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THE DOOM OF EGYPT (Chap. 30)
EXEGETICAL NOTES.—This chapter contains two distinct messages: Ezekiel 30:1-26.30.19 being an extension, with more life-like detail, of the prophecy announced in chap. Ezekiel 29:1-26.29.16 relating to Egypt; the second message, Ezekiel 30:20-26.30.26, referring directly to Pharaoh and the downfall of his dynasty.
Ezekiel 30:1. “Woe worth the day!” Alas for the day!
Ezekiel 30:2. “The time of the heathen.” Wherein they shall be punished. The judgment on Egypt is the beginning of a world-wide judgment on all the heathen enemies of God (Joel 1:15; Joel 2:1-29.2.2; Joel 3:0; Obadiah 1:15).
Ezekiel 30:4. “Her foundations shall be broken down.” Referring to the state under the figure of a house destroyed from the foundation—government, laws, strongholds, and all the defences of the commonwealth.
Ezekiel 30:5. “Ethiopia, Libya, and Lydia.”Cush, Phut, and Lud, allies of the Egyptians mentioned Jeremiah 46:9. “The mingled people.” Hired soldiers of various nationalities. “Chub.” This is the only place in the Old Testament where this people is named. Supposed to be the Kufa mentioned on the monuments—a nation north of Palestine. “Men of the land in league.” Not only the Jews—the people of the covenant—resident in Egypt, but all the confederates who entered into a league with the Egyptian king.
Ezekiel 30:9. “Messengers go forth from Me in ships to make the careless Ethiopians afraid.” The cataracts on the Nile interposing between them and Egypt shall be no barrier. Ill news travels fast when the feet of the messengers are quickened with the fear of Divinely outpoured vengeance.
Ezekiel 30:13. “I will destroy the idols of Noph.” Memphis, the capital of Middle Egypt and the chief seat of idol-worship. “Pathros”—Upper Egypt, with No, or Thebes, its capital, famed for its magnificent buildings, of which colossal ruins still remain, in antithesis to Zoan, or Tanis, a chief city in Lower Egypt within the Delta.
Ezekiel 30:15. “Sin, the strength of Egypt.” Pelusium, the frontier fortress on the north-east, called by Hirtius the Lock of Egypt, and by Suidas the Key of Egypt.
Ezekiel 30:17. “Aven”—meaning vanity or iniquity. The famous Heliopolis, or City of the Sun—the religious centre, the spiritual capital. “Phi-beseth”—Bubastis in Lower Egypt, near the Pelusiac branch of the Nile, a chief place of idolatry, and notorious for the Cat-worship established there.
Ezekiel 30:18. “Tehaphnehes.” The same as Daphne, near Pelusium, a royal residence of the Pharaohs (Jeremiah 43:7; Jeremiah 43:9). Called Hanes (Isaiah 30:4). It was said that with its capture the pride or glory of Egypt’s strength would cease. “The yokes of Egypt.” The sceptres—the tyrannical supremacy exercised over other nations. Nebuchadnezzar broke the sceptre of Egypt when he confirmed the kingdom to Amasis, who rebelled against Apries (Pharaoh-Hophra).
Ezekiel 30:21. “I have broken the arm of Pharaoh.” Alluding to the defeat of Pharaoh-Hophra at Carchemish. By this battle the fate of Egypt was decided for ever. It never rallied from the defeat there sustained: it was the beginning of the end. The practical design of the prophecy was to extinguish all hope of any aid from Egypt, and to direct the expectation of the exiles to God alone for succour.
Ezekiel 30:22. “And will break his arms, the strong, and that which was broken.” The military and governmental power of Pharaoh shall be shattered. The one arm of Egypt already broken was all the region from the Nile to the Euphrates which Nebuchadnezzar had already taken from him (2 Kings 24:7); the arm still strong, but soon to be broken, was Egypt proper, over which he still held a resemblance of authority.
Ezekiel 30:25. “I will strengthen the arms of the king of Babylon.” The Lord seizes the arms of the king of Babylon, and they are thereby kept strong, as it is said of Joseph in Genesis 49:24, “Strong are the arms of his hands by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob,” while the arms of the king of Egypt, left to himself, hang down powerless.
