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ORACLES (3) Ezekiel 30:1-19 AND (4) Ezekiel 30:20-26 AGAINST EGYPT
We may outline this chapter thus:
A. Announcement of the Day of the Lord (Ezekiel 30:1-5)
B. Allies, Dependents also destroyed (Ezekiel 30:6-9)
C. Wealth of Egypt to be carried away (Ezekiel 30:10-12)
D. Princes and Cities to be destroyed (Ezekiel 30:13-19)
E. God breaks Pharaoh's arm (Ezekiel 30:20-26)
THE DAY OF THE LORD COMES TO EGYPT (Ezekiel 30:1-19)
"The word of Jehovah came again unto me, saying, Son of man, prophesy, and say, Thus saith Jehovah: Wail ye, alas for the day! For the day is near, even the day of Jehovah is near; it shall be a day of clouds, a time of the nations. And a sword shall come upon Egypt, and anguish 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. Ethiopia and Put and Lud, and all the mingled peoples, and Cub, and the children of the land that is in league, shall fall with them by the sword."
The announcement here that the Day of Jehovah is near cannot be separated from its eschatological overtones relating to that final and Eternal Day of the Lord when his righteous judgments shall be executed upon the fallen and rebellious race of Adam, that day of Doom and Destruction mentioned in Genesis, upon which God said, "In the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die!" (Genesis 2:17)
Regarding that particular day, upon which God promised the death of Adam and Eve in the case of their eating of the forbidden tree, it was the seventh day of creation, a day, which, according to Hebrews 4th chapter, is still going on and has not ended yet. The meaning of that sentence upon the sinful progenitors of our fallen race is that Adam and Eve in the person of their total posterity shall be totally destroyed, the redeemed of all dispensations and all ages "in Christ Jesus" being the sole exceptions to that universal destruction that shall at last terminate God's Operation Adam on that Day of Jehovah.
We have already written many comments relating to the Day of Jehovah, especially in Joel, Amos, and Zephaniah, etc. These will be found in the appropriate volumes of our commentaries under the following references: Isaiah 13:6-9; Joel 1:15; 2:1,11; 3:14; Amos 5:18-20; Obadiah 1:1:15; Zephaniah 1:7,14; Zechariah 14:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:2; 2 Peter 3:10; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Hebrews 9:27; Matthew 25:31-46, and many other references.
Many other signal judgments of God executed upon wicked nations, just like the one here prophesied for Egypt, are token judgments pointing forward to that great and final Day when, as John Milton expressed it:
"God shall cast his throne in middle Air
And judge before Him all the nations there!"
As Feinberg wrote, "Thus we take God's judgment on Egypt here as identified in principle with that Day upon which he will call all nations to give an account." As this same author declared, "We would not dare to interpret this chapter as if it were not related to the many other references in the Word of God to `The day of Jehovah.'"
The prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem given by Christ himself in Matthew 24 is another example of an earthly judgment against a wicked city that promises also an ultimate fulfillment in the Final Judgment. We also believe that there are multiple examples of this in Amos 1-2.
One of the most impressive features of this chapter is the list of the principal cities of Egypt; but critics like Cooke have brought vigorous allegations against the list which he called "haphazard; three of the cities belong to Upper Egypt and five to Lower Egypt; but they are named without any sense of their geographical location, as though the writer knew them only by hearsay." Like many another allegation of some radical critic, intent upon denying the passage to Ezekiel, this comment also is inaccurate, as indicated by the opinions of many able scholars. "All of the towns singled out for mention here, without exception, are of religious, political, or military importance." "Every single center of cultural and political power in Egypt was mentioned." "The listing here indicates an exact knowledge of the chief cities of Egypt for that period." In this light, it is clear that Cooke's allegations should be rejected.
Some interpreters divide this oracle into four subdivisions, each of which begins with, "Thus saith the Lord," as in Ezekiel 30:2,6,10,13. However, we cannot see any necessity for such fragmentary divisions.
It should be remembered that the necessity for God's destruction of the pagan nations of that period derived from their false view that God's punishment of Israel that resulted in the destruction of Jerusalem and the captivity of her people constituted a victory for their pagan gods over Jehovah. Upon the occasion of God's deliverance of Israel from Egyptian captivity, that matter of which God was really God had been settled in the great victory for Jehovah; but the apostasy of the Chosen People and God's ensuing destruction of them had changed all that; and it was very necessary for God, all over again, to demonstrate his own superiority over the pantheon of paganism.
Each one of the cities mentioned later in the chapter was the seat of some pagan god.
The allies and dependencies of Egypt would do her no good when the judgment fell.
"Put, Lud, and Cub ..." (Ezekiel 30:5). "Put and Lud were two tribes living west of Egypt in Africa;" however, "Cub is an unknown name." These peoples were allies of Egypt and were considered part of her strength (see Nahum 3:9). What is stressed here is that allies and dependents alike will experience destruction along with Egypt.
"The children of the land that is in league ..." (Ezekiel 30:5). The marginal reading in our version has "children of the land of the covenant"; and if this is allowed, the reference is to the Jews who, following the murder of Gedaliah had returned to Egypt contrary to the stern warnings of Jeremiah. Beasley-Murray denied that this reading should be followed; but, in any case, whether stated here or not, those Jews who had returned to Egypt would (and did) suffer the same destruction as that of Egypt.
