The “Tree” Whose Fall Shocks the World
“At the sound of its downfall I shall certainly cause nations to rock when I bring it down to Sheʹol with those going down into the pit, and in the land down below all the trees of Eden, the choicest and the best of Lebanon, all those drinking water, will be comforted.”—Ezek. 31:16.
1. Why can the cutting down of a particular tree produce feelings of sadness?
WE HUMANS can develop an affection for a tree. Stirred by such sentimental feeling for a mere tree, the poet addressed his words of protest to a man armed with an ax and said: “Woodman, spare that tree! Touch not a single bough! In youth it sheltered me, and I’ll protect it now.” A stately tree, grown to the magnificence of its full stature, can call forth the admiration of many beholders. The beauty of trees awakened the soul of the poet to burst forth with the words: “I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree. . . . Poems are made by fools like me, but only God can make a tree.” Because of heartfelt attachment to such a handiwork of God, the cutting down of a particular tree can produce feelings of sorrow.
2. With regard to worship of trees, what questions is it good to ask ourselves?
2 The worship of trees is not uncommon throughout the earth. The insistence of religious celebrators that a gaudily decorated, brilliantly lit evergreen tree must mark the occasion on December 25 of each year smacks of such tree worship. For thousands of years there has been a “tree” that has captured the attention and admiration of the whole world of mankind. Their attitude and actions toward it prove them to be worshipers of this “tree” of worldwide prominence. Cold disbelief and eager curiosity may move us to ask, What is that “tree”? Do I worship it?
3. Why does mankind think that this “tree” will never fall?
3 It is an old “tree,” now more than 4,200 years old. So it could be described and talked about more than two and a half millenniums ago. From writings of that long ago we can pick a fine description of this tree, which has entrenched itself so long and has become so deeply rooted in our earth that mankind thinks that it will never fall by any means. Here is the description:
4, 5. According to Ezekiel 31:3-9, what contributes to the matchless prettiness of this “tree”?
4 “A cedar in Lebanon, pretty in bough, with a woody thicket offering shadow, and high in stature, so that among the clouds its treetop proved to be. Waters were what made it get big; the watery deep caused it to grow high. With its streams it [the watery deep] was going all around its planting place; and its channels it [the watery deep] sent forth to all the trees of the field. That is why it grew higher in its stature than all the other trees of the field.
5 “And its boughs kept multiplying, and its branches continued getting longer because of much water in its watercourses. On its boughs all the flying creatures of the heavens made their nests, and under its branches all the wild beasts of the field gave birth, and in its shade all the populous nations would dwell. And it came to be pretty in its greatness, in the length of its foliage, for its root system proved to be over many waters. Other cedars were no match for it in the garden of God. As for juniper trees, they bore no resemblance as respects its boughs. And plane trees themselves did not prove to be like it in branches. No other tree in the garden of God resembled it in its prettiness. Pretty is the way that I made it in the abundance of its foliage, and all the other trees of Eden that were in the garden of the true God kept envying it.”—Ezek. 31:3-9.
6. Why can man take no credit for planting the cedars of Lebanon?
6 The Republic of Lebanon has been much in the world news in recent years, but the cedars on the mountains of Lebanon have been famous for millenniums. (Note Judges 9:15.) No man planted those tall wide-spreading cedars there. Cedar trees were already on site before the confusion of the human language at the Tower of Babel scattered the builders in all directions from ancient Babylon on the Euphrates River, in the second century after the global flood. The Creator of heaven and earth takes the credit for planting those cedars. So Psalm 80:10 speaks of them as “the cedars of God,” and Psalm 104:16 calls them “the cedars of Lebanon that he [Jehovah] planted.”
7. How did God talk about the location of the cedar tree, and did this mean that Paradise had been restored to earth?
7 The fact that these cedars, together with the juniper and plane trees, were said to be in Eden and in “the garden of God” does not mean that the garden of Eden was restored after the deluge of Noah’s day, 2370 B.C.E. Rather, the location of this particular cedar was so pleasant, so Edenic, so like man’s original home, that it was like “the garden of God.” The Hebrew word for “garden” (gan) means, basically, a “fenced-in or enclosed place”; and we remember that the original “garden of Eden” had a passageway “at the east of the garden” through which the disobedient Adam and Eve were driven out and where God stationed the cherubs “to guard the way to the tree of life.”—Gen. 3:24.
8. Where did Ezekiel 28:11-14 say that the king of the Lebanon seaport of Tyre was located, and why?
8 In the days of the prophecy of Ezekiel the cedar-famed land of Lebanon was so beautiful that Ezekiel was inspired to say to the king of Tyre (a seaport of Lebanon): “In Eden, the garden of God, you proved to be. . . . You are the anointed cherub that is covering, and I have set you. On the holy mountain of God you proved to be.” (Ezek. 28:11-14) Quite appropriately, then, in the seventh century B.C.E. this specially “pretty” cedar of Lebanon was spoken of as being in Eden, in “the garden of God.” It was therefore in a highly favored location, with fine possibilities.
ITS MEANING IN 1977 C.E.
