Ezekiel 29:1-21

Submitted by admin on Sat, 2018-06-09 13:25.

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YHWH’s “word” or message (a “word of prophecy” [Targum]) again came to Ezekiel. It was then the twelfth day of the tenth month (mid-December to mid-January) in the tenth year of the exile of King Jehoiachin. This is commonly considered to have been the beginning of the year 587 BCE. (29:1)

As at other times, Ezekiel was addressed as “son of man,” a mortal in the service of the eternal God YHWH. He was to “set [his] face toward Pharaoh the king of Egypt,” focusing his attention on him, and to “prophesy against him and against all Egypt.” The fulfillment of the prophetic message would impact him and all of his subjects. (29:2)

The message for Pharaoh was, “Thus says the Lord YHWH, Look, I am against you, Pharaoh the king of Egypt, the great dragon lying in the midst of his streams, who says, My Nile is [the streams are (LXX)] my own, and I made” it (“them” [LXX]). As at other times, the initial “look” serves to direct attention to the message. The “streams” may designate the water flowing through the irrigation canals along the Nile or the rivulets of the Nile Delta that have their source in the water of the Nile. Possibly because Pharaoh, as the ruler, exercised total dominion over Egypt, including the Nile on which the populace depended for water, he is portrayed as a “great dragon” or sea monster, perhaps a crocodile, lying in the midst of the streams. He is depicted as proudly claiming the Nile as being his own, apparently because it was a major and vital part of the land over which he ruled. Pharaoh did not literally make the Nile, but the irrigation system along the Nile would have been constructed and maintained at his direction. It may be from this standpoint that the words “I have made” could be understood. The interpretation of the Targum has Pharaoh saying that the kingdom belonged to him and that he had conquered. (29:3)

YHWH purposed to express his punitive judgment against Pharaoh. He would deal with him as if he were a dragon or sea monster, placing “hooks” (literally, “thorns”) in his jaws and then pulling him up “from the midst of [its] streams.” At the same time, the fish that YHWH represented himself as making cling to the sea monster would also be pulled up. These “fish” probably designate the subjects of Pharaoh. (29:4) Once having forcibly removed him from the water, YHWH represents himself as casting the “great dragon” or sea monster and “all the fish” into the “wilderness.” The sea monster would “fall upon the open field” and perish, remaining without being gathered or buried and becoming food for beasts and carrion-eating birds. (29:5)

In view of their punitive judgment that was made known through YHWH’s prophet, all the Egyptians would come to “know” or recognize YHWH as the God who fulfills his word. Through their kings, the people of the kingdom of Judah had come to be allied with the Egyptians for military assistance to assure their security. The Egyptians, however, were but a “staff of a reed to the house of Israel.” Although appearing to be sturdy, the main part of a reed is weak and breaks easily under the pressure of weight. The Egyptian military force simply was not strong enough to provide security from the warriors under the command of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. (29:6) When the people of the kingdom of Judah sought to support themselves on the Egyptians as on a reed, looking to them for military aid, the reed broke and put every shoulder out of joint. Upon leaning on the Egyptians as if they happened to be a reed, this reed broke and caused all the loins or hips of the people of the kingdom of Judah to become unsteady. The Septuagint says, “You broke every loin of theirs.” The Targum indicates that the Egyptians could not be a reliable protector of the people in the realm of the kingdom of Judah. (29:7)

The Lord YHWH declared, “Look, I am bringing a sword upon you and will cut off man and beast from you.” The introductory “look” serves to draw attention to what YHWH was about to do. In the form of the military force under the command of King Nebuchadnezzar, YHWH would bring a sword upon Egypt. That “sword” of warfare would slay man and beast. (29:8) The land of Egypt would become a desolated region and a waste. At that time the Egyptians would know YHWH as the God who had fulfilled the message of judgment that Ezekiel had previously made known regarding Egypt and its ruler, Pharaoh. Punishment was certain to come, for Pharaoh had arrogantly claimed that the Nile was (the “streams” [LXX] or the irrigation canals were) his and that he had made it (“them” [LXX]) . (29:9)

