The Haftarah begins on an uplifting note, with God’s promises to redeem His exiled people, punish nations who scorned them, and return them to His land to dwell as a people projecting His sanctity to all of humanity. These mirror God’s promises at the beginning of the Parashah about the Israelites’ exile in Egypt and their eventual establishment as His people in His Land.
Ezekiel’s next prophecy occurs during the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem. Judah’s ally, Egypt, has turned out to be a “weak reed” against the enemy. In vivid terms reminiscent of God’s plagues against Egypt in the parashah, Ezekiel foretells God's destruction of Egypt, its crocodile god-king, Pharaoh, and its people. God will exile Egypt for forty years, and then return the survivors to their point of ethnic origin in Southern Egypt - so distant from Judah that the two nations won’t ally again.
A third prophecy to Ezekiel, many years later, closes the Haftarah. God will give Egypt to King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylonia as a reward for having done His will. Out of Egypt’s formerly powerful shadow, Israel will flourish.
Verses 28:25-26: By returning His exiled people to dwell securely in its Land, God will sanctify Himself among all nations.
So says the Lord God: “When I gather in the house of Israel from the peoples among whom they have been scattered, and I have been sanctified through them in the eyes of the nations, then shall they [the Israelites] dwell on their land that I gave to My servant, to Jacob.”
כֹּֽה־אָמַר֮ אֲדֹנָ֣י ה׳ בְּקַבְּצִ֣י ׀ אֶת־בֵּ֣ית יִשְׂרָאֵ֗ל מִן־הָֽעַמִּים֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר נָפֹ֣צוּ בָ֔ם וְנִקְדַּ֥שְׁתִּי בָ֖ם לְעֵינֵ֣י הַגּוֹיִ֑ם וְיָֽשְׁבוּ֙ עַל־אַדְמָתָ֔ם אֲשֶׁ֥ר נָתַ֖תִּי לְעַבְדִּ֥י לְיַעֲקֹֽב׃
Verses 29:1-7: God will destroy Egypt and its Pharaoh for claiming to be a creator god, and for betraying Judah during the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem.
Speak and say: “So says the Lord God: ‘Behold I am upon you, O Pharaoh, king of Egypt, the great crocodile that lies down in the midst of its rivers [the northern deltas of the Nile], who said, "My river is mine, and I made myself."’”
דַּבֵּ֨ר וְאָמַרְתָּ֜ כֹּֽה־אָמַ֣ר ׀ אֲדֹנָ֣י ה׳ הִנְנִ֤י עָלֶ֙יךָ֙ פַּרְעֹ֣ה מֶֽלֶךְ־מִצְרַ֔יִם הַתַּנִּים֙ הַגָּד֔וֹל הָרֹבֵ֖ץ בְּת֣וֹךְ יְאֹרָ֑יו אֲשֶׁ֥ר אָמַ֛ר לִ֥י יְאֹרִ֖י וַאֲנִ֥י עֲשִׂיתִֽנִי׃
Verses 29:8-12: God will lay waste to all of Egypt, making it desolate and exiling its people for forty years.
I will make the land of Egypt desolate [even] amongst the desolate lands; and its cities, a desolation even amongst cities in ruins - for forty years. I shall scatter Egypt among the nations, and disperse them through the lands.
וְנָתַתִּ֣י אֶת־אֶרֶץ֩ מִצְרַ֨יִם שְׁמָמָ֜ה בְּת֣וֹךְ ׀ אֲרָצ֣וֹת נְשַׁמּ֗וֹת וְעָרֶ֙יהָ֙ בְּת֨וֹךְ עָרִ֤ים מָֽחֳרָבוֹת֙ תִּֽהְיֶ֣יןָ שְׁמָמָ֔ה אַרְבָּעִ֖ים שָׁנָ֑ה וַהֲפִצֹתִ֤י אֶת־מִצְרַ֙יִם֙ בַּגּוֹיִ֔ם וְֽזֵרִיתִ֖ים בָּאֲרָצֽוֹת׃
Verses 29:13-16: God will then return Egyptians to southern Egypt, where it will be a weak nation upon which Israel will not rely.
