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
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
“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
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
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,
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.
· THE CAUSE OF A NATION’S MORAL NOXIOUSNESS. The
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
· THE MANIFESTATIONS OF A NATION’S MORAL
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.
· THE PUNISHMENT OF A NATION’S NOXIOUSNESS. In the
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
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
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
Such an inundation of the
deluge of invaders by whom
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)
· MAN CANNOT DISPENSE WITH LIGHTS OF HEAVEN. He may
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
BEING WOULD COME TO AN END!
· THE LIGHTS OF HEAVEN ARE DARKENED BY SIN. Sin eclipses
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,
· THE DARKENING ON THE LIGHTS OF HEAVEN BRINGS
MANY GRIEVOUS CONSEQUENCES.
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
pass away THE DARKNESS OF SEPARATION FROM GOD!
· THERE IS A DARKENING OF THE BRIGHT LIGHTS OF
HEAVEN WHICH MAY COME IN THE COURSE OF THE SOUL’S
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.
· CHRIST BRINGS A NEW LIGHT TO BENIGHTED SOULS. If we
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,
sorrow-laden souls THERE IS THE HOPE OF LIGHT IN CHRIST!
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
region of metaphors into that of facts. The fall of
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.
thus saith the Lord GOD; The sword of the king of
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
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
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
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).
· SIN DESTROYS CIVILIZATION..
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
which hath foundations” is the city of
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
· IT IS WELL THAT A SINFUL CIVILIZATION SHOULD BE
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
destroyed (“suffering the vengeance of eternal fire” – Jude 1:7),
It wilt be well for modem civilization to be swept away if it becomes only
SECULAR, ATHEISTIC and IMMORAL!
· THE RESULTS OF A SHATTERED CIVILIZATION WILL BE A
PREPARATION FOR A BETTER FUTURE. The old foul
settle quietly and so become clear. Its once disturbed waters are to run
smoothly like oil. These facts which occur in the list of
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
people learn TO LOOK BENEATH THE SURFACE OF LIFE, the
Egyptians in their desolation could look deep down into the still, smooth
waters of 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.
· THERE IS A SENSE IN WHICH THE SWORD OF THE MIGHTY
CONQUEROR IS THE SWORD OF GOD HIMSELF. When the King of
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.
· THE SWORD OF THE CONQUEROR IS THE SYMBOL OF
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)
· THE CONQUEROR’S SWORD IS THE EMBLEM OF THE
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,
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
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
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
it seen here raised to its highest power.
18 “Son of
man, wail for the multitude of
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
nations, sc. on the nations themselves, especially those that are named in
the verses that follow.
Sympathetic Sorrow (v. 18)
· SYMPATHETIC SORROW IS CALLED FOR BY THE TROUBLES
OF OUR FELLOW MEN. Ezekiel is told by God to wail for the multitude
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
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
Individually we are called upon to grieve over our neighbor’s troubles.
· SYMPATHETIC SORROW IS ESPECIALLY REQUIRED BY THE
Ø We should grieve more over sin than over external calamity. The
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
to approach it with sympathetic sorrow.
· SYMPATHETIC SORROW IS A MINISTERING ANGEL OF
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.
passed away, and so should she. With the uncircumcised. The words, as
ch. 31:18, suggest the thought that
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
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
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.
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
of Sennacherib; in Ezra 4:9 they are named as having been among the
among the enemies of Nebuchadnezzar; in Daniel 8:2 as the province in
which Shushan was situated, and
therefore subject to
(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
the time of Josiah, and which, after compelling Cyaxares to raise the siege
Many commentators find a reference to that invasion in the “evil from the
north” of 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.
· SIN ONCE COMMITTED REMAINS WITH THE SINNER. Our own
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.
· SIN ENTERS DEEPLY INTO THE NATURE OF THE SINNER. It
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.
· CHRIST BLOTS OUT SIN THAT IS OTHERWISE INDELIBLE. He
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.
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.”
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
naturally tend to accentuate the prophet’s language. The “princes” of
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
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
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
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
to any invasion, and does not even mention the battle of
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
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
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.
· THE COMMON WOE AND LAMENTATION OF THE NATIONS.
“Son of man,” said the Lord, “wail for the multitude of
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
is the Source of TRUE NATIONAL LIFE AND PROSPERITY! Where
he is repudiated or forgotten, RUIN IS SURE! Where He is honored and
obeyed, there and there only will there prevail PROGRESS, STABILITY
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
just possible, but it was almost a forlorn hope.
· DUTY OFTTIMES IS EXCEEDINGLY PAINFUL. God’s servant is
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.
· SIN ALWAYS LEADS TO TERRIBLE DEGRADATION. Sin is
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
“Though the mills of God grind slowly,
yet they grind exceeding small.”
· SELF-ESTEEM IS NO SAFEGUARD AGAINST JUST
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
· ASSOCIATION WITH OTHERS WILL BE DETERMINED BY
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 RUIN OF OTHERS IS IMPOTENT TO DETER FROM SIN.
“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.
· SELF-INFLATION IS THE PRELUDE TO ETERNAL SHAME.
“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.
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
THE FATHER’S HOUSE!
"Excerpted text Copyright AGES Library, LLC. All rights reserved.
Materials are reproduced by permission."
This material can be found at:
If this exposition is helpful, please share with others