Bible Commentaries

Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & PsalmsHengstenberg's Commentary

Ezekiel 32


Chapters 29-32

The prophecies against Egypt now follow, in which the prophet turns from the members of the coalition to its head.

Of the prophecies against Egypt there are in all six, each with a date,—properly only five, as the second (ch. Ezekiel 29:17 to Ezekiel 30:19) proves itself to be an appendix to the first by this, that it departs from the otherwise so strictly observed chronological order: it does not lie, as most of the other prophecies against foreign nations, between the date given in ch. Ezekiel 24:1 and that in ch. Ezekiel 33:21; it departs from the chronological order even within the collection of prophecies against Egypt. Its object is to point out that the fulfilment of the first prophecy is fast approaching, to which it is in part verbally attached, to show most emphatically that it has no independent import, but is merely a supplement. Thus there remain only the prophecies, ch. Ezekiel 29:1-16, Ezekiel 30:20-26, Ezekiel 31, Ezekiel 32:1-16, and Ezekiel 32:17-32. The number seven can only be carried through by forcibly separating what is united. There is in the whole collection of Ezekiel no single independent discourse which is not dated.

Verses 1-16

Ezekiel 32. The work of God in His people is come to a close. A time of lamentations has arrived. Besides these lamentations, comes as a consolation the double lamentation of our chapter over Pharaoh and over Egypt. It reminded Israel that even in its deepest misery it had an infinite advantage over the world-power that was apparently far superior, which is here represented by Egypt. For all that the latter now possesses will soon be taken away; and while a joyful resurrection awaits Judah after it has endured the pains of death, the other remains in death, and beyond the darkness sees no light. The occasion of this lamentation was probably the circulation of the Lamentations of Jeremiah in the lands of the exile. It pleases Ezekiel in general to follow this his leader.

First, in Ezekiel 32:1-16, the lamentation over Pharaoh, in two sections,

Ezekiel 32:1. And it came to pass in the twelfth year, in the twelfth month, in the first of the month, the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, 2. Son of man, take up a lamentation for Pharaoh king of Egypt, and say unto him. Lion of the heathen, thou art undone, and thou art like the dragon in the sea; and thou brokest forth with thy rivers, [201] and troubledst the water with thy feet, and didst tread in their rivers. 3. Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, And I will spread over thee my net in the congregation of many peoples; and they will bring thee up in my net. 4. And I will leave thee upon the land, and sling thee upon the field; and I will make all the fowls of heaven to dwell on thee, and satisfy all the beasts of the earth with thee. 5. And I will lay thy flesh upon the mountains, and fill the valleys with thy height. 6. And I will water the land of thy overflowing with thy blood, even to the mountains; and the plains shall be full of thee. 7. And when I put thee out, I will cover the heavens, and darken the stars thereof; the sun I will cover with a cloud, and the moon shall not give her light. 8. All luminaries of light in the heaven I will make dark for thee, and set darkness upon thy land, saith the Lord Jehovah. 9. And I will vex the heart of many peoples, when I bring thy breach among the heathen into the countries which thou knewest not. 10. And I will astonish many peoples at thee, and their kings shall quake greatly for thee, when I brandish my sword in their face; and they shall tremble every moment, each man for his own soul, in the day of thy fall.

[201] Luther, “and leapest forth in thy rivers.” against the meaning of the verb, which means to break forth only, and against Ezekiel 32:6.

