Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke, , at sacred-texts.com
This and the three following chapters foretell the conquest of Egypt by Nebuchadnezzar, which he accomplished in the twenty-seventh year of Jehoiachin's captivity. The same event is foretold by Jeremiah, Jer 46:13, etc. The prophecy opens with God's charging the king of Egypt (Pharaoh-hophra) with the same extravagant pride and profanity which were in the preceding chapter laid to the charge of the prince of Tyre. He appears, like him, to have affected Divine honors; and boasted so much of the strength of his kingdom, that, as an ancient historian (Herodotus) tells us, he impiously declared that God himself could not dispossess him. Wherefore the prophet, with great majesty, addresses him under the image of one of those crocodiles or monsters which inhabited that river, of whose riches and revenue he vaunted; and assures him that, with as much ease as a fisherman drags the fish he has hooked, God would drag him and his people into captivity, and that their carcasses should fall a prey to the beasts of the field and to the fowls of heaven, Eze 29:1-7. The figure is then dropped; and God is introduced denouncing, in plain terns, the most awful judgments against him and his nation, and declaring that the Egyptians should be subjected to the Babylonians till the fall of the Chaldean empire, Eze 29:8-12. The prophet then foretells that Egypt, which was about to be devastated by the Babylonians, and many of the people carried into captivity, should again become a kingdom; but that it should never regain its ancient political importance; for, in the lapse of time, it should be even the Basest of the kingdoms, a circumstance in the prophecy most literally fulfilled, especially under the Christian dispensation, in its government by the Mameluke slaves, Eze 29:13-16. The prophecy, beginning at the seventeenth verse, is connected with the foregoing, as it relates to the same subject, though delivered about seventeen years later. Nebuchadnezzar and his army, after the long siege of Tyre, which made every head bald by constantly wearing their helmets, and wore the skin of off every shoulder by carrying burdens to raise the fortifications, were disappointed of the spoil which they expected, by the retiring of the inhabitants to Carthage. God, therefore, promises him Egypt for his reward, Eze 29:17-20. The chapter concludes with a prediction of the return of the Jews from the Babylonish captivity, Eze 29:21.
In the tenth year - Of Zedekiah; and tenth of the captivity of Jeconiah.
The ten month, in the twelfth day of the month - Answering to Monday, the first of February, A.M. 3415.
Set thy face against Pharaoh king of Egypt - This was Pharaoh-hophra or Pharaoh-apries, whom we have so frequently met with in the prophecies of Jeremiah, and much of whose history has been given in the notes.
The great dragon - התנים hattannim should here be translated crocodile, as that is a real animal, and numerous in the Nile; whereas the dragon is wholly fabulous. The original signifies any large animal.
The midst of his rivers - This refers to the several branches of the Nile, by which this river empties itself into the Mediterranean. The ancients termed them septem ostia Nili, "the seven mouths of the Nile." The crocodile was the emblem of Egypt.
I will put hooks in thy jaws - Amasis, one of this king's generals, being proclaimed king by an insurrection of the people, dethroned Apries, and seized upon the kingdom; and Apries was obliged to flee to Upper Egypt for safety.
I will cause the fish - to stick unto thy scales - Most fish are sorely troubled with a species of insect which bury their heads in their flesh, under their scales, and suck out the vital juices. The allusion seems to be to this. Pharaoh was the crocodile; the fish, the common people; and the sticking to his scales, the insurrection by which he was wasted and despoiled of his kingdom.
I will leave thee thrown into the wilderness - Referring to his being obliged to take refuge in Upper Egypt. But he was afterwards taken prisoner, and strangled by Amasis. Herod. lib. 2 s. 169.
They have been a staff of reed - An inefficient and faithless ally. The Israelites expected assistance from them when Nebuchadnezzar came against Jerusalem; and they made a feint to help them, but retired when Nebuchadnezzar went against them. Thus were the Jews deceived and ultimately ruined, see Eze 29:7.
From the tower of Syene - ממגדל מונה mimmigdol seveneh, "from Migdol to Syene." Syene, now called Essuan, was the last city in Egypt, going towards Ethiopia. It was famous for a well into which the rays of the sun fell perpendicularly at midday.
Shall be desolate forty years - The country from Migdol or Magdolan, which was on the isthmus between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea, was so completely ruined, that it might well be called desert; and it is probable that this desolation continued during the whole of the reign of Amasis, which was just forty years. See Herod. lib. 3 c. 10; and see Calmet.
Will I gather the Egyptians - It is probable that Cyrus gave permission to the Egyptians brought to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar, to return to their own country. And if we reckon from the commencement of the war against Pharaoh-hophra by Nebuchadnezzar, to the third or fourth year of Cyrus, the term will be about forty years.
Into the land of Pathros - Supposed to mean the Delta, a country included between the branches of the Nile, called Δ delta, from its being in the form of the Greek letter of that name. It may mean the Pathrusim, in Upper Egypt, near to the Thebaid. This is most likely.
Shall be there a base kingdom - That is, it shall continue to be tributary. It is upwards of two thousand years since this prophecy was delivered, and it has been uninterruptedly fulfilling to the present hour.
1. Egypt became tributary to the Babylonians under Amasis.
2. After the ruin of the Babylonish empire, it became subject to the Persians.
3. After the Persians, it came into the hands of the Macedonians.
4. After the Macedonians it fell into the hands of the Romans.
5. After the division of the Roman empire it was subdued by the Saracens.
6. About a.d. 1250, it came into the hands of the Mameluke slaves.
7. Selim, the ninth emperor of the Turks, conquered the Mamelukes, a.d. 1517, and annexed Egypt to the Ottoman empire, of which it still continues to be a province, governed by a pacha and twenty-four beys, who are always advanced from servitude to the administration of public affairs. So true is it that Egypt, once so glorious, is the basest of kingdoms. See Newton on the prophecies.
The seven and twentieth year - That is, of the captivity of Jeconiah, fifteen years after the taking of Jerusalem; about April 20, 3432. The preceding prophecy was delivered one year before the taking of Jerusalem; this, sixteen years after; and it is supposed to be the last which this prophet wrote.
Caused his army to serve a great service against Tyrus - He was thirteen years employed in the siege. See Joseph. Antiq. lib. 10 c. 11. In this siege his soldiers endured great hardships. Being continually on duty, their heads became bald by wearing their helmets; and their shoulders bruised and peeled by carrying baskets of earth to the fortifications, and wood, etc., to build towers, etc.
Yet had he no wages, nor his army - The Tyrians, finding it at last impossible to defend their city, put all their wealth aboard their vessels, sailed out of the port, and escaped for Carthage; and thus Nebuchadnezzar lost all the spoil of one of the richest cities in the world.
I have given him the land of Egypt for his labor - Because he fulfilled the designs of God against Tyre, God promises to reward him with the spoil of Egypt.
Will I cause the horn of the house of Israel to bud - This may refer generally to the restoration; but particularly to Zerubbabel, who became one of the leaders of the people from Babylon. Or it may respect Daniel, or Mordecai, or Jeconiah, who, about this time, was brought out of prison by Evil-merodach, and afterwards kindly treated.