Jeremiah 46
Clarke's Commentary
The difference between the preceding and the subsequent prophecies in point of composition is very remarkable; the last excelling much in majesty and elegance. This chapter (of which the first verse forms a general title to this and the five chapters following) contains two distinct prophecies relating to Egypt. The first was delivered previous to an engagement between Pharaoh-necho, king of Egypt, and Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon; in which the Egyptians were routed in Carchemish with great slaughter, as here predicted. The prophet sees the mighty preparations; but they are all declared to be of no avail, as God had decreed their fall, Jeremiah 46:1-6. The King of Egypt, however, is represented as marching with all the confidence of victory, like a river overflowing its banks, and threatening all around with its inundation, Jeremiah 46:7, Jeremiah 46:8. But this immense armament of Pharaoh-necho, consisting of various nations, shall, by a righteous judgment of God, receive such a signal overthrow near the river Euphrates, that the political consequence of Egypt shall be thereby irretrievably ruined, and its remaining power become contemptible in the sight of the nations, Jeremiah 46:9-12. The other prophecy, beginning at the thirteenth verse, relates to the memorable overthrow of the Egyptians by Nebuchadnezzar, subsequent to his siege of Tyre, in the sixteenth year after the destruction of Jerusalem, Jeremiah 46:13-26. The promise, in the conclusion of the chapter, of preservation to the Jews, (who have for many ages continued a distinct people, when the various nations of antiquity who oppressed them, or with whom they had any intercourse, have long ago ceased to have any separate and visible existence), has been most remarkably fulfilled; and is a very signal act of providence, and a pledge of the restoration of Israel to the Divine favor, when the time of the Gentiles shall be fulfilled, Jeremiah 46:27, Jeremiah 46:28.

The word of the LORD which came to Jeremiah the prophet against the Gentiles;
The word of the Lord - against the Gentiles - This is a general title to the following collection of prophecies, written concerning different nations, which had less or more connection with the Jews, either as enemies, neighbors, or allies.

They were not written at the same time; and though some of them bear dates, yet it would be difficult to give them any chronological arrangement. Dahler's mode of ascertaining the times of their delivery may be seen in the table in the introduction.

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.
Pharaoh-necho - This was the person who defeated the army of Josiah, in which engagement Josiah received a mortal wound, of which he died, greatly regretted, soon after at Megiddo. After this victory, he defeated the Babylonians, and took Carchemish; and, having fortified it, returned to his own country. Nabopolassar sent his son Nebuchadnezzar with an army against him, defeated him with immense slaughter near the river Euphrates, retook Carchemish, and subdued all the revolted provinces, according to the following prophecies.

Order ye the buckler and shield, and draw near to battle.
Order ye the buckler - This is the call to the general armament of the people against the Chaldeans.

Harness the horses; and get up, ye horsemen, and stand forth with your helmets; furbish the spears, and put on the brigandines.
Furbish the spears - Cleanse, brighten, and sharpen them; from the Franco-Gallic fourbir, to polish, brighten.

Brigandines - A coat of mail, especially that which was made scale fashion; one plate overlapping the other, like the scales of fish.

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.
Wherefore have I seen them dismayed - What! such a numerous, formidable, and well-appointed army panic-struck? So that they have turned back - fled apace, and looked not round; while their mighty ones - their generals and commanders, striving to rally them, are beaten down.

Let not the swift flee away, nor the mighty man escape; they shall stumble, and fall toward the north by the river Euphrates.
Let not the swift flee away - Even the swiftest shall not be able to escape.

They shall - fall toward the north - By the Euphrates, which was northward of Judea. Here the Egyptian army was routed with great


Who is this that cometh up as a flood, whose waters are moved as the rivers?
Who is this that cometh up as a flood - The vast concourse of people is here represented as a river: for instance, the Jordan, suddenly swollen with the rains in harvest, rolling its waters along, and overflowing the whole country. A fine image to represent the incursions of vast armies carrying all before them. Such was the army of Pharaoh-necho in its march to Carchemish.

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.
The Ethiopians - Hebrews Cush, Phut, and the Ludim. This army was composed of many nations. Cush. which we translate Ethiopians, almost invariably means the Arabians; and here, those Arabs that bordered on Egypt near the Red Sea. Phut probably means the Libyans; for Phut settled in Libya, according to Josephus. Phut and Cush were two of the sons of Ham, and brothers to Mitsraim, the father of the Egyptians, Genesis 10:6; and the Ludim were descended from Mitsraim; see Genesis 10:13. Bochart contends that the Ludim were Ethiopians, and that they were famous for the use of the bow. Phaleg, lib. 4:26.

