Forum Class #12 April 4, 2004.

Ezekiel Chapters 29-32:
God Judges the Nations, Part II - Egypt


Judgment on Egypt (chaps. 29-32) The seventh and final nation Ezekiel prophesied against was Egypt. This prophecy was actually a series of seven oracles directed against Egypt and its Pharaoh. Each oracle is introduced by the clause, "The word of the LORD came to me"; and six of the seven oracles are dated (29:1, 17; 30:1 [undated], 20; 31:1; 32:1, 17). Though 29:1; 30:20; 31:1; 32:1; and 32:17 are in chronological order, 29:17 (the second oracle) is dated later than the others. This departure from his usual chronological arrangement is probably because Ezekiel wanted to arrange the oracles in a logical progression. He possibly placed 29:17-21 where he did to clarify his first prophecy (29:1-16). After predicting that the Pharaoh and Egypt would be destroyed (29:1-16), he then specified who would destroy them (29:17-21).

I. THE SIN OF EGYPT (29:1-16) This prophecy includes three sections, each of which closes with the words seen so often in Ezekiel, "then they will know that I am the LORD" (vv. 60, 9, 16).

29:1-6a. This first of seven prophecies. against Egypt was given in the 10th year, in the 10th month on the 12th day. That day, January 5, 587 B.C., was almost a year after the siege of Jerusalem began (cf. 24:1-2).

The Pharaoh in Egypt at that time was Hophra [Apries] who reigned from 589 to 570 B.C. His promises of assistance prompted Judah to break with Babylon. Both Egypt and her leader were singled out for judgment.

Ezekiel compared Pharaoh to a great monster in Egypt's streams. "Monster" (tannim, a variant spelling of tannin) described reptiles, from large snakes (Ex. 7:9-10) to giant sea monsters (Gen. 1:21). It probably included crocodiles. This word was also used in Semitic mythology to describe the chaos-monster who was destroyed when the world was created. Possibly Ezekiel had both ideas in mind. Reptiles in the Nile (especially crocodiles) symbolized Egypt's strength and ferocity. Egyptians believed that Pharaoh could conquer the chaos-monster; but here, ironically, God called Pharaoh the monster! Pharaoh was considered a god; therefore he thought of himself as having created the Nile (cf. Ezek. 29:9). Pharaoh, however, would soon learn he was no match for the true Creator-God. God said He would drag Egypt away from her place of protection in the Nile and leave her in the desert. This depicts God's subduing a crocodile (or the mythological "god" who lived in the water) and dragging him to a barren place where he would soon perish. God would defeat Egypt despite her great strength.

29:6b-9. The second section of this prophecy deals with Egypt's basic sin: she had been a staff of reeds for the house of Israel. A "staff" was used as a cane or walking stick for support on the rough terrain in Israel (cf. Zech. 8:4; Mark 6:8; Heb. 11:21). Israel leaned on Egypt for support in her revolt against Babylon, but Egypt's support was as fragile as the reeds which grew abundantly on the Nile River's shores. When the pressure came, the reed snapped, and Israel found herself unable to stand. Possibly Ezekiel was quoting a proverb commonly applied to Egypt which had a reputation as an unreliable ally (cf. 2 Kings 18:20-21).

The time of this prophecy probably coincided with Egypt's halfhearted attempt to aid Jerusalem during Nebuchadnezzar's siege (cf. Jer. 37:4-8). Egypt backed out and Jerusalem suffered the consequences. Jerusalem learned too late that a slender reed could not give support. When she leaned on Egypt for deliverance from Babylon, Egypt let her down (like a reed, she splintered and broke).

Because of Egypt's false promises of support to Judah, God said He would 'punish the Egyptians by the sword' and 'Egypt would become a desolate wasteland.'

29:10-16. This portion of Ezekiel's prophecy discusses the extent of God's judgment on Egypt. The desolation would extend from Migdol to Aswan, as far as the border of Cush. "Migdol" was in the Delta region in northern (lower) Egypt and "Aswan" (or "Syene") at the first cataract in southern (upper) Egypt and was the southern boundary between Egypt and Cush. Cush corresponds to present-day southern Egypt, Sudan, and northern Ethiopia.

God's total devastation of Egypt would last for 40 years. Judah had been destroyed because she relied on Egypt; Egypt would suffer the same fate. God would disperse Egypt among the nations; she would also be carried into captivity.

No archaeological finding has yet confirmed an Egyptian deportation similar to the one experienced by Israel. However, it is unwise to dismiss a clear statement of Scripture on the basis of incomplete archaeological data. Nebuchadnezzar did attack Egypt (29:17-21; cf. Jer. 43:8-13; 46:1-25). Assuming that he conquered the country, one would expect him to deport people to Babylon as he did others he conquered. Presumably, then, the Egyptian captives would have been allowed to return home in the reign of Cyrus of Persia, who defeated Babylon in 539 B.C. (ca. 33 years after Nebuchadnezzar's attack). Allowing seven additional years for the people to return and rebuild, a 40-year period of desolation was entirely possible.

