THE COMING JUDGMENT ON EGYPT PREFIGURES THE ESCHATOLOGICAL DAY OF THE LORD AND IMPACTS EGYPT’S ALLIES
The fate of Egypt was revealed in chapter 29. Now this prophecy continues as Ezekiel makes the association with the Day of the Lord to show that there are both near term and eschatological implications. The promised devastation and desolation are not limited to the borders of Egypt – despite the eight specific major cities targeted here. God’s judgment intentionally spills over to Egypt’s supporting allies. The false hope and security of those who trust in human government and power continue to be stripped away. God uses His sovereign judgments to reveal His reign over all kingdoms in the accomplishment of His agenda. He will ultimately be known as the Lord of all.
Leslie Allen: Vv 1–19 are distinguished as a literary unit by the message reception formula and the formula of prophetic address in vv 1–2; the former does not reappear until v 20.
Constable: This oracle appears to be a mosaic of four separate messages. Note the recurrence of the introductory clause “thus says the Lord God” in verses 2, 6, 10, and 13. It pictures the day of judgment that will break on Egypt and its allies.
Derek Thomas: For the first time in Ezekiel we come across the phrase, ‘the day of the Lord’ (30:3; cf. ‘The day is near’, 7:7). While the ‘day of the Lord’ can sometimes refer to an event which is in the near future, it usually describes the consummation, the end of all time, when God will come to judge the world. Here the idea is of an event in the not too distant future, the ransacking of North Africa by the Babylonians, but it has to be understood that all of these passages are foretastes of the judgement that will come upon the world at the end of time.
Vawter and Hoppe: In context, this was an audacious statement. Imagine an exile from Judah, a third-rate Palestinian state whose future was very much in doubt, asserting that Judah’s national deity is about to bring an end to Egypt! When Ezekiel spoke these words, Egypt had existed for two and a half millennia. The pyramids, the symbol of the achievements of that great civilization, had stood already for two thousand years. What Egypt did is without parallel in human history, ancient or modern. In the face of this, Ezekiel had the temerity to declare that Egypt, its cities, its rulers, and its people were vulnerable to the judgment of Judah’s God. It was either outrageous delusion or great faith that led the prophet to utter this oracle of judgment against Egypt.
Daniel Block: This oracle paints a powerful picture of Yahweh’s absolute sovereignty. The day of Egypt belongs to him. He, not Amon or Re or Ptah, is Lord of history, a point he will prove by invading Egypt a second time. On the day of his appointment with this great nation, neither gods, nor kings who perceived themselves to be divine, nor the assembled forces of this vast alliance would prevent his triumphant march through the land. All nations, even mighty Egypt, and all the forces of nature are subject to him. At his command the Nile dries up, fire passes through the land, and daylight turns to darkness. Nor is there hope for “the people of the land of the covenant” who look to Egypt for security. By joining with the neighbor to the south they cast their vote against Yahweh and sentence themselves to the same fate.
I. (:1-5) ASSOCIATION OF THE COMING JUDGMENT ON EGYPT WITH THE END-TIMES DAY OF THE LORD
(:1-2a) Authoritative Word of the Lord
“The word of the LORD came again to me saying,
2 ‘Son of man, prophesy and say, Thus says the Lord God,’”
Constable: Of the seven oracles against Egypt, this is the only one that is undated. Most of the commentators assumed that Ezekiel gave it in 587 B.C., the same year as the first, second, and third oracles. But he could have given it in 571 B.C. after his sixth oracle (29:17-21). I think he gave it in 571 B.C., and that the writer placed it here in the text, after the other late oracle, because both of them contain specific references to Nebuchadnezzar. Knowledge that Nebuchadnezzar would be God’s instrument in judging Egypt is helpful in interpreting the remaining oracles against Egypt. If this chronology is correct, this would have been the last prophecy that Ezekiel gave that this book records.
A. (:2b) Anguished Anticipation of the Coming Judgment
“Wail, ‘Alas for the day!’”
Peter Pett: The awfulness of what is shortly to come on Egypt is brought out by the introduction, ‘Howl, alas the day, for the day is near’. And along with her will suffer those who are in alliance with her. These alliances help to explain how an invasion of Egypt could drive Pharaoh and his forces out of Egypt into allied lands, only to be allowed to return once peace negotiations have succeeded. It would seem that there was defeat on Egyptian soil, with large numbers being taken captive and carried off to Babylon, followed by a withdrawal into allied lands as Egyptian administration collapsed, until peace terms were agreed.
