Jeremiah 2:18
And now what have you to do in the way of Egypt, to drink the waters of Sihor? or what have you to do in the way of Assyria, to drink the waters of the river?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(18) In the way of Egypt . . .?—The rebuke becomes more and more specific. Great rivers were, in the poetry of the prophets, the natural symbols of the kingdoms through which they flowed. Sihor (= the turbid or muddy river) here, and in Isaiah 23:3 the Nile (though in Joshua 13:3 it stands for the border stream between Palestine and Egypt), represented Egypt. The “river,” or “flood,” needing no other name as pre-eminent in its greatness (comp. Joshua 24:14-15), the Euphrates, stood for Assyria (comp. Isaiah 8:7). The words point to the tendency to court the alliance now of one, now of the other of the great kingdoms of the world. The policy was no new one. Menahem in Israel, Ahaz in Judah, had courted Assyria (2Kings 15:19; 2Kings 16:7-8); Hezekiah, Babylon (Isaiah 39); Hoshea had sought help from Egypt (2Kings 17:4). The prophet Hosea had rebuked both policies (Hosea 5:13; Hosea 7:11; Hosea 8:9). Even under Hezekiah there was a party seeking the Egyptian alliance (Isaiah 18, 19, 31. Under Manasseh and Amon that party was in power, and the very name of the latter probably bears witness to its influence. Josiah kept as far as possible the position of a neutral, but, when forced into action, and probably guided by the counsels of Hilkiah, resisted the advance of Pharaoh-nechoh (2Kings 23:29). On his death the Egyptian party again gained ground under Jehoiakim, while Jeremiah, opposing its strength, urged the wisdom of accepting the guidance of events, and submitting to the Chaldæans (so far continuing the line of action adopted by Hezekiah), and ultimately was accused of deserting his own people and “falling away” to their oppressors (Jeremiah 37:13).

Jeremiah 2:18. And now what hast thou to do, &c. — “The kings of Egypt and Assyria were the most potent monarchs in the neighbourhood of Judea; and according as either of these was the stronger, the Jews made their court to him, and desired his assistance. This is expressed by drinking the waters of Sihor, an Egyptian river, which some suppose, and Dr. Waterland renders, the Nile; (see note on Isaiah 42; Isaiah 3;) and of the Euphrates, called here the river, by way of eminence. The expressions allude to Jeremiah 2:13, where human assistances are styled broken cisterns, and opposed to God, who, by reason of his all-sufficiency, is called the fountain of living waters. To drink of the waters of these rivers might possibly allude, further, both to the strong propensity which the Israelites had to return to Egypt, and that which they showed for adopting the idolatrous worship of these countries. For the Egyptians worshipped the water, and particularly that of the Nile.” See Div. Leg., vol. 3., and Calmet.2:14-19 Is Israel a servant? No, they are the seed of Abraham. We may apply this spiritually: Is the soul of man a slave? No, it is not; but has sold its own liberty, and enslaved itself to divers lusts and passions. The Assyrian princes, like lions, prevailed against Israel. People from Egypt destroyed their glory and strength. They brought these calamities on themselves by departing from the Lord. The use and application of this is, Repent of thy sin, that thy correction may not be thy ruin. What has a Christian to do in the ways of forbidden pleasure or vain sinful mirth, or with the pursuits of covetousness and ambition?Sihor - The Nile. To lean upon Egypt was a violation of the principles of theocracy.

The two rivers are the two empires, and to drink their waters is to adopt their principles and religion. Compare also Isaiah 8:6-7.

18. now—used in a reasoning sense, not of time.

the way of Egypt—What hast thou to do with the way, that is, with going down to Egypt; or what … with going to Assyria?

drink … waters—that is, to seek reinvigorating aid from them; so Jer 2:13, 36; compare "waters," meaning numerous forces (Isa 8:7).

Sihor—that is, the black river, in Greek, Melas ("black"), the Nile: so called from the black deposit or soil it leaves after the inundation (Isa 23:3). The Septuagint identifies it with Gihon, one of the rivers of Paradise.

the river—Euphrates, called by pre-eminence, the river; figurative for the Assyrian power. In 625 B.C., the seventeenth year of Josiah, and the fourth of Jeremiah's office, the kingdom of Assyria fell before Babylon, therefore Assyria is here put for Babylon its successor: so in 2Ki 23:29; La 5:6. There was doubtless a league between Judea and Assyria (that is, Babylon), which caused Josiah to march against Pharaoh-necho of Egypt when that king went against Babylon: the evil consequences of this league are foretold in this verse and Jer 2:36.