"Thus saith Jehovah: They also that uphold Egypt shall fall: and the pride of her powers shall come down: from the tower of Seveneh shall they fall in it by the sword, saith the Lord Jehovah. 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. And they shall know that I am Jehovah, when I have set a fire in Egypt, and all her helpers are destroyed; in that day shall messengers go forth from me in ships to make the careless Ethiopians afraid; and there shall be anguish upon them, as in the day of Egypt, for, lo, it cometh."
DESTRUCTION TO INCLUDE ALLIES AND DEPENDENTS
The meaning of this paragraph is stated both at the beginning and at the end of it. "They also that uphold Egypt shall fall." "All her helpers are destroyed." Fear and anguish are prophesied here as coming upon Egypt and all of her helpers.
"Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: I will also make the multitude of Egypt to cease, by the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. He and his people with him, the terrible of the nations, shall be brought in to destroy the land; and they shall draw their swords against Egypt, and fill the land with the slain. And I will make the rivers dry, and will sell the land into the hand of evil men; and I will make the land desolate, and all that is therein, by the hand of strangers: I, Jehovah, have spoken it."
THE WEALTH OF EGYPT TO BE CARRIED AWAY
"And I will make the rivers dry ..." (Ezekiel 30:12). We have no historical record of such a drought falling upon the Nile; but that cannot mean that it never happened. The forty years of desolation that has been mentioned again and again with reference to God's judgment upon Egypt would indeed have followed such a disaster as the drying up of the Nile. There is also the possibility that the language here may be allegorical or figurative.
However, there is one overwhelmingly good reason for believing that all of the disasters here prophesied came to pass exactly as God's prophet said they would. Here is that reason: Egypt was steeped and settled into the most arrogant paganism. They worshipped dogs, cats, snakes, their king, the Nile river, etc. Why did they quit? Why did they renounce paganism? That they did so cannot be denied. Why? The only imaginable events that could have caused such a change are the very disasters mentioned in these prophecies. Why did they stop worshipping the Nile? It dried up for forty years!
Alexander has given us an excellent summary of what is promised here against Egypt:
"Egypt's Day of the Lord is a day of doom (Ezekiel 30:9), a day of clouds (Ezekiel 30:3), a dark day in her history. The masses would fear as Egypt's proud strength ceases before the sword of Nebuchadnezzar. Many would be slain (Ezekiel 30:6,10,11,13, and 18). Not even a prince (leader) would be left in the country (Ezekiel 30:13). Many idolatrous statues of the Egyptian gods would be destroyed or carried away in the Babylonian quest for victory and wealth. All of Egypt's allies would fall to the sword: Ethiopia and Lydia in western Anatolia (modern Turkey), Arabia in the east, Lydia in the west (Ezekiel 30:5-7), Put and Lud in the west; and even those `people of the covenant land,' the Jews who fled to Egypt following the murder of Gedaliah would suffer the ravages of the Babylonian invasion. The judgment of God would be comprehensive; it would be awful; but the purpose of God would be accomplished."
Egypt would learn that Jehovah is God! Did they really learn it? of course, they did! None of the silly old pagan gods has been worshipped in Egypt for millenniums of time.
"Thus saith the Lord, Jehovah: I will also destroy the idols, and I will cause the images to cease from Memphis; and there shall be no more a prince from the land of Egypt: and I will put a fear in the land of Egypt. And I will make Pathros desolate, and will set a fire in Zoan, and will execute judgments upon No. And I will pour my wrath upon Sin, the stronghold of Egypt; and I will cut off the multitude of No. And I will set a fire in Egypt: Sin shall be in great anguish, and No shall be broken up; and Memphis shall have adversaries in the day-time. The young men of Avert and of Pibeseth shall fall by the sword; and these cities shall go into captivity. At Tehaphnehes also the day shall withdraw itself, when I shall break there the yokes of Egypt and the pride of her power shall cease in her: as for her, a cloud shall cover her, and her daughters shall go into captivity. Thus will I execute judgments upon Egypt; and they shall know that I am Jehovah."
THE CITIES TO BE DESTROYED
"Memphis ..." (Ezekiel 30:13) "This was the principal city of Lower Egypt, built on the left bank of the Nile 10 miles south of Cairo." "This city was also called `Noph.'"
"I will destroy the idols, and I will cause the images to cease ..." (Ezekiel 30:13). "The `idols' here were great men and princes, as indicated in NEB." Since the Pharaohs themselves pretended to divine honors, the term "idols" is appropriate.
"Pathros, Zoan, and No ..." (Ezekiel 30:14) "Pathros was the native name of Upper, or Southern Egypt; Zoan, called `Tanis' by the Greeks, was mentioned by Moses in Numbers 13:22. It was an important city of the Eastern Delta."
No was located some 400 miles south of Memphis; it was the capital of Upper Egypt, known to the Greeks as Thebes, and featured in the Book of Nahum under the name of No-Amon. There is nothing haphazard about this list of Egyptian cities. Memphis, the capital of Lower Egypt, and its supporting cities was named first, and then Thebes, or No, the capital of Upper Egypt was named next.
