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Jeremiah 46:13-26

Context
The Lord Predicts that Nebuchadnezzar Will Attack and Plunder Egypt

46:13 The Lord spoke to the prophet Jeremiah about Nebuchadnezzar coming to attack the land of Egypt. 1 

46:14 “Make an announcement throughout Egypt.

Proclaim it in Migdol, Memphis, and Tahpanhes. 2 

‘Take your positions and prepare to do battle.

For the enemy army is destroying all the nations around you.’ 3 

46:15 Why will your soldiers 4  be defeated? 5 

They will not stand because I, the Lord, will thrust 6  them down.

46:16 I will make many stumble. 7 

They will fall over one another in their hurry to flee. 8 

They will say, ‘Get up!

Let’s go back to our own people.

Let’s go back to our homelands

because the enemy is coming to destroy us.’ 9 

46:17 There at home they will say, ‘Pharaoh king of Egypt is just a big noise! 10 

He has let the most opportune moment pass by.’ 11 

46:18 I the King, whose name is the Lord who rules over all, 12  swear this:

I swear as surely as I live that 13  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. 14 

46:19 Pack your bags for exile,

you inhabitants of poor dear Egypt. 15 

For Memphis will be laid waste.

It will lie in ruins 16  and be uninhabited.

46:20 Egypt is like a beautiful young cow.

But northern armies will attack her like swarms of stinging flies. 17 

46:21 Even her mercenaries 18 

will prove to be like pampered, 19  well-fed calves.

For they too will turn and run away.

They will not stand their ground

when 20  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, 21 

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 22  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. 23 

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

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

46:25 The Lord God of Israel who rules over all 25  says, “I will punish Amon, the god of Thebes. 26  I will punish Egypt, its gods, and its kings. I will punish Pharaoh and all who trust in him. 27  46:26 I will hand them over to Nebuchadnezzar and his troops, who want to kill them. But later on, people will live in Egypt again as they did in former times. I, the Lord, affirm it!” 28 

1 tn Heb “The word which the Lord spoke to the prophet Jeremiah about the coming of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon to attack the land of Egypt.”

sn Though there is much debate in the commentaries regarding the dating and reference of this prophecy, it most likely refers to a time shortly after 604 b.c. when Nebuchadnezzar followed up his successful battle against Necho at Carchemish with a campaign into the Philistine plain which resulted in the conquest and sacking of Ashkelon. Nebuchadnezzar now stood poised on the border of Egypt to invade it. See J. A. Thompson, Jeremiah (NICOT), 691, and for a fuller discussion including the other main options see G. L. Keown, P. J. Scalise, T. G. Smothers, Jeremiah 26-52 (WBC), 287-88.

2 tn Heb “Declare in Egypt and announce in Migdol and announce in Noph [= Memphis] and in Tahpanhes.” The sentence has been restructured to reflect the fact that the first command is a general one, followed by announcements in specific (representative?) cities.

sn For the location of the cities of Migdol, Memphis, and Tahpanhes see the note on Jer 44:1. These were all cities in Lower or northern Egypt that would have been the first affected by an invasion.

3 tn Heb “For the sword devours those who surround you.” The “sword” is again figurative of destructive forces. Here it is a reference to the forces of Nebuchadnezzar which have already destroyed the Egyptian forces at Carchemish and have made victorious forays into the Philistine plain.

4 tn The word translated “soldiers” (אַבִּירִים, ’abbirim) is not the Hebrew word that has been used of soldiers elsewhere in these oracles (גִּבּוֹרִים, gibborim). It is an adjective used as a noun that can apply to animals, i.e., of a bull (Ps 50:13) or a stallion (Judg 5:22). Moreover, the form is masculine plural and the verbs are singular. Hence, many modern commentaries and English versions follow the redivision of the first line presupposed by the Greek version, “Apis has fled” (נָס חַף, nas khaf) and see this as a reference to the bull god of Memphis. However, the noun is used of soldiers in Lam 1:15 and the plural could be the distributive plural, i.e., each and every one (cf. GKC 464 §145.l and compare usage in Gen 27:29).

5 tn The Hebrew word used here only occurs here (in the Niphal) and in Prov 28:3 (in the Qal) where it refers to a rain that beats down grain. That idea would fit nicely with the idea of the soldiers being beaten down, or defeated. It is possible that the rarity of this verb (versus the common verb נוּס, nus, “flee”) and the ready identification of Apis with the bull calf (אַבִּיר, ’abbir) has led to the reading of the Greek text (so C. von Orelli, Jeremiah, 327). The verbs in this verse and the following are in the perfect tense but should be understood as prophetic perfects since the text is dealing with what will happen when Nebuchadnezzar comes into Egypt. The text of vv. 18-24 shows a greater mixture with some perfects and some imperfects, sometimes even within the same verse (e.g., v. 22).

