Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New TestamentEZEKIEL 32
FINAL CHAPTER AGAINST EGYPT WITH ORACLES (6) Ezek. 32:1-16 AND (7) Ezek. 32:17-32
This chapter has the final two of seven oracles against Egypt in Ezek. 29--32. The first of these, Ezek. 32:1-16 is a prophecy of the, "Monster of Egypt, caught, slain and devoured."F1 There are two parts of this, (a) the allegorical representation of it (Ezekiel 32:1-10), and (b) a literal explanation of what that meant (Ezekiel 32:11-16).
The final oracle recounts the transfer of Egypt and his multitude to Sheol, the realm of the dead, a remarkable paragraph which constitutes the most extensive discussion in the Old Testament on the subject of the Underworld. "It has the most graphic portrayal of the Pit, or Sheol, in the Old Testament."F2
Cooke stated that it illustrates more vividly than any other passage in the Old Testament the notions of the Underworld current in those times.F3 (1) It is international and universal. Great and small, foreign and remote peoples are all there. (2) It is conceived of as "in the depths of the earth." The grave is only six feet deep; but in the sense of its significance it indeed goes to the "heart of the earth," as Jesus stated in Matt. 12:40. (3) The dead lie there prostrate, harmless and extinct. (4) Such distinctions as race and rank so visible on earth seem still to be retained in death. (5) Isaiah even conceived of the dead as being capable of emotions, and even of speech (Isa. 14), using such a conception to teach spiritual truth, but perhaps not intending that we should understand that there is any capability whatever pertaining to the dead.
Two dates are given for the chapter: March 15, 586 B.C. from the LXX, and March 3, 585 B.C. from the text here. Brace preferred that in the LXX;F4 and Keil vigorously supported our text in ASV.F5 At this time, Jerusalem had already fallen.
THE CROCODILE CAPTURED, SLAIN, AND DEVOURED (EZEK. 32:1-10)
And it came to pass in the twelfth year, in the twelfth month, in the first [day] of the month, that the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, Son of man, take up a lamentation over Pharaoh king of Egypt, and say unto him, Thou wast likened unto a young lion of the nations: yet art thou as a monster in the seas; and thou didst break forth with thy rivers, and troubledst the waters with thy feet, and fouledst their rivers. Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: I will spread out my net upon thee with a company of many peoples; and they shall bring thee up in my net. And I will leave thee upon the land, I will cast thee forth upon the open field, and will cause all the birds of the heavens to settle upon thee, and I will satisfy the beasts of the whole earth with thee. And I will lay thy flesh upon the mountains, and fill the valleys with thy height. I will also water with thy blood the land wherein thou swimmest, even to the mountains; and the watercourses shall be full of thee. And when I shall extinguish thee, I will cover the heavens, and make the stars thereof dark; I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon shall not give its light. All the bright lights of heaven will I make dark over thee, and set darkness upon thy land, saith the Lord Jehovah. I will also vex the hearts of many peoples, when I shall bring thy destruction among the nations, into the countries which thou hast not known. Yea, I will make many peoples amazed at thee, and their kings shall be horribly afraid for thee, when I shall brandish my sword before them; and they shall tremble at every moment, every man for his own life, in the day of thy fall.
Thou wast likened unto a young lion
(Ezekiel 32:2). Pharaoh probably looked upon himself as `a young lion among the nations'; but God here told him what he was really like.
Yet thou art as a monster in the seas
(Ezekiel 32:3). The seas here, as in Ezek. 29:3 where it reads `monster in the midst of the rivers,' is the Nile and its spangled delta exits. The `monster' is the crocodile.F6
It is a totally unchristian viewpoint that drags Babylonian mythology into this prophecy. See our comment in the previous chapter regarding the errors involved in seeking evidence of mythological connections in the prophecies of God.