God would then take the Egyptians back to Pathros, the land of their ancestry. "Pathros" (cf. 30:14) was a geographic region located in Southern (upper) Egypt. Some feel that this was the traditional birthplace of the nation of Egypt. Perhaps "Pathros" was used here to represent the entire land of Egypt.

Though God would let the Egyptians return to their land, Egypt would not achieve the place of power she once held. Instead she would be the lowliest of kingdoms. After Persia's rise to power, Egypt never again in biblical times became a major international power. She tried to exert herself during the intertestamental period, but she Was held in check by Greece, Syria, and Rome. Egypt's political weakness would be a continual object lesson to Israel. She would look at Egypt and remember her folly of depending on men instead of God.

2. THE DEFEAT OF EGYPT BY BABYLON 29:17-21. Ezekiel's second prophecy against Egypt came in the 27th year, in the first month on the first day. This is the latest dated prophecy in the book of Ezekiel. The date was April 26, 571 B.C. As stated earlier, Ezekiel probably placed this prophecy out of chronological order to draw attention to his logical progression. He had just described Egypt's coming judgment (vv. 1-16); he placed verses 17-21 afterward to indicate who would bring the judgment. Nebuchadnezzar himself would attack Egypt.

This prophecy was written shortly after Tyre's surrender to Babylon in 572 B.C. For 13 years Nebuchadnezzar had besieged the city of Tyre (585-572 B.C.). The picture of heads rubbed bare because of the prolonged wearing of helmets and of shoulders that were raw from carrying wood and stone for building siege mounds is graphic. Nebuchadnezzar had worked hard for meager results. Yet he got no reward from that campaign against Tyre. Tyre surrendered to Nebuchadnezzar, but there were no vast spoils of war to distribute as booty to his army. Evidently Tyre shipped off her wealth before she surrendered. Nebuchadnezzar needed money to pay his soldiers for their labor so he turned to Egypt. Prompted by economic necessity, Babylon attacked Egypt and plundered its wealth to pay... his army. Yet it was really God who was "paying" Babylon to attack Egypt: 'I have given him Egypt as a reward for his efforts.'

Ezekiel's second prophecy against Egypt ended with a promise to Israel. That day is interpreted in various ways. Some see a reference to a still future day of the Lord when God will restore Israel to her land and judge the nations around her. However, such a jump seems foreign to the text. The "day" in question was probably the time when God would judge Egypt through Babylon and then restore Egypt to her land.

When God finally restored the nations of Israel and Egypt, He would make a horn grow for Israel. A horn symbolized strength (cf. 1 Sam. 2:1; 2 Sam. 22:3; 1 Kings 22:11; Jer. 48:25) and was applied in an ultimate sense to the strength of the Messiah, Christ, who would deliver Israel (cf. Luke I :69). However, here the "horn" probably refers to Israel's strength which Nebuchadnezzar had destroyed. When Egypt was restored, Israel would also be restored as a nation.

When Israel's strength as a nation was renewed, God said He would open Ezekiel's mouth among them. This cannot refer to the ending of Ezekiel's divine dumbness (cf. Ezek. 3:26) for two reasons: (1) Ezekiel's dumbness had already ended in the 12th year of Jehoiachin's exile (33:21-22), and this prophecy came in the 27th year (29:17). (2) This prophecy would take place after Israel was restored from captivity. Ezekiel was 30 years old in 592 B.C. (1:1-2), so he would have been 83 when Cyrus' edict to let Israel return to her land was issued. Perhaps an 83 year-old might not have survived such an arduous journey from Babylon to Israel. None of the post-exilic records refer to Ezekiel returning to Israel. The best explanation is that Ezekiel's spoken prophecies which had perplexed the people would become clear when they were fulfilled. Israel would recognize God's character as He faithfully accomplished His promise.

3 THE DESTRUCTION OF EGYPT AND HER ALLIES 30:1-5. Unlike Ezekiel's other prophecies against Egypt, he did not date this one, which stressed Babylon's judgment on Egypt and her allies. It has four sections, each beginning with "This is what the LORD (or Sovereign LORD) says" (vv. 2, 6, 10, 13).

In verses 2-5 Ezekiel discussed the day of the Lord. Wail and say, Alas for that day! For the day is near, the day of the LORD is near--a day of clouds, a time of doom for the nations, Clouds often pictured doom (cf. v. 18; 32:7-8; 34:12; Joel 2:2; Zeph. 1:15). Though some think this refers to the future day of the Lord when God will judge the world for her sin, that view divorces the phrase from its context. True, "the day of the LORD" usually refers to God's future judgment on the earth (cf. Isa. 13:6-16; 34:8; Mal. 4). It will be a time when Israel and the nations will be judged and when Israel will be restored to her place of national blessing. However, the "day" of the Lord can refer to any time God comes in judgment (cf. Lam. 2:21-22. Both Israel and Judah experienced a "day" of God's judgment when they were punished for their sins (cf. Ezek. 7:1-14, esp. vv. 7, 10, 12). Now God's "day" of judgment would extend to Egypt, who would be defeated by Babylon (cf. 30:10-12).

