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Ezekiel 17:11-16

11. Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,

11. Et fuit sermo Iehovae ad me, dicendo,

12. Say 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. Dic quaeso, 179179     “Say now.” — Calvin. domui rebelli 180180     Or, “bitter.” — Calvin. an non cognoscitis quid hoc sit? dic, Ecce venit rex Babylonis Hierosolymam, et abstulit regem ejus, et proceres ejus, et adduxit eos ad se Babylonem.

13. And hath taken of the king’s seed, and made a covenant with him, and hath taken an oath of him: he hath also taken the mighty of the land:

13. Et sumpsit e semine regio, et percussit cum eo foedus, et descendere fecit 181181     Lead him to take.” — Calvin. ad jusjurandum: et fortes terrae accepit,

14. That the kingdom might be base, that it might not lift itself up, but that by keeping of his covenant it might stand.

14. Ut esset regnum humile, ac ne se afferret, ut servaret foedus suum; ut staret in ipso.

15. But 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. Et rebellis fuit ei ad mittendum nuntios suos in Egyptum, ut darentur equites, et populus multus. An feliciter aget? an evadet qui hoc fecit? et qui irritum fecit foedus an evadet? 182182     “The copula is here redundant, or is taken for a note of interrogation.” — Calvin.

16. As 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. Vivo ego, dicit Dominator Iehovah, si non in loco regis qui regnare fecit eum, cujus sprevit jusjurandum, et cujus irritum fecit foedus cum ipso in medio Babylonis moriatur.

 

An explanation of the allegory is now added. The figure being dropped, God shows what he had hitherto set forth enigmatically. We said the object of the allegory was to induce the Jews to apply their minds more diligently to the Prophet’s destruction; for if he had used common and ordinary language, we know how carelessly they were accustomed to despise all rebukes and threatenings; but a riddle, while it held them in suspense, at the same time roused them, and so they were prepared for receiving the instruction which now follows. God says, therefore, that the king of Babylon came to Jerusalem. This reason has induced some to think that Lebanon is metaphorically called Jerusalem, but falsely, as we have already said. As long as the Prophet spoke figuratively, the parts ought to be mutually fitted to each other, as a tree and its branches have some connection with an eagle. The king of Babylon came to Jerusalem, and took the king away, and the elders, and led them off to Babylon. Although the Jews thought to be sufficiently moved by simple narrative, yet God here reproves them, because he saw how sluggish they were. First, he calls them a rebellious house; then he asks, Whether they know the meaning of all this? This is a kind of reproach by which God reminds them of their stupidity; since that riddle was not so obscure as to prevent them from understanding what had happened, unless they had been destitute of reason and judgment. But the Prophet thrusts at them more pointedly, by calling them a rebellious house, although at the same time he obliquely reproves their stupidity in not immediately perceiving the meaning of the riddle. He now adds, that the king of Babylon had taken from the royal seed. We said that Zedekiah was the uncle of Jehoiakim: he was placed on the throne beyond all expectation; because, if Jehoiakim had begat sons when he was still secure, they would have been his successors: hence it was an extraordinary advantage to Zedekiah in being placed on the throne. But he says, that he was so created king, that the king of Babylon made a covenant with him, and induced him to take an oath. Here God shows that, humanly speaking, Zedekiah’s revolt could not prosper; for even profane men are always persuaded that the perfidy of him who breaks his word will not go unpunished, especially in treaties, which are held sacred by common consent. Since, therefore, the sacredness of treaties was so great, that they could not be violated without weakening the bonds of society, hence the general persuasion that the falsehood of all truce-breakers will turn out unhappily. Now, therefore, God leaves his own cause, and takes up that of King Nebuchadnezzar: Behold, says he, you was made king by gratuitous liberality: a conqueror indeed imposed conditions upon thee, but still thy state was desirable — you could rule your own people splendidly and with moderate dignity: now, because thy covenant has been despised, and your oath broken, you has been ungrateful to the king of Babylon, who had bound thee to himself by his munificence: how can this perfidy prosper? Now, therefore, we see the Prophet’s meaning, when he says that the king of Babylon made a treaty with King Zedekiah, and took an oath of him: this is added for the sake of amplifying; for although men never enter into treaties without a mutual oath, yet Ezekiel seems to have doubled the crime of Zedekiah, when he expresses that an oath intervened. He says that he took the strong of the land, namely, as hostages. There is no doubt that Nebuchadnezzar assembled this troop around him that the Jews might be more quiet: for he knew the turbulent character of the nation, and that the maintenance of so many was expensive: but, as I have said, it was his plan to hold the whole country at peace in this way. But Zedekiah rendered his own brothers and relations liable to death, since Nebuchadnezzar might be induced, by just anger, to slay them all. Hence Zedekiah’s revolt was the betrayal of his brothers: for this reason the Prophet adds, that the strong ones of the people were led away to Babylon; that is, those of the first rank, who were held in honor by the people.

