EZEKIEL CHAPTER 31
A recital to Pharaoh of the Assyrian’s greatness, and of his fall for pride, Ezekiel 31:1-17. The like destruction shall be to Pharaoh, Ezekiel 31:18.
In the eleventh year; as Ezekiel 30:20.
in the third month; our June 26th old style, the 16th new style; just one month and eight days before the taking of the city on the 27th of July old style, but 17th of July new style. The first day of the month Tamuz.
Pharaoh; Apries or Hophra.
To his multitude; his numerous subjects, with the power and riches they glory in.
Whom art thou like in thy greatness? bethink thyself, what king of all before thee art thou equal with, or else greater? On what surer and more immovable foundation doth thy greatness stand, that thou dreamest of a perpetual quiet and flourishing state, in the midst of all thy sins and wickednesses?
The Assyrian kingdom and its kings were the greatest the world ever knew before thee, they had longest time of growth, through 1340 or 1360 years, from Belus who was Nimrod, or Belus Assyrius, to Sardanapalus, from 1719 or 1717, or 1718, to 3059, of the world. And they had as fair advantages, as reaching a foresight, and as unwearied diligence to advance the kingdom; yet I bought it down.
A cedar; like a cedar; kings and kingdoms oft compared to trees, both in profane and sacred emblems; or like the most goodly cedar for strength and beauty. In Lebanon; a great mountainous tract from east to west, one hundred and twenty five miles in length, encloseth Canaan on the north.
With fair branches, which are the beauty, greatness, strength of the tree; so had this mighty kingdom fair provinces, as branches springing from it.
With a shadowing shroud: what we render shadowing in the Hebrew may signify either silent and quiet, or framing and modelling, intimating that this kingdom, like a shady tree, gave shelter to the weak, as if framed artificially to this, and it was a silent quiet repose its subjects had; as weak creatures find shelter in a mighty wood, so these.
Of an high stature: this kingdom grew to great height, while its branches were so beneficial.
Among the thick boughs, or clouds; for so the word will without violence bear, clouds being called so from their thickness; however, the head among the thick boughs speaks the magnificence and greatness of this king, compassed about with tributary kings and princes and mighty men.
As cedars grow great by the watercourses, so did this kingdom by multitudes of people and convenience of trade; or by the plenty of the country, if no trade, for it was first planted in the fruitful fields among the sweet rivers, Euphrates, Tigris, Lycus, Diava, and others. The deep set him up on high; the sea sent out her waters, which gave being to the rivers that watered him and improved him; whereas, Egypt, thy rivers rise out of a lake, which, though great, is not to be compared with the deep. His plants; the provinces of this mighty kingdom, that are like plants about a great tree. Little rivers; beneficence, justice, protection, encouragements, that subjects need, and good princes disperse among them; so the deep filled this king, and he sent out his streams to all his subjects in his kingdom.
His height was exalted; his power, glory, and his pride too ran up on high: a just administration of laws for the benefit of the public, and a kind usage of the subject, while it was here, made the king great and his kingdom famous.
Above all the trees of the field; above all his neighbour kings, among whom oppressed weaklings still came to this kingdom, while just, for shelter. His boughs were multiplied; many became his subjects by voluntary choice, and his native subjects increased in numbers and wealth.
His branches became long; the provinces reached far and wide by the conquest of his arms, or attractives of his kindness brought to unite with him.
The multitude of waters; the many streams of royal justice and beneficence sent forth from the throne of this kingdom; so his throne was advanced and established.
All the fowls; not every individual, but all sorts and kinds of men and people, nobles, merchants, husbandmen, likened to fowls.
Made their nests; did settle their habitations and families, expecting what they found, safety and rest, and hoping what did ensue, an increase of their children and posterity, as birds do in a quiet and safe nest.
In his boughs; in his kingdom, in the cities or towns of it.
Under his branches; the very same thing expressed by a new hieroglyphic. Beasts here are people, the field is the countries round about, their bringing forth their young includes their making their dens, that is, men’s building, begetting children, and breeding them under his branches, under his government and protection.
