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Deeper Commentary


Ezekiel 29:1 In the tenth year, in the tenth month, on the twelfth day of the month, the word of Yahweh came to me saying- The relevance of the date is that this was during the siege of Jerusalem, six months before the final fall of the city; and all Judah's hopes were on salvation from the Babylonians by the Egyptians. And so at that time Ezekiel warns that Egypt shall fall. The prophecies about Egypt are given on different dates, a year before and after the fall of Jerusalem.

Ezekiel 29:2 Son of man, set your face against Pharaoh king of Egypt, and prophesy against him and against all Egypt-
The judgments upon Tyre and Egypt are far longer than those upon the other five of the seven surrounding nations condemned by Ezekiel in this section. This is because of their relative size and importance, and their attraction to Judah as defenders against Babylon.

Ezekiel 29:3 Speak and say, ‘Thus says the Lord Yahweh: Behold, I am against you, Pharaoh king of Egypt, the great monster that lies in the midst of his rivers, that has said, ‘My river is My own, and I have made it for Myself’-
The dragon or crocodile was also a symbol of Egypt in Is. 27:1; 51:9; ps. 74:13. The "rivers" refer to the various branches of the Nile at the Nile delta. As with the prince of Tyre, the king of Egypt considered himself God and the creator of the Nile. It was this arrogance and playing God which was so offensive to God. For He values humility above all.

Ezekiel 29:4 I will put hooks in your jaws, and I will make the fish of your rivers stick to your scales; and I will bring you up out of the midst of your rivers, with all the fish of your rivers which stick to your scales-
This describes how a crocodile would be captured (the "monster" of :3). The fish stuck to its scales refer to the various smaller peoples confederate with Egypt.

Ezekiel 29:5 I’ll cast you forth into the wilderness, you and all the fish of your rivers. You’ll fall on the open field. You won’t be bound together, nor gathered. I have given you for food to the animals of the earth and to the birds of the sky-
This may refer to the destruction of the Egyptian army in the wilderness whilst attacking Cyrene. This meant they were unable to help Judah as Judah hoped.

Ezekiel 29:6 All the inhabitants of Egypt will know that I am Yahweh, because they have been a staff of reed to the house of Israel-
The crocodile lived amongst reeds in the Nile marshlands, so the reed is an appropriate symbol to use. Egypt had been a staff of reed to Judah during the earlier Assyrian invasion 100 years earlier (Is. 36:6); but they failed to learn the lesson, and were desperately trusting them again. Circumstances repeat in our lives, in order to test us and develop our learning in the life of faith. Judah should have learnt from the failure of Egypt to stop the Assyrians; but they didn't. The situation repeated quite accurately, in that the Egyptians appeared to give some support against Assyria, leading to a withdrawal from Jerusalem for a short while; just as happened during the Babylonian siege (Jer. 37:5).

Ezekiel 29:7 When they took hold of you by your hand, you broke, and tore all their shoulders; and when they leaned on you, you broke, and paralyzed all of their thighs-
To take by the hand speaks of entering a covenant. The idea seems to be that the covenant was mutually destructive to both Judah and Egypt. The wrath of Babylon was upon both parties, seeing they had also made agreements with them. It was God who broke the arm of Egypt (Ez. 30:21 s.w. "you broke..."). God worked through these dishonest covenants in order to break both parties.

Ezekiel 29:8 Therefore thus says the Lord Yahweh: Behold, I will bring a sword on you, and will cut off man and animal from you-
As with the prophecies against Tyre in Ez. 26-28, these prophecies about Egypt didn't come totally true; man and animal were not cut off from Egypt in totality. Perhaps some repented and so the full brunt of the destruction was averted. Or more likely, these prophecies are part of the wider potential scenario, whereby the remnant of Judah would repent along with the nations judged by Babylon, and together they would reestablish Yahweh's kingdom in Israel. This didn't happen, because God will not force human freewill decisions. And so the essence of the prophecies will come true in the last days.

Ezekiel 29:9 The land of Egypt shall be a desolation and a waste-
This along with many phrases used in this condemnation of Egypt were in fact descriptions of what God had threatened to do to Judah at the hands of the Babylonians (e.g. Ez. 12:20). But instead of Egypt averting the fulfilment of those prophecies, as Judah hoped, Egypt would itself suffer them as well.

And they shall know that I am Yahweh- As explained on :8 this didn't come totally true. The Divine hope and intention was that Egypt would come to know Him, i.e. to have relationship with Him.

Because you have said, ‘The river is mine, and I have made it- Pharaoh believed that the river Nile was his own creation. This playing of God is cited repeatedly as the reason for their destruction. And we too can so easily do the same in our attitudes and judgments.

Ezekiel 29:10 Therefore, behold, I am against you and against your rivers, and I will make the land of Egypt an utter waste and desolation, from the tower of Seveneh even to the border of Ethiopia-
"Syene" as the modern Asswan. The idea is from the northern border to the southern border of Egypt. This never completely happened; see on :8.

Ezekiel 29:11 No foot of man shall pass through it, nor foot of animal shall pass through it, neither shall it be inhabited forty years-
Throughout Ez. 26-28 I have noted that the promised judgments upon Tyre didn't come about exactly as predicted. There was the possibility of transference of the prophetic words from one context to another; e.g. the destruction of Tyre by Nebuchadnezzar was delayed and transferred to Alexander the Great. But the final fulfilment will be in the last days. But that fulfilment will be in essence and not necessarily to the letter. There will be reapplication as well as rescheduling and transference. These forty years of desolation would have come true within the wider possible prophetic vision, of Judah and the judged nations all repenting and turning to Yahweh, and His Kingdom being reestablished in Israel. But this was not to be because the human freewill preconditions didn't come about- e.g. Judah didn't repent and many of the exiles preferred to stay in Babylon. And so likewise this forty years desolation unto repentance of Egypt didn't happen. Although the essence of it will come true in the last days.

Ezekiel 29:12 I will make the land of Egypt a desolation in the midst of the countries that are desolate; and her cities among the cities that are laid waste shall be a desolation forty years; and I will scatter the Egyptians among the nations, and will disperse them through the countries-
As noted on :11, this is not recorded as having happened. The nations around Egypt were likewise not completely desolated. There was no invading army which systematically destroyed all the cities of Egypt as required here. And so we look to a latter fulfilment.
However the language of a desolate land and cities is taken from Lev. 26:33, the curses upon Israel for breaking the covenant. It seems that Egypt could have entered a covenant with Yahweh and so were punished for breaking it in that they refused that covenant.

Ezekiel 29:13 For thus says the Lord Yahweh: At the end of forty years will I gather the Egyptians from the peoples where they were scattered-
As explained on :11, this is all part of a potential scenario which could have come about if Judah had repented and allowed themselves to be restored. Had they done so, then the Egyptians and others would also have been restored. Had Egypt accepted unity with God's people and with Yahweh, then the restoration of Judah would have been theirs; for the language of restoration, just like the language of their judgments (see on :9), is identical to that used about Judah's restoration.

Ezekiel 29:14 And I will bring back the captivity of Egypt, and will cause them to return into the land of Pathros, into the land of their birth; and they shall be there a base kingdom-
To 'bring back the captivity' means to 'restore the fortunes', to lift up or exalt. And this is the phrase used about the restoration of Israel, in which Egypt potentially could have had a part. And yet this idea is apparently juxtaposed with that of her being "a base kingdom". But there is no contradiction, once we appreciate that the word for "base" is often used of how a person or nation must be abased, brought down, so that they may be exalted. Ezekiel has used the term exactly in this sense, to describe how Judah shall be base or abased, so that she may be exalted (Ez. 17:24; 21:26). And it is the teaching of other scriptures too; the abased Jewish remnant were to be exalted (s.w. Is. 57:15), the abased ["humble"] in spirit are to be lifted up (Prov. 29:23; Job 5:11). This is why the idea of Egypt being an abased kingdom is mentioned in the same breath, as it were, as the promise of her revival. But this would happen only if she identified with the restoration of Israel, accepted Yahweh as her God, and repented.


Ezekiel 29:15 It shall be the most base of the kingdoms; neither shall it any more lift itself up above the nations; and I will diminish them, that they shall no more rule over the nations-
As with the permanent destruction of Tyre never to rise again, this didn't happen. The Seleucid kingdom was powerful in Egypt, it became "the king of the South", and has at times been a powerful nation. So the final fulfilment is to be in the last days. But as explained on :14, the idea was that Egypt would be "most base" so that she might be exalted, in God's sight. She would no longer be "above the nations" because in the new system envisaged, God would be the king and if any particular nation was to be lifted up above other nations, it would be Israel. The same Hebrew term translated here "lift itself up above the nations" is used in Is. 2:2; 11:12 of how in the Messianic kingdom, Zion [and therefore, not Egypt] would be exalted / lifted up above the nations.

Ezekiel 29:16 It shall be no more the confidence of the house of Israel, bringing iniquity to remembrance, when they turn to look after them-
So often Yahweh is portrayed as the only "confidence" or trust of His people. Judah's confidence in nations like Egypt was therefore a betrayal of their relationship with Yahweh. This rejection of trust / hope in foreign alliances was behind Jeremiah's comment that the man who hoped / had confidence in Yahweh alone would be blessed (Jer. 17:7 s.w.). The immediate context referred to having Egypt and other nations as their hope / confidence.

And they shall know that I am the Lord Yahweh- The Divine hope was that the repentance of Israel and that of Egypt would happen at the same time, and they would come into relationship with ["know"] Yahweh. This didn't happen as it could have done, and so the fulfilment is deferred until the last days.

Ezekiel 29:17 It came to pass in the twenty-seventh year, in the first month, in the first day of the month, the word of Yahweh came to me saying-
This was 17 years after the prophecies given either side of it. it is inserted here to make the powerful point that years later, Ezekiel reminded God's people that the help they had expected from Egypt at the time, 17 years before, hadn't come. Only Yahweh would be their help, even 17 years later.

Ezekiel 29:18 Son of man, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon caused his army to serve a great service against Tyre: every head was made bald, and every shoulder was worn; yet had he no wages, nor his army, for Tyre, for the service that he had served against it-
Nebuchadnezzar besieged Tyre for 13 years, and as noted on Ez. 26-28, he didn't achieve all that was prophesied, and much of it was transferred to Alexander the Great to fulfill; indeed much of it will only have a total fulfilment in the last days. Babylon didn't even plunder Tyre, and so was not as it were paid any wages for her efforts. But all the same, God noticed the efforts and wanted to reward him. The reference to the suffering of the heads and shoulders would refer to the unsuccessful efforts of the Babylonians to build a causeway out to the island Tyre using the rubble of the destroyed city.

Ezekiel 29:19 Therefore thus says the Lord Yahweh: Behold, I will give the land of Egypt to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon; and he shall carry off her multitude and take her a spoil and take her a prey; and it shall be the wages for his army-
We note God's sensitivity to even pagan Gentiles. The 13 year unsuccessful siege of Tyre by Babylon had not even yielded the Babylonians any plunder from Tyre. And so God wanted to recompense them somehow, so He would give them Egypt. But how much more eager to recompense is God when it comes to the feeble attempts of us His servants to please Him!

Ezekiel 29:20 I have given him the land of Egypt as his recompense for which he served, because they worked for Me, says the Lord Yahweh-
This happened only to a limited extent; it was to be at the time when a Messiah figure would appear in Judah, and the Egyptians would know Yahweh, i.e. enter relationship with Him (:21). This scenario didn't work out at the time of the restoration, which could potentially have occurred at the same time Babylon took Egypt (:21 "in that day"). In some form, the essence of these things must therefore come true in the last days.

Ezekiel 29:21 In that day will I cause a horn to bud forth to the house of Israel-
This budding forth of a shoot or horn speaks of the possibility of a Messiah figure arising (Ps. 132:17) in the likes of Zerubbabel. Again, this was the scenario which could have happened at the restoration, but it didn't. The final fulfilment will be in the Lord Jesus in the last days.

And I will give you the opening of the mouth in their midst; and they shall know that I am Yahweh- At the Lord's return, God will use a repentant Israel to achieve great things in terms of converting this world unto Himself. They will walk up and down in His Name, witnessing to Him as He had originally intended them to (Zech. 10:12); men will cling to their skirts in order to find the knowledge of their God (Zech. 8:23). “In that day will I cause the horn of the house of Israel to bud forth, and I will give thee (Israel) the opening of the mouth in the midst of them (the surrounding nations, see context); and they shall know that I am the LORD”, in that Israel will preach to them from their own experience of having recently come to know Yahweh (Ez. 29:21). But at the time of the Lord’s return, when Israel repent and enter the new covenant with Him, they will remember all their past sins “and be confounded, and never open thy mouth any more because of thy shame... for all that thou hast done” (Ez. 16:63). They will be so ashamed that they will feel as if they can never open their mouth. But Yahweh will open their mouth, and they will witness. In some anticipation of this, Ezekiel as the “son of man” prophet, a representative of his people just as the Lord was to be, had his mouth shut in dumbness, and he only had his mouth opened when Israel came to know [to some degree] that “I am the LORD” (Ez. 24:27). In all these evident connections something marvellous presents itself. Those who feel as if they just cannot open their mouths in witness are the very ones whom the Father will use; He will open their mouths and use them exactly because they are ashamed of their sins! And so it should be with us.