Read Ezekiel 17
Two Eagles and a Vine
17 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 “Son of man, set forth an allegory and tell it to the Israelites as a parable. 3 Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: A great eagle with powerful wings, long feathers and full plumage of varied colors came to Lebanon. Taking hold of the top of a cedar, 4 he broke off its topmost shoot and carried it away to a land of merchants, where he planted it in a city of traders.
5 “‘He took one of the seedlings of the land and put it in fertile soil. He planted it like a willow by abundant water, 6 and it sprouted and became a low, spreading vine. Its branches turned toward him, but its roots remained under it. So it became a vine and produced branches and put out leafy boughs.
7 “‘But there was another great eagle with powerful wings and full plumage. The vine now sent out its roots toward him from the plot where it was planted and stretched out its branches to him for water. 8 It had been planted in good soil by abundant water so that it would produce branches, bear fruit and become a splendid vine.’
9 “Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Will it thrive? Will it not be uprooted and stripped of its fruit so that it withers? All its new growth will wither. It will not take a strong arm or many people to pull it up by the roots. 10 It has been planted, but will it thrive? Will it not wither completely when the east wind strikes it—wither away in the plot where it grew?’”
11 Then the word of the Lord came to me: 12 “Say to this rebellious people, ‘Do you not know what these things mean?’ Say to them: ‘The king of Babylon went to Jerusalem and carried off her king and her nobles, bringing them back with him to Babylon. 13 Then he took a member of the royal family and made a treaty with him, putting him under oath. He also carried away the leading men of the land, 14 so that the kingdom would be brought low, unable to rise again, surviving only by keeping his treaty. 15 But the king rebelledagainst him by sending his envoys to Egypt to get horses and a large army.Will he succeed? Will he who does such things escape? Will he break the treaty and yet escape?
16 “‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, he shall die in Babylon, in the land of the king who put him on the throne, whose oath he despised and whose treaty he broke. 17 Pharaoh with his mighty army and great horde will be of no help to him in war, when ramps are built and siege works erected to destroy many lives. 18 He despised the oath by breaking the covenant. Because he had given his hand in pledge and yet did all these things, he shall not escape.
19 “‘Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: As surely as I live, I will repay him for despising my oath and breaking my covenant. 20 I will spread my net for him, and he will be caught in my snare. I will bring him to Babylon and execute judgment on him there because he was unfaithful to me. 21 All his choice troops will fall by the sword, and the survivors will be scattered to the winds. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken.
22 “‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will take a shoot from the very top of a cedar and plant it; I will break off a tender sprig from its topmost shoots and plant it on a high and lofty mountain. 23 On the mountain heights of Israel I will plant it; it will produce branches and bear fruit and become a splendid cedar. Birds of every kind will nest in it; they will find shelter in the shade of its branches. 24 All the trees of the forest will know that I the Lord bring down the tall tree and make the low tree grow tall. I dry up the green tree and make the dry tree flourish.
“‘I the Lord have spoken, and I will do it.’”
God gave us a prophetic parable to understand in Ezekiel 17. The cedar tree of Lebanon refers to Jerusalem and the southern kingdom of Judah. King Nebuchadrezzar, in his second siege of Jerusalem, is the great eagle. God, in His purposes, put Zedekiah as king of Judah. Sadly, King Zedekiah was unwilling to heed the warnings and words of God through Ezekiel and traded his faith and trust in the covenant of Yahweh for an unholy alliance with Egypt. Zedekiah’s chosen rejection of God’s offered protection, provision, and covenant as King, even in submission to Nebuchadrezzar, led to the overthrow of the Judah some five years later.
We all have a similar choice to make daily as well. Conflicts in families or the workplace, financial problems, addictions, temptation and trials of all kinds can overwhelm us. When we find ourselves in these circumstances, do we choose to fervently seek God, His word, and His strength, or do we turn to our own thoughts, ways, and limited strength? Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” We must choose the promise and thoughts of God during our trials and watch His faithfulness and power work as we trust Him. Our faith will become like the cedar tree that is known for its endurance remaining evergreen with deepening roots.
In the most important and final prophecy in this parable, God allowed the “eagle” to take from the top of the cedar. The top shoots of the cedar tree represent the royal lineage of kings in the nation of Judah. Notice that the eagle takes the shoots from the top of the cedar trees until verse 22 where God takes the shoot Himself. This represents the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ, whom God will offer to the entire world. God loudly proclaims in this verse His sovereignty over the world beyond the kingdom of Judah, and He proclaims the same today over our world and individual lives. First, we must ask Christ to be our personal savior. Through His blood on the cross, we are forgiven of all sin now and forever. We can walk daily with God deepening our faith so that we may become a “cedar of Lebanon” with deep roots in Christ. Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Let us all choose to become a beautiful stately cedar in Christ who offers forgiveness, hope, and an enduring future of eternity with God in heaven.
- What mistake did Zedekiah make that affected the entire kingdom of Judah? How can you prevent a similar mistake in your own life?
- Why and how are God’s thoughts and ways better than your own?
- What is significant in verse 22 about God taking the shoot of the cedar?
Matthew Henry, an 18th century theologian and writer, says, “The unbelief of man shall not make the promise of God of none effect. The parable of a tree is here presented in the promise and appears only applicable to Jesus, Son of David, and Messiah of God.”