Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke, , at sacred-texts.com
The prophet goes on to predict the fall of the king of Egypt, under the figure of an animal of prey, such as a lion or crocodile, caught, slain, and his carcass left a prey to the fowls and wild beasts, Eze 32:1-6. The figure is then changed; and the greatness of his fall (described by the darkening of the sun, moon, and stars) strikes terror into all the surrounding nations, Eze 32:7-10. The prophet adds, that the overthrow of the then reigning Egyptian dynasty was to be effected by the instrumentality of the king of Babylon, who should leave Egypt so desolate, that its waters, (alluding to the metaphor used in the second verse), should run as pure and smooth as oil, without the foot of man or the hoof of a beast to disturb them, Eze 32:11-16. A beautiful, nervous, and concise description of a land ruined and left utterly desolate. In the remaining part of the chapter the same event is pourtrayed by one of the boldest figures ever attempted in any composition, and which at the. same time is executed with astonishing perspicuity and force. God is introduced ordering a place in the lower regions for the king of Egypt and his host, Eze 32:17, Eze 32:18. The prophet delivers his message, pronounces their fate, and commands those who buried the slain to drag him and his multitudes to the subterraneous mansions, Eze 32:19, Eze 32:20. At the tumult and commotion which this mighty work occasions, the infernal shades are represented as roused from their couches to learn the cause. They see and congratulate the king of Egypt, on his arrival among them, Eze 32:21. Pharaoh being now introduced into this immense subterraneous cavern, (see the fourteenth chapter of Isaiah, where a similar imagery is employed), the prophet leads him all around the sides of the pit; shows him the gloomy mansions of former tyrants, tells their names as he goes along; beautifully contrasts their former pomp and destructive ambition, when they were a terror to the surrounding states, with their present most abject and helpless condition; declares that all these oppressors of mankind have not only been cut off out of the land of the living, but have gone down into the grave uncircumcised, that is, they have died in their sins, and therefore shall have no resurrection to eternal life; and concludes with showing Pharaoh the place destined for him in the midst of the uncircumcised, and of them that have been slain by the sword, Eze 32:22-32. This prophetic ode may be considered as a finished model in that species of writing which is appropriated to the exciting of terror. The imagery throughout is sublime and terrible; and no reader of sensibility and taste can accompany the prophet in this funeral procession, and visit the mansions of Hades, without being impressed with a degree of awe nearly approaching to horror.
In the twelfth year, in the twelfth month, in the first day of the month - On Wednesday, March 22, the twelfth year of the captivity of Jeconiah, A.M. 3417.
Instead of the twelfth year, five of Kennicott's MSS., and eight of De Rossi's, read בעשתי עשרה in the eleventh year. This reading is supported by the Syriac; and is confirmed by an excellent MS. of my own, about four hundred years old.
Thou art like a young lion - and thou art as a whale in the seas - Thou mayest be likened to two of the fiercest animals in the creation; to a lion, the fiercest on the land; to a crocodile, תנים tannim, (see Eze 29:3), the fiercest in the waters. It may, however, point out the hippopotamus, as there seems to be a reference to his mode of feeding. He walks deliberately into the water over head, and pursues his way in the same manner; still keeping on his feet, and feeding on the plants, etc., that grow at the bottom. Thus he fouls the water with his feet.
And fill the valleys with thy height - Some translate, with the worms, which should proceed from the putrefaction of his flesh.
The land wherein thou swimmest - Egypt; so called, because intersected with canals, and overflowed annually by the Nile.
I will cover the heaven - Destroy the empire.
Make the stars thereof dark - Overwhelm all the dependent states.
I will cover the sun - The king himself.
And the moon shall not give her light - The queen may be meant, or some state less than the kingdom.
And set darkness upon thy land - As I did when a former king refused to let my people go to the wilderness to worship me. I will involve thee, and thy house, and thy people, and the whole land, in desolation and wo.
I will also vex the hearts - Even the remote nations, who had no connection with thee, shall be amazed at the judgments which have fallen upon thee.
Cause their rivers to run like oil - Bring the whole state into quietness, there being no longer a political hippopotamus to foul the waters - to disturb the peace of the country.
Shall be destitute of that whereof it was full - Of corn, and all other necessaries of life.
In the twelfth year - Two of Kennicott's MSS., one of De Rossi's, and one of my own, (that mentioned Eze 32:1), have, in the Eleventh year; and so has the Syriac, as before. This prophecy concerns the people of Egypt.
Cast them down - Show them that they shall be cast down. Proclaim to them a casting down prophecy.
Whom dost thou pass in beauty? - How little does it signify, whether a mummy be well embalmed, wrapped round with rich stuff, and beautifully painted on the outside, or not. Go down into the tombs, examine the niches, and see whether one dead carcass be preferable to another.
Out of the midst of hell - שאול sheol, the catacombs, the place of burial. There is something here similar to Isa 14:9, where the descent of the king of Babylon to the state of the dead is described.
Asshur is there - The mightiest conquerors of the earth have gone down to the grave before thee; there they and their soldiers lie together, all slain by the sword.
Whose graves are set in the sides of the pit - Alluding to the niches in the sides of the subterranean caves or burying-places, where the bodies are laid. These are numerous in Egypt.
There is Elam - The Elamites, not far from the Assyrians; others think that Persia is meant. It was invaded by the joint forces of Cyaxares and Nebuchadnezzar.
There is Meshech, Tubal - See on Eze 27:13 (note).
Gone down to hell with their weapons of war - Are buried in their armor and with their weapons lying by their sides. It was a very ancient practice, in different nations, to bury a warrior's weapons in the same grave with himself.
There is Edom - All the glory and pomp of the Idumean kings, who also helped to oppress the Israelites, are gone down into the grave. Their kings, princes, and all their mighty men lie mingled with the uncircumcised, not distinguished from the common dead:
"Where they an equal honor share,
Who buried or unburied are.
Where Agamemnon knows no more
Than Irus, he condemned before.
Where fair Achilles and Thersites lie,
Equally naked, poor, and dry."
There be the princes of the north - The kings of Media and Assyria, and all the Zidonians - the kings of Tyre, Sodom, and Damascus. See Calmet.
Pharaoh shall see them - Pharaoh also, who said he was a god, shall be found among the vulgar dead.
And shalt be comforted - Shall console himself, on finding that all other proud boasters are in the same circumstances with himself. Here is a reference to a consciousness after death.
I have caused my terror in the land of the living - I have spread dismay through Judea, the land of the living God, where the living oracles were delivered, and where the upright live by faith. When Pharaoh-necho came against Josiah, defeated, and slew him at Megiddo, fear and terror were spread through all the land of Judea; and the allusion here is probably to that circumstance. But even he is now laid with the uncircumcised, and is no more to be distinguished from the common dead.
Much of the phraseology of this chapter may be illustrated by comparing it with Isaiah 14 (note), where see the notes, which the intelligent reader will do well to consult.