Here is, I. The date of this prophecy against Egypt. It was in the tenth year of the captivity, and yet it is placed after the prophecy against Tyre, which was delivered in the eleventh year, because, in the accomplishment of the prophecies, the destruction of Tyre happened before the destruction of Egypt, and Nebuchadnezzar’s gaining Egypt was the reward of his service against Tyre; and therefore the prophecy against Tyre is put first, that we may the better observe that. But particular notice must be taken of this, that the first prophecy against Egypt was just at the time when the king of Egypt was coming to relieve Jerusalem and raise the siege (Jer. 37:5), but did not answer the expectations of the Jews from them. Note, It is good to foresee the failing of all our creature-confidences, then when we are most in temptation to depend upon them, that we may cease from man.
II. The scope of this prophecy. It is directed against Pharaoh king of Egypt, and against all Egypt, Ezek. 29:2. The prophecy against Tyre began with the people, and then proceeded against the prince. But this begins with the prince, because it began to have its accomplishment in the insurrections and rebellions of the people against the prince, not long after this.
III. The prophecy itself. Pharaoh Hophrah (for so was the reigning Pharaoh surnamed) is here represented by a great dragon, or crocodile, that lies in the midst of his rivers, as Leviathan in the waters, to play therein, Ezek. 29:3. Nilus, the river of Egypt, was famed for crocodiles. And what is the king of Egypt, in God’s account, but a great dragon, venomous and mischievous? Therefore says God, I am against thee. I am above thee; so it may be read. How high soever the princes and potentates of the earth are, there is a higher than they (Eccl. 5:8), a God above them, that can control them, and, if they be tyrannical and oppressive, a God against them, that will be free to reckon with them. Observe here,
1. The pride and security of Pharaoh. He lies in the midst of his rivers, rolls himself with a great deal of satisfaction in his wealth and pleasures; and he says, My river is my own. He boasts that he is an absolute prince (his subjects are his vassals; Joseph bought them long ago, Gen. 47:23),—that he is a sole prince, and has neither partner in the government nor competitor for it,—that he is out of debt (what he has is his own, and none of his neighbours have any demands upon him),—that he is independent, neither tributary nor accountable to any. Note, Worldly carnal minds please themselves with, and pride themselves in, their property, forgetting that whatever we have we have only the use of it, the property is in God. We ourselves are not our own, but his. Our tongues are not our own, Ps. 12:4. Our river is not our own, for its springs are in God. The most potent prince cannot call what he has his own, for, though it be so against all the world, it is not so against God. But Pharaoh’s reason for his pretensions is yet more absurd: My river is my own, for I have made it for myself. Here he usurps two of the divine prerogatives, to be the author and the end of his own being and felicity. He only that is the great Creator can say of this world, and of every thing in it, I have made it for myself. He calls his river his own because he looks not unto the Maker thereof, nor has respect unto him that fashioned it long ago, Isa. 22:11. What we have we have received from God and must use for God, so that we cannot say, We made it, much less, We made it for ourselves; and why then do we boast? Note, Self is the great idol that all the world worships, in contempt of God and his sovereignty.
2. The course God will take with this proud man, to humble him. He is a great dragon in the waters, and God will accordingly deal with him, Ezek. 29:4, 5. (1.) He will draw him out of his rivers, for he has a hook and a cord for this leviathan, with which he can manage him, though none on earth can (Job 41:1): “I will bring thee up out of the midst of thy rivers, will cast thee out of thy palace, out of thy kingdom, out of all those things in which thou takest such a complacency and placest such a confidence.” Herodotus related of this Pharaoh, who was now king of Egypt, that he had reigned in great prosperity for twenty-five years, and was so elevated with his successes that he said that God himself would not cast him out of his kingdom; but he shall soon be convinced of his mistake, and what he depended on shall be no defence. God can force men out of that in which they are most secure and easy. (2.) All his fish shall be drawn out with him, his servants, his soldiers, and all that had a dependence on him, as he thought, but really such as he had dependence upon. These shall stick to his scales, adhere to their king, resolving to live and die with him. But, (3.) The king and his army, the dragon and all the fish that stick to his scales, shall perish together, as fish cast upon dry ground, and shall be meat to the beasts and fowls, Ezek. 29:5. Now this is supposed to have had its accomplishment soon after, when this Pharaoh, in defence of Aricius king of Libya, who had been expelled his kingdom by the Cyrenians, levied a great army, and went out against the Cyrenians, to re-establish his friend, but was defeated in battle, and all his forces were put to flight, which gave such disgust to his kingdom that they rose in rebellion against him. Thus was he left thrown into the wilderness, he and all the fish of the river with him. Thus issue men’s pride, and presumption, and carnal security. Thus men justly lose what they might call their own, under God, when they call it their own against him.
3. The ground of the controversy God has with the Egyptians; it is because they have cheated his people. They encouraged them to expect relief and assistance from them when they were in distress, but failed them (Ezek. 29:6, 7): Because they have been a staff of reed to the house of Israel. They pretended to be a staff for them to lean upon, but, when any stress was laid upon them, they were either weak and could not or treacherous and would not do that for them which was expected. They broke under them, to their great disappointment and amazement, so that they rent their shoulder and made all their loins to be at a stand. The king of Egypt, it is probable, had encouraged Zedekiah to break his league with the king of Babylon, with a promise that he would stand by him, which, when he failed to do, to any purpose, it could not but put them into a great consternation. God had told them, long since, that the Egyptians were broken reeds, Isa. 30:6. Rabshakeh had told them so, Isa. 36:6. And now they found it so. It was indeed the folly of Israel to trust them, and they were well enough served when they were deceived in them. God was righteous in suffering them to be so. But that is no excuse at all for the Egyptians’ falsehood and treachery, nor shall it secure them from the judgments of that God who is and will be the avenger of all such wrongs. It is a great sin, and very provoking to God, as well as unjust, ungrateful, and very dishonourable and unkind, to put a cheat upon those that put a confidence in us.