A Riddle of Two Eagles and a Vine
This chapter in the Book of Ezekiel is often read through very quickly as the Lord, Himself, explains through His prophet the meaning of the parable which He presents in terms that the people of Ezekiel's day would clearly understand. Most commentaries available today explain this historical perspective and because of this fact, many people do not delve any deeper into the text. Most believe that this prophetic Word from the Lord was only relevant to Ezekiel's day and subsequently miss out on a much deeer meaning.
In this discussion I will briefly present the accepted, historical interpretation of this scripture and then I will demonstrate from the text why I believe that there is a deeper, more prophetic aspect. To begin, please read the following passages:
"A great eagle with large wings and long pinions,
Full of feathers of various colors,
Came to Lebanon And took from the cedar the highest branch.
4 He cropped off its topmost young twig
And carried it to a land of trade;
He set it in a city of merchants.
5 Then he took some of the seed of the land
And planted it in a fertile field;
He placed it by abundant waters
And set it like a willow tree...
7 But there was another great eagle with large wings and many feathers;
And behold, this vine bent its roots toward him,
And stretched its branches toward him,
From the garden terrace where it had been planted,
That he might water it.
Ezekiel 17:3-5,7 (NKJV)
'Do you not know what these things mean?'
Tell them, 'Indeed the king of Babylon went to Jerusalem
and took its king and princes,
and led them with him to Babylon.
13 And he took the king's offspring,
made a covenant with him, and put him under oath.
He also took away the mighty of the land,
14 that the kingdom might be brought low and not lift itself up,
but that by keeping his covenant it might stand.
15 But he rebelled against him by sending his ambassadors to Egypt,
that they might give him horses and many people.
Ezekiel 17:12-15 (NKJV)
According to the historical interpretation of this parable, the great eagle in line 3 above represents King Nebuchadnezzar; the young twig in verse 4 is King Jehoiachin of Judah; the highest branch refers to the nobles in Jerusalem - all of whom King Nebuchadnezzar carried away to Babylon. Also, the seed that King Nebuchadnezzar took from Babylon and planted in the fertile field, Jerusalem, was King Zedekiah whom he later returned to Jerusalem and placed on the throne in place of his uncle, King Jehoiachin.1
This historical interpretation becomes clear when you understand that the "Lebanon" referred to in this scripture is the palace in Jerusalem which King Solomon named "The House of the Forest of Lebanon."2 - It is not the country of Lebanon, eventhough this palace is named in honor of its magnificent cedar trees which were used in its construction. In Ezekiel's day, the people of Judah would have understood this allegory and easily interpreted this parable in light of their current events.
Now I would like to briefly discuss why I believe that there is more to this scripture than this overt, easily apprehended meaning. Hopefully, by doing so it will become readily apparent as to why it is important to dig a little bit deeper into this text. Please read the following which is the beginning of this chapter in the Book of Ezekiel:
2 "Son of man, pose a riddle,
and speak a parable to the house of Israel
Ezekiel 17:1-2 (NKJV)
In this passage, the Lord is telling Ezekiel to do two things, "pose a riddle" and "speak a parable." I believe that the revealed meaning which I presented above does indeed satisfy the requirement of speaking a parable. But, according to this historic perspective, the riddle which is being asked is found allegorically in verses 9-103 and then again overtly in verse 163, where the Lord asks if King Zedekiah will escape. As the Lord then explains to us in verse 18 that "he shall not escape,"3 can this question of Zedekiah's survival really qualify as a riddle?
According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, the definition of the word riddle is "a mystifying, misleading, or puzzling question posed as a problem to be solved or guessed; a conundrum; an enigma;" or "something or someone difficult to understand".4 Considering the fact that the Lord provides the answer to the question of Zedekiah's escape, this question does not meet the criterion to be considered a riddle. Therefore, the riddle must be hidden somewhere else in the text!
It is the premise of this series of articles that the actual riddle being posed is to be found in the interpretation of the allegorical symbols of the two eagles and the vine and their subsequent parabolic warning from a prophetic perspective. The riddle that is being posed in this scripture was actually sealed away until it's prophetic aspect had been fulfilled - As is always the case with biblical prophecy! It is only by looking back that you can determine when a prophetic Word came into fruition!
So, from a prophetic perspective, who are these two eagles and the vine representing? The answer to that is indeed a riddle whose answer will come as a surprise! Yes, the United States is a part of the answer, but it is not actually represented by any of these allegorical symbols! No, it is not one of the eagles as you might expect - that would be too easy of an answer!
If your curiosity has been piqued and you're ready to dig into this ancient prophetic riddle, please continue on to the next article in this series, Ezekiel 17: The USA Connnection! Get ready to review some American history interpreted through the prophetic lens of the Word!