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Jeremiah 46:1-12

Context
Prophecies Against Foreign Nations 1 

46:1 The Lord spoke to Jeremiah about the nations. 2 

The Prophecy about Egypt’s Defeat at Carchemish

46:2 He spoke about Egypt and the army of Pharaoh Necho king of Egypt which was encamped along the Euphrates River at Carchemish. Now this was the army that King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon defeated in the fourth year that Jehoiakim son of Josiah was ruling 3  over Judah. 4 

46:3 “Fall into ranks with your shields ready! 5 

Prepare to march into battle!

46:4 Harness the horses to the chariots!

Mount your horses!

Put on your helmets and take your positions!

Sharpen you spears!

Put on your armor!

46:5 What do I see?” 6  says the Lord. 7 

“The soldiers 8  are terrified.

They are retreating.

They have been defeated.

They are overcome with terror; 9 

they desert quickly

without looking back.

46:6 But even the swiftest cannot get away.

Even the strongest cannot escape. 10 

There in the north by the Euphrates River

they stumble and fall in defeat. 11 

46:7 “Who is this that rises like the Nile,

like its streams 12  turbulent at flood stage?

46:8 Egypt rises like the Nile,

like its streams turbulent at flood stage.

Egypt says, ‘I will arise and cover the earth.

I will destroy cities and the people who inhabit them.’

46:9 Go ahead and 13  charge into battle, you horsemen!

Drive furiously, you charioteers!

Let the soldiers march out into battle,

those from Ethiopia and Libya who carry shields,

and those from Lydia 14  who are armed with the bow. 15 

46:10 But that day belongs to the Lord God who rules over all. 16 

It is the day when he will pay back his enemies. 17 

His sword will devour them until its appetite is satisfied!

It will drink their blood until it is full! 18 

For the Lord God who rules over all 19  will offer them up as a sacrifice

in the land of the north by the Euphrates River.

46:11 Go up to Gilead and get medicinal ointment, 20 

you dear poor people of Egypt. 21 

But it will prove useless no matter how much medicine you use; 22 

there will be no healing for you.

46:12 The nations will hear of your devastating defeat. 23 

your cries of distress will echo throughout the earth.

In the panic of their flight one soldier will trip over another

and both of them will fall down defeated.” 24 

1 sn Jeremiah was called to be a prophet not only to Judah and Jerusalem but to the nations (1:5, 10). The prophecies or oracles that are collected here in Jer 46-51 are found after 25:13a in the Greek version where they are also found in a different order and with several textual differences. The issue of which represents the original placement is part of the broader issue of the editorial or redactional history of the book of Jeremiah which went through several editions, two of which are referred to in Jer 36, i.e., the two scrolls written in the fourth year of Jehoiakim (605 b.c.), a third which included all the preceding plus the material down to the time of the fall of Jerusalem (cf. the introduction in 1:1-3) and a fourth that included all the preceding plus the materials in Jer 40-44. The oracles against the foreign nations collected here are consistent with the note of judgment sounded against all nations (including some not mentioned in Jer 46-51) in Jer 25. See the translator’s note on 25:13 for further details regarding the possible relationship of the oracles to the foreign nations to the judgment speeches in Jer 25.

2 tn Heb “That which came [as] the word of the Lord to Jeremiah about the nations.” See the translator’s note on 14:1 for the construction here.

3 sn The fourth year of Jehoiakim’s reign proved very significant in the prophecies of Jeremiah. It was in that same year that he issued the prophecies against the foreign nations recorded in Jer 25 (and probably the prophecies recorded here in Jer 46-51) and that he had Baruch record and read to the people gathered in the temple all the prophecies he had uttered against Judah and Jerusalem up to that point in the hopes that they would repent and the nation would be spared. The fourth year of Jehoiakim (605 b.c.) marked a significant shift in the balance of power in Palestine. With the defeat of Necho at Carchemish in that year the area came under the control of Nebuchadnezzar and Judah and the surrounding nations had two options, submit to Babylon and pay tribute or suffer the consequences of death in war or exile in Babylon for failure to submit.

4 tn Heb “Concerning Egypt: Concerning the army of Pharaoh Necho king of Egypt which was beside the Euphrates River at Carchemish which Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon defeated in the fourth year of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah.” The sentence has been broken up, restructured, and introductory words supplied in the translation to make the sentences better conform with contemporary English style. The dating formula is placed in brackets because the passage is prophetic about the battle, but the bracketed words were superscription or introduction and thus were added after the outcome was known.

5 tn This is often translated “prepare your shields, both small and large.” However, the idea of “prepare” is misleading because the Hebrew word here (עָרַךְ, ’arakh) refers in various senses to arranging or setting things in order, such as altars in a row, dishes on a table, soldiers in ranks. Here it refers to the soldiers lining up in rank with ranks of soldiers holding at the ready the long oval or rectangular “shield” (צִנָּה [tsinnah]; cf. BDB 857 s.v. III צִנָּה) which protected the whole body and the smaller round “buckler” (מָגֵן, magen) which only protected the torso (the relative size of these two kinds of shields can be seen from the weight of each in 1 Kgs 10:16-17). These were to be arranged in solid ranks to advance into battle. It would be pedantic and misleading to translate here “Fall into ranks with your large and small shields at the ready” because that might suggest that soldiers had more than one kind. It is uncertain who is issuing the commands here. TEV adds “The Egyptian officers shout,” which is the interpretation of J. A. Thompson (Jeremiah [NICOT], 688).

6 tn Heb “Why do I see?” The rendering is that of J. A. Thompson (Jeremiah [NICOT], 685, 88) and J. Bright (Jeremiah [AB], 301; TEV; NIV). The question is not asking for information but is expressing surprise or wonder (see E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech, 951).

sn The passage takes an unexpected turn at v. 5. After ironically summoning the Egyptian army to battle, the Lord rhetorically expresses his surprise that they are so completely routed and defeated.

7 tn Heb “oracle of the Lord.” This phrase, which is part of a messenger formula (i.e., that the words that are spoken are from him), are actually at the end of the verse. They have been put here for better poetic balance and to better identify the “I.”

8 tn Heb “Their soldiers.” These words are actually at the midpoint of the stanza as the subject of the third of the five verbs. However, as G. L. Keown, P. J. Scalise, and T. G. Smothers (Jeremiah 26-52 [WBC], 291) note, this is the subject of all five verbs “are terrified,” “are retreating,” “have been defeated,” “have run away,” and “have not looked back.” The subject is put at the front to avoid an unidentified “they.”

9 tn Heb “terror is all around.”

10 tn The translation assumes that the adjectives with the article are functioning as superlatives in this context (cf. GKC 431 §133.g). It also assumes that אַל (’al) with the jussive is expressing here an emphatic negative rather than a negative wish (cf. GKC 317 §107.p and compare the usage in Ps 50:3).

11 tn Heb “they stumble and fall.” However, the verbs here are used of a fatal fall, of a violent death in battle (see BDB 657 s.v. נָפַל Qal.2.a), and a literal translation might not be understood by some readers.

12 tn The word translated “streams” here refers to the streams of the Nile (cf. Exod 7:19; 8:1) for parallel usage.

sn The hubris of the Egyptian Pharaoh is referred to in vv. 7-8 as he compares his might to that of the Nile River whose annual flooding was responsible for the fertility of Egypt. A very similar picture of the armies of Assyria overcoming everything in its path is presented in Isa 8:7-8.

13 tn The words “Go ahead and” are not in the text but are intended to suggest the ironical nature of the commands here. The Lord is again setting them up for a fall (v. 10). See the translator’s note on v. 4.

14 sn The peoples that are referred to here are all known to have been mercenaries in the army of Egypt (see Nah 3:9; Ezek 30:5). The place names in Hebrew are actually Cush, Put, and Lud. “Cush” has already been identified in Jer 13:23 as the region along the Nile south of Egypt most commonly referred to as Ethiopia. The identification of “Put” and “Lud” are both debated though it is generally felt that Put was a part of Libya and Lud is to be identified with Lydia in Asia Minor. For further discussion see M. J. Mellink, “Lud, Ludim” IDB 3:178, and T. O. Lambdin, “Put,” IDB 3:971.

15 tn Heb “who grasp and bend the bow.”

16 tn Heb “the Lord Yahweh of armies.” See the study note at 2:19 for the translation and significance of this title for God.

17 sn Most commentators think that this is a reference to the Lord exacting vengeance on Pharaoh Necho for killing Josiah, carrying Jehoahaz off into captivity, and exacting heavy tribute on Judah in 609 b.c. (2 Kgs 23:29, 33-35).

18 tn Or more paraphrastically, “he will kill them/ until he has exacted full vengeance”; Heb “The sword will eat and be sated; it will drink its fill of their blood.”

sn This passage is, of course, highly figurative. The Lord does not have a literal “sword,” but he uses agents of destruction like the Assyrian armies (called his “rod” in Isa 10:5-6) and the Babylonian armies (called his war club in Jer 51:20) to wreak vengeance on his foes. Likewise, swords do not “eat” or “drink.” What is meant here is that God will use this battle against the Egyptians to kill off many Egyptians until his vengeance is fully satisfied.

19 tn Heb “the Lord Yahweh of armies.” See the study note at 2:19 for the translation and significance of this title for God.

20 tn Heb “balm.” See 8:22 and the notes on this phrase there.

21 sn Heb “Virgin Daughter of Egypt.” See the study note on Jer 14:17 for the significance of the use of this figure. The use of the figure here perhaps refers to the fact that Egypt’s geographical isolation allowed her safety and protection that a virgin living at home would enjoy under her father’s protection (so F. B. Huey, Jeremiah, Lamentations [NAC], 379). By her involvement in the politics of Palestine she had forfeited that safety and protection and was now suffering for it.

22 tn Heb “In vain you multiply [= make use of many] medicines.”

23 tn Heb “of your shame.” The “shame,” however, applies to the devastating defeat they will suffer.

24 tn The words “In the panic of their flight” and “defeated” are not in the text but are supplied in the translation to give clarity to the metaphor for the average reader. The verbs in this verse are all in the tense that emphasizes that the action is viewed as already having been accomplished (i.e., the Hebrew prophetic perfect). This is consistent with the vav consecutive perfects in v. 10 which look to the future.



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