Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
8. The Lamentation over the Kingdom of Israel (Ezekiel 19.)
1, 2And do thou take up a lamentation for the princes of Israel. And say: How has thy mother lain down—a lioness among lions [lionesses], among young lions she reared her whelps! 3And she brought up one of her whelps; he became 4a young lion, and learned to catch prey; he devoured men. And the heathen peoples heard of him, he was taken in their pit, and they brought him in chains 5to the land of Egypt. And she saw while [when] she waited, her hope had perished; then she took one of her whelps, made him a young lion. 6And he went up and down among the lions [lionesses], he became a young lion, and learned to catch prey; he devoured men. 7And he knew [knew well] his widows [palaces], and he laid waste their cities; and the land and its fulness were desolated 8by the noise of his roaring. And the heathen nations round about from the provinces set against him, and spread their net over him; he was taken in their pit. 9And they put him in ward in chains, and brought him to the king of Babylon, brought him into a stronghold, that his voice might no 10more be heard upon the mountains of Israel.—Thy mother [is, was] like a vine, in thy blood, planted by the waters; fruitful and full of branches was it, 11from many waters. And it had strong rods for staves [sceptres] of rulers; and its growth was high, up among the clouds, and was conspicuous in its 12height, in the multitude of its branches. And it was plucked up in fury, cast to the ground, and the east wind dried up its fruit; broken and withered 13were its strong rods, fire consumed [devoured] them. And now it is planted in 14the wilderness, in a land of drought and thirst. And fire went out of a rod of its boughs, consumed [devoured] its fruit, and there was not in it [more] a strong rod, a staff [sceptre] for ruling. This is a lamentation, and shall be for a lamentation.
Ezekiel 19:1. Sept.: ... ἐπι τον ἀρχοντα—
Ezekiel 19:3. K. ἀπεπηδησεν εἱς των—
Ezekiel 19:5. K. ἰδεν ὁτι ἀπωστσι ἀπʼ αὑτης κ. ἀπωλετο ἡ ὑποστασις αὐτης, κ. ἐλαβεν ἀλλον—
Ezekiel 19:7. ... κ. ἐνεμετο ἐν τ. θρασει αὐτου, κ. τ. πολεις αὐτων—Vulg.: Didicit viduas facere, et … in desertum adducere—
Ezekiel 19:9. ... ἐν κημω, κ. ἠνεγκαν αὐτον ἐν γαλεαγρα—(For מלך בבל other copies read ארץ בבל.)
Ezekiel 19:10. ... ὡς ἀμπελος, ὡς ἀνθος ἐν ῥοα ἐν ὑδχτι—Vulg.: … quasi vinea in sanguine tuo super aquam—(For בדמך there is a reading: ברמך in celsitudine tua.
Ezekiel 19:11. χ. ἐγενοντο αὐτη π̔αβδος ἱσχυος ἐπι φυλην ἡγουμενων, χ.... ἐν τω μεγεθει αὐτης ἐν μεσω στελεχεων—Vulg.: statura ejus inter frondes—
Ezekiel 19:14. Sept.: ... φυλη εἰς παραβολην θρηνου ἐστιν, χ. ἐσται εἰς θρηνον.
The parallel to Ezekiel 17. shows itself clearly in substance and form: that also referred to the kingdom of Jerusalem; this has the same enigmatic style, the same borrowing of figurative expressions from the plant and animal world, and agrees partially in general, and in particular expressions.
Ezekiel 19:1. וְאַתָּה, introducing a partial contrast, so that the “proverb” of the previous chapter, from the side of the people, is now confronted by the lamentation, from the side of the prophet. It is an elegy (possibly on the model of songs like 2 Chron. 35:25, HÄV.), a lament, whose occasion is contemplated as an existing reality. That which hangs over the kingdom is already an accomplished fact; one only requires to summon what has happened into the present, in order to anticipate easily what is about to happen. Comp. Ezekiel 2:10.—The princes (Ezekiel 7:27, 12:10, 12) are evidently the existing kings, Jehoahaz and Jehoiachin, as royal types for the future of the Israelitish kingdom. According to Häv., the lament was devoted to the Davidic royal race in general. Purposely of Israel, because David’s house alone was legitimate over all Israel (HÄV.).—שָׂא, paronomasia with נְשִׂאֵי.
