Jerusalem, the mother-city, is here represented by another similitude; she is a vine, and the princes are her branches. This comparison we had before, Ezek. 15:1. Jerusalem is as a vine; the Jewish nation is so: Like a vine in they blood (Ezek. 19:10), the blood-royal, like a vine set in blood and watered with blood, which contributes very much to the flourishing and fruitfulness of vines, as if the blood which had been shed had been designed for the fattening and improving of the soil, in such plenty was it shed; and for a time it seemed to have that effect, for she was fruitful and full of branches by reason of the waters, the many waters near which she was planted. Places of great wickedness may prosper for a while; and a vine set in blood may be full of branches. Jerusalem was full of able magistrates, men of sense, men of learning and experience, that were strong rods, branches of this vine of uncommon bulk and strength, or poles for the support of this vine, for such magistrates are. The boughs of this vine had grown to such maturity that they were fit to make white staves of for the sceptres of those that bore rule, Ezek. 19:11. And those are strong rods that are fit for sceptres, men of strong judgments and strong resolutions that are fit for magistrates. When the royal family of Judah was numerous, and the courts of justice were filled with men of sense and probity, then Jerusalem’s stature was exalted among thick branches; when the government is in good able hands a nation is thereby made considerable Then she was not taken for a weak and lowly vine, but she appeared in her height, a distinguished city, with the multitude of her branches. Tanquam lenta solent inter viburna cupressi—Midst humble withies thus the cypress soars. “In thy quietness” (so some read that, Ezek. 19:10; which we translate in thy blood) “thou wast such a vine as this.” When Zedekiah was quiet and easy under the king of Babylon’s yoke his kingdom flourished thus. See how slow God is to anger, how he defers his judgments, and waits to be gracious. 2. This vine is now quite destroyed. Nebuchadnezzar, being highly provoked by Zedekiah’s treachery, plucked it up in fury (Ezek. 19:12), ruined the city and kingdom, and cut off all the branches of the royal family that fell in his way. The vine was cut off close to the ground, though not plucked up by the roots. The east wind dried up the fruit that was blasted. The young people fell by the sword, or were carried into captivity. The aspect of it had nothing that was pleasing, the prospect nothing that was promising. Her strong rods were broken and withered; her great men were cut off, judges and magistrates deposed. The vine itself is planted in the wilderness, Ezek. 19:13. Babylon was as a wilderness to those of the people that were carried captives thither; the land of Judah was as a wilderness to Jerusalem, now that the whole country was ravaged and laid waste by the Chaldean army—a fruitful land turned into barrenness. “It is burnt with fire (Ps. 80:16) and that fire has gone out of a rod of her branches (Ezek. 19:14); the king himself, by rebelling against the king of Babylon, has given occasion to all this mischief. She may thank herself for the fire that consumes her; she has by her wickedness made herself like tinder to the sparks of God’s wrath, so that her own branches serve as fuel for her own consumption; in them the fire is kindled which devoured the fruit, the sins of the elder being the judgments which destroy the younger; her fruit is burned with her own branches, so that she has no strong rod to be a sceptre to rule, none to be found now that are fit for the government or dare take this ruin under their hand, as the complaint is (Isa. 3:6, 7), none of the house of David left that have a right to rule, no wise men, or men of sense, that are able to rule.” It goes ill with any state, and is likely to go worse, when it is thus deprived of the blessings of government and has no strong rods for sceptres. Woe unto thee, O land! when thy king is a child, for it is as well to have no rod as not a strong rod. Those strong rods, we have reason to fear, had been instruments of oppression, assistant to the king in catching the prey and devouring men, and now they are destroyed with him. Tyranny is the inlet to anarchy; and, when the rod of government is turned into the serpent of oppression, it is just with God to say, “There shall be no strong rod to be a sceptre to rule; but let men be as are the fishes of the sea, where the greater devour the less.” Note, This is a lamentation and shall be for a lamentation. The prophet was bidden (Ezek. 19:1) to take up a lamentation; and, having done so, he leaves it to be made use of by others. “It is a lamentation to us of this age, and, the desolations continuing long, it shall be for a lamentation to those that shall come after us; the child unborn will rue the destruction made of Judah and Jerusalem by the present judgments. They were a great while in coming; the bow was long in the drawing; but now that they have come they will continue, and the sad effects of them will be entailed upon posterity.” Note, Those who fill up the measure of their fathers’ sins are laying up in store for their children’s sorrows and furnishing them with matter for lamentation; and nothing is more so than the overthrow of government.
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