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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 46

Barnes' Notes on the Whole BibleBarnes' Notes


The prophecies against foreign nations are collected into one scroll Jer. 46–49. Compare Isa. 13–23; Ezek. 25–32. They are arranged in two great divisions:

(a) Jer. 46–49:33, spoken in connection with Jeremiah 25:0; and

(b) Jer. 50–51 spoken at a subsequent date against Babylon.

Between them is placed a prophecy against Elam Jeremiah 49:34-39 spoken in the first year of Zedekiah. The seven earlier prophecies belonging to the fourth year of Jehoiakim were written at the same time, and arranged as they at present stand. It is no doubt intentional that these prophecies against the nations are in number 7 (compare Amos 1:3; Amos 2:4).

Jeremiah 46:0. This prophecy against Egypt consists of two parts,

(a) a song of triumph because of her defeat at Carehemish Jeremiah 46:3-12;

(b) a prediction that the conqueror would invade Egypt from one end to the other Jeremiah 46:14-28.

Possibly a long delay intervened between these predictions.

Verse 1

Against the Gentiles - Or, concerning the nations Jer. 46–49:33.

Verse 2

Against ... - i. e., relating to, concerning. So Jeremiah 48:1; Jeremiah 49:1; see the note at Jeremiah 46:13.

Pharaoh-necho - See 2 Kings 23:29 note.

In - (at) Carchemish - (The Gargamis of the inscriptions, now Jerabis, on the Euphrates, about 16 miles south of Birejik.)

Verse 3

Order ye ... - “i. e., prepare ye, make ready.” The buckler was a small round target carried by the lightly-armed troops: the shield belonged to the heavily-armed troops, and was large enough to protect the whole body.

Verse 4

From the infantry the prophet proceeds to the chariots, in which the Egyptians placed great confidence.

Get up, ye horsemen - Or, “mount the steeds.”

Furbish - i. e., polish, sharpen.

Brigandines - In old times brigand meant a soldier, and we still call a division of an army a brigade, and a commander a brigadier, i. e., a brigandier, or captain of brigands. Similarly a brigandine means a soldier’s equipment, and is put here for a coat of mail.

Verse 5

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).

Verse 6

Translate it: “The swift shall not flee away, and the hero shall not escape: in the north on the bank of the river Euphrates they shall stumble and fall.”

Verse 7

In Jeremiah 46:3-6 we saw only a mighty army marshalling for battle, and its hasty flight. In Jeremiah 46:7-12 the prophet tells us at whose defeat we have been present.

A flood - the Nile. The metaphor describing the advance of the Egyptian army is naturally drawn from the annual overflow of their own sacred stream.

Whose waters are moved ... - literally, his waters toss to and fro as the rivers, the natural branches of the Nile in Lower Egypt.

Verse 9

Rather, Go up, advance, ye horses; and drive furiously, ye chariots; and let the mighty men go forth. They march out of Egypt, arranged in three divisions, cavalry, chariots, and infantry, to begin the campaign. The armies of Egypt were composed chiefly of mercenaries. Cush (see the margin), the Nubian negro, and Phut, the Libyans of Mauritania, supplied the heavy-armed soldiers Jeremiah 46:3; and Ludim, the Hamite Lydians of North Africa (see Genesis 10:13 note), a weaker race, served as light-armed troops.

Verse 10

Rather, But that “day belongeth to the Lord Yahweh of hosts.” They march forth in haughty confidence, but that day, the day to which they are looking forward in proud hope of victory, is Yahweh’s day, a day on which they will be the victims sacrificed in His honor.

Verse 11

Balm - i. e., balsam, the usual remedy for wounds Jeremiah 8:22.

In vain shalt ... - Or, in vain hast thou multiplied medicines: healing-plaster hast thou none. Nothing shall avail to heal the blow.

Verse 12

The land - The earth; the world rings with the cry of grief.

Against the mighty - Against the mighty man, i. e., one mighty man against another. The champions hired to fight Egypt’s battle get in one another’s way, and so are slaughtered together.

Verse 13

A new prophecy, foretelling the successful invasion of Egypt by Nebuchadnezzar, has been appended to the hymn of triumph, because they both relate to the same kingdom. This prophecy was probably spoken in Egypt to warn the Jews there, that the country which they were so obstinately determined to make their refuge would share the fate of their native land.

How ... should come - Or, concerning the coming “of Nebuchadrezzar.”

Verse 14

The sword shall devour - “The sword” hath devoured “those round about thee.” One after another the nations have been consumed by Nebuehadnezzar; and now at length Tyre, which so long had withstood him, has fallen, and his forces are about to fall upon Egypt (Jeremiah 2:16 note). Hence, the summons to arrange themselves in their ranks, and to prepare for battle by putting on their armor.

