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Ezekiel 31:1-9

1 AND IN the eleventh year [after King Jehoiachin was taken captive to Babylon], in the third month, on the first day of the month, the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 2 Son of man, say to Pharaoh king of Egypt and to his multitude: Whom are you like in your greatness? 3 Behold, [I will liken you to] Assyria, a cedar in Lebanon, with fair branches and with forest like shade and of high stature, with its top among the thick boughs [even among the clouds]. 4 The waters nourished it; the deep made it grow tall; its rivers ran round about its planting, sending out its streams to all the trees of the forest [the other nations]. 5 Therefore it towered higher than all the trees of the forest; its boughs were multiplied and its branches became long, because there was much water when they were shot forth. 6 All the birds of the heavens made their nests in its boughs, and under its branches all the wild beasts of the field brought forth their young and under its shadow dwelt all of the great nations. 7 Thus was it beautiful in its greatness, in the length of its branches, for its root was by many and great waters. 8 The cedars in the garden of God could not hide or rival it; the cypress trees did not have boughs like it and the plane trees did not have branches like it, nor was any tree in the garden of God like it in its beauty. 9 I made it beautiful with the multitude of its branches, so that all the trees of Eden that were in the garden of God envied it [Assyria]. AMP
Ezekiel 31:1; Ezekiel 31:2; Ezekiel 31:3-17; Ezekiel 31:3-14; Ezekiel 31:8, 9

31:1. chronology. The date is June 21, 587 B.C., nearly two months after the date mentioned in Ezekiel 30:20. Since there is no firm information concerning the date of the Egyptian interference, it is difficult to relate this oracle to the timing of the event.
31:2. identity of Pharaoh. As in 29:3 Ezekiel is probably addressing the office of pharaoh in general. Hophra was the reigning monarch in 587 B.C. (see the note on Ezek 29:3).
31:3-17. extent, duration and power of Assyria. The power of the Assyrian state waxed and waned for nearly three centuries (c. 900 B.C. - 612 B.C.). At its height its geographic range was enormous, ranging from Iran in the east to central Egypt, central Anatolia and Cyprus in the west. It covered much of the Arabian desert in the south and ranged as far north as modern Armenia. In Ezekiel's time it had passed off the scene rather recently (about twenty years earlier), so it served as a perfect image of a long-standing superpower that had crumbled to nothing.
31:3-14. tree metaphor. The tree used for the metaphor here is the cedar, a well-known ancient Near Eastern symbol of majesty. It was used for the construction of many important palaces and temples. Egyptian, Assyrian and Babylonian kings all recount how they cut down the cedars of Lebanon in order to construct their mighty edifices. The myth of a cosmic tree is also found in Mesopotamian contexts. Its roots are fed by the great subterranean ocean, and its top merges with the clouds, so that it binds together the heavens, the earth and the netherworld. The Sumerian account of the Epic of Gilgamesh has a motif of a great tree offering shelter to animals. The Sumerian goddess Inanna discovered the sacred cosmic tree on the banks of the Euphrates and transplanted it into her sacred garden at Uruk (biblical Erech), where it attracted the mythical Anzu (a bird deity), a snake and Lilith (an evil demon). In the Myth of Erra and Ishum, Marduk speaks of the meshu tree whose roots reach down through the oceans to the netherworld and whose top is above the heavens. In Assyrian contexts the motif of a sacred tree is also well known. Some have called it a tree of life, and some also associate it with this world tree.

It is often flanked by animals or by human or divine figures. A winged disk is typically centrally located over the top of the tree. The king is represented as the human personification of this tree. The tree is thought to represent the divine world order, but textual discussion of it is lacking. As is often the case in Ezekiel, this mythical motif is transformed to a political image.

31:8-9. garden of God. The garden of God in Ezekiel is identified as Eden. Here, however, it is not invoking the image of a utopian home from which humans have been driven. Unlike the paradise motif in the Bible, the Mesopotamian garden of the gods was the beautiful protected property of the gods that humans trespassed at their peril. Such was the cedar forest to which Gilgamesh and his companion Enkidu gained access when they defeated the divinely appointed guardian of the forest, Huwawa. These gardens, like the royal gardens of this period, were wooded parks featuring beautiful and exotic trees. This description is also appropriate for the biblical Eden.

