by Pastor Mark Hudson
This chapter is similar to chapter 17. In fact, some think chapter 18 was inserted later since the two chapter feel the same. 17 is a parable or riddle while 19 is a lament and had a rhythm the Jews were familiar with when it came to laments. This is one of those chapters that is not easy to understand. Some sections of the Bible are rather easy to understand yet we cannot plumb the depths of the meaning. Others are difficult because we feel the great distance between cultures, expressions, and language. Sometimes when the Bible uses lion, vines, branches, etc. we may not be able to grasp all that is implied. But we can certainly notice when the author uses images in a positive sense or, in our case, negatively.
I wonder if the same old sermonic or prophetic style would have encouraged the people to tune Ezekiel out. Ezekiel acted out his message, he used laments, he told parables and riddles. He warned. He always spoke in the name of the Lord. That means Ezekiel spoke with the authority of God. Maybe these variations helped to grab his listeners. God desperately wanted His people to listen to Him.
The lion was often used to describe the kings of Israel. We have Scripture that speaks of the Lion of Judah (Rev. 5:5). The first lion we see is a lioness. She is the mother of what will turn out to be kings. One of her cubs grows up to be a mighty lion who “devour(s) men. The nations heard about him; he was caught in their pit, and they brought him with hooks to the land of Egypt. The lioness was not to be stopped. She took another cub and trained him in the same way. The lioness and the cub-turned-lion were not good people. In verse 8, like v. 4, this lion is taken away by the nations that set against him, and he is lead away in a cage. With hooks, they took him to the king of Babylon.
In v. 10, the author turns to a mother who is like a vine in the vineyard. The “strong stems became rulers’ scepters” in v. 11. So, this is not just any vine. But the vine was plucked up in fury, cast down to the ground, dried up by the dry and hot east wind.. That east wind stripped the fruit off the branch and withered by this same wind. The strong stem was then burned by fire. Then in v. 13, somehow, this vine is planted in the wilderness, in a dry and thirsty land and fire has consumed it as v. 14 teaches.
The lion is Israel or more specifically Judah (Gen 49:8-9). The mother or lioness is not teaching the cubs well. The first cub in 19:3-4, is “undoubtedly” (Christopher J.H. Wright) and “no mystery” according to Leslie C. Allen. This first cub is Jehoahaz who ruled for three months in 609 B.C. He is Josiah’s son, and his immoral practices are compared to a lione devouring men. In 22:25, the (false) prophets are “like a roaring lion tearing the prey; they have devoured human lives; they have taken treasures and precious things; they have made many widows in her midst.” So, Pharaoh Neco captured and deported him (II Kings 23:33-4). Both animals and humans left Israel with hooks in their noses or lips.
The next king is difficult to identify with certainty. The two best choices are Jehoiachin or Zedekiah. It is difficult to decide which one Ezekiel is referring to. Both have similar exiles to Babylon. So whichever King is intended, Jehoiachin or Zedekiah, the message is the same: the Davidic Kings are coming to an end.
The next section is further lament. Verses 10-11 describe the care that God gives to the nation of Israel. God provided everything one could need to grow and prosper as a vine. God provides all Israel has ever needed. There is no reason for Israel to rebel. And yet Israel does rebel against God and therefore we have God’s response to that revolt in vs. 12-14. This is a terrible plight for God’s people. No longer will there be rulers from the Davidic line. The end is viewed as in the past and therefore a dirge is sung.
Why does God keep saying the same thing in different ways? The same reason he speaks to us in different ways through different people. He wants us to be free of sin, its deception, guilt, shame, and bondage. He wants freedom, joy, and peace for us. Why do we get so mad at God when He wants the best for us? We find it hard to discover a rational reason for our insubordination because there is not a rational reason. We act according to our nature.
What is needed is a new heart that only God can give. Last Sunday I was thinking, “What would Ezekiel say if he attended our worship service?” I imagine he would be happy beyond words to see a group of people worshipping the promised Messiah. I imagine he might walk around muttering, “I can see with my own eyes what I was expressing back then. I knew it. I knew He would come. The glory is back. The glory is here.”
Dear heavenly Father. You are better to us than we can imagine. And we ought to imagine heaven daily. Your goodness is beyond words and Your judgments are just and true. We intercede for our churches and our wicked country. We deserve Your wrath because our land has so many churches, seminaries, Christian bookstores, podcasts, radio stations, conferences, books, periodicals, etc. And so many millions have walked away from You. Revive Your sleepy church. Restore Your Kingly righteousness in those churches and in every believer. We need Your power so badly. Revive, renew, restore. Draw us to Your Son the Lord Jesus Christ. We pray in His name and for His glory. Amen.