“And when I shall put thee out, I will cover the heaven, and make the stars thereof dark; I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon shall not give her light. All the bright lights of heaven will I make dark over thee, and set darkness upon thy land, saith the Lord GOD.” — Ezekiel 32:7-8
On August 21, 2017, a total solar eclipse, dubbed the “Great American Eclipse” by the media, was visible in the United States from the Pacific to the Atlantic coasts. Since this was the first time since June 8, 1918, that a solar eclipse had been observable across the whole nation, the event generated a great deal of excitement. Old and young alike gathered to watch outside of homes and businesses, on rooftops and mountaintops, on sandy beaches and in open fields. Parties and celebrations were set up in the eclipse path, and hotels near good viewing locations were booked months in advance. Many people left their homes and traveled hundreds of miles just to get a glimpse of the phenomenon that takes place when the moon passes between the sun and the earth. According to news reports, a number of marriage proposals were made during the event, and at least one wedding took place in tandem with the darkening sky!
Our family joined in the nationwide anticipation. On the morning of August 21, three generations of us gathered on the sidewalk in front of our daughter’s home, arranged our folding chairs to face the sun, and laid out an array of snacks. After donning eclipse glasses that we had been assured would protect our eyes, we watched and waited. Shortly after 9:00 a.m., a thin line of shadow began to darken the edge of the sun. As the shadow slowly expanded across the sun’s surface, the houses and yards in the neighborhood, brightly illuminated just moments before, gradually descended into dusk-like dimness. What an unusual experience! It was definitely a day to remember.
In our key verses, the prophet Ezekiel described a time of darkness coming upon Egypt that would also be a day to remember. That darkness, however, would not only cover the sun, but also the moon and “all the bright lights of heaven.” It would not be a time of excited celebration, but of judgment! These verses were part of an oracle lamenting the Pharaoh of Egypt, and describing what would happen to him and his nation by the hand of Almighty God.
This prophecy was delivered more than a year after the fall of Jerusalem, when any hope Judah might have had for help from Egypt was past. At the time, Pharaoh and his kingdom were mighty forces in the world, second only to Babylon. Perhaps the conquered people of Judah wondered whether God would be faithful to punish Egypt and the other heathen nations as He had declared. Conversely, having witnessed the fall of Jerusalem and Judah, Egypt may have begun to gloat in pride over her own survival and supposed power. However, God had ordained that the proud nation would be humbled, and in today’s text, their doom was pronounced by the words of God himself.
The divine sentence upon Egypt reminds us that all nations and individuals who resist God will one day face His judgment. As we consider the One who placed the sun, moon, and stars in the firmament and presides over the nations of the world, let us be sure that we have made our peace with Him and will not have to face His judgment someday!
This chapter is a lament for Egypt given about a year and nine months after the prophecy that began in Ezekiel 31:1. A lamentation was an expression of anguish and extreme sorrow. At times, these were set to music, and sometimes they were chanted. Wailing, mourning, weeping, and moaning all would have been accompanying expressions of grief. “How is this possible?” is a question the lament inferred. In this portion of text, verses 1-10 portray Pharaoh and Egypt as a monster being slain, and verses 11-16 reveal that the destruction will come by “the sword of the king of Babylon,” Nebuchadnezzar.
Verse 2 infers that in God’s eyes, Pharaoh was only a “young lion” or “whale” (or crocodile) who mucked up the water and created problems. While Egypt was still a significant force with the ability to influence and trouble other nations, God revealed in verses 3-8 that He would disgrace the sea creature by capturing him in a net and dragging him to land, where he would become food for birds and beasts.
According to verses 9-16, the nations around Egypt would fear when they observed Pharaoh’s destruction. Seemingly, they would come to the realization that if God’s judgment could come to mighty Egypt, they could experience it as well. As a result, they would take up a lament for Egypt.
History proves that God’s prophecy against Egypt was fulfilled. Nebuchadnezzar warred against Egypt, and a further destruction took place in 525 B.C. when the Persians, who had previously conquered Babylon, defeated Pharaoh in a decisive victory. The Greek historian Herodotus wrote of the defeat that the Egyptians were routed, the Pharaoh was taken captive, and the Persian leader made himself Pharaoh.1 This took place less than sixty-five years after Ezekiel’s prophecy and brought an end to Egypt’s twenty-sixth dynasty.
III. The condemnation of the nations
G. The condemnation of Egypt
5. The lamentation over Egypt (32:1-16)
a. The destruction of the monster (32:1-10)
b. The devastation of the Lord (32:11-16)
While man may attribute the rise and fall of a nation to its leaders, God alone controls the future. Let’s be sure we have aligned ourselves with Him!
1. Herodotus, The Histories, trans. A. D. Godley, (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1920), 3.10-15.