What hast thou to do in the way of Egypt? what business hast thou there? or what dost thou expect from thence? or what need hast thou to go or send messengers thither, if thou wouldst but keep close to me?

Sihor, viz. Nilus; it signifies black, from whence called Melas by the Greeks, either from the blackness of the land it passed through, or of the soil it casteth up. See on Isaiah 23:3.

To drink the waters: here, and by the same words before, is meant, to seek help from either place, noting their strength, Isaiah 8:6. A metaphorical allegory, wherein God minds them of two of their broken cisterns, and shows them their folly to go so far when they might have been better supplied nearer home; as if God were not able to help them. Compare Jeremiah 2:36. The river, i.e. Euphrates, often called so by way of eminency; the chief river of Assyria, Isaiah 7:20. And now what hast thou to do in the way of Egypt,.... By worshipping of idols, in imitation of them; or by sending ambassadors thither for help, when they had their Lord, their God, so nigh, had they not forsaken him; nor had Josiah any business to go out against Pharaohnecho, 2 Chronicles 35:21 and, contrary to the express word of God by the Prophet Jeremy, did the Jews which remained in Judea go into Egypt, Jeremiah 42:19.

To drink the waters of Sihor? which is the river Nile, as Jarchi interprets it. The Septuagint and Arabic versions render it "the waters of Geon", or "Gihon": and this also is the same with the Nile, as Josephus (k) affirms, who says,

"Geon, which runs through Egypt, is the same which the Greeks call Nile.''

So Jerom (l) from Eusebius,

"Geon is a river, which with the Egyptians is called Nile.''

The Vulgate Latin version renders it, "troubled water"; and such were the waters of the Nile, which had its name of Sihor from the blackness of it; and hence, by the Greeks (m), was called Melas; and by the Latines (n), Melo. Hence, as Braunius (o) observes, it was represented by a black stone, as other rivers by a white one; for which reason the black colour was very grateful to the Egyptians; and for the same reason Osiris, which is the very Nile itself, was reckoned black; and the ox Apis they worshipped was a black one, at least part of it, and was covered with black linen cloth; and its priests were also clothed in black, hence called Chemarim, Hosea 10:5.

Or what hast thou to do in the way of Assyria; to go after their idolatrous practices, or to send to them for help; for this was the usual method of the Jews; when the Assyrians oppressed them, then they sent to Egypt for help; and when the Egyptians were upon them, then they applied to the Assyrians; and in both cases acted wrong, for they ought to have sought the Lord their God only:

to drink the waters of the river? of the river Euphrates. The sense is, that they preferred the waters of the Nile and of Euphrates, or the gods of the Egyptians and Assyrians, or the help of these people, before the Lord, the fountain of living waters, and his worship and powerful help. The Targum paraphrases this last clause thus,

"why do ye make covenant with the Assyrian, to carry you captive beyond the river Euphrates?''

(k) Antiqu. l. 1. c. 1. sect. 3.((l) De locis Hebraicis, fol. 91. H. (m) Eustathius in Dionys. (n) Servius in Virgil. Georg. l. 4. p. 343. & in Aeneid. l. 1. p. 541. (o) Selecta Sacr. l. 4. c. 9. p. 492, & l. 5. Exercit. 4. sect. 8. p. 700, 701.

And now what hast thou to do in the way of {c} Egypt, to drink the waters of Sihor? or what hast thou to do in the way of Assyria, to drink the waters of the {d} river?

{c} To seek help from man, as though God was not able enough to defend you, which is to drink from the puddles and to leave the fountain, Isa 31:1.

(d) That is, Euphrates.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
18. what hast thou to do in the way to Egypt] The thought is the same as that expressed in Isaiah 30:1-3. Ever since the time when Psammetichus I (b.c. 663–610), king of Egypt, reduced under his own sway the twelve separate kingdoms into which that country had been formed, there was a party of statesmen at Jerusalem who favoured an Egyptian alliance. This party Jeremiah constantly opposed.

to drink the waters of Shihor] to hold communication with Egypt, and espouse its cause. The figure has been already suggested by the mention of fountains and cisterns (Jeremiah 2:13).

Shihor] The word, which properly means turbid, is shewn by the context to be equivalent to the Nile, a word which itself denotes blue, or dark; so probably in Isaiah 23:3. Sometimes (as in Joshua 13:3; 1 Chronicles 13:5) the name is confined to the easternmost branch of the Nile.

what hast thou to do in the way to Assyria] Both Israel and Judah had vacillated for many reigns between Egypt and Assyria. Menahem king of Israel bribed Pul king of Assyria to support him, and to him also his successors Pekahiah and Pekah seem to have looked. Hoshea sought the aid of Egypt to enable him to throw off the Assyrian yoke, while Josiah met his death in fighting against it and on behalf of the Eastern empire, Assyria’s successor. Thus subservience now to one now to the other quarter was familiar to those whom Jeremiah addressed. Hosea (Jeremiah 7:2) had likened Israel in its vacillation to “a silly dove, without understanding.”

to drink the waters of the River] Euphrates, the great river, on which was built Babylon. Cp. Isaiah 8:7.Verse 18. - What hast thou to do in the way of Egypt? rather, with the way to Egypt. Isaiah (Isaiah 30:2-5; Isaiah 31:1) and Hosea (Hosea 7:11, 16) had already inveighed against an Egyptian alliance. The name given by Manasseh to his sen and successor (Amen) suggests that at one period in his reign an Egyptian policy was in the ascendant, which coincides with the tradition preserved in 2 Chronicles 33:11, of an Assyrian captivity of Manasseh. Jehoiakim at a later period was a vassal of Egypt (2 Kings 23:31, 35). To drink the waters; taking up the idea of the second clause of ver. 13. Sihor, or Shihor, occurs again in Isaiah 23:3, as a name of the Nile. It properly means, not so much "the black" as "the dark grey" (connected with shakhar, the morning grey), from the color of the water. Rosenmüller's contrast between the muddy waters of foreign streams and the "fountain of living waters" is uncalled for; besides, the Nile water has always been held in high esteem. The Septuagint has Γηών, i.e. Gihon, also a name of-the Nile according to Ecclus. 24:27. The way of - rather, to - Assyria. It is true that Assyria was, to say the least, powerless to interfere for good or for evil, when these words were written. But in ver. 5 the prophet has already warned us that his complaints are partly retrospective. It would seem that the Assyrian party from time to time gained the upper hand over the Egyptian in the councils of the State. Or perhaps the prophet may refer to the Quixotic fidelity to Assyria of Josiah (see below on ver. 36). The river; i.e. the Euphrates, "the great river" (Genesis 15:18). Babylonia it should be remembered, was in nominal subjection to Assyria; the Euphrates was the boundary between Syria and Palestine on the one hand, and Assyria - here the Assyrio-Babylonian region - on the other. Such backsliding from God is unexampled and appalling. Jeremiah 2:9. "Therefore will I further contend with you, ad with your children's children will I contend. Jeremiah 2:10. For go over to the islands of the Chittim, and see; and send to Kedar, and observe well, and see if such things have been; Jeremiah 2:11. whether a nation hath changed it gods, which indeed are no gods? but my people hath changed its glory for that which profits not. Jeremiah 2:12. Be horrified, ye heavens, at this, and shudder, and be sore dismayed, saith Jahveh. Jeremiah 2:13. For double evil hath my people done; me have they forsaken, the fountain of living waters, to hew out for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns, the hold no water."

