Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Ch. 19 Dirge over the princes of Judah
The elegy represents the princes of Judah as young lions, reared among lions by the mother lioness, but caught in pits by the nations and carried away. The mother lioness cannot of course be the natural mother of the princes, but rather the people, Judah itself. Two princes are lamented, one captured and carried to Egypt, viz. Jehoahaz, son and successor of Josiah (Ezekiel 19:1-4); and another carried to Babylon, who must be Jehoiachin (Ezekiel 19:5-9). The elegy does not appear to extend further. Ezekiel 19:10-14 refer to Zedekiah, and are prophetic. They are connected in general idea with Ezekiel 19:1-9, but the figure for the mother is now the vine.
The following table may be useful here.
Josiah falls at Megiddo, b.c. 608.
Jehoahaz his son reigned three months.
Jehoiakim (son of Josiah), 608–597.
Jehoiachin (his son) reigned 3 months.
Zedekiah (son of Josiah), 597–586.
Nebuchadnezzar besieges Jerusalem, 588.
Fall of Jerusalem, 586.
The elegiac measure is maintained in Ezekiel 19:1-8; it is somewhat disturbed in Ezekiel 19:9; while Ezekiel 19:10-14 seem in the ordinary measure. The elegiac verse (which may be half or even third of a full verse) is divided by the cesura into two members of unequal length, the second being shorter, and falling with a mournful cadence.
Moreover take thou up a lamentation for the princes of Israel,1–4. Captivity of Jehoahaz in Egypt
2. How was thy mother a lioness!—among the lions;
In the midst of young lions she couched—she reared her whelps.
3. And she brought up one of her whelps—he grew a young lion;
And he learned to catch the prey—he devoured men.
4. And the nations heard regarding him—he was taken in their pit;
And they brought him with hooks—unto the land of Egypt.
1. princes of Israel] Probably with LXX. prince, as required by the pron. thy mother (Ezekiel 19:2). The “prince” is a general term for the king, applicable to one king after another. The lamentation is for the “king” of Judah, represented by one person after another. On “lament” cf. Jeremiah 7:29.
2. What is thy mother?] Rather to be taken as an exclamation, as rendered above. The mother is the people Israel, a lioness among other lions—kings or states with royalty.
3. The first young lion is Jehoahaz, son of Josiah, carried to Egypt by Pharaoh Necho after the defeat of his father at Megiddo, 2 Kings 23:31-35. Cf. the touching reference to him Jeremiah 22:10-12. He also bore the name of Shallum. Coming to the throne at the age of 23 he reigned only 3 months, and died in Egypt. Cf. Jeremiah 5:26.
4. heard of him] This might better be read: raised a cry against him, in the sense of Isaiah 31:4; Jeremiah 50:29.
with chains] hooks (or, rings) as ch. Ezekiel 29:4, Ezekiel 38:4; cf. 2 Kings 19:28.
And say, What is thy mother? A lioness: she lay down among lions, she nourished her whelps among young lions.
And she brought up one of her whelps: it became a young lion, and it learned to catch the prey; it devoured men.
The nations also heard of him; he was taken in their pit, and they brought him with chains unto the land of Egypt.
Now when she saw that she had waited, and her hope was lost, then she took another of her whelps, and made him a young lion.5–8. Jehoiachin carried captive to Babylon
The second young lion is Jehoiachin. The intermediate prince Jehoiakim could not be included in an elegy, because he died in peace. It is the princes of Israel whom foreign nations captured that are lamented. What is touched upon is more the humiliation and sorrow of Israel, the mother lioness, in her young lions being captured, than the fate of the two persons. The elegy is a national one, cf. on Ezekiel 19:1.
5. And she saw that she had waited—her hope was lost;
And she took another of her whelps—she made him a young lion.
6. And he walked among the lions—he grew a young lion,
And he learned to catch the prey—he devoured men.
7. And he broke down their palaces—he wasted their cities;
And the land and its fulness was desolate—at the noise of his roaring.
8. Then the nations set themselves against him—on every side from the countries.
And they spread their net over him—he was taken in their pit.
5. that she had waited] If “she” be subject some such sense as deceived, “disappointed” (Ew.) would be suitable, though to reach this sense by adding “in vain” to waited is hardly permissible. The subject might be “her hope,” and waited might mean tarried, delayed. There might be reference to hope of the return of Jehoahaz, which appears to have been cherished, as Jeremiah takes occasion altogether to cut it off (Jeremiah 22:10-12). Corn. proposes “acted foolishly,” but the word suggested is too strong (Numbers 12:11; Isaiah 19:13; Jeremiah 5:4; Jeremiah 50:36).
6. Jehoiachin ascended the throne on the death of his father at the age of 18. He reigned only 3 months, when Nebuchadnezzar carried him away to Babylon, 2 Kings 24:8 seq.
