The book of Ezekiel is full of vivid prophecies; many of which have been horribly misinterpreted. This misinterpretation of these prophecies often occurs because readers fail to consider these prophecies in their historical context. I just want to make a few observations from a prophecy taken from Ezekiel chapter 17. The prophecy itself is given in verses 1-10. It reads as follows:
1The word of the LORD came to me: 2(A) “Son of man,(B) propound a riddle, and speak a parable to the house of Israel; 3say, Thus says the Lord GOD:(C) A great eagle(D) with great wings and long pinions,(E) rich in plumage of many colors, came(F) to Lebanon and took the top of the cedar. 4He broke off the topmost of its young twigs and carried it to a land of trade and set it in a city of merchants. 5Then he took of the seed of the land(G) and planted it in fertile soil.[a] He placed it beside abundant waters.(H) He set it like a willow twig, 6and it sprouted and became a(I) low(J) spreading vine, and its branches turned toward him, and its roots remained where it stood. So it became a vine and produced branches and put out boughs.
7(K) “And there was another great eagle with great wings and much plumage,(L) and behold, this vine bent its roots toward him and shot forth its branches toward him from the bed where it was planted, that he might water it. 8(M) It had been planted on good soil by abundant waters, that it might produce branches and bear fruit and become a noble vine.
9″Say, Thus says the Lord GOD:(N) Will it thrive? Will he not pull up its roots and cut off its fruit, so that it withers, so that all its fresh sprouting leaves wither? It will not take a strong arm or many people to pull it from its roots. 10Behold, it is planted; will it thrive?(O) Will it not utterly wither when the east wind strikes it-wither away on the bed where it sprouted?”
Now, it is quite natural to read this and think to yourself, “what in the world does this mean?” And the temptation to start looking for secret meanings may arise. Well, I’ll say this… it is always a good idea to read these kinds of passages and ALL PASSAGES for that matter in their context. Don’t just pluck passages here and there. KEEP THE TEXT IN ITS CONTEXT.
In the case of Ezekiel 17, if you simply read the verses following verse 10 to the end of the chapter, you’ll see that the parable/ prophecy is explained. The two Eagles in the parable represent two great nations. Babylon and Egypt. And what’s being described in this parable are events that actually took place in Israel’s history. These events are found in the book of 2 Kings 24-25.
Nebuchadnezzar, who was King of Babylon, attacks the city of Jerusalem and takes Jehoiachin, King of Judah, along with his mother, his wife and all his officials captive. They were all carried away to Babylon (2 Kings 24:10-16). Then Nebuchadnezzar makes Jehoiachin’s uncle King and changes his name to Zedekiah (2 Kings 24:17). Zedekiah rebels against Nebuchadnezzar ( 2 Kings 24: 20b). Zedekiah rebels against Nebuchadnezzar “by sending his ambassadors to Egypt, that they might give him horses and a large army”- (Ezekiel 17:15). Egypt is the second eagle from the parable.
Zedekiah plans to build his forces against Nebuchadnezzar with the help of Egypt. However, Egypt doesn’t come to Zedekiah’s aid, and Nebuchadnezzar attacks Jerusalem. Nebuchadnezzar overthrows the city and deals very harshly with Zedekiah. He kills all of Zedekiah’s sons, has his eyes plucked out and takes him away captive to Babylon. (2 Kings 25:1-7)
In the explanation of the parable in Ezekiel 17 at the end of verse 15, the LORD asks if this rebellious king (Zedekiah) will escape punishment for his actions. The obvious answer from what we see happening to him in 2 Kings is no.
It’s exciting stuff to see that this prophecy refers to actual, historically verifiable events! But that’s not even the best part. The best part of this whole deal is what the LORD says in the conclusion of his explanation of the parable. Tucked in at the end of this parable about these two great nations and their dealings with a treacherous, puppet king, we have a glorious prophecy of THE KING OF KINGS!
22Thus says the Lord GOD:(A) “I myself will take a sprig from the lofty top of the cedar and will set it out.(B) I will break off from the topmost of its young twigs a tender one, and(C) I myself will plant it on a high and lofty mountain. 23(D) On the mountain height of Israel will I plant it, that it may bear branches and produce fruit and become a noble cedar.(E) And under it will dwell every kind of bird; in the shade of its branches birds of every sort will nest. 24And all the trees of the field shall know that I am the LORD;(F) I bring low the high tree, and make high the low tree, dry up(G) the green tree, and make(H) the dry tree flourish. I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it.” Ezekiel 17:22-24
Christ is the “sprig” that the LORD himself will set out (from verse 22). He is the “twig” that is broken off “from the topmost of [the] young twigs” (verse 22). Jesus is the “shoot from the stump of Jesse” & the “branch from his roots [that] shall bear much fruit”. (Isaiah 11:1)
Jesus is the LORD’s anointed King. The King appointed by God himself to rule and save His people. Israel looked forward to the day when this King would come. No more Zedekiahs. No more lame duck, rebellious Kings. No more imperfect Kings. Period.
Folks…we see in Jesus, what Israel only hoped to see. He’s the King God promised to send. He is the “noble cedar” which the LORD has planted on the mountain height of Israel (verse 23), and He and His kingdom are firmly established. Under this tree, “will dwell every kind of bird; in the shade of it’s branches birds of every sort will nest”. (verse 23)
Jesus is the King of Kings, and His Kingdom will include people of every sort, every nation, language and people! To God be the glory!