Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
In the tenth year, in the tenth month, in the twelfth day of the month, the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
Eze 29:1-21. The Judgment on Egypt by Nebuchadnezzar; though about to Be Restored after Forty Years, It Was Still to Be in a State of Degradation.
This is the last of the world kingdoms against which Ezekiel's prophecies are directed, and occupies the largest space in them, namely, the next four chapters. Though farther off than Tyre, it exercised a more powerful influence on Israel.
Son of man, set thy face against Pharaoh king of Egypt, and prophesy against him, and against all Egypt:
2. Pharaoh—a common name of all the kings of Egypt, meaning "the sun"; or, as others say, a "crocodile," which was worshipped in parts of Egypt (compare Eze 29:3). Hophra or Apries was on the throne at this time. His reign began prosperously. He took Gaza (Jer 47:1) and Zidon and made himself master of Ph�nicia and Palestine, recovering much that was lost to Egypt by the victory of Nebuchadnezzar at Carchemish (2Ki 24:7; Jer 46:2), in the fourth year of Jehoiakim [Wilkinson, Ancient Egypt, 1.169]. So proudly secure because of his successes for twenty-five years did he feel, that he said not even a god could deprive him of his kingdom [Herodotus, 2.169]. Hence the appropriateness of the description of him in Eze 29:3. No mere human sagacity could have enabled Ezekiel to foresee Egypt's downfall in the height of its prosperity. There are four divisions of these prophecies; the first in the tenth year of Ezekiel's captivity; the last in the twelfth. Between the first and second comes one of much later date, not having been given till the twenty-seventh year (Eze 29:17; 30:19), but placed there as appropriate to the subject matter. Pharaoh-hophra, or Apries, was dethroned and strangled, and Amasis substituted as king, by Nebuchadnezzar (compare Jer 44:30). The Egyptian priests, from national vanity, made no mention to Herodotus of the Egyptian loss of territory in Syria through Nebuchadnezzar, of which Josephus tells us, but attributed the change in the succession from Apries to Amasis solely to the Egyptian soldiery. The civil war between the two rivals no doubt lasted several years, affording an opportunity to Nebuchadnezzar of interfering and of elevating the usurper Amasis, on condition of his becoming tributary to Babylon [Wilkinson]. Compare Jer 43:10-12, and see on Jer 43:13, for another view of the grounds of interference of Nebuchadnezzar.
Speak, and say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against thee, Pharaoh king of Egypt, the great dragon that lieth in the midst of his rivers, which hath said, My river is mine own, and I have made it for myself.
3. dragon—Hebrew, tanim, any large aquatic animal, here the crocodile, which on Roman coins is the emblem of Egypt.
lieth—restest proudly secure.
his rivers—the mouths, branches, and canals of the Nile, to which Egypt owed its fertility.
But I will put hooks in thy jaws, and I will cause the fish of thy rivers to stick unto thy scales, and I will bring thee up out of the midst of thy rivers, and all the fish of thy rivers shall stick unto thy scales.
4. hooks in thy jaws—(Isa 37:29; compare Job 41:1, 2). Amasis was the "hook." In the Assyrian sculptures prisoners are represented with a hook in the underlip, and a cord from it held by the king.
cause … fish … stick unto … scales—Pharaoh, presuming on his power as if he were God (Eze 29:3, "I have made it"), wished to stand in the stead of God as defender of the covenant-people, his motive being, not love to them, but rivalry with Babylon. He raised the siege of Jerusalem, but it was only for a time (compare Eze 29:6; Jer 37:5, 7-10); ruin overtook not only them, but himself. As the fish that clung to the horny scales of the crocodile, the lord of the Nile, when he was caught, shared his fate, so the adherents of Pharaoh, lord of Egypt, when he was overthrown by Amasis, should share his fate.
And I will leave thee thrown into the wilderness, thee and all the fish of thy rivers: thou shalt fall upon the open fields; thou shalt not be brought together, nor gathered: I have given thee for meat to the beasts of the field and to the fowls of the heaven.
5. wilderness—captivity beyond thy kingdom. The expression is used perhaps to imply retribution in kind. As Egypt pursued after Israel, saying, "The wilderness hath shut them in" (Ex 14:3), so she herself shall be brought into a wilderness state.
open fields—literally, "face of the field."
not be brought together—As the crocodile is not, when caught, restored to the river, so no remnant of thy routed army shall be brought together, and rallied, after its defeat in the wilderness. Pharaoh led an army against Cyrene in Africa, in support of Aricranes, who had been stripped of his kingdom by the Cyrenians. The army perished and Egypt rebelled against him [Junius]. But the reference is mainly to the defeat by Nebuchadnezzar.
beasts … fowls—hostile and savage men.
And all the inhabitants of Egypt shall know that I am the LORD, because they have been a staff of reed to the house of Israel.
6. staff of reed to … Israel—alluding to the reeds on the banks of the Nile, which broke if one leaned upon them (see on Eze 29:4; Isa 36:6). All Israel's dependence on Egypt proved hurtful instead of beneficial (Isa 30:1-5).
When they took hold of thee by thy hand, thou didst break, and rend all their shoulder: and when they leaned upon thee, thou brakest, and madest all their loins to be at a stand.
7. hand—or handle of the reed.
rend … shoulder—by the splinters on which the shoulder or arm would fall, on the support failing the hand.
madest … loins … at a stand—that is, made them to be disabled. Maurer somewhat similarly (referring to a kindred Arabic form), "Thou hast stricken both their loins." Fairbairn, not so well, "Thou lettest all their loins stand," that is, by themselves, bereft of the support which they looked for from thee.
Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will bring a sword upon thee, and cut off man and beast out of thee.
8. a sword—Nebuchadnezzar's army (Eze 29:19). Also Amasis and the Egyptian revolters who after Pharaoh-hophra's discomfiture in Cyrene dethroned and strangled him, having defeated him in a battle fought at Memphis [Junius].
And the land of Egypt shall be desolate and waste; and they shall know that I am the LORD: because he hath said, The river is mine, and I have made it.
9. I am the Lord—in antithesis to the blasphemous boast repeated here from Eze 29:3, "The river is mine, and I have made it."
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.
10. from the tower of Syene—Grotius translates, "from Migdol (a fortress near Pelusium on the north of Suez) to Syene (in the farthest south)"; that is, from one end of Egypt to the other. So "from Migdol to Syene," Eze 30:6, Margin. However, English Version rightly refers Syene to Seveneh, that is, Sebennytus, in the eastern delta of the Nile, the capital of the Lower Egyptian kings. The Sebennyte Pharaohs, with the help of the Canaanites, who, as shepherds or merchants, ranged the desert of Suez, extended their borders beyond the narrow province east of the delta, to which they had been confined by the Pharaohs of Upper Egypt. The defeated party, in derision, named the Sebennyte or Lower Egyptians foreigners and shepherd-kings (a shepherd being an abomination in Egypt, Ge 46:34). They were really a native dynasty. Thus, in English Version, "Ethiopia" in the extreme south is rightly contrasted with Sebennytus or Syene in the north.
No foot of man shall pass through it, nor foot of beast shall pass through it, neither shall it be inhabited forty years.
11. forty years—answering to the forty years in which the Israelites, their former bondsmen, wandered in "the wilderness" (compare Note, see on Eze 29:5). Jerome remarks the number forty is one often connected with affliction and judgment. The rains of the flood in forty days brought destruction on the world. Moses, Elias, and the Saviour fasted forty days. The interval between Egypt's overthrow by Nebuchadnezzar and the deliverance by Cyrus, was about forty years. The ideal forty years' wilderness state of social and political degradation, rather than a literal non-passing of man or beast for that term, is mainly intended (so Eze 4:6; Isa 19:2, 11).
And I will make the land of Egypt desolate in the midst of the countries that are desolate, and her cities among the cities that are laid waste shall be desolate forty years: and I will scatter the Egyptians among the nations, and will disperse them through the countries.
12. As Israel passed through a term of wilderness discipline (compare Eze 20:35, &c.), which was in its essential features to be repeated again, so it was to be with Egypt [Fairbairn]. Some Egyptians were to be carried to Babylon, also many "scattered" in Arabia and Ethiopia through fear; but mainly the "scattering" was to be the dissipation of their power, even though the people still remained in their own land.
Yet thus saith the Lord GOD; At the end of forty years will I gather the Egyptians from the people whither they were scattered:
13. (Jer 46:26).
And I will bring again the captivity of Egypt, and will cause them to return into the land of Pathros, into the land of their habitation; and they shall be there a base kingdom.
14. Pathros—the Thebaid, or Upper Egypt, which had been especially harassed by Nebuchadnezzar (Na 3:8, 10). The oldest part of Egypt as to civilization and art. The Thebaid was anciently called "Egypt" [Aristotle]. Therefore it is called the "land of the Egyptians' birth" (Margin, for "habitation").
base kingdom—Under Amasis it was made dependent on Babylon; humbled still more under Cambyses; and though somewhat raised under the Ptolemies, never has it regained its ancient pre-eminence.
It shall be the basest of the kingdoms; neither shall it exalt itself any more above the nations: for I will diminish them, that they shall no more rule over the nations.
And it shall be no more the confidence of the house of Israel, which bringeth their iniquity to remembrance, when they shall look after them: but they shall know that I am the Lord GOD.
16. Egypt, when restored, shall be so circumscribed in power that it shall be no longer an object of confidence to Israel, as formerly; for example, as when, relying on it, Israel broke faith with Nebuchadnezzar (Eze 17:13, 15, 16).
which bringeth their iniquity to remembrance, when they shall look after them—rather, "while they (the Israelites) look to (or, turn after) them" [Henderson]. Israel's looking to Egypt, rather than to God, causes their iniquity (unfaithfulness to the covenant) to be remembered by God.
And it came to pass in the seven and twentieth year, in the first month, in the first day of the month, the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
17. The departure from the chronological order occurs here only, among the prophecies as to foreign nations, in order to secure greater unity of subject.
Son of man, Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon caused his army to serve a great service against Tyrus: every head was made bald, and every shoulder was peeled: yet had he no wages, nor his army, for Tyrus, for the service that he had served against it:
18. every head … bald, … shoulder … peeled—with carrying baskets of earth and stones for the siege works.
no wages … for the service—that is, in proportion to it and the time and labor which he expended on the siege of Tyre. Not that he actually failed in the siege (Jerome expressly states, from Assyrian histories, that Nebuchadnezzar succeeded); but, so much of the Tyrian resources had been exhausted, or transported to her colonies in ships, that little was left to compensate Nebuchadnezzar for his thirteen year's siege.
Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will give the land of Egypt unto Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon; and he shall take her multitude, and take her spoil, and take her prey; and it shall be the wages for his army.
19. multitude—not as Fairbairn, "store"; but, he shall take away a multitude of captives out of Egypt. The success of Nebuchadnezzar is implied in Tyre's receiving a king from Babylon, probably one of her captives there, Merbal.
take her spoil … prey—literally, "spoil her spoil, prey her prey," that is, as she spoiled other nations, so shall she herself be a spoil to Babylon.
I have given him the land of Egypt for his labour wherewith he served against it, because they wrought for me, saith the Lord GOD.
20. because they wrought for me—the Chaldeans, fulfilling My will as to Tyre (compare Jer 25:9).
In that day will I cause the horn of the house of Israel to bud forth, and I will give thee the opening of the mouth in the midst of them; and they shall know that I am the LORD.
21. In the evil only, not in the good, was Egypt to be parallel to Israel. The very downfall of Egypt will be the signal for the rise of Israel, because of God's covenant with the latter.
I cause the horn of … Israel to bud—(Ps 132:17). I will cause its ancient glory to revive: an earnest of Israel's full glory under Messiah, the son of David (Lu 1:69). Even in Babylon an earnest was given of this in Daniel (Da 6:2) and Jeconiah (Jer 52:31).
I will give thee … opening of … mouth—When thy predictions shall have come to pass, thy words henceforth shall be more heeded (compare Eze 24:27).