Ezekiel 19:1 (NIV) 1 “Take up a lament concerning the princes of Israel
On verse 1: Here in chapter 19, God tells Ezekiel to write down a “lament”. A lament is a funeral song honouring someone who has died and expressing the feeling of loss and grief of losing that person. In this case the lament concerns “the princes of Israel”, which is Ezekiel’s term for the kings who led Israel in its most recent history. As we will see, the lament consists of two pictures or parables.
Ezekiel 19:2-9 (NIV) 2 and say: “‘What a lioness was your mother among the lions! She lay down among the young lions and reared her cubs. 3 She brought up one of her cubs, and he became a strong lion. He learned to tear the prey and he devoured men. 4 The nations heard about him, and he was trapped in their pit. They led him with hooks to the land of Egypt. 5 “‘When she saw her hope unfulfilled, her expectation gone, she took another of her cubs and made him a strong lion. 6 He prowled among the lions, for he was now a strong lion. He learned to tear the prey and he devoured men. 7 He broke down their strongholds and devastated their towns. The land and all who were in it were terrified by his roaring. 8 Then the nations came against him, those from regions round about. They spread their net for him, and he was trapped in their pit. 9 With hooks they pulled him into a cage and brought him to the king of Babylon. They put him in prison, so his roar was heard no longer on the mountains of Israel.
On verses 2-9: The first parable describes how a mother lion raises one of her cubs to be a strong and powerful lion, but that lion cub is trapped and taken to Egypt as a captive. The mother lion then raises another one of her cubs to be an even stronger and more powerful lion, but the nations trap him and take him to Babylon as a captive.
Who do these lions symbolize? According to many scholars:
The mother lioness is the nation of Judah.
The first young lion who was taken to Egypt is most likely Jehoahaz. In 609 B.C. Jehoahaz became king of Judah but reigned only 3 months. He would be defeated by Egypt’s king Pharaoh Neco II and brought to the land of Egypt as a captive, where he would die (2 Kings 23:31-34).
The second young lion who was taken to Babylon is most likely Jehoiachin. After also reigning as king of Judah for only 3 months, Jehoiachin was defeated by Babylon’s King Nebuchadnezzar and brought to the land of Babylon as a captive, where he would die (see 2 Kings 25).
All this talk about these “lions” points us to the greatest lion of all. His name is Jesus. Jesus is called “the Lion of the tribe of Judah” (Revelation 5:5). Like the lions mentioned in Ezekiel 19, Jesus would be handed over to his enemies as a captive and die. But unlike the lions mentioned in Ezekiel 19, this lion would rise again. Now Jesus, this lion king of Judah, reigns forever over God’s people. So while Ezekiel laments over the shortened reign, deportation and death of two of Judah’s kings, today we can celebrate the greatness of the one great lion of Judah who lives and reigns forever.
Ezekiel 19:10-14 (NIV) 10 “‘Your mother was like a vine in your vineyard planted by the water; it was fruitful and full of branches because of abundant water. 11 Its branches were strong, fit for a ruler’s scepter. It towered high above the thick foliage, conspicuous for its height and for its many branches. 12 But it was uprooted in fury and thrown to the ground. The east wind made it shrivel, it was stripped of its fruit; its strong branches withered and fire consumed them. 13 Now it is planted in the desert, in a dry and thirsty land. 14 Fire spread from one of its main branches and consumed its fruit. No strong branch is left on it fit for a ruler’s scepter.’ This is a lament and is to be used as a lament.”
On verses 10-14: Like the first parable (verses 2-9), this second parable (verses 10-14) is talking about the nation of Judah, represented by the vine. Verses 10 to 11 talk about the glory days of this vine called Judah – how at one time Judah was fruitful (v10), how Judah had many strong branches “fit for a ruler’s scepter” (i.e. many worthy kings) (v11), and how Judah grew so tall that it towered over neighbouring nations (v11).
However, Judah would eventually be uprooted in fury and thrown to the ground (v12). Stripped of its fruit (v12) and consumed by fire (v12), Judah would end up in the desert, in a dry and thirsty land, far from the abundant water it once had (v13). Now no one is left in Judah who is fit to lead, “fit for a ruler’s scepter” (v14). Thus God sings a lament for the nation of Judah.
What can we learn from this? It is a sad thing indeed, both for God and for people, when God does something amazing in the life of an individual or a group, setting them up so well for success, only for that individual or group to misuse what they were given and settle for a much lesser life. God’s heart breaks when this happens.
May you use what God has given you well for His glory. May you give God a reason not to lament but to sing and rejoice over the way you lived this life.
Lord Jesus, I worship You as the great lion of Judah who lives and reigns forever. Thank You that where other kings failed, You prevailed. I pray that when You look at my life and the way I lived it, may it give You reason not to lament but to sing and rejoice. May You be pleased with how I live with this life for Your glory. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!