Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New TestamentEZEKIEL 29
FIRST OF FOUR CHAPTERS DIRECTED AGAINST EGYPT
"The first sixteen verses here are an introduction to the entire four chapters against Egypt. They describe the fate of Egypt, cite the sins of which she was guilty and indicate the nature of her judgment, and her future place among the nations of the world."F1
Ezekiel has seven oracles against Egypt, the first two of which are in this chapter: (1) Ezek. 29:1-16; (2) Ezek. 29:17-21; (3) Ezek. 30:1-19; (4) Ezek. 30:20-26; (5) Ezek. 31; (6) Ezek. 32:1-16; and (7) Ezek. 32:17-32.
The date of this prophecy is specific. "It was a year and two days after Nebuchadnezzar began the siege of Jerusalem, and seven months before its destruction."F2 This was in January, 587 B.C.F3 "This was about the time when Pharaoh Hophra's approach toward Jerusalem with an army caused Nebuchadnezzar temporarily to lift the siege, as recorded in Jer. 37:5.F4
The chapter naturally falls into these divisions: (1) the crocodile captured and destroyed (Ezekiel 29:1-7); (2) the allegory applied (Ezekiel 29:8-12); (3) the restoration of Egypt after forty years (Ezekiel 29:13-16); (4) Egypt awarded to Nebuchadnezzar as `wages' for his ruin of Tyre (Ezekiel 29:17-20); and (5) a glimpse of a New Age for Israel (Ezekiel 29:21).
THE CROCODILE CAPTURED AND DESTROYED
In the tenth year, in the tenth [month], in the twelfth [day] of the month, the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, Son of man, set thy face against Pharaoh king of Egypt, and prophesy against him, and against all Egypt; speak, and say, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Behold, I am against thee, Pharaoh king of Egypt, the great monster that lieth in the midst of his rivers, that hath said, My river is mine own, and I have made it for myself. And I will put hooks in thy jaws, and I will cause the fish of thy rivers to stick unto thy scales; and I will bring thee up out of the midst of thy rivers, with all the fish of thy rivers which stick unto thy scales. And I will cast thee forth into the wilderness, thee and all the fish of thy rivers: thou shalt fall upon the open field; thou shalt not be brought together, nor gathered; I have given thee for food to the beasts of the earth and to the birds of the heavens. And all the inhabitants of Egypt shall know that I am Jehovah, because they have been a staff of reed to the house of Israel. When they took hold of thee by thy hand, thou didst break, and didst rend all their shoulders; and when they leaned upon thee, thou brakest, and madest all their loins to be at a stand.
The twelfth day of the month
(Ezekiel 29:1). F. F. Bruce gave this day as the 7th of January, 587 B.C.F5
The great monster that lieth in the midst of his rivers
(Ezekiel 29:3). The word here means crocodile, an appropriate symbol indeed for Pharaoh and his nation. He was a terrible looking monster, not nearly as dangerous as he looked, lethargic and inactive most of the time. Of course, some of our radical commentators automatically find all kinds of mythological connections with a reference of this kind; but as Cooke stated, Mythological associations are foreign to this context.F6 Furthermore, Pearson, writing in 1962, makes the same affirmation.F7 Despite this, May, quoting some various readings, thought he found here some reflections of Sumerian mythology.F8
Historically, there is no excuse whatever for seeking sources here in ancient mythology. The crocodile was a well-known symbol of Egypt, found on Roman coins of that vintage, and being universally understood as a symbol of Egypt and its Pharaohs.F9
The fish. which stick to thy scales ..
(Ezekiel 29:4). This represents the subjects, dependents, and allies of Pharaoh who would inevitably share in his ruin and downfall.
I have given thee for food to the beasts, etc
(Ezekiel 29:5). The death prophesied here for Pharaoh was especially repulsive to the Egyptian, due to the care they usually bestowed upon their dead bodies, especially those of the Pharaohs.
