|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 3. - The eagle with great wings and long pinions (Revised Version) probably the golden eagle, the largest species of the genus - stands for Nebuchadnezzar, as it does in Jeremiah 48:40; Jeremiah 49:22. In Isaiah 46:11 the "ravenous bird" represents Cyrus. Possibly the eagle head of the Assyrian god Nisroch (2 Kings 19:37; Isaiah 37:38) may have impressed the symbolism on Ezekiel's mind. A doubtful etymology gives "the great eagle" as the meaning of Nisroch. The divers colours indicate the variety of the nations under the king's sway (Daniel 3:4: 4:1). If the cedar was chosen to t,e the symbol of the monarchy of Judah, then it followed that Lebanon, as the special home of the cedar, should take its place in the parable. Possibly the fact that one of the stateliest palaces of Solomon was known as the "house of the forest of Lebanon" (1 Kings 7:2; 1 Kings 10:17, 21) may have made the symbolism specially suggestive. The word for highest branch is peculiar to Ezekiel (here and in ver. 22). The branch so carried off was carried into "a land of traffick" (Hebrew, LXX., and Vulgate, "a land of Canaan," the word being generalized in its meaning, as in Ezekiel 16:29), i.e. to Babylon, as pre-eminently the merchant city of the time. This, of course, refers to Nebuchadnezzar's deportation of Jeconiah and the more eminent citizens of Jerusalem (2 Kings 24:8-15).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And say, thus saith the Lord God,.... The riddle is not the prophet's, nor the parable his, but the Lord God's; and exceeding beautiful and apt it is, to signify the things designed by it; the wisdom of God is greatly displayed in it:
a great eagle; which is Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, as it is explained, Ezekiel 17:12; who is compared to an eagle for his power and authority, that being the king of birds, and for his swiftness and voracity in conquering and subduing kingdoms; see Jeremiah 48:40;
with great wings; so the Babylonish monarchy is signified by a lion with eagle's wings, Daniel 7:4; and the two parts of the Roman empire, into which it was divided at the death of Theodosius, are called two wings of a great eagle, Revelation 12:14; and so here it may denote the large kingdoms and provinces which belonged to the Babylonian monarchy; see Esther 1:1;
longwinged; or having a "long member" (m); meaning the body of the wing, which was long; and so, as the wings spread, may signify the breadth of his dominion, this the length of them, and both their extensiveness:
full of feathers; of cities, towns, people, armies, wealth, and riches:
which had divers colours; or an "embroidery" (n); like that of the weaver, only needle work, consisting of various colours; and so it alludes to such eagles as are called the golden eagle, and "asterias", from their golden colour, and their being spotted like stars, and which are said to be of the largest size, as Bochart, from Aelianus (o), observes; and may signify people of divers languages, customs, manners, and circumstances, subject to the government of the king of Babylon:
came unto Lebanon; the northern border of the land of Judea, and invaded it; where were the mountain and forest of Lebanon, famous for the cedars that grew there, from whence the whole land may here take its name, as being more apt for the allegory used: or the city of Jerusalem, where were the temple built of the cedars of Lebanon, as many of its palaces and houses also were; whither the king of Babylon came, and took it, and who came northward, as Babylon was:
and took the highest branch of the cedar; by the "cedar" is meant, either the nation in general, or the royal family in particular; and by the "highest branch" the then reigning king, Jeconiah with the princes and nobles of the land, who were taken and carried captive by Nebuchadnezzar; see 2 Kings 24:14.
(m) "longa corpore", Castalio; "longa membris", Munster, Grotius; "longo membororum ductu", Pradus. (n) , Heb; "opus phrygionicum", Piscator. (o) Aelian. Hist. Animal. l. 2. c. 39.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
3. eagle—the king of birds. The literal Hebrew is, "the great eagle." The symbol of the Assyrian supreme god, Nisroch; so applied to "the great king" of Babylon, his vicegerent on earth (Jer 48:40; 49:22). His "wings" are his great forces. Such symbols were familiar to the Jews, who saw them portrayed on the great buildings of Babylon; such as are now seen in the Assyrian remains.
long-winged—implying the wide extent of his empire.
full of feathers—when they have been renewed after moulting; and so in the full freshness of renovated youth (Ps 103:5; Isa 40:31). Answering to the many peoples which, as tributaries, constituted the strength of Babylon.
divers colours—the golden eagle, marked with star-like spots, supposed to be the largest of eagles [Bochart]. Answering to the variety of languages, habits, and costumes of the peoples subject to Babylon.
came unto Lebanon—continuing the metaphor: as the eagle frequents mountains, not cities. The temple at Jerusalem was called "Lebanon" by the Jews [Eusebius], because its woodwork was wholly of cedars of Lebanon. "The mountain of the Lord's house" (Isa 2:2). Jerusalem, however, is chiefly meant, the chief seat of civil honor, as Lebanon was of external elevation.
took the highest branch—King Jeconiah, then but eighteen years old, and many of the chiefs and people with him (2Ki 24:8, 12-16). The Hebrew for "highest branch" is, properly, the fleece-like tuft at the top of the tree. (So in Eze 31:3-14). The cedar, as a tall tree, is the symbol of kingly elevation (compare Da 4:10-12).
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