The word that the LORD spoke to Jeremiah the prophet, how Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon should come and smite the land of Egypt.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)The word that the Lord spake . . .—The opening words clearly point to this as a distinct prophecy from the preceding, pointing to subsequent events, and it was probably delivered much later, possibly in connexion with Jeremiah 43:10, and placed where it is as belonging to the series of predictions which had Egypt as their subject.Jeremiah 46:13. The word that the Lord spake, &c. — Here begins the second prophecy against Egypt, the exact time of the delivery of which we have no means of ascertaining; but the desolation foretold in it is undoubtedly the same with that predicted by Ezekiel, chaps. 29., 30., 31., 32. And this came to pass in the twenty-seventh year of Jehoiachin’s captivity, that is, the sixteenth year after the destruction of Jerusalem, as may be collected from Ezekiel 29:17, where Nebuchadnezzar’s army is spoken of as having at that time suffered a great deal at the siege of Tyre; on which account the spoils of Egypt are promised them for their wages and indemnification: and the promise was accordingly made good that same year. — Jos. Ant., lib. 10. cap. 9.2 Kings 24:7. This foretells the king of Babylon’s overrunning all the land of Egypt, and was not fulfilled till some years after Zedekiah was carried away captive, but prophesied of Jeremiah 43:10 44:30, to come to pass in the time of Pharaoh-hophra, as we heard before, and more largely foretold by the prophet Ezekiel, Ezekiel 29 Eze 30 Eze 32, to happen after the overthrow of Tyrus, Ezekiel 29:18,19.
how Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon should come; or, "concerning the coming (h) of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon",
to smite the land of Egypt; who was to come, and did come, out of his country, into the land of Egypt, to smite the inhabitants of it with the sword, take their cities, plunder them of their substance, and make them tributary to him.The word that the LORD spake to Jeremiah the prophet, how Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon should come and smite the land of Egypt.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)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.Verse 13. - The word, etc. This verse is the heading of a new prophecy, which, however, for the reason already mentioned (see introduction to this chapter), is not to be regarded as entirely independent of the preceding prophecy, but rather as a supplement (just as Isaiah 18, though not in strict sequence to Isaiah 17:12-14, is yet a supplement to it). The heading does not expressly state when the prophecy was written, but from the mention of Nebuchadnezzar, both in the heading and in the prophecy itself, we may assume a date subsequent to the battle of Carchemish, for the earlier prophecies contain no reference to that redoubtable name. An important question now arises - When did Nebuchadnezzar invade and conquer Egypt? and what would be the consequences of admitting that a Babylonian subjugation of that country is historically not proven? There can be no doubt that Jeremiah did hold out such a prospect; for he not only says so here, but also in Jeremiah 43:8-13 and Jeremiah 44:30. In the latter prophecy it is not Necho, but Hophra, in whose reign the blow is to fall. But no monumental evidence has as yet been found [see, however, postscript to this note] of anything approaching to an invasion of Egypt by Nebuchadnezzar; nor do the accounts of Herodotus (2:159, etc.) at all supply the deficiency (on this, however, see further at end of note). It is true that Josephus quotes passages from Berosus, the Babylonian historian, to the effect that Nabopolassar had set a Chaldean governor over Egypt, but that this governor had revolted, and that Nabopolassar's son, Nebuchadnezzar, crushed the rebellion and incorporated Egypt into his empire. But these events happened, according to the quotation from Berosus, partly before, partly immediately after, the death of Nabopolassar, and was consequently earlier than the prophecy in this chapter. Another fact of importance must be mentioned in this connection, viz. that Ezekiel repeats the announcement of the Babylonian conquest of Egypt, of which he speaks as if it were to happen at the close of the thirteen years of Nebuchadnezzar's siege of Tyre (Ezekiel 29:17-21). Thus there is a gradual increase in the definiteness of the announcement. Looking at our chapter by itself, we might suppose that the conquest was to take place soon after the decisive battle at Carchemish. After the murder of Gedaliah, when Jeremiah had removed to Egypt, we find him foretelling the sore punishment of Egypt in greater detail, and the name of Hophra (instead of Necho) is introduced as that of the deposed king. Finally, Ezekiel (as we have seen) specifies a definite time. Now, it is true that our knowledge of this period is somewhat incomplete. We have not the direct historical proof that could be wished as to the result of Nebuchadnezzar's siege of Tyre, though it would be fastidious to scruple at the evidence which satisfied so cool a judgment as that of George Grote. The great historian denies, however, that Tyre at this time suffered such a terrific desolation as is suggested by a literal interpretation of Ezekiel 26, and continues in these remarkable terms: "Still less can it be believed that that king conquered Egypt and Libya, as Megasthenes, and even Berosus so far as Egypt is concerned, would have us believe - the argument of Latchet, 'Ad Herodot.,' 2:168, is anything but satisfactory. The defeat of the Egyptian king at Carchemish, and the stripping him of his foreign possessions in Judaea and Syria, have been exaggerated into a conquest of Egypt itself" ('Hist. of Greece,' vol. 3. p. 445, note 1). Supposing Mr. Grote's view of the facts of the siege of Tyre to be correct, it is clear that the prophet's reproduction of the Divine revelation made to him was defective; that it presents traces of a stronger human element than we are accustomed to admit. Tyre had to suffer a fall; but the fall was not as yet to be so complete a one as Ezekiel, reasoning upon his revelation, supposed. It is equally possible that Jeremiah and Ezekiel, reasoning upon the revelation of the inevitable fall of Egypt, mistook the time when, in its fulness, the Divine judg. ment was to take place. The case may, perhaps, turn out to be analogous to that of an apparently but not really unfulfilled prophecy in Isaiah 43:3. A literal interpretation of that passage would give the conquest of Egypt to Cyrus; as a matter of fact, we know that it was Cambyses, and not Cyrus, who fulfilled the prophecy. It would not be surprising if we should have to admit that it was Cambyses, and not any earlier monarch, who fulfilled the prophecy of Jeremiah. Certain great principles of God's moral government had to be affirmed; it was of no moment whatever whether Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus, or Cambyses was the instrument of their affirmation. A parallel from Isaiah may again be adduced. The shameful captivity of Egypt, and perhaps Ethiopia, which Isaiah foresaw in the time of Sargon (Isaiah 20:3), was not realized in fact until Esar-haddon despoiled Tithakah, King of Egypt and Ethiopia, of the whole of Upper Egypt. There are cases in which a literal fulfilment of prophecy may be abandoned without detriment to Divine revelation, and this seems to be one of them. And yet we must always remember that even the letter of the prophecy may some day turn out to be more nearly in harmony with facts than we have supposed, our knowledge of this period being in several respects so very imperfect. It has been acutely pointed out that the oracle given to Necho (Herod., 2:158), "that he was labouring for the barbarian," seems to imply a current expectation of an invasion of Egypt by Nebuchadnezzar, and that the gradual conquest by that king of one neighbouring country after another suggests that the invasion of Egypt was at any rate the object at which he aimed. The silence of Herodotus as to a Chaldean invasion is, perhaps, not very important. He does not mention Necho's defeat by Nebuchadnezzar at Carchemish, nor does he ever refer to the victories over Egypt of any King of Assyria. POSTSCRIPT. - The above note is left precisely as it was written, February, 1881, in ignorance of Wiedemann's then recent discovery of a contemporary hieroglyphic inscription which, as the report of the German Oriental Society expresses it, "ratifies the hitherto universally doubted fact of an invasion of Egypt by Nebuchadnezzar." The hieroglyphic narrative is supplemented and confirmed by two cuneiform records, and the combined results are as follows. In the thirty-seventh year of his reign, Hophra or Apries being King of Egypt, Nebuchadnezzar undertook an expedition against Egypt, and penetrated as far as the island of Elephantine, and damaged the temple of Chnum, which stood there. His army could not, however, pass the cataracts. At Syene the Egyptian troops, under Neshor, met and repelled the invaders. Two years later, however, the Babylonians came again, were victorious over the Egyptian host under Amasis, and compelled the whole land to pay tribute. Thus we have a remarkable confirmation of Ezekiel's prophecy that Egypt should be "waste and desolate from Migdol unto Syene, even unto the border of Ethiopia" (Ezekiel 29:10). It should be mentioned that the Babylonians are not described in the hieroglyphics by their proper name, but as "the Syrians (?), the peoples of the north, the Asiatics;" it is from a terra-cotta cuneiform tablet that we learn that, in Nebuchadnezzar's thirty-seventh year (B.C. 568-7), a war arose between him and the King of Egypt, which ended with the payment of tribute to the former (Wiedemann, in 'AEgyptische Zeitschrift,' 1878, pp. 2-6 and 87-89; ' Geschichte AEgyptens,' 1880, pp. 168-170). The value of prophecy does not, happily, depend on the minuteness of its correspondence with history, and the evidential value of the argument from such a correspondence is but secondary. Still, as long as such a correspondence can be proved, even in part, by facts such as Wiedemann has discovered, the apologist is perfectly justified in using it in confirmation of the authority of Scripture. The second prophecy falls into two parts - vers. 14-19 and 20-26 respectively. Job 4:20 applied to persons. מנוס is added to the verb instead of the inf. abs., to give emphasis to the idea contained in the word; cf. Ewald, 281, a. מגור מסּביב .a , "horror, terror around" (cf. Jeremiah 6:25), is taken by Ewald as the reply of Jahveh to the question, "Wherefore is this? On every side there is danger;" and this is appropriately followed by the imperatives in Jeremiah 46:6, "Let no one, then, attempt to flee; not one shall escape to Egypt, but they must fall at the Euphrates." The perfects כּשׁלוּ ונפלוּ are prophetic; the stumbling and falling are as certain as if they had already happened. The second strophe commences at Jeremiah 46:7. The description begins anew, and that with a question of astonishment at the mighty host advancing like the Nile when it bursts its banks and inundates the whole country. יאר is the name of the Nile, taken from the Egyptian into the Hebrew language; cf. Genesis 41ff., Exodus 1:22, etc. התגּעשׁ, dash about (Jeremiah 5:22), wave backwards and forwards: the Hithpa. is here interchanged with the Hithpo. without any difference of meaning.
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