Behold, the Assyrian was a cedar in Lebanon with fair branches, and with a shadowing shroud, and of an high stature; and his top was among the thick boughs.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)A cedar in Lebanon.—Lebanon is mentioned only because it was the place where the most famous cedars grew in their greatest perfection. Assyria did, indeed, at one time possess Lebanon, but this was never its home or seat of empire. The word “shroud” in the description refers to the thickness of the shade of the branches.Ezekiel 31:3-9. Behold the Assyrian — This, says Archbishop Secker, seems an admonitory comparison of Pharaoh to the late Assyrian monarch, applied to Pharaoh, Ezekiel 31:18. By the Assyrian, compared here to a tall and fair cedar, such as grew in mount Lebanon, Archbishop Usher and Dr. Prideaux understand that king of Assyria whom some call Chyniladanus, others Saracus, of whom it seems the words of the Prophet Nahum (Nahum 3:18) are to be understood. In like manner Zephaniah joins the destruction of Assyria and the desolation of Nineveh together, Zephaniah 2:13. Nabopolassar, the king of Babylon, and Cyaxares, the king of Media, called by the names of Nebuchadonosor and Assuerus in Tobit, (chap. Ezekiel 14:15,) joining their forces together against him, besieged Nineveh, took it, and, after having slain the king, utterly destroyed that great and famous city, and put an end to that part of the Assyrian empire, Nabopolassar having before possessed himself of the other part, which was properly called the Babylonian empire. See Dr. Prideaux, p. 45. In this remarkable catastrophe the prophecies of Jonah, Nahum, and Zephaniah, foretelling the destruction of Nineveh, were fulfilled. His top was among the thick boughs — He overtopped all the other flourishing trees. The waters made him great — “As trees flourish by a river side, so the traffic of the several branches of the river Tigris, upon which Nineveh was situate, made that city and kingdom rich and populous, and she imparted her wealth and stores among the neighbouring provinces.” — Lowth. Therefore his height was exalted, &c. — He became greater than all the kings about him. The greatness of Nebuchadnezzar’s power and kingdom is set forth under the same emblem, Daniel 4:10, &c. All the fowls made their nests in his boughs — Several nations applied to him for protection, and thought themselves and all their concerns safe under his government. Under his branches did all the beasts of the field bring forth, &c. — Under the protection of his extensive empire did the people increase, and the countries become more populous. The cedars in the garden of God could not hide him, &c. — He overtopped the goodly cedars, called in the Hebrew the cedars of God, Psalm 80:9; such fair ones as might be supposed to have grown in paradise. The expressions are all allegorical, signifying the super-eminent greatness of the king of Assyria, and how much more powerful he was than any other of the kings of that time. All the trees of Eden, &c. — All the kings of the East envied him, and his greatness. So the Chaldee paraphrast.
cedar in Lebanon—often eighty feet high, and the diameter of the space covered by its boughs still greater: the symmetry perfect. Compare the similar image (Eze 17:3; Da 4:20-22).
with a shadowing shroud—with an overshadowing thicket.
top … among … thick boughs—rather [Hengstenberg], "among the clouds." But English Version agrees better with the Hebrew. The top, or topmost shoot, represents the king; the thick boughs, the large resources of the empire.The Assyrian kingdom and its kings were the greatest the world ever knew before thee, they had longest time of growth, through 1340 or 1360 years, from Belus who was Nimrod, or Belus Assyrius, to Sardanapalus, from 1719 or 1717, or 1718, to 3059, of the world. And they had as fair advantages, as reaching a foresight, and as unwearied diligence to advance the kingdom; yet I bought it down.
A cedar; like a cedar; kings and kingdoms oft compared to trees, both in profane and sacred emblems; or like the most goodly cedar for strength and beauty. In Lebanon; a great mountainous tract from east to west, one hundred and twenty five miles in length, encloseth Canaan on the north.
With fair branches, which are the beauty, greatness, strength of the tree; so had this mighty kingdom fair provinces, as branches springing from it.
With a shadowing shroud: what we render shadowing in the Hebrew may signify either silent and quiet, or framing and modelling, intimating that this kingdom, like a shady tree, gave shelter to the weak, as if framed artificially to this, and it was a silent quiet repose its subjects had; as weak creatures find shelter in a mighty wood, so these.
Of an high stature: this kingdom grew to great height, while its branches were so beneficial.
Among the thick boughs, or clouds; for so the word will without violence bear, clouds being called so from their thickness; however, the head among the thick boughs speaks the magnificence and greatness of this king, compassed about with tributary kings and princes and mighty men.
with fair branches; meaning not children, nor nobles, nor subjects; but provinces, many and large, which were subject to this monarch:
and with a shadowing shroud; power, dominion, authority, a mighty army sufficient to protect all that were under his government, and subject to it:
and of an high stature: exalted above all the kings and kingdoms of the earth:
and his top was among the thick boughs; his kingly power, headship, and dominion, was over a multitude of petty princes and states, comparable to the thick boughs and branches of a tree: or, "among the clouds"; as the Septuagint and Arabic versions render it; above the heights of which the Assyrian monarch attempted to ascend, Isaiah 14:14.Behold, the Assyrian was a cedar in Lebanon with fair branches, and with a shadowing shroud, and of an high stature; and his top was among the thick boughs.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)3. the Assyrian was a cedar] It is evident that the Assyrian has nothing to do here; any comparison of Egypt to Assyria is without motive. Besides Ezekiel 31:3 is repeated in Ezekiel 31:10, and spoken of Egypt (cf. Ezekiel 31:18). The word “asshur” here is the name of a tree, either the same as teasshur (ch. Ezekiel 27:6), or this form should be read. Render: Behold a stately cedar in Lebanon (lit. a teasshur of a cedar); or, behold a sherbin, a cedar in Lebanon—the more general “cedar” being added after the species.
