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Lament for the Princes of Israel Israel Degraded Two Laments A Song of Sorrow A Lament for the Queen-Mother and the Princes of Israel
19:1-14 19:1-9 19:1-14 19:1-14 19:1-14
   (1-14a)  (2-4)    (1b-9)  (2-9) (2-9)
(10-14a) (10-14a)

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Bible Interpretation Seminar")


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the four modern translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph, etc.



 1"As for you, take up a lamentation for the princes of Israel 2and say,
 'What was your mother?
 A lioness among lions!
 She lay down among young lions,
 She reared her cubs.
 3'When she brought up one of her cubs,
 He became a lion,
 And he learned to tear his prey;
 He devoured men.
  4Then nations heard about him;
 He was captured in their pit,
 And they brought him with hooks
 To the land of Egypt.
 5When she saw, as she waited,
 That her hope was lost,
 She took another of her cubs
 And made him a young lion.
 6And he walked about among the lions;
 He became a young lion,
 He learned to tear his prey;
 He devoured men.
 7He destroyed their fortified towers
 And laid waste their cities;
 And the land and its fullness were appalled
 Because of the sound of his roaring.
 8Then nations set against him
 On every side from their provinces,
 And they spread their net over him;
 He was captured in their pit.
 9They put him in a cage with hooks
 And brought him to the king of Babylon;
 They brought him in hunting nets
 So that his voice would be heard no more
 On the mountains of Israel.
 10Your mother was like a vine in your vineyard,
 Planted by the waters;
 It was fruitful and full of branches
 Because of abundant waters.
 11And it had strong branches fit for scepters of rulers,
 And its height was raised above the clouds
 So that it was seen in its height with the mass of its branches.
 12But it was plucked up in fury;
 It was cast down to the ground;
 And the east wind dried up its fruit.
 Its strong branch was torn off
 So that it withered;
 The fire consumed it.
 13And now it is planted in the wilderness,
 In a dry and thirsty land.
 14And fire has gone out from its branch;
 It has consumed its shoots and fruit,
 So that there is not in it a strong branch,
 A scepter to rule.
 This is a lamentation, and has become a lamentation.'"

19:1-9 These two verses describe the exile of two Judean kings: 1. Jehoahaz, taken to Egypt by Necco II and (2) Jehoiachin, taken to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar II.

19:1 "take up" The VERB (BDB 669, KB 724, Qal IMPERATIVE) literally means "to lift" or "to carry." Here it is used in an idiom for "speak loudly" or "make heard."

It is surprising that this chapter does not start with "the word of the Lord came to me saying" (cf. Ezek. 1:3; 6:1; 7:1; 11:14; 12:1,8,17,21,26; 13:1; 14:2,12; 15:1; 16:1; 17:1; 18:1; 20:2,45; 21:1,8,18; 22:1; etc.). Does this imply that chapters 18 and 19 form a literary unit? I think not since chapter 19 is a poetic lamentation.

▣ "lamentation" This term (BDB 884) refers to a specific type of funeral song (cf. Ezek. 2:10; 19:1,14; 26:17; 27:2,32; 28:12; 32:2,16). It becomes a literary marker for a new topic (genre, cf. Isa. 14:3-21; Amos 5:1-3). In prophetic literature there are several standard oracle forms.

  1. promise oracle
  2. court terminology
  3. funeral dirge

A good brief discussion of funeral rites in Israel can be seen in Roland DeVaux's Ancient Israel, vol. 1, pp. 57-61.

▣ "the princes of Israel" This title ("prince," BDB 672) is used in Ezekiel to refer to several groups.

  1. King Zedekiah, Ezek. 7:27; 12:10,12; 21:25
  2. leaders of Judah, Ezek. 21:12; 22:6; 45:8,9
  3. future Davidic kings, Ezek. 34:24; 37:25; 44:3; 45:7,16,17,22; 46:2,4,8,10,12,16,17,18; 48:21,22
  4. foreign kings, Ezek. 26:16; 27:21; 30:13; 32:29; 38:2,3; 39:1,18

The term implies members of a royal family. Here, because it is PLURAL, it refers to the king and others of his extended family in places of leadership.

19:2-9 This section of the lamentation refers to the kings of Judah, from the death of Josiah until the fall of Jerusalem (586 B.C.).

  1. Jehoahaz (Shallum, cf. Jer. 22:11), 2 Kgs. 23:31-33, who was Josiah's son and successor, but exiled by Pharaoh Neco II after three months and replaced by
  2. Jehoiakim (Eliakim), 2 Kgs. 23:34-24:7, who was also a son of Josiah. He reigned eleven years and died. He was replaced by
  3. Jehoiachin (Jeconiah, Coniah), 2 Kgs. 24:8-17, who reigned three months and was exiled to Babylon (cf. Ezek. 19:9, 597 B.C.) by Nebuchadnezzar II and replaced with
  4. Zedekiah, 2 Kgs. 24:18-20, who was placed on the throne by Nebuchadnezzar II. He rebelled and was captured, blinded, and exiled to Babylon.

Special Topic: Kings of the Divided Monarchy

▣ "lions" See Special Topic: Lions in the OT

19:2 "your mother" This refers to national Israel (cf. Ezek. 19:10) producing a line of Davidic kings (cf. Gen. 49:9; Num. 23:24; Rev. 5:5). This ceased with Zedekiah's exile. In a sense Zerubbabel (Sheshbazzar, Ezra 1:8) continued the Davidic line (cf. Haggai 2:23; Zechariah 4).

NASB    "destroyed"
NKJV, Targums    "knew"
NRSV, JPSOA    "ravaged"
TEV    "wrecked"
NJB    "tore down"
REB, NET    "broke down"

The MT has "knew" (וידע, BDB 393), but most English translations assume an emendation "destroyed" (וירע), following the Targums. With it, this poetic line is parallel to Ezek. 19:7b. However, the UBS Hebrew OT Project, p. 57, gives the emendation a "C" rating.

NASB   "fortified towers"
NKJV   "desolate places"
NRSV, NET   "strongholds"
TEV   "forts"
NJB   "palaces"
JPSOA, REB   "widows"

The MT has "windows" (אלמנותין, BDB 48), but most English translations use an emendation "citadel" or "strongholds" (ארמנותינ, BDB 74) because of the next word, "cities" (BDB 746). The MT is understandable in context as it is. The UBS Hebrew OT Project, p. 57, gives it an "A" rating. The imagery would be of a new leader of the pride (cf. v. 6).

NASB   "in hunting nets"
NKJV   "in nets"
NRSV, LXX   "into custody"
TEV   "under guard"
NJB, JPSOA   "into a fortress"
REB, Peshitta   "in prison"

The MT has a root that could have several meanings.

  1. מצד ‒ BDB 844, FEMININE NOUN, "stronghold," cf. Jer. 48:41; 51:30
  2. מצוד ‒ BDB 844, MASCULINE NOUN, "net," Job 19:6; Eccl. 7:26
  3. םץודה ‒ BDB 845, FEMININE NOUN
    1. "net for fish," cf. Eccl. 9:12
    2. "snare for prey," cf. Ezek. 12:13; 17:20

In this context "stronghold" or "prison" in Babylon fits the next line of poetry best.

The UBS Text Project, p. 58, gives the MASCULINE form of the NOUN "stronghold" a "B" rating (some doubt).

19:10-14 These verses change the metaphor describing Judah's royal family not as a lion pride but a huge, tall grapevine. They also change time frames back to the beginnings of a unified kingdom (i.e., Saul, David, Solomon). The vine is described as

  1. Positive
    1. planted by waters, Ezek. 19:10 (cf. Ps. 1:3)
    2. fruitful, Ezek. 19:10
    3. full of strong branches, Ezek. 19:10-11
    4. tall above the clouds, Ezek. 19:11
  2. Negative
    1. plucked up in fury, Ezek. 19:12
    2. cast down to the ground, Ezek. 19:12
    3. east wind dried up its fruit, Ezek. 19:12
    4. strong branch torn off, Ezek. 19:12
    5. planted in a wilderness, Ezek. 19:13
    6. planted in a dry land, Ezek. 19:13
    7. burned, Ezek. 19:14

The royal family was decimated (similar to chapter 17).

The lion metaphor for Judah may refer to Jacob's prophecies about his children (esp. Judah, cf. Gen. 49:9). Balaam also used this imagery to describe Israel (cf. Num. 23:24; 24:9).

NASB, NRSV   "vineyard"
NKJV   "bloodline"
TEV   "grapevine" (Targumd and LXX, "vine")
NJB    --omitted--
Peshitta, JPSOA   "in your blood"

The MT has "blood" (בדמך, BDB 196).The UBS Text Project (p. 58) gives it a "C" rating (considerable doubt). Most English translations have an emendation.

  1. "to be like" (תדמה)
  2. "height"
  3. "vineyard" (בכרם)
  4. omit the phrase (cf. REB).

The Ancient Near East often used the metaphor of a giant plant to describe world powers (e.g., Ezek. 17:3,22-24; 19:10-14; 31:2-18; Dan. 4:4-17,19-27; and possibly Amos 2:9).

NASB, NKJV, TEV, REB    "branches"
NRSV, NJB    "stem"

There is a wordplay between "branches" (BDB 641), which can mean "staff," and "scepter" (BDB 986), also notice the same play in Ezek. 19:14.

NASB, TEV    "the clouds"
NKJV, NRSV, NJB    "the thick branches"

NIDOTTE, vol. 3, p. 310, reads "In Ezek. 19:11; 31:3,10,14 one should read 'clouds' from 'āb, rather than 'branches' from 'ābōt."

19:12 "the east wind" This term (BDB 924 CONSTRUCT 870) is used in Ezekiel many times (over fifty), but most often in chapters 40-48 simply as "the east." It denotes

  1. the direction of the rising sun
  2. a metaphor for destruction (i.e., desert wind), often with the added theological connotation of being sent by YHWH to accomplish His purposes.
    1. Gen. 41:6,23,27
    2. Exod. 10:13; 14:21(positive)
    3. wisdom literature, Job 27:21; 38:24; Ps. 48:7; 78:26 (representative sample)
    4. Isa. 27:8
    5. Jer. 18:17
    6. Ezek. 17:10; 19:12; 27:26
    7. Hosea 13:15
    8. Jonah 4:8
    9. Hab. 1:9

The hot desert wind (Arabic, "sirocco" wind), like the rain, is at YHWH's disposal! Wind (BDB 924, ruah) is often associated with YHWH's power (i.e., Spirit) in the OT.

Special Topic: Spirit in the Bible

19:14 Fire is YHWH's instrument of judgment (cf. Ezek. 15:4; 20:47-48). There will be no Davidic king after the exiled Zedekiah. Even Zerubbabel (Sheshbazzar, Ezra 1:8) was only a prince of the line, not a direct son. The direct son of 2 Samuel 7 will be the Messiah.

Special Topic: Messiah

Special Topic: Fire

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