In this chapter we have, I. A continuation of the prophecy against Egypt, which we had in the latter part of the foregoing chapter, just before the desolation of that once flourishing kingdom was completed by Nebuchadnezzar, in which is foretold the destruction of all her allies and confederates, all her interests and concerns, and the several steps which the king of Babylon should take in pushing on this destruction, ver 1-19. II. A repetition of a former prophecy against Egypt, just before the desolation of it begun by their own bad conduct, which gradually weakened them and prepared the way for the king of Babylon, ver 20-26. It is all much to the same purport with what we had before.
Prophecy against Egypt; Destruction of Egypt Foretold (572 B.C.)
1 The word of the Lord came again unto me, saying, 2 Son of man, prophesy and say, Thus saith the Lord God; Howl ye, Woe worth the day! 3 For the day is near, even the day of the Lord is near, a cloudy day; it shall be the time of the heathen. 4 And the sword shall come upon Egypt, and great pain shall be in Ethiopia, when the slain shall fall in Egypt, and they shall take away her multitude, and her foundations shall be broken down. 5 Ethiopia, and Libya, and Lydia, and all the mingled people, and Chub, and the men of the land that is in league, shall fall with them by the sword. 6 Thus saith the Lord; They also that uphold Egypt shall fall; and the pride of her power shall come down: from the tower of Syene shall they fall in it by the sword, saith the Lord God. 7 And they shall be desolate in the midst of the countries that are desolate, and her cities shall be in the midst of the cities that are wasted. 8 And they shall know that I am the Lord, when I have set a fire in Egypt, and when all her helpers shall be destroyed. 9 In that day shall messengers go forth from me in ships to make the careless Ethiopians afraid, and great pain shall come upon them, as in the day of Egypt: for, lo, it cometh. 10 Thus saith the Lord God; I will also make the multitude of Egypt to cease by the hand of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon. 11 He and his people with him, the terrible of the nations, shall be brought to destroy the land: and they shall draw their swords against Egypt, and fill the land with the slain. 12 And I will make the rivers dry, and sell the land into the hand of the wicked: and I will make the land waste, and all that is therein, by the hand of strangers: I the Lord have spoken it. 13 Thus saith the Lord God; I will also destroy the idols, and I will cause their images to cease out of Noph; and there shall be no more a prince of the land of Egypt: and I will put a fear in the land of Egypt. 14 And I will make Pathros desolate, and will set fire in Zoan, and will execute judgments in No. 15 And I will pour my fury upon Sin, the strength of Egypt; and I will cut off the multitude of No. 16 And I will set fire in Egypt: Sin shall have great pain, and No shall be rent asunder, and Noph shall have distresses daily. 17 The young men of Aven and of Pi-beseth shall fall by the sword: and these cities shall go into captivity. 18 At Tehaphnehes also the day shall be darkened, when I shall break there the yokes of Egypt: and the pomp of her strength shall cease in her: as for her, a cloud shall cover her, and her daughters shall go into captivity. 19 Thus will I execute judgments in Egypt: and they shall know that I am the Lord.
The prophecy of the destruction of Egypt is here very full and particular, as well as, in the general, very frightful. What can protect a provoking people when the righteous God comes forth to contend with them?
I. It shall be a very lamentable destruction, and such as shall occasion great sorrow (v. 2, 3): "Howl you; you may justly shriek now that it is coming, for you will be made to shriek and make hideous outcries when it comes. Cry out, Woe worth the day! or, Ah the day! alas because of the day! the terrible day! Woe and alas! For the day is near; the day we have so long dreaded, so long deserved. It is the day of the Lord, the day in which he will manifest himself as a God of vengeance. You have your day now, when you carry all before you, and trample on all about you, but God will have his day shortly, the day of the revelation of his righteous judgment," Ps 37 13. It will be a cloudy day, that is, dark and dismal, without the shining forth of any comfort; and it shall threaten a storm—fire, and brimstone, and a horrible tempest. It shall be the time of the heathen, of reckoning with the heathen for all their heathenish practices, that time which David spoke of when God would pour out his fury upon the heathen (Ps 79 6), when they should sink, Ps 9 15.
II. It shall be the destruction of Egypt, and of all the states and countries in confederacy with her and in her neighbourhood. 1. Egypt herself shall fall (v. 4): The sword shall come upon Egypt, the sword of the Chaldeans, and it shall be a victorious sword, for the slain shall fall in Egypt, fall by it, fall before it. Is the country populous? They shall take away her multitude. Is it strong, and well-fixed? Her foundations shall be broken down, and then the fabric, though built ever so fine, ever so high, will fall of course. 2. Her neighbours and inmates shall fall with her. When the slain fall so thickly in Egypt great pain shall be in Ethiopia, both that in Africa, which is in the neighbourhood of Egypt on one side, and that in Asia, which is near to it on the other side. When their neighbour's house was on fire they could not but apprehend their own in danger; nor were their fears groundless, for they shall all fall with them by the sword, v. 5. Ethiopia and Libya (Cush and Phut, so the Hebrew names are, two of the sons of Ham who are mentioned, and Mizraim, that is, Egypt, between them, Gen 10 6), and the Lydians (who were famous archers, and are spoken of as confederates with Egypt, Jer 46 9), these shall fall with Egypt and Chub (the Chaldeans, the inhabitants of the inner Libya); these and others were the mingled people; there were those of all these and other countries who upon some account or other resided in Egypt, as did also the men of the land that is in league, some of the remains of the people of Israel and Judah, the children of the covenant, or league, as they are called (Acts 3 25), the children of the promise, Gal 4 28. These sojourned in Egypt contrary to God's command, and these shall fall with them. Note, Those that will take their lot with God's enemies shall have their lot with them, yea, though they be in profession the men of the land that is in league with God.