Bunn's allegation was that "the monster" of this passage, "May stand for the great dragon Tiamat in Babylonian mythology, or perhaps Apophis, the primordial god of chaos in Egyptian mythology ... more likely it is the latter."F7
If such imaginary characters had been intended by Ezekiel, would he not have named them? On the contrary, he used a word which in Hebrew means any large sea-creature, including the crocodile. Or, could Bunn possibly have meant that Jehovah himself, mentioned in the same breath as the author of this statement, recognized the actual existence of mythological creatures like Apophis or Tiamat? Whatever he meant by this, his comment must be disallowed as inaccurate and untrustworthy.
As Keil noted, "Pharaoh is here compared to a crocodile, which stirs up the streams, muddying and fouling them, doing so with his mouth and his feet, rendering turbid all that was pure."F8
And I will leave thee upon the land
(Ezekiel 32:4). The picture of what would happen to the crocodile was thus described by Pearson, He would be taken in a great net, dragged out of his river retreat and left to die, out of his element, on the dry land, and his dead carcass would be left to provide food for the birds of the heavens and the wild beasts of the earth.F9
The darkening of the sun, moon and stars is a figure often encountered in the Scriptures. It carries the meaning of the destruction of all of the great leaders and public officials of a nation or kingdom.
In the following verses (Ezekiel 32:11-16), "All metaphors are abandoned, and the desolation of Egypt is announced in literal language as something to be accomplished by the sword of Babylon, `the most terrible of the nations.'"F10
For thus saith the Lord Jehovah: The sword of the king of Babylon shall come upon thee. By the swords of the mighty will I cause thy multitude to fall; the terrible of the nations are they all: and they shall bring to nought the pride of Egypt, and all the multitude thereof shall be destroyed. I will destroy also all the beasts thereof from beside many waters; neither shall the foot of man trouble them any more, nor the hoofs of beasts trouble them. Then will I make their waters clear, and cause their rivers to run like oil, saith the Lord Jehovah. When I shall make the land of Egypt desolate and waste, a land destitute of that whereof it was full, when I shall smite all them that dwell therein, then shall they know that I am Jehovah. This is the lamentation wherewith they shall lament; the daughters of the nations shall lament therewith; over Egypt, and over all her multitude, shall they lament therewith, saith the Lord Jehovah.
"The divine judgment against Egypt will take the form of Babylonian invasion, slaughter and captivity. The Nile will flow quiet and clear, untouched henceforth by man or beast,"F11
I will destroy all the beasts thereof
(Ezekiel 32:15). This was always an inevitable consequence of any invasion by a hostile foreign power. All animals were slaughtered wholesale to provide food for the invading soldiers, as well as to deprive the inhabitants. General Sherman did the same thing in his march to the sea, during the Civil War.
Their rivers to run like oil
(Ezekiel 32:14) This is the only instance of the use of this particular metaphor in the Bible. These `rivers of oil' were symbols of ethical blessedness (Job 29:6 and Deut. 32:13). Keil applied this to the righteous rule of Nebuchadnezzar; but Plumptre believed there are echoes of the future Messianic kingdom in the passage.F12
"The rivers of oil here are not rivers that flow quietly like oil, but rivers which contain oil and not water; they are symbolical of the rich blessings of God."F13 It should be noted that the great blessing to come to Egypt in future times is that they shall know that Jehovah is indeed God, and that there is none else beside him (Ezekiel 32:15).
It came to pass also in the twelfth year, in the fifteenth [day] of the month, that the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, Son of man, wail for the multitude of Egypt, and cast them down, even her, and the daughters of the famous nations, unto the nether parts of the earth, with them that go down into the pit. Whom dost thou pass in beauty? go down, and be thou laid with the uncircumcised. They shall fall in the midst of them that are slain by the sword: she is delivered to the sword; draw her away and all her multitudes. The strong among the mighty shall speak to him out of the midst of Sheol with them that help him: they are gone down, they lie still, even the uncircumcised, slain by the sword. Asshur is there and all her company; her graves are round about her; all of them slain, fallen by the sword; whose graves are set in the uttermost parts of the pit, and her company is round about her grave; all of them slain, fallen by the sword, who caused terror in the land of the living. There is Elam and all her multitude round about her grave; all of them slain, fallen by the sword, who are gone down uncircumcised into the nether parts of the earth, who caused their terror in the land of the living, and have borne their shame with them that go down to the pit.