Ezekiel 30:26. “I will scatter the Egyptians.” Several fled with Apries to Upper Egypt, and when Nebuchadnezzar wasted the country he carried many of them to Babylon. As Israel and Judah had been scattered among the nations, owing to the corrupting influence of Egypt, which brought God’s wrath upon the elect nation, so the Egyptians themselves, in righteous retribution, were to be scattered among the nations.
THE OVERTHROW OF A GREAT NATION
There is a fine piece of military music that represents the movements of a battalion in the distance; faintly but unmistakably the strains fall upon the ear, growing more distinct and loud in the steady advance, until, having reached the scene of action and begun operations, the music breaks into a crash of wild, stirring melody, that strangely mingles with the noise and confusion of the dreadful conflict. Similar to this is the voice of the prophet which, in the preceding chapter faintly indicates the approach of calamity, rises in the present chapter into shrill, piercing tones of agony, as if already in the midst of the destruction he prophesies. In this paragraph we learn that the overthrow of a great nation—
I. Is the occasion of widespread suffering and sorrow (Ezekiel 30:1-26.30.4). Egypt, which had grown into the magnificence of a first-rate power and become renowned in commerce, art, literature, and science, was doomed to fall. It was to experience the crushing vengeance of the Divine power it had so often resisted and defied, and to suffer for its cruel treatment of the people of Jehovah, whom it had so often deceived and oppressed. Great was the consternation of its proud rulers, and loud and heartrending the wails of its stricken people, as the sword of the destroyer passed through the land. It was indeed “a cloudy day;” the dreariness of havoc and desolation was intensified by the darkness of despair that filled the minds of the routed sufferers. It was worse than that night of horror in the past history of Egypt when the first-born were slain and when “there was not a house where there was not one dead.” It is a painful humiliation to a great people to see how suddenly their power is crushed, government disorganised, institutions scattered, buildings, the slow growth of generations, prone in ruins, and the unsuspecting citizens one day lulled into a false security, the next paralysed with fear. The refinement and luxury to which they were accustomed render their privations and distresses the more acute.
II. Involves the ruin of its allies and abettors (Ezekiel 30:5-26.30.9.) “Ethiopia, Libya, Lydia, all the mingled people, and Chub,” represented smaller nationalities who had been either conquered by Egypt, or who, while retaining their nationality and a certain degree of autonomy, linked their fortunes with Egypt and contributed to her advancement and aggrandisement. In return for their support they claimed the protection of the overshadowing power. But when Egypt fell, they fell. When the volcano shatters the mountain, all the little knolls and rocks that cling to it are buried in the general ruin. When the hurricane uproots the giant tree, the parasites that fed and lived upon it are hurled to the dust. The adulators who fan the national pride with their fulsome flattery, and the shameless debauchees who employ their vilest ingenuities in augmenting the national wickedness, will be inevitably involved in the righteous judgment which is sure to come.
III. Is accomplished by an agent specially equipped for the work (Ezekiel 30:10-26.30.12). The power that was to crush Egypt was already hovering over the fated nation. The vast populations of the Nile were to be opposed by a multitude of strangers whose warlike exploits had made them “the terrible of the nations;” the military genius of Pharaoh-Hophra was to come into conflict with Nebuchadnezzar, a still more able and victorious warrior. It was not the first time the great Babylonish monarch had come in contact with the arms of Egypt. Before his accession, while Crown Prince, he had fought the great battle of Carchemish, which expelled Pharaoh-Necho from Western Asia. During the siege of Jerusalem he had been disturbed by the attempt of Pharaoh-Necho to relieve that city, and during the siege of Troy, Egypt again interfered to help the Phœnicians. Nebuchadnezzar chafed under these annoyances; the proud prestige and pretensions of Egypt roused his envy and wrath, and he vowed to be revenged. All the time Jehovah was preparing him to be the agent to punish Egypt, and a rebellion against Pharaoh-Hophra by Amasis, one of his officers, presented a favourable opportunity. Gathering his army of veterans, inured to warfare and flushed with recent victories, Nebuchadnezzar invaded Egypt and utterly subdued it from Migdol to Syene, the extreme frontiers of the kingdom, creating a horrible devastation, from which it did not recover for forty years. The Babylonish king knew not that he was simply the instrument of Jehovah in inflicting well-merited punishment, and thus fulfilling the words of the Divinely-inspired prophet. Whenever a nation reaches the crisis of its infamy, Divine justice fails not to provide the means of adequate retribution.
