BIBLE: Ezekiel Chapter 17 – “An Oath, A Vow, and ‘Do You Promise?’”

Words in italic type have been added for clarity. They are not found in the original Hebrew or Aramaic.

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Ezekiel 17

Taking an oath is no small matter to the God of heaven. When God makes an oath with men it is a covenant of death. Since God cannot lie the oath cannot be broken. The vow of providing a Redeemer explains the critical importance of keeping an oath.

For a man to break an oath is like turning one’s back on the Redeemer of man. It is an abomination to God who was willing to fulfill His vow on a cross.

Zedekiah broke the oath he gave to Nebuchadnezzar to be his vassal king and pay Nebuchadnezzar homage. Instead Zedekiah sought Egypt to break the yoke of Babylon on Judah.

Over and over Jeremiah the prophet warned the leaders of Judah to submit to Nebuchadnezzar and God promised to spare the temple, the people and the land. But Zedekiah rebelled.

Personal Application: Do you keep your promises?

The Eagles and the Vine

Ezekiel 17:1 And the word of the Lord came to me, saying,
Ezekiel 17:“Son of man, pose a riddle, and speak a parable to the house of Israel, and say, ‘Thus says the Lord God:

A riddle and a parable to make men think.

“A great eagle with large wings and long pinions,
Full of feathers of various colors (the Babylonian Nebuchadnezzar), Came to Lebanon (Jerusalem)
And took from the cedar the highest branch (the King).

Ezekiel 17:He cropped off its topmost young twig (King Jehoiachin)
And carried it to a land of trade (Babylon); He set it in a city of merchants.

Nebuchadnezzar carried off Jehoiachin, the same that was called Jeconiah, when he was but eighteen years of age and had reigned in Jerusalem but three months, him and his princes and great men, and had brought them captives to Babylon, 2 Ki. 24:12

It was 597 BC when Nebuchadnezzar debased the strength of Judah by taking ~10,000 to 15,000 people of Judea with King Jehoiachin and the royal families as hostages.

597 BC: Jehoiachin, King of Judah, reigned 3 months 10 days. At age 18 he surrendered and was taken to Babylon along with Mordecai and Esther’s ancestor.

Ezekiel 17:Then he took some of the seed of the land
And planted it in a fertile field;
He placed it by abundant waters
And set it like a willow tree.

Zedekiah, the uncle of Jehoiachin, (the royal seed) is set in place as the new King of Judah in 596 BC, by Nebuchadnezzar. Judah is the fertile fields where abundant people (waters are symbolic of people) flow. A willow tree must have abundant waters to grow.

Ezekiel 17:And it (Zedekiah, King of Judah) grew and became a spreading vine of low stature;
Its branches turned toward him,
But its roots were under it.
So it became a vine,
Brought forth branches,
And put forth shoots.

To be a puppet king is a low spreading vine in comparison to a tall tree.

Ezekiel 17:“But there was another great eagle (Egypt) with large wings and many feathers (wealth, people, livestock, and those things which make a nation substantial);
And behold, this vine (Zedekiah) bent its (Judah’s) roots toward him (Egypt),
And (Zedekiah) stretched its branches toward him (reached out to Egypt),

593 BC: Zedekiah received ambassadors from neighboring lands to plot rebellion against Nebuchadnezzar. Jer. 27-28. (When King Zedekiah of Judah fell in with a coalition of Lebanese kings, including those of Tyre, Edom, Moab, and Ammon, who were planning rebellion against King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia, they approached Pharaoh Psammtik, who had just inherited the throne from his father, and found him uninterested. Zedekiah quickly had to rush to Babylon to renew his pledge of fidelity to Nebuchadnezzar).

In 589 BC Psammtik dies and Pharaoh Hophra Apries reigns.


From the garden terrace where it had been planted,
That he might water it.

Babylon and Egypt were two great eagles, both birds of prey.

Jerusalem was not a great river but only a tributary, its smaller wealth either flowing into Babylon or into Egypt. Zedekiah chose to water Egypt.

Pharaoh Hophra Apries at this time had his own problems. His Persian General Amasis made a covenant with Nebuchadnezzar to cut down Hophra in exchange for Nebuchadnezzar’s support. Egypt became a vassal nation to Babylon.


Ezekiel 17:It was planted in good soil (Lit. a good field) by many waters,
To bring forth branches, bear fruit,
And become a majestic vine.” ’
Ezekiel 17:“Say, ‘Thus says the Lord God:
“Will it (Judah) thrive?
Will he (Nebuchadnezzar) not pull (it) up its roots,
Cut off its fruit,
And leave it to wither?
All of its spring leaves will wither,
And no great power or many people
Will be needed to pluck it up by its roots.

