Understanding at the right time
7:00 a.m. Thursday January 13, 2022. 36F/2C.
There is nothing like clean cold air to wake the body early in the morning. The crows are cawing without stop as the grogginess of sleep wears off. The cabin is quite warm, but not hard to leave. No ice is accumulated on the porch or steps. Thin dark branches of a half dozen trees are gnarled and entwined before a pale blue sky. The winter cold is tolerable, but fingers still ache as water splashes over the bucket being washed. The balance of bitter and sweet is just right today. The new platform for composting grants a magnificent view of the creek and all the life it attracts to it. The water for washing buckets is ice cold.
The book of Ezekiel, chapter twenty nine
Abba Father, I request that you let your love and your wisdom flow down like a cleansing rain over all who study your word, the Bible, and over all who love your word, your son, Jesus. Amen.
As Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylonia advanced his armies through the middle east and surrounding nations, God went with him and used him to execute judgments. God used the voice of Ezekiel to correct and warn the nations and the regions. Chapter twenty nine is the first of four chapters devoted to the judgment of Egypt.
But if you know me, I have to seek out the oddities. This chapter has one… or several.
Egypt had been a staff of reed, or an easily bent and broken staff, for Jerusalem to steady herself with. Egypt had a river monster who was closely associated with the pharaoh and the land. The river monster had claimed creation and ownership of the rivers, when they were actually God’s creation.
The oddities begin:
Behold, therefore I am against thee, and against thy rivers, and I will make the land of Egypt utterly waste and desolate, from the tower of Syene even unto the border of Ethiopia.
No foot of man shall pass through it, nor foot of beast shall pass through it, neither shall it be inhabited forty years.
God was about to use Nebuchadnezzar to conquer Egypt. Was he successful? Babylonian historians said it was a roaring success. Egyptian historians claimed that Egypt prevailed. Battles raged in Assyria and Judah, which had been Egyptian territories. Nebuchadnezzar won most of those battles and territories.
But “from the tower of Syene even unto the border of Ethiopia”?
In general, God probably described the African sea coast along the Red Sea.
A mystery? I searched for Syene. It might have been modern Aswan. There was no record of an ancient place known as “the tower of Syene”. Perhaps God meant a city known as Migdol, which meant raised land or tower. And perhaps God meant “seven” when he said syrene, meaning the numerical reference, or the number of completeness, instead the city.
Her Veil? Market? Seven? Opening? Outstanding was the issue of a tower/migdol of Syene. Was that a reference to some spiritual mystery? A migdol was a plateau or a bed or a fortified land. Syene was a word with multiple meanings: her veiling, market, seven, and opening. After much searching, this finally came together in one piece of information: The ancient Nile, during flood season, split into seven distributary rivers at the bed, the migdol, of the delta, where it opened onto the Mediterranean Sea. The Nile delta fits the meaning of a migdol of Syene.
While Nebuchadnezzar was indeed God’s instrument of judgment against Egypt in the middle east, in Ezekiel’s day, this prophecy was never fulfilled without loose ends on the African continent.
Yes, the Babylonians invaded Egypt in northeastern Africa around 567 BCE, but the only success was that they plundered the land, took captives, slew some of the army, and retreated. They took produce. They took treasures. They left a memorable mess, which may have taken forty years for the pharaoh to repair while Nebuchadnezzar collected taxes from him, but…
“neither shall it be inhabited.” The people of the coastal land would have been weakened by invaders, and entire villages may have moved to compensate, but history does not note a total abandonment of that region.
A portion of the prophecy was fulfilled in Ezekiel’s lifetime, but not in a tidy manner. It may mean that it will happen in the future. The prophecy of Ezekiel 29, may have had a dual purpose. It may be written both about the past and about the future, by a God who is able to observe all events in time, in one glance.
A coincidence or an unintentional reference to prophecy? Today, there is are two notable towers, right next to river monsters, in Egypt. One is the lotus flower tower, next to the two-mile long monster of a dam in Aswan. The other was once the tallest structure in Africa, a powerline tower, next to a 120-mile long monster of a man made canal, the Suez. Both are monsters of Egyptian creation and control entire rivers.
We will know, when the last days finally arrive, what God meant. Here is my personal take on prophecy: it is meant to be hope for the generation who must endure it. If it is understood too soon, the generation for whom it was written might lose sight of the special nature of God’s message of hope to them. By design, prophecy is to be read and understood at a crucial time. So if we read and remember that the words are there, at our crucial time, we will know where God’s message waits for us.
Life in the hollow, Thursday
Wow! It took maybe four hours to read two verses today. At first, it looked like there was some mystery being revealed by this prophecy. Then it looked ordinary. Then it went back to mysterious. Isn’t that how prophecy is!!?!!
God is taking me deeper into spiritual warfare, into places I never suspected even existed. I am tested on all sides. And for reasons that I don’t care to divulge at the moment, I’ve been stuck at home for about a month with nothing to do but read the Bible.
Heh heh. God’s message waits for me and for you.
May the grace of our God be abundantly granted to you dear reader. May you know the joy of living in his great peace.