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This very beautiful chapter relates also to Egypt. The prophet describes to Pharaoh the fall of the king of Nineveh, (see the books of Nahum, Jonah, and Zephaniah), under the image of a fair cedar of Lebanon, once exceedingly tall, flourishing, and majestic, but now cut down and withered, with its broken branches strewed around, vv. 1-17. He then concludes with bringing the matter home to the king of Egypt, by telling him that this was a picture of his approaching fate, Ezekiel 31:18. The beautiful cedar of Lebanon, remarkable for its loftiness, and in the most flourishing condition, but afterwards cut down and deserted, gives a very lately painting of the great glory and dreadful catastrophe of both the Assyrian and Egyptian monarchies. The manner in which the prophet has embellished his subject is deeply interesting; the colouring is of that kind which the mind will always contemplate with pleasure.
In the eleventh year - On Sunday, June 19, A.M. 3416, according to Abp. Usher; a month before Jerusalem was taken by the Chaldeans.
Behold, the Assyrian was a cedar - Why is the Assyrian introduced here, when the whole chapter concerns Egypt? Bp. Lowth has shown that אשור ארז (ashshur erez) should be translated the tall cedar, the very stately cedar; hence there is reference to his lofty top; and all the following description belongs to Egypt, not to Assyria. But see on Ezekiel 31:11 (note).
The waters made him great - Alluding to the fertility of Egypt by the overflowing of the Nile. But waters often mean peoples. By means of the different nations under the Egyptians, that government became very opulent. These nations are represented as fowls and beasts, taking shelter under the protection of this great political Egyptian tree, Ezekiel 31:6.
The cedars in the garden of God - Egypt was one of the most eminent and affluent of all the neighboring nations.
The mighty one of the heathen - Nebuchadnezzar. It is worthy of notice, that Nebuchadnezzar, in the first year of his reign, rendered himself master of Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian empire. See Sedar Olam. This happened about twenty years before Ezekiel delivered this prophecy; on this account, Ashshur, Ezekiel 31:3, may relate to the Assyrians, to whom it is possible the prophet here compares the Egyptians. But see the note on Ezekiel 31:3.
Upon his ruin shall all the fowls - The fall of Egypt is likened to the fall of a great tree; and as the fowls and beasts sheltered under its branches before, Ezekiel 31:6, so they now feed upon its ruins.
To the end that none of all the trees - Let this ruin, fallen upon Egypt, teach all the nations that shall hear of it to be humble, because, however elevated, God can soon bring them down; and pride and arrogance, either in states or individuals, have the peculiar abhorrence of God. Pride does not suit the sons of men; it made devils of angels, and makes fiends of men.
I caused Lebanon to mourn for him - All the confederates of Pharaoh are represented as deploring his fall, Ezekiel 31:16, Ezekiel 31:17.
They also went down into hell with him - Into remediless destruction.
This is Pharaoh - All that I have spoken in this allegory of the lofty cedar refers to Pharaoh, king of Egypt, his princes, confederates, and people. Calmet understands the whole chapter of the king of Assyria, under which he allows that Egypt is adumbrated; and hence on this verse he quotes: -
Mutato nomine, de te fabula narratur.
What is said of Assyria belongs to thee, O Egypt.