Search Bible Outlines and commentaries




After finishing his prophecy against Tyre and Sidon, the prophet turns his attention in chapters 29-32 to the fate of the powerful nation of Egypt. Israel’s history with Egypt was long and complicated. After her earlier bondage and exodus, at different points God’s covenant people were tempted to turn away from trust in God to reliance upon this impressive world power. Here God promises to judge Egypt, disperse her people for an intensive forty year period of desolation and then regather her into a much diminished nation. Meanwhile Israel should be encouraged regarding her own future as God raises up a powerful horn and unleashes renewed boldness and acceptance of divine prophecy.

Feinberg: Chapters 29-32 deal with one theme: judgment on Egypt. This is the longest of the prophecies in Ezekiel against any nation. Some find three distinct prophecies in the four chapters (29-30; 31; 32); others, seven. Apart from 29:17-21 (dated 571 B.C.), all the prophecies against Egypt belong to the period 587-585 B.C., shortly before and after the fall of Jerusalem to Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C. The time was one in which there was a temporary restoration of Egyptian power, only to be followed by ultimate decline. With the rise of the Persians, Egypt became a Persian satrapy and, in turn, was dominated by Greeks, Romans and Mamelukes.

Robert Lawrence:

– Much more attention is given to Egypt than any of the other nations. There are seven messages directed toward Egypt.

– Much of the long-standing hostility Israel had toward Egypt can be traced to the time of the Egyptian bondage.

– Even beyond that time Israel was always caught between Egypt and other powers in Mesopotamia that were struggling for world domination. (Jeremiah 46:1-26)

Daniel Block: the threefold occurrence of the recognition formula, “Then they will know that I am (the Lord) Yahweh” (vv. 6a, 9a, 16). Since this formula usually signals the end of a demonstration oracle/proof saying in Ezekiel, a tripartite division is evident: A, 29:3–6a; B, 29:6b–9a; C, 29:9b–16. Dividing the text this way has the added advantage of keeping cause and effect together, particularly in the second and third subdivisions, where yaʿan, “because,” introduces a protasis, to be followed by the apodosis signaled by lākēn, “therefore.” Each segment contains features found in the earlier oracles against the foreign nations in 25:1–26:6, 8 the formal similarities increasing as one moves from A to B to C. But the order of shared elements is reversed, so that A has the closest affinity to the oracles against Tyre (26:1–6) and Sidon (28:20–23), B to the oracles against Edom (25:12–14) and Philistia (25:15–17), and C to the oracles against Ammon (25:2–7) and Moab (25:8–11).

Matt Basel: Egypt represents the temptation to find our hope and stability in the power, might, and self-sufficiency of this world. Power may temporarily give hope and purpose but in the end it will be destroyed by God and those who rest in it will be destroyed as well. Our hope cannot be in this world, but waiting for God to recreate a new world.


(:1-3a) Prologue

1. (:1a) Dating of the Prophecy

“In the tenth year, in the tenth month, on the twelfth of the month,”

Peter Pett: This prophesy took place in January 587 BC almost a year after the siege of Jerusalem had begun. It was Egypt that had been partly responsible for Zedekiah’s rebellion, contrary to Yahweh’s specific command (e.g. Ezekiel 27:6-11), and who therefore had to bear part responsibility for it.

2. (:1b) Authoritative Word of the Lord

“the word of the LORD came to me saying,”

3. (:2-3a) Target of the Prophecy

“Son of man, set your face against Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and prophesy against him and against all Egypt. 3 Speak and say, ‘Thus says the Lord God,’”

Galen Doughty: The Pharaoh at the time of Ezekiel’s prophecy is Hophra or Apries as the Greeks called him. He rushed to intervene against Nebuchadnezzar’s siege of Jerusalem but the Babylonians repulsed him in 587 and Hophra left Zedekiah to his fate. This is probably the setting for Ezekiel’s prophecy and the images of Egypt left in the desert and falling in the open field in these verses. Hophra, as did his predecessors, relied heavily on Greek mercenaries to field his armies.