Under his shadow dwelt all great nations: this gives some light to the riddle. No nation, that was great at that time in the world, but either owned the dominion, or sought the alliance and friendship, of this king and kingdom.
Fair; beautiful, lovely, and desirable. In his greatness; not exerted in tyranny and oppression, but exercised in the royal art of imitating the greatest and best being who is King over all, for he doth good to all.
In the length of his branches; how far soever remote, yet the justice and goodness of the government appeared the beauty of those provinces, as well as of the whole kingdom.
His root, whence he sprung, which supported and supplied the kingdom, was right, the laws, punishments, rewards, and encouragements neither founded in cruelty, nor maintained by violence.
By great waters; not by blood, which is no proper kindly nourishment for such cedars, but by waters, which are kindly and proper, and these great enough for his own growth and to nourish others too.
The cedars; kings, the greatest and most magnificent.
In the garden of God; either in the most fruitful gardens, or in Judah and Israel; not David, not Solomon, Jehoshaphat, or Hezekiah, could top and shade him.
The fir trees; a meaner sort of trees, emblem of lesser kings and kingdoms; these were but like his boughs, though they grow to great height and bulk. The chesnut trees; the same in another allusion. Kings, like chesnut trees, great when by themselves, yet, compared with this Assyrian, were but as branches of his boughs; all which see in Isaiah’s words, Ezekiel 10:7,8. There was some truth, though more pride, in this speech of the Assyrian, which the prophet reports.
Nor any tree in the garden of God; all summed up, none like him in all the kingdoms of the world.
I have made him fair; all this greatness, wealth, and glory I have given him.
By the multitude of his branches; the numbers of his provinces, and multitude of his subjects, high and low, great and small.
Envied him; either did when they saw his greatness, or would have envied if they had seen it; or if there may be a seeming justifiableness in wondering at another’s glory, and wishing it our own, here it might be found.
Now you shall hear the sin and the fall of this great kingdom of Assyria. His mind could not longer bear so great prosperity, he lifts up himself, and in his pride forgets God who lifted him up and will cast him down. You have a specimen of it in that of Isaiah 10:7-20 Isaiah 36:9,15,18. This, as other best framed politics, degenerated into pride and violence against neighbours, subjects, friends, as well as against enemies; though it was too much to despise man, yet it was intolerably more insolent to reproach God. It is but time to lop, nay, cut down this cedar, as Isaiah 10:33, with Isaiah 37:36,38.
I have therefore delivered: no prophetic style, as some think, I have because I will, for most certainly God would deliver.
Him; the proud king of Assyria, who inherited all the vices of his progenitors more than their kingdoms; infamous Sardanapalus.
The mighty one: some say Cyrus, or rather Arbaces, who first struck at the root of this cedar, and cut him down; and well might this man, though no king when he attempted this, be styled the mighty one of the heathen, who could bring together four hundred thousand of Medes, Persians, Babylonians, and Arabians, a power sufficient to besiege the Assyrian king two years in his own city and palace.
He shall surely deal with him; so he did, for he held him besieged without hope of relief, till at two years’ end this vicious king burned himself with his palace.
Driven him out, with disgrace, for his lewd, shameless courses, as a wife is cast out by divorce for adultery, Leviticus 21:7.
For his wickedness; so Sardanapalus was cast out for his effeminacy and lewdness; for it is reported this gave Arbaces first encouragement to lay a design against him. He was driven out, as the prophet words it, by the breach two miles and a half wide, made by the mighty floods from continual rains, which the walls of Nineveh could not withstand: so God rather than man did drive this beast out.
Strangers; foreigners, who regard neither justice nor mercy, such were those who made up his army of Arbaces the Mede.
The terrible; so these were for their strength and valour much, but for their numbers and barbarity more, to be dreaded.
Have cut him off; not shall, for it was done before Ezekiel’s time, about the time Hezekiah was born, and about two hundred and forty years before the destruction of Jerusalem and the Babylonish captivity.
Left him; revolted or forsaken Sardanapalus.
