Ezekiel 31:3
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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(3) 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.

Among the thick boughs.—Rather, among the clouds. (See Note on Ezekiel 19:11 .Comp. also Ezekiel 31:10; Ezekiel 31:14.)

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.

31:1-9 The falls of others, both into sin and ruin, warn us not to be secure or high-minded. The prophet is to show an instance of one whom the king of Egypt resembled in greatness, the Assyrian, compared to a stately cedar. Those who excel others, make themselves the objects of envy; but the blessings of the heavenly paradise are not liable to such alloy. The utmost security that any creature can give, is but like the shadow of a tree, a scanty and slender protection. But let us flee to God for protection, there we shall be safe. His hand must be owned in the rising of the great men of the earth, and we must not envy them. Though worldly people may seem to have firm prosperity, yet it only seems so.Fifth prophecy against Egypt: a warning to Pharaoh from the fate of the Assyrians. The Assyrian empire, after having been supreme in Asia for four centuries, had been overthrown by the united forces of the Babylonians and Medes, in the year of the battle of Carchemish (605 b.c.), which had broken the power of Egypt. This gives force to the warning to Egypt from Assyria's fall.3. He illustrates the pride and the consequent overthrow of the Assyrian, that Egypt may the better know what she must expect.

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.

Behold, the Assyrian was a cedar in Lebanon,.... Here grew the tallest, most stately, broad and flourishing ones. This sense is, that he was as one of them; comparable to one, for his exaltation and dignity; for the largeness of his dominion, the flourishing circumstances of it, and its long duration; that empire having lasted from the times of Nimrod unto a few years of the present time; for this is to be understood, either of the monarchy itself, or of Esarhaddon; or rather of Chynilidanus, or Saracus, the last king of it. The Septuagint, and Arabic versions render it the "cypariss" in Lebanon; but not that, but the cedar, grew there, and which best suits the comparison:

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.
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 31:3The might of Pharaoh resembles the greatness and glory of Asshur. - Ezekiel 31:1. In the eleventh year, in the third (month), on the first of the month, the word of Jehovah came to me, saying, Ezekiel 31:2. Son of man, say to Pharaoh the king of Egypt, and to his tumult, Whom art thou like in thy greatness? Ezekiel 31:3. Behold, Asshur was a cedar-tree upon Lebanon, beautiful in branches, a shadowing thicket, and its top was high in growth, and among the clouds. Ezekiel 31:4. Water brought him up, the flood made him high, its streams went round about its plantation, and it sent its channels to all the trees of the field. Ezekiel 31:5. Therefore its growth became higher than all the trees of the field, and its branches became great, and its boughs long from many waters in its shooting out. Ezekiel 31:6. In its branches all the birds of the heaven made their nests, and under its boughs all the beasts of the field brought forth, and in its shadow sat great nations of all kinds. Ezekiel 31:7. And he was beautiful in his greatness, in the length of his shoots; for his root was by many waters. Ezekiel 31:8. Cedars did not obscure him in the garden of God, cypresses did not resemble his branches, and plane-trees were not like his boughs; no tree in the garden of God resembled him in his beauty. Ezekiel 31:9. I had made him beautiful in the multitude of his shoots, and all the trees of Eden which were in the garden of God envied him. - The word of God is addressed to King Pharaoh and to המונו, his tumult, i.e., whoever and whatever occasions noise and tumult in the land. We must not interpret this, however, as Hitzig has done, as signifying the ruling classes and estates in contrast with the quiet in the land, for no such use of המון is anywhere to be found. Nor must we regard the word as applying to the multitude of people only, but to the people with their possessions, their riches, which gave rise to luxury and tumult, as in Ezekiel 30:10. The inquiry, whom does Pharaoh with his tumult resemble in his greatness, is followed in the place of a reply by a description of Asshur as a glorious cedar (Ezekiel 31:3-9). It is true that Ewald has followed the example of Meibom (vanarum in Cod. Hebr. interprett. spec. III p. 70) and J. D. Michaelis, and endeavours to set aside the allusion to Asshur, by taking the word אשּׁוּר in an appellative sense, and understanding אשּׁוּר ארז as signifying a particular kind of cedar, namely, the tallest species of all. But apart altogether from there being no foundation whatever for such an explanation in the usage of the language, there is nothing in the fact to justify it. For it is not anywhere affirmed that Pharaoh resembled this cedar; on the contrary, the question, whom does he resemble? is asked again in Ezekiel 31:18 (Hitzig). Moreover, Michaelis is wrong in the supposition that "from Ezekiel 31:10 onwards it becomes perfectly obvious that it is not Assyria but Egypt itself which is meant by the cedar-tree previously described." Under the figure of the felling of a cedar there is depicted the overthrow of a king or monarchy, which has already taken place. Compare Ezekiel 31:12 and Ezekiel 31:16, where the past is indicated quite as certainly as the future in Ezekiel 31:18. And as Ezekiel 31:18 plainly designates the overthrow of Pharaoh and his power as still in the future, the cedar, whose destruction is not only threatened in Ezekiel 31:10-17, but declared to have already taken place, can only be Asshur, and not Egypt at all.

