INTRODUCTION TO EZEKIEL 29
This chapter contains a prophecy against Pharaoh king of Egypt; and of the destruction of the land of Egypt; and of the restoration of it after a certain time. The time of prophecy is noted, Ezekiel 29:1, the order to prophesy against Pharaoh, who is described as a large fish, lying in his rivers, and boasting of them, Ezekiel 29:2, his destruction and the manner of it, Ezekiel 29:4, the reason of it, his treachery to the Jews, Ezekiel 29:6, hence the whole land of Egypt is threatened with desolation, from one end to the other, so as to be uninhabited by man or beast for the space of forty years, Ezekiel 29:8, but shall not arrive to their former glory as a kingdom, nor be any more the confidence of the house of Israel, Ezekiel 29:15, then follows a prophecy seventeen years after this, showing the reason why Egypt was given to the king of Babylon, Ezekiel 29:17, and the chapter is closed with a promise of happiness to Israel, Ezekiel 29:21.
In the tenth year, in the tenth month, in the twelfth day of the month,.... In the tenth year Jeconiah's captivity, and Zedekiah's reign. The Septuagint version has it, the twelfth year; and the Arabic version, the twelfth month; and the Septuagint version again, the first day of the month; and the Vulgate Latin, the eleventh day of it. This month was the month Tebet, and answers to part of December, and part of January. This prophecy was delivered before that concerning Tyre, though placed after it, because fulfilled after it, which gave Nebuchadnezzar Egypt as a reward for besieging and taking Tyre:
the word of the Lord came unto me, saying; as follows.
Son of man, set thy face against Pharaoh king of Egypt,.... Pharaoh was a name common to all the kings of Egypt; the name of this king was Pharaohhophra, Jeremiah 44:30, and who, by Herodotus
and prophesy against him, and against all Egypt; prophesy of his destruction, and of the destruction of the whole land that is under his dominion.
Speak, and say, thus saith the Lord God,.... The one only, living, and true God, the almighty, eternal, and unchangeable Jehovah, which the gods of Egypt were not:
behold, I am against thee, Pharaoh king of Egypt; who, though so great a king, was not a match for God, yea, nothing in his hands; nor could he stand before him, or contend with him; or,
I am above thee
the great dragon that lieth in the midst of his rivers; the chief river of Egypt was the Nile, which opened in seven mouths or gates into the sea, and out of which canals were made to water the whole land; and which abounding with rivers and watery places, hence the king of it is compared to a great fish, a dragon or whale, or rather a crocodile, which was a fish very common, and almost peculiar to Egypt; and with which the description here agrees, as Bochart observes; and who also remarks that Pharaoh in the Arabic language signifies a crocodile; and to which he may be compared for his cruel, voracious, and mischievous nature; and is here represented as lying at ease, and rolling himself in the enjoyment of his power, riches, and pleasures:
which hath said, my river is mine own, and I have made it for myself; alluding to the river Nile, which his predecessors had by their wisdom cut out into canals, for the better watering of the land; and which he might have improved, so that it stood in no need of rain, nor of the supplies of other countries, having a sufficiency from its own product; though he chiefly designs his kingdom, which was his own, and he had established it, and made himself great in it; for the last clause may be rendered, either, "I have made it", as the Syriac version, the river Nile, ascribing that to himself which belonged to God; or, "I have made them", the rivers among whom he lay, as the Septuagint and Arabic versions; or, "I have made myself", as the Vulgate Latin version; that is, a great king. So the Targum,
"the kingdom is mine, and I have subdued it.'
