Jeremiah 46
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Chs. 46–51. Oracles against foreign nations

Many recent commentators, in particular Schwally (Stade’s Zeitschrift für Alttestamentl. Wissenschaft for 1888), maintain that the whole or a considerable part of these chs. is not the work of Jeremiah. Besides the general allegations that Jeremiah was not a prophet to the nations outside his own (in answer to which see Intr. p. xxi.), and that the literary style is not that of Jeremiah, arguments against their genuineness are (a) that in them Jehovah appears as a vengeful Deity, contrary to Jeremiah’s view of Him, (b) that there is here no preaching of repentance, (c) that there is no explicit reference to the state of things in Judah. But it may be replied that (a) in these prophecies (except in Jeremiah 46:10) it is a case not of vengeance but of Jehovah’s judgement on guilt, (b) until we come to the book of Jonah (which is of late date) we have no preaching of repentance to the heathen, while in Nahum and Habakkuk’s dealings even with their own nation there is little or no trace of it, (c) mention of the circumstances of Judah would have been irrelevant. In discussing this matter chs. 50, 51 require separate treatment (see introd. note to them). We should add that the MT. of these chs. evidently contains a considerable amount of non-Jeremianic matter, although commentators, apart from those who, like Schwally above, reject the whole (such as Wellhausen and Du.), are by no means agreed as to the portions to be rejected. Kuenen, A. B. Davidson, and Erbt e.g. differ from one another as regards detail. Gi.’s general result is that the utterances in their present form, with the exception of ch. 47, are not Jeremianic. We may add that Co. accepts much more than Gi. See further in individual notes.

The occasion of these prophecies (see Jeremiah 46:2) was Nebuchadnezzar’s decisive victory over Pharaoh-neco at Carchemish (b.c. 605). They deal with the widespread results of the Babylonian supremacy upon the fortunes of the other nations, who were thus to suffer for their hostility to Jehovah’s people in time past. Ch. 25 forms an introduction to this group. See notes there, and for discussion as to the place originally occupied by the group, See on Jeremiah 25:13.

The order of the individual prophecies in the Hebrew is by no means the same as that of the LXX, who commence with Elam, place Babylon immediately after Egypt, and include other differences. See Intr. p. xlviii. The Hebrew order, however, is more likely to be correct, even judging the matter only from internal considerations. It is more natural, taking Egypt first, as the nation whose overthrow by Nebuchadnezzar would be the signal to the rest of a similar fate, to go thence to Philistia (including Tyre and Sidon), then (passing round to the East of Palestine) Moab, Ammon, and Edom, then Damascus as representing the kingdoms of the north, Kedar and Hazor as indicating the kings mentioned in the summary of ch. 25 (Jeremiah 46:24), while lastly the nations of the East are included under Elam.

Ch. Jeremiah 46:1-28. Prophecy against Egypt. Encouragement to Israel

The ch. plainly consists of two parts, viz. (a) Jeremiah 46:3-12, and (b) Jeremiah 46:13-28, while the introduction (Jeremiah 46:1-2) tells us the occasion of the earlier portion, viz. the defeat of Egypt by Babylon at Carchemish, a turning point in the history of the time.

The contents may be summarized as follows.

(i) Jeremiah 46:1. Title of the group. (ii) Jeremiah 46:2-12. The prophecy concerning Egypt. Make ready, ye soldiers, arm yourselves, footmen and horsemen, for the battle. Alas! they are routed and flee: by the Euphrates they are overtaken and fall. Egypt rose in proud boasting, like the fertilising swelling of its own great river Nile. Despite its strength and pretensions, Jehovah will avenge Himself upon its army in bloody defeat, for which there is no cure. Egypt becomes a reproach to the nations of the earth. (iii) Jeremiah 46:13-26. Description of Nebuchadnezzar’s conquest of Egypt. Let her prepare to withstand the attack to which her neighbours have succumbed. Her mighty ones fall before Jehovah who is mightier than they. The strangers there call upon each other to flee to their several countries. Pharaoh’s name is but an empty noise. The time for deliverance he has let pass by. A foe lofty as Tabor or Carmel comes. Make ready for exile. Egypt is as a heifer stung by a gadfly. Her warriors flee like calves sleek but cowardly. She is as the serpent in a bushy lair, driven back by a host of woodcutters. Her forests, dense though they be, are cut down, for her foes are numberless as an army of locusts. She, her gods, and her kings, are delivered over to the ruler of the north, but in the end she shall be re-inhabited. (iv) Jeremiah 46:27-28. Jacob need not fear. The captives shall return and dwell secure in Jehovah’s favour. Other nations shall be blotted out of existence; not so shall it be with Israel.

