Ezekiel 17-19

Thursday Evening Bible Study

September 22, 2005

Ezekiel 17

:1-10  The Eagle and the Vine

:1 And the word of the LORD came to me, saying,

:2 "Son of man, pose a riddle, and speak a parable to the house of Israel,

riddle – an obscure idea requiring interpretation

parable –an illustration by comparison

In this story, there will be eagles, trees, branches, and vines.

The eagles are the major political powers at the time – Babylon and Egypt.

The trees, branches, and vines will be pictures of the nation of Judah.

:3 "and say, 'Thus says the Lord GOD: "A great eagle with large wings and long pinions, Full of feathers of various colors, Came to Lebanon And took from the cedar the highest branch.

Lebanon – not only the nation to the north of Israel, but by extension the mountains that extend southward into Israel.

Eagle = Babylon

branch = Judah

:4 He cropped off its topmost young twig And carried it to a land of trade; He set it in a city of merchants.

land of tradeKJV says “land of traffic” (might make you think of L.A. or even Moscow), it’s referring to Babylon.

The princes of Judah taken to Babylon in 605 BC, King Jehoiachin was taken to Babylon in 597 BC.

:5 Then he took some of the seed of the land And planted it in a fertile field; He placed it by abundant waters And set it like a willow tree.

Exiles taken to Babylon

:6 And it grew and became a spreading vine of low stature; Its branches turned toward him, But its roots were under it. So it became a vine, Brought forth branches, And put forth shoots.

Judah prospered in Babylon

:7 "But there was another great eagle with large wings and many feathers; And behold, this vine bent its roots toward him, And stretched its branches toward him, From the garden terrace where it had been planted, That he might water it.

Another eagle = Egypt

Judah began to reach out to Egypt for help against Babylon.

This would happen under King Zedekiah.  He would ask Egypt for help and then rebel against Babylon.

What you don’t know about this passage is that this prophecy was written some time between 592 BC (8:1) and 591 BC (20:1).  Zedekiah’s revolt against Babylon won’t start until 588 BC, three years later.

:8 It was planted in good soil by many waters, To bring forth branches, bear fruit, And become a majestic vine."'

:9 "Say, 'Thus says the Lord GOD: "Will it thrive? Will he not pull up its roots, Cut off its fruit, And leave it to wither? All of its spring leaves will wither, And no great power or many people Will be needed to pluck it up by its roots.

The first eagle (Babylon) will pull up the cheating vine.  It won’t take much to destroy the cheating vine.

:10 Behold, it is planted, Will it thrive? Will it not utterly wither when the east wind touches it? It will wither in the garden terrace where it grew."' "

:11-21 The Parable explained

:11 Moreover the word of the LORD came to me, saying,

:12 "Say now to the rebellious house: 'Do you not know what these things mean?' Tell them, 'Indeed the king of Babylon went to Jerusalem and took its king and princes, and led them with him to Babylon.

The first and second exiles, 605, 597 BC.  Included people like Daniel and young King Jehoiachin.

:13 'And he took the king's offspring, made a covenant with him, and put him under oath. He also took away the mighty of the land,

An agreement was made with the royal house of Judah.

:14 'that the kingdom might be brought low and not lift itself up, but that by keeping his covenant it might stand.

As long as Judah remained faithful to Babylon, it would be okay.

:15 'But he rebelled against him by sending his ambassadors to Egypt, that they might give him horses and many people. Will he prosper? Will he who does such things escape? Can he break a covenant and still be delivered?

Zedekiah reached out to Egypt and broke his treaty with Babylon.

:16 'As I live,' says the Lord GOD, 'surely in the place where the king dwells who made him king, whose oath he despised and whose covenant he broke; with him in the midst of Babylon he shall die.

Zedekiah was made king by Babylon, but he rebelled.  Zedekiah would die in Babylon.

:17 'Nor will Pharaoh with his mighty army and great company do anything in the war, when they heap up a siege mound and build a wall to cut off many persons.

:18 'Since he despised the oath by breaking the covenant, and in fact gave his hand and still did all these things, he shall not escape.'"

Zedekiah broke his promise.

:19 Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: "As I live, surely My oath which he despised, and My covenant which he broke, I will recompense on his own head.

It wasn’t just a promise to Babylon, it was a promise to God.  God would hold him accountable.

:20 "I will spread My net over him, and he shall be taken in My snare. I will bring him to Babylon and try him there for the treason which he committed against Me.

:21 "All his fugitives with all his troops shall fall by the sword, and those who remain shall be scattered to every wind; and you shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken."


