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THE FIRST OF FOUR CHAPTERS DIRECTED AGAINST EGYPT (Chap. 29)
EXEGETICAL NOTES.—“Pharaoh, a monarch with whom the Hebrews were frequently in contact, is represented as vaunting in the security of his position, when the prophet is commissioned to announce the Divine interposition to effect the desolation of his country throughout its whole extent (Ezekiel 29:1-12). Though after the lapse of forty years the Egyptian people were to be restored to their country, the kingdom was never to emerge from that state of degradation to which it should be reduced (13–16). The following verses (17–20), distinctly announce the conquest of the country by Nebuchadnezzar; and the chapter concludes with a promise of future prosperity to the Jews (Ezekiel 29:21).”—(Henderson).
Ezekiel 29:3. “Pharaoh … the great dragon.” “Pharaoh was a general name of the kings of Egypt down to the time of the Persian conquest. A more appropriate emblem of these kings could not have been selected than that of the Heb. word tanim, by which we are to understand the crocodile, the terrible sea-monster inhabiting the Nile, whose usual size is about eighteen or twenty feet in length, but sometimes from thirty to forty. This animal occurs on Roman coins as emblematical of Egypt. The ‘rivers’ were the branches into which the Nile was divided, and to which the country was indebted for its fertility.”—(Henderson.)
Ezekiel 29:4. “I will put hooks in thy jaws.” According to Herodotus crocodiles were taken with hooks (Job 41:1-2). In the Assyrian sculptures prisoners are represented with a hook in the under lip, and a cord from it held by the king. “All the fish of thy rivers shall stick unto thy scales.” “If the Nile denotes the prosperity of Egypt, the fish are its inhabitants living in prosperity, that feel themselves as fish when they are in the water, but now are placed on the dry ground. They are drawn out with the dragon; the subjects fall with the king, and in consequence of his fall.”—Hengstenberg.
Ezekiel 29:5. “I will have thee thrown into the wilderness.” “The wilderness, in contrast with the Nile, denotes the state of weakness without help or means. The contrast is taken from the natural conditions of Egypt, where the waste, awful wilderness borders on the fertile banks of the Nile. The ‘field’ is the open field, in contrast with the splendid mausoleums in which the Egyptian Pharaohs were buried in the times of their glory. He comes down so low, that he does not even receive an honourable burial. Who would trust in a deliverer, and make him an idol, who cannot provide this for himself, who is destined to feed the ravens, and will very soon be carrion! The king is, so to speak, an ideal person, who comprises in himself a great numerical multiplicity. Thus the statement is appropriate: ‘Thou shalt not be brought together, nor gathered.’ Each of his deceased subjects was, as it were, a part of Pharaoh, as in the retreat from Moscow Napoleon was seen in every dead Frenchman.”—(Hengstenberg.)
Ezekiel 29:6. “A staff of reed to the house of Israel.” There is an allusion to the reeds on the banks of the Nile, which broke if one attempted to lean upon them. (Isaiah 36:6.) Israel had trusted in Egypt, in many alliances, but found to her sorrow that she had leaned upon a broken reed.
Ezekiel 29:7. “At a stand.” This describes the contraction of the muscles by the sudden pain. “It pierced through their shoulders, and made these, by injuring their muscles, ligaments, and joints, stiff and rigid, so that they could but stand and move no more. So fared it with the kingdom of the ten tribes under Hosea in connection with Egypt, and likewise with the kingdom of Judah under Zedekiah.”—Lange.
Ezekiel 29:10. “From the tower of Syene.” Some translate, “From Migdol to Syene.” Migdol signifies a “fortress,” and was the name of a city lying to the north of Suez. Syene was situated in the remote south.
Ezekiel 29:11. “No foot of man … neither shall it be inhabited forty years.” There would be no settled inhabitants. It this period began the year after the capture of Tyre, B. C. 572, it would end in the fifth year of Cyrus (B. C.532) Jerome remarks, the number forty is one often connected with affliction and judgment. The rains of the Flood in forty days brought destruction on the world. Moses, Elias, and the Saviour fasted forty days. The interval between Egypt’s overthrow by Nebuchadnezzar, and the deliverance by Cyrus, was about forty years. This prophecy is not to be understood to mean that literally no foot of man nor beast should pass through the land. The meaning rather is, that for forty years the land would be in the wilderness-state of social and political degradation (Isaiah 19:2; Isaiah 19:11).