A. (:3b) Divine Opposition to the Monster Crocodile Due to Pride

1. Divine Opposition against the King of Egypt

“Behold, I am against you, Pharaoh, king of Egypt,”

Derek Thomas: There can be no more terrifying words than these: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: “I am against you …” ’ (29:3). When the psalmist sought for the ultimate expression of his assurance he put it in these terms: ‘God is for me’ (Ps. 56:9). Paul was to pick up the words and draw the obvious conclusion: ‘If God is for us, who can be against us?… I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (Rom. 8:31, 38–39). This is the ultimate truth: God is either for us or against us.

2. Domain of the Monster Crocodile

“The great monster that lies in the midst of his rivers,”

Wiersbe: Pharaoh was compared to a ferocious crocodile, guarding the waters of the land—the Nile and all the canals—and attacking anybody who dared to challenge his claims.

Lamar Cooper: The metaphor of v 3aγb obviously categorizes the Pharaoh as a malevolent despot, but the nature of the metaphor is not certain. Is the king portrayed as a crocodile or in terms of the sea monster, the mythological chaos god defeated at the creation of the world, called Leviathan or Rahab in the Old Testament? . . It is probable that both conceptions are in view, and that this particular crocodile is larger than life and invested with mythological overtones (Fohrer 166, Eichrodt 403, Boadt, Ezekiel’s Oracles27–28).

3. Deceived by Pride = His Root Problem

“That has said, ‘My Nile is mine, and I myself have made it.’”

Keil: 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.

Morgan: The Nile was in every way the secret of the wealth and power of that land and people. Here Pharaoh is represented, not as worshipping the River, but claiming to possess it, and to have created it.

B. (:4) Dramatic Capture of the Monster Crocodile

“And I shall put hooks in your jaws,

And I shall make the fish of your rivers cling to your scales.

And I shall bring you up out of the midst of your rivers,

And all the fish of your rivers will cling to your scales.”

Constable: The Lord promised to remove Pharaoh and his people from their land, as a fisherman pulls a crocodile out of the water with hooks. He would remove the river-dragon along with the lesser fish that would cling to it. These fish may refer to the neighbor nations and allies of Egypt that relied on her, or probably to the people of Egypt, since the Nile represents the land. Normally the Egyptians caught crocodiles by placing “hooks in [their] jaws,” and then dragging them onto land where they killed them. In the delta region of Egypt, the Egyptians worshipped the crocodile as a god, Sebek, which they believed protected their nation (cf. 32:2; Ps. 74:13; Isa. 27:1; 51:9). Thus God promised to destroy Pharaoh, Egypt, and the god supposedly responsible for their protection.

Feinberg: The fish spoken of were the followers of the king. The king would involve his people in his fall because of their loyalty to him.

C. (:5) Disgraceful End of the Monster Crocodile = Abandoned in the Wilderness, Unburied and Ravaged

1. Abandoned

“And I shall abandon you to the wilderness,

you and all the fish of your rivers;”

2. Unburied

“You will fall on the open field;

you will not be brought together or gathered.”

3. Ravaged

“I have given you for food to the beasts of the earth

and to the birds of the sky.”

Constable: The Lord would carry the dragon into a wilderness along with its dependent fish where they could not return to water. There the beasts and birds would devour Egypt. Hophra (588-569 B.C.) would not receive a royal burial, which was extremely important to the Pharaohs and all the Egyptians. History records that Ahmose II (Gr. Amasis), another Egyptian leader, strangled Hophra and took his place.

Peter Pett: The great crocodile and the fish will be left stranded out of their own environment, in the waterless wilderness. Thus they will collapse and die, unable to rally themselves against the enemy, and the scavengers, both beast and bird, will arrive to tear them apart and eat them. Pharaoh and all his allies will be desolated and the Nile god and the other gods of Egypt will not be able to help them.

David Guzik: Pharaoh and Egypt would be disgraced, treated as something that others prey and feed upon. The great concern for burial and memorial among the pharaohs is evident from their still existing tombs. God promised their disgrace would be so great it would be as if they were not buried at all.

D. (:6a) Recognition Refrain

“Then all the inhabitants of Egypt will know that I am the LORD,”

Daniel Block: For all his arrogant pretensions, the glorious lord of the Nile is no match for Yahweh, who toys with him as a fisherman plays with his catch, then throws him away as carrion, unfit for human consumption. In the end the decisive action is performed not by Hophra but by Yahweh, and when he is through all boastful claims will be silenced; even the Egyptians will acknowledge him as supreme.