(From IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament, Copyright © 2000 by John H. Walton, Victor H. Matthews and Mark W. Chavalas. Published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.)
31:1-18 The second oracle concerning Pharaoh.

The introductory date formula identifies (31:1-18) as the ninth major section of the book of Ezekiel. The imagery of a fallen cedar of Lebanon portrays Pharaoh’s downfall. The fall of Assyria forms the precedent and model for the fall of Egypt. (Isaiah 14:3-23) likewise portrays the downfall of the Babylonian king and relates it to the downfall of Assyria (Isaiah 14:24-27). Thematically, this oracle is similar to those against Tyre in (Chapters 27 and 28).
31:1 In the eleventh year, on the first day of the third month, (1 Sivan, 587-586 BCE), six days prior to the festival of Shavu’ot, and about two months prior to the destruction of the Temple. 2-9: See Isaiah’s portrayal of the Assyrian monarch as a tall tree that is to be felled (Isaiah 10:5-34) and the tradition of the well watered tree in the garden of Eden that plays a role in the downfall of Adam and Eve (Genesis chapters 2-3). Jewish Study Bible
Ezekiel 31:1

[In the eleventh year] On Sunday, June 19, A.M. 3416, according to Dr. Usher; a month before Jerusalem was taken by the Chaldeans.
Ezekiel 31:3

[Behold, the Assyrian was a cedar] Why is the Assyrian introduced here, when the whole chapter concerns Egypt? Dr. Lowth has shown that °Ashuwr °erez should be translated the tall cedar, the very stately cedar; hence, there is reference to his lofty top; and all the following description belongs to Egypt, not to Assyria. But see the note at Ezek 31:11.
Ezekiel 31:4

[The waters made him great] Alluding to the fertility of Egypt by the overflowing of the Nile. But waters often mean peoples. By means of the different nations under the Egyptians, that government became very opulent. These nations are represented as fowls and beasts, taking shelter under the protection of this great political Egyptian tree, Ezekiel 31:6.

(From Adam Clarke's Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1996, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)


Ezekiel 31:8

[The cedars in the garden of God] Egypt was one of the most eminent and affluent of all the neighboring nations.

(From Adam Clarke's Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1996, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)
Ch. 31. The Glory and Fall of Asshur a Type of Egypt

In two months minus six days from the time when the preceding word of God was uttered, Ezekiel received another threatening word against the king and the people of Egypt, in which the former announcement of the destruction of the might of Egypt was confirmed by a comparison drawn between the power of Egypt and that of Asshur:

  1. Ezekiel having opened his prophecy with the question, whom does Pharaoh with his might resemble (v. 2),

  2. Proceeds to depict Asshur as a mighty towering cedar (vv. 3-9)

  3. Which has been felled and cast down by the prince of the nations on account of its height and pride (vv. 10-14),

  4. So that everything mourned over its fall, because many nations went down with it to hell (vv. 15-17).

  5. The question, whom Pharaoh resembles, is then repeated in v. 18; and from the preceding comparison the conclusion is drawn, that he will perish like that lofty cedar.

The reminiscence of the greatness of the Assyrian empire and of its destruction was well adapted to overthrow all reliance upon the might and greatness of Egypt. The fall of that great empire was still so fresh in the mind at the time that the reminiscence could not fail to make a deep impression upon the prophet's hearers.

(From Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament: New Updated Edition, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1996 by Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.)
Another thought.