Ezekiel 29:14. “Pathros.” Upper Egypt, being the oldest part of Egypt, and from whence civilization and the arts had sprung. “A base kingdom.” It was to remain in a state of vassalage. Amasis made it dependent on Babylon, and under Cambyses it was humbled still more.
Ezekiel 29:16. “Which bringeth their iniquity to remembrance.” The offered help of Egypt was a temptation which developed the iniquity of Israel, and made it manifest before the world. “Whosoever beguiles into iniquity, brings iniquity to remembrance, or to the knowledge of him to whom the iniquity refers. For existing iniquity cannot remain unmarked or unpunished by the ‘Judge of all the earth.’ ”—(Hengstenberg.)
Ezekiel 29:17. “In the seven and twentieth year.” There is a departure here from strict chronogical order. This is the last of Ezekiel’s prophecies, and is dated two years later than the vision in Ch. 40. It would thus appear that the prophecies concerning foreign nations are grouped together in order to secure greater unity of subject.
Ezekiel 29:18. “Every head was made bald, and ever shoulder was peeled.” With carrying baskets of earth and stones for the siege-works. “Yet had he no wages” He failed to secure results in proportion to the time and labour which he expended on the siege of Tyre. The Tyrians had carried away the greater part of their treasures in ships, so that little was left for the invader. The siege lasted thirteen years.
Ezekiel 29:19. “It shall be the wages for his army.” “Jehovah, whose work he had performed, here promises to recompense him with the conquest of Egypt. On breaking up from Tyre he proceeded to that country, which he found so distracted by internal commotions, that he easily devastated and made himself master of the whole laud.”—(Henderson).
Ezekiel 29:20. “For Me.” Nebuchadnezzar was the servant of God, unconsciously carrying out the purposes of the Divine will (Jeremiah 25:9).
Ezekiel 29:21. “The opening of the mouth in the midst of them.” “While Egypt was subject to eastern rule, the Jews were to be restored to their own land, and full liberty was to be given to the prophet to exercise his ministry among them. Sacred history is silent relative to the last days of Ezekiel, but there is nothing that militates against the supposition that he returned with his fellow-countrymen from Babylon”—(Henderson.)
1. Men in misery keep account exactly of their sufferings. Ezekiel was in captivity, and many other Jews, who diligently heeded how the years passed. “In the seven and twentieth year,” that was of the captivity. Men are best chronologers in adversity.
2. When God is about to do great things, He usually makes His purpose known unto some of His servants. When He was upon destroying Sodom, He made it known unto Abraham (Genesis 18:17); when about to destroy Eli’s house, He revealed it to Samuel (1 Samuel 3:11-12); the strange things which befel the King of Babylon were revealed to Daniel (Daniel 4:0); and the Lord showed John things to come (Revelation 1:1). And here He hides not His purpose from Ezekiel. This was so frequent of old, that Amos said, “Surely the Lord will do nothing, but He revealeth His secret to His servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7).
3. Heathenish soldiers have hazarded their lives to please their heathenish commanders, and all for a temporal reward. The King of Babylon’s army served a great service thirteen years together; to lie before a city was hard, their heads were made bald, their shoulders were peeled, they laboured hard, carried heavy burdens, they watched, they suffered heat and cold, and all this for hope of good plunder in Tyre. If heathens would do and endure so much for their commander, who was an idolator, an enemy to God and His people, how much more should Christians do and endure anything for Christ, their King, and heavenly Commander. If He say Go, we should go; if Come, we should come. If He calls us to endure affliction, and suffer hard things, we should not stick at them, no, though it be the jeoparding of our lives, knowing He hath a spiritual and eternal reward for us.
