A Fruitful Vine
Wood of the Vine
Ezekiel 15:1-8 Commentary
|Ezekiel 15:1 Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying,|
Ezekiel 15 has been referred to as a "parable" by most of the modern commentaries, some specifically referring to it as the "Parable of the Vine".
The dictionary definition of parable is
The word parable is derived from two Greek words (para = beside and ballo = to cast or throw) and so literally means a throwing beside, in order that the truth about one may throw light on the other. In other words, something familiar is used to illustrate some truth which is less familiar.
An illustration of one of the best know parables is Nathan’s "short story" of the rich man who took the one little ewe lamb that belonged to a poor man (2Sa 12:1–4). Using this parable, God (through his prophet) reproved King David and convicted him of his sin of committing adultery with Bathsheba (2Sa 12:5-15).
Here in Ezekiel 15, God gives a parable to His prophet that solidifies in no uncertain terms the coming fate of the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
With this background in mind, I would recommend that you review the "Guidelines for Interpreting Parables" and apply these interpretative principles to this short chapter before you read the notes. I am amazed at the different interpretations that are found in conservative commentaries.
The parable in this chapter states that a vine in the forest (this description implying it may be a wild rather than a cultivated vine) is good for nothing except the fire. Although it is not stated in this parable, it should be noted that Israel is elsewhere portrayed as a choice vine of God (see below for the specific Scriptures), so the message in this parable is that she has failed to fulfill her purpose. And what was Israel's purpose? What fruit was expected from her "vines"? Israel was to be a light unto the nations, obeying God's statutes and living in such a way that she would glorify God or give a proper opinion of Him to the Gentiles. In Ezekiel chapter 5, God had said
Matthew Henry appropriately notes that
|Ezekiel 15:2 "Son of man, how is the wood of the vine better than any wood of a branch which is among the trees of the forest?|
|Amp: Son of man, How is the wood of the grapevine [Israel] more than that of any tree, the vine branch which was among the trees of the forest?|
Son of man, how is the wood of the vine better than any wood of a branch which is among the trees of the forest? (Ge49:22; Ps80:8-16; Song 2:13,15; 6:11; 7:12; 8:11,12; Is 5:1-7; Isa27:2-6 Jer2:21; Ezek 17:6 Ho10:1; Mt21:33-41; Mk12:1-9; Lk 20:9-16; Jn15:1-6) (Is44:23; Mic3:12; Zec11:2)
In the preceding section, we noted that this chapter is a short story or parable which gives a clear spiritual message. Although it is very tempting to ascribe a specific spiritual meaning and application to every detail in the parable, to do so will cause you to miss God's main point. Keep this caution (and the guidelines in the table above) in mind as you read through the notes in this section.
Note for example that the Amplified version (see above) translates "grapevine" as synonymous with Israel. While this is not a major error, it does show the failure to adhere to the basic principles of interpretation of parables, specifically that one should look in the parable or the immediate context of the parable for the explanation. In verse 6 God explains that the "wood of the vine among the trees of the forest" equates not with Israel per se, but specifically with "the inhabitants of Jerusalem." While clearly this detail is not a major issue, it does illustrate how easy one can fall into the trap of somewhat "loose" interpretation of parables.
Note that The comparison is not between the vine and other trees, but between the wood of the vine and the wood of other trees (e.g., "cedars of Lebanon… oaks of Bashan" Isa2:13).
Several commentaries interpret the "vine" as a wild, not cultivated vine, which has no function other than to be burned.
"Wood of the vine" in Hebrew is literally the "vine tree".
Who is the vine? As noted in the guidelines for interpreting parables, one can often find the interpretation of the parable and that is the case here where the vine equates with the "inhabitants of Jerusalem" as described in verse 6. This simple principle of interpretation is important to emphasize lest one arrive at conclusions not necessarily supported by the text as did one commentator who stated that
This is not an accurate interpretation.
