Saturday, March 15, 2014

Ezekiel 28:1-30:26


Ezekiel's oracles against Tyre continue in chapter 28. In verses 1-19 he specifically targets the king of Tyre. As is typical of Ezekiel, the king is referred to as "prince."

The New International Version translates verse 3 as a pair of questions addressed to the king:

Are you wiser than Daniel?
Is no secret hidden from you?

The New Revised Standard Version translates the same verse as a pair of statements:

You are indeed wiser than Daniel;
no secret is hidden from you...

The consensus opinion expressed in the notes of my various study Bibles is that Ezekiel actually did think that the king of Tyre was wise. Even wiser than Daniel who, as we saw in chapter 14 was probably  a legendary Canaanite ruler, Danel,and not the biblical Daniel.

Wise or not, the Tyrian ruler's pride becomes his downfall and he will die at the hands of foreigners.

Verses 11-19 are a lament over the king of Tyre. Once rich, beautiful, and powerful, he will be reduced to ashes (v. 18).

Verses 20-23 are a short oracle against Sidon. Verses 24-26 express the purpose of all these nations' downfalls. On their return to the land of promise

The house of Israel shall no longer find a pricking brier or a piercing thorn among all their neighbors who have treated them with contempt. And they shall know that I am the Lord God.
      (Ezekiel 28:24 NIV)

Chapter 29 begins a series of oracles against Egypt. A note in the New Interpreters Study Bible is helpful:

Egypt had been either a threat or a temptation to Israel for centuries. Isaiah had warned about reliance on Egypt for military help (30:1- 2; 31:1). Although Pharaoh Hophra intervened while Nebuchadnezzar was besieging Jerusalem (Jer 37:5- 8), Jeremiah warned against the dangers of fleeing to Egypt (Jer 42:1- 22) and predicted that Hophra would be captured by Nebuchadnezzar (Jer 44:30).

Ezekiel declares that Egypt, which has been a weak prop ("staff of reed" v. 6) to Judah, will be destroyed. As Tyre's downfall was described in imagery of the sea, so Egypt's fate is described in terms appropriate to a desert nation. Egypt's people will be exiled for 40 years. After that time they will return, but the restored nation will be weak.

In verses 17-21 YHWH gives Egypt to Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon as compensation for an unprofitable campaign against Tyre. A note from the Harper Collins Study Bible says:

Since Nebuchadnezzar had worked for God and without sufficient reward, he will be permitted to attack Egypt instead. Such an attack was launched in 568 bce, again without conclusive results.

This means that neither Ezekiel's oracles against Tyre, nor his oracles against Egypt were fulfilled precisely. This isn't a major concern for me but if it bothers you a note in the New Interpreters Study Bible may help:

Although some think that the failure of the oracle against Tyre may pose a problem for the credibility of the prophet or the divine word, prophetic certainty need not be the issue here. Prophetic announcements regarding the exercise of human power are always contingent. Moreover, the L ord 's radical freedom from human institutions and structures also requires that the divine word cannot be imprisoned in its own fulfillment. The Lord is free to modify an announcement when the situation changes, especially when that word concerns the agent of divine justice, Nebuchadnezzar (v. 20).

In chapter 30 the prophet is commanded to lament over the defeat of Egypt and its allies, Cush (i.e. Ethiopia), Put (Lybia), Lud (Lydia), Arabia, and Cub. No one is exactly sure what "Cub" is supposed to represent. The NIV, following the Septuagint, translates it as "Lybia" (and just transliterates "Put"). Verses 13-19 include some specific Egyptian places by name. The whole of the land is to be conquered.

In verses 20-26 Ezekiel says that Nebuchadnezzar has broken the Pharaoh's arm. The Babylonian king will be back, he says, to break the other one.

We're not quite done with Egypt.

Next: Ezekiel 31-33

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