Bible Study: Ezekiel 17 – A Riddle from God

The book of Ezekiel is one of the major prophets in the Old Testament. It was authored by Ezekiel who was set as a watchman to the house of Israel.

Ezek 3:17 “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore hear a word from My mouth, and give them warning from Me:

The seventeenth chapter of Ezekiel is about God declaring the iniquity of the house of Israel who despised the oath and broke the covenant.

The Riddle

Ezek 17:1-10 And the word of the LORD came to me, saying, Son of man, pose a riddle, and speak a parable to the house of Israel, and say, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “A great eagle with large wings and long pinions, Full of feathers of various colors, Came to Lebanon And took from the cedar the highest branch. He cropped off its topmost young twig And carried it to a land of trade; He set it in a city of merchants. Then he took some of the seed of the land And planted it in a fertile field; He placed [it] by abundant waters [And] set it like a willow tree. And it grew and became a spreading vine of low stature; Its branches turned toward him, But its roots were under it. So it became a vine, Brought forth branches, And put forth shoots. But there was another great eagle with large wings and many feathers; And behold, this vine bent its roots toward him, And stretched its branches toward him, From the garden terrace where it had been planted, That he might water it. It was planted in good soil by many waters, To bring forth branches, bear fruit, [And] become a majestic vine.” Say, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Will it thrive? Will he not pull up its roots, Cut off its fruit, And leave it to wither? All of its spring leaves will wither, And no great power or many people Will be needed to pluck it up by its roots. Behold, [it is] planted, Will it thrive? Will it not utterly wither when the east wind touches it? It will wither in the garden terrace where it grew.”

Instead of the word riddle, Septuagint uses tale. God is asking Ezekiel to pose a riddle or tell a tale and relate it to what the house of Israel had done, so that they can understand their rebellion and rejection of God’s grace and mercy shown even in their punishment.

Heb 10:29-30 Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. And again, “The LORD will judge His people.”

In the tale which God said, we can clearly see the great eagle with large wings and long pinions planned the tender twig and seed of the land in a fertile field by abundant waters. It grew and became a majestic vine. But what if the vine is loyal to another eagle? This is similar to Ezekiel 16, where God had blessed Jerusalem and gave her everything and succeeded it to royalty but it trusted in it’s own beauty and rejected her Husband. The same is true for many nations even today. God had blessed many nations with abundance but they are trusting in their own. They reject the Savior who gave them all and bring the wrath of God on themselves.

Meaning of the Riddle

Ezek 17:11-18 Moreover the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Say now to the rebellious house: ‘Do you not know what these [things mean?]’ Tell [them,] ‘Indeed the king of Babylon went to Jerusalem and took its king and princes, and led them with him to Babylon. ‘And he took the king’s offspring, made a covenant with him, and put him under oath. He also took away the mighty of the land, ‘that the kingdom might be brought low and not lift itself up, [but] that by keeping his covenant it might stand. ‘But he rebelled against him by sending his ambassadors to Egypt, that they might give him horses and many people. Will he prosper? Will he who does such [things] escape? Can he break a covenant and still be delivered? ‘[As] I live,’ says the Lord GOD, ‘surely in the place [where] the king [dwells] who made him king, whose oath he despised and whose covenant he broke–with him in the midst of Babylon he shall die. ‘Nor will Pharaoh with [his] mighty army and great company do anything in the war, when they heap up a siege mound and build a wall to cut off many persons. ‘Since he despised the oath by breaking the covenant, and in fact gave his hand and still did all these [things,] he shall not escape.’

God is explaining the riddle or tale through Ezekiel. The great eagle is the king of Babylon. The young twig represents the king and princes of Judah and the king’s offspring is planted in good soil. But the king’s offspring sent ambassadors to Egypt who is the another great eagle. Because the king of Judah despised the oath by breaking the covenant, he shall not escape.
We have a new covenant through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. How much worse will it be for anyone who despises the oath which He made by sacrificing His own life as an atonement and breaking New Covenant?

The Lord’s Anger

Ezek 17:19-21 Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: “[As] I live, surely My oath which he despised, and My covenant which he broke, I will recompense on his own head. “I will spread My net over him, and he shall be taken in My snare. I will bring him to Babylon and try him there for the treason which he committed against Me. All his fugitives with all his troops shall fall by the sword, and those who remain shall be scattered to every wind; and you shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken.”

If we carefully read the response from God, He is using the same to speak two different things. The oath and the covenant which the house of Israel made with the king of Babylon, is from God. It also represents the house of Israel despised the oath and broke the covenant which He made with them in mount Sinai. God will kill the king of Judah and his troops by sword and scatter all those who remain.

Future Kingdom of God

Ezek 17:22-24 Thus says the Lord GOD: “I will take also [one] of the highest branches of the high cedar and set [it] out. I will crop off from the topmost of its young twigs a tender one, and will plant [it] on a high and prominent mountain. On the mountain height of Israel I will plant it; and it will bring forth boughs, and bear fruit, and be a majestic cedar. Under it will dwell birds of every sort; in the shadow of its branches they will dwell. And all the trees of the field shall know that I, the LORD, have brought down the high tree and exalted the low tree, dried up the green tree and made the dry tree flourish; I, the LORD, have spoken and have done [it.]”

God is merciful and gracious. He did not completely destroy Israel but speaks of a future hope. He takes the topmost of it’s young twigs and plant it on a high an prominent mountain where it will bring forth boughs and bear fruit and be a majestic cedar. Under it, all the birds will dwell.

Luke 13:18-19 Then He said, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and put in his garden; and it grew and became a large tree, and the birds of the air nested in its branches.”

Phil 2:5-11 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, [and] coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to [the point of] death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and [that] every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ [is] Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

We see a similar description used by Jesus Christ to represent His kingdom. God also highly exalted Jesus Christ who took the form of a bond servant to have the name which is above every name that at His name, all knee should bow. We clearly see the fulfillment of the prophecy of Ezekiel by Jesus Christ.