III. Prophecies against Gentile Nations (Ezekiel 25:1–32:32)


III. Prophecies against Gentile Nations (25:1–32:32)

25:1-7 The sword of God’s judgment turned next toward seven Gentile nations that had despised and mistreated his people, Israel. The first four of these judgments follow the same pattern. Here in chapter 25, God stated the sins of Ammon, Moab, Edom, and Philistia, and then announced judgment that fit their sins. The basis for these was the Abrahamic covenant, which included this promise to Abraham and a warning to his enemies: “I will bless those who bless you, I will curse anyone who treats you with contempt” (Gen 12:3).

The sin of the Ammonites was gloating over the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple (25:2-3). They gleefully said Aha! in derision when Israel was laid waste and the people of Judah . . . went into exile (25:3). Therefore, their own land would be invaded and Ammon too would fall (25:4-5, 7). The judgment on Ammon was pronounced in 21:28-32.

25:8-10 Moab’s people were close relatives of the Ammonites, since their two ancestors were the sons of Lot’s incestuous relationships with his daughters (see Gen 19:30-38). Moab’s sin was treating the house of Judah, representing all of God’s chosen people, like all the other nations (25:8). Moab acted on that mistaken idea by becoming a perpetual enemy of Israel. God would judge Moab by turning over its land to the same people of the east who were going to conquer Ammon (25:10; see 25:4).

25:12-14 The judgment on Edom is the first for this nation in Ezekiel. Edom was mentioned in 16:57 as one of the peoples who despised the Israelites. The Edomites refused to allow Israel to cross their land after leaving Egypt, so they had a long history of hostility. Because Edom treated Israel as just another enemy and acted vengefully against the house of Judah by trying to help bring about its downfall during the years of Babylon’s invasions, God decreed Edom’s downfall (25:12-13; see the book of Obadiah).

25:15-17 Then Ezekiel addressed the Philistines. These longtime enemies of God’s people lived along the Mediterranean coast. The conflict started with the conquest of the promised land when the Israelites failed to dislodge the Philistines and paid the price. David defeated them repeatedly during his reign, but the Philistines had for generations acted in vengeance and took revenge with deep contempt on Israel because of their perpetual hatred of God’s people (25:15). So God announced destruction on the Cherethites, a synonym for Philistines, teaching them once and for all: I am the Lord (25:16-17).

26:1-6 The last two nations coming under God’s judgment comprise the bulk of this section. Tyre (26:2) was actually a city on the seacoast, but it was a very powerful force in the ancient world. Ezekiel 26–28 is devoted to its prophesied demise. There are four messages or oracles against Tyre, each introduced by Ezekiel’s familiar statement, the word of the Lord came to me (26:1; 27:1; 28:1, 11). The date of the prophecy places it just before Jerusalem’s fall, which makes God’s condemnation of Tyre very timely. It was a city on the Mediterranean coast that became wealthy and powerful through its navy and seafaring trade. Since God’s prophetic word was certain of fulfillment, he could speak of future events as if they had already happened.

Tyre was being judged for gloating over Jerusalem’s fall, saying Aha! in derision just as Ammon did (26:2; see 25:3). Tyre’s joy was prompted by greed. With Judah out of the way, the lucrative overland trade routes between Mesopotamia and Egypt were open. Tyre hoped to control them as it controlled the sea trade routes (26:2). But God had other plans. Because Tyre rejoiced over the fall of his people, God would raise up many nations against Tyre that would crash into it like sea waves and destroy the walls of Tyre and demolish her towers (26:3-4). The city’s defense would become a bare rock on which fishermen would spread nets to dry, and her villages on the mainland would be slaughtered (26:5-6).

26:7-14 This occurred when King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon turned his fury on Tyre after destroying Jerusalem (26:7-11). History tells us that Nebuchadnezzar besieged Tyre for thirteen years, and although the island fortress survived, he destroyed all the mainland parts as noted above. The nouns changed to the plural in 26:12-14, possibly referring to later forces that came against Tyre, most notably Alexander the Great in 332 BC. He used the rubble from the destroyed mainland city to build a causeway to the island fortress, destroying it too. The ancient site of Tyre has never been rebuilt, as the Lord said (26:14).

