Ezekiel 29: The desolation of Egypt

This post is part of my biblical prophecy series.

Context and prophecy

Ezekiel, according to his book, made several prophecies during the period of Babylonian captivity. One of them concerned Egypt:

10 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.

11 No foot of man shall pass through it, nor foot of beast shall pass through it, neither shall it be inhabited forty years. (Ezekiel 29:10-11.)

Straightforward Interpretation

The prophecy seems pretty straightforward: Egypt will experience a 40 year period of desolation during which it will be completely unoccupied by people.

Unless Ezekiel is thinking about some time in the future, i.e. at least 2600 years after he made the prophecy, we can safely conclude that the prophecy failed. At no time since the prophecy was made has Egypt been anywhere close to being unoccupied.

Perhaps I should not include this prophecy in my analysis because it may yet be fulfilled, and its accuracy is therefore strictly undecided. However, I find it hard to believe that someone in the throes of occupation by a foreign force around 590 BCE would spend time making prophecies targeted at events some 3000 years in the future.

Apologist Interpretation

I can find no apologist interpretation of this prophecy which causes it to be fulfilled. Apologists have, however, tried suggesting that many prophecies in the Bible were conditional, so that if a prophecy is not fulfilled, this means that the conditions were not met [1]. Needless to say, there is no indication at all in Ezekiel that this particular prophecy came with conditions.


Fail. The prophecy has, thus far, failed to pan out.

[1] Quote from H.L. Ellison’s “Ezekiel”.


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