Ezekiel 19:2–9. The Kings
Ezekiel 19:2. The address is directed to the people. According to Hengst., to the tribe of Judah, the people of the present. [Ewald makes Ezekiel sing beforehand, in the spirit of prophecy, a lament over Zedekiah, and his inevitable overthrow. Hitzig even alters the plural, princes, into the singular, prince (following the Sept.), for the sake of this interpretation. Rosenm. makes Jehoiachin the subject, who, like Ezekiel, was in exile.]—The mother of the people is Jerusalem (Ezekiel 21:25 ). Comp. Gal. 4:25 sq. [EWALD: the ancient church. HITZIG: the people of Israel. HÄV.: ancient Israel in its earlier glory. KLIEF.: Israel as a historical people. HENGST.: the people per se.] Perhaps an allusion to Isa. 29:1 sq. Jerusalem-Judah, as in Ezekiel 16.—The retrospective reference of the figure employed to Gen. 49:9 sq. is evident, recommends itself also by the allusion to Judah, and is not gainsaid by Klief.; just because the figure is here turned in malam partem, all the more would the contrast suit as a set-off to the promise in Gen. 49. Comp. Num. 23:24, 24:9. The royal nature is meant to be depicted (“of equal birth with other independent and powerful nations, as this royal nature was historically displayed, especially in the times of David and Solomon,” HENGST.): Jerusalem the royal city (Rev. 5:5). The complaint fairly begins with מָה. [Klief., on the other hand, assumes a double reproach, that Israel conforms itself to the heathen world-powers, and that it thus destroys its kings (!). Hence it is rather a complaint against the Israel of that time.]—That she lay down among the neighbouring royal states betokens majestic repose and conscious security,—the fearless one exciting fear by imposing power. (Comp. further Ezekiel 16:14.)—The simple result is, that among young lions (בּפִיר is the young lion which already goes after prey; בּוּר is any young creature which is still with its mother, in particular the young of the lion) Jerusalem brought up her royal children in royal splendour, for a kingly destiny. Perhaps also a hint at the first establishment of the kingdom of Israel, which would be “like all the nations” (1 Sam. 8:5–20)!
Ezekiel 19:3. She—the royal mother-city (Lam. 1:1).—The one of her young ones, so that in רִבְּתָה may be included the idea of the increase of the family, is described entirely from the natural side as a real young lion. טָרַף is: to snatch away; hence: to acquire as booty; also: to tear asunder, into which sense the clause, he devoured men, immediately passes over. Comp. as to Jehoahaz, 2 Kings 23:32. What is there said (Ezekiel 19:30) of the “people of the land” in reference to the anointing of Jehoahaz is taken by Hengst. in connection with this verse. He became a young lion, can also be equivalent to: became a king; and what follows may betoken the political development of kingly power.
Ezekiel 19:4. Heard of him: as when the rumour of the proximity of a devastating lion spreads, and the hunting of the ravenous beast now begins; or, that their attention was directed towards him by his roaring, so that they proceeded to hunt him. As to the fact, see 2 Kings 23:33, 34—חָח is a hook, a ring, which one puts through the nose of animals that require to be restrained (2 Kings 19:18), to attach to it the bridle by which they are led, by which also their power of breathing can be lessened.
Ezekiel 19:5. Up to this point, Egypt; now the other world-power, Babylon (2 Kings 24:7). Comp. Ezekiel 17. Pharaoh Necho had appointed Jehoiakim king, who is left out of account in the lament, because death had deprived him of his crown, 2 Kings 24:6. For the connection, he is omitted as Egyptian, and therefore not answering to the representation of Ezekiel 19:3 (comp. Ezekiel 19:6). After Jehoahaz only Jehoiachin can come into view.—נוֹחְַלָה, Niphal from יָחַל (חוּל), to expect; Ewald: to be in pain, to feel feeble, hence to despair; she saw that she was deceived—her hope lost. Häv. as Gen. 8:12: and she saw that her hope was deferred and had come to nothing, to wit, the hope entertained at first of possibly procuring the deliverance of Jehoahaz through the humiliation of Egypt. Expectations from the other world-power, to which the eye could turn, are here most appropriate, since the Babylonish world-power was forming itself at that very time, כִּי׳ is simply: while (when) she waited, she saw; her hope touching the one royal son had perished. Then she took, etc., 2 Kings 24:8 sq. כְּפִיר׳ answers perfectly to the youthful age of Jehoiachin.
