If Rashi Doesn't Know, I Sure Don't!By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz
G-d spoke to Ezekiel about Egypt. (Chronologically, this prophecy precedes the one concerning Tzor, found in the previous chapters. It is recorded after because it was juxtaposed with other prophecies concerning Egypt, which came later.) G-d told Ezekiel to say that He is against Pharaoh, who is compared to a great crocodile of the Nile, considering himself in complete control of his domain. G-d will put a hook in Pharaoh’s mouth, like one catches a big fish. Smaller fish, representing Pharaoh’s army and people, will cling to him and be dragged up out of the water with him. They will be scattered in the desert, which is not an especially good place for fish. They will fall and remain unburied, left for the scavengers to pick at. Egypt is being punished because, over the centuries, they have continually been unreliable, promising aid to Israel, only to renege at the last moment. Relying on them is like leaning on reeds – not only do they not support one’s weight, they actually puncture the hand of those who try it. G-d is bringing the sword to Egypt; they will be cut off and the land will be desolate. Pharaoh will recognize that G-d controls the Nile, not he. Egypt will be deserted and empty for forty years. It will be considered a ruin even when compared to other destroyed nations. But at the end of forty years, G-d will gather the Egyptians from the lands of their captivity and return them to their homeland, although never again will they be a world power. Egypt will no longer tempt Israel into the sin of relying on them rather than on G-d.
G-d spoke to Ezekiel about Nebuchadnezzar, who had set his army against Tzor and conquered it. They made no profit from the conquest, as it had been Divinely decreed that Tzor’s riches would be lost to the sea. Since Nebuchadnezzar made no money and gained no subjects from the conquest of Tzor, G-d is giving him Egypt as a sort of consolation prize. From there, he will get bodies and riches for Babylonia. This is payback for Egypt’s deeds. The downfall of Egypt will be a “blossoming horn” for Israel. (Rashi says it is unclear to him how Israel – who were exiled before Egypt was conquered – reaped any benefit from that conquest. Because of this, he interprets the verse as referring to Egypt’s renewal and the concurrent rise of Persia. Radak also says that it refers to the birth of Cyrus, who was instrumental in rebuilding the Temple.) When Ezekiel’s words are fulfilled, people will finally believe him and will listen to his instructions, secure in the knowledge that he does, in fact, speak G-d’s words.