Ezekiel 29 & Psalm 78:1-37

Ezekiel 29

    In the tenth year, in the tenth month, on the twelfth day of the month, the word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, set your face against Pharaoh king of Egypt, and prophesy against him and against all Egypt; speak, and say, Thus says the Lord GOD:

    “Behold, I am against you,
        Pharaoh king of Egypt,
    the great dragon that lies
        in the midst of his streams,
    that says, ‘My Nile is my own;
        I made it for myself.’
    I will put hooks in your jaws,
        and make the fish of your streams stick to your scales;
    and I will draw you up out of the midst of your streams,
        with all the fish of your streams
        that stick to your scales.
    And I will cast you out into the wilderness,
        you and all the fish of your streams;
    you shall fall on the open field,
        and not be brought together or gathered.
    To the beasts of the earth and to the birds of the heavens
        I give you as food.
        Then all the inhabitants of Egypt shall know that I am the LORD.

    “Because you have been a staff of reed to the house of Israel, when they grasped you with the hand, you broke and tore all their shoulders; and when they leaned on you, you broke and made all their loins to shake. Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will bring a sword upon you, and will cut off from you man and beast, and the land of Egypt shall be a desolation and a waste. Then they will know that I am the LORD.

    “Because you said, ‘The Nile is mine, and I made it,’ therefore, behold, I am against you and against your streams, and I will make the land of Egypt an utter waste and desolation, from Migdol to Syene, as far as the border of Cush. No foot of man shall pass through it, and no foot of beast shall pass through it; it shall be uninhabited forty years. And I will make the land of Egypt a desolation in the midst of desolated countries, and her cities shall be a desolation forty years among cities that are laid waste. I will scatter the Egyptians among the nations, and disperse them through the countries.

    “For thus says the Lord GOD: At the end of forty years I will gather the Egyptians from the peoples among whom they were scattered, and I will restore the fortunes of Egypt and bring them back to the land of Pathros, the land of their origin, and there they shall be a lowly kingdom. It shall be the most lowly of the kingdoms, and never again exalt itself above the nations. And I will make them so small that they will never again rule over the nations. And it shall never again be the reliance of the house of Israel, recalling their iniquity, when they turn to them for aid. Then they will know that I am the Lord GOD.”

    In the twenty-seventh year, in the first month, on the first day of the month, the word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon made his army labor hard against Tyre. Every head was made bald, and every shoulder was rubbed bare, yet neither he nor his army got anything from Tyre to pay for the labor that he had performed against her. Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will give the land of Egypt to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon; and he shall carry off its wealth and despoil it and plunder it; and it shall be the wages for his army. I have given him the land of Egypt as his payment for which he labored, because they worked for me, declares the Lord GOD.

    “On that day I will cause a horn to spring up for the house of Israel, and I will open your lips among them. Then they will know that I am the LORD.”

(Ezekiel 29 ESV)

Psalm 78:1-37

A Maskil of Asaph.

    Give ear, O my people, to my teaching;
        incline your ears to the words of my mouth!
    I will open my mouth in a parable;
        I will utter dark sayings from of old,
    things that we have heard and known,
        that our fathers have told us.
    We will not hide them from their children,
        but tell to the coming generation
    the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might,
        and the wonders that he has done.
    He established a testimony in Jacob
        and appointed a law in Israel,
    which he commanded our fathers
        to teach to their children,
    that the next generation might know them,
        the children yet unborn,
    and arise and tell them to their children,
        so that they should set their hope in God
    and not forget the works of God,
        but keep his commandments;
    and that they should not be like their fathers,
        a stubborn and rebellious generation,
    a generation whose heart was not steadfast,
        whose spirit was not faithful to God.
    The Ephraimites, armed with the bow,
        turned back on the day of battle.
    They did not keep God's covenant,
        but refused to walk according to his law.
    They forgot his works
        and the wonders that he had shown them.
    In the sight of their fathers he performed wonders
        in the land of Egypt, in the fields of Zoan.
    He divided the sea and let them pass through it,
        and made the waters stand like a heap.
    In the daytime he led them with a cloud,
        and all the night with a fiery light.
    He split rocks in the wilderness
        and gave them drink abundantly as from the deep.
    He made streams come out of the rock
        and caused waters to flow down like rivers.
    Yet they sinned still more against him,
        rebelling against the Most High in the desert.
    They tested God in their heart
        by demanding the food they craved.
    They spoke against God, saying,
        “Can God spread a table in the wilderness?
    He struck the rock so that water gushed out
        and streams overflowed.
    Can he also give bread
        or provide meat for his people?”
    Therefore, when the LORD heard, he was full of wrath;
        a fire was kindled against Jacob;
        his anger rose against Israel,
    because they did not believe in God
        and did not trust his saving power.
    Yet he commanded the skies above
        and opened the doors of heaven,
    and he rained down on them manna to eat
        and gave them the grain of heaven.
    Man ate of the bread of the angels;
        he sent them food in abundance.
    He caused the east wind to blow in the heavens,
        and by his power he led out the south wind;
    he rained meat on them like dust,
        winged birds like the sand of the seas;
    he let them fall in the midst of their camp,
        all around their dwellings.
    And they ate and were well filled,
        for he gave them what they craved.
    But before they had satisfied their craving,
        while the food was still in their mouths,
    the anger of God rose against them,
        and he killed the strongest of them
        and laid low the young men of Israel.
    In spite of all this, they still sinned;
        despite his wonders, they did not believe.
    So he made their days vanish like a breath,
        and their years in terror.
    When he killed them, they sought him;
        they repented and sought God earnestly.
    They remembered that God was their rock,
        the Most High God their redeemer.
    But they flattered him with their mouths;
        they lied to him with their tongues.
    Their heart was not steadfast toward him;
        they were not faithful to his covenant.

(Psalm 78:1-37 ESV)

The following is taken from D.A. Carson's For the Love of God series...

IN SOME WAYS THE PROPHECY AGAINST Egypt (Ezek. 29) is akin to the prophecies against other nations mentioned in this section of Ezekiel (chaps. 25—32). The repetition of themes should signal us as to how important God judges them to be, e.g., the wickedness of arrogant self-confidence and the boasting of independence (29:3, 9). But in addition there are several fresh elements here worth pondering.

(1) Egypt is charged with being “a staff of reed” that could not provide the support she promised. When people tried to lean on her, the reed splintered and tore their flesh (29:6; cf. Isa. 36:6 = 2 Kings 18:21). Neither individuals nor nations should promise what they cannot deliver.

(2) Like Israel (and a lot of other nations, for that matter), Egypt would be defeated and a significant part of its population would go into exile (29:12). Just as the Israelites would be permitted to return to their homeland under the more lenient policies of the Persians, so also a lot of other exiles would be permitted to return to their respective homelands. Not least among them would be the Egyptians (29:13). This is Yahweh’s doing: “I will gather the Egyptians from the nations where they were scattered.”

(3) Nevertheless, God insists that Egypt will never again be a great power (29:14-16). If he is the God who can raise up nations and put them down, he has every right to make these assignments. Some ancient powers have virtually or entirely disappeared: the Hittites, the Assyrians, the Babylonians. The Egyptians are still here, but God says he will make them weak so that they will “never again rule over the nations” (29:15)—and will never be relied on by nations like Israel (29:16).

(4) One of the most intriguing “behind-the-scenes” reasonings is found in 29:17-20. Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon is going to succeed against Tyre, but it will be a hard campaign and with little profit. So God will give Egypt to Babylon, in part to pay off Babylon for its long and costly years against Tyre. “I have given him Egypt as a reward for his efforts because he and his army did it for me, declares the Sovereign LORD” (29:20). Not for a moment should one think that any of the nations acted out of conscious obedience to the Lord (cf. Isa. 10:5ff!). But the Lord is no one’s debtor, and these are the arrangements that Almighty God is making.

We would not know these things apart from revelation, of course. But they warn us against pontificating too loudly about what is going on in our day, when we see so little of the big picture as to what God himself is doing.