Verse 15

Translate it: “Why is thy mighty one cast down? He stood not, because Yahweh thrust him down.” The “mighty one” is explained by the Septuagint to be the bull Apis. Thus:

(1) the chief deity of Egypt Jeremiah 46:15;

(2) the army of mercenaries Jeremiah 46:16;

(3) the king, Pharaoh Jeremiah 46:17, are the three upon whom the Egyptians trusted.

Verse 16

Literally, as in the margin, i. e., Yahweh hath made many to stumble.

Arise ... - The Egyptian army being composed of mercenaries, has no patriotic feeling and immediately that the battle is lost, they propose to abandon the country which has hired them, and return each to his native land.

Verse 17

Translate it with the versions: “They have called (or, Call ye) the name of Pharaoh king of Egypt - A noise: he hath overstepped the appointed time.” For this custom of giving prophetic names see Jeremiah 20:3; Isaiah 8:3, ... The words mean that Pharaoh is a mere empty sound, and that he has allowed the years of prosperity, which he enjoyed at the beginning of his reign, to pass by; having misused them, nothing now remains but his ruin.

Verse 18

As Tabor is - Omit “is.” “He shall come like a Tabor among the mountains, and like a Carmel by the sea.” Tabor rises in the form of a truncated cone to the height of about 1,350 feet above the plain of Esdraelon, its total height above the sea level being 1,805 feet. Its shape and the wide extent of the plain around it make it a far more conspicuous object than other mountains in sight of equal elevation. Similarly, Carmel is a most commanding mountain, because it rises from the edge of the wide expanse of the Mediterranean.

Verse 19

Literally, “O thou inhabitant daughter of Egypt,” an equivalent here for Egypt and its whole population.

Furnish thyself ... - literally, make for thee vessels of banishment, not merely the packages necessary, but their outfit generally.

Verse 20

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.

Verse 21

Rather, “Also her hirelings in the midst of her are like calves of the stall.” The mercenaries of Egypt - Nubians, Moors, and Lydians Jeremiah 46:9 - were destroyed at the battle of Carchemish, and their place was taken by hirelings from Asia Minor, Carians, and Ionians, whom Hophra took into his pay to the number of 30,000 men. These he settled in the midst of Egypt, in the fertile lands above Bubastis, in the Delta, where, well paid and fed and with great privileges, they became as calves of the stall. Their mutiny cost Hophra his crown.

For they also are turned back ... - literally, “for they also have lurched the back, they flee together, they stand not: for the day of their destruction is come upon them, the time of their visitations.”

Verse 22

The voice thereof - Her voice, i. e., the voice of Egypt. The word here probably means the busy sound of life and activity in the towns of Egypt, the tramping of her hosts, and the turmoil of camp and city. All this at the approach of the Chaldaean army shall depart, as the snake flees away when disturbed in its haunts by the wood-cutters.

March with an army - Advance with might.

With axes - The comparison of the Chaldaean warriors to woodcutters arose from their being armed with axes. As the Israelites did not use the battle-axe, their imagination would be the more forcibly struck by this weapon.

Verse 23

Or, “They have cut down her forest, saith Yahweh, for it is impenetrable,” i. e., just as a pathless forest must be cleared to assist agriculture and the passage to and fro of men, so must the false worship and the material prosperity of Egypt be overthrown.

Grasshoppers - The invading host advances as multitudinous as the locusts which consume the whole vegetation of the land on which they alight.

Verse 24

The daughter ... - i. e., the inhabitants “of Egypt shall be disgraced.”

Verse 25

The multitude of No - Rather, Amon of No. Ammon or Jupiter-Ammon was the first of the supreme triad of Thebes. He was the deity invisible and unfathomable, whose name signifies “the concealed.” No-Amon, is the sacred city of Thebes, the capital of Upper Egypt. First then Yahweh’s anger falls upon the representatives of the highest divine and human powers, Amon of No and Pharaoh. It next punishes Egypt generally, and her gods and her kings, for each city had its special divinity, and inferior rulers were placed in the several parts of the country. Finally, Pharaoh is again mentioned, with “all who trust in him,” i. e., the Jews, who had made Egypt their confidence and not God.

Verse 26

Afterward ... - The invasion of Nebuchadnezzar is to be a passing calamity, the severity of which will be felt chiefly by the Jews, but no subjugation of Egypt is to be attempted, and after the Chaldaean army has withdrawn things will resume their former course.

Verses 27-28

These two verses are a repetition of Jeremiah 30:10-11, with those slight variations which Jeremiah always makes when quoting himself. Egypt’s fall and restoration have been foretold; but the prophet closes with a word of exhortation to the many erring Jews who dwelt there. Why should they flee from their country, and trust in a pagan power, instead of endeavoring to live in a manner worthy of the noble destiny which was their true glory and ground of confidence?

Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Jeremiah 46". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bnb/jeremiah-46.html. 1870.
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