The word of the LORD which came to Jeremiah the prophet against the Gentiles;
Verse 1. - Against the Gentiles; rather, concerning the nations (as distinguished from Israel). This heading relates to all the seven prophecies in Jeremiah 46-49:33.
Against Egypt, against the army of Pharaohnecho king of Egypt, which was by the river Euphrates in Carchemish, which Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon smote in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah.
Verse 2. - Against Egypt, against the army; rather, concerning Egypt, concerning the army. Pharaoh-necho. Necho II., a member of the twenty-sixth Egyptian dynasty, sou of Psametik I. (Psammetichus), who had for a time revived the declining power of Egypt. Herodotus (2:158) credits him with being the first to construct a canal to the Red Sea, which seems an exaggeration (see Sir Gardner Wilkinson's note ap. Rawlinson), also (4:42) with having caused the circumnavigation of Africa, after which the Phoenician seamen brought back the startling news that they had had the sun upon their right hand. This energetic monarch noticed the decline of Assyria, and, at the battle of Megiddo (Herodotus, 2:159, wrongly says Magdolus or Migdol), reattached Judah to the Egyptian empire. Four years later, at the battle of Carchemish, he himself sustained a crushing defeat at the hands of the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar (2 Chronicles 35:20). Carehemish. This was the great emporium of Mesopotamia, Syria, and Palestine. Its true site was discovered by Mr. George Smith, in his last fatal journey, to be at Jerabis or Jirbas, on the right bank of the Euphrates. It was anciently a city of the Kheta (equivalent to Khittim, "Hittites"), but passed to the Assyrians, under Sargon, under whom it attained the highest commercial prosperity, especially after the overthrow of Tyre by Sennacherib. The "mana," or mina, "of Gargamis" is constantly referred to as a standard weight in the commercial cuneiform inscriptions. In the fourth year, etc. Marcus Niebuhr wishes to put a stop before these words, so as to make them a definition of the date of the prophecy. He thinks the date of the battle of Carchemish was the third and not the fourth year of Jehoiakim. This view, however, is very uncertain (see Keil), and it is exegetieally very unnatural to detach the closing words of ver. 2 from those which precede. The obvious inference, moreover, from the prophecy (vers. 2-12) is that it was written at or about the time of the battle; a special date for the prophecy did not require to be given. Should Niebuhr's chronological combinations, however, turn out to be correct, the mistake would probably not be that of Jeremiah, nor of his scribe, but of his editor, who may easily have fallen into error in the mere minutiae of chronology.
Order ye the buckler and shield, and draw near to battle.
Verse 3. - Order ye, etc. The leaders of the Egyptians are heard summoning their men to make ready their armour, and set themselves in array (comp. ver. 9). The buckler (Hebrew, magen) is the small shield; the shield (Hebrew, cinnah) is the large one (scutum), which covered the whole body (comp. 2 Chronicles 9:15, 16).
Harness the horses; and get up, ye horsemen, and stand forth with your helmets; furbish the spears, and put on the brigandines.
Verse 4. - Harness the horses; viz. to the war chariots, for which Egypt was famous (comp. Exodus 14:6, 9; 1 Kings 10:28, 29: Isaiah 31:1). Get up, ye horsemen. An equally possible rendering, and one which better suits the parallelism, is, "mount the chargers." Put on the brigandines. "Brigandine" is an archaic word (Hakluyt's 'Voyages'), meaning the armour of a "brigand "or member of a "brigade," or "troop" (comp. Italian, brigata). The Hebrew word means "coats of mail."
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.
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).
Let not the swift flee away, nor the mighty man escape; they shall stumble, and fall toward the north by the river Euphrates.
Verse 6. - Let not the swift flee away. A strong way of expressing that even the swiftest cannot expect to flee, just as, in Isaiah 2:9, "forgive them not" means "thou canst not forgive them." Nothing seems to have struck the Jews so much as the unparalleled swiftness of the Chaldean warriors (Hebrews 1:6, 8; Jeremiah 4:13). They shall stumble; literally, they have stumbled; it is most probably the prophetic perfect ("they shall certainly fall"), though Ewald denies this, and consequently maintains that the prophecy was written after the battle of Car-chemish. Toward the north; i.e. "in the northern region," or, more loosely, "in the north" (comp. ver. 10). Carchemish was, of course, far to the north of Jerusalem.
Who is this that cometh up as a flood, whose waters are moved as the rivers?
Verse 7. - Who is this, etc.? "Once more surprise at the [same] phenomenon recurs, and in a stronger form; a monstrous, devastating river appears to roll itself wildly along, overwhelming all countries: who is it? It is Egypt, which is now threatening to overrun the earth and to lay everything waste, whose various nationalities are advancing fully equipped" (Ewald). As a flood; rather, as the Nile (y'or, a word of Egyptian affinities, and only once used of another river than the Nile, Daniel 12:5, 6, 7). The naturalness of the figure in this context needs no exhibiting. It reminds us of Isaiah 8:7, 8, where the Assyrian army is compared to the Euphrates. Are moved as the rivers; rather, toss themselves as the rivers. By the "rivers" the prophet means the branches of the Nile, which are described by the same word in Isaiah 19:8; Exodus 7:19.
Egypt riseth up like a flood, and his waters are moved like the rivers; and he saith, I will go up, and will cover the earth; I will destroy the city and the inhabitants thereof.
Verse 8. - Egypt riseth up, etc. The answer to the question in ver. 7. The city. The article is not expressed; and there can be no doubt that the word is used collectively of cities in general (comp. Jeremiah 47:2).
Come up, ye horses; and rage, ye chariots; and let the mighty men come forth; the Ethiopians and the Libyans, that handle the shield; and the Lydians, that handle and bend the bow.
Verse 9. - A call to the army, particularizing its two grand divisions, viz. the warriors in chariots, and the light and heavy armed infantry. M. Piorret, of the Egyptian Museum at the Louvre, writes thus: "The army was composed
(1) of infantry equipped with a cuirass, a buckler, a pike or an axe, and a sword; they manoeuvred to the sound of the drum and the trumpet;
(2) of light troops (archers, slingers, and other soldiers carrying the axe or the tomahawk);
(3) warriors in chariots. Cavalry, properly so called, was not employed ... The Egyptians also enlisted auxiliaries, such as Mashawash, a tribe of Libyans, who, after the defeat of a confederation of northern peoples hostile to Menephtah, into which they had entered, refused to leave Egypt, and entered the Egyptian army; the Kahakas, another Libyan tribe; the Shardanas (Sardinians); the Madjaiu, who, after having been in war with the Egyptians under the twelfth dynasty, enrolled themselves under the standard of their conquerors, and constituted a sort of gendarmerie," etc. ('Dictionnaire d'Archdologie Egyptienne,' pp. 64, 65). Among the mercenaries mentioned by Jeremiah, the Ludim deserve special mention. They are generally supposed to be a North African people (and so Ezekiel 30:5). Professor Sayce, however, thinks they may be the Lydian soldiers by whose help Psammetichus made Egypt independent of Assyria, and his successors maintained their power (Cheyne's 'Prophecies of Isaiah,' 2:287). Come up, ye horses; rather, bound (or, prance), ye horses. The verb is literally go up, and seems to be used in the same sense, only in the Hiphil or causative conjugation, in Nahum 3:3 (which should begin, "Horsemen making (their horses) to rear"). Ewald and others render, "Mount the horses," the phrase being substantially the same as in ver. 4 (see above). But the parallelism here is opposed to this; and the prophet has evidently been a reader of the prophecy of Nahum, as the very next clause shows. Rage, ye chariots; rather, rush madly, ye chariots (alluding to Nahum 2:5). The Ethioplans; Hebrew, Cush; often mentioned in connection with Egypt. The whole Nile valley, as far as Abyssinia, had been reduced to an Egyptian province. At last Cush had its turn of revenge, and an Ethiopian dynasty reigned in the palaces of Thebes (s.c. 725-665). The Libyans; Hebrew, Put (which occurs in combination with Lud, as here with Ludim, in Ezekiel 27:10; Ezekiel 30:5). This appears to be the Egyptian Put (nasalized into Punt), i.e. the Somali country on the east coast of Africa, opposite to Arabia (Brugsch).
For this is the day of the Lord GOD of hosts, a day of vengeance, that he may avenge him of his adversaries: and the sword shall devour, and it shall be satiate and made drunk with their blood: for the Lord GOD of hosts hath a sacrifice in the north country by the river Euphrates.
Verse 10. - The contrast. And yet that day is (the day) of the Lord, Jehovah Sabdoth (the rendering of the Authorized Version, For this is the day, etc., is clearly a mistake). The "day of Jehovah" is an expression so familiar to us that we are in danger of losing a part of its sublime meaning. It is, in brief, "that crisis in the history of the world when Jehovah will interpose to rectify the evils of the present, bringing joy and glory to the humble believer, and misery and shame to the proud and disobedient .... This great crisis is called a day, in antithesis to the ages of the Divine long suffering: it is Jehovah's day, because, without a special Divine interposition, there would be no issue out of the perplexities and miseries of human life." We may say, with equal truth, that there are many "days of the Lord," and that there is only one. Every great revolution is a fresh stage in the great judgment day; "die Weltgesehichte ist das Weltgericht" (Schiller). The loci classici for the expression in the prophets are Amos 5:18, 20; Zephaniah 1:7, 14; Joel 2:1, 11; Isaiah 2:12; Isaiah 13:6, 9 (in Isaiah 2:12, the phraseology closely resembles that of our passage - "for there is a day unto Jehovah Sabaoth;" Jehovah, that is, hath it in readiness in the supersensible world, where there is no time, and where all God's purposes have an ideal, but no less real existence. We might, in fact, render our passage, "but that day (is the day that belongeth) unto the Lord," etc.). The Lord here, as generally elsewhere, is that expressive form which intimates the universal lordship of the God who has revealed himself to Israel. The sword. A comparison with Isaiah 34:6 suggests that it is "the sword of the Lord" which is meant - a symbolic phrase for the Divine vengeance, which meets us again in Jeremiah 12:12; Jeremiah 47:6; Deuteronomy 32:41, 42; Judges 7:20 (comp. Joshua 5:13); Isaiah 27:1; Isaiah 31:8; Isaiah 34:5, 6; Isaiah 66:16; Zechariah 13:7. If Jehovah can be spoken of as having an Arm, a Hand, and a Bow, why not also as having a sword? Both expressions represent the self-revealing side of the Divine nature, and are not merely poetical ornaments, but correspond to awful objective realities. Divine vengeance exists, and must exercise itself on all who oppose the Divine will. Hath a sacrifice. The same figurative expression occurs in Isaiah 34:6, and, developed at considerable length, in Ezekiel 39:17-20, where the slaughtered foes are described as fatted beasts, rams, lambs, he-goats, bullocks - animals employed in the Jewish sacrifices. This, then, is the purpose for which this immense host "rolls up from Africa" - it is that it may fall by the Euphrates, at once as a proof of God's justice, and as a warning to transgressors.
Go up into Gilead, and take balm, O virgin, the daughter of Egypt: in vain shalt thou use many medicines; for thou shalt not be cured.
Verse 11. - Go up into Gilead (see on Jeremiah 8:22). In vain shalt thou use, etc.; rather, in vain hast thou used, etc.; a much more vigorous, pictorial expression. Thou shalt not be cured. The literal rendering is more forcible, there is no plaster for thee; i.e. no bandage will avail to heal the wound (comp. Jeremiah 30:13).
The nations have heard of thy shame, and thy cry hath filled the land: for the mighty man hath stumbled against the mighty, and they are fallen both together.
Verse 12. - Hath filled the land; rather, the earth, corresponding to "the nations."
The word that the LORD spake to Jeremiah the prophet, how Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon should come and smite the land of Egypt.
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.
Declare ye in Egypt, and publish in Migdol, and publish in Noph and in Tahpanhes: say ye, Stand fast, and prepare thee; for the sword shall devour round about thee.
Verses 14-19. - The cities of Egypt are called upon to prepare to meet the foe. But it is in vain; for all that is great and mighty in the land - Apis, the mercenary soldiers, and the Pharaoh - bows down before that terrible one who is comparable only to the most imposing objects in the inanimate world. Pharaoh's time is over; and Egypt must go into captivity. Verse 14. - Declare ye; viz. the approach of the foe (comp. Jeremiah 4:5). The news is to be told in the frontier towns Migdol and Tahpanhes, and in the northern capital Noph or Memphis (see on Jeremiah 2:16; 44:1). The sword shall devour, etc.; rather, the sword hath devoured those round about thee. The neighbouring nations (the same phrase occurs in Jeremiah 48:17, 39) have one after another succumbed; no ally is left there.
Why are thy valiant men swept away? they stood not, because the LORD did drive them.
Verse 15. - Why are thy valiant men, etc.? The literal rendering of the received text is, Why is thy strong ones (plural) swept sway (or, cast down)? He stood not, because Jehovah thrust him! It is true that the first half of the verse might, consistently with grammar, be rendered, "Why are thy strong ones swept away?" But the following singulars prove that the subject of the verb in the first verse half must itself be a singular. We must, therefore, follow the reading of the Septuagint, Vulgate, Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion, and many of the extant Hebrew manuscripts, and change the plural "strong ones" into the singular "strong one." The word so rendered is elsewhere in Jeremiah one used (in the plural) of strong horses (Jeremiah 8:16; Jeremiah 47:3; Jeremiah 1:11); but there is no necessity to bind ourselves to this acceptation. Other possible meanings are
(1) strong man, e.g. Judges 5:22 and Lamentations 1:15;
(2) steer, bull, e.g. Psalm 22:13 and Psalm 50:13, and (metaphorically of princes) Psalm 68:31. It is a tenable view that "thy strong one" is to be understood distributively as equivalent to "every strong one of thine." But it is certainly more plausible to regard the phrase as a synonym for Apis, the sacred bull in which the supreme god Osiris was believed by the Egyptians to be incarnate. This was a superstition (strange, no doubt, but not so ignoble as some have thought) as deeply ingrained in the Egyptian mind as any in their complicated religion. "In fact, they believed that the supreme God was with them when they possessed a bull bearing certain hieratic marks, the signs of the incarnation of the divinity" (Pierrot). His death was the signal for a mourning as general as for a Pharaoh, and the funeral ceremonies (accounts of which are given in the inscriptions) were equally splendid. M. Mariette has discovered, in the neighbourhood of Memphis, a necropolis in which the Apis bulls were successively interred from the eighteenth dynasty to the close of the period of the Ptolemies. For the Apis to be "swept away" like ordinary plunder, or "cast down" in the slaughtering trough (comp. Isaiah 34:7), was indeed a token that the glory of Egypt had departed. It is a singular coincidence that the very word here employed by Jeremiah for "bull" (abbir) was adopted (like many other words) into the Egyptian language - it received the slightly modified form aber. The Septuagint, it should be added, is in favour of the general view of the verse thus obtained, and the authority of the Egyptian-Jewish version in a prophecy relative to Egypt is not slight. Its rendering of the first half is, "Why hath Apis, thy chosen calf, fled?" But the probability is that it read the Hebrew differently, "Why hath Khaph ( = Apis), thy chosen one, fled?" This merely involves grouping some letters otherwise, and reading one word a little differently.
He made many to fall, yea, one fell upon another: and they said, Arise, and let us go again to our own people, and to the land of our nativity, from the oppressing sword.
Verse 16. - To fall; rather, to stumble. The fugitives are in such a wild confusion that they stumble over each other. The parallel passage in the earlier prophecy (ver. 12) suggests that the Egyptian warriors are here referred to, the most trustworthy portion of which, since the time of Psammetichus, was composed of mercenaries, the native troops having lost that military ardour for which they had been anciently renowned (see Herod., 2:152, and Sir Gardner Wilkinson's note ap. Rawlinson). Being devoid of patriotic feeling, it was natural that these hired soldiers should hasten from the doomed country, exclaiming, as the prophet puts it, Arise, and let us go again to our own people. Greeks were probably among the speakers, at any rate, Ionians and Carians formed the mercenary troops of Psammetiehus, according to Herodotus (2:152).
They did cry there, Pharaoh king of Egypt is but a noise; he hath passed the time appointed.
Verse 17. - They did cry there, etc.; rather, they cry there, viz. the following words. But why should attention be called to the place where the cry is made? and why should the mercenaries (the subject of the preceding verb, and therefore presumably of this verb) have their exclamation recorded? Alter the vowel points (which merely represent an early but not infallible exegetical tradition), and all becomes clear. We then get a renewal of the summons in ver. 14 to make a proclamation respecting the war. The persons addressed are, not foreigners, but the children of the soil, and the summons runs thus: "Call ye the name of Pharaoh, King of Egypt, Desolation." No longer "Pharaoh," honoured by titles indicating that he, like Apis, is a Divine incarnation (neb, i.e. lord, and nuter, i.e. god), but Shaon, the Hebrew for Desolation, is the fittest name for the fallen monarch. The custom of changing names with a symbolic meaning is no strange one to readers of the prophecies. We have met with it in this very book (see Jeremiah 20:3); and Isaiah contains a parallel as exact as could be desired, in the famous passage in which the prophetic name (itself symbolic) of Egypt (Rahab, i.e. boisterousness, arrogance) is changed into "Rahabhem-shebheth" (i.e. "Rahab! they are utter indolence"). In behalf of this view we may claim the authority of a tradition still older than that preserved in the vowel points, for the Septuagint (followed substantially by the Peshito and the Vulgate) has, Καλέσατε τὸ ὄνομα Φαραὼ Νεχαὼ βασιλέως Αἰγύπτου Σαών. He hath passed the time appointed. A difficult clause, and variously interpreted. One thing is clear, that "passed" cannot be correct, as the verb is in the Hifil or causative conjugation. We must, at any rate, render, "He hath let the time appointed pass by." This is, in fact, the simplest and most natural explanation. There was a time within which repentance might have averted the judgment of God; but this "accepted time" has been foolishly let slip.
As I live, saith the King, whose name is the LORD of hosts, Surely as Tabor is among the mountains, and as Carmel by the sea, so shall he come.
Verse 18. - The threat implied in ver. 17 is set forth more fully; he who speaks is a very different "king" from the fallen Pharaoh. As Tabor is among the mountains. The sense is deformed by the insertion of "is." The King of Babylon is compared to "Tabor among the mountains and Carmel by the sea." Mount Tabor is a most prominent object, owing to the wide extent of the plain of Esdraelon, in which it is situated; and a similar remark applies to Mount Carmel. The view of Tabor differs considerably according to the point from which it is taken; but "its true figure is an elongated oval" (Thomson). Carmel, so called from the rich orchards and vineyards with which it was anciently adorned, is not lofty (being only about six hundred feet above the sea), but the form in which it breaks off towards the sea has a beauty of its own. It is now deprived of its rich forest and garden culture, but is still described as "a glorious mountain."
O thou daughter dwelling in Egypt, furnish thyself to go into captivity: for Noph shall be waste and desolate without an inhabitant.
Verse 19. - O thou daughter dwelling in Egypt; literally, O inhabitress-daughter of Egypt. The phrase is exactly parallel to "virgin daughter of Zion." The "daughter of Egypt" means the population of Egypt, the land being regarded as the mother of its people. Furnish thyself to go into captivity. The rendering of the margin is, however, more exact. The "vessels of captivity [or, 'exile']" are a pilgrim's staff and wallet, with the provisions and utensils necessary for a journey (so in Ezekiel 12:4).
Egypt is like a very fair heifer, but destruction cometh; it cometh out of the north.
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.
Also her hired men are in the midst of her like fatted bullocks; for they also are turned back, and are fled away together: they did not stand, because the day of their calamity was come upon them, and the time of their visitation.
Verse 21. - Also her hired men are in the midst of her, etc.; rather, also her hirelings in the midst of her are like, etc. These seem to be distinguished from the mercenaries mentioned in ver. 9, the Ethiopians, Libyans, and Arabs, who were never adopted into the midst of the Egyptian people. On the other hand, the description will exactly apply to the Caftans and Ionians in the service of Psammetichus and Apries (Herod., 2:152, 163), who were "for many years" settled "a little below the city of Bubastis, on the Pelusiac mouth of the Nile." In this fertile country, itself comparable to "a very fair heifer" (ver. 20), these pampered and privileged mercenaries became "like calves of the stall." They did not stand, etc.; rather, they have not stood (firm), for the day of their destruction is come upon them.
The voice thereof shall go like a serpent; for they shall march with an army, and come against her with axes, as hewers of wood.
Verse 22. - The voice thereof shall go like a serpent; rather, her voice is like (the sound of) a serpent gliding away. Egypt (like Jerusalem, in Isaiah 29:4) is imagined as a maiden (comp. ver. 19) seated on the ground, and faintly sighing; and her feeble voice is likened to the rustling sound of a serpent in motion. Come against her with axes. A sudden change of figure. Egypt, or, more strictly, Egypt's grandeur - its rich and complex national life, its splendid cities, its powerful army, all combined in one, is now compared to a forest (comp. Jeremiah 21:14; Jeremiah 22:6, 7; Isaiah 2:13; Isaiah 10:18, 19, 33, 34). It seems far fetched to suppose, with Graf and Dr. Payne Smith, that the comparison of the Chaldean warriors to wood cutters arose from their being armed with axes. It is probably true that the Israelites did not use the battle axe, but the axe is merely an accident of the description. It is the forest which suggests the mention of the axe, not the axe that of the forest, and forests were familiar enough to the Israelites.
They shall cut down her forest, saith the LORD, though it cannot be searched; because they are more than the grasshoppers, and are innumerable.
Verse 23. - They shall cut down; better, they cut down. The prophet is describing a picture which passes before his inner eye. Though it cannot be searched; rather, for it cannot be searched out. The subject of the verb is uncertain. De Dieu's explanation is, "Because the forest is so dense, so intricate, it is necessary to clear a path by cutting down the trees." But this does not seem to suit the context. Surely no other reason was required for the destruction of the "forest" than the will of the wood cutters. "Searching out" occurs in Job (Job 5:9; Job 9:10; Job 36:26; comp. also 1 Kings 7:47) in connection with numbering, and the second half of the verse expressly describes the foe as innumerable. The singular alternates with the plural, as in Isaiah 5:28, a host being regarded sometimes as a whole, and sometimes as an aggregate of individuals. Than the grasshoppers; rather, the locust. The name is one of nine which we find given to the various species of locusts in the Old Testament, and means "multitudinous."
The daughter of Egypt shall be confounded; she shall be delivered into the hand of the people of the north.
Verse 24. - Shall be confounded; rather, is brought to shame; the next verb too should rather be in the past tense.
The LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, saith; Behold, I will punish the multitude of No, and Pharaoh, and Egypt, with their gods, and their kings; even Pharaoh, and all them that trust in him:
Verse 25. - The multitude of No; rather, Amen of No. Amon-Ra, or rather Amen-Ra, was the name adopted at Thebes (Homer's Thebes "of the hundred gateways," 'Iliad,' 9:383, called here "No," and in Nahum 3:8 "No [of] Anion") from the time of the eleventh dynasty, for the sun god Ra. Amen (Amen) signifies "hidden," for it is the mysterious, invisible deity who manifests himself in bodily form in the sun. From this name comes the classic designation, Jupiter-Ammon. Their gods... their kings; rather, her gods... her kings (viz. Egypt's). The "kings" are probably the high officials of the state, not a few of whom were either by birth or marriage members of the royal family. Even Pharaoh, and all them that trust in him. With a suggestive allusion to the many in Judah who "trusted" in that "broken reed" (Isaiah 36:6).
And I will deliver them into the hand of those that seek their lives, and into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, and into the hand of his servants: and afterward it shall be inhabited, as in the days of old, saith the LORD.
Verse 26. - Afterward it shall be inhabited, etc. After all these gloomy vaticinations, Jeremiah (as elsewhere in this group of prophecies; see Jeremiah 48:47; Jeremiah 49:6, 39) opens up a brighter prospect. "In the days of old," patriarchal and unmilitary, the fertile valley of the Nile offered a peaceful and a happy home to its teeming inhabitants; those times shall yet come again. To understand this, we must assume that during its period of depression Egypt has been but sparsely peopled, owing to the large numbers of its inhabitants carried away captive. Another explanation, "afterwards Egypt shall stay at home [i.e, 'be quiet']," though equally justifiable item the point of view of the lexicon (comp. Judges 5:17; Psalm 55:7), seems less natural. Possibly Ezekiel 29:13-16 is a development of our passage; it contains a promise of future remission of punishment, though a promise qualified in such a way as to be akin to a threat. The words, "And it shall no more be the confidence of the house of Israel" (Ezekiel 29:16), seem like a comment on Jeremiah's threat to "Pharaoh, and them that trust in him," in the preceding verse.
But fear not thou, O my servant Jacob, and be not dismayed, O Israel: for, behold, I will save thee from afar off, and thy seed from the land of their captivity; and Jacob shall return, and be in rest and at ease, and none shall make him afraid.
Verses 27, 28. - A word of comfort to Israel, obviously not written at the same time as the preceding prophecy. The prophet is suddenly transported in imagination into the period of the Babylonian exile. Egypt and its fortunes are far away; the troubles of Israel entirely absorb his attention. After thinking sadly of the reverses of his people, he bursts out with an encouraging exhortation not to fear, though, humanly speaking, there was everything to fear. Did Jeremiah write these verses here? There is strong reason to doubt it; for they occur, with insignificant variations, in Jeremiah 30:10, 11, where they cohere far better with the context than here.
Fear thou not, O Jacob my servant, saith the LORD: for I am with thee; for I will make a full end of all the nations whither I have driven thee: but I will not make a full end of thee, but correct thee in measure; yet will I not leave thee wholly unpunished.