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Jeremiah 46:18-24

Context

46:18 I the King, whose name is the Lord who rules over all, 1  swear this:

I swear as surely as I live that 2  a conqueror is coming.

He will be as imposing as Mount Tabor is among the mountains,

as Mount Carmel is against the backdrop of the sea. 3 

46:19 Pack your bags for exile,

you inhabitants of poor dear Egypt. 4 

For Memphis will be laid waste.

It will lie in ruins 5  and be uninhabited.

46:20 Egypt is like a beautiful young cow.

But northern armies will attack her like swarms of stinging flies. 6 

46:21 Even her mercenaries 7 

will prove to be like pampered, 8  well-fed calves.

For they too will turn and run away.

They will not stand their ground

when 9  the time for them to be destroyed comes,

the time for them to be punished.

46:22 Egypt will run away, hissing like a snake, 10 

as the enemy comes marching up in force.

They will come against her with axes

as if they were woodsmen chopping down trees.

46:23 The population of Egypt is like a vast, impenetrable forest.

But I, the Lord, affirm 11  that the enemy will cut them down.

For those who chop them down will be more numerous than locusts.

They will be too numerous to count. 12 

46:24 Poor dear Egypt 13  will be put to shame.

She will be handed over to the people from the north.”

1 tn Heb “Yahweh of armies.” For the significance of this title see the note at 2:19.

2 tn Heb “As I live, oracle of the King, whose….” The indirect quote has been chosen to create a smoother English sentence and avoid embedding a quote within a quote.

3 tn Heb “Like Tabor among the mountains and like Carmel by the sea he will come.” The addition of “conqueror” and “imposing” are implicit from the context and from the metaphor. They have been supplied in the translation to give the reader some idea of the meaning of the verse.

sn Most of the commentaries point out that neither Tabor nor Carmel are all that tall in terms of sheer height. Mount Tabor, on the east end of the Jezreel Valley, is only about 1800 feet (540 m) tall. Mount Carmel, on the Mediterranean Coast, is only about 1700 feet (510 m) at its highest. However, all the commentators point out that the idea of imposing height and majesty are due to the fact that they are rugged mountains that stand out dominantly over their surroundings. The point of the simile is that Nebuchadnezzar and his army will stand out in power and might over all the surrounding kings and their armies.

4 tn Heb “inhabitants of daughter Egypt.” Like the phrase “daughter Zion,” “daughter Egypt” is a poetic personification of the land, here perhaps to stress the idea of defenselessness.

5 tn For the verb here see HALOT 675 s.v. II נָצָה Nif and compare the usage in Jer 4:7; 9:11 and 2 Kgs 19:25. BDB derives the verb from יָצַת (so BDB 428 s.v. יָצַת Niph meaning “kindle, burn”) but still give it the meaning “desolate” here and in 2:15 and 9:11.

6 tn Heb “Egypt is a beautiful heifer. A gadfly from the north will come against her.”
The metaphors have been turned into similes for the sake of clarity. The exact meaning of the word translated “stinging fly” is uncertain due to the fact that it occurs nowhere else in Hebrew literature. For a discussion of the meaning of the word which probably refers to the “gadfly,” which bites and annoys livestock, see W. L. Holladay, Jeremiah (Hermeneia), 2:331, who also suggests, probably correctly, that the word is a collective referring to swarms of such insects (cf. the singular אַרְבֶּה [’arbeh] in v. 23 which always refers to swarms of locusts). The translation presupposes the emendation of the second בָּא (ba’) to בָּהּ (bah) with a number of Hebrew mss and a number of the versions (cf. BHS, fn b).

7 tn Heb “her hirelings in her midst.”

8 tn The word “pampered” is not in the text. It is supplied in the translation to explain the probable meaning of the simile. The mercenaries were well cared for like stall-fed calves, but in the face of the danger they will prove no help because they will turn and run away without standing their ground. Some see the point of the simile to be that they too are fattened for slaughter. However, the next two lines do not fit that interpretation too well.

9 tn The temporal use of the particle כִּי (ki; BDB 472 s.v. כִּי 2.a) seems more appropriate to the context than the causal use.

10 tn Or “Egypt will rustle away like a snake”; Heb “her sound goes like the snake,” or “her sound [is] like the snake [when] it goes.” The meaning of the simile is debated. Some see a reference to the impotent hiss of a fleeing serpent (F. B. Huey, Jeremiah, Lamentations [NAC], 382), others the sound of a serpent stealthily crawling away when it is disturbed (H. Freedman, Jeremiah [SoBB], 297-98). The translation follows the former interpretation because of the irony involved.

sn Several commentators point out the irony of the snake slithering away (or hissing away) in retreat. The coiled serpent was a part of the royal insignia, signifying its readiness to strike. Pharaoh had boasted of great things (v. 8) but was just a big noise (v. 17); now all he could do was hiss as he beat his retreat (v. 22).

11 tn Heb “Oracle of the Lord.” Again the first person is adopted because the Lord is speaking and the indirect quotation is used to avoid an embedded quotation with quotation marks on either side.

12 tn The precise meaning of this verse is uncertain. The Hebrew text reads: “They [those who enter in great force] will cut down her forest, oracle of the Lord, though it [the forest] cannot be searched out/through for they [those who come in great force] are more numerous than locusts and there is no number to them.” Some see the reference to the forest as metaphorical of Egypt’s population which the Babylonian army decimates (H. Freedman, Jeremiah [SoBB], 298, and see BDB 420 s.v. I יַעַר 1.a which refers to the forest as a figure of foes to be cut down and destroyed and compare Isa 10:34). Others see the reference to literal trees and see the decimation of Egypt in general (C. von Orelli, Jeremiah, 329). And some see it as a continuation of the simile of the snake fleeing, the soldiers cutting down the trees because they cannot find it (J. A. Thompson, Jeremiah [NICOT], 693). However, the simile of v. 22a has already been dropped in v. 22b-d; they come against her. Hence it is probably best to see this as a continuation of the simile in v. 22c-d and see the reference to the Babylonian army coming against her, i.e., Egypt (the nation or people of Egypt), like woodcutters cutting down trees.

13 tn Heb “Daughter Egypt.” See the translator’s note on v. 19.



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