Herodotus says of this king, that he was so lifted up with pride, and so secure of his happy state, that he said there was no God could deprive him of his kingdom
But I will put hooks in thy jaws,.... The allusion is to fishhooks, which are taken by fishes with the bait into their mouths, and stick in their jaws, by which they are drawn out of the river, and taken. The king of Egypt being before compared to a fish, these hooks design some powerful princes and armies, which should be the ruin of Pharaoh; one of them, according to Junius and Grotius, was Amasis, at the head of the Cyreneans and Greeks; and another was Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon; see Job 41:1,
and I will cause the fish of thy rivers to stick unto thy scales; the people of his kingdom, especially his soldiers, generals, princes, and great men, to cleave to him, follow him, and go out with him in his expedition against Amasis. The Targum is,
"I will kill the princes of thy strength with thy mighty ones:'
and I will bring thee up out of the midst of thy rivers: alluding to the crocodile, to which he is compared, which sometimes comes out of the river, and goes on dry land. The king of Egypt was brought out of his kingdom by the following means: Amasis, with the Cyreneans and Greeks, having seized upon Lybia, and drove the king of it from thence, he applied to Pharaoh for help, who gathered a large army of Egyptians, and led them out into the fields of Cyrene, where they were defeated by Amasis, and almost all perished, and the king saved himself by flight; upon which the Egyptians mutinied and rebelled against him, and Amasis became their king:
and all the fish of thy rivers shall stick unto thy scales; the common people of Egypt; for the above numerous army consisted only of Egyptians, whom he gathered from all parts, drained his rivers of them, and almost exhausted his country hereby; he had indeed in an army, after this battle with Amasis, thirty thousand auxiliaries, Carians and Ionians; but these were not the fish of his rivers. The Targum is,
"I will make thy kingdom to cease from thee, and all the princes of thy strength with thy mighty ones shall be killed;'
with which the history agrees. The allusion to the crocodile is here very just and pertinent, which is a fish full of scales. Monsieur Thevenot
"the body of this fish is large, and all of a size; the back is covered with high scales, like the heads of nails in a court gate, of a greenish colour, and so hard that they are proof against a halberd; and it has a long tail covered with scales like the body;'
and another traveller says
And I will leave thee thrown into the wilderness, thee, and all the fish of thy rivers,.... Where fish in common cannot live, but die as soon almost as out of the water, and on dry land, excepting those that are of the amphibious kind. This wilderness designs the deserts of Lybia and Cyrene, where the battle was fought between Hophra and Amasis; and where the Egyptian army perished, only their king, before compared to a crocodile, which lives on land, as well as in water, escaped. The Targum is,
"I will cast thee into a wilderness, and all the princes of thy strength:'
thou shalt fall upon the open fields thou shalt not be brought together, nor gathered, this is to he understood of his army; for what is proper to an army is sometimes ascribed to the head or general of it; which fell by the sword in the fields of Lybia and Cyrene and was so discomfited, that the remains of it could not be brought and gathered together again: or the sense is, that those that were slain were left in the open fields, and had no burial; they were not gathered to the grave, as Kimchi interprets it; and so the Targum,
"upon the face of the field thy carcass shall be cast; it shall not be gathered, nor shall it be buried:'
this was only true of the carcasses of the soldiers slain in battle, not of the king, who fled, and afterwards in another battle was taken by Amasis, and strangled in the city of Sais, where he was buried among his ancestors, as Herodotus
I have given thee for meat to the beasts of the field and to the fowls of the heaven; that is, his army; as the armies of the kings, beast, and false prophet, will be at the battle of Armageddon, when the two latter will be taken and cast alive into the burning lake, of which this monarch was an emblem, Revelation 19:17.
And all the inhabitants of Egypt shall know that I am the Lord,.... Who could eject their king from his kingdom, and deliver him into the hands of his enemy; though he thought no God could, as he boastingly said, before observed:
because they have been a staff of reed to the house of Israel; alluding to the country of Egypt, which abounded with reeds that grew upon the banks of the river Nile, and other rivers. This signifies that either the Egyptians were weak, and could not help the people of Israel when they applied to them; or rather that they were treacherous and deceitful, and would not assist them, according to agreement; and were even pernicious and hurtful to them, as a broken reed; see Isaiah 36:6. The Targum renders it,
"the staff of a reed broken.'
