GOD PROMISES TO UTTERLY DESTROY PHARAOH AND EGYPT
Two final laments in chapter 32 conclude the prophetic judgment uttered against Egypt. In the first lament (vv. 1-16) the focus begins on the demise of Egypt’s leader (vv. 1-10); and then in vv. 11-16 broadens to describe the demise of the land and its occupants. There is no way that God is going to forget to execute His promised judgments. Egypt is proud and powerful but no match for the one who rules over all nations. Once again the instrument of God’s judgment will be the king of Babylon. The imagery of a captured crocodile is followed by the darkening of celestial lights and the devastation caused by the sword of Babylon.
Constable: The sixth and seventh oracles concerning Egypt are lamentations: over the fall of Pharaoh (vv. 1-16), and over the destruction of his imperial power (vv. 17-32).
Leslie Allen: The emphasis is not on Babylon’s defeat of Egypt, but on Egypt’s defeat at the hands of Yahweh. Did the exiles even now cling to a hope that Egypt would not tolerate Babylonian control of Palestine and Syria, but would retaliate in a counterthrust? As in earlier oracles, Ezekiel grants that Egypt is larger than life in its military and economic power and influence. However, a distinctive metaphor, used already in chap. 29, cuts it down to size. Just as the description of Tyre in terms of a veritable Titanic revealed the island fortress in a new and negative perspective, so here does the chaos monster metaphor for Egypt. If Egypt is a mighty dragon, one might say, Yahweh is cast in the role of St. George! Yahweh is quite capable of fighting and winning a cosmic battle against such a foe.
Douglas Stuart: This lament has an unusual perspective in that it is spoken almost entirely predictively in the first person by God Himself, much in the manner of a judgment sentence or curse prediction. Most laments speak about and/or to the subject but not so strongly from the divine voice, and they are more retrospective. Nevertheless, the four lament elements are present: direct address to the (future) dead; eulogy of the dead (mainly v. 2 here); call to mourning (v. 16, prose conclusion); and evaluation of the loss to the survivors (vv. 9–10 especially).
Peter Pett: No ancient empire in the Near East compared with Egypt. Others came and went but Egypt seemed to go on and on. Always it was there, the one certainty in a changing world. At times it might have seemed somewhat weakened, but it would rise from its weakness and become strong again. It always had to be taken into account. It was like its own pyramids. It seemed bound to last forever.
So the idea that this was at an end would shake the ancient world. And as far as Israel were concerned the point was that it was Yahweh who was doing it. He alone was more permanent and more powerful than Egypt. He had watched it from the beginning and now He was calling an end to its ways. It would never again be the principle actor in events. Only Yahweh would go on forever, He and the people whom He had chosen. The final restoration was in His hands.
(:1-2a) PRELUDE – INTRODUCTION TO THE LAMENT
A. (:1a) Dating of the Prophecy
“And it came about in the twelfth year, in the twelfth month,
on the first of the month,”
Douglas Stuart: The date of this oracle is the end of the twelfth year of the exile of King Jehoiachin (and Ezekiel), that is, late 586 b.c., just weeks after the news reached the exiles in Tel-Abib that Jerusalem had fallen to the Babylonians (cf. 33:21). Many must have been very disheartened, and surely Ezekiel himself would not have relished the news, even though it confirmed the accuracy of his preaching of the last dozen years. Perhaps now some in his potential audience would actually pay some attention, and another oracle against Egypt would be heard with more open ears.
B. (:1b) Authoritative Word of Prophecy
“that the word of the LORD came to me saying,”
C. (:2a) Lamentation Commanded
“Son of man, take up a lamentation over Pharaoh king of Egypt,
and say to him,’”
I. (:2b-10) SHOCKING DEMISE OF PHARAOH
A. (:2b) Rebellious and Chaotic Sea Monster on the Political Scene
1. Perception vs. Reality
“You compared yourself to a young lion of the nations,
Yet you are like the monster in the seas;”
David Thompson: Everything you were involved in you muddied. This person was not refreshing to any. He stirred up trouble and dirt everywhere he went. In the Bible, you do not want God to classify you as some sea monster. Whenever God refers to someone as some sea monster, it is typically in the context of what He has crushed or what He intends to crush (Is. 27:1; 51:9-11; Ps. 74:13).
Charles Dyer: pictures Pharaoh’s ferocity and seeming invulnerability.
2. Promoter of Chaos
“And you burst forth in your rivers,
And muddied the waters with your feet,
And fouled their rivers.”
