Scripture reading – Ezekiel 16-17
With the elders of Israel serving as his audience (note 14:1), the LORD revealed to Ezekiel three prophetic pictures of judgment (Ezekiel 15-17). The first was a vine (15:1-8), often a symbol of Israel in the scriptures (Psalm 80:8; Isaiah 5:1). The destruction of the vine by fire was a prophetic picture of God’s judgment against Jerusalem and Judah (15:6-8).
The second prophetic picture portrayed Israel as an abused woman whom the LORD out of His mercy chose to be His wife (16:1-7), and out of His love and grace showered her with jewels and fine robes (16:8-14). Rather than loving and serving her husband out of gratitude, the wife repaid her husband’s favor by heaping shame and humiliation on him with her gross immorality.
Like the unfaithful wife, Israel had turned from the LORD Who had chosen her. The sins committed by Israel are staggering and the evidence of her wickedness are numbered by Ezekiel. God’s people had played the harlot (16:15-16), made idols (16:17), and offered their sons and daughters as sacrifices to idols (16:20-21).
Rather than repent and turn to the LORD for His protection and blessings, Israel had turned to her heathen neighbors (Egypt, vs. 26; the Philistines, vs. 27; the Assyrians, vs. 28; the Chaldeans, vs. 29), and her compromise was akin to a wife playing the harlot on street corners (16:22-34).
Having stated the sins of God’s people, Ezekiel was charged with declaring God’s judgment (16:35-43). The nations (“thy lovers”, vs. 36) with whom Israel had compromised would despise her and be the instruments God would use to punish His people. Israel’s sin and rebellion against God was greater than the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah because the people had enjoyed God’s favor, but despised Him, rejected His Law, and committed the same abominations as the heathen (16:44-52). In spite of the nation’s wickedness, God promised to not forget His covenant with Israel and to restore her (16:53-63).
The third picture of God’s judgment against Israel was a riddle of two eagles and three vine shoots (i.e. “twigs”) planted in Israel (17:1-24). As discussed earlier, the vine, and in this chapter the cedar of Lebanon, were pictures of Israel; while Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon was pictured as an eagle. The prophet Jeremiah writes concerning Nebuchadnezzar, “he shall fly as an eagle” (Jeremiah 48:40; 49:22).
Leaving no doubt that Nebuchadnezzar is the eagle and Israel and her king are the objects of God’s approaching judgment, we read: “Behold, the king of Babylon is come to Jerusalem, and hath taken the king thereof, and the princes thereof, and led them with him to Babylon” (Ezekiel 17:12).
In spite of the utter destruction and devastation Jerusalem and Judah would face, the LORD promised to take a “twig” and replant it in Israel (17:22-23), and exalt “the low tree” (17:24).
Bible scholars believe, and I am inclined to agree, the “twig” represents the humble birth of Jesus Christ who will one day return as the King of kings and LORD of lords.
Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith