The word of the LORD which came to Jeremiah the prophet against the Gentiles;
Against the Gentiles - Or, concerning the nations Jeremiah 46-49:33.
Against Egypt, against the army of Pharaohnecho king of Egypt, which was by the river Euphrates in Carchemish, which Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon smote in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah.
Against ... - i. e., relating to, concerning. So Jeremiah 48:1; Jeremiah 49:1; see the note at Jeremiah 46:13.
Pharaoh-necho - See 2 Kings 23:29 note.
In - (at) Carchemish - (The Gargamis of the inscriptions, now Jerabis, on the Euphrates, about 16 miles south of Birejik.)
Order ye the buckler and shield, and draw near to battle.
Order ye ... - "i. e., prepare ye, make ready." The buckler was a small round target carried by the lightly-armed troops: the shield belonged to the heavily-armed troops, and was large enough to protect the whole body.
Harness the horses; and get up, ye horsemen, and stand forth with your helmets; furbish the spears, and put on the brigandines.
From the infantry the prophet proceeds to the chariots, in which the Egyptians placed great confidence.
Get up, ye horsemen - Or, "mount the steeds."
Furbish - i. e., polish, sharpen.
Brigandines - In old times brigand meant a soldier, and we still call a division of an army a brigade, and a commander a brigadier, i. e., a brigandier, or captain of brigands. Similarly a brigandine means a soldier's equipment, and is put here for a coat of mail.
Wherefore have I seen them dismayed and turned away back? and their mighty ones are beaten down, and are fled apace, and look not back: for fear was round about, saith the LORD.
Literally, "Why have I seen? They are terror-stricken! they are giving way back!" The Egyptian host feels that the battle is lost, and overborne by the enemy loses heart, and in despair, yet not without a struggle, gives way. It is remarkable, that while Jeremiah in his warning addressed to Jerusalem uses the most simple and unadorned prose, his language concerning the Gentile nations is, on the contrary, full of brilliant poetry.
Look not back - turn not back. They make no halt, and no attempt to rally.
Fear was round about - The prophets watch-word, Magor-missabib (see Jeremiah 6:25).
Let not the swift flee away, nor the mighty man escape; they shall stumble, and fall toward the north by the river Euphrates.
Translate it: "The swift shall not flee away, and the hero shall not escape: in the north on the bank of the river Euphrates they shall stumble and fall."
Who is this that cometh up as a flood, whose waters are moved as the rivers?
In Jeremiah 46:3-6 we saw only a mighty army marshalling for battle, and its hasty flight. In Jeremiah 46:7-12 the prophet tells us at whose defeat we have been present.
A flood - the Nile. The metaphor describing the advance of the Egyptian army is naturally drawn from the annual overflow of their own sacred stream.
Whose waters are moved ... - literally, his waters toss to and fro as the rivers, the natural branches of the Nile in Lower Egypt.
Egypt riseth up like a flood, and his waters are moved like the rivers; and he saith, I will go up, and will cover the earth; I will destroy the city and the inhabitants thereof.
Come up, ye horses; and rage, ye chariots; and let the mighty men come forth; the Ethiopians and the Libyans, that handle the shield; and the Lydians, that handle and bend the bow.
Rather, Go up, advance, ye horses; and drive furiously, ye chariots; and let the mighty men go forth. They march out of Egypt, arranged in three divisions, cavalry, chariots, and infantry, to begin the campaign. The armies of Egypt were composed chiefly of mercenaries. Cush (see the margin), the Nubian negro, and Phut, the Libyans of Mauritania, supplied the heavy-armed soldiers Jeremiah 46:3; and Ludim, the Hamite Lydians of North Africa (see Genesis 10:13 note), a weaker race, served as light-armed troops.
For this is the day of the Lord GOD of hosts, a day of vengeance, that he may avenge him of his adversaries: and the sword shall devour, and it shall be satiate and made drunk with their blood: for the Lord GOD of hosts hath a sacrifice in the north country by the river Euphrates.
Rather, But that "day belongeth to the Lord Yahweh of hosts." They march forth in haughty confidence, but that day, the day to which they are looking forward in proud hope of victory, is Yahweh's day, a day on which they will be the victims sacrificed in His honor.