7. knew their desolate palaces] R.V. knew their palaces. The word is usually “widows” as marg., but “palaces,” Isaiah 13:22. Neither translation gives any sense. Better: he broke down their palaces, (change of r for d); or cf. Jeremiah 2:15-16 (marg. fed on), a passage very similar. If “widows” be read the verb would need to be altered to “multiplied,” ch. Ezekiel 12:25, an important passage (Jeremiah 15:8). Corn. (partly Hitz.): and he lay down in his den, he wasted the forests. This keeps up the figure, but requires serious alteration of the reading. Jeremiah 2:15 shews that “young lions” may burn cities, and feed on the crown of the head.
8. in their pit] A well-known method of capturing dangerous beasts. The object to “set” may be voice or shout, Ezekiel 19:4, Jeremiah 7:8.
And he went up and down among the lions, he became a young lion, and learned to catch the prey, and devoured men.
And he knew their desolate palaces, and he laid waste their cities; and the land was desolate, and the fulness thereof, by the noise of his roaring.
Then the nations set against him on every side from the provinces, and spread their net over him: he was taken in their pit.
And they put him in ward in chains, and brought him to the king of Babylon: they brought him into holds, that his voice should no more be heard upon the mountains of Israel.9. in chains] See Ezekiel 19:4. The elegiac measure is not maintained in this verse. Possibly the original form of the verse has not been preserved. If the words “they brought him into holds” were omitted, an elegiac verse, though less regular, would be restored.
Thy mother is like a vine in thy blood, planted by the waters: she was fruitful and full of branches by reason of many waters.10. is like a vine] was like, in contrast to “but now she is planted in the wilderness” (Ezekiel 19:13). The “prince” of Israel is addressed, not any individual prince, but the kingship or royalty by whomsoever represented. The mother, as before, is the people or nationality of Israel.
in thy blood] R.V. marg. refers to ch. Ezekiel 16:6, not wisely. LXX. read “on a pomegranate” (brmn for bdmk). Ew. suggests: “a vine of Carmel,” Ges. “a vine of thy vineyard;” Corn. as usual “zu streichen.” Others: “in thy likeness” “in thy thought,” “in thy rest”—all without sense. More tolerable: “in her height” (rumah), Ezekiel 19:11.
10–14. The fate of Zedekiah and his country, on which he has brought ruin
Israel was once a spreading vine by great waters; her branches rose into the clouds, and her rods were rulers’ sceptres—a powerful race of kings rose out of her. Now she is torn up and thrown down, carried into the wilderness, and planted in a dry and barren soil. A fire also has gone out from one of her strong rods which has consumed her. Her last prince, Zedekiah, has finally broken the state to pieces (cf. ch. 17).
And she had strong rods for the sceptres of them that bare rule, and her stature was exalted among the thick branches, and she appeared in her height with the multitude of her branches.11. sceptres … bare rule] Or, for rulers’ sceptres, i.e. royal sceptres. Out of Israel this vine there rose powerful native kings.
among the thick branches] Or, into the clouds, cf. Ezekiel 31:3; Ezekiel 31:10; Ezekiel 31:14. The phrase is designedly hyperbolical, to express the power of Israel in earlier times. Jeremiah 11:16-17.
appeared in her height] Lit. was seen—conspicuously and from afar.
But she was plucked up in fury, she was cast down to the ground, and the east wind dried up her fruit: her strong rods were broken and withered; the fire consumed them.12. Destruction of the vine, the nationality of Israel. The figures employed are usual, ch. Ezekiel 17:9-10, Ezekiel 31:12; Amos 9:15.
And now she is planted in the wilderness, in a dry and thirsty ground.13. The deportation of the people from their own land into conditions where national life cannot thrive.
And fire is gone out of a rod of her branches, which hath devoured her fruit, so that she hath no strong rod to be a sceptre to rule. This is a lamentation, and shall be for a lamentation.14. The fire that consumed the vine went out from her own rods. The royal house brought destruction on the nation as well as on itself. Reference is to the rebellion of Zedekiah.
gone out of a rod] Possibly collective: out of the rods. The reference to Zedekiah is expressed generally in terms of the royal house.
shall be for a lamentation] Lit. and is become a lamentation. Sad enough is the history, ch. Ezekiel 32:16. It is not necessary, however, to infer from this that the lamentation was written after the exile. The passage Ezekiel 19:10-14 is prophetic, cf. Isaiah 47; Jeremiah 9:16-21. In the Book of Kings both Jehoahaz and Jehoiachin are said to have “done evil.” A three months’ reign afforded little scope for much mischief. Ezekiel’s treatment of the young lions is ideal, and in the case of Jehoiachin the reference is rather to the evils which his attitude brought upon the country, than to any ravages which he wrought personally.