31:3 the Assyrian. Ginsburg thinks this should read te’ashshur (= a box-tree) instead of ‘ashshur (= an Assyrian). There is no article; and Egypt is the subject here, not Assyria. Compare Isaiah 41:19; 60:13. The subject is the proud exaltation of Egypt, which is likened to a box or cypress, exalting itself into a cedar of Lebanon.
Note: ever so often I will put in another view of a Scripture, not because I believe it but so that you will see that many times in the study of Scriptures you will find different ideas based on solid reasons, which is right? You must decide. Paul the Learner
Ezekiel 31:1-9

Verse 1-9. The might of Pharaoh resembles the greatness and glory of Asshur. –

V. 1. In the eleventh year, in the third (month), on the first of the month, the word of Jehovah came to me, saying,

V. 2. Son of man, say to Pharaoh the king of Egypt, and to his tumult, Whom art thou like in thy greatness?

V. 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.

V. 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.

V. 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.

V. 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.

V. 7. And he was beautiful in his greatness, in the length of his shoots; for his root was by many waters.

V. 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.

V. 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 hamownow, his tumult, i.e., whoever and whatever occasions noise and tumult in the land:

  1. 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 haamown is anywhere to be found.

  2. Nor must we regard the word as applying to the multitude of people only,

  3. 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 (vv. 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 endeavors to set aside the allusion to Asshur, by taking the word

°ashuwr (Assyria) in an appellative sense, and understanding °erez (a cedar tree) °ashuwr 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 v. 18 (Hitzig). Moreover, Michaelis is wrong in the supposition that "from v. 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 vv. 12 and 16, where the past is indicated quite as certainly as the future in v. 18. And as v. 18 plainly designates the overthrow of Pharaoh and his power as still in the future, the cedar, whose destruction is not only threatened in vv. 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 ch. 17. Asshur is called a cedar upon Lebanon, because it was there that the most stately cedars grew. Meetsal choresh, a shade-giving thicket (meetsal is a Hiphil participle of tsaalal to tumble down i.e. settle by a waving motion), belongs to ±aanaap (to cover; a twig) y­peeh (beautiful) as a further expansion of ±aanaap, corresponding to the further expansion of

Qomaah (height) g­bah (lofty, high, proud) by "its top was among the clouds."

(From Keil and Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament: New Updated Edition, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1996 by Hendrickson Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.)

Ezekiel 31:1-9

But what is decisive against the proposed conjecture is the fact that neither the noun meetsal (hovering over; to shade) nor the adjective harosh (to shake; the head) is ever met with, and that, in any case, meetsal cannot signify foliage. The rendering of the Vulgate, "frondibus nemorosus," is merely guessed at, whilst the Seventy (LXX) have omitted the word as unintelligible to them. ‘Assyria was a cedar in Lebanon with beautiful branches and shady thickets, of lofty stature, with its top among [leafy trees LXX “clouds”].’ 31:2 Tanakh Text

For ±abotiym, thicket of clouds, see the comm. on Ezek 19:11; and for tsameret (fleeciness, i.e. foliage, top), that on ch. 17:3.
The cedar grew to so large a size because it was richly watered (v. 4 ‘Waters nourished it, the deep made it grow tall, washing with its streams the place where it was planted, making its channels well up [to all or “more than for all”] the trees of the field.’). 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 wgw° °et-naharoteyhaa 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.
°Eet (properly self) is not to be taken as a preposition, but as a sign of the accusative, and

°ete-naharoteyhaa as an accusative used for the more precise definition of the manner in which the flood surrounded the plantation. 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 (v. 5 ‘Therefore it exceeded in stature all the trees of the field; Its branches multiplied and its boughs grew long because of the abundant water that welled up for it.’).
By the many waters which made the cedar great, we must not understand:

  1. Either solely or especially, the numerous peoples which rendered Assyria great and mighty, as the Chaldee and many of the older commentators have done.

  2. 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 ff. floating before his mind. Ewald and Hävernick 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 v. 8 onwards.
In vv. 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 (v. 6; cf. Ezekiel 17:23 and Daniel 4:9). In rabiym kaal-gowyim, all kinds of great nations, the fact glimmers through the figure. The tree was so beautiful (wayiyp to be bright, i.e. beautiful from yaapaah beautiful) 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.

