Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Ch. 30. Further prophecies against Egypt
Ch. 30 consists of two prophecies, the first of which, Ezekiel 30:1-19, in all probability belongs to the same date as Ezekiel 29:1-16, that is, about seven months before the fall of Jerusalem; and the second, Ezekiel 30:20-26, is dated four months before the capture of the city. The second prophecy seems to have been suggested by some actual reverse inflicted on Pharaoh, called “breaking his arm” (Ezekiel 30:21-22), and further disaster is threatened against him.
Unlike the petty nations lying around Israel Egypt is a world power. Its influence is felt over all nations, and its history and destinies interest and affect the world. When Jehovah interposes to deal with it mankind and nature feel his presence. His interposition is the day of the Lord, a day of darkness and terror over all. When Egypt is judged creation wraps herself in a pall.—Like the other prophecies in Ezekiel the chapter is filled up with details within its general frame. The main ideas, however, are these: 1. Egypt with her many allied nations, whose troops compose her vast and many-coloured army, shall be overthrown. 2. Her great cities, the centres of her life and restless activity, shall be cast to the ground, and her teeming population scattered among all the nations. 3. Her idols and all her idolatries shall cease, and her native princes (closely connected with her priesthood and worship) shall be cut off. And Jehovah shall be known.
The word of the LORD came again unto me, saying,
Son of man, prophesy and say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Howl ye, Woe worth the day!2. Howl ye] The day of the. Lord is one of terror and lamentation, Amos 5:20; Isaiah 13:6; Zephaniah 1:7; Zephaniah 1:14; Joel 2:1 seq.
For the day is near, even the day of the LORD is near, a cloudy day; it shall be the time of the heathen.3. the day is near] The “day” of the Lord is never in the prophets a mere calamity or judgment from God. It is the time of Jehovah’s final interposition in the world to do judgment, to chastise evil, and give the crowning victory to his own cause. This day has a universal bearing: particularly, it falls in terror and calamity upon the heathen, the foes of Jehovah’s kingdom, but also upon the sinners in Zion, those who are at ease and settled on their lees (Zephaniah 1:12), on the proud and the oppressors of the poor (Isaiah 2:12). The presentiment of this day is common to all the prophets, and the knowledge of it exists among the people (Amos 5:18). The feeling of its nearness, however, was awakened in various ways: either by great convulsions among the nations or calamities, in which Jehovah was so visibly operating that his final interposition seemed at hand (Isaiah 13; Zephaniah 1:7; Joel 2:1); or, by a moral condition of the world which it was felt he must intervene to chastise and put an end to (Isaiah 2, 3). Naturally the convulsions or calamities which awakened the presentiment of the nearness of the day passed over and the day was deferred, but this does not justify the supposition that the prophets mean merely a great calamity or judgment by the day of the Lord.
the time of the heathen] the nations, the foes of Jehovah’s kingdom and people, when Jehovah shall be revealed to them and they shall be judged. Isaiah 2, 3, Isaiah 13:22; Jeremiah 27:7; Ezekiel 7:7; Ezekiel 22:3.
And the sword shall come upon Egypt, and great pain shall be in Ethiopia, when the slain shall fall in Egypt, and they shall take away her multitude, and her foundations shall be broken down.4. great pain] anguish, a late word, cf. Ezekiel 30:9.
her multitude] Ch. Ezekiel 29:19; cf. Ezekiel 29:10; cf. Ezekiel 29:15, ch. Ezekiel 31:2. Her “foundations” is suggested by the idea of a building overthrown. Reference is hardly to the allies and mercenaries on whom Egypt relied in war, rather to the classes and institutions in which the strength of the state lay.
Ethiopia, and Libya, and Lydia, and all the mingled people, and Chub, and the men of the land that is in league, shall fall with them by the sword.5. See on Ezekiel 27:10; Heb. is Cush and Phut and Lud. For Cush LXX. reads Persians as Ezekiel 27:10, for Phut Cretans, and for Lud Lydians.
the mingled people] perhaps foreigners. In Jeremiah 25:24 these so named (ereb) are represented as having kings and dwelling in the desert (cf. 1 Kings 10:15), and in Ezekiel 30:20 they are named next to the kings of Uz. On the other hand in Jeremiah 50:37 they are spoken of as being in the midst of Babylon. Hence the sense of “mercenaries” has been suggested. In the present passage some distinct people seems intended.
the land that is in league] Lit., children of the land of the covenant. Reference can hardly be to the land of Israel, or to refugees from Israel in Egypt. Either some definite country is meant, the name of which would be suggested by the prophet’s description, or “land” is used collectively—all allied lands. The name Chub does not occur again; LXX. Libyans, and in Nahum 3:9 the Lubim appear beside Cush, Egypt and Phut.
Thus saith the LORD; They also that uphold Egypt shall fall; and the pride of her power shall come down: from the tower of Syene shall they fall in it by the sword, saith the Lord GOD.6. the tower of Syene] from Migdol to Syene; cf. Ezekiel 29:10.
And they shall be desolate in the midst of the countries that are desolate, and her cities shall be in the midst of the cities that are wasted.7. A frequently recurring expression; cf. Ezekiel 29:12.
And they shall know that I am the LORD, when I have set a fire in Egypt, and when all her helpers shall be destroyed.8. “Fire” is a frequent figure for war and its desolations, Ezekiel 30:14; Ezekiel 30:16, ch. Ezekiel 15:5, Ezekiel 20:47, Ezekiel 39:6.
In that day shall messengers go forth from me in ships to make the careless Ethiopians afraid, and great pain shall come upon them, as in the day of Egypt: for, lo, it cometh.9. messengers … in ships] Cf. Isaiah 18:2. The word “ships” again Numbers 24:24; Isaiah 33:21.
go forth from me] This means more than that messengers go in ships from Egypt, where Jehovah is present. He sends them; his intervention in Egypt is designed to alarm the world, and bring himself to its knowledge.
as in the day] in the day (om. as) Isaiah 23:5.
Thus saith the Lord GOD; I will also make the multitude of Egypt to cease by the hand of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon.10. The instrument whom Jehovah uses is here named for the first time, except in the later passage, ch. Ezekiel 29:17-21.
He and his people with him, the terrible of the nations, shall be brought to destroy the land: and they shall draw their swords against Egypt, and fill the land with the slain.11. terrible of the nations] Cf. ch. Ezekiel 28:7, Ezekiel 31:12, Ezekiel 32:12.
And I will make the rivers dry, and sell the land into the hand of the wicked: and I will make the land waste, and all that is therein, by the hand of strangers: I the LORD have spoken it.12. make the rivers dry] Cf. Isaiah 19:5-6. The expression is scarcely figurative (Isaiah 44:27); the drying up of her rivers would be the severest calamity that could befall Egypt, as indeed in all her history whenever her canal system has been allowed to fall into disrepair the country has sunk into wretchedness.
hand of the wicked] Or, of evil men, ch. Ezekiel 7:24; Jeremiah 15:21; cf. Isaiah 19:4 “a cruel lord.”
Thus saith the Lord GOD; I will also destroy the idols, and I will cause their images to cease out of Noph; and there shall be no more a prince of the land of Egypt: and I will put a fear in the land of Egypt.13. destroy the idols] On “idols” ch. Ezekiel 6:5. The clause fails in LXX.
their images to cease] Lit., their not-gods, a favourite term of Isaiah’s, e.g. Ezekiel 19:1; Ezekiel 19:3, though found only here in Ezek. For “not-gods” (elîlim) LXX. renders “magnates” (elim), which no doubt gives a good parallelism to the next clause; cf. Isaiah 34:12.
put a fear] Cf. Isaiah 19:16, Egypt “shall fear because of the shaking of the hand of the Lord of hosts, which he shaketh over it.” Noph (in Hosea 9:6 Moph) is Memphis, the most important city of lower Egypt, lying on the left bank of the Nile, somewhat south of the modern Cairo. Isaiah 19:13; Jeremiah 2:16; Jeremiah 44:1; Jeremiah 46:14.
And I will make Pathros desolate, and will set fire in Zoan, and will execute judgments in No.14. Pathros is upper Egypt, or its capital, Ezekiel 29:14. Zoan, or Tanis, the modern San, on the south shore of lake Menzaleh, according to Numbers 13:22 built seven years after Hebron, cf. Psalm 78:12; Psalm 78:43.
And I will pour my fury upon Sin, the strength of Egypt; and I will cut off the multitude of No.15. Sin, called here the “bulwark of Egypt,” is usually identified with Pelusium, which lying on the N. E. frontier of the country might be considered the key to it.
multitude of No] i.e. No-Amon (Nahum 3:8) or Thebes, the capital of Upper Egypt, Jeremiah 46:25.
And I will set fire in Egypt: Sin shall have great pain, and No shall be rent asunder, and Noph shall have distresses daily.16. rent asunder] i.e. broken through by armed assault, cf. Ezekiel 26:10 (last words).
have distresses daily] distresses (or adversaries) in the day-time; cf. Zephaniah 2:4, “they shall drive out Ashdod at noonday” (Jeremiah 15:8). The construction is unnatural, and the text may be in some confusion. LXX. reads differently.
The young men of Aven and of Pibeseth shall fall by the sword: and these cities shall go into captivity.17. young men of Aven] i.e. On or Heliopolis, “city of the sun,” Jeremiah 43:13; cf. Genesis 41:45. The obelisk known as Cleopatra’s Needle belonged to the sun temple in On; and in the vicinity of the ruins near the village Matariyeh stands the sycamore under which tradition affirms that the Holy Family rested in their flight to Egypt. The modern name is Ain Shems (sun-fountain) a few miles N.-E. of Cairo.
Phi-beseth shall fall] i.e. Bubastos or Bubastis, Egyptian Pa Bast, house of Bast or Pasht, the goddess to whom the cat was sacred, and who herself was represented under the aspect of the cat. The cat mummies were here preserved. The place lay on the Pelusiac arm of the Nile; the ruins, bearing the name Tell Basta, are not far from the modern Zagazig. Herod. mentions that at a yearly festival held here as many as 700,000 people would assemble.
At Tehaphnehes also the day shall be darkened, when I shall break there the yokes of Egypt: and the pomp of her strength shall cease in her: as for her, a cloud shall cover her, and her daughters shall go into captivity.18. Tehaphnehes, spelled somewhat differently Jeremiah 2:16. Jeremiah 43:8 speaks of a royal palace there, and Ezekiel 46:14 it is named along with Memphis as a chief city in Egypt. Its site is probably the modern Tell Defenneh (Daphnae), near the Pelusiac arm of the Nile, south of lake Menzaleh, about 30 miles S.-W. of the ancient Pelusium.
the yokes of Egypt] must here be those imposed by Egypt, a sense not very suitable to the connexion. A different pointing would give sceptres (LXX.) or staves—but “staves” in the sense of supports is more than doubtful (cf. Isaiah 14:5).
her daughters] may be literal (cf. Ezekiel 30:17, young men of On), or said figuratively of her towns.
Thus will I execute judgments in Egypt: and they shall know that I am the LORD.19. The purpose of these convulsions among the nations is that Jehovah the true God may be known; and this purpose will not fail.
And it came to pass in the eleventh year, in the first month, in the seventh day of the month, that the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,20–26. A new prophecy against Egypt, four months before the fall of Jerusalem
Pharaoh seems to have quite recently suffered a defeat (Ezekiel 30:21), and a complete disaster to his power is threatened (Ezekiel 30:22). This idea is expressed in a figure: one of his arms has been irremediably broken, it cannot be healed so as again to grasp the sword (Ezekiel 30:21). But both arms shall be broken, the strong one as well as the disabled one, and the sword shall fall out of his hand (Ezekiel 30:22). But Jehovah will make strong the arms of Nebuchadnezzar, and put his own sword into his hand, which he shall stretch out over Egypt. It is Jehovah’s sword that Neb: wields, and Egypt shall be scattered among the nations.
Son of man, I have broken the arm of Pharaoh king of Egypt; and, lo, it shall not be bound up to be healed, to put a roller to bind it, to make it strong to hold the sword.21. broken the arm] While the Chaldeans were besieging Jerusalem the army of Pharaoh Hophra (Apries) advanced and compelled them to raise the siege, Jeremiah 37:5; cf. Jeremiah 34:21. The Egyptians were repulsed and the siege renewed. It is possible that breaking the arm of Pharaoh refers to this circumstance. At all events the distinction between the two arms, and the threat that both the sound and the fractured one shall be altogether broken, suggest that an actual past occurrence is referred to in the figure of Ezekiel 30:21.
a roller to bind it] i.e. a bandage. For the word cf. Ezekiel 16:4, Job 38:9.
Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against Pharaoh king of Egypt, and will break his arms, the strong, and that which was broken; and I will cause the sword to fall out of his hand.
And I will scatter the Egyptians among the nations, and will disperse them through the countries.23. The consequence of breaking Pharaoh’s arms will be the utter defencelessness of the people of Egypt, which shall be scattered into all lands. In Ezekiel 30:26 their dispersion is looked at from the other side, and said to follow from Jehovah’s strengthening the arms of the king of Babylon.
And I will strengthen the arms of the king of Babylon, and put my sword in his hand: but I will break Pharaoh's arms, and he shall groan before him with the groanings of a deadly wounded man.24. groan before him] Pharaoh shall groan before Nebuchadnezzar as a wounded man groans. The figure is well pursued. The “arm” sometimes means the “helper,” but here the two champions appear as if engaged in a personal combat. Jehovah strikes down the arms of Pharaoh, and the sword falls from his grasp; he strengthens the arms of Nebuchadnezzar, putting his own sword into his hand. And thus the king of Egypt, mortally wounded, groans before his adversary from his death-stroke. Cf. Ezekiel 28:9.
But I will strengthen the arms of the king of Babylon, and the arms of Pharaoh shall fall down; and they shall know that I am the LORD, when I shall put my sword into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall stretch it out upon the land of Egypt.
And I will scatter the Egyptians among the nations, and disperse them among the countries; and they shall know that I am the LORD.26. See on Ezekiel 30:23.