Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, May 23rd, 2024
the Week of Proper 2 / Ordinary 7
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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 46

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Verse 1

Prophecy Concerning the Nations

Already in Jeremiah 25, the LORD gave Jeremiah His messages to the Gentile nations announcing His anger upon them (Jeremiah 25:15-Ezekiel :). Then the LORD