man holding hands on head August 17 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): Ezekiel 17, 18, 19

Repercussions for Rebellion

We have all made unwise decisions and suffered the consequences. However, rebellion and not heeding instructions can cause serious repercussions. In today's Bible reading, this is what King Zedekiah of the nation of Judah is about to discover.

The Parable of the Two Eagles, Branch, and Vine

This parable in Ezekiel 17 illustrates what has happened and will happen to Judah and its kings. The first eagle is called a great eagle. It represents the powerful nation of Babylon. It snatches the topmost branch of the cedar tree. The cedar tree represents David's palace in Jerusalem (it was made of the cedars of Lebanon). The topmost branch represents the king and noblemen of Judah (v.12), which includes Daniel and his three friends, Shadrach, Mechach, and Abednego (2Kings 24:11-16; Daniel 1:1-3). The eagle (Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon) snatches the branch and transplants it in Babylon. However, he leaves its seeds in the land of Israel (the people of Judah who are left become a vassal nation, pledged by an oath to God to be faithful).

The seeds become a prosperous vine. Although the root of the vine (King Zedekiah) is weak and its nation is dependent on Babylon (Judah is a prosperous but low vine), it (he) will soon rebel against the protection of the eagle and extend its branches toward another powerful eagle (Egypt). Zedekiah will look for help and protection from Egypt but will be frustrated and hurt rather than helped. Because of Zedekiah's treachery, the vine (Judah) will be uprooted, stripped of its fruit, and wither away by an east wind (Babylon). Soon thereafter it will be burned. This will be the fate of King Zedekiah and the people of Jerusalem—they will suffer famine and plague, and then Babylon will attack and destroy almost all of those who are left.

Hope or No Hope?

Is there no hope for Judah? Yes. There is hope for anyone who in turns away from his sins to God for mercy and forgiveness (Ezekiel 18:30-32, more...). In the future, God will give hope to the entire nation of Israel. The LORD will take a shoot from the topmost part of the cedar, and He will plant it in the land of Israel. Once again she will have peace and prosper as a nation. This shoot refers to Jesus Christ (Isaiah 53:2), and at other times He is called a “Branch” (Jeremiah 23:5).

King Zedekiah has no hope. For breaking the treaty with Babylon and joining a rebellion with Egypt, his days are numbered. And, he is going to bring the citizens of Jerusalem down with him to the grave.

The Jewish exiles in Babylon are shaking their heads, pitying their relatives in Jerusalem and quoting the popular proverb, “The fathers eat the sour grapes, but the children's teeth are set on edge” (Ezekiel 18:2b; Jeremiah 31:29-39, NIV). In other words, they believe all these bad things are happening to Jerusalem because of the sins of their ancestors.

God says this proverb is not true. Although He previously stated that the sins of the fathers can affect their children for three generations (Exodus 20:5; 34:6-7; Deuteronomy 5:9), it is not necessarily true in every case, for the judgment is upon those who hate God. It is the person (oftentimes translated soul) who sins who is directly responsible for them. An innocent person who acts with justice and righteousness will not suffer punishment from the Almighty. The punishment is upon those who do not and will not repent. This describes Zedekiah and the people remaining in Jerusalem.

A Funeral Dirge

Ezekiel 19 is a funeral dirge, a lament already prepared for Zedekiah and his royal officials for the time when Jerusalem falls. Will Zedekiah learn from it? In this dirge are two illustrations. The first is an illustration of a lioness (Israel) and her two cubs. One cub (King Jehoahaz) grew up to be a fierce lion, but when he was strong he was led with hooks (literally in his nose) into captivity in Egypt. Another cub (Jehoiachin) also grew up to be a fierce lion, but he was surrounded, trapped in a net, caged and brought to Babylon, never to return. If these two lion cubs could be captured and caged, what makes Zedekiah, a weak cub, think he can do better?

The second illustration in this funeral dirge is a mother (representing the nation of Judah) who is likened to a healthy vine in a vineyard, planted by the water. She was once fruitful and full of branches (kings), but now she is charred by fire, withered and ready to be blown away. She cannot produce more branches. Zedekiah will be the last king until the Messiah, Jesus Christ, comes. Will Zedekiah learn the lesson from the dirge? Unfortunately, no.

What about us? Will we learn the lessons the LORD is teaching us or will we rebel and suffer repercussions like the Israelites? God has already been gracious and merciful. He challenges His people.

Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, O house of Israel [Judah]? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!” (Ezekiel 18:31-32, NIV).

God loves us, too. If we have no relationship with God or are disobedient to Him, we have the same challenge: Repent and Live! God wants to give us spiritual life and bless us. (more...)

Lessons to Live By

  • Let's be grateful for the grace God has given us and operate within it.
  • If we are rebellious against the LORD and act wickedly, we should repent and live. God does not want to be against us. (more...)
  • We do not have to suffer repercussions if we will listen and be obedient.
  • If we are innocent of wrongdoing, let's not believe the lies that we're destined to failure because of our family, or we're suffering for their sins. It is upon the wicked that God brings punishment, not the righteous.
  • If we continue to live in the fear of the LORD and walk in His ways, we will receive His favor.

Focus Verse

John 15:5 (NIV) “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

End note: Insights on interpretation with these Scriptures are provided by The Bible Knowledge Commentary of the O.T., edited by Walvoord and Zuck, © 1985, pp.1259-1263)

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A Look Ahead: What is the purpose of Purging? Find out in our Next Lesson.

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