Daniel Block: The actions of this monster are both rebellious and chaotic. He snorts with his nostrils and flails his feet, stirring up the waters. The verb muddied (rāpas) links this text with 34:18–19, in which pugnacious rams and male goats foul the drinking waters by trampling in it with their feet, preventing the rest of the flock from drinking. While Ezekiel might have portrayed Pharaoh as a royal shepherd, in keeping with common ancient Near Eastern custom, the present picture is anything but pastoral. Here the concrete actions represent defiance against Yahweh. The prophet’s lament represents a rejection of the noble leonine imagery for the Egyptian king in favor of the sinister and repugnant figure of the crocodile.
Feinberg: The Egyptian king disturbed the even tenor of the life stream of the nations around him.
B. (:3-8) Record of Egypt’s Fall
“Thus says the Lord God,”
1. (:3b-4) Death – Taking Him Captive to Expose Him to a Cruel Death
a. (:3b) Captured
“Now I will spread My net over you
with a company of many peoples,
And they shall lift you up in My net.”
Douglas Stuart: Armies of the nations will catch this animal (Egypt) in a net (v. 3) and leave it on the dry land to die, bleeding everywhere—a great death indeed (vv. 3–6; cf. 29:3–5, which has similar vocabulary and imagery).
b. (:4a) Cast on the Open Field
“And I will leave you on the land;
I will cast you on the open field.”
Feinberg: The threat to leave the sea monster on the land implies that it would be rendered powerless, as a fish is out of water. Moreover, the birds of heaven and the beasts of the whole earth would feed on the carrion (cf. predictions in Matt. 24:28; Rev. 19:17-18). If Egypt had any confidence in her size or power, this would prove to be no deterrent to the visitation form the Lord upon her.
c. (:4b) Carcass Feast for the Birds and Beasts
“And I will cause all the birds of the heavens to dwell on you,
And I will satisfy the beasts of the whole earth with you.”
Daniel Block: The sea monster may throw his weight around in the water where he is at home, but on land he is out of his element. Under the hot desert sun he will quickly perish and become food for scavenging buzzards and jackals.
2. (:5-6) Desecration – Trashing His Carcass
“And I will lay your flesh on the mountains,
And fill the valleys with your refuse.
6 I will also make the land drink the discharge of your blood, As far as the mountains,
And the ravines shall be full of you.”
Daniel Block: The prophet has painted a disgusting if vivid picture of the earth drinking the excrement, blood, and other body fluids that are discharged when an animal is slain. One can scarcely imagine a more ignominious death.
3. (:7-8) Darkness – Turning Out His Lights
“’And when I extinguish you, I will cover the heavens, and darken their stars;
I will cover the sun with a cloud, And the moon shall not give its light.
8 All the shining lights in the heavens I will darken over you
And will set darkness on your land,’ Declares the Lord God.”
Lamar Cooper: Pharaoh’s judgment also would be part of the eschatological Day of the Lord. He would be snuffed out or extinguished like a shining star (vv. 7–8). On that Day of the Lord, Egypt, like all other nations, will be judged by God (Joel 2:10, 31; 3:14; Isa 13:10; 34:4; Matt 24:29; Rev 6:12; 8:12).
Douglas Stuart: Verses 7–8 contain the darkness language characteristic of prophecies of the day of the Lord, already seen in Ezekiel in 30:3 and 30:18.
Daniel Block: Yahweh’s announcement that he will impose darkness on Pharaoh’s land carries a double meaning. On the one hand, reminiscent of the plague of darkness in Exod. 10:21–24, the sun, moon, and stars will cease to shine on Egypt. On the other, just as David was perceived as the nēr yiśrāʾel, “lamp of Israel” (2 Sam. 21:17), so the pharaoh, the monster of the seas, was viewed as the light of Egypt. With his death darkness will strike the entire land. The signatory formula at the end of v. 8 puts Yahweh’s own imprimatur on the announcement.
C. (:9-10) Reaction of Horror among the Nations
“I will also trouble the hearts of many peoples, when I bring your destruction among the nations, into lands which you have not known.
10 And I will make many peoples appalled at you, and their kings shall be horribly afraid of you when I brandish My sword before them;
and they shall tremble every moment, every man for his own life, on the day of your fall.”
Douglas Stuart: “If mighty Egypt can fall, what about us?” is the point of verses 9–10, which depict the fear Egypt’s conquest by the Babylonians will engender in many other nations yet to feel Babylon’s oppression.
John Taylor: vv. 9-15 — This section begins with a prose interpolation (9, 10), which abandons the figurative language that has gone before and describes the consternation which will be felt by other nations when they see the fate of the Egyptians. The combination of captivity (9; rsv carry you captive is preferable to bring thy destruction, av, rv, especially as the words that follow imply some kind of exile) and the sword (10) is enough to make the nations fear for their own lives in case they are the next victims due for judgment. This leads in to the next poem (11–15) which takes up the well-used theme of the sword of the Lord (cf. 21:9; 30:25) which is put into the hands of the king of Babylon to be wielded against the Egyptians. So great will be the slaughter and devastation that Egypt will be uninhabited by either man or beast, and verses 13–15 vividly describe the land in such a state. The waters will be unruffled by foot of man or hoof of beast; they will be clear and will flow as smoothly as oil through the devastated countryside. There will be no man left in Egypt to know that I am the Lord (15), so unless we take this as a conventional, stereotyped ending to an oracle of this kind, we must suppose it to refer to the watching nations who alone will benefit from the sight of such an act of God.
II. (:11-15) SHOCKING DEMISE OF EGYPT
“For thus says the Lord God,”
Wiersbe: Here the prophet repeated the prophecy that the sword of Babylon would leave Egypt desolate and that all of Egypt’s pride and pomp would vanish.
A. (:11b-12) Devastation of Egypt
“The sword of the king of Babylon shall come upon you.
12 By the swords of the mighty ones I will cause your multitude to fall;
all of them are tyrants of the nations,
And they shall devastate the pride of Egypt,
And all its multitude shall be destroyed.”
B. (:13-14) Destruction of Egypt
“’I will also destroy all its cattle from beside many waters;
And the foot of man shall not muddy them anymore,
And the hoofs of beasts shall not muddy them.
14 Then I will make their waters settle,
And will cause their rivers to run like oil,’ Declares the Lord God.”
Douglas Stuart: Desolation will be Egypt’s fate (v. 13, suggested by the absence of man and beast; cf. 29:8; Jer. 33:10, 12; etc.). With no one around in the desolate land, the usually muddy Nile and its streams will run clear and fast (“like oil,” v. 14).
Daniel Block: In biblical and Jewish tradition the motif of streams running with oil usually speaks of paradisiacal peace and prosperity.
C. (:15) Desolation of Egypt
1. Comprehensive Divine Judgment
“When I make the land of Egypt a desolation,
And the land is destitute of that which filled it,
When I smite all those who live in it,”
2. Recognition Refrain
“Then they shall know that I am the LORD.”
Feinberg: Again the Lord emphasizes that the ultimate purpose in His dealings with Egypt, indeed with all nations, is that all may realize His supreme authority, power and deity.
Daniel Block: Following the divine signature at the end of v. 14, the prophecy arrives at a formal conclusion with an expanded version of the recognition formula. Now we learn Yahweh’s ultimate goal in humiliating Egypt: the universal acknowledgment of his person and his involvement in human affairs. Three aspects of the divine activity are reviewed:
– desolating the land (nātan šēmāmâ),
– emptying it of its contents, and
– striking down its inhabitants (presumably human).
With this intensification of divine judgment, Egyptian history will run its course, causing its remaining inhabitants and the people of the world to recognize the hand and person of Yahweh.
Constable: This oracle also looks forward and anticipates a still future day of the Lord when God will humble all proud enemies of His people (cf. Joel 2:30-31; 3:15; Amos 8:9).
(:16) POSTLUDE – CALL TO MOURNING
“’This is a lamentation and they shall chant it.
The daughters of the nations shall chant it.
Over Egypt and over all her multitude they shall chant it,’
declares the Lord God.”
Daniel Block: The text concludes with a colophon that provides four kinds of information concerning the foregoing oracle.
(1) Its genre. This is a qînâ lament composition, reflecting its central concern: death. The superscription had identified the victim as “Pharaoh, king of Egypt” (v. 2); now, by the principle of corporate solidarity, the reference is expanded to Egypt as a whole.
(2) Its use. The composition was not written primarily as literature to entertain or to be stored in the archives of the exilic community, but to be chanted, suggesting public oral group activity.
(3) Its chanters. The women of the nations are to mourn the death of Egypt by chanting this lament. Ancient funeral rites often involved professional mourners, usually women, who chanted the dirge over the deceased.
(4) Its referents. The last line identifies the deceased as Egypt and its entire pomp or horde or wealth (hāmôn). With the concluding signatory formula Yahweh pounds the final nail into the nation’s coffin.