Bible Study: Ezekiel 29 – Prophecy against Egypt

The book of Ezekiel is one of the major prophets in the Old Testament. It was authored by Ezekiel who was set as a watchman to the house of Israel.

Ezek 3:17 “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore hear a word from My mouth, and give them warning from Me:

The twenty-ninth chapter of Ezekiel is about prophecy against Egypt.

Prophecy against Egypt

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Ezek 29:1 In the tenth year, in the tenth month, on the twelfth day of the month, the word of the LORD came to me, saying,

As we saw in chapter 26, the 11th year of King Zedekiah is 586 BC. However, this chapter goes back with 10th year. The problem is with overlapping references. Ezekiel begins with the 5th year of King Jehoiachin’s captivity which is 593 BC as we saw in chapter 1. Hence, 10th year is 583 BC – three years after the destruction of Jerusalem with reference to captivity of King Jehoiachin.

Ezek 29:2-7 “Son of man, set your face against Pharaoh king of Egypt, and prophesy against him, and against all Egypt. “Speak, and say, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, I am against you, O Pharaoh king of Egypt, O great monster who lies in the midst of his rivers, Who has said, ‘My River is my own; I have made it for myself.’ But I will put hooks in your jaws, And cause the fish of your rivers to stick to your scales; I will bring you up out of the midst of your rivers, And all the fish in your rivers will stick to your scales. I will leave you in the wilderness, You and all the fish of your rivers; You shall fall on the open field; You shall not be picked up or gathered. I have given you as food To the beasts of the field And to the birds of the heavens. Then 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. When they took hold of you with the hand, You broke and tore all their shoulders; When they leaned on you, You broke and made all their backs quiver.”

A bit of background: When Nebuchadnezzar surrounded Jerusalem, the king of Judah sent messengers to Egypt for help. The king of Egypt did send help but was defeated. This is exactly what God calls as staff of reed to the house of Israel.

God is explaining why He was angry with the Pharaoh of Egypt:

  1. God calls Pharaoh a great monster who in in pride of the river Nile.
  2. Egypt was the confidence of house of Israel rather than God

God is against the pride of Pharaoh. He is also against anyone to whom His people keep their confidence rather than Him.

Forty Year Prophecy

Ezek 29:8-12 ‘Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: “Surely I will bring a sword upon you and cut off from you man and beast. And the land of Egypt shall become desolate and waste; then they will know that I am the LORD, because he said, ‘The River is mine, and I have made it.’ Indeed, therefore, I am against you and against your rivers, and I will make the land of Egypt utterly waste and desolate, from Migdol to Syene, as far as the border of Ethiopia. Neither foot of man shall pass through it nor foot of beast pass through it, and it shall be uninhabited forty years. I will make the land of Egypt desolate in the midst of the countries that are desolate; and among the cities that are laid waste, her cities shall be desolate forty years; and I will scatter the Egyptians among the nations and disperse them throughout the countries.”

Below is the region in Egypt from Migdol to Syene, up to the border of Ethiopia, where the land will be desolate for 40 years.

map-of-egypt-in-bible-times

It is important to note the land of Egypt was not recorded in history to be desolate which could mean the prophecy is a future event (or) we may have misunderstood and missed it as we don’t have every single detail in history. It is also entirely possible the Lord may have been merciful just as He was with Nineveh and postponed it.

Ezek 29:13-16 ‘Yet, thus says the Lord GOD: “At the end of forty years I will gather the Egyptians from the peoples among whom they were scattered. I will bring back the captives of Egypt and cause them to return to the land of Pathros, to the land of their origin, and there they shall be a lowly kingdom. It shall be the lowliest of kingdoms; it shall never again exalt itself above the nations, for I will diminish them so that they will not rule over the nations anymore. No longer shall it be the confidence of the house of Israel, but will remind them of their iniquity when they turned to follow them. Then they shall know that I am the Lord GOD.”

The land of Pathros is generally identified with Upper Egypt. With lack of accurate and detailed history of Egypt, it is not possible to identify the elements in the prophecy.

Nebuchadnezzar will plunder

Ezek 29:17-21 And it came to pass in the twenty-seventh year, in the first month, on the first day of the month, that the word of the LORD came to me, saying, Son of man, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon caused his army to labor strenuously against Tyre; every head was made bald, and every shoulder rubbed raw; yet neither he nor his army received wages from Tyre, for the labor which they expended on it.

It is highly likely the 27th year is a reference from King Jehoiachin’s captivity which is around 571 BC.  This correctly coincides with the siege of Tyre by Babylon (586–573 BC) which happened just 2 years before the prophecy was given. Cuneiform text, BM 33041 seems to refer a campaign against the king of Egypt by Nebuchadnezzar in his 37th year of reign which is 568/7, three years after Ezekiel prophesied. Josephus (Ant X-IX 7) also mentions about Nebuchadnezzar invading Egypt during this time.

Ezek 29:19-21 “Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: ‘Surely I will give the land of Egypt to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon; he shall take away her wealth, carry off her spoil, and remove her pillage; and that will be the wages for his army. I have given him the land of Egypt for his labor, because they worked for Me,’ says the Lord GOD. In that day I will cause the horn of the house of Israel to spring forth, and I will open your mouth to speak in their midst. Then they shall know that I am the LORD.’

Looking into the passages, Nebuchadnezzar did not conquer to establish his rule over Egypt but rather, it was a raid to plunder. Hence, Nebuchadnezzar might have raided and plundered the wealth of Egypt.