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Clarke's Commentary on the Bible
The prophet goes on to predict the fall of the king of Egypt, under the figure of an animal of prey, such as a lion or crocodile, caught, slain, and his carcass left a prey to the fowls and wild beasts, Ezekiel 32:1-6. The figure is then changed; and the greatness of his fall (described by the darkening of the sun, moon, and stars) strikes terror into all the surrounding nations, Ezekiel 32:7-10. The prophet adds, that the overthrow of the then reigning Egyptian dynasty was to be effected by the instrumentality of the king of Babylon, who should leave Egypt so desolate, that its waters, (alluding to the metaphor used in the second verse), should run as pure and smooth as oil, without the foot of man or the hoof of a beast to disturb them, Ezekiel 32:11-16. A beautiful, nervous, and concise description of a land ruined and left utterly desolate. In the remaining part of the chapter the same event is pourtrayed by one of the boldest figures ever attempted in any composition, and which at the. same time is executed with astonishing perspicuity and force. God is introduced ordering a place in the lower regions for the king of Egypt and his host, Ezekiel 32:17, Ezekiel 32:18. The prophet delivers his message, pronounces their fate, and commands those who buried the slain to drag him and his multitudes to the subterraneous mansions, Ezekiel 32:19, Ezekiel 32:20. At the tumult and commotion which this mighty work occasions, the infernal shades are represented as roused from their couches to learn the cause. They see and congratulate the king of Egypt, on his arrival among them, Ezekiel 32:21. Pharaoh being now introduced into this immense subterraneous cavern, (see the fourteenth chapter of Isaiah, where a similar imagery is employed), the prophet leads him all around the sides of the pit; shows him the gloomy mansions of former tyrants, tells their names as he goes along; beautifully contrasts their former pomp and destructive ambition, when they were a terror to the surrounding states, with their present most abject and helpless condition; declares that all these oppressors of mankind have not only been cut off out of the land of the living, but have gone down into the grave uncircumcised, that is, they have died in their sins, and therefore shall have no resurrection to eternal life; and concludes with showing Pharaoh the place destined for him in the midst of the uncircumcised, and of them that have been slain by the sword, Ezekiel 32:22-32. This prophetic ode may be considered as a finished model in that species of writing which is appropriated to the exciting of terror. The imagery throughout is sublime and terrible; and no reader of sensibility and taste can accompany the prophet in this funeral procession, and visit the mansions of Hades, without being impressed with a degree of awe nearly approaching to horror.
1And it came to pass in the twelfth year, in the twelfth month, in the first day of the month, that the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
In the twelfth year, in the twelfth month, in the first day of the month - On Wednesday, March 22, the twelfth year of the captivity of Jeconiah, A.M. 3417.
Instead of the twelfth year, five of Kennicott's MSS., and eight of De Rossi's, read בעשתי עשרה in the eleventh year. This reading is supported by the Syriac; and is confirmed by an excellent MS. of my own, about four hundred years old.
2Son of man, take up a lamentation for Pharaoh king of Egypt, and say unto him, Thou art like a young lion of the nations, and thou art as a whale in the seas: and thou camest forth with thy rivers, and troubledst the waters with thy feet, and fouledst their rivers.
Thou art like a young lion - and thou art as a whale in the seas - Thou mayest be likened to two of the fiercest animals in the creation; to a lion, the fiercest on the land; to a crocodile, תנים tannim, (see Ezekiel 29:3), the fiercest in the waters. It may, however, point out the hippopotamus, as there seems to be a reference to his mode of feeding. He walks deliberately into the water over head, and pursues his way in the same manner; still keeping on his feet, and feeding on the plants, etc., that grow at the bottom. Thus he fouls the water with his feet.
3Thus saith the Lord GOD; I will therefore spread out my net over thee with a company of many people; and they shall bring thee up in my net.
4Then will I leave thee upon the land, I will cast thee forth upon the open field, and will cause all the fowls of the heaven to remain upon thee, and I will fill the beasts of the whole earth with thee.
5And I will lay thy flesh upon the mountains, and fill the valleys with thy height.
And fill the valleys with thy height - Some translate, with the worms, which should proceed from the putrefaction of his flesh.
6I will also water with thy blood the land wherein thou swimmest, even to the mountains; and the rivers shall be full of thee.
The land wherein thou swimmest - Egypt; so called, because intersected with canals, and overflowed annually by the Nile.
7And when I shall put thee out, I will cover the heaven, and make the stars thereof dark; I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon shall not give her light.
I will cover the heaven - Destroy the empire.
Make the stars thereof dark - Overwhelm all the dependent states.
I will cover the sun - The king himself.
And the moon shall not give her light - The queen may be meant, or some state less than the kingdom.
8All the bright lights of heaven will I make dark over thee, and set darkness upon thy land, saith the Lord GOD.
And set darkness upon thy land - As I did when a former king refused to let my people go to the wilderness to worship me. I will involve thee, and thy house, and thy people, and the whole land, in desolation and wo.
9I will also vex the hearts of many people, when I shall bring thy destruction among the nations, into the countries which thou hast not known.
I will also vex the hearts - Even the remote nations, who had no connection with thee, shall be amazed at the judgments which have fallen upon thee.
10Yea, I will make many people amazed at thee, and their kings shall be horribly afraid for thee, when I shall brandish my sword before them; and they shall tremble at every moment, every man for his own life, in the day of thy fall.
11For thus saith the Lord GOD; The sword of the king of Babylon shall come upon thee.
12By the swords of the mighty will I cause thy multitude to fall, the terrible of the nations, all of them: and they shall spoil the pomp of Egypt, and all the multitude thereof shall be destroyed.
13I will destroy also all the beasts thereof from beside the great waters; neither shall the foot of man trouble them any more, nor the hoofs of beasts trouble them.
14Then will I make their waters deep, and cause their rivers to run like oil, saith the Lord GOD.
Cause their rivers to run like oil - Bring the whole state into quietness, there being no longer a political hippopotamus to foul the waters - to disturb the peace of the country.
15When I shall make the land of Egypt desolate, and the country shall be destitute of that whereof it was full, when I shall smite all them that dwell therein, then shall they know that I am the LORD.
Shall be destitute of that whereof it was full - Of corn, and all other necessaries of life.
16This is the lamentation wherewith they shall lament her: the daughters of the nations shall lament her: they shall lament for her, even for Egypt, and for all her multitude, saith the Lord GOD.
17It came to pass also in the twelfth year, in the fifteenth day of the month, that the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
In the twelfth year - Two of Kennicott's MSS., one of De Rossi's, and one of my own, (that mentioned Ezekiel 32:1), have, in the Eleventh year; and so has the Syriac, as before. This prophecy concerns the people of Egypt.
18Son of man, wail for the multitude of Egypt, and cast them down, even her, and the daughters of the famous nations, unto the nether parts of the earth, with them that go down into the pit.
Cast them down - Show them that they shall be cast down. Proclaim to them a casting down prophecy.
19Whom dost thou pass in beauty? go down, and be thou laid with the uncircumcised.
Whom dost thou pass in beauty? - How little does it signify, whether a mummy be well embalmed, wrapped round with rich stuff, and beautifully painted on the outside, or not. Go down into the tombs, examine the niches, and see whether one dead carcass be preferable to another.
20They shall fall in the midst of them that are slain by the sword: she is delivered to the sword: draw her and all her multitudes.
21The strong among the mighty shall speak to him out of the midst of hell with them that help him: they are gone down, they lie uncircumcised, slain by the sword.
Out of the midst of hell - שאול sheol, the catacombs, the place of burial. There is something here similar to Isaiah 14:9, where the descent of the king of Babylon to the state of the dead is described.
22Asshur is there and all her company: his graves are about him: all of them slain, fallen by the sword:
Asshur is there - The mightiest conquerors of the earth have gone down to the grave before thee; there they and their soldiers lie together, all slain by the sword.
23Whose graves are set in the sides of the pit, and her company is round about her grave: all of them slain, fallen by the sword, which caused terror in the land of the living.
Whose graves are set in the sides of the pit - Alluding to the niches in the sides of the subterranean caves or burying-places, where the bodies are laid. These are numerous in Egypt.
24There is Elam and all her multitude round about her grave, all of them slain, fallen by the sword, which are gone down uncircumcised into the nether parts of the earth, which caused their terror in the land of the living; yet have they borne their shame with them that go down to the pit.
There is Elam - The Elamites, not far from the Assyrians; others think that Persia is meant. It was invaded by the joint forces of Cyaxares and Nebuchadnezzar.
25They have set her a bed in the midst of the slain with all her multitude: her graves are round about him: all of them uncircumcised, slain by the sword: though their terror was caused in the land of the living, yet have they borne their shame with them that go down to the pit: he is put in the midst of them that be slain.
26There is Meshech, Tubal, and all her multitude: her graves are round about him: all of them uncircumcised, slain by the sword, though they caused their terror in the land of the living.
There is Meshech, Tubal - See on Ezekiel 27:13 (note).
27And they shall not lie with the mighty that are fallen of the uncircumcised, which are gone down to hell with their weapons of war: and they have laid their swords under their heads, but their iniquities shall be upon their bones, though they were the terror of the mighty in the land of the living.
Gone down to hell with their weapons of war - Are buried in their armor and with their weapons lying by their sides. It was a very ancient practice, in different nations, to bury a warrior's weapons in the same grave with himself.
28Yea, thou shalt be broken in the midst of the uncircumcised, and shalt lie with them that are slain with the sword.
29There is Edom, her kings, and all her princes, which with their might are laid by them that were slain by the sword: they shall lie with the uncircumcised, and with them that go down to the pit.
There is Edom - All the glory and pomp of the Idumean kings, who also helped to oppress the Israelites, are gone down into the grave. Their kings, princes, and all their mighty men lie mingled with the uncircumcised, not distinguished from the common dead:
"Where they an equal honor share,
Who buried or unburied are.
Where Agamemnon knows no more
Than Irus, he condemned before.
Where fair Achilles and Thersites lie,
Equally naked, poor, and dry."
30There be the princes of the north, all of them, and all the Zidonians, which are gone down with the slain; with their terror they are ashamed of their might; and they lie uncircumcised with them that be slain by the sword, and bear their shame with them that go down to the pit.
There be the princes of the north - The kings of Media and Assyria, and all the Zidonians - the kings of Tyre, Sodom, and Damascus. See Calmet.
31Pharaoh shall see them, and shall be comforted over all his multitude, even Pharaoh and all his army slain by the sword, saith the Lord GOD.
Pharaoh shall see them - Pharaoh also, who said he was a god, shall be found among the vulgar dead.
And shalt be comforted - Shall console himself, on finding that all other proud boasters are in the same circumstances with himself. Here is a reference to a consciousness after death.
32For I have caused my terror in the land of the living: and he shall be laid in the midst of the uncircumcised with them that are slain with the sword, even Pharaoh and all his multitude, saith the Lord GOD.
I have caused my terror in the land of the living - I have spread dismay through Judea, the land of the living God, where the living oracles were delivered, and where the upright live by faith. When Pharaoh-necho came against Josiah, defeated, and slew him at Megiddo, fear and terror were spread through all the land of Judea; and the allusion here is probably to that circumstance. But even he is now laid with the uncircumcised, and is no more to be distinguished from the common dead.
Much of the phraseology of this chapter may be illustrated by comparing it with Isaiah 14 (note), where see the notes, which the intelligent reader will do well to consult.