A. (:6b-7) The Accusation

1. (:6b) No Backbone = Spineless

“Because they have been only a staff made of reed

to the house of Israel.”

Feinberg: The first reason given for the indignation of the Lord against Hophra was his inordinate pride. Here the second reason for the visitation was set forth: Egypt had betrayed and disappointed the confidence Israel had placed in her. Instead of a firm and dependable support to Israel, Egypt had proved to be a staff of reed.

Daniel Block: The judgment of Egypt moves into a second phase in v. 6b. The metaphor changes, the charges against Pharaoh become specific, and his interference in Israelite affairs becomes the critical issue. Vv. 6b–7 are taken up with the accusation, and like the previous segment, these verses divide into two parts: the accusation (vv. 6b–7) and an announcement of judgment (vv. 8–9a).

2. (:7) Broken Commitments = Unreliable and Broken

“When they took hold of you with the hand,

You broke and tore all their hands;

And when they leaned on you,

You broke and made all their loins quake.”

Constable: But when the Judahites had relied on the Egyptians as their supporting staff, this ally had broken, and had even injured God’s people (cf. 2 Kings 18:21; Isa. 36:6; Jer. 37:7). As a crutch, Egypt was worse than useless, like “a staff made of reed.” The Israelites, of course, should not have trusted in Egypt, but this did not excuse the Egyptians for breaking their covenants with Israel.

Peter Pett: This is the final act which brought down Yahweh’s wrath on them, that Egypt had promised to be a strong staff on which Israel could lean, but had turned out to be a mere reed which broke when it was leant on, bringing great harm to Israel. Egypt was in fact a land of reeds, which grew along the Nile and its tributaries, and God says that they were symbolic of what Egypt really was. Thus they must be taught the lesson that they have let down Yahweh’s people, and are therefore accountable to Yahweh. God takes constant account of what is done to His people.

Wiersbe: The Egyptians had a reputation for making promises and not keeping them (2 Kings 18:20–21; Isaiah. 36:6).

Lamar Cooper: Leaning is part of the Old Testament vocabulary of faith: God’s people had once again turned elsewhere for the support they should have sought in him and his will (cf. Isa 36:6, 7). So nothing but ill could have come from this spiritual adventure. Divine reprisals were to be meted out on the Egyptian tempter and his realm, in the form of a devastating attack, which would bring home to the Judeans the truth taught in this oracle.

B. (:8b-9a) The Announcement of Judgment

“Therefore, thus says the Lord God,”

1. (:8b) Destruction by the Sword

“Behold, I shall bring upon you a sword,

and I shall cut off from you man and beast.”

2. (:9a) Desolation for the Entire Land

“And the land of Egypt will become a desolation and waste.”

C. (:9b) Recognition Refrain

“Then they will know that I am the LORD.”


A. (:9c-12) Yahweh’s Immediate Plans for Egypt

1. (:9c) Presumptuous Boast

“Because you said, ‘The Nile is mine, and I have made it,’”

2. (:10-12) Punitive Consequences

a. (:10a) Divine Opposition

“therefore, behold, I am against you and against your rivers,”

b. (:10b) Devastation

“and I will make the land of Egypt an utter waste and desolation, from Migdol to Syene and even to the border of Ethiopia.”

Constable: The Lord repeated that He would devastate Egypt for her pride and self-sufficiency. The whole land would suffer destruction, from Migdol, in the northeast delta, to Syene, in the south near modern Aswan, and to the very border of Ethiopia, at the extreme southern end of the land. Ancient Ethiopia (Cush, Nubia) corresponds to modern southern Egypt, Sudan, Eritrea, and northern Ethiopia.

c. (:11) Depopulation

“A man’s foot will not pass through it,

and the foot of a beast will not pass through it,

and it will not be inhabited for forty years.”

d. (:12a) Desolation

“So I shall make the land of Egypt a desolation in the midst of desolated lands.”

