Study Notes

Ezekiel 15-17


The "word of the Lord" has come to Ezekiel over a dozen times already in the first fourteen chapters we've studied. Tonight, we will see even more instances of the word of the Lord coming to this prophet.

15:1-8 Uselessness Of The Vine

Chapter fifteen is very short - just eight verses. It is made up of a parable, comparing Israel to a vine. Of course, this isn't the first instance in the Scriptures to use this picture. Asaph had written long before,

Psa. 80:8-11 You removed a vine from Egypt; You drove out the nations and planted it. You cleared the ground before it, and it took deep root and filled the land. The mountains were covered with its shadow, and the cedars of God with its boughs. It was sending out its branches to the sea and its shoots to the River.

Israel the vine was transplanted from Egypt to Canaan. The vine began to grow and branch out, and began to bear fruit.

As a matter of fact, that's all that vines are good for: bearing fruit. And when a vine won't produce it's fruit, what else are you going to use it for? You can't make furniture out of its wood - all it's good for is burning.

This is very similar to what Jesus taught His disciples:

John 15:4-6 “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned."

It is absolutely necessary that we bear fruit if we are to be useful in the kingdom of God. But many people are confused about what exactly "bearing fruit" means.

Fruit is the produce - the outcome - of the vine. Symbolically, it represents the produce of your life. The outgrowth of a Christian's life must be fruit. And that fruit takes several forms. John the Baptist commanded,

Matt. 3:8 "Therefore bring forth fruit in keeping with repentance;

The writer of Hebrews exhorted,

Hebr. 13:15 Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.

And the apostle Paul wrote that...

Gal. 5:22-23 ...the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control...

You could sum up this fruit with one word: righteousness. That's what the Philippians were told:

Phil. 1:10-11 sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which {comes} through Jesus Christ...

And so we are constantly reminded in Scripture to...

Col. 1:10 ...walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please {Him} in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God

Good fruit looks like the righteousness of good works. And that's why we were created, after all:

Eph. 2:10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works...

Now, Israel was supposed to bear the fruit of righteousness for God. But they were a fine that was fruitless. And so the vine was going to be used for the only purpose a fruitless vine serves: to burn in the fire.

16:1-6 Israel's Life Story

Chapter sixteen is another parable of Israel. This one is kind of like Israel's life story.

Israel was like a child abandoned at birth. But God intervened and preserved her life.

16:7-14 The Child Becomes A Woman

When this child who had been abandoned lived because of God's intervention, she grew up and became a woman. But she was still alone and destitute. God loved her, and married her. He blessed her with every good thing. Israel - once a lowly group of nomads - had became world-famous as a nation for strength, wisdom, and wealth.

16:15-34 Israel, The Adulterous Wife

God was the one who granted all these blessings to Israel, but she got prideful and full of herself. She played the harlot: instead of trusting in God, her husband, she made alliances with the pagan nations, paying them for their protection.

She began to worship their gods. She took the wealth God had given her, and used it to make idols. They sacrificed the children God had blessed them with. She abandoned her heritage as being a nation governed by God.

And - making her even worse than a harlot - God says that other harlots get money for their adultery. But Israel had actually paid!

16:35-43 God Will Judge

God was about to gather against Israel all the nations with whom Israel had played the harlot. They would break their alliances, and betray the Jews. They would attack them, not protect them. And when this happened, it would clearly be seen as the judgment of God, for their adulterous actions.

16:44-59 Like Mother, Like Daughter

The parable at this point takes a turn that is a bit difficult to understand. But basically, the mother in the story is the Hittite. She gave birth to three daughters: Samaria, Sodom, and Jerusalem. As bad as the reputations of Sodom and Samaria were, Jerusalem's had become worse. It was a far cry from the description of "the holy city," as it had been called.

16:60-63 I Will Remember My Covenant With You

As God continually does with Israel, he reminds her of His faithfulness in spite of her rebellion. Yes, He will judge, but afterwards, He will restore.

The covenant He made with Abraham was unconditional, and His promises will be kept, in spite of their total lack of deserving. One day, Yahweh's adulterous wife will come home for good.

17:1-10 Two Eagles

A third parable begins in chapter seventeen. It speaks of two great eagles. They are described as doing some strange things.

The first eagle grabs the top of a cedar tree and drops it in a land of merchants. It also takes some seeds and plants them.

The second eagle is approached by a vine, which wants it to water the vine. Very strange.

17:11-15 The Parable Interpreted

The interpretation of the parable is given by God. He says that the first eagle is Babylon. The second eagle is Egypt. The top of the cedar tree which was taken is the royal family of Israel.

Our understanding of the interpretation means that we need to get up to date on the happenings in Israel at this time.

