For the Love of God, Volume 2/September 26
From Gospel Translations
2 Samuel 22; Galatians 2; Ezekiel 29; Psalm 78:1-39
IN SOME WAYS THE PROPHECY AGAINST Egypt (Ezek. 29) is akin to the prophecies against other nations mentioned in this section of Ezekiel (chaps. 25—32). The repetition of themes should signal us as to how important God judges them to be, e.g., the wickedness of arrogant self-confidence and the boasting of independence (29:3, 9). But in addition there are several fresh elements here worth pondering.
(1) Egypt is charged with being “a staff of reed” that could not provide the support she promised. When people tried to lean on her, the reed splintered and tore their flesh (29:6; cf. Isa. 36:6 = 2 Kings 18:21). Neither individuals nor nations should promise what they cannot deliver.
(2) Like Israel (and a lot of other nations, for that matter), Egypt would be defeated and a significant part of its population would go into exile (29:12). Just as the Israelites would be permitted to return to their homeland under the more lenient policies of the Persians, so also a lot of other exiles would be permitted to return to their respective homelands. Not least among them would be the Egyptians (29:13). This is Yahweh’s doing: “I will gather the Egyptians from the nations where they were scattered.”
(3) Nevertheless, God insists that Egypt will never again be a great power (29:14-16). If he is the God who can raise up nations and put them down, he has every right to make these assignments. Some ancient powers have virtually or entirely disappeared: the Hittites, the Assyrians, the Babylonians. The Egyptians are still here, but God says he will make them weak so that they will “never again rule over the nations” (29:15)—and will never be relied on by nations like Israel (29:16).
(4) One of the most intriguing “behind-the-scenes” reasonings is found in 29:17-20. Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon is going to succeed against Tyre, but it will be a hard campaign and with little profit. So God will give Egypt to Babylon, in part to pay off Babylon for its long and costly years against Tyre. “I have given him Egypt as a reward for his efforts because he and his army did it for me, declares the Sovereign LORD” (29:20). Not for a moment should one think that any of the nations acted out of conscious obedience to the Lord (cf. Isa. 10:5ff!). But the Lord is no one’s debtor, and these are the arrangements that Almighty God is making.
We would not know these things apart from revelation, of course. But they warn us against pontificating too loudly about what is going on in our day, when we see so little of the big picture as to what God himself is doing.