4. Armies may serve long and suffer hard things, and after all be disappointed of their expectations. The King of Babylon and his army had no “wages.” They expected great matters in Tyrus, which was so rich, and full of all sorts of commodities, but found nothing considerable, nothing answering their expectation, or sufficient to recompense their charge and suffering.
5. Nations, lands, kingdoms, are the Lord’s, and He disposes of them to whom He pleases. “I will give the land of Egypt,” et. (Ezekiel 29:19). He would take it from Pharaoh and give it to another. Neither did the Lord so any wrong unto Pharaoh, because he was tenant at will, and held upon these terms to be king while he carried himself well; but he grew proud, insolent, and like a dragon lay in the midst of his rivers, saying, “My river is mine, and I have made it for myself.” God therefore took his kingdom from him.
6. God, in His hold and wise providence, makes use of any instruments to do His work. The King of Babylon and his army were working for God. They were His servants, though they knew it not. God can make use of the worst of men as well as of the best. He can promote his interests by an army of heathens, as well as by an army of Christians. It is good, therefore, not to stick upon the instruments which work; but to consider in whose hands they are, and who regulates them.
7. The Lord suffers not any to labour for Him in vain. No even heathens and infidels, He gave the land of Egypt to Nebuchadnezzar and his army, who were the worst of the heathen (Ezekiel 7:24), because they served and wrought for Him. When the midwives would not destroy the male children of the Jews, but save them alive, because they feared God, He dealt with them and gave them houses (Exodus 1:17-21). Jehu was wicked, yet because he did the work of the Lord in rooting out Ahab’s family, in destroying Baal with all his priests and temple, therefore the Lord largely rewarded him (2 Kings 10:30). If heathens shall not labour for God in vain, much less shall Christians, who know how to act from a right principle, in a right manner, and for a right end. If they meet with hardship in His service, He will remember and reward it fully, not with a temporal kingdom, but with an eternal. The Kingdom of Heaven shall be given to them (Luke 12:32). A cup of cold water, two mites cast into the treasury, a sigh, a tear, laid out for God and His interest shall not be forgotten. He deals bountifully with His servants (Psalms 106:7.—(Greenhill.)
“I will give thee the opening of the mouth in the midst of them.” Ezekiel had been silent and dumb twice before (Ezekiel 3:24; Ezekiel 24:27). And here, God would give Him the opening of the mouth; by which we are to understand.—
1. Freedom of speech. Thou speakest things darkly now, with a trembling voice, but when these prophecies are fulfilled, and the horn of the house of Israel begins to bud, then shalt thou have more freedom of speech, and be troubled no more with the false prophets, which sought to disparage thee.
2. Matter of speaking. When Jeconiah, or Jehoiachin, should have his prison garments changed, and be set above other princes, some freedom granted to the Jews; here would be matter for praise and rejoicing.
3. Opportunity for speaking. When an occasion is given unto man to speak, the rabbins call that the opening of the mouth. Thou shalt come openly into the assemblies, having matter, freedom, and opportunity to praise Me. “They shall know that I am the Lord.” “They “refers not only to the house of Israel, but to the Babylonians also; when they should see the things prophesied come to pass, then they should acknowledge the Lord. The horn of Israel budded in the midst of the Babylonians, and the prophet’s mouth was opened in the midst of them. Therefore they should know the Lord as well as the Jews.
(1.) How low, weak, afflicted soever the Church be, God is able to raise it up and to bring it to a flourishing condition. The house of Israel was low, the horn of it weak and hardly visible; yet God caused the horn thereof bud. When we look upon some beasts, they have no horns; but in a short time their heads do bud and bring forth horns, which are their strength; so God in a little time would cause Israel to put forth strength and be once more prosperous.
(2.) However much the Church suffers from the calumny of others, God can raise up efficient advocates from the midst of His own people. Israel shall not be for ever crushed by the heel of the oppressor, or lashed by the tongue of the slanderer. She shall have power to plead her own cause. The sense of former injustice from her enemies and the knowledge that God is helping her will fill her mouth with eloquence. God opens the mouths of His servants that they may comfort His people, give praise to His name, and make Him known to the nations.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Ezekiel 29". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 12 / Ordinary 17