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.
For this is the day of the Lord God of hosts - The prophet represents this as a mighty sacrifice, where innumerable victims were slain.

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.
Go up into Gilead, and take balm - An irony. Egypt is so completely enfeebled by this overthrow, that her political wound is utterly incurable. This figure is used with the more propriety here, as the Egyptians have been celebrated from the remotest antiquity for their knowledge of medicine.

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 nations have heard of thy shame - Of thy disgrace, by this prodigious slaughter of thy troops.

The word that the LORD spake to Jeremiah the prophet, how Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon should come and smite the land of Egypt.
How Nebuchadrezzar - should come and smite the land of Egypt - See on Jeremiah 44 (note). This was after Amasis had driven Pharaoh-necho into Upper Egypt. See Jeremiah 44:30.

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.
Migdol - Magdolum, a city of Lower Egypt. Noph, Memphis. Tahpanhes, Daphne. See before, Jeremiah 44:1 (note).

Round about thee - The Phoenicians, Philistines, Ammonites, Moabites, and Edomites, all prostrated by the arms of the Chaldeans.

Why are thy valiant men swept away? they stood not, because the LORD did drive them.
They stood not, because the Lord did drive them - The Lord panic-struck them, and drove them back.

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.
One fell upon another - In their terror and confusion ranks fell on ranks, and overturned each other.

Let us go again to our own people - Let us flee to our own country with all possible speed. These were the auxiliaries.

They did cry there, Pharaoh king of Egypt is but a noise; he hath passed the time appointed.
They did cry there - Dr. Blayney translates this cry thus: -

- "O Pharaoh, king of Egypt, A tumult hath frustrated the appointed meeting."

These allies sent their excuse to Pharaoh, that the disasters they had met with had prevented them from joining him as they had intended.

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 among the mountains - This mountain is situated in the plain of Esdraelon in Galilee, on the confines of the tribes of Zebulun and Issachar, Joshua 19:22. It stood by itself, separated from all the other mountains by deep valleys, and is the highest of the whole.

And as Carmel by the sea - Carmel is a mountain on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, on the southern frontier of the tribe of Asher. Were the Egyptians as distinguished for valor and strength as the mountains Tabor and Carmel are for height among the other mountains in their vicinity, they should not be able to stand the shock of the Chaldean army.

O thou daughter dwelling in Egypt, furnish thyself to go into captivity: for Noph shall be waste and desolate without an inhabitant.
Furnish thyself to go into captivity - The thing is unavoidable; prepare for this calamity.

Egypt is like a very fair heifer, but destruction cometh; it cometh out of the north.
Egypt is like a very fair heifer - Fruitful and useful; but destruction cometh out of the north, from Chaldea. It may be that there is an allusion here to Isis, worshipped in Egypt under the form of a beautiful cow.

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.
Are fled away together - Perhaps there is a reference here to the case of a cow stung with gnats. She runs hither and thither not knowing where to go; so shall it be with this scattered people.

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 - shall go like a serpent - See Isaiah 29:4 (note), and the note there.

They shall cut down her forest, saith the LORD, though it cannot be searched; because they are more than the grasshoppers, and are innumerable.
They shall cut down her forest - Supposed to mean her cities, of which Egypt had no fewer than one thousand and twenty.

The daughter of Egypt shall be confounded; she shall be delivered into the hand of the people of the north.
The hand or the people of the north - The Chaldeans.

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 - אמון מנא Amon minno, the Amon of No, called by the Greeks Διοσπολις, or Jupiter's city. It was the famous Thebes, celebrated anciently for its hundred gates. Amon was the name by which the Egyptians called Jupiter, who had a famous temple at Thebes.

The word Pharaoh is twice repeated here; and Dr. Dahler thinks that one may design Pharaoh Hophrah, and the other Amasis, the new king.

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 it shall be inhabited - That is, within forty years, as Ezekiel had predicted, Ezekiel 29:13.

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.
Fear not - my servant Jacob - In the midst of wrath God remembers mercy. Though Judah shall be destroyed, Jerusalem taken, the temple burnt to the ground, and the people carried into captivity, yet the nation shall not be destroyed. A seed shall be preserved, out of which the nation shall revive.

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.
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 - The Jews still remain as a distinct people, while the Assyrians, Chaldeans, Egyptians, etc., are no more!

On this subject, I cannot withhold from my readers the following very judicious remarks of Bp. Newton, in his Dissertations on the Prophecies.

