|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
17:1-10 Mighty conquerors are aptly likened to birds or beasts of prey, but their destructive passions are overruled to forward God's designs. Those who depart from God, only vary their crimes by changing one carnal confidence for another, and never will prosper.
Verse 2. - Put forth a riddle, etc. Again there is an interval of silence, till another theme is suggested to the prophet's mind and worked out elaborately. This he describes as a "riddle" (same word as the "dark speeches" of Numbers 12:8, the "hard questions" of 1 Kings 10:1). It will task the ingenuity of his hearers or readers to interpret it, and so he subjoins (vers. 12-24) the interpretation. That interpretation enables us to fix the occasion and the date of the prophecy. It was the time when Zedekiah was seeking to strengthen himself against Nebuchadnezzar by an Egyptian alliance.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Son of man, put forth a riddle,.... A dark saying, but a smart one: "whet a whetting" (k), as in the Hebrew; something at first sight difficult to be understood, yet amusing and entertaining; and, when solved, very useful and instructive:
and speak a parable unto the house of Israel; or, "concerning the house of Israel" (l); as the Targum and Syriac version; something relating to them, and what would aptly describe and represent their case; for the prophet was bid to take such a method, not to hide things from them, but rather the more strongly to represent them to them; seeing hereby their attention would be excited, and things would be more fixed in their memories, and they would be put upon studying the meaning of them; and when explained to them, and understood, which was quickly done, they might be the more affected with them.
(k) , Heb. "acue acumen", Piscator. (l) "de domo Israelis", Junius & Tremellius, Polanus.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
2. riddle—a continued allegory, expressed enigmatically, requiring more than common acumen and serious thought. The Hebrew is derived from a root, "sharp," that is, calculated to stimulate attention and whet the intellect. Distinct from "fable," in that it teaches not fiction, but fact. Not like the ordinary riddle, designed to puzzle, but to instruct. The "riddle" is here identical with the "parable," only that the former refers to the obscurity, the latter to the likeness of the figure to the thing compared.
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