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Jeremiah 43:7-13

Context
43:7 They went on to Egypt 1  because they refused to obey the Lord, and came to Tahpanhes. 2 

Jeremiah Predicts that Nebuchadnezzar Will Plunder Egypt and Its Gods

43:8 At Tahpanhes the Lord spoke to Jeremiah. 3  43:9 “Take some large stones 4  and bury them in the mortar of the clay pavement 5  at the entrance of Pharaoh’s residence 6  here in Tahpanhes. Do it while the people of Judah present there are watching. 7  43:10 Then tell them, 8  ‘The Lord God of Israel who rules over all 9  says, “I will bring 10  my servant 11  King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. I will set his throne over these stones which I 12  have buried. He will pitch his royal tent 13  over them. 43:11 He will come and attack Egypt. Those who are destined to die of disease will die of disease. Those who are destined to be carried off into exile will be carried off into exile. Those who are destined to die in war will die in war. 14  43:12 He will set fire 15  to the temples of the gods of Egypt. He will burn their gods or carry them off as captives. 16  He will pick Egypt clean like a shepherd picks the lice from his clothing. 17  He will leave there unharmed. 18  43:13 He will demolish the sacred pillars in the temple of the sun 19  in Egypt and will burn down the temples of the gods of Egypt.”’”

1 sn This had been their intention all along (41:17). Though they consulted the Lord and promised to do what he told them whether they agreed with it or not (42:5-6), it is clear that they had no intention of doing so. Jeremiah could see that (42:19-22). They refused to believe that the Lord had really said what Jeremiah told them (43:4) and feared reprisal from the Babylonians more than any potential destruction from the Lord (43:3).

2 sn Tahpanhes was an important fortress city on the northern border of Egypt in the northeastern Nile delta. It is generally equated with the Greek city of Daphne. It has already been mentioned in 2:16 in conjunction with Memphis (the Hebrew name is “Noph”) as a source of soldiers who did violence to the Israelites in the past.

3 tn Heb “The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah at Tahpanhes, saying.”

4 tn Heb “Take some large stones in your hands.”

5 tn The meaning of the expression “mortar of the clay pavement” is uncertain. The noun translated “mortar” occurs only here and the etymology is debated. Both BDB 572 s.v. מֶלֶט and KBL 529 s.v. מֶלֶט give the meaning “mortar.” The noun translated “clay pavement” is elsewhere used of a “brick mold.” Here BDB 527 s.v. מַלְבֵּן 2 gives “quadrangle” and KBL 527 s.v. מַלְבֵּן 2 gives “terrace of bricks.” HALOT 558 s.v. מֶלֶט and מַלְבֵּן 2 give “loamy soil” for both words, seeing the second noun as a dittography or gloss of the first (see also note c in BHS).

6 sn All the commentaries point out that this was not Pharaoh’s (main) palace but a governor’s residence or other government building that Pharaoh occupied when he was in Tahpanhes.

7 tn Heb “in Tahpanhes in the eyes of the men of Judah.”

8 sn This is another of those symbolic prophecies of Jeremiah which involved an action and an explanation. Compare Jer 19, 27.

9 tn Heb “Yahweh of armies, the God of Israel.” Compare 7:3 and see the study note on 2:19 for explanation of the translation and significance of this title.

10 tn Heb “send and take/fetch.”

11 sn See the study note on Jer 25:9 for the use of this epithet for foreign rulers. The term emphasizes God’s sovereignty over history.

12 tn The Greek version reads the verbs in this sentence as third person, “he will set,” and second person, “you have buried.” This fits the context better but it is difficult to explain how the Hebrew could have arisen from this smoother reading. The figure of substitution (metonymy of cause for effect) is probably involved: “I will have him set” and “I have had you bury.” The effect of these substitutions is to emphasize the sovereignty of God.

13 tn The meaning of this word is uncertain. The word here (שַׁפְרִירוֹ [shafriro] Qere, שַׁפְרוּרוֹ [shafruro] Kethib) occurs only here in the Hebrew Bible. According to the lexicons it refers to either the carpet for his throne or the canopy over it. See, e.g., HALOT 1510 s.v. שַׁפְרִיר.

14 tn As in 15:2 the Hebrew is very brief and staccato-like: “those to death to death, and those to captivity to captivity, and those to the sword to the sword.” As in 15:2 most commentaries and English versions assume that the word “death” refers to death by disease. See the translator’s note on 15:2 and compare also 18:21 where the sword is distinctly connected with “war” or “battle” and is distinct from “killed by death [i.e., disease].”

15 tc The translation follows the Greek, Syriac, and Latin versions. The Hebrew text reads: “I will set fire to.” While it would be possible to explain the first person subject here in the same way as in the two verbs in v. 12b, the corruption of the Hebrew text is easy to explain here as a metathesis of two letters, י (yod) and ת (tav). The Hebrew reads הִצַּתִּי (hitsatti) and the versions presuppose הִצִּית (hitsit).

16 tn Heb “burn them or carry them off as captives.” Some of the commentaries and English versions make a distinction between the objects of the verbs, i.e., burn the temples and carry off the gods. However, the burning down of the temples is referred to later in v. 13.

sn It was typical in the ancient Near East for the images of the gods of vanquished nations to be carried off and displayed in triumphal procession on the return from battle to show the superiority of the victor’s gods over those of the vanquished (cf., e.g., Isa 46:1-2).

17 tn Or “he will take over Egypt as easily as a shepherd wraps his cloak around him.” The translation follows the interpretation of HALOT 769 s.v. II ָעטָה Qal, the Greek translation, and a number of the modern commentaries (e.g., J. A. Thompson, Jeremiah [NICOT], 671). The only other passage where that translation is suggested for this verb is Isa 22:17 according to HAL. The alternate translation follows the more normal meaning of עָטָה (’atah; cf. BDB 741 s.v. I עָטָה Qal which explains “so completely will it be in his power”). The fact that the subject is “a shepherd” lends more credence to the former view though there may be a deliberate double meaning playing on the homonyms (cf. W. L. Holladay, Jeremiah [Hermeneia], 2:302).

18 tn Heb “in peace/wholeness/well-being/safety [shalom].”

19 sn It is generally agreed that the temple of the sun was located in Heliopolis, which is elsewhere referred to as On (cf. Gen 41:45). It was the center for the worship of Amon-Re, the Egyptian sun god, and was famous for its obelisks (conical shaped pillars) dedicated to that god. It was located about 6 miles (10 km) northeast of modern-day Cairo.



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