“Son of man, set your face against Pharaoh king of Egypt, and prophesy against him, and against all Egypt. Speak, and say, 'Thus says the Lord God: "Behold, I am against you, O Pharaoh king of Egypt, O great monster who lies in the midst of his rivers, who has said, 'My River is my own; I have made it for myself.' But I will put hooks in your jaws, and cause the fish of your rivers to stick to your scales; I will bring you up out of the midst of your rivers, and all the fish in your rivers will stick to your scales” ’ ” (Ezekiel 29:2-4).
As God continues describing His judgments against the surrounding nations following His terrible Judgment upon Jerusalem, having finished pronouncing His Judgment upon the city of Tyre, now God turns His attention to the ancient nation of Egypt (Ezekiel chapters 29-32). The nation of Israel had placed its trust in Egypt to help deliver it from the invading Babylonians. When the Babylonians threatened Jerusalem, Judah’s last king, King Zedekiah, turned to Egypt for assistance (2 Kings 24:20; Ezekiel 17:15). However, God does not describe Egypt as a strong support for Israel, but as a “staff of reed” (Ezekiel 29:6).
What is a “staff of reed”? A reed is “any of various tall grasses with slender often prominently jointed stems that grow especially in wet areas” (Miriam-Webster dictionary). All along the banks of the Nile River in Egypt these plants grew. However, these plants were not strong and firm, but were weak and flimsy and would break if one leaned upon them. God describes Egypt as a “broken reed” (cf. Ezekiel 29:6). In placing her trust in Egypt, Israel was foolishly trusting in something that did not have the strength to support her in her hour of greatest need (cf. 2 Kings 18:21; Isaiah 36:6).
Through prophets such as Isaiah, God had warned His people not to trust in Egypt: “ ‘Woe to the rebellious children,’ says the Lord, ‘Who take counsel, but not of Me, and who devise plans, but not of My Spirit, that they may add sin to sin; who walk to go down to Egypt, and have not asked My advice, to strengthen themselves in the strength of Pharaoh, and to trust in the shadow of Egypt! Therefore the strength of Pharaoh shall be your shame, and trust in the shadow of Egypt shall be your humiliation’ ” (Isaiah 30:1-3). God described how helpless Egypt would be for Israel when the Babylonians invaded: “Nor will Pharaoh with his mighty army and great company do anything in the war, when they heap up a siege mound and build a wall to cut off many persons” (Ezekiel 17:17).
In bringing judgment against Egypt, God would teach His people how utterly foolish it is to place one’s trust in the power of nations. Regarding His coming judgment upon Egypt, God says, “It shall be the lowliest of kingdoms; it shall never again exalt itself above the nations, for I will diminish them so that they will not rule over the nations anymore. No longer shall it be the confidence of the house of Israel, but will remind them of their iniquity when they turned to follow them. Then they shall know that I am the Lord God” (Ezekiel 29:15-16). God’s people would learn to put their trust in Him alone and not in the power of other nations.
Today, I am privileged to live in one of the world’s “superpowers”. Although it is enticing to trust in our country’s might, it is utterly foolish to do so. God rules in the kingdoms of men and gives them to whomever He chooses (Daniel 4:32). Today, I will put my trust in the Lord alone as my Deliverer!
“Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him” (Psalm 2:10-12).