This and the three following chapters foretell the conquest of Egypt by Nebuchadnezzar, which he accomplished in the twenty-seventh year of Jehoiachin's captivity. The same event is foretold by Jeremiah, Jeremiah 46:13, etc. The prophecy opens with God's charging the king of Egypt (Pharaoh-hophra) with the same extravagant pride and profanity which were in the preceding chapter laid to the charge of the prince of Tyre. He appears, like him, to have affected Divine honors; and boasted so much of the strength of his kingdom, that, as an ancient historian (Herodotus) tells us, he impiously declared that God himself could not dispossess him. Wherefore the prophet, with great majesty, addresses him under the image of one of those crocodiles or monsters which inhabited that river, of whose riches and revenue he vaunted; and assures him that, with as much ease as a fisherman drags the fish he has hooked, God would drag him and his people into captivity, and that their carcasses should fall a prey to the beasts of the field and to the fowls of heaven, Ezekiel 29:1-7. The figure is then dropped; and God is introduced denouncing, in plain terns, the most awful judgments against him and his nation, and declaring that the Egyptians should be subjected to the Babylonians till the fall of the Chaldean empire, Ezekiel 29:8-12. The prophet then foretells that Egypt, which was about to be devastated by the Babylonians, and many of the people carried into captivity, should again become a kingdom; but that it should never regain its ancient political importance; for, in the lapse of time, it should be even the Basest of the kingdoms, a circumstance in the prophecy most literally fulfilled, especially under the Christian dispensation, in its government by the Mameluke slaves, Ezekiel 29:13-16. The prophecy, beginning at the seventeenth verse, is connected with the foregoing, as it relates to the same subject, though delivered about seventeen years later. Nebuchadnezzar and his army, after the long siege of Tyre, which made every head bald by constantly wearing their helmets, and wore the skin of off every shoulder by carrying burdens to raise the fortifications, were disappointed of the spoil which they expected, by the retiring of the inhabitants to Carthage. God, therefore, promises him Egypt for his reward, Ezekiel 29:17-20. The chapter concludes with a prediction of the return of the Jews from the Babylonish captivity, Ezekiel 29:21.
In the tenth year, in the tenth month, in the twelfth day of the month, the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,In the tenth year - Of Zedekiah; and tenth of the captivity of Jeconiah.
The ten month, in the twelfth day of the month - Answering to Monday, the first of February, A.M. 3415.
Son of man, set thy face against Pharaoh king of Egypt, and prophesy against him, and against all Egypt:Set thy face against Pharaoh king of Egypt - This was Pharaoh-hophra or Pharaoh-apries, whom we have so frequently met with in the prophecies of Jeremiah, and much of whose history has been given in the notes.
Speak, and say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against thee, Pharaoh king of Egypt, the great dragon that lieth in the midst of his rivers, which hath said, My river is mine own, and I have made it for myself.The great dragon - התנים hattannim should here be translated crocodile, as that is a real animal, and numerous in the Nile; whereas the dragon is wholly fabulous. The original signifies any large animal.
The midst of his rivers - This refers to the several branches of the Nile, by which this river empties itself into the Mediterranean. The ancients termed them septem ostia Nili, "the seven mouths of the Nile." The crocodile was the emblem of Egypt.
But I will put hooks in thy jaws, and I will cause the fish of thy rivers to stick unto thy scales, and I will bring thee up out of the midst of thy rivers, and all the fish of thy rivers shall stick unto thy scales.I will put hooks in thy jaws - Amasis, one of this king's generals, being proclaimed king by an insurrection of the people, dethroned Apries, and seized upon the kingdom; and Apries was obliged to flee to Upper Egypt for safety.
I will cause the fish - to stick unto thy scales - Most fish are sorely troubled with a species of insect which bury their heads in their flesh, under their scales, and suck out the vital juices. The allusion seems to be to this. Pharaoh was the crocodile; the fish, the common people; and the sticking to his scales, the insurrection by which he was wasted and despoiled of his kingdom.
And I will leave thee thrown into the wilderness, thee and all the fish of thy rivers: thou shalt fall upon the open fields; thou shalt not be brought together, nor gathered: I have given thee for meat to the beasts of the field and to the fowls of the heaven.I will leave thee thrown into the wilderness - Referring to his being obliged to take refuge in Upper Egypt. But he was afterwards taken prisoner, and strangled by Amasis. Herod. lib. 2 s.
And all the inhabitants of Egypt shall know that I am the LORD, because they have been a staff of reed to the house of Israel.They have been a staff of reed - An inefficient and faithless ally. The Israelites expected assistance from them when Nebuchadnezzar came against Jerusalem; and they made a feint to help them, but retired when Nebuchadnezzar went against them. Thus were the Jews deceived and ultimately ruined, see Ezekiel 29:7.
When they took hold of thee by thy hand, thou didst break, and rend all their shoulder: and when they leaned upon thee, thou brakest, and madest all their loins to be at a stand.
Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will bring a sword upon thee, and cut off man and beast out of thee.