God's judgment--"a time of doom"- -would lead to death and destruction. The sword drawn against Israel (21:1-17) would also overtake Egypt, and anguish would extend to Cush, adjoining Egypt on the south, out of fear that she would be attacked next (cf. 30:9). Egypt's people would be killed and her treasuries looted. Egypt's allies would also be caught in her judgment. Egypt had many mercenary soldiers in her army (Jer. 46:8-9, 2021). Cush, as stated earlier, refers to present-day southern Egypt, Sudan, and northern Ethiopia (Es. 1:1; Jer. 46:9; Ezek. 27:10). Put is modern-day Libya (Isa. 66:19; Jer. 46:9; Ezek. 27:10), and Lydia was on the west coast of Asia Minor (cf. 27:10). The words "all Arabia" could read "all the mixed people." Only one vowel in these Hebrew words makes this difference. Jeremiah used these same words to refer to all the foreigners residing in Egypt (cf. Jer. 25:20). The Hebrew word translated Libya is actually "Cub". The normal Hebrew word for Libya is lub, as in Nahum 3:9. No manuscript evidence warrants a change from kub to lub. It seems better to read "Cub" and to admit that the exact location of this nation is unknown. The people of the covenant land probably refers to those Israelites who fled to Egypt to avoid Nebuchadnezzar's attacks against Judah (cf. Jer. 42:19-22; 44:1-14).

30:6-9. Ezekiel continued to discuss the defeat of Egypt's mercenary allies within Egypt's borders. Throughout the land, from Migdal to Aswan (the northern and southern extremities of Egypt. These allies would be I crushed and the cities whence they had settled would be ruined. The destruction would force these nations to acknowledge the God who predicted their downfall: "Then they will know that I am the LORD."

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 now be vulnerable to attack. Anguish would take hold of them (cf. 30:4). "The day of the LORD" (v. 3) was now explained as the day of Egypt's doom, God's day of judgment on Egypt would surely take place.

30:10-12. The third section of this prophecy again zeroed in on the means of destruction against the hordes of Egypt. "Hordes" was mentioned 14 times in chapters 30-32 by Ezekiel, apparently to stress that proud nation's teeming populace. Egypt's judgment would come by the hand of Nebuchadnezzar (cf. 29:17-21). God selected Babylon, the most ruthless of nations (cf. 28:7; 30:10-11; 32:12), to accomplish His judgment. Babylon treated her captives cruelly, After King Zedekiah of Judah rebelled, Nebuchadnezzar forced him to watch soldiers kill all his sons. Then Zedekiah's eyes were put out so the last thing he ever saw was his sons' deaths (2 Kings 25:7). Ezekiel said that Babylon, after defeating Judah, would turn her cruel war machine against Egypt, killing the Egyptians with swords (cf. Ezek. 30:4),

In describing Babylon's attack, Ezekiel carefully pointed up the ultimate source of destruction. Three times in verses 10-12 God said "I will" do this. Babylon was only a tool God used to accomplish His judgment. God declared that by the hand of foreigners 'I will lay waste the land.' For the fifth time in this book God called the Babylonians "foreigners" (7:21; 11:9; 28:7, 10; 30:12).

30:13-19, In this fourth section of the prophecy Ezekiel enumerated the many places in Egypt that would be destroyed. No major city there would escape God's wrath. First, God said He would destroy the idols and put an end to the images in Memphis (cf. v16). According to legend, Memphis was the first capital of united Egypt (ca. 3200 B.C.), But later, when Memphis was no longer the capital, the city still was important as a religious center. Numerous temples were built there. A colony of Jews had settled in Memphis (cf. Jer. 44:1).

Other cities would also feel the sting of judgment. Pathros was an area about midway between Cairo and Aswan. "Pathros" was a synonym for upper Egypt (cf. Jer. 44:1) and possibly for all Egypt (cf. Ezek. 29:14). Zoan was a royal residence in the Delta region (cf. Ps. 78:12,43; Isa. 19:11, 13). Later Zoan was called Tanis by the Greeks, Thebes (or No), mentioned three times in this passage (Ezek. 30:14-16), was in southern (upper) Egypt about 400 miles south of Cairo at the site of modern Karnak and Luxor. For a long time it was the country's capital. The city was destroyed by the Assyrians in 663 B.C. (cf. Nahum 3:8-10) but was rebuilt. Jeremiah also predicted Thebes' destruction (cf. Jer. 46:25). The hordes of people there would be slain and the city would be taken suddenly by storm,

Pelusium would receive God's wrath (Ezek. 30:15), and when fire would spread through Egypt, Pelusium would writhe in agony (v. 16). Pelusium (or Sin) was in the Delta about a mile from the Mediterranean Sea. The city was a major military center and guarded the northern entrance to Egypt. Appropriately Ezekiel called it the stronghold of Egypt.

Ezekiel named the last three of the eight cities of Egypt in verses 17-18: Heliopolis, Bubastis, and Tahpanhes, Heliopolis (or On) was in northern (lower) Egypt just south of the Delta region, It was a major religious center during much of Egypt's ancient history. Possibly Jeremiah had Heliopolis in mind when he predicted the destruction of "the temple of the sun in Egypt" (cf. Jer. 43:13). Bubastis (or Pi Beseth) was northeast of the modern city of Cairo, in northern (lower) Egypt, Bubastis served briefly as a capital of Egypt, and it too was an important religious center. Tahpanhes was near the present Suez Canal. In Jeremiah's day Pharaoh had a palace in that city (Jer. 43:9) which may be why Ezekiel mentioned it last--for climactic effect. Jeremiah condemned that city along with Memphis (cf. Jer. 2:16). He was forced to go there after Gedaliah was assassinated (Jer. 43:7-8).

