The Word Made Fresh
1On the first day of the third month in the eleventh year, the LORD’s word came to me: 2“Son of man, say to Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and his crowd:
“Who compares with your prominence?
3Could it be Assyria, which is like a Lebanon cedar
with fair branches to provide shade,
that grows to great heights in the clouds?
4Fed by the waters that made it grow tall,
with rivers flowing around it,
it waters all the trees of the countryside.
5It rose to great height, above all the other trees.
Its limbs grew large and its branches long
because of the abundance of water in its roots.
6The birds nested in its limbs.
Under its branches all the field animals bore their young,
And great nations lived in its shade.
7Beautiful in its size; its branches grew to great lengths
and its roots grew down to abundant water.
8Not even the cedars in the garden of God could rival it,
nor could the fir trees be its equal.
The plane trees were nothing compared to it.
No tree in the garden of God was equal in beauty.
9I made it beautiful with masses of branches.
It was the envy of the trees of Eden in the garden of God.
10“So, this is what the LORD God says: Because it grew so tall among the clouds it became proud of its height. 11I gave it to the ruler of nations who dealt with it as its wickedness deserves, and so I threw it out. 12Foreigners from terrible nations cut it down and left its branches lying on the mountains and in the valleys, its limbs broken in all the streams of the land. All the peoples of the earth left its shade and went away.
13“The birds of the air settle on its fallen trees
and the animals take up lodging among its branches.
14“All this was done so that none of the trees growing by the waters will reach lofty heights among the clouds, nor any of the trees that need water. All of them will die and be cast down to the world below. Along with men and women they will be cast down to the Pit.”
15The LORD God says, “On the day they went down to Sheol, I closed the oceans over it. I held back the rivers and checked its mighty waters. I clothed Lebanon in gloom and all the trees of the field fainted because of it. 16I made the nations shudder at the sound of its fall when I cast it down with the others who have been cast into to the Pit. All the trees of Eden, the best and most beautiful trees of Lebanon and every tree that was well watered were consoled in the world below. 17They all went down to Sheol, along with those killed by the sword and their weapons, and all the nations who lived in its shade.
18“Were any of the trees of Eden great and glorious like you? Now you will be brought down with them to the underworld. You shall lie there among the uncircumcised and those who were killed in battle, including Pharaoh and his multitudes,” says the LORD.
1-14: About 7 weeks have passed. Ezekiel is again instructed to speak to the Pharaoh although he is nowhere near the man, and the words he is to speak are all about Assyria, not Egypt — except that Egypt is being compared to Assyria. Assyria is described metaphorically as a tall cedar, taller than the cedars of Lebanon, taller even than the cedars in the Garden of Eden. So, God gave it to Nebuchadnezzar (“the prince of the nations” — verse 11) to deal with. The great cedar and all the other beautiful trees (Assyria’s allies) were cut down and perished.
15-17: The trees of the Garden and of Lebanon were consoled when the cedar that is Assyria joined them in Sheol — a curious thought to be sure, but remember this is a poem. The author presumes the trees of Lebanon and Eden have long since died and are already in Sheol to greet Assyria.
18: Blink hard to catch the shift in targets: The “you” is now Egypt.
God allows wayward and cruel nations to exist, but not forever. God allows faithful nations to suffer, but not forever. The same applies to individuals. Our prayers are not often answered by a “yes” or a “no.” More often than not the answer is “wait.”