The Word Made Fresh
1On the twelfth day of the tenth month in the tenth year, the LORD’s word came to me: 2“Son of man, turn now and face Egypt. Prophesy against Pharaoh and against all of Egypt. 3Speak out. Say, thus says the LORD God:
“I am against you, Pharaoh, king of Egypt.
You are like a great dragon playing in its rivers,
saying, ‘The Nile belongs to me; I made it myself.’
4I will place a hook in your mouth
and make the fish in your waters stick to your scales.
I will put you out of your rivers
with all the fish sticking to your scales.
5Then I will throw you into the desert,
together with all the fish in your rivers.
You will be scattered in the open fields
and you will not be gathered up for burial.
I have given you as food to all the animals of the earth
and to all the birds of the air.
6“Then everyone in Egypt will know that I am the LORD. You were a walking stick made of reeds for Israel. 7You broke when they grasped you in their hands, and tore your shoulders. When they leaned on you, you collapsed, unsteady on your legs.
8“And that,” says the LORD God, “is why I will attack you with the sword and separate you from people and animals. 9Then Egypt will be an empty desert, and they will know that I am the LORD. You claim to have made the Nile, and that it belongs to you. 10So, I am against you and your rivers, and I will turn Egypt into an empty wasteland from Migdol to Syene and as far as the border of Cush. 11No one will pass through it, not even animals. It will be completely uninhabited for forty years. 12Egypt will be nothing more than a wasteland in the midst of countries that are desolated. Her cities will be rubble for forty years along with other cities. I will scatter the Egyptians throughout the nations.
13“Then,” says the LORD, “after forty years I will bring the Egyptians back from the countries where they were scattered. 14I will restore their fortunes and bring them back to the land of Pathros where they had once lived, and there they will be 15the weakest of all the kingdoms. They will never again exalt themselves. I will make them so insignificant that they won’t be able to rule over other nations. 16The rulers of Israel will never again rely on Egypt, but will remember the mistake of turning to them for help. Then they will know that I am the LORD.”
17On the first day of the first month of the twenty-seventh year, the LORD’s word came to me:
18“Son of man, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon made his soldiers exhaust themselves against Tyre – their heads were bald, and their shoulders were rubbed bare. But neither Nebuchadnezzar nor his soldiers took anything from Tyre that would compensate them for all their hard work. 19So,” the LORD God said, “I will give the land of Egypt to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. He will haul off their wealth, and they will be destroyed and plundered – that will serve as wages for his army. 20I have given Egypt to him as payment for the work he did for me,” says the LORD God.
21“When that happens, I will strengthen the house of Israel and you will speak to them. Then they will know that I am the LORD.”
1-12: We go back in time a few months to hear the pronouncements against Egypt. There will be seven oracles in all, Egypt receiving a bit more attention than did Tyre. Egypt did not share a border with Judah as did Edom, Philistia, and some of the others, and is several hundred miles away from Judah, all the way across the Sinai Peninsula and beyond. The prophecy against Egypt is primarily against the Pharaoh, but includes the whole country. The crime of Egypt is much the same as that of Tyre – haughtiness and arrogance. The Egyptians claim that their gods made the Nile, and what’s worse, when Judah called on them for help Egypt was not helpful. The judgment against Egypt is that it will become a wasteland, no one will live there for 40 years, and the people of Egypt will be scattered among the nations — another example of the hyperbole which characterizes many of Ezekiel’s pronouncements.
13-16: However, in a curious double reversal of fortune, Egypt will be restored. The people are allowed to return after 40 years but their return will be no cause for great rejoicing because Egypt is condemned to forever be a second-rate nation.
17-21: Skip ahead some years. The mention of the 27th year is likely intended to refer to the 27th year of Judah’s King Jehoiachin’s exile (2 Kings 24:12), and that being the case, we can place this one pretty accurately: it is 571 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar’s siege of Tyre has been less than successful. The Tyrean king has surrendered to him but the expected riches from sacking the city never materialize. This is in contrast to what Ezekiel predicted (26:21). To compensate, the Babylonians will sack Egypt, and that will be Nebuchadnezzar’s army’s wages for their labors against Tyre. In verse 21 Ezekiel prophesies that Israel will be strengthened (literally, “a horn will sprout for the house of Israel”). The “horn” is normally a reference to kings in the line of David (see Psalm 132:17), and it may be that Ezekiel intends that there will be a restoration of the throne of David. “And you will speak to them” would then mean that Ezekiel will live to see the day.
The witness of scripture is that God often lets human history take its human (sinful) course until it reaches a point God can no longer allow; then God takes action that is not pleasant, to say the least. A loving God becomes an angry God, and humanity pays a heavy price. As individuals, our course should be to continue a path of obedience to God in our own lives, regardless of the path society may be choosing.