Two reasons are here assigned as the prior causes of the terrible punishment God was bringing upon them. (1) Pharaoh had arrogated unto himself divine prerogatives, in the same manner as the prince of Tyre, even claiming to have created the Nile River! (Ezekiel 29:3). (2) Egypt had bitterly deceived and betrayed Israel upon those occasions when, contrary to God's warning, that had formed military alliances with Egypt. They had proved to be a "broken reed" indeed upon which Israel had vainly depended for help. Still another reason is cited later in Ezek. 29:9b-16. (3) "Egypt possessed an exaggerated sense of self-sufficiency."F10
Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Behold, I will bring a sword upon thee, and will cut off from thee man and beast. And the land of Egypt shall be a desolation and a waste; and they shall know that I am Jehovah. Because he hath said, The river is mine, and I have made it; therefore, behold, I am against thee, and against thy rivers, and I will make the land of Egypt an utter waste and desolation, from the tower of Seveneh even unto the border of Ethiopia. No foot of man shall pass through it, nor foot of beast shall pass through it, neither shall it be inhabited forty years. And I will make the land of Egypt a desolation in the midst of the countries that are desolate; and her cities among the cities that are laid waste shall be a desolation forty years; and I will scatter the Egyptians among the nations, and will disperse them through the countries.
THE ALLEGORY APPLIED
I will bring a sword upon thee
(Ezekiel 29:8). This was the sword of Nebuchadnezzar, identified in Ezek. 29:17, below.
A desolation for forty years
(Ezekiel 29:11,12). This is the big problem in this prophecy, because nearly all of the scholars seem very sure that there was never such a long period of desolation in the whole history of Egypt. However, there is too much that men do not know about the history of those times to allow very much dependence to be put in such opinions. Nebuchadnezzar did indeed capture Egypt, following the fall of Tyre; and if what that ruthless ruler did to Jerusalem is any gauge of what he probably did to Egypt, we may be very sure that Ezekiel's prophecy was no exaggeration. Our inability to prove just exactly what all that desolation was cannot in any manner detract from the most circumstantial and accurate fulfillment of that later promise in this same prophecy regarding the perpetual place of Egypt throughout following history, in which the perpetual mediocrity of the nation was foretold. Our argument is that this portion of the prophecy alone proves the divine inspiration of the whole prophecy, and the believer should have no problem with trusting God for the fulfillment of the rest of it, whether or not, modern commentators know all about it.
For thus saith the Lord Jehovah: At the end of forty years will I gather the Egyptians from the peoples whither they were scattered; and I will bring back the captivity of Egypt, and will cause them to return into the land of Pathros, into the land of their birth; and they shall be there a base kingdom. It shall be the basest of the kingdoms; neither shall it any more lift itself up above the nations: and I will diminish them, that they shall no more rule over the nations. And it shall be no more the confidence of the house of Israel, bringing iniquity to remembrance, when they turn to look after them: and they shall know that I am the Lord Jehovah.
RESTORATION OF EGYPT AFTER FORTY YEARS
There is not a more remarkable prophecy in all the Word of God than this one.
It (Egypt) shall be the basest of the kingdoms
(Ezekiel 29:15). Egypt throughout all subsequent history has continued to remain a nation of secondary strength and importance. Babylon dominated her; then Persia dominated her; then the Greeks under Alexander the Great were her masters; after them came the Seleucids, and still later the Romans! What a remarkable fulfillment of the words of this prophecy. Even modern times have revealed no change whatever in the continued secondary status of Egypt, that once-great nation which preceded Assyria, Babylon, and other great world powers as the monolithic terror of the whole world, and for a long period rivaled her successors as a world power.
And it came to pass in the seven and twentieth year, in the first [month], in the first [day] of the month, the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, Son of man, Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon caused his army to serve a great service against Tyre: every head was made bald, and every shoulder was worn; yet had he no wages, nor his army, from Tyre, for the service that he had served against it. Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Behold, I will give the land of Egypt unto Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon; and he shall carry off her multitude, and take her spoil, and take her prey; and it shall be the wages for his army. I have given him the land of Egypt as his recompense for which he served, because they wrought for me, saith the Lord Jehovah.