"The preservation of the Jews through so many ages, and the total destruction of their enemies, are wonderful events; and are made still more wonderful by being signified beforehand by the spirit of prophecy, as particularly in the passage before us. Their preservation is really one of the most illustrious acts of Divine Providence. They are dispersed among all nations, yet not confounded with any. The drops of rain which fall, nay the great rivers which flow into the ocean, are soon mingled with and lost in that immense body of waters. And the same, in all human probability, would have been the fate of the Jews; they would have been mingled and lost in the common mass of mankind: but, on the contrary, they flow into all parts of the world, mix with all nations, and yet keep separate from all. They still live as a distinct people; and yet they nowhere live according to their own laws, nowhere elect their own magistrates, nowhere enjoy the full exercise of their religion. Their solemn feasts and sacrifices are limited to one certain place; and that hath been now for many ages in the hands of strangers and aliens, who will not suffer them to come thither. No people have continued unmixed so long as they have done; not only of those who have sent colonies into foreign countries, but even of those who have remained in their own country. The northern nations have come in swarms into the more southern parts of Europe: but where are they now to be discerned and distinguished? The Gauls went forth in great bodies to seek their fortune in foreign parts; but what traces or footsteps of them are now remaining any where? In France, who can separate the race of the ancient Gauls from the various other people who from time to time have settled there? In Spain, who can distinguish between the first possessors, the Spaniards, and the Goths and Moors, who conquered and kept possession of the country for some ages? In England, who can pretend to say certainly which families are derived from the ancient Britons, and which from the Romans, Saxons, Danes, and Normans? The most ancient and honorable pedigrees can be traced up only to a certain period; and beyond that there is nothing but conjecture and uncertainty, obscurity and ignorance. But the Jews can go up higher than any nation; they can even deduce their pedigree from the beginning of the world. They may not know from what particular tribe or family they are descended; but they know certainly that they all sprang from the stock of Abraham. And yet the contempt with which they have been treated, and the hardships they have undergone in almost all countries, should, one would think, have made them desirous to forget or renounce their original: but they profess it; they glory in it; and after so many wars, massacres, and persecutions, they still subsist; they are still very numerous. And what but a supernatural power could have preserved them in such a manner as no other nation upon earth has been preserved? Nor is the providence of God less remarkable in the destruction of their enemies, than in their own preservation. For, from the beginning, who have been the great enemies and oppressors of the Jewish nation, removed them from their own land, and compelled them into captivity and slavery? The Egyptians afflicted them much, and detained them in bondage several years. The Assyrians carried away captive the ten tribes of Israel; and the Babylonians, afterwards, the two remaining tribes of Judah and Benjamin. The Syro-Macedonians, especially Antiochus Epiphanes, cruelly persecuted them; and the Romans utterly dissolved the Jewish state, and dispersed the people so as that they have never been able to recover their city and country again. And where are now those great and famous monarchies, which in their turn subdued and oppressed the people of God? Are they not vanished as a dream; and not only their power, but their very names, lost in the earth? The Egyptians, Assyrians, and Babylonians were overthrown and entirely subjugated by the Persians; and the Persians, it is remarkable, were the restorers of the Jews as well as the destroyers of their enemies. The Syro-Macedonians were swallowed up by the Romans; and the Roman empire, great and powerful as it was, was broken into pieces by the incursions of the northern nations; while the Jews are subsisting as a distinct people at this day. And what a wonder of providence is it, that the vanquished should so many ages survive the victors; and the former be spread all over the world, while the latter are no more! Nay, not only nations have been punished for their cruelties to the Jews, but Divine vengeance has pursued even single persons who have been their persecutors and oppressors. The first-born of Pharaoh was destroyed; and he himself with his host, drowned in the sea. Nebuchadnezzar was stricken with madness, and the crown was transferred from his family to strangers. Antiochus Epiphanes and Herod died in great agonies, with ulcers and vermin issuing from them. Flaccus, governor of Egypt, who barbarously plundered and oppressed the Jews of Alexandria, was afterwards banished and slain; and Caligula, who persecuted the Jews for refusing to do Divine honors to his statue, was murdered in the flower of his age, after a short and wicked reign. But where are now, - since they have absolutely rejected the Gospel. and been no longer the peculiar people of God, - where are now such visible manifestations of a Divine interposition in their favor? The Jews would do well to consider this point; for, rightly considered, it may be an effectual means of opening their eyes, and of turning them to Christ our Savior." See Bp. Newton on the prophecies, dissert. 8 sect. 2. And see the notes on Ezekiel, where the calamities of these miserable people are largely detailed.

Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke [1831].
Text Courtesy of Internet Sacred Texts Archive.

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