Ezekiel 19. A Lament For the Last Princes of Israel.
Key Notes: Wicked princes and their mothers. The nation failed for internal reasons--not simply God's judgment.
Ezekiel 19 is a lamentation, a poem that one might read at a funeral. In Israel lamentation was traditionally sung by professional women mourners. Here Ezekiel himself may be the singer. It is not a eulogy. Note that the lament is addressed to a mother of princes, the weak and wicked kings at the end of David's dynasty. Some interpret the “mother” to be national Judah, but since the mother of two of the kings is named, we may gain insight by thinking of her literally. The last four princes of Judah, in order of their succession, are all sons of Josiah: Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin (a grandson), and Zedekiah. None are named in the text, and we take our cues from other sources, II Kings and Jeremiah. Only three princes are referred to, and most commentators see Jehoiakim as the one omitted, for reasons not clear. He ruled for eleven years, and was led away captive to Babylon (IIK.23:34–24:6.(IIChron.36:5–8). He was evil but perhaps the least notorious. Two of the princes, Jehoahaz and Zedekiah are sons of Hamutel.
19:2–4 Jehoahaz (also named Shallum) was a son of the spiritual reformer, King Josiah, by Hamutel. (IIK.23:31). Under his mother’s perverse influence, Jehoahaz became "a young lion, he devoured men." Jeremiah (22:11–18) describes him as greedy, oppressive and violent but his reign was only 3 months--not a long time to get such a bad reputation. Surrounding nations were alarmed. He was dragged off to Egypt by Pharaoh Necco (IIK.23:31–35) where he died.
’:5–9 Jehoiachin (Coniah) was Jehoiakim's son by Nehusta (IIK24:8). He was only 18 (or 8, II Chron.36:9) just a cub (19:5) when he became king. Perhaps Hamutel pushed her nephew forward, prowling among the princes of Judah, to be the next king. Like Jehoahaz,"...he became a young lion and he learned to catch prey; he devoured men, and he ravaged their strongholds, and laid waste their cities and the land was appalled..." Instead of building up Judah, he was destroying it. He was trapped by surrounding nations and dragged off by the Babylonians after only three months. (IIChron.36:5–8). Jer.22:26 says that he and his mother Nehusta, evidently also a bad woman, would be hurled to Babylon, a despised broken pot that no one cared for, with no one to succeed him.
’:10–14 The last king, Zedekiah, is also a son of Hamutel by Josiah. (IIK24:18). His mother is now described as a vine and he as a piece of a vine, thriving for a while, then plucked up and withered. We suspect that she was called a vine and he a piece of a vine rather than a lion, because of their weakness and vacillating in the useless final struggle against Babylon.
Zedekiah was 21 when he became king and reigned 11 years. He tried to escape during the siege of Jerusalem, as Ezekiel predicted. (Ezek.12). He was captured, blinded and sent off to Babylon. He was in prison until he died. IIK.24:18–25:7; Jer.52:1–11
If the kids are doing badly, look at their mothers--and fathers, not the schools or the police.
Together, the time of these four princes in office was about twenty years. David and Solomon each had 40 years' reign. It is typical of corrupt governments today to have short times in office. The product of weakness, corruption, and lack of unity is revolt or invasion. In Israel's case, there was also extensive interference by outside forces—“the nations”, notably Egypt and Babylon.
It appears that Judah’s government was in a self-destructive uproar and the country was a threat to surrounding countries. These countries were happy to see Babylon take over. Seventy years later, Judah's reputation among its neighbors lingered.
“…that rebellious and wicked city….” (Ezra 4:12)
“…this city is a rebellious city, hurtful to kings and provinces and that sedition was stirred up in it from of old. That is why this city was laid waste.” (Ezra 4:15)
The message implied by this lamentation is that the evils of Judah were not isolated acts of some bad kings, but systemic corruption that was incited by relatives, in this case their mothers, and that the destruction of Judah was justified not only in the mind of God, but in the opinion of pagan nations around her. Judah's destruction was her own doing. We can see that the wrath of God was not arbitrary, but was born out by the opinion of outside observers.
If we are unpopular with other nations, such as South Americans, we should find out our errors and correct them rather than to be defensive and threaten force.