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.

4. THE SCATTERING OF EGYPT 30:20-26. Ezekiel's fourth of seven prophecies against Egypt was given in the 11th year, in the first month on the seventh day, That date was April 29, 587 B.C., almost four months after Ezekiel's first prophecy against Egypt (29:1). The first prophecy signified the time when the forces of Egypt went out to "rescue" Israel from Babylon (cf. Jer. 37:4-5); the fourth prophecy was recorded after the Babylonians defeated Egypt. The theme of the prophecy was Egypt's defeat by God: 'I have broken the arm of Pharaoh king of Egypt.' This Pharaoh was Hophra, [Apries]who ruled Egypt from 589 to 570 B.C., Possibly the days between the first and fourth prophecies were approximately the length of time the siege on Jerusalem was lifted as Babylon repositioned its army to meet the Egyptian attack.

Nebuchadnezzar broke the "arm" of Egypt so she was unable to defend Judah. In fact the damage done to Egypt was irreparable, Egypt's arm, symbolizing strength, was not even put in a splint so as to become strong enough to hold a sword, Egypt "broke her arm" in her feeble attempt to rescue Israel, but this was only a prelude to God's full judgment. God said He would break both of Egypt's arms, the good arm as well as the broken one, In other words God would totally destroy Egypt's strength. Her ability to protect both others and herself would be eliminated.

Though God would destroy the power of Egypt, He would strengthen the power of Egypt's chief foe, Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar's arms would be strengthened by God, and Pharaoh, groaning like a mortally wounded man, would be utterly defenseless before the Babylonians.

Ezekiel's point was to contrast the recent defeat suffered by Egypt (her one "broken arm") with the still greater defeat she would suffer. She had been disarmed when she tried to intervene in Babylon's attack on Jerusalem, but she would later be destroyed by Babylon. When Nebuchadnezzar attacked Egypt herself, she would fall to him (cf. Ezek. 29:1-20). God would then disperse Egypt among the nations --a fact stated twice for emphasis; 30:23, 26; cf. 29:12). Egypt would follow Judah into exile.

5. THE SIMILARITY OF EGYPT AND ASSYRIA (CHAP. 31) Ezekiel's fifth prophecy against Egypt is an allegory on Pharaoh's fall.

a. The allegory of Assyria as a cedar tree 31:1-9. This prophecy was given in the 11th year, in the third month on the first day. This was June 21, 587 B.C., less than two months after the prophecy recorded in 30:20-26. Ezekiel addressed his message to Pharaoh king of Egypt and to his hordes. He ended it with the same words (31:18). This ruler (Hophra) and his mighty army obviously felt so secure in their military might and ability that Ezekiel responded rhetorically, Who can be compared with you in majesty? Obviously Egypt thought she was in a class by herself.

Ezekiel offered an example against whom Egypt could compare herself: Consider Assyria. Some scholars think that" Assyria" (assur) should be emended to read "cypress tree" (or "pine tree") (t'assur) because of the difficulty in understanding why Ezekiel would mention Assyria in his prophecies against Egypt. However, there is no need to alter the text. Assyria would have had great significance to Egypt for two reasons. First, Assyria had been the only Mesopotamian nation to invade Egypt. In 633 B.C. Assyria had entered Egypt and destroyed the capital of Thebes (cf. Nahum 3:8-10). So the only nation that could be "compared" with Egypt was Assyria. Second, Assyria had been destroyed by Babylon, the same nation Ezekiel said would enter Egypt and destroy it.

Ezekiel compared Assyria to a cedar in Lebanon. (A lofty cedar also depicted the leaders of Israel; cf. Ezek. 17.) At the apex of her power Assyria dominated the Middle East, towering like a cedar higher than all the trees of the field (31:5). Several key cities of Assyria were situated at or near the Tigris River, which provided much-needed water. Thus situated, Assyria grew like a cedar nourished by waters , . . deep springs (v. 4), and abundant waters (vv. 5, 7). Birds in the cedar's branches and animals under its shade (v. 6; cf. vv. 12, 17) speak of Assyria, like a tall tree, overshadowing and protecting all her neighbors.

In a hyperbole Ezekiel stressed Assyria's grandeur: The cedars in the garden of God (Eden; cf. 28:13) could not rival it, This "tree" was unmatched by any of God's other "trees." In fact this tree was the envy of all the trees of Eden, In Assyria's former exalted position, she had attained power and influence that far exceeded Egypt's. She was the perfect example to show Egypt the effects of God's judgment. "

b. The downfall of Assyria 31:10-14. Assyria fell because of her pride. God judged the nation because, like a cedar, it towered on high, lifting its top above the thick foliage, and because it was proud of its height. Judah (16:56), Tyre (27:3; 28:2), and Egypt (30:6) would all be judged for their pride.

God judged Assyria by handing it over to the ruler of the nations, He was Nebuchadnezzar who, following in his father's footsteps, continued to expand the borders of Babylon at Assyria's expense. God ordained Assyria's fall (cf. Nahum). The city of Nineveh fell to Nabopolassar (Nebuchadnezzar's father) in 612 B.C., and the rest of the Assyrian army was crushed by Nebuchadnezzar in 609 B.C. at Haran.

The most ruthless of foreign nations (i.e., Babylon; cf. 28:7; 30:11; 32:12) cut down Assyria, like felling a large tree. Then those who had sought protection under Assyria's shade (cf. 31:6, 17) abandoned her.

Assyria's fall was an object lesson to other nations. No other trees so well-watered are ever to reach such a height (v. 14). Egypt's desire to become a lasting great power in the Middle East was destined to failure. She and all other nations were destined for the grave (death and the pit) instead of glory. (The "pit" is the place of the departed dead.) No nation should exalt itself highly over others because they will all suffer Assyria's fate.

c. The descent of Assyria into the grave, 31:15-18. Having mentioned death (v. 14), Ezekiel expanded and applied that fact by focusing on the reaction of other nations to Assyria's fall (vv. 15-18). The nations mourned her (the springs were held back by their mourning) and were alarmed (the nations tremble) that one as strong and mighty as Assyria could ever fall, If the strong "cedar" could fall, then how could any lesser "trees" (nations) hope to remain standing? While the nations were alarmed, those that had already been destroyed (all the trees of Eden) were comforted and consoled in the earth below (in the grave). The lesser nations, their allies who had lived in Assyria's shade (cf. vv. 6, 12) and were now in the grave, could comfort themselves that even Assyria had descended to where they were. All were equal in death. Assyria's "allies among the nations" brought the circle back to Egypt because she was Assyria's chief ally when Assyria fell to Babylon. Ezekiel drove home the point of his allegory (v. 18): Which of the trees of Eden can be compared with you in splendor and majesty? This was similar to the question in verse 2, but the answer was now obvious. Egypt, who was similar to Assyria, would suffer the same late. She too would be brought down with the trees of Eden to the earth below. Egypt's end would be one of shame like that of the uncircumcised. And her fall would be fatal. by the sword, For emphasis Ezekiel repeated the subject of his story: This is Pharaoh and all his hordes (cf. 31:2).

6. THE LAMENT FOR PHARAOH 32:1-2a, Ezekiel's sixth prophecy against Egypt was given in the 12th year, in the 12th month on the first day, That was March 3, 585 B.C.--two months after the news of Jerusalem's fall reached the captives in Babylon (cf. 33:21), The fall of Egypt was now so certain that Ezekiel was told to take up a lament concerning Pharaoh king of Egypt. A lament, or funeral dirge, was usually delivered when one was buried. Ezekiel had already written laments for Judah (chap. 19), the city of Tyre (26:17-18; 27), and the king of Tyre (28:12-19). The lament against Egypt is in three parts (32:2b, 3-10, 11-16). The second and third sections each begin with, "This is what the Sovereign LORD says" (vv. 3, 11).

32:2b. Ezekiel said Pharaoh (Hophra), in his fierce power, was like a lion (cf. Judah's kings, 19:2-9) among the nations and a monster in the seas (cf. 29:25). The "monster" could refer to a crocodile or to the mythological chaos. monster, to picture Pharaoh's ferocity and seeming invulnerability. Possibly the crocodile is suggested as Ezekiel said Pharaoh was churning up the normally placid water (cf. Job 41:31-32). Pharaoh's actions were disturbing the international scene as he tried to blunt Babylon's power.

32:3-10. Ezekiel then spoke of Pharaoh's judgment. If Pharaoh were a crocodile, God would lead Pharaoh's enemies on a "crocodile hunt." With a great throng of people 'I will cast My net over you, and they will haul you up in My net' (cf. 29:3-5). Pharaoh would be trapped by his enemies and removed from his sphere of power. This was an amazing statement, for in Egypt the Pharaoh supposedly could defeat a crocodile! (Job 41.) God would drag Pharaoh from his place of power and throw him on the land and hurl him on the open field. Pharaoh's power would be broken and his people scattered. The destruction of Pharaoh and Egypt was couched in terms that conjured up images of Egypt's judgment at the time of the Exodus. God said He would drench the land with Egypt's flowing blood (Ezek. 32:6). This recalled the first plague on Egypt in which the water turned to blood (Ex. 7:20-24). But this time, the blood would come from the slain in Egypt. God also said He would darken the stars,.. sun, and moon, bringing darkness over the land (Ezek. 32:7-8). Though these cataclysmic signs are similar to those that will accompany the day of the Lord (Joel 2:30-31; 3:15), it seems Ezekiel was alluding here to the darkness of the ninth plague (Ex. 10:21-29).

In response to Egypt's fall the surrounding nations would be appalled (cf. Ezek. 26:16; 27:35; 28:19) and their kings would shudder with horror. God's revealing His holy character through Egypt's judgment would have a profound effect on other nations. If mighty Egypt could be destroyed, so could they.