°Elohim gan is the garden of Paradise; and consequently ±eeden (pleasure) in vv. 9, 16, and 18 is also Paradise, as in Ezekiel 28:13. (Keil and Delitzsch Commentary)

Ezekiel 31:1-9

In Genesis 2:8 a distinction is also made between ±eeden (pleasure) and the garden in Eden. It was not all Eden, but the garden planted by Jehovah in Eden, which formed the real paradisiacal creation; so that the words "which are in the garden of God" give intensity to the idea of the "trees of Eden." Moreover, as Hävernick has correctly pointed out, there is a peculiar emphasis in the separation of °Elohiym b­gan (The Supreme God, a garden) from °araaziym (a cedar tree) in v. 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 vv. 8 and 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 (vv. 4 and 5) and trees of Eden in the garden of God (vv. 8 and 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

( hasaadeh)? The thought of vv. 8 and 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.

(From Keil and Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament: New Updated Edition, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1996 by Hendrickson Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.)
Ezekiel 31:9-18

10 Therefore thus said the Lord God: Because it is exalted in stature and has set its top among the thick boughs and the clouds, and its heart is proud of its height, [2 Kings 18:31-35.] 11 I will even deliver it into the hand of a mighty one of the nations; he shall surely deal with it. I have driven it out for its wickedness and lawlessness. 12 And strangers, the most terrible of the nations, will cut it off and leave it; upon the mountains and in all the valleys its branches will fall and its boughs will lie broken by all the watercourses of the land, and all the peoples of the earth will go down out of its shade and leave it. 13 Upon its ruins all the birds of the heavens will dwell, and all the wild beasts of the field will be upon [Assyria's fallen] branches. 14 All this is so that none of the trees by the waters may exalt themselves because of their height or shoot up their top among the thick boughs and the clouds, and that none of their mighty ones should stand upon [their own estimate of] themselves for their height, all that drink water. For they are all delivered over to death, to the lower world, in the midst of the children of men, with those who go down to the pit (the grave). 15 Thus says the Lord God: When [Assyria] goes down to Sheol (the place of the dead), I will cause a mourning; I will cover the deep for it and I will restrain its floods, and the many waters [that contributed to its prosperity] will be stayed; and I will cause Lebanon to be in black gloom and to mourn for it, and all the trees of the field, dismayed, will faint because of it. 16 I will make the nations quake at the sound of its fall when I cast it down to Sheol with those who descend into the pit, and all the trees of Eden, the choice and best of Lebanon, all [the trees] that drink water, will be comforted in the netherworld [at Assyria's downfall].


17 They also shall go down into Sheol with it to those who were slain by the sword — yes, those who were its arm, who dwelt under its shadow in the midst of the nations. 18 To whom [O Egypt] among the trees of Eden are you thus like in glory and in greatness? Yet you [also] shall be brought down with the trees of Eden to the netherworld. You shall lie among the uncircumcised heathen with those who are slain by the sword. This is how it shall be with Pharaoh and all the multitude of his strength, his tumult, and his store [of wealth and glory], says the Lord God. [Ezekiel 28:10; 32:19.] AMP
Ezekiel 31:12; Ezekiel 31:16; Ezekiel 31:18

31:12. Assyria's fall. The Assyrian empire was at its height in the early seventh century B.C., as it was successful in conquering Egypt. However, a great civil war in 652 B.C. - 648 B.C. showed the inherent weakness of the huge state. After the devastation of the civil war Assyria quickly weakened. By the end of Ashurbanipal's reign (either 631 or 627 B.C.) all economic and other textual sources disappear from Nineveh, the Assyrian capital. By 626 B.C. the Chaldeans of Babylonia had declared their independence. Within fourteen years all of the major Assyrian cities had been destroyed, the monarchy had fled to Harran in Syria, and the army was in chaos. The Assyrians may have participated in the Battle of Carchemish against Nebuchadnezzar, but they were never heard from again. Thus in the forty or so years after the great civil war, Assyria had been consigned to oblivion.
31:16. comparison of Eden to Lebanon. This comparison draws together the biblical motif of Eden as the protected property of Yahweh and the Mesopotamian motif of the cedar forest as the protected property of the gods. See comment on Ezek 31:8-9.
31:18. uncircumcised. There is evidence that Egypt's priests and kings endured some form of circumcision. In general, the Israelites disdained the uncircumcised, and possibly the Egyptian royalty felt the same way. Contempt of the uncircumcised appears in both the Egyptian and Israelite practice of cutting off the uncircumcised penises of enemies.