III. All that pretend to support the sinking interests of Egypt shall come down under her, shall come down with her (v. 6): Those that uphold Egypt shall fall, and then Egypt must fall of course. See the justice of God; Egypt pretended to uphold Jerusalem when that was tottering, but proved a deceitful reed; and now those that pretended to uphold Egypt shall prove no better. Those that deceive others are commonly paid in their own coin; they are themselves deceived. 1. Does Egypt think herself upheld by the absolute authority and dominion of her king? The pride of her power shall come down, v. 6. The power of the king of Egypt was his pride; but that shall be broken, and humbled. 2. Is the multitude of her people her support? These shall fall by the sword, even from the tower of Syene, which is in the utmost corner of the land, from that side of it by which the enemy shall enter. Both the countries and the cities, the husbandmen and the merchants, shall be desolate, v. 7, as before, ch. 29 12. Even the multitude of Egypt shall be made to cease, v. 10. That populous country shall be depopulated. The land shall be even filled with the slain, v. 11. 3. Is the river Nile her support, and are the several channels of it a defence to her? "I will make the rivers dry (v. 12), so that those natural fortifications which were thought impregnable, because impassable, shall stand them in no stead." 4. Are her idols a support to her? They shall be destroyed; those imaginary upholders shall appear more than ever to be imaginary, for so images are when they pretend to be deliverers and strongholds (v. 13): I will cause their images to cease out of Noph. 5. Is her royal family her support? There shall be no more a prince in the land of Egypt; the royal family shall be extirpated and extinguished, which had continued so long. 6. Is her courage her support, and does she think to uphold herself by the bravery of her men of war, who have now of late been inured to service? That shall fail: I will put a fear in the land of Egypt. 7. Is the rising generation her support? is she upheld by her children, and does she think herself happy because she has her quiver full of them? Alas! the young men shall fall by the sword (v. 17) and the daughters shall go into captivity (v. 18), and so she shall be robbed of all her hopes.
IV. God shall inflict these desolating judgments on Egypt (v. 8): They shall know that I am the Lord, and greater than all gods, than all their gods, when I have set a fire in Egypt. The fire that consumes nations is of God's kindling; and, when he sets fire to a people, all their helpers shall be destroyed. Those that go about to quench the fire shall themselves be devoured by it; for who can stand before him when he is angry? When he pours out his fury upon a place, when he sets fire to it (v. 15, 16), neither its strength nor its multitude can stand it in any stead.
V. The king of Babylon and his army shall be employed as instruments of this destruction: The multitude of Egypt shall be made to cease and be quite cut off by the hand of the king of Babylon, v. 10. Those that undertook to protect Israel from the king of Babylon shall not be able to protect themselves. It is said of the Chaldeans, who should destroy Egypt, 1. That they are strangers (v. 12), who therefore shall show no compassion for old acquaintance-sake, but shall behave strangely towards them. 2. That they are the terrible of the nations (v. 11), both in respect of force and in respect of fierceness; and, being terrible, they shall make terrible work. (3.) That they are the wicked, who will not be restrained by reason and conscience, the laws of nature or the laws of nations, for they are without law: I will sell the land into the hand of the wicked. They do violence unjustly, as they are wicked; yet, so far as they are instruments in God's hand of executing his judgments, it is on his part justly done. Note, God often makes one wicked man a scourge to another; and even wicked men acquire a title to prey, jure belli—by the laws of war, for God sells it into their hands.
VI. No place in the land of Egypt shall be exempted from the fury of the Chaldean army, not the strongest, not the remotest: The sword shall go through the land. Various places are here named: Pathros, Zoan, and No (v. 14), Sin and Noph (v. 15, 16), Aven and Pi-beseth (v. 17), and Tehaphnehes, v. 18. These shall be made desolate, shall be fired, and God's judgments shall be executed upon them, and his fury poured out upon them. Their strength and multitude shall be cut off; they shall have great pain, shall be rent asunder with fear, and shall have distresses daily. Their day shall be darkened; their honours, comforts, and hopes, shall be extinguished. Their yokes shall be broken, so that they shall no more oppress and tyrannize as they have done. The pomp of their strength shall cease, and a cloud shall cover them, a cloud so thick that through it they shall not see any hopes, nor shall their glory be seen, or shine further. And, lastly, the Ethiopians, who are at a distance from them, as well as those who are mingled with them, shall share in their pain and terror. God will by his providence spread the rumour, and the careless Ethiopians shall be made afraid, v. 9. Note, God can strike a terror upon those that are most secure; fearfulness shall, when he pleases, surprise the most presumptuous hypocrites.