Go up into Gilead, and take balm, O virgin, the daughter of Egypt: in vain shalt thou use many medicines; for thou shalt not be cured.
Balm - i. e., balsam, the usual remedy for wounds Jeremiah 8:22.
In vain shalt ... - Or, in vain hast thou multiplied medicines: healing-plaster hast thou none. Nothing shall avail to heal the blow.
The nations have heard of thy shame, and thy cry hath filled the land: for the mighty man hath stumbled against the mighty, and they are fallen both together.
The land - The earth; the world rings with the cry of grief.
Against the mighty - Against the mighty man, i. e., one mighty man against another. The champions hired to fight Egypt's battle get in one another's way, and so are slaughtered together.
The word that the LORD spake to Jeremiah the prophet, how Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon should come and smite the land of Egypt.
A new prophecy, foretelling the successful invasion of Egypt by Nebuchadnezzar, has been appended to the hymn of triumph, because they both relate to the same kingdom. This prophecy was probably spoken in Egypt to warn the Jews there, that the country which they were so obstinately determined to make their refuge would share the fate of their native land.
How ... should come - Or, concerning the coming "of Nebuchadrezzar."
Declare ye in Egypt, and publish in Migdol, and publish in Noph and in Tahpanhes: say ye, Stand fast, and prepare thee; for the sword shall devour round about thee.
The sword shall devour - "The sword" hath devoured "those round about thee." One after another the nations have been consumed by Nebuehadnezzar; and now at length Tyre, which so long had withstood him, has fallen, and his forces are about to fall upon Egypt (Jeremiah 2:16 note). Hence, the summons to arrange themselves in their ranks, and to prepare for battle by putting on their armor.
Why are thy valiant men swept away? they stood not, because the LORD did drive them.
Translate it: "Why is thy mighty one cast down? He stood not, because Yahweh thrust him down." The "mighty one" is explained by the Septuagint to be the bull Apis. Thus:
(1) the chief deity of Egypt Jeremiah 46:15;
(2) the army of mercenaries Jeremiah 46:16;
(3) the king, Pharaoh Jeremiah 46:17, are the three upon whom the Egyptians trusted.
He made many to fall, yea, one fell upon another: and they said, Arise, and let us go again to our own people, and to the land of our nativity, from the oppressing sword.
Literally, as in the margin, i. e., Yahweh hath made many to stumble.
Arise ... - The Egyptian army being composed of mercenaries, has no patriotic feeling and immediately that the battle is lost, they propose to abandon the country which has hired them, and return each to his native land.
They did cry there, Pharaoh king of Egypt is but a noise; he hath passed the time appointed.
Translate it with the versions: "They have called (or, Call ye) the name of Pharaoh king of Egypt - A noise: he hath overstepped the appointed time." For this custom of giving prophetic names see Jeremiah 20:3; Isaiah 8:3, ... The words mean that Pharaoh is a mere empty sound, and that he has allowed the years of prosperity, which he enjoyed at the beginning of his reign, to pass by; having misused them, nothing now remains but his ruin.
As I live, saith the King, whose name is the LORD of hosts, Surely as Tabor is among the mountains, and as Carmel by the sea, so shall he come.
As Tabor is - Omit "is." "He shall come like a Tabor among the mountains, and like a Carmel by the sea." Tabor rises in the form of a truncated cone to the height of about 1,350 feet above the plain of Esdraelon, its total height above the sea level being 1,805 feet. Its shape and the wide extent of the plain around it make it a far more conspicuous object than other mountains in sight of equal elevation. Similarly, Carmel is a most commanding mountain, because it rises from the edge of the wide expanse of the Mediterranean.
O thou daughter dwelling in Egypt, furnish thyself to go into captivity: for Noph shall be waste and desolate without an inhabitant.
Literally, "O thou inhabitant daughter of Egypt," an equivalent here for Egypt and its whole population.
Furnish thyself ... - literally, make for thee vessels of banishment, not merely the packages necessary, but their outfit generally.
Egypt is like a very fair heifer, but destruction cometh; it cometh out of the north.
Is like - Or, is. Her god was the steer Apis Jeremiah 46:15, and she is the spouse.
