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Ezekiel’s final oracle against the nations—his most extended—is directed at Israel’s historic enemy, Egypt. As was the case with Tyre (chapters 26–28), this oracle warns of judgement both on the land of Egypt and its ruler. The extended word really takes the form of seven individual oracles. We will touch on the first three today (29:1–30:19) and the next four in our next consideration.

The opening oracle (29:1–16) poetically portrays Pharaoh as a great monster, reminiscent of the famed Nile crocodiles. The Egyptian Pharaohs would not have objected to this imagery. Indeed, Egyptian legend told of the god Amon-Re speaking of Pharaoh “as a crocodile, the lord of fear in the water, who cannot be approached.” In Ezekiel’s oracle, however, the strength of the mighty crocodile is easily broken.

The sin that the Lord addresses in this chapter is Egypt’s arrogance. Like Nebuchadnezzar at a later time (Daniel 4), Pharaoh believed that he had created the Nile and its life-giving waters by his own power and for his own glory. He was the mighty, untouchable crocodile who ruled its domain. In the end, he would prove to be like any old crocodile entrapped by a hunter. In his boastful arrogance, the mighty Pharaoh persuaded Judah to rely on his military might against the Babylonian invaders. While Judah was itself guilty for misplaced trust, Egypt was also accountable for promising what it could not deliver. For all its arrogance, it had proven nothing more than an unstable “staff of reed” (29:7), ultimately incapable of providing the support it promised.

In the second oracle (29:17–20), the Lord promised to give Egypt to Babylon as its reward for doing his bidding. Nebuchadnezzar had served as God’s instrument of judgement against Tyre without reward. Josephus tells us that Nebuchadnezzar had besieged Tyre for some thirteen years, leading to economic and political collapse. Tyre became a Babylonian vassal, but the siege had so depleted Tyre’s wealth that Babylon received scant reward for its efforts. God promised to hand Egypt to Nebuchadnezzar as a reward.

The chapter closes in 29:21 with a brief word of encouragement to Israel.

The third oracle (30:1–19) essentially recapitulates the message of the first but in the form of a lament. By his judgement, Yahweh would cause Egypt to acknowledge his authority (30:19) and conclusively demonstrate his power to a watching world.

It is important to remember, as we have said previously, that the words against the pagan nations were addressed primarily to Judah. God’s people needed to learn something from these oracles. With regard to Egypt, the primary lesson in these first three oracles was for Judah to be on guard against a fatal attraction to Egypt.

The allure of Egypt plays a significant role in the biblical narrative. As early as the time of Abraham, Egypt was able to provide the food that the patriarch lacked in famine (Genesis 12:10). Lot was attracted to Sodom because it was “like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt” (Genesis 13:10). Even Sarah’s Egyptian handmade turned out to be a solution to her infertility (Genesis 16:1–4).

Egypt provided a solution in Joseph’s time and, even in the days of Israel’s kings, Egypt was frequently a first military resort when God’s people were in trouble (see, for example, 2 Chronicles 12:3). Egypt always seemed to have what Israel needed. While following Yahweh was hard, the way of Egypt always seemed comparatively easy and attractive.

We face the same temptation as we look to the world. The way of obedience often seems long and arduous while the way of the world seems attractive. Seeking first the kingdom of God seems a far harder task, which yields less obvious results, than pursuing political power to affect change. Trusting God to provide seems a harder path to follow than greedily pursuing financial gain as a buffer for our earthly concerns. The pursuit of fame and fortune appears a sure-fire way to make quick changes than quietly and faithfully walking the long road of obedience. The things of the world can be a fatal attraction to us, if we are not careful. For if we throw our lot in with Egypt, we will come crashing down with it when God moves in judgement.

As you meditate on Ezekiel 29:1–30:19 this morning, ask God to deliver you from a fatal attraction mentality. Ask him to help you see him as your ultimate attraction so that you do not fall with the lesser attractions that so easily distract you.