Ezekiel 17:10 Behold, it is planted,
Will it thrive?
Will it not utterly wither when the east wind (Babylon) touches it?
It will wither in the garden terrace where it grew.” ’ ”
Ezekiel 17:11 Moreover the word of the Lord came to me, saying,
Ezekiel 17:12 “Say now to the rebellious house (Judah): ‘Do you not know what these things mean?’ Tell them, ‘Indeed the king of Babylon went to Jerusalem and took its king (Jehoiachin) and princes, and led them with him to Babylon.
Ezekiel 17:13 And he took the king’s offspring (kin), made a covenant with him, and put him under oath (Zedekiah). He also took away the mighty of the land,
Ezekiel 17:14 that the kingdom might be brought low (debased) and not lift itself up, but that by keeping his (Nebuchadnezzar’s) covenant it might stand.
Ezekiel 17:15 But he (Zedekiah) rebelled against him (Nebuchadnezzar) by sending his ambassadors to Egypt, that they (Judah) might give him (Egypt) horses and many people. Will he prosper? Will he who does such things escape? Can he break a covenant and still be delivered?

Zedekiah broke his covenant with Nebuchadnezzar. To God, a covenant is a covenant of death if one were to break it. The coming prophesied Antichrist will make a covenant with Israel and will break it in the middle of his seven year rule.

Ezekiel 17:16 As I live,’ says the Lord God, ‘surely in the place where the king dwells who made him king, whose oath he despised and whose covenant he broke—with him in the midst of Babylon he shall die.

Zedekiah died in Babylon, but he was first blinded by Nebuchadnezzar in Damascus. Just before he was blinded he had to watch as his family was slain.

Ezekiel 17:17 Nor will Pharaoh with his mighty army and great company do anything (for you Judah) in the war, when they (Babylon) heap up a siege mound and build a wall (Or siege wall) to cut off many persons (in Jerusalem).

“Pharaoh isn’t going to help you.” Signed….God.

‘Behold, I will give Pharaoh Hophra king of Egypt into the hand of his enemies and into the hand of those who seek his life, as I gave Zedekiah king of Judah into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, his enemy who sought his life.’” Jeremiah 44:30

Ezekiel 17:18 Since he despised the oath by breaking the covenant, and in fact gave his hand (Took an oath) and still did all these things, he (Zedekiah) shall not escape.’ ”
Ezekiel 17:19 Therefore thus says the Lord God: “As I live, surely My oath which he despised, and My covenant which he broke, I will recompense on his own head.

God swore (made an oath) He would send Judah into captivity for 70 years. If they would just submit to Nebuchadnezzar all would be well.

Ezekiel 17:20 I will spread My net over him (Zedekiah), and he shall be taken in My snare. I will bring him to Babylon and try him there for the treason (Lit. unfaithful act) which he committed against Me.

Zedekiah did not submit. Instead he allowed the true prophets to be persecuted and killed.

Ezekiel 17:21 All his fugitives (choice men-mighty men) with all his troops shall fall by the sword, and those who remain shall be scattered to every wind; and you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken.”

Israel Exalted at Last

God promises a hopeful future when Jesus reigns on earth for 1,000 years called the millennium.

Ezekiel 17:22 Thus says the Lord God: “I will take also one of the highest branches of the high cedar and set it out. I will crop off from the topmost of its young twigs a tender one (Jesus), and will plant it on a high and prominent mountain (Jerusalem).
  • Job 14:7 “For there is hope for a tree, If it is cut down, that it will sprout again (be resurrected), And that its tender shoots will not cease.
  • Isaiah 53:2 For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, And as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him, There is no beauty that we should desire Him.
Ezekiel 17:23 On the mountain height of Israel I will plant it; and it will bring forth boughs, and bear fruit, and be a majestic cedar. Under it will dwell birds of every sort; in the shadow of its branches they will dwell.
  • Daniel 2:35 and the stone (Jesus coming down from heaven) that struck the image became a great mountain (kingdom) and filled the whole earth.
  • Jesus is compared to a majestic cedar whose kingdom will be glorious.
Ezekiel 17:24 And all the trees (nations) of the field (world) shall know that I, the Lord, have brought down the high tree (the coming Antichrist) and exalted the low tree (Israel), dried up the green tree and made the dry tree flourish (Israel); I, the Lord, have spoken and have done it.