9. According to what is said to dwell under the shade of that “pretty” cedar of Lebanon, what sort of thing does it picture?
9 We, of modern times, are concerned, not so much with things of more than 2,500 years ago, but especially with those of our day, things having a connection with us and that affect us. So does this “pretty” tree, this “cedar in Lebanon,” picture anything on the modern scene? How are we going to determine this correctly? Well, for one thing, the prophecy says that, not only did the birds lodge on its far-reaching branches and the wild beasts give birth to their young beneath it, but “in its shade all the populous nations would dwell.” Also: “At the sound of its downfall I [Jehovah] shall certainly cause nations to rock.” (Ezek. 31:6, 16) Those words carry political overtones. They indicate that this upstanding “cedar in Lebanon” pictures something political. It does!
10. In harmony with its political significance, to whom is the prophecy about the “cedar in Lebanon” addressed?
10 Even the ancient application of Ezekiel’s prophecy makes certain that the “cedar in Lebanon” pictures something political. Back there, to whom was the prophecy addressed? Ezekiel tells us, saying: “And it occurred further that in the eleventh year [607 B.C.E.], in the third month [the spring month of Sivan], on the first day of the month [five days before the feast of Pentecost], the word of Jehovah occurred to me, saying: ‘Son of man, say to Pharaoh the king of Egypt and to his crowd, “Whom have you come to resemble in your greatness? Look! An Assyrian, a cedar in Lebanon, pretty in bough, with a woody thicket offering shadow, and high in stature, so that among the clouds its treetop proved to be.”’”—Ezek. 31:1-3.
11. What was indicated by the comparison of Pharaoh and his crowd to “an Assyrian”?
11 Ah! Here we have it! “Pharaoh the king of Egypt and . . . his crowd” were likened to the unusually tall, long-boughed cedar on a mountain of Lebanon. They are also said to resemble “an Assyrian,” but the bulk of the prophecy is given to the “cedar in Lebanon” and what happens to it rather than to the “Assyrian.” The comparison of them to “an Assyrian” would convey the idea of great military and political strength. Down to twenty-five years before Ezekiel’s prophecy, the Assyrian Empire had been the world power of the day and had eclipsed the Egyptian Empire, the previous world power of Bible prophecy. It had even occupied part of Egyptian territory. But now, in the prophet Ezekiel’s day, Egypt was the chief contender against the Babylonian Empire, the new world power, the Third World Power. So the comparison of Pharaoh and his crowd to “an Assyrian” indicates that even then Egypt was a political factor that still had to be taken into account, by Babylon.
12. How was Egypt, even in Ezekiel’s day, still like that tall, overshadowing “cedar in Lebanon”?
12 Even in Ezekiel’s time the Jewish government of Jerusalem had appealed to Egypt for military aid against the expanding empire of Babylon. (Ezek. 17:7-17) There is no questioning that Egypt still held international influence. (Jer. 37:5-7) Thus Pharaoh the king of Egypt and his crowd were still like a tall political, military structure that reached up higher than cedars of Lebanon that can grow to the height of a hundred feet (30 meters) or more. Like a cedar of Lebanon that extends out its lower branches so far that they make the tallest cedar look squat, Egypt of that time even challenged Babylon and offered shade to nations that chose to ally themselves to the land of the Nile and to come under the protection of its wide-spreading branches of military aid. Egypt still looked “pretty in bough” to distressed nations back there, who preferred alliance with Egypt to submission to Babylon, which power Jehovah God was then using as his instrument for executing divine wrath.
13, 14. Today, does the “cedar in Lebanon” picture the Egypt of our time, or what, and on what Scriptural basis?
13 That was all very interesting and exciting for two and a half millenniums ago, but what about today? Certainly the prophecy of the “cedar in Lebanon” cannot be fitted to Egypt of our modern day, which is now occupied by the Arab Republic of Egypt under Moslem control. We agree that the prophecy cannot, today, be applied that way. Especially because the inspired Bible does not apply it that way. So what is this magnificently “pretty” cedar of Lebanon of today? What or whom do Pharaoh the king of Egypt and his crowd resemble now, in our twentieth century? What today is the symbolic “cedar in Lebanon,” the fall of which will shortly shock the world?
14 The doomed “tree” symbolizes something that is not generally recognized today. What? A spiritual Egypt! If, now, we turn to the last book of the Sacred Bible, there, in Revelation 11:8, the inspired apostle John writes: “And their corpses will be on the broad way of the great city which is in a spiritual sense called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was also impaled.” The one called “their Lord” is the Lord Jesus Christ, and the ones whose corpses lay exposed in the city’s broad way are the faithful followers or disciples of Christ. In Revelation 11:3, those disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ are called “my two witnesses,” and they get killed for preaching a gloomy, unpopular message to the nations.
