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Jeremiah 46:15-17

Context

46:15 Why will your soldiers 1  be defeated? 2 

They will not stand because I, the Lord, will thrust 3  them down.

46:16 I will make many stumble. 4 

They will fall over one another in their hurry to flee. 5 

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.’ 6 

46:17 There at home they will say, ‘Pharaoh king of Egypt is just a big noise! 7 

He has let the most opportune moment pass by.’ 8 

1 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).

2 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).

3 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.

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

5 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.

6 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.

7 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.

8 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.



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