This chapter begins with a new allegory or parable, 1-10; to which an explanation is immediately subjoined, 11-21. In the remaining verses the prophet, by a beautiful metaphor, makes an easy and natural transition to the Messiah, and predicts the security, increasing prosperity, and ultimate universality of his kingdom, 22-24. From the beauty of its images, the elegance of its composition, the perspicuity of its language, the rich variety of its matter, and the easy transition from one part of the subject to another, this chapter forms one of the most beautiful and perfect pieces of its kind that can possibly be conceived in so small a compass; and then the unexpected change from objects that presented nothing to the view but gloom and horror, to a prospect of ineffable glory and beauty, has a most happy effect. Every lowering cloud is dispelled, and the fields again smile in the beams of midday. The traveller, who this moment trembled as he looked around for shelter, now proceeds on his way rejoicing.
2Son of man, put forth a riddle, and speak a parable unto the house of Israel;
2 Verse 2. Son of man, put forth a riddle] Riddle, [Anglo-Saxon] or [A.S.], Anglo-Saxon, from [A.S.] to divine; a thing that must be curiously investigated and sifted, to find out the meaning; and hence, riddle, a sort of coarse sieve to clean corn, to separate coarse chaff and straws from the pure grain. An instrument formerly used for divination. This is not far removed from the Hebrew chidah, from chad, to penetrate; not that which penetrates the mind, but which we must penetrate to find out the sense.
4He cropped off the top of his young twigs, and carried it into a land of traffick; he set it in a city of merchants.
4 Verse 4. The top of his young twigs] The princes of Judah.
A land of traffic] Chaldea.
A city of merchants] Babylon; for which this city was the most celebrated of all the cities of the east. Its situation procured it innumerable advantages; its two rivers, the Tigris and Euphrates, and the Persian Gulf, gave it communication with the richest and the most distant nations.
6And it grew, and became a spreading vine of low stature, whose branches turned toward him, and the roots thereof were under him: so it became a vine, and brought forth branches, and shot forth sprigs.
6 Verse 6. A spreading vine of low stature] The Jewish state having then no height of dominion, it must abide under the wings or branches of the Chaldean king.
Whose branches turned toward him, and the roots-under him] Zedekiah was wholly dependent on Nebuchadnezzar, both for his elevation to the throne, and his support on it.
7There was also another great eagle with great wings and many feathers: and, behold, this vine did bend her roots toward him, and shot forth her branches toward him, that he might water it by the furrows of her plantation.
7 Verse 7. Another great eagle] Pharaoh-hophra, or Apries, king of Egypt.
With great wings] Extensive dominion.
And many feathers] Numerous subjects.
Did bend her roots] Looked to him for support in her intended rebellion against Nebuchadnezzar.
9Say thou, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Shall it prosper? shall he not pull up the roots thereof, and cut off the fruit thereof, that it wither? it shall wither in all the leaves of her spring, even without great power or many people to pluck it up by the roots thereof.
9 Verse 9. Shall it prosper?] Shall Zedekiah succeed in casting off the yoke of the king of Babylon, to whom he had sworn fealty?
Shall he not pull up the roots] Nebuchadnezzar will come and dethrone him.
And cut off the fruit] The children of Zedekiah.
The leaves] All the nobles; all shall perish with Zedekiah.
12Say now to the rebellious house, Know ye not what these things mean? tell them, 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;
12 Verse 12. Know ye not what these things mean?] They are explained in this and the following verses.
15But he rebelled against him in sending his ambassadors into Egypt, that they might give him horses and much people. Shall he prosper? shall he escape that doeth such things? or shall he break the covenant, and be delivered?
15 Verse 15. Sending his ambassadors into Egypt] Zedekiah must have sent his ambassadors into Egypt, between the sixth month of his sixth year, and the fifth month of his seventh year. Compare , with .-See Newcome.
16As I live, saith the Lord GOD, surely in the place where the king dwelleth that made him king, whose oath he despised, and whose covenant he brake, even with him in the midst of Babylon he shall die.
16 Verse 16. In the midst of Babylon he shall die.] His eyes were put out; he was carried to Babylon, and never returned.
18Seeing he despised the oath by breaking the covenant, when, lo, he had given his hand, and hath done all these things, he shall not escape.
18 Verse 18. Seeing he despised the oath] This God particularly resents. He had bound himself by oath, in the presence of Jehovah, to be faithful to the covenant that he made with Nebuchadnezzar, and he took the first opportunity to break it; therefore he shall not escape.
22 ¶ Thus saith the Lord GOD; I will also take of the highest branch of the high cedar, and will set it; I will crop off from the top of his young twigs a tender one, and will plant it upon an high mountain and eminent:
22 Verse 22. I will also take of the highest branch of the high cedar] I will raise up another monarchy, which shall come in the line of David, namely, the Messiah; who shall appear as a tender plant, as to his incarnation; but he shall be high and eminent; his Church, the royal city, the highest and purest ever seen on the face of the earth.
23In the mountain of the height of Israel will I plant it: and it shall bring forth boughs, and bear fruit, and be a goodly cedar: and under it shall dwell all fowl of every wing; in the shadow of the branches thereof shall they dwell.
23 Verse 23. In the mountain of the height of Israel] He shall make his appearance at the temple, and found his Church at Jerusalem.
Shall bring forth boughs] Apostles, evangelists, and their successors in the Gospel ministry.
And bear fruit] Multitudes of souls shall be converted by their preaching.
And under it shall dwell all fowl of every wing] All the nations of the earth shall receive his Gospel.
In the shadow of the branches thereof shall they dwell.] Trust in him alone for salvation, and be saved in their trusting.
24And all the trees of the field shall know that I the LORD have brought down the high tree, have exalted the low tree, have dried up the green tree, and have made the dry tree to flourish: I the LORD have spoken and have done it.
24 Verse 24. All the trees of the field shall know] All the people of Israel and of Chaldea.
I the Lord have brought down the high tree] Have dethroned Jehoiachin.
Have exalted the low tree] Put Zedekiah, brother of Jehoiachin, in his place.
Have dried up the green tree] Zedekiah, who had numerous children, but who were all slain before his eyes at Riblah.
And have made the dry tree to flourish] Have raised up a rod out of the stem of Jesse, the family of David being then apparently dried up and extinct. This was the promised Messiah, of the increase and government of whose kingdom and peace there shall be no end; upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order and establish it with judgment and with justice, from henceforth, even for ever. THE ZEAL OF THE LORD OF HOSTS WILL PERFORM THIS.
The high and green tree, says Newcome, refers to Nebuchadnezzar; the low and the dry tree, to the Jews.