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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 10–18
Verses 10–18

We have seen the king of Egypt resembling the king of Assyria in pomp, and power, and prosperity, how like he was to him in his greatness; now here we see,

I. How he does likewise resemble him in his pride, Ezek. 31:10. For, as face answers to face in a glass, so does one corrupt carnal heart to another; and the same temptations of a prosperous state by which some are overcome are fatal to many others too. “Thou, O king of Egypt! hast lifted up thyself in height, hast been proud of thy wealth and power, Ezek. 29:3. And just so he (that is, the king of Assyria); when he had shot up his top among the thick boughs his heart was immediately lifted up in his height, and he grew insolent and imperious, set God himself at defiance, and trampled upon his people;” witness the messages and letter which the great king, the king of Assyria, sent to Hezekiah, Isa. 36:4. How haughtily does he speak of himself and his own achievements! how scornfully of that great and good man! There were other sins in which the Egyptians and the Assyrians did concur, particularly that of oppressing God’s people, which is charged upon them both together (Isa. 52:4); but here that sin is traced up to its cause, and that was pride; for it is the contempt of the proud that they are filled with. Note, When men’s outward condition rises their minds commonly rise with it; and it is very rare to find a humble spirit in the midst of great advancements.

II. How he shall therefore resemble him in his fall; and for the opening of this part of the comparison,

1. Here is a history of the fall of the king of Assyria. For his part, says God (Ezek. 31:11), I have therefore, because he was thus lifted up, delivered him into the hand of the mighty one of the heathen. Cyaxares, king of the Medes, in the twenty-sixth year of his reign, in conjunction with Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon in the first year of his reign, destroyed Nineveh, and with it the Assyrian empire. Nebuchadnezzar, though he was not then, yet afterwards became, very emphatically, the mighty one of the heathen, most mighty among them and most mighty over them, to prevail against them.

(1.) Respecting the fall of the Assyrian three things are affirmed:—[1.] It is God himself that orders his ruin: I have delivered him into the hand of the executioner; I have driven him out. Note, God is the Judge, who puts down one and sets up another (Ps. 75:7); and when he pleases he can extirpate and expel those who think themselves, and seem to others, to have taken deepest root. And the mightiest ones of the heathens could not gain their point against those they contended with if the Almighty did not himself deliver them into their hands. [2.] It is his own sin that procures his ruin: I have driven him out for his wickedness. None are driven out from their honour, power, and possessions, but it is for their wickedness. None of our comforts are ever lost but what have been a thousand times forfeited. If the wicked are driven away, it is in their wickedness. [3.] It is a mighty one of the heathen that shall be the instrument of his ruin; for God often employs one wicked man in punishing another. He shall surely deal with him, shall know how to manage him, great as he is. Note, Proud imperious men will, sooner or later, meet with their match.