26:15-21 Tyre’s trading partners in the seafaring world that depended on the city for their own prosperity would shudder at its complete downfall and sit on the ground in mourning, taking up a funeral lament for her demise (26:15-18). God confirmed the completeness of Tyre’s judgment, saying its people had descended to the Pit (26:20), the place of death which people in the ancient world feared as the place of no return. That was, in fact, the fate of Tyre; it would no longer exist as a sea power by the declaration of the Lord God (26:21). While there was a city of Tyre in Jesus’s day, it was a greatly weakened place.

27:1-9 God had a lament of his own for Tyre, but it was very different than that of its trading partners (27:2). The first part of the lament describes Tyre’s former greatness by comparing the city to its beautiful ships. They were made with pine trees from Senir . . . cedar from Lebanon . . . oaks from Bashan . . . cypress wood from the coasts of Cyprus, and ivory (27:5-6)—all products legendary in the ancient world for their strength and beauty. And the sails of Tyre’s ships were made of fine embroidered linen from Egypt, with awnings of blue and purple fabric (27:7). They were also manned by the best rowers, captains, and repairmen (27:8-9).

27:10-25 This still doesn’t sound like a lament so far, but Ezekiel was building toward a climax that describes Tyre’s crushing fall from its height. It was well protected by an army including mercenaries from other lands (27:10-11), and its trading partners included nations from all over the known world carrying every kind of merchandise imaginable (27:12-25).

27:26-36 But it would all come crashing down when God’s east wind of judgment blew on Tyre (27:26). Then everything and everyone which had made this city great would be lost: its wealth, merchandise, and goods, its sailors and captains . . . those who barter for [its] goods, all the warriors on board, and all the other people within Tyre would sink into the heart of the sea on the day of its downfall (27:27). This is the way God’s lament began. And when Tyre fell, her sailors would cry out in their own lament and perform the acts of mourning for their great city that had come to such terrible ruin. And they would be joined in their grief by Tyre’s trading partners who would shudder at the great city’s utter destruction (27:28-36).

28:1-10 Ezekiel’s third oracle describes the downfall of the ruler of Tyre (28:2). We find (to no surprise) that the leader of this proud city was a proud king who said, I am a god. God’s rebuttal was, Yet you are a man and not a god, though you have regarded your heart as that of a god (28:2). This king thought he was wiser than Daniel because he had gained so much wealth for his kingdom by great skill in trading (28:3-5). But God had a very un-godlike end awaiting this prideful ruler. Like the people of Tyre, its king would also be brought down to the Pit (28:8) when the city fell, and he would die the death of the uncircumcised like all of God’s enemies (28:9-10).

28:11-13 The fourth and last oracle against the king of Tyre has been the focus of much attention from commentators. Many see Ezekiel 28 as reaching far beyond the king of Tyre to address Satan himself. Indeed, the statements of 28:12-19 cannot be applied to any human ruler alone—especially one whom God had just taken pains to condemn as a mere man who had divine pretensions. The being we’re introduced to in these verses, then, is the power behind this king. This being is Lucifer, whose pride led him to rebel against God in heaven and become Satan. He was full of wisdom and perfect in beauty; he was in Eden, the garden of God (28:12-13).

28:14-15 Satan wasn’t just any angel, either. He was an anointed guardian cherub (28:14), the highest of God’s created beings. As God’s fire blazed in eternity past, Lucifer was right in the middle of it. He stood in the very presence of God as the highest-ranking angel (28:14). He was assigned to lead the entire angelic host in the worship and service of Yahweh. So how could wickedness be found in this exalted angel (28:15)? Because God gave this perfect being the right of choice—that is, to serve him by choice, not simply by mandate. God was not going to force Lucifer to worship him, because God wants willing worship. Lucifer exercised his choice to rebel against God and tried to usurp his rule.

28:16-19 As a result of his rebellion, he was expelled . . . in disgrace from heaven and thrown down to the earth because of his pride (28:16-17). One day he will be judged and “thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur . . . tormented day and night forever” (Rev 20:10).

Hell was created for Satan and the angels who joined him in rebellion (see Matt 25:41). People go to hell because they also choose to join Satan in his rebellion against God by refusing to accept God’s means of salvation in Christ (see John 3:18-21).

