Egypt’s Dossier, Part 4: Introduction to Ezekiel

An enlargeable satellite image of the lower Ni...
The Nile Delta

With Israel coming under pressure on its southern border by an Egyptian military that wants to rearm the Sinai and cease oil shipments to the Jewish nation, the Al Quds Brigades, Islamic Jihad’s armed wing, has apparently decided that the time is right to re-initiate the violence, possibly in hopes of provoking an Egyptian response to Israel’s counter-attacks.

Oh, and by the way, it’s interesting to watch how the violence is being spun.  To use one example, a recent article on a Gazan rocket attack on Beersheva tells us in the first paragraph, “Palestinians sent a Grad rocket slamming into the Israeli city of Beersheva Wednesday, injuring a man, after Israeli air strikes and a mortar attack killed eight Gazans.”  If you go to the previous day’s article on the Israeli strike, the reason for Israel’s response isn’t given in the main text at all, let alone in the opening paragraph.  It’s tucked away in a picture caption:  “The air strikes came after a tense weekend which saw scores of mortar rounds fired into Israel from Gaza.”  It goes on to say, “Hamas, which rules Gaza, said Saturday’s barrage had been in response to an Israeli strike last week that killed two of its members . . .”  Funny how every article stops its recap of history at just the right point to make Israel look like the aggressor.

But moving on:  Given all that, I’ve been reminded that I still haven’t finished Egypt’s Prophetic Dossier.  There’s actually a reason for that, beyond basic business:  Ezekiel’s prophecies about Egypt are some of the most difficult to interpret in the Scripture.  In studying them, I’ve also had to study Ezekiel’s prophecies of the other Gentile nations (starting at chapter 25) just to get a feel for his style and to see how they have played out in history.

Ezekiel’s prophecies that we know have been fulfilled have been fulfilled with an incredible literalness, even for the prophecies of the Scripture.  For example, in his prophecy against Tyre (ch. 26), Ezekiel describes the multiple waves of nations that would come against the city (v. 3), indicating that the city would not wholly meet its doom in Nebuchadnezzar’s invasion.  He also describes specifically that Nebuchadnezzar would “slay your daughters on the mainland . . . and he will make siege walls against you . . .” (v. 8).  This curious emphasis on the mainland was because the majority of the city’s populace escaped to an island a half mile off the coast with most of their goods (cf. 29:18) by the time Nebuchadnezzar breached the city after a thirteen year siege.  Since Nebuchadnezzar had no ships in the Mediterranean, he couldn’t pursue them.

The excavation of Tyre

But it gets better.  The mainland city was never rebuilt, the populace remaining on the island, seemingly untouchable.  This lasted until Alexander the Great decided to build a causeway to get to them and literally tore apart the ruins of old Tyre down to the rock (vv. 4, 14), throwing the stones and timbers into the sea (vv. 12, 19) in order to capture the island city.  Some stones remained buried (it had been over two centuries since the city was destroyed, after all) and would later be discovered by archaeology, but every stone that could be seen was used.  The prophecy that God would “bring up the deep over [Tyre] and the great waters will cover you” (v. 19) was fulfilled in the most literal way possible.  It has literally become a place for fishermen to spread their nets to dry (v. 5).  The city called Tyre today is actually still out on the island that the inhabitants fled to to escape Nebuchadnezzar 2500 years ago, not on the mainland.

Likewise, the judgment against Sidon (28:20-24) was that it would have “the sword upon her on every side,” but no final destruction is decreed.  And indeed, Sidon has repeatedly fallen to sieges over the centuries, but has continued to endure as a city in the same place for 2500 years.  Today it is a fairly large city with a population of over 1/4 of a million.

The reason that I’m focusing on those prophecies is that Christian commentators–especially those coming from a non-premillennial school of thought–will happily point to the very literal fulfillment of chapters 25-28, but when it comes to chapter 29, the commentaries suddenly fail to provide any answers.  Specifically, 29:9-16 speak of Egypt suffering a 40 year captivity, one which has never been fulfilled in history.  Okay, maybe that’s simply a future prophecy.  That’s very true, as we will see, but it is paired with a prophecy (vv. 17-21) that specifically names Nebuchadnezzar as the coming conqueror of Egypt.  That’s also difficult to sustain historically, as we will also see.

The reason I am setting all of this up and being very forthright about the difficulties that we are going to face in interpreting Ezekiel’s prophetic predictions about Egypt which span chapters 29-32 is that I have been pretty dissatisfied with the way the commentaries I have read and listened to have glossed over the problems instead of wrestling with the Word.  As a result, I’ve had to do a lot more prep-work than I originally anticipated.  Very rewarding prep-work, but very time-consuming nevertheless.  Hopefully the commentary will be worth the delay.

I’m also working on a new format for the commentaries that I’m going to post here.  It’s an experiment, so we’ll see if it works out or if I’ll be changing the format again down the road.

Thank you for your patience, and shalom.


3 Replies to “Egypt’s Dossier, Part 4: Introduction to Ezekiel”

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