(From IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament, Copyright © 2000 by John H. Walton, Victor H. Matthews and Mark W. Chavalas. Published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.)
31:10-14 Because of its height and arrogance, the tree is cut down (see Isaiah 2:6-21; 10:5-34). 11: The mightiest of nations, literally “the ram of the nations,” Nebuchadrezzar. The Babylonians boasted of the trees they took from Lebanon. 14: Pit, the underworld (see Isaiah 14:3-23). 15-18: Sheol, the Hebrew name for the underworld. Jewish Study Bible
Ezekiel 31:11

[The mighty one of the pagan] Nebuchadnezzar. It is worthy of notice, that Nebuchadnezzar, in the first year of his reign, rendered himself master of Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian empire. See Sedar Olam. This happened about twenty years before Ezekiel delivered this prophecy; on this account, Asshur, Ezekiel 31:3, may relate to the Assyrians, to whom it is possible the prophet here compares the Egyptians. But see the note at Ezek 31:3.
Ezekiel 31:13

[Upon his ruin shall all the fowls] The fall of Egypt is likened to the fall of a great tree; and since the fowls and beasts sheltered under its branches before, Ezekiel 31:6, so they now feed upon its ruins. (Adam Clarke’s Commentary)


Ezekiel 31:14

[To the end that none of all the trees] Let this ruin, fallen upon Egypt, teach all the nations that shall hear of it to be humble, because, however elevated, God can soon bring them down; and pride and arrogance, either in states or individuals, have the peculiar abhorrence of God. Pride does not suit the sons of men; it made devils of angels, and makes fiends of men.
Ezekiel 31:15

[I caused Lebanon to mourn for him] All the confederates of Pharaoh are represented as deploring his fall, Ezekiel 31:16-17.
Ezekiel 31:17

[They also went down into hell with him] Into remediless destruction.
Ezekiel 31:18

[This is Pharaoh] All that I have spoken in this allegory of the lofty cedar refers to Pharaoh, king of Egypt, his princes, confederates, and people. Calmet understands the whole chapter of the king of Assyria, under which he allows that Egypt is adumbrated; and hence, on this verse he quotes,- What is said of Assyria belongs to thee, O Egypt.

(From Adam Clarke's Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1996, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)
Ezekiel 31:10-14

Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Because thou hast lifted up thyself in height, and he hath shot up his top among the thick boughs, and his heart is lifted up in his height;

The felling of this cedar, or the overthrow of Asshur on account of its pride. –

V. 10. Therefore thus said the Lord Jehovah, Because thou didst exalt thyself in height, and he stretched his top to the midst of the clouds, and his heart exalted itself in its height,

V. 11. I will give him into the hand of the prince of the nations; he shall deal with him: for his wickedness I rejected him.

V. 12. And strangers cut him down, violent ones of the nations, and cast him away: upon the mountains and in all the valleys his shoots fell, and his boughs were broken in pieces into all the deep places of the earth; and all the nations of the earth withdrew from his shadow, and let him lie.

V. 13. Upon his fallen trunk all the birds of the heaven settle, and all the beasts of the field are over his branches:

V. 14. That no trees by the water may exalt themselves on account of their height, or stretch their top to the midst of the clouds, and no water-drinkers stand upon themselves in their exaltation: for they are all given up to death into hell, in the midst of the children of men, to those that go into the grave. –
In the description of the cause of the overthrow of Asshur which commences with °asher (who, which, what, that) ya±an (to pay attention, heed), the figurative language changes in the third clause into the literal fact, the towering of the cedar being interpreted as signifying the lifting up of the heart in his height-that is to say, in his pride. In the first clause the tree itself is addressed; but in the clauses which follow, it is spoken of in the third person. The direct address in the first clause is to be explained from the vivid manner in which the fact presented itself. The divine sentence in vv. 10 and 11 is not directed against Pharaoh, but against the Assyrian, who is depicted as a stately cedar.