EGYPT WAS SENTENCED TO THE UNDERWORLD (Ezekiel 32:16-32)
Twelfth year, fifteenth day of the month
(Ezekiel 32:17). This date is April 27,586 B.C.F14 Bruce supplemented the data given here by accepting the twelfth month indication from the LXX. This was only about two weeks later than the oracle in the first half of the chapter.F15
The thought presented here is doleful indeed. Just as all the other mighty nations of human history have enjoyed their brief glory and then gone down in the oblivion of the grave, just so it was to be with Egypt. The picture that emerges here should not deceive us into thinking that Sheol is a place either of intelligence or activity of any kind. The intimations of such things are only designed to stimulate our estimation of the place as totally undesirable. The purpose is to contrast the arrogance and conceit of those powers which "in the land of the living" produced so much terror, sorrow, and human misery, with their peaceful harmlessness after they have gone down into Shed! God's perfect answer to all of that is Sheol, the Pit, the grave I This lament is to remind Egypt that she too shall also receive the treatment that came to other evil powers, several of whom are mentioned here as a kind of "reception committee" for Pharaoh!
The strong among the mighty shall speak to him
(Ezekiel 32:21). Yes indeed, there shall really be some of the `Big Shots' of history on hand in Sheol to welcome Pharaoh who is scheduled to arrive soon!
Asshur is there
(Ezekiel 32:22). Look! Even the wicked and ruthless Assyrians are there! How peaceful they are; no one is afraid of them now! Their reign of terror had ended in 612 B.C., on that very night when the king was having a big banquet to celebrate his victory! An unexpected flood destroyed a section of the city wall; and the whole Babylonian army came in and destroyed Nineveh. (See our Commentary on Nahum).
Elam is there
(Ezekiel 32:24). They had been there ever since they were conquered by the Assyrians in 643 B.C.F16 The Elamites were a nation of terrorists living east of the Tigris River and north of the Persian Gulf. At one time, they had been the scourge of Mesopotamia. Behold, how quiet and harmless they are now! Note also that the text states that they took their shame with them. They never got rid of it merely by descending into Sheol. A further word on Elam is given in Ezek. 32:25.
They have set her a bed in the midst of the slain with all her multitude; her graves are round about her; all of them uncircumcised, slain by the sword; for their terror was caused in the land of the living, and they have borne their shame with them that go down to the pit: he is put in the midst of them that are slain.
How appropriate that those who have caused so many to die and descend into Sheol are, in fact, themselves to inherit a grave among those very peoples whom they have destroyed! Elam will get a bed in the midst of the slain! His shame shall go with him even into the grave.
There is Mesheeh, Tubal
(Ezekiel 32:26). These participated in the Scythian invasion of 626 B.C., causing great panic in Syria and Mesopotamia. They were now very peaceful citizens in Sheol!F17 The prophet described them in Ezek. 32:26-28.
There is Meshech, Tubal, and all their multitude; their graves are round about them; all of them uncircumcised, slain by the sword; for they caused their terror in the land of the living. And they shall not lie with the mighty that are fallen of the uncircumcised, that are gone down to Sheol with their weapons of war, and have laid their swords under their heads, and their iniquities are upon their bones; for [they were] the terror of the mighty in the land of the living. But thou shalt be broken in the midst of the uncircumcised, and shalt lie with them that are slain by the sword.
Verses 29, 30
There is Edom, her kings and all her princes, who in their might are laid with them that are slain by the sword: they shall lie with the uncircumcised, and with them that go down to the pit. There are the princes of the north, all of them, and all the Sidonians, who are gone down with the slain; in the terror which they caused by their might they are put to shame; and they lie uncircumcised with them that are slain by the sword, and bear their shame with them that go down to the pit.
There is Edom
(Ezekiel 32:29). Edom was made to be a type of the wicked nations of all mankind by Isaiah (Isa. 34); and the description of their punishment at the time of the eternal judgment also carries very significant overtones of that Final Day.
