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The Two Eagles and the Vine


The word of the L ord came to me: 2O mortal, propound a riddle, and speak an allegory to the house of Israel. 3Say: Thus says the Lord G od:

A great eagle, with great wings and long pinions,

rich in plumage of many colors,

came to the Lebanon.

He took the top of the cedar,


broke off its topmost shoot;

he carried it to a land of trade,

set it in a city of merchants.


Then he took a seed from the land,

placed it in fertile soil;

a plant by abundant waters,

he set it like a willow twig.


It sprouted and became a vine

spreading out, but low;

its branches turned toward him,

its roots remained where it stood.

So it became a vine;

it brought forth branches,

put forth foliage.



There was another great eagle,

with great wings and much plumage.

And see! This vine stretched out

its roots toward him;

it shot out its branches toward him,

so that he might water it.

From the bed where it was planted


it was transplanted

to good soil by abundant waters,

so that it might produce branches

and bear fruit

and become a noble vine.

9 Say: Thus says the Lord G od:

Will it prosper?

Will he not pull up its roots,

cause its fruit to rot and wither,

its fresh sprouting leaves to fade?

No strong arm or mighty army will be needed

to pull it from its roots.


When it is transplanted, will it thrive?

When the east wind strikes it,

will it not utterly wither,

wither on the bed where it grew?

11 Then the word of the L ord came to me: 12Say now to the rebellious house: Do you not know what these things mean? Tell them: The king of Babylon came to Jerusalem, took its king and its officials, and brought them back with him to Babylon. 13He took one of the royal offspring and made a covenant with him, putting him under oath (he had taken away the chief men of the land), 14so that the kingdom might be humble and not lift itself up, and that by keeping his covenant it might stand. 15But he rebelled against him by sending ambassadors to Egypt, in order that they might give him horses and a large army. Will he succeed? Can one escape who does such things? Can he break the covenant and yet escape? 16As I live, says the Lord G od, surely in the place where the king resides who made him king, whose oath he despised, and whose covenant with him he broke—in Babylon he shall die. 17Pharaoh with his mighty army and great company will not help him in war, when ramps are cast up and siege walls built to cut off many lives. 18Because he despised the oath and broke the covenant, because he gave his hand and yet did all these things, he shall not escape. 19Therefore thus says the Lord G od: As I live, I will surely return upon his head my oath that he despised, and my covenant that he broke. 20I will spread my net over him, and he shall be caught in my snare; I will bring him to Babylon and enter into judgment with him there for the treason he has committed against me. 21All the pick of his troops shall fall by the sword, and the survivors shall be scattered to every wind; and you shall know that I, the L ord, have spoken.

Israel Exalted at Last

22 Thus says the Lord G od:

I myself will take a sprig

from the lofty top of a cedar;

I will set it out.

I will break off a tender one

from the topmost of its young twigs;

I myself will plant it

on a high and lofty mountain.


On the mountain height of Israel

I will plant it,

in order that it may produce boughs and bear fruit,

and become a noble cedar.

Under it every kind of bird will live;

in the shade of its branches will nest

winged creatures of every kind.


All the trees of the field shall know

that I am the L ord.

I bring low the high tree,

I make high the low tree;

I dry up the green tree

and make the dry tree flourish.

I the L ord have spoken;

I will accomplish it.