Keep your promises

Zedekiah would get into trouble because he would break his “covenant” with Babylon.  He broke his promise.
I think there is a time when we should break our “promises”.
In the Law of Moses, there was a provision (Num. 30) for when a woman made a rash promise.  If a woman made a vow or signed a contract, and if she was still living at home, and if her father thought it was a stupid thing to do, the father could nullify the contract.  If a woman was married, her husband could nullify a contract.

If you made a stupid promise, you didn’t have to be held to it.

I think that in a way, as the Bride of Christ, our Husband might not like all the contracts we sign.  If you get into a stupid business arrangement, and it’s legal to get out of it, I think it would be okay.

The real issue is whether or not God wants you to keep that promise or not.

But for the most part, we need to learn to be people who keep their promises.   If God likes the “promise” we’ve made, we better keep it.
The marriage promise is one promise you know that God wants you to keep.
New Wedding Vows
During the wedding rehearsal, the groom approached the pastor with an unusual offer “Look, I’ll give you $100 if you’ll change the wedding vows. When you get to me and the part where I’m to promise to ‘love, honor and obey’ and ‘forsaking all others, be faithful to her forever,’ I’d appreciate it if you’d just leave that part out.” He passed the minister a $100 bill and walked away satisfied. It is now the day of the wedding, and the bride and groom have moved to that part of the ceremony where the vows are exchanged. When it comes time for the groom’s vows, the pastor looks the young man in the eye and says: “Will you promise to prostrate yourself before her, obey her every command and wish, serve her breakfast in bed every morning of your life and swear eternally before God and your lovely wife that you will not ever even look at another woman, as long as you both shall live?” The groom gulped and looked around, and said in a tiny voice, “Yes.” The groom leaned toward the pastor and hissed, “I thought we had a deal.” The pastor put the $100 bill into his hand and whispered back, “She made me a much better offer.”

:22-24 Restoration

:22 Thus says the Lord GOD: "I will take also one of the highest branches of the high cedar and set it out. I will crop off from the topmost of its young twigs a tender one, and will plant it on a high and prominent mountain.

This seems to be talking about the Messiah, Jesus.  He is known in prophecy as “the Branch”.

(Isa 11:1 NKJV)  There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, And a Branch shall grow out of his roots.

(Jer 33:15-16 NKJV)  'In those days and at that time I will cause to grow up to David A Branch of righteousness; He shall execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. {16} In those days Judah will be saved, And Jerusalem will dwell safely. And this is the name by which she will be called: THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.'

(Zec 6:12 NKJV)  "Then speak to him, saying, 'Thus says the LORD of hosts, saying: "Behold, the Man whose name is the BRANCH! From His place He shall branch out, And He shall build the temple of the LORD;

:23 "On the mountain height of Israel I will plant it; and it will bring forth boughs, and bear fruit, and be a majestic cedar. Under it will dwell birds of every sort; in the shadow of its branches they will dwell.

God will one day restore the nation in the land of Israel.  Jesus will set up His kingdom in Israel.

:24 "And all the trees of the field shall know that I, the LORD, have brought down the high tree and exalted the low tree, dried up the green tree and made the dry tree flourish; I, the LORD, have spoken and have done it."

God humbles the proud and lifts up the humble.

Ezekiel 18

:1-4 Each responsible for his own sin

:1 The word of the LORD came to me again, saying,

:2 "What do you mean when you use this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying: 'The fathers have eaten sour grapes, And the children's teeth are set on edge'?

Jeremiah also spoke of this proverb, something that had been circulating in the land:

(Jer 31:29-30 NKJV)  "In those days they shall say no more: 'The fathers have eaten sour grapes, And the children's teeth are set on edge.' {30} "But every one shall die for his own iniquity; every man who eats the sour grapes, his teeth shall be set on edge.

The idea is that children are affected by the actions or sins of their fathers.

There is a sense in which this is true – your sin does affect your family.


Several years ago the Christian Life and Faith magazine presented some unusual facts about two families. In 1677 an immoral man (Max Jukes) married a very licentious woman. Nineteen hundred descendants came from the generations begun by that union. Of these, 771 were criminals, 250 were arrested for various offenses, 60 were thieves, and 39 were convicted for murder. Forty of the women were known to have venereal disease. These people spent a combined total of 1300 years behind bars and cost the State of New York nearly 3 million dollars.
The other family was the Edwards family. The third generation included Jonathan Edwards who was the great New England revival preacher and who became president of Princeton University. Of the 1,344 descendants, many were college presidents and professors. One hundred eighty-six became ministers of the gospel, and many others were active in their churches. Eighty-six were state senators, three were Congressmen, 30 judges, and one became Vice President of the United States. No reference was made of anyone spending time in jail or in the poorhouse.