“Lion of the heathen, thou art undone” [202] ( Ezekiel 32:2): we have here a short outline, which is afterwards filled up; the lion receives its explanation even in this Averse, the undoing in Ezekiel 32:3. The figure of the dragon at the side of that of the lion is explanatory, to bring to view the demeanour of Pharaoh among the nations. The sea is the sea of nations. The mischief which the crocodile commits in the waters presents a figure of the mischief which Pharaoh commits among the nations. The words, “Thou brokest forth with thy rivers,” have respect, as it appears, to this, that the natural crocodile pours out water in breathing. Bartram, in Oedmann in the Miscellaneous Collections from Physiology for the Illustration of Holy Scripture, part vi., says, in the description of the North American crocodile, p. 59: “Before I had got half the way, I was assailed on all sides by a great number of crocodiles, some of which attempted to upset my canoe. Two especially attacked me, one on each side, raised at once their heads and a part of their bodies above the water, and, amidst the most horrible roaring, squirted a great quantity of water on me.” P. 63: “I went on thence; but scarcely had I rowed a few strokes, when an enormous crocodile rushed from the reed-bank, darted like an arrow under my boat, came up on the lee side, opened its horrible jaws, and poured over me a stream of smoke and water like a torrent in a hurricane.” P. 67: “The weaker crocodiles must content themselves with roaring and puffing in the smaller pools. But an old champion, who is become absolute master of a sea, pushing into the river, proceeds in a direct line on the surface of the water from the reed-covered strand. At first his course is rapid as the lightning, but it becomes gradually slower until he reaches the centre, where he takes his place. He then puffs himself up by drawing in air and water through his mouth, which for a minute occasions a clear rustling in his throat. But presently after he spirts out the air through his mouth and nostrils with a loud noise, swings his strong tail, and spouts out through the holes of the nose a vapour which looks like a smoke. Sometimes he is wont, after his belly has been so stretched out that he is ready to burst, to raise up his head and tail, and swing himself round in this position above the water like a wheel.” The water of rivers and wells is a frequent symbol in Scripture of resources, prosperity, means (comp. on Revelation 17:1). That the rivers here also are to be taken in this sense, appears from this, that only thus do the rivers here come under one point of view with the waters and rivers in the following passage. As the natural crocodile overflows all around him with water, so Pharaoh the nations with his troops. The counterpart to the rivers here which are poured upon others, consists in the streams of Pharaoh’s own blood, with which he must water the earth. “Troubledst the water with thy feet:” because Pharaoh makes use of his resources, he disturbs the welfare of the nations. “And didst tread in their rivers”—the rivers of the heathen. But the rivers could not be rivers of water. The sense is the same in either case. For the rivers of water would also belong to the nations whom Egypt subdued, and denote their prosperity. The nations in Ezekiel 32:3 are not mere onlookers, but at the same time instruments of the judgment. “ They will bring thee up.” Jehovah spreads His net in the congregation of many nations, and gives it over to them, that they may draw it out. The thought in Ezekiel 32:4 is, that it will fare no better with thee than with a fish, which must perish miserably, because it is taken out of its element. To the fowls of heaven, and the wild beasts which fall upon the dragon flung on the land, correspond the nations in the case of Pharaoh. Mountains and valleys in Ezekiel 32:5 denote together the whole of the places in which the fish out of its element lies. The height forms the contrast to the valleys, properly hollows. They are filled with the proud carcase. “The land of thy overflowing” [203] ( Ezekiel 32:6)—the land which thou didst formerly overflow with thy rivers ( Ezekiel 32:2). “When I put thee out” ( Ezekiel 32:7): Pharaoh in his glory is a bright shining light. In the quenching of this light the heavenly luminaries lose their splendour: in great political catastrophes, and the endless woe connected with them, the heavenly luminaries appear, as it were, to be extinguished ( Isaiah 13:10; Amos 8:9-10; comm. on Revelation 6:12). They shine truly only for the happy; the sun is only present when the eye is for the sun. The nations are troubled at the fate of Pharaoh ( Ezekiel 32:9), because they see in his fall the proof of the vanity of all human grandeur, the threat of their own downfall (comp. Ezekiel 32:10). Jehovah brings his fall among the heathen, in so far as He by means of it gives occasion to the news of it pervading the countries; and also when He scatters the Egyptians through all lands, and thereby causes them to bring the news thither (comp. ch. Ezekiel 30:9). “When I brandish my sword in their face” ( Ezekiel 32:10): the sword is brandished immediately over Pharaoh, but so that the other high ones of the earth shall see it, and take example by him for themselves (comp. Ezekiel 31:14 and Deuteronomy 13:11), according to which the evil-doers are to be judged, that “all Israel may hear and fear, and do no more such wickedness in thy midst.”

[202] נדמה never means to be made like, always to be silent, undone.

[203] The verb ץוף in the sense overflow, see in Lamentations 3:54.

In Ezekiel 32:11-16, the second part of the lamentation over Pharaoh. Ezekiel 32:11. For thus saith the Lord Jehovah, The sword of the king of Babylon shall come upon thee. 12. By the swords of the heroes will I bring down thy tumult: the violent of the heathen are they all; and they shall lay waste the pride of Egypt, and all its tumult shall be desolated. 13. And I will destroy all its cattle from the many waters; and the foot of man shall trouble them no more, neither shall the foot of cattle trouble them. 14. Then will I deepen their waters, and cause their rivers to run like oil, saith the Lord Jehovah. 15. When I make the land of Egypt a desert, and the country desolate from its fulness, when I smite all that dwell therein, then shall they know [204] that I am the Lord. 16. This is a lamentation, and they shall sing it: the daughters of the heathen shall sing it; over Egypt and over all her tumult shall they sing it, saith the Lord Jehovah.