When they took hold of thee by thy hand,.... When the Israelites entered into an alliance and confederacy with the Egyptians, called for their assistance according to treaty, and put their confidence in them:
thou didst break and rend all their shoulder; as a reed which a man puts under his armhole, and leans upon, and it breaks under him, the splinters run into the flesh up to the very shoulder, and tear the flesh to pieces; so, through Zedekiah's trusting to the king of Egypt, he rebelled against the king of Babylon, which brought on his ruin, and the destruction of his kingdom:
and when they leaned upon thee thou brakest, and madest all their loins to be at a stand; when they put their confidence in the king of Egypt, and sent to him for help when besieged by the king of Babylon, and he failed them, they were obliged to raise up themselves, as a man is forced to do when his staff breaks under him, whose loins before were bowed, but now erects himself, and stands and walks as well as he can without it; so the Jews were forced to stand upon their own legs, and exert all the force they had, and make all the efforts they could against the king of Babylon, being left in the lurch by the king of Egypt; in which, though they were rightly served for their vain confidence and not trusting in the Lord, yet the treachery of the Egyptians was resented by him, as follows:
Therefore thus saith the Lord God,.... Because of the pride of the king of Egypt, asserting the river to be his own, and made by him for himself; and because of his perfidy to the house of Israel:
behold, I will bring a sword upon thee; or those that kill with the sword, as the Targum; first a cival war, occasioned by the murmurs of the people, on account of the defeat of their army at Cyrene; which issued in the dethroning and strangling of this king, as before observed and setting up another; which cival commotions Nebuchadnezzar took the advantage of, and came against Egypt with a large army:
and cut off man and beast out of thee; for what with the civil wars among themselves, and what with the devastations of the king of Babylon's army, putting men to the sword, and seizing upon the beasts for their food, to support such an army in a foreign land, it was pretty well stripped of both.
And the land of Egypt shall be desolate and waste,.... Men few or none being left in it, to till it, nor cattle found upon it:
and they shall know that I am the Lord; by these judgments executed upon them, now foretold; and which when come to pass, they will be obliged to acknowledge the omniscience and omnipotence of Jehovah:
because thou hast said, the river is mine, and I have made it; See Gill on Ezekiel 29:3; this insolent expression was highly resented by the Lord, as appears by the repetition of it. The Targum is here, as before,
"the kingdom is mine, and I have subdued it;'
but, notwithstanding this vaunt, he could not keep it.
Behold, therefore, I am against thee, and against thy rivers,.... Against the king of Egypt, and against his subjects, the many people he ruled over; as the Lord is against spiritual Egypt, and the head of it, and the antichristian states, signified by many waters, rivers, and fountains; see Revelation 11:8,
and I will make the land of Egypt utterly waste and desolate; partly by a civil war, and partly by a foreign enemy; especially those parts of it which were the seat of war:
from the tower of Syene even unto the border of Ethiopia; or the tower of Seveneh; according to Herodotus
No foot of man shall pass through it,.... This must be understood not strictly, but with some limitation; it cannot be thought that Egypt was so depopulated as that there should not be a single passenger in it; but that there should be few inhabitants in it, or that there should be scarce any that should come into it for traffic; it should not be frequented as it had been at least there should be very few that travelled in it, in comparison of what had:
no foot of beast shall pass through it: no droves of sheep and oxen, and such like useful cattle, only beasts of prey should dwell in it:
neither shall it be inhabited forty years: afterwards, Ezekiel 29:17, a prophecy is given out concerning the destruction of it by Nebuchadnezzar, which was in the twenty seventh year, that is, of Jeconiah's captivity; now allowing three years for the fulfilment of that prophecy, or forty years, a round number put for forty three years, they will end about the time that Cyrus conquered Babylon, at which time the seventy years' captivity of the Jews ended; and very likely the captivity of the Egyptians also. The Jews pretend to give a reason why Egypt lay waste just forty years, because the famine, signified in Pharaoh's dream, was to have lasted, as they make it out, forty two years; whereas, according to them, it continued only two years; and, instead of the other forty years of famine, Egypt must be forty years uninhabited: this is mentioned both by Jarchi and Kimchi.
