And it came to pass in the eleventh year, in the third month, in the first day of the month, that the word of the LORD came to me…
The Prophet Ezekiel, in witnessing against Pharaoh and Egypt, inculcated the lesson with all the more emphasis by the help of an historic parallel. He has to remind Egypt that, great as is her power, there have been powers as great as she that have been brought low. The consequences of national pride and self-confidence, the downfall and destruction of the mighty, may be learnt by considering the history and the fate of Assyria. References to the kingdom of which Nineveh was the magnificent capital are all the more interesting and intelligible to us because of the explorations which in our own time have brought to light so many monuments of Assyrian greatness, and so many illustrations of the social, religious, and military habits of the population of that long-vanished empire. The figure under which Ezekiel sets forth the grandeur and the fall of Assyria is one beautiful in itself, and peculiarly impressive to his own mind and to those who, like him, were acquainted with the scenery of Syria. Under the similitude of a lofty and spreading cedar of Lebanon, the prophet exhibits the dignity, the strength, the vastness and beauty of the kingdom which nevertheless perished, as the monarch of the forest is felled, cast to the earth, and delivered to destruction. The figure brings before us -
I. THE MAGNITUDE OF THE ASSYRIAN KINGDOM. The noble cedar of lofty stature and spreading boughs is a striking figure of the great world-empire of which colossal vastness is considered the most characteristic feature.
II. ITS PROSPERITY. The vigor and vitality of the proud cedar of Lebanon are artistically set forth by the poet-prophet. "The waters nourished him, the deep made him to grow; her rivers ran round about her plantation," etc. So the great state throve, all circumstances concurring to enhance its prosperity, all allies and tributaries furnishing material for its growth.
III. ITS STRENGTH. The exalted stature, the multiplied boughs, the long branches, are signs of the cedar's strength; the storms may beat upon its head, but it withstands the fiercest blast, and endures whilst generation after generation admire its grandeur, and come and go. The Assyrian empire seemed of unassailable power; the sovereigns arrogated to, themselves, an unquestionable authority; men thought of Nineveh - "that great city as of a city which could never be moved."
IV. ITS BEAUTY. Fair was the cedar in his greatness, in the length of his branches, nor was any tree in the garden of God like unto him in his beauty. Evidently to the mind of the prophet there was beauty in Assyria such as no choice similitude could exaggerate. This may not be so obvious to us as the assertion of Assyria's strength; but so it seemed to the mind of the world of old.
V. ITS INFLUENCE. This seems to be the idea conveyed by the sixth verse: "All the fowls of the heaven made their nests in his boughs, and under his branches did all the beasts of the field bring forth their young, and under his shadow dwelt all great nations." A power so commanding, a position so authoritative, secured the homage of lesser states, which looked up to Nineveh for protection, and were ever ready, by flattery or by service, to minister to her greatness.
VI. ITS PRE-EMINENCE. The stature of the cedar of Lebanon was exalted above all the trees of the field. Even so, during its palmy days, Nineveh was the leader, the chief of the nations. It was long before that supremacy was questioned and disputed. Yet the day came, and Assyria fell.
(1) A great nation enjoying prosperity and wielding influence is especially bound to remember whence its power is derived; and
(2) to cultivate the conviction and sense of responsibility for the use made of gifts and influence entrusted to it. From God all comes, and to God the account must be rendered. - T.
Parallel VersesKJV: And it came to pass in the eleventh year, in the third month, in the first day of the month, that the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,