MT has "his fugitives" (BDB 138), as do the Septuagint and Syriac versions. The term is found only here in the OT. The term "chosen" (BDB 103) is the reversal of the last two Hebrew letters.

▣ "the survivors will be scattered to every wind" See note at 5:10.

 22Thus says the Lord God, "I will also take a sprig from the lofty top of the cedar and set it out; I will pluck from the topmost of its young twigs a tender one and I will plant it on a high and lofty mountain. 23On the high mountain of Israel I will plant it, that it may bring forth boughs and bear fruit and become a stately cedar. And birds of every kind will nest under it; they will nest in the shade of its branches. 24All the trees of the field will know that I am the Lord; I bring down the high tree, exalt the low tree, dry up the green tree and make the dry tree flourish. I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will perform it."

17:22-23 Again, at the end of a judgment oracle there is hope for a future for YHWH's covenant people (cf. 16:60-63).

17:22 "young twigs a tender one" The concept of a "shoot," "stem," or "branch" (cf. Isa. 11:1) becomes a Messianic symbol of the restoration of the Davidic seed (cf. II Samuel 9; Psalm 89). The Branch (cf. Isa. 4:2; 11:1; 53:2; Jer. 23:5; 33:15; Zech. 3:8; 6:12; Acts 13:23; Rom. 15:12) becomes the hope of all mankind for God to fulfill His promises to Israel and to the nations! Remember Gen. 3:15 is a promise to humanity made in YHWH's image, not Israel!

▣ "on a high and lofty mountain" This refers to the supremacy of God's universal rule (cf. Micah 5:5) through His people (cf. Isa. 2:2-4; Micah 4:1-4).

17:23 "birds of every kind" This is a universal element, as is "all the trees of the field" in v. 24. Isaiah captures this same planting metaphor that reaches all the world in Isa. 27:6. YHWH has an eternal redemptive plan for all the sons and daughters of Adam, not just Jacob's children!

17:24 YHWH describes His control of His creation in a series of plant metaphors.

1. I bring down the high tree

2. I exalt the low tree (i.e., here)

3. I dry up the green tree

4. I make the dry tree flourish

Examples of #1,3 would be Egypt in Ezekiel 31 and Babylon in Daniel 4. An example of #2,4 would be the promises to restore Israel/Judah (16:60-63; 17:24). In the NT the mustard seed and resulting bush become the symbol of a universal tree (cf. Matt. 13:31-32; Mark 4:30-32; Luke 13:18-19. Also note Dan. 4:12,21), which is the kingdom of our God and His Christ!

The final statement, "I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will perform it," is a key theological statement. Humans can depend on God's word, both His judgments and His promises! He is the creator and controller of all life! History/time are in His hands (cf. 12:25,28; 22:14; Isa. 14:24; 55:11)!


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