Judgment on Egypt

Ezekiel 29-32

Alan Lewis
Elon, North Carolina
March 2018

We have been studying the chapters in the Bible that you never hear about in church.  Today, we come to an important part of the Book of Ezekiel.  It it is the end of the first part of the book.  The first part of the book is very repetitive.  It has one theme and it is the theme of JUDGMENT.  God judges Israel when they sin and God judges the Gentile nations around Israel when they sin.

We have looked at judgment on six of these nations.  Today, we come to judgment on the seventh nation.  It is the final nation on the list and it is the longest section.  Judgment on Tyre was three chapters long (Ezekiel 26-28).  Judgment on Egypt is four chapters long (Ezekiel 29-32).

This is longest single prophecy against in nation in the whole Bible (ninety-seven verses).  Four chapters are given to the judgment of Egypt (Ezekiel 29-32).  That is one-twelfth of the book, because there are forty-eight chapters.  Within these four chapters are seven specific oracles directed against Egypt.

They all start with the words, “The word of the Lord came to me.”  We see that phrase seven times in these chapters (cf. 29:1, 17; 30:1, 20; 31:1; 32:1, 17).  Many would love to know if America is in bible prophecy?  We do not even have one chapter in the Bible devoted to America.  Far from having seven oracles, we do not even have one.  Egypt has seven oracles.

Why is so much space in Ezekiel devoted to Egypt?  Were they greater sinners than other nations?  The Egyptians were the first anti-Semites in history.  Antisemitism did not begin with Hitler.  The Egyptians were the first people to persecute the Jews.  They put them in bondage for over four hundred years.  It was a cruel bondage.  Satan used them to enslave God’s people.  Now Ezekiel predicts judgment for the Egyptians.

We are going to look at four chapters today because they all deal with the same topic.  We are not going to go verse-by-verse.  That would take too long.  We will start with a quick overview of the four chapters.  What does God say in these chapters?  Then, we will look at how they apply to us today.  Let’s look at a brief overview of these oracles.

The First Prophecy (29:1-16)

The first oracle is a literal and poetic prophecy of Egypt’s destruction.  It begins with a poetic prophecy.  God says that he is against Egypt and against Pharaoh.  Pharaoh is pictured as a great monster in the sea.  It is a pictured as a huge crocodile.  God goes fishing.  He puts hooks in the jaw of this beast and drags him to the desert and gives it as food to the beasts of the earth. Then we have a literal prophecy of Egypt’s judgment.  Ezekiel made five predictions about Egypt

Five Predictions about Egypt

1) Egypt will be conquered by the Babylonians (568 BC).

God said, “I will bring a sword against you and kill both man and beast” (29:8) and at the end of the chapter we see it will be the sword of the Babylonians.  Skeptics say that this never happened.  There was no Babylonian conquest of Egypt[1] but we have a Babylonian text that describes an assault by Nebuchadnezzar on Egypt.[2]

2) Many Egyptians will go into exile (29:12).  There is historical evidence for this taking place.[3]

3) The desolation would last forty years (29:11-13).  Forty years the period of Babylonian dominance over Egypt, whether “forty” is a literal number, a round number or a figurative number.

4) The Egyptians will eventually return to their land.  This was fulfilled when Cyrus released everybody Nebuchadnezzar exiled (29:13-14).

5) Egypt will become politically weak and insignificant as a result .

I will bring them back from captivity and return them to Upper Egypt, the land of their ancestry. There they will be a lowly kingdom. 15 It will be the lowliest of kingdoms and will never again exalt itself above the other nations. I will make it so weak that it will never again rule over the nations. (Ezekiel 29:14-16 NIV).

This prophecy has been literally fulfilled.  Egypt was one of the greatest empires in the ancient world.  It is one of the longest lasting civilizations in world history (thirty centuries).  In Moses and Ezekiel’s day, it was a military superpower.  Today, it is almost a third-world nation.

Egypt has not been a superpower since these words were uttered.  They never recovered from this attack, even twenty-five hundred years later.  Egypt is an independent nation today but it does not rule over other nations, like it once did.

