“Son of man, wail for the multitude of Egypt, and cast them down, even her, and the daughters of the famous nations, unto the nether parts of the earth, with them that go down into the pit.” — Ezekiel 32:18
A few weeks ago, as I was standing on the sidewalk in front of our house chatting with one of our neighbors, a dreadful wail split the quiet afternoon. It began as a shriek, and quickly crescendoed to a sustained, ear-piercing howl that momentarily froze us to the spot where we were standing. Then we both dashed toward the sound, expecting to find that some sort of terrible injury or calamity had occurred. We found a seven-year-old child clutching her foot while she screamed, mouth wide open and tears pouring down her flushed cheeks. In a dash between two houses, she had tripped on a loose piece of wire fencing and seemingly was convinced that the injury she had sustained must be life-threatening!
While another child ran to summon a nurse who lives nearby, my neighbor and I half carried the wailing child to the nearest porch. The screams continued as we gently pried loose the little fingers that were tightly wrapped around her injured foot. Yes, there was a minuscule scratch and a tiny bit of blood. However, after the nurse arrived, washed the hurt toe, and applied some disinfectant and a bandaid, the wailing and the tears subsided and our little patient was ready to rejoin the other neighborhood kids in their play.
In our focus verse, Ezekiel was instructed to “wail” for the people of Egypt — and this lament was of a far more serious nature than our loud but rather short-lived neighborhood drama. In poetic style, and at God’s direction, Ezekiel described how Egypt would join other once-mighty nations in receiving God’s judgment. They had refused to honor God and follow His instructions, choosing instead to worship whoever and whatever they wished, and judgment would be the result.
Egypt had been given an opportunity to serve God and chose not to. The nation had already witnessed both the benevolence and judgment of God (see Genesis 41:25 and Exodus 11:1), and was currently watching God’s judgment unfold upon the nation of Judah. She should have understood that rebellion against God always brings consequences. However, she heedlessly persisted in her rejection of God, and thus would pay the price — a price so dreadful that Ezekiel was commanded to wail and lament her fate.
Today’s text reminds us that history is filled with the rise and fall of great nations as well as great individuals. There are different outcomes for people who choose to serve God than for those who choose to ignore God and His provision for eternal life. Let’s purpose to make the right choices and avoid the lamentable judgment that befell the once-great nation of Egypt!
This portion of chapter 32 continues the lament for Egypt that began with a comparison of Pharaoh to a “whale” (crocodile) being slain. This judgment would come through Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, and the nations around Egypt would fear when they observed Pharaoh’s destruction.
Egypt’s destiny was to go to the “pit,” or Sheol, the location of lost souls after they received final judgment. Once in that place, there was no way of release and no further opportunity for mercy.
In verse 19 the question was asked, “Whom dost thou pass [surpass] in beauty?” By Ezekiel’s day, a multitude of Pharaohs lay in plush burial chambers in ornate stone coffins in the “Valley of the Kings.” No expense had been spared in embalming them, honoring them, and laying them to rest. Yet here the word of the Lord questioned their beauty after judgment was carried out. In death, those rich burial trappings would signify nothing; they were of no value.
The references in this passage to the “uncircumcised” relate to Egypt’s choice to remain apart from God’s will. Circumcision was given to Abram as a symbol of the covenant in which God instructed him to walk in holiness (see Genesis 17:1-14). Exodus 12:48 establishes that “strangers” (those who were not Jews) could participate in the covenant through circumcision, signifying that the call to holiness was universal. The command to separate oneself and be made holy was for any who would worship the Lord acceptably, so the “uncircumcision” of the Egyptians caused them to suffer eternal condemnation. At God’s direction, Ezekiel pictured Egypt as “the strong among the mighty” in hell (verse 21), signifying that Egypt would join the other mighty nations named in this chapter (Elam, Meshech, Tubal, Edom, and Zidon) in disgrace and damnation.
III. The condemnation of the nations
G. The condemnation of Egypt
6. The descent of Egypt to the nether world (32:17-30)
a. The descent of Egypt (32:17-21)
b. The presence of other nations (32:22-30)
7. The consolation of the Pharaoh (32:31-32)
The fate of Egypt stands as a reminder of how important it is to decide to serve God with all of our hearts. We will never be sorry for making that choice.