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Judgment On Egypt
From the days when the dynasty of the Pharaohs who were friendly to Joseph and his brethren ended, and another king arose who knew not Joseph: that is, a new dynasty which overthrew the former one and immediately began to take steps to enslave the people of Israel, Egypt had been an enemy of the Hebrew people, except for a very short time during the reign of King Solomon when it was otherwise, doubtless because of the alliance that Solomon had made with the daughter of Pharaoh. But, generally speaking, through many centuries Egypt was opposed to Israel, and either was allied with Israel’s foes or seeking to subjugate and make that nation a mere vassal state under Egyptian domination.
Only a few years had elapsed prior to the prophecies recorded in this chapter, since Pharaoh-Necho had invaded Palestine, besieged and conquered Jerusalem, carrying away King Jehoahaz, and setting up as a puppet king, his brother Eliakim, whose name Pharaoh-Necho changed to Jehoiakim.
The rise of Nebuchadnezzar and the enlargement of the Chaldean empire was recognized as a menace to Egyptian supremacy. Pharaoh at first sought to thwart the ambitions of the Babylonian leader, but was soon put on the defensive.
Ezekiel uttered the present prophecy, we are told, in the tenth month of the tenth year of Jehoiachin’s captivity.
“In the tenth year, in the tenth month, in the twelfth day of the month, the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, Son of man, set thy face against Pharaoh king of Egypt, and prophesy against him, and against all Egypt; speak, and say, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Behold, I am against thee, Pharaoh king of Egypt, the great monster that lieth in the midst of his rivers, that hath said, My river is mine own, and I have made it for myself. And I will put hooks in thy jaws, and I will cause the fish of thy rivers to stick unto thy scales; and I will bring thee up out of the midst of thy rivers, with all the fish of thy rivers which stick unto thy scales. And I will cast thee forth into the wilderness, thee and all the fish of thy rivers: thou shalt fall upon the open field; thou shalt not be brought together, nor gathered; I have given thee for food to the beasts of the earth and to the birds of the heavens. And all the inhabitants of Egypt shall know that I am Jehovah, because they have been a staff of reed to the house of Israel. When they took hold of thee by thy hand, thou didst break, and didst rend all their shoulders; and when they leaned upon thee, thou brakest, and madest all their loins to be at a stand”-vers. 1-7.
In Tyre we have seen a picture of the world viewed as a great commercial system, acting independently of God. Egypt is a picture of the world in a different aspect, as the place of bondage out of which God delivers His people. Pharaoh was both its prince and its god, and therefore typifies Satan, the prince and the god of this age.
Situated along the sides of the Nile, whose annual overflow fertilized its fields and provided its people with sustenance, Egypt aptly sets forth the world as the home of unsaved men dependent upon the bounty of heaven and living in independence of God. Thus Pharaoh is described here as a great monster lying in the midst of his rivers and saying in his heart, “My river is mine own, and I have made it for myself.” There was no realization of his direct dependence on the one true and living God who caused the waters of Ethiopia to fill the banks of the Nile and overflow unto the alluvial fields of Egypt. The people had become so accustomed to this phenomenon year after year that they took for granted that it would always be in the future as it had been in the past. If occasionally conditions at the upper Nile were such that the water did not flow down as in former years, they turned not to the true God but offered sacrifices to the river and to their idols, in order that they might procure the favor which they needed.
In the sight of God Pharaoh had become like a great crocodile lying in his rivers. The plural form is used because of the many streams of the Delta. In his pride and conceit Pharaoh defied all who dared to disregard him. But because of their independence of God, destruction was to come upon Pharaoh and all his land; so that all the inhabitants of Egypt would know that the Jehovah of Israel, from whom His own people had turned to lean upon a broken staff, when they tried to make a league with Egypt, was the only true God. They had entered into an alliance with Israel but had proven unfaithful and powerless to protect them against the Babylonian army. Judgment was, therefore, about to fall upon the entire land for a period of forty years.
“Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Behold, I mil bring a sword upon thee, and will cut off from thee man and beast. And the land of Egypt shall be a desolation and a waste; and they shall know that I am Jehovah. Because he hath said, The river is mine, and I have made it; therefore, behold, I am against thee, and against thy rivers, and I will make the land of Egypt an utter waste and desolation, from the tower of Seveneh even unto the border of Ethiopia. No foot of man shall pass through it, nor foot of beast shall pass through it, neither shall it be inhabited forty years. And I will make the land of Egypt a desolation in the midst of the countries that are desolate; and her cities among the cities that are laid waste shall be a desolation forty years; and I will scatter the Egyptians among the nations, and will disperse them through the countries”-vers. 8-12.