:3 "As I live," says the Lord GOD, "you shall no longer use this proverb in Israel.

:4 "Behold, all souls are Mine; The soul of the father As well as the soul of the son is Mine; The soul who sins shall die.

Each person is responsible for their own sins. 

There may be consequences to your family for your sins, but you are held accountable to God for your own sins.

You will not be held accountable for your parents’ sins, though your life may be affected by it.

:5-9 The just shall live

:5 But if a man is just And does what is lawful and right;

We now get a sample of what it means to live lawfully and right.

:6 If he has not eaten on the mountains, Nor lifted up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, Nor defiled his neighbor's wife, Nor approached a woman during her impurity;

eaten on the mountains – eating the meals at the sacrificial feasts held to the various idols in the high places.

:7 If he has not oppressed anyone, But has restored to the debtor his pledge; Has robbed no one by violence, But has given his bread to the hungry And covered the naked with clothing;

restored … pledge – taking something like a coat as collateral for a loan, but returning it.

(Exo 22:26 NKJV)  "If you ever take your neighbor's garment as a pledge, you shall return it to him before the sun goes down.

:8 If he has not exacted usury Nor taken any increase, But has withdrawn his hand from iniquity And executed true judgment between man and man;

usury – loaning out money with interest

:9 If he has walked in My statutes And kept My judgments faithfully; He is just; He shall surely live!" Says the Lord GOD.


Finding life

The just shall live.
One of the difficulties is the fact that no one is perfect.  We all sin.

(Rom 3:23 NKJV)  for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

We read about the requirements of the Law and in the end we all fall short of it.
But there is still a way for the “just” to live.  They live through their faith.
By the end of the Old Testament, the prophet Habakkuk wrote,
(Hab 2:4 NKJV)  "Behold the proud, His soul is not upright in him; But the just shall live by his faith.
This became one of Paul’s theme ideas:
(Rom 1:17 NKJV)  For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "The just shall live by faith."
(Gal 3:11 NKJV)  But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for "the just shall live by faith."

When we come to trust in Jesus Christ and what He did for us on the cross, we will “live”.  We will have eternal life.

:10-13  Good father, bad son

:10 "If he begets a son who is a robber Or a shedder of blood, Who does any of these things

:11 And does none of those duties, But has eaten on the mountains Or defiled his neighbor's wife;

:12 If he has oppressed the poor and needy, Robbed by violence, Not restored the pledge, Lifted his eyes to the idols, Or committed abomination;

:13 If he has exacted usury Or taken increase; Shall he then live? He shall not live! If he has done any of these abominations, He shall surely die; His blood shall be upon him.

A righteous father who has a bad son – the bad son doesn’t get to live on his dad’s coattails.  The bad son isn’t accepted by what his father did.

:14-19 Bad father, good son

:14 "If, however, he begets a son Who sees all the sins which his father has done, And considers but does not do likewise;

:15 Who has not eaten on the mountains, Nor lifted his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, Nor defiled his neighbor's wife;

:16 Has not oppressed anyone, Nor withheld a pledge, Nor robbed by violence, But has given his bread to the hungry And covered the naked with clothing;

:17 Who has withdrawn his hand from the poor And not received usury or increase, But has executed My judgments And walked in My statutes; He shall not die for the iniquity of his father; He shall surely live!

A son who sees how wicked his father is and does not follow in his father’s steps will live.

:18 "As for his father, Because he cruelly oppressed, Robbed his brother by violence, And did what is not good among his people, Behold, he shall die for his iniquity.

But the wicked father will die, for his own sins.

:19-22 Wicked die, righteous live

:19 "Yet you say, 'Why should the son not bear the guilt of the father?' Because the son has done what is lawful and right, and has kept all My statutes and observed them, he shall surely live.

:20 "The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.

Here’s a great principle – if you sin, you pay for your own sin.

:21 "But if a wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed, keeps all My statutes, and does what is lawful and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die.

:22 "None of the transgressions which he has committed shall be remembered against him; because of the righteousness which he has done, he shall live.



Turning from your sins (repentance) brings forgiveness.
Gerald Lebowitz writes in the Readers Digest (Jan 1996, p. 31.),

On the way home one night, I spotted some fresh-cut roses outside a florist’s shop.  After selecting a dozen and entering the shop, I was greeted by a young saleswoman.

“Are these for your wife, sir?”  she asked.