Whilst the address in v.10a ‘Because it [you] towered high in stature…’, and the imperfect (future) in v. 11a ‘I delivered it into the hands of the mightiest of nations…’, are both to be accounted for from the fact that the fall of Asshur is related in the form in which it was denounced on the part of Jehovah upon that imperial kingdom. The perfect °aamar (to say, answer) is therefore a preterite here: the Lord said...for His part: because Asshur has exalted itself in the pride of its greatness, I give it up. The form w­°et­neehuw (to give, add) is not to be changed into waa°et­neehuw (to give, put, make), but is defended against critical caprice by the imperfect ya±aseh (to do or make) which follows. ‘…I banished it.’ 31:11 Tanakh Text
That the penal sentence of God is not to be regarded as being first uttered in the time then present, but belongs to the past-and therefore the words merely communicate what God had already spoken-is clearly shown by the preterits commencing with geerash­tiyhuw (to drive out from a possession, or divorce), the historical tenses wayik­r­tuhuw (to cut off, destroy or consume) and wayiT­shuhuw (to pound i.e. smite), and the preterite naap­luw (to fall), which must not be turned into futures in violation of grammar. ‘Strangers, the most ruthless of nations, cut it down and abandoned it; its branches fell on the mountains and in every valley; its boughs were splintered in every watercourse of the earth; and all the peoples of the earth departed from its shade and abandoned it.’ 31:12 Tanakh Hebrew Text
B­qowmaah (height) gaabah (to soar i.e. be lofty or haughty) does not mean, to be high in its height, which would be a tautology; but to exalt itself (be proud) in, or on account of, its height. And in the same way is ruwm (elevation, haughtiness) also affirmed of the heart, in the sense of exultation from pride. For the fact itself, compare Isaiah 10:5 ff. gowyim °eel does not mean God, but a powerful one of the nations, i.e., Nebuchadnezzar. In v. 12 the figure of the tree is resumed; and the extinction of the Assyrian empire is described as the cutting down of the proud cedar. wayiT­shuhuw: they cast him away and let him lie, as in Ezekiel 29:5; 32:4; so that:

  1. In the first sentence the idea of casting away predominates,

  2. And in the second that of letting lie.

By the casting away, the tree became so shattered to atoms that its boughs and branches fell upon the mountains and on the low ground and valleys of the earth, and the nations which had sat under its shadow withdrew. wayeer­duw (they descended) is to be explained from the idea that the three had grown upon a high mountain (namely Lebanon). On the falling of the tree, the birds which had made their nests in its branches naturally flew away. If, then, in v. 13 ‘Upon its fallen trunk all the birds of the sky nest, and all the beasts of the field lodge among its boughs.’, birds and beasts are said to settle upon the fallen trunk, as several of the commentators have correctly observed, the description is based upon the idea of a corpse, a mapelet (Judges 14:8), around which both birds and beasts of prey gather together to tear it in pieces (cf. Ezekiel 32:4 and Isaiah 18:6).
°el haayaah, to come towards or over any one, to be above it. The thought expressed is, that many nations took advantage of the fall of Asshur and rose into new life upon its ruins. - V. 14 ‘so that no trees by water should exalt themselves in stature or set their tops among the [leafy trees LXX “clouds,”] and that no well-watered tree may reach up to them in height. For they are all consigned to death, to the lowest part of the netherworld [together with human beings who descend into the Pit popular belief relegated those who died uncircumcised or by the sword; see verse 18’]. This fate was prepared for Asshur in order that henceforth no tree should grow up to the sky any more, i.e., that no powerful one of this earth (no king or prince) should strive after superhuman greatness and might.