The word of the LORD which came to Jeremiah the prophet against the Gentiles;
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.
2. Pharaoh-neco] This monarch (b.c. 610–594) had defeated and slain Josiah at Megiddo (b.c. 608). In three months he had deposed Josiah’s successor, Jehoahaz, and imprisoned him at Riblah, and had set up Jehoiakim. He was extending his conquests in the Asiatic direction when he was overthrown at Carchemish (b.c. 605).

Carchemish] Gargamish in Assyrian inscriptions, was not Circesium at the junction of the rivers Chaboras and Euphrates, but considerably higher up the latter stream and some distance to the north of lat. 36°. Professor Rawlinson (Anc. Mon. II. 475) describes it as the key of Syria on the east and as commanding the ordinary passage of the Euphrates. It was, he adds, the only great city in that quarter. The meaning of the name is unknown.

2–12. Co. declines to accept objections which have been brought by some recent commentators to the substantial genuineness of these vv., and Gi. on the whole agrees, but considers the passage to have been expanded.

Order ye the buckler and shield, and draw near to battle.
3. Order ye] rather, Prepare ye. Or, more literally, Set in line.

buckler and shield] The former of these was a small round shield which the light-armed troops carried, while the latter covered the whole body and was borne accordingly by the heavy-armed.

3–6. These verses give us a lively description of the preparation and the advance, which were followed by the disastrous defeat at Carchemish.

Harness the horses; and get up, ye horsemen, and stand forth with your helmets; furbish the spears, and put on the brigandines.
4. Harness the horses] to the chariots which formed a very important feature of Egyptian armies.

get up, ye horsemen] probably, mount the steeds.

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.
5. Wherefore … dismayed] The LXX rightly omit the first Hebrew verb, and render, “Wherefore are they dismayed?”

terror is on every side] Jeremiah’s characteristic expression. See on ch. 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.
Who is this that cometh up as a flood, whose waters are moved as the rivers?
7, 8. Who is this … Egypt riseth up like the Nile] The mg. is to be preferred. Egypt’s boast that she will spread herself in conquest over the earth is illustrated by the annual rise of the Nile, flooding the adjacent country. Cp. in Isaiah 8:7 f. the illustration of Assyrian conquest of Judaea taken from the swelling waters of the Euphrates.

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.
8. and his waters toss themselves like the rivers] The LXX omit, but, as the v. stands in MT., this clause is wanted for the parallelism.

he saith] viz. Pharaoh, addressing his army.

the city and] Unless, with LXX, we omit these words, we should probably understand the Hebrew substantive collectively, cities.

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.
9. Probably a continuation of Pharaoh’s appeal to his warriors, as put into his mouth by Jeremiah.

Go up] The summons is to cavalry, chariots, and infantry that they should set forth from Egypt.

Cush and Put … and the Ludim] the mercenary troops, who formed from the days of Psammetichus the chief part of the Egyptian armies. The Ethiopians (Cush) were children of Ham (Genesis 10:6). The situation of Put is doubtful. It is generally placed on the N. coast of Africa, W. of Egypt, but may have been Punt, a country on the Red Sea. The Ludim (see Genesis 10:13) were also Africans. Possibly, however, we should read Lubim here, as in Nahum 3:9, i.e. the people of Libya (W. of Egypt). We have the three peoples here mentioned spoken of again as Egyptian mercenaries in Ezekiel 30:5.

bend] literally, tread, string.

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.
10. For] rather, But. For the language here cp. Isaiah 34:5-6; Isaiah 34:8. The expression of fierce vengeance, adduced by Schwally and others (see introd. notes) as an argument for rejecting the passage, is not unnatural, when we consider that the death of Josiah and captivity of Jehoahaz (cp. Jeremiah 22:10) were still fresh in memory.

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.
11. balm] See on Jeremiah 8:22, Jeremiah 30:13.

Egyptian knowledge of medicine is celebrated by Homer (Od. 4:229). Cyrus and Darius both sent to Egypt for medical men (Herod. III. 1, 132); cp. Pliny XIX. 5.

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.
12. thy shame] The LXX, “thy voice,” requires but a slight alteration of MT. and one which improves the parallelism.

the mighty man hath stumbled against the mighty] The heroes fighting on the Egyptian side tumble over one another in their blind flight. Cp. Leviticus 26:37.