He now adds, that the kingdom might be humbled. Zedekiah then could not pretend error, nor turn his back, as if he had been outwitted by the cunning and secret counsels of the king of Babylon: for Nebuchadnezzar dealt with him openly, and proscribed the conditions on which he wished him to reign. Since, then, the king of Babylon showed Zedekiah openly and sincerely what he wished him to do, that wretched man could not say that he was imposed upon, and not made sufficiently aware of the cunning of the king of Babylon: no such excuse was left to him. And therefore the Prophet clearly expresses that Nebuchadnezzar imposed conditions upon Zedekiah, that his kingdom should be lowly, so as not to lift itself up, but that it should keep the agreement. This was most equitable: for when he appointed a king, he might have imposed upon him very hard conditions, but he was content with moderation, which was surely tolerable even among the best friends. For he made a treaty with him, and then he wished the kingdom to be lowly for its preservation. For it is just as if the Prophet had said, that Nebuchadnezzar thought of nothing else than that Zedekiah might reign in peace; and since he saw it to be useful to the king and the whole people to be restrained within some bounds, he followed that plan. Since, then, Nebuchadnezzar consulted the public advantage by this method of action, Zedekiah was the more wicked in not allowing his own safety to be consulted, since nothing was better or more desirable than for him to remain humble, and not to raise himself up to his own destruction, as afterwards happened. It now follows, that he rebelled by sending his messengers into Egypt, that they might give him horses and much people. These points ought to be mutually compared; that the contrast might correspond: Nebuchadnezzar regarded nothing else but the peace of the country, for he wished to prevent all fears and disturbances. What, then, was Zedekiah? a rebel. And why? for sending messengers to Egypt to fetch many troops of both horse and foot to succor Judea against Nebuchadnezzar. After the conclusion of the war he had done nothing hostile, for it was a part of his paternal anxiety to give them a king of their own nation, and so to set the whole country at rest, that there should be no occasion for tumult. Why, then, should Zedekiah seek help from the Egyptians? Thus we see that the Prophet is removing from him all excuses for self-defense. He now adds, shall he prosper? shall he who has acted thus escape? The Prophet asks with emphasis; because, as I have said, this persuasion was engraved on the minds of all, that vengeance must overtake all the perfidious, especially if they had violated their oath in treaties. The Prophet, therefore, does not simply pronounce that Zedekiah should perish through violating the treaty, but he rises more confidently, and inquires, as of a thing settled and undoubted, Shall he prosper? shall he who has planned such a crime escape? He now adds, shall he who has violated a treaty escape? This repetition is not superfluous: he had formerly said, shall he who has done this escape? he immediately repeats, shall he who has violated a treaty escape? There was nothing obscure in the first clause: but the Prophet added this, not for the sake of perspicuity, but to give more weight. to the sentence. The conclusion is, that it was not possible to escape God’s vengeance for such perfidy, as we shall treat the point more at length tomorrow.

It now follows, As I live, says the Lord Jehovah, in the dwelling of the king who placed him on a throne, shall he die. Although the Prophet had sufficiently shown that Zedekiah could not escape the penalty of his revolt, yet God here again comes forward, and swears by himself, or by his life, that he would punish Zedekiah. Hence the great stupidity of the people appears, for God never acts falsely by his own name, or brings it forward in vain, but when necessity demands it, he swears by himself. And by his own example he prescribes to us, that we should not rush rashly upon an oath, but be sober in this respect. But God swears that Zedekiah should die on the spot, that is, at the capital of the king who put him on the throne; that is Babylon, where he died: and yet he did not see Babylon, because his eyes were put out at Riblath, as we saw elsewhere. (Jeremiah 39:7; Jeremiah 52:11.) But the Prophet simply denounces the penalty, that he should die in exile, and in the dwelling of the king who had placed him on his throne, and from whose covenant he had departed, and whose oath he had despised.


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