Ezekiel — Lesson 16
Ezekiel 29 & 30
Prophecies Against Egypt
1. Introductory comments.
1. Chapters 29-32 round out the collection of oracles against foreign nations and are devoted entirely to the proclamation of judgment against Egypt.
1. There are seven prophecies against Egypt; six of them are explicitly identified by date, and it is clear that they were delivered at various different times in Ezekiel's ministry.
2. While the oracles may seem tedious and repetitive to us, we must remember that they were delivered at various different times.
3. When we remember that each oracle was delivered on a separate occasion in history, the force of the various oracles may be perceived.
2. The general background of the oracles is provided by a knowledge of the long history of the relationships between the chosen people and Egypt.
1. The relationship began in the days of slavery before the Exodus.
2. After the Exodus, when the Israelites formed their own state, Egypt was always too close and too powerful a neighbor to be ignored.
3. From Egypt's standpoint, Israel was of vital geopolitical significance.
1. The principal threat to Egypt's existence always lay to the north, not in Palestine as such, but in Syria and Mesopotamia.
2. It was from the north that the successive empires of Assyrians and Babylonians threatened Egypt; Israel's land was the buffer zone, part of Egypt's defense against northern aggression.
3. Thus, when Egypt was friendly towards Israel, it was always out of self-interest and towards the goal of self-protection.
4. Equally, Egypt's enmity was rooted in the same political purpose, namely that of securing the northern approach to the nation against the encroachment of dangerous foreign powers.
4. Israel was small compared to its neighbors -- Egypt, Assyria, Babylon and Persia.
1. It was they who determined whether the little country was allowed to retain her independence, like a little Switzerland, or whether she should become a political settlement or a military staging-post or an international bargaining point.
2. They could no more be ignored than can the United States, Russia, and China in the policies of a state in Europe or South-east Asia today.
5. What Ezekiel was at pains to point out was that the final say in Israel's destiny was not their's, but God's -- and God was Israel's God.
1. More than that he said that even the destiny of the great powers, such as Egypt was in the hands of Israel's God.
2. Jehovah controlled everything!
2. Egypt's Sins Exposed and Judged. (Jan. 7, 588,587 B.C., a few months before the siege and eventual destruction of Jerusalem. 29:1-16.
1. The Introduction of the Monster. 29:1-6a.
1. This message against Pharaoh was directed at Pharaoh Hophra (588-596 B.C.), whose grandfather, Pharaoh Neco killed Josiah at Megiddo in 609 B.C.
2. Pharaoh is described as a monster lying among the streams, which claimed the Nile as his domain.
1. "Monster" has been translated "crocodile," "jackal," "monster," "serpent," "dragon," and obviously refers to a feared creature.
2. The "monster of the Nile was the crocodile.
3. The monster is described as arrogant -- My river is mine own, and I have made it for myself. v. 3.
4. As with so many causes of arrogance, the reverse was true: Egypt was the product of the Nile, not vice versa.
1. Egypt's greatness throughout history was the fruit of the Nile.
1. The Nile made possible the habitation of the valley.
2. It provided the rich soil in which to plant crops, water to irrigate them, transportation, and water to drink.
3. Without the Nile there would have been no Egypt.
2. As an act of judgment, the monster would be dragged from the river and left to die on dry land, there to become food for the birds of the air.
1. The "hooks" in the jaws to render the monster helpless described the standard method for capture and destruction of a crocodile. v. 4.
2. The monster of the stream will be left in the desert, which would mean certain death for a crocodile as well as the fish that were his food. v. 5.
5. When the destruction of Egypt becomes a reality, everyone will know that God did it. v. 6a.
2. The Judgment that will befall Egypt. 29:6b-16.
1. Ezekiel portrayed Egypt as a crumpled reed used as a staff for support, that splintered when weight was applied.
1. The same figure is applied to Egypt in 2 Kings 18:21.
2. When the reed broke, the shoulders of those nations, including Israel that leaned on it, were dislocated.
3. Those who relied on Egypt were not strengthened, but crippled.
4. Those who leaned on Egypt would be forced to stand on their own or perish. vv. 6-7.
2. Egypt was judged by the sword and desolation for two reasons.
1. Egypt said that the Nile was theirs. v. 9.
2. Pharaoh Hophra was known for his arrogance and inflated self-image.
1. He felt that no one could defeat him.
2. He felt so secure that he believed that not even the gods of Egypt could dislodge him from his position as king.
3. Such self-sufficient pride was punished in Tyre (28:2), and will be in Egypt as well.
2. Egypt has seduced Israel.
1. Pharaoh Hophra promised to help them confront Nebuchadnezzar, but when the battle came, he abandoned them like the brittle staff (v. 7).