The word that the LORD spake to Jeremiah the prophet, how Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon should come and smite the land of Egypt.
13–26. See introd. note to the ch. and summary. Gi. rejects as later all that follows Jeremiah 46:12 as involving repetitions, looseness of structure, and vagueness in style, criticisms which (see note on Jeremiah 46:2-12) he also brings to bear on the earlier part of the ch. Co. on the other hand fully accepts this later portion. Even if it be genuine, we cannot be certain of the date. It may belong to the fourth year of Jehoiakim, or to Jeremiah’s residence in Egypt, when (see Jeremiah 43:8-13) the Babylonian invader was expected. See further on Jeremiah 46:17.

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.
14. Migdol] See on Jeremiah 44:1. For Noph and Tahpanhes See on Jeremiah 2:16. Migdol was the border town in the Asiatic direction and Noph the capital city of Lower Egypt. The other proper names in the v. (omitted by LXX) are probably later glosses.

Stand forth] take up a defensive position.

hath devoured] The neighbouring nations had been subdued.

round about thee] The LXX read “thy thicket,” which can be obtained by an inconsiderable modification of MT. and receives a certain amount of support from the metaphor in Jeremiah 46:22 f.

Why are thy valiant men swept away? they stood not, because the LORD did drive them.
15. Why … swept away?] The mg. is to be preferred. The adjective in the Hebrew is plural, while both the verb connected with it and the pronouns that follow are in the singular. Hence we conclude that the singular is right. But probably we should, with LXX, divide the Hebrew verb rendered “swept away” into two words, translating with them, “Why is Apis fled? Thy mighty one stood not, because, etc.” The sacred bull Apis worshipped at Memphis is called the mighty one (the word in MT. being often used of bulls), i.e. the deity of Egypt, ‘just as Jehovah is named the Mighty One of Jacob or of Israel in Genesis 49:24; Isaiah 1:24; Isaiah 49:26, etc. “The authority of the Egyptian-Jewish version in a prophecy relative to Egypt is not slight” (Cheyne, ad loc.). A failure to understand this application of the word may have early induced a Hebrew copyist to alter it to the plural (which was effected by the insertion of the smallest Hebrew letter). For the thought of the Egyptian gods as overthrown before the Eastern power cp. Isaiah 19:1; Isaiah 46:1 f.

drive them] rather, as mg. thrust them down.

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.
16. As the latter part of the v. implies that the speakers are foreigners, who, however, according to the present MT. have not been mentioned, Du. and others (with a certain amount of support from LXX) suggest that, with a slight emendation of the Hebrew, we should read, Thy mingled people (See on Jeremiah 25:20) have stumbled and fallen; and they said one to another, Arise, etc. Co., however, prefers to omit a considerable part of the v., so as to continue Apis as the subject.

to our own people] The “mingled people,” i.e. foreigners in the country, mercenary troops and traders, as belonging to various nations, propose among themselves to return to their several countries (cp. Jeremiah 46:21).

the oppressing sword] See on Jeremiah 25:38.

They did cry there, Pharaoh king of Egypt is but a noise; he hath passed the time appointed.
17. They cried there … a noise] Read, Call ye the name of Pharaoh (so far accord Syr. and Vulg., and so the LXX, who add Neco) a Crash. Thus Dr., who compares for a name symbolical of a great disaster Jeremiah 20:3, and for the Hebrew word used here Jeremiah 25:31 (“a noise”); Hosea 10:14; Amos 2:2 (“tumult”). Cp. Psalm 40:2 R.V. mg., “tumult or destruction.”

he hath let the appointed time pass by] the time for effectual preparation to resist. The period of grace is over. The Hebrew verb in this clause (he‘ĕbir) is thought to be a play on the name Hophra (cp. Isaiah 30:7 with note in C.B. for a contemptuous play on a name for Egypt). If this be so, the v. can hardly be a gloss (Du.) or otherwise non-Jeremianic (Gi.), and it will help to authenticate the whole passage (Jeremiah 46:14 ff.). A later writer would probably have known that it was as a matter of fact not Hophra but his successor Amasis who was ruler of Egypt at the time of Nebuchadnezzar’s invasion (See on Jeremiah 43:13).

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.
18. The foe (unnamed, but meaning Nebuchadnezzar, unless the passage is late, and Alexander the Great is intended; so Schmidt) shall resemble these mountains as standing out conspicuous. Tabor, as rising in the midst of an extensive plain, is more striking than even loftier hills, which have not its advantages in the way of position. Carmel (about 600 feet above the sea) stretches as a long bold promontory into the Mediterranean.