Trees are symbolic of men and nations.
The field is symbolic of the world.
The dry tree was very dry: See the Valley of Dry Bones in Ezekiel chapter 37.
The Antichrist will plant himself in the fertile field of Jerusalem. He is the worthless shepherd who will destroy God’s sheep while he makes himself green.

  • Zechariah 11:16 For indeed I will raise up a shepherd in the land who will not care for those who are cut off, nor seek the young, nor heal those that are broken, nor feed those that still stand. But he will eat the flesh of the fat and tear their hooves in pieces.

But God will see to it that Israel will flourish when Jesus reigns:

  • Psalm 2:6 “Yet I have set My King on My holy hill of Zion.” 7 “I will declare the decree: The Lord has said to Me, ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You. 8 Ask of Me, and I will give You the nations for Your inheritance,


See dateline below:

PROPHECY OF CAPTIVITY
SOUTHERN KINGDOM: JUDAH
601 BC Nov.-Dec: Nebuchadnezzar attacks Egypt. After the two armies collide in fierce combat, both withdraw with heavy losses. Judah renews her alliance with Egypt. See Babylonian Chronicles.
Jehoiakim rebels against Nebuchadnezzar. 2 Kings 24:1
600 BC: Nebuchadnezzar returns and lays siege to Jerusalem.
600-598 BC: While Nebuchadnezzar rebuilt his military machine, the Babylonians and their allies sent raiding parties to harass Judah. Babylonian Chronicles, 2 Kings 24:2
Jan 597 BC: Nebuchadnezzar undertook a new campaign in the west. Babylonian Chronicles
March 16 597 BC: Nebuchadnezzar captured Jerusalem, evidently without a battle.
Soon after March 16th 597 BC: Nebuchadnezzar bound Jehoiakim in chains to take him to Babylon, but, perhaps in reaction to some word of defiance, slew him instead and cast his body outside the city walls to lie there unburied. After appointing Jehoiachin (son of Jehoiakim) to rule over Judah, Nebuchadnezzar carried spoil back to Babylon, arriving in time for the New Year’s celebration on Apr 13th.
May-June 597BC: Jehoiachin resisted, provoking the Babylonians to besiege Jerusalem. 2 Kings 24:10
Soon after June 22, 597BC: Nebuchadnezzar came to Jerusalem. Jehoiachin surrendered after he reigned 3 months 10 days, at age 18 (some manuscripts show his age as 8; however, According to Jeremiah 22:28 he is a man) and is taken to Babylon.
Nebuchadnezzer leads into exile the king, the king’s family, and all the most able citizens of the realm. The men number 3,023. All the captives, families included, numbered about 10,000. These captives include: Jehoiachin, Ezekiel (author of Ezekiel), and Kish, progenitor of Queen Esther. (Kish was the father of Shimei, the father of Jair, the father of Mordecai who was Esther’s older cousin) (Esther 2)
Nebuchadnezzar removes more treasure from the temple and placed Zedekiah, Jehoiachin’s uncle, on the throne as Judah’s third vassal king (puppet king), making him swear an oath of loyalty. [2 Kings 24:11-17, 2 Chronicles 36:9, Jer. 52:28, Ezek. 1:2]
594 BC: Jeremiah sends a letter to the Jews in Babylon with a number of officials when king Zedekiah is summoned to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar. It is possible that the king of Babylon was unsure of Zedekiah’s support for him.
May-Aug 593AD: Zedekiah received ambassadors from neighboring lands to plot rebellion against Nebuchadnezzar. [Jer. 27-28] [note: Zedekiah was originally named Mattaniah, he reigned 11 years, age 21-32]
June/July, 593BC: Ezekiel’s 1st dated message and his call to prophetic ministry. Ezekiel is 30 yrs of age (Ezekiel 1:1). Ezekiel would have been eligible for priesthood (see Number 4:3). He begins his prophetic ministry “In the 5th of the month in the fifth year of King Jehoiachin’s exile.” [Ezekiel 1:1-3] (Note: 597 BC would have been Jehoiachin’s first year of exile.)
Aug/Sept, 592 BC: Ezekiel’s vision of temple abomination. Ezek 8:1
July/Aug, 591 BC: Ezekiel’s response to the elders’ inquiry. Ezek 20:1
Dec/Jan 589/588 BC: Ezekiel’s Jerusalem’s judgment. Ezekiel 24:1
589 BC: Zedekiah rebels against his oath of loyalty to Nebuchadnezzar, who then comes up against Jerusalem and besieges the city for two and a half years. 2 Kings 25:1
Dec/Jan 588/587BC: Ezekiel: judgment on Egypt. Ezekiel 29:1
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