And the land of Egypt shall be desolate and waste; and they shall know that I am the LORD: because he hath said, The river is mine, and I have made it.
Behold, therefore I am against thee, and against thy rivers, and I will make the land of Egypt utterly waste and desolate, from the tower of Syene even unto the border of Ethiopia.From the tower of Syene - ממגדל מונה mimmigdol seveneh, "from Migdol to Syene." Syene, now called Essuan, was the last city in Egypt, going towards Ethiopia. It was famous for a well into which the rays of the sun fell perpendicularly at midday.
No foot of man shall pass through it, nor foot of beast shall pass through it, neither shall it be inhabited forty years.
And I will make the land of Egypt desolate in the midst of the countries that are desolate, and her cities among the cities that are laid waste shall be desolate forty years: and I will scatter the Egyptians among the nations, and will disperse them through the countries.Shall be desolate forty years - The country from Migdol or Magdolan, which was on the isthmus between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea, was so completely ruined, that it might well be called desert; and it is probable that this desolation continued during the whole of the reign of Amasis, which was just forty years. See Herod. lib. 3 c. 10; and see Calmet.
Yet thus saith the Lord GOD; At the end of forty years will I gather the Egyptians from the people whither they were scattered:Will I gather the Egyptians - It is probable that Cyrus gave permission to the Egyptians brought to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar, to return to their own country. And if we reckon from the commencement of the war against Pharaoh-hophra by Nebuchadnezzar, to the third or fourth year of Cyrus, the term will be about forty years.
And I will bring again the captivity of Egypt, and will cause them to return into the land of Pathros, into the land of their habitation; and they shall be there a base kingdom.Into the land of Pathros - Supposed to mean the Delta, a country included between the branches of the Nile, called Δ delta, from its being in the form of the Greek letter of that name. It may mean the Pathrusim, in Upper Egypt, near to the Thebaid. This is most likely.
Shall be there a base kingdom - That is, it shall continue to be tributary. It is upwards of two thousand years since this prophecy was delivered, and it has been uninterruptedly fulfilling to the present hour.
1. Egypt became tributary to the Babylonians under Amasis.
2. After the ruin of the Babylonish empire, it became subject to the Persians.
3. After the Persians, it came into the hands of the Macedonians.
4. After the Macedonians it fell into the hands of the Romans.
5. After the division of the Roman empire it was subdued by the Saracens.
6. About a.d. 1250, it came into the hands of the Mameluke slaves.
7. Selim, the ninth emperor of the Turks, conquered the Mamelukes, a.d. 1517, and annexed Egypt to the Ottoman empire, of which it still continues to be a province, governed by a pacha and twenty-four beys, who are always advanced from servitude to the administration of public affairs. So true is it that Egypt, once so glorious, is the basest of kingdoms. See Newton on the prophecies.
It shall be the basest of the kingdoms; neither shall it exalt itself any more above the nations: for I will diminish them, that they shall no more rule over the nations.
And it shall be no more the confidence of the house of Israel, which bringeth their iniquity to remembrance, when they shall look after them: but they shall know that I am the Lord GOD.
And it came to pass in the seven and twentieth year, in the first month, in the first day of the month, the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,The seven and twentieth year - That is, of the captivity of Jeconiah, fifteen years after the taking of Jerusalem; about April 20, 3432. The preceding prophecy was delivered one year before the taking of Jerusalem; this, sixteen years after; and it is supposed to be the last which this prophet wrote.
Son of man, Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon caused his army to serve a great service against Tyrus: every head was made bald, and every shoulder was peeled: yet had he no wages, nor his army, for Tyrus, for the service that he had served against it:Caused his army to serve a great service against Tyrus - He was thirteen years employed in the siege. See Joseph. Antiq. lib. 10 c. 11. In this siege his soldiers endured great hardships. Being continually on duty, their heads became bald by wearing their helmets; and their shoulders bruised and peeled by carrying baskets of earth to the fortifications, and wood, etc., to build towers, etc.
Yet had he no wages, nor his army - The Tyrians, finding it at last impossible to defend their city, put all their wealth aboard their vessels, sailed out of the port, and escaped for Carthage; and thus Nebuchadnezzar lost all the spoil of one of the richest cities in the world.
Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will give the land of Egypt unto Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon; and he shall take her multitude, and take her spoil, and take her prey; and it shall be the wages for his army.
I have given him the land of Egypt for his labour wherewith he served against it, because they wrought for me, saith the Lord GOD.I have given him the land of Egypt for his labor - Because he fulfilled the designs of God against Tyre, God promises to reward him with the spoil of Egypt.
In that day will I cause the horn of the house of Israel to bud forth, and I will give thee the opening of the mouth in the midst of them; and they shall know that I am the LORD.Will I cause the horn of the house of Israel to bud - This may refer generally to the restoration; but particularly to Zerubbabel, who became one of the leaders of the people from Babylon. Or it may respect Daniel, or Mordecai, or Jeconiah, who, about this time, was brought out of prison by Evil-merodach, and afterwards kindly treated.