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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
Ezekiel 29

 

 

Verse 1

Ezekiel 29:1. In the tenth year, &c. — The prophecies of Ezekiel, in regard to foreign nations, are not placed according to the order of time in which they were delivered, but according to the respective distances of the nations from Judea, beginning with those which lay nearest to it. And with respect to the prophecies against Egypt, it is justly remarked by Dathius, that this and the three following chapters are joined together, because they treat of the same subject, though they consist of prophecies uttered at very different periods of time. The period assigned in the present text, in this verse, for the prophecy first recorded here, is during the siege of Jerusalem; and, agreeably to Ezekiel 29:6-7, might be immediately after Pharaoh’s retreat, foretold by Jeremiah 37:7.


Verse 2-3

Ezekiel 29:2-3. Set thy face against Pharaoh — Pharaoh being a common name to all the kings of Egypt, this prince was called Pharaoh-hophra: by way of distinction, by Jeremiah 44:30, and Apries by Herodotus. The word תנים, tannim, signifies any great fish, but seems to be here used to signify the crocodile, a fish in a manner peculiar to the river Nile, to which the king of Egypt is compared, on account of his dominions lying upon that river, which he boasted himself of, on account of the prodigious fertility which the overflowing of the Nile caused. It is spoken of here as rivers, on account of its many mouths, or channels. The word Pharaoh signifies a crocodile in the Arabic tongue. Among the ancients, Michaelis tells us, the crocodile was a symbol of Egypt, and appears so on the Roman coins. Milton seems to have had this sublime passage in view, when he said, Par. Lost, 12:190

— — — — Thus with ten wounds The river-dragon, tamed, at length submits.

My river is my own — That is, the kingdom of Egypt, watered by the Nile, is mine. I have made it for myself — It is my own indefeisible right and property, which I cannot be dispossessed of. This king was, indeed, exceeding prosperous, and reigned uninterrupted for twenty-five years; by which he was so elated, as we learn from Herodotus, that he was wont to boast, that not even any god could dispossess him of his kingdom.


Verse 4-5

Ezekiel 29:4-5. But I will put hooks in thy jaws — The king of Egypt being spoken of as a great fish, or a crocodile, God here, in pursuance of the same metaphor, tells him that he will put hooks in his jaws, or stop his vain-glorious designs and boastings, by raising up enemies that should gain the mastery over him, as the fisherman has the fish in his power, when he has struck the hook into its jaws. This hook to the king of Egypt was Amasis, one of his officers, who set up himself as king, by the favour of the people, and dethroned his master. I will cause the fish of thy rivers to stick unto thy scales — I will cause even thy own people to press thee hard, and to be a torment to thee. And I will bring thee up out of thy rivers — By this is metaphorically expressed his being induced to undertake a foreign expedition. The expression alludes to the nature of a crocodile, which is not confined to the water, but uses to come upon the land, where he is frequently taken. And I will leave thee thrown into the wilderness, and all the fish of thy rivers — Thy army shall be discomfited, and fall in the deserts of Lybia and Cyrene; for there seems to be here an allusion to the heavy loss which Apries and the Egyptian army sustained in his expedition against the Cyrenians, toward whom they must have marched over the desert. Herod. 2. § 161. Apries himself did not fall in battle, but was taken prisoner by Amasis, and strangled by the Egyptians. Herod. 2. § 169. See note on Jeremiah 44:30. Thou shalt fall upon the open fields — A king is said to be defeated, or victorious, when his armies are so. Thou shalt not be brought together, nor gathered — The bones, or carcasses, of thy army shall not be collected in order to their burial, nor gathered to the dead in the sepulchres allotted for them. I have given thee for meat to the beasts of the field, &c. — See Revelation 19:17-18. Some think the expression here is metaphorical, and signifies that the power of depriving him of his kingdom, power, liberty, riches, and at last life itself, should be given to cruel and rapacious men.


Verse 6-7

Ezekiel 29:6-7. Because they have been a staff of reed to the house of Israel This expression, a staff of reed, is very emphatical, to signify a confidence which has failed those that depended upon it, or has done them more hurt than good; for if a reed is leaned upon as a staff, it most certainly bends under the weight and breaks, and the splinters sometimes run into the hand of him who leaned upon it. Though the Jews were greatly blamed by God for entering into alliance with the Egyptians, yet we find God here declaring that he would punish the Egyptians for not having performed their engagements to the Israelites; for though God forbade the Israelites to seek the alliance of the Egyptians, this nevertheless did not excuse the Egyptians in their breach of faith. When they took hold of thee by thy hand When they relied on thee for help; thou didst break — Or, thou wast crushed, as Newcome renders it; and rend all their shoulder — Or, their arm. The sense is, that the Egyptians proved a destruction to the Jewish people, who expected to be helped by them: see Jeremiah 37:5; Jeremiah 37:7; 2 Kings 24:7. This king of Egypt came with a great army to raise the siege of Jerusalem, but would not venture a battle with the Chaldeans, and marched back again, leaving Jerusalem to be taken by them.


Verse 8-9

Ezekiel 29:8-9. Behold, I will bring a sword upon thee — This was fulfilled, first by the civil wars which broke out in Egypt, and next by the invasion of it by Nebuchadnezzar, who carried his victorious arms through the whole country, destroying wherever he came; and will cut off man and beast — That is, destroy a vast number both of men and beasts. And the land of Egypt shall be desolate — A great part of Egypt was, without doubt, laid waste and made desolate by the ravages of war. Because he hath said, The river is mine — Arrogance and self-confidence are always spoken of in Scripture as highly displeasing to God. Whenever any one thinks, speaks, or acts as if he were self-dependent, and had safety, prosperity, and happiness in his own power, then do the Scriptures represent God as giving up such a one to calamity, to convince him how little reason he had to think highly of, or to trust in himself.


Verses 10-12

Ezekiel 29:10-12. Behold, I am against thee and thy rivers — Since thou hast opposed me, I will set myself against thee, and bring down the strength and glory of thy kingdom, wherein thou magnifiest thyself so much. From the tower of Syene, even unto the border of Ethiopia — If we follow this translation, we must understand the word Cush, rendered here Ethiopia, of Arabia, as it is often taken: see note on Jeremiah 13:23. For Syene was to the south of Egypt, under the tropic of Cancer, and bordering on African Ethiopia: see Pliny’s Nat. Hist., 50. 5. c. 9. But the words may be properly translated thus: From Migdol to Syene, even to the borders of Ethiopia: compare Ezekiel 30:5; Ezekiel 30:9. Migdol was a town near the Red sea, mentioned Exodus 14:2; Jeremiah 44:1; Jeremiah 46:14, (where see the notes,) at the entrance of Egypt from Palestine; whereas Syene was at the other end of the country. What is said here of the devastation of Egypt, appears from this to be spoken only of a part of it, and not the whole. No foot of man shall pass through it, &c. — The intestine wars of the Egyptians, and the invasion of Nebuchadnezzar, made some provinces of Egypt, which were most the scenes of action, quite desolate; out of which state they did not wholly recover for the space of forty years. And her cities shall be desolate forty years — “We cannot prove, indeed, from heathen authors, that this desolation of the country continued exactly forty years, though it is likely enough that this, as well as the other conquered countries, did not shake off the Babylonish yoke till the time of Cyrus, which was about forty years after the conquest of Egypt by Nebuchadnezzar: but we are assured by Berosus, that Nebuchadnezzar took several captives in Egypt, and carried them to Babylon; and from Megasthenes we learn, that he transplanted and settled others in Pontus. So true it is that they were scattered among the nations, and dispersed through the countries, and might, upon the dissolution of the Babylonian empire, return to their native country.” — Bishop Newton.


Verse 14-15

Ezekiel 29:14-15. And I will bring again the captivity of Egypt — This captivity of the Egyptians, though not taken notice of by Herodotus, is mentioned by Berosus, in one of the fragments of his history, quoted by Josephus, Antiq., 50. 10. chap. 11, and published with notes by Scaliger, at the end of his books, De Emendatione Temporum, whose remark upon the place is very observable, namely, “The calamities that befell the Egyptians are passed over by Herodotus, because the Egyptian priests would not inform him of any thing that tended to the disgrace of their nation.” And I will cause them to return into the land of Pathros — That part of Egypt which is called Thebais, as Bochart proves by several arguments. And they shall be there a base kingdom, the basest of kingdoms — “By base kingdom is meant, that it should be tributary and subject to strangers, for the much greatest part of the time. This is the purport and meaning of the prophecy; and the truth will appear by a short deduction of the history of Egypt from that time to this. It was first of all tributary to the Babylonians under Amasis; upon the ruin of the Babylonish empire, it was subject to the Persians; upon the failure of the Persian empire, it came into the hands of the Macedonians; after the Macedonians, it fell under the dominion of the Romans; after the division of the Roman empire, it was subdued by the Saracens, in the reign of Omar, their third emperor; about the year of Christ 1250, it was in the possession of the Mamelukes, a word which signifies a slave bought with money, but is appropriated to those Turkish or Circassian slaves, whom the sultans of Egypt bought young, and taught military exercises. These slaves usurped the royal authority, and by that means Egypt became their prey. But, A.D. 1517, Selim, the ninth emperor of the Turks, conquered the Mamelukes, and annexed Egypt to the Ottoman empire, of which it continues to be a province to this day. By this deduction it appears, that the truth of Ezekiel’s prediction is fully attested by the whole series of the history of Egypt, from that time to the present. And who could pretend to say, upon human conjecture, that so great a kingdom, so rich and fertile a country, should ever afterward become tributary and subject to strangers? It is now a great deal above two thousand years since this prophecy was first delivered; and what likelihood or appearance was there, that the Egyptians should, for so many ages, bow under a foreign yoke, and never, in all that time, be able to recover their liberties, and have a prince of their own to reign over them? But as is the prophecy, so is the event.” — Bishop Newton.


Verse 16

Ezekiel 29:16. It shall be no more the confidence of the house of Israel — At the same time that the Jews put confidence in Egypt they distrusted the promises and assistance of God, and forsook him to comply with the idolatries of their allies. Which bringeth — Or, as Newcome translates it, Calling their iniquity to remembrance — That is, as he interprets it, causing God to remember and punish the iniquity of his people. Or the sense of the verse may be, that the Israelites should no more look to Egypt for help; but, by the deplorable state it should be reduced to, be put in mind of the judgments which wickedness brings down from God; and of their own folly and iniquity in distrusting his assistance, and seeking to Egypt for help, contrary to his commands, and even complying with the Egyptian idolatries, in order to engage them in their favour.


Verse 17-18

Ezekiel 29:17-18. And it came to pass, &c. — The new prophecy, which begins here, is connected with the foregoing, on account of its relating to the same subject, and not on account of its being the next revelation in time which Ezekiel had; for there is nearly seventeen years distance between the date of the foregoing prophecy and this; during which Egypt was torn to pieces by sedition and civil wars, which seems to be signified by the foregoing prophecy; and, the time then approaching that Nebuchadnezzar was to invade and conquer Egypt, God thought proper to declare it to the prophet more openly and expressly than he had done before. Nebuchadnezzar caused his army to serve a great service against Tyrus — The siege lasted thirteen years, till the heads of the soldiers became bald with continual wearing their helmets, and the skin was worn off their shoulders with carrying earth to raise mounts and fortifications against it: see note on Ezekiel 26:8. Yet had he no wages, nor his army, for Tyrus Before the town came to be closely besieged, the inhabitants had removed their effects into an island, about half a mile distant from the shore, to which they afterward removed themselves, and where they built a new city; so that there was no inhabitant nor booty left there when Nebuchadnezzar’s army took the city. Thus St. Jerome, “When the Tyrians saw that the works for carrying on the siege were perfected, and the foundations of the walls were shaken, by the battering of the rams, whatsoever precious things in gold, silver, clothes, and various kinds of furniture, the nobility had, they put them on board their ships, and carried them to the islands; so that, the city being taken, Nebuchadnezzar found nothing worthy of his labour.”


Verse 19-20

Ezekiel 29:19-20. He shall take her multitude, and take her spoil — Nebuchadnezzar and his army shall have the captives and spoil of Egypt, which they shall utterly pillage and lay waste. Because they wrought for me, saith the Lord — The destruction of cities and countries is a work of God’s providence, for the effecting of which he makes use of kings and princes as his instruments. Upon this account he calls Nebuchadnezzar his servant, Jeremiah 25:9, because he wrought for him, as it is here expressed, that is, executed his judgments upon Tyre, and the other cities and countries which God had delivered into his hands. Though Nebuchadnezzar was actuated by his own ambition to make the conquest of Tyre, yet, because in doing it he had executed God’s purposes, and that which was pleasing to him, in humbling the Tyrians, therefore God here declares that he should not go without a reward; for that he would give him the spoil of Egypt, which nation was ripe for punishment. If God is so gracious as to reward those who do but execute his designs accidentally, not intentionally, how much reason have we to expect that he will most amply reward those who intentionally obey his will!


Verse 21

Ezekiel 29:21. In that day — The phrase frequently denotes, in the prophets, not the same time which was last mentioned, but an extraordinary season, remarkable for some signal events of providence: in this sense it is to be understood here. I will cause the horn of the house of Israel to bud forth The horns being the token of strength in beasts, and that in which their power chiefly consists; therefore the word is put to signify strength, or dominion, or a flourishing condition; and therefore to say, that the horn of Israel should bud forth, was as much as to say, that the Jewish nation should grow prosperous, and come to a flourishing condition again. This seems to be spoken of the return of the Jews from their captivity, and settling again in Judea. I will give thee the opening of the mouth in the midst of them — When thy prophecies are made good by the event, this shall add a new authority to what thou speakest: see Ezekiel 24:27.

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Ezekiel 29:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/ezekiel-29.html. 1857.

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Thursday, December 12th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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