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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Ezekiel 32



Verse 1

1. Twelfth year — This is March, 584 B.C., a little more than a year and a half after Jerusalem’s ruin had been accomplished. The fall of the holy city has caused him to hear the sound of the falling empires which were her destruction.

Verse 2

2. R.V., “Thou wast likened unto a young lion… yet art thou as a dragon.” Pharaoh had thought himself to be the king of beasts, able to roam for prey in far-off countries; but he was in reality only a crocodile, confined to his own Nile stream. This was peculiarly cutting, since the Pharaoh loved to call himself “ruler of all lands,” and yet often in his inscriptions likened himself to a crocodile. (See also note Ezekiel 29:3.)

Camest forth with thy rivers — R.V., “breakest forth.” The Hebrew can almost mean didst spurt out [spray] with thy nostrils (Job 41:19-20). In either case the expression refers to the vain struggles of the monster, which can indeed foul his own stream, but which cannot harm those who are upon the shore.

Verse 3

3. They shall bring me up in my net — LXX., I will, etc. Jehovah will capture the great monster in a net as if he were a harmless bird. (Compare Ezekiel 29:4.) For people read, as usual, peoples.

Verse 4-5

4, 5. Compare Ezekiel 29:5; Ezekiel 31:12-13. The vultures and jackals feed on the carcass, the foulness of which fills the whole land. For A.V. height the Peshito reads “worms.”

Verse 6

6. Water with thy blood — Rashi and Qimchi explain, the Delta will be inundated, even as high as the hills, not with fertilizing waters, but with the blood of the inhabitants. There are certain hieroglyphic texts which speak of invaders deluging the land like the Nile at its overflow.

Verse 7-8

7, 8. Instead of dark read “black.”

Put thee out — That is, extinguish. This imagery of calamity and sorrow is very common among all oriental nations. (See especially Joel 2:10; Joel 2:13; Joel 3:15; Amos 8:9.)

Verse 9-10

9, 10. Compare Ezekiel 26:16; Ezekiel 27:35.

Verses 11-15

11-15. It is now plainly stated that Nebuchadnezzar and the terrible Chaldeans shall work this destruction. (Compare Ezekiel 28:7; Ezekiel 29:11; Ezekiel 29:19.) The waters shall now be “clear” (R.V.), and smooth as oil, no longer fouled (R.V., “troubled”) by the struggling crocodile (Ezekiel 32:2), for all life shall be destroyed; then shall the Egyptians know who Jehovah is. (Compare Ezekiel 30:26.)

Verse 16

16. Davidson translates literally: It is a lamentation, and they shall chant it; the daughters of the nation shall chant it; over Egypt and over all her multitude shall they chant it. (Compare Jeremiah 9:17.)

Verse 17

17. The prophet closed his last prophecy by bringing into vivid relief the funeral cortege of the dead Egyptian empire, in which the princesses, who represent the surrounding nations which yet live, appear chanting the funeral dirge. In his prophecy-poem, which seems to have been uttered a fortnight later, the prophet sees the entire procession, mourning women and all, engulfed in Sheol. (Compare Isaiah xiv, and for Sheol see Appendix to chapter.) Their sins have found them out and judgment has overtaken them.

Verse 18

18. The pit — A synonym for Sheol (Psalms 30:3; Psalms 88:3-4, etc.).

Verse 19

19. Pass in Surpass in (Kautzsch). Egypt, who has been brightest among the nations, must now fall to the level of the shadowy inhabitants of Sheol.

Verse 20

20. She is delivered to the sword — Rather, the sword is appointed.

Draw her — R.V., “draw her away;” that is, into the pit.

Verse 21

21. The strong among the mighty The strong mighty ones (Davidson). The residents of Sheol greet these incoming nations — who in life considered themselves infinitely their superiors — with belittling comments. They have not entered Sheol with dignity, after the sacred rites of a religious burial, but have been hurried thither from the battlefield where their bones may yet be left uncovered. (Compare Ezekiel 31:18.) The entire passage compels a sharp distinction between those who were buried in state with their weapons about them (Ezekiel 32:27), and those who, like the uncircumcised barbarians, lay buried where they fell, without the funeral rites which prepared them for a favorable entrance into Sheol. (See Appendix.)