And I will make the land of Egypt desolate in the midst of the countries that are desolate,.... As Judea and others, made desolate by the king of Babylon:
and her cities among the cities that are laid waste shall be desolate forty years; such as Thebes, Sais, Memphis, and others; which should share the same fate as Jerusalem and other principal cities in other countries, which fell into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar:
and I will scatter the Egyptians among the nations, and will disperse them through the countries; such as were not carried captive into Babylon fled into other countries, as Arabia, Ethiopia, and other places, Berosus
Yet thus saith the Lord God, at the end of forty years,.... Reckoning from its devastation by Nebuchadnezzar to the taking of Babylon by Cyrus:
will I gather the Egyptians from the people whither they were scattered; from Babylon, and other places; Cyrus very probably being stirred up by the Lord to proclaim liberty to the Egyptians, as he did to the Jews, to return to their own land; and at the same time restored Amasis to the quiet possession of his kingdom, who must be still alive; since, according to Diodorus Siculus
And I will bring again the captivity of Egypt,.... For what is done by men, under the direction and influence of divine Providence, is said to be done by the Lord, as this was, though by the means of Cyrus:
and will cause them to return into the land of Pathros; which was a part of the land of Egypt; perhaps so called from Pathrusim, the son of Mizraim, from whom Egypt had its name, Genesis 10:14. Bochart takes it to be Thebais, a principal country in Egypt:
into the land of their habitation; or nativity, where they were born, and where they before dwelt:
and they shall be there a base kingdom; as it is at this day more especially, to which it has been gradually reduced, having passed into various hands, and come under the power and dominion of different states: whatever might be the case and circumstances of it under Cyrus, Cambyses his son entered into it, made sad devastation in it, and an entire conquest of it; and though it revolted under Darius Hystaspes, it was subdued again, and brought into a worse state than before by Xerxes: it revolted again in the reign of Darius Nothus, and was at last by Ochus totally subdued; and from that time the Egyptians never had a king of their own nation to reign over them. Along with the Persian empire it came into the hands of Alexander without any opposition; and, after his death, fell to the share of Ptolemy, one of his captains; and, though some of the first kings of that name were of considerable note and power, yet Egypt made a poor figure under the reigns of several of them. When the Roman empire obtained, it became a province of that, and continued so for six or seven hundred years; and then it fell into the hands of the Saracens, when it sunk into ignorance and superstition, the Mahometan religion being established in it, with whom it continued until about the year of Christ 1250; when the Mamalucks, or Turkish and Carcassian slaves, rose up against their sovereigns, the sultans of Egypt, and usurped the government, in whose hands it was until the year 1517; when Selim the ninth, emperor of the Turks, conquered the Mamalucks, and put an end to their government, and annexed it to the Ottoman empire; of which it is a province to this day
And it shall be the basest of the kingdoms,.... That belonged to the Persian monarchy, or to the Macedonian empire, being more kept under than the rest, lest it should regain its former strength and glory; though it became more famous in the times of some of the Ptolemies, yet never recovered its former greatness; and is now exceeding base indeed, as appears from the preceding note:
neither shall it exalt itself any more above the nations; so as to conquer them, and make them tributary to it, as it had done:
for I will demolish them, that they shall no more rule over the nations; for though they made war upon other nations in the time of the Lagidae, yet they did not subdue them, and annex them to their kingdom, being much weakened both as to men and money.
And it shall be no more the confidence of the house of Israel,.... It having been treacherous to them, and moreover subdued by the Chaldeans, the Jews, even after their return from captivity, put no more confidence in them; it being now become as it is here prophesied it would, the basest of the kingdoms, more weak, and in a more abject state, than the rest, and so despised by its neighbours, as it was by the Jews:
which bringeth their iniquity to remembrance, when they shall look after them; as they had done in time past, when they looked after them for help, and expected it from them, and trusted in them, and served their idols; which brought to the Lord's remembrance former iniquities and idolatries, for which he punished them; but now they should do so no more:
but they shall know that I am the Lord God; not the Egyptians, but the Israelites; who being returned from captivity, shall acknowledge and serve the only true God, and no more worship the idols of the nations.