A sword was to be brought upon Egypt-that great land which had from time to time sent its armies out to battle against other nations, but had so seldom known anything in the way of an invasion on its own ground.
Only a short time before, Pharaoh-Hophra had endeavored to help the Israelites against Nebuchadnezzar, by marching an army up into the land to raise the siege of Jerusalem, but he had almost immediately returned when Nebuchadnezzar came again with an augmented host. Pharaoh-Hophra was powerless to help. The Egyptians were soon to know what it meant to have an invading army enter into their own cities, spreading ruin and desolation everywhere it went.
It was some seventeen years or more after this prophecy was given before it began to be fulfilled, but in God’s due time this haughty power was made to feel the horrors of warfare such as in the past it had inflicted on other peoples. We may not be able to trace exactly the beginning and the end of that forty years’ desolation spoken of in verses 12 and 13, but we may be certain of this: even though the monuments of the past do not tell us anything about this period, God’s Word was fulfilled to the letter.
“For thus saith the Lord Jehovah: At the end of forty years will I gather the Egyptians from the peoples whither they were scattered; and I will bring back the captivity of Egypt, and will cause them to return into the land of Pathros, into the land of their birth; and they shall be there a base kingdom. It shall be the basest of the kingdoms; neither shall it any more lift itself up above the nations: and I will diminish them, that they shall no more rule over the nations. And it shall be no more the confidence of the house of Israel, bringing iniquity to remembrance, when they turn to look after them: and they shall know that I am the Lord Jehovah”-vers. 13-16.
When the forty years should expire Egypt once more was to lift up her head, and many of its people who had fled to surrounding nations for refuge would return to their own patrimony. But never again would Egypt be the great power it had been in the past. “They shall be a base kingdom,” we are told; and verse 15 says, “It shall be the basest of the kingdoms,” which should no more rule over the nations. The time soon came when Egypt had so deteriorated that it was dependent on the nations roundabout; and through all the centuries since the days of the Ptolemies, Egypt has been a land of wretchedness and distress. Some from Israel sought to find refuge there after the destruction of Jerusalem and the first temple; and at one time there were more Jews settled in Egypt than in Palestine; yet Egypt was never again in a position to warrant Israel’s confidence.
We have seen something of a revival of Egyptian power in our own days, preparatory to the place its ruler is to take as the king of the south in the time of the end, but had it not been for Britain’s help it is questionable if Egypt would have ever occupied a place of any prominence among the nations.
The closing verses of the chapter tell us definitely just how the prophecy would be fulfilled:
“And it came to pass in the seven and twentieth year, in the first month, in the first day of the month, the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, Son of man, Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon caused his army to serve a great service against Tyre: every head was made bald, and every shoulder was worn; yet had he no wages, nor his army, from Tyre, for the service that he had served against it. Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Behold, I will give the land of Egypt unto Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon; and he shall carry off her multitude, and take her spoil, and take her prey; and it shall be the wages for his army. I have given him the land of Egypt as his recompense for which he served, because they wrought for Me, saith the Lord Jehovah. In that day will I cause a horn to bud forth unto the house of Israel, and I will give thee the opening of the mouth in the midst of them; and they shall know that I am Jehovah”-vers. 17-21.
As intimated above, seventeen years after the former prophecy was given, God caused Egypt to become the possession of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, as reward for the vengeance He had meted against Tyre. God Himself, as the Governor of the Universe, declared, as recorded in verse 20, “I have given him the land of Egypt as his recompense for which he served, because they wrought for Me, saith the Lord Jehovah.” Little did the proud Chaldean monarch realize that his army was the sword of God executing what Jehovah had decreed upon Tyre, and later upon Egypt. But all was in accordance with the prophetic Word. And we may be certain that just as the prophecies that have to do with the past have been literally fulfilled, so will every prophecy that has to do with the future be fulfilled in due time.
While executing judgment on Egypt, God had not forgotten His promise to restore Israel in the future to Himself. The last verse reiterates this promise and assures us that the day will come when the house of Israel shall bud forth and the people of Jehovah will be recognized in the earth as those to whom has been committed the Word of the Lord.
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Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Ezekiel 29". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany