Egypt the Crocodile. 1In the tenth year, on the twelfth day of the tenth month,* the word of the LORD came to me: 2Son of man, turn your face toward Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and prophesy against him and against all Egypt.* a 3Say to him: Thus says the Lord GOD:
Pay attention! I am against you,
Pharaoh, king of Egypt,
Great dragon* crouching
in the midst of the Nile,
Who says, “The Nile belongs to me;
I made it myself!”b
4* I will put hooks in your jaws
and make all the fish of your Nile
Cling to your scales;
I will drag you up from your Nile,
With all the fish of your Nile
clinging to your scales.c
5I will hurl you into the wilderness,
you and all the fish of your Nile.
You will fall into an open field,
you will not be picked up or gathered together.
To the beasts of the earth
and the birds of the sky
I give you as food.d
6e Then all the inhabitants of Egypt
will know that I am the LORD.
Because you were a staff of reeds*
for the house of Israel:
7When they took hold of you, you would splinter,
throwing shoulders out of joint.
When they leaned on you, you would break,
pitching them down headlong.
8Therefore thus says the Lord GOD:
Look! I am bringing the sword against you
to cut off from you people and animals.
9The land of Egypt shall become a desolate waste;
then they shall know that I am the LORD.
Because you said, “The Nile belongs to me;
I made it!”
10Beware! I am against you
and against your Nile.
I will turn the land of Egypt into ruins,
into a dry, desolate waste,
From Migdol to Syene,*
up to the border of Ethiopia.f
11No foot shall pass through it,
no human being or beast cross it;
it will remain uninhabited for forty years.
12I will make the land of Egypt the most desolate
among desolate lands;
Its cities, the most deserted
among deserted cities for forty years;
I will scatter the Egyptians among the nations
and disperse them throughout other lands.g
13But thus says the Lord GOD:
At the end of forty years
I will gather the Egyptians
from among the peoples
where they are scattered;
14I will restore Egypt’s fortunes,
bringing them back to the land of Pathros,*
the land of their origin.
But there it will be a lowly kingdom,
15lower than any other kingdom,
no longer able to set itself above the nations.
I will make them few in number,
so they cannot rule other nations.
16No longer shall they be security
for the house of Israel,
But a reminder of its iniquity
in turning away to follow them.
Then they shall know that I am the Lord GOD.h
Wages for Nebuchadnezzar. 17In the twenty-seventh year on the first day of the first month,* the word of the LORD came to me: 18Son of man, Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, has made his army wage a hard campaign against Tyre;* their heads grew bald, their shoulders rubbed raw, yet neither he nor his army received compensation from Tyre for all the effort they expended against it.i 19Therefore thus says the Lord GOD:j See! I am giving to Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, the land of Egypt! He will carry off its wealth, plundering and pillaging whatever he can find to provide pay for his army. 20As payment for his toil I give him the land of Egypt—oracle of the Lord GOD.
21On that day I will make a horn* sprout for the house of Israel, and I will let you again open your mouth in their midst; then they shall know that I am the LORD.k
* [29:1] The date is calculated to be January 7, 587 B.C. The siege of Jerusalem had begun a year earlier; cf. 24:1.
* [29:2] Egypt was allied with Judah against the Babylonians.
* [29:3] Dragon: Hebrew reads tannim, usually translated “jackals,” here a byform of tannin, the mythical dragon, or sea monster, representing chaos (cf. Is 27:1; 51:9; Jer 51:34; Ps 91:13; Jb 7:12), and the crocodile native to the Nile. Nile: the many rivulets of the Nile that branch out into the Delta.
* [29:4–5] Ezekiel’s repetition of detail creates a vivid picture of Egypt’s destruction: God hauls the crocodile (Pharaoh) and the fish clinging to it for protection (the Egyptian populace) out of the Nile and lands them in an open field, where their corpses are torn apart by wildlife rather than being properly buried (cf. Dt 28:26; 2 Kgs 9:36–37; Jer 34:20; Ez 39:17–20).
* [29:6] Staff of reeds: Pharaoh is like a reed that looks sturdy but breaks under pressure. For a similar image, cf. 2 Kgs 18:21 (Is 36:6).
* [29:10] From Migdol to Syene: from the northeastern to the southern limits of Egypt. Syene is the modern Aswan, at the first cataract of the Nile; Ethiopia (Heb. kush) is the territory south of Aswan.
* [29:14] Pathros: an Egyptian word for upper, i.e., southern, Egypt, above Memphis/Thebes. As silt filled the Delta region and richer land became available there, the population spread north, creating the tradition of a migration from the south (Is 11:11; Jer 44:1, 15).
* [29:17] In the twenty-seventh year on the first day of the first month: April 26, 571 B.C. This is the latest date attached to any of Ezekiel’s prophecies.
* [29:18–19] Nebuchadnezzar’s thirteen-year siege (587–574 B.C.) ended with Tyre’s surrender on the condition that the Babylonian army would not loot and pillage (pace 26:3–14). According to Ezekiel, Nebuchadnezzar and his army should collect their wages for serving as God’s instrument in Tyre’s punishment, by plundering and controlling Egypt.
* [29:21] A horn: God will give Israel renewed strength. For horn as a symbol of strength, cf. Dt 33:17; Ps 92:11; 132:17. Ezekiel suggests that the Babylonian conquest of Egypt precedes Israel’s restoration, an event he expects to witness and acknowledge when God removes his muteness.
a. [29:2] Is 19:1–17; Jer 25:19.
e. [29:6–7] 2 Kgs 18:21; Is 36:6.