Now that we have taken time to understand lament here and here, we return to Ezekiel chapter 19, verse 1, where we learn that God is asking Ezekiel to deliver a lament. Notice that this lament is the opposite of the psalms of lament. In the psalms of the lament, David and the other psalmist are expressing their holy complaint to God. In Ezekiel 19, God is the one doing the lamenting!
Uh-oh…It’s one thing when humans lament to God. He can take it. But what is going to happen when God complains about us? We’re about to find out.
The specific word for lament used in Ezekiel 19 gives us a clue. This word for lament refers to a funeral song, a dirge. That’s a pretty specific context. God’s lament about Israel is a funeral song. God is singing a song of mourning. Who died? Again, we’re about to find out.
One other feature of this lament, this funeral song, is that it is in the form of allegorical parable. Just like the Eagles and the Vine from chapter 17. Now God asks Ezekiel to speak a lament that is a story about Lions. Read that story in verses 2-9.
Unlike chapter 17 where God took time to explain the parable of the Eagles and the Vine, here in chapter 19, God doesn’t explain the parable of the Lions. He gives us a couple hints, though, to help us figure it out. The parable starts out describing a mother lion with lion cubs. The mother helps one cub become strong, but the nations trap the lion in a pit, and that lion is led with hooks to Egypt. In response, the mama lion raises up another cub, but the same thing happens. The nations trap that lion in a pit, and again they use hooks, cage the lion, and this time they imprisoned him in Babylon.
What is the allegory about? It is about Israel’s defeat by foreign nations. The lion cubs likely refer to the recent kings of Jerusalem who were defeated by foreign powers. In Ezekiel 19, verse 1, God even said the lament was about the princes of Israel. In fact, that topic has been the repeated theme of Ezekiel’s prophecies since the beginning of the book. Because of the wickedness of its kings, Jerusalem has already been defeated once, and will be defeated and destroyed again.
Consider how the story in Ezekiel 19 depicts the repeated prophecy in the behavior of the two lion cubs. In verse 3, the first lion cub tears prey and devours men. In verse 6, the second lion does the same thing, but then gets even more vicious than the first lion. These are not friendly lions. They are oppressive and destructive, and the nations step in to stop the lions.
In the first part of the lament, then, God describes his people Israel like out of control, blood-thirsty lions who are so terrible that it takes the nations to come against them, chain them, and imprison them. Imagine the father and mother heart of God saying that about his children Israel. We sometimes say that our kids are like wild animals, but usually we do so with some affection and a smile on our face. We might be slightly frustrated about their messy room with toys all over the place, but kids are kids, right? It is a totally different story when our kids are straight up destructive. God is not saying, “Oh look at you bunch of wild animals, you’re so cute.” No, no, no. He is lamenting here. This is a funeral song. The lions are so far gone in their oppressiveness, they are now trapped, and they will die. This is a funeral.
Check back to the next post, as we’ll look at the second part of the allegorical parable funeral lament in Ezekiel 19.