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Bible Commentaries

Utley's You Can Understand the Bible

Ezekiel 29

Ezekiel 29:0

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASBNKJVNRSVTEVNJB
Oracles Against the Nations(Ezekiel 25:1-32)
Judgment of EgyptProclamation Against EgyptAgainst EgyptProphecy Against EgyptAgainst Egypt
Ezekiel 29:1-7Ezekiel 29:1-7Ezekiel 29:1-7Ezekiel 29:1-6aEzekiel 29:1-7
(vv. Ezekiel 29:3-7)(vv. Ezekiel 29:3-5)(vv. Ezekiel 29:3-7)(vv. Ezekiel 29:3-7)
(vv. Ezekiel 29:6-7)Ezekiel 29:6-9a
Ezekiel 29:8-9bEzekiel 29:8-16Ezekiel 29:8-9bEzekiel 29:8-16
Ezekiel 29:9-12
Ezekiel 29:9-12Ezekiel 29:9-12
Ezekiel 29:13-16Ezekiel 29:13-16Ezekiel 29:13-16
Babylonia Will Plunder EgyptKing Nebuchadnezzar Will Conquer Egypt
Ezekiel 29:17-20Ezekiel 29:17-20Ezekiel 29:17-20Ezekiel 29:17-20Ezekiel 29:17
Ezekiel 29:18-20
Ezekiel 29:21Ezekiel 29:21Ezekiel 29:21Ezekiel 29:21Ezekiel 29:21

READING CYCLE THREE (see “Guide to Good Bible Reading”)

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the four modern translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. The prophecies against Egypt run from Ezekiel 29:1 through 32:32. Egypt was an active political influence during this period of Judean history. She tried to offer political security against Babylon. Egypt promised aid to Judah and Tyre; she promised more than she could perform (cf. Isaiah 30:1-3; Isaiah 31:1-3; Jeremiah 2:18, Jeremiah 2:36; Lamentations 4:17).

B. The characteristic literary marker, “the word of the LORD came to me saying,” occurs seven times in this literary unit.

Ezekiel 29:1. Ezekiel 29:1 (587 B.C.)

Ezekiel 29:2. Ezekiel 29:17 (571 B.C.)

3. Ezekiel 30:1

4. Ezekiel 30:20

5. Ezekiel 31:1

6. Ezekiel 32:1

7. Ezekiel 32:17

All are dated except number 3, why is unknown.

C. The first date (i.e., Ezekiel 29:1) is about a year after Nebuchadnezzar's siege of Jerusalem began. Apparently Egypt fielded her army against Nebuchadnezzar's forces (cf. Jeremiah 37:7), but quickly retreated.

Verses 1-7

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ezekiel 29:1-7 1In the tenth year, in the tenth month, on the twelfth of the month, the word of the LORD came to me saying, 2”Son of man, set your face against Pharaoh king of Egypt and prophesy against him and against all Egypt. 3Speak and say, 'Thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I am against you, Pharaoh king of Egypt, The great monster that lies in the midst of his rivers, That has said, 'My Nile is mine, and I myself have made it.' 4I will put hooks in your jaws And make the fish of your rivers cling to your scales. And I will bring you up out of the midst of your rivers, And all the fish of your rivers will cling to your scales. 5I will abandon you to the wilderness, you and all the fish of your rivers; You will fall on the open field; you will not be brought together or gathered. I have given you for food to the beasts of the earth and to the birds of the sky. 6Then all the inhabitants of Egypt will know that I am the LORD, Because they have been only a staff made of reed to the house of Israel. 7When they took hold of you with the hand, You broke and tore all their hands; And when they leaned on you, You broke and made all their loins quake.”

Ezekiel 29:1 There is a series of dates mentioned in connection with this literary unit related to God's judgment on Egypt (i.e., Ezekiel 29:1-32). See note at Contextual Insights, B.

Ezekiel 29:2 “Son of man” See note at Ezekiel 2:1.

“set your face against” See note at Ezekiel 28:21.

“set. . .prophesy. . .speak” These are all commands.