Ezekiel 19:6. Jehoiachin conducted himself as a king, exactly like other kings; comp. Ezekiel 19:3. If אֲרָיוֹת is to be translated lionesses, then the idea might thereby be made prominent that he acted after the manner of his mother, Ezekiel 19:2–7. וַיֵּדַע. Against the sense which Häv., Hengst., and others adopt, it may be said that the figure would be abandoned, and that 2 Kings 24:9 refers to nothing so special as the defilement of widows. Häv.: their (collective: of the slain, Ezekiel 19:6); HENGST.: his (whom he as king was bound to protect), at the same time the people’s widows, the personœ miserabiles. Others: he observed his widows (whom he had made so by devouring their husbands). He had them before his eyes. אַלְמְנוֹתָיו can hardly signify here “widows” in the ordinary sense, it would be so entirely against the parallelism (וְעָריהֶם). The passage remains figurative; although the king referred to breaks through the figurative drapery, he is spoken of in a still more appropriate pictorial manner. As in Isa. 13:22, the word in question is used poetically of widowed palaces, i.e. forsaken of their inhabitants, so here ironically. Jehoiachin is described (2 Kings 24:9) as altogether like his father (Jehoiakim), which must not be overlooked; while (2 Kings 23:32) it is said of Jehoahaz, more generally that he did as “his fathers.” If we were entitled to colour the portrait of Jehoiachin from our knowledge of Jehoiakim, then Jer. 22, especially Ezekiel 19:13 sq., offers, in what is said of his despotic passion for building, all that is necessary for a good understanding of our passage. יֵדַע is therefore: he perceived, i.e. was anxious about (Gen. 39:6), knew—his palaces, built by his father, which so soon (after three months) became widowed palaces. And as that was the object of his anxious thought and longing, his conduct corresponded, inasmuch as, for his palaces, he devastated the cities of others (their). [Ewald (like the Chald.) reads וַיָּרַע, from רעע: “shattered their palaces.”] The words וַתֵּשַׁם׳ describe the disorder of the land. Ezekiel 12:19.
Ezekiel 19:8. The object of וַיִּתְּנוּ is completed from what follows. The heathen peoples round about, etc. EWALD: The gay Chaldean host (Ezekiel 17:3). HENGST.: “The provinces are the surrounding countries, as parts of the Chaldean empire; comp. 2 Kings 24:2, according to which the Syrians, Ammonites, and Moabites were summoned against Jehoiakim, the father of Jehoiachin.”—Comp. Ezekiel 19:4; Ezekiel 12:13.
Ezekiel 19:9. “It is customary to transport lions in large and very strong cages” (J. D. MICH.).—The heathen-world thus made an end of the dominion. וַיִּתְּנֻהוּ recalls Ezekiel 19:8. In chains, as Ezekiel 19:4. To the king of Babylon, counterpart to “to the land of Egypt.” As to further parallels, see the verses. Stronghold (Heb. pl.), an indefinite, poetic, general] term (Judg. 12:7). That his voice, etc., points back to Ezekiel 19:7. 2 Kings 24:12 could not be expressed otherwise, by means of the foregoing figure, than in terms parallel to Ezekiel 19:4. The more special element of the history is concealed by the poetic veil.
Ezekiel 19:10–14. The Mother of Kings
Just as in Ezekiel 17, a transition to another figure, namely, to that which is there (Ezekiel 19:5 sq.) used as to King Zedekiah, the subject still remaining the kingdom.
Ezekiel 19:10 The address, as in Ezekiel 19:2, and the mother, who is compared to a vine, is also, as there, Jerusalem (Ps. 80:9 ). In thy blood; Ewald: in his likeness, like thee (Zedekiah!):—analogous to in thy name.—HENGST.: “it concerns thee” (דְּמוּח = דָּם, comp. ἐν παραβολῇ, Heb. 11:19), i.e. what is here said of the mother applies pre-eminently to the people of the present—tua res agitur, etc. Kimchi and Rashi fix on בִּדְמוּתְךָ, others derive דָּם from דָּמָה, or read נִדְמָה; where as Piscator, Häv., and others adopt דָמָה, דּוּם, in silentio tuo, in thy rest, the happy peaceful time (Isa. 38:10), which hardly suits the line of thought, and doesn’t at all fit into the figure of the vine. Gesen. reads: בַּרְמְךָ, “in thy vineyard.” The Sept. reads: בָּרִמּוֹן, “by the pomegranate tree,” because vines and pomegranates were often found together (Num. 20:5). HITZIG: He had thus a support in contradistinction to Ezekiel 17:4. The simplest rendering is “in thy blood,” i.e. in the life of the stem of Judah. Ezekiel 19:2 looked back to Gen. 49:9 sq., and this verse looks back to Ezekiel 19:11 of the same chapter, where the figurative allusion to the blood of the grape (Deut. 32:14) suggests the point of connection with the vine figure. Comp. further at Ezekiel 17:8, 5.
