wherefore, he renews his exhortation,
turn yourselves, and live ye; or, "ye shall live" (r); I take no delight in your present deaths, your captivity; it would be more agreeable to me would you turn from your evil ways to the Lord your God, and behave according to the laws I have given you to walk by, and so live in your own land, in the quiet possession of your goods and estates.
(r) "et vivetis", Pagninus, Montanus.
INTRODUCTION TO Ezekiel 19
The subject matter of this chapter is a lamentation for the princes and people of the Jews, on account of what had already befallen them, and what was yet to come, Ezekiel 19:1. The mother of the princes is compared to a lioness, and they to lions; who, one after another, were taken and carried captive, Ezekiel 19:2; again, their mother is compared to a vine, and they to branches and rods for sceptres, destroyed by an east wind, and consumed by fire, Ezekiel 19:10.
for the princes of Israel; or, "concerning them" (s); the princes meant are Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jeconiah, and Zedekiah, who were kings, though called princes, these words being synonymous; or, if so called by way of diminution, the reason might be, because they were tributary, either to the king of Egypt, or king of Babylon.
(s) "de principibus Israel", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Polanus, Starckius; so Ben Melech.
a lioness; she is like to one, not for her strength and glory, but for her cruelty and rapine; for her want of humanity, mercy, and justice:
she lay down among lions; that is, kings, as the Targum interprets it Heathen princes, the kings of the nations about them, as of Egypt and Babylon, Jeremiah 50:17; so called for their despotic and arbitrary power, tyranny, and cruelty: now this lioness, the people of the Jews, lay down among them, joined with them in leagues and marriages, and learned their manners, and became of the same temper and disposition:
she nourisheth her whelps among young lions; princes, as the Targum explains it; either the princes of Judah, who were become like young lions, fierce and cruel; or the princes of other nations, among whom the children of the royal family were brought up; or, however, they were trained up in the principles of such, even of arbitrary and despotic power, and were taught to oppress their subjects, and not execute justice and mercy among them.
it become a young lion; that is, a king, as the same Targum explains it, and a tyrannical and arbitrary one:
and it learned to catch the prey; being instructed by evil counsellors, he soon learned to oppress his subjects, to get their substance from them, and do many evil things, as he is said to do, 2 Kings 23:32;
it devoured men; or a man, Adam, the people of Israel, so called, Ezekiel 34:31; as the Jews frequently observe; it ate up and destroyed their liberties, privileges, and property.
(t) "et ascendere fecit", Pagninus, Montanus, Tigurine version.
he was taken in their pit; alluding to the manner of hunting and taking lions, and such like beasts of prey; which was done by digging pits, and covering the mouths of them with straw, as Jarchi observes, into which in their flight they fell unawares: so Pharaohnecho king of Egypt came out against Jehoahaz, and took him, and put him in bonds at Riblah in the land of Hamath, that he might reign no more in Jerusalem, after he had been on the throne but three months, 2 Kings 23:31;
and they brought him with chains into the land of Egypt; or, "with hooks" (u); in his nose, as in Isaiah 37:29; or with a bridle, as the Septuagint; or with branches, as the Syriac version, in his jaws; the Targum renders it in chains, as we do: it is certain that Jehoahaz was put in bonds or fetters, and carried into Egypt, where he died, 2 Kings 23:33.
(u) "in, vel cum hamis", Montanus, Tigurine version, Cocceius, Starckius.
that she had waited; for the return of Jehoahaz out of Egypt, which was expected for some time: or, "that she was become sick"; or "weak" (w), and feeble, and brought to a low estate by his captivity, and by the tax the king of Egypt put upon her:
and her hope was lost; of his return to her any more, and so of being eased of the tribute imposed, and of being restored by him to liberty and glory; for the Lord had declared that he should return no more to his native country, but die in the place where he was carried captive, Jeremiah 22:10;
then she took another of her whelps; or sons, as the Targum:
and made him a young lion: a king, as the same Targum paraphrases it; that is, Jehoiakim, the brother of Jehoahaz, who before was called Eliakim, but his name was changed by Pharaohnecho; and though he is said to make him king, yet it was by the consent of the people of the Jews.