The idea behind this first question ("how is the wood of the vine better… ?") may be that Israel thought she was "special" wood and indestructible because of her chosen status. Although this may be the intended meaning, I realize that one could be accused of trying to focus too specific of an interpretation from this detail in the parable. With that caveat, it is notable that C H Spurgeon seems to have had a similar thought writing in his sermon The Fruitless Vine (exposition on Ezek 15:1-2) that
|"These words are for the humbling of God's people (Ed note: In context Ezekiel is referring to Israel not the church - Spurgeon applies the principles to believers); they are called God's vine, but what are they by nature more than others? They, by God's goodness, have become fruitful, having been planted in a good soil; the Lord hath trained them upon the walls of the sanctuary, and they bring forth fruit to His glory; but what are they without their God? What are they without the continual influence of the Spirit, begetting fruitfulness in them? O believer, learn to reject pride, seeing that thou hast no ground for it. Whatever thou art, thou hast nothing to make thee proud. The more thou hast, the more thou art in debt to God; and thou shouldst not be proud of that which renders thee a debtor. Consider thine origin; look back to what thou wast. Consider what thou wouldst have been but for divine grace. Look upon thyself as thou art now. Doth not thy conscience reproach thee? Do not thy thousand wanderings stand before thee, and tell thee that thou art unworthy to be called his son? And if he hath made thee anything, art thou not taught thereby that it is grace which hath made thee to differ? Great believer, thou wouldst have been a great sinner if God had not made thee to differ. O thou who art valiant for truth, thou wouldst have been as valiant for error if grace had not laid hold upon thee. Therefore, be not proud, though thou hast a large estate-a wide domain of grace, thou hadst not once a single thing to call thine own except thy sin and misery. Oh! strange infatuation, that thou, who hast borrowed everything, shouldst think of exalting thyself; a poor dependent pensioner upon the bounty of thy Saviour, one who hath a life which dies without fresh streams of life from Jesus, and yet proud! Fie on thee, O silly heart!"|
|Ezekiel 15:3 "Can wood be taken from it to make anything, or can men take a peg from it on which to hang any vessel?|
|Can wood be taken from it to make anything, (Jer24:8; Mt5:13; Mk 9:50; Lk14:34,35)
Cooper surmises that
or can men take a peg from it on which to hang any vessel?
This is primarily a rhetorical question (asked primarily for effect) for the answer is obvious to all. The wood of a vine branch is useless and can't even be made into a simple peg on the wall to hold a dish!
What is the primary purpose of a "vine"? To bear fruit. Other trees, even those that fail to bear fruit, can be used for construction of other things (e.g., pecan or walnut furniture, etc), but a fruitless vine is a useless vine and has no value other than to be burned. Lest we as New Testament believers become too critical of the "inhabitants of Jerusalem", we need to take heed lest we fall.
Paul reminded the Ephesian believers that
The people of God have their value and are called to be fruitful. Jesus speaking to His apostles made their "privilege" and purpose clear declaring
Jesus added that
Is He "pruning" you right now? Be encouraged for He prunes with the purpose to increase your productivity. Jesus reminded the apostles (and NT saints) of the secret of bearing fruit declaring
And in (Jn15:8) Jesus reminds us that
Fruit bearing proves that one is a genuine fruit tree.
Jesus declared that God's people are to influence the culture around them for we
In simple language, "glorify" means to give a proper opinion of someone, in this case of God. Israel failed to fulfill her holy calling and did not give proper opinion of Jehovah. The inhabitants of Israel were no more than "vine tree" wood fit only for the fire of God's fury.
|Ezekiel 15:4 "If it has been put into the fire for fuel, and the fire has consumed both of its ends and its middle part has been charred, is it then useful for anything?|
|"If it has been put into the fire for fuel, and the fire has consumed both of its ends and its middle part has been charred, (Ps 80:16; Is 27:11; ; Heb 6:8) (Isa 1:31; Am 4:11; Mal 4:1; Mt 3:12; Heb12:29)
A dogmatic interpretation of this passage is not possible. The plain sense of this picture is that if the vine wood, in its perfect state, cannot be used for anything, how much less when it is partially scorched and consumed! One must be careful in attaching a specific meaning to every detail in a parable (see "Guidelines on Interpretation of A Parable" above) and the variety of "interpretations" of this verse is a perfect "object lesson" regarding that caution.
Some such as Cooper states somewhat dogmatically that
In Psalm 80 ("A Parable of the Vine") the psalmist records that
Jesus uses similar figurative language declaring that
The imagery here is that of destruction and it thus pictures the judgment awaiting all those who were never saved. Jesus was not teaching that someone who was saved could lose their salvation!
is it then useful for anything? What's the answer? Obviously "no". The implication is that the "inhabitants of Jerusalem" are no longer useful.
Excerpts from Spurgeon's sermon
As the vine without its fruit is useless and worthless; so, too, the professor, without fruit, is useless and worthless; yea, he is the most useless thing in the wide world. Now, let us dwell upon this point. A fruitless profession. And while I am preaching on it, let the words go round to each one, and let the minister, and let his deacons, and let his hearers all try their hearts and search their reins, and see whether they have a fruitless profession.
