Behold, therefore I am against you, and against your rivers, and I will make the land of Egypt utterly waste and desolate, from the tower of Syene even to the border of Ethiopia.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)From the tower of Syene.—The word here translated “tower” is a proper name, Migdol, a town, mentioned in Exodus 14:2, near Suez. Syene has in the original the affix denoting towards, and the translation should therefore be, from Migdol to Syene, even unto the border of Ethiopia; in other words, “the whole length of the land.” Syene was a town on the extreme southern border of Egypt, represented by the modern Assouan, which is situated near its ruins. There is a like error of translation in Ezekiel 30:6.Ezekiel 29:10-12. Behold, I am against thee and thy rivers — Since thou hast opposed me, I will set myself against thee, and bring down the strength and glory of thy kingdom, wherein thou magnifiest thyself so much. From the tower of Syene, even unto the border of Ethiopia — If we follow this translation, we must understand the word Cush, rendered here Ethiopia, of Arabia, as it is often taken: see note on Jeremiah 13:23. For Syene was to the south of Egypt, under the tropic of Cancer, and bordering on African Ethiopia: see Pliny’s Nat. Hist., 50. 5. c. 9. But the words may be properly translated thus: From Migdol to Syene, even to the borders of Ethiopia: compare Ezekiel 30:5; Ezekiel 30:9. Migdol was a town near the Red sea, mentioned Exodus 14:2; Jeremiah 44:1; Jeremiah 46:14, (where see the notes,) at the entrance of Egypt from Palestine; whereas Syene was at the other end of the country. What is said here of the devastation of Egypt, appears from this to be spoken only of a part of it, and not the whole. No foot of man shall pass through it, &c. — The intestine wars of the Egyptians, and the invasion of Nebuchadnezzar, made some provinces of Egypt, which were most the scenes of action, quite desolate; out of which state they did not wholly recover for the space of forty years. And her cities shall be desolate forty years — “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, which was about forty years after the conquest of Egypt by Nebuchadnezzar: 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 Babylonian empire, return to their native country.” — Bishop Newton.
We have no record of the circumstances of the Chaldsaean invasion of Egypt, but it is possible that it did not take place until after the fall of Tyre. We gather of what nature it must have been by comparing the description of the results of Assyrian conquest (Isaiah 37:25 ff). Minute fulfillment of every detail of prophecy is not to be insisted upon, but only the general fact that Egypt would for a time, described as 40 years, be in a state of collapse. No great stress is to be laid on the exact number of years. The number of years passed in the wilderness became to the Hebrews a significant period of chastisement.
Nebuchadnezzars occupation of Egypt was of no long duration, and his ravages, though severe, must have been partial. Peace with Babylon was favorable to the development of home-works, but since the peace was in truth subjugation, it was hollow and in fact ruinous. Further, it is to be remembered that God fulfils His decree by a gradual rather than an immediate process. The ravages of Nebuchadnezzar were the beginning of the end, and all the desolation which followed may be looked upon as a continuous fulfillment of God's decree. The savage fury with which Cambyses swept over Egypt amply realized all that Ezekiel foretold. Many places recovered some wealth and prosperity, but from the time of Herodotus the kingdom never again became really independent. Egyptian rulers gave place to Persian, Persian to the successors of Alexander the Great, who gave place in turn to Rome. So thoroughly was the prophecy of Ezekiel fulfilled Ezekiel 29:14-15.I am against thee: see Ezekiel 28:22.
Thy rivers: see Ezekiel 29:4.
Waste: see Ezekiel 29:9.
The tower; thus, as a common name, we, and the French, and others read it; but some account it a proper name of a town or city, called Magdalum, for aught I know the old Migdol, Exodus 14:2 Numbers 33:7,8; it was on the Red Sea side, north-east of Egypt: from this part unto Syene.