Mayim ±atseey are trees growing near the water, and therefore nourished by water. Ewald has therefore taken °eeleeyhem (strength, a chief or Ram) as the object, and rendered it thus: "and (that) no water-drinkers may contend with their gods in their pride." He has not proved, however, but has simply asserted, that ±aamad is to endure = to contend (!). The only remaining course is to follow the LXX, Targum, and many commentators, and to take °lyhm as a pronoun, and point it °aleeyhem (motion towards i.e. near). °el ± aamad: to station oneself against, or upon = ±al ±aamad (Ezekiel 33:26), in the sense of resting, or relying upon anything. The suffix is to be taken in a reflective sense, as in Ezekiel 34:2, etc. (vid., Ewald, §314 c), and precedes the noun to which it refers, as in Proverbs 14:20 for example.
B­gaab­haam, as in v. 10, referring to pride. mayim kaal-shoteey ‘it was arrogant in its height, the subject of the sentence, is really synonymous with mayim kaal-±atseey, except that the figure of the tree falls into the background behind the fact portrayed. The rendering of the Berleburg Bible is very good: "and no trees abounding in water stand upon themselves (rely upon themselves) on account of their height." The water-drinkers are princes of this earth who have attained to great power through rich resources. "As a tree grows through the moisture of water, so men are accustomed to become proud through their abundance, not reflecting that these waters have been supplied to them by God" (Starck). The reason for this warning against proud self-exaltation is given in v. 14 b in the general statement, that all the proud great ones of this earth are delivered up to death.
Kulaam, all of them, the water-drinkers or water-trees already named, by whom kings, earthly potentates, are intended. °aadaam b­neey b­towk­: in the midst of the children of men, i.e., like all other men. "Thus the prophet teaches that princes must die as well as the people, that death and decomposition are common to both. Hence he takes all ground of proud boasting away" (Starck).
Ezekiel 31:15-18

Thus saith the Lord GOD; In the day when he went down to the grave I caused a mourning: I covered the deep for him, and I restrained the floods thereof, and the great waters were stayed: and I caused Lebanon to mourn for him, and all the trees of the field fainted for him.
Impression made upon the nations by the fall of Asshur; and its application to Pharaoh. –

V. 15. Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, In the day that he went down to hell I caused a mourning: covered the flood for his sake, and stopped its streams, and the great waters were held back: I caused Lebanon to blacken itself for him, and all the trees of the field pined for him.

V. 16. I made the nations tremble at the noise of his fall, when I cast him down to hell to those who go into the grave: and they comforted themselves in the nether world, even all the trees of Eden, the choice and most beautiful of Lebanon, all the water-drinkers.

V. 17. They also went with him into hell, to those pierced with the sword, who sat as his helpers in his shade among the nations.

V. 18. Whom dost thou thus resemble in glory and greatness among the trees of Eden? So shalt thou be thrust down to the trees of Eden into the nether world, and lie among uncircumcised ones with those pierced with the sword. This is Pharaoh and all his tumult, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah. –


In order that the overthrow of the Assyrian, i.e., the destruction of the Assyrian empire, may be placed in the clearest light, a picture is drawn of the impression which it made upon the whole creation. There is no necessity to understand °aamar (to say, answer) koh (like this i.e. by implication thus) in a past sense, as in v. 10. What God did on the overthrow of Asshur He may even now, for the first time, make known through the prophet, for a warning to Pharaoh and the people of Israel. That this is the way in which the words are to be interpreted, is evident from the use of the perfect he°ebal­tiy (to bewail: lament, mourn), followed by the historical imperfects, which cannot be taken in a prophetical sense, as Kliefoth supposes, or turned into futures.
Thus said the Lord God: On the day it went down to Sheol, I closed [cf. Aramaic ‘abulla’ “gate”] the deep over it and covered it; I held back its streams, and the great waters were checked. I made Lebanon mourn deeply for it, and all the trees of the field languished on its account.’ 31:15 Tanakh Hebrew Text
It is contrary to Hebrew usage to connect he°ebal­tiy (to bewail: lament, mourn) and kiceetiy (to plump i.e. fill up hollows, to cover) together as asyndeton, so as to form one idea, viz., "to veil in mourning" as Ewald and Hävernick propose. The circumstances under which two verbs are joined together to form one idea are of a totally different kind. In this instance he°ebal­tiy

is placed first as an absolute; and in the sentences which follow, it is more specifically defined by a detail of the objects which were turned into mourning. °et-t­howm ±aalaayw kicaah cannot mean her, "to cover the flood upon (over) him" (after Ezekiel 24:7 and 26:19); for this is altogether unsuitable to either the more remote or the more immediate context.
31:16 I cast him down =I caused him to descend. Hell = Sheol. Same word as “the grave” in v. 15. The pit. Hebrew bor. showing the sense in which Sheol is used in vv. 15 and 16.
Ezekiel 31:15