28:20-26 After this long judgment on Tyre and Satan, the oracle against Tyre’s neighbor Sidon (28:20-26) seems like an anti-climax. Sidon’s sins are not listed, probably because it was so closely identified with Tyre. But the judgment against the city was certain. God’s glory would be displayed when this pagan center was also brought down in judgment, and its people would be forced to acknowledge his holiness (28:22-23). Sidon was one of Israel’s neighbors and treated God’s people with contempt (28:24); thus, Sidon’s demise would give Israel relief. God broadened that to a promise that someday, when he regathers Israel in the millennial kingdom, the nation will enjoy true peace and rest from all its enemies (28:25-26).

29:1-3 Another longtime nemesis of Israel, the land of Egypt (and its allies), came into focus for God’s judgment in an extended oracle (chapters 29–32). This word of the Lord to Ezekiel came almost a year after Nebuchadnezzar’s siege of Jerusalem began (29:1). Pharaoh was another king who considered himself to be a god and the master of the Nile River (29:2-3).

29:4-9 The Pharaoh at the time of Judah’s servitude to Babylon was Hophra. When Zedekiah reached out to Egypt for help in his attempt to break his word to Nebuchadnezzar and throw off Babylon’s rule, Hophra said he would assist Zedekiah. But Zedekiah was leaning on a useless ally (see 29:6-7). Hophra’s half-hearted attempt didn’t help, and he withdrew, leaving Zedekiah and Judah to face Nebuchadnezzar’s wrath. Egypt would be judged for this and dragged away from her place of safety by the Lord putting hooks in her jaws and leaving the nation abandoned in the desert (29:4-5). Its false promises of support for Israel led it to become a desolate ruin (29:7-9).

29:10-16 The prophecy expanded on Egypt’s desolation by referring to a period of exile when Egypt would be such a desolate waste that neither a human nor an animal would pass through it because the land would be uninhabited for forty years (29:10-11). This would be followed by a regathering and restoration of Egypt’s fortunes (29:13-14), but the nation would be the lowliest of kingdoms and would never again exalt itself over the nations (29:15). Israel would never again rely on Egypt (29:16).

29:17-20 The twenty-seventh year is in view in these verses—a time after the other events Ezekiel described. It is included here because of its logical connection to the previous events discussed. Nebuchadnezzar’s long siege of Tyre had been financially unprofitable. His army had fought so long that the men had become bald from wearing their helmets and chafed from their armor (29:18). So God decided to give the land of Egypt to King Nebuchadnezzar both as judgment against the land of Israel’s original enslavement and as Nebuchadnezzar’s pay since he labored for the Lord (29:19-20). This is an amazing statement of how God’s work intertwines with human events as he raises up and puts down rulers. God is sovereign over nations and their leaders (see Prov 21:1).

29:21 The final verse of this chapter refers to Ezekiel being able to speak out among the people of Israel when all these things happened and Israel was restored to the land. It’s not likely that this refers to Ezekiel speaking himself, since he would have been about eighty-three years old by this time. It could mean that when his prophecies came to pass, the people of Israel would see that he had faithfully and clearly declared God’s word to them.

30:1-5 Ezekiel’s messages of judgment against Egypt continue in chapter 30 with prophecies of how this ancient power would be brought to complete ruin at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians. The prophecy divides into four sections, each beginning with a declaration of what the Lord says (30:2, 6, 10, 13). God’s wrath on Egypt would be severe, a time of clouds, suggesting doom, when a sword will come against Egypt (30:3-4). The anguish would reach to Cush, encompassing southern Egypt, Sudan, and northern Ethiopia. Egypt’s very foundations would be demolished as its massive army, filled with foreign mercenaries, would fall by the sword (30:4-5).

30:6-9 The second part of this prophecy continues the description of the anguish of Egypt’s allies. From Migdol to Syene, the far northern to the far southern borders of Egypt, those who supported the nation would also fall within it by the sword, because the Lord declared it (30:6). Egypt’s cities would be desolate and ruined in a complete collapse of this once proud and mighty power, after which the Egyptians and their allies would know that God alone is the Lord (30:7-8). The fires blazing across Egypt would bear witness to his power when he unleashed his judgment that spread terror on the day of Egypt’s doom (30:9).

30:10-12 God again revealed the instrument of his judgment: the hand of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon (30:10). He led a ruthless army that would destroy the land of Egypt (30:11).