Syene; a city on the east of Nilus over against Arabia, saith one; a city that is just below the great cataract or fall of Nilus toward Ethiopia, and such a boundary between Ethiopia and Egypt as admits dispute to which it belongs. Ethiopia: now, to dispute nothing of this geography, it seems likely to me, that what we render Ethiopia is not so well and plainly rendered; for Syene being so near to Ethiopia, we must look some place of Egypt at some greater distance from Syene than this Ethiopia is; if then it were translated, the border of Cush, to whom Moses assigns Arabia, Genesis 10:7. Let us suppose then Magdalum, instead of
the tower, as one term; Syene on the edge of Ethiopia, as another; and the opposite point on the Red Sea towards Arabia; and then almost all Egypt is comprised herein, from north-east to south-east, down the Red Sea, thence to the westward as far as Ethiopia, and thence up the Nile as high northward as Magdalum. Revelation 11:8,
and I will make the land of Egypt utterly waste and desolate; partly by a civil war, and partly by a foreign enemy; especially those parts of it which were the seat of war:
from the tower of Syene even unto the border of Ethiopia; or the tower of Seveneh; according to Herodotus (i), Syene was a city of Thebais, where he was told were two mountains, which gave rise to the Nile. Pliny (k) says it was six hundred twenty five miles from Alexandria; and it is by him, as well as Strabo (l), placed under the tropic of Cancer; who both say, in the summer solstice, at noon, no shadow is cast there; to which the poet Lucan (m) refers, It is now called Essuaen; which city, as Mr. Norden (n) says, who lately travelled in those parts, is situated on the eastern shore of the Nile; and he relates that there remain still some marks of the place where the ancient city stood; as to the rest, it is so covered with earth, that there is nothing but rubbish, from which, in some places, one would judge that there were formerly magnificent buildings here. The utter destruction of which, with the rest of Egypt prophesied of, appears to have been fulfilled. This place is famous for being the place of the banishment of Juvenal the poet, where he died, being eighty years of age. The tower of Syene, Jerom says, remained to his days, and was subject to the Roman government, where are the cataracts of the Nile; and to which place, from our sea, he says, the Nile is navigable: but, according to Pliny. (o), Syene itself was on the border of Ethiopia; and so say Pausanias (p) and Solinus (q): and, according to Seneca (r), it was the extreme part of Egypt. So Josephus (s) says the south border of Egypt is Syene, which separates it from Ethiopia; and that between Pelusium (the entrance of Egypt) and Syene are two hundred and fifty miles. It lay between Egypt and Ethiopia, so that it might seem doubtful to which it belonged. It seems better therefore to take "Migdol", rendered a "tower", for the proper name of a place, as the Septuagint do; and such a place there was in Egypt, Jeremiah 44:1, a town on the Red sea, Exodus 14:2, so that the one was on the border of Egypt on one side, and the other on the other: and the words may be rendered (t), "from Migdol to Syene, even to the border of Ethiopia"; from one end of it to the other: it denotes the utter desolation of the country, from one end to the other. Unless by Cush, rendered "Ethiopia", is meant Arabia, as it often is, and is thought by some to be intended here; which was on the northern border of Egypt, as Syene was, a city in Thebais, near to Ethiopia, on the southern border of it; so that this describes Egypt from south to north; but the former account seems best.
(i) Euterpe, sive l. 2. c. 28. (k) Nat. Hist. l. 2. c. 73. (l) Geograph. l. 2. p. 65, 78. (m) "Umbras nusquan flectente", Syene. Pharsal. l. 2. v. 587. (n) Travels in Egypt and Nubis, vol. 1. p. 143. vol. 2. p. 97, 103. (o) Nat. Hist. l. 5. c. 9. (p) Arcadica, sive l. 8. p. 518. (q) Polyhistor, c. 45. (r) Apud Servium in Virgil. Aeneid. l. 6. p. 1011. (s) De Bello Jud. l. 5. c. 10. sect. 5. (t) See Prideaux's Connexion, part 1. B. 2. p. 93. So the words are rendered by Hillerus, Onomast. Sacr. p. 672. who observes, that Syene is now called by the Arabs "Asuan", from the Ethiopic word "Wasou", which signifies to terminate or finish, this being the border of Ethiopia.Behold, therefore I am against thee, and against thy rivers, and I will make the land of Egypt utterly waste and desolate, from the tower of Syene even unto the border of Ethiopia.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)10. the tower of Syene] Rather: from Migdol unto Syene—from Lower Egypt to the southern border of Upper Egypt. Migdol is said to have been situated 12 miles S. of Pelusium, upon the N. border of Lower Egypt (Exodus 14:2; Jeremiah 44:1; Jeremiah 46:14; Numbers 33:7). Syene (ch. Ezekiel 30:6), the modern Assouan, on the S. border of Upper Egypt. Cush or Ethiopia lay to the south of Pathros or Upper Egypt; its capital lay near the 4th Cataract, between Abu Hamed and old Dongola.Verse 10. - From the tower of Syene, etc. The Authorized Version is misleading, as Syene was itself on the border of Ethiopia. Better, with the Revised Version margin, from Migdol to Syene, even to the border of Ethiopia. The Migdol (equivalent to "tower") so named is mentioned in the 'Itinerarium' of Antoninus (p. 171, edit. Wafael), and was about twelve miles from Pelusium, and thus represented the northern extremity of Egypt; as Syene, identified with the modern Assouan, represented the southern, being the last fortified town in Egypt proper. The expedition of Psammis against Ethiopia, as above, had probably given prominence to the latter fortress. So taken, the phrase corresponded to the familiar "from Dan to Beersheba" of Judges 20:1, etc.