2. Therefore God promised to ruin the streams (v. 9) and made the land uninhabitable for 40 years (v. 11: related to the 40 years of wandering after the Exodus). v. 12.
3. The oracle against Egypt illustrates two flaws in character that are as commonly the characteristics of individuals was well as nations.
1. The first is delusion, an offshoot of pride and arrogance.
1. So self-centered had Egypt become in its power that it persuaded itself that both the nation and the river on which it was based were its own creations.
2. This delusion of grandeur, spoken of as a form of national omnipotence, was dangerous in the extreme; it could only be shattered by the truly omnipotent God, whose words the prophet declares.
3. The most dangerous lies are those that delude the liar.
1. Egypt really believed its own lie, that its strength was its own creation.
2. In this self-delusion, it typified not only all great nations that express a similar conviction, but also all individuals who think that they are self-made and that their achievements are entirely the consequence of their own abilities and efforts.
3. It is incumbent on all those who achieve a degree of preeminence in this world to recognize that ultimately such preeminence is the gift of God.
2. The second flaw is selfishness.
1. From time to time Egypt offered friendship to its neighbor, but it was only a tool to engineer its own benefit.
2. False friendship offered for selfish reasons and hastily withdrawn at the least sign of cost, undermined the entire fabric of human and national relationships and invited judgment.
3. Friendship is fundamental to all human relationships, holding individuals and societies together.
1. It can only be strong if it is engendered in the spirit of self-sacrifice; the friendship that is willing to take but is not willing to give is not true friendship at all.
2. There is no greater insight into the nature of true friendship that that taught by Jesus. John 15:13.
3. True friendship must eliminate the power of selfishness and replace it with the power of true selflessness.
3. Egypt to Suffer the Fate of Tyre. (New Year's Day, April 26, 571 B.C., some sixteen years later than the first oracle.) 29:17-21.
1. Nebuchadnezzar campaigned against Tyre for 13 years and came away without a final victory.
1. All they got for their trouble was bald heads and shoulders rubbed bare (v. 18), a graphic description of chafing helmets and shoulders bearing the load of siege works.
2. In this message God promised to give him a consolation prize -- Egypt.
3. The loot and plunder that his armies would take was much needed pay for his men, who came away from Tyre unrewarded. vv. 17-19.
2. Nebuchadnezzar's campaign against Egypt was divinely motivated "because they wrought for me." v. 20.
1. God gave Egypt to Nebuchadnezzar as repayment to his men for their opposition to Tyre.
2. Even though the city became a vassal of Babylon and paid tribute, the 13 year siege of Tyre ended with the island fortress still unconquered.
3. Whether the treasure of Tyre escaped by water from the island fortress or was expended in the cost of defense, the Babylonians certainly never captured the treasure of Tyre.
4. As a consequence of the disappointment over Tyre, the prophet declares that Nebuchadnezzar would be given the opportunity of plundering Egypt and carrying off its wealth, compensatory wages for the fruitless work in the long siege of Tyre.
5. Though little is known of the event from historical sources, it occurred a few years later (568, 567 B.C.), at which time it is presumed that Pharaoh, Amasis II, came to terms with the invading army by paying massive tribute.
3. The oracle concludes with an element of hope: a "horn" would spring forth in Israel, indicating new life and thus new hope.
1. This may be a Messianic statement (cf. Ps. 132:17), but the language does not demand it.
2. It may be a general reference to Israel's future restoration.
3. Some suggest that Nebuchadnezzar may himself be the "horn to bud forth unto the house of Israel," in that he would now work for Israel against her enemy Egypt, as he had worked for God against Tyre.
4. At the same time Ezekiel's mouth will be opened to speak with greater confidence.
1. To take this in relation to Ezekiel's ritual dumbness is to take it in isolation from its context; by this time his ritual dumbness was a thing of the past (cf. 33:22).
2. It seems better to take it simply as a reference to the authentication of Ezekiel's prophecy through fulfillment.
4. The oracle ends with the refrain, "then shall they know that I am the Lord," which has punctuated this chapter three times already (vv. 6, 9, and 16); it is Ezekiel's overriding desire.
4. Egypt and Allies Devastated (the only undated oracle in the prophecies against Egypt). 30:1-19.
1. This message has four parts, each introduced with "This is what the Sovereign Lord says" (vv. 2, 6, 10, 13), and each concluded with a final word, "declares the Sovereign Lord" (v. 6), "they will know that I am the Lord" (vv. 8, 19), and "I the Lord have spoken" (v. 12).
2. Some have concluded from the absence of the date that these verses do not belong to Ezekiel, but the absence of the date is not compelling evidence.
3. A Cry of Distress at the Nearness of the Day of the Lord. 30:1-9.
1. This was not a funeral lament such as the lament for Tyre in 27:1-36, but a cry of distress at the nearness of the day of the Lord. v. 2.
2. Ezekiel anticipates the coming judgment and defeat of the mighty nation; the forces of history and nature would combine to bring Egypt to ruin.
3. The prophecy begins with a reference to the coming "day" of the Lord. vv. 2-3.
1. That "day" is sometimes used in a general sense to mean a day of judgment.
2. Sometimes it is used to refer to God's judgment on the nations at the end of human history.
3. Sometimes it refers to a day of blessing and deliverance for Israel (29:21).
4. It is used in v. 3 in the first sense of a general approaching day of judgment called the "time of the doom of the nations" (NAS).
5. Ezekiel's prophecies are similar in impact to Joel who shook a spiritually apathetic people awake with the theme of the day of the Lord (Joel 1:15 - 2:11).
6. Ezekiel utilized the same theme as Joel in announcing judgment on the former ally of Judah.
4. Earlier Ezekiel had anticipated the great day of judgment when the "end" would come for the land of Israel (7:1-13).
1. In this oracle he makes it clear that God's judgment would be universal and international in character.
2. A sword of judgment would devastate Egypt and its southern neighbor, Ethiopia, just as a sword of devastation had already been declared for the land of the chosen people (ch. 21).
1. Judgment for Egypt and its allies was symbolized by the sword. v. 4.
2. It would bring judgment on Egypt, Ethiopia, and even the covenant people (NIV, perhaps a reference to those who had fled to Egypt from Judah, seeking protection); all would fall by the sword. vv. 5-6.
3. When Egypt was on fire and its allies were crushed, all would know that Jehovah is God. vv. 7-8.
4. On that day messengers would tell of the plight of Egypt and bring fear of doom on the allies. v. 9.
4. Nebuchadnezzar, the Sword of Destruction. 30:10-19.
1. Two sources are specified as the instruments of God's coming judgment, one in the sphere of history and the other in the sphere of nature.
1. The Babylonian emperor, Nebuchadnezzar, would invade the land and cover its soil with the corpses of the slain.
2. But God would also dry up the River Nile, upon whose waters the nation was totally dependent (v. 12), and thus would mock the hollow boast that even the Nile was controlled by Egypt (29:9).
2. God's coming judgment would be complete.
1. The catalog of the coming destruction for all the great Egyptian cities indicates the comprehensiveness of the prophet's vision. vv. 13-19.
2. The cities of Lower Egypt and Upper Egypt, form the north-eastern reaches of the Delta area to the southern reaches of the River Nile, all would succumb to the divine devastation.
3. The archeological remains that may still be seen indicate just how splendid the ancient cities of Egypt were.
1. They embodied extraordinary human achievement in their fine architecture and massive structures.
2. But the cities, symbols of human strength and progress, would be unable to withstand the onset of judgment.
4. No human structure can withstand the might of God.
1. Ezekiel penetrates the facade of strength and continuity upon which so much of the false confidence of the human race is based.
1. Egypt represented a truly extraordinary civilization in the 6th century B.C.
2. It had been strong for some 2,500 years, an achievement without parallel in any modern civilization.
3. Its architectural achievements embodied this same sense of continuity.
4. Its pyramids must have seemed to be as ancient as the Nile itself.
5. Yet this ancient and seemingly perpetual civilization was as vulnerable to the judgment of God as any other nation or people.
6. It's confidence and pride could be and would be shattered when the foundations upon which it was built were summoned to judgment.
2. The oracle against Egypt stands as a perpetual reminder of the omnipotence of God, over and against the temporary potency of mankind.
1. What was true of Egypt is equally true of modern nations and empires.
2. The most enduring of man's creations are indelibly marked with the signs of temporality.
3. The durability of a nation or civilization does not depend on the singular achievements of its various members; it is subject to the sovereignty of God.
4. The qualities that permit survival are not greatness and strength, rather they are the fruits of humility and morality that emerge from the recognition of the ultimate sovereignty of God in all human affairs.
5. Egypt Helpless in the Day of the Lord (dated April 29, 587 B. C., just a few months before the final siege and defeat of Jerusalem). 30:20-26.
1. When Nebuchadnezzar attacked Jerusalem in 588 B.C., Pharaoh Hophra initially came to Zedekiah's assistance.
1. Hophra's army was defeated and he returned to Egypt.
2. When Jerusalem fell, Hophra, whose strength was broken, was defeated by Ahmose in a civil war.
3. Nebuchadnezzar invaded and easily conquered Egypt, which subsequently was never a prominent world power.
4. The fall of Egypt was a prelude to the complete destruction God would bring on both Egypt and Babylon.
5. Like the Hebrews, the Egyptians would be dispersed as exiles among the nations. vv. 23, 26.
2. The prophecy bears sober testimony in graphic detail to the events associated with the fall of Egypt.
1. Ezekiel said that Pharaoh's arm would be broken, vv. 21-22, 24, and that his arms would fall limp. v. 25.
2. This passage presents Pharaoh as helpless and unable to hold a weapon, and therefore unable to defend against invading armies. v. 21.
1. In the traditional metaphor of the ancient world, the might of a king and his army was symbolized by the arm.
2. A royal arm, successfully wielding a sword, was a symbol of strength.
3. Pharaoh's arm had been fractured once, Ezekiel declared, referring back to the fruitless campaign of Hophra; that arm had never healed and the other would be broken in the future.
4. Ezekiel was in effect fracturing the false hopes of those in exile, who still believed that salvation might be found in Egypt.
5. Ezekiel's message is further strengthened by the announcement that the Babylonian king's arm would be strengthened; the one from whom deliverance was sought was the one who would destroy a false hope of deliverance.
3. Additional references to the defeat of Egypt may be found in Isaiah 30:1-14 and 2 Kings 24:7.
4. The repetition of the ideas in the last four verses was for emphasis. vv. 23-25.
5. Egypt's devastation and its loss of standing in the family of nations is a constant testimony to the truth of God's word; the great civilization would exist only in ruins and in historical records.
3. In this short oracle, Ezekiel illuminates several significant themes.
1. It is folly to seek human deliverance from the instrument of God's judgment.
1. Those in Jerusalem and those in exile were terrified by the Babylonians.
2. They thought that salvation might be found with Pharaoh.
3. They were blind, unable to perceive the truth that God was using the Babylonians as the executor of his will and judgment.
4. To seek a human or political solution to a national and spiritual problem was an exercise in folly.
5. When human actions have precipitated external crisis, it is the internal roots of corruption that must be dealt with more urgently than the external danger.
2. The arm of flesh will fail you, you dare not trust your own. (Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus.)
1. The oracle is addressed to Egypt, yet its impact is felt by the Israelites who looked to Egypt for strength.
2. Lying behind this false hope was their failure to remember a fundamental of Hebrew theology -- ultimately it was only the arm of God that was strong. (Ps. 98:1 -- O sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things! His right hand and his holy arm have gotten him victory.)
3. The chosen people had once been a mighty nation, but only because of the strength of God's "holy arm."
4. Having forgotten the strength of God's arm, they would fall victim to the arms of human enemies strengthened by God for judgment.
God's Plan of Salvation
You must hear the gospel and then understand and recognize that you are lost without Jesus Christ no matter who you are and no matter what your background is. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Before you can be saved, you must understand that you are lost and that the only way to be saved is by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:8) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
You must believe and have faith in God because “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) But neither belief alone nor faith alone is sufficient to save. (James 2:19; James 2:24; Matthew 7:21)
You must repent of your sins. (Acts 3:19) But repentance alone is not enough. The so-called “Sinner’s Prayer” that you hear so much about today from denominational preachers does not appear anywhere in the Bible. Indeed, nowhere in the Bible was anyone ever told to pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” to be saved. By contrast, there are numerous examples showing that prayer alone does not save. Saul, for example, prayed following his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:11), but Saul was still in his sins when Ananias met him three days later (Acts 22:16). Cornelius prayed to God always, and yet there was something else he needed to do to be saved (Acts 10:2, 6, 33, 48). If prayer alone did not save Saul or Cornelius, prayer alone will not save you. You must obey the gospel. (2 Thess. 1:8)
You must confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Romans 10:9-10) Note that you do NOT need to make Jesus “Lord of your life.” Why? Because Jesus is already Lord of your life whether or not you have obeyed his gospel. Indeed, we obey him, not to make him Lord, but because he already is Lord. (Acts 2:36) Also, no one in the Bible was ever told to just “accept Jesus as your personal savior.” We must confess that Jesus is the Son of God, but, as with faith and repentance, confession alone does not save. (Matthew 7:21)
Having believed, repented, and confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, you must be baptized for the remission of your sins. (Acts 2:38) It is at this point (and not before) that your sins are forgiven. (Acts 22:16) It is impossible to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ without teaching the absolute necessity of baptism for salvation. (Acts 8:35-36; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21) Anyone who responds to the question in Acts 2:37 with an answer that contradicts Acts 2:38 is NOT proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ!
Once you are saved, God adds you to his church and writes your name in the Book of Life. (Acts 2:47; Philippians 4:3) To continue in God’s grace, you must continue to serve God faithfully until death. Unless they remain faithful, those who are in God’s grace will fall from grace, and those whose names are in the Book of Life will have their names blotted out of that book. (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:5; Galatians 5:4)