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Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

Ezekiel 29

The section of Ezekiel 29-32 deals with the judgment on Egypt. In this section, “the word of the LORD” comes to Ezekiel seven times (Eze 29:1; 17; Eze 30:1; 20; Eze 31:1; Eze 32:1; 17). Seven is the number of completeness. This emphasizes that it is a complete message.

We might ask, why does God pay so much attention to Egypt? Throughout the Old Testament, Egypt is a land full of luring wealth and power, a picture of the world. The pride of Egypt is one reason for God to give this message. Egypt is a natural enemy for Israel, but when Israel falls into unbelief and no longer trusts God, Egypt shows itself to be a generous but unreliable ally. Once and again Egypt promises to help with armies, but once and again it turns out to be empty promises.

The message is addressed to Egypt, but it is also intended for the people of God. The people of God must be made aware by this message of the true character of this enemy. The lesson is that Israel has often put its trust in this land rather than in God and that this trust has always been betrayed (cf. Jer 17:5).

Verses 1-12

Judgment on Egypt

The word of the LORD comes to Ezekiel (Eze 29:1). The message has a date. By our calendar, the date is December 29, 588 BC. A year earlier, Nebuchadnezzar’s siege of Jerusalem began (Jer 32:1-5; Jer 52:4; Jer 39:1; Eze 24:1). Ezekiel is commanded to set his face against Pharaoh and prophesy against him and against all Egypt (Eze 29:2). The LORD tells him what he is to speak on behalf of the Lord GOD (Eze 29:3).

The judgment announcement begins with a parable. Pharaoh is described as “the great sea monster”. The Greek translation of the Old Testament calls Pharaoh “the great dragon”, the same designation satan has in the New Testament (Rev 12:9). The LORD thus points to the satanic nature of Pharaoh’s government. Satan has Pharaoh in his power and expresses himself through him. The judgment on Pharaoh is therefore at the same time the judgment on satan. This sea monster is in the midst of the rivers of Egypt, all of which he considers his property. The sea monster mentions the Nile by name and he adds that it is his, “my Nile”, and that he made it for himself.

Egypt owes its prosperity to the waters of the Nile. The river makes the Egyptian soil fertile. It is blasphemous pride on Pharaoh’s part to claim that he is the creator and owner of the Nile. Pharaoh sees himself as God (cf. Eze 28:2), as the creator of prosperity and well-being for his people.

There is no thought of the true God in Pharaoh’s haughty, arrogant language. We hear the same spirit of independence and selfishness in the language Nabal utters when the men of David come to him to ask for a favor (1Sam 25:11). God is not taken into account at all. Pharaoh thinks and talks as if he himself were God.

Modern man, who believes that everything belongs to him and that he has made everything for himself, utters the same language. Any notion of God as Creator and Sustainer is banished from thought. Everything in creation, everything he thinks he owns, is seen both as property and as an object of worship. Man thinks he is free to use creation, but he is essentially a slave to materialism.

The LORD lets Pharaoh know what He will do to him and the inhabitants of Egypt (Eze 29:4). He will bring the monster with the fish – the fish refers to the Egyptians – up out of the river and give it to the beasts and birds for food (Eze 29:5).

The occasion of this judgment is the deception that the Egyptians committed against Israel (Eze 29:6-7). Israel made a covenant with them against Babylon, but Egypt broke that covenant (Jer 37:5-10; Eze 17:15). It has been shown that Egypt cannot provide any support, for it is only a reed. On a reed you cannot lean. If you do, it breaks. To this the commander of the king of Assyria reminds the envoy of Hezekiah (Isa 36:6). That Israel itself was warned against such a covenant is also true, but that is not the issue here. The issue here is Egypt’s untrustworthiness to God’s people.

Because of the deceitfulness of Egypt, the LORD will judge them (Eze 29:8). He will do this by bringing the sword upon them. As a result, the land of Egypt will become a desolation and waste (Eze 29:9). Through that judgment, they will know that He is the LORD Who will withstand every pride and will judge.

The LORD in his judgment repeats Pharaoh’s bragging about the Nile as his possession for himself. Pharaoh speaks highly of the Nile as his exclusive possession. In doing so, he defies God, Who made the Nile. Therefore God will make his whole land, from north to south, an utter waste and desolation, from Migdol in the north to Syene in the south, where the land borders Ethiopia (Eze 29:10).

What remains of Egypt presents a particularly sad sight. Not a living being will pass through it (Eze 29:11). Yet it is not a final situation. Its duration is set at forty years (Eze 29:12). During that time the Egyptians will have been driven out of their land by God and scattered among the nations and dispersed among the lands.

Verses 13-16

Restoration of a Remnant of Egypt

Then we see that God in His grace also provides for a remnant of Egypt (Eze 29:13). His grace is not limited to His people, but He shows it to Egypt as well (Isa 19:1-25). He announces a return of Egyptians whom He will make return form the scattering to their land of origin, Pathros (Eze 29:14). There will not be many of them. The returnees together will be but an insignificant kingdom. They will be so “low” that they will not be able to lift themselves up above other nations, and they will be so “small” that they will not be able to rule over other nations (Eze 29:15). Egypt will be of such little importance that it will have ceased to be a world power.

Egypt’s greatness and display of power will be gone. As a result, Egypt will no longer be a temptation for Israel to seek support there, as they have done in the past (Eze 29:16). That seeking support from Egypt has been an iniquity for Israel. They will no longer commit that iniquity, and Egypt will know that He is the Lord GOD Who makes all things turn for the better.

Verses 17-21

Egypt as a Reward for Nebuchadnezzar

The word of the LORD comes to Ezekiel with the date added when this happens (Eze 29:17). It is sixteen years later than the previous prophecy (Eze 29:1). The LORD informs Ezekiel how He appreciates Nebuchadnezzar’s efforts in his battle against Tyre (Eze 29:18). Nebuchadnezzar’s armies have done hard work in carrying out His judgments on Tyre. The siege of Tyre was hard work because it was an island city and it also lasted a very long time. The bringing up of the siege implements made heads bald and shoulders were rubbed bare.

For all this hard and many work, they received comparatively little pay, less than the LORD considers this work worth. It has been assumed that because of the long siege, the inhabitants of Tyre were able to bring many of their riches to safety, leaving relatively little spoil at the fall of the city. Therefore, the LORD determines that additional wages must be paid. This He gives in the form of the conquest of Egypt which Nebuchadnezzar is allowed to rob of its abundance (Eze 29:19; cf. Isa 43:3).

The LORD additionally mentions that Nebuchadnezzar’s siege and destruction of Tyre was a work Nebuchadnezzar did for Him (Eze 29:20). Therefore, the LORD gives him the land of Egypt. Egypt is conquered by the Babylonians.

For us, here is an encouragement. If God rewarded the king of Babylon for work he did ignorantly and for his own sake, how much more will the Lord Jesus reward us when we serve Him intentionally and for His sake.

The prophecy against Egypt ends in a promise of salvation for Israel (Eze 29:21; cf. Eze 28:25-26). “On that day”, that is, the day of judgment on the nations, the LORD will do something for Israel that will make that day a day of salvation for them: He “will make a horn sprout” for them. This horn – a picture of power – refers to the Lord Jesus (Lk 1:69).

The fulfillment of the prophecy will vindicate Ezekiel regarding all that he has announced. It will encourage him all the more to open his mouth to speak what the LORD has said.

In a prophetic sense, all who are under the rule of the Lord Jesus, when He rules, will open their mouths to testify of Him. They will know and let it be known that He is the LORD.

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Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Ezekiel 29". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.