(w) "quod infirmatus esset", Cocceius, Starckius.
he became a young lion; an oppressive prince, a cruel and tyrannical king:
and learned to catch the prey, and devoured men; he was notorious for his acts of injustice and arbitrary power; for the detaining the wages of workmen, and for his oppression, violence, and rapine, and shedding of innocent blood, Jeremiah 22:13.
and he laid waste their cities; by putting the inhabitants to death; or obliging them to leave them, and retire elsewhere, not being able to pay the taxes he imposed upon them, partly to support his own grandeur and luxury, and partly to pay the tribute to the king of Egypt:
and the land was desolate, and the fulness thereof, by the noise of his roaring; by his menaces and threatenings, edicts and exactions, he so terrified the inhabitants of the land, that though it was full of men and riches, it became in a great measure destitute of both; the people left their houses, both in city and country, and fled elsewhere with the remainder of their substance that had not fallen into his hands: his menacing demands being signified by roaring agrees with his character as a lion, to which he is compared, Proverbs 19:12.
(x) "et cognovit viduas ejus", Pagninus, Montanus, Cocceius; "viduas eorum", Vatablus, Starckius; so R. Joseph Kimchi. Which sense is approved by Gussetius, Ebr. Comment. p. 312. R. Jonah interprets it, "he broke their palaces"; so Calvin, and some in Vatablus, and R. Sol. Urbin. Ohel Moed, fol. 96. 1.
on every side from the provinces; Nebuchadnezzar and his auxiliaries, which consisted of the people of the provinces all around, who were brought together, and placed round about Jerusalem, at the siege of it; particularly the bands of the Chaldeans, Syrians, Moabites, and Ammonites, 2 Kings 24:1;
and spread their net over him; which may be expressive both of the policy, crafty and secret contrivances and designs, of Jehoiakim's enemies; and of their external force and hostile power against him:
he was taken in their pit; which they dug for him, or by the means which they contrived for his ruin, and which they put in execution and effected: the metaphor of a lion is carried on, and the manner of taking one is alluded to, which is commonly in pits, as Pliny (z) says; and the Arabs now dig a pit where lions are observed to enter, and covering it over slightly with reeds, of small branches of trees, they frequently decoy and catch them (a).
(y) "et ediderunt vocem"; Vatablus. (z) "Capere eos ardui erat quondam operis, foveisque maxime". Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 8. c. 16. (a) Dr. Shaw's Travels, p. 172. Ed. 2.
and brought him to the king of Babylon; to Nebuchadnezzar, who came up against him with his army of many nations, he having rebelled against him; and, being taken by his soldiers, was brought to him in chains, wherever he was, whether without the gates of Jerusalem, or at any other place; for it is not certain where he was: however,
they brought him into holes; places of confinement, one after another, in his way to Babylon; where, it seems, before he came thither, he died, and was cast out on a dunghill, and had no burial, as Jeremiah foretold, Ezekiel 22:18;
that his voice should no more be heard in the mountains of Israel; in the kingdom of Israel, to the terror of its inhabitants, threatening them with death, if they did not answer his exorbitant demands; nor was it ever heard any more: the allusion still is to a lion traversing the mountains, and roaring after its prey, to the terror of other creatures.
(b) "in claustro uncis adhibitis", Junius & Tremellius, Polanus; "in claustrum in hamis", Montanus; "in claustro in hamis", Starckius; "in cavea hamis", Cocceius.
"the congregation of Israel, when it did according to the law, was like to a vine, &c.''
planted by the waters; for in those hot countries vines required water, and thrived the better for bring near to them, or for being in watery places; this may denote the many privileges, blessings, laws, and ordinances, which were for the advantage of the Jewish people; both in their civil and ecclesiastical state:
she was fruitful and full of branches, by reason of many waters; grew populous, rich, and wealthy.
