Ezekiel 29



1 “ In the tenth year, in the tenth month, in the twelfth day of the

month, the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,

2 Son of man, set thy face against Pharaoh king of Egypt, and

prophesy against him, and against all Egypt:”

In the tenth year, etc. The precision with which the dates of

the several portions of the prophecy against Egypt are given, here and in

v. 17; ch. 30:20; 31:1; 32:1, 17, shows that each was called forth

by the political events of the time, and has to be studied in connection with

them. It will be well, therefore, to begin with a brief survey of the relations

which existed at this period between Judah, Egypt, and Babylon. After the

great defeat of Pharaoh-Necho by Nebuchadnezzar at Carchemish (B.C.

604), on which Jeremiah (46.) dwells fully, he was succeeded in B.C. 594

by his son Psammetik II. the Psammis of Herodotus 2:160, who invaded

Ethiopia, and died in B.C. 588, leaving the throne to his son Uah-prahet,

the Pharaoh Hophra of Jeremiah 44:30, the Apries of Herod., 2:161.

The Greek historian tells us that he attacked Tyre and Zidon, failed in an

enterprise against Cyrene, and was deposed by Amasis (B.C. 569).

Zedekiah and his counselors, following in the steps of Hezekiah (Isaiah

30.) and Jehoiakim (Jeremiah 46.), had courted his alliance against the

Chaldeans. As Ezekiel had prophesied (ch.17:11-18), they found

that they were once more leaning on a broken reed. We have now come to

B.C. 589, when Jerusalem was actually besieged, but was still dreaming of

being relieved by an Egyptian army.


3 “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. The word is cognate with that used in

Genesis 1:21 for the great “whales,” monsters of the deep. The

dragon,” probably the crocodile of the Nile (compare the description of

leviathan in Job 41.) had come to be the received prophetic symbol of

Egypt (Psalm 74:13; Isaiah 27:1; 51:9). The rivers are the Nile branches

of the Delta. My river is mine own. The words probably imply

that Hophra, like his grandfather Necho, in his plan of a canal from the Nile

to the Red Sea, had given much time and labor to irrigation works in

Lower Egypt. The boast which rose to his lips reminds us of that of

Nebuchadnezzar as he looked on Babylon (Daniel 4:30). He, like the

kings of Tyre and Babylon, was tempted to a self-apotheosis, and thought

of himself as the creator of his own power. The words of Herodotus (2.

169), in which he says that Apries believed himself so firmly established in

his kingdom that there was no god that could cast him out of it, present a

suggestive parallel.


4 “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.  5 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 put hooks in thy jaws. So Herodotus (2. 70) describes the way in which the

Egyptians caught the crocodile by baiting a large hook with swines flesh.

Jomard (‘Description de lEgypt,’ 1:27) gives a similar account (compare also

Job 41:1-2, though there the capture seems represented as an almost impossible

achievement; probably the process had become more familiar since the date of

that book). The fish that stick to the scales of the crocodile are, of course, in the

interpretation of the parable, either the Egyptian army itself or the nations that

had thrown themselves into alliance with Egypt, and the destruction of the two

together in the wilderness points to some great overthrow of the

Egyptian army and its auxiliaries, probably to that of the expedition against

Cyrene (Herod., 2:161) which led to the revolt of Amasis, and which

would take the wilderness west of the Nile on its line of march. The beasts

of the field and the fowls of the heaven (we note the recurrence of the

old Homeric phrase, as in ‘Iliad,’ 1:4, 5) should devour the carcasses of the

slain, the corpses of the fallen and prostrate nation.


6 “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.”

A staff of reed unto the house of Israel. Ezekiel reproduces

the familiar image of II Kings 18:21; Isaiah 36:6. The proverb had

not ceased to be true, though the rulers were different. Here, again, the

imagery is strictly local. The reeds were as characteristic of the Nile as the

crocodiles (Exodus 2:3; Job 40:21).



The Doom of Egypt (vs. 1-6)



GREAT FOREIGN NATION. The Hebrew prophet did not confine

his attention to the little strip of territory on the eastern shore of the

Mediterranean Sea, which we call the Holy Land. He was God’s

messenger to the world.