EGYPT GIVEN TO NEBUCHADNEZZAR AS "WAGES"
The date in Ezek. 29:17, according to Bruce, is April 26, 571 B.C.F11 This was about a year after the end of the 13-year siege of Tyre. This, of course, is the last of Ezekiel's prophecies chronologically; but it is included here because of the subject matter. "The date given here is two years later than the vision of chapter 40."F12
Despite the fall of Tyre and its subsequent domination under a high commissioner from Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar received no significant spoil from its capture. Many have suggested that perhaps Tyre had had sufficient time to ship all of their treasures elsewhere. Egypt may well have been a cooperating partner with Tyre in such a project, giving credence to Bruce's suggestion that such actions on Egypt's part would have been a sufficient "casus belli" to result in Nebuchadnezzar's immediate declaration of war against Egypt.F13
Nebuchadnezzar appears here as "the servant of God" in his siege of Tyre, and his eventual spoil of Egypt is seen as a God-given reward for him as compensation for the failure of Tyre to yield any loot to her conquerors. "In all of Nebuchadnezzar's campaigns, he was unconsciously carrying out the purposes of the Divine will (See Jer. 25:9).F14
McFadyen commented that "The appearance in this chapter of prophecies which men have labeled as `untilled' may fairly be regarded as proof that in the mind of Ezekiel they had been or indeed would be essentially fulfilled."F15
There is no admission here that Nebuchadnezzar's mission against Tyre failed. Jamieson tells us that Jerome, quoting Assyrian historians, expressly states that Nebuchadnezzar succeeded.F16 Afterward from the long siege, "The power of Tyre was broken, and she never regained her former greatness."F17
In that day will I cause a horn to bud forth unto the house of Israel, and I will give thee the opening of the mouth in the midst of them; and they shall know that I am Jehovah.
A GLIMPSE OF A NEW AGE FOR ISRAEL
The first statement here has the earmarks of a Messianic promise; but the last half of the verse appears to limit it to those projected "better times" when Ezekiel will be able to open his mouth freely unto God's people, who shall at that time truly learn that the Lord is Jehovah.
We cannot explain exactly how these two declarations relate to each other, or how they belong in the same verse. Nevertheless, we are unwilling to give up the Messianic import of the initial clause.
"In that day" is usually a reference to the Messianic dispensation; and we believe it is that in this verse. Furthermore "a horn" unto the house of David is a prophecy of the revival of the Davidic dynasty; and that took place only in the elevation of Jesus Christ to the right hand of God (Acts 2). Ps. 132:17, and Luke 1:69 demonstrate this common usage of the term "horn."
Keil pointed out that "The horn in this passage is the Messianic salvation. The words are unquestionably connected with God's promise to Ezekiel in Ezek. 24:26-27, that after the fall of Jerusalem, the mouth of Ezekiel will be opened; but they have a much more comprehensive meaning, namely, that with the dawn of salvation in Israel, i.e., in the church of the Lord, the word of prophecy would sound forth in the richest measure."F18
This characteristic of sweet promises of the ultimate victory of the people of God is a hallmark of true prophecy. We should be disappointed if it were not here, just as it is in countless other places throughout the Word of God.
Footnotes for Ezekiel 29
1: John Skinner in the Expositor's Bible Commentary, p. 266.
2: Charles Lee Feinberg in Ezekiel (Moody Press), p. 167.
3: J. B. Thompson, p. 199.
4: Albert Barnes' Commentary, p. 371.
5: F. F. Bruce in the New Layman's Bible Commentary, p. 887.
6: International Critical Commentary, p. 326.
7: Anton T. Pearson in Wycliffe Bible Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1962), p. 747.
8: H. G. May in the Interpreter's Bible, p. 224,
9: Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown's Commentary, p. 603.
10: J. B. Thompson, p. 321.
11: F. F. Bruce in the New Layman's Bible Commentary, p. 887.
12: George Barlow, The Preacher's Complete Homiletic Commentary (New York: Funk and Wagnalls Company, 1891), p. 318.
13: F. F. Bruce in the New Layman's Bible Commentary, p. 887.
14: George Barlow, The Preacher's Complete Homiletic Commentary (New York: Funk and Wagnalls Company, 1891), p. 319.
15: J. E. McFadyen, Peake's Commentary on the Bible (London: T. C. and E. C. Jack, Ltd., 1924), p. 514.
16: Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown's Commentary, p. 604.
17: WE, p. 407.
18: Carl Friedrich Keil, Keil-Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company) Vol. 2, p. 14.