[204] Luther, “that they may learn.” Thereby is the verse brought into a wrong connection with the foregoing; and the thought that all shall tend only to make the Egyptians feel the true deity of the living God, is brought down from its dominant position: comp. 33:29.

The peculiarity in Ezekiel 32:11 is the express naming of the instrument of the divine judgment: the man, in fact, already lifts the sword to brandish it against Egypt. The pride of Egypt in Ezekiel 32:12 is, according to ch. Ezekiel 30:6, Ezekiel 30:18, its greatness and glory. By the many waters in Ezekiel 32:13 is meant the Nile. No foot any more troubles the waters, because man and beast are gone. The Nile is also a symbol of the prosperity of Egypt, as in Isaiah 19. In Ezekiel 32:14 this symbolic import of the waters comes into the foreground. The thought is, that Egypt’s prosperity and power will sink. The comparison with the oil turns solely on the easy flowing. In this new stage of its existence Egypt will be a low kingdom ( Ezekiel 29:14)—no longer, as in former times, partly dangerous (it can no more overflow, Ezekiel 32:2 and Ezekiel 32:6), partly seductive to the other nations. “Saith the Lord Jehovah,” who, as the possessor of omnipotence, can with easy effort make a gentle brook out of the proud river. The lamentation is ( Ezekiel 32:16) not the vain show of a lamentation, but the type of one which will be actually sung. The nations will strike it up yet over Egypt, and then will the difference between a poet and a prophet be obvious. We may compare ch. Ezekiel 19:14, where the same is said of the lamentation over Judah. In reference to the latter, the lamentation has now actually become a lamentation. So will it also be in reference to Egypt. The daughters of the nations are, as Ezekiel 32:18 shows, the nations themselves, as daughters or virgins. They here appear under this figure, because the lamentation bears a feminine character, and because it was the custom in common life that the laments should be sung by women; comp. Jeremiah 9:16.

Verses 17-32

In Ezekiel 32:17-32, the wail over Pharaoh is followed by the wail over Egypt. The prophet in this funeral song brings Egypt into connection with the congeries of nations on which the Chaldean judgment fell. In the announcement of this in Jeremiah 25, are named, along with Egypt, Edom, Zidon, Elam, and the kings of the north. There are wanting in Jeremiah only Assyria, which had already fallen when he made his announcement, and Meshech and Tubal, which were probably conquered with the Assyrians (Niebuhr, p. 201). As Jeremiah uttered his prophecy when the Chaldean empire had already begun its career and dealt out heavy blows, while Ezekiel referred to the whole Chaldean judgment on the nations, some names must occur here which are wanting in Jeremiah. On the other hand, Tyre, mentioned by Jeremiah, is wanting here. It was still standing when the prophet struck up this dirge. But only in Egypt does he anticipate the future. Of the remainder he only names those who had already fallen. That which still belonged to the future in Egypt, should have its ground in that which had already taken place. The practical aim is expressed in the words of the Psalmist, “Trust not in oppression and fraud; if riches increase, set not your heart on them.” The prophecy is fitted to call forth a deep feeling of the vanity of earthly things, to warn against carnal confidence in earthly power, and its abuse by violence and wrong, and, what comes specially into account here, to guard against envying those who enjoy such power for the moment. Human nature, what is it? In an hour it falls to the ground!

Ezekiel 32:17. And it came to pass in the twelfth year, on the fifteenth of the month, the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, 18. Son of man, wail for the tumult of Egypt, and cast it down, her, and the daughter of the glorious nations, into the land of the depths, with those that go down to the pit. 19. Beyond whom art thou lovely? go down, and be laid among the uncircumcised. 20. They shall fall among those slain by the sword: the sword is given; they drag her and all her tumult. 21. The strong heroes from the midst of hell shall speak to him with his helpers: the uncircumcised are gone down, they lie slain by the sword. 22. There is Asshur and all his company: around him are his graves: all of them slain, fallen by the sword: 23. Whose graves are put in the depths of the pit; and his company is around his grave: all of them slain, fallen by the sword, who caused terror in the land of the living. 24. There is Elam, and all his tumult around his grave; all of them slain, fallen by the sword, who are gone down uncircumcised into the land of depths, who gave their terror in the land of the living; and they bear (now) their shame with those that go down to the pit. 25. Among the slain they set him a bed with his tumult: around him are his graves; all of them uncircumcised, slain by the sword: for their terror went forth in the land of the living, and they (now) bear their shame with those who go down to the pit: among the slain he is laid. 26. There is Meshech, Tubal, and all his tumult: around him are his graves: all of them uncircumcised, slain by the sword; for they gave their terror in the land of the living. 27. And should they not lie with the heroes, the fallen of the uncircumcised, who are gone down to hell with their weapons of war? And they laid their swords under their heads, and their iniquities were upon their bones; for a terror were the heroes in the land of the living. 28. And thou shalt be broken among the uncircumcised, and shalt lie with those slain by the sword. 29. There is Edom, his kings and all his princes, who are joined in their might with those slain by the sword: they lie with the uncircumcised, and with those that go down to the pit. 30. There are the princes of the north, all of them, and all the Zidonians who are gone down with the slain, ashamed in their terror (proceeding) from their might; and they lie uncircumcised with those slain by the sword, and bear their shame with those that go down to the pit. 31. Pharaoh will see them, and will sigh over all his tumult; Pharaoh and all his host are slain by the sword, saith the Lord Jehovah. 32. For I gave him to be a terror in the land of the living; [205] and Pharaoh and all his tumult shall be laid among the uncircumcised, with those slain by the sword, saith the Lord Jehovah.

[205] Text: Luther, “for all the world shall also yet fear before me.” He follows the Masoretic conjecture חתיתי for חתיתו ; the reading attested by manuscript.

The month is not named in Ezekiel 32:17; it is to be taken from Ezekiel 32:1: comp. on ch. Ezekiel 26:1, where we have quite an analogous case. The lamentation over the land falls in the same month with that over the king, and being closely connected with it, is separated from it only by fourteen days. The remaining nations ( Ezekiel 32:18) are already in Sheol. The prophecy belongs to a time when, of the opponents of the Chaldeans, only Tyre and Egypt were on the stage, and all the rest were gone. But the prophet will send down, as it were, a second time those already sent down with Egypt, the first to be sent down, since he goes over the whole process anew. Even in respect to Egypt the sending down has only a representative character. As the prophet in respect to it represents what the Lord will do, foreshadows the future process, he repeats, in respect to the other nations, that which has taken place, and thus unites that which is internally connected into a grand whole—the great judgment of the nations by Nebuchadnezzar the servant of the Lord. The “daughters of the glorious nations” are the glorious nations themselves, as virgins or daughters, once splendid in the bloom of youth, lovely to behold; comp. Ezekiel 32:19. “Beyond whom art thou lovely?” ( Ezekiel 32:19): thou hast no advantage over one of these glorious nations; they were no less lovely than thou, and yet must go down to Sheol. Thus their fate is the prophecy of thine. The Egyptian is addressed, the ideal unity of the Egyptians, who appear in Ezekiel 32:20 in the place of the Egyptian. In Ezekiel 32:18 also, the nations were presented in the unity of the daughters. “Go down and be laid among the uncircumcised:” the uncircumcised are, in the usage of Ezekiel, the unclean; comp. on ch. Ezekiel 28:10. As Egypt is like the other fallen nations in its sinful uncleanness, so must it share their fate also. From the mention of the unclean, the words “Beyond whom art thou lovely?” receive their more exact import. Hence we perceive that the advantage of loveliness, if it existed, must have consisted chiefly in freedom from the blemish of sin. The expression in our verse applies also to those who with uncircumcised hearts are found in the external community of the people of God. The outward circumcision loses all significance where the state of the heart indicated by it is wanting. No less, also, baptism under the New Testament. “The sword is given “( Ezekiel 32:20)—namely, into the hands of the earthly executors of the divine wrath, the Chaldeans. These are the subject in the words “They drag her” [206]—like a criminal who is dragged to the place of execution, or like a corpse to the pit. The helpers of Egypt ( Ezekiel 32:21) are those who remained with him to the last; comp. the enumeration in ch. Ezekiel 30:5. The “strong heroes” are preeminently of the nations that are afterwards enumerated, and were already sent down by the avenging hand of God. The address of the strong heroes to the king of Egypt and his helpers is not given; for the words “are gone down,” etc., do not suit in the mouth of the heathen. Even because the address is not given, we can only think of the obvious and self-evident thought. They greet him as a colleague. That which is here only indicated is unfolded in the fundamental passage, Isaiah 14:10-11, where the departed receive the king of Babylon in Sheol with the words, “Thou also art become weak as we: thou art become like unto us.” The words “are gone down,” etc., give the closer description of the strong heroes—denote them as those who have already gone down into Sheol before the Egyptians. With this agrees the description in Ezekiel 32:22 f. of this subterranean company by individual persons. Asshur ( Ezekiel 32:22) stands at the head as the brightest example of human greatness going to destruction. In this respect he was already (ch. Ezekiel 31) presented to Pharaoh as a mirror of his future. “Around him are his graves:” Asshur, the ideal person of the people, bodily represented by the king, has all his graves, the graves of his people, around him. [207] The graves here and in Ezekiel 23 are distinguished from Sheol, as generally in the Old Testament, even in Isaiah 14, Sheol and the grave are separated, although here, in Ezekiel 32:27, indeed the grave appears, so to speak, as a station on the way to Sheol. The depth in Ezekiel 32:23 is that of the grave. The grave is deep even if, materially taken, it be only a few feet, as a stream is very deep if it be only six feet. The grave is deep enough to