Good morning! If there’s one theme that flows through today’s passage (Ezekiel 28-31), it’s that line from the book of Proverbs: pride goes before a fall. By turns one nation after another is called out for getting “uppity”, and each time it ends in disaster. Tyre, Egypt and Assyria are all characterized as being so cocky that they need to be humbled by God, acting through the means of Babylon. That confident and successful nation will have its reckoning too though, since its pride too will lead to a fall.
Tyre, the coastal city-state we discussed yesterday, comes in for another prophetic shellacking today. (Sidon too, a nearby city often mentioned in the same phrase with Tyre.) According to Ezekiel, Tyre associates its great wealth (from trading) with its leader being divine. To the contrary, Tyre’s ruler is decidedly mortal, as a successful attack on the city will prove, Ezekiel says. However, we see in Ezekiel 29:18 that Nebuchadnezzar wasn’t successful in his thirteen-year siege. He didn’t actually plunder Tyre, nor get any loot for the efforts expended against it. Here the “mighty brought low” happens in prophecy but not in historical fact to the best of our knowledge.
Against Egypt, the prophet’s words also foretell decline. Egypt has been a sometimes-antagonist, sometimes-sheltering neighbor nation to Judah. It pursues its own benefits, and sometimes they even accrue to Jerusalem at times when they are allied. However, Ezekiel describes the nation’s downfall with witty reference to water creatures in the Nile, and to the reeds that grow plentifully along the river’s banks. Egyptians shall go into their own “exile” for forty years, scattered as Israel and Judah have been scattered. Chapter 30 describes how God will put an end to idols in Egypt, calling out all the cities that will be ruined in the coming destruction by Nebuchadnezzar. Ezekiel suggests that Egyptian exiles will be brought back together again afterward, not to a powerful kingdom but to a small one which is nevertheless their home.
Finally, in Ezekiel 31, we have a metaphor of Assyria as a great tree, with branches and shade for all the creatures who might care to live in it. This tree is one of the mythical trees of Eden, yet it even towers above them. This is how great Assyria was in its time. But the tree—perhaps because it was so tall and tempting—drew the attention of “foreigners from the most terrible of the nations”, who “have cut it down and left it” (31:12). Here again, Babylon is treated as the instrument of God’s judgment. The great Assyrian “tree” falls as a sign that nobody should seek to grow that tall and mighty. As the proverb goes, “if you stick your neck out, it might get cut off”. Happy reading!
Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. The passage for tomorrow is Ezekiel 32-34. Thanks for reading!