32:11-16. This third section of Ezekiel's lament drops the figurative description of destruction (vv. 3-8) and portrays Egypt's fall to Babylon literally. The sword of the king of Babylon will come against you. Pharaoh's army would be crushed by the ruthless Babylonians (cf. 29:17-21; 30:10-12, 24) and the land of Egypt would be decimated. Egypt's pride would be shattered, her hordes overthrown (cf. comments on "hordes" in 30:10), and her cattle by the Nile and streams destroyed. Both man and beast would be affected by the coming attack.

The waters that were once stirred by the foot of man and muddied by the hoofs of cattle would now be stilled. Figuratively Pharaoh had "muddied the waters" with his international intrigue (32:2); literally the Nile was muddied through the daily activities of man and beast (v. 13). But now the streams and rivers would settle because those activities would be curtailed through death and deportation. The streams would flow like oil, smoothly, undisturbed.

Like professional "chanters" the surrounding nations (daughters of the nations; cf. v. 18) would be "hired" as mourners to chant a dirge over Egypt's fall.

7. THE DESCENT OF EGYPT INTO SHEOL (32:17-32) 32:17-21. Ezekiel's last of seven prophecies against Egypt came in the 12th year, on the 15th day of the month. The month was not named, but many interpreters assume it was the same month as the previous prophecy (v. 1). If so, the date of this message was March 17, 585 B.C., exactly two weeks after the preceding message. The message's theme was the consignment of the hosts of Egypt to Sheol. Since the language is highly poetic, Ezekiel's purpose was not to give a precise description of the afterlife. However, he did indicate that after death a person has no opportunity to change his destiny.

In his own funeral dirge for Egypt, Ezekiel assigned her to Sheol with her surrounding nations (the daughters of mighty nations; cf. v. 18), with those who go down to the pit. God's word of judgment was so sure that Egypt's appointment to the grave was already made.

Ezekiel derided both Pharaoh and his nation. Are you more favored than others? Go down and be laid among the uncircumcised. Egypt's pride would be shattered when her people were destroyed. She would be forced to take her place in death with "the uncircumcised." This phrase, used 10 times in chapter 32 (vv. 19, 21, 24-30, 32), described a death of shame and defeat (cf. comments on 28:10; 31:18). Every time Ezekiel used this phrase for death he associated it with defeat by the sword at the hands of one's enemies.

The descent of Egypt's defeated army and her allies into Sheol would be derided by the military men already there. They would observe that she had come down to lie with the uncircumcised, with those killed by the sword. Egypt exulted in her military prowess, but would be humbled in death, taking her place with other defeated nations.

32:22-32. Ezekiel described the nations that Egypt would join in Sheol. The descriptions are similar, for he spoke of each nation's being slain by the sword and being in the grave. All (except Edom) were said to have caused terror among those they attacked. Assyria is there with her whole army (v. 22; cf. v. 23). Assyria had already been used as an object lesson by Ezekiel (chap. 31). All Assyria's soldiers killed in battle were buried around her.

The second country mentioned by Ezekiel was Elam with all her hordes around her grave (32:24-25). Elam, east of Babylon, was a warlike nation (cf. Gen. 14:1-17). Though subdued by Assyria and conquered by Nebuchadnezzar (Jer. 49:34-39), Elam regained power and later became a major part of the Persian Empire. But Ezekiel was relenting only to the defeated Elamites of the past who were already in the grave.

The third group awaiting Egypt in the grave were the nations of Meshech and Tubal (Ezek. 32:26-27). "Meshech and Tubal," mentioned earlier (27:13), were probably located on the northern fringe of what is now eastern and central Turkey. They appear again in chapters 38-39 as Gog's allies. Aggressive Meshech and Tubal had carried on a long battle with the Assyrians for control of the area south of the Black Sea. Do they not lie with the other uncircumcised warriors who have fallen? Some scholars see this statement as a further judgment on Meshech and Tubal and translate it as an assertion ("they do not lie with . . "). However, it seems better to view it as the NIV renders it. Meshech and Tubal are not being singled out from the other countries but are included with them in judgment. The once-awesome might of these warriors had vanished, and they were now suffering the judgment due their sin.

Ezekiel paused to state why he spoke of the grave. You too, O Pharaoh, will be broken and will lie among the uncircumcised, with those killed by the sword (32:28). The fate of these other nations was an object lesson to Egypt. Like those once-powerful nations that were now in the grave, Pharaoh and his powerful army could expect the same late. Then Ezekiel resumed listing other nations. Edom is there, her kings and all her princes (v. 29). Edom had already received notice of God's judgment (cf. 25:12-14). Her leaders who had died were in Sheol awaiting Egypt's arrival. The final group in the grave was all the princes of the north and all the Sidonians (32:30). These "princes of the north," connected with Sidon, were probably the Phoenician city-states. All these mighty maritime powers suffered the same humiliating late: slain in disgrace despite the terror caused by their power. Their past exploits could not save them from the specter of death. They too were awaiting Egypt's appearance in Sheol. Ezekiel again mentioned Egypt's late (vv. 31-32). Pharaoh would have a perverted sense of comfort (be consoled) when he and his hordes would finally arrive in Sheol because he would see that he was not alone in his shame and humiliation. (Walvoord and Zuck, Bible Knowledge Commentary).

Herodotus on Apries {Hophra]

Psammis1 reigned over Egypt for only six years; he invaded Ethiopia, and immediately thereafter died, and Apries the son of Psammis reigned in his place. He was more blessed than any former king, except the first founder of his family, Psammetichus I, during his rule of twenty-five years, during which he sent an army against Sidon and engaged the Tyrian at sea. But when it was fated that evil should overtake him, that which is alleged as the cause of it was something that I will say a little, and more about it in the Libyan part of this history. Apries sent a great expedition against Cyrene which suffered a great defeat. The Egyptians blamed him for this and rebelled against him; for they thought that Apries had knowingly sent his men to their doom, so that after their death his rule over the rest of the Egyptians would be strengthened. Bitterly angered by this, those who returned home and the friends of the slain rose against him.

Apries sent Amasis to dissuade them, when he heard of this. Amasis met the Egyptians and he exhorted them to desist; but as he spoke an Egyptian put a helmet on his head from behind, saying it was the token of royalty. This wasn't unwelcome to Amasis and for after being crowned king by the rebelling Egyptians he prepared to march against Apries. When Apries heard of it, he sent against Amasis Egyptian of good reputation named Patarbemis, one of his own court, with the order to bring Amasis live into his presence. When Patarbemis came and summoned Amasis, Amasis, sitting on horseback, raised his leg and farted, telling the messenger to take that back to Apries. But when in spite of this Patarbemis insisted that Amasis obey the king's summons and go to him, Amasis answered that he had for some time been getting ready to do just that, and Apries would not find fault with him, for he would come himself and bring others with him.

Hearing this, Patarbemis could not be mistaken about his intentions; he saw his preparations and departed in a hurry, desiring quickly to make known to the king what was being done. When Apries saw him return without bringing Amasis, he didn't listen to what was being said and in his rage and fury had Patarbemis' ears and nose cut off. The rest of the Egyptians, who were still on his side, seeing this outrage done to the man who was most prominent among them, joined the revolt without delay and offered themselves to Amasis.

Hearing of this, too, Apries armed his mercenaries and marched against the Egyptians; he had a bodyguard of Carians and Ionians, numbering thirty thousand, and his royal palace was in the city of Sais, a great and worthy palace. Apries and his men marched against the Egyptians, and so did Amasis and his against the foreign mercenaries. So they both came to Memphis and were going to make trial of one another in fight. So when Apries leading his foreign mercenaries, and Amasis at the head of the army of Egyptians, in their approach to one another had reached the city of Memphis, they engaged in battle: and although the foreign mercenaries fought well, yet being much inferior in number they were defeated because of this. But Apries is said to have supposed that not even a god would be able to cause him to lose his rule, so firmly did he think that it was established. In that battle then, as I said, he was defeated, was taken alive and taken to the city of Sais, which had once been his own dwelling but from then on was to be the palace of Amasis. (Histories 2,161ff)

The Evil Behind the Throne

The Bible does not explain or justify the existence of God or of the devil; but the existence of evil is already clear by Genesis, Chapter 3. As the Bible unfolds we glean more and more information about the Tempter. He first appears in Genesis as a serpent---probably a dazzlingly beautiful creature who later became identified with the snakes we all tend to dread and fear. Satan may have appeared to Eve as a "shining one"---that is, an angel of light, a subtle counterfeit of the Presence of God who came to the garden regularly to fellowship with man.

Bible scholars agree that although on the surface Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 passages seem to be written about evil earthly kings, they are also figurative pictures telling us much more. Behind certain key individuals who have appeared on the world stage is a supernatural personality, an evil entity who controls and possesses men to varying degrees. When this "prince of the power of the air" takes full control of a Caesar, or a Hitler, or a Stalin we have what the Apostle John calls, "an antichrist."

Ultimately in history Satan will become fully incarnate in a "man of sin"---THE [one, unique, and final] Antichrist. Satan's attributes can be seen in powerful and evil human rulers of the past: the King of Babylon, the King of Tyre, the Caesars, Hitler, etc. Isaiah and Ezekiel seem to be telling us about one of the Mighty Cherubim, perhaps the greatest of the archangels, who fell because of pride:

"How are you fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How are you cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! You said in your heart,
'I will ascend into heaven,
I will exalt my throne above the stars of God:
I will sit upon the mount of the assembly, in the far north:
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;
I will be like the most High'.

"Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, to the depths of the Pit. Those who see you shall stare at you, and ponder over you, 'Is this the man who made the earth tremble, who shook kingdoms; who made the world like a desert, and overthrew its cities; who did not let his prisoners go home? All the kings of the nations lie in glory, every one in his own tomb. But you are cast out of your sepulcher, like a loathed, untimely birth, clothed with the slain, those thrust through with a sword, who go down to the stones of the Pit; like a dead body trodden under feet you will not be joined with them in burial, because you have destroyed your land, and slain your people. 'May the descendants of evildoers nevermore be named! Prepare slaughter for his sons because of the guilt of their fathers, lest they rise and possess the earth, and fill the face of the world with cities.'" (Isaiah 14:12-22) (Paraphrased KJV)

The connection of Satan with ancient Babylon establishes the great significance of embedded religious evil in the world--which dates back to Ham's grandson Nimrod. Revelation Chapter 17 carries the theme of false religion to its final form as "the great harlot" who works in league with secular governments to deceive mankind by means of religious error--one world religion--syncretic in nature but false.

In Ezekiel we have additional light on this fallen archangel who once enjoyed the highest place of authority in the invisible angelic government of God.

"Moreover the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 'Son of man, take up a lamentation over the king of Tyre, and say to him, 'Thus says the Lord God; you were the signet of perfection, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering, carnelian, topaz, and the diamond, beryl, onyx, and jasper, sapphire, emerald, and lapus lazuli, and gold; and wrought in gold were your settings and your engravings. On the day that you were created they were prepared. "You were the anointed guardian cherub who covers (guards), and I placed you there. You were upon the holy mountain of God; you walked in the midst of the stones of fire.

"You were blameless in your ways from the day that you were created, until iniquity was found in you. In the abundance of your trade you were filled with violence, and you sinned: so I cast you as profane from the mountain of God. And I have destroyed you, O covering (guarding) cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire. Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty, you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor: I cast you to the ground, I exposed you before kings, that they might feast their eyes on you. You have defiled your sanctuaries by the multitude of your iniquities, in the unrighteousness of your trade. Therefore I have brought forth fire from the midst of you, it consumed you, and I have turned you to ashes on the earth in the sight of all those who see you. All who know you among the peoples are appalled at you: you have come to a dreadful end, and shall be no more forever." (Ezekiel 28:1-19) (Paraphrased KJV)

While Satan is seen as behind all false religion in Isaiah, here in Ezekiel , Satan is also the archenemy of man in all areas of international commerce, trade, politics and banking. He is called "the god of this world" (or "age") in the new Testament. This aspect of social evil is consummated in the final destruction of "commercial Babylon in Revelation Chapter 18.

We usually think of Satan as responsible for the fall of man, our present fallen, mortal state as children of Adam. We think of the devil as the tempter and the enemy of our souls. But in addition to these roles he seems to have had some important place as "prime minister" in God's government of the physical universe. The universe we now live in has been damaged by the fall of man and the angels---it is now a dying old creation, subject to the degenerative principle known in physics as the "Second Law of Thermodynamics." Biblically speaking this is referred to in Romans,

"I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies." (8:18-23)

This passage links the redemption of the believer's physical body with the unveiling of a whole new creation which God has already prepared for those who love him.

That Ancient Serpent

Satan is given a number of titles and descriptors in the Bible. He is "the prince of this world (cosmos, the world system)," "the prince of the power of the air," "the god of this age (aion)," "the prince of demons," "the devil," "that ancient serpent," "the great red dragon," "the evil one," "the destroyer," "the tempter," "the accuser of the brethren," "the spirit that now works in the sons of disobedience," "a liar and a murderer from the beginning," "the deceiver."

Satan's actual power over the world can be seen in the offers he made to Jesus during the latter's 40 days' temptation in the wilderness, recorded in Matthew, Chapter 4. Satan is the ruler over fallen angels, (believed to number one-third of the angelic host according to Revelation 12:4). He is the opposer of God's Person; the counterfeiter of truth, "the deceiver of nations"

  Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, "If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread." But He answered and said, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'" Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: 'He shall give His angels charge over you,' and, 'In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.'" Jesus said to him, "It is written again, 'You shall not tempt the LORD your God.'" Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, "All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me." Then Jesus said to him, "Away with you, Satan! For it is written, 'You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.'" Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him. (Matthew 4:1-11)

Everything Satan does he must do by direct permission of God, as the book of Job clearly shows, so it is not as if there were two warring gods, one good and the other evil, (a philosophy known as "dualism"). The devil is a defeated enemy, his evil plan and power were undone by the work of Jesus on the cross though we wait in our time for his final defeat and removal from the heavens and the earth, by Michael the Archangel. If we look at circumstances around us it seems he is winning and gaining ground unchecked. If we open our Bibles, however, his defeat is spoken of repeatedly as an already accomplished fact. Christians have no need to fear the devil, although we are warned by the Apostle Peter,

"Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil goes around like a roaring lion, seeking some one to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experience of suffering is required of your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, establish, and strengthen you." (1 Peter 5:8-10)

Satan's Fall takes place in four stages according to the Bible. In Ezekiel we see him deposed from his high office in the heavenly places. But he still has access to God and he is presently still in the heavenlies. Revelation 12 describes a future day when the Archangel Michael will throw Satan out of heaven and confine him to earth:

And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, 'Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down.' And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death. 'Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time.'" (Revelation 12:7-12)

In Revelation 20 the last two phases of Satan's end are described briefly.

"Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. But after these things he must be released for a little while

Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea. They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them. The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever." (Revelation 20:1-3, 7-10)

Encyclopedia Phoeniciana Web site: More on ancient Tyre and Sidon (The Phoenicians)

Class notes and Audio: