Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
This chapter, which consists of two distinct prophecies (Ezekiel 32:1-32), with the interval of only a fortnight between them, closes the series at once against Egypt and against foreign nations. The former of these prophecies is a further declaration of the approaching conquest of Egypt by “the king of Babylon,” while the latter is a dirge over its fall, like the dirge over Tyre in Ezekiel 28
And it came to pass in the twelfth year, in the twelfth month, in the first day of the month, that the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,(1) In the twelfth year.—This was one year and between six and seven months after the destruction of Jerusalem, and when, therefore, one great hindrance to Nebuchadnezzar’s march upon Egypt had been removed. It is also nearly two months (Ezekiel 33:21) since Ezekiel had heard of this calamity through a fugitive. It could not have been very long before the arrival of the fugitive Jews in Egypt, after the murder of Gedaliah; yet that it was somewhat earlier is plain from Ezekiel 33:24. It was about the same time with the similar prophecies of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 43, 44); but as the date both of the murder and of the flight are unknown (except that the former occurred in the seventh month—Jeremiah 41:1—but of what year is not stated), the exact chronological relation of these things must remain uncertain.
Son of man, take up a lamentation for Pharaoh king of Egypt, and say unto him, Thou art like a young lion of the nations, and thou art as a whale in the seas: and thou camest forth with thy rivers, and troubledst the waters with thy feet, and fouledst their rivers.(2) As a whale.—Rather, a crocodile. (See Note on Ezekiel 29:3, where the same word is used.) A striking contrast is brought out in this verse which is lost in our translation. “Thou wast compared to a young lion of the nations,” i.e., their leader and glory; “but thou wast (really) like a crocodile in the seas,” stirring up and fouling the rivers, the sources of their prosperity.
Thou carmest forth with.—Better, thou didst break forth in thy rivers, referring to the crocodile basking upon the bank, and suddenly plunging into the stream and stirring up its mud.
Thus saith the Lord GOD; I will therefore spread out my net over thee with a company of many people; and they shall bring thee up in my net.(3) Spread out my net over thee.—The figure (Ezekiel 32:4-6) of drawing the crocodile to land and casting him upon the desert for food to the birds and beasts of prey is the same as in Ezekiel 29:4-5. (Comp. also Ezekiel 31:12-13.) In Ezekiel 32:6, “the land wherein thou swimmest” is, literally, the land of thine outflow, and may be taken either of the land on which his blood is poured out, or, more probably, the land of the inundations of the Nile, now to be watered with blood.
And when I shall put thee out, I will cover the heaven, and make the stars thereof dark; I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon shall not give her light.(7) Make the stars thereof dark.—This verse follows very closely Isaiah 13:10, spoken of Babylon. In this and the following verse the judgments of God are described in the common prophetic figure of changes in the heavenly bodies. (See Note on Ezekiel 30:18, and references there.)
I will also vex the hearts of many people, when I shall bring thy destruction among the nations, into the countries which thou hast not known.(9) Vex the hearts.—The margin, provoke to grief, is better, as being less ambiguous. “Thy destruction” means, the news of thy destruction. As is more fully expressed in the following verse, the fall of Egypt should be such a striking instance of Divine judgment as to awaken fear in every nation that should hear of the catastrophe.
I will destroy also all the beasts thereof from beside the great waters; neither shall the foot of man trouble them any more, nor the hoofs of beasts trouble them.(13) Will destroy also all the beasts thereof from beside the great waters.—The figurative description of this and the following verses is taken from the vast herds of cattle in Egypt going to the river to drink, and trampling the banks and disturbing the water with their feet (comp. Ezekiel 32:2). These represent the restless activity and stir of Egyptian life, and its constant disturbance of surrounding nations. With its conquest all this ceases, and, restrained within its own boundaries, Egypt shall no longer be a disturber.
Then will I make their waters deep, and cause their rivers to run like oil, saith the Lord GOD.(14) Deep should rather be rendered quiet. When the restless ambition of Egypt should be curbed, there would come about peace and quiet prosperity. This is thought by many to be a glance forward at the Messianic blessing of the future; but it does not necessarily look so far.
This is the lamentation wherewith they shall lament her: the daughters of the nations shall lament her: they shall lament for her, even for Egypt, and for all her multitude, saith the Lord GOD.(16) Daughters of the nations is a common enough expression for the nations themselves, but is peculiarly appropriate in connection with a lamentation, since the formal mourning of the East was always performed by women.
It came to pass also in the twelfth year, in the fifteenth day of the month, that the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,(17) The fifteenth day of the month.—The month itself is not mentioned, but since the previous prophecy was in the twelfth, or last month of the year, this must be in the same. There was thus an interval of just fourteen days between them. This dirge, which occupies the rest of the chapter, is to be compared with Isaiah 14, on which it is evidently founded.
Son of man, wail for the multitude of Egypt, and cast them down, even her, and the daughters of the famous nations, unto the nether parts of the earth, with them that go down into the pit.(18) Cast them down.—The prophet is here, as often elsewhere, told to do that which he prophesies shall be done. This is a forcible way of stating the certain fulfilment of that which is declared by Divine command.
Whom dost thou pass in beauty? go down, and be thou laid with the uncircumcised.(19) With the uncircumcised.—See Note on Ezekiel 28:10. All question as to the use of circumcision among the Egyptians is out of place; the word is simply used as the ordinary phrase for the heathen.
They shall fall in the midst of them that are slain by the sword: she is delivered to the sword: draw her and all her multitudes.(20) Draw her.—Viz., down to her judgment.
The strong among the mighty shall speak to him out of the midst of hell with them that help him: they are gone down, they lie uncircumcised, slain by the sword.(21) Speak to him.—The pronoun oscillates between the masculine and the feminine, because the thought is partly of the king and partly of the kingdom. The pronoun is determined by whichever is for the moment uppermost in the prophet’s mind. On Hell, see Note on Ezekiel 31:16-17. It occurs also at Ezekiel 32:27.
Asshur is there and all her company: his graves are about him: all of them slain, fallen by the sword:(22) Asshur is there.—In the previous verses we have had a general picture of the fallen nations awaiting to receive Egypt as their companion; in Ezekiel 32:22-30 there follows an enumeration of the most prominent of them, with a few words about each. Some of them were not yet fallen; but in this prophetic view it is their ultimate condition which rises to the prophet’s mind. All worldly power that opposes itself to God must go down and share the judgment soon to fall on Egypt.
His graves are about him.—The graves of the people are about those of their monarch. All are fallen together into one common ruin.
There is Elam and all her multitude round about her grave, all of them slain, fallen by the sword, which are gone down uncircumcised into the nether parts of the earth, which caused their terror in the land of the living; yet have they borne their shame with them that go down to the pit.(24) There is Elam.—Jeremiah had already prophesied against Elam twelve years before (Jeremiah 49:34). Elam is substantially equivalent to Persia, and had been repeatedly conquered by Assyria and Chaldæa. It was a fierce and warlike nation, and its soldiers had long served in Nebuchadnezzar’s army. It was by the aid of Persia that he had succeeded in overthrowing Assyria. It was by a subsequent union of the same Power with the Medes that the Babylonian power was overthrown. Not until after that union did Persia become a very prominent nation. It continued a great Power until its conquest by Alexander. The prophet is therefore anticipating the events of the future when he represents Elam as already in the pit. But, as before said, his thought looks on to the ultimate result, without making prominent the comparative dates of the future. It is possible, however, so far to separate Elam from Persia as to look upon the former as one of those nations out of whose ruins the latter arose, and in this case Elam was already past. The former interpretation seems preferable.
There is Meshech, Tubal, and all her multitude: her graves are round about him: all of them uncircumcised, slain by the sword, though they caused their terror in the land of the living.(26) There is Meshech, Tubal.—See Note on Ezekiel 27:13. It is difficult to obtain historical data for the exact time of the fall of these more obscure kingdoms; but at this period of the world these smaller states were being rapidly swallowed up and absorbed by the greater Powers who were contending for the world’s empire. Meshech and Tubal, like Persia, do not appear at this time to have yet attained their greatest development.
And they shall not lie with the mighty that are fallen of the uncircumcised, which are gone down to hell with their weapons of war: and they have laid their swords under their heads, but their iniquities shall be upon their bones, though they were the terror of the mighty in the land of the living.(27) And they shall not lie.—If this be the correct translation, then a distinction is implied between these nations and the others. The others have been honourably buried “with their weapons of war,” while these come to a more disgraceful end. It is better, however, to take it as a question (which the Hebrew fully admits): “Shall they not?” &c.
Their iniquities shall be upon their bones—i.e., they shall die in their iniquity. As we say in English, their sins shall be upon their heads.
There is Edom, her kings, and all her princes, which with their might are laid by them that were slain by the sword: they shall lie with the uncircumcised, and with them that go down to the pit.(29) There is Edom.—Edom had been long since conquered and almost destroyed by Israel, but had again revived to mock at her calamity (Ezekiel 25:12-14). It was soon, like its neighbours, to be swept away by the armies of Nebuchadnezzar.
There be the princes of the north, all of them, and all the Zidonians, which are gone down with the slain; with their terror they are ashamed of their might; and they lie uncircumcised with them that be slain by the sword, and bear their shame with them that go down to the pit.(30) The princes of the north.—The word is not the same as that used for the princes of Edom in Ezekiel 32:29. That refers to the heads of the Edomite tribes, but this is thought to imply enfeoffed or vassal princes. However this may be, from the connection with the Zidonians it is clear that not the far north is intended, but perhaps chieftains of Syria, Damascus, and the like.
The Zidonians.—With the rise of Tyre, Zidon had long since lost its pre-eminence among the Phœnician cities; but it was still an important and an independent city, and was doomed to far greater humiliation in the future.
Pharaoh shall see them, and shall be comforted over all his multitude, even Pharaoh and all his army slain by the sword, saith the Lord GOD.(31) Shall be comforted.—Comp. Ezekiel 31:16.
Here closes the series of prophecies against foreign nations. It is true that there are other prophecies against them in Ezekiel 35, 38, 39; but these, as already said, have much more of the character of promises to Israel than of simple denunciation of their enemies. The greater part of this series was uttered between the investment and the close of the siege of Jerusalem, a time during which the prophet was to be dumb towards the children of his people, and at the close of which his mouth was again to be opened. At this time, therefore, his prophetic gifts were appropriately exercised towards foreigners, and at the close, with the renewal of his instructions to Israel, a fresh charge is given as a sort of fresh induction to his prophetic office (Ezekiel 33:1-30).