B. (:3) Doomsday Scenario of the Coming Judgment – the Day of the Lord
1. Closeness but with Eschatological Implications
“For the day is near,
Even the day of the LORD is near;”
It would seem that this oracle of judgment has both near term fulfillment and eschatological fulfillment in view.
Constable: “The day of the Lord” is any day in which God acts in a dramatic way in history. The phrase “the day of the Lord” usually describes an eschatological day, but that is not its meaning here as is clear from what follows (v. 9; cf. 7:7, 10; Lam. 2:21-22). This judgment would come on Egypt soon.
Daniel Woodhead: other passages state that Egypt will be desolate for forty years. That has never happened and it is most appropriately placed in the Millennial Kingdom. So when this passage (Ezekiel 30:1-9) states in verse three the day of Jehovah is near, it clearly is referencing the Tribulation. The Day of Jehovah is a familiar reference in the Old Testament and New Testament as well (Isaiah 13:6, 9; Joel 1:15; 2:1,11; 3:14; Amos 5:18, 20; Obadiah 15; Zephaniah 1:7, 14; Zechariah 14:1; I Thessalonians 5:2; II Thessalonians 2:2; II Peter 3:10). Since that term is only used as a reference to a very particular event in all of human history it is appropriate to place the events in the first nine verses of this chapter as falling in the period of the Tribulation.
The judgment of Egypt is the beginning of the judgment of all Gentile nations. The beginning of these was Nebuchadnezzar’s victories over Egypt and beginning with 586 B.C. the inauguration of the Times of The Gentiles. What is essential to realize with these judgments is the futile efforts of mankind to stop the judgment of God once it has commenced. That judgment will be so violent that it will overwhelm Egypt’s neighbors, some of whom were Egypt’s political, economic, and military allies (v. 30:5) Ethiopia adjoining Egypt on the south also known as Cush, will be fearful that she would be attacked next as Egypt’s people will be killed and her treasuries looted. For them Egypt is essentially a buffer between the Babylonians and themselves.
John Taylor: The day of the Lord, which has previously been announced only in relation to Israel (cf. 7:2–12), is now proclaimed as being the day when judgment by the sword will fall upon Egypt.
“It will be a day of clouds,
A time of doom for the nations.”
Wiersbe: Ezekiel probably had in mind God’s judgment coming as a great, powerful storm upon Egypt, complete with dark and ominous clouds. “The Jews were led out of Egypt by a bright cloud (Exodus 13:21), but the Egyptians who once enslaved them will be under a dark cloud.
Daniel Block: First, the event is described as a dismal day of clouds (yôm ʿānān), which abbreviates Joel’s version (Joel 2:1–2). Second, Ezekiel calls it a time for the nations. On first sight this ambiguous expression seems to refer to the invasion of Egypt by foreign nations as agents of Yahweh. However, from vv. 5–9, which may be interpreted as an exposition of the last line in v. 3, it is evident that the nations are targets of divine wrath as well.
Feinberg: Egypt’s judgment was the commencement of worldwide punishment on all nations, especially those around the land of Palestine from whom Israel had suffered much. Nebuchadnezzar’s victories prepared the way for the realization of the universal empire of the Gentile monarch. The day of clouds, that is, of calamity and distress, in that hour was but a link in the chain that will ultimately lead to the climaxing judgment of all time.
C. (:4-5) Devastating Judgment Destroys Egypt’s Foundations and Jeopardizes Her Supporters
1. (:4a) Devastating Judgment Impacts Ethiopia as well
“And a sword will come upon Egypt,
And anguish will be in Ethiopia,”
Charles Dyer: The news of Egypt’s destruction would spread rapidly, causing panic among her allies. Messengers would travel in ships up the Nile River south to Cush to announce Egypt’s defeat. The news would cause panic in Cush because they, having sided with Egypt against Babylon, would not, be vulnerable to attack. Anguish would take hold of them (cf. 30:4).
