Ezekiel 31:1
And it came to pass in the eleventh year, in the third month, in the first day of the month, that the word of the LORD came to me, saying,
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Ezekiel 31:1-2. In the eleventh year, in the third month, &c. — This was another revelation upon the subject of the destruction of Egypt, imparted two months after that which is mentioned in the conclusion of the foregoing chapter. Whom art thou like in thy greatness? — Thou pridest thyself, as if there never was any prince or king that could compare with thee. The prophet here asks a question, not to receive an answer from Pharaoh, but to answer it himself, as he does in the next and following verses, wherein he acquaints the king of Egypt that the king of Assyria was equally as powerful as he, and yet came to a miserable end; from whence he might learn, that he had no security for the continuance of his grandeur, but might be soon cast down as the king of Assyria had been.31:1-9 The falls of others, both into sin and ruin, warn us not to be secure or high-minded. The prophet is to show an instance of one whom the king of Egypt resembled in greatness, the Assyrian, compared to a stately cedar. Those who excel others, make themselves the objects of envy; but the blessings of the heavenly paradise are not liable to such alloy. The utmost security that any creature can give, is but like the shadow of a tree, a scanty and slender protection. But let us flee to God for protection, there we shall be safe. His hand must be owned in the rising of the great men of the earth, and we must not envy them. Though worldly people may seem to have firm prosperity, yet it only seems so.In the third month - More than a month before Jerusalem was taken (compare Jeremiah 39:2). CHAPTER 31

Eze 31:1-18. The Overthrow of Egypt Illustrated by That of Assyria.

Not that Egypt was, like Assyria, utterly to cease to be, but it was, like Assyria, to lose its prominence in the empire of the world.

1. third month—two months later than the prophecy delivered in Eze 30:20.A recital to Pharaoh of the Assyrian’s greatness, and of his fall for pride, Ezekiel 31:1-17. The like destruction shall be to Pharaoh, Ezekiel 31:18.

In the eleventh year; as Ezekiel 30:20.

in the third month; our June 26th old style, the 16th new style; just one month and eight days before the taking of the city on the 27th of July old style, but 17th of July new style. The first day of the month Tamuz.

And it came to pass in the eleventh year,.... Of Zedekiah's reign, and Jeconiah's captivity:

in the third month, in the first day of the month: the month Sivan, which began on the twentieth of our May, and answers to part of May, and part of June; this was about seven weeks after the former prophecy, and about five weeks before the destruction of Jerusalem; according to Bishop Usher (n), this was on the nineteenth of June, on the first day of the week, in 3416 A.M. or before Christ 588:

that the word of the Lord came unto me, saying; as follows:

(n) Annales Vet. Test. A. M. 3416.

And it came to pass in the {a} eleventh year, in the third month, in the first day of the month, that the word of the LORD came to me, saying,

(a) Of Zedekiah's reign, or of Jeconiah's captivity.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1. The date is about two months before Jerusalem fell.

Ch. 31 Pharaoh under the figure of a great cedar cut down and flung upon the ground

The passage has three parts:

(1) Ezekiel 31:1-9. Pharaoh, the impersonation of the spirit and might of Egypt, was a lofty cedar, with spreading branches, and its top in the clouds. All the fowls lodged in the branches, and all the beasts brought forth their young under it. Its waters nourished it and made it great. The trees in the garden of God did not equal it; all the trees of Eden envied it.

(2) Ezekiel 31:10-14. The great tree shall be cut down by the mighty one of the nations, and thrown upon the ground. Its bulk shall fill the mountains and valleys of the land. All the nations shall depart from under the shadow of it; and the fowls and beasts of the field shall feed on it. Its heart was lifted up because of its great height, therefore it shall be cut down, that none of the trees lift themselves up and put their head among the clouds.

(3) Ezekiel 31:5-18. Nature shall shudder and put on blackness over the fall of Pharaoh. And the great trees of the garden of God that are gone down to the pit shall be comforted when Pharaoh and his auxiliaries descend among them.

The allegory is easily read. The mighty cedar, burying its head in the clouds, is the proud king and his powerful state, aspiring to a greatness that belongs to heaven. The fowls and beasts lodging under the shadow of the tree are the nations of the earth seeking his protection and subject to him (Daniel 4:12). The trees in the garden of God are other mighty states impersonated in their rulers. The universal meaning which was given to the judgment on Egypt by representing it as the day of the Lord in ch. 30 is suggested here in other ways, by the imposing height of the cedar, unapproachable by other trees in the garden of God; by the fowls and beasts of the field lodging in the tree—all nations seeking the protection of the Pharaoh; and by the shock which all nature receives when the great tree is cut down and flung upon the ground; and finally by the commotion occasioned in Sheòl when Pharaoh descends among the dead (ch. 32 Isaiah 14). In some points the allegory has incongruities, as was natural. Pharaoh is a great cedar, but it is his waters—the Nile—that nourish him, and give him an altitude to which the trees of Eden cannot aspire. The cedar is in Lebanon, the home of cedars, but also by the great deep, and probably too in Eden (Ezekiel 31:11). The trees, once in Eden, descend into Sheòl with those that are gone down to the pit.Verse 1. - In the eleventh year, etc. June, B.C. 586. Two months all but six days had passed since the utterance of Ezekiel 30:20-26, when Ezekiel was moved to expand his prediction of the downfall of Egypt into a parable which is partly a replica of these in Ezekiel 17. and Ezekiel 19:1-14, and which also finds a parallel in Daniel 4:10-14. The Judgment upon Pharaoh and His People and Land

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.

Ezekiel 29:1-12

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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