Wiersbe: This is a prophecy of the coming of the Babylonian army to Egypt where they would fulfill God’s Word and destroy man and beast as well as ravage the land (Jer. 43:8-13, 46). The people would either be slain or scattered and the land would be left “utterly waste and desolate” (Ezek. 29:10).

e. (12b) Divine Sentence

“And her cities, in the midst of cities that are laid waste, will be desolate forty years;”

Peter Pett: The desolation would go on for ‘forty years’. ‘Forty years’ was a standard period for trial and testing meaning a fixed and fairly long period, and parallels the period for bearing iniquity endured by Judah (Ezekiel 4:6). Thus Egypt would suffer a fairly long period of desolation and weakness, probably at the hand of their enemies.

Feinberg: The period between Nebuchadnezzar’s conquest of Egypt and Cyrus’ victory was about forty years, so the forty years are understood as the period when Babylon was supreme over Egypt. Ezekiel, unlike Isaiah (19:18-25), does not relate Egypt to Messianic times.

f. (:12c) Dispersion

“and I shall scatter the Egyptians among the nations

and disperse them among the lands.”

Daniel Block: Yahweh will transform the land into an utter wasteland. Ezekiel employs a series of rhetorical devices to highlight the thoroughness of the devastation.

– First, he heaps up terms for desolation, using the plural of intensity lĕḥorĕbôt (lit. “into wastes”), and conjoining the cognate nouns ḥorĕbôt and ḥōreb (lit. “wastes and waste”).

– Second, he proclaims the ruination of all Egypt. Like Israelite “from Dan to Beer-sheba,” the expression “from Migdol to Syene as far as the border of Cush” defines the borders of the country. Migdol, “Fortress Tower,” treated as the northernmost military outpost, is probably to be identified with the remains discovered one kilometer north of Tell el-Kheir, east of the Suez Canal. Syene (modern Aswan), on the First Cataract of the Nile, was the site from which campaigns into Nubia were launched, a fact reflected in the explanatory Nubian frontier (gĕbûl kûš).

– Third, he announces the cessation of all normal creaturely activity in Egypt. The feet of neither humans (ʾādām) nor animals (bĕhēmâ) will pass over or traverse (ʿābar) the land.

– Fourth, with twin superlatives, he declares the unprecedented scope of the disaster (v. 12). Among ruined cities and countries, Egypt will set a new standard of devastation.

– Fifth, twice he announces that the ruination will last forty years. The figure recalls 4:4–8, according to which Ezekiel was to lie on his right side, one day for every year that Judah was to be exiled, but the number is also reminiscent of the duration of Israel’s wilderness wanderings, the purpose of which was to eliminate a faithless generation (Num. 14:20–35). Yahweh’s goal here is presumably similar—to punish a generation that had dared to interfere with Yahweh’s plans for Judah and the Babylonians.

– Sixth, in terms reminiscent of earlier warnings of the deportation of Judah’s population, Ezekiel predicts the exile of Egypt’s population among the nations and countries of the earth. The prophet’s vagueness and hyperbolic style contrast sharply with the detail and realism with which Jeremiah describes the same events. In Jer. 43–44 the senior prophet speaks specifically of Nebuchadnezzar attacking Pharaoh’s palace at Tahpanhes, burning the temples of the Egyptian gods, shattering the obelisks of Heliopolis, and bringing disaster to the Jewish exiles in that land.

B. (:13-16a) Yahweh’s Long Range Plans for Egypt

“For thus says the Lord God,”

1. (:13) Regathering the Egyptians

“At the end of forty years I shall gather the Egyptians

from the peoples among whom they were scattered.”

Daniel Block: Yahweh will not be angry with Egypt forever; on the contrary, when this generation has been punished he will be roused to action on the nation’s behalf.

2. (:14-15) Rebuilding Them as a Diminished Nation

“And I shall turn the fortunes of Egypt and shall make them return to the land of Pathros, to the land of their origin;

and there they will be a lowly kingdom.

It will be the lowest of the kingdoms;

and it will never again lift itself up above the nations.

And I shall make them so small

that they will not rule over the nations.”

Constable: Forty years after Egypt fell to the Babylonians, the Persians, who had by that time defeated the Babylonians, allowed the Egyptians to return to their homeland. This was the foreign policy of the Persians under which the Israelites were also able to return to their land.