15. What objection is there to applying the term “Egypt” in Revelation 11:8 to the literal land of Egypt?
15 In what “great city” were these modern-day “witnesses” killed and their corpses left lying exposed to public shame? Not in the capital city of modern Egypt. Certainly Jesus Christ, the “Lord” of these witnesses, was not impaled down in first-century Egypt, for Revelation 11:8 says that the Lord’s “witnesses” were killed and exposed in the same place in which he was impaled in the year 33 of our Common Era. We are helped to understand when we note that the “great city” is symbolic and it “is in a spiritual sense called Sodom and Egypt.” So this would exclude the literal city of Sodom, which was then out of existence, and also the literal land of Egypt, which was then subject to the Roman Empire. In a spiritual sense, then, where was the Lord Jesus Christ impaled and his true disciples killed and exposed?
16, 17. So, in what symbolic “great city” was it that the Lord Jesus Christ was impaled?
16 Well, a “city” is a political organization, and a “great city” would be a great political organization, a great system of government. Ancient Sodom was once a political organization, and ancient Egypt was a land with a mighty political system that made it for centuries the First World Power of Bible prophecy. Consequently, what is called Egypt “in a spiritual sense” must be the worldwide system of political rulership, the political structure of man rule by man-made governments. In the midst of such a “great city” the Lord Jesus Christ was “impaled” back in 33 C.E., outside the city of Jerusalem. The world of mankind is part and parcel of this system of things. So where Jesus Christ was impaled was in this world that upholds this system of things. Accordingly, he said to his disciples:
17 “As long as I am in the world, I am the world’s light.” (John 9:5) “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were part of the world, the world would be fond of what is its own. Now because you are no part of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, on this account the world hates you.”—John 15:18, 19.
18. How did Jesus’ death as a sacrificial lamb on a certain day harmonize with the idea of his being impaled in spiritual Egypt?
18 Not in literal Egypt, out of which he was once brought as a child, but in what is called Egypt “in a spiritual sense” Jesus Christ was sacrificed as “the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.” (Matt. 2:13-21; John 1:29, 36) Not by mere chance was the Lord Jesus Christ sacrificed as the Lamb of God on Passover Day of 33 C.E. Why not? Because he had been foreshadowed by the lamb that was sacrificed by the Israelites on that first Passover Day of the year 1513 B.C.E. down in ancient Egypt. The Egyptians who did not sacrifice a Passover lamb and sprinkle its blood upon their doorways lost their firstborn ones of man and beast. This led to Pharaoh’s releasing the Israelites from slavery that they might go out a free, liberated people.
19. So from what is it that Christ’s disciples are delivered in correspondency with Israel’s deliverance from ancient Egypt?
19 In that ancient deliverance of Jehovah’s chosen people, what did the land of Egypt picture? Also, what did Pharaoh and his crowd picture? The plague-stricken land of Egypt pictured this worldly system of things, and Pharaoh and his crowd pictured the ruling factors of this system. In this “spiritual Egypt” it was that “Christ our passover has been sacrificed. Consequently let us [Christ’s disciples] keep the festival.” (1 Cor. 5:7, 8) In full accord with this truth, the Egypt from which the faithful disciples of the Lamb Jesus Christ are delivered is this worldly system of things. That is why Christ’s disciples are told, in Galatians 1:3, 4: “May you have undeserved kindness and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. He gave himself for our sins that he might deliver us from the present wicked system of things.”
20. What, then, does the “cedar in Lebanon” picture in our day, and when did this have its beginning?
20 From this, what do we rightly conclude? That the “cedar in Lebanon,” which in the prophet Ezekiel’s day pictured “Pharaoh the king of Egypt and . . . his crowd,” pictures something larger today. It pictures the world system of things in which the political ruling factors govern all the earthly nations. Although it is likened to the cedar that was the envy of all the other trees in the Edenic land of Lebanon, this system of things was not planted by Jehovah God, who planted those evergreen trees in the literal land of Lebanon, which was then like “the garden of God.” As far as the Planter’s record, the Sacred Bible, shows, the symbolic political “cedar in Lebanon” had its beginning on earth in the days of the mighty hunter, Nimrod, the founder of the first Babylonian empire, in the second century after the deluge of Noah’s day. Just as Nimrod, the great-grandson of Noah, rebelled against the universal sovereignty of Noah’s God, Jehovah, so too, the symbolic “cedar in Lebanon” does not recognize the sovereignty of the Most High God but defies it.—Gen. 10:8-12; 1 Chron. 1:8-10.
21. What popular course have the nations of the world taken toward the “cedar of Lebanon”?
21 Drawing upon the human resources at its disposal like a watery deep, it has tried to exalt itself above Jehovah God, as it were, sticking its treetop into the clouds. It has multiplied its boughs and extended its branches so as to exercise domination over all of God’s “footstool,” the earth. (Isa. 66:1; Matt. 5:35) Under its sturdy structure all the man-made governments, even “all the populous nations,” have taken up their dwelling down till this day. (Ezek. 31:4-6) In course of time, even the nation of Israel, whom Jehovah God planted in the Promised Land of Palestine, was tempted to follow the course of these worldly nations, to its great hurt. But in the taking of this popular course there has been one exception. What is this exception? Do we want to belong to it, and gain everlasting benefit, or imitate the course of “all the populous nations”? We now need help to make the right choice!
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POLITICAL RULERSHIP WORLD WIDE