In the preceding verses the fathers were charged with the backsliding from the Lord; in Jeremiah 2:9 punishment is threatened against the now-living people of Israel, and on their children's children after them. For the people in its successive and even yet future generations constitutes a unity, and in this unity a moral personality. Since the sins of the fathers transmit themselves to the children and remoter descendants, sons and grandsons must pay the penalty of the fathers' guilt, that is, so long as they share the disposition of their ancestors. The conception of this moral unity is at the foundation of the threatening. That the present race persists in the fathers' backsliding from the Lord is clearly expressed in Jeremiah 2:17. In "I will further chide or strive," is intimated implicite that God had chidden already up till now, or even earlier with the fathers. ריב, contend, when said of God, is actual striving or chastening with all kinds of punishment. This must God do as the righteous and holy one; for the sin of the people is an unheard of sin, seen in no other people. "The islands of the Chittim" are the isles and coast lands of the far west, as in Ezekiel 27:6; כּתּים having originally been the name for Cyprus and the city of Cition, see in Genesis 10:4. In contrast with these distant western lands, Kedar is mentioned as representative of the races of the east. The Kedarenes lived as a pastoral people in the eastern part of the desert between Arabia Petraea and Babylonia; see in Genesis 25:13 and Ezekiel 27:21. Peoples in the two opposite regions of the world are individualizingly mentioned instead of all peoples. התבּוננוּ, give good heed, serves to heighten the expression. אם equals הןintroduces the indirect question; cf. Ew. 324, c. The unheard of, that which has happened amongst no people, is put interrogatively for rhetorical effect. Has any heathen nation changed its gods, which indeed are not truly gods? No; no heathen nation has done this; but the people of Jahveh, Israel, has exchanged its glory, i.e., the God who made Himself known to it in His glory, for false gods that are of no profit. כּבוד is the glory in which the invisible God manifested His majesty in the world and amidst His people. Cf. the analogous title given to God, ,נּאון ישׂראל Amos 8:7; Hosea 5:5. The exact antithesis to כּבודו would be בּשׁת, cf. Jeremiah 3:24; Jeremiah 11:13; but Jeremiah chose לאto represent the exchange as not advantageous. God showed His glory to the Israelites in the glorious deeds of His omnipotence and grace, like those mentioned in Jeremiah 2:5 and Jeremiah 2:6. The Baals, on the other hand, are not אלהים, but, אלילים nothings, phantoms without a being, that bring no help or profit to their worshippers. Before the sin of Israel is more fully set forth, the prophet calls on heaven to be appalled at it. The heavens are addressed as that part of the creation where the glory of God is most brightly reflected. The rhetorical aim is seen in the piling up of words. חרב, lit., to be parched up, to be deprived of the life-marrow. Israel has committed two crimes: a. It has forsaken Jahveh, the fountain of living water. ,מים חיּיםliving water, i.e., water that originates and nourishes life, is a significant figure for God, with whom is the fountain of life (Psalm 36:10), i.e., from whose Spirit all life comes. Fountain of living water (here and Jeremiah 17:13) is synonymous with well of life in Proverbs 10:11; Proverbs 13:14; Proverbs 14:27, Sir. 21:13. b. The other sin is this, that they hew or dig out wells, broken, rent, full of crevices, that hold no water. The delineation keeps to the same figure. The dead gods have no life and can dispense no life, just as wells with rents or fissures hold no water. The two sins, the forsaking of the living God and the seeking out of dead gods, cannot really be separated. Man, created by God and for God, cannot live without God. If he forsake the living God, he passes in spite of himself into the service of dead, unreal gods. Forsaking the living God is eo ipso exchanging Him for an imaginary god. The prophet sets the two moments of the apostasy from God side by side, so as to depict to the people with greater fulness of light the enormity of their crime. The fact in Jeremiah 2:11 that no heathen nation changes its gods for others, has its foundation in this, that the gods of the heathen are the creations of men, and that the worship of them is moulded by the carnal-mindedness of sinful man; so that there is less inducement to change, the gods of the different nations being in nature alike. But the true God claims to be worshipped in spirit and in truth, and does not permit the nature and manner of His worship to depend on the fancies of His worshippers; He makes demands upon men that run counter to carnal nature, insisting upon the renunciation of sensual lusts and cravings and the crucifixion of the flesh, and against this corrupt carnal nature rebels. Upon this reason for the fact adduced, Jeremiah does not dwell, but lays stress on the fact itself. This he does with the view of bringing out the distinction, wide as heaven, between the true God and the false gods, to the shaming of the idolatrous people; and in order, at the same time, to scourge the folly of idolatry by giving prominence to the contrast between the glory of God and the nothingness of the idols.

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