The picture of the glory of this cedar recalls in several respects the similar figurative description in Ezekiel 17. Asshur is called a cedar upon Lebanon, because it was there that the most stately cedars grew. חרשׁ מצל, a shade-giving thicket (מצל is a Hiphil participle of צלל), belongs to יפה ענף as a further expansion of ענף, corresponding to the further expansion of גּבהּ קמה by "its top was among the clouds." If we bear this in mind, the reasons assigned by Hitzig for altering חרשׁ into an adjective הרשׁ, and taking מצל as a substantive formation after the analogy of מסב, lose all their force. Analogy would only require an adjective in the construct state in the event of the three statements 'יפה ע, 'הרשׁ מ, and 'גּבהּ גּבהּ ק being co-ordinate with one another. But what is decisive against the proposed conjecture is the fact that neither the noun מצל nor the adjective הרשׁ is ever met with, and that, in any case, מצל cannot signify foliage. The rendering of the Vulgate, "frondibus nemorosus," is merely guessed at, whilst the Seventy have omitted the word as unintelligible to them. For עבתים, thicket of clouds, see the comm. on Ezekiel 19:11; and for צמּרת, that on Ezekiel 17:3. The cedar grew to so large a size because it was richly watered (Ezekiel 31:4). A flood poured its streams round about the place where the cedar was planted, and sent out brooks to all the trees of the field. The difficult words את־נהרתיה וגו' are to be taken literally thus: as for its (the flood's) streams, it (the flood) was going round about its plantation, i.e., round about the plantation belonging to the flood or the place situated near it, where the cedar was planted. את is not to be taken as a preposition, but as a sign of the accusative, and את־נהרתיה dna , as an accusative used for the more precise definition of the manner in which the flood surrounded the plantation. It is true that there still remains something striking in the masculine הלך, since תּהום, although of common gender, is construed throughout as a feminine, even in this very verse. But the difficulty remains even if we follow Ewald, and take הלך to be a defectively written or irregular form of the Hiphil הוליך; a conjecture which is precluded by the use of הוליך, to cause to run equals to cause to flow away, in Ezekiel 32:14. מטּעהּ, its (the flood's) plantation, i.e., the plantation for which the flood existed. תּהום is used here to signify the source of starting-point of a flood, as in Deuteronomy 8:7, where תּהמות are co-ordinate with עינות. - While the place where the cedar was planted was surrounded by the streams of the flood, only the brooks and channels of this flood reached to the trees of the field. The cedar therefore surpassed all the trees of the field in height and luxuriance of growth (Ezekiel 31:5). fגּבהאheb>, an Aramean mode of spelling for גּבהה heb>; and asרעפּתheb>, ἁπ. λεγ.., an Aramean formation with ר inserted, for סעפת, branches. For פּארת, see the comm. on Ezekiel 17:6. בּשׁלּחו cannot mean "since it (the stream) sent out the water" (Ewald); for although תּהום in Ezekiel 31:4 is also construed as a masculine, the suffix cannot be taken as referring to תּהום, for this is much too far off. And the explanation proposed by Rosenmller, Hvernick, Kliefoth, and others, "as it (the tree) sent them (the branches) out," is open to this objection, that בּשׁלּחו would then contain a spiritless tautology; since the stretching out of the branches is already contained in the fact of their becoming numerous and long. the tautology has no existence if the object is left indefinite, "in its spreading out," i.e., the spreading not only of the branches, but also of the roots, to which שׁלּח is sometimes applied (cf. Jeremiah 17:8). By the many waters which made the cedar great, we must not understand, either solely or especially, the numerous peoples which rendered Assyria great and mighty, as the Chaldee and many of the older commentators have done. It must rather be taken as embracing everything which contributed to the growth and greatness of Assyria. It is questionable whether the prophet, when describing the flood which watered the cedar plantation, had the description of the rivers of Paradise in Genesis 2:10. floating before his mind. Ewald and Hvernick think that he had; but Hitzig and Kliefoth take a decidedly opposite view. There is certainly no distinct indication of any such allusion. We meet with this for the first time from Ezekiel 31:8 onwards.

