Barry Newman's Blog

November 23, 2012

The Parable of the Mustard Seed (part XII)

Filed under: Parables of Jesus,The parable of the Mustard Seed — barrynewman @ 8:17 pm

Old Testament Allusions? (part 2)

That the Ezekiel 17 parable refers to “every bird of every wing” or even simply “every bird” could be understood to suggest that the birds referred to have some special significance.  As mentioned above I suspect that the reference is to “peoples of all nations”. The birds of Ezekiel 31 and Daniel 4 could also be understood to have special significance. In one case the reference is possibly, if not probably, to other nations and in the other the reference is possibly, if not probably, to supporters of the monarch.  That all three parables can be understood as portraying the birds as especially significant lends weight to the idea that the reference to “birds” in the parable that Jesus told is also especially significant.

However, if Jesus wanted to make a clear allusion to Ezekiel 17 why did he refer to a mustard seed and not a twig from a cedar tree and to “birds of the air” rather than “every bird of every kind.”?  Does the answer lie in his choice for the parable of “the grain of mustard”, “the smallest of all seeds” (Matthew and Mark)?

Yet a further matter to consider is the context of the Ezekiel 17 parable of the great cedar. .  Prior to the parable, the prophet writes of how Lord (Yahweh) in judgment will bring the king (Zedekiah) to Babylon. The king has broken his covenant with the Babylonians (by making an alliance with Egypt against Babylon)), a covenant which is spoken of as a covenant with the Lord.  That is, the kingdom associated with Zedekiah, shall fall.  It is then that the parable of the great cedar is introduced – a parable which at hearty conveys the idea that God will establish a kingdom of his own making.  At the conclusion of the parable, the prophet writes of Yahweh saying, “And all the trees of the field shall know that I Yahweh bring down the high tree, exalt the low tree, dry up the green tree and make the dry tree flourish.”  This seems to be a reference to other kingdoms recognising the power of God as he removes a kingdom and replaces it with one that has an inauspicious beginning but indeed flourishes.  The parable that Jesus told makes no reference to others perceiving what God does yet it does contain the idea of greatness coming from small beginnings.  Again, there are aspects of the Ezekiel 17 parable which are paralleled in the parable that Jesus told and there are aspects that are not so reflected.

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