The desolation of Egypt. (1-16) Also a promise of mercy to Israel. (17-21)
Verses 1-16 Worldly, carnal minds pride themselves in their property, forgetting that whatever we have, we received it from God, and should use it for God. Why, then, do we boast? Self is the great idol which all the world worships, in contempt of God and his sovereignty. God can force men out of that in which they are most secure and easy. Such a one, and all that cleave to him, shall perish together. Thus end men's pride, presumption, and carnal security. The Lord is against those who do harm to his people, and still more against those who lead them into sin. Egypt shall be a kingdom again, but it shall be the basest of the kingdoms; it shall have little wealth and power. History shows the complete fulfilment of this prophecy. God, not only in justice, but in wisdom and goodness to us, breaks the creature-stays on which we lean, that they may be no more our confidence.
Verses 17-21 The besiegers of Tyre obtained little plunder. But when God employs ambitious or covetous men, he will recompense them according to the desires of their hearts; for every man shall have his reward. God had mercy in store for the house of Israel soon after. The history of nations best explains ancient prophecies. All events fulfil the Scriptures. Thus, in the deepest scenes of adversity, the Lord sows the seed of our future prosperity. Happy are those who desire his favour, grace, and image; they will delight in his service, and not covet any earthly recompence; and the blessings they have chosen shall be sure to them for ever.
Ezekiel 29:1-21 . THE JUDGMENT ON EGYPT BY NEBUCHADNEZZAR; THOUGH ABOUT TO BE RESTORED AFTER FORTY YEARS, IT WAS STILL TO BE IN A STATE OF DEGRADATION.
This is the last of the world kingdoms against which Ezekiel's prophecies are directed, and occupies the largest space in them, namely, the next four chapters. Though farther off than Tyre, it exercised a more powerful influence on Israel.
2. Pharaoh--a common name of all the kings of Egypt, meaning "the sun"; or, as others say, a "crocodile," which was worshipped in parts of Egypt (compare Ezekiel 29:3 ). Hophra or Apries was on the throne at this time. His reign began prosperously. He took Gaza ( Jeremiah 47:1 ) and Zidon and made himself master of Phoenicia and Palestine, recovering much that was lost to Egypt by the victory of Nebuchadnezzar at Carchemish ( 2 Kings 24:7 , Jeremiah 46:2 ), in the fourth year of Jehoiakim [WILKINSON, Ancient Egypt, 1.169]. So proudly secure because of his successes for twenty-five years did he feel, that he said not even a god could deprive him of his kingdom [HERODOTUS, 2.169]. Hence the appropriateness of the description of him in Ezekiel 29:3 . No mere human sagacity could have enabled Ezekiel to foresee Egypt's downfall in the height of its prosperity. There are four divisions of these prophecies; the first in the tenth year of Ezekiel's captivity; the last in the twelfth. Between the first and second comes one of much later date, not having been given till the twenty-seventh year ( Ezekiel 29:17 , 30:19 ), but placed there as appropriate to the subject matter. Pharaoh-hophra, or Apries, was dethroned and strangled, and Amasis substituted as king, by Nebuchadnezzar (compare Jeremiah 44:30 ). The Egyptian priests, from national vanity, made no mention to HERODOTUS of the Egyptian loss of territory in Syria through Nebuchadnezzar, of which JOSEPHUS tells us, but attributed the change in the succession from Apries to Amasis solely to the Egyptian soldiery. The civil war between the two rivals no doubt lasted several years, affording an opportunity to Nebuchadnezzar of interfering and of elevating the usurper Amasis, on condition of his becoming tributary to Babylon [WILKINSON]. Compare Jeremiah 43:10-12 , and of Nebuchadnezzar.
3. dragon--Hebrew, tanim, any large aquatic animal, here the crocodile, which on Roman coins is the emblem of Egypt.
lieth--restest proudly secure.
his rivers--the mouths, branches, and canals of the Nile, to which Egypt owed its fertility.
4. hooks in thy jaws--( Isaiah 37:29 ; compare Job 41:1 Job 41:2 ). Amasis was the "hook." In the Assyrian sculptures prisoners are represented with a hook in the underlip, and a cord from it held by the king.
cause . . . fish . . . stick unto . . . scales--Pharaoh, presuming on his power as if he were God ( Ezekiel 29:3 , "I have made it"), wished to stand in the stead of God as defender of the covenant-people, his motive being, not love to them, but rivalry with Babylon. He raised the siege of Jerusalem, but it was only for a time (compare Ezekiel 29:6 , Jeremiah 37:5 Jeremiah 37:7-10 ); ruin overtook not only them, but himself. As the fish that clung to the horny scales of the crocodile, the lord of the Nile, when he was caught, shared his fate, so the adherents of Pharaoh, lord of Egypt, when he was overthrown by Amasis, should share his fate.
5. wilderness--captivity beyond thy kingdom. The expression is used perhaps to imply retribution in kind. As Egypt pursued after Israel, saying, "The wilderness hath shut them in" ( Exodus 14:3 ), so she herself shall be brought into a wilderness state.
open fields--literally "face of the field."
not be brought together--As the crocodile is not, when caught, restored to the river, so no remnant of thy routed army shall be brought together, and rallied, after its defeat in the wilderness. Pharaoh led an army against Cyrene in Africa, in support of Aricranes, who had been stripped of his kingdom by the Cyrenians. The army perished and Egypt rebelled against him [JUNIUS]. But the reference is mainly to the defeat by Nebuchadnezzar.
beasts . . . fowls--hostile and savage men.
6. staff of reed to . . . Israel--alluding to the reeds on the banks of the Nile, which broke if one leaned upon them Isaiah 36:6 ). All Israel's dependence on Egypt proved hurtful instead of beneficial ( Isaiah 30:1-5 ).