In this chapter the Prophet shows that the Jews were utterly foolish in thinking themselves safe, since they had God as their adversary. At the end of the chapter he promises indeed the restoration of the Church, and heralds the kingdom of Christ: but the principal part of the chapter is consumed with this teaching, that the Jews were utterly foolish in promising themselves safety for the city, the temple, and their kingdom: for, as it now appeared, they had violated the covenant of God and he had rejected them. When deprived of God’s help, what could they do? This was egregious folly to hope for a prosperous state of their kingdom when their power was diminished and cut off, and they were reduced almost to the very last straits. But since the Prophet’s discourse came be understood without a knowledge of the history, I shall therefore make a beginning: When Nebuchadnezzar appointed Zedekiah king, he also made him tributary to himself. He was made king at the will or rather by the lust of the king of Babylon, when Jeconiah was led captive. (2 Kings 24:15-17; 2 Chronicles 36:10; Jeremiah 37:1.) Jeconiah had not sinned greatly, but when he saw himself unable to resist, he surrendered himself with his mother and children; he was carried away to Babylon, and there was treated humanely and even splendidly, although not royally. Nebuchadnezzar, foreseeing much trouble if he set any of his satraps over Judea, and fearing daily tumults, appointed Mattaniah king, to whom he gave the name Zedekiah; this was the last king: already, as I have said, the royal dignity was greatly diminished: it was tributary to Nebuchadnezzar, and Zedekiah’s sway was but precarious. His position depended on the will of his conqueror, and he who placed him on the throne could remove him as often as he pleased. A little while afterwards, when he saw that Nebuchadnezzar was at a distance, he made an agreement with the king of Egypt, and thought he should have sufficient help if Nebuchadnezzar were to return again with an army. And the Egyptians, as we have elsewhere said, were sufficiently desirous of this treaty. For they saw the Babylonian monarchy gradually increasing, and it was probable that, when the Jews were utterly subdued, Nebuchadnezzar would not be content with those boundaries, but would attack Egypt in like manner, and absorb that kingdom, as he had done others. Hence a reason for their entering into the treaty was at hand, since the king of Egypt thought that Judea would be a defense if Nebuchadnezzar should come down with his army: and certainly the Jews must receive the assault first. Whatever be the meaning, Zedekiah, through despising his oath, as we shall see, revolted to the Egyptians, and when Nebuchadnezzar afterwards demanded tribute, Zedekiah refused, through reliance on that covenant which he had made with the Egyptians. We now see how foolish the Jews were in sleeping carelessly in that miserable state to which they had been reduced. For when their power was unbroken they could not sustain the attack of the king of Babylon: their king was then a mere dead image, and nothing but a shadow: yet they indulged in pride not only against Nebuchadnezzar but also against the Prophets and God himself, just as if they were flourishing in wealth and power and complete prosperity. Hence Ezekiel now refutes and rebukes this arrogance. He shows how easy it was for the Babylonians to overthrow them again, since when they attacked them before they were subdued, they easily compelled them to surrender.

But I come to the words Son of man, set forth in enigma: the noun and the verb mutually answer to each other, hence any one may if he please render the Prophet’s words, by saying enigmatize an enigma: for the Prophet here speaks of allegorical language, חידה, chideh, signifies the same as “allegory,” where the words are different from the sense, that is, where the sense is wrapped up in obscure involutions: but we know that God sometimes spoke enigmatically when unwilling to be understood by the impious and disbelieving. But here the obscurity of the sentence has another meaning, namely, that the Jews should be waked up, and this prophecy should penetrate their minds: we know their extreme hardness, and hence if the Prophet had spoken simply and in his accustomed language, they had not been so attentive. This therefore is the reason why, God orders him to speak enigmatically. He now adds, משל ומשל, vemeshel meshel. We know that meshel is a remarkable sentence, and is the word used by Solomon as the title of his proverbs: משל, meshel, then, means the same as apothegm: but it is sometimes taken for likeness: and in this place God so denounces destruction upon the Israelites in an allegory, as to illustrate his language by a comparison, since otherwise it would have been obscure. Be this as it may, God so prefaced his address, that the Jews might acknowledge the message to be no common one, but that it ought to affect them seriously. The usual reason for speaking enigmatically does not hold good here, namely, that the Jews were unworthy of the doctrine of salvation, since the Prophet will very shortly explain what he had hitherto uttered in figure and allegory. It is indeed true, that Christ spoke in parables to the people, because the disciples alone were capable of familiar and pure teaching. Of unbelievers, also, Isaiah says, Prophecy shall be to you a sealed book. Hence I will speak with this people in a strange and barbarous tongue, and they shall not proceed beyond the rudiments. (Matthew 13; Mark 4; Luke 8; Isaiah 29:11, 12.) But, as I have said, the obscurity of this teaching was only a preparation, that the people should strictly attend to the subject here set before them.

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