O thou daughter dwelling in Egypt, furnish thyself to go into captivity: for Noph shall be waste and desolate without an inhabitant.
19. O thou daughter that dwellest in Egypt] the population of Egypt personified, preferable to mg. O thou that dwellest with the daughter of Egypt.

furnish thyself to go into captivity] more literally as mg. make thee vessels of captivity, supply thyself with all that thou wilt need as thy outfit for exile. Cp. Ezekiel 12:3 mg.

Noph] See on Jeremiah 2:16.

Egypt is like a very fair heifer, but destruction cometh; it cometh out of the north.
20. This simile for Egypt may be suggested by Apis the bull god. See on Jeremiah 5:16.

but destruction out of the north is come] better, as mg. the gadfly. This rendering of the word (not found elsewhere) is in all probability right, though not universally accepted. Egypt is driven to flight by the stings inflicted by her foe.

it is come] mg. obtains by a very slight change in the Hebrew upon her. This has the support of LXX, Syr., Targ., Vulg. But for MT. we may cp. Psalm 96:13.

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.
21. her hired men] her mercenary troops.

like calves of the stall] See on Jeremiah 44:30. The reference is to the Ionian and Carian soldiers, who (Herod. II. 163) numbered 30,000, and lived on the Pelusiac branch of the Nile in a fertile district. Hence they seem to have earned the description given of them here, and were useless in war (Herod. II. 152 ff.). Cp. Malachi 4:2.

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.
22. The sound thereof shall go like the serpent] better, as mg. Her sound is like that of the serpent as it goeth. The voice of Egypt in her feebleness as she flees away from the enemy shall be like the voice of a serpent hissing, i.e. like a serpent hissing impotently at the woodcutters who disturb its retreat through the thick underwood. For “as it goeth” the LXX (but probably through an early confusion between two Greek words on the part of a scribe) read “hissing.” The serpent formed an important feature in the religion of the Egyptians, who worshipped Kneph under this form. The hostile army is likened in these. vv. to a host of persons clearing away a forest for firewood. The denseness of the forest represents the number and populous character of the cities of Egypt. Dr. compares Isaiah 10:18 f., 33 f.

with axes] This would make a deep impression upon the mind of nations like the Jews, who had no such custom. “The battle-axe was a weapon but rarely employed by the Assyrians. It is only in the very latest sculptures, and in a very few instances, that we find axes represented as used by the warriors for any other purpose besides the felling of trees. Where they are seen in use against the enemy, the handle is short, the head somewhat large, and the weapon wielded with one hand.” Rawlinson, Anc. Mon. I. 459.

hewers] or, less well, gatherers of firewood.

They shall cut down her forest, saith the LORD, though it cannot be searched; because they are more than the grasshoppers, and are innumerable.
23. though] better, as mg. for.

they are more] i.e. the enemy.

the locusts] See on Joel 1:4, C.B. (Driver).

The daughter of Egypt shall be confounded; she shall be delivered into the hand of the people of the north.
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:
25. Amon of No] i.e. the chief god worshipped in No (cp. No-Amon, Nahum 3:8). Thebes, the capital of Upper Egypt (now Luxor), a city of great interest from its remains of antiquity in the way of sculpture and tombs. It supplanted Memphis as a great centre, but declined under the Ptolemies. See Ezekiel 30:14 ff. Amon was represented in various ways, e.g. as a figure with a ram’s head and human body. “In course of time he absorbed into himself almost all the other deities of Egypt.” Sayce, Anc. Empires, p. 63.

and Pharaoh … her kings] omit with LXX.

them that trust in him] those Jews who still persistently trusted in Egypt as a support against Babylon.

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.
26. The v. may be well suspected as a gloss by a scribe who desired in the latter part of it to soften the dismal forecast for Egypt, especially as words of corresponding comfort follow for his own people. Cp. Jeremiah 48:47, Jeremiah 49:6; Jeremiah 49:39. Co., however, here (and in ch. 48) maintains the genuineness, comparing for the latter part Ezekiel 29:13 f.

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.
27, 28. See introd. summary to the ch. See also on ch. Jeremiah 30:10-11, where almost exactly the same words are found in MT. Also for “correct” (Jeremiah 46:28) See on Jeremiah 2:19. The vv. imply that the exile has begun and thus cannot date from “the fourth year of Jehoiakim” (Jeremiah 46:1).

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.
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