Jeremiah 46:5
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.
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(5) Wherefore have I seen them dismayed . . .?—The prophet speaks as seeing already in his mind’s eye the confusion of the defeated army, with no way to escape, driven back on the Euphrates. In the “fear round about” (Magor-missabib) we have one of his characteristic formulæ (Jeremiah 6:25; Jeremiah 20:3; Jeremiah 20:10; Jeremiah 49:29).

46:1-12 The whole word of God is against those who obey not the gospel of Christ; but it is for those, even of the Gentiles, who turn to Him. The prophecy begins with Egypt. Let them strengthen themselves with all the art and interest they have, yet it shall be all in vain. The wounds God inflicts on his enemies, cannot be healed by medicines. Power and prosperity soon pass from one to another in this changing world.Literally, "Why have I seen? They are terror-stricken! they are giving way back!" The Egyptian host feels that the battle is lost, and overborne by the enemy loses heart, and in despair, yet not without a struggle, gives way. It is remarkable, that while Jeremiah in his warning addressed to Jerusalem uses the most simple and unadorned prose, his language concerning the Gentile nations is, on the contrary, full of brilliant poetry.

Look not back - turn not back. They make no halt, and no attempt to rally.

Fear was round about - The prophets watch-word, Magor-missabib (see Jeremiah 6:25).

5. (See on [971]Jer 46:3). The language of astonishment, that an army so well equipped should be driven back in "dismay." The prophet sees this in prophetic vision.

fled apace—literally, "fled a flight," that is, flee precipitately.

look not back—They do not even dare to look back at their pursuers.

God had either in a vision showed Jeremiah this army of the Egyptians flying, or else had revealed to him that they should be put to flight, which the prophet here publisheth. God made a fear to fall upon the Egyptians, so as when the king of Babylon came to join battle with them, they were not able at all to stand, but turned their backs, and their greatest commanders were either killed, or fled away as fast as they could.

Wherefore have I seen them dismayed and turned away back?.... The Egyptians, after all this preparation for war, and seeming ardent to engage in battle; and yet, when they came to it, were seized with a panic, and thrown into the utmost consternation, and turned their backs upon their enemy: these are either the words of the prophet, who had a view by a spirit of prophecy, of the consternation, confusion, and flight of the Egyptian army; or of the Lord, who foresaw all this, and represents it as if it was done because of the certainty of it; upbraiding the Egyptians with their pusillanimity and cowardice:

and their mighty ones are beaten down, and are fled apace, and look not back; or, "their mighty ones are broken" (s); their valiant soldiers and officers, their best troops were broken to pieces, their ranks and files, and thrown into the utmost disorder; and therefore made all the haste they could to escape the fury of the enemy, and fled with the utmost precipitation, and never stopped to look back upon their pursuers; so great their fear:

for fear was round about, saith the Lord; from whence it came; it was he that put it into them, took away their courage, and made them a "magormissabib", or "fear round about", the word here used; see Jeremiah 20:3. The Targum is,

"they looked not back to resist them that slay with the sword, who are gathered against them round about, saith the Lord;''

their enemies surrounded them, and that was the reason fear was round about them, and both were from the Lord; or as he had said, determined, and foretold it should be.

(s) "et fortes corum contusi sunt, vel coutunduntur", Schmidt, Cocceius, Piscator; "contriti sunt", Vatablus.

{d} Why have I seen them dismayed and turned away back? and their mighty ones are beaten down, and have fled apace, and look not back: for fear was on all sides, saith the LORD.

(d) The prophet had this vision of the Egyptians who would be put to flight by the Babylonians at Carchemish.

5. Wherefore … dismayed] The LXX rightly omit the first Hebrew verb, and render, “Wherefore are they dismayed?”

terror is on every side] Jeremiah’s characteristic expression. See on ch. Jeremiah 6:25.

Verse 5. - That so well equipped an army should flee seems incredible. Hence the astonished question, Wherefore have I seen, etc.? literally, Why do I see (that) they (are) dismayed, turning back? And look not back. With the object of rallying the scattered forces. For fear was round about. It is a pity that the Authorized Version has not kept one uniform rendering for this favourite expression of Jeremiah. In Jeremiah 6:25 (see note) it is translated, "fear is on every side" (Hebrew, magor missabib). Jeremiah 46:5Thus well arrayed, the host advances to the fight; but suddenly the seer perceives the magnificent army terror-stricken, retreating, and breaking out into a disorderly flight. The question, "Why (wherefore) do I see?" points to the unexpected and incomprehensible turn in the progress of events. המּה חתּים is not an accus. dependent on ראיתי, but an independent clause: "What do I see? They are terror-stricken" (חתּים, terrified, broken-spirited through terror). יכּתּוּ, Hoph. from כּתת, to be broken, here and in 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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