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Chapter 30 The Third and Fourth Oracles Against Egypt.
The Third Oracle. Judgment on Egypt (Ezekiel 30:1-19 ).
This is an undated oracle which has been variously allocated. It divides into four sections, Ezekiel 30:2-19.
‘The word of Yahweh came to me again, saying, “Son of man, prophesy and say, ‘Howl, alas the day, for the day is near, the day of Yahweh is near, a day of clouds, it will be the time of the nations. And a sword will come on Egypt, and anguish will be on Cush, when the slain will fall in Egypt. And they will take away large numbers of her, and the foundations will be broken down. Ethiopia and Put and Lud, and all the mingled people, and Cub and the children of the land which is in league will fall by the sword.”
That this refers primarily to the invasion by Nebuchadnezzar is made clear in Ezekiel 30:10. The ‘day of Yahweh’ is coming for Egypt. ‘The day of Yahweh’ is a phrase used of any time when God visits a nation or nations in judgment after they have incurred His anger. It finally came to signify the final day of Yahweh when he brings about His final purposes (Isaiah 2:12-21; Joel 3:14), but we must not read that into every usage. Here it refers to His day on Egypt.
The awfulness of what is shortly to come on Egypt is brought out by the introduction, ‘Howl, alas the day, for the day is near’. And along with her will suffer those who are in alliance with her. These alliances help to explain how an invasion of Egypt could drive Pharaoh and his forces out of Egypt into allied lands, only to be allowed to return once peace negotiations have succeeded. It would seem that there was defeat on Egyptian soil, with large numbers being taken captive and carried off to Babylon, followed by a withdrawal into allied lands as Egyptian administration collapsed, until peace terms were agreed.
‘A day of clouds.’ Thick clouds were often seen as accompanying Yahweh when He visited in judgment (Judges 5:4; 2 Samuel 22:12; Psalms 18:11-12; Psalms 77:17; Psalms 97:2; Jeremiah 4:13; Joel 2:2; Zephaniah 1:15).
‘The time of the nations.’ That is the nations in alliance with Egypt who were about to be described.
‘A sword will come on Egypt.’ That is the sword of Yahweh as wielded through Nebuchadnezzar.
‘Anguish will be on Cush, when the slain will fall in Egypt.’ The allies gathered in Egypt to resist the forces of Nebuchadnezzar and many were slain of both Egyptians and their allies so that Cush (Nubia/Northern Sudan) wept.
‘Cush and Put and Lud, and all the mingled people, and Cub and the children of the land which is in league will fall by the sword.’ Cush is Nubia/Northern Sudan, Put is African, but whether Eastern Sudan or Libya is disputed. Babylonian puta became T’ Tmhw (Lybia) in Egyptian which supports the latter. Lud is a descendant of Ham in Genesis 10:13 and thus also an African nation. Cub may well be part of Lybia. These were seemingly in league with Egypt against the threat of Babylon, and many were slain in the invasion. ‘The mingled people’ (compare Jeremiah 25:20) refers to mercenaries.
The Oracles Against Egypt (Ezekiel 29:1 to Ezekiel 32:32 ).
This section of the book is composed of seven oracles issued against Egypt. The fact that there are seven is probably deliberate in order to emphasise the divine completeness of the condemnation, for throughout the Near East seven was the number of divine perfection.
Egypt was the great power to the south, as Assyria, Babylon and Persia were successively to the north. Except in very weak times, she had always seen the land of Canaan as hers and under her administration, and had only reluctantly ceded ground when forced to do so for a time by those great powers from the north. Her influence had never been good and she was responsible for much of the idolatry in Israel. This was necessarily so because Pharaoh saw himself as the manifestation of the god Horus, becoming the great Osiris on his death. Thus the destruction of Egypt’s power was necessary if ever Israel was to be free.
This denunciation of Egypt is looking at more than the current situation, although having that in mind. For centuries Egypt had dominated Israel. Again and again she had crushed her and exacted tribute. Now she was to receiver retribution.
Furthermore at this time Egypt was seeking to rally the peoples in and around Canaan, encouraging them to rebel against Babylon with promises of aid. But because of her own comparative weakness this could only lead them into deep trouble. She was not strong enough to lean on. So if His people were to know peace Egypt had to be dealt with, and dealt with thoroughly.
From this time on Egypt would never again rise to be the great power that she had been. And Ezekiel reveals this as being due to the activity of Yahweh.
“Thus says the Lord Yahweh, They also who uphold Egypt will fall, and the pride of her power will come down, from Migdol to Seveneh will they fall in it by the sword, says the Lord Yahweh. And they will be desolate in the midst of the countries that are desolate, and her cities will be in the midst of the cities which are wasted. And they will know that I am Yahweh, when I have set a fire in Egypt, and all her helpers are destroyed. In that day will messengers go forth from before me in ships to make the careless Cush afraid, and there will be anguish on them as in the day of Egypt. For lo, it comes.”