Ezekiel 28:1. And the word of Jehovah came to me, saying, Ezekiel 28:2. Son of man, say to the prince of Tyre, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Because thy heart has lifted itself up, and thou sayest, "I am a God, I sit upon a seat of Gods, in the heart of the seas," when thou art a man and not God, and cherishest a mind like a God's mind, Ezekiel 28:3. Behold, thou art wiser than Daniel; nothing secret is obscure to thee; Ezekiel 28:4. Through thy wisdom and thy understanding hast thou acquired might, and put gold and silver in thy treasuries; Ezekiel 28:5. Through the greatness of thy wisdom hast thou increased thy might by thy trade, and thy heart has lifted itself up on account of thy might, Ezekiel 28:6. Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Because thou cherishest a mind like a God's mind, Ezekiel 28:7. Therefore, behold, I will bring foreigners upon thee, violent men of the nations; they will draw their swords against the beauty of thy wisdom, and pollute thy splendour. Ezekiel 28:8. They will cast thee down into the pit, that thou mayest die the death of the slain in the heart of the seas. Ezekiel 28:9. Wilt thou indeed say, I am a God, in the face of him that slayeth thee, when thou art a man and not God in the hand of him that killeth thee? Ezekiel 28:10. Thou wilt die the death of the uncircumcised at the hand of foreigners; for I have spoken it, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah. - This threat of judgment follows in general the same course as those addressed to other nations (compare especially Ezekiel 25), namely, that the sin is mentioned first (Ezekiel 28:2-5), and then the punishment consequent upon the sin (Ezekiel 28:6-10). In Ezekiel 28:12 מלך is used instead of נגיד, dux. In the use of the term נגיד to designate the king, Kliefoth detects an indication of the peculiar position occupied by the prince in the commercial state of Tyre, which had been reared upon municipal foundations; inasmuch as he was not so much a monarch, comparable to the rulers of Bayblon or to the Pharaohs, as the head of the great mercantile aristocracy. This is in harmony with the use of the word נגיד for the prince of Israel, David for example, whom God chose and anointed to be the nâgīd over His people; in other words, to be the leader of the tribes, who also formed an independent commonwealth (vid., 1 Samuel 13:14; 2 Samuel 7:8, etc.). The pride of the prince of Tyre is described in Ezekiel 28:2 as consisting in the fact that he regarded himself as a God, and his seat in the island of Tyre as a God's seat. He calls his seat מושׁב , not "because his capital stood out from the sea, like the palace of God from the ocean of heaven" (Psalm 104:3), as Hitzig supposes; for, apart from any other ground, this does not suit the subsequent description of his seat as God's mountain (Ezekiel 28:16), and God's holy mountain (Ezekiel 28:14). The God's seat and God's mountain are not the palace of the king of Tyre, but Tyre as a state, and that not because of its firm position upon a rocky island, but as a holy island (ἁγία νῆσος, as Tyre is called in Sanchun. ed. Orelli, p. 36), the founding of which has been glorified by myths (vid., Movers, Phoenizier, I pp. 637ff.). The words which Ezekiel puts into the mouth of the king of Tyre may be explained, as Kliefoth has well expressed it, "from the notion lying at the foundation of all natural religions, according to which every state, as the production of its physical factors and bases personified as the native deities of house and state, is regarded as a work and sanctuary of the gods." In Tyre especially the national and political development went hand in hand with the spread and propagation of its religion. "The Tyrian state was the production and seat of its gods. He, the prince of Tyre, presided over this divine creation and divine seat; therefore he, the prince, was himself a god, a manifestation of the deity, having its work and home in the state of Tyre." All heathen rulers looked upon themselves in this light; so that the king of Babylon is addressed in a similar manner in Isaiah 14:13-14. This self-deification is shown to be a delusion in Ezekiel 28:2; He who is only a man makes his heart like a God's heart, i.e., cherishes the same thought as the Gods. לב, the heart, as the seat of the thoughts and imaginations, is named instead of the disposition.