IV. May be traced to the enervating influence of its idolatry (Ezekiel 30:13-26.30.18). The prime offence of Egypt was its idolatry. This was the ground of its indictment before High Heaven. Not only had it debased its own people, but it had invaded the land of the chosen people and destroyed their loyalty to Jehovah by the introduction of idolatrous rites. Idolatry is not only a foe to virtue, but a supreme insult to the One only true God, whose nature cannot tolerate a rival. Where idolatry predominates the formation of a robust moral character is impossible; it is the canker at the root of national life, and can only end in disintegration and decay. It is significant that the places mentioned in these verses—Noph, Pathros, Zoan, No, Sin, Tehaphnehes—the cities where idolatry was most gross and rampant, are especially singled out for punishment. No nation can maintain itself in the front rank where God is persistently ignored.
V. Is the expression of the Divine judgment on its iniquities. “Thus will I execute judgments, and they shall know that I am the Lord” (Ezekiel 30:19). The history of the downfall of great nations is the voice of God speaking to the nations of to-day, and saying that sin shall not go unpunished. “The time of the heathen” (Ezekiel 30:3) plainly indicates that a period comes in the history of sinful nations when the forbearance of God is withdrawn and wrong-doing is allowed to reap its legitimate harvest. Hardened indeed is the heart that is insensible to the enormity of sin until it is smitten with the thunderbolt of Divine wrath. It is wise, before it be too late, to turn in penitence to Him who “retaineth not His anger for ever, because He delighteth in mercy.”
1. National greatness is an opportunity for maintaining the right.
2. The greatest nation, if unfaithful to God, is doomed to fall.
3. The destiny of all nations is in the hands of God.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
Ezekiel 30:2. “Woe worth the day!” A Pathetic Lament, as uttered—
1. By one who foresees the nearness and awfulness of the calamity.
2. By the patriot distressed for the humiliation and ruin of his country.
3. By the sufferers themselves in the wild tumult of their agony.
4. By neighbouring nations left defenceless by the fall of their powerful patron.
5. By those who have obstinately neglected the day of salvation.
Ezekiel 30:3. “The day is near.” “In some two years you shall be miserably routed in the deserts of Libya; immediately after, the civil war for eleven years together shall waste you, and then Nebuchadnezzar’s forces will be upon you. So that, whereas there may be sixteen or eighteen years between the prophecy and its fulfilling, here are thirteen or fourteen of them taken up with sorrows and afflictions, forerunners of the rest.”—Matthew Pool.
—“The time of the heathen.” Vengeance on idolatry.
1. Is mercifully delayed to give space for repentance and reform.
2. Will be inflicted with unerring certainty.
3. Will fill the victims with terror and dismay—“a cloudy day—the day shall be darkened” (Ezekiel 30:3; Ezekiel 30:18).
4. Will be complete and universal (compare Psalms 79:0 with exegetical note on this verse).
Ezekiel 30:4-26.30.18. The Horrors of War. I. Revolting scenes of human carnage. “The sword shall take away her multitude” (Ezekiel 30:4); “All helpers destroyed” (Ezekiel 30:8); “Fill the land with the slain” (Ezekiel 30:11). II. Unspeakable physical and mental suffering. “Great pain—distresses daily” (Ezekiel 30:4; Ezekiel 30:9; Ezekiel 30:16); “To make the careless afraid—I will put fear in the land” (Ezekiel 30:9; Ezekiel 30:13). III. Reckless waste and destruction. “Countries desolate—cities wasted” (Ezekiel 30:7); “A fire in Egypt—all helpers destroyed” (Ezekiel 30:8; Ezekiel 30:14; Ezekiel 30:16); “I will make rivers dry and the land waste” (Ezekiel 30:12). IV. Loss and degradation of youthful life. “The young men fall by the sword—daughters go into captivity” (Ezekiel 30:17-26.30.18). V. The overthrow of established government. “Her foundations shall be broken down” (Ezekiel 30:4); “There shall be no more a prince of the land” (Ezekiel 30:13); “I shall break the yokes (sceptres) of Egypt” (Ezekiel 30:18). LESSONS.—War.
1. Unjustifiable when it is a mere thirst for conquest.
2. May be a scourge to punish national sins.
3. Arouses the worst human passions.
Ezekiel 30:5. Unholy Confederacies.
1. May seem formidable in numbers and strength.
2. Have no principle of cohesion to ensure permanency.
3. Are involved in general ruin.
4. Their fate a beacon-warning to the good.
Ezekiel 30:6. “See the justice of God: Egypt pretended to uphold Jerusalem when that was tottering, but proved a deceitful reed; and now they that pretend to uphold Egypt shall prove no better. Those that deceive others are commonly paid in their own coin; they are themselves deceived.”—M. Henry.
Ezekiel 30:8. “As sinners perversely refuse to know God as a God of love, they shall know Him as a God that hates sin and takes vengeance on the sinner for all unatoned guilt. Severe as were the temporal judgments on Pharaoh and his people, what are they when compared with the eternal judgments which shall descend on the lost?”—Fausset.
Ezekiel 30:10-26.30.12. “God punishes one knave by the other, who does not escape His judgment, but is only reserved for the same; as in Jeremiah 25:0, the king of Babylon has no other advantage over those punished by him but this, that he drinks last. Wickedness and judgment go hand in hand. Power can only be given to the wicked for a short time.”—Hengstenberg.
Ezekiel 30:11-26.30.12. “They are the terrible of the nations both in respect of force and of fierceness, and being terrible, shall make terrible work. They are the wicked, who will not be restrained by reason and conscience, the laws of nature, or the laws of nations, for they are without law. They are strangers, who therefore shall show no compassion for old-acquaintance’ sake.”—M. Henry.
Ezekiel 30:13. The Delusiveness of Idolatry.
1. Its temples and worship a standing insult to the only true God.
2. Debases its votaries.
3. Powerless to help in the day of trouble.
—“The wrath of God is especially directed against the idols of a land, of whatever kind they be, whether they be images directly worshipped as gods, or riches which steal away from God the hearts of those who would repudiate the charge of idolatry, though guilty of it before the God who calls covetousness idolatry. As the Egyptian On, the seat of the idolatrous sun-worship, was doomed by God to become Aven, or vanity, so all creature-confidences shall at last prove vain to those who have trusted in them rather than in God.”—Fausset.
—“There shall be no more a prince of the land of Egypt”—no native or independent prince, ruling the whole country. The dynasties of Egypt had subsisted from Menes, her first king, who is said to have reigned in the year of the world 2251, to the destruction of the Pharaohs by Nebuchadnezzar, which terminated the reign of the Egyptian princes, and showed the fulfilment of prophecy and the judgments of God upon the oppressors of His people.
Ezekiel 30:19.: comp. Ezekiel 30:8, “And they shall know that I am the Lord.” God revealed in Judgment.
1. When all other modes of revelation are persistently ignored.
2. Shows He is not indifferent to the sufferings of the oppressed.
3. Cruelty and injustice shall not go unpunished.
4. The impartial justice of the Divine procedures shall be universally acknowledged and adored.
—“The true God, whom they do not mean to worship willingly, must come to His rights in the punishment inflicted on them. This is not merely an alarming but also a comforting point of view. The most comfortless of all thoughts is to have no part in God. How many transgressors have joyfully devoted themselves to the sword in the conviction that by the punishment they come to have a part in God!”—Hengstenberg.
A PROUD MONARCH HUMBLED
Pharaoh-Hophra, the king of Egypt referred to in this paragraph, was a man of considerable capacity and enterprise. He displayed great military genius and activity. During the first years of his reign he subdued the island of Cyprus, besieged the city of Sidon by land and sea, and took it and made himself master of Phœnicia and Palestine. Elated with success, his pride knew no bounds, and he insanely boasted that it was not in the power of the gods to dethrone him. His illusions were destined to receive a rude awakening. Libya, harassed by the Greeks, appealed to Hophra for assistance. He despatched an army for their deliverance, but the Egyptians were disastrously defeated, and very few of the soldiers returned to their native land. The sight of the straggling and wretched survivors filled the land with mourning, and indignation against Hophra was loud and threatening. It was whispered he had sent the Egyptian army into Libya to destroy it, and by surrounding himself with Greek mercenaries, for whom he showed great partiality, he was seeking to rule Egypt as a tyrant. His subjects rose in rebellion. Hophra sent Amasis, one of his officers, to quell the revolt; but the soldiers crowned him with a helmet and made him king. He accepted the honour, and made common cause with the mutineers. Exasperated with the news, Hophra sent Patarbemis, another of his great officers and one of the principal lords of his court, to arrest Amasis; and returning unsuccessful, the angry king caused the nose and ears of Patarbemis to be cut off. So barbarous an outrage, committed upon a person of such high distinction, roused the Egyptians into more violent opposition, and the insurrection became general. Hophra was compelled to retire into Upper Egypt, where he defended himself for some years, and Amasis made himself master of the rest of his dominions. The army of Nebuchadnezzar, taking advantage of these intestine troubles, swept down upon Egypt and wrecked it from end to end. Egypt was made tributary to Babylon, and Nebuchadnezzar, having appointed Amasis as his viceroy, returned to his capital laden with the spoils of victory. As soon as the great king had departed Hophra emerged from his obscurity, and gathering an army of 30,000 mercenaries, made war against Amasis. The royal army was routed, Hophra taken prisoner, and shut up in his royal palace at Sais. This, however, would not satisfy the excited populace. They clamoured for the unfortunate king to be given up to them, and gaining their wish, they immediately strangled him. In this paragraph the prophet presents us with a graphic description of a proud monarch humbled—
I. By the partial loss of his dominion. “I have broken the arm of Pharaoh.” (Ezekiel 30:21). The loss of distant dependencies is often the precursor of national downfall: it is a sign of weakness at the centre of power. It is a loss of prestige and influence. It is a deep wound to a proud monarch deluded with the notion that he is everywhere invincible. The bitterness of his resentment blinds him to the lessons that the curtailment of his Empire should suggest.
II. By provoking the active opposition of Jehovah. “Thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I am against Pharaoh. But I will strengthen the arms of the king of Babylon” (Ezekiel 30:22; Ezekiel 30:25). Behind the might of Nebuchadnezzar was the invincible power of Jehovah, who had determined to punish Pharaoh for his iniquity. The strongest monarch is powerless before the vengeance of Heaven; the justice he has outraged ensures his humiliation and pain. In Retzch’s illustrations of Goethe’s “Faust” is one plate where angels are represented as dropping roses upon the demons who are contending for the soul of Faust. Every rose falls like molten metal, burning and blistering where it touches. So is it that justice acts upon those who have wilfully abused its claims. It bewilders where it ought to guide; it scorches where it ought to soothe and comfort. When God is against us we must be prepared for the worst.
III. By shattering his military strength. “And will break his arms, the strong”—the portion of the army still remaining faithful to him—“and that which was broken”—the portion already in revolt. “And the arms of Pharaoh shall fall down”—he shall be deprived of the resources for making war (Ezekiel 30:22; Ezekiel 30:25). Pharaoh had boasted of his army and exulted in its brave exploits. Now he is cast down by the power in which he had trusted. Shorn of his military aggrandisement he is utterly defenceless and weak. “All they that take the sword shall perish with the sword” (Matthew 26:52). No nation is secure when the military is in the ascendant. Gibbon traces one of the potent causes for the decline of the Roman Empire to the overwhelming influence of the army.
