Ezekiel 31 – “Doom for Egypt – Part III”

Hebrew-English Text
I. Summary
Pharaoh’s empire will fall like the Assyrian empire.

II. Photo
Assyria is likened to a mighty tree: “In its branches nested All the birds of the sky.” (v. 6a)

III. Important Verses
3-9: Assyria was a cedar in Lebanon With beautiful branches and shady thickets, Of lofty stature, With its top among leafy trees. Waters nourished it, The deep made it grow tall, Washing with its streams The place where it was planted, Making its channels well up To all the trees of the field. Therefore it exceeded in stature All the trees of the field; Its branches multiplied and its boughs grew long Because of the abundant water That welled up for it.  In its branches nested All the birds of the sky; All the beasts of the field Bore their young under its boughs, And in its shadow lived All the great nations. It was beautiful in its height, In the length of its branches, Because its stock stood By abundant waters. Cedars in the garden of God Could not compare with it; Cypresses could not match its boughs, And plane trees could not vie with its branches; No tree in the garden of God Was its peer in beauty. I made it beautiful In the profusion of its branches; And all the trees of Eden envied it In the garden of God.
12: Strangers, the most ruthless of nations, cut it down and abandoned it; its branches fell on the mountains and in every valley; its boughs were splintered in every watercourse of the earth; and all the peoples of the earth departed from its shade and abandoned it.
18: [Now you know] who is comparable to you in glory and greatness among the trees of Eden. And you too shall be brought down with the trees of Eden to the lowest part of the netherworld; you shall lie among the uncircumcised and those slain by the sword. Such shall be [the fate of] Pharaoh and all his hordes — declares the Lord GOD.

IV. Outline
1-2a. Introduction
2b. Query to the haughty Pharaoh
3-9. Assyria is a towering cedar tree
10-14. The mighty tree fell
15-17. The tree’s supporters also fell
18a. Egypt will suffer a similar fate
18b. Conclusion

V. Comment
Chapter 31 describes the fall of Assyria and portends doom for Egypt. For the historical background to this period of Israelite history, see “Ezekiel, Book of” by Lawrence Boadt in the Anchor Bible Dictionary (vol. 2, pp. 713-714): “Ezekiel lived through the greatest crisis in ancient Israel’s history: the final destruction of Judah and its capital, Jerusalem; the loss of independence in the promised land, exile of all the leading citizens to Babylonia; and the tearing down of the temple and removal of the House of David from kingship (2 Kings 25; Jeremiah 39–41, 52; Lamentations 1–5; 2 Chronicles 36). It was a double tragedy, for each of the losses just listed had both political and theological ramifications for the people, and not only were their physical lives disrupted but their faith was shaken as well.

“Since the middle of the 8th century B.C.E., events in Palestine had been determined by the policies of Assyria, the world power of the day. The N kingdom had come under Assyrian domination by the middle of the 9th century and was treated as a vassal state. Rebellion led to its fall in 722 B.C.E., and its territory had been made into a full Assyrian province. The wars surrounding this traumatic loss had brought the S kingdom of Judah into the Assyrian orbit as well (cf. Isaiah 6–8). Its king, Hezekiah, had tried to revolt in 705–701, but failed; and although Judah was not wiped out completely, its next king, Manasseh, remained a faithful servant of Assyria throughout his long reign (2 Kings 18–21).
“Manasseh’s grandson, Josiah, came to the throne in 640 as an eight-year-old boy. When he came of age to rule in 628, he began a religious reform as well as a political effort to retake the N territories (2 Chronicles 34). The Assyrian empire had become seriously weakened after the death of its last strong king, Assurbanipal, and the Babylonians were building a new empire at its expense. Josiah was succeeding in both his religious and political goals until a foolish attempt to intervene against an Egyptian army going to the aid of Assyria led to his premature death in battle in 609 B.C.E. His son and successor Jehoiakim ended any further religious reform.
“In 605 a victory over Egypt brought the Babylonians to power over Judah. Jehoiakim pledged loyalty to Babylon but was soon attempting to rebel and win back Judah’s independence. The prophet Jeremiah’s ministry was largely carried out in opposition to this political opportunism of Jehoiakim. Jeremiah called for loyalty to the covenant with God and to the covenant treaty with Babylon; he warned that the God of Israel would not stand by a pledge to defend the people if they continued to rebel. Jeremiah’s words were only too accurate, and in 598 a Babylonian army sacked the city of Jerusalem and led most of its educated and gifted citizens into exile (2 Kgs 24:1–7). Jehoiakim died during the siege, and the Babylonians took his young son Jehoiachin with them as a captured pledge so that further rebellion would not occur. In his place they named his uncle Zedekiah to rule as regent (2 Kgs 24:8–20). But he, too, in the following years began plotting to be free, and in a second prolonged attack of three years (588–586), Nebuchadrezzar’s army leveled the cities of Judah and finally burned Jerusalem to the ground, taking away whatever remained of value and exiling the rest of its leading citizens in the summer of 586 (see 2 Kings 25; Jeremiah 52). Jeremiah survived this period of horror but disappeared soon after being forcibly taken to Egypt in 583 or so (see Jeremiah 37–45).”

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Allen, Leslie C. “Ezekiel 1-19” Word Biblical Commentary vol. 28 (Waco, Texas: Wordbook, 1994).
Collins, John J. “Introduction to the Hebrew Bible,” (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2004).
Hals, Ronald M. “Ezekiel” The forms of the Old Testament Literature vol. 19 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1989)
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