The Second Prophecy (29:17-20)

God rewards Nebuchadnezzar with Egypt.  God rewards Nebuchadnezzar with Egypt.  Nebuchadnezzar did not get it on his own.  God gave it to him.  Nebuchadnezzar was not a believer.  He wasn’t even righteous.  He wasn’t trying to serve God but when he did what God wanted him to do, He rewarded him and he rewarded him with the spoils of another country.

The Third Prophecy (30:1-19)

Ezekiel repeats the same prophecy with more details.  Ezekiel predicts Egypt will be invaded by not just anyone but “the most ruthless of nations” (30:11).  The sword will come on the Egyptians (30:10).  Cities will be destroyed (30:7).  Wealth will be taken (30:4).  People will be killed (30:5-6).  There will be dead bodies everywhere (30:11). This prophecy tells us what this day will be like.  It will be a day of doom (30:3 ESV).  It will be a dark day, a day of clouds, a day of gloom and despair.

The Fourth Prophecy (30:20-26)

God says He will do three things in this prophecy.  He promises to break the arms of Pharaoh, to strengthen the arms of Nebuchadnezzar and scattering the Egyptians.  We all want God to strengthen our arms, not break them.

The Fifth Prophecy (31:1-18)

God predicts that Egypt will go down like ancient Assyria did. Assyria as the most powerful empire in the world for three hundred years.  It conquered and ruled the Middle East from 900-600 BC.  Assyria was like a huge cedar tree.  It was tall.  It was beautiful.  This tree was cut down.  It fell, and made a loud noise.

The Sixth Prophecy (32:1-16)

Egypt is pictured as a monster in the sea again.  This time, God uses a net to drag this monster onto the land and throws it onto the open field where it does and is eaten by other animals. This prediction shows what people will think when the Babylonians come into Egypt and start killing people.  He says that people will fear for their life (32:10)

The Seventh Prophecy (32:17-32)

This is perhaps the most interesting of all of them.  Ezekiel gets a vision of the underworld or afterworld.  He sees the state of the dead and we learn some things about the afterlife here.  Many say that there is no concept of the afterlife in the OT.  That is not true.  Ezekiel describes what happened to the Egyptians who were killed by the Babylonians.  This is a brief description of what happened to the wicked who die in the OT.  The Egyptians were big on the afterlife.  That is what the Pyramids were all about.  They made sure the Pharaoh made it to the afterlife

Where did the dead Egyptians go?  They went to a place called Sheol (31:15, 16, 17; 32:21, 27).  Their bodies went to the grave but their spirit or soul went to Sheol.  There are three realms in the Bible: heaven, earth and the underworld.  We see this in Philippians 2:10. EARTH is the land of the living.  SHEOL is where spirits of dead people in the OT went. HEAVEN is the abode of God and the angels.  It is where God’s throne is located.

Relevance for Today

What is the relevance of these chapters today?  We did not come to church to see what God says about another country.  None of us are Egyptians.  How does this chapter apply to Americans?  These chapters have an important message for us today. They have a message about God, about man, about sin, and about death.

 Message About God

What do these chapters tell us about God?  They tell us three things.

1) They tell us that God is completely sovereign.

Many do not like this doctrine but it is biblical.  God does not just rule over churches, He rules over nations.  He rules over the world. He gets involved in politics and international affairs.  He can give one nation to another nation anytime He wants.  He created everyone.  He owns the world.  He made it.

2) They tell us that God is a judge.

We live in a day when many people say that God is not a judge, sometimes even in the church.  He is not mad at anyone.  He loves everyone.  He accepts everyone the way they are. He is accepting.  The problem is that it is not biblical picture of the God.  It is a complete lie.  We want to live like atheists, like there is no God.  We want to do whatever we want to do without consequences.

God holds us accountable for our actions.  He judges sin.  Psalm 7:11 says that God is angry with the wicked every day.  He wiped out the entire world in a flood, killed everyone.  He rained down fire and brimstone on Sodom and Gomorrah.  You say, “but that is all in the OT and we live under the NT.”  That is true but the nature of God has not changed.

Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).  God says in Malachi 3:6, “I am the LORD, and I do not change” (NLT).  In fact, the NT says, “Our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29).  In fact, the NT ends with God casting people in the lake of fire, whose names were not written in the Book of Life.  The God of the Bible is a judge. He is a righteous judge but He is a judge.