Remember that Ezekiel had gone into exile at the same time as many others - after Babylon's second attack upon Jerusalem.

2Kings 24:12-17 Jehoiachin the king of Judah went out to the king of Babylon, he and his mother and his servants and his captains and his officials. So the king of Babylon took him captive in the eighth year of his reign. He carried out from there all the treasures of the house of the LORD, and the treasures of the king’s house, and cut in pieces all the vessels of gold which Solomon king of Israel had made in the temple of the LORD, just as the LORD had said. Then he led away into exile all Jerusalem and all the captains and all the mighty men of valor, ten thousand captives, and all the craftsmen and the smiths. None remained except the poorest people of the land. So he led Jehoiachin away into exile to Babylon; also the king’s mother and the king’s wives and his officials and the leading men of the land, he led away into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon. All the men of valor, seven thousand, and the craftsmen and the smiths, one thousand, all strong and fit for war, and these the king of Babylon brought into exile to Babylon. Then the king of Babylon made his uncle Mattaniah king in his place, and changed his name to Zedekiah.

Those taken into captivity were the top of the cedar tree.

The seed which grew into the vine was Judah being led by the new king, Zedekiah. You see, God had warned them through the prophet Jeremiah that they must serve Neuchadnezzar.

Jer. 27:6-13 “Now I have given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, My servant, and I have given him also the wild animals of the field to serve him. All the nations shall serve him and his son and his grandson until the time of his own land comes; then many nations and great kings will make him their servant. It will be, that the nation or the kingdom which will not serve him, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and which will not put its neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, I will punish that nation with the sword, with famine and with pestilence,” declares the LORD, “until I have destroyed it by his hand. But as for you, do not listen to your prophets, your diviners, your dreamers, your soothsayers or your sorcerers who speak to you, saying, 'You will not serve the king of Babylon.’ For they prophesy a lie to you in order to remove you far from your land; and I will drive you out and you will perish. But the nation which will bring its neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon and serve him, I will let remain on its land,” declares the LORD, “and they will till it and dwell in it.” I spoke words like all these to Zedekiah king of Judah, saying, “Bring your necks under the yoke of the king of Babylon and serve him and his people, and live! Why will you die, you and your people, by the sword, famine and pestilence, as the LORD has spoken to that nation which will not serve the king of Babylon?"

Not only had they been told to submit to Nebuchadnezzar, but they had also earlier been told through Isaiah that they were to specifically avoid any alliance with Egypt:

Is. 30:1-3 “Woe to the rebellious children,” declares the LORD, “Who execute a plan, but not Mine, and make an alliance, but not of My Spirit, in order to add sin to sin; Who proceed down to Egypt without consulting Me, to take refuge in the safety of Pharaoh and to seek shelter in the shadow of Egypt! Therefore the safety of Pharaoh will be your shame and the shelter in the shadow of Egypt, your humiliation."

Zedekiah had been warned, but he...

2Chr. 36:12-13 ...did evil in the sight of the LORD his God; he did not humble himself before Jeremiah the prophet who spoke for the LORD. He also rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar who had made him swear allegiance by God. But he stiffened his neck and hardened his heart against turning to the LORD God of Israel.

Zedekiah rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar. He sought an alliance with Egypt. This is what the vine reaching to the second eagle represents. This was the final act of rebellion to God's Word that would seal the destruction of Judah, by bringing the Babylonians for a third and final attack. God would uproot the vine and it would completely wither.

17:16-21 Zedekiah's Future

God would insure that Egypt could not be depended upon, and that Jerusalem would fall. And King Zedekiah would die in Babylon.

The prophecy came true. When Jerusalem was attacked,

Jer. 52:7-1 Then the city was broken into, and all the men of war fled and went forth from the city at night by way of the gate between the two walls which was by the king’s garden, though the Chaldeans were all around the city. And they went by way of the Arabah. But the army of the Chaldeans pursued the king and overtook Zedekiah in the plains of Jericho, and all his army was scattered from him. Then they captured the king and brought him up to the king of Babylon at Riblah in the land of Hamath, and he passed sentence on him. The king of Babylon slaughtered the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes, and he also slaughtered all the princes of Judah in Riblah. Then he blinded the eyes of Zedekiah; and the king of Babylon bound him with bronze fetters and brought him to Babylon and put him in prison until the day of his death.

17:22-24 I Will Plant A Twig

God once again promises His faithfulness. He will preserve a remnant of those taken captive to Babylon. He will take a sprig from the top of the cedar and plant it in Israel again.

He would again give them the opportunity to bear fruit.

As we close tonight, I believe we should remind ourselves yet again of God's desire that His people bear fruit.

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