a shadowing shrowd] The “shroud,” usually “forest,” must refer to the closely interwoven branches, hardly to the underwood. The phrase is wanting in LXX.
the thick boughs] The clouds, so Ezekiel 31:10; Ezekiel 31:14; cf. Ezekiel 19:11.Verse 3. - Behold, the Assyrian was a cedar in Lebanon. The Hebrew text, as rendered in all versions and interpreted by most commentators, gives us, in the form of the parable of the cedar, the history of the Assyrian empire in its glory and its fall. That had passed away in spite of its greatness, and so should Egypt. The question in Ver. 18 takes the place of "Thou art the man!" in Nathan's interpretation of his parable (2 Samuel 12:7), or the mutato nominee de te fabula, narratur of the Roman satirist. Some recent commentaters, however, either like Ewald, taking the Hebrew word for, Assyrian" as describing a particular kind of cedar or fir tree, or, like Comill and amend, adopting a conjectural emendation of the text which actually gives that meaning (Tasshur for Asshur), refer the whole parable primarily to Egypt, and dwell on the fact that the words of Vers. 10, 18 are addressed to the living representative of a great monarchy, and not to a power that has already passed away into the Hades of departed glory. The former view seems to me the more tenable of the two, and I therefore adopt it throughout the chapter. It may be admitted, however, that the inner meaning of the parable at times breaks through the outward imagery, as was indeed to be expected, the prophet seeking to apply his apologue even before he had completed it. The "cedar in Lebanon" has already met us as the symbol of s kingdom, in Ezekiel 17:2. The shadowing shroud may be noted as a specially vivid picture of the peculiar foliage of the cedar rendered with singular felicity. His top was among the thick boughs; better, clouds, as in the margin of the Revised Version. So Keil, Smend, and others (comp. Vers. 10, 14).
Ezekiel 29:13. For thus saith the Lord Jehovah, At the end of forty years I will gather the Egyptians out of the nations, whither they were scattered. Ezekiel 29:14. And I will turn the captivity of Egypt, and will bring them back into the land of Pathros, into the land of their origin, and they shall be a lowly kingdom there. Ezekiel 29:15. Lowlier than the kingdoms shall it be, and exalt itself no more over the nations; and I will make them small, so that they shall rule no more over the nations. Ezekiel 29:16. And it shall be no more the confidence of the house of Israel, bringing iniquity to remembrance when they incline towards it; and they shall learn that I am the Lord Jehovah. - The turning of the period of Egypt's punishment is connected by כּי, which refers to the time indicated, viz., "forty years." For forty years shall Egypt be utterly laid waste; for after the expiration of that period the Lord will gather the Egyptians again from their dispersion among the nations, turn their captivity, i.e., put an end to their suffering (see the comm. on Ezekiel 16:53), and lead them back into the land of their birth, i.e., of their origin (for מכוּרה, see Ezekiel 16:3), namely, to Pathros. פתרוס, the Egyptian Petorēs (Παθούρης, lxx Jeremiah 44:1), or south land, i.e., Upper Egypt, the Thebais of the Greeks and Romans. The designation of Upper Egypt as the mother country of the Egyptians, or the land of their nativity, is confirmed not only by the accounts given by Herodotus (ii. 4 and 15) and Diodorus Sic. (i. 50), but also by the Egyptian mythology, according to which the first king who reigned after the gods, viz., Menes or Mena, sprang from the city of Thinis (Thynis), Egypt. Tenj, in the neighbourhood of Abydos in Upper Egypt, and founded the city of Memphis in Lower Egypt, which became so celebrated in later times (vid., Brugsch, Histoire d'Egypte, 1 Peter 16). But Egypt shall not attain to its former power any more. It will be and continue a lowly kingdom, that it may not again become a ground of confidence to Israel, a power upon which Israel can rely, so as to fall into guilt and punishment. The subject to ולא יהיה is Egypt as a nation, notwithstanding the fact that it has previously been construed in the feminine as a land or kingdom, and in אחריהם the Egyptians are spoken of in the plural number. For it is out of the question to take מזכּיר עון as the subject to לא יהיה in the sense of "no more shall one who calls guilt to remembrance inspire the house of Israel with confidence," as Kliefoth proposes, not only because of the arrangement of the words, but because the more precise definition of מזכּיר עון as 'בּפנותם אח clearly shows that Egypt is the subject of the sentence; whereas, in order to connect this definition in any way, Kliefoth is compelled to resort to the interpolation of the words, "which it committed." מזכּיר עון is in apposition to מבטח; making Egypt the ground of confidence, brings into remembrance before God the guilt of Israel, which consists in the fact that the Israelites turn to the Egyptians and seek salvation from them, so that He is obliged to punish them (vid., Ezekiel 21:28-29). - The truth of the prediction in Ezekiel 29:13-16 has been confirmed by history, inasmuch as Egypt never recovered its former power after the Chaldean period. - Moreover, if we compare the Messianic promise for Egypt in Isaiah 19:18-25 with the prediction in Ezekiel 29:13-15, we are struck at once with the peculiarity of Ezekiel, already referred to in the introductory remarks on Ezekiel 25-32, namely, that he leaves entirely out of sight the Messianic future of the heathen nations.
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