In Ezekiel 31:6-9 the greatness and glory of Asshur are still further depicted. Upon and under the branches of the stately tree, all creatures, birds, beasts, and men, found shelter and protection for life and increase (Ezekiel 31:6; cf. Ezekiel 17:23 and Daniel 4:9). In כּּל־גּוים רבּים, all kinds of great nations, the fact glimmers through the figure. The tree was so beautiful (ויּיף from יפה) in its greatness, that of all the trees in the garden of God not one was to be compared with it, and all envied it on that account; that is to say, all the other nations and kingdoms in God's creation were far inferior to Asshur in greatness and glory. גּן אלהים is the garden of Paradise; and consequently עדן in Ezekiel 31:9, Ezekiel 31:16, and Ezekiel 31:18 is also Paradise, as in Ezekiel 28:13. There is no ground for Kliefoth's objection, that if עדן be taken in this sense, the words "which are in the garden of God" will contain a superfluous pleonasm, a mere tautology. In Genesis 2:8 a distinction is also made between עדן and the garden in Eden. It was not all Eden, but the garden planted by Jehovah in Eden, which formed the real paradisaical creation; so that the words "which are in the garden of God" give intensity to the idea of the "trees of Eden." Moreover, as Hvernick has correctly pointed out, there is a peculiar emphasis in the separation of בּגן אלהים from ארזים in Ezekiel 31:8 : "cedars...even such as were found in the garden of God." Not one even of the other and most glorious trees, viz., cypresses and planes, resembled the cedar Asshur, planted by God by many waters, in its boughs and branches. It is not stated in so many words in Ezekiel 31:8 and Ezekiel 31:9 that the cedar Asshur stood in the garden of God; but it by no means follows from this, that by the garden of God we are to understand simply the world and the earth as the creation of God, as Kliefoth imagines, and in support of which he argues that "as all the nations and kingdoms of the world are regarded as trees planted by God, the world itself is quite consistently called a garden or plantation of God." The very fact that a distinction is made between trees of the field (Ezekiel 31:4 and Ezekiel 31:5) and trees of Eden in the garden of God (Ezekiel 31:8 and Ezekiel 31:9), shows that the trees are not all regarded here as being in the same sense planted by God. If the garden of God stood for the world, where should we then have to look for the field (השּׂדה)? The thought of Ezekiel 31:8 and Ezekiel 31:9 is not that "not a single tree in all God's broad earth was to be compared to the cedar Asshur," but that even of the trees of Paradise, the garden in Eden, there was not one so beautiful and glorious as the cedar Asshur, planted by God by many waters.

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