1. “set,” BDB 962, KB 1321, Qal IMPERATIVE

2. “prophesy,” BDB 612, KB 659, Niphal IMPERATIVE

3. “speak,” Ezekiel 29:3, BDB 180, KB 210, Piel IMPERATIVE

These are not Ezekiel's words nor his message!

Ezekiel 29:3-7 This is a poetic lamentation.

Ezekiel 29:3 “the Lord GOD” This is the recurrent title for deity (i.e., Adonai YHWH), used so often in the book of Ezekiel. See Special Topic: Names for Deity.

“Pharaoh” This (BDB 829, KB 971) is the characteristic title for Egyptian kings starting with the Eighteenth Dynasty. It means “the great house” (i.e., royal family).

“That has said, ‘My Nile is mine, and I myself have made it'“ As the king of Tyre claimed deity (cf. Ezekiel 28:2, Ezekiel 28:9), so too, the Pharaohs of Egypt (cf. Ezekiel 29:9b). The name of the Pharaoh at that time was Hophra (589-570 B.C.). Herodotus mentions his claim to divine power in 2.169. The Nile and the sun were the chief deities of Egypt (i.e., depending on the city and the particular Pharaoh).

“the great monster” This term (BDB 1072) means

1. serpent, Exodus 7:9, Exodus 10:12; Deuteronomy 32:33; Psalms 91:13

2. dragon, Nehemiah 2:13; Jeremiah 51:34

3. sea/river monster, Genesis 1:21; Job 7:12; Psalms 74:13; Psalms 148:7. It is parallel to Leviathan (cf. Psalms 74:13-14). It is used as a metaphor for Egypt in Isaiah 27:1; Isaiah 51:9, Isaiah 51:10; Ezekiel 29:3; Ezekiel 32:2.

The two great river systems of the Ancient Near East were the cradles of civilization (i.e., the Nile and the Tigris/Euphrates).

Tanin (BDB 1072) is parallel with

1. Leviathan, Psalms 74:13-14; Isaiah 27:1

2. Rahab, Isaiah 51:9

3. Bashan, Psalms 68:22; Amos 9:3 (cf. NIDOTTE, vol. 3, p. 87)

The context shows us that “serpent, dragon, sea-monster” (BDB 1072) is a better word choice than “jackal” (BDB 1072), though both are philologically possible.

Ezekiel 29:4-8 These verses describe what YHWH will do to the arrogant leaders of Egypt.

1. I shall put hooks in your jaws, Ezekiel 29:4

2. I shall make the fish cling to your scales, Ezekiel 29:4 (twice)

3. I shall bring you up out of the midst of your rivers, Ezekiel 29:4

4. I shall abandon you and all your fish to the wilderness, Ezekiel 29:5

a. fall in open field

b. be gathered for food

(1) beasts

(2) birds

5. I shall bring a sword upon you, Ezekiel 29:6, Ezekiel 29:11

a. man

b. beasts

Notice all the FIRST PERSON SINGULAR NOUNS. YHWH is God. He alone can act in judgment. The mighty river beast is brought onto the land where he is helpless and will die. He will be eaten by the creatures of the wilderness.

Ezekiel 29:4 “hook” This (BDB 296) can mean

1. thorn or thistle, cf. 2 Kings 14:9; Proverbs 26:9; Isaiah 34:13; Hosea 9:6

2. here, metaphorically of meat or fish hooks These were used (first by the Assyrians) to control and humiliate people being taken into exile/slavery (cf. Isaiah 37:29; Ezekiel 19:4, Ezekiel 19:9; Ezekiel 29:4; Ezekiel 38:4).

“the fish of your rivers cling to your scales” This refers to politically allied, but weaker, nations.

Ezekiel 29:5

NASB, NKJV“gathered” NRSV, NJB, Peshsitta“buried” TEV, JPSPOA“unburied” NIV“picked up” REB“none to give you burial”

The MT has “gathered” (BDB 867, KB 1062, Niphal IMPERFECT). “Buried” is found in some Hebrew manuscripts and the Aramaic Targums.

Proper burial (i.e., mummification and preservation) was a major requirement for happiness in the afterlife in Egyptian theology. Egyptian leaders were enamored with this issue (i.e., The Egyptian Book of the Dead). The great pyramids served this function as secure burial places for the elite.

The prophetic theme of animals and birds eating the fallen is common in Jeremiah (cf. Jeremiah 7:33; Jeremiah 9:22; Jeremiah 15:3; Jeremiah 16:4; Jeremiah 19:7; Jeremiah 34:20) and Ezekiel (cf. Ezekiel 29:5; Ezekiel 32:4; Ezekiel 33:27; Ezekiel 39:4, Ezekiel 39:17-18). This seems to be a fulfillment of Deuteronomy 28:26.

Ezekiel 29:6 “Then all the inhabitants of Egypt will know that I am the LORD” This was the purpose of the ten plagues (each against an Egyptian deity, the same is true of the creation account [i.e., Genesis 1:0] condemnation of Babylonian astral deities). All humans are made in God's image and likeness! All were created for fellowship with God! Tragically in the OT, often it is judgment (cf. Ezekiel 29:9-10) that reveals YHWH!

“they have been only a staff made of reed” This is a metaphor of weakness and inability (cf. Isaiah 30:1-3; Isaiah 31:1-3; Jeremiah 37:7).

Ezekiel 29:7

NASB, NKJV“you broke and made all their loins quake” NRSV“made all their legs unsteady” Peshitta, JPSOA“you would break, and make all their loins unsteady” NJB, REB“you broke, making all their limbs give way” LXX“thou wast utterly broken, and didst crush the loins of them all”

The MT has “you broke and you made to stand them all their loins.” Most modern translations follow the Peshitta or Septuagint. The question is whether this phrase is sarcastic (God made them stand) or literal (God caused them to fall). The context is related to God's judgment on Egypt.

Verses 8-9

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ezekiel 29:8-9a 8'Therefore thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I will bring upon you a sword and I will cut off from you man and beast. 9The land of Egypt will become a desolation and waste. Then they will know that I am the LORD.”

Ezekiel 29:8 YHWH will bring death and destruction to all Egypt, human and animal. Animals were common Egyptian gods. Their devastation would symbolize YHWH's power, as did the plagues of the Exodus.

Ezekiel 29:9 “Then they will know that I am the LORD” This is a recurrent phrase (cf. Ezekiel 6:14; Ezekiel 7:27; Ezekiel 12:20; Ezekiel 15:8; Ezekiel 29:9; Ezekiel 32:15; Ezekiel 33:29; Ezekiel 35:3, Ezekiel 35:9, Ezekiel 35:14). YHWH wanted to be revealed through Israel's abundance, moral standards, and theology, but because of her unfaithfulness, He is revealed through judgment, judgment on her and other idolatrous nations (i.e., Egypt).

Verses 9-12

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ezekiel 29:9-12 9bBecause you said, 'The Nile is mine, and I have made it,' 10therefore, behold, I am against you and against your rivers, and I will make the land of Egypt an utter waste and desolation, from Migdol to Syene and even to the border of Ethiopia. 11A man's foot will not pass through it, and the foot of a beast will not pass through it, and it will not be inhabited for forty years. 12So I will make the land of Egypt a desolation in the midst of desolated lands. And her cities, in the midst of cities that are laid waste, will be desolate forty years; and I will scatter the Egyptians among the nations and disperse them among the lands.”

Ezekiel 29:10 “from Migdol to Syene” The term “Migdol” (BDB 154) means “tower” or “fortress.” In context this reference is to a location in the northeast delta region where Jews were living (cf. Jeremiah 44:1; Jeremiah 46:14).

Syene (BDB 692) refers to a southern city on the border of Cush/Ethiopia, known today as Aswan. This same phrase is repeated in Ezekiel 30:6 and functions for Egypt as “from Dan to Bethel” did for Palestine. It denotes the far reaches of the land and the mentioning of them together became an idiom for the whole land.

Ezekiel 29:12 “forty years” See Special Topic: Symbolic Numbers in Scripture. It denotes a long period of time, often a full generation.

“scatter. . .dispense” These (BDB 806, KB 918, Hiphil PERFECT; BDB 279, KB 280, Piel PERFECT) are parallel and both refer to Judah's exile. When national armies were defeated their populace were regularly sold into slavery (cf. Jeremiah 49:32, Jeremiah 49:36; Jeremiah 51:2). Egypt will be scattered (cf. Ezekiel 29:12, Ezekiel 29:13; Ezekiel 30:23, Ezekiel 30:26).