2. (:4b) Destruction of Egypt’s Foundations
“When the slain fall in Egypt,
They take away her wealth,
And her foundations are torn down.”
Daniel Block: it is a day of humiliation: Egypt’s hămôn will be taken away. The choice of this ambiguous expression is deliberate. It means basically “noise, murmur, uproar,” but it may also denote “multitude, horde, troops, wealth,” and in a metaphorical sense, “pomp, pride, hubris.” This is a keyword in Ezekiel. Many treat the expression militarily in this context, viz., as a reference to the hordes of Egyptian and allied soldiers insolently opposing Yahweh, or economically, that is, “wealth, a horde of possessions.” Both are possible, but Ezekiel’s concern for hubris in general in the oracles against the nations, especially Tyre and Egypt, and the specific reference to gĕʾôn ʿuzzâ, “the pride of her strength,” in this context (vv. 6, 18), point in a metaphorical direction.
3. (:5) Death to Egypt’s Supporters
“Ethiopia, Put, Lud, all Arabia, Libya, and the people of the land
that is in league will fall with them by the sword.”
Constable: An enemy would invade Egypt, slay many of her people, take away her wealth, and tear down her national foundations. Her neighbor Ethiopia (Cush, Nubia) would despair when this happened because Ethiopia had strong ties to Egypt. Egypt’s other allies would also fall: Put (on the African coast of the southern Red Sea), Lud (Lydia in Anatolia), Arabia, and Libya (farther west on the Mediterranean coast of Africa).
Feinberg: Who are the mingled people? The reference is so general that a positive identification cannot be made. They have been understood to be the foreigners who served in the Egyptian army as mercenary soldiers (cf. 27:10; Jeremiah 25:20, 24; 46:9, 21). Extrabiblical sources confirm the fact that Egypt made great use of hired soldiers from various nationalities. This is a possible, perhaps even a probable, interpretation of Ezekiel’s meaning.
Galen Doughty: Egypt and all her allies, all the peoples who had sent her mercenaries and were allied with her in trade and political intrigue will fall. God will judge them all.
II. (:6-9) ALLIES OF EGYPT INCLUDED IN COMING JUDGMENT
(:6a) Authoritative Word of the Lord
“Thus says the LORD,”
Daniel Block: vv. 6-8 –
– First, their fall (nāpal) will occur in association with the collapse (yārad) of her own arrogant might, a typically Ezekielian expression for hubris.
– Second, their fall will occur by the sword within the land of Egypt. From Migdol in the north to Syene in the south, the land of Egypt will be filled with the slain of her allies.
– Third, they will share in Egypt’s desolation, a point highlighted by the parallelistic and superlative construction of v. 7.
– Fourth, their demise is a divine act, an intended consequence of Yahweh’s torching of Egypt. The construction suggests that the fire finally convinces them of Yahweh’s involvement.
John Taylor: The next oracle enlarges on the fate of Egypt’s allies and satellites: all her helpers are broken (8).
A. (:6b) Egypt Humiliated by the Fall of Her Supporters
“’Indeed, those who support Egypt will fall,
And the pride of her power will come down;
From Migdol to Syene They will fall within her by the sword,’
Declares the Lord God.”
Galen Doughty: vv. 6-9 — God says Egypt will fall from Migdol on the eastern edge of the Nile Delta to Aswan in the south at the first great cataract of the Nile. From one end of Egypt to the other people will fall by the sword. Egypt will be desolate and ruined. All that remains today of ancient Egypt is ruins. The Egyptians will know that Yahweh is God when he sets fire to Egypt and all her allies are crushed. Egypt needed to be taught the lesson God taught them when he freed the Hebrew slaves in the exodus. Now 800 years later God must teach it to them again.
Feinberg: Man is ever slow to realize that in the hour of extreme need, the arm of the flesh is always disappointing. Egypt would find that every ally and every human confederate would be unavailing when God brought here into judgment.
B. (:7) Excessive Devastation and Desolation
“And they will be desolate In the midst of the desolated lands;
And her cities will be In the midst of the devastated cities.”
Leslie Allen: vv. 7-9 — The superlatives for destruction, so telling that they were taken over in 29:12 (cf. Zimmerli 128, 130), describe a scenario that would be revelatory to its victims. The supplementary statement in v 9 imaginatively borrows from Isaiah’s oracle against Ethiopia in Isa 18:1–2. The detail of ambassadors sailing the Nile is used to help to draw a word picture of apprehension and dread.