The tree Asshur was not destroyed by a flood, but cut down by strangers. The following clauses, "I stopped its streams," etc., show very plainly that the connection between the flood

(t­howm an abyss, the deep) and the tree which had been felled is to be understood in accordance with v. 4. A flood, which poured its naharowt round about its plantation, made the cedar-tree great; and now that the tree has been felled, God covers the flood on its account. Kicaah (to plumb i.e. fill up, to cover) is to be explained from saq (a mesh i.e. coarse loose cloth or sacking)

kicaah, to veil or wrap in mourning, as Raschi, Kimchi, Vatablus, and many others have shown.
The word saq is omitted, because it appeared inappropriate to t­howm. The mourning of the flood is to be taken as equivalent to drying up, so that the streams which issued from it were deprived of their water. Lebanon, i.e., the cedar-forest (Isaiah 10:34), and all the other trees, mourned over the fall of the cedar Asshur. Hiq­diyr, to clothe in black, i.e., to turn into mourning. ±ulap, to faint with grief (cf. Isaiah 51:20). The thought is the following: all nature was so painfully affected by the fall of Asshur, that the whole of the resources from which its prosperity and might had been derived were dried up. To interpret the different figures as specially relating to princes and nations appears a doubtful procedure, for the simple reason that in v. 16 the trembling of the nations is expressly named.


Ezekiel 31:15-18

Whilst all the nations on the surface of the earth tremble at the fall of Assyria, because they are thereby warned of the perishable nature of all earthly greatness and of their own destruction, the inhabitants of the nether world [Sheol, Hell]console themselves with the thought that the Assyrian is now sharing their fate (for this thought, compare Ezekiel 32:31 and Isaiah 14:9-10). "All the trees of Eden" are all the powerful and noble princes. The idea itself, "trees of Eden," is explained by the apposition, "the choice and beautiful ones of Lebanon," i.e., the picked and finest cedars. w­Towb (good) mib­char (select i.e. best) are connected, as in 1 Samuel 9:2 ‘And he had a son, whose name was Saul, a choice young man, and a goodly…’; and both words are placed side by side in the construct state, as in Daniel 1:4 (cf. Ewald, §339 b).
They also descended with it into Sheol, to those slain by the sword, together with its supporters, [Hebrew “arm] they who had lived under its shadow among the nations.’ 31:17 Tanakh
They comfort themselves because they have gone down with him into Sheol, so that he has no advantage over them. They come thither to those pierced with the sword, i.e., to the princes and peoples whom Asshur slew in wars to establish his imperial power. We therefore agree with Osiander, Grotius, and others, in regarding the whole of the second hemistich as more precisely determining the subject-in other words, as a declaration of the reason for their descending into hell along with the Assyrians-and render the passage thus: "for as his arm (as his might) they sat in his shadow among the nations."
After this description of the greatness and the destruction of the imperial power of Assyria, Ezekiel repeats in v. 18 [Now you know] who is comparable to you in glory and greatness among the trees of Eden. And you too shall be brought down with the trees of Eden to the lowest part of the netherworld; you shall lie among the uncircumcised and those slain by the sword. Such shall be [the fate of] Pharaoh and all his hordes – declares the Lord God.’ The question already asked in v. 3: to whom is Pharaoh like? Kaakaah (just so), so, i.e., under such circumstances, when the glorious cedar Asshur has been smitten by such a fate (Hitzig).
The reply to this question is really contained in the description given already; so that it is immediately followed by the announcement, "and thou wilt be thrust down," etc. ±areeliym, uncircumcised, equivalent to ungodly heathen huw° is the predicate: this is (i.e., so does it happen to) Pharaoh. hamownow, as in v. 2.

(From Keil and Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament: New Updated Edition, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1996 by Hendrickson Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.)

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