Ezekiel 31 is part of the prophet’s oracles against Egypt (chs. 29-32). The chapter strikes an analogy between the mighty nation of Egypt and a great cedar tree in Eden, the envy of other glorious trees in the garden of God. The symbol of the “world tree” or “cosmic tree” is well known, not only to scholars of the ancient Near East, but other cultures as well. The cosmic tree represents a mythological pillar or column that unites all elements of Israel’s ancient three-tiered cosmology. Its branches reach the heavens; its trunk is fixed to the earth, while its roots descend into the subterranean deep of Sheol. It gives life to everything living thing yet it intersects with the realm of the dead. As with Ezekiel 28, many scholars presume the point of that the great tree is Adam, to whom Pharaoh is being compared and judged for his hubris. This common assumption misses the meaning of the primeval cosmic tree and its associated forest as this episode details.
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