September 4, 2021, was the 15th anniversary of the death of Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter. Steve Irwin was a fascinating man, but ultimately his life’s passion of interacting with dangerous wildlife led to his demise. I was surprised to learn this week that Irwin was actually not the original Crocodile Hunter. Who was the original? As we continue our study through Ezekiel 29-32, the answer might surprise you too.
Look at Ezekiel chapter 29, verses 3-6. Ezekiel never ceases to amaze with its wild imagery, and this section is no different.
What we read in these verses could be titled, “The Parable of the River Monster”. Or maybe “The Parable of the Destruction of the River Monster” In this parable, God is saying that the Pharaoh of Egypt is the river monster. More the likely, the monster he is referring to is the Nile Crocodile, which is a huge variation of croc that can grow to 16 feet long. They still live there to this day. All crocodiles are freaky, scary creatures. Big powerful, and surprisingly fast. Though God is saying that the Pharaoh is like the croc, powerful, in charge of the mighty nation of Egypt, the Pharaoh is no match for God. God depicts himself as the Crocodile Hunter, hooking, capturing and leaving the croc to be preyed upon in the desert.
Why does God say he is going to do this? Does he have some random vendetta against Egypt? No. Look at verse 3. God says that Pharaoh claims, “The Nile is mine; I made it for myself.” That’s a bold claim. Did Pharaoh make the Nile? He and the other Pharaohs before him certainly had numerous expansive building projects, which would include taming and controlling the Nile. But God shakes his head at the arrogance of some leaders. We saw this in chapter 28 with the King of Tyre, who grew a prideful heart. Now God points out the selfish pride of Pharaoh. Pharaoh doesn’t own the Nile, and he didn’t make it for himself. God made the Nile! Pharaoh’s arrogance is a direct affront to God. Pharaoh is claiming things about himself that can only be claimed about God. God is the creator, not Pharaoh. Pharaoh has become arrogant. So what will God do? Scan down to verses 9-10. God says that because of Pharaoh’s arrogant claims about the Nile, God is against him.
Now let’s back-up to verses 6-7. God says that Egypt and the Pharaoh were like a staff of reed for Israel. The staff was supposed to support them, but when Israel leaned on the staff, it shatters into splinters which pierced and hurt Israel. This figurative speech refers to the time that Israel asked for help from Egypt when the Babylonians were going to attack Israel, but Egypt was unsuccessful. Therefore, as we read in verse 8, God will allow a sword to destroy Egypt. We have heard God talk about this sword in Ezekiel chapter 21. God’s sword is the nation of Babylon. As Babylon sweeps through the Ancient Near East, it will destroy everything in its path, like God swinging a sword of judgment against the people who have rebelled against him. What will be the result?
Scan through verses 6-16, and three times God mentions the most important phrase in Ezekiel. We have heard it so many times in the book, that you probably know it by heart. “Then you will know that I am the Lord.” It is so easy to focus on things like the sword of God’s judgment, or God the Crocodile Hunter, and get an image of a violent God. But the better way to view the judgment of God is to remember that the people brought judgment on themselves because of their rebellious choices. God wanted them to live a very different way, a far better way. God wanted to be known by them, to be in loving relationship with them. That is his heart, to be in relationship with all people. Not just his chosen people Israel; he wants to be known by all people, even the enemies of Israel. In that sense, these chapters, and the four chapters before, are astonishing. God wants to have the same kind of relationship with Israel’s enemies that he wants to have with Israel, a close loving relationship.
That is likely why God envisions a restoration for Egypt. Look specifically at verses 13-16. God says that he will restore Egypt to the land of their ancestry, but life will not be the same as before the Babylonian attack. Before the attack, Egypt was a powerful kingdom, but after the attack, Egypt will be a lowly kingdom. In fact God says Egypt will be the lowliest of nations, never again to exalt itself above others. Hold that image in your mind: Egypt, once a superpower, will be humbled.
As we continue through the end of chapter 29, at verse 17, we fast-forward about 16 years to another prophecy about Egypt. In this prophecy God is no longer speaking in figurative language. He is speaking plainly, describing how Babylon will destroy Egypt. Then in verse 21, he says something very odd, “I will make a horn grow for the house of Israel.” That is figurative language again, referring to the growing strength and prosperity of Israel. In other words, God is saying that while Egypt falters, Israel will once again flourish. Then God finishes this prophecy saying that he will open Ezekiel’s mouth, Ezekiel will prophecy, and the people will know that he is the Lord.
Check back to the next post as we continue studying Ezekiel 29-32 to learn about God’s heart for all people, even our enemies.