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Ezekiel 29

 

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
    Oracles Against the Nations
(25:1-32:32)
   
Judgment of Egypt Proclamation Against Egypt Against Egypt Prophecy Against Egypt Against Egypt
29:1-7 29:1-7 29:1-7 29:1-6a 29:1-7
(3b-7) (3b-5) (3b-7)   (3b-7)
  (6-7)   29:6b-9a  
29:8-9b 29:8-16 29:8-9b   29:8-16
      29:9b-12  
29:9c-12   29:9c-12    
29:13-16   29:13-16 29:13-16  
  Babylonia Will Plunder Egypt   King Nebuchadnezzar Will Conquer Egypt  
29:17-20 29:17-20 29:17-20 29:17-20 29:17
        29:18-20
29:21 29:21 29:21 29:21 29:21

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the four modern translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. The prophecies against Egypt run from 29:1 through 32:32. Egypt was an active political influence during this period of Judean history. She tried to offer political security against Babylon. Egypt promised aid to Judah and Tyre; she promised more than she could perform (cf. Isa. 30:1-3; 31:1-3; Jer. 2:18,36; Lam. 4:17).

 

B. The characteristic literary marker, "the word of the Lord came to me saying," occurs seven times in this literary unit.

1. 29:1 (587 b.c.)

2. 29:17 (571 b.c.)

3. 30:1

4. 30:20

5. 31:1

6. 32:1

7. 32:17

All are dated except number 3, why is unknown.

 

C. The first date (i.e., 29:1) is about a year after Nebuchadnezzar's siege of Jerusalem began. Apparently Egypt fielded her army against Nebuchadnezzar's forces (cf. Jer. 37:7), but quickly retreated.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:29:1-7
 1In the tenth year, in the tenth month, on the twelfth of the month, the word of the Lord came to me saying, 2"Son of man, set your face against Pharaoh king of Egypt and prophesy against him and against all Egypt.
 3Speak and say, 'Thus says the Lord God,
 "Behold, I am against you, Pharaoh king of Egypt,
 The great monster that lies in the midst of his rivers,
 That has said, 'My Nile is mine, and I myself have made it.'
 4I will put hooks in your jaws
 And make the fish of your rivers cling to your scales.
 And I will bring you up out of the midst of your rivers,
 And all the fish of your rivers will cling to your scales.
 5I will abandon you to the wilderness, you and all the fish of your rivers;
 You will fall on the open field; you will not be brought together or gathered.
 I have given you for food to the beasts of the earth and to the birds of the sky.
 6Then all the inhabitants of Egypt will know that I am the Lord,
 Because they have been only a staff made of reed to the house of Israel.
 7When they took hold of you with the hand,
 You broke and tore all their hands;
 And when they leaned on you,
 You broke and made all their loins quake."

29:1 There is a series of dates mentioned in connection with this literary unit related to God's judgment on Egypt (i.e., 29:1-32:32). See note at Contextual Insights, B.

29:2 "Son of man" See note at 2:1.

▣ "set your face against" See note at 28:21.

▣ "set. . .prophesy. . .speak" These are all commands.

1. "set," BDB 962, KB 1321, Qal imperative

2. "prophesy," BDB 612, KB 659, Niphal imperative

3. "speak," v. 3, BDB 180, KB 210, Piel imperative

These are not Ezekiel's words nor his message!

29:3-7 This is a poetic lamentation.

29:3 "the Lord God" This is the recurrent title for deity (i.e., Adonai YHWH), used so often in the book of Ezekiel. See Special Topic at 2:4.

▣ "Pharaoh" This (BDB 829, KB 971) is the characteristic title for Egyptian kings starting with the Eighteenth Dynasty. It means "the great house" (i.e., royal family).

▣ "That has said, ‘My Nile is mine, and I myself have made it'" As the king of Tyre claimed deity (cf. 28:2,9), so too, the Pharaohs of Egypt (cf. v. 9b). The name of the Pharaoh at that time was Hophra (589-570 b.c.). Herodotus mentions his claim to divine power in 2.169. The Nile and the sun were the chief deities of Egypt (i.e., depending on the city and the particular Pharaoh).

▣ "the great monster" This term (BDB 1072) means

1. serpent, Exod. 7:9,1012; Deut. 32:33; Ps. 91:13

2. dragon, Neh. 2:13; Jer. 51:34

3. sea/river monster, Gen. 1:21; Job 7:12; Ps. 74:13; 148:7. It is parallel to Leviathan (cf. Psalm 74:13-14). It is used as a metaphor for Egypt in Isa. 27:1; 51:9,10; Ezek. 29:3; 32:2.