No was famous as a residential city for the Pharaohs between 1380,930 B.C.; and many of the greatest of the Pharaohs were buried there. The sun-god Amon was worshipped there; and his name was often incorporated into that of the city, as in No-Amon (Nahum 3:8f).
Each one of the cities mentioned here, "was identified with a particular pagan deity; and therefore God's prophecies against these cities may be construed as a frontal assault upon the paganism of Egypt."
"Sin ..." (Ezekiel 30:16). This place is called the "stronghold of Egypt." It is usually associated with Pelusium, but the actual location is disputed.
"Avert ..." (Ezekiel 30:17). "This word means `nothingness,' or 'wickedness,' and is a contemptuous rendition of On (Heliopolis), the words being spelled exactly alike in Hebrew. Joseph's father-in-law was Potiphera the high priest there (Genesis 41:45). It was the center of sun-worship.
"Pibeseth ..." (Ezekiel 30:17). At this place, "The cat-headed goddess Ubastet was worshipped."
Herodotus has the report of a Persian ruler, Cambyses, who won a victory over this city by deploying several thousand dogs and cats in front of the Persian army. The Egyptians would not attack through fear of killing some of the animals which were sacred to their god.
"Tehaphnehes ..." (Ezekiel 30:18). "This place is now Tel-Deffeneh, 10 miles west of E1-Kantara on the Suez Canal." It is the place where Jeremiah prophesied that the king of Babylon would erect his throne (Jeremiah 43:8f).
The list of cities mentioned here has now been noted; and we appreciate Eichrodt's comment that, "This list provides a very suitable means of representing the almost inexhaustible resources of that kingdom on the Nile."
"When I shall break there the yokes of Egypt ..." (Ezekiel 30:18). Some of the versions have "yokes and bars." "Both words are used as a figure of tyranny, and of Egyptian tyranny in particular."
"And it came to pass in the eleventh year, in the first month, in the seventh day of the month, that the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, Son of man, I have broken the arm of Pharaoh king of Egypt; and lo it hath not been bound up, to apply healing medicines, to put a bandage to bind it, that it be strong to hold the sword. Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Behold, I am against Pharaoh king of Egypt, and I will break his arms, the strong arm, and that which was broken; and I will cause the sword to fall out of his hand. And I will scatter the Egyptians among the nations, and will disperse them through the countries. And I will strengthen the arms of the king of Babylon, and put my sword in his hand: but I will break the arms of Pharaoh, and he shall groan before him with the groanings of a deadly wounded man. And I will hold up the arms of the king of Babylon; and the arms of Pharaoh shall fall down; and they shall know that I am Jehovah, when I shall put my sword in the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall stretch it out upon the land of Egypt. And I will scatter the Egyptians among the nations, and disperse them through the countries; and they shall know that I am Jehovah."
GOD HAS ALREADY BROKEN PHARAOH'S ARM
"Eleventh year, first month, seventh day ..." (Ezekiel 30:20). "This was April 29,587 B.C." "This was three months before the fall of Jerusalem and three months later than the prophecy of Ezekiel 29:3." In the meanwhile Pharaoh-Hophra's attempt to aid Jerusalem had collapsed (Jeremiah 37:5), a fact that history is strangely silent about. Evidently Nebuchadnezzar inflicted a humiliating defeat upon Egypt that prevented any substantial relief of Jerusalem and resulted in Nebuchadnezzar's renewal of the siege almost immediately.
"Nebuchadnezzar's defeat of Pharaoh-Hophra appears in this paragraph as `the breaking of Pharaoh's arm.'" This greatly weakened Pharaoh (Ezekiel 30:21); but further defeats were promised in this prophecy. Note in verse 22 that there is a distinction between what has already been broken and that which will be broken later. "I will break his arms, the strong arm, and that which was broken."
"The flexed arm was a common symbol for the strength of Pharaoh. Statues and images of Pharaoh showed the flexed arm, wielding a sword in battle. A king with a great biceps was a popular conception during the Saites Dynasty in the times of Ezekiel. Also another title taken by Pharaoh-Hophra was, `The Strong armed.' Thus the defeat of Pharaoh-Hophra was most appropriately described by the expression `breaking his arm.'"
"I will strengthen the arm of the king of Babylon, and put my sword in his hand ..." (Ezekiel 30:24). God commissioned Nebuchadnezzar as the destroyer of nations; and here the sword of Nebuchadnezzar is understood to be the very sword of God Himself.
"The groanings of a deadly wounded man ..." (Ezekiel 30:24). "Figuratively, when Ezekiel wrote this, Egypt is represented as a man mortally wounded in battle standing before the Lord who will destroy him."
The dispersion of the Egyptians among the nations and countries is again mentioned here, that being the almost invariable result of any conquest of one nation by another in those times. Also, the reason and purpose of God's punitive judgment upon the pagan nations of that era was focused in the divine intention of teaching them, by the hard way, who was really God. "And they shall know that I am Jehovah."
Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Ezekiel 30". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29