Birds of the Bible – Two Eagles in a Parable

Steppe Eagle (Aquila nipalensis) by Peter Ericsson

Steppe Eagle (Aquila nipalensis) by Peter Ericsson

And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Son of man, put forth a riddle, and speak a parable unto the house of Israel; (Ezekiel 17:1-2 KJV)

The Lord God has given the prophet Ezekiel a parable to give to Israel. The parable is in Ezekiel 17:1-10 and it is in here that we find reference to two different eagles.

“The riddle is not the prophet’s, nor the parable his, but the Lord God’s; and exceeding beautiful and apt it is, to signify the things designed by it; the wisdom of God is greatly displayed in it:” (John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible)

And say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; A great eagle with great wings, longwinged, full of feathers, which had divers colours, came unto Lebanon, and took the highest branch of the cedar: (Ezekiel 17:3 KJV)

John Gill says about this first Eagle:

a great eagle; which is Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, as it is explained, Eze_17:12; who is compared to an eagle for his power and authority, that being the king of birds, and for his swiftness and voracity in conquering and subduing kingdoms; see Jer_48:40;

with great wings
; so the Babylonish monarchy is signified by a lion with eagle’s wings, Dan_7:4; and the two parts of the Roman empire, into which it was divided at the death of Theodosius, are called two wings of a great eagle, Rev_12:14; and so here it may denote the large kingdoms and provinces which belonged to the Babylonian monarchy; see Est_1:1;

longwinged; or having a “long member” (m); meaning the body of the wing, which was long; and so, as the wings spread, may signify the breadth of his dominion, this the length of them, and both their extensiveness:

full of feathers
; of cities, towns, people, armies, wealth, and riches:

Steppe Eagle (Aquila nipalensis) by Nikhil Devasar

Steppe Eagle (Aquila nipalensis) by Nikhil Devasar

which had divers colours; or an “embroidery” (n); like that of the weaver, only needle work, consisting of various colours; and so it alludes to such eagles as are called the golden eagle, and “asterias”, from their golden colour, and their being spotted like stars, and which are said to be of the largest size, as Bochart, from Aelianus (o), observes; and may signify people of divers languages, customs, manners, and circumstances, subject to the government of the king of Babylon:

came unto Lebanon; the northern border of the land of Judea, and invaded it; where were the mountain and forest of Lebanon, famous for the cedars that grew there, from whence the whole land may here take its name, as being more apt for the allegory used: or the city of Jerusalem, where were the temple built of the cedars of Lebanon, as many of its palaces and houses also were; whither the king of Babylon came, and took it, and who came northward, as Babylon was:

and took the highest branch of the cedar; by the “cedar” is meant, either the nation in general, or the royal family in particular; and by the “highest branch” the then reigning king, Jeconiah with the princes and nobles of the land, who were taken and carried captive by Nebuchadnezzar; see 2Ki_24:14.

Adam Clarke’s Commentary on The Bible summarizes the first eagle:

  • A great eagle – Nebuchadnezzar. See Jer_48:40; Jer_49:22; Dan_7:4. And see here, Dan_7:12, where it is so applied.
  • Great wings – Extensive empire.
  • Long-winged – Rapid in his conquests.
  • Full of feathers – Having multitudes of subjects.
  • Divers colors – People of various nations.
  • Came unto Lebanon – Came against Judea.
  • The highest branch – King Jehoiachin he took captive to Babylon.
  • The cedar – The Jewish state and king.

There was also another great eagle with great wings and many feathers: and, behold, this vine did bend her roots toward him, and shot forth her branches toward him, that he might water it by the furrows of her plantation. (Ezekiel 17:7 KJV)

John Gill says of the second eagle:
Eze 17:7  There was also another great eagle,…. Hophra king of Egypt, a very powerful prince, whom Herodotus (u) calls Apries; and says he was the most happy and fortunate, after Psammitichus, of all the kings that were before; though not so mighty as the king of Babylon; therefore all the same things are not said of the one as of the other:

Tawny Eagle by Africaddict

Tawny Eagle by Africaddict

with great wings and many feathers: had large dominions, but not go extensive as the former, and therefore is not said to be “longwinged” as he; and had “many feathers”, but not “full” of them, nor had it such a variety; he had many people, and much wealth, and a large army, but not equal to the king of Babylon:

and, behold, this vine did bend her roots towards him; Zedekiah, and the people of the Jews under him; inclined to an alliance with the king of Egypt, and gave him some private intimations of it:

and shot forth her branches towards him; sent ambassadors to acquaint him with it, Eze_17:15;

that he might water it by the furrows of her plantation; Nebuchadnezzar had planted this vine, and made furrows for the watering of it, and by his means it was become prosperous and flourishing; but Zedekiah, not content with the greatness and glory he had raised him to, sought to the king of Egypt to help him with horses and people, in order to free himself from subjection to the king of Babylon, and to increase his lustre and glory: the allusion is thought to be to the trenches and canals of the river Nile, by which the land of Egypt was watered: the words may be rendered, “out of the rivulets of her plantation” (w) which best agrees with watering.

Adam Clarke’s Commentary on The Bible about the second eagle Ezekiel 17:7

  • Another great eagle – Pharaoh-hophra, or Apries, king of Egypt.
  • With great wings – Extensive dominion.
  • And many feathers – Numerous subjects.
  • Did bend her roots – Looked to him for support in her intended rebellion against Nebuchadnezzar.

This chapter in Ezekiel has a lot in it and I was mainly bringing out the two eagles presented in the parable. A short explanation of this chapter by John Gill follows:

INTRODUCTION TO EZEKIEL 17 – Under the simile of two eagles and a vine are represented the kings of Babylon and Egypt, and the condition of the Jews, who are threatened with ruin for their perfidy; and yet a promise is made of the raising up of the house of Judah, and family of David, in the Messiah. The prophet is bid to deliver a riddle or parable to the house of Israel, Eze_17:1. The riddle or parable is concerning two eagles and a vine, which is delivered, Eze_17:3; and the explanation of it is in Eze_17:11; and then the destruction of the Jews is threatened for their treachery to the king of Babylon, Eze_17:16; and the chapter is closed with a promise of the Messiah, and the prosperity of his kingdom, Eze_17:22.

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2 KJV)

See also:
Birds of the Bible – Eagles
Birds of the Bible – Eagles II
Birds of the Bible – Eagles III
Birds of the Bible – Hair Like Eagles


2 thoughts on “Birds of the Bible – Two Eagles in a Parable

  1. In Deut 22:11-12
    God compares Himself to an eagle.

    The riddle in Ezekiel is about God, Jesus and the devil.

    Jesus is the highest branch of the cedar which was “cut off”.

    Jesus is the vine.

    It is about worldly things vs spiritual things.


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