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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

Ezekiel 29


The judgment of Pharaoh for his treachery to Israel. The desolation of Egypt. The restoration thereof after forty years. Egypt the reward of Nebuchadrezzar. Israel shall be restored.

Before Christ 588.

Verse 1

Ezekiel 29:1. In the tenth year, &c.— The tenth year is that from the taking of Jerusalem: according to Usher, about the year of the world 3415. The prophesies in this and the three following chapters respect Egypt; though they were not all delivered at the same time. See on chap. Ezekiel 31:3.

Verse 3

Ezekiel 29:3. I am against thee, &c,— This king of Egypt was Pharaoh Hophra, of whom Jeremiah speaks, chap. Eze 44:30 and who is called Apries by Herodotus; who informs us, agreeably to this description of our prophet, that Apries proudly and wickedly boasted of having established his kingdom so securely, that it was not in the power of God himself to dispossess him. Instead of, the great dragon, we should read, the great crocodile. The next verse alludes to the manner of taking the crocodile. See Job 41:1. It is commonly supposed, that Amasis is alluded to in Eze 29:4 who dethroned Apries. See Bishop Newton, vol. 1: and chap. Ezekiel 32:2. Among the ancients, the crocodile was a symbol of Egypt; and appears so on Roman coins. Michaelis. Milton has this sublime passage in view:

Thus with ten wounds The river-dragon tam'd at length submits. PAR. LOST, xii. 190.
See Addison's Spect. n. 369, D'Herbelot cites an eastern poet, who, celebrating the prowess of a most valiant Persian prince, said, he was dreadful as a lion in the field, and not less terrible in the water than a crocodile. Harmer, ii. 529. See chap. Eze 32:2 where both these comparisons are used.

Rivers The Nile has seven mouths. Rivers also emptied themselves into it, and channels were cut from it.

Verse 5

Ezekiel 29:5. And I will have thee thrown, &c.— And I will drag thee out, &c.

Verse 7

Ezekiel 29:7. When they took hold of thee, &c.— For when they took hold of thee, thou wast broken in their hand, and didst rend the hand of each of them. When they leaned upon thee thou breakest, and didst loose or put out of joint all their shoulders. Houbigant. Instead of, By thy hand, some read, With their hands; and instead of, All their loins to be at a stand;—All their loins shake, or to be pierced.

Verse 10

Ezekiel 29:10. From the tower of Syene From Migdol to Syene. Houbigant. Syene was the last city in Egypt, going towards Ethiopia.

Verse 11

Ezekiel 29:11. Forty years After the total defeat of Apries by the Cyreneans, in which so many Egyptians fell that the whole nation was enraged against their king, a civil war with Amasis followed, a conquest of Egypt by Nebuchadnezzar, and another conquest of it by Cyrus. We learn from this passage during what period of years Egypt was desolated, and in a manner deserted.

Verse 12

Ezekiel 29:12. Her cities—shall be desolate, &c.— 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; 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 Babylonish empire, return to their native country. Newton, p. 362.

Verse 14

Ezekiel 29:14. Pathros Delta, or Thebais.

Verse 15

Ezekiel 29:15. It shall be the basest of the kingdoms By base kingdoms is meant, that it should be tributary and subject to strangers, for the much greater part of the time. This is the purport and meaning of the prophesy; 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 Mamelucs, 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 in the year of Christ 1517, Selim, the ninth emperor of the Turks, conquered the Mamelucs, and annexed Egypt to the Ottoman empire, of which it has continued to be a province to this day; except during the very short interval when it was lately in the hands of the French. It has been governed under the Turkish emperor by a Turkish basha, with 24 beys or princes under him, who were advanced from servitude to the administration of public affairs; a superstitious nation possessing the Egyptians, that it is decreed by fate that captives shall reign, and the natives be subject to them; a notion which, in all probability, was at first derived from some mistaken tradition of these prophesies, that Egypt should be a base kingdom; that there should be no more a prince of the land of Egypt; and that Ham, in his posterity, should be a servant of servants unto his brethren. By this deduction it appears, that the truth of Ezekiel's prediction is fulfilled 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 afterwards become tributary and subject to strangers. It is now much more than 2000 years since this prophesy 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? See Bishop Newton.

Verse 16

Ezekiel 29:16. Which bringeth, &c.— Prompting them to mischief when they took after them, &c.

Verses 18-19

Ezekiel 29:18-19. Son of man, &c.— Menander the Greek historian, Philostratus, and Josephus, all assert, that Nebuchadrezzar besieged Tyre thirteen years, when Ithobal was king there. The siege continuing so long, the soldiers must needs endure many hardships. Their heads were made bald by continually wearing helmets, and their skin was worn off their shoulders with carrying earth in baskets to raise fortifications; whence we understand better the force of Ezekiel's expression, that Nebuchadrezzar caused his army to serve a great service against Tyrus: every head was made bald, and every shoulder was peeled. It farther appears from the Phoenician annals, that the Tyrians received their kings afterwards from Babylon; which plainly evinces, that some of the blood royal must have been carried captives thither. The Phoenician annals too agree with Ezekiel's account of the year wherein the city was taken; Tyre therefore, according to the prophesies, was subdued and taken by Nebuchadrezzar and the Chaldeans; and after this we hear little more of that part of the city which stood upon the continent. It is some satisfaction, that we are able to produce such authorities out of heathen historians for transactions of so remote antiquity. The Scripture asserts, that Nebuchadrezzar and his army had no wages for Tyrus, for the service which he had served against it; and this was literally true; for when the Tyrians saw no hope of escaping the besiegers, they went on board ships, and fled to Carthage, carrying all their furniture, clothes, and wealth with them. So that when the city was taken, the conqueror found nothing worthy of his labour. It must have been grievous to Nebuchadrezzar, after so long a siege, to have been disappointed of the spoil of so rich a city; and therefore Ezekiel was commissioned to promise him the conquest of Egypt for his reward; Ezekiel 29:19. See Bishop Newton, vol. 1: and Calmet.

Verse 21

Ezekiel 29:21. In that day will I cause the horn, &c.— That is to say, after the destruction of God's and his church's enemies, the kingdom and state of the Jews shall flourish again, particularly under the Messiah, as is more clearly foretold, chap. Ezekiel 34:23, &c. Ezekiel 37:21, &c. See also chap. Ezekiel 24:27.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, The date of this prophesy is observable. It was just at the time when the Egyptian army was advancing to raise the siege of Jerusalem, and when the Jews confidently expected relief from their approach. The vain hopes that sinners entertain are often most sanguine, when their ruin is nearest.

The prophesy is directed against Egypt and her king, represented by a great dragon, or crocodile, lying in the river Nile. We have here,
1. His pride. He lieth in the midst of his rivers, secure, at ease, and rolling in wealth and pleasures; and hath said, My river is mine own, I have made it for myself; as if he reigned independent of God, and owed to himself alone the monarchy that he possessed. Thus pride calls God's gifts our own, and, self-idolaters, we leave him far above out of our sight.

2. The judgment executed on Pharaoh. I am against thee, or above thee, able and determined to punish his arrogance. God will put hooks in his jaws, and with all the fish which stick to his scales, his numerous forces, will drag him out of his rivers, and in the wilderness give him, with all his army, for a prey to the beasts of the field, and to the fowls of the heaven. Note; Pride is the prelude to destruction; and they who are most secure are usually most exposed.

3. The provocation which most hastened the ruin of Egypt was her falsehood and deceitfulness with regard to the Jewish people. Encouraged by the alliance with Pharaoh, Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon, and now, when he looked for support from Egypt, the staff on which he leaned broke under him, to his vast disappointment and utter consternation, rent his shoulder, brought on him the Chaldean sword, and made all his loins at a stand, compelled to stand alone, and in the greatest amazement, conscious of his own inability to cope with Nebuchadrezzar's army. It was folly indeed in Zedekiah to rely on such auxiliaries; but their perfidy in deceiving him was not the less criminal, and God will revenge such treachery.

2nd, We have,
1. The terrible overthrow of Egypt foretold. God will make them know by his judgments that he is the Lord, and prove the vanity of their insolent vaunts. The sword of the Chaldeans shall pass through the land, lay all waste before it, cut off man and beast from one end of Egypt to the other, and leave it depopulated, without trade, unfrequented, and like a desart during forty years: the inhabitants in general being slain, or carried into captivity, Egypt was given to Nebuchadrezzar; and if we allow three years for completing the conquest, the forty years will end with the destruction of the Babylonian monarchy by Cyrus, when probably Egypt, as well as the other nations, recovered in some measure her liberty.
2. The restoration of Egypt, when the forty years were expired; not to her former grandeur and magnificence; but, though a kingdom, and flourishing under some of her monarchs, particularly the Ptolemies, yet by repeated conquests at last reduced to its present base and low estate under the Turks, no more the mistress of nations, nor the stay of Israel, to bring their iniquity to remembrance, by their placing dependance upon Egypt, and withdrawing their confidence from God. Note; (1.) God still in wrath remembers mercy. (2.) It is gracious as just in the Lord to remove those creature comforts and confidences which estranged our hearts from him.

3rdly, We have another of Ezekiel's prophesies in this chapter; but all the prophesies concerning Egypt are laid together.
1. In consideration of the hard service that Nebuchadrezzar underwent before Tyre, the spoil of which so little repaid him for his pains, great part of their effects being removed, as history informs us, before the place was taken, Egypt is given him and his army for their wages; being before weakened by intestine divisions, it fell an easy prey to the conqueror. As the vengeance executed on Tyre was by divine command, God will not suffer Nebuchadrezzar to work without a reward. Note; (1.) Even wicked men, when employed in God's service, find their account in it; they are paid in the good things of this life. (2.) Many who propose no other end than their own advantage, and perhaps the gratification of their ambition and covetousness, are made by the secret over-ruling providence of God subservient to his designs.

2. A gracious promise is made to Israel. In that day will I cause the horn of the house of Israel to bud; either at the day of Egypt's destruction, about which time Daniel and his fellows, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, were so distinguished of God, and honoured by the king of Babylon, (see Daniel 1:3; Daniel 1:21; Daniel 2:49.) or shortly after, when Jehoiachim was enlarged from prison and honourably treated, Jer 52:31-32 or the time here spoken of may refer to the forty years, when the captivity of Israel as well as Egypt should end; and under Zerubbabel and others the nation should revive from its desolations; but, above all, the prophesy refers to the times of the Messiah. And I will give thee the opening of the mouth in the midst of them, when the fulfilment of the prophesies would give peculiar force to his exhortations, and embolden him in the work of the Lord. For, though no more of his prophesies are recorded, (these concerning Egypt being the last in order of time,) no doubt he continued a faithful preacher to the people, which could not but prove a singular blessing to them. For when God enlarges the hearts of his faithful servants, and enables them with boldness to speak, it is a gracious symptom that they shall see of the travail of their souls in the salvation of many to whom they minister.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Ezekiel 29". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.