Verses 22-31

22-31. The prophet, in a style which Dante has imitated, now catalogues the nations whom he sees in the underworld. This has well been called “one of the most weird passages in literature.” He sees Assyria, whose graveyards Nebuchadnezzar had filled with dead. Once these strong warriors had “caused terrors,” but now they lie with their allies “in the uttermost parts of the pit” (Ezekiel 32:23). He sees Elam also, the nation which bordered on Assyria, Media, and Persia, the long-time enemy of Babylon (Isaiah 21:2; Isaiah 22:6; Jeremiah 25:25; Jeremiah 49:34; Jeremiah 49:39), who in the most ancient texts is called the “hostile Elamite,” “the evil one,” now fallen by the stroke of Nebuchadnezzar and occupying a place of shame with the “uncircumcised” in some base part of Sheol (Ezekiel 32:24-25). He sees Meshech and Tubal (see notes Ezekiel 27:13) with all their multitudes who fell upon the field of battle, but with their bones unburied and dishonored — their heads not lying upon their swords as the “mighty ones” loved to lie (compare Ezekiel 32:21; Vergil, AEneid, 6:233; Herodotus, 1:62, and other references in the Pulpit Commentary) — now gone down into hell (literally, Sheol), “because they caused terror” while in the land of the living (Ezekiel 32:26-27). So also shall Pharaoh fall and lie dishonored with the half-civilized hordes of Meshech and Tubal, whom he despises (Ezekiel 32:28). There are the princes of Edom also (notes Ezekiel 25:12) who “for all their might” now lie helpless (Ezekiel 32:29); and also the underchiefs of the north (Damascus, Hamath, etc.), with the Sidonians, ashamed “for all the terror which they caused by their might” (R.V., margin, Ezekiel 32:30). The only comfort that can come to Pharaoh as he drops with all his army into the comfortless abode is the fact that his predecessors and rivals suffer a like calamity (Ezekiel 32:31; compare Ezekiel 31:16). Again it is emphasized that it was because “he put his terror in the land of the living [Ezekiel 32:32, LXX.] that Pharaoh is now dishonored in the land of the dead.” Such is the general meaning of this passage, the text of which is in considerable disorder, as may be seen by comparing the usual reading of Ezekiel 32:27 with that of the Polychrome text, “And they lie not down with the fallen warriors of old who went down to Sheol with their weapons of war, with their swords under their heads, and their shields on their bones because the terror of their might was in the land of the living.” As the Expositor’s Bible justly says, it should not be overlooked that the picture is in the highest degree poetical, and cannot be taken as an exact statement of what the Hebrews believed about the state after death.


The underworld of the Babylonians was pictured as a cold, dark, cheerless place — “the land whence none return, a land of corruption, a city of darkness and dust, a house of chaos, the hostile land.” The cemeteries and the underworld were very closely connected in ancient imagery and thought. There was indeed — at least some Assyriologists think so — one spot in the future world, “a field of the blessed,” where there was water and health-giving food and cure for disease, whose inhabitants were “bright as the heavens,” holding communion with the gods; but only great heroes or special divine favorites could ever hope to enter. Mankind in general must sink down into a shadowy, ghostlike, feeble existence, where “their nourishment is dust and their food clay.” For yet others, whose bodies had been mutilated or for whom the funeral rites had been omitted, there was prepared a yet deeper depth of horror and torture by the lord of the underworld, who is called “the Destroyer” (compare Revelation 9:11), “the Devourer,” “the Terrifier,” “the Pitiless One.” One inscription reads: —

He who was killed in battle,

Thou seest it, I have seen it,

His father and his mother hold his head,

His wife stands at his side

Whose corpse, however, lies upon the field,

Thou seest it, I have seen it

Whoso does not rest in the earth

His soul has no one to care for it.

* * * * * * * * *

What is thrown upon the streets he eats.

This explains the terrible threat of Ezekiel, that these Babylonians should die without being paid funeral honors. The heaviest curse upon an enemy that the cuneiform inscriptions reveal is this: —

That his body may be cast aside,

No grave be his lot.

(See notes Ezekiel 27:29-36.) This also explains why the Assyrian and Babylonian kings mutilated the bodies and scattered the pieces “like thorns and thistles,” beyond all hope of future recovery. So Assurbanipal, when the king of Lydia broke his oath, cried out, “May his corpse be thrown before his enemies; may he have no burial;” and Sennacherib dug up the bones of the ancestors of one of his most hated enemies and scattered them far and wide. But even if one escaped this future torture, the world of the dead was a hopeless, comfortless abode of gloom, full of monsters and presided over by cruel lion-headed deities.

The day is but a sigh, a stream of tears the night,

Crying fills the months, and bitter woe the year.

A very pathetic appeal found in one of these cuneiform funeral texts shows the anxiety of a deceased sister to be remembered by her brother in annual gifts and songs: —

My only brother, let me not perish.

On the day of Tammuz, play for me on the flute of lapis lazuli;

Together with the lyre of pearl, play for me.

Together let the professional dirge singers, male and female, play for me,

That the dead may arise and inhale the incense of offerings.

The Old Testament writers also conceive of Sheol, the subterranean world of the dead, as a place of silence, dust, and darkness. The very word Sheol (Su-alu) means “hollow,” and zalmat, the Assyrian word for darkness, is exactly reproduced in the Hebrew zalmoth. (Compare Psalms 49:19; Job 3:5; Job 12:22; Job 16:16; Job 24:17; Job 33:18.) The Hebrews do not picture the future world as full of dangers, as do all other ancient nations, but nevertheless it is heavy with chill and painful negations. As Dr. Salmond has so well shown, the only important difference between the Hebrews’ thought of the future and the thought of other nations is found in their conception of the potentialities of God. The future world might be full of gloom and unknown foes, but God was there, still merciful and gracious, as truly Lord of Sheol as of earth. He was omnipotent, and his wings could shelter and his arm could as easily protect there as here. It was the Hebrew’s belief in a living omnipotent God that made him take it for granted that he would live on in the future and live on under the same divine protection which never failed him here. For this reason he cared nothing for charms and amulets or magical words to guard him from the perils of the long hard journey beyond the grave. For this reason he could confidentially write as the epitaph of his departed friend this hopeful word — so full of prophecy concerning his eternal well-being — “God took him” (Genesis 5:24 ). Jeremias, Die Babylonish-Assyrischen Vorstellung, vom Leben nach dem Tode, Leipzig, 1887; W. St. Chad. Boscawen, Sheol and other Essays; Salmond, The Christian Doctrine of Immortality, 1895; Religion of Babylonia and Assyria, Jastrow, 1898.


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Ezekiel 32:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.

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