Upon the mountains: as a tree, growing on the mountains which hang over the valleys, when it falls breaks, and its branches are scattered in the lower ground, on the banks of rivers that run in the bottom; so is this mighty cedar, this king and kingdom, fallen from highest power and honour into deepest contempt and impotence, not able to repel his adversaries or escape out of their hands.
Have left him; all that were tributary to him have withdrawn their tribute, and rejected his dominion; and such as were his allies, and depended on his patronage, have quit their leagues and dependences, and left his shadow.
His ruin; his broken state.
All the fowls, which built and breed there, shall now despise the tree, and triumph over it.
All the beasts; the same in another emblem, as Ezekiel 31:6. Beasts, fowls, people, and nations, that were sheltered under the shadow of this tree, shall all, as is their custom, get from under it, and with the first insult and trample upon the body, boughs, and branches, fowls get on it, and both pick and defile, beasts rustle through it, and browse on the broken branches.
To the end; all this is designed to be a warning to mortals.
All the trees, i: e. the emperors, potentates, kings, or rich flourishing states.
By the waters; planted most commodiously, and furnished most abundantly with power and wealth.
Exalt themselves; grow proud, because they are high, shoot out tops above all the thick boughs, their neighbours. This caution against pride and self-exalting is three times repeated, that all, especially great men, and this proud king of Egypt, to whom this parable is propounded, should be humble.
For they are all delivered unto death; for if by office they are gods, yet by nature they are men, and by the decree of God, who cannot die, these gods must, as men, die, be laid in the grave, forgotten like other men, like the children of mean men, for death and the grave make no distinction.
Be not proud, God will pull down such; be humble, you must die.
When he, the king of Assyria, the tall cedar, or the kingdom of Assyria, went down to the grave; was a man in grave; buried in its own ruins.
I caused a mourning there was much lamentation.
I covered the deep; I put the sea, i.e. either neighbouring states, or the body of is people, or the trading part of the world, into mourning for him.
The floods thereof; all public affairs; commerce and friendly intelligences were at a great stand.
The great waters were stayed; the great traffic and wealth by it, which did flow as great waters, were stayed, and living rivers were as void of motion as the Dead Sea, all was out of course. Lebanon; the field in which this cedar grew, i.e. the whole kingdom of Assyria.
All the trees of the field; all the lesser kings and princes about him.
Fainted; fell into a swoon at the news of this great and unparalleled downfall of this mighty king and kingdom, which hath been here in sacred hyperbole set forth to warn Egypt, and convince it; none can stand whom God will east down. Whether there were any portentous signs in the sea and great waters, and the rivers, and among the trees, presages of this fall, and pointed at here, I inquire not.
To shake; all that heard the noise of his fall trembled at it, it was as God intended it should be, an astonishment to them all.
Cast him down to hell; brought the king and kingdom, as a dead man, to the grave, among them that be. fore were dead and buried.
All the trees of Eden; all kings, and particularly the greatest and richest, called here
the choice and best of Lebanon. All that drink water; did enjoy great power, riches, and worldly glory.
Shall be comforted: it is a prosopopoeia, and he speaks of the dead with allusion to the manner of the living, who rejoice to see the proud brought as low as the lowest; thus the prophet, Isaiah 14:9,10.
They also; either his neighbour kings and princes, or those that were his own subjects, but rich and mighty.
Went down into hell; were broken and perished with him, and went to those God had slain for their pride and wickedness.
They that were his arm; his loyal and faithful subjects and friends abroad, who having been protected by him, remembered it, and adhered to him to support him; but all fell, are extinct, and gone down to the pit, where are many proud, but o pride; where all know themselves dust and ashes, and God glorious, holy, and just.
The mightiest, richest, and longest-lived kingdom I have represented, saith God, overthrown and destroyed; a kingdom thou canst not pretend to equal; and if not like this, what king or kingdom art thou like, that thou shouldst be invincible? Whoever thou art like in height and power, thou shalt be like them in thy fall and ruin.
Shall lie in the midst of the uncirumcised; as unclean, despised, and loathsome in thy blood, like the slain with the sword, not to be known without an upbraiding inscription;
This is Pharaoh.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Ezekiel 31". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://pro.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent