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This is the first of two messages that Ezekiel received from the Lord concerning Egypt on March 3, 585 B.C. [Note: Parker and Dubberstein, p. 28.] Less than two months had passed since the exiles had learned of Jerusalem’s fall, which had occurred several months earlier (Ezekiel 33:21). The Egyptians had also doubtless heard of Jerusalem’s destruction. This oracle assured both the Jewish exiles in Babylon and the Egyptians, including the Jewish exiles there, that God would bring Egypt down. Jerusalem’s destruction was to be no source of comfort for the Egyptians.
6. A funeral dirge for Egypt 32:1-16
Ezekiel was to utter a lamentation over Pharaoh. In the other oracles of judgment against foreign nations recorded in this book, lament typically follows announcement (cf. ch. 19; Ezekiel 26:17-18; Ezekiel 27; Ezekiel 28:12-19). The same is true with the oracles against Egypt. The writer’s desire to preserve this pattern is probably another reason he recorded the oracles of judgment in Ezekiel 29:17-21 and Ezekiel 30:1-19 out of chronological order.
Hophra had compared himself to a young lion, but he was more like the mythical sea-monster. The Egyptian sphinx has the body of a lion and the head of a Pharaoh. Again, the monster in view seems to be a crocodile (cf. Ezekiel 29:3). He had burst forth from the Nile and its estuaries muddying and fouling their waters. This symbolizes Pharaoh’s disturbing influence on the international scene as he complicated God’s dealings with other nations, especially Judah and Babylon.
The Lord announced that He would cast His net over Pharaoh using a large group of people as His instruments. In the Babylonian account of Creation, the Enuma elish (4:95), the god Marduk captured the chaos-monster Tiamat in a net and slew him. [Note: See Thomas, ed., p. 9.] God may have wanted the Jewish exiles in Babylon to see a parallel between what Ezekiel predicted and what the Babylonians believed. Fulfillment would demonstrate Yahweh’s sovereignty. The Babylonians would take Pharaoh captive, and the Egyptians would go into captivity. Since the Egyptians regarded the Pharaoh, the crocodile, and the Nile as manifestations of their gods, this announcement meant that Yahweh would humble Egypt’s gods as well as bring her defeat.
Yahweh would set Pharaoh down in an open field and leave him on dry land, out of his element. Birds and beasts would then devour him (cf. Ezekiel 29:5; Matthew 24:28; Revelation 19:17-18). These animals of prey would carry his flesh and blood to distant mountains (cf. Exodus 7:19; Revelation 8:8) and fill the valleys and ravines with pieces of his carcass. This is a picture of the dispersion of the Egyptians from their land.
At the time God did this, He would darken the skies over Egypt so the light of the sun, moon, and stars would not shine on the land (cf. Joel 2:10; Joel 2:31; Revelation 8:12-13). This announcement recalls the plague of darkness that the Lord sent before the Exodus (Exodus 10:21-23). He would again humiliate the gods that the Egyptians credited with bringing light and providing life.
"The overthrow of Egypt was a prelude [or foreview], as it were, to the destruction of world rule in the last days." [Note: Feinberg, p. 183.]
Many on-looking peoples would be upset when they observed the destruction and dispersion of the Egyptians (cf. Ezekiel 26:16; Ezekiel 27:35). The kings of other nations would tremble for their own safety when they saw what God would do to Egypt.
The Lord promised to send the military power of Babylon against Egypt. The swords of these rapacious invaders would destroy the multitude of Egyptians and devastate their land.
The enemy would also slay the Egyptians’ cattle. The Egyptians regarded many forms of cattle as manifestations of their gods. Finally the waters of Egypt would be undisturbed (cf. Ezekiel 32:2); there would be no people or animals left in the land to muddy them. The waters would settle and would flow as smoothly as oil. Some interpreters have taken this as a reference to the messianic age, but it probably does not look that far into the future.
"In biblical and Jewish tradition the motif of streams running with oil usually speaks of paradisiacal peace and prosperity." [Note: Block, The Book . . . 48, p. 209. Cf. Genesis 27:28; Job 29:6; Job 2 Enoch 8:5.]
When the Lord brought this devastation on the land and the people, they would know that He is God. He would again humble the gods of Egypt and demonstrate His sovereignty as He had done in the Exodus. Furthermore people of other nations would chant this lamentation when God punished Egypt, as hired wailing women did at funerals (cf. Jeremiah 9:17-20).
This oracle looks back and recalls aspects of the Exodus, God’s former judgment of Egypt, and reveals that God would judge her again similarly.
"If Egypt is a mighty dragon, one might say, Yahweh is cast in the role of St. George!" [Note: Allen, Ezekiel 20-48, p. 132.]
This oracle also looks forward and anticipates a still future day of the Lord when God will humble all proud enemies of His people (cf. Joel 2:30-31; Joel 3:15; Amos 8:9).
Apparently Ezekiel delivered this oracle two weeks after the previous one, on March 18, 585 B.C. [Note: Parker and Dubberstein, p. 28.] The meter of this mourning song is two plus two rather than the three plus two meter of the more common funeral dirge (the qinah meter). Thus while this lament is similar to the one in the preceding oracle (Ezekiel 32:1-16), it is not exactly the same. Wevers called this the only example of a mourning song in the Old Testament. [Note: Wevers, p. 244.] The distinction between the two types of lament is not great, however.
7. A summary lament over Egypt 32:17-32
The last of the seven oracles against Egypt fittingly pictures the nation in its final resting place, the grave or Sheol, surrounded by other dead nations that had preceded it in judgment.
"The language is highly poetical and the details must not be taken too literally. This is not the chapter to turn to if one wishes to understand the Bible’s teaching about the after-life. It does, however, illustrate something of the concept of death which was common to Near Eastern thought and from which the Old Testament was constantly striving to break free." [Note: Taylor, p. 210.]
Ezekiel was to wail for Egypt and the other peoples that would fall with her as people mourned when someone died. We can visualize these words being cried as people stood around an open grave. Even though Egypt had been unsurpassed in her beauty as a nation, she would lie in the grave with the most ordinary and barbarian dead nations. God would not favor Egypt over the uncircumcised peoples that she proudly disdained.
Egypt would die as a victim of war, and her people would be scattered from their land. Nations already dead would speak of the demise of Egypt as the death of an uncircumcised (barbarian) people, namely, as a nation like their own.
Assyria and her allies were already in the grave having perished in war. Even though the Assyrians had struck terror into the hearts of other peoples in their day, they now lay in the grave while others viewed them and marveled.
The Elamites, another formerly mighty people who lived east of Babylonia, were also in the grave having died in warfare (cf. Jeremiah 49:34-38). The people from this region later became a significant part of the Persian Empire, but the Elamite kingdom of former years is in view here. Ashurbanipal the Assyrian had destroyed Elam about 645 B.C. Both the Assyrians and the Elamites did not practice circumcision, and now the Egyptians, a circumcised people, would join them in the same grave. The end of Egypt would be no different or better even though they considered themselves superior to the uncircumcised nations of the world (cf. Galatians 5:6).
The nations of Meshech and Tubal in eastern Anatolia (modern western Turkey, cf. Ezekiel 27:13) along with their neighbors, other uncircumcised peoples, had also perished in war and were now dead powers. They had produced terrifying warriors, like the Nephilim, the ancient legendary warriors of Genesis 6:4, but they were not able to escape their fate, and Egypt would join them. It was customary in some countries to bury honored warriors with their swords and other weapons of war (Ezekiel 32:27; cf. 1 Maccabees 13:29).
Edom is another example of a strong nation that had perished and joined the mass of humanity in the grave. Likewise the rulers of the North and the Sidonians, once terror-inspiring, were now dead. They too now shared their grave with the uncircumcised and their disgrace with other defeated and defunct peoples. The rulers of the North may be an allusion to the Phoenician coastal towns including Tyre. [Note: Taylor, p. 212; Enns, p. 145; Dyer, "Ezekiel," p. 1292.] Or they may have been invaders who lived farther north, between the Black and Caspian seas. [Note: See Herodotus, 1:106; 3:94.]
When Pharaoh died, he would see that his was not the only nation to suffer the fate that the Lord announced, and this would be of some comfort to him. Even though the Lord terrified him with the Babylonians while he was alive, he and his people would find some rest in death because they would lie with other peoples who had experienced a similar end.
The Egyptians took pride in their preparations for death and their burial customs thinking that these assured them safe passage to the nether world and rest there. But Ezekiel said they would die just like other proud, oppressive peoples, and their rest would be the common rest that all the dead enjoy, circumcised and uncircumcised alike.
"Ezekiel refused to be mesmerized by the spectacle of Egypt’s military power or captivated by Judean dreams of the political renewal that might be served thereby. History’s theatrical wardrobe was cluttered with the national costumes of those who had strutted across its stage for a while, until the curtain fell on their particular scene. They lived on only in popular infamy-or, in terms of contemporary beliefs about the underworld, in the deeper regions of Sheol. Such would be Egypt’s fate, instead of a Valhalla of chivalrous warriors who rested in peace and honor." [Note: Allen, Ezekiel 20-48, p. 138.]
"In contemplating the relevance of Ezekiel’s vision of the netherworld for Christian doctrine, the reader must keep in mind that the primary aim of this oracle is not doctrinal but rhetorical-to inspire hope in the hearts of his fellow exiles by announcing the eventual demise of their prideful foreign enemies. The caricatured and contrary-to-fact features of this prophecy suggest that one should interpret the passage as a literary cartoon rather than a literary photograph." [Note: Block, The Book . . . 48, p. 234.]
"The oracles against the nations in Ezekiel 25-32 were originally delivered to the people of Judah. Although the words written seem to be solely for those particular nations, they are foremost for the people of Judah in Jerusalem and Babylon and serve at least three purposes. First, the oracles in Ezekiel 25-32 reveal God’s judgment against the nations that either mocked or aided in Jerusalem’s fall [cf. Genesis 12:3]. Second, as with both the king of Tyre and the Pharaoh of Egypt, God would throw them down from their self-elevated positions of power-there is no room for such arrogance and pride in God’s creation. Third, the oracles are essentially a dismantling of the gods of the nations, which is in turn a dismantling of the gods Judah had begun to rely wrongly upon, and the proclamation that Yahweh is the one and only true God for all nations. . . . the phrase ’know I am the LORD’ occurs nineteen times. The primary purpose of these oracles is that everyone should come to ’know the LORD.’" [Note: Cooper, p. 289.]
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Ezekiel 32". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26