This study will discuss who or what is represented by the cedar.
Ezekiel Ch. 31
The king of Yehudah was Tzidkiyahu who was made king by N’vukhadretzar (Nebuchadnezzar) king of Bavel (Babylon) (2 Kgs. 24:17; 2 Chr. 36:10; Eze. 17:13). Tzidkiyahu was placed under an oath to יְהֹוָה by the king of Bavel but he rebelled and broke the covenant (2 Kgs. 24:20; 2 Chr. 36:13, Eze. 17:15). He and his people did what was an abomination to יְהֹוָה (2 Kgs. 24; 2 Chr. 36:14) and was the cause of their destruction if they did not repent.
Both Yirmeyahu (Jeremiah) and Yechezk`el (Ezekiel) both prophesised to Tzidkiyahu. In fact, Yirmeyahu was his grandfather (2 Chr. 30:13).
“יְהֹוָה shown me…One basket had very good figs…and the other basket had very bad figs…” (Jer. 24:1, 2). In the vision of the Good and Bad Figs (Jer. 24: 1-10), יְהֹוָה gives Yirmeyahu a prophetic vision as to the outcome of the invasion of Bavel. Figs generally represents both the physical and spiritual health of Yisra`el (www.oneforisrael.org). The good figs represented those who submitted to יְהֹוָה’s judgement and went into exile in Bavel. The bad figs represented those who rebelled and stayed behind with Tzidkiyahu and the inhabitants of Egypt.
“As the bad figs, which cannot be eaten, they are so bad, surely thus says יְהֹוָה, So will I give up Tzidkiyahu the king of Yehudah, and his princes, and the residue of Yerushalayim, who remain in this land, and those who dwell in the land of Mitzrayim,” (Jer. 24:8). In his pride, Tzidkiyahu boasted that he was correct to stay in Yehudah (Calvin Vol.III p234), as the news came to him of the hardships endured by those who went away. However, N’vukhadretzar (יְהֹוָה’s servant Jer. 25:9) eventually invaded Egypt in 568 B.C.E and took back the refugees, dealing with them more severely due to their attempt to escape.
“I spoke to Tzidkiyahu, king of Yehudah, according to all these words, saying, ‘Bring your necks under the yoke of the king of Bavel, and serve him and his people and live.’” (Jer. 27:12). However, the exile was יְהֹוָה’s chastisement for the nation’s sins. The safety and security of the exiles would be on the basis of their humbling and obedience to the will of יְהֹוָה (Calvin Vol. III p368).
Those who went into exile had the promise of eventually returning back to Yehudah (Jer. 28:5; 2 Chr. 30:20, 21). Tzidkiyahu, on the other hand, not only refused this opportunity to repent, but sank deeper into sin. The boast was on the basis of his pact with Pharaoh Choprah (Eze. 17:15). Many fled to Egypt, relying upon Choprah rather than upon יְהֹוָה.
This chapter is found between Ch. 29 (year 11, month 10, day 10) where Yechezk`el warns Choprah and his people of the impending doom declared by יְהֹוָה; Ch. 30 (year 11, month 1, day7) where the prophet warns the Yehudim of the futility of relying upon Egypt who in turn rely upon their false gods; and Ch.32 (year 12, month 12, day 1 and year 12, month 12, day 15) where Choprah is no longer warned, but is told of the certainty of their destruction (Jer. 44:30). If Tzidkiyahu and יְהֹוָה’s chosen people could be handed over to the king of Bavel, how much more so will Pharaoh Choprah and his people, along with the refugees, be delivered to N’vukhadretzar (Calvin Vol. IV p560).
Like all Biblical prophecy, the accuracy of dating far exceeds most historical accounts, and is verifiable due to this accuracy.
v1) “It happened in the eleventh year, in the third month, in the first day of the month, that the word of יְהֹוָה came to me saying,” All Biblical dating always refers to the first month of the Jewish religious calendar. The names of the individual months come from the time of the Babylonian exile (the subject of this passage). Although they are reminders of this exile, they did not come into accepted use in the 4th. Century C.E. (www.chabad.org). Therefore it is correct to use the original numbering of the months rather than the names.
The eleventh year is a reference to the reign of King Tzidkiyahu (Zedekiah) of Yuhuda (Chartrand p89). He came to the throne in 597 B.C.E. so this reference would be for circa 586 B.C.E.
v2) “Son of man, tell Par`oh king of Mitzrayim and to his multitude: Whom are you like in your greatness?” The ruler of Egypt, at this time, was Pharaoh Choprah (a.k.a. King Apries or Uah`ab`ra) (biblehub.com).
v3) “Behold, the Ashshur was a cedar in Levanon with beautiful branches, and with a forest-like shade, and of high stature; and its top was among the thick boughs.” Many have called this chapter ‘The Assyrian’ and is a parable of an Assyrian (Chartrand p89) because of this reference. However, the verse refers to ‘the Ashshur (Assyrian) but only as a warning to Chopra.
