Bible Commentaries
Ezekiel 32

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Verses 1-16

Lamentation Over Pharaoh

The word of the LORD comes to Ezekiel (Ezekiel 32:1). It is again a word with a calendar designation: year, month and day are mentioned. Ezekiel is commanded to take up a lamentation over Pharaoh (Ezekiel 32:2; cf. Ezekiel 2:10; Ezekiel 19:1Ezekiel 26:17; Ezekiel 28:12). Judgment against God’s enemies, however deserved that judgment may be, deeply saddens a true prophet.

Ezekiel is to say to Pharaoh that he resembles a young lion and monster in the seas. The imagery of the lion (Ezekiel 19:2; Ezekiel 19:3Ezekiel 19:5; Ezekiel 19:6; cf. Proverbs 19:12; Proverbs 20:2) is not elaborated, that of the sea monster (Ezekiel 29:3) is. His ferocious actions in the seas and rivers refer to the turmoil Pharaoh has brought among the nations. He is a cruel ruler and an unreliable ally.

The Lord GOD will judge him (Ezekiel 32:3). He will do so by catching him in His net. That net consists of a multitude of nations, namely Babylon and the nations that are with him. They are the tools in God’s hand to overwhelm Pharaoh and take him captive.

Once Pharaoh has lost his power and been robbed of everything valuable, he will be left destitute (Ezekiel 32:4). He will then be a prey to the vultures and the scavengers who will take from him what is left of edible food. The corpses lying on the mountains and valleys will be robbed of what they still possess (Ezekiel 32:5). The slaughter will be so great that the whole land, up to the mountains and riverbeds, will be filled with blood (Ezekiel 32:6).

Pharaoh, who has been acting like a sun god, will be extinguished, so that nothing of his brilliance will be seen (Ezekiel 32:7). He, who has seen himself as the radiant center of heaven, will be shrouded in blackness (Ezekiel 32:8). Clouds of God’s wrath will cover him. He will no longer receive and pass on any (errant) light. Other princes, too, who have allied themselves with him and seen themselves as lights, will be shrouded in black for his sake. The LORD will lay a thick blanket of darkness over the whole land (cf. Revelation 8:12; Isaiah 13:10; Amos 8:9; Joel 2:31; Joel 3:15; Matthew 24:29).

When the nations see the downfall of the mighty Egyptian empire, the LORD will trouble the hearts of those nations (Ezekiel 32:9). They will turn away from Egypt full of disappointment, appalled at its fall. With Egypt failing, their hope of successfully resisting the king of Babylon is dashed. Instead of hope, there is now despair (Ezekiel 32:10). The sword that defeated Egypt now brandishes menacingly before their eyes. The sword in Nebuchadnezzar’s hand is controlled by the far more powerful hand of God. When Egypt has fallen, it will cause trembling and fear for their own lives.

That Egypt will fall by the sword of the king of Babylon is certain (Ezekiel 32:11). The soldiers of the king of Babylon are all tyrants who will, without mercy, reign in Egypt in a violent manner unprecedented among the nations (Ezekiel 32:12). The pride of Egypt will be destroyed and all its hordes will be destroyed. All life will be annihilated. The waters will remain ripple-free, because there will be no one, neither man nor beast, left to stir them up (Ezekiel 32:13).

The water will be clear and transparent, without a ripple like that of an oil stream (Ezekiel 32:14). Egypt is fertile because of the supply of silt brought by a turbid Nile. But there is no more silt, so there will be barrenness and withering instead of fertility. The result of the judgments of the LORD will be that they will know that He is the LORD (Ezekiel 32:15).

The lamentation just sung by Ezekiel will be sung by the daughters of the nations (Ezekiel 32:16). They will sing about Egypt and all of its multitude when Egypt is desolate and the multitude is gone from the land. That will be after the Babylonians have executed His judgment on Pharaoh and his people as the avenging sword of the LORD.

Verses 17-32

Wailing for Egypt

Two weeks after lamenting over Pharaoh (Ezekiel 32:1), the word of the LORD comes to Ezekiel again (Ezekiel 32:17). He is now to wail “for the hordes of Egypt”, which is Pharaoh’s people (Ezekiel 32:18). This wailing has also been called a “death song”. It speaks of deep melancholy and sadness. The LORD tells Ezekiel to use his complaint to bring down the hordes of Egypt to the pit, to the realm of the dead. The words he utters mean death for the Egyptians. This is so because his words are in fact those of the LORD. And what the LORD speaks, happens. He will use Nebuchadnezzar to fulfill His words.

The lament begins by asking Egypt who exceeds them in loveliness (Ezekiel 32:19). The answer is that no one is above them. They may hold that opinion, but it will only make their fall all the greater. They are told to come down and be resigned to the uncircumcised. This is not a request, but a command that will be carried out.

They will share in the fate of others who have also fallen by the sword (Ezekiel 32:20). They will be handed over to the sword and dragged away like garbage. This is a great shock to the Egyptians. They are used to decorating, mummifying and preserving their dead. They are used to building pyramids and making showpieces of the tombs. Now they are told that their dead bodies will be treated with the greatest defamation. The mighty heroes who preceded them in death will address them with contempt when they descend into Sheol, the realm of death (Ezekiel 32:21). Nothing will remain of the respect they enjoyed on earth.

Five examples are given of nations that have fallen and with whom Egypt is now aligned by its demise. The first nation is Assyria (Ezekiel 32:22-Isaiah :). How they boasted of their power and how cruelly they ranted against peoples subjugated by them. They, who have caused terror in the land of the living, lie defeated by the sword in the depths of the pit, while there is also a company of unburied bodies around his grave.

The second people are Elam (Ezekiel 32:24-Lamentations :). Elam is the first people mentioned in the Bible to go out to war (Genesis 14:1-1 Samuel :). This once warlike people, who like the Assyrians brought terror in the land of the living, suffer the same fate as the Assyrians (cf. Isaiah 21:2; Isaiah 22:6; Jeremiah 49:34-Malachi :). They are now among those slain by the sword, but in that place they find nothing of the respect they commanded on earth. They are now despised.

The third is Meshech and Tubal, two Asia Minor nations (Ezekiel 32:26; cf. Genesis 10:2; Ezekiel 38:2; Ezekiel 38:3). Like Assyria and Elam, Meshech and Tubal have been a terror in the land of the living. When they lay down mortally wounded, not a shadow remained of the heroes they once were. The tribute that heroes usually receive at their burial by burying their weapons of war with them is not there for them (Ezekiel 32:27). Instead of the honor of weapons of war, iniquity lies upon them. That will also be the fate of Egypt (Ezekiel 32:28).

The fourth people is Edom (Ezekiel 32:29). For him too, as for the peoples mentioned above, there is no honorable place in the realm of the dead. Nothing remains of his former power.

The last people cited in the complaint about Egypt are a collection of nations who have all been mighty in the land of the living, but have now descended with disgrace into the realm of the dead (Ezekiel 32:30). Their place is with the other nations who have descended into the realm of the dead in disgrace.

Pharaoh will see all the named peoples in the realm of the dead and take comfort in the fact that he is not the only one who must suffer this fate (Ezekiel 32:31). It is, of course, a particularly meager, cold comfort. Nor is it true comfort, for any sympathy that might ease or help bear pain is absent. It is more gloating that others are also in the realm of the dead. Pharaoh will not feel the judgment any less severe because of it.

The prophecies about the nations end with the observation that Pharaoh will know that he is in the realm of the dead because the LORD has imposed His terror on him in the land of the living (Ezekiel 32:32). Therefore, he is now in a place of contempt. He has ended up there because he has fallen by the sword of God’s judgment. That is what the Lord GOD declares and that is why it is so.

As we read this chapter, we come under the impression of God’s monotonous, constantly repeated judgment of one people after another. There is nothing beautiful about sin, for sin ends in death. It is cause and effect. What ends in death remains there forever and ever. That eternal condition awaits every soul who dies without Christ.

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Ezekiel 32". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.