Ezekiel 19:11. There grew up in Jerusalem-Judah strong shoots of David, able to rule (Gen. 49:10).—קוֹמָתוֹ, Ezekiel 17:6. The singular suffix refers not to נֶּפֶן, but rather to מַטֶּה, either to the one who was before their eyes, i.e. Zedekiah, or better still, with Hengst., to the sceptres conceived of as one, and thus to the royal race as a whole. The plural עֲבֹתִים, which is peculiar to Ezekiel, has made many think of “thickets,”—a profuse growth between the thick branches, rising above them. According to Ewald and most moderns, it stands for thicket-clouds and darkness. HENGST.: “among the clouds, through and over them.”—And was conspicuous: subject מַטֶּה.
Ezekiel 19:12. Without the intervention of anything farther, there follows its splendid growth, like a lightning flash from the clear heavens, the complete overthrow of the vine, i.e. of Jerusalem-Judah, the birthplace of kings, and therewith the Davidic kingdom. Answering to it, there is here the Hophal of נָתַשׁ, its only instance. Only one must not assume, with most interpreters, that the banishment of the people is what is meant (Ewald also makes “the whole congregation fall with the king”). The distinction between the two paragraphs is merely this, that while Ezekiel 19:2–9 bewailed the existing kings, both as bearers of the Davidic royalty, and at the same time as suggestive, by their fate, to the actual king; now Zedekiah, as he with whom the Davidic kingdom is subverted, becomes the subject of the lament, just as if everything had already happened. (Comp. Deut. 29:27; 1 Kings 14:15; Jer. 12:17.)—Ezekiel 8:18. Through the anger of God. To the ground, etc. Pictorial, but not indicating the expatriation to another land.—Ezekiel 17:10, 9.—מַטֵּה׳, collective; comp. with Ezekiel 19:11. The singular, construed with the plural of the verb, comprehends the strong rods in a single view, with reference to Zedekiah. The suffix ־הוּ refers to מַּטֶּה, not to נֶּפֶן. Comp. Ezekiel 15:5, 7. The fire, the divine judgment in its consuming character, as is explained by Ezekiel 19:14.
Ezekiel 19:13. And now, spoken in presence of the circumstances of the exile, concerning the remnant of the Davidic royal line. Hence “planting” after the withering and burning can still be spoken of, and this not on account of the people, but because the residue of the Davidic royal line is likewise in exile.—The wilderness (figurative)—without any allusion to Israel’s passing through the wilderness (HENGST.), which was altogether different—simply describes, in contrast to Ezekiel 19:10 sq., a condition of chastisement in which the vine, Judah’s kingdom, cannot prosper.—Drought, objective; thirst, subjective.
Ezekiel 19:14 adds to (1) the wrath of God, and to (2) the Chaldeans as instruments (Ezekiel 19:12), the explanation of the fire (Ezekiel 19:12), to wit, (3) Zedekiah’s offence (according to Ezekiel 17:15 sq.). Comp. Ezekiel 5:4; Judg. 9:15.—Rod of its boughs (Ezekiel 17:6) is the rod which the boughs made, which the strong vitality of the royal vine caused to shoot.—The closing sentence appropriately includes both parts of the chapter,—that which has happened and that which is to happen. וַתְּהי, prophetic perfect. (“It is not the fancy of a gloomy seer, but the prediction of a lamentation which will actually flow in a thousand voices from the mouth of the people,” etc., HENGST.) Häv.: “And it was for,” etc.; as historical notice of the subsequently written prophecy, to attest its true fulfilment.
1. Hävernick describes the fundamental character of this chapter as lyrical, prophetically elegiac. Ewald calls it “the model of an elegy”—“artistic as to the construction of its lines,—the finest and most touching of all in the Old Testament.” As to the form, he says: “The long line prevails, but it is almost always divided in the middle into two complete halves, so that the second half abruptly broken off follows the first only like a brief, transient, sighing echo. And thus, what the construction of the whole song is, as to its two directions, is repeated in the line.”
