The Book of Ezekiel contains profound prophecies and visions that the prophet Ezekiel received from God during the time of the Babylonian exile. In chapter 32, Ezekiel receives a word from the Lord announcing judgment on Egypt and the fall of Pharaoh.
This oracle of doom against Egypt is precisely dated to occur on the “twelfth day of the twelfth month” (32:1). The numbering is significant, as it was on the tenth day of the tenth month that Ezekiel received news that Jerusalem had fallen to Babylon (33:21). Two months later, Ezekiel is told that Egypt will soon share the same fate at the hands of Babylon’s king, Nebuchadnezzar.
Chapter 32 vividly describes Egypt’s demise through metaphors of sea monsters, death, and descent to the pit. God is displaying His sovereign power over the proud nation of Egypt, which considered itself invincible. The chapter serves as a reminder that the Lord alone is exalted among the nations and all earthly rulers are subject to His judgment.
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For modern readers, this passage contains revelatory themes of God’s control over human kingdoms, the folly of pride, and the inevitability of death apart from redemption in Christ. As we study this prophetic pronouncement, we must reflect on whether our lives and nations are submitted to the one true God or relying vainly on our own strength.
- Egypt will fall to the king of Babylon as punishment for its pride and arrogance
- Pharaoh is compared to a sea monster that will be caught in God’s net and left to rot
- The defeat of Egypt is prophesied to occur on a specific date
- Egypt’s downfall will cause dismay among other nations who relied on its strength
- Fallen warriors of Egypt and its allies will descend to Sheol, the realm of the dead
- Egypt will be brought down to the pit along with other ungodly nations already judged
- God’s judgment against Egypt displays His sovereignty over all rulers and nations
God’s Net Ensnares the Sea Monster Egypt (32:1-16)
The oracle against Egypt opens with Ezekiel receiving a word from the Lord to prophesy against Pharaoh king of Egypt. God directly addresses Pharaoh, comparing him to a “monster (tannin) in the seas” (32:2). This metaphor of Egypt as a sea dragon or serpentine leviathan echoes language used elsewhere for godless rulers whom God will destroy (cf. Ps 74:13-14; Isa 27:1).
As the dangerous monster in the seas, Pharaoh had boasted arrogantly, “My Nile is my own; I made it for myself” (32:2). Egypt indeed depended on the Nile for agriculture, commerce, and transportation. Yet the king’s hubris failed to acknowledge God’s sovereignty over all things.
Verse 3 introduces the central image that dominates the passage – God catching the monster Egypt in His net. The Lord declares, “I will spread My net over you with a company of many peoples, and they will bring you up in My net.” This depicts Egypt being caught helplessly in God’s inescapable judgment through the military siege of the Babylonians.
Continuing the metaphor, Pharaoh is left stranded and gasping for air once hauled up in the net, then cast down helpless and flailing on the land (32:4). The image shifts slightly, as birds and beasts are summoned to devour Egypt’s remains, leaving their flesh on the mountains and filling the valleys with their carcasses (32:4-6). This gruesome scavenging conveys total domination and defeat.
The cosmic imagery expands further, as the Lord declares “When I blot you out, I will cover the heavens and make their stars dark; I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon shall not give its light” (32:7). Here the extinguishing of Pharoah’s life and Egypt’s domain is linked to blotting out of the heavens themselves. It is debatable whether this refers to literal cosmic anomalies accompanying Egypt’s fall, or is metaphorical language conveying the theological significance of the event. In any case, it signals a momentous divine act of judgment.
Verse 8 shifts to describe the impact of Egypt’s downfall on her allies and dependent nations: “All the bright lights of heaven will I make dark over you, and put darkness on your land, declares the Lord God.” The terrifying judgment will cause international dismay, as other nations lose a dominant power they relied upon for military strength and economic prosperity (cf. 30:4-5).
In verse 9, the prophecy expands to specify that the news of Egypt’s defeat will reach distant lands, causing distress even for nations “who have not heard my fame or seen my glory.” God’s glory and fame are juxtaposed against Egypt’s in verse 10: “I will make many peoples appalled at you, and their kings shall shudder with horror because of you, when I brandish my sword before them.” Here God’s personal agency in wielding the sword of judgment is contrasted with Egypt’s helpless demise in the fisherman’s net.
Verses 11-16 detail the military invasion, as the swords of mighty warriors strike Egypt down. The graphic language conveys violent destruction: “I will cut off the multitude of Egypt by the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon” (32:11); “I will destroy all its beasts from beside many waters” (32:13), and “When I make the land of Egypt desolate…then they will know that I am the LORD” (32:15). Through Babylon’s fierce onslaught, Egypt will know that her proud boasts and false gods are powerless against the one true God.
