Jeremiah 46:20
Egypt is like a very fair heifer, but destruction cometh; it cometh out of the north.
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(20) Egypt is like a very fair heifer.—The similitude points, like the “strong one” of Jeremiah 46:15, to the Apis worship of Egypt. The nation is like its god. The figure is continued in the words that follow. There comes from the north (from the land of the Chaldees, as in Jeremiah 1:1), not “destruction,” but a gadfly that shall sting the heifer into the madness of agony. So, in Isaiah 7:18, the “fly” of Egypt and the “bee” of Assyria are invited to work evil on Judah. The words find a striking parallel in the Greek legend of Io (probably to be identified with the Egyptian Isis) transformed into a heifer, and her gadfly tormentor, this also connected with the Apis or Mnevis deities of Egypt (Æschyl. Prom. v. 569). The word for “destruction” is not found elsewhere, but the etymology suggests the idea of “pinching” or “stinging,” and the meaning “gadfly” is accepted by many recent scholars.

Jeremiah 46:20-21. Egypt is like a very fair heifer — “In the foregoing verse the prophet compared Egypt to a delicate young woman. Here he resembles her to a fat and well-favoured heifer. In which comparison, as Grotius not improbably conjectures, there is an allusion to their god Apis, which was a bull, remarkable for his beauty and the fine spots or marks he had about him.” — Lowth. But destruction cometh, &c. — The Hebrew is very emphatical, קרצ מצפוז בא בא, destruction from the north, it cometh, it cometh. Also her hired men — Her mercenary soldiers; are in the midst of her like fatted bullocks — Bullocks fatted up, and fit for the slaughter: or they are inactive, and as little courageous as fatted bullocks; foreign or hired troops never fighting with such spirit and resolution as those manifest who are defending their own country and property. They did not stand — Namely, in the fight; because the day of their calamity was come — Because the time when God resolved to punish them, and bring calamity upon them, was arrived, even the time of their visitation, as it is expressed chap. Jeremiah 50:27.

46:13-28 Those who encroached on others, shall now be themselves encroached on. Egypt is now like a very fair heifer, not accustomed to the yoke of subjection; but destruction comes out of the north: the Chaldeans shall come. Comfort and peace are spoken to the Israel of God, designed to encourage them when the judgments of God were abroad among the nations. He will be with them, and only correct them in measure; and will not punish them with everlasting destruction from his presence.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.

20. heifer—wanton, like a fat, untamed heifer (Ho 10:11). Appropriate to Egypt, where Apis was worshipped under the form of a fair bull marked with spots.

destruction—that is, a destroyer: Nebuchadnezzar. Vulgate translates, "a goader," answering to the metaphor, "one who will goad the heifer" and tame her. The Arabic idiom favors this [Rosenmuller].

cometh … cometh—The repetition implies, it cometh surely and quickly (Ps 96:13).

out of the north—(See on [975]Jer 1:14; Jer 47:2).

That is, Egypt is now in a thriving, prosperous condition, having not used to be under any yoke, like a heifer that is fair and fat; but she will not be so long, she is but as a beast fatted for the slaughter, and there are slaughtermen coming out of Chaldea that will kill this fair heifer, and make her a sacrifice to the justice of God.

Egypt is like a very fair heifer,.... Like a heifer that has never been under a yoke, it having never been conquered, and brought under the power of another; and like a beautiful, fat, and well fed one, abounding in wealth and riches, in pleasures and delights, in wantonness and luxury, and fit for slaughter, and ready for it. The Targum is,

"Egypt was a beautiful kingdom.''

Some think there is an illusion to the gods of Egypt, Apis and Mnevis, which were heifers or oxen, very beautiful, that had fine spots and marks upon them. Apis was worshipped at Memphis, or Noph, before mentioned, as to be wasted; and Mnevis at Heliopolis, the city of the sun, the same with Bethshemesh, whose destruction is prophesied of; See Gill on Jeremiah 43:13; and both these were of various colours, as Ovid (z) says, particularly of one of them, and is true of both. Pomponius Mela (a) observes of Apis, the god of all the people of Egypt, that it was a black ox, remarkable for certain spots; and unlike to others in its tongue and tail. And Solinus (b) says, it is famous for a white spot on its right side, in the form of a new moon: with whom Pliny (c) agrees, that it has a white spot on the right side, like the horns of the moon, when it begins to increase; and that it has a knot under the tongue, which they call a beetle. And so Herodotus (d) says, it is very black, and has a white square spot on the forehead; on the back, the effigies of an eagle; two hairs in the tail, and a beetle On the tongue, To which may be added what Strabo (e) reports, that at Memphis, the royal city of Egypt, is the temple of Apis, the same with Osiris; where the ox of Apis is fed in an enclosure, and reckoned to be a god; it is white in its forehead, and in some small parts of the body, and the rest black; by which marks and signs it is always judged what is proper to be put in its place when dead. In the Table of Iris (f), published by Pignorius, it is otherwise painted and described; its head, neck, horns, buttocks, and tail, black, and the rest white; and, on the right side, a corniculated streak. Aelianus (g) says, these marks were in number twenty nine, and, according to the Egyptians, were symbols of things; some, of the nature of the stars; some, of the overflowing of the Nile; some, of the darkness of the world before the light, and of other things: and all agree, that the ox looked fair and beautiful, to which the allusion is; and there may be in the words an ironical sarcasm, flout, and jeer, at the gods they worshipped, which could not save them from the destruction coming upon them, as follows:

but destruction cometh, it cometh from the north; that is, the destruction of Egypt, which should come from Chaldea, which lay north of Egypt; and the coming of it is repeated, to denote the quickness and certainty of it: the word used signifies a cutting off, or a cutting up; in allusion to the cutting off the necks of heifers, which used to be done when slain, Deuteronomy 21:4; or to the cutting of them up, as is done by butchers: and the abstract being put for the concrete, it may be rendered, the "cutter up" (h); or cutter off; men, like butchers, shall come out of Babylon, and slay and cut up, this heifer. So the Targum,

"people, that are slayers shall come out of the north against her, to spoil her (i);''

that is, the Chaldean army, agreeably to the Syriac version,

"an army shall come out of the north against her.''

(z) "------variisque coloribus Apis", Ovid. Metamorph. l. 9. Fab. 12. (a) De Orbis Situ, l. 1. c. 9. (b) Polyhistor. c. 45. (c) Nat. Hist. l. 8. c. 46. (d) L. 3. sive Thalia, c. 28. (e) Geograph. l. 17. p. 555. Ed. Casaubon. (f) Piguorii Mensa Isiaca, tab. 4. (g) De Animal. l. 11. c. 10. (h) "mactator", Grotius. So Jarchi. (i) So in T. Bab. Yoma, fol. 32. 2.

Egypt is like a very {q} fair heifer, but destruction cometh; it cometh out of the north.

(q) They have abundance of all things, and therefore are disobedient and proud.

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.

Verses 20-26. - A figurative description of the dark future of Egypt. Verse 20. - Like a very fair heifer. (The insertion of "like" weakens the passage.) The well nourished heifer reminds of the prosperity of the fruitful Nile valley. But destruction cometh; it cometh out of the north; rather, a gadfly from the north hath come upon her (not, "hath come, hath come," as the received text has - a very slight change in one letter is required, supported by the versions). The figure is precisely analogous to that of the "bee in the land of Assyria" (Isaiah 7:18). St. Chrysostom renders "a gadfly" (see Field, 'Origen's Hexapla,' 2:708); and so virtually Aquila and Symmachus. Jeremiah 46:20"Egypt is a very beautiful young heifer; a gadfly from the north comes - comes. Jeremiah 46:21. Her mercenaries, too, in her midst, are like fatted calves; for they also turn their backs, they flee together: they do not stand, for the day of her destruction is some on her, the time of her visitation. Jeremiah 46:22. Its sound is like [that of] the serpent [as it] goes; for they go with an army, and come against her with axes, like hewers of trees. Jeremiah 46:23. They cut down her forest, saith Jahveh, for it is not to be searched; for they are more numerous than locusts, and they cannot be numbered. Jeremiah 46:24. The daughter of Egypt is disgraced; she is given into the hand of the people of the north. Jeremiah 46:25. Jahveh of hosts, the God of Israel, saith, Behold, I will visit Amon of No, and Pharaoh, and Egypt, her gods, and her kings; Pharaoh, and all those who trust in him. Jeremiah 46:26. And I will give them into the hand of those who seek their life, even into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, and into the hand of his servants; but afterwards it shall be inhabited, as in the days of old, saith Jahveh."

Jeremiah 46:20

In Jeremiah 46:20 the address begins afresh, in order to carry out further, under new images, the description of the desolation already threatened. Egypt is a very beautiful עגלה; this feminine is chosen with a regard to "the daughter of Egypt." יפה־פיּה is an adjective formed from the Peal of יפה, "very beautiful," not "coquetting" (Hitzig, who follows the κεκαλλωπισμένη of the lxx). A very beautiful heifer is the people when carefully and abundantly fed in their beautiful and fertile land (Hitzig). Upon this heifer there comes from the north קרץ. This ἁπ. λεγ. is variously rendered. קרץ means, in the Hebrew, to pinch, nip (Job 33:6), to compress together, as in winking (Psalm 35:19), to bring the lips closely together (Proverbs 16:30), and to nip off; cf. Arab. qaras[a to pinch, nip, cut off. Hence A. Schultens (Orig. Heb. ii. 34ff.), after Cocceius, and with a reference to Virgil, Georg. iii. 147, has rendered קרץ by morsus vellicans oestri. Hitzig (with whom Roediger, in his additions to Gesenius' Thesaurus, agrees) takes Arab. qârṣ, insectum cimici simile as his warrant for rendering it by oestrus, "the gadfly," which gives a more suitable meaning. Ewald, on the contrary, compares קרץ with Arab. qrs], and translates it "whale," a huge sea-monster; but this is quite arbitrary, for קרץ does not correspond to the Arabic qrs], and the whale or shark does not afford any figure that would be suitable for the context: e.g., Jeremiah 46:21, "her mercenaries also flee," shows that the subject treated of is not the devouring or destruction, but the expulsion of the Egyptians out of their land; this is put as an addition to what is said about exile in Jeremiah 46:19. Still less suitable is the general rendering excidium, destruction (Rabbins, Gesenius, Umbreit); and there is no lexical foundation for the Vulgate translation stimulator, nor for "taskmaster," the rendering of J. D. Michaelis and Rosenmller. The old translators have only made guesses from the context. The figure of the gadfly corresponds to the bee in the land of Assyria, Isaiah 7:18. The repetition of בּא gives emphasis, and points either to the certainty of the coming, or its continuance.

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