The glory of Assyria. (1-9) Its fall, and the like for Egypt. (10-18)
Verses 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.
Verses 10-18 The king of Egypt resembled the king of Assyria in his greatness: here we see he resembles him in his pride. And he shall resemble him in his fall. His own sin brings his ruin. None of our comforts are ever lost, but what have been a thousand times forfeited. When great men fall, many fall with them, as many have fallen before them. The fall of proud men is for warning to others, to keep them humble. See how low Pharaoh lies; and see what all his pomp and pride are come to. It is best to be a lowly tree of righteousness, yielding fruit to the glory of God, and to the good of men. The wicked man is often seen flourishing like the cedar, and spreading like the green bay tree, but he soon passes away, and his place is no more found. Let us then mark the perfect man, and behold the upright, for the end of that man is peace.
Ezekiel 31:1-18 . THE OVERTHROW OF EGYPT ILLUSTRATED BY THAT OF ASSYRIA.
Not that Egypt was, like Assyria, utterly to cease to be, but it was, like Assyria, to lose its prominence in the empire of the world.
1. third month--two months later than the prophecy delivered in Ezekiel 30:20 .
2. Whom art thou like--The answer is, Thou art like the haughty king of Assyria; as he was overthrown by the Chaldeans, so shalt thou be by the same.
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 ( Ezekiel 17:3 , Daniel 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.
4. waters . . . little rivers--the Tigris with its branches and "rivulets," or "conduits" for irrigation, the source of Assyria's fertility. "The deep" is the ever flowing water, never dry. Metaphorically, for Assyria's resources, as the "conduits" are her colonies.
5. when he shot forth--because of the abundant moisture which nourished him in shooting forth. But see Margin.
6. fowls . . . made . . . nests in . . . boughs--so Ezekiel 17:23 , Daniel 4:12 . The gospel kingdom shall gather all under its covert, for their good and for the glory of God, which the world kingdoms did for evil and for self-aggrandizement ( Matthew 13:32 ).
8. cedars . . . could not hide him--could not outtop him. No other king eclipsed him.
were not like--were not comparable to.
garden of God--As in the case of Tyre ( Ezekiel 28:13 ), the imagery, that is applied to the Assyrian king, is taken from Eden; peculiarly appropriate, as Eden was watered by rivers that afterwards watered Assyria ( Genesis 2:10-14 ). This cedar seemed to revive in itself all the glories of paradise, so that no tree there outtopped it.
9. I . . . made him--It was all due to My free grace.
10. thou . . . he--The change of persons is because the language refers partly to the cedar, partly to the person signified by the cedar.
11. Here the literal supersedes the figurative.
shall surely deal with him--according to his own pleasure, and according to the Assyrian's (Sardanapalus) desert. Nebuchadnezzar is called "the mighty one" (El, a name of God), because he was God's representative and instrument of judgment ( Daniel 2:37 Daniel 2:38 ).
12. from his shadow--under which they had formerly dwelt as their covert ( Ezekiel 31:6 ).
13. Birds and beasts shall insult over his fallen trunk.
14. trees by the waters--that is, that are plentifully supplied by the waters: nations abounding in resources.
stand up in their height--that is, trust in their height: stand upon it as their ground of confidence. FAIRBAIRN points the Hebrew differently, so as for "their trees," to translate, "(And that none that drink water may stand) on themselves, (because of their greatness)." But the usual reading is better, as Assyria and the confederate states throughout are compared to strong trees. The clause, "All that drink water," marks the ground of the trees' confidence "in their height," namely, that they have ample sources of supply. MAURER, retaining the same Hebrew, translates, "that neither their terebinth trees may stand up in their height, nor all (the other trees) that drink water."
to . . . nether . . . earth . . . pit--( Ezekiel 32:18 , Psalms 82:7 ).
15. covered the deep--as mourners cover their heads in token of mourning, "I made the deep that watered the cedar" to wrap itself in mourning for him. The waters of the deep are the tributary peoples of Assyria ( Revelation 17:15 ).
fainted--literally, were "faintness" (itself); more forcible than the verb.
16. hell--Sheol or Hades, the unseen world: equivalent to, "I cast him into oblivion" (compare Isaiah 14:9-11 ).
shall be comforted--because so great a king as the Assyrian is brought down to a level with them. It is a kind of consolation to the wretched to have companions in misery.
17. his arm, that dwelt under his shadow--those who were the helpers or tool of his tyranny, and therefore enjoyed his protection (for example, Syria and her neighbors). These were sure to share her fate. Compare the same phrase as to the Jews living under the protection of their king ( Lamentations 4:20 ); both alike "making flesh their arm, and in heart departing from the Lord" ( Jeremiah 17:5 ).
18. Application of the parabolic description of Assyria to the parallel case of Egypt. "All that has been said of the Assyrian consider as said to thyself. To whom art thou so like, as thou art to the Assyrian? To none." The lesson on a gigantic scale of Eden-like privileges abused to pride and sin by the Assyrian, as in the case of the first man in Eden, ending in ruin, was to be repeated in Egypt's case. For the unchangeable God governs the world on the same unchangeable principles.
thou shall lie in . . . uncircumcised--As circumcision was an object of mocking to thee, thou shall lie in the midst of the uncircumcised, slain by their sword [GROTIUS]. Retribution in kind ( Ezekiel 28:10 ).
This is Pharaoh--Pharaoh's end shall be the same humiliating one as I have depicted the Assyrian's to have been. "This" is demonstrative, as if he were pointing with the finger to Pharaoh lying prostrate, a spectacle to all, as on the shore of the Red Sea ( Exodus 14:30 Exodus 14:31 ).