Egypt’s Allies Join Her in Death (32:17-32)
The scene shifts from Egypt’s judgment to the destiny of warriors from allied nations who will fall in battle alongside Egypt. Just as their kings will shudder in horror (32:10), so their departed mighty warriors will shudder in the realm of death.
Sheol, the abode of the dead, is pictured as lying “in the depths of the pit” (32: 18, 23-24). This lowest place signals defeat and dissolution for once mighty warriors. The fallen heroes of these nations are taunted for having spread terror in the land of the living, but now being reduced to the same helpless state as less honored souls (32:19-32).
The dirge begins with Egypt and its allied forces already defeated. They are comforted with the morbid reassurance that Assyria and its company have preceded them in humiliation to the pit (32:22-23). The Assyrian empire was the dominant Mesopotamian power conquered by Babylon in 609 BC. Here they are further insulted as being no better off in death despite their former glory.
Elam, Meshech, Tubal, Edom, and Sidon are also named as sharing residence in the pit, having already met their doom (32: 24-28). Joining this dishonored fate, Pharaoh and Egypt will be brought down and consoled that “he and all his multitude” will not be alone is their demise (32:28-32). The prophet leaves no hope that they can escape God’s net.
Egypt Joins Fallen Nations in the Pit (32:17-32)
The final section of the chapter begins with verse 17 declaring, “In the twelfth year, on the fifteenth day of the month, the word of the Lord came to me.” As noted earlier, the specificity of the date emphasizes this is an actual prophecy of events to transpire on God’s appointed timetable.
The Lord instructs Ezekiel to “wail over the multitude of Egypt” (32:18). Ezekiel is called to lament their demise, despite Egypt leading God’s people into ruin and idolatry. Matthew Henry notes, “We may observe in this lamentation for Egypt, (1.) That worldly glory, wealth, and power are no security against destructive judgments of God.” God alone holds the power of life and death.
Verse 19 declares, “Whom do you surpass in beauty? Go down and be laid to rest with the uncircumcised.” Egypt is mocked for its former beauty and grandeur, now reduced to joining heathen nations in the dishonorable grave or “pit” of Sheol. All earthly distinctions are erased in the ugliness of death and decay. Henry again observes, “(2.) Great men and mighty nations may have their day of reckoning.” None can stand against God’s decree.
In verses 20-32, Egypt descends to lie with other fallen warriors, including Assyria and Elam. Just as she once spread terror, Egypt and its “hordes” are now terrorized in their defeated state (32:23). Henry comments, “(3.) Those that have been oppressive and cruel to others will be dealt with accordingly by the righteous Judge of heaven and earth.” God repays evil deeds with justice.
The closing verse reiterates, “For I have put his terror in the land of the living” (32:32). Egypt’s threats once spread fear, but God has returned dismay upon Egypt. Henry concludes, “(4.) Impenitent sinners will find, when it is too late, that they have but deceived themselves.” Arrogance against God yields only futility and ruin.
In pronouncing Egypt’s certain defeat through metaphors of death and the pit, Ezekiel displays God’s supremacy over all earthly powers. The destruction of ungodly nations foreshadows the final judgment before God, when every knee shall bow. Only through Christ’s redemption can we escape the pit and be raised to eternal life.
Ezekiel chapter 32 contains a powerful lament and prophecy against Egypt, deploying evocative imagery and vivid oracles of judgment. As part of his larger collection of ruins against the nations, the chapter testifies to God’s sovereign control over all earthly kingdoms.
In declaring the fall of Egypt and its mighty Pharaoh, Ezekiel confronts the arrogance of all human rule that imagines itself to be invincible and self-sustaining apart from reliance upon God. The graphic language of conquest, death, and descent to Sheol drives home the folly of autonomous human pride and might.
For nations like Judah who relied upon Egypt’s strength, the prophecy serves as a warning not to put their hope in foreign powers but to turn back to the one true God. As Matthew Henry summarized, “We have reason to think the prophecy itself had its accomplishment in part while Babylon was a great empire; but has ever since been fulfilling, and will continue to be so till the time comes when no corner of the land of Egypt shall escape being brought under the sceptre of Christ.”
Ultimately, this chapter calls all people – rulers and ruled alike – to humble ourselves before the Lord of all. Our lives are in His hand, and we will all face the final judgment. May we bow before Christ today, who alone can rescue us from the pit and bring eternal life. As believers, we can take comfort that God’s plan cannot be thwarted and He will make all things new.