IV. By the total dismemberment of his kingdom. “I will scatter the Egyptians among the nations, and disperse them through the countries” (Ezekiel 30:23; Ezekiel 30:26). The kingdom was torn in pieces by civil war, and though Hophra made a brave and resolute stand for some years, he was compelled to yield, and he himself perished by the hands of his enraged subjects. The process of humbling a proud spirit is sometimes slow, but every successive defeat intensifies the suffering, until there is nothing left but the wild helplessness of mad despair.
V. By making him utterly dispirited. “He shall groan with the groanings of a deadly wounded man” (Ezekiel 30:24). There is a defeat that involves no loss of dignity and may be borne with fortitude. In the Franco-German war, after the loss of Sedan, a French officer came up to the then Crown Prince and exclaimed, “Ah, sir! what a defeat! what a misfortune! I am ashamed of being a prisoner. I have lost everything.” “No, indeed,” was the magnanimous reply; “after you have fought like a brave soldier, you have not lost your honour.” But there is a defeat that is wholly ignoble and demoralising. It has been courted by a proud self-confidence and precipitated by an unreasoning recklessness. Self-induced, it is the bitterest drop in the cup of the vanquished that the ruin in the midst of which he moans is his own rash handiwork. “The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity, but a wounded spirit who can bear?” (Proverbs 18:14).
1. Pride is the sure precursor of a fall.
2. Military genius and the strength of armies are impotent when opposed to Divine vengeance.
3. Humble trust in God gives dignity and strength to the kingly office even in disaster.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
Ezekiel 30:21. The Lessons of Suffering.
1. Should lead us to reflect how far our suffering has been brought on by our wilful sinfulness.
2. Should induce us to examine the principles on which our conduct has been based.
3. May lead to salutary repentance.
4. Are unnoticed by the soul blinded with pride.
—“It is in vain that men try to bind up and heal the wound that God inflicts. Stroke shall fall upon stroke in rapid succession whensoever God is against men. The very weakest instruments are sufficient, when strengthened by Him, to execute God’s vengeance; and He has at His disposal all the powers that are in heaven and earth. How foolish, then, it is for any to remain in a state of enmity with God!”—Fausset.
Ezekiel 30:22. “Thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I am against Pharaoh.” The Opposition of Jehovah.
1. Is terribly real and active.
2. Must convince us we are wrong, and that we must change our attitude towards Him.
3. Cannot be successfully resisted by the mightiest human combinations.
4. Can be propitiated only by humble and penitent submission.
Ezekiel 30:23; Ezekiel 30:26. National Unity.
1. Unreal when based only on kingly and military supremacy.
2. Must be founded in the righteousness of the individual life.
3. Is broken into fragments and scattered when God is ignored and openly defied.
Ezekiel 30:24-26.30.25. “I will strengthen the arms of the king of Babylon.” The Agent of Divine Vengeance.
1. Is prepared and strengthened for the work.
2. May be unconscious of the significance of the punishment he inflicts.
3. Can do no more than he is permitted.
4. May himself become the victim of a similar vengeance.
Ezekiel 30:24. “He shall groan with the groanings of a deadly wounded man.” The Moan of the Defeated.
1. A familiar experience of baffled humanity.
2. Those who are most elated in the pride of prosperity are most abject and disheartened in adversity.
3. Appeals to the compassion of the sternest conqueror.
Ezekiel 30:26. “The true God, despised by Egypt from ancient times, is thereby to come by His rights regarding them. If He be the true Jehovah, the personal Being, the absolute Essence, He must necessarily be glorified, if not by their action, yet by their passion.”—Hengstenberg.
—“They would hardly believe it, and therefore are so oft assured it” (cf. Ezekiel 30:23).—Trapp.
—“We are here struck with the exact accomplishment of the prophecies against Egypt, against its cities and its princes, by the wars of Assyria and surrounding nations. When the measure was full the visitation came. Therefore Isaiah, Nahum, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel must have been inspired by Him to whom futurity is without a veil. What instruction, then, should the ruins of ancient cities, where powerful kings once reigned, suggest to the flourishing cities of Europe who imitate them in every species of crime and forget the Lord, who does what He pleases in the heavens above and in the earth below?”—Sutcliffe.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Ezekiel 30". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent