A Parable of Two Eagles and a Vine

1 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 Son of man, offer a riddle,1 and tell a parable to the house of Israel. 3 Say to them: ‘This is what the sovereign Lord says:2

“‘A great eagle3 with broad wings, long feathers,4
with full plumage which was multi-hued,5
came to Lebanon6 and took the top of the cedar.
4 He plucked off its topmost shoot;
he brought it to a land of merchants
and planted it in a city of traders.
5 He took one of the seedlings7 of the land,
placed it in a cultivated plot;8
a shoot by abundant water,
like a willow he planted it.
6 It sprouted and became a vine,
spreading low to the ground;9
its branches turning toward him,10 its roots were under itself.11
So it became a vine; it produced shoots and sent out branches.
7‘There was another great eagle12
with broad wings and thick plumage.
Now this vine twisted its roots toward him
and sent its branches toward him
to be watered from the soil where it was planted.
8 In a good field, by abundant waters, it was planted
to grow branches, bear fruit, and become a beautiful vine.

9‘Say to them: This is what the sovereign Lord says:

“‘Will it prosper?
Will he not rip out its roots
and cause its fruit to rot13 and wither?
All its foliage14 will wither.
No strong arm or large army
will be needed to pull it out by its roots.15
10 Consider! It is planted, but will it prosper?
Will it not wither completely when the east wind blows on it?
Will it not wither in the soil where it sprouted?’

11 Then the word of the Lord came to me: 12 Say to the rebellious house of Israel:16 ‘Don’t you know what these things mean?’17 Say: ‘See here, the king of Babylon came to Jerusalem18 and took her king and her officials prisoner and brought them to himself in Babylon. 13 He took one from the royal family,19 made a treaty with him, and put him under oath.20 He then took the leaders of the land 14 so it would be a lowly kingdom which could not rise on its own but must keep its treaty with him in order to stand. 15 But this one from Israel’s royal family21 rebelled against the king of Babylon22 by sending his emissaries to Egypt to obtain horses and a large army. Will he prosper? Will the one doing these things escape? Can he break the covenant and escape?

16‘As surely as I live, declares the sovereign Lord, surely in the city23 of the king who crowned him, whose oath he despised and whose covenant he broke – in the middle of Babylon he will die! 17 Pharaoh with his great army and mighty horde will not help24 him in battle, when siege ramps are erected and siege-walls are built to kill many people. 18 He despised the oath by breaking the covenant. Take note25he gave his promise26 and did all these things – he will not escape!

19‘Therefore this is what the sovereign Lord says: As surely as I live, I will certainly repay him27 for despising my oath and breaking my covenant! 20 I will throw my net over him and he will be caught in my snare; I will bring him to Babylon and judge him there because of the unfaithfulness he committed against me. 21 All the choice men28 among his troops will die29 by the sword and the survivors will be scattered to every wind. Then you will know that I, the Lord, have spoken!

22‘This is what the sovereign Lord says:

“‘I will take a sprig30 from the lofty top of the cedar and plant it.31
I will pluck from the top one of its tender twigs;
I myself will plant it on a high and lofty mountain.
23 I will plant it on a high mountain of Israel,
and it will raise branches and produce fruit and become a beautiful cedar.
Every bird will live under it;
Every winged creature will live in the shade of its branches.
24 All the trees of the field will know that I am the Lord.
I make the high tree low; I raise up the low tree.
I make the green tree wither, and I make the dry tree sprout.
I, the Lord, have spoken, and I will do it!’
117:2sn The verb occurs elsewhere in the OT only in Judg 14:12-19, where Samson supplies a riddle. 217:3tn The parable assumes the defection of Zedekiah to Egypt and his rejection of Babylonian lordship. 317:3sn The great eagle symbolizes Nebuchadnezzar (17:12). 417:3tn Hebrew has two words for wings; it is unknown whether they are fully synonymous or whether one term distinguishes a particular part of the wing such as the wing coverts (nearest the shoulder), secondaries (mid-feathers of the wing) or primaries (last and longest section of the wing). 517:3tn This term was used in 16:10, 13, and 18 of embroidered cloth. 617:3sn In the parable Lebanon apparently refers to Jerusalem (17:12). 717:5tn Heb “took of the seed of the land.” For the vine imagery, “seedling” is a better translation, though in its subsequent interpretation the “seed” refers to Zedekiah through its common application to offspring. 817:5tn Heb “a field for seed.” 917:6tn Heb “short of stature.” 1017:6tn That is, the eagle. 1117:6tn Or “him,” i.e., the eagle. 1217:7sn The phrase another great eagle refers to Pharaoh Hophra. 1317:9tn The Hebrew root occurs only here in the OT and appears to have the meaning of “strip off.” In application to fruit the meaning may be “cause to rot.” 1417:9tn Heb “all the טַרְפֵּי (tarpey) of branches.” The word טַרְפֵּי occurs only here in the Bible; its precise meaning is uncertain. 1517:9tn Or “there will be no strong arm or large army when it is pulled up by the roots.” 1617:12tn The words “of Israel” are not in the Hebrew text, but are supplied in the translation as a clarification of the referent.sn The book of Ezekiel frequently refers to the Israelites as a rebellious house (Ezek 2:5, 6, 8; 3:9, 26-27; 12:2-3, 9, 25; 17:12; 24:3). 1717:12sn The narrative description of this interpretation of the riddle is given in 2 Kgs 24:11-15. 1817:12map For location see Map5-B1; Map6-F3; Map7-E2; Map8-F2; Map10-B3; JP1-F4; JP2-F4; JP3-F4; JP4-F4. 1917:13tn Or “descendants”; Heb “seed” (cf. v. 5). 2017:13tn Heb “caused him to enter into an oath.” 2117:15tn Heb “he”; the referent (the member of the royal family, v. 13) has been specified in the translation for clarity. 2217:15tn Heb “him”; the referent (the king of Babylon) has been specified in the translation for clarity. 2317:16tn Heb “place.” 2417:17tn Heb “deal with” or “work with.” 2517:18tn The word הִנֵּה (hinneh, traditionally “behold”) indicates being aware of or taking notice of something. 2617:18sn Heb “hand.” “Giving one’s hand” is a gesture of promise (2 Kgs 10:15). 2717:19tn Heb “place it on his head.” 2817:21tc Some manuscripts and versions read “choice men,” while most manuscripts read “fugitives”; the difference arises from the reversal, or metathesis, of two letters, מִבְרָחָיו (mivrakhyv) for מִבְחָריו (mivkharyv). 2917:21tn Heb “fall.” 3017:22sn The language is analogous to messianic imagery in Isa 11:1; Zech 3:8; 6:4 although the technical terminology is not the same. 3117:22tc The LXX lacks “and plant it.”