YHWH is quoted as identifying himself as being against Pharaoh and against his “streams,” either the irrigation canals or the rivulets of the Nile Delta, and declaring that he would reduce the “land of Egypt” (Mizraim) to “waste [areas] of desolation from Migdol to Syene as far as the border of Ethiopia” (Cush). Migdol may have been a prominent frontier city in northern Egypt (Magdolos [LXX], possibly a site not far from Pelusium [Tel el Farame]), whereas Syene was located at the southern extremity of the country. Syene has been linked to Aswan. The Septuagint says, “I will make [literally, give] the land of Egypt into a wilderness and [give it to] a sword and [for] destruction.” (29:10) Through the desolated region, no “foot of man and foot of beast” would pass. The region would remain uninhabited for forty years. No extant ancient history refers to this forty-year period of continued devastation. Therefore, it cannot be definitively established whether this occurred after the conquest by King Nebuchadnezzar and his troops or took place subsequent to another military campaign against Egypt. (29:11)

YHWH represented himself as making Egypt (Mizraim) a “desolation in the midst of [other] desolated lands” and Egyptian cities “in the midst of [other] cities” that had been reduced to ruins. The desolation would be for “forty years.” Egyptians who survived the enemy military campaign would be scattered among the nations and dispersed among various lands. According to the Targum, YHWH declared, “I will exile the Egyptians.” (29:12) The Lord YHWH made known that, after the forty years of continued devastation, he would gather the “Egyptians from the peoples among whom they had been scattered.” (29:13) He would bring back the “captivity of Egypt,” probably meaning the Egyptians who had been taken as captives into exile, bringing them back “to the land of Pathros, the land of their origin.” Ancient Pathros is commonly considered to have been the region south of the Egyptian city of Memphis on the west bank of the Nile and extending southward to Syene (identified with modern Aswan). The identification of Pathros as the land of origin for the Egyptians fits the comments of ancient Greek historians who locate the first Egyptian kingdom in this region. Egypt, however, was not to attain the former position of power but was to become a lowly or weak kingdom. (29:14) It would become lower than other kingdoms, never able to exalt itself above other nations. YHWH is quoted as declaring, “I will diminish them [the Egyptians] so that they will never again rule over [other] nations.” The Septuagint indicates the result to be that the Egyptians would not be numerous among the nations. (29:15)

The “house [or people] of Israel” would never again put their trust in Egypt for military aid. The Egyptians would only be a reminder to the people of Israel about their having erred seriously (“for a hope recalling lawlessness” [LXX]) or been unfaithful to YHWH when turning to them for help. Based on the fate of Egypt, the people of Israel would know or recognize that YHWH their God is the fulfiller of his word and the one whom they should trust completely and exclusively as their helper. (29:16)

Again a “word” or message (a “word of prophecy” [Targum]) came to Ezekiel from YHWH. It was then the first day of the first month (mid-March to mid-April) in the twenty-seventh year. This would have been the twenty-seventh year of the exile of King Jehoiachin and is commonly considered to have been the year 571 BCE. (29:17)

Addressed as “son of man,” a mortal in the service of the eternal God YHWH, Ezekiel received a message regarding Nebuchadrezzar (Nebuchadnezzar) the king of Babylon. The Babylonian monarch was identified as having served as YHWH’s instrument in causing his army to labor with great labor or a strenuous military assault against Tyre. During the siege, the head of every warrior became bald, probably from the chafing of the helmet, and the shoulder was rubbed bare or hairless, likely from carrying the needed materials for the construction of siegeworks. The tremendous effort involved in the military campaign brought no return in the form of abundant booty for Nebuchadnezzar and the warriors under his command. Although he had acted as YHWH’s instrument to punish Tyre, he had not received any “wages” for his service. (29:18) Therefore, the Lord YHWH declared that, in payment for the service against Tyre, he would give Nebuchadnezzar the land of Egypt, letting him attain a great military victory. The wages for his army would be the great wealth of Egypt that would be procured through plundering and pillaging. (29:19) This repayment was certain, for the Lord YHWH is quoted as basically repeating the promise. “As his recompense for which he [Nebuchadnezzar] labored, I have given him the land of Egypt because they [he and his warriors] worked for me.” (29:20)

“On that day” or at the time Egypt would be reduced to a lowly kingdom, YHWH would cause a “horn” to sprout for the “house [or people] of Israel,” suggesting that there would be a renewal of the strength of his people and that they would cease to be captive exiles. As for Ezekiel, he would be given “an opening of mouth among them [his fellow exiles],” probably meaning that he would be able to speak a message relating to restoration. The people would then “know” or recognize YHWH as their God who had acted to fulfill his word. (29:21)