7. hand--or handle of the reed.
rend . . . shoulder--by the splinters on which the shoulder or arm would fall, on the support failing the hand.
madest . . . loins . . . at a stand--that is, made them to be disabled. MAURER somewhat similarly (referring to a kindred Arabic form), "Thou hast stricken both their loins." FAIRBAIRN, not so well, "Thou lettest all their loins stand," that is, by themselves, bereft of the support which they looked for from thee.
8. a sword--Nebuchadnezzar's army ( Ezekiel 29:19 ). Also Amasis and the Egyptian revolters who after Pharaoh-hophra's discomfiture in Cyrene dethroned and strangled him, having defeated him in a battle fought at Memphis [JUNIUS].
9. I am the Lord--in antithesis to the blasphemous boast repeated here from Ezekiel 29:3 , "The river is mine, and I have made it."
10. from the tower of Syene--GROTIUS translates, "from Migdol (a fortress near Pelusium on the north of Suez) to Syene (in the farthest south)"; that is, from one end of Egypt to the other. So "from Migdol to Syene," Ezekiel 30:6 , Margin. However, English Version rightly refers Syene to Seveneh, that is, Sebennytus, in the eastern delta of the Nile, the capital of the Lower Egyptian kings. The Sebennyte Pharaohs, with the help of the Canaanites, who, as shepherds or merchants, ranged the desert of Suez, extended their borders beyond the narrow province east of the delta, to which they had been confined by the Pharaohs of Upper Egypt. The defeated party, in derision, named the Sebennyte or Lower Egyptians foreigners and shepherd-kings (a shepherd being an abomination in Egypt, Genesis 46:34 ). They were really a native dynasty. Thus, in English Version, "Ethiopia" in the extreme south is rightly contrasted with Sebennytus or Syene in the north.
11. forty years--answering to the forty years in which the Israelites, their former bondsmen, wandered in "the wilderness" (compare Note, JEROME remarks the number forty is one often connected with affliction and judgment. The rains of the flood in forty days brought destruction on the world. Moses, Elias, and the Saviour fasted forty days. The interval between Egypt's overthrow by Nebuchadnezzar and the deliverance by Cyrus, was about forty years. The ideal forty years' wilderness state of social and political degradation, rather than a literal non-passing of man or beast for that term, is mainly intended (so Ezekiel 4:6 , Isaiah 19:2 Isaiah 19:11 ).
12. As Israel passed through a term of wilderness discipline (compare Ezekiel 20:35 , &c.), which was in its essential features to be repeated again, so it was to be with Egypt [FAIRBAIRN]. Some Egyptians were to be carried to Babylon, also many "scattered" in Arabia and Ethiopia through fear; but mainly the "scattering" was to be the dissipation of their power, even though the people still remained in their own land.
13. ( Jeremiah 46:26 ).
14. Pathros--the Thehaiti, or Upper Egypt, which had been especially harassed by Nebuchadnezzar ( Nahum 3:8 Nahum 3:10 ). The oldest part of Egypt as to civilization and art. The Thebaid was anciently called "Egypt" [ARISTOTLE]. Therefore it is called the "land of the Egyptians' birth" (Margin, for "habitation").
base kingdom--Under Amasis it was made dependent on Babylon; humbled still more under Cambyses; and though somewhat raised under the Ptolemies, never has it regained its ancient pre-eminence.
16. Egypt, when restored, shall be so circumscribed in power that it shall be no longer an object of confidence to Israel, as formerly; for example, as when, relying on it, Israel broke faith with Nebuchadnezzar ( Ezekiel 17:13 Ezekiel 17:15 Ezekiel 17:16 ).
which bringeth their iniquity to remembrance, when they shall look after them--rather, "while they (the Israelites) look to (or, turn after) them" [HENDERSON]. Israel's looking to Egypt, rather than to God, causes their iniquity (unfaithfulness to the covenant) to be remembered by God.
17. The departure from the chronological order occurs here only, among the prophecies as to foreign nations, in order to secure greater unity of subject.
18. every head . . . bald, . . . shoulder . . . peeled--with carrying baskets of earth and stones for the siege works.
no wages . . . for the service--that is, in proportion to it and the time and labor which he expended on the siege of Tyre. Not that he actually failed in the siege (JEROME expressly states, from Assyrian histories, that Nebuchadnezzar succeeded); but, so much of the Tyrian resources had been exhausted, or transported to her colonies in ships, that little was left to compensate Nebuchadnezzar for his thirteen year's siege.
19. multitude--not as FAIRBAIRN, "store"; but, he shall take away a multitude of captives out of Egypt. The success of Nebuchadnezzar is implied in Tyre's receiving a king from Babylon, probably one of her captives there, Merbal.
take her spoil . . . prey--literally, "spoil her spoil, prey her prey," that is, as she spoiled other nations, so shall she herself be a spoil to Babylon.
20. because they wrought for me--the Chaldeans, fulfilling My will as to Tyre (compare Jeremiah 25:9 ).
21. In the evil only, not in the good, was Egypt to be parallel to Israel. The very downfall of Egypt will be the signal for the rise of Israel, because of God's covenant with the latter.
I cause the horn of . . . Israel to bud--( Psalms 132:17 ). I will cause its ancient glory to revive: an earnest of Israel's full glory under Messiah, the son of David ( Luke 1:69 ). Even in Babylon an earnest was given of this in Daniel ( Daniel 6:2 ) and Jeconiah ( Jeremiah 52:31 ).
I will give thee . . . opening of . . . mouth--When thy predictions shall have come to pass, thy words henceforth shall be more heeded (compare Ezekiel 24:27 ).