First Reading: Ezekiel 17:22-24

The Allegory of the Cedar Twig

22 Thus says the Lord YHWH: I will also take of the lofty top of the cedar, and will set it; I will crop off from the topmost of its young twigs a tender one, and I will plant it on a high and lofty mountain: 23 in the mountain of the height of Israel will I plant it; and it shall produce boughs, and bear fruit, and be a goodly cedar: and under it shall dwell all birds of every wing; in the shade of its branches shall they dwell. 24 All the trees of the field shall know that I, YHWH, have brought down the high tree, have exalted the low tree, have dried up the green tree, and have made the dry tree to flourish; I, YHWH, have spoken and have done it.

World English Bible

How do you explain politics in this crazy world of ours?

We live in a media saturated world. News and opinion come at us 24/7 through radio, cable news and the Internet. With all this information, all these voices, all these points of view, how can we make sense of the world, much less explain it to others? One simple way is the use of the allegory. "Our current situation is like a..."

Ezekiel used an agricultural allegory to explain his country's politics. Throughout chapter 17, he employed the image of the eagle and the cedar to explain Judea's plight when the Babylonians took the leading families of the nation into exile. In the allegory, Nebuchadnezzar was an eagle (17:3) who plucked the topmost branch of the tall cedar (King Jehoiachin in 17:4); the Babylonian king appointed the uncle of Jehoiachin, Zedekiah, as governor. The seeds of the appointment (17:5) grew into a vine that first reached out to the Babylonians, then to Egypt (17:6-8). For this duplicity, Ezekiel foresaw doom for Zedekiah and the nation (destroying the vine), for the prophet considered the covenant between Zedekiah and Nebuchadnezzar as binding as the one between God and Israel (17:12-21).

Verses 17:22-24 represented a new vision for Israel, a new line of kings (a tender one among the young shoots in 17:22) that YHWH would establish (plant it on a high mountain which represents Zion in Jerusalem). For Ezekiel, the fate of the royal lines was God's prerogative, for he would exalt the lowly and topple the arrogant (dry up the green tree), even prosper the powerless (make the dry tree flourish; 17:24). The prophet saw the nation and the world in the hands of YHWH.

Allegories like the one Ezekiel employed are useful, but we must careful not to abuse them, for they can explain to some, but confuse others. If we use them wisely, they can make a complex situation clear. Allegories, after all, are word pictures.

Which allegory, analogy or metaphor is your favorite to explain God activity in you life? Why?