17:1-2 – What do “allegory” (Heb. hida “riddle”) and “parable” (Heb. mashal “proverb”) suggest for reading what follows?
17:3-4 – What effect should the description of the great eagle have on us? Lebanon is (and was) known for its cedars (Judges 9:15; 1 Kings 5:20; 7:2). The top of the cedar is carried off to “a land of merchants” and “a city of traders”…where is that?
17:5-6 – The first eagle becomes a gardener who plants and meticulously cares for the seedling and suddenly the seedling is a vine that flourishes because of its care.
17:7-8 – A second (lesser) eagle appears who remains inactive throughout the account (see Block NICOT 531 for a comparison of details). The vine, rather than flourishing in its cared for environment, seeks the nourishment of the second eagle.
17:9-10 – What answers are expected by the LORD’s many questions? On the withering east wind see Jonah 4:8.
17:11-18 – Whereas the parable was originally addressed to the “house of Israel” the interpretation makes clear that they are the “rebellious house”. The interpretation is that the first eagle was King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon; Lebanon was Jerusalem (see 1 Kings 7:2-12 the “house of cedars of Lebanon”); the “land” and “city” were Babylon. The first exiles with King Jehoiakin of Judah (597 BC) were the top of the cedar. The remaining portion of Israel was the vine which had every opportunity to flourish as a vassal state of Babylon. The second eagle was Egypt. King Zedekiah of Judah rebelled against Babylon and sought the aid of Egypt after Jehoiachin had been carried off to Babylon. Why does the LORD promise judgment? Zedekiah broke the covenant made with Nebuchadnezzar (see 2 Chron. 36:13), but more importantly he (and the people) broke covenant with the LORD. If the King of Babylon would not tolerate a broken covenant how much less would the LORD, maker of heaven and earth, not tolerate it?
17:19-21 – Who would carry out the judgment? What assurance does the LORD give that this will be done? (17:21, 24)
17:22-24 – A return to the treetop for another sprig. What will the LORD do in light of these verses? Who will know this is the work of the LORD and who will benefit from it? Who or what does this refer to?
18:1-2 – Another proverb (cf. Jer. 31:29-30), but this one is quoted by the people. What does it mean? It appears to refer to an impersonal natural retribution (i.e., fatalism) rather than to the personal judgment of the LORD.
18:3-4 – How is the response of the LORD to this proverb related to what He has declared in Exodus 20:5, Deuteronomy 24:16 and Jeremiah 31:29-34?
18:5-18 – The righteous grandfather, sinful father, and righteous son (this might refer to Kings Josiah, Jehoiachim and Jehoiachin). What distinguishes each? What are the actions that are named as to be done and to be avoided? What relation does verses 9 and 17 have to what precedes and follows in these similar lists? Is there any sense of “fate” in what the LORD will do? What sorts of things constitute doing what is “just and right” and “sins”? (Lev. 19:15; 20:10, 18; 25:14; Deut. 4:1, 19; 15:7; 23:19; 24:12-17) In what ways are the actions related specifically to the LORD and to the community? In what way is the notion of “faith” to be described in this passage?
18:19-24 – Who dies for their sins? How does this relate to the death of Christ for the world? According to this passage, does the LORD maintain records of the previous life when one turns from righteousness or wickedness? How does the LORD feel about the punishment of the wicked?
18:25-32 – Is the LORD unjust? What is the judgment for righteousness and wickedness? Does this passage make righteousness possible? What is necessary for righteousness here? In what way can Israel (or we) “get a new heart and a new spirit” for themselves according to this passage? How is this related to what the LORD had already said in Ezekiel 11:19?