Tuesdays with Ezekiel (Chapters 30-32)

Chapters 30-32 contain five related prophetic messages against Egypt that complement and complete the two pronouncements in chapter 29.  Given over the span of seventeen years, these seven words of woe and lamentation announce the coming destruction and desolation of a proud, powerful nation.  Egypt learns the hard way—as so many nations had done before her (32:17-31)—that the YWHY is the Lord of the nations.

Following the opening two messages in chapter 29 which predict Egypt’s downfall, the third message (chapter 30:1-19) presents a lament for Egypt and its allies. Egypt is headed for a “time of doom” (3) where its wealth (Hebrew word speaks of multitude or abundance) is “carried away and foundations are torn down” (4).  Egypt’s “proud might” comes crashing down (6), causing a reverberation of fear and anguish among surrounding nations (9).  The Lord identifies Babylon (“the most ruthless of nations”) as the instrument of His judgment (10-11).  The Babylonians ravage the land extensively (note the number of cities mentioned in 13-18), destroying Egypt’s idols (13) and devastating its population.

The fourth message (given just several months after the first message) presents a memorable metaphor to make a painful point (30:20-26).  The Lord promises to break both of Egypt’s arms—both its strong arm and the one He has already broken.  No longer will Egypt be able to hold a sword.  At the same time, the Lord pledges to “strengthen the arms of the king of Babylon and put my sword in his hands” (24).  Egypt will be cut down and dispersed among the nations.  In this way, the Lord declares, Egypt will “know that I am the Lord” (26).

The fifth message (31:1-18) is another extended analogy.  Egypt is compared to a previous world power—Assyria (2).  Using poetic terminology, Assyria is pictured as a towering “cedar in Lebanon” that extended to the clouds and provided shade for other nations (3, 6).  But this tall tree was toppled by the Lord, brought down to the depths of Sheol (15).  The lesson for all the other trees: “all this is in order that no trees by the waters may grow to towering height or set their tops among the clouds” (14).  As this message closes, the Lord reminds Egypt that she is the current version of Assyria, about to be cut down to size (18).

The sixth message (32:1-16) returns to the imagery of the very first message (29:1-16); Egypt is again pictured as a “dragon” (crocodile) in the Nile, hauled to shore and cast in the open field to be food for the beasts of the whole earth (3-6).  Again, Babylon is identified as the human agent of God’s judgment (11). 

Finally, the seventh message (32:17-32) offers one last lamentation for Egypt.  Picking up on the imagery of Sheol from the fifth message, Egypt is pictured as “going down to the pit” (18), arriving in the place of the fallen.  There Egypt sees the nations who have gone down before it:  Assyria (22-23), Elam (24-25), Meshech-Tubal (26-28), Edom (29), and the princes of the north (30).  Egypt realizes, too late, that it’s not all that mighty or special.  It’s simply the latest nation to learn that pride and idolatry bring a nation to a tragic end.

Visions of God

Pride and idolatry bring a nation down.  Egypt, like Assyria before it, learns the hard way that its “mighty pride” causes a mighty downfall.  Further its false gods (idols) are powerless before the Lord of the nations.  While a nation may tower above others, it must always remember the God who towers above it.

The Lord laments the destruction caused by sin.  Included in these seven messages of judgment are several extended laments.  These laments add a poignant feature to the announcement of coming destruction.  The Lord finds no pleasure in the death of the wicked (33:11).

The Lord is sovereign over world history and world powers.   It’s clear from the final message (32:17-32) that world powers come and go, but the Lord remains King of kings and Lord of lords.  This reminder would comfort His exiled people and encourage them to maintain their trust in Him.

Words to Watchmen

Watchmen present God’s word in memorable ways.  Ezekiel’s messages are filled with metaphor and analogy.  God’s word comes through both clearly and memorably.  Here is a reminder and encouragement for preachers:  word pictures help people understand, feel and remember God’s message.

Watchmen do well to be acquainted with world history.  Ezekiel’s messages show an awareness of world events and world powers.  This is fitting for those who speak on behalf of the God who oversees the flow of world history.  Those who realize that He is the Lord of nations and history, see His hand in the unfolding of world events.  While we may not always know it at the time, the Lord is directing the outcome of world events according to His wisdom, power and glory.

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