In the eleventh year, in the third month on the first day, the word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, say to Pharaoh king of Egypt and to his hordes: “ ‘Who can be compared with you in majesty? Consider Assyria, once a cedar in Lebanon, with beautiful branches overshadowing the forest; it towered on high, its top above the thick foliage. The waters nourished it, deep springs made it grow tall; their streams flowed all around its base and sent their channels to all the trees of the field. So it towered higher than all the trees of the field; its boughs increased and its branches grew long, spreading because of abundant waters. All the birds of the sky nested in its boughs, all the animals of the wild gave birth under its branches; all the great nations lived in its shade. It was majestic in beauty, with its spreading boughs, for its roots went down to abundant waters. The cedars in the garden of God could not rival it, nor could the junipers equal its boughs, nor could the plane trees compare with its branches— no tree in the garden of God could match its beauty. I made it beautiful with abundant branches, the envy of all the trees of Eden in the garden of God. “ ‘Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: Because the great cedar towered over the thick foliage, and because it was proud of its height, I gave it into the hands of the ruler of the nations, for him to deal with according to its wickedness. I cast it aside, and the most ruthless of foreign nations cut it down and left it. Its boughs fell on the mountains and in all the valleys; its branches lay broken in all the ravines of the land. All the nations of the earth came out from under its shade and left it. All the birds settled on the fallen tree, and all the wild animals lived among its branches. Therefore no other trees by the waters are ever to tower proudly on high, lifting their tops above the thick foliage. No other trees so well-watered are ever to reach such a height; they are all destined for death, for the earth below, among mortals who go down to the realm of the dead. “ ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: On the day it was brought down to the realm of the dead I covered the deep springs with mourning for it; I held back its streams, and its abundant waters were restrained. Because of it I clothed Lebanon with gloom, and all the trees of the field withered away. I made the nations tremble at the sound of its fall when I brought it down to the realm of the dead to be with those who go down to the pit. Then all the trees of Eden, the choicest and best of Lebanon, the well-watered trees, were consoled in the earth below. They too, like the great cedar, had gone down to the realm of the dead, to those killed by the sword, along with the armed men who lived in its shade among the nations. “ ‘Which of the trees of Eden can be compared with you in splendor and majesty? Yet you, too, will be brought down with the trees of Eden to the earth below; you will lie among the uncircumcised, with those killed by the sword. “ ‘This is Pharaoh and all his hordes, declares the Sovereign Lord .’ - Ezekiel 31:1-18
Once again God is very specific about the time that this prophecy is being given. I’m not sure I understand why the specificity is needed here or for other passages in Ezekiel. Perhaps one day on down the river it will be come more clear.
God is once again speaking to Pharaoh the leader of Egypt. God begins by saying that the majesty of Pharaoh is beyond compare. Then He goes on to compare Assyria, not Egypt, to a mature cedar tree. “Consider Assyria, once a cedar in Lebanon, with beautiful branches overshadowing the forest; it towered on high, its top above the thick foliage.”
The water imagery then gets very rich and vivid, “The waters nourished it, deep springs made it grow tall; their streams flowed all around its base and sent their channels to all the trees of the field. So it towered higher than all the trees of the field; its boughs increased and its branches grew long, spreading because of abundant waters.” I am not sure I fully understand this imagery, but it is beautiful none the less. It conjures up a picture in my mind of a place of great beauty and abundant water where things just grow.
I recently returned from a trip to the Olympic Rain forest in Washington state and this imagery reminds of this lush place of abundant and exuberant growth. Things grow fast and strong there because they have “abundant water” and a climate that is temperate. Things grow throughout the year, in fact one of my colleagues who had never seen a rain forest before, commented that they “never stop growing”. Not a bad recommendation for all of us God-followers – we should never stop growing either.
Then the hyperbole takes a confusing turn, a murky metaphor to be sure. God says “no tree in the garden of God could match its beauty.” God is referring to Assyria. This seems like some sort of blasphemy for God to say that an earthly entity could match or even surpass a tree in the “garden of God”. But God acknowledges that He in fact made this tree to flourish and thrive. But God gave the tree over to “the hands of the ruler of the nations, for him to deal with according to its wickedness. God did this “Because the great cedar towered over the thick foliage, and because it was proud of its height”.
So it sounds like the people of Assyria, and by implication Pharaoh and us, have taken the abundant living water that God provides to make us flourish and interpreted it to be something that we are owed. They have become proud and conceited. This proud tree is about to be laid low “I cast it aside, and the most ruthless of foreign nations cut it down and left it. Its boughs fell on the mountains and in all the valleys; its branches lay broken in all the ravines of the land.” The once proud nation is to be scattered and broken.
God is telling Pharaoh, and prophetically all of those who are reading this, that “On the day it was brought down to the realm of the dead I covered the deep springs with mourning for it; I held back its streams, and its abundant waters were restrained.” This sounds like a profound separation from God, similar to the expulsion from the garden of Eden that Adam and Eve experienced. In a sense, we are still subject to this separation.
The bridge for this profound separation is the person of Jesus Christ. We have but o accept that He is this bridge and we free to pass from this land of Oblivion to the undiscovered country.
Prayer: God thank You for being the bridge so that we can have access to the abundant waters you provide.
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