I cause them [Thutmose’s enemies] to see thy majesty as a crocodile,
the lord of fear in the waters,
who cannot be approached
— Amon-Re in a hymn to Thutmose III (in Block, Ezekiel)
When we hear Egypt in connection with the Old Testament, most of us think of the Joseph or Moses. However, Egypt was still active in Ezekiel’s time. Here’s what happened.
There are three players:
- Egypt, led by Pharaoh Hophra
- Babylon, led by King Nebuchadrezzar
- Judah, led by King Zedekiah
Egypt and Babylon were enemies. Judah was a weak pawn—both spiritually and militarily—in the middle. Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon besieged Judah. Hophra of Egypt saw an opportunity to weaken Babylon via Judah, and encouraged Judah to resist Babylon (God’s chosen tool of judgment). Hophra sent troops against Babylon as they were setting siege around Judah. Nebuchadrezzar was driven back for a short time.
As we saw with Tyre, any nation who stood in the way of God’s plan suffered dire consequences. When Hophra of Egypt attacked Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon at Judah, he was really attacking Yahweh’s justice against Judah.
. . .
The judgment of Egypt took the form of seven distinct oracles:
- The oracle against Pharaoh, the crocodile of the Nile (29:1-16)
- The land of Egypt: Nebuchadrezzar’s consolation prize (29:17-21)
- The day of Yahweh in Egypt (30:1-19)
- Breaking the arms of Pharaoh (30:20-26)
- The doom of the pharaonic tree (31:1-18)
- The doom of the pharaonic monster (32:1-16)
- Egypt’s descent into Sheol (32:17-32)
These seven oracles complete God’s judgment on the seven foreign nations. Starting in chapter 33, God turned his attention back to Israel and her hope for the future. First, though, the crocodile of the Nile must meet his end.
. . .
In the epigraph, I quoted a hymn to Thutmose III of Egypt. In it, Thutmose III was compared to a crocodile—a feared creature that lived in the Nile river that ran through the centre of Egypt. It was flattering to refer to the Pharaoh in such terms. In this graphic oracle, however, God toys with the crocodile, and shows Pharaoh who the true God is.
The Nile river and delta is the source of Egypt’s wealth. Use Google Earth to view Egypt, and you will see dramatically the life that the Nile river brings to Egypt. Even in times of famine, the Nile delta can produce food. When Jacob was starving in Canaan, he sent his kids to Egypt to purchase grain.
Pharaoh Hophra was arrogant enough to think that he—the big crocodile—actually created the Nile. That’s quite a case of divine plagiarism! As if that claim was not blasphemous enough, Yahweh accused Egypt of breaking into splinters when Judah leaned on them for help.
. . .
Here’s what Yahweh decided to do to Hophra—that crocodile of the Nile. He will hook Hophra by the lip and pull him out of his river, along with all the fish (his citizens) stuck to his sides. Yahweh will thrown him down into the desert and let the wild animals feast on him. Harsh.
Later in verses 13-16, Yahweh showed Ezekiel more clearly what this image will entail. God will drive the Egyptians out of their land and make them wander for 40 years. Only after those decades have passed will the Egyptians return to Egypt. When they return, they will be humbled and never again find the power and influence they once exercised.
Forty years is a significant number. That is the amount of time the Israelites wandered in the desert after they doubted God’s ability to give them the Canaan. Presumably, God’s motives are the same with Egypt. For their disobedience to Yahweh’s divine will, an entire generation of Egyptians would die outside of their homeland.
. . .
There are many ways we can take the lesson God taught Egypt to heart today. Since we’ve already talked about pride and thwarting God’s will recently, let’s focus on one of the minor themes: taking credit for God’s work.
Pharaoh Hophra had the gall to claim that he created the Nile. I’m sure not many of us would have that sort of audacity, but how often to we credit God for the smaller things in life? What about that fortuitous coincidence that landed you a more secure job? What about that sickness that cleared up surprisingly quickly?
I’m not suggesting that we over-spiritualize every event in life—I am suggesting that a loving Creator cares for us, and in the terminology of Proverbs: “makes our paths straight”. Credit to where credit’s due.
. . .
Thank you, Lord, for guiding our life’s paths. Help us to remember that you are in control, and to give you the credit that you deserve. We’re nothing without you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.