1. First, a fruitless professor. How do we know him? what is his character? Secondly, What is the reason he is fruitless? Thirdly, What is the estimation God holds him in? He is good for nothing at all. And, then, fourthly, What will be his end? He is to be burned with fire.
First, Where are we to find fruitless professors? Everywhere, dear friends, everywhere—down here, up there, everywhere; in pulpits and in pews. False professors are to be found in every church. Let us leave other denominations alone, then. They are to be found in this church; they are to be found in this present assembly. to whatever denomination you belong, there are some false and fruitless professors in it. How know you that you may not belong to those who bring forth no fruit? There are fruitless professors to be found in every position of the church, and in every part of society. You may find the false professor among the rich; he hath much wealth, and he is hailed with gladness by the church. God hath given him much of this world's good; and therefore, the church, forgetful that God hath chosen the poor, giveth him honor, and what doth she get from him? She getteth but little to help her. Her poor are still neglected, and her means not in the least recruited by his riches. Or if she gain a portion of his riches, yet she getteth none of his prayers; nor is she in the least supported by his holy living, for he that hath riches often liveth in sin, and rolleth in uncleanness; and, then, weareth his profession as a uniform, wherewith to cover his guilt. Rich men have sometimes been false professors; and thy are to be found among poor men too. Full many a poor man has entered into the church, and been cordially received. He has been poor, and they have thought it a good thing that poverty and grace should go together—that grace should cheer his hovel, and make his poverty-stricken home a glad one. But then, this poor man hath turned aside to follies, and hath degraded himself with drunkenness, hath sworn, and by unworthy conduct dishonored his God; or, if not, he hath been idle, and sat still, and been of little service to the church; and so he hath been false and fruitless in his profession.
False professors are to be found in the men that lead the vanguard of God's army; the men who preach eloquently, whose opinion is law, who speak like prophets, and whose language seems to be inspired. They have brought forth the fruit of popularity, ay, and the fruit of philanthropy too, but their heart has not been right with God, therefore, the fruit, good in itself, was not fruit unto holiness; the moral benefit of their labors does not extend to everlasting life. They have not brought forth the fruits of the Spirit, seeing that they were not living branches of the living vine. Then there have been false professors in obscurity; modest people, who have said nothing, and seldom been heard of; they have glided into their pews on the Sunday morning, taken their seats, gone out, and satisfied themselves that by their presence they had fulfilled a religious duty. They have been so silent, quiet, and retired. Lazy fellows, doing nothing. You may think that all the fruitless trees grow in the hedge outside of the garden. No they don't. There are some fruitless trees in the inside of it in the very center of it. There are some fruitless trees in the inside of it in the very center of it. There are some false professors to be found in obscurity as well as in publicity; some among the poor as well as among the rich.
And there are false professors to be found among men that doubt a great deal. They are always afraid they do not love Jesus, and always saying, "Ah, if I did but know I were his!—
"'Tis a point I long to know,
Yes, and it ought to cause them anxious thought, too, if they are bringing forth no fruit and giving no "diligence to make their calling and election sure." Fruitless professors are to be found, on the other hand, among the confident men, who say, without a blush, "I know whom I have believed; I know I am a Christian, let who will doubt. I am sure and certain my sins can not destroy me, and my righteousness can not save me. I may do what I like; I know I am one of the Lord's." Ah! fruitless professor again; just as fruitless as the other man, who had all doubts and no faith, and did nothing for his Master.
And then there is the fruitless professor, who, when he is asked to pray at the prayer meeting, never does so; and who neglects family prayer. We will not say any thing about private devotion; no doubt he neglects that too: he is a fruitless one. Ah! but there may be another, who stands up and prays such an eloquent prayer for a quarter of an hour, perhaps, just as fruitless a professor as the silent one; with plenty of words, but no realities; many leaves, but no fruits; great gifts of utterance, but no gifts of consistency; able to talk well, but not to walk well; to speak piously, but not to walk humbly with his God, and serve him with gladness. I do not know your individual characters; but I know enough of you to say that your position, however honorable in the church, and your character, however fair before men, is not enough to warrant any of you in concluding at once that you are not a fruitless professor. For fruitless professors are of every character and every rank, from the highest to the lowest, from the most talented to the most illiterate, from the richest to the poorest, from the most retiring to the most conspicuous. Fruitless professors there are in every part of the church.
