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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
cause … sword to fall out of … hand—deprive him of the resources of making war.
and put my sword in his hand; which confirms the above sense, that he should have power and authority from the Lord to attack the king of Egypt, and should gain a victory over him; since it was not his own sword he drew, but the sword of the Lord of hosts; which coming from him, and having his commission, cannot fail of doing execution;
but will break Pharaoh's arms; as before in Ezekiel 30:21,
and he shall groan before him with the groanings of a deadly wounded man; that is, before the king of Babylon; by whom, as an instrument, his arms shall be broken, and his power destroyed; and he be like a man in the agonies of death, just expiring, not able to speak, but groaning out his life under the inexpressible anguish of broken bones, and none to set them.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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)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.
Because Pharaoh looks upon himself as the creator of his kingdom and of his might, he is to be destroyed with his men of war (Ezekiel 29:2-5). In order that Israel may no longer put its trust in the fragile power of Egypt, the sword shall cut off from Egypt both man and beast, the land shall be turned into a barren wilderness, and the people shall be scattered over the lands (Ezekiel 29:5-12). But after the expiration of the time appointed for its punishment, both people and land shall be restored, though only to remain an insignificant kingdom (Ezekiel 29:13-16). - According to Ezekiel 29:1, this prophecy belongs to the tenth year of the captivity of Jehoiachin; and as we may see by comparing it with the other oracles against Egypt of which the dates are given, it was the first word of God uttered by Ezekiel concerning this imperial kingdom. The contents also harmonize with this, inasmuch as the threat which it contains merely announces in general terms the overthrow of the might of Egypt and its king, without naming the instrument employed to execute the judgment, and at the same time the future condition of Egypt is also disclosed.
Destruction of the might of Pharaoh, and devastation of Egypt
Ezekiel 29:1. In the tenth year, in the tenth (month), on the twelfth of the month, the word of Jehovah came to me, saying, Ezekiel 29:2. Son of man, direct thy face against Pharaoh the king of Egypt, and prophesy against him and against all Egypt. Ezekiel 29:3. Speak and say, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Behold, I will deal with thee, Pharaoh, king of Egypt, thou great dragon which lieth in its rivers, which saith, "Mine is the river, and I have made it for myself." Ezekiel 29:4. I will put a ring into thy jaws, and cause the fishes of thy rivers to hang upon thy scales, and draw thee out of thy rivers, and all the fishes of thy rivers which hang upon thy scales; Ezekiel 29:5. And will cast thee into the desert, thee and all the fishes of thy rivers; upon the surface of the field wilt thou fall, thou wilt not be lifted up nor gathered together; I give thee for food to the beasts of the earth and the birds of the heaven. Ezekiel 29:6. And all the inhabitants of Egypt shall learn that I am Jehovah. Because it is a reed-staff to the house of Israel, - Ezekiel 29:7. When they grasp thee by thy branches, thou crackest and tearest open all their shoulder; and when they lean upon thee, thou breakest and causest all their loins to shake, - Ezekiel 29:8. Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Behold, I bring upon thee the sword, and will cut off from thee man and beast; Ezekiel 29:9. And the land of Egypt will become a waste and desolation, and they shall learn that I am Jehovah. Because he saith: "The river is mine, and I have made it," Ezekiel 29:10. Therefore, behold, I will deal with thee and thy rivers, and will make the land of Egypt into barren waste desolations from Migdol to Syene, even to the border of Cush. Ezekiel 29:11. The foot of man will not pass through it, and the foot of beast will not pass through it, and it will not be inhabited for forty years. Ezekiel 29:12. I make the land of Egypt a waste in the midst of devastated lands, and its cities shall be waste among desolate cities forty years; and I scatter the Egyptians among the nations, and disperse them in the lands. - The date given, viz., "in the tenth year," is defended even by Hitzig as more correct than the reading of the lxx, ἐν τῷ ἔτει τῷ δωδεκάτω; and he supposes the Alexandrian reading to have originated in the fact that the last date mentioned in Ezekiel 26:1 had already brought down the account to the eleventh year. - Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, against whom the threat is first directed, is called "the great dragon" in Ezekiel 29:3. תּנּים (here and Ezekiel 32:2) is equivalent to תּנּין, literally, the lengthened animal, the snake; here, the water-snake, the crocodile, the standing symbol of Egypt in the prophets (cf. Isaiah 51:9; Isaiah 27:1; Psalm 74:13), which is here transferred to Pharaoh, as the ruler of Egypt and representative of its power. By יארים we are to understand the arms and canals of the Nile (vid., Isaiah 7:18). The predicate, "lying in the midst of his rivers," points at once to the proud security in his own power to which Pharaoh gave himself up. As the crocodile lies quietly in the waters of the Nile, as though he were lord of the river; so did Pharaoh regard himself as the omnipotent lord of Egypt. His words affirm this: "the river is mine, I have made it for myself." The suffix attached to עשׂיתני stands in the place of לי, as Ezekiel 29:9, where the suffix is wanting, clearly shows. There is an incorrectness in this use of the suffix, which evidently passed into the language of literature from the popular phraseology (cf. Ewald, 315b). The rendering of the Vulgate, ego feci memetipsum, is false. יארי is the expression used by him as a king who regards the land and its rivers as his own property; in connection with which we must bear in mind that Egypt is indebted to the Nile not only for its greatness, but for its actual existence. In this respect Pharaoh says emphatically לי, it is mine, it belongs to me, because he regards himself as the creator. The words, "I have made it for myself," simply explain the reason for the expression לי, and affirm more than "I have put myself in possession of this through my own power, or have acquired its blessings for myself" (Hvernick); or, "I have put it into its present condition by constructing canals, dams, sluices, and buildings by the river-side" (Hitzig). Pharaoh calls himself the creator of the Nile, because he regards himself as the creator of the greatness of Egypt. This pride, in which he forgets God and attributes divine power to himself, is the cause of his sin, for which he will be overthrown by God. God will draw the crocodile Pharaoh out of his Nile with hooks, and cast him upon the dry land, where he and the fishes that have been drawn out along with him upon his scales will not be gathered up, but devoured by the wild beasts and birds of prey. The figure is derived from the manner in which even in ancient times the crocodile was caught with large hooks of a peculiar construction (compare Herod. ii. 70, and the testimonies of travellers in Oedmann's Vermischten Sammlungen, III pp. 6ff., and Jomard in the Dscription de l'Egypte, 1 Peter 27). The form חחיים with a double Yod is a copyist's error, probably occasioned by the double Yod occurring after ח in בּלחייך, which follows. A dual form for חחים is unsuitable, and is not used anywhere else even by Ezekiel (cf. Ezekiel 19:4, Ezekiel 19:9, and more especially Ezekiel 38:4).
The fishes which hang upon the scales of the monster, and are drawn along with it out of the Nile, are the inhabitants of Egypt, for the Nile represents the land. The casting of the beast into the wilderness, where it putrefies and is devoured by the beasts and birds of prey, must not be interpreted in the insipid manner proposed by Hitzig, namely, that Pharaoh would advance with his army into the desert of Arabia and be defeated there. The wilderness is the dry and barren land, in which animals that inhabit the water must perish; and the thought is simply that the monster will be cast upon the desert land, where it will finally become the food of the beasts of prey.
In Ezekiel 29:6 the construction is a subject of dispute, inasmuch as many of the commentators follow the Hebrew division of the verse, taking the second hemistich 'יען היותם וגו as dependent upon the first half of the verse, for which it assigns the reason, and then interpreting Ezekiel 29:7 as a further development of Ezekiel 29:6, and commencing a new period with Ezekiel 29:8 (Hitzig, Kliefoth, and others). But it is decidedly wrong to connect together the two halves of the sixth verse, if only for the simple reason that the formula וידעוּ כּי אני יהוה, which occurs so frequently elsewhere in Ezekiel, invariably closes a train of thought, and is never followed by the addition of a further reason. Moreover, a sentence commencing with יען is just as invariably followed by an apodosis introduced by לכן, of which we have an example just below in Ezekiel 29:9 and Ezekiel 29:10. For both these reasons it is absolutely necessary that we should regard 'יען ה as the beginning of a protasis, the apodosis to which commences with לכן in Ezekiel 29:8. The correctness of this construction is established beyond all doubt by the fact that from Ezekiel 29:6 onwards it is no longer Pharaoh who is spoken of, as in Ezekiel 29:3-5, but Egypt; so that יען introduces a new train of thought. But Ezekiel 29:7 is clearly shown, both by the contents and the form, to be an explanatory intermediate clause inserted as a parenthesis. And inasmuch as the protasis is removed in consequence to some distance from its apodosis, Ezekiel has introduced the formula "thus saith the Lord Jehovah" at the commencement of the apodosis, for the purpose of giving additional emphasis to the announcement of the punishment. Ezekiel 29:7 cannot in any case be regarded as the protasis, the apodosis to which commences with the לכן in Ezekiel 29:8, and Hvernick maintains. The suffix attached to היותם, to which Hitzig takes exception, because he has misunderstood the construction, and which he would conjecture away, refers to מצרים as a land or kingdom. Because the kingdom of Egypt was a reed-staff to the house of Israel (a figure drawn from the physical character of the banks of the Nile, with its thick growth of tall, thick rushes, and recalling to mind Isaiah 36:6), the Lord would bring the sword upon it and cut off from it both man and beast. But before this apodosis the figure of the reed-staff is more clearly defined: "when they (the Israelites) take thee by thy branches, thou breakest," etc. This explanation is not to be taken as referring to any particular facts either of the past or future, but indicates the deceptive nature of Egypt as the standing characteristic of that kingdom. At the same time, to give greater vivacity to the description, the words concerning Egypt are changed into a direct address to the Egyptians, i.e., not to Pharaoh, but to the Egyptian people regarded as a single individual. The expression בכפך causes some difficulty, since the ordinary meaning of כּף (hand) is apparently unsuitable, inasmuch as the verb תּרוץ, from רצץ, to break or crack (not to break in pieces, i.e., to break quite through), clearly shows that the figure if the reed is still continued. The Keri בּכּף is a bad emendation, based upon the rendering "to grasp with the hand," which is grammatically inadmissible. תּפשׂ with ב does not mean to grasp with something, but to seize upon something, to take hold of a person (Isaiah 3:6; Deuteronomy 9:17), so that בכפך can only be an explanatory apposition to בּך. The meaning grip, or grasp of the hand, is also unsuitable and cannot be sustained, as the plural כּפּות alone is used in this sense in Sol 5:5. The only meaning appropriate to the figure is that of branches, which is sustained, so far as the language is concerned, by the use of the plural כּפּות for palm-branches in Leviticus 23:40, and of the singular כּפּה for the collection of branches in Job 15:32, and Isaiah 9:13; Isaiah 19:15; and this is apparently in perfect harmony with natural facts, since the tall reed of the Nile, more especially the papyrus, is furnished with hollow, sword-shaped leaves at the lower part of the talk. When it cracks, the reed-staff pierces the shoulder of the man who has grasped it, and tears it; and if a man lean upon it, it breaks in pieces and causes all the loins to tremble. העמיד cannot mean to cause to stand, or to set upright, still less render stiff and rigid. The latter meaning cannot be established from the usage of the language, and would be unsuitable here. For if a stick on which a man leans should break and penetrate his loins, it would inflict such injury upon them as to cause him to fall, and not to remain stiff and rigid. העמד cannot have any other meaning than that of המעד, to cause to tremble or relax, as in Psalm 69:24, to shake the firmness of the loins, so that the power to stand is impaired.
In the apodosis the thought of the land gives place to that of the people; hence the use of the feminine suffixes עליך and ממּך in the place of the masculine suffixes בּך and עליך in Ezekiel 29:7. Man and beast shall be cut off, and the land made into a desert waste by the sword, i.e., by war. This is carried out still further in Ezekiel 29:9-12; and once again in the protasis 9b (cf. Ezekiel 29:3) the inordinate pride of the king is placed in the foreground as the reason for the devastation of his land and kingdom. The Lord will make of Egypt the most desolate wilderness. חרבות is intensified into a superlative by the double genitive חרב שׁממה, desolation of the wilderness. Throughout its whole extent from Migdol, i.e., Magdolo, according to the Itiner. Anton. p. 171 (ed. Wessel), twelve Roman miles from Pelusium; in the Coptic Meshtol, Egyptian Màktr (Brugsch, Geogr. Inschr. I pp. 261f.), the most northerly place in Egypt. סונה, to Syene (for the construction see Ezekiel 30:6 and Ezekiel 21:3), Συήνη, Sun in the inscriptions, according to Brugsch (Geogr. Inschr. I. p. 155), probably the profane designation of the place (Coptic Souan), the most southerly border town of Egypt in the direction of Cush, i.e., Ethiopia, on the eastern bank of the Nile, some ruins of which are still to be seen in the modern Assvan (Assuan, Arab. aswa equals n), which is situated to the north-east of them (vid., Brugsch, Reiseber. aus. Aegypten, p. 247, and Leyrer in Herzog's Encyclopaedia). The additional clause, "and to the border of Cush," does not give a fresh terminal point, still further advanced, but simply defines with still greater clearness the boundary toward the south, viz., to Syene, where Egypt terminates and Ethiopia beings. In Ezekiel 29:11 the desolation is more fully depicted. לא תשׁב, it will not dwell, poetical for "be inhabited," as in Joel 4 (3):20, Isaiah 13:20, etc. This devastation shall last for forty years, and so long shall the people of Egypt be scattered among the nations. But after the expiration of that time they shall be gathered together again (Ezekiel 29:13). The number forty is neither a round number (Hitzig) nor a very long time (Ewald), but is a symbolical term denoting a period appointed by God for punishment and penitence (see the comm. on Ezekiel 4:6), which is not to be understood in a chronological sense, or capable of being calculated.
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