cover all glory. A terrible contrast, in which they who formerly spread terror over the earth, now in death lie so impotent beneath. How have they raged in vain! ( Psalms 39:7.) After Asshur follows, in Ezekiel 32:24, Elam. To him, in Jeremiah 49:34 f., “in the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah,” a great defeat is predicted, doubtless in consequence of taking part in the anti-Chaldaic coalition then forming; comp. on Ezekiel 8:16 f., Ezekiel 30:5. Here the defeat has already taken place. Concerning Meshech and Tubal ( Ezekiel 32:26), the Moschi and Tibareni on the Pontic mountains, comp. Ezekiel 27:13. “For they caused their terror in the land of the living:” this appears here otherwise than before as the cause of the slaying with the sword, in accordance with the rule not merely of human, but principaliter of divine judgment, “Whosoever sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed” ( Genesis 9:6), and, “They that take the sword shall perish by the sword” ( Matthew 26:52). This thought is further expanded in Ezekiel 32:27. What is there said immediately of Meshech and Tubal, holds in fact of all other nations lusting after war and victory. The ground on which the thought is expressed immediately in regard to Meshech and Tubal is probably this, that the custom regarded as significant by the prophet prevailed among them, to bury the fallen warriors with their death-weapons, in which they have, as it were, their misdeeds with them, so that guilt and punishment are united in the grave. “And should they not He:” the question without the interrogatory particle is especially frequent in Ezekiel. “They laid their swords:” to the dead is ascribed what took place by their order, and that in which they placed their highest honour, like the race of Cain, that counted the fratricide of their ancestor as bravery. Edom also appears in Ezekiel 32:29 among the number of those already judged. He had shown a malicious joy at the downfall of Judah; but immediately after, the Chaldean storm must have swept over him also. Only the beginning indeed of the judgment can be regarded as having already taken place. The threatening in ch. Ezekiel 35 shows this. “In their might:” in the exercise and encounter of it, or even notwithstanding their might, as Luther translates, “although they were mighty.” To the “princes of the north” ( Ezekiel 32:30) correspond in Jeremiah 25 :“all the kings of the north near and far,” who there appear among those who must drink the cup of the Chaldean catastrophe. Here they have already drunk it. There are the Aramaeans. To them belong Arpad, Hamath, and Damascus, to whom Jeremiah in ch. Jeremiah 49:23-27 predicts destruction. [208] To the Aramaeans are joined the neighbouring Zidonians, who were subdued at the time when Nebuchadnezzar placed his army before Tyre. In ch. Ezekiel 28:20 f. they are, in a prophecy of the tenth month of the eleventh year, still the object of threatening; here, in a prophecy of the twelfth month of the twelfth year, this threatening has been carried into effect. Tyre is here not found in the company which greeted Pharaoh on his entrance into Sheol. At the time when this prophecy was uttered Tyre was still standing, though the siege was already begun. The prophet might certainly have anticipated its clearly foreseen fall, and mingled it in the company. But he omits it to prevent mistake. But the fact that Tyre is not named, shows clearly that all those named have already received their doom. Pharaoh sighs ( Ezekiel 32:31): others explain, he comforts himself. [209] But Pharaoh could so much the less derive comfort from the view of the others, as they had been not his foes, but his confederates on earth, and their defeat was at the same time his own. The Lord gave the terror of Pharaoh in the land of the living ( Ezekiel 32:32): he was for a long time terrible on the earth, not by his own power, but by the operation of God, who made use of him as His instrument. Used up, he is now destroyed by the same power which employed him before for its ends. He has, in the time of the power vouchsafed to him, proved himself unclean and uncircumcised, and hence he must share the fate of the uncircumcised.

[206] משכו Isaiah 3 d praeterite, as נתנו , Ezekiel 32:25.

[207] Asshur is here treated as masculine; in the foregoing, and also in Ezekiel 32:23, as feminine,—a frequent variation.

[208] Comp. on the enterprises of Nebuchadnezzar in Syria, Niebuhr, p. 208 f.

[209] Comp. on נחם , not to comfort oneself, but to sigh, be troubled, at 31:16.

Bibliographical Information
Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on Ezekiel 32". Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms.