Ezekiel 32



1 “And it came to pass in the twelfth year, in the twelfth month, in the

first day of the month, that the word of the LORD came unto me,

saying,”  In the twelfth year, etc. March, B.C. 584, nineteen months

attar the destruction of Jerusalem. The two sections of the chapter, vs. 1-16

and 17-32, belong to the same year, and probably, though the date of

the month is not given for the second, were written within a fortnight of

each other. The thoughts of the prophet still dwell upon the downfall of

Egypt, and he is stirred, as by a special inspiration, to write an elaborate

lamentation over its departed greatness. It would seem, from the

repetition of the word in v. 16, as if the elegy had originally been

intended to end there. Possibly it may have occurred to the prophet that

what he had written was rather a prediction of coming evil than a

lamentation, and therefore needed to be completed by a second, coming

more strictly under that title.


2 “Son of man, take up a lamentation for Pharaoh king of Egypt, and

say unto him, Thou art like a young lion of the nations, and thou

art as a whale in the seas: and thou camest forth with thy rivers,

and troubledst the waters with thy feet, and fouledst their rivers.”

Thou art like a young lion; rather, with the Revised Version,

thou wast likened unto a young lion. The two clauses of the verse stand in

direct contrast to each other. Flatterers, orators, courtiers, had used the

usual symbolism of the animal world. The King of Egypt was as the king of

beasts. Ezekiel rejects that comparison, and likens him rather to the whale,

the dragon (Revised Version), in the seas, i.e. to the crocodile of his own

river (compare the use of the “dragon” for the King of Egypt, in

ch. 29:3; Isaiah 51:9).  Troubledst the waters. As in ch.34:18, the act is

used as the symbol of all selfish and aggressive rule, defiling the streams

of righteousness and judgment.  Thou camest forth with thy rivers.

Ewald and Smend translate, “Thou didst spurt out the water,” as describing

the act of the crocodile when it raises its head out of the water as in the

neesings,” or “sneezings” of Job 41:18.



The Noxiousness of a Sinful Nation (v. 2)


In order to justify the humiliation and the calamities appointed for Egypt,

the prophet mentions the evil which the king and people of that land have

committed, and which an omniscient and righteous Ruler cannot possibly

pass unnoticed and unrebuked. According to his metaphorical habit,

Ezekiel pictures Egypt as a young and ravening lion, seizing and devouring

prey; as a dragon or crocodile, troubling the waters with its feet, and

fouling the rivers. Such creatures are regarded by men as noxious, and as

fit to be seized and destroyed.



ultimate cause, recognized by inquirers who penetrate beneath the

surface, is estrangement from God, a spirit of rebelliousness against

God, leading to the violation of Divine Law and defiance of Divine






Ø      An ungodly people is its own enemy. Its irreligiousness reacts upon

itself, and saps the springs of national life.


Ø      Its example is injurious to surrounding peoples, who are in danger of

being corrupted thereby; for “evil communications corrupt good



Ø      Mischief is done by unprincipled states by fostering discord,

suspicion, and war. The weak are oppressed, and powerful rivals

are provoked to hostilities. The peace of the world is ever threatened

by ambitious, aggressive, and quarrelsome nations.



figurative language of Ezekiel, the dragon is captured, dragged to the

shore, and suffered to die, so that its flesh is left to be consumed by birds

and beasts, and its blood is mingled with the waters of the rivers. By this it

is intimated that Egypt, as a punishment for the evil and mischief it has

wrought, shall be brought low, its power crippled, and its glory dimmed.


3 “Thus saith the Lord GOD; I will therefore spread out my net over

thee with a company of many people; and they shall bring thee up

in my net.” I will spread out my net. The imagery of ch. 29:3 is

repeated, with a variation as to the mode of capture. There is no evidence

that the crocodile was ever taken with a net; but Ezekiel may have chosen

the comparison for that very reason. What was impossible in the parable,

according to its letter, was possible when it received its application.


4 “Then will I leave thee upon the land, I will cast thee forth upon the

open field, and will cause all the fowls of the heaven to remain

upon thee, and I will fill the beasts of the whole earth with thee.

5 And I will lay thy flesh upon the mountains, and fill the valleys

with thy height.”  The picture is carried out to its completion. The carcass of

the crocodile becomes the prey of unclean birds and beasts. The carcass of the

Egyptian greatness was to satiate the appetite of the invading hosts. Were

the words of Psalm 74:14, as to leviathan being “given for meat to the

people in the wilderness” floating in Ezekiel’s mind (compare the strange

reference to leviathan in II Esdras 6:49, 52, and in later Jewish traditions)?

Greek writers describe the ichthyophagi of Africa as feeding on the flesh of

sea-monsters (Died. Sic, 3:14; Herod., 2:69; Strabo, p. 773), and the word

may possibly include the crocodile.


6 “I will also water with thy blood the land wherein thou swimmest,

even to the mountains; and the rivers shall be full of thee.”

I will water with thy blood. Was the plague of the water of the

Nile turned to blood (Exodus 7:19-20) present to Ezekiel’s mind?

Such an inundation of the Nile, in all its horrors, was a fit symbol of the

deluge of invaders by whom Egypt was laid waste.


7  And when I shall put thee out, I will cover the heaven, and make

the stars thereof dark; I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the

moon shall not give her light.  8 All the bright lights of heaven will I

make dark over thee, and set darkness upon thy land, saith the Lord GOD.”

When I shall put thee out; better, with the Revised Version,

extinguish. The verb is used of lamps in II Chronicles 29:7. The change

of metaphor is at first startling, but I follow Ewald, Hitzig, and Smend, in

thinking that there is a traceable sequence of ideas. The “dragon of the

Egyptian waters” suggested the “dragon” which was conspicuous between

Ursa Major and Minor among the constellations of the heavens, and the

name of which, probably derived by the Greek astronomers from a remote

past, suggested that of an enemy of God (compare Isaiah 51:9). So taken,

the new comparison finds a parallel in that of the King of Babylon to

Lucifer, the morning star, in Ibid. ch. 14:12. Upon this there follows

naturally the imagery of ch.30:18; Isaiah 34:4. As the other

trees of the forest had mourned for the cedar (ch. 31:15), so the

other lights of heaven mourn for that particular star which has been

quenched for ever (compare for the general imagery Isaiah 13:10;

Joel 2:10; Hebrew [‘English version v.31].



Lights Darkened (v. 8)




never look up. Yet he cannot live without the light that comes from over

his head. In spiritual experience there are men who ignore the light above

and the very existence of the heavenly world. Yet they are not the less

largely dependent on those higher influences. If the sun were blotted out,

all life on our globe would perish in darkness and cold — the world

reduced to a block of silent frozen matter. If God were to withdraw, ALL




the soul’s sun. It spreads black clouds between the offender and the

heavenly regions. Sin shuts a man out from fellowship with God. This is its

worst effect, though men may treat it lightly at first. The process is twofold:


Ø      Man is blinded. Though the sun shines in noonday splendor the blind

man walks in midnight darkness. Now, sin puts out the eyes of the soul.

It is like a red-hot iron that burns away the vision of spiritual things; then

the bright lights of heaven are made black.


Ø      God withdraws His brightness. We pray that God may lift up the light of

his countenance upon us. But He may do the reverse, and turn His face

from us. He will not forever display His graciousness to heedless,

rebellious souls.





Ø      Knowledge is obscured. We cannot see truth when God’s light is

withdrawn or when our souls are blinded to the perception of it.

“In thy light we shall see light” (Psalm 36:9). “Judicial blindness”

is  a fearful fate.


Ø      Joy is extinguished. A gloomy day is depressing. Darkness brings

sadness. When heaven is dark all sunshine vanishes from the Soul.


Ø      Life is threatened. The soul’s higher life grows sickly and threatens to





DISCIPLINE. There was darkness round the cross when Jesus was dying.

Then in mysterious spiritual gloom He cried, “My God, my God, why hast

thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). Earnest souls may have times of

darkness, during which the vision of heaven is obscured, seasons of deep

depression, when all that once seemed most real melts into the blackness of

a great doubt.



are dark now we need not remain in gloom forever. “The people that

walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Isaiah 9:2). Christ came as

the Light that shineth in darkness,” as “the Light of the world.” Though

the bright lights of heaven be made dark over us, they are not annihilated;

they are but beclouded or at worst eclipsed. For all dim, bewildered,


But as sin brings on the deepest night of darkness, so it is by repentance

and after-forgiveness that we can hope to see the darkness clear away

and a new light from heaven arise to shine into our Souls.


9 “I will also vex the hearts of many people, when I shall bring thy

destruction among the nations, into the countries which thou hast

not known.  10  Yea, I will make many people amazed at thee, and

their kings shall be horribly afraid for thee, when I shall brandish

my sword before them; and they shall tremble at every moment,

every man for his own life, in the day of thy fall.” I will also vex the hearts.

The words intensify the bitterness of the downfall. The prophet passes out of

the region of metaphors into that of facts. The fall of Egypt will cause pity

among the nations. They shall simply be “vexed” in heart, terrified at the

thought (v. 10) that the sword which had laid her low was “brandished

also against them.


Christ has come to cure vexation of heart!  He may not help us to retrieve broken

fortunes. “To the poor the gospel is preached” (Luke 4:18) — and yet they remain

poor; He may not now restore health as He did during His earthly ministry. But He

aims at the deepest trouble, He cures vexation of heart. To the laboring and heavy

laden He gives rest  (Matthew 11:28).  It is not His will that His people should go

mourning all their days. The dim and faded life may be brightened and gladdened

by the love of the great Savior.  This is possible because Christ goes to the seat of

the trouble, whereas most earthly comforters have only tried to smooth away the

superficial symptoms. He finds the lost God. He restores man to his missed

destiny.  He slays the sin that is the worm at the root of the world’s life. He

brings the heart-joy of life eternal in fellowship with God.


11 “For thus saith the Lord GOD; The sword of the king of Babylon

shall come upon thee.  12 By the swords of the mighty will I cause thy

multitude to fall, the terrible of the nations, all of them: and they shall

spoil the pomp of Egypt, and all the multitude thereof shall be destroyed.

13 I will destroy also all the beasts thereof from beside the great

waters; neither shall the foot of man trouble them any more, nor

the hoofs of beasts trouble them.  14 Then will I make their waters deep,

and cause their rivers to run like oil, saith the Lord GOD. 15 When I

shall make the land of Egypt desolate, and the country

shall be destitute of that whereof it was full, when I shall smite all

them that dwell therein, then shall they know that I am the LORD.”

The sword of the King of Babylon, etc. The effects of

Nebuchadnezzar’s invasion are now described in language which seems

plain enough, but in which we may read between the lines an allusive

reference to the previous symbolism. Thus in v. 13 we are thrown back

upon the thought of the “troubled waters” of v. 2. The Nile was no

longer to be troubled by the foot of beasts; the streams of justice were no

longer to be defiled with a selfish corruption, but were to run smooth and

calm, even as the “rivers of oil” which were the symbols of ethical

blessedness (Job 29:6; Deuteronomy 32:13).  The rule of Nebuchadnezzar

was to be a righteous rule, in spite of its severity. I am unable, however, to

follow some commentators who see in the words a prediction of the

Messianic kingdom. The Egyptians were to “know the Lord,” as the other

nations addressed by Ezekiel were to know Him, as a righteous Judge, not

as yet as a Deliverer (compare ch. 28:26; 29:21; 30:26).





Ø      Sin is anti-social. Civilization is the art of city-life. It is dependent

on co-operation, division of labor, mutual ministries, and mutual

confidence.  All these things are shattered by the selfish and untrue

conduct of sin.

Ø      Sin, is unaspiring and is against progress.  It is depressing and


Ø      Sin is essentially opposed to the laws of God.  No civilization can

be secure and lasting that is not based on those laws. All corrupt

civilization bears within it the seeds of its own destruction. The only

city which hath foundations” is the city of God (Hebrews 11:10),

and this is “let down from heaven,” i.e. it is a city of which the

constitution is Divine, and which embodies the idea of “the kingdom

of heaven.”



SHATTERED. The East is scored with the ruins of ancient empires. Today

the scene of decay is melancholy and oppressive. Yet the sight of those old,

bad empires in their flourishing days was far more sad to behold. They

were seats of cruelty and haunts of vice. It is well that they have ceased to

be. The hyenas and jackals that now infest their neglected temples and

palaces are clean and innocent inhabitants compared with the lustful and

murderous men who formerly lived there. The running sore of modern

Christendom is in the condition of its great cities. The broken-down

wrecks of civilization are far more degraded than the simple savages of the

forest. It was good for the world that Sodom and Gomorrah were

destroyed  (“suffering the vengeance of eternal fire” – Jude 1:7),

that great Nineveh became a lonely resort of lions of the desert,

that the Egypt of the Pharaohs fell from her proud and wicked splendor.

It wilt be well for modem civilization to be swept away if it becomes only





settle quietly and so become clear. Its once disturbed waters are to run

smoothly like oil. These facts which occur in the list of calamities for Egypt -

and rightly, because they indicate the departure of the old, busy, populous

life from its banks and its surface — are nevertheless in themselves good.

It is well that the river should be clear and run smoothly. The destruction

of empires brings deliverance to oppressed subject races. The loss of

civilization may be the gain of naturalness. There may be less wealth, but

more welfare; less pleasure, but more peace. In silence and sorrow of soul


Egyptians in their desolation could look deep down into the still, smooth

waters of the Nile.  This may be a preparation for a holier new life in the




The Sword the Implement of Divine Judgment (vs. 11-12)


The sword has been a mighty factor in human history. However peace and

harmony may be the ideal state of human society, the chronicles of the past

and the observation of the present concur to assure us that there are

elements in man’s nature which will surely reveal themselves in hostility

and in mutual ill will, in bloodshed, and in violent death. Nation rises

against nation. The sword is drawn, and is only sheathed when one

combatant is constrained to submit to the superior power of the other.




Babylon attacked the King of Egypt, there is no doubt he was actuated by

motives of hostility, of personal ambition, perhaps of revenge. But for all

this, and although he knew it not, he was the minister of God, was doing

God’s work, executing God’s purposes. The Almighty can overrule the

wrathful passions of men to bring about the objects He desires to compass.



SUPREME POWER. Men talk of submitting matters to the arbitrament of

the sword, implying that there is no possibility of going behind and beyond

this. In all earthly government physical force is the ultimate resource; it

may not be brought prominently forward, but it lies in the background, to

be used when necessary. God’s power controls and rules the nations; He

cannot be resisted. “The nations are as nothing before Him; they are

counted as less than nothing and vanity” (Isaiah 40:17); “Let not the

rebellious exalt themselves!” (Psalm 66:7)



EXECUTION OF DIVINE JUSTICE. We speak of the sword of the

magistrate, as well as of the sword of the soldier: “He beareth not the

sword in vain”  (Romans 13:4).  There is certainly no allusion in this

prophetic passage to judicial functions, if they are understood to be

distinct from military operations. Yet in God’s hand the sword is not a

weapon of violence, far less of injustice. He never smites vindictively,

but always as a righteous Ruler and an impartial Judge. Even in warfare

He is exercising a magisterial as well as a military office and power. His



Ø      subdues the rebel,

Ø      corrects the offender,

Ø      establishes the rule of justice, and

Ø      brings about the purposes of equitable and happy peace.


16 “This is the lamentation wherewith they shall lament her: the

daughters of the nations shall lament her: they shall lament for her,

even for Egypt, and for all her multitude, saith the Lord GOD.”

This is the lamentation, etc. The work of mourning for the

dead was for the most part assigned to women (II Samuel 1:24;

Jeremiah 9:17; II Chronicles 35:25), and is therefore appropriately

assigned to the daughters of the nations. He hears, as it were, their

wailing over the fallen greatness of Egypt, even in the solitude of Tel-Abib.


17 It came to pass also in the twelfth year, in the fifteenth day of the

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

For yet fourteen days the mind of the prophet brooded over

the fall of Egypt, and his thoughts at last found utterance in another

lamentation, based upon that of Isaiah 14. Taken together, the two

passages give a vivid picture of the thoughts of the Hebrews as to the

unseen world, and we find in them the germs of the later belief of Judaism

in Paradise and Gehenna. What I have called the Dante element in Ezekiel

it seen here raised to its highest power.


18 “Son of man, wail for the multitude of Egypt, and cast them down,

even her, and the daughters of the famous nations, unto the nether

parts of the earth, with them that go down into the pit.”

Cast them down, etc. The prophet thinks of himself as not

only the predictor, but the minister, of the Divine judgments. So it was

given to Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:10) “to root out and to pull down,” and

to Amos (Amos 9:1) to “smite” and to wound. He executes the

sentence, not on Egypt only, but on the other daughters of the famous

nations, sc. on the nations themselves, especially those that are named in

the verses that follow.



Sympathetic Sorrow (v. 18)



OF OUR FELLOW MEN. Ezekiel is told by God to wail for the multitude

of Egypt. He had his own troubles among the disaffected Jews; but he was

not to shut himself up in the selfishness of private distress. His nation was

passing through a season of terrible experiences, many of his kinsfolk

driven into exile, and the remaining inhabitants threatened with fresh war

cruelties.  Yet, Jew as he was, Ezekiel was to find room in his heart for

grief over the distresses of Egypt. It is inhuman not to be moved by a

neighbor’s trouble. We ought to widen the area of our sympathy, and

embrace in it the interests and troubles of foreign nations. If a Jew should

wail for Egypt, should not a Christian wail for the evils of the world?

Individually we are called upon to grieve over our neighbor’s troubles.





Ø      We should grieve more over sin than over external calamity. The

gambling of England (drug abuse in America – CY) is a more sorrowful

sight than the wreckage that strews our coast after a disastrous gale.

(a la Katrina – CY).  We mourn for the death of the good and noble; we

should mourn more for the life of the wicked and ignoble. Drunkenness

is a worse evil than pauperism. Profligacy is infinitely more deplorable

than poverty. Therefore people who think themselves happy and do not

seek our commiseration may most need it.


Ø      We should grieve over sin rather than coldly condemn it. The

sympathizer is himself a sinner. Many who have fallen most low have been

most grievously tempted; but even when the kindest charity can discover

no excuse, wickedness itself should be regarded as a miserable source of

grief to all right-minded people. God pitied the sinner, and sent His Son to

save him. (“While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us!” – Romans 5:8 –

CY – 2014).  Christ wept over Jerusalem. The Christian treatment of sin is

to approach it with sympathetic sorrow.





Ø      It is a source of consolation. Sympathy may comfort when no helping

hand can relieve suffering. It is much to know that we are not alone,

uncared for, and forgotten. The sympathy of God is offered to every

distressed son of man. This is a type and pattern of what must be in

the heart of every godly man.


Ø      It is an inspiration of deliverance. To be content to wail for the troubles

of others, when by any effort or sacrifice we might alleviate those

troubles, is to declare ourselves no better than hypocrites. Rich people

who deplore the misery of their poor neighbors, and yet do nothing to

relieve the burden of poverty, are guilty of shameful inconsistency and

moral untruth. If they really grieved THEY WOULD RELIEVE!  The

first step is to feel the troubles of our fellow men; the next must be to do

all in our power to help them.  (“Whoso hath this world’s good, and

seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion

from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?”  I John 3:17) 

Happily in regard to spiritual troubles Christian people have a source of

assistance to offer in THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST!


19 “Whom dost thou pass in beauty? go down, and be thou laid with

the uncircumcised.” Whom dost thou pass in beauty? The lamentation, as might

be expected from Ezekiel’s standpoint, is an illustration of irony and

triumph rather than of sorrow. The question implies a negative answer.

Glorious as Egypt had been, other nations had equaled her. They had

passed away, and so should she. With the uncircumcised. The words, as

in ch. 31:18, suggest the thought that Israel, so far as it was faithful

to its calling, circumcised in heart as well as flesh (Jeremiah 9:26),

had a higher and happier dwelling in Hades than the uncircumcised

heathen. As the Egyptians practiced circumcision, the language of the

prophet had a special significance. Their place in Hades was among the

heathen to whom that hereto was unknown.


20 “They shall fall in the midst of them that are slain by the sword: she

is delivered to the sword: draw her and all her multitudes.”

She is delivered to the sword; better, with the margin of the

Revised Version, the sword is appointed — possibly, as Ewald suggests,

with reference to the practice of burying a warrior with his sword beneath

his head (compare v. 27). Draw her, etc. The command would seem to be

given, so to speak, to the warders of Sheol. They are to receive the new

comers and take them to their appointed place.


21 “The strong among the mighty shall speak to him out of the midst of

hell with them that help him: they are gone down, they lie

uncircumcised, slain by the sword.”  The strong among the mighty. Those

already in Sheol watch the new arrival, and make their scornful comments

(compare Isaiah 14:9, 18), at once classing them with the uncircumcised.

Had they heard, we ask, of the downfall of Egypt?


22 Asshur is there and all her company: his graves are about him: all

of them slain, fallen by the sword:  23 Whose graves are set in the sides

of the pit, and her company is round about her grave: all of them slain,

fallen by the sword, which caused terror in the land of the living.”

Asshur is there. The verses that follow contain, as it were,

the prophet’s retrospect of the history of the past, as far as he had

knowledge of it. Foremost in those is Assyria, which the prophet had

already chosen (ch. 31:3) as the pattern instance of a fallen greatness.

There in the sides of the pit (i.e. in its remotest and deepest regions)

lie the graves of the rulers surrounded by those of their subjects.

They had caused terror, the prophet adds, with a keen irony, in the land

of the living. They can cause no terror now.


24 “There is Elam and all her multitude round about her grave, all of

them slain, fallen by the sword, which are gone down

uncircumcised into the nether parts of the earth, which caused their

terror in the land of the living; yet have they born their shame with

them that go down to the pit.”  There is Elam etc. The nation so named

appears grouped with Asshur in Genesis 10:22; in Isaiah 11:11 it stands

between Cush and Shinar; in Isaiah 22:6 its warriors form part of the host

of Sennacherib; in Ezra 4:9 they are named as having been among the

settlers in Samaria; in Isaiah 21:2 as joining with the Medes in the

attack on Babylon; in Jeremiah 25:25 again coupled with the Medes

among the enemies of Nebuchadnezzar; in Daniel 8:2 as the province in

which Shushan was situated, and therefore subject to Babylon. Jeremiah

(49:34-39) had uttered a special prophecy against it. From Ezekiel’s point

of view it might well take its place among the powers that had received

their death-blow at the hand of Nebuchadnezzar. Yet have they borne

their shame; sc. the disgrace of being uncircumcised, and therefore taking

their place with the lower circles of the dead.


25 “They have set her a bed in the midst of the slain with all her

multitude: her graves are round about him: all of them

uncircumcised, slain by the sword: though their terror was caused

in the land of the living, yet have they born their shame with them

that go down to the pit: he is put in the midst of them that be slain.”

They have set her a bed. The noun is used for the sleeping place

of the dead — the cemetery, if we trace that word to its root in

Isaiah 57:2; II Chronicles 16:14. In the rest of the verse Ezekiel

reiterates what had been said in v. 24 with an emphatic solemnity. In the

Hebrew, as in the English, there is a constant variation in the pronouns

used, now masculine, now feminine, now singular.


26 “There is Meshech, Tubal, and all her multitude: her graves are

round about him: all of them uncircumcised, slain by the sword,

though they caused their terror in the land of the living.”

There is Meshech, Tubal. (On the ethnological relations of

the two tribes, see note on ch. 27:13, and later on in Ezekiel 38,

and 39.) Ezekiel obviously speaks of them as one of the powers that had

been conspicuous in his own time, and had been, in part at least,

overthrown by the Chaldean monarchy. We may probably connect his

words with the great irruption of the Scythians mentioned by Herodotus

(1. 103; 4:11) as having swept over Asia even to Palestine and Egypt, in

the time of Josiah, and which, after compelling Cyaxares to raise the siege

of Nineveh, left traces of itself in the name of the city of Scythopolis.

Many commentators find a reference to that invasion in the “evil from the

northof Jeremiah 1:14; 4:6; and in Zephaniah 1:13-16. They also,

once the terror of the nations, are now represented by the prophet as in the

shadow-world of Sheol.


27 “And they shall not lie with the mighty that are fallen of the

uncircumcised, which are gone down to hell with their weapons of

war: and they have laid their swords under their heads, but their

iniquities shall be upon their bones, though they were the terror of

the mighty in the land of the living.”  And they shall not lie with the mighty.

The words seem at first to contradict v. 26. The Septuagint meets the difficulty

by omitting the negative; Ewald and Havernick, by taking it as an interrogative,

“Shall they not lie,” etc.? Probably the explanation is laying stress on the word

mighty.” Meshech and Tubal have a lower place in Hades; they are buried

without the honors of war. Their swords are not placed beneath their heads

(for the practice thus referred to, see Died. Sic., 18:26; Arrian, 1:5; Virg.,

AEn.,’ 6:233). For the Scythians, who worshipped the sword (Herod., L

62), this would be the extremest ignominy. In this way their iniquities

should be upon their bones as they lay dishonored.




Indelible Sin (v. 27)


Their iniquities shall be upon their bones”   The idea seems to be that the guilty

Egyptians shall not have honorable burial like that of the kings and princes who

have been laid in the tombs with their weapons of war by their side — a token that

they may yet roam as great fighting heroes through the dim regions of the nether

world. The Egyptians are forbidden this prospect. They who of all people cared

for the preservation of the bodies of the dead, by embalming and burying in huge

pyramids, are to have their bones flung in a heap like a confused mass of corpses

hurriedly gathered together from a battle-field. This is a punishment of sin.



deeds are our lasting possession. We may lose all else and still not lose

them. In the exciting moment of temptation the foolish fancy is entertained

that the sin may be quickly committed and then left behind. The sinner will

flee from his guilt and leave it in the dark depths of some distant forest.

Alas! this is impossible. The awful thing pursues its maker into the

wilderness, into the city, into the sacred sanctuary of the home.



is not merely a deed of the hand. If it were that only it would have no

moral character. But it springs from the inner being, and it comes home to

roost. Though the flesh be scraped from the bones, still the sin remains, as

though cleaving to the very skeleton — it is so close a companion, its seat

is so terribly centered within.


·         SIN PURSUES THE SINNER AFTER DEATH. The sinner does not

carry his wealth with him, but he carries his wickedness. His estate must be

left behind, his iniquity will accompany him. His body he must cast off, but

he cannot cast off his sin. The man and his sin will enter into the dread

world of the dead together, there to be judged by God, there to reap the

consequences of their fearful partnership.


·         NO HUMAN EXPERIENCE CAN REMOVE SIN. Iniquities lying

on the very bones of the dead! Who shall tear them off and fling them

away? Tears will not wash them out, for tears cannot undo the past.

Amendment will not destroy them, for even if that be possible, it is

wholly a thing of the future, it does not touch the record of the past.



cannot deny history, turn back the wheels of time and unknit the web of the

past. But He can and He does offer pardon. When sin is forgiven God will

remember it no more against the sinner (Jeremiah 31:34). With pardon

Christ also brings a new heart and life. The new inner life has had nothing

to do with the old sin. It makes a fresh start unhampered with the ugly

burden of the past. This great result is brought about on Christ’s side by His

death and resurrection (Romans 4:25), and on our side through penitence

and faith (Acts 3:19).


28 “Yea, thou shalt be broken in the midst of the uncircumcised, and

shalt lie with them that are slain with the sword.” Yea, thou shalt be broken.

The words are obviously addressed to Pharaoh. He must prepare himself for a

like doom. His place, proud as he was of his magnificence, shall be with the

wild nomad hordes of Scythia.


29 “There is Edom, her kings, and all her princes, which with their

might are laid by them that were slain by the sword: they shall lie

with the uncircumcised, and with them that go down to the pit.”

There is Edom, her kings and her princes. (For the political

relations of Edom at this time, see ch.25:12-14.) Whatever

shadow of power might yet remain to it, Ezekiel, from his standpoint,

could yet declare that her greatness had departed. The exultation which the

Edomites had shown over the fall of Jerusalem (Psalm 137:7) would

naturally tend to accentuate the prophet’s language. The “princes” of

Edom are probably identical with the “dukes” of Genesis 36:15-43 and

I Chronicles 1:51, where the word means literally the heads or captains

of thousands, i.e. of tribes, as in Judges 6:15 (compare Zechariah 9:7; 12:5).


30 “There be the princes of the north, all of them, and all the

Zidonians, which are gone down with the slain; with their terror

they are ashamed of their might; and they lie uncircumcised with

them that be slain by the sword, and bear their shame with them

that go down to the pit.” There be the princes of the north. The noun for

princes is different from that of v. 29, and has the sense of “vassal rulers,”

as in Joshua 13:21; Micah 5:4. So we have the “kings of the north” in

Jeremiah 25:26. The fact that they are coupled with the Zidonians (it is

suggestive that Ezekiel names these rather than the Tyrians) points in the

direction of Northern Syria, including cities like Damascus, Hamath,

Arpad, and others.


31“Pharaoh shall see them, and shall be comforted over all his

multitude, even Pharaoh and all his army slain by the sword, saith

the Lord GOD.  32 For I have caused my terror in the land of the living:

and he shall be laid in the midst of the uncircumcised with them that are

slain with the sword, even Pharaoh and all his multitude, saith the Lord

GOD.”  Shall be comforted, etc. (compare for the thought, ch.31:16).

That shall be all that he will have to console him. As before, other

nations were comforted by the downfall of Egypt, so Egypt in her turn

finds her comfort in their downfall. All are sharers alike in the fiend-like

temper which exults in the miseries of others. Ewald and Hitzig, here as

there, take the word as in the sense of “mourning over.” As to the extent

and manner in which the predictions of the chapter have been fulfilled, see

notes on Ezekiel 29. — 31. Sufficient evidence has been given that Egypt

was probably invaded and conquered by Nebuchadnezzar. The silence of

the Greek historians, and notably of Herodotus, as to any such invasion

goes for little or nothing. He could not read the Egyptian records, and

derived his knowledge from the priests through an interpreter. They, after

their manner, would draw a veil over all disasters, and so, while he records

the revolution which placed Amasis upon the throne of Hophra, he is silent

as to any invasion, and does not even mention the battle of Carchemish.



The Gathering of the Guilty Nations in Hades (vs. 17-32)


This vision of the Ezekiel is one of the boldest and most sublime in

the whole compass of literature. As a lofty flight of imagination it excites

the wonder and admiration of every reader gifted with poetical

appreciation. Ezekiel is bringing to a close his prophecies regarding the

nations by which the land of Israel was encompassed. How far from the

narrowness and the lack of sympathy sometimes attributed to the Hebrews

was the prophet of the Oriental captivity! How wide the sweep of his

vision! How ready his sympathy for the fate of other peoples than his own!

And, above all, how sublime: his conception of the unity and the true

immortality of the human race! As he was not limited by space, but

interested himself in the territories and the dominions of distant monarchs,

so he disdained the bounds of time, passed beyond this scene of discipline

and probation, and anticipated the community of the heathen nations in the

realm of Hades. There his prophetic spirit beheld Pharaoh and his people

surrounded by the kings and armies and multitudes from other lands,

participating in a just and common fate.


·         THE COMMON SIN OF THE NATIONS. Of all those mentioned by

the prophet, it may be said that they were unfaithful to their trust, and

incurred the just displeasure of the Ruler of the universe.


Ø      They had all forgotten God, for it is in this light that we must view

their idolatry.

Ø      They had all sought their own aggrandizement and glory rather

than the life of righteousness.

Ø      They had all been rapacious, violent, and unscrupulous in their

treatment of neighboring peoples.


·         THE COMMON DOOM OF THE NATIONS. It is said of one after

another of these guilty states, that they were all slain with the sword, and

bore their shame with them that go down to the pit, to the midst of Sheol.

It is said that “their iniquities were upon their bones” by which we may

understand that their sin clave to them, that they were counted responsible

for it, and were required to bear the penalties attaching to it. It would be

absurd to attempt a precise explanation of the poetical language of this

splendid vision, which is utterly insusceptible of logical analysis. It

expresses the mood of the inspired prophet; it conveys a great moral truth;

it aids us in the appreciation of national continuity and vitality; it brings

powerfully before our mind the amenability of governments and states to

the moral law and jurisdiction of the Eternal Righteousness.



“Son of man,” said the Lord, “wail for the multitude of Egypt.” Although

the nations are represented as lying still in the depths of Sheol — their

swords under their heads — yet they are represented as in some measure

conscious; Pharaoh of Egypt being “comforted” at the awful approach of

his compeers in pride and terror, and the Zidonians as ashamed because of

their sin and its recompense. Mourning and lamentation must ensue upon

sin, even though during its commission there be insensibility and obduracy.


·         THE COMMON TESTIMONY OF THE NATIONS. The fate of the

colossal world empires of antiquity has preached, in tones of power and in

terms of unmistakable precision, to the after-times. These nations, in their

worldly pride and in their providential fall, have taught mankind that there

is but one sure foundation for a people’s well-being, and that those who

build upon another foundation are DOOMED TO FALL!  God Himself


he is repudiated or forgotten, RUIN IS SURE!  Where He is honored and

obeyed, there and there only will there prevail PROGRESS, STABILITY

and PEACE!



Companionship in Woe (vs. 17-32)


The prophet is a man of power. He is a king bearing an invisible scepter.

As a monarch wields only a borrowed power — a power lent by God — so

a true prophet is God’s vicegerent. Here he unfolds a terrible vision, the

outline of a woeful reality. He leads the Egyptian king to the mouth of a

vast abyss, in which lie multitudes of the vanquished and the slain. He is

invited to contemplate the condition of those thus dishonored by the King

of Babylon. And he is forewarned that such will be his doom. Escape was

just possible, but it was almost a forlorn hope.



called upon to wail.  He is even an agent, though a subordinate agent, in

casting king and people into the abyss of death. He is under obligation to

act for God. The path of duty is often severely rugged; yet no other path is

smoother, though another path may seem to be. The course of

righteousness will be in the end PEACE,  but in the process there is strife

and hard discipline. The harvest will be plentiful, but severe exertion is

required, and faith is put to the strain. The pain of travail must precede

the joy of young life. Through toil we pass to honor.



already real degradation, although very often men do not see it. But the

disease will appear by-and-by on the exterior circumstance. The seed will

come to the fruitage. Sin is no “respecter of persons.” Even “the daughters

of the famous nations” — eminent for strength and beauty — “shall be cast

down into the nether parts of the earth”  (v. 18).  There shall be visible a

terrible downfall, an unmitigated degradation. As the lower orders of

creatures cannot sin, neither can they suffer such degradation. The balances

are in the hands of supreme justice, and the hour of final retribution draws

on apace.


“Though the mills of God grind slowly,

yet they grind exceeding small.”



RETRIBUTION. “Whom dost thou pass in beauty? Go down, and be thou

laid with the uncircumcised” (v. 19).  The spirit of vanity may tempt us to say,

“We are better than they. The doom of others will not be our doom” It is

marvelous how men are taken in the web of self-deception. Yet no external

circumstance has ever yet saved men from the effects of unrighteousness.

Riches have not saved them. The beauty of Cleopatra did not protect her

from a terrible doom. The honor of our contemporaries cannot save us.

Posterity will easily reverse the present judgment of men, and the hand of

justice will tear in pieces our flimsy reputation. Present fame may be future




MORAL AFFINITIES. In the present state, men are associated by natural

affinities and by external circumstances. But such arrangements are

temporary and provisional only. Children nursed at the same breast and fed

at the same table will have their final portion as separate as the poles

asunder. Now kings consort with kings, nobles with nobles, poets with

poets; but in the final apportionment, the righteous of every social grade

will consort with the righteous; vile kings will consort with vile beggars.

Earthly circumstance and pomp will have disappeared. Only moral

distinctions will remain. Association in sin must terminate by association in

woe. Human beings and all beings gravitate to that state for which they are

fitted. No affinities are so deep and strong as moral affinities, and, though

for a time suppressed, they will by-and-by be uppermost.



“The strong among the mighty shall speak to him out of the midst of hell”

(v. 21).  If only men would be warned by the fall and ruin of others, we

might hope that all future generations of mankind would be saved. There

are beacons without number to frighten men away from the rocks and

quicksands of peril, yet all to no purpose. We think others to be in peril,

not ourselves.  Alas! the heart is deceitful above all things” (Jeremiah

17:9).  Nothing will turn us away from the fascinating eye of sin but the

working of Almighty Grace within.  Beacons become to us what scarecrows

do to birds — they soon cease to alarm.



“They were the terror of the mighty in the land of the living” (v. 27);

“With their terror, they are [now] ashamed of their might” (v. 30).

After all, what a frail reed is the mightiest scepter or the most martial arm!

What real weakness is at the heart of him who brandishes the gory sword!

Like the frog who attempted to inflate himself to the magnitude of an ox,

so the paltry man who assays to play the tyrant soon collapses. One sharp

prick, and the windbag soon collapses. As a child feels overwhelmed with

shame when he sees in the clear light of morning the tree or the gate-post

that terrified him in the darkness; so men at length discover the emptiness

of the monarch, whose frown was for a moment their terror. All pretence

to power and authority shall presently be hurled to the ground, ay, cast

into the pit of oblivion. All real power shall abide.


·         GOD’S TERROR IS SUPREME OVER MAN’S. “I have caused my

terror in the land of the living” (v. 32).  There is such a thing as power in

the universe — an infinite power — before which it becomes every man to

tremble; but this power is IN THE HAND OF GOD!   “Jehovah reigneth,

therefore let the people tremble” (Psalm 99:1).  “Before Him the inhabitants

of the earth are as grasshoppers; they are like the small dust of the balance.”

(Isaiah 40:22).  His power is real, all-pervading, all-enduring. No being in the

 universe can diminish it nor resist it. Being a real power, it is becoming that

it should inspire us with awe. The terror which tyrants and warriors awaken

is only for a moment. The sham soon gets exposed. But presently the King

of kings will make even tyrants shake, and the hearts of warriors melt.

“Vengeance is mine,” saith God; “I will repay  (Romans 12:19).

When Jehovah appears, tyrants hide themselves “in dens and caves

of the earth.”  (Isaiah 2:19; Revelation 6:15)


“Fear him, ye saints, and ye will then

Have nothing else to fear.”



A Vision of the Unseen World (vs. 17-32)


·         ITS PERSONAL APPLICATION. Not only the king or the prince,

but also “the multitude,” are seen in the nether parts (vs. 18, 24, 26).

The people are there. This directs us to:


Ø      A common impending fate. Some day the grave will hold all the

living.  Indeed, to the poet’s eye, this earth is less the home of

the living than the resting-place of the dead.


“The hills,

Rock-ribbed and ancient as the sun, the vales

Stretching in pensive quietness between;

The venerable woods, rivers that move

In majesty, and the complaining brooks

That make the meadows green; and, poured round all,

Old ocean’s grey and melancholy waste,

Are but the solemn decorations all

Of the great tomb of man.”


(Thantatopsis by William Cullen Bryant.)


As the multitude that once trod the earth now “slumber in its bosom”

(Ibid.), so we also shall soon find our place beneath the ground.


Ø      A poetical consolation. Small comfort would it be to Pharaoh (see

v.31) to find that he and his were in no worse plight than other kings

and peoples who tenanted the shades. But such as it was, it was at his

service. And it is quite true, as the same writer (supra) reminds us:


“Yet not to thine eternal resting-place

Shalt thou retire alone. Thou shalt lie down

With patriarchs of the infant world, with kings,

The powerful of the earth, the wise, the good,

Fair forms, and hoary seers of ages past,

All in one mighty sepulcher.”  (Ibid.)


But we want some better consolation than this very imaginary and

unsatisfying one. Surely this is a very poor alleviation for losing life

and all that a true and full human life holds. We must look elsewhere

for our comfort. AND WE SHALL NOT FAIL TO FIND IT!


Ø      The real redeeming thought, viz. that the future to which we look

forward, as the disciples and followers of Christ, is neither the dark

grave in the cemetery nor the little less inviting Sheol of Hebrew

thought, but the home of the blessed in THE NEAR PRESENCE OF

GOD, where LIFE is FREE, FULL AND PURE in the mansions of



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