And it came to pass in the seven and twentieth year,.... Of Jeconiah's captivity; or of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, as Jarchi, Kimchi, and Abendana, from Seder Olam Rabba
in the first month, in the first day of the month: the month Nisan, which answers to part of March, and part of April. According to Bishop Usher
The word of the Lord came unto me, saying; as follows:
Son of man, Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon,.... The same with Nebuchadnezzar; he goes by both names in Scripture, nor is the difference very great:
caused his army to serve a great service against Tyrus; in besieging it thirteen years
every head was made bald, and every shoulder was peeled: the heads of the soldiers became bald with wearing their helmets so long, or carrying baskets of earth and timber upon them, to make mounts with; and the skin of their shoulders was peeled off, either with their armour, or by carrying burdens on them for the above purpose; or, as Jerom says, from the Assyrian annals, to make a causeway to join the island to the continent, that so they might come at it with their battering rams, and demolish it:
yet hath he no wages; nor his army, for Tyrus; for besieging it; for, as the same Jerom observes when the Tyrians found that the city was like to be taken by him, their gold and silver, and whatsoever was valuable that was with them, they put on and sent it to other islands; or, as others say, that when Tyre on the continent, which was what Nebuchadnezzar besieged, was about to be taken, the inhabitants transplanted their riches to the island at some distance, where new Tyre was afterwards built; however, what with the consumption of their riches during this thirteen years' siege, and the removing their effects to other places before the taking of the city there was scarce anything left for the plunder of king of Babylon's army, so that he and that had nothing to requite them:
for the service that he had served against it: it must have cost him a great deal of money to support such a numerous army for so long a time, as well as the siege was very toilsome and laborious; and yet, when the city was taken, there was nothing found in it to answer this expense and labour.
Therefore thus saith the Lord God,.... Since this was the case, that the king of Babylon had been working for nothing, and had spent much blood and treasure, as well as time, to little purpose and advantage to himself;
behold, I will give the land of Egypt to Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon; which will make him a sufficient recompence for his loss of time, men, and money, before Tyre; and though the conquest of Egypt was made easy to him, by the internal divisions and wars which were among the Egyptians; yet these were suffered, and ordered by the providence of God, to bring about this his will, by way of righteous punishment of the Egyptians, for their treachery to his people, and other sins:
and he shall take her multitude, of soldiers, and of inhabitants, and carry them captive:
and take her spoil, and take her prey; that which the Egyptians had spoiled other nations of and made a prey of that should now become the spoil and prey of the Chaldeans:
and it shall be the wages for his army; with this the king of Babylon would be able to pay off the arrears of his army; which had lain so long against Tyre; or this would be a recompence to them for all the hardships they there sustained.
I have given him the land of Egypt for labour wherewith he served against it, That is, against Tyre; meaning not Nebuchadnezzar merely or only, but his army also, who did the main of the service and labour, and had the plunder of the country for it; though the kingdom itself was given to their king, and annexed to his monarchy:
because they wrought for me, saith the Lord God; not intentionally, but eventually; they did not design to do any service for God; they only sought to serve themselves with the riches and wealth of those they subdued; and yet while they besieged Tyre, and when they took it, and while they were ravaging, plundering, and subduing Egypt, they were doing the Lord's will and work, and executing his righteous judgments on these enemies of his for their sins; wherefore he rewarded them sufficiently: none ever are employed by him but he gives them their wages; even though they are wicked and ungodly men, verily they have their reward.
In that day will I cause the horn of the house of Israel to bud forth,.... Not at the time of Egypt's destruction, unless it can be thought that this refers to the advancement of Daniel in the court of Babylon; or to the taking of Jehoiachin out of prison, and setting his throne above the rest of the kings; which events came to pass a little after this: but rather this respects the time of Egypt's restoration forty years after, when Cyrus came to the throne, and proclaimed liberty to the Jews to return to their own land, and build their city and temple, under the government of Zerubbabel their prince: besides, it may not be limited to either of these times, but may regard the famous day, when the kingdom of Israel, in a spiritual sense, should flourish under the Messiah, the Horn of salvation, and Branch of David, often promised to bud forth, and was fulfilled in Jesus, Psalm 132:17. The Targum is,
"in that day will I bring redemption to the house of Israel.'
And I will give thee the opening of the mouth in the midst of them; in prophecy among them, as the Targum; who after this, might deliver other prophecies, though we have no account of them; or he should have boldness and courage when he and they should see his prophecies fulfilled, by which it would appear that he was a true prophet of the Lord:
and they shall know that I am the Lord; who sent the prophet, and from whom he had these prophecies, and by whom they were fulfilled.
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
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Gill, John. "Commentary on Ezekiel 29". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week after Epiphany