Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough
2003 James Melough
“The word of the Lord came again unto me, saying,”
“Son of man, prophesy and say, Thus saith the Lord God; Howl ye, Woe worth the
This continues the record of the judgments that
would desolate Egypt, “Woe worth the day” meaning “Alas for the day.” Woe,
sorrow, anguish would cover the land like a pall.
“For the day is near, even the day of the Lord is near, a cloudy day; it shall
be the time of the heathen (nations).”
In the present context “the day of the Lord” was
the terrible dark day when He would pour out His judgments upon Egypt, but
there is undoubtedly here also a reference to that still future, but now
impending day when the terrible Tribulation judgments will devastate the whole
“And the sword shall come upon Egypt, and great pain shall be in Ethiopia,
when the slain shall fall in Egypt, and they shall take away her multitude,
and her foundations shall be broken down.”
The sword that would decimate Egypt was Babylon,
the taking away “her multitude,” referring to the multitudes of survivors who
would be carried away captive; and the breaking of “her foundations” meaning
the seizure of all her wealth by the invaders.
“Ethiopia, and Libya, and Lydia, and all the mingled people, and Chub, and the
men of the land that is in league, shall fall with them by the sword.”
“Thus saith the Lord; They also that uphold Egypt shall fall; and the pride of
her power shall come down: from the tower of Syene shall they fall in it by
the sword, saith the Lord God.”
Ethiopia lay south of Egypt; Libya, west; and Lydia
was a part of what is modern-day Turkey. See 29:10 for comments relative to
Syene. The location of Chub is unknown. All who allied themselves with Egypt
would be defeated.
“And they shall be desolate in the midst of the countries that are desolate,
and her cities shall be in the midst of the cities that are wasted.”
The New English Bible
translation of this verse reads, “They shall be the most desolate of desolate
lands, and their cities shall lie derelict among the ruined cities....” This
continues the description of the ruin of Egypt and her allies at the hand of
“And they shall know that I am the Lord, when I have set a fire in Egypt, and
when all her helpers shall be destroyed.”
What Egypt and her allies had refused to learn in
the midst of prosperity, they would learn through their own destruction. The
God they could have known as the God of blessing, they would know only as the
God of destructive judgment. So will it be with every man who dies without
having trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior.
“In that day shall messengers go forth from me in ships to make the careless
Ethiopians afraid, and great pain shall come upon them, as in the day of
Egypt: for, lo, it cometh.”
By boats traveling on the Nile, Ethiopia (Cush),
Egypt’s southern neighbor, would hear of her destruction, and would be
terror-stricken by the knowledge that if mighty Egypt had fallen, then she
herself had no hope should Babylon decide to attack her. And her fear was
justified, for her own doom was certified by God’s assurance that her
destruction was on its way, “lo, it cometh.”
“Thus saith the Lord god; I will also make the multitude of Egypt to cease by
the hand of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon.”
While “the multitude of Egypt” may refer to the
population, it is understood by many competent scholars to refer to her
material riches. They would be plundered by Nebuchadnezzar.
“He and his people with him, the terrible of the nations, shall be brought to
destroy the land: and they shall draw their swords against Egypt, and fill the
land with the slain.”
“... terrible” is also translated most ruthless:
most violent: most barbarous: fiercest, the application being to the
Babylonians, who were notorious for their cruelty, and whom God was going to
use as His instrument to destroy proud Egypt and her allies.
“And I will make the rivers dry, and sell the land into the hand of the
wicked: and I will make the land waste, and all that is therein, by the hand
of strangers: I the Lord have spoken it.”
All of Egypt is desert, apart from a strip about
twelve miles wide on either side of the river, that is fertilized by canals
which are here called rivers. God would dry up those canals, probably by
having strangers, the Babylonians and their allies, destroy the mechanisms
which conducted the water into them, thus returning the land to its original
desert state, the judgment being assured by the words, “I the Lord have spoken
“Thus saith the Lord God; I will also destroy the idols, and I will cause
their images to cease out of Noph; and there shall be no more a prince of the
land of Egypt: and I will put a fear in the land of Egypt.”
Noph is another name for Memphis the ancient
capital of Egypt, and remaining an important religious center even after
ceasing to be the capital. God was going to destroy the idols in Noph and
throughout the land, taking away the king, and leaving the land filled with
fear and confusion.
“And I will make Pathros desolate, and will set fire in Zoan, and will execute
judgments in No.”
Pathros was another name for Egypt, see comments on
29:14; and Zoan was another name for Rameses a royal residence; and No,
another name for Thebes, former capital of Egypt, was an important city about
four hundred miles south of modern-day Cairo. The whole land would be left a
desolate ruin, Zoan being destroyed by fire, while No (Thebes) would be
devastated by unspecified judgments.
“And I will pour my fury upon Sin, the strength of Egypt; and I will cut off
the multitude of No.”
Sin is another name for Pelusium which was located
on the extreme north-east corner of the delta, and is called here “the
strength of Egypt” because it was a major garrison center. No (Thebes) was
just a little over two hundred miles south of Cairo. Its population was to be
“And I will set fire in Egypt: Sin (Pelusium) shall have great pain, and No
(Thebes) shall be rent asunder, and Noph (Memphis) shall have distresses
Egypt would be ravaged by one disaster after
another: some places by fire; No (Thebes) being inundated by water pouring
through its breached walls; and Noph (Memphis) by unspecified afflictions.
“The young men of Aven (On, also called Heliopolis), and of Pi-biseth (Bubastis)
shall fall by the sword: and these cities shall go into captivity.”
Aven or On are other names for Heliopolis which lay
about a hundred miles south of the mouth of the delta. Pi-biseth (Bubastis),
present-day Tel-Basta was about thirty miles north-east of Cairo. Most of the
men would die by the sword, and most of the women would be led into captivity.
“At Tehaphnehes (Tahpanhes) also the day shall be darkened, when I shall break
there the yokes of Egypt: and the pomp of her strength shall cease in her: as
for her, a cloud shall cover her, and her daughters shall go into captivity.”
It would be a very dark day for Egypt when
Tahpanhes, in the north-east near the Suez Canal, was destroyed for it was one
of her principal cities. The yokes here refer to Egypt’s power: it would be
broken; and the covering cloud is a synonym for the dark despair that would
envelope the whole land.
“Her daughters” refer to the smaller towns and
villages. Their people would be led away into captivity.
“Thus will I execute judgment in Egypt: and they shall know that I am the
The sad truth continues to be emphasized here as
throughout the book: the people who might have known God as the Blesser, had
they obeyed Him, must instead know Him as the stern Executor of judgment.
“And it came to pass in the eleventh year, in the first month, in the seventh
day of the month, that the word of the Lord came unto me, saying,”
The date was April 29, 587 B.C., just about four
months since Ezekiel had pronounced his first prophesy against Egypt.
“Son of man, I have broken the arm of Pharaoh king of Egypt; and, lo, it shall
not be bound up to be healed, to put a roller to bind it, to make it strong to
hold the sword.”
This declares the dreadful finality of Egypt’s
doom: there would be no restoration of her departed power and glory.
“Therefore thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I am against Pharaoh king of
Egypt, and will break his arms, the strong, and that which was broken; and I
will cause the sword to fall out of his hand.”
The broken arm is usually taken as a reference to
Egypt’s failed attempt to aid Israel when she was being attacked by Babylon,
see Jer 37:5-8; the strong arm being used as the symbolic description of her
power and might just prior to her final destruction by Babylon. The broken
arms signify the complete destruction of Egypt’s power.
“And I will scatter the Egyptians among the nations, and will disperse them
through the countries.”
This scattering of the Egyptians refers to their
dispersal as captives following their defeat by Babylon and her allies.
“And I will strengthen the arms of the king of Babylon, and put my sword in
his hand: but I will break Pharaoh’s arms, and he shall groan before him with
the groanings of a deadly wounded man.”
God would make Babylon His instrument for Egypt’s
destruction, Pharaoh’s broken arms and his groaning as a mortally wounded man
being the symbolic description of Egypt’s irreparable ruin.
But I will strengthen the arms of the king of Babylon, and the arms of Pharaoh
shall fall down; and they shall know that I am the Lord, when I shall put my
sword into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall stretch it out upon
the land of Egypt.”
God’s strengthening of Babylon as His instrument to
destroy Egypt, is the reminder that He never fails to bestow upon His servants
the ability to do the work He assigns them, a fact which ought to encourage us
to greater diligence in obeying His command, “Go ye into all the world, and
preach the gospel to every creature,” Mk 16:15, there being added the further
assurance, “And, lo, I am with you always....” Mt 28:20.
“And I will scatter the Egyptians among the nations, and disperse them among
the countries; and they shall know that I am the Lord.”
This continues to emphasize that everything God
does is so that men might know Him: believers knowing Him as the God of love,
grace, and mercy’ and unbelievers, as the God of righteous judgment.