30:13-19 In the fourth and final section of this prophecy, God names a number of Egypt’s major cities that lay in the path of Babylon’s destructive forces, because none of the nation’s important centers would escape God’s hand of retribution. Several of these cities are worth noting. Memphis was an impor-tant religious center with many temples and idols (30:13). According to Jeremiah 44:1, there were also Jews from Judah living there (see 25:18). They had fled to Memphis in an attempt to escape Nebuchadnezzar’s assault on Jerusalem, despite Jeremiah’s clear warning not to leave the land (see Jer 42:19-22). Now they would be caught up in Egypt’s disastrous judgment: “the men of the covenant land will fall by the sword along with them.” (30:5). God promised to put an end to [its] false gods and bring the city’s enemies against it in broad daylight (30:13, 16).

Thebes (30:14-16) was another major Egyptian city that was its longtime capital, destroyed by the Assyrians in 663 BC, but later rebuilt. Its hordes of people would be wiped out when the city was breached by the Babylonians, a destruction also prophesied by Jeremiah (30:15; see Jer 46:25, where the focus was on judging the god of Thebes). Tehaphnehes was the location of one of Pharaoh’s palaces, a symbol of Egypt’s proud strength that God would bring to an end. The people of Tehaphnehes would also go into captivity (30:18). And then Egypt also would have to bow on its knees in acknowledging that God alone is Lord (30:19).

30:20-26 The final verses of this chapter describe a separate prophecy against Egypt, using the imagery of broken and strengthened arms that shows once more the outworking of God’s sovereign will and control in and through human events and rulers. Speaking as if the judgment on Egypt were already accomplished, God said he had broken the arm of Pharaoh king of Egypt, first the one and then the other, until he had no strength to handle a sword (30:21-22). But he’d also strengthen[ed] the arms of Babylon’s king (30:24-25) to defeat and destroy Egypt until the Egyptians knew the truth: I am the Lord (30:26). God uses judgment to bring glory to his name.

31:1-9 Fewer than two months after the previous prophecy (31:1; cp. 30:20), the word of the Lord came to Ezekiel again with a further message of judgment directed to Pharaoh Hophra of Egypt, who was convinced there was no one like him in his greatness (31:2). This time, Ezekiel used an allegory about Assyria, a former invader of Egypt, to underscore Egypt’s downfall. The reference to Assyria would remind Hophra not only that the Assyrians had once defeated his kingdom, but also that they themselves had been crushed later by the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar in 609 BC—the same nation and king whom God was going to use to topple Egypt.

The allegory about Assyria compares it to a cedar in Lebanon (31:3). These trees were legendary in the ancient world for their stately height and unmatched beauty, making them the perfect symbol of a proud king who believed he stood head and shoulders above all the other rulers of the world. Assyria was described as growing from the waters of the Tigris River (31:4). The underground springs nourished it, causing it to become greater than all the trees of the field—that is, all the other nations (31:4-5). Assyria grew so great that even those nations around it that considered themselves great lived in its shade (31:6). Ezekiel even resorted to hyperbole to say that the cedars in God’s garden . . . Eden, could not compare to Assyria and envied it (31:8-9).

The picture Ezekiel drew of Assyria’s greatness could not be denied because it was a matter of historical record. The Assyrian Empire dominated the ancient world from the ninth to the seventh centuries BC before it was conquered by Babylon. From God’s perspective, Pharaoh Hophra fancied himself as the next great thing in world leaders (a reminder of how little things have changed), but this ruler of mighty Egypt was in for a rude awakening. God had brought down mightier thrones than his.

31:10-14 That’s where the allegory of Assyria as a cedar of Lebanon takes us next, to the fall of this great empire. Assyria’s stature as top dog among the nations caused it to grow proud (31:10). In this context, that refers to puffing oneself up in God’s sight instead of humbly bowing before him and acknowledging him as the one true God. Assyria was also filled with wickedness, which caused God to hand it over to ruthless men, the Bab-ylonians, who cut it down and left it lying in ruins as an object lesson to other nations not to exalt themselves as Assyria had done (31:11-14). Instead, they needed to learn that they were destined for the grave, the Pit, not for glory (31:14).