This is carried out still further in Ezekiel 28:3-5 by a description of the various sources from which this imagination sprang. He cherishes a God's mind, because he attributes to himself superhuman wisdom, through which he has created the greatness, and might, and wealth of Tyre. The words, "behold, thou art wiser," etc. (Ezekiel 28:3), are not to be taken as a question, "art thou indeed wiser?" as they have been by the lxx, Syriac, and others; nor are they ironical, as Hvernick supposes; but they are to be taken literally, namely, inasmuch as the prince of Tyre was serious in attributing to himself supernatural and divine wisdom. Thou art, i.e., thou regardest thyself as being, wiser than Daniel. No hidden thing is obscure to thee (עמם, a later word akin to the Aramaean, "to be obscure"). The comparison with Daniel refers to the fact that Daniel surpassed all the magi and wise men of Babylon in wisdom through his ability to interpret dreams, since God gave him an insight into the nature and development of the power of the world, such as no human sagacity could have secured. The wisdom of the prince of Tyre, on the other hand, consisted in the cleverness of the children of this world, which knows how to get possession of all the good things of the earth. Through such wisdom as this had the Tyrian prince acquired power and riches. חיל, might, possessions in the broader sense; not merely riches, but the whole of the might of the commercial state of Tyre, which was founded upon riches and treasures got by trade. In Ezekiel 28:5 בּרכלּתך is in apposition to בּרב הכמתך, and is introduced as explanatory. The fulness of its wisdom showed itself in its commerce and the manner in which it conducted it, whereby Tyre had become rich and powerful. It is not till we reach Ezekiel 28:6 that we meet with the apodosis answering to 'יען גּבהּ וגו in Ezekiel 28:2, which has been pushed so far back by the intervening parenthetical sentences in Ezekiel 28:2-5. For this reason the sin of the prince of Tyre in deifying himself is briefly reiterated in the clause 'יען תּתּך וגו (Ezekiel 28:6, compare Ezekiel 28:2), after which the announcement of the punishment is introduced with a repetition of לכן in Ezekiel 28:7. Wild foes approaching with barbarous violence will destroy all the king's resplendent glory, slay the king himself with the sword, and hurl him down into the pit as a godless man. The enemies are called עריצי גּוים, violent ones of the peoples - that is to say, the wild hordes composing the Chaldean army (cf. Ezekiel 30:11; Ezekiel 31:12). They drew the sword "against the beauty (יפי, the construct state of יפי) of thy wisdom," i.e., the beauty produced by thy wisdom, and the beautiful Tyre itself, with all that it contains (Ezekiel 26:3-4). יפעה, splendour; it is only here and in Ezekiel 28:17 that we meet with it as a noun. The king himself they hurl down into the pit, i.e., the grave, or the nether world. ממותי חלל, the death of a pierced one, substantially the same as מותי ערלים. The plural ממותי and מותי here and Jeremiah 16:4 (mortes) is a pluralis exaggerativus, a death so painful as to be equivalent to dying many times (see the comm. on Isaiah 53:9). In Ezekiel 28:9 Ezekiel uses the Piel מחלּל in the place of the Poel מחולל, as חלל in the Piel occurs elsewhere only in the sense of profanare, and in Isaiah 51:9 and Poel is used for piercing. But there is no necessity to alter the pointing in consequence, as we also find the Pual used by Ezekiel in Ezekiel 32:26 in the place of the Poal of Isaiah 53:5. The death of the uncircumcised is such a death as godless men die - a violent death. The king of Tyre, who looks upon himself as a god, shall perish by the sword like a godless man. At the same time, the whole of this threat applies, not to the one king, Ithobal, who was reigning at the time of the siege of Tyre by the Chaldeans, but to the king as the founder and creator of the might of Tyre (Ezekiel 28:3-5), i.e., to the supporter of that royalty which was to perish along with Tyre itself. - It is to the king, as the representative of the might and glory of Tyre, and not merely to the existing possessor of the regal dignity, that the following lamentation over his fall refers.
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