(2.) In this history of the fall of the Assyrian observe, [1.] A continuation of the similitude of the cedar. He grew very high, and extended his boughs very far; but his day comes to fall. First, This stately cedar was cropped: The terrible of the nations cut him off. Soldiers, who being both armed and commissioned to kill, and slay, and destroy, may well be reckoned among the terrible of the nations. They have lopped off his branches first, have seized upon some parts of his dominion and forced them out of his hands; so that in all mountains and valleys of the nations about, in the high-lands and low-lands, and by all the rivers, there were cities or countries that were broken off from the Assyrian monarchy, that had been subject to it, but had either revolted or were recovered from it. Its feathers were borrowed; and, when every bird had fetched back its own, it was naked like the stump of a tree. Secondly, It was deserted: All the people of the earth, that had fled to him for shelter, have gone down from his shadow and have left him. When he was disabled to give them protection they thought they no longer owed him allegiance. Let not great men be proud of the number of those that attend them and have a dependence upon them; it is only for what they can get. When Providence frowns upon them their retinue is soon dispersed and scattered from them. Thirdly, It was insulted over, and its fall triumphed in (Ezek. 31:13): Upon his ruin shall all the fowls of the heaven remain, to tread upon the broken branches of this cedar. Its fall is triumphed in by the other trees, who were angry to see themselves overtopped so much: All the trees of Eden, that were cut down and had fallen before him, all that drank water of the rain of heaven, as the stump of the tree that is left in the south is said to be wet with the dew of heaven (Dan. 4:23) and to bud through the scent of water (Job 14:9), shall be comforted in the nether parts of the earth when they see this proud cedar brought as low as themselves. Solamen miseris socios habuisse dolorisTo have companions in woe is a solace to those who suffer. But, on the contrary, the trees of Lebanon, that are yet standing in their height and strength, mourned for him, and the trees of the field fainted for him, because they could not but read their own destiny in his fall. Howl, fir-trees, if the cedar be shaken, for they cannot expect to stand long, Zech. 11:2. [2.] An explanation of the similitude of the cedar. By the cutting down of this cedar is signified the slaughter of this mighty monarch and all his adherents and supporters; they are all delivered to death, to fall by the sword, as the cedar by the axe. He and his princes, who, he said, were altogether kings, go down to the grace, to the nether parts of the earth, in the midst of the children of men, as common persons of no quality or distinction. They died like men (Ps. 82:7); they were carried away with those that go down to the pit, and their pomp did neither protect them nor descend after them. Again (Ezek. 31:16), He was cast down to hell with those that descend into the pit; he went into the state of the dead, and was buried as others are, in obscurity and oblivion. Again (Ezek. 31:17), They all that were his arm, on whom he stayed, by whom he acted and exerted his power, all that dwelt under his shadow, his subjects and allies, and all that had any dependence on him, they all went down into ruin, down into the grace with him, unto those that were slain with the sword, to those that were cut off by untimely deaths before them, under the load of guilt and shame. When great men fall a great many fall with them, as a great many in like manner have fallen before them. [3.] What God designed, and aimed at, in bringing down this mighty monarch and his monarchy. He designed thereby, First, To give an alarm to the nations about, to put them all to a stand, to put them all to a gaze (Ezek. 31:16): I made the nations to shake at the sound of his fall. They were all struck with astonishment to see so mighty a prince brought down thus. It give a shock to all their confidences, every one thinking his turn would be next. When he went down to the grace (Ezek. 31:15) I caused a mourning, a general lamentation, as the whole kingdom goes into mourning at the death of the king. In token of this general grief, I covered the deep for him, put that into black, gave a stop to business, in complaisance to this universal mourning. I restrained the floods, and the great waters were stayed, that they might run into another channel, that of lamentation. Lebanon particularly, the kingdom of Syria, that was sometimes in confederacy with the Assyrian, mourned for him; as the allies of Babylon, Rev. 18:9. Secondly, To give an admonition to the nations about, and to their kings (Ezek. 31:14): To the end that none of all the trees by the waters, though ever so advantageously situated, may exalt themselves for their height, may be proud and conceited of themselves and shoot up their top among the thick boughs, looking disdainfully upon others, nor stand upon themselves for their height, confiding in their own politics and powers, as if they could never be brought down. Let them all take warning by the Assyrian, for he once held up his head as high, and thought he kept his footing as firm, as any of them; but his pride went before his destruction, and his confidence failed him. Note, The fall of proud presumptuous men is intended for warning to others to keep humble. It would have been well for Nebuchadnezzar, who was himself active in bringing down the Assyrian, if he had taken the admonition.

2. Here is a prophecy of the fall of the king of Egypt in like manner, Ezek. 31:18. He thought himself like the Assyrian in glory and greatness, over-topping all the trees of Eden, as the cypress does the shrubs. “But thou also shalt be brought down, with the other trees that are pleasant to the sight, as those in Eden. Thou shalt be brought to the grave, to the nether or lower parts of the earth; thou shalt lie in the midst of the uncircumcised, that die in their uncleanness, die ingloriously, die under a curse and at a distance from God; then shall those whom thou hast trampled upon triumph over thee, saying, This is Pharaoh and all his multitude. See how mean he looks, how low he lies; see what all his pomp and pride have come to; here is all that is left of him.” Note, Great men and great multitudes, with the great figure and great noise they make in the world, when God comes to contend with them, will soon become little, less than nothing, such as Pharaoh and all his multitude.