08 July 2011

"What a lioness was your mother among lions! She lay down among young lions, rearing her cubs." (v. 2)


Ezekiel was one of the exiles taken to Babylon with King Jehoiachin in 597BC. It had been a sorry time for the kings of Judah, and their various disasters are described by Ezekiel in terms of a family of lions (the lion was the emblem of the tribe of Judah) where the cubs describe two of its kings. Lost in translation is the feel of a lament which gives a mournful feeling to the words. (If it were music we would be in a minor key!)

A lament would be sung or chanted by professional mourners after the death of the deceased and during the funeral. Here Ezekiel expresses God's sadness over the failure of Judah's kings by reciting this elegy.

The lioness in verse 2 was responsible for producing and nurturing young lion cubs, the kings that followed in the Davidic line. One is described as becoming lion-like, and this is Jehoahaz who succeeded his father Josiah in 609BC, but he only reigned for three months during a particularly brutal period in Israel's history. It was a reign of oppression and cruelty, and having proved himself to be unmanageable Jehoahaz was taken off to Egypt where he died, despite Judah's hopes that he would eventually return (verse 5a).

With the death of this lion cub, the lioness takes another of her offspring and makes him a 'strong lion'. This is probably Jehoiakim. He was another violent and destructive ruler who tried to extend his kingdom at the expense of his neighbours, until they could take no more and brought him in chains to Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon, thus ending his reign of terror.

The history of Israel is littered with descriptions of kings who exploited their position and "did evil in the eyes of the Lord" (egJeremiah 52:2). It is a well worn phrase that 'power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely', but it seems a lesson that Israel's kings were slow to learn.

To Ponder

What would you consider are desirable qualities in a good national leader?

We live in times where the news is often of corruption by people in high positions. In some countries corruption is so rife as to be thought of as the norm for behaviour. How have we got to this point? What, for you, would be a Christian response?

Bible notes author: John Birch

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