Now, shall I tell you who is a fruitless professor? The man who neglects private prayer, and does not walk with his God in public; that man whose carriage and conversation before God are hypocritical; who cheats in trade and robs in business, yet wraps it up, and comes out with a fair face, like the hypocrite with a widow's house sticking in his throat, and says, "Lord, I thank thee I am not as other men are!" There is a man for you, who brings forth no fruit to perfection. Another one is he who lives right morally and excellently, and depends upon his works, and hopes to be saved by his righteousness; who comes before God, and asks for pardon, with a lie in his right hand, for he has brought his own self-righteousness with him. Such a man is a fruitless professor; he has brought forth no fruit. That man, again, is a fruitless professor who talks big words about high doctrine, and likes sound truth, but he does not like sound living; his pretensions are high, but not his practice. He can bear to hear it said, "Once in Christ, in Christ for ever," But as for himself, he never was in Christ at all, for he neither loves nor serves his Master, but lives in sin that grace may abound. There is another fruitless vine for you." (For the full exposition click The Fruitless Vine)
|Ezekiel 15:5 "Behold, while it is intact, it is not made into anything. How much less, when the fire has consumed it and it is charred, can it still be made into anything!|
|Matthew Henry comments on the charred wood of a vine
|Ezekiel 15:6 "Therefore, thus says the Lord GOD, 'As the wood of the vine among the trees of the forest, which I have given to the fire for fuel, so have I given up the inhabitants of Jerusalem;|
|Therefore This marks the beginning of the "explanation" of the "parable" of the "vine tree".
Thus says the Lord GOD, 'As the wood of the vine among the trees of the forest, which I have given to the fire for fuel,
Keil and Delitzsch comment that
so have I given up the inhabitants of Jerusalem; (Ezek 15:2; 17:3-10; 20:47,48; Is5:1-6,24,25; Jer4:7; 7:20; 21:7; 24:8-10; Jer25:9-11,18; 44:21-27; Zech1:6) The comparison is between the wood of the vine and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, which is destined for burning in the coming Babylonian destruction.
Ezekiel's contemporary echoes this judgment recording the Lord God's declaration
|Ezekiel 15:7 and I set My face against them. Though they have come out of the fire, yet the fire will consume them. Then you will know that I am the LORD, when I set My face against them. 8 'Thus I will make the land desolate, because they have acted unfaithfully,' " declares the Lord GOD|
|and I set My face against them (Ezek 14:8; Lv17:10; 20:3, 4, 5, 6; 26:17; Je21:10) Click here for all 9 occurrences of this phrase ("set My face against"). This is a terrifying picture of the Almighty Omnipotent God leaving no question about Who is bringing the judgment and also no question about whether that judgment will in fact transpire as prophesied!
The psalmist records that
In Amos God says in no uncertain terms that the people of Israel are in "big trouble" declaring that
Though they have come out of the fire, yet the fire will consume them. Many of the survivors of the siege of Jerusalem died soon after its capture (Jer 39:6; 41:3; 44:27, 28).
Then you will know that I am the LORD, when I set My face against them (Ezek 6:7; 7:4; 11:10; 20:38,42,44; Ps9:16) This is the repeated emphasis of God's hand of judgment -- that they would know that He is the LORD.
Thus I will make the land desolate (14:13-21; Is6:11; 24:3-12; Je25:10,11; Zeph1:18) Although this prophecy was partially fulfilled in 586 BC, "the land" (a term found frequently in the OT as a reference to Israel) will experience a final and more devastating fire in the time referred to by Jesus as the "great tribulation" (Mt 24:15,21)) or the "time of Jacob's distress" (Jer 30:7), which describes the final three and one half year period that precedes the triumphant return of the Messiah Who defeats the anti-Christ and establishes His 1000 year kingdom in Jerusalem (cf Rev 19-20)
The "I will's" of God are wonderful when they are promises for blessing but they are terrifying when they are promises of His wrath.
This repeats God's earlier decree that
In Ezekiel 33 God says that
In Jeremiah's prophecy, Jehovah declares
Cooper notes that
because they have acted unfaithfully,' " declares the Lord GOD (more literally this read "they have trespassed a trespass") The Jews were not merely sinners as the other nations, for it is one thing to neglect what we know not, but quite another thing to despise what we profess to worship, as the Jews did towards God and the law.
The writer of Chronicles records that
In Jeremiah God says
One of the most tragic passages in the Old Testament records that
Matthew Henry summarizes this section with an application writing