Daniel Block: The people may be regathered and the kingdom reestablished, but Yahweh will ensure that they never regain their past glory; Egypt will remain a “low kingdom.” The great nation that had held ruled over others will itself become a vassal state. To whom Egypt will be subject is not indicated, but it cannot be Nebuchadnezzar since he will be gone long before the forty-year limitation has expired. Perhaps Ezekiel already anticipates the rise of Persia, whose domination over Egypt was succeeded by Greek and Roman empires. But he probably thinks only of Yahweh as Egypt’s suzerain. He is the subject of the actions in vv. 13–15; he will keep the nation small (šĕpālâ) so it never again imposes its power over the nations (or indulges in the hollow boasting of vv. 3, 9).

3. (:16a) Reminding Israel of the Futility of Trusting Egypt

“And it will never again be the confidence of the house of Israel,

bringing to mind the iniquity of their having turned to Egypt.”

David Guzik: One reason God would bring Egypt low and diminish them was so that Israel would no longer put their misplaced trust in Egypt. The lowly, diminished state of Egypt would remind them of their iniquity when they turned to follow them.

Lamar Cooper: This political shrinkage was to be Yahweh’s way of preventing his people’s backsliding. . . reaffirm the truths of the earlier oracles: the inevitable harvest of national arrogance and the need for a true faith in God that resists temptations to look elsewhere for salvation.

C. (:16b) Recognition Refrain

“Then they will know that I am the Lord God.”



(:17) Prologue

1. Dating of the Prophecy

“Now in the twenty-seventh year, in the first month,

on the first of the month,”

Peter Pett: This is a late oracle introduced here, because it also refers to Tyre, so that it would not be too far from the Tyre oracles, and because it gives information about who would cause desolation to Egypt as described in the first oracle. It is dated on new year’s day 571/0 BC some time after the raising of the siege of Tyre, some sixteen years after the previous oracle.

2. Authoritative Word of the Lord

“the word of the LORD came to me saying,”

Lamar Cooper: vv. 17-21 — Their content functions as a supportive statement of the downfall of Egypt and so as a confirmation of the work of God in the world of political power, and as an assurance that his destructive work was a precursor of salvation for his people. Yahweh would effect his providential will, clearing obstacles from his people’s and his own path (cf. v 16; 28:24) before he brought rehabilitation and honor (v 21; cf. 28:25–26). He was to use his lordship of history as a means of fulfilling his covenant purposes (cf. Rev 11:15–18).

A. (:18) Reason for the Payment

“Son of man, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon made his army labor hard against Tyre; every head was made bald, and every shoulder was rubbed bare. But he and his army had no wages from Tyre for the labor that he had performed against it.”

Peter Pett: The continual wearing of helmets, and the continual demands of the heavy siege had had their effect. The soldiers felt totally ill-used and exhausted.

Daniel Block: These expressions could refer to the chafing effects of helmets and armor, but since the Babylonian strategies involved a siege rather than a battle, it is preferable to think in terms of the backbreaking work involved in carrying out a siege. The baldness and raw shoulders were the effects of carrying the vast amounts of dirt required to construct siege mounds and ramps, and probably also an unsuccessful attempt to build a causeway to the island fortress.

Douglas Stuart: In ancient times armies were not paid as they are today. Soldiers might receive a small allowance along with their rations, but it would have been foolish to join an army just for the pittance paid as wage. Instead, a special incentive system made army life attractive and often exciting. Soldiers successful in battle were allowed to take and keep anything they could lay hands on and carry away. Many battles took place at or near large cities or in prosperous lands where wealth was concentrated. Indeed, ancient wars of conquest were launched precisely so that the conquerors could acquire the wealth of other nations. After defeating an enemy, an army would dig into the spoils. Those fortunate enough to find gems, precious metals, or other great valuables among the possessions of their defeated foes might become instantly rich. Almost all could at least supplement their income handsomely.

Lamar Cooper: Essentially Yahweh takes over responsibility for the situation from Nebuchadnezzar, who functioned as Yahweh’s agent. Pastorally, of course, Yahweh is lifting the blame from Ezekiel’s head and shoulders.