Verses 13-16

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ezekiel 29:13-16 13'For thus says the Lord GOD, “At the end of forty years I will gather the Egyptians from the peoples among whom they were scattered. 14I will turn the fortunes of Egypt and make them return to the land of Pathros, to the land of their origin, and there they will be a lowly kingdom. 15It will be the lowest of the kingdoms, and it will never again lift itself up above the nations. And I will make them so small that they will not rule over the nations. 16And it will never again be the confidence of the house of Israel, bringing to mind the iniquity of their having turned to Egypt. Then they will know that I am the Lord GOD.”'“

Ezekiel 29:13-16 YHWH will restore Egypt to their land (cf. Deuteronomy 32:8), but they will not be a powerful nation.

Ezekiel 29:14 “Pathros” This (BDB 837) refers to upper (i.e., southern region) Egypt, from Cairo to Aswan (cf. Genesis 10:14; Jeremiah 44:1, Jeremiah 44:15).

Ezekiel 29:16 Israel will never again trust in Egypt for security (cf. Isaiah 30:1-3; Isaiah 31:1-3; Isaiah 36:6 [note Ezekiel 29:6]).

Verses 17-20

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ezekiel 29:17-20 17Now in the twenty-seventh year, in the first month, on the first of the month, the word of the LORD came to me saying, 18”Son of man, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon made his army labor hard against Tyre; every head was made bald and every shoulder was rubbed bare. But he and his army had no wages from Tyre for the labor that he had performed against it.” 19Therefore thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I will give the land of Egypt to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. And he will carry off her wealth and capture her spoil and seize her plunder; and it will be wages for his army. 20I have given him the land of Egypt for his labor which he performed, because they acted for Me,” declares the Lord GOD.

Ezekiel 29:17-20 YHWH allowed Nebuchadnezzar II to capture Egypt (cf. Ezekiel 30:10; Jeremiah 43:10, Jeremiah 43:11; Jeremiah 46:13, Jeremiah 46:26) and take its spoils as payment for his army, since they received nothing for their hard work (cf. Ezekiel 29:18) at Tyre (i.e., thirteen-year siege, cf. Josephus, Antiq. 10.228). It is possible that Pharaoh Hophra allied with Tyre and took away Tyre's treasures before Tyre surrendered to the army of Nebuchadnezzar's (cf. The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 6, pp. 892-3).

Ezekiel 29:18 This verse states that Nebuchadnezzar did not take the island fortress, but did capture and destroy the mainland city (cf. Ezekiel 26:7-12). The problem is that Ezekiel 26:14 implies that he did. Many commentators note that the PLURAL is used in Ezekiel 26:7-17, but the SINGULAR in Ezekiel 26:13-14, which

1. implies that YHWH Himself will do it (note Ezekiel 29:3-6)

2. refers to Alexander the Great's destruction of the island fortress in 323 B.C.

“every head was made bald” This was not a mourning rite, but a metaphor for heavy work (i.e., Nebuchadnezzar's siege and destruction of mainland Tyre). It is parallel to “every shoulder was rubbed bare.”

Ezekiel 20:20 As YHWH used Assyria to judge Israel (cf. Isaiah 10:5), so now He uses Babylon to judge, not only Judah, but all the nations in the area. The metaphorical language used here sees it as a wage paid.

Verse 21

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ezekiel 29:21 21”On that day I will make a horn sprout for the house of Israel, and I will open your mouth in their midst. Then they will know that I am the LORD.”

Ezekiel 29:21 “I shall make a horn sprout for the house of Israel” Animal horns were a symbol of power and strength. This refers to a national and Messianic restoration (cf. 1 Samuel 2:10; Psalms 132:17; Luke 1:69).

“I shall open your mouth” YHWH is in control of national and Messianic restoration as He is His prophet. Ezekiel's message was controlled by YHWH (cf. Ezekiel 3:27; Ezekiel 24:27; Ezekiel 33:22).

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Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Ezekiel 29". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/ezekiel-29.html. 2021.