Ø      The heathen are concerned with Gods messages. God notices

them and has intentions concerning them. Therefore:


Ø      It is the duty of the Church to make Gods truth known to the

heathen.  Ezekiel was not a Jonah; he was not called upon to visit

the heathen as a prophet of Jehovah. But his written words might

be read by some of the more inquiring Egyptians. It is well to take

LARGE VIEWS OF GOD’S THOUGHTS, our duties, and the

world’s needs.



greater and more famous than the little Ammonite and Moabite countries;

but even Tyre was small compared with Egypt — one of the great world



Ø      No people can be above the rule of God. The biggest earthly kingdom is

beneath the King of kings. Egypt is compared to one of its monster

crocodiles (v. 3). But it is not the less to be called to account by God.


Ø      No people can be too strong to be overthrown. Even great Egypt is to

fall. The strongest have their weak places. Mighty citadels may be

shaken by earthquakes. All man’s grandest works and most imposing

institutions are frail, and may be broken up by the rod of the Unseen.




seems to be about the most ancient empire in the world. In the region of its

influence and among its neighbors Egypt was venerable with age before

any of its rivals had made an appearance on the world’s stage. Its known

history goes back to four thousand years before Christ. For tens of

centuries this hoary old empire of the Pharaohs held on its course amidst

the rising and falling of many ambitious but short-lived neighbors. Yet

Egypt was not immortal. Dynasty succeeded dynasty, and Egypt long

stood the shock of war and change. But at last her hour of reckoning drew

near. Then her long past afforded her no shelter. England cannot live in the

future on her past history. The Church of the coming age cannot stand

strong and safe on no better foundation than the glory of saints and martyrs

in earlier ages.  (Neither the USA – who would have thought that mass

immigration, immorality and terrorism should be such a threat?  Things

we would not have to worry about had we not cast God behind our backs!

My wife got an e-main today saying that the Pledge of Allegiance is on

Pepsi cans, minus two words “under God,” – CY – 2014)



Egypt was famous for her learning and her science. Long before the

Babylonian and Persian astronomical science arose by the Euphrates, there

were schools of literature, philosophy, and physical science on the banks of

the Nile. (See Isaiah 19 – Dispensational Teaching of the Great Pyramid

this website – CY – 2014).  It was a help in the training of Israel’s great

deliverer (Moses) that he was educated in the greatest center of light of his

age (Acts 7:22). Yet the great intelligence of ancient Egypt did not preserve

its sons from gross MORAL CORRUPTION and no worldly wisdom was

able to provide against THE DESCENDING ARM OF JUDGMENT.

Culture will not dispense with THE NEED OF CONSCIENCE! 

University honors are not passports to heaven (as many will find out! 

CY – 2014). Knowledge and thought will not shield the sinful against

the wrath of future judgment.


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.” The image of the reed

is continued and the effect of trusting to its support is described in detail.



The Staff of Reed (vs. 6-7)


The figure is a very striking and effective one, however it may have been

distasteful to the house of Israel, and even more so to the vaunted prowess

of Egypt.



circumstances in which Judah was placed at the time were such as to make

it madness on the part of the remnant at Jerusalem to seek help from

Egypt. Not only so; they were strictly forbidden upon Divine authority to

act in this manner. In quietness and confidence lay their safety, in returning

and rest, and ye would not, as Isaiah most powerfully and urgently represented

to the people (Isaiah 30:15); — not in the horsemen and the chariots of Egypt.



DELIVERER. Why Egypt was at this time so powerless to help those who

sought her alliance may not be perfectly clear to us; but the fact is so, and

of this the events are sufficient evidence. It was a vain confidence which

the Jews placed in the great and ancient world-power on the banks of the

Nile. They thought they grasped a staff strong and trustworthy, and they

found it “a staff of reed.”  (Without God, I wonder who America is

turning to in her frustration in the 21st Century? – CY – 2014)



EGYPT’S AID. Not only did the helper prove helpless; not only did the

staff, when leaned upon, bend and break. Those who applied for help

received hurt instead of aid; the reed broke and pierced the hand that

grasped it and trusted in its support. Jerusalem was all the worse for

turning to Egypt for assistance against Babylon, the victorious and, just

then, irresistible power.




THEM.  Babylon rose; but Egypt and Judah fell. “All their loins shook;”

i.e. the consequences of their policy were trouble, fear, and misery to both.

Both incurred the hostility of the power which they in vain leagued with

each other to resist.



AND EXPERIENCE HERE DESCRIBED. There is a proneness among

all nations to be guided in their alliances, aims, and efforts by

considerations of worldly policy and expediency. Too seldom do they ask

themselvesWhat is right? What is in accordance with the eternal

Reason and Righteousness which rule the world? What, in a word, is the

course which God approves and enjoins? The proceedings undertaken at

the instigation of worldly expediency, and in violation of Divine law, may

meet with apparent and temporary success. But THE LORD REIGNETH

and sooner or later action which He disapproves shall issue in



8 “Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will bring a sword

upon thee, and cut off man and beast out of thee.  9 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, I will bring a sword upon thee. The words are probably addressed to

the nation personified rather than to the king. The sentence of doom is now

 pronounced, no longer figuratively. And the special guilt for which it was

inflicted, a guilt which the nation shared with its ruler, is emphatically repeated

in v. 9.



The Pride of Creation (v. 9)


In the insanity of his pride, Pharaoh is supposed even to claim the mighty

Nile, that great work of nature on which the wealth and even the very life

of his people depended, as a creation of his own imperial power. Such a

foolish boast illustrates in an extreme form the common mistake of

claiming to create what has in fact been received as a gift of God.



This is seen with many kinds of success.


Ø      National greatness. The proud nation glories in having built up its own

greatness. The mighty monarch regards himself as the maker of his empire.


Ø      Private fortune. One who has risen from the ranks regards himself as a

self-made man. His success he attributes to his own ability and energy;

and his ability and energy he regards as springing from himself.


Ø      Skilful inventions. Man does indeed seem to create with his brain. We

say that Homer created the ‘Iliad;’ Phidias, the Elgin Marbles; Watt, the

steam-engine; Stephenson, the locomotive. The thought that constituted

or shaped these great works of genius was bred in the brains of the men

who originated them.


Ø      Personal character. Men commonly regard themselves as the architects

of their own characters. If there is growth in wisdom or strength, the

strong temptation is to think that this growth is due to their own thought

and effort. But:



pride springs from a delusion. Certainly it did with Pharaoh. He make the

Nile! The Nile made him! Egypt was just the child of the Nile. Her wealth

depended on the ministry of the mighty river. Floods gathered from melting

snows on distant African mountains far beyond the territory or even the

knowledge of the Pharaohs, swelled its waters so that they overflowed

their banks and spread fertility on the narrow strips of river-side called

Egypt. But this is but an evident instance of what is true in less

conspicuous ways. All great things, all new things, all things that exist,

come from God. They spring from God, and they depend on Him.

(“without Him was not anything made that was made” (John3), “and by

Him all things consist.”  (Colossians 1:17)


Ø      In nature. God is the Creator and Preserver of nature. He not only

made the stone that the sculptor chisels; He made the laws of matter

and the fundamental principles of art along which the sculptor must

work.  (Thus the great blasphemy of the likes of Robert Maplethorpe

CY – 2014)  National greatness largely depends on geographical and

other physical conditions of Divine creation.


Ø      In providence. God is still in the world, ruling it according to His own

thought for His own great purposes. He overrules the government of

kings.  In private life He helps one on to prosperity, and sends another

needful adversity through those turns of events, those conjunctions of

circumstances, which the wisest cannot foresee and which the ablest

cannot modify.


Ø      In grace. For the higher good of life spiritual attainments are necessary.

Without these attainments Fra Angelico could not have painted his

beautiful angels, Milton could not have written his grand epics, Luther

could not have wrought his Titanic revolution. God’s inward grace

makes souls and characters good and great.



positively wicked. It robs God of His rightful honor. It is distinctly

ungrateful.  Indeed, it is atheistic; and practical atheism of this character is

far worse morally than the intellectual atheism that denies the being of God

as a proposition in academic discussions. Such a sinful pride destroys a

man’s sense of:


Ø      his dependence,

Ø      his remembrance of obligations,

Ø      his consciousness of responsibility,

Ø       his own littleness which is necessary for humility as well as that

feeling of God’s greatness and goodness which is at the root of



10 “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,

etc. The Authorized Version is misleading, as Syene was itself on the border

of Ethiopia. Better, with the Revised Version margin, from Migdol to Syene,

even to the border of Ethiopia. The Migdol (equivalent to “tower”) so named

is mentioned in the Itinerarium’ of Antoninus (p. 171, edit. Wafael), and was

about twelve miles from Pelusium, and thus represented the northern extremity

of Egypt; as Syene, identified with the modern Assouan, represented the

southern, being the last fortified town in Egypt proper. The expedition of

Psammis against Ethiopia, as above, had probably given prominence to the

Latter fortress. So taken, the phrase corresponded to the familiar “from

Dan to Beershebaof Judges 20:1, etc.


11 No foot of man shall pass through it, nor foot of beast shall pass

through it, neither shall it be inhabited forty years.”

Neither shall it be inhabited forty years. It need hardly be

said that history reveals no such period of devastation. Nor, indeed, would

anything but the most prosaic literalism justify us in looking for it. We are

dealing with the language of a poet-prophet, which is naturally that of

hyperbole, and so the “forty years” stand, as, perhaps, elsewhere

(Judges 3:11; 5:31, etc.), for a period of undefined duration, and the

picture of a land on which no man or beast sets foot for that of a time of

desolation, and consequent cessation of all the customary traffic along the

Nile. Such a period, there is reason to believe, did follow on the conquests

of Nebuchadnezzar. It is implied in vs. 17-21, which carry us to a date

seventeen years later than that of the verse with which we are now dealing;

and also in Jeremiah 43:10-12. Josephus (‘Contra Apion,’ 1:20) speaks

of Nebuchadnezzar as having invaded Libya. The reign of Amasis, which

followed on the deposition of Hophra, was one of general prosperity as

regards commerce and culture, but Egypt ceased to be one of the great

world-powers after the time of Nebuchadnezzar and fell easily into the

hands of the Persians under Cambyses. It is noticeable that Ezekiel does

not, like Isaiah (19:18-25; I recommend Isaiah 19 Dispensational Teaching

of the Great Pyramid – this website – CY – 2014), connect the future of

Egypt with any Messianic expectations.


12 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.” I will scatter the Egyptians among the nations. As before,

records are silent as to any such dispersion. All that we can say is that such

a deportation was uniformly the sequel of the conquests of an Oriental

king, as in the case of the captivities of Samaria (II Kings 17:6) and

Jerusalem, and of the nations that were settled in Samaria (Ibid.), and of

the Persians by Darius; that if we find reason to believe that

Egypt was invaded by Nebuchadnezzar after the destruction of Jerusalem,

we may assume, with little risk of doubt, that it was followed by what

Ezekiel describes.


13 “Yet thus saith the Lord GOD; At the end of forty years will I gather

the Egyptians from the people whither they were scattered:”

At the end of forty years. The restoration described may

probably be connected with the policy of the Persian kings. There may

have been a parallel, as regards Egypt, to the return of the Jewish exiles

under Cyrus and his successors, though it has not left its mark on history.


14 “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.

(For the land of their habitation, read, with the Revised Version, the land

of their birth.) (For Pathros, see Genesis 10:13-14; I Chronicles 1:12; Isaiah 11:11;

Jeremiah 44:1.) Its position is somewhat doubtful, but the balance of evidence

is in favor of placing it in the Thebaid of Upper Egypt, which Herodotus (2. 4,

15) describes as the original seat of the Egyptian monarchy. Its name may

be connected with the Pathyrite name in which Thebes was situated (Pliny,

Hist. Nat.,’ 5:9). The Septuagint gives the form Pathures, and is followed by

the Vulgate, with a slight change, Phathures.


15 “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.” It shall be the basest of the kingdoms.

The words describe vividly the condition of Egypt under the Persian monarchy,

after its conquest by Cambyses. With the Ptolemies it rose again to something

like eminence, but that, it must be remembered, was an alien dynasty. The

nationality of Egypt was suppressed, and Alexandria, practically a Greek

city, took the place of Memphis, Sais, and Thebes.


16 “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.”

It shall be no more the confidence of the house of Israel.

Throughout the history of the two kingdoms of Israel and Judah, as in the

case of Hoshea (II Kings 17:4), Hezekiah (Isaiah 30:2-3; 36:4, 6),

and Jehoiakim (II Kings 23:35), their temptation had been to place its

confidence in the “chariots and horses” of Egypt as an ally. That

temptation should not recur again. Egypt should not in that way bring the

iniquity of Israel to the remembrance of the Judge, acting, as it were,

as a Satan, first tempting and then accusing. There should be no more

looking after Egypt instead of Jehovah, as their succor and defense.



God’s Frown, a Chill of Death (vs. 8-16)


Men have very erroneous ideas of God when they think lightly of making

Him their foe. They have a vague idea that He is as impotent as one of their

idols (…. Thou thoughest that I was altogether such a one as thyself:

but I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes.”  (Psalm 50:21).

Did they but know the magnitude of His power, and His complete supremacy

over human affairs, they would feel that his frown was BLACKEST

DEATH.  The fruits of God’s hostility are:


  • DISASTROUS WAR. “I will bring a sword upon thee.” It would not be

true to say that God takes part in every war. In many cases both

combatants are to blame, and God cannot take sides with either. But, in

every case in which one of the combatants is impelled to fight for an

unrighteous cause, clearly God will aid the other side. Not always then. For

although a combatant may have a righteous cause to defend, he may defend

it in a vindictive spirit and with unhallowed weapons. It is well to note that

God does fight with His trusty servants against evildoers. He does employ

the sword of men in His cause; and when He is behind the sword, “it will

 cut off man and beast.”


  • WIDESPREAD DESOLATION.The land of Egypt shall be desolate

and waste.” Nothing is easier with God than to make waste the land of

Egypt. He has but to diminish the water-supply of the Nile, and the

territory becomes a desert. To Him it must be a grievous pain to make the

fair face of nature desolate. He who delights in beauty, and caused the

sons of God to shout for joy” (Job 38:7) when earth was first robed in

leafy vesture, must be pained when the verdure of forests and cornfields

is blasted. Yet His desire for human good, and for the development of

righteousness in the earth, is stronger far. This gives Him a deeper joy;

and, in order to promote moral loveliness, it is sometimes worth while

to sacrifice the fair face of nature.


  • EQUITABLE REPRISALS. “Because he hath said, The river is

mine… therefore I am against thy rivers.” This is language which men

everywhere can understand. This is argument which leaves deep impression

in the human breast. If men despise and treat with contempt God’s

messages sent in the form of human speech, God will speak to them in

language they will not contemn. The strict equity of God’s dealings has

often been written in LARGEST CAPITALS. The prohibited thing has

become a scourge. The quails lusted after became disease in the intestines.

The Nile, worshipped as a god, was changed into blood. God is never in

haste to vindicate His rights, because at any moment He can cast a bombshell

of alarm in His enemies’ camp. If men must needs trifle, let them trifle with




DISPERSION. “I will scatter the Egyptians among the nations I will bring

again the captivity of Egypt.” Compulsory banishment is a serious disgrace,

a heavy calamity. The poor, no less than the rich, have tender attachment

to their homes. The tendrils of strong affection twine round the cottage in

which one is born. To be compelled to turn away from the familiar scenes

to be compelled by a foreign conqueror — is galling to every sentiment,

is like a fire in one’s bones. Such enforced separation means loss, hardship,

uncertainty, dishonor. Defeat in war is affliction sore enough; banishment is

tenfold worse. How insane on the part of men to provoke God into such

necessity of CHASTISEMENT!



DEGRADATION. “It shall be the basest of the kingdoms, neither shall it

exalt itself any more above the nations.” To have a friend who is cultured

and refined is to have an elevating power at our side, lifting us up to a

better life. God is wise; and to have God as a Friend is to gain wisdom

steadily. God is pure; and to have God’s friendship is to become pure also.

God is love; and he who is much in God’s society becomes lovely and

loving. ALL GOOD FLOWS FROM GO AS ITS FOUNT;  and to cut

off one’s self willfully from that fount is to sink into IGNORANCE and

MISERY!   (The plight to which America is gravitating today! – CY –

2014).  The friends of God must rise; the foes of God must deteriorate.