B. (:19-20) Reward for Nebuchadnezzar

“Therefore, thus says the Lord God,”

1. (:19a) Divine Gift of Egypt

“Behold, I shall give the land of Egypt

to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon.”

2. (:19b) Despoiling of Her Wealth

“And he will carry off her wealth,

and capture her spoil

and seize her plunder;”

3. (:19c) Deserved Wages for Military Service

“and it will be wages for his army.”

4. (:20) Divine Agent of Judgment

“’I have given him the land of Egypt for his labor which he performed, because they acted for Me,’ declares the Lord God.”

David Guzik: There was a real sense in which Nebuchadnezzar and the armies of Babylon worked for God as His instruments of judgment. It was completely within God’s rights to reward these workers according to His will and wisdom.

C. (:21a) Reassurance to the Nation of Israel

1. Renewed Power

“On that day I shall make a horn sprout for the house of Israel,”

Constable: When Nebuchadnezzar later defeated Egypt, the defeat would provide hope for Israel, because Egypt was Israel’s ancient enemy. Evidently Nebuchadnezzar invaded and defeated Egypt about 568-567 B.C. It would be as though a horn began to grow on Israel, the sign of new strength to come (cf. 1 Sam. 2:1; 1 Kings 22:11; Ps. 92:10; Jer. 48:25).

Peter Pett: A horn is the symbol of strength and power (1 Samuel 2:1; 1 Kings 22:11; Psalms 92:10; Jeremiah 48:25). It was the means by which animals exerted their superiority. Thus in some way Israel were to be given strength at the time of the invasion and victory. Indeed Ezekiel himself may be that horn, for they would begin to listen to his words and take heed to them, and learn Who Yahweh really is. And in the end that was Ezekiel’s purpose.

Alternately it may refer to one of the leaders whom Yahweh would use in their restoration. It does not matter which one. All were horns given by Yahweh, all looking forward to the great Son of David yet to come (Ezekiel 34:23-24; Ezekiel 37:24).

Galen Doughty: The horn that will grow in the house of Israel on that day is difficult to identify. In 570 the Jews who had been exiled to Babylon with Jehoiachin were well into their third decade of captivity. A horn signifies strength. God says he will open Ezekiel’s mouth at that time. Is Ezekiel still silent in 570? That doesn’t make sense according to 33:21 which says a man came to Ezekiel in Babylon and declared Jerusalem has fallen. At that time Ezekiel speaks again after his silence. It is possible this reference to God opening Ezekiel’s mouth is to more prophecy. The temple prophecies are given in 572. I wonder if the horn refers to Zerubbabel who would have been born in captivity in Babylon and who was to lead the exiles back to Jerusalem in 538. He is also featured prominently in the writings of the post-exilic prophets Haggai and Zechariah. If he was born in 570 he would have been 32 years old when he led the exiles back to Jerusalem. It is only speculation but it is an interesting theory.

MacArthur: Cf. 23:25, 26. God caused Israel’s power to return and restored her authority as the power in an animal’s horn (cf. 1Sa 2:1). Though other nations subdued her, her latter end in messianic times will be blessed.

Ralph Alexander: The symbol must refer to the strength and encouragement that Israel was to receive when she observed God’s faithfulness to execute his judgment on her enemy, Egypt, in accord with both these prophecies and the Abrahamic covenant (Gen. 12:3). At this time Ezekiel’s mouth would be opened among the exiles to proclaim God’s purposes and workings more freely, since the exiles would be more ready to listen. Through these events the Israelites who had not yet understood would perceive that the God who was accomplishing these mighty acts in faithfulness was the Lord their God (v. 21).

2. Renewed Boldness and Acceptance of Prophecy

“and I shall open your mouth in their midst.”

Feinberg: With the fall of Egypt the affairs of Israel would rise. With such fulfillment of his prophecies Ezekiel’s message would be all the more heeded. He may have felt constrained before this because of the unbelief of his people, but now he could command confidence and boldness in speaking for God to the people. Prophecy was meant to glorify God, to warn and comfort the people, and to minister to the servant of God at the same time.

D. (:21b) Recognition Refrain

“Then they will know that I am the LORD.”