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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Ezekiel 29



Verse 3

3. Great dragon — In the Chinese Book of Changes the dragon is the symbol of the sage and the king (Edkins, Ancient Symbolism, p. 9). The dragon of the rivers (or, Nile canals, Exodus 7:17-24) must be the crocodile, which, even to this day is called Pharaoh by the fellaheen. (Compare Job 41:13; Isaiah 27:1.)

My river is mine own, and I have made it — The canals of Egypt are still called “rivers” by the Egyptians. A great canal between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea had been projected from ancient times and had been almost completed a generation earlier than this. (See author’s Ancient Egypt, p. 86.) This verse may refer to some such great enterprise of Hophra’s, or it may refer to the whole network of irrigating streams considered as a unit. Herodotus, writing of this same king, says (ii, 169) that he “believed there was not a god who could cast him down from his eminence,” so firmly was he established in his kingdom.

Verse 4

4. I will put hooks in thy jaws — So the crocodile was sometimes caught (Herodotus, 2:70). The fish which stick to his scales represent the Egyptian population and dependencies — such as Gaza and Jerusalem and other towns which had foolishly trusted to the Pharaoh for help against the Assyrians.

Verse 5

5. Thou shalt not be brought together — The decayed and broken carcass should not have an honored burial, but should be left to the jackals and vultures (Ezekiel 39:17).

Verse 7

7. Took, etc. — All verbs in present tense.

By thy — Rather, with thee.

Shoulder — LXX., hand (Isaiah 26:6).

To be at a stand — Rather, R.V., margin, “to shake.” (Compare Ezekiel 21:6.) The thing which they grasp for help, tears the hand which clasps it, and when they try to lean upon it it breaks and makes their hips to totter (Kautzsch).

Verse 8

8. I will bring a sword — It is Jehovah’s sword, even though Nebuchadnezzar holds it.

Verse 10

10. From the tower of Syene — Rather, as margin of A.V., “from Migdol to Syene” (Sunnu). Migdol (Ezekiel 30:6; Exodus 45:2; Numbers 33:7; Jeremiah 44:1; Jeremiah 46:14) was near to the ancient Pelusium (Tel Farama), and was the great frontier city and recognized north boundary of Egypt in the time of Ezekiel and Herodotus. This fort (Magdolon) guarded the point where the great Syrian highways crossed the canal of Sesostris — the shortest route to Syria. (See F. Ll. Griffith, Qantarah, pp. 100-103.) Syene (Assouan) was the southernmost town of Upper Egypt, lying on the border of Nubia. The expression took in all Egypt, just as “from Dan to Beer-sheba” meant all Palestine. (See Maspero, Recueil de Travaux en Philippians et Arch., 1892.)

Verse 11

11. Neither shall it be inhabited forty years — This prophecy was never literally fulfilled. It is a poetic description of the results of a campaign which laid waste the country and interrupted the traffic. (Compare Ezekiel 4:6; Ezekiel 32:13.) The forty years is a symbolic number. (See introduction to chapter 40, and general Introduction, VIII.) No one doubts that Egypt was in trouble at this very time. The brave General Nes-Hor tells us on his funeral statue how the “Aamu [Asiatics] and all the wretched Northerners from the land of Sati [Mesopotamia] wasted and plundered” the country as far as Nubia, ravaging the temple at Elephantine, etc. The fact that Nes-Hor claims to have driven back the invaders before they plundered Nubia proves that they had at least reached Syene. (See note Ezekiel 29:10.) It is more probable that the Aamu, being satisfied with their booty, or being overcome with the heat, returned of their own accord. The Egyptians claimed victories under such circumstances (Wiedemann, Zeits. fur Aeg. Sprach, 1878; Maspero and Brugsch, Zeits., 1884; Expositor, x; Tiele, Geschichte; Kuenen, Onderzoek).

Verse 12

12. I will scatter the Egyptians among the nations — Every oriental conqueror took back with him strings of captives and gave them as slaves to his soldiers and allies; but certainly there was no wholesale deportation of the people, as in the case of Israel and Judah. (Compare Ezekiel 12:15.)

Verse 14

14. I will bring again the captivity — That is, after the necessary and complete period of chastisement symbolically represented by forty years has passed, the captives shall be brought back again to their own land. It is a curious thing that a cylinder of Cyrus, now in the British Museum, declares that he permitted his captives of “all lands” to return from Babylon to their own homes.

Pathros — The Pharaohs from earliest times wore a double crown, as rulers of “two lands.” Pathros (Assyrian, Paturissu), the “land of the south” (Isaiah 11:11), was Upper Egypt.

Habitation — R.V., “birth.”

Verse 15

15. The basest of the kingdoms — Compare Ezekiel 17:14. Egypt never recovered from the conquest of Nebuchadnezzar. She was easily conquered by the Persians, fell a prey to the Greeks, was tossed about by the Romans, and has never, even to this day, had an independent native ruler on the throne. Never again should Egypt be “the confidence of the house of Israel” (Ezekiel 29:16; compare Isaiah 30:2-3; Isaiah 36:4; Isaiah 36:6; 2 Kings 23:35; 2 Kings 17:4).

Verse 16

16. Bringeth their iniquity to remembrance — When Israel looked to Pharaoh instead of to Jehovah for help, it made the national wickedness more conspicuous than the national danger, and instead of helping, as he otherwise would have done, Jehovah chastised. (Compare Ezekiel 21:23-24.)

Verses 17-20

17-20. This is the latest of Ezekiel’s prophecies (572-570 B.C.), and must have been inserted here in order to be in close connection with the original prophecy concerning Nebuchadnezzar’s siege of Tyre and invasion of Egypt. The revelation from Jehovah comes on New Year’s Day, when the Babylonians were celebrating the glory of Bel. (See New Year’s Hymns, Hibbert Lectures, Sayce, p. 81.) If this is an acknowledgment, without a word of protest or explanation, that the prophecy had failed in fulfillment, as many critics claim, then indeed we might say with truth of Ezekiel, “a greater than Jonas is here.” (See Jonah 4.) The fact of both passages being published “proves that in Ezekiel’s thought there was no inconsistency between the prophecy and the result” (Gautier). But it is now proved by a little fragment of Nebuchadnezzar’s annals, the only one so far discovered, that in the thirty-seventh year of his reign, which is the date required, he did invade Egypt and carry off rich booty, and by an Egyptian monument it is also proved that very near this same time, 568 B.C., certain Asiatics did fight against Egypt and plundered the country, even to Syene and Elephantine. (See note Ezekiel 29:11 and our Introduction, “V. Alleged Historical Mistakes.”) That he did not get the “wages” he expected from the capture of Tyre may be due either to the fact that the royal treasures were shipped away before the capture of the city (Jerome), or that for some reason he did not pillage the city, if indeed the city did not capitulate in order to be spared the very destruction which had been prophesied. (See Ezekiel 29:10-11; Ezekiel 26; Ezekiel 28:17-19.) It must indeed be remembered that the prophet saw in a vision not only the immediate but the remote future, and that even in the predictions of that prophet who was greater than Moses or Ezekiel these are sometimes fused into one picture. The prophets dealt with principles, and saw the real and necessary outcome of small sins and seemingly slight defects as their contemporaries could not and as we do not. Ezekiel saw that this was the beginning of the end with both Tyre and Egypt; thereafter they were servants of Babylon. (See Matthew 24.) Even Toy acknowledges that “the prophetic picture of its future is substantially correct.”

Every shoulder was peeled — Rubbed bare. Ancient authors state that Nebuchadnezzar attempted to reach the island city by filling up the strait between it and the mainland. Alexander the Great did the same thing in his siege of Tyre. Even to this day it is almost impossible to get orientals to use wheelbarrows, and if they are forced to use them they will carry them on their heads. The “peeled shoulders” and “heads made bald” must be a graphic detail alluding to the navvy work of carrying loads of stones and earth for the above enterprise (Skinner), or else to the rasping of the soldiers’ armor during the long siege. Arabic poets refer to the baldness of soldiers caused by their headpieces (Davidson).

For his labor wherewith he served against it — R.V., “as his recompense for which he served.”

They wrought for me — Compare Jeremiah 25:9. All unknowingly these Babylonian soldiers had been doing Jehovah’s will.

Verse 21

21. The horn of the house of Israel to bud — R.V., “an horn to bud forth unto the house of Israel.” The horn is the symbol of power (Psalms 132:17; Lamentations 2:3). Israel’s power, which had seemed utterly broken, is to spring up again, and when the people shall see this verification of prophecy they will be glad to have Ezekiel again open his mouth and teach. (Compare Ezekiel 24:27.)


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Ezekiel 29:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.

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