I will return the captivity of Egypt. I will return them to the [southern Egpytian] land of Pathros, to the land of their origin. There shall they be there a lowly kingdom.
וְשַׁבְתִּי֙ אֶת־שְׁב֣וּת מִצְרַ֔יִם וַהֲשִׁבֹתִ֤י אֹתָם֙ אֶ֣רֶץ פַּתְר֔וֹס עַל־אֶ֖רֶץ מְכֽוּרָתָ֑ם וְהָ֥יוּ שָׁ֖ם מַמְלָכָ֥ה שְׁפָלָֽה׃
Verses 29:17-21: Sixteen years after the Temple’s destruction, Babylonia fails to conquer Tyre to Israel’s north; nonetheless, God rewards Babylonia with Egypt for doing His will. Independent of Egypt, Israel will flourish.
Therefore, thus says the Lord God: Behold I will give Nebuchadrezzar, king of Babylon, the land of Egypt, and he shall carry away its multitude, pillage its spoils, and plunder its booty, and that shall be the reward for his army.
לָכֵ֗ן כֹּ֤ה אָמַר֙ אֲדֹנָ֣י ה׳ הִנְנִ֥י נֹתֵ֛ן לִנְבוּכַדְרֶאצַּ֥ר מֶֽלֶךְ־בָּבֶ֖ל אֶת־אֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרָ֑יִם וְנָשָׂ֨א הֲמֹנָ֜הּ וְשָׁלַ֤ל שְׁלָלָהּ֙ וּבָזַ֣ז בִּזָּ֔הּ וְהָיְתָ֥ה שָׂכָ֖ר לְחֵילֽוֹ׃
Ezekiel’s calling Pharoah “the great crocodile” (see 29:3, above) refers to the Egyptian crocodile deity Sobek, seen at right. As early as Narmer, the first Pharaoh of Egypt, Sobek was worshipped as a fertility god connected with the flooding of the Nile. During the Middle Kingdom Period (c. 2055–1650 BCE) Sobek was combined with Ra, the chief god of Egypt, thereby becoming associated with the Pharaohs and their dynasties. He then became known as the creator of the Nile and the world. Many mummified crocodiles have been discovered at his main center of worship, Crocodoplis.
The Midrash derives a meaning of Moses’s sign of the snake-like staff from the Haftarah.
Shemot Rabbah 9:4
Why did he [God] say to them [Moses and Aaron] that the sign would be of a serpentine creature? Because Pharaoh is compared to a serpentine creature, as (Ezekiel 29:3) says: "The great [serpentine] crocodile that lies down in the midst of its rivers [the northern deltas of the Nile]". When Moses would depart Pharaoh’s presence, he [Pharaoh] would say, “if the son of Amram [Moses] comes to me, I will kill him, I will crucify him, and I will burn him.” Yet when Moses would enter [Pharaoh’s presence], Pharaoh would immediately become as a staff [rigid and unwilling to act on his threats.]
לָמָּה אָמַר לָהֶם נֵס שֶׁל תַּנִּין, לְפִי שֶׁפַּרְעֹה נִדְמָה לְתַנִּין, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (יחזקאל כט, ג): הַתַּנִּים הַגָּדוֹל הָרֹבֵץ בְּתוֹךְ יְאֹרָיו, כְּשֶׁהָיָה משֶׁה יוֹצֵא מֵאֵצֶל פַּרְעֹה הָיָה אוֹמֵר אִם יָבוֹא אֶצְלִי בֶּן עַמְרָם אֲנִי הוֹרְגוֹ אֲנִי צוֹלְבוֹ וַאֲנִי שׂוֹרְפוֹ, וּכְשֶׁהָיָה משֶׁה נִכְנָס מִיַּד נַעֲשָׂה פַּרְעֹה מַטֶּה.
With emendations, biblical translations are by Rabbi A. J. Rosenberg and other translations are from Sefaria.org.
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