2. It is a song of three kings; or of two broken, and one breaking sceptre.
3. In regard to the historical relations, the carrying away of Jehoahaz to Egypt is parallel to that of Jehoiachin to Babylon. The intermediate Jehoiakim is left out; but because he is the more important and the characteristic person, for the beginning of the Babylonian servitude, Jehoiachin is retained in his true colours. (As similarly Zedekiah in Jer. 27)
4. In the lion-figure, the nobler passes over into the less noble aspect, on which Hengst. remarks: “By the constitution of human nature, arrogance is inseparably connected with high rank, and therewith a rude barbarity towards all who are barriers in its way. He only who walks with God can escape this natural consequence, and the walk of faith is not the attainment of every man. It should, however, be the attainment of every one of the people of God; and where it is wanting, so that the corrupt nature unfolds itself without opposition, there the divine vengeance takes effect. Jehoahaz showed himself a barbarous tyrant towards his own subjects, whereas the kingdom of Israel was designed to exhibit a heroic energy against the enemies of the people of God. On this account he was punished.”
5. The Messianic hope was bound up with the Davidic kingdom, whose subversion is here illustrated from Ezekiel 18:22 sq., and its fulfilment is shown in this, that He who appeared in the world, declared, not without a reference to our chapter, “I am the true Vine.”
Ezekiel 19:1 sq.: “In all times the sorrowful and the joyful have been expressed in poetry” (L.).—Sacred poetry a companion on the heights and in the depths of life and feeling. See the Psalms.—“Princes should be pious people, who care for the eternal as well as temporal welfare of their subjects, who judge equitably, avoid tyranny, and corrupt none by their example. But when subjects do not pray for their princes, and descend everywhere to the level of beasts in their habits, God gives them beasts as princes. For the sins of a people tyrants rule over them” (L.).
Ezekiel 19:2. “So long as the Jewish people acted according to the law of God, they rested in safety and without fear” (SCHM.).—“Judah brought up, in its princes, the rods of God’s chastisement” (RICHT.).—“The society of bad men only makes one become more wicked” (STCK.).
Ezekiel 19:3. “A royal up-bringing, when it is merely that, makes royal sinners. Great lords, alas! frequently bear lions and such like not merely on their escutcheons. That they also do, who drain men of everything, even to their blood” (B. B.).—There are men-eaters who yet devour no men.
Ezekiel 19:4. Violence is always topped by greater violence or cunning.—Many a court, though it be the prince’s own, is the pit in which the lion is taken!—There are also chains for kings—their minions.
Ezekiel 19:5 sq. In the place of one tyrant a second can come.
Ezekiel 19:7. Through a prince, his land also suffers.—“The king’s voice should be terrible to the wicked only, never to the good” (L.).—To the lion’s roaring belong cabinet orders, royal edicts.
Ezekiel 19:8 sq. What a network is woven about princes by court intrigues!—“The fate of tyrants has usually been a sad one. God has pits, nets, hunters, and cages for them even in this world, but certainly in the next” (L.).—“He who lives like a beast, shall be requited like a beast” (STCK.).—At last the lion’s roaring on the mountains dies away.
Ezekiel 19:10. In Judah there was royal blood,—the lion and the vine together.—“Apply that to the blood of Christ!” (RICHT.)—“He who can count the drops of water, may count the number of God’s acts of love” (B. B.).—“It is of God’s unmerited grace that some royal houses are blessed beyond others, and for this He will be honoured and praised, 2 Sam. 7:18” (ST.).
Ezekiel 19:11 sq. “The higher the ascent, the deeper the fall; God remains the highest, the highest over all.”—The night before destruction is sometimes full of happiness and splendour.—The bloom of princely houses, as of great cities and famous trading houses, is of a tender and easily withered nature.
Ezekiel 19:13. “Where God’s gracious presence with His word and Spirit is wanting, there a desert is; and the whole world is a land of drought, which can give no refreshment to the soul which hungers and thirsts for God” (B. B.).—The prosperous soil for princes and also for people is true religion.—Where God’s word is despised, kingdoms themselves become a waste.
Ezekiel 19:14. “Each man supplies the fire for his own burning” (STCK.).—“The fire of one’s own unrighteousness kindles the wrathful judgment of God, Isa. 1:31” (SCHM.).—“Men first become parched, then the fire consumes them” (STCK.).—“A little spark, a single sin apparently, and at first really a little one, can cause a great fire” (STCK.).—“Till Christ no other king from David’s stem” (RICHT.).—“Every sin ends in lamentation, even here, but certainly there” (STCK.).
Moreover take thou up a lamentation for the princes of Israel,