Jeremiah 46:20
Egypt is like a very fair heifer, but destruction comes; it comes out of the north.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(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.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
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. "Tell ye it in Egypt, and make it to be heard in Migdol, and make it be heard in Noph and Tahpanhes: say, Stand firm, and prepare thee; for the sword hath devoured around thee. Jeremiah 46:15. Why hath thy strong one been swept away? he stood not, for Jahveh pushed him down. Jeremiah 46:16. He made many stumble, yea, one fell on another; and they said, Arise, and let us return to our own people, and to the land of our birth, from before the oppressing sword. Jeremiah 46:17. They cried there, Pharaoh the king of Egypt is undone; he hath let the appointed time pass. Jeremiah 46:18. As I live, saith the King, whose name is Jahveh of hosts, Surely as Tabor among the mountains, and as Carmel by the sea, shall he come. Jeremiah 46:19. Prepare thee things for exile, O daughter dwelling in Egypt: for Noph will become a desolation, and be destroyed by fire, without an inhabitant."

Like the last prophecy, this one also begins with the summons to arms (Jeremiah 46:14), in order to prepare the way for the description given immediately afterwards of the defeat (Jeremiah 46:15.). The summons to make the proclamation is addressed to some persons not named, who are to announce through the country, particularly in the frontier towns and in the northern capital of Egypt, that the foe, in his devastating career, has advanced to the borders of the land. This is evident from the clause which states the reason: "The sword hath devoured what lay round thee." Regarding Migdol, i.e., Magdolos, and Tahpanhes, i.e., Daphne, the two frontier towns in the north, and Noph, i.e., Memphis, the northern capital of the kingdom, see on Jeremiah 2:16 and Jeremiah 54:1. התיצּב, to take up one's position for the fight; cf. Jeremiah 46:4. סביביך, "thy surroundings," are the frontier countries, but especially those on the north, - Judah, Philistia, Edom, - since the enemy comes from the north. However, we cannot with certainty infer from this, that by that time the kingdom of Judah had already fallen, and Jerusalem been laid waste. Immediately after Necho had been vanquished at the Euphrates, Nebuchadnezzar marched after the fugitive foe, pursuing him as far as the borders of Egypt; hence we read, in 2 Kings 24:7, "The king of Egypt went no more out of his land; for the king of Babylon had taken all that had belonged to the king of Egypt, from the river of Egypt to the river Euphrates." Even at that time, in the fourth and fifth years of Jehoiakim, it could be said, "His sword hath devoured the countries contiguous to Egypt." And Nebuchadnezzar was prevented on that occasion from advancing farther, and penetrating into Egypt itself, only by hearing of his father's death at Babylon, in consequence of which he was compelled to return to Babylon as speedily as possible, for the purpose of assuming the reins of government, and to let his army with the prisoners follow him at their leisure (Berosus in Josephus, contra Ap. i. 19).

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