Moreover take thou up a lamentation for the princes of Israel,
Verse 1. - The two sections of this chapter - vers. 1-9, 10-14-are respectively two parables of the same type as that of Ezekiel 2:10. The former telling nearly the same story under a different imagery, the latter a reproduction of the same imagery, with a slightly different application. Lamentation. The same word as that used in Ezekiel 2:10. The whole chapter finds a parallel in Jeremiah's review of Josiah's successors (Jeremiah 22:10-30). It is noticeable that the princes are described as being of Israel. The LXX. gives the singular, "the prince," and Hitzig and Ewald adopt this reading, applying it to Zedekiah.
And say, What is thy mother? A lioness: she lay down among lions, she nourished her whelps among young lions.
Verse 2. - What is thy mother? etc.; better, with the Vulgate, LXX., and Keil, Why did thy mother, a lioness, lie down among lionesses? The image may have been suggested by Genesis 49:9 and Numbers 23:24, or perhaps also by Nahum 2:11, 12. The lioness is Israel, the kingdom idealized and personified. The lionesses among whom she had lain down are the heathen kingdoms. The question asks why she had become as one of them and adopted their cruelty and ferocity.
And she brought up one of her whelps: it became a young lion, and it learned to catch the prey; it devoured men.
Verse 3. - The whelp, as ver. 4 shows, is Jehoahaz, also known as Shallum (Jeremiah 22:11), who "did evil" in the sight of the Lord (2 Kings 23:32), the words that follow pointing to cruelty and oppression like that of Zedekiah. The passage finds a somewhat striking parallel in AEschylus, 'Agam.,' 695-715.
The nations also heard of him; he was taken in their pit, and they brought him with chains unto the land of Egypt.
Verse 4. - The nations also heard of him, etc. The fact that lies under the parable is that Egypt and its allies began to be alarmed as they watched the aggressive policy of Jehoahaz, as men are alarmed when they hear that a young lion is in the neighbourhood, and proceed to lay snares for him. In chains, etc.; literally, nose rings, such as were put into the nostrils of brutes or men (Ezekiel 38:4; 2 Kings 19:28; Isaiah 37:29). The mention of Egypt points to the deportation of Jehoahaz by Pharaoh-Necho (2 Kings 23:34; Jeremiah 22:11).
Now when she saw that she had waited, and her hope was lost, then she took another of her whelps, and made him a young lion.
Verse 5. - The second lion whelp is identified by ver. 9 with Jehoiachin. For some reason or other, probably because he, as having "slept with his fathers," was not so conspicuous an instance of retribution, Ezekiel passes over Jehoiakim (B.C. 607-599).
And he went up and down among the lions, he became a young lion, and learned to catch the prey, and devoured men.
And he knew their desolate palaces, and he laid waste their cities; and the land was desolate, and the fulness thereof, by the noise of his roaring.
Verse 7. - He knew their desolate palaces; literally, widows; but the word is used figuratively in Isaiah 13:22, in the sense of "desolate houses" (comp. Isaiah 47:8). So the Vulgate gives didicit viduas facere; and Keil adopts that meaning here, "he knew, i.e. outraged, the widows of Israel." The Revised Version admits it in the margin. The two words for "widows" and "palaces" differ in a single letter only, and there may have been an error in transcription. On the whole, I adhere to the Authorized Version and Revised Version (text). Currey explains, "He knew (i.e. eyed with satisfaction) his palaces," from which he had ejected their former owners, as his father Jeboiakim had done (Jeremiah 22:15, 16). Ewald follows the Targum in a various reading of the verb, and gets the meaning, "he destroyed its palaces." Interpreting the parable, we have Jehoiachin described as alarming Nebuchadnezzar and the neighbouring nations by his activity, and therefore carried off to Babylon as Jehoahaz lad been to Egypt. The young lion was to roar in chains, not on the "mountains of Israel."
Then the nations set against him on every side from the provinces, and spread their net over him: he was taken in their pit.
And they put him in ward in chains, and brought him to the king of Babylon: they brought him into holds, that his voice should no more be heard upon the mountains of Israel.
Thy mother is like a vine in thy blood, planted by the waters: she was fruitful and full of branches by reason of many waters.
Verse 10. - Another parable comes close upon the heels of the first. Thy mother; sc. Judah or Jerusalem, as the mother of Jehoiachin, who is still in Ezekiel's thoughts, and is addressed by him. In thy blood. (For the comparison of the vine, see Ezekiel 17:6.) No satisfactory meaning can be got out of the words, the nearest being "in thy life, thy freshness," the sap of the vine being thought of as its blood; and critics have been driven to conjectural readings or renderings. The Jewish interpreters, Targum, Rashi, Kimchi, and margin of Revised Version, give, "in thy likeness," sc. "like thee;" Keil, "in thy repose," sc. in the period of quiet prosperity. Hitzig boldly adopts a reading which gives, "a vine climbing on the pomegranate;" but (?). The many waters reproduce the imagery of Ezekiel 17:5.
And she had strong rods for the sceptres of them that bare rule, and her stature was exalted among the thick branches, and she appeared in her height with the multitude of her branches.
Verse 11. - The verse describes generally the apparent strength of the kingly line of David. The word for thick branches, which occurs again in Ezekiel 31:3, 10, 14, is taken by Keil and Furst as meaning "thick clouds," as describing the height to which the tree grew. So the Revised Version (margin).
But she was plucked up in fury, she was cast down to the ground, and the east wind dried up her fruit: her strong rods were broken and withered; the fire consumed them.
Verse 12. - The parable, like that of Ezekiel 17:10, describes the sudden downfall of Jerusalem and the kingly house. The "dry ground" is Babylon, and the new "planting" indicates the deportation of Jehoiachin and the chief men of Judah.
And now she is planted in the wilderness, in a dry and thirsty ground.
And fire is gone out of a rod of her branches, which hath devoured her fruit, so that she hath no strong rod to be a sceptre to rule. This is a lamentation, and shall be for a lamentation.
Verse 14. - Fire is gone out. The words are an echo of Judges 9:15. Zedekiah's reign was to work destruction for his people, as that of Abimelech had done.