Chapter 32:17-32 (ESV) - In the twelfth year, in the twelfth month, on the fifteenth day of the month, the word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, wail over the multitude of Egypt, and send them down, her and the daughters of majestic nations, to the world below, to those who have gone down to the pit:
‘Whom do you surpass in beauty?
Go down and be laid to rest with the uncircumcised.’
They shall fall amid those who are slain by the sword. Egypt is delivered to the sword; drag her away, and all her multitudes. The mighty chiefs shall speak of them, with their helpers, out of the midst of Sheol: ‘They have come down, they lie still, the uncircumcised, slain by the sword.’
“Assyria is there, and all her company, its graves all around it, all of them slain, fallen by the sword, whose graves are set in the uttermost parts of the pit; and her company is all around her grave, all of them slain, fallen by the sword, who spread terror in the land of the living.
“Elam is there, and all her multitude around her grave; all of them slain, fallen by the sword, who went down uncircumcised into the world below, who spread their terror in the land of the living; and they bear their shame with those who go down to the pit. They have made her a bed among the slain with all her multitude, her graves all around it, all of them uncircumcised, slain by the sword; for terror of them was spread in the land of the living, and they bear their shame with those who go down to the pit; they are placed among the slain.
“Meshech-Tubal is there, and all her multitude, her graves all around it, all of them uncircumcised, slain by the sword; for they spread their terror in the land of the living. And they do not lie with the mighty, the fallen from among the uncircumcised, who went down to Sheol with their weapons of war, whose swords were laid under their heads, and whose iniquities are upon their bones; for the terror of the mighty men was in the land of the living. But as for you, you shall be broken and lie among the uncircumcised, with those who are slain by the sword.
“Edom is there, her kings and all her princes, who for all their might are laid with those who are killed by the sword; they lie with the uncircumcised, with those who go down to the pit.
“The princes of the north are there, all of them, and all the Sidonians, who have gone down in shame with the slain, for all the terror that they caused by their might; they lie uncircumcised with those who are slain by the sword, and bear their shame with those who go down to the pit.
“When Pharaoh sees them, he will be comforted for all his multitude, Pharaoh and all his army, slain by the sword, declares the Lord God. For I spread terror in the land of the living; and he shall be laid to rest among the uncircumcised, with those who are slain by the sword, Pharaoh and all his multitude, declares the Lord God.”
Question to consider: What brings Pharaoh comfort in the midst of this judgment against him?
This word came a couple of weeks after the last one, and was the final one concerning Egypt. The realm of the dead, Sheol, was similar to the Greek realm of the dead ruled by Hades, except that the same Lord that created the heavens and the earth created and ruled over Sheol as well. Those who awaited judgment went into the pit, and those whose names are written in the book of life awaited the Resurrection in Abraham’s bosom. We know that Sheol and Hades were associated with one another because Jesus used the Greek Hades to describe the fates of Lazarus and the rich man in Luke 16:19-31.
When Pharaoh was slain by the Babylonians, he went into the pit to await judgment but seemed to take comfort in the fact that the rulers of the other nations were down there as well. Even today, people seem to find comfort in knowing that others will be in hell alongside them rather than being reconciled to the one who created them. The only thing that seemed to bother him was that he shared the same fate as the uncircumcised.
There are a couple of things worth noting about this passage that make it easier to understand. When God said all of these people were “slain by the sword,” He did not mean it in the sense that the only people who ended up in the pit were those who died by “a sword” and not by disease or fire or something else. In this passage, the sword was a reference to Babylon whom God considered the sword of His judgment against the nations. At one time, Israel was the sword of God purging the nations from sin. It was much better when Israel was God’s sword because there was the promise of mercy to those who repented and turned to the God of Israel. With Babylon as God’s sword, the only opportunity for repentance and mercy was for those who heard the words of God’s prophets (like Ezekiel and Jeremiah) and believed them. Of course, with people like Zedekiah undermining these messengers by calling them false prophets, few, if any, heeded their cries. We experience this today when false teachers twist God’s word and lead people away from the atoning work of Christ.
The other thing worth noting is that although these nations practiced circumcision, it carried a different meaning for them than it did for Israel. Circumcision was commanded of Abraham and his descendants when God promised to make his offspring to be like the stars and for all nations to be blessed through him. It became a sign and seal of God’s covenant with Israel so that someone who was circumcised under it was associated with the Law and its sacrifices. Both the rich and the poor men of Israel were circumcised.
Among the nations like Egypt, circumcision was a mark that someone was blessed by the gods. It would have been more of a class distinction to separate the privileged and civilized from the indistinct masses. When Pharaoh was put into the pit with the uncircumcised, his disgust was in sharing the same fate as the common and uncivilized. It had nothing to do with God's covenant with Israel.
Dear heavenly father, thank You that instead of being Your sword, we get to be Your harvesters and heralds, declaring the good news of Christ and salvation in His name. Help us to be faithful to that task and rejoice in being washed clean and clothed in Christ’s righteousness. Amen.