Finally. I’ve made it to Ezekiel Chapter 30. This chapter is proving problematic for me in some respects. The commentaries keep drawing out implied references to Assyria – the likening of Egypt through imagery in the verses to Assyrian symbolism. Yep. We’ll get to that in a minute.
So this prophecy by Ezekiel jumps back to the 10th year, then jumps forward to the eleventh year. Within this text, there are 4 poetic verse segments of prophetic doom. As usual, when ever Ezekiel, or any other of the major prophets, lapses into poetic form, there is a high content of emotional conveyance. We get words like “anguish”, “frighten”, “agony”, “a day of clouds”. Very gloomy stuff.
As an experiment, I grabbed the first line of each of the four sections and strung them together into a single sentence/phrase. Surprisingly, this provides a fairly accurate summary of the main point of each verse, and the point of the section all together.
Here is what that looks like:
Wail and Alas, The allies will fall, by the hand of Babylon, I will destroy the idols
This entire section up to this point seems more like a detailed impact to the entire ecosystem of Egypt: her allies and outlying cities, if you look at it form an economic point of view. To that point, it is important to remember that Ezekiel was trained in the Temple which was functioning at time both a religious center and as an economic center. Therefore, it is not that surprising that Ezekiel draws a link between all the components of the Egypt’s empire – willing or otherwise – and the anguish and despair described above. In fact, in verse 12, God declares that he will dry up the Nile (the very life blood of Egyptian economy) and “SELL the land “. This is a direct fiscal reference smack in the heart of all the military oriented speak of the rest of the verses. To get real about it all, there are very few reasons why whole armies lace up sandals and march 900 miles across desert terrain. Financial gain is right at the top of the list. And reaction to impending financial upset, even in today’s market, is always described with words like “doom”, “crash”, “hysteria”, “fear”, “anxious”, etc. My favorite is “..it’s a gloomy forecast for blue chip today…”
Commentaries focus on verse 21 as relating to the historical event of Babylon’s initial defeat of Pharaoh. However, the flow of the verse, as well as the preceding chapter, suggests an implication along economic lines following the long assault on Tyre. It doesn’t make sense to say that an arm is broken, and then say God is going to break it again if it is taken as a literal physical asset of Egypt. The verse does go on to say that the broken arm is not bound up, that it can not be healed so that it can become strong again. That sounds more like a critical resource has been taken away, much like the State Department is the diplomatic arm of the US government as differentiated from the Military arm.
If an arm is broken and can not grow strong, then the relationship once pursued is now beyond repair and can not be rehabilitated via treaty or trade. That would be the state between Egypt and Tyre/Phoenicia. This would be a stronger candidate rather than the proposed Assyrian connection based on imagery alone (of a great Cypress tree) as offered by some of the commentaries. This Egypt/Tyre connection becomes very clear in Ezekiel Chapter 31 as Ezekiel continues his thoughts So the verse goes on to say that God will break both arms, both good and already broken. How? The answer is in the preceding verses, earlier in the chapter, that detail the impact on all the allies and outlying cities of the Egyptian empire. Pharoah will not be able to draw upon other resource in order to shore up his dwindling influence. And, because Egypt’s economic ties rely heavily on the Nile and the Nile delta, that becomes a bottleneck to him both from a military sense and from that of commerce.
The point to me is that the judgments pronounced against Egypt have everything to do with participating in a system that benefits you, without acting as reliable and trustworthy neighbors. Jerusalem falls under attack, Tyre does nothing. Tyre falls under attack, no one including Egypt does anything. Jerusalem calls out to Egypt, but Egypt fails them as well. Egypt falls under attack as “Payment” to Babylon.
All nice and tidy.