The princes of the north are there
(Ezekiel 32:30). These include the Sidonians, of course; in fact they are ALL going to be there; and this is leading up to the sarcastic statement in Ezek. 32:30, below, that Pharaoh will be comforted. What is meant is that Pharaoh who cherished military and ambitious slaughter of many peoples on earth will have nothing to complain about; for he will find many worthy companions in Sheol!F18
Verses 31, 32
Pharaoh shall see them, and shall be comforted over all his multitude, even Pharaoh and all his army, slain by the sword, saith the Lord Jehovah. For I have put his terror in the land of the living; and he shall be laid in the midst of the uncircumcised, with them that are slain by the sword, even Pharaoh and all his multitude, saith the Lord Jehovah.
Certainly a dirge of this kind must have received the intense attention of all who heard it. Not only had God prophesied in these chapters the utter destruction of Pharaoh and the land of Egypt, but he had also launched among the populations of the earth a lamentation celebrating his death!
THE CREDIBILITY OF THESE PROPHECIES
Every student of the Bible is aware that history affords no elaborate details of just how all of Ezekiel's prophecies were fulfilled; and, of course, that has allowed many radical critics to voice their unbelieving denials that they ever really came to pass at all. We have already addressed this problem earlier, pointing out, that the most convincing proof of all that it happened exactly like the prophet declared that it would happen is simply the undeniable truth that Egypt did indeed come to know that "The Lord is Jehovah, the God of gods, the King of kings, and the Lord of lords." The ancient pantheon of Egypt's pagan deities was indeed vanquished, not a one of them ever having been worshipped during the thousands of intervening years. Why? The only adequate explanation of that undeniable fact, as far as we can see must be sought in the fulfillment of these prophecies by Ezekiel.
Nevertheless, historical proof is also available. "Sufficient evidence has been found that Nebuchadnezzar indeed invaded and conquered Egypt. The silence of Herodotus (and other Greek historians) regarding such an invasion goes for little or nothing. Herodotus could not even read the Egyptian records, deriving all of his knowledge through priests by means of an interpreter. It was the custom of those priests to draw a veil over every disaster. He did not even mention one of the most decisive battles of all history, that of Carchemish in 605 B.C."F19
Skinner also reports the discovery of "a cuneiform fragment reporting a battle between Nebuchadnezzar and the king of Egypt in the "thirty-seventh year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, which was in the year 568 B.C."F20 We have included these quotations here, not for true believers who do not need to have historical confirmation of what is taught in the scriptures, but in the hope of aiding those whose timid faith might be sustained and strengthened by them.
Footnotes for Ezekiel 32
1: Anton T. Pearson in Wycliffe Bible Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1962), p. 749.
2: Anton T. Pearson in Wycliffe Bible Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1962), p. 749.
3: International Critical Commentary, p. 355.
4: F. F. Bruce in the New Layman's Bible Commentary, p. 888.
5: Carl Friedrich Keil, Keil-Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company), p. 42.
6: George Barlow, The Preacher's Complete Homiletic Commentary (New York: Funk and Wagnalls Company, 1891), p. 334.
7: John T. Bunn in the Broadman Bible Commentary (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1871), p. 327.
8: Carl Friedrich Keil, Keil-Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company), p. 43.
9: Anton T. Pearson in Wycliffe Bible Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1962), p. 749.
10: John Skinner in the Expositor's Bible Commentary, p. 276.
11: F. F. Bruce in the New Layman's Bible Commentary, p. 888.
12: E. H. Plumptre in the Pulpit Commentary, p. 167.
13: Carl Friedrich Keil, Keil-Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company) Vol. 2, p. 48.
14: F. F. Bruce in the New Layman's Bible Commentary, p. 888.
15: Anton T. Pearson in Wycliffe Bible Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1962), p. 749.
16: F. F. Bruce in the New Layman's Bible Commentary. p. 888.
19: E. H. Plumptre in the Pulpit Commentary, p. 169.
20: John Skinner in the Expositor's Bible Commentary, p. 282.