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No foot of man shall pass through it, nor foot of beast shall pass through it, neither shall it be inhabited forty years.

New Defender's Study Bible Notes

29:11 through it. By Ezekiel’s time, Egypt had lost her ancient glory. Jeremiah had rebuked Judah’s kings for trusting the Egyptians to save them from Nebuchadnezzar. Instead of defending Israel, they suffered a crushing defeat by the Babylonians. Many scattered into Arabia, many were carried as captives to Babylon, and mighty Egypt became almost desolate from Syene to Ethiopia (Ezekiel 29:10)—that is, from the northern reaches of the Nile to the southern.

29:11 forty years. No forty-year period of such complete desolation in Egypt has been confirmed, although this was the length of time between Nebuchadnezzar’s defeat of Pharaoh and Egypt’s later deliverance when Cyrus and the Persians conquered Babylon. Very little is known for certain about the Egyptian history of this period, but it is known that the Egyptian monarchs, like other monarchs of antiquity, commonly boasted inordinately of the victories and passed over their defeats as lightly as possible. That is, even if the prophecies in these verses were fulfilled literally, Egyptian historians may not have acknowledged it for reasons of national pride. We can be confident that, when and if Egypt’s true and full history is ever discovered, these prophecies will be found to have been fulfilled as written.

One alternate possibility is that a forty-year period of complete desolation is still future, in the early years of the coming kingdom age. The desolations of the tribulation period may leave certain areas completely uninhabitable for a time, as the lands are gradually being healed and fruitful again.

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