31:15-17 Unfortunately, Egypt completely ignored this lesson. The other nations that had lived in the shade of Assyria’s greatness grieved her downfall. They fainted at the thought that such a great empire could be destroyed and quaked at the sound of its downfall (31:15-16). The idea of other nations already in Sheol (the grave or underworld) being comforted by Assyria’s fall (31:16-17) may mean that they were “relieved,” so to speak, that even the great Assyria could be taken down and suffer the same fate they had.

31:18 Egypt should have quaked too, because it was Assyria’s ally in the years before its defeat by Babylon. Egypt would also be brought down to the underworld by Babylon. To make the point plain, Ezekiel closed this prophecy with, This is Pharaoh and all his hordes, bringing the allegory full circle (see 31:2). Pharaoh depended on his vast army, but it would do him no good when Babylon invaded.

32:1-2 The final two of Ezekiel’s seven prophecies against Egypt come in chapter 32. Ezek-iel dated this prophecy as occurring in the twelfth year, in the twelfth month (32:1)—that is, March of 585 BC. This was about a year and seven months after the fall of Jerusalem, and two months after the news of the disaster reached the exiles in Babylon. God told Ezekiel to write down a lament—not for Judah, which he had already done (see Ezek 19)—but for Pharaoh king of Egypt (32:2).

Ezekiel’s fellow exiles may have been too deep in shock and mourning over the judgment of their fellow Jews in Jerusalem to grasp the importance of this lament against Egypt, but God wanted these messages recorded so that future generations would know that he judges evil nations, no matter how powerful. Egypt’s people believed their Pharaoh was like a crocodile, a monster thrashing and churning up the waters in the Nile River, who was so powerful that he could not be overcome (32:2).

32:3-8 Pharaoh’s crocodile-like power was no problem for God. He would spread his net over Pharaoh by the armies of Babylon, haul the king up on the land, and throw him out in an open field where the earth’s scavengers could feed on his carcass (32:3-5). The mention of blood flowing through the land of Egypt and thick darkness covering it suggest two of the exodus plagues when God judged Egypt the first time (32:6-8).

32:9-10 The lament continues with the shattering effect that Egypt’s fall would have on the other Gentile nations. The people in many nations would be appalled at Egypt’s collapse, and their kings would shudder with fear when they realized that if this could happen to Egypt, it could happen to them. They would tremble at the thought of this possibility for the rest of their lives.

32:11-16 In this last stanza of the lament God lays aside the figurative language of a crocodile being caught in a net and plainly states that he would bring the sword of Babylon’s king against Egypt, overwhelming its hordes by the swords of Babylon’s ruthless army (32:11-12). Even the animals in Egypt would suffer as the land was decimated (32:13). God also said the Nile and its streams would be placid and flow like oil, instead of being churned up and muddied by humans and animals moving through them, when he made an end of Egypt (32:14-15). Then he invited the daughters of the nations to take up this lament over Egypt and all its hordes (32:16).

32:17-20 The seventh and final prophecy against Egypt views the nation’s demise from the perspective of the underworld, an expansion of what had been said earlier about Assyria. Using poetry, God depicts Egypt’s arrival in the underworld, where it finds itself among many other ungodly nations that had already gone down to the Pit (32:18). There Egypt would discover that it was no better than any other nation that defied God, but would also rest with the uncircumcised (32:19). This term “uncircumcised” was used ten times in this section (32:19, 21, 24-30, 32) and always described a death of shame.

32:21-23 Those nations already in the grave would mock Egypt, saying in effect, “Well, look who has come to join the rest of us lowly warriors to lie here shamed in the afterlife! If it isn’t mighty Egypt, who thought he was better than everyone else!” (32:21). The fact that Egypt would have plenty of company in Sheol was not in doubt. Assyria was there with its army, all of them slain, fallen by the sword (32:21-22) after its defeat by Babylon. God repeated that the graves of Assyria’s soldiers were all around her burial place, despite the fact that Assyria had once spread terror in the land of the living (32:23).

32:24-32 Other nations are also mentioned, each suffering the same fate (32:24-30). Last of all, Egypt comes up for one final word of condemnation from the Lord. When Pharaoh Hophra and the hordes of his armies reached the grave, he would be able to take some perverse comfort from the fact that at least he and his army weren’t the only ones to die by the sword in the same humiliating defeat that these other nations had suffered (32:30-31).