That is not all He is.  He is also a Savior.  He is a Redeemer but the message of these chapter is that God is also a judge. He judges everyone.  In fact, He judges His own people first. He judges individuals.  He judges churches.  Jesus said to one church that He would remove its lampstand (Revelation 2:5).  Churches all over the country are closing their doors. They used to exist but no longer do.  Four thousand churches close their doors every single year.[4]

He is not only judges churches, He judges nations.  God did not just do this in the past, He still does it today.  God hasn’t changed.  He was not only against some nations in Ezekiel’s day, He is against some nations today.  Is He against our nation?  If He judges nations, when will our nation be judged by God?  How much time left do we have as a nation?  There is an old quote that is attributed to Billy Graham, although he probably never said it.  It says, “If God does not judge America, He will have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.”

3) They teach that God can use absolutely anyone to accomplish his will.

Christians often ask if God could ever use them.  What this passage shows is that God uses anyone to do His will and He rewards every act of obedience.  He can use anybody.  He can use people.  He can use nations.  He can use believers or unbelievers.  He can use animals.  He used Balaam’s donkey.

There are several unlikely people God used to accomplish His will.  He used Noah the drunkard.  He used Abraham the old man.  He used Moses the excuse maker stutterer.  He used someone who had a disability.  He used Rahab the prostitute.  He used David, the murderer and adulterer.  He used Samson the womanizer.  He used Paul, a former persecutor and terrorist turned preacher. He used a little boy with five loaves and two fish.[5]

What unlikely instrument does God use in this section?  He uses Babylon, wicked Babylon, to do His will.  God called Babylon an “evil nation” (30:12).  God called them “the most ruthless of all nations” three times (30:11; 31:12; 32:12).  They were not compassionate. They were not nice people.  They were cruel and violent but God used this evil nation to judge Egypt.

God said that “the sword of the king of Babylon will come against you” (32:11) by the also called this MY SWORD (32:10).  God used Babylon as his instrument of judgment without them even knowing it.  God even rewarded this pagan nation for doing the will of God (29:17-20).

 Message About Sin

What does this section say about sin?  One, it says that pride is a sin.  Two, it is a major sin.  Three, it says that nations can have pride as well as individuals.  Four, it says that pride leads to a fall.  Five, it says that God judges pride.

God judges sin and the sin that stands out in this section is pride.  It is a sin that God hates.  We do not even call pride a sin today in our day.  We call national pride patriotism.  It is not wrong to be patriotic.  It is wrong to think you are better than someone else.  That was what happened to Egypt.  God described Egypt as a tall tree and a big fish.

Egypt was described as a tall tree with beautiful branches.  God says, “‘Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: Because the great cedar towered over the thick foliage, and because it was proud of its height, 11 I gave it into the hands of the ruler of the nations, for him to deal with according to its wickedness. I cast it aside” (31:10-11 NIV).

Speak to him and say: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: “‘I am against you, Pharaoh king of Egypt, you great monster lying among your streams. You say, “The Nile belongs to me; I made it for myself.” 4 But I will put hooks in your jaws and make the fish of your streams stick to your scales. I will pull you out from among your streams, with all the fish sticking to your scales. 5 I will leave you in the desert, you and all the fish of your streams. You will fall on the open field and not be gathered or picked up. I will give you as food to the beasts of the earth and the birds of the sky. 6 Then all who live in Egypt will know that I am the Lord. (29:3-6 NIV)

It is described as a great monster in the Nile.  This refers to a crocodile.  The crocodile was big and heavy and strong.  Some of them weighed a thousand pounds.  They lived a hundred years and they ruled the Nile.  They were the biggest and most dangerous predator in ancient Egypt.  The Egyptians made them a god.  They worshipped crocodiles.

God called Pharaoh a great crocodile and the power went to his head.  He had some much power that he thought he was a god.  The crocodile said, “The Nile belongs to me; I made it for myself.” That is a joke.  The fish thinks that it made the water.  God has a way of humbling the proud.  In this chapter, God goes fishing, puts a hook in this crocodile’s jaws and drags it out of the water.  Pharaoh died a violent death.  He was assassinated by his enemies (Jeremiah 44:30).  The Bible teaches that pride goes before destruction (Proverbs 16:18).  Those who walk in pride, God is able to humble (Daniel 4:37).

 Message About Man

What does this say about us?  We are not God.  Pharaoh thought he was a god. We are not God.  People are not the solution to our problems.  We cannot turn to them to solve our deepest needs and if we do, we will be disappointed.

Every time Israel faced problems, they just turned to Egypt.  Egypt enslaved them for four hundred years but after they escaped, they kept turning back to them for help, like going back to an old addiction.

When the Babylonians invaded Israel, the Jews turned to Egypt.  They did not turn to God; they turned to Egypt and it seemed to work at first.  The Babylonians lifted their siege temporarily (Jeremiah 37:5) but the Egyptians eventually withdrew and the Babylonians devastated the country.  God said that Egypt was a weak reed to lean on for help.

Then all who live in Egypt will know that I am the Lord. “‘You have been a staff of reed for the people of Israel. 7 When they grasped you with their hands, you splintered and you tore open their shoulders; when they leaned on you, you broke and their backs were wrenched. (29:6-7 NIV)

Reeds that grew by the Nile River in Egypt. They look like a good kind of wood for a staff but they are brittle and shatter easily.  God says that they leaned on this reed and fell and hurt their shoulders and back.  God says, “If you lean on Egypt, you only hurt yourself in the process.”  It is always dangerous to turn to people, rather than the Lord.

When we have problems, who do we turn to?  Do we turn to people or to God?  Jeremiah 17:5, 7 says, “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the Lord. 7 “But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him.” (NIV).

Fast-forward to today.  Israel does not turn to Egypt for help.  Today, Israel does not turn to Egypt for help.  They turn to the US. The US gives billions of dollars to Israel each year in aid.  The two countries are close allies.

 Message About Death

They tell us some things about the afterlife?  You have to read the whole Bible to get a complete picture but there are three things about the afterlife which stand out to me in Ezekiel 32.

1) There is conscious existence after death.

These dead Egyptians were not asleep but awake.  They were conscious.  They could see other people and could recognize them.  They could recognize different nations.  They all seemed to be arranged by nationality.  The Assyrians were with other Assyrians.  Elamites were with other Elamites.  This refutes the idea of soul sleep which some cultist advocate.  When you die, you do not cease to exist.  You continue to exist in a different form.  You will continue to exist forever.

2) Not everyone goes to the same place

The righteous and wicked go to two different places.  When the Egyptians died and went to Sheol, they only saw the wicked.  They did not see any of the righteous there.  They were in a different location.

3) Life after death is very different than it is now.

Many of these nations and people terrorized others on earth.  That is mentioned seven times in the text we are told that these men spread terror in the land of the living, like terrorists do today (32:23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 30, 32) but they had no power to do that in the afterlife.  They used to have all kinds of power.  Now, they no longer have power.  Now they are disgraced and are in a place of shame.  They are outcasts.  The Egyptians practiced circumcision but at death they are with the uncircumcised (the biggest insult a Jew could give someone).  Sheol was a place of gloom and deep darkness (Job 10:21; 17:13)

[1] http://www.sanityquestpublishing.com/essays/BabEgypt.html

[2](13-22) … [in] the 37th year, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Bab[ylon] mar[ched against] Egypt (Mi-şir) to deliver a battle. [A ma]sis (text: [ … ]-a(?)-su), of Egypt, [called up his a ]rm[y] … [ … ]ku from the town Puţu-Iaman … distant regions which (are situated on islands) amidst the sea … many … which/who (are) in Egypt … [car]rying weapons, horses and [chariot]s … he called up to assist him and … did [ … ] in front of him … he put his trust … Only the first signs at the beginning and the end of the following 7 or 8 lines are legible. (James B. Pritchard, ed., Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, 308)

[3] Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews Book 10, IX.7.

[4] http://www.churchleadership.org/apps/articles/default.asp?articleid=42346

[5] https://courtneyswritingportfolio.wordpress.com/2014/10/10/10-unlikely-people-god-used-to-accomplish-his-will/

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