The two great river systems of the Ancient Near East were the cradles of civilization (i.e., the Nile and the Tigris/Euphrates).

Tanin (BDB 1072) is parallel with

1. Leviathan, Ps. 74:13-14; Isa. 27:1

2. Rahab, Isa. 51:9

3. Bashan, Ps. 68:22; Amos 9:3 (cf. NIDOTTE, vol. 3, p. 87)

The context shows us that "serpent, dragon, sea-monster" (BDB 1072) is a better word choice than "jackal" (BDB 1072), though both are philologically possible.

29:4-8 These verses describe what YHWH will do to the arrogant leaders of Egypt.

1. I shall put hooks in your jaws, v. 4

2. I shall make the fish cling to your scales, v. 4(twice)

3. I shall bring you up out of the midst of your rivers, v. 4

4. I shall abandon you and all your fish to the wilderness, v. 5

a. fall in open field

b. be gathered for food

(1) beasts

(2) birds

5. I shall bring a sword upon you, vv. 6,11

a. man

b. beasts

Notice all the first person singular nouns. YHWH is God. He alone can act in judgment. The mighty river beast is brought onto the land where he is helpless and will die. He will be eaten by the creatures of the wilderness.

29:4 "hook" This (BDB 296) can mean

1. thorn or thistle, cf. II Kgs. 14:9; Pro. 26:9; Isa. 34:13; Hos. 9:6

2. here, metaphorically of meat or fish hooks – These were used (first by the Assyrians) to control and humiliate people being taken into exile/slavery (cf. Isa. 37:29; Ezek. 19:4,9; 29:4; 38:4).

 

▣ "the fish of your rivers cling to your scales" This refers to politically allied, but weaker, nations.

29:5

NASB, NKJV"gathered"
NRSV, NJB,
Peshsitta"buried"
TEV, JPSPOA"unburied"
NIV"picked up"
REB"none to give you burial"

The MT has "gathered" (BDB 867, KB 1062, Niphal imperfect). "Buried" is found in some Hebrew manuscripts and the Aramaic Targums.

Proper burial (i.e., mummification and preservation) was a major requirement for happiness in the afterlife in Egyptian theology. Egyptian leaders were enamored with this issue (i.e., The Egyptian Book of the Dead). The great pyramids served this function as secure burial places for the elite.

The prophetic theme of animals and birds eating the fallen is common in Jeremiah (cf. 7:33; 9:22; 15:3; 16:4; 19:7; 34:20) and Ezekiel (cf. 29:5; 32:4; 33:27; 39:4,17-18). This seems to be a fulfillment of Deut. 28:26.

29:6 "Then all the inhabitants of Egypt will know that I am the Lord" This was the purpose of the ten plagues (each against an Egyptian deity, the same is true of the creation account [i.e., Genesis 1] condemnation of Babylonian astral deities). All humans are made in God's image and likeness! All were created for fellowship with God! Tragically in the OT, often it is judgment (cf. vv. 9-10) that reveals YHWH!

▣ "they have been only a staff made of reed" This is a metaphor of weakness and inability (cf. Isa. 30:1-3; 31:1-3; Jer. 37:7).

29:7

NASB, NKJV"you broke and made all their loins quake"
NRSV"made all their legs unsteady"
Peshitta,
JPSOA"you would break, and make all their loins unsteady"
NJB, REB"you broke, making all their limbs give way"
LXX"thou wast utterly broken, and didst crush the loins of them all"

The MT has "you broke and you made to stand them all their loins." Most modern translations follow the Peshitta or Septuagint. The question is whether this phrase is sarcastic (God made them stand) or literal (God caused them to fall). The context is related to God's judgment on Egypt.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:29:8-9a
 8'Therefore thus says the Lord God, "Behold, I will bring upon you a sword and I will cut off from you man and beast. 9The land of Egypt will become a desolation and waste. Then they will know that I am the Lord."

29:8 YHWH will bring death and destruction to all Egypt, human and animal. Animals were common Egyptian gods. Their devastation would symbolize YHWH's power, as did the plagues of the Exodus.

29:9 "Then they will know that I am the Lord" This is a recurrent phrase (cf. 6:14; 7:27; 12:20; 15:8; 29:9; 32:15; 33:29; 35:3,9,14). YHWH wanted to be revealed through Israel's abundance, moral standards, and theology, but because of her unfaithfulness, He is revealed through judgment, judgment on her and other idolatrous nations (i.e., Egypt).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:29:9b-12
 9bBecause you said, 'The Nile is mine, and I have made it,' 10therefore, behold, I am against you and against your rivers, and I will make the land of Egypt an utter waste and desolation, from Migdol to Syene and even to the border of Ethiopia. 11A man's foot will not pass through it, and the foot of a beast will not pass through it, and it will not be inhabited for forty years. 12So I will make the land of Egypt a desolation in the midst of desolated lands. And her cities, in the midst of cities that are laid waste, will be desolate forty years; and I will scatter the Egyptians among the nations and disperse them among the lands."

29:10 "from Migdol to Syene" The term "Migdol" (BDB 154) means "tower" or "fortress." In context this reference is to a location in the northeast delta region where Jews were living (cf. Jer. 44:1; 46:14).

Syene (BDB 692) refers to a southern city on the border of Cush/Ethiopia, known today as Aswan. This same phrase is repeated in 30:6 and functions for Egypt as "from Dan to Bethel" did for Palestine. It denotes the far reaches of the land and the mentioning of them together became an idiom for the whole land.

29:12 "forty years" See Special Topic: Symbolic Numbers in Scripture at 1:5. It denotes a long period of time, often a full generation.

▣ "scatter. . .dispense" These (BDB 806, KB 918, Hiphil perfect; BDB 279, KB 280, Piel perfect) are parallel and both refer to Judah's exile. When national armies were defeated their populace were regularly sold into slavery (cf. Jer. 49:32,36; 51:2). Egypt will be scattered (cf. 29:12,13; 30:23,26).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:29:13-16
 13'For thus says the Lord God, "At the end of forty years I will gather the Egyptians from the peoples among whom they were scattered. 14I will turn the fortunes of Egypt and make them return to the land of Pathros, to the land of their origin, and there they will be a lowly kingdom. 15It will be the lowest of the kingdoms, and it will never again lift itself up above the nations. And I will make them so small that they will not rule over the nations. 16And it will never again be the confidence of the house of Israel, bringing to mind the iniquity of their having turned to Egypt. Then they will know that I am the Lord God."'"

29:13-16 YHWH will restore Egypt to their land (cf. Deut. 32:8), but they will not be a powerful nation.

29:14 "Pathros" This (BDB 837) refers to upper (i.e., southern region) Egypt, from Cairo to Aswan (cf. Gen. 10:14; Jer. 44:1,15).

29:16 Israel will never again trust in Egypt for security (cf. Isa. 30:1-3; 31:1-3; 36:6 [note v. 6]).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:29:17-20
 17Now in the twenty-seventh year, in the first month, on the first of the month, the word of the Lord came to me saying, 18"Son of man, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon made his army labor hard against Tyre; every head was made bald and every shoulder was rubbed bare. But he and his army had no wages from Tyre for the labor that he had performed against it." 19Therefore thus says the Lord God, "Behold, I will give the land of Egypt to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. And he will carry off her wealth and capture her spoil and seize her plunder; and it will be wages for his army. 20I have given him the land of Egypt for his labor which he performed, because they acted for Me," declares the Lord God.

29:17-20 YHWH allowed Nebuchadnezzar II to capture Egypt (cf. 30:10; Jer. 43:10,11; 46:13,26) and take its spoils as payment for his army, since they received nothing for their hard work (cf. v. 18) at Tyre (i.e., thirteen-year siege, cf. Josephus, Antiq. 10.228). It is possible that Pharaoh Hophra allied with Tyre and took away Tyre's treasures before Tyre surrendered to the army of Nebuchadnezzar's (cf. The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 6, pp. 892-3).

29:18 This verse states that Nebuchadnezzar did not take the island fortress, but did capture and destroy the mainland city (cf. 26:7-12). The problem is that 26:14 implies that he did. Many commentators note that the plural is used in 26:7-17, but the singular in 26:13-14, which

1. implies that YHWH Himself will do it (note 29:3-6)

2. refers to Alexander the Great's destruction of the island fortress in 323 b.c.

 

▣ "every head was made bald" This was not a mourning rite, but a metaphor for heavy work (i.e., Nebuchadnezzar's siege and destruction of mainland Tyre). It is parallel to "every shoulder was rubbed bare."

20:20 As YHWH used Assyria to judge Israel (cf. Isa. 10:5), so now He uses Babylon to judge, not only Judah, but all the nations in the area. The metaphorical language used here sees it as a wage paid.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:29:21
 21"On that day I will make a horn sprout for the house of Israel, and I will open your mouth in their midst. Then they will know that I am the Lord."

29:21 "I shall make a horn sprout for the house of Israel" Animal horns were a symbol of power and strength. This refers to a national and Messianic restoration (cf. I Sam. 2:10; Ps. 132:17; Luke 1:69).

▣ "I shall open your mouth" YHWH is in control of national and Messianic restoration as He is His prophet. Ezekiel's message was controlled by YHWH (cf. 3:27; 24:27; 33:22).