The cedar trees of Lebanon grow to a height of over 100 ft. (30m) and trunk diameter 16 ft. (4.5m). They represent all that is strong and regal (Fairbairn Vol.I p354) and is a fitting representation of a powerful ruler. A mature cedar may be as wide as it is high. In a rough approximation of root size, the root ball is as deep and wide as the branches, the cedar was an incredibly strong and stable tree.
v4) “The waters nourished it, the deep made it grow: the rivers of it ran round about its plantation; and it sent out its channels to all the trees of the field.” The imagery of the tree being in Gan Eden is appropriate as two of the four rivers that watered Eden (Tigris and Euphrates Gen. 2:10-14) also watered the land of Assyria (www.biblestudytools.com). The rivers are a source of blessings to the land from which prosperity grows. There are also many other physical and spiritual blessings that יְהֹוָה bestows upon people (Eze. 47:1-12; Rev. 22:1-5, 17).
v8) “No cedar in יְהֹוָה’s garden was like it; the fir trees were not like its boughs, and the plane trees were not as its branches nor was any tree in יְהֹוָה’s garden like it in its beauty.” יְהֹוָה’s garden, `Eden, was not a reference to the habitation of Adam and Chavah, it may well refer to all the earth is His garden (cf Psa. 19:4; Psa. 24:1). In this verse, יְהֹוָה, through the prophet, is saying that Assyria was raised up by יְהֹוָה to be greater than any other nation. The prophet was not saying that this cedar was in Gan `Eden, just that there was no tree in `Eden that could match its splendour.
The reference to the prince of Tzor (Tyre Eze. 28:1-19) is a type of haSatan. Nowhere in the whole of the word against Tzor is any reference made as to a person, inferring that it is the city under threat. However, the prince of Tzor is called a keruv (v16) and is single out. In this passage, the prince is said to have inhabited the garden.
There is no reference to any form of blessing (river) as with the Assyrian/cedar. Pharoah Chopar was raised up by יְהֹוָה but out of arrogance and pride thought that he was superior to all around him. Never did he think that it was יְהֹוָה that had blessed him.
V9 “I made it beautiful by the multitude of its branches, so that all the trees of `Eden, that were in the garden of יְהֹוָה envied it.” All the nations were jealous of the power of Assyria.
vv10, 11) “Therefore thus said יְהֹוָה: Because you are exalted in stature and he has set his top among the thick boughs, and his heart is lifted up in his height, I will even deliver him into the hand of the mighty one of the nations; he shall surely deal with him; I have driven him out for his wickedness.” By Chopar’s haughty actions, יְהֹוָה will bring him down (Prov. 16:18; Jer. 44:30). Chopar thought that he was invincible, yet יְהֹוָה brought about his downfall. This invincibility led to Chopar into a regime of aggressive expansionism, attacking other nations either to annexe or make them tributary nations. As it is יְהֹוָה who raises up nations to carry out His will, Chopar’s campaigns were not in יְהֹוָה plans. In Ch.32, Chopar is likened to a sea serpent, mighty in water, but powerless on land (Chartrand p91). This presumption was his downfall.
v14) “to the end that none of all the trees by the waters exalt themselves in their stature, neither set their top among the thick boughs, nor that their mighty ones stand up on their height, even all who drink water: for they are all delivered to death, to the lower parts of the earth, in the midst of the children of men, with those who go down to the pit.” This is a severe warning to all leaders not to exalt themselves in fear that יְהֹוָה will humble them.
Similarly, Tzidkiyahu was likened to a mighty cedar tree that was brought down by יְהֹוָה because of his rebellion (Eze. 17:1-24). In this allegory of the Eagles and the Vine, not only was Tzidkiyahu’s downfall prophesied but that a young shoot of the mighty cedar will be taken and raised up for יְהֹוָה’s service. This was Zerubbavel who was also known by his Persian name of Sheshbazzar (Ezra 1:11).
Zerubbavel was the best placed representative of the House of David when King Cyrus of Persia allowed some exiles to return to Yerushalayim (Fairbairn Vol.VI p146). He was also called by יְהֹוָה to rebuild the (Second) Temple (Zec. 4:9) and featured in the genealogy of the Master Messiah Yehshuah (Matt. 1:12).
Calvin J. (1989) Jeremiah Vol. III, First Banner of Truth Ed., University Printing House, Oxford.
Calvin J. (1989) Jeremiah Vol. IV, First Banner of Truth Ed., University Printing House, Oxford.
Chartrand P. (2015) The Sign of Ezekiel, A warning for today!, Chartrand, Arroyo Grande CA.
Fairbairn P. (1885) The Imperial Bible Dictionary Vol. I, Blackie & Son, London.
Fairbairn P. (1885) The Imperial Bible Dictionary Vol. VI, Blackie & Son, London.