The close of this prediction leaves, 1. The land of Egypt mortified: Thus will I execute judgments on Egypt, v. 19. The destruction of Egypt is the executing of judgments, which intimates not only that it is done justly, for its sins, but that it is done regularly and legally, by a judicial sentence. All the executions God does are according to his judgments. 2. The God of Israel herein glorified: They shall know that I am the Lord. The Egyptians shall be made to know it and the people of God shall be made to know it better. The Lord is known by the judgments which he executes.
Destruction of Egypt Foretold (572 B.C.)
20 And it came to pass in the eleventh year, in the first month, in the seventh day of the month, that the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, 21 Son of man, I have broken the arm of Pharaoh king of Egypt; and, lo, it shall not be bound up to be healed, to put a roller to bind it, to make it strong to hold the sword. 22 Therefore thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I am against Pharaoh king of Egypt, and will break his arms, the strong, and that which was broken; and I will cause the sword to fall out of his hand. 23 And I will scatter the Egyptians among the nations, and will disperse them through the countries. 24 And I will strengthen the arms of the king of Babylon, and put my sword in his hand: but I will break Pharaoh's arms, and he shall groan before him with the groanings of a deadly wounded man. 25 But I will strengthen the arms of the king of Babylon, and the arms of Pharaoh shall fall down; and they shall know that I am the Lord, when I shall put my sword into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall stretch it out upon the land of Egypt. 26 And I will scatter the Egyptians among the nations, and disperse them among the countries; and they shall know that I am the Lord.
This short prophecy of the weakening of the power of Egypt was delivered about the time that the army of the Egyptians, which attempted to raise the siege of Jerusalem, was frustrated in its enterprises, and returned re infectâ—without accomplishing their purpose; whereupon the king of Babylon renewed the siege and carried his point. The kingdom of Egypt was very ancient, and had been for many ages considerable. That of Babylon had but lately arrived at its great pomp and power, being built upon the ruins of the kingdom of Assyria. Now it is with them as it is with families and states, some are growing up, others are declining and going back; one must increase and the others must of course decrease.
I. It is here foretold that the king of Egypt shall grow weaker and weaker. The extent of his territories shall be abridged, his wealth and power shall be diminished, and he shall become less able than ever to help either himself or his friend. 1. This was in part done already (v. 21): I have broken the arm of Pharaoh, some time ago. One arm of that kingdom might well be reckoned broken when the king of Babylon routed the forces of Pharaoh-Necho at Carchemish (Jer 46 2), and made himself master of all that pertained to Egypt from the river of Egypt to Euphrates, 2 Kings 24 7. Egypt had been long in gathering strength and extending its dominions, and therefore, that there may be a proportion observed in providence, it loses its strength slowly and by degrees. It was soon after the king of Egypt slew good king Josiah, and in the same reign, that its arm was thus broken, and it received that fatal blow which it never recovered. Before Egypt's heart and neck were broken its arm was. God's judgments come upon a people by steps, that they may meet him repenting. When the arm of Egypt is broken it shall not be bound up to be healed, for none can heal the wounds that God gives but he himself. Those whom he disarms, whom he disables, cannot again hold the sword. 2. This was to be done again. One arm was broken before, and something was done towards the setting of it, towards the healing of the deadly wound that was given to the beast. But now (v. 22), I am against Pharaoh, and will break both his arms, both the strong and that which was broken and set again. Note, If less judgments do not prevail to humble and reform sinners, God will send greater. Now God will cause the sword to fall out of his hand, which he caught hold of as thinking himself strong enough to hold it. It is repeated (v. 24), I will break Pharaoh's arms. He had been a cruel oppressor to the people of God formerly, and of late the staff of a broken rod to them; and now God by breaking his arms reckons with him for both. God justly breaks that power which is abused either to put wrongs upon people or to put cheats upon them. But this is not all; (1.) The king of Egypt shall be dispirited when he finds himself in danger of the king of Babylon's forces: he shall groan before him with the groaning of a deadly wounded man. Note, It is common for those that are most elated in their prosperity to be most dejected and disheartened in their adversity. Pharaoh, even before the sword touches him, shall groan as if he had received his death's wound. (2.) The people of Egypt shall be dispersed (v. 23 and again v. 26): I will scatter them among the nations. Other nations had mingled with them (v. 5); now they shall be mingled with other nations, and seek shelter in them, and so be made to know that the Lord is righteous.
II. It is here foretold that the king of Babylon shall grow stronger and stronger, v. 24, 25. Put strength into the king of Babylon's arms, that he may be able to go through the service he is designed for. 2. That he will put a sword, his sword, into the king of Babylon's hand, which signified his giving him a commission and furnishing him with arms for carrying on a war, particularly against Egypt. Note, As judges on the bench, like Pilate (John 19 11), so generals in the field, like Nebuchadnezzar, have no power but what is given them from above.