C. (:8) Edification Purpose of God’s Judgment
1. Recognition Refrain
“And they will know that I am the LORD,”
2. Unleashing of Divine Wrath
“When I set a fire in Egypt
And all her helpers are broken.”
D. (:9) Ethiopia Terrified as a Result
1. Frightening News
“On that day messengers will go forth from Me in ships
to frighten secure Ethiopia;”
2. Fearful Anguish
“and anguish will be on them as on the day of Egypt;
for, behold, it comes!”
Peter Pett: What was to happen was inevitable. Nothing would prevent it.
III. (:10-12) AGENT OF JUDGMENT = NEBUCHADNEZZAR
(:10a) Authoritative Word of the Lord
“Thus says the Lord God,”
A. (:10b) Agent of Judgment Identified as Nebuchadnezzar
“I will also make the multitude of Egypt cease
By the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon.”
Leslie Allen: The role of vv 10–12 is to accentuate the human and divine agencies at work against Egypt, combining to nullify Judean hopes. At Yahweh’s behest Nebuchadnezzar was to continue his conquests down into Egypt. It was Ezekiel’s way of emphasizing that the Judeans had put their political and providential eggs into the wrong basket.
B. (:11) Agent of Judgment Described as Ruthless and Violent
“He and his people with him, The most ruthless of the nations,
Will be brought in to destroy the land;
And they will draw their swords against Egypt
And fill the land with the slain.”
C. (:12a) Results of God’s Judgment
“Moreover, I will make the Nile canals dry
And sell the land into the hands of evil men.
And I will make the land desolate, And all that is in it,
By the hand of strangers;”
David Thompson: Now verse 12 has not completely happened yet. Some of the tributaries of the Nile have been dried up to the point where there are marsh lands and various pools of water. But as near as we may determine, a complete destruction has not yet occurred. Revelation 16:4-10 clearly predicts that God will cause rivers to dry.
Feinberg: Apart from the Nile Egypt was nothing more than a barren wilderness. The worst calamity that could have befallen Egypt would be the desiccation of her river, for her life depended on the annual inundation of the land by the Nile.
(:12b) Authoritative Word of the Lord
“I, the LORD, have spoken.”
IV. (:13-19) ALL-ENCOMPASSING GEOGRAPHIC HIT LIST FOR THE COMING JUDGMENT
(:13a) Authoritative Word of the Lord
“Thus says the Lord God,”
John Taylor: Finally, in a grand display of geographical knowledge, the complete devastation of the land of Egypt is expressed by means of a welter of place-names.
A. (:13b) Purging of Idolatry and Arrogant Leadership
1. Purging of Idolatry
“I will also destroy the idols
And make the images cease from Memphis.”
Lamar Cooper: God would destroy the idols of Egypt (v. 13). This was a remarkable claim considering the scope of Egyptian religion. Elements of Egyptian religion are so complex and contradictory from one period to another that sweeping generalities would be difficult. Religion in Egypt developed out of a system of local village gods and lesser spirits whose purposes included both help and hindrance of humanity. These traditions were preserved as some of these villages grew to become cities. Ptah was the god of Memphis; Atum, god of Heliopolis; Montu, god of Thebes. In the villages gods were associated with every area of daily life. There were gods to assist childbearing, household duties, harvest of crops; there were river gods and others. The gods at one point numbered more than twelve hundred.
2. Purging of Arrogant Leadership
“And there will no longer be a prince in the land of Egypt;”
David Thompson: No longer will Egypt have a leader. During the Tribulation, all proud, arrogant political leaders will come under the judgment of God and will be hiding in caves (Rev. 6:15). When Jesus Christ reigns on this earth, political leaders will be put out of business.
3. Promotion of the Fear of God
“And I will put fear in the land of Egypt.”
B. (:14-18) Places Targeted for Judgment
1. (:14) Pathros, Zoan and Thebes
“And I will make Pathros desolate,
Set a fire in Zoan,
And execute judgments on Thebes.”
Constable: Specifically, God would desolate Pathros (Upper Egypt, between modern Cairo and Aswan, cf. 29:14), He would burn up Zoan (Gr. Tanis), a chief city in the northeastern delta, and He would judge No (Gr. Thebes, modern Karnak and Luxor), Egypt’s southern capital. All the towns mentioned in these verses were important religious centers as well as large cities.
Peter Pett: A wide range of cities in Egypt are mentioned to bring home the widespread nature of the devastation. Everywhere would be affected (compare for the approach Isaiah 10:27-32; Micah 1:10-15; Zephaniah 2:4). There is no order to the names, they are selected at random. The many gods of Egypt would be decimated and authority in the land would cease. There would thus be general fear over the whole land. The great cities would be desolated and many set on fire. Anguish would be everywhere. This would be invasion on a large scale. ‘Adversaries in the day time’ reflects this. The city gates would normally be open during the day, but closed at nights. At this time they would be permanently closed.
2. (:15-16) Sin, Thebes and Memphis
a. (:15a) Sin
“And I will pour out My wrath on Sin,
The stronghold of Egypt;”
b. (:15b) Thebes
“I will also cut off the multitude of Thebes.”
c. (:16a) Egypt in General
“And I will set a fire in Egypt;”
d. (:16b) Sin
“Sin will writhe in anguish,”
e. (:16c) Thebes
“Thebes will be breached,
f. (:16d) Memphis
“And Memphis will have distresses daily.”
Constable: God would also judge the people living in Sin (Gr. Pelusium), one of the northernmost strongholds of Egypt, and He would allow the walls of No (Thebes) to be breached and its people slain. Noph (Memphis) would also experience daily distress during the war.
4. (:17) On and Pi-beseth
a. Young Men
“The young men of On and of Pi-beseth will fall by the sword,”
“And the women will go into captivity.”
5. (:18) Tehaphnehes
“And in Tehaphnehes the day will be dark
When I break there the yoke bars of Egypt.
Then the pride of her power will cease in her;
A cloud will cover her,
And her daughters will go into captivity.”
Daniel Woodhead: Darkness is a symbol of divine judgment throughout the Old Testament (Exodus 10:15; 21-23; I Samuel 2: 9; Psalm 35: 6; 105: 28 etc.). In the New Testament darkness is also associated with Satan and his demons (Ephesians 6:12).
Leslie Allen: The strong language of destruction (and of exile in vv 17, 18, etc) characterizes Egypt as a political nonentity in the face of Yahweh’s sovereign will.
Galen Doughty: Once again Ezekiel describes the destruction of the whole country from north to south, from Lower Egypt to Upper Egypt. Nothing will escape, including Thebes which was protected by the long course of the Nile from the sea some 700 kilometers up river. Memphis will be in constant distress as well as Heliopolis, the city of the sun just north of Memphis at the base of the Delta, and Bubastis, a temple city in the southeastern corner of the Nile Delta near Goshen. The three cities of Memphis, Heliopolis and Bubastis or Pi-Beseth in Hebrew, were all temple cities, headquarters for the worship of major Egyptian gods. The true God will destroy them all. God says it will be a dark day when he breaks the yoke of Egypt and Tahpanhes or Heliopolis, will fall. Heliopolis was the center of the worship of the Egyptian sun god Amun or Amun-Ra. The yoke of Egypt probably refers to the Egyptian gods that tempted Israel from the very beginning all throughout her history. God will cover Egypt with clouds meaning judgment and her towns and people will go into captivity. Then all of Egypt will know that Yahweh, the God of the Hebrews is the one true and only God. He is the Lord of History and the nations not the false idols of Egypt.
Charles Dyer: By naming Egypt’s major cities God was saying that the strength of the entire nation would be ended, like the breaking of a yoke. She would be covered with clouds, a figurative way to express doom and judgment (cf. Ezek. 30:3; 32:7-8; 34:12; cf. Joel 2:2: Zeph. 1:15). As gathering clouds herald an approaching storm, so covering Egypt with clouds would herald her coming judgment. Major cities would be destroyed, and people in the villages would be taken into captivity.
C. (:19) Final Summary of Judgment
1. Certainty of Divine Judgment
“Thus I will execute judgments on Egypt,”
2. Recognition Formula = Purpose of Divine Judgment
“And they will know that I am the LORD.”