“Yes,” I said.

“For her birthday?” she asked.

“No,” I replied.

“For your anniversary?”

“No,” I said again.

As I pocketed my change and headed toward the door, the young woman called out, “I hope she forgives you.”

Now sometimes a guy can get flowers just to say “I love you”.  But when you’ve sinned, flowers don’t hurt!
But repentance means more than just “flowers” – it’s turning from your sin.
This is implied in the idea of confession:

(1 John 1:9 KJV)  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Confession means “agree with”.  I agree with God about my sin.  I agree that it was wrong.  I agree that I need to turn from it.

It’s not just admitting our sin, but turning from it.  Look at the context:

(1 John 1:5-7 NKJV)  This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. {6} If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. {7} But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.

Walking in the light, confessing our sin, involves turning from sin.  We don’t “earn” forgiveness by our actions, but our actions prove the sincerity of our confession.


When Michigan played Wisconsin in basketball early in the season in 1989, Michigan’s Rumeal Robinson stepped to the foul line for two shots late in the fourth quarter.  His team trailed by one point, so Rumeal could regain the lead for Michigan.  He missed both shots, allowing Wisconsin to upset favored Michigan.

Rumeal felt awful about costing his team the game, but his sorrow didn’t stop at the emotional level.  After each practice for the rest of the season, Rumeal shot one hundred extra foul shots.  Thus, Rumeal was ready when he stepped to the foul line to shoot two shots with three seconds left in overtime in the national-championship game.

Swish went the first shot, and swish went the second.  Those shots won Michigan the national championship.  Rumeal’s repentance had been genuine, and sorrow motivated him to work so that he would never make that mistake again.

Paul wrote, “Godly sorrow leads to repentance” (2 Cor. 7:10).

:23-32  Turn and live

:23 "Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?" says the Lord GOD, "and not that he should turn from his ways and live?


God doesn’t want sinners to die

God takes no pleasure in seeing wicked people punished for their sins.
He would rather that they turn from their sin and live.
A church was in need of a pastor.  A candidate came who preached on hell.  The next Sunday another candidate came whose sermon was also on hell, and his fundamental teaching was the same as that of the first one.  When the members of the church were called upon to vote, they voted for the second candidate. When they were asked why, the answer was, “The first one spoke as if he were glad that people were going to hell, while the second seemed sorry for it.”
When the atheist Robert G. Ingersoll was delivering his lectures against Christ and the Bible, his oratorical ability usually assured him of a large crowd.  One night after an inflammatory speech in which he severely attacked man’s faith in the Savior, he dramatically took out his watch and said, “I’ll give God a chance to prove that He exists and is almighty.  I challenge Him to strike me dead within 5 minutes!”  First there was silence, then people became uneasy.  Some left the hall, unable to take the nervous strain of the occasion, and one woman fainted.  At the end of the allocated time, the atheist exclaimed derisively, “See!  There is no God.  I am still very much alive!”
After the lecture a young fellow said to a Christian lady, “Well, Ingersoll certainly proved something tonight!”  Her reply was memorable.  “Yes, he did,” she said.  “He demonstrated that even the most defiant sinner cannot exhaust the patience of the Lord in just 5 minutes!”  Another man added, “ As I was coming downtown today, a belligerent little fellow came running out of an alley, daring me to hit him.  Do you suppose I actually struck him, just because he challenged me to do so?  In the same way, our Lord will not strike everyone dead who defies Him.  We should be thankful that in this age He is still operating in grace and desires to show His love rather than His wrath.”

:24 "But when a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and does according to all the abominations that the wicked man does, shall he live? All the righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; because of the unfaithfulness of which he is guilty and the sin which he has committed, because of them he shall die.

:25 "Yet you say, 'The way of the Lord is not fair.' Hear now, O house of Israel, is it not My way which is fair, and your ways which are not fair?

:26 "When a righteous man turns away from his righteousness, commits iniquity, and dies in it, it is because of the iniquity which he has done that he dies.

:27 "Again, when a wicked man turns away from the wickedness which he committed, and does what is lawful and right, he preserves himself alive.

:28 "Because he considers and turns away from all the transgressions which he committed, he shall surely live; he shall not die.

:29 "Yet the house of Israel says, 'The way of the Lord is not fair.' O house of Israel, is it not My ways which are fair, and your ways which are not fair?

:30 "Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways," says the Lord GOD. "Repent, and turn from all your transgressions, so that iniquity will not be your ruin.

:31 "Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O house of Israel?

:32 "For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies," says the Lord GOD. "Therefore turn and live!"

(go on to summarize chapter 19 … )

This chapter is a “funeral dirge”.  It speaks in symbolic language about the death of the Kings of Judah.  First they are compared to offspring of a lioness, the nation of Judah.  But these young lions would be captured and mourned.

Then the nation is compared to a vine that once was strong and produced the scepters of kings, but now is dried up and good for nothing.

(and come back …)

:32 "For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies," says the Lord GOD. "Therefore turn and live!"


Taking Personal Responsibility

The point is that we are all responsible for our own sins.
Yet in our world today, we often want to blame our problems and sins on other people.
Play “Therapy” from Paul Aldrich’s album “Mock and Roll”.
We “know who to blame”.  We have a reason why we behave the way we do.

Instead of apologizing for what we’ve done, we have convenient reasons to excuse us and our behavior.

In The Essential Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson, the cartoon character Calvin says to his tiger friend, Hobbes, “I feel bad that I called Susie names and hurt her feelings. I’m sorry I did it.”
“Maybe you should apologize to her,” Hobbes suggests. Calvin ponders this for a moment and replies, “I keep hoping there’s a less obvious solution.”
Do the obvious – take responsibility for your actions.
Lloyd H. Steffen wrote in The Christian Century how when King Frederick II, an eighteenth-century king of Prussia, was visiting a prison in Berlin, the inmates tried to prove to him how they had been unjustly imprisoned.  All except one.
That one sat quietly in a corner, while all the rest protested their innocence.  Seeing him sitting there oblivious to the commotion, the king asked him what he was there for.  “Armed robbery, Your Honor.”  The king asked, “Were you guilty?”  “Yes, Sir,” he answered. “I entirely deserve my punishment.”  The king then gave an order to the guard: “Release this guilty man.  I don’t want him corrupting all these innocent people.”
God will take nine steps toward us, but he will not take the tenth. He will incline us to repent, but he cannot do our repenting for us.

-- A.W. Tozer, Christian Reader, Vol. 32, no. 5.

Take responsibility

Ezekiel 19

:1-9 Young Lions

:1 "Moreover take up a lamentation for the princes of Israel,

A lamentation was a funeral dirge, sung to remember those who have died.

:2 "and say: 'What is your mother? A lioness: She lay down among the lions; Among the young lions she nourished her cubs.

The nation of Judah is the lioness and her princes and kings are the young lions.

:3 She brought up one of her cubs, And he became a young lion; He learned to catch prey, And he devoured men.

Jehoahaz was a son of Josiah.  After becoming king, he was taken captive by the Egyptians and taken to Egypt by Pharaoh-Neco in 609 BC.

:4 The nations also heard of him; He was trapped in their pit, And they brought him with chains to the land of Egypt.

:5 'When she saw that she waited, that her hope was lost, She took another of her cubs and made him a young lion.

This could possibly refer to Jehoiachin who was taken captive to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar in 597 BC.

:6 He roved among the lions, And became a young lion; He learned to catch prey; He devoured men.

:7 He knew their desolate places, And laid waste their cities; The land with its fullness was desolated By the noise of his roaring.

:8 Then the nations set against him from the provinces on every side, And spread their net over him; He was trapped in their pit.

:9 They put him in a cage with chains, And brought him to the king of Babylon; They brought him in nets, That his voice should no longer be heard on the mountains of Israel.

Jehoiachin lived a long life in Babylon.  He was a prisoner for 37 years, and then released from prison, but he never returned to Israel.

:10-14 Transplanted Vine

:10 'Your mother was like a vine in your bloodline, Planted by the waters, Fruitful and full of branches Because of many waters.

Judah is now compared to a vine which is plucked up and destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BC because of Zedekiah’s rebellion.

:11 She had strong branches for scepters of rulers. She towered in stature above the thick branches, And was seen in her height amid the dense foliage.

:12 But she was plucked up in fury, She was cast down to the ground, And the east wind dried her fruit. Her strong branches were broken and withered; The fire consumed them.

When the wind blows from the west in Israel, it comes from the Mediterranean Sea and has lots of moisture.  When it comes from the east, it comes off the desert and is a dry wind.

:13 And now she is planted in the wilderness, In a dry and thirsty land.

Judah taken off to Babylon

:14 Fire has come out from a rod of her branches And devoured her fruit, So that she has no strong branch; a scepter for ruling.' " This is a lamentation, and has become a lamentation.

After being taken to Babylon, there will be no more rulers.  Yet this is given while Zedekiah still rules in Jerusalem.  Jesus will one day come back and rule.