The message of gloom for Egypt continues. Their allies will also fall, and the ‘pride of their power’ (their powerful leadership or cities?) will come down, from northern border to southern border, smitten by the sword. All at the word of the Lord Yahweh. And their desolation will be shared by countries round about. It will be as though a fire has been lit in Egypt which will consume them and their allies. And when this happens all will know by experience that He is Yahweh, the One Who is what He wants to be.
Then Yahweh’s messengers (possibly referring to the Babylonians?) will go by ship up the Nile to Cush who thought they were safe, and they too will suffer anguish. These may be Yahweh’s messengers simply because they carry news of what Yahweh has done, or in the sense that troops are shipped with a ‘message’ of action and destruction.
We do not have external information on how far Nebuchadnezzar went in his invasion before, in the end, he accepted peace terms. But Egypt would not have surrendered easily.
‘Lo, it comes.’ What was to happen was inevitable. Nothing would prevent it.
“Thus says the Lord Yahweh, I will also make the multitude (of either people or wealth) of Egypt to cease by the hand of Nebuchadrezzar, king of Babylon. He and his people with him, the terrible of the nations, will be brought in to destroy the land, and they will draw their swords against Egypt and fill the land with the slain.”
Through Nebuchadnezzar God will ‘make the multitude of Egypt to cease’. This may refer to population or to wealth, but in this section of Ezekiel ‘multitude’ tends to mean people. So either the population would be decimated or their wealth would be. In fact in such a war it would happen to both as cattle were slaughtered or run off, spoils were seized and people were put to the sword. For ‘the terrible of the nations’ compare Ezekiel 28:7. Note that Nebuchadnezzar and his hordes ‘will be brought in’, that is by Yahweh. They are seen as under Yahweh’s command.
“And I will make the rivers dry, and will sell the land into the hands of evil men. And I will make the land desolate, and all that is in it by the hand of strangers. I Yahweh have spoken it.”
Egypt would not only have to cope with invasion but with drought as the level of the Nile fell and many tributaries dried up. The irrigation canals, which required constant attention by the people, would be neglected and silt up. Furthermore as regularly happens in such a war there would be a rise of brigandage, to add to the people’s troubles as the desolation continued through visiting armies. All this would be seen as Yahweh’s doing.
“Thus says the Lord Yahweh, I will also destroy the idols, and I will cause the images to cease from Noph (Memphis). And there will be no more a prince out of 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 (Tanis), and will execute judgment on No (Thebes). And I will pour out my fury on Sin (Pelusium) , the stronghold of Egypt, and I will cut off the multitude of No (Thebes). And I will set a fire in Egypt. Sin will be in great anguish, and No will be broken up, and Noph will have adversaries in the day time. The young men of Aven (Heliopolis) and Pi-beseth will fall by the sword, and these will go into captivity. At Tehaphnehes (Tahpanhes) also the day will withdraw itself, when I will break there the yokes of Egypt, and the pride of her power will cease in her. As for her a cloud will cover her, and her daughters will go into captivity. Thus will I execute judgments in Egypt, and they will know that I am Yahweh.”
A wide range of cities in Egypt are mentioned to bring home the widespread nature of the devastation. Everywhere would be affected (compare for the approach Isaiah 10:27-32; Micah 1:10-15; Zephaniah 2:4). There is no order to the names, they are selected at random. The many gods of Egypt would be decimated and authority in the land would cease. There would thus be general fear over the whole land. The great cities would be desolated and many set on fire. Anguish would be everywhere. This would be invasion on a large scale. ‘Adversaries in the day time’ reflects this. The city gates would normally be open during the day, but closed at nights. At this time they would be permanently closed.
‘Also the day will withdraw itself, when I will break there the yokes of Egypt, and the pride of her power will cease in her. As for her a cloud will cover her, and her daughters will go into captivity.’ Tehaphnehes was a frontier city (Jeremiah 43:7) and would receive the first onslaught, becoming the first to be ‘freed’ from the Egyptian yoke. But it would be as though there was no more day, as though they were under a permanent cloud. They would be the first whose daughters were taken away as spoil.
Noph is better known as Memphis, modern Mit Raneh, and used to be the capital of Lower Egypt. Pathros was in Upper Egypt, between modern Cairo and Aswan, (compare Ezekiel 29:14). Zoan (Greek Tanis) was a chief city in the northeastern delta. No (Greek Thebes) is modern Karnak and Luxor, Egypt's southern capital, and often capital of all Egypt. It was the cultic centre of the sun god Amon. All the towns mentioned in these verses were important religious centres as well as large cities. Sin (Greek Pelusium), modern Tel Farama on the Mediterranean coast, was one of the northernmost strongholds of Egypt. Aven (also known as On, Greek Heliopolis), was a major religious centre in Lower Egypt, and Pi-beseth (Greek Bubastis), modern Basta, was another capital city sixty five kilometres (40 miles) northeast of modern Cairo. Tehaphnehes (Tahpanes, Greek Daphnai) is modern Tel Defenneh, and was a fortress town and residence of the Pharaohs (Isaiah 30:4; Jeremiah 2:16; Jeremiah 43:7; Jeremiah 43:9; Jeremiah 44:1).
‘Thus will I execute judgments in Egypt, and they will know that I am Yahweh.’ Once again the mocking world would be made aware of Who and What Yahweh is.
‘And so it was in the eleventh year, in the first month, on the seventh day of the month, that the word of Yahweh came to me saying, “Son of man, I have broken the arm of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and lo, it has not been bound up to apply healing medicines, to put a roller to bind it that it be strong to hold the sword.” ’
The attempt by Pharaoh Hophra to raise the siege of Jerusalem, while bringing a short relief, finally failed, and Pharaoh and his army were repulsed. This is described here as the breaking of his arm, and it was broken in such a way that it could not be healed or repaired to enable him to make another attack. He had proved a vain hope. And this was so because Yahweh Himself was against it.
The Fourth Oracle Against Egypt (Ezekiel 30:20-26 ). The Breaking of Pharaoh’s Arm.
The date of this oracle is April 587/6 BC and it opens by referring back to the futile attempt by Pharaoh Hophra in the previous year to finally break the siege on Jerusalem (Jeremiah 37:5-10), in terms of the breaking of Pharaoh’s arm. The strength of Pharaoh’s arm was proverbial in Egypt. It then goes on to declare that Yahweh will render him totally powerless and instead give strength to Nebuchadnezzar to enable him to defeat him. Again the emphasis is on the fact that all history is in Yahweh’s hands and conforms to His will.
“Therefore thus says the Lord Yahweh, Behold I am against Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and will break his arms, both the strong 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.”
Not only had Pharaoh been defeated and turned back, but God also intended to make him powerless, like a man with two broken bound up arms who tries to wield his sword and finds that it falls out of his hand. When Nebuchadnezzar attacked Pharaoh would be utterly defeated, and the fighting and the defeat would be such that many Egyptians would desert Egypt and be scattered among their neighbours. This was deliberately described like this so as to suggest a parallel to what had happened to Israel and Judah. Egypt will be no better off than they.
In fact by the time Nebuchadnezzar attacked Egypt after the siege of Tyre there was a new Pharaoh. Hophra had been killed in civil war after a disastrous campaign in Libya had caused an internal revolt, and was replaced by the leader of the revolt, Ahmose II. The broken arm was replaced by another broken arm. The civil war left Egypt in no position to defend itself against a powerful enemy. The result would be that many would flee the country for one reason or another.
Statues or images of the Pharaoh often had an arm flexed, wielding a sword in battle, and Pharaoh Hophra was reputed to have taken a second formal title that meant 'possessed of a muscular arm' or 'strong-armed', which may be in mind here.
“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 will 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 will fall down, and they will know that I am Yahweh when I put my sword into the hand of the king of Babylon and he stretches it out on the land of Egypt.”
The success and failure of each side is in the hands of Yahweh. The one whom He strengthens will succeed, the one whom He prevents will fail. Thus because He would make the arms of the king of Babylon strong, and it was His sword that he would bear, the king of Babylon would succeed. And because he would ‘break the arms’ of Pharaoh, Pharaoh would be defeated and groan like a mortally wounded man.
The holding up of the arms can be compared with Exodus 17:11-12. The holding up of the arms resulted in victory and here it is Yahweh who would hold up the arms of the king of Babylon so that he won, and vice versa for Egypt.
‘And they will know that I am Yahweh when I put my sword into the hand of the king of Babylon and he stretches it out on the land of Egypt.’ Again the purpose of all this was so that Yahweh’s power and being may be revealed. The idea is not that men would necessarily recognise Yahweh, but that they would have to accept the evidence of His power. Even if they did not acknowledge it, they would know it in experience.
The fact that Nebuchadnezzar would bear the sword of Yahweh emphasises that he was acting as Yahweh’s servant on Yahweh’s mission.
“And I will scatter the Egyptians among the nations, and disperse them through the countries, and they will know that I am Yahweh.”
The importance of this comes out in the number of times it is repeated (Ezekiel 29:12; Ezekiel 30:23 compare Jeremiah 46:19). This was what had happened to Israel and Judah and therefore Egypt must outwardly suffer the same. It was not necessary however that it happen in the same way and to the same degree. It was the principle that was important. The war with Babylon would certainly result in refugees fleeing across the borders, and the armies may well have had to retreat into neighbouring allied countries before peace was made.
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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Ezekiel 30". "Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany