Egypt is the last in this series of oracles against the nations. The imagery is just as profound and poetically graphic as in the other oracles. The terror of Tyre and Sidon’s defeat is fresh on the minds of Jerusalem’s citizens, and they wonder, what else will Nebuchadnezzar do to the Egyptians and their forces? The prophet has the answer. Like a locust hopping from city to city, the Babylonian army will move from the northern capital, Memphis (in lower Egypt), to the southern capital, Thebes (in upper Egypt). God proclaims through His living example, Ezekiel, that He has put His sword in Nebuchadnezzar’s hand to punish Egypt. If Egypt with all its history and splendor will fall to Babylonia, what chance do other nations have?
31 During the eleventh year, on the first day of the third month, the word of the Eternal came to me with a message about the Pharaoh.
Eternal One: 2 Son of man, tell Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and all his subjects,
Who is comparable to your greatness, Pharaoh?
3 Think about Assyria—a land once broad and handsome.
Like a cedar in Lebanon offering shade and beauty,
it grew high enough to reach the clouds!
4 Heaven’s waters made it grow, kept it healthy;
the deep waters made it grow tall,
Causing the rivers to flow around where it was planted,
channeling water to all the thirsty trees of the field.
5 It towered high above all the other trees in that place.
Its boughs increased in number;
Its branches grew stronger, thicker, and longer—
nourished by the generous waters beneath it.
6 All the birds of the air built their nests in its strong limbs;
all the wild beasts of the earth gave birth beneath its mighty branches;
all the great nations flourished in its long shadow.
7 It was magnificent in its beauty,
grand in its form, and long in its branches;
For its roots grew deep and tapped the sources of many waters.
8 No cedar trees in God’s garden could rival it;
no junipers could grow as many boughs;
no oriental plane trees could match its many branches;
No trees in God’s garden could rival its magnificent beauty!
9 I made it mighty and beautiful;
I molded its limbs, leaves, and branches
To be the envy of every tree in Eden,
of each tree in God’s garden.
10 Therefore, this is what the Eternal Lord has to say:
Eternal One: Because it is a giant tree, towering high above the rest, because its upper branches reach the clouds and it boasts of its unrivaled, stately stature, 11 I will hand it over to the ruler of the nations for him to deal with it according to its wickedness. I have cast it aside. 12 Foreigners who strike terror in the heart of the nations chopped it down and left it to rot. Its mighty branches crashed to the ground upon mountains and valleys. Its limbs shattered in ravines and littered rivers and streams. The tree was no longer a giant and no longer provided cool shade, so all the nations of the earth abandoned it. 13 Birds of the air perched on the trunk of the fallen tree. Wild beasts made homes within its limbs. 14 Consequently, no trees should ever boast of their stately stature, nor have their branches reach the clouds, nor tower high above the rest. There will be no more giants nourished by the deep waters of the earth, for they’re all destined to die and be for the world below. They will go down to the pit with all the people of the earth.
15 So I, the Eternal Lord, say that on the day when Assyria, the giant cedar, went to the place of the dead, I filled the deep waters with mourning. I halted the flow of its rivers and streams and veiled Lebanon’s hills and mountains with black for mourning. All the trees in the woodland withered away because of its demise! 16-17 I caused the nations to shake at the sound of its fall when I sent the giant tree to the destiny of all mortal things—death. All the trees of Eden, the finest and most well-watered trees in all of Lebanon, were comforted in that place of death. They accompanied it to the pit along with all those slain in battle—those who once kept it strong and rested in the cool of its shade along with the rest of the nations. 18 Which of the trees in Eden could rival your magnificent beauty and stately glory? But even you will perish and be taken to the earth below, along with other trees of Eden. You will lie in the grave beside the uncircumcised who were slain in battle. This is the fate of Pharaoh and all his people.
So said the Eternal Lord.
32 During the twelfth year, on the first day of the twelfth month, the word of the Eternal came to me with a lament over Pharaoh and his people.
Eternal One: 2 Son of man, sing a lament over Pharaoh, king of Egypt. Tell him,
You imagine yourself a lion moving mightily through the nations,
but you’re really like the great sea monster
Rampaging through the waterways—muddying up the streams
and fouling the rivers with your feet.
3 So I, the Eternal One, say:
I will use a company of many people to cover you with My net
Using the nations to make the trap.
Once you are caught, they will haul you up in My net.
4 I will leave you on dry land
and cast you in an open field.
I will summon the birds of the sky to land on you and feast on your flesh.
I will bring the wild beasts of the earth to satisfy their hunger with you.
5 I will scatter bits and pieces of you on the hills
and fill the valleys with your remains.
6 I will see that the land drinks your flowing blood
as it streams to the mountains and fills the dry riverbeds.
7 When I blot you out, I will cover the heavens and dim the stars;
I will hide the sun behind a cloud, and the moon will not shine.
8 I will darken the lights that shine in the heavens
and shroud your land in darkness.
9 I will disturb the hearts of many people across the world with accounts of your destruction. The news will travel to places you have never heard of or knew existed. 10 I will shock many peoples with your story; kings will be terrified to remember your fate when I wave My sword at them. On the day of your destruction, they will tremble constantly, fearing your tragic destiny might also be theirs.
11 I, the Eternal Lord, say that the sword of the Babylonian king will strike against you, Egypt. 12 I will use the swords of mighty warriors—all from the most ruthless nation on earth—to strike down your vast population.
They will hack the pride of Egypt to pieces
and slaughter her vast population.
13 I will destroy all her livestock that drink from the abundant rivers and streams
so they will no longer be muddied by the feet of man or beast.
14 Once they are gone, I will settle the waters of Egypt
and let them flow as smoothly as olive oil.
15 After I make the land of Egypt a wasteland,
strip the land bare, and crush all of her inhabitants,
Then they will know that I am the Eternal One.
16 This is the lament they will sing over her. The daughters of the nations will mourn
and sing for Egypt and for all her people.
So says the Eternal Lord.
17 In the twelfth year, on the fifteenth day of the first month, the word of the Eternal came to me regarding Egypt.
Eternal One: 18 Son of man, grieve for the vast population of Egypt. Deliver Egypt and her foreign allies to the lowest regions of the earth, to the pit where they may join the rest of the dead.
In Ezekiel’s day the Israelites believe that after death, all people go down to the pit, often called “Sheol.” The Hebrew word comes from a root that means “to ask a question” because no one knows exactly what happens on the other side. The afterlife remains an open question for Ezekiel’s contemporaries. The Bible describes it as a dark, shadowy place, located perhaps in the lowest regions of the earth. It stands in sharp contrast to the descriptions Jesus’ apostles will give of heaven and hell later in the New Testament. The Scriptures do not reveal everything at once. They invite the reader to keep digging and keep seeking to find answers.
Eternal One: 19 Ask Egypt, “Who compares to your beauty now?
Go down into the pit and rest among the uncircumcised pagans.”
20 They will fall and be buried with those who died in battle. The sword is drawn and at her throat! They have dragged her and all her vast population away. 21 The mighty rulers in the place of the dead will hail them: “Welcome to the world of the dead! Come on down and take your place among the uncircumcised pagans and those killed in battle.”
The Egyptians practice circumcision and are careful in burying their dead. They consider it an insult to be laid to rest with the uncircumcised and those never properly buried.
22 Assyria is in the pit—she and her entire company. She is encircled by the graves of her people—all of them slain, fallen by the sword. 23 Their graves are in the lowest regions of the pit; a vast company encircles her grave; all of them are slain, fallen by the sword. Their reign of terror among the living has ended in an eternity of dishonor.
24 Elam is there, too, with all her population around her grave. They all died in battle, slaughtered by the sword. They descended to the lowest regions of the pit uncircumcised. 25 Their reign of terror among the living has ended in an eternity among the disgraced in the pit. They have made her a bed among those killed in battle. The graves of her people surround her. They were slaughtered by the sword and descended into death without being circumcised. Their reign of terror among the living has ended in an eternity among the disgraced in the pit. They have taken their place among the slain.
26 Meshech and Tubal take residence in the lowest parts of the pit as well. The graves of their people surround them. Although they terrorized the living, they have all died in battle without being circumcised. 27 But they won’t share a space with the other uncircumcised pagan warriors (who also reigned down terror on earth) inhabiting the place of death honorably, buried with their weapons. Meshech and Tubal won’t rest on their swords in valor; instead, the punishment for their wickedness will rest on their bones. 28 Pharaoh, you, too, will lie with the other residents of the underworld. Your place is set beside the uncircumcised and those who died in battle.
29 Edom is there, too, with all her royalty and leadership. Even though they possessed great power while on earth, they dwell with others in the pit. They lie beside the uncircumcised and those who died in battle.
30 All the northern princes and all the Sidonians will end up in the pit too. They used their power to terrorize others in the land of the living. But now they dwell in shame with others in the pit. They lie beside the uncircumcised and those who died in battle.
31 I, the Eternal One, declare that Pharaoh will see and take comfort in the company of all his people—especially his army—slaughtered by the sword. 32 Even though I used him to terrorize the living, I am consigning him and all his people to lie in the deepest parts of the pit beside the uncircumcised and all those who died in battle.
So says the Eternal Lord.
14 Pursue peace with everyone, and holiness, since no one will see God without it. 15 Watch carefully that no one falls short of God’s favor, that no well of bitterness springs up to trouble you and throw many others off the path. 16 Watch that no one becomes wicked and vile like Esau, the son of Isaac, who for a single meal sold his invaluable birthright. 17 You know from the stories of the patriarchs that later, when he wished to claim his blessing, he was turned away. He could not reverse his action even though he shed bitter tears over it.
The Bible is a brutally honest book. It contains stories of liars, murderers, and adulterers; and these are the good guys. If we read the Bible looking only for positive role models, we’ll be quickly disappointed. But if we are honest with ourselves and confess our own faults, we will find in Scripture, particularly in the First Testament, that we have much in common with many broken saints of the past. But we must not stay broken. We must follow their path to transformation through repentance and faith. Repentance means a change of heart, a change of mind, and ultimately a change of how we live. God’s grace comes to us and enables us to turn away from sin and to turn back to Him.
18 You have not come to the place that can be touched (as Israel did at Mount Sinai)—to a mountain crowned with blazing fire, darkness, gloom, and a windstorm— 19 or to the blast of a trumpet and the sound of a voice—a voice and message so harsh that the people begged not to hear another word. 20 (They could not bear the command that was given: that if even a beast touches the mountain, it must be stoned. 21 The sight was so terrible that even Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.”)[a]
22 No, instead you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, to the heavenly Jerusalem, to heavenly messengers unnumbered, to a joyful feast, 23 to the assembly of the firstborn registered as heaven’s citizens, to God the righteous Judge of all, and to the spirits of all the righteous who have been perfected. 24 You have come to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant between God and humanity, and to His sprinkled blood, which speaks a greater word than the blood of Abel crying out from the earth.
25 See that you don’t turn away from the One who is speaking; for if the ones who heard and refused the One who spoke on earth faced punishment, then how much more will we suffer if we turn away from the One speaking from heaven— 26 the One whose voice in earlier times shook the earth now makes another promise: “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heavens”?[b] 27 The phrase, “Yet once more,” means that those things that can be shaken will be removed and taken away, namely, the first creation. As a result, those things that remain cannot be shaken. 28 Therefore, let us all be thankful that we are a part of an unshakable Kingdom and offer to God worship that pleases Him and reflects the awe and reverence we have toward Him, 29 for He is like a fierce fire that consumes everything.[c]
Psalms 113–118 comprise an important unit called the Hallel, which in Hebrew means “praise.” Composed after the exile, these six psalms are recited together by observant Jews during some of the major holidays on the Jewish calendar. The Gospel writers tell us that Jesus and His disciples sang a song following their last meal together, which was the Passover (Matthew 26:30; Mark 14:26). That may have been the Hallel.
1 Praise the Eternal!
All of you who call yourselves the children of the Eternal, come and praise His name.
Lift Him high to the high place in your hearts.
2 At this moment, and for all the moments yet to come,
may the Eternal’s name ascend in the hearts of His people.
3 At every time and in every place—
from the moment the sun rises to the moment the sun sets—
may the name of the Eternal be high in the hearts of His people.
4 The Eternal is seated high above every nation.
His glory fills the skies.
5 To whom should we compare the Eternal, our God?
From His seat, high above,
6 He deigns to observe the earth and her thin skies,
stooping even to see her goings on, far beneath His feet.
7 He gathers up the poor from their dirt floors,
pulls the needy from the trash heaps,
8 And places them among heads of state,
seated next to the rulers of His people where they cannot be ignored.
9 Into the home of the childless bride,
He sends children who are, for her, a cause of happiness beyond measure.
Praise the Eternal!
1 When the time came for Israel to leave Egypt—
for Jacob’s family to be free of those who spoke another language—
2 God chose to make Judah His sacred place,
and Israel became His realm.
3 And the waters of the sea witnessed God’s actions and ran away;
the Jordan, too, turned around and ran back to where it came from.
4 All of the mountains leapt with the strength of mighty rams,
and all of the hills danced with the joy of little lambs.
5 Why do you retreat, O sea?
Why do you roll back your waters, O Jordan?
6 Why, O mountains, do you leap with the strength of rams?
Why, O hills, do you dance with joy like little lambs?
7 Shudder and quake, O you earth, at the sight of the Lord.
The God of Jacob comes,
8 Who turns rock into pools of refreshing water
and flint into fountains of life-giving streams!
18 Whoever takes care of a fig tree will eat of its fruit,
and whoever cares for his master will be honored.
19 Just as water reflects a person’s true face,
so the human heart reflects a person’s true character.
20 Neither the grave nor destruction is ever satisfied;
the desires of people are never totally fulfilled.