Today this prophecy is signally fulfilled. For centuries past Egypt has been

the tool and the slave of other empires. She has been ground to the dust by

the oppressor, nor is there at present any prospect that she will rise again.

The word of the Lord by Ezekiel, although then improbable, has been




Light Out of Darkness (vs. 13-16)


The case of Egypt was very different from that of Tyre. For inscrutable

reasons, Tyre was destined to destruction, and Egypt to recovery and

revival. The destruction of one city occupying a rock upon the seashore

was the extinction of Tyre. Egypt was a vast territory, peopled by a

widespread and prolific race; it might be humiliated, but could not easily be

politically annihilated. The fortunes of the land of the Pharaohs were

gloomy in the immediate future; but the remoter prospect was not without

relief and even brightness.



was instructed to foretell, first Egypt’s defeat, dispersion, and captivity,

and then Egypt’s restoration to the land of Pathros, the land of their origin.

We are not told, and we do not know how large was the section of the

army or of the inhabitants of the country affected by these predictions. The

fact only concerns us, and we recognize that in the midst of judgment the

Lord remembered mercy, that banishment was not perpetual, and that the

national, life was appointed for revival.



GRACIOUSLY VOUCHSAFED. Lest Egypt should be again puffed up,

the prophet was directed to utter an assurance that the nation, though

spared utter humiliation and extinction, should nevertheless never resume

its former greatness. Two points are expressly mentioned.


Ø      The restored Egypt should be “a base kingdom.” It should not take the

rank among the nations which it had been entitled to hold aforetime. Its

power should be crippled, and its splendor should be dimmed.


Ø      It should no more bear rule over other nations. Such had in former times

been subject to its authority, as dependents, subjects, and tributaries.

Egypt’s might should no longer avail to reduce surrounding peoples to





are very explicitly stated by Ezekiel.


Ø      Israel should no more look to Egypt for aid, as, in defiance of express

warnings from Jehovah, she had been wont to do in times past.


Ø      Both Israel and Egypt should know that THE LORD IS GOD!  This

was a truth with which Israel was speculatively well acquainted, but

which Israel was too ready to forget. Egypt had not enjoyed the same

opportunity of learning the wisdom, the authority, the compassion,

of Jehovah. Yet lessons may be learned in adversity which

PROSPRITY CANNOT TEACH!   Egypt was taught by stern

discipline; but some impression was doubtless made. It was not for

Israel’s sake alone that Egypt’s calamities were permitted; but

that the smitten nation might bow beneath the rod, and



17 “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,” In the seven and twentieth, etc. The section that follows has

the interest of being, as far as the dates recorded enable us to determine,

the latest of Ezekiel’s prophecies, and brings us to B.C. 572. It was

manifestly inserted at a later date, seventeen years after those which

precede and follow it, either by the prophet, as he collected and revised his

writings, or by some later editor, as a proof that his earlier predictions had

already received, or were on the point of receiving, their fulfillment. The

fact that the special word of the Lord came on the first day of the year is

not without significance. Then, as now, the beginning of a new year was a

time for men generally to look before and after, for a prophet to ask

himself what new stage in the order of the Divine government the year was

likely to produce.


18 “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:”

Nebuchadnezzar, etc. The words carry us to the close of the

thirteen years’ siege of Tyre referred to in the notes on ch.28., and

enable us to refer the commencement of that siege to the fourteenth year of

Jehoiachin’s captivity, circa. B.C. 586, two years after the destruction of

Jerusalem. This agrees with the report of the Tyrian Annals given by

Josephus (‘Contra Apion,’ 1:21), who gives the names of the kings of Tyre

from Ithobal to Hirom, in the fourteenth year of whose reign Cyrus became

King of Persia. Josephus, however, gives the seventh, instead of the

seventeenth, year of Nebuchadnezzar as the date of the beginning of the

siege. Here the point dwelt on is not the success of the siege, but its

comparative failure. The labors and sufferings of the besiegers had been

immense. Jerome (in loc.) states (not, however, giving his authority) that

these labors consisted mainly in the attempt to fill up the strait between the

island-city and the mainland with masses of stone and rubbish. These were

carried on the heads and shoulders of the troops, and the natural result was

that the former lost their hair and the latter their skin, and the whole army

was in a miserable plight. And after all, the king had no wages for his

labors. The city indeed, was taken, but the inhabitants made their escape by

sea, with their chief possessions, and the hopes of spoil were disappointed.


19 “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.  20 I have given him the land of Egypt for his labor

wherewith he served against it, because they wrought for me, saith the

Lord GOD.”  Behold I give the land of Egypt, etc. For this

disappointment, Ezekiel, writing, so to speak, the postscript which he

incorporates with his earlier oracles, promises compensation. Egypt, as he

had said seventeen years before, should be conquered, and its cities

plundered, and so there should be wages enough for the whole thirteen

years of fruitless labor in the siege of Tyre. In that labor, the prophet adds

(v. 20), they, though they knew it not, had been working out the will of

the Supreme. They also had been servants of Jehovah, as Jeremiah 25:9

had described Nebuchadnezzar himself.



The King of Kings (vs. 17-20)


By the very remarkable events here foretold, viewed in the light of the very

remarkable interpretation which Ezekiel was inspired to add, we are taught

some lessons of wider application and deeper interest than those which

appear upon the surface of the prophet’s writings.




Ø      the hearts of kings,

Ø      he power of armies, and

Ø      the fortunes of nations, are in His hand.




Ø      He has and directs His own instruments of work,

kings and nations being at His service.

Ø      He has His own resources from which to provide wages

and rewards for those whom He employs as His ministers

of righteousness and retribution.




Ø      In the submission of the rebellious.

Ø      In the chastisement of the proud.

Ø      In the recovery of the erring but penitent.



Nebuchadnezzar’s Wages (vs. 17-20)


Nebuchadnezzar was used as God’s servant in the work of destroying

Tyre. But he got little profit out of that expedition. Therefore he was to

receive his wages in the possession of the fertile and wealthy land of Egypt.

This curious rendering of history in the light of Hebrew prophecy and

poetry is suggestive.



is referred to as a common laborer whose wages must be provided for. The

pomp and ceremony of royalty are nothing in the sight of Heaven.

Religion, like death, is a great leveler.


  • GOD MAKES USE OF SELF-SEEKING MEN. Nebuchadnezzar was

called upon to work out Divine decrees. But it was not pretended that he

did this of set purpose or with any disinterested motives. His aims and ends

were selfish, his views and ideas dark and heathenish. Yet he was a useful

instrument of Providence. Thus the greatest selfishness may be converted

into a means of doing God’s will.



shall lose by entering His service. At first there may be no advantage, and

the service is found to be disappointing. Tyre does not pay. Then Egypt

must be thrown in. The beginning of the service seems to be unprofitable;

the end of it will certainly be amply rewarded. The laborer is not paid hour

by hour. He must wait for his wages. God’s laborers often seem to be kept

long waiting. But they will surely see their payday, and then receive their

dues with interest.



BETTER THAN WAGES. The servant needs, earns, and has a right to

expect and enjoy, his wages. But he has a gross and selfish mind if he has

no other interest in his work than the prospect of making a living out of it.

Every man’s work should be valued by him on its own account as a

contribution to the good of society. Especially is this true of spiritual work.

In that there is a prospect of rewards for which even Christ looked forward

(Hebrews 12:2). Therefore it is not wrong to expect rewards; every

lawful stimulus that can be had is needed to encourage our service. But he

is no true Christian who only serves his Lord for the sake of what he can

get. Nebuchadnezzar the heathen, not Paul the Christian, is his model.



king as he was, had degraded himself to the level of a common hireling in

the sight of Heaven by carrying out his great expeditions in a mean and

mercenary spirit. But the lowliest Christians rise to the rank of “kings and

priests(Revelation 1:6) when they give the royal service that seeks for

no selfishness. This condition does not contradict that previously

mentioned, in which a reward is expected. All depends on its quality. It is

the working for self-seeking ends that degrades Christian work. Christ’s

reward was unselfish — to “see of the travail of his soul, and be satisfied”

(Isaiah 53:11).  The true Christian should learn to say


“And I will ask for no reward,

Except to serve thee still.”


21 “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.” The horn of the house of Israel.

The “horn” is, as always (I Samuel 2:1; Psalm 92:10; 112:9; 132:17), the symbol

of power.  Jeremiah’s use of it (Lamentations 2:3) may well have been present to

Ezekiel’s thoughts. That horn had been cut off, but it should begin to

sprout again, and the prophet himself should resume his work as the

teacher of his people, which had apparently been suspended for many years

after the closing vision of the restoration of the temple and of Israel. The

words justify the conclusion that Ezekiel resumed his labors after B.C. 572.

Was he watching the growth of Saiathiel or Zerubbabel?



Speech, Silence, and Prophecy (v.21)


“I will give thee the opening, of the mouth.” We may be led up to the

proper subject of the text by reference to:


  • THE GIFT OF SPEECH. We wonder how animals succeed in

communicating with one another; that they are supplied with some method

of making known and passing on is unquestionable. But whatever their

means may be, they fall very short of the great gift of speech which it is our

priceless advantage to possess. So common and so familiar has it become,

that we little heed its value or the goodness of God in bestowing it. But

when we dwell in thought upon all the difference it has made to human life,

and the extent to which it has enriched us, we may well bless God with

fervent feeling that he has given to our race “the opening of the mouth” in

speech and in song. How has it multiplied our power:


Ø      to instruct and enlighten,

Ø      to warn and save,

Ø      to comfort and to heal,

Ø      to cheer and to gladden,

Ø      to pray and to praise and to exhort,

Ø      to prepare for all the duty and the burden of life,

Ø      to make ready for the brighter scenes and ampler spheres

of immortality!


And as this is so:


Ø      how carefully should we guard, how earnestly pray, how seriously

admonish, against its abuse!

Ø      how studious should we be to make the best and wisest use of this



  • THE GRACE OF SILENCE. If there is a great value in “the opening

of the mouth,” so also is there much virtue in keeping it closed when “only

silence suiteth best.” To spare the stinging but severe retort that rises to the

lips; to delay the accusation until more knowledge has been gained; to bear

without rebuke the sound that tries our nerves, but is the delight of others;

to refuse to pass on the unproved default; to refrain from the

commonplaces of comfort in presence of some fresh, acute, overwhelming

sorrow; to wait our time and our turn until others have spoken who

should, precede us, or until we have earned the right to speak; to “be

dumb, to open not our mouth” under the chastening hand of God, and to

retire into the sanctuary of the inner chamber that we may think and

understand; — this is a true “grace,” which they who seek the best in

human character and life will not fail to desire and to pursue.


  • THE PRIVILEGE OF PROPHECY. No nobler order of men ever

rose and wrought than the Hebrew prophets. They were “men that spoke

for God” as their name indicates they should have been. And they “opened

their mouth” fearlessly, faithfully, even heroically. They were to be found

in the front when there was unpalatable truth to be spoken, uninviting duty

to be done, serious danger to be dared. They did not shrink from speaking

the straightforward truth to the people, the army, the sovereign. The Lord

before whom they stood,” and in whose near presence they felt that they

were safe, gave them the wisdom to speak and the courage to act. He

gave them the opening of the mouth;” and hence these strong, brave,

searching, sometimes scathing, sometimes cheering words, which we still

read in our homes and in our sanctuaries, which still help to form our

character and to shape our life. Their true successors are found in those

Christian ministers, and in those who do not call themselves by that name,

who “speak for God,” and who do speak for Him because, like their

prototypes, they:


Ø      are enriched by Him with knowledge and insight — understanding of

His will and insight into the nature and character of their fellowmen;


Ø      are endowed by Him with the power of utterance — such utterance as:


o       constrains attention and

o       secures reflection and emotion.


Paul asked prayers from the Ephesians “that utterance may be

given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known

the mystery of the gospel.”  (Ephesians 6:19)


Ø      are impressed, if not oppressed, with an inextinguishable impulse to

speak what they have learned of God (Jeremiah 20:9; Psalm 39:3;

Acts 4:20; I Corinthians 9:16).




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