Ezekiel 30 – A Fire in Egypt
A. The day of the LORD against Egypt.
1. (1-4) Woe is the day of the LORD for Egypt.
The word of the LORD came to me again, saying, “Son of man, prophesy and say, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD:
“Wail, ‘Woe to the day!’
For the day is near,
Even the day of the LORD is near;
It will be a day of clouds, the time of the Gentiles.
The sword shall come upon Egypt,
And great anguish shall be in Ethiopia,
When the slain fall in Egypt,
And they take away her wealth,
And her foundations are broken down.
a. Woe to the day: God told Ezekiel to prophesy a woe to the coming day of the LORD against Egypt. There would be a day of God’s intervention and vindication against Egypt, a day of clouds against them.
i. 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.” (Vawter and Hoppe)
ii. Day of the LORD: “From time to time a nation reaches a climax of oppression and moral decay from which God humbles and often destroys it. The final Day is yet to come when God will put down all sin wherever it is found. Thus previous Days of the Lord become patterns of the final Day.” (Wright)
iii. The day of Egypt’s reckoning would come. “The human heart is ever prone to put off the judgment of God, easily finding solace in the unfounded thought that if God’s visitation be postponed long enough, it may never occur at all.” (Feinberg)
iv. A day of clouds: 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.” (Wiersbe)
b. The sword shall come against Egypt: Judgment would come against Egypt and Ethiopia in the form of the sword of war against them. There would be many dead (the slain fall) and plunder for the enemy (they take away her wealth).
i. “Some two years, and you shall be miserably routed in the deserts of Libya; immediately after the civil war for eleven years together shall waste you; and then Nebuchadrezzar’s forces will be upon you; so that, whereas there may be about sixteen or eighteen years between the prophecy and its fulfilling, here is thirteen or fourteen of them taken up with sorrows and afflictions, forerunners of the last.” (Poole)
2. (5-9) Judgment upon the regions and peoples of Egypt.
“Ethiopia, Libya, Lydia, all the mingled people, Chub, and the men of the lands who are allied, shall fall with them by the sword.” ‘Thus says the LORD:
“Those who uphold Egypt shall fall,
And the pride of her power shall come down.
From Migdol to Syene
Those within her shall fall by the sword,”
Says the Lord GOD.
“They shall be desolate in the midst of the desolate countries,
And her cities shall be in the midst of the cities that are laid waste.
Then they will know that I am the LORD,
When I have set a fire in Egypt
And all her helpers are destroyed.
On that day messengers shall go forth from Me in ships
To make the careless Ethiopians afraid,
And great anguish shall come upon them,
As on the day of Egypt;
For indeed it is coming!”
a. Ethiopia, Libya, Lydia: The judgment of God through war would not only come against Egypt but against her whole sphere of influence. All those allied with her shall fall with them by the sword.
i. All the mingled people: “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. Ezekiel 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.” (Feinberg)
b. The pride of her power shall come down: Egypt and her rulers were well known for their pride. God promised to bring this proud one down. God promised to set a fire in Egypt, and her allies would become desolate countries.
i. When I have set a fire in Egypt: “War is fitly compared to fire; it feeds upon the people.” (Trapp)
ii. “Fire is a common figure in the Scriptures for war and its ravages (cf. Ezekiel 30:14, 16; Ezekiel 15:5; 39:6). Just as fire is all-consuming and irresistible, so the visitation of God would do its work of extermination and extirpation.” (Feinberg)
iii. All her helpers are destroyed: “The destruction of so many and powerful aids shall prove that it was God’s hand did it.” (Poole)
c. Great anguish shall come upon them: Fearful judgment would come upon Ethiopia as well as upon Egypt. When the messengers sent by God (shall go forth from Me) came in ships to Ethiopia, they would also fear.
i. “Ships can ascend the Nile up to Syene or Essuan, by the cataracts; and when Nebuchadnezzar’s vessels went up, they struck terror into the Ethiopians. They are represented here as the ‘messengers of God.’” (Clarke)
ii. “This anguish would be caused by the fact that all who had helped her would be made desolate, thus sharing in her judgment.” (Morgan)
iii. “Throughout her history she had made much use of the force and arms of her allies, but in the crucial and all-determining hour they would be useless to her.” (Feinberg)
3. (10-12) Nebuchadnezzar’s destruction of Egypt.
‘Thus says the Lord GOD:
“I will also make a multitude of Egypt to cease
By the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon.
He and his people with him, the most terrible of the nations,
Shall be brought to destroy the land;
They shall draw their swords against Egypt,
And fill the land with the slain.
I will make the rivers dry,
And sell the land into the hand of the wicked;
I will make the land waste, and all that is in it,
By the hand of aliens.
I, the LORD, have spoken.”
a. I will also make a multitude of Egypt to cease: Through either death or captivity (Ezekiel 29:12), God would use Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon to take many people from Egypt.
i. His people with him, the most terrible of the nations: “Nebuchadrezzar will not come alone. He will be accompanied by his troops and a host of alien forces described as ‘the most barbarous of nations,’ an expression that struck terror in the heart of anyone.” (Block)
b. I will make the rivers dry, and sell the land into the hand of the wicked: God promised to bring widespread destruction upon Egypt, so great that even the water from the life-giving Nile to the associated rivers would seem to fail them. God would make the land waste through the armies of aliens He brought upon them.
i. “By rivers, we may understand the various canals cut from the Nile to carry water into the different parts of the land. When the Nile did not rise to its usual height these canals were quite dry.” (Clarke)
ii. I, the LORD, have spoken: “Behind the hand of foreigners, who appear to act as his agents, is the word of God (I, the Lord, have spoken), which is the all-powerful ultimate agent which can turn spoken prophecy into actual fact.” (Taylor)
4. (13-19) Judgment on the regions and cities of Egypt.
‘Thus says the Lord GOD:
“I will also destroy the idols,
And cause the images to cease from Noph;
There shall no longer be princes from the land of Egypt;
I will put fear in the land of Egypt.
I will make Pathros desolate,
Set fire to Zoan,
And execute judgments in No.
I will pour My fury on Sin, the strength of Egypt;
I will cut off the multitude of No,
And set a fire in Egypt;
Sin shall have great pain,
No shall be split open,
And Noph shall be in distress daily.
The young men of Aven and Pi Beseth shall fall by the sword,
And these cities shall go into captivity.
At Tehaphnehes the day shall also be darkened,
When I break the yokes of Egypt there.
And her arrogant strength shall cease in her;
As for her, a cloud shall cover her,
And her daughters shall go into captivity.
Thus I will execute judgments on Egypt,
Then they shall know that I am the LORD.”’”
a. I will also destroy the idols: When God long before sent the plagues against Egypt (Exodus 7-11), each plague was directed against one of their idols. Now, many hundreds of years later, God promised to once again destroy the idols of Egypt, by bringing judgment to the land and exalting Himself over them.
i. “Herodotus writeth that Cambyses wasted with the sword Egypt and Ethiopia, killed their god Apis, and defaced all their idols. This he did, doubtless, rather in scorn of all religion than hatred of idolatry.” (Trapp)
ii. “The Greek historian Herodotus related how Cambyses of Persia, son of Cyrus the Great, took Pelusium by setting before his army cats and dogs, sacred to Egypt, which the Egyptians would not attack.” (Feinberg)
iii. “I have walked over what is supposed to be the ruins of Memphis, and all that is left of the idols is one great big statue of Raamses. It lies on its back, and a building has been erected around it to house the statue. That is the only thing left in Memphis. God did exactly what He said He was going to do. He made the idols to cease.” (McGee)
iv. I will put fear in the land of Egypt: “When Yahweh begins to work in Egypt, there will be fear in the land, not the reverence of devotees toward their deities or kings, but terror before Yahweh himself. Neither foolish idols nor self-proclaimed pharaonic divinities will hold his devastating fury at bay.” (Block)
b. I will make Pathros desolate, set fire to Zoan: Beginning with Noph, God listed many Egyptian cities that would specifically experience His judgment. Of the land as a whole, arrogant strength shall cease in her, and instead of a cloud of God’s glory, a cloud of judgment shall cover her. Many of Egypt’s daughters would go into captivity.
i. “So many cities were mentioned in this section to show how universal the judgment would be.” (Feinberg)
ii. Her daughters: “Either metaphorically, i.e. the towns and villages about her, or literally, her children; her daughters only mentioned, because her sons were destroyed and slain.” (Poole)
c. Then they shall know that I am the LORD: God would reveal Himself through His judgments. Every observant eye could and would see that the God of Israel, Yahweh (the LORD), was Lord and God.
i. “During Israel’s sojourn in Egypt, Pharaoh wouldn’t recognize the Lord; but now the nation would learn that the Lord God of the Hebrews was indeed the only true and living God.” (Wiersbe)
B. Pharaoh’s broken arms.
1. (20-21) Yahweh breaks the arm of Pharaoh.
And it came to pass in the eleventh year, in the first month, on the seventh day of the month, that the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Son of man, I have broken the arm of Pharaoh king of Egypt; and see, it has not been bandaged for healing, nor a splint put on to bind it, to make it strong enough to hold a sword.
a. The eleventh year, in the first month: This was another of Ezekiel’s prophecies with a specific date. This fourth prophecy against Egypt was given about four months before the fall of Jerusalem.
i. At that time, “Many were still looking to Egypt in hope of help from her. Indeed, as we saw in reading Jeremiah 37, Pharaoh had made a movement with his hosts out of Egypt, and this had caused the Chaldeans temporarily to abandon the siege of Jerusalem” (Morgan). God wanted Jerusalem and Judah to know that Egypt had no power, no strength to help her.
b. I have broken the arm of Pharaoh: As an act of judgment and as a demonstration of His strength, God metaphorically broke the arm of Pharaoh and it had been bandaged for healing. It was therefore not strong enough to hold a sword, leaving Pharaoh and Egypt defenseless.
i. “The breaking of the arm of Pharaoh may refer to the unsuccessful attempt of Egypt to help Jerusalem in the invasion of Nebuchadnezzar (see Jeremiah 37:5 ff.).”
ii. “The flexed arm was a common Egyptian symbol for the Pharaoh’s strength. Often statues or images of the Pharaoh have this arm flexed, wielding a sword in battle. A king with great biceps was especially a popular concept under the Saites Dynasty of Ezekiel’s day. In addition Hophra took a second formal title that meant ‘possessed of a muscular arm’ or ‘strong-armed.’” (Alexander)
2. (22-23) Yahweh breaks both arms of Pharaoh.
Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: ‘Surely I am against Pharaoh king of Egypt, and will break his arms, both the strong one and the one that was broken; and I will make the sword fall out of his hand. I will scatter the Egyptians among the nations, and disperse them throughout the countries.
a. Will break his arms, both the strong one and the one that was broken: The picture of the broken arm of Pharaoh depicted in Ezekiel 30:20-21 was not strong enough to communicate how helpless Pharaoh and Egypt would be against God’s coming judgment. Therefore, according to the image, God also broke the other arm, the strong one. Egypt was completely defenseless (I will make the sword fall out of his hand).
b. I will scatter the Egyptians among the nations: As previously spoken in Ezekiel 29:12 and Ezekiel 30:26, conquest and captivity were to come upon defenseless Egypt.
3. (24-26) Egypt and Babylon.
I will strengthen the arms of the king of Babylon and put My sword in his hand; but I will break Pharaoh’s arms, and he will groan before him with the groanings of a mortally wounded man. Thus I will strengthen the arms of the king of Babylon, but the arms of Pharaoh shall fall down; they shall know that I am the LORD, when I put My sword into the hand of the king of Babylon and he stretches it out against the land of Egypt. I will scatter the Egyptians among the nations and disperse them throughout the countries. Then they shall know that I am the LORD.’”
a. I will strengthen the arms of the king of Babylon and put My sword in his hand: Even as God weakened Egypt and made Pharaoh defenseless, God would also strengthen Nebuchadnezzar and even give him the sword of God’s judgment. Pharaoh could only groan under the judgment God would bring.
i. “The effects of Yahweh’s action against the pharaoh go beyond neutralizing his power. The prediction that he will groan [lit. ‘groan groanings’] before him like one slain implies that Pharaoh himself will be killed.” (Block)
ii. “By the time Nebuchadrezzar invaded Egypt, after the siege of Tyre was ended, Hophra had been killed in civil war. He had conducted a disastrous campaign in Libya, which brought on a major revolt from a rival faction under Ahmose, who was eventually responsible for doing him to death.” (Taylor)
iii. God would do to both Egypt and Babylon as served His love, His righteousness, and His justice. He would work on, in, and through them to advance His plan of the ages.
iv. “These apparently mighty monarchs of Egypt and Babylon were both in the hands of Jehovah. Their apparent successes and failures resulted from His action. They were completely in His power.” (Morgan)
b. I will scatter the Egyptians among the nations: The prediction of scattering and exile is repeated once more. God would do this, and through it reveal Himself among the nations (Then they shall know that I am the LORD).