"and there were in her strong rulers, kings that were, highly to subdue kingdoms;''
such as David, Solomon, and at hers after them: or this may refer to the times of Josiah, and at his death, who left behind him several sons, who became kings, besides other princes of the blood; as his brother Mattaniah, who also was king: and some even carry this to Zedekiah himself, who had many children, who seemed to be strong rods, fit for sceptres, or sceptre bearers; that is, to be kings. The allusion seems to be to the sceptres of the ancients, which were no other than walking sticks, cut off of the stems or branches of trees, and decorated with gold, or studded with golden nails. Thus Achilles is introduced by Homer (c) as swearing by a sceptre; which, being cut off of a trunk of a tree left on the mountains, and stripped of its bark and leaves, should never more produce leaves and branches, or sprout again: and such an one, he observes, the Grecian judges, carry in their hands. Sometimes they were made of the "oleaster" (d), or wild olive, the same as a shepherd's staff; for what shepherds were to their flocks, that were kings to men;
and her stature was exalted among the thick branches; as the body and trunk of a tree rises up higher than the branches, which are thickest about the middle of it, and so more eminent and conspicuous; thus it was with the nation of the Jews, and the royal family in it, that appeared more glorious and excellent among the nobles and princes of it; or, as the Targum expresses it,
"it was lifted up in its strength above its own kingdom;''
or rather the sense is, that in the days of David and Solomon, and some others, it greatly exceeded all the kingdoms of the nations round about it:
and she appeared in her height with the multitude of her branches; was seen and taken notice of for the multitude of her people, and the grandeur of her state.
(c) Iliad. 1. l. 234, &c. (d) Paschal. de Coronis, l. 6. c. 19. p. 406, 407.
she was cast down to the ground; a phrase expressive of, he entire overthrow of the nation; for a vine, though plucked up, yet, if immediately planted again, might grow; but being plucked up, and left on the ground, and there lie, there is no hope of it; so that this denotes the desperate case of this people at this time, being in captivity. So the Targum paraphrases both clauses,
"and it was rooted up with strength out of the land of the house of the Shechinah, and translated into another land;''
and the east wind dried up her fruit; Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and the Chaldean army, compared to an east wind, because hurtful and pernicious, as that is to trees and fruit, and because Babylon lay northeast of Judea; the people of, he land are meant by the fruit of the vine, with their wealth and riches, which were seized upon and wasted, or carried into Babylon. So the Targum,
"and a king strong as the east wind slew her people;''
her strong rods were broken and withered; or, "strong rod"; the singular for the plural; which may design King Jeconiah particularly, who with his mother, wives, princes, and officers, and the mighty of the land, even all the mighty men of valour, with the craftsmen and smiths, were taken and carried captive, 2 Kings 24:14;
the fire consumed them; the wrath of God, which is often compared to fire, the same with fury in the beginning of the verse; which shows that it was for sin, which had provoked the Lord to wrath and anger, that all this ruin came upon the Jewish nation. The Targum is,
"her strong governors removed, and were carried captive; and the people which are strong, as fire consumed them.''
in a dry and thirsty ground; which is a periphrasis or description of a wilderness, Psalm 63:1; and designs the same place as before; where the Jews were deprived of their liberties, and had not the opportunities of divine worship, the word and ordinances; and were destitute of the comforts both of civil and religious life. Unless this is to be understood of the land of Judea, which by the devastation made in it by the king of Babylon, and the multitudes that were carried captive by him out of it, it became like a desert, a dry and thirsty land; and so the vine planted in it signifies the remainder of the people left in it, alter this great destruction; when it looked like a vine plucked up, and thrown down, and left on the ground, dried up with the east wind, and burnt with fire; and thus it fared with the remnant in a little time after, as the next words show.