Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
In Ezek. 29-32 we read prophecies against Egypt which, uttered (with the exception of Eze 29:17 to the end) in regular succession, predict the downfall of Pharaoh Hophra and the desolation of Egypt.
Eze. 29:1-16: the first prophecy against Egypt delivered some months before the preceding prophecies against Tyre (see Eze 26:1), the prophecies against the nations being given, not in their chronological, but in their geographical order, according to their nearness to Jerusalem.
The tenth year - Jerusalem had been besieged, but not taken. Jeremiah delivered his prophecy against Egypt, about the time when the approach of Pharaoh Hophra's army caused the Chaldaeans for the time to raise the siege Jer 37:5. This was the solitary instance of Egypt meddling with the affairs of Palestine or Syria after the battle of Carchemish (compare Kg2 24:7); it met with speedy punishment.
The king is addressed as the embodiment of the state.
Dragon - Here the crocodile, the great monster of the Nile, which was regarded very differently in different parts of Egypt. By some it was worshipped and embalmed after death, and cities were named after it (e. g., in the Arsinoite nome). Others viewed it with the utmost abhorrence. An animal so terrible, so venerated, or so abhorred, was an apt image of the proud Egyptian monarch - the more so, perhaps, because it was in truth less formidable than it appeared, and often became an easy prey to such as assailed it with skill and courage.
Lieth in the midst of his rivers - Sais, the royal city, during the twenty-sixth dynasty was in the Delta, in the very midst of the various branches and canals of the Nile.
My river is mine own ... - It was the common boast of Hophra (Apries), that "not even a god could dispossess him of power." The river was at all times the source of fertility and wealth to Egypt, but especially so to the Saite kings, who had their royal residence on the river, and encouraged contact with foreigners, by whose commerce the kingdom was greatly enriched.
Hooks in thy jaws - Compare Job 41:2. The crocodile is thus rendered an easy prey.
Fish of thy rivers - i. e., the allies of Egypt shall be involved in her ruin.
Staff of reed - The "reed" was especially appropriate to Egypt as the natural product of its river.
So Egypt was continually proving to Israel, to Jehoiakim and to Zedekiah. The tenses are present not past.
To be at a stand - Others, "to totter."
From the tower of Syene - Or, as in the margin, "Migdol" ("tower") was about two miles from Suez. "Syene" was the most southern town in Egypt, on the borders of Ethiopia, in the Thebaid, on the eastern bank of the Nile. The modern Assvan lies a little to the northeast of the ancient Syene.
We have no record of the circumstances of the Chaldsaean invasion of Egypt, but it is possible that it did not take place until after the fall of Tyre. We gather of what nature it must have been by comparing the description of the results of Assyrian conquest (Isa 37:25 ff). Minute fulfillment of every detail of prophecy is not to be insisted upon, but only the general fact that Egypt would for a time, described as 40 years, be in a state of collapse. No great stress is to be laid on the exact number of years. The number of years passed in the wilderness became to the Hebrews a significant period of chastisement.
Nebuchadnezzars occupation of Egypt was of no long duration, and his ravages, though severe, must have been partial. Peace with Babylon was favorable to the development of home-works, but since the peace was in truth subjugation, it was hollow and in fact ruinous. Further, it is to be remembered that God fulfils His decree by a gradual rather than an immediate process. The ravages of Nebuchadnezzar were the beginning of the end, and all the desolation which followed may be looked upon as a continuous fulfillment of God's decree. The savage fury with which Cambyses swept over Egypt amply realized all that Ezekiel foretold. Many places recovered some wealth and prosperity, but from the time of Herodotus the kingdom never again became really independent. Egyptian rulers gave place to Persian, Persian to the successors of Alexander the Great, who gave place in turn to Rome. So thoroughly was the prophecy of Ezekiel fulfilled Eze 29:14-15.
A similar respite was promised to Moab Jer 48:47, to Ammon Jer 49:6, and to Tyre Isa 23:15.
Pathros - The Thebaid or Upper Egypt, the original seat of the kingdom.
The land of their habitation - Rather, as margin, i. e., the home of the restored exiles.
The false confidence of the Israelites "brought to remembrance," i. e., discovered in the sight of God and man their "iniquity," i. e., their treachery and perjury to the Chaldaeans; their falsehood being made evident when they "look after" (turn to) the Egyptians and seek their aid in rebellion. The ruin of Egypt shall put an end to all this.
The prophet places this prediction out of chronological order, that he may point out what had not been stated in the foregoing prophecy, namely, that the agent who should strike the first blow on Egypt should be the Chaldaean king, Nebuchadnezzar.
Yet had he no wages - It is not improbable that the Tyrians before they surrendered their island-citadel managed to remove much of their treasure; but others exlplain the verse; that the siege and capture of Tyre is to be regarded as the "work" appointed, and the possession of Egypt as the "reward or wages" for the work.
Egypt being the antagonist of the people of God, her overthrow inaugurated the triumph of good over evil.
The horn ... - Or, "an horn to bud forth to the house of Israel."
I will give thee the opening of the mouth - When these things should begin to come to pass the prophet's mouth should be opened to declare their meaning, and to make known the end to which all was tending.