But destruction cometh; it cometh out of the north - More probably, "a gadfly from the north has come upon her." This is a sort of insect which stings the oxen and drives them to madness. Compare Isaiah 7:18.
Also her hired men are in the midst of her like fatted bullocks; for they also are turned back, and are fled away together: they did not stand, because the day of their calamity was come upon them, and the time of their visitation.
Rather, "Also her hirelings in the midst of her are like calves of the stall." The mercenaries of Egypt - Nubians, Moors, and Lydians Jeremiah 46:9 - were destroyed at the battle of Carchemish, and their place was taken by hirelings from Asia Minor, Carians, and Ionians, whom Hophra took into his pay to the number of 30,000 men. These he settled in the midst of Egypt, in the fertile lands above Bubastis, in the Delta, where, well paid and fed and with great privileges, they became as calves of the stall. Their mutiny cost Hophra his crown.
For they also are turned back ... - literally, "for they also have lurched the back, they flee together, they stand not: for the day of their destruction is come upon them, the time of their visitations."
The voice thereof shall go like a serpent; for they shall march with an army, and come against her with axes, as hewers of wood.
The voice thereof - Her voice, i. e., the voice of Egypt. The word here probably means the busy sound of life and activity in the towns of Egypt, the tramping of her hosts, and the turmoil of camp and city. All this at the approach of the Chaldaean army shall depart, as the snake flees away when disturbed in its haunts by the wood-cutters.
March with an army - Advance with might.
With axes - The comparison of the Chaldaean warriors to woodcutters arose from their being armed with axes. As the Israelites did not use the battle-axe, their imagination would be the more forcibly struck by this weapon.
They shall cut down her forest, saith the LORD, though it cannot be searched; because they are more than the grasshoppers, and are innumerable.
Or, "They have cut down her forest, saith Yahweh, for it is impenetrable," i. e., just as a pathless forest must be cleared to assist agriculture and the passage to and fro of men, so must the false worship and the material prosperity of Egypt be overthrown.
Grasshoppers - The invading host advances as multitudinous as the locusts which consume the whole vegetation of the land on which they alight.
The daughter of Egypt shall be confounded; she shall be delivered into the hand of the people of the north.
The daughter ... - i. e., the inhabitants "of Egypt shall be disgraced."
The LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, saith; Behold, I will punish the multitude of No, and Pharaoh, and Egypt, with their gods, and their kings; even Pharaoh, and all them that trust in him:
The multitude of No - Rather, Amon of No. Ammon or Jupiter-Ammon was the first of the supreme triad of Thebes. He was the deity invisible and unfathomable, whose name signifies "the concealed." No-Amon, is the sacred city of Thebes, the capital of Upper Egypt. First then Yahweh's anger falls upon the representatives of the highest divine and human powers, Amon of No and Pharaoh. It next punishes Egypt generally, and her gods and her kings, for each city had its special divinity, and inferior rulers were placed in the several parts of the country. Finally, Pharaoh is again mentioned, with "all who trust in him," i. e., the Jews, who had made Egypt their confidence and not God.
And I will deliver them into the hand of those that seek their lives, and into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, and into the hand of his servants: and afterward it shall be inhabited, as in the days of old, saith the LORD.
Afterward ... - The invasion of Nebuchadnezzar is to be a passing calamity, the severity of which will be felt chiefly by the Jews, but no subjugation of Egypt is to be attempted, and after the Chaldaean army has withdrawn things will resume their former course.
But fear not thou, O my servant Jacob, and be not dismayed, O Israel: for, behold, I will save thee from afar off, and thy seed from the land of their captivity; and Jacob shall return, and be in rest and at ease, and none shall make him afraid.
These two verses are a repetition of Jeremiah 30:10-11, with those slight variations which Jeremiah always makes when quoting himself. Egypt's fall and restoration have been foretold; but the prophet closes with a word of exhortation to the many erring Jews who dwelt there. Why should they flee from their country, and trust in a pagan power, instead of endeavoring to live in a manner worthy of the noble destiny which was their true glory and ground of confidence?
Fear thou not, O Jacob my servant, saith the LORD: for I am with thee; for I will make a full end of all the nations whither I have driven thee: but I will not make a full end of thee, but correct thee in measure; yet will I not leave thee wholly unpunished.