6 tn Heb “the Lord will thrust them down.” However, the Lord is speaking (cf. clearly in v. 18), so the first person is adopted for the sake of consistency. This has been a consistent problem in the book of Jeremiah where the prophet is so identified with the word of the Lord that he sometimes uses the first person and sometimes the third. It creates confusion for the average reader who is trying to follow the flow of the argument and has been shifted to the first person like this on a number of occasions. TEV and CEV have generally adopted the same policy as have some other modern English versions at various points.

7 tn Heb “he multiplied the one stumbling.” For the first person reference see the preceding translator’s note.

8 tc The words “in their hurry to flee” are not in the text but appear to be necessary to clarify the point that the stumbling and falling here is not the same as that in vv. 6, 12 where they occur in the context of defeat and destruction. Reference here appears to be to the mercenary soldiers who in their hurried flight to escape stumble over one another and fall. This is fairly clear from the literal translation “he multiplies the stumbling one. Also [= and] a man falls against a man and they say [probably = “saying”; an epexegetical use of the vav (ו) consecutive (IBHS 551 §33.2.2a, and see Exod 2:10 as a parallel)] ‘Get up! Let’s go…’” A reference to the flight of the mercenaries is also seen in v. 21. Many of the modern commentaries and a few of the modern English versions follow the Greek text and read vv. 15a-16 very differently. The Greek reads “Why has Apis fled from you? Your choice calf [i.e., Apis] has not remained. For the Lord has paralyzed him. And your multitudes have fainted and fallen; and each one said to his neighbor…” (reading רֻבְּךָ כָּשַׁל גַּם־נָפַל וַיֹּאמְרוּ אִישׁ אֶל־רֵעֵהוּ instead of כּוֹשֵׁל הִרְבָּה גַּם־נָפַל אִישׁ אֶל־רֵעֵהוּ). One would expect אִישׁ אֶל־רֵעֵהוּ (’ishel-reehu) to go with וַיֹּאמְרוּ (vayyomÿru) because it is idiomatic in this expression (cf., e.g., Gen 11:3; Judg 6:29). However, אִישׁ אֶל־רֵעֵהוּ (’ishel-reehu) is also found with singular verbs as here in Exod 22:9; 33:11; 1 Sam 10:11. There is no doubt that the Hebrew text is the more difficult and thus probably original. The reading of the Greek version is not supported by any other text or version and looks like an attempt to smooth out a somewhat awkward Hebrew original.

9 tn Heb “to our native lands from before the sword of the oppressor.” The compound preposition “from before” is regularly used in a causal sense (see BDB 818 s.v. פָּנֶה 6.a, b, c). The “sword” is again interpreted as a figure for the destructive power of an enemy army.

10 tn Heb “is a noise.” The addition of “just a big” is contextually motivated and is supplied in the translation to suggest the idea of sarcasm. The reference is probably to his boast in v. 8.

11 tn Heb “he has let the appointed time pass him by.” It is unclear what is meant by the reference to “appointed time” other than the fact that Pharaoh has missed his opportunity to do what he claimed to be able to do. The Greek text is again different here. It reads “Call the name of Pharaoh Necho king of Egypt Saon esbeie moed,” reading קִרְאוּ שֵׁם (qiru shem) for קָרְאוּ שָׁם (qoru) and transliterating the last line.

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

13 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.

14 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.

15 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.

16 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.

17 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).

18 tn Heb “her hirelings in her midst.”

19 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.

20 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.

21 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).

22 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.

23 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.

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

25 tn Heb “Yahweh of armies, the God of Israel.” For the significance of this title see the note at 2:19.

26 tn Heb “Amon of No.”

sn The Egyptian city called No (נֹא, no’) in Hebrew was Thebes. It is located about 400 miles (666 km) south of modern-day Cairo. It was the capital of Upper or southern Egypt and the center for the worship of the God Amon who became the state god of Egypt. Thebes is perhaps best known today for the magnificent temples at Karnak and Luxor on the east bank of the Nile.

27 tc Heb “Behold I will punish Amon of No and Pharaoh and Egypt and its gods and its kings and Pharaoh and all who trust in him.” There appears to be a copyist slip involving a double writing of וְעַל־פַּרְעֹה (vÿal-paroh). The present translation has followed the suggestion of BHS and deleted the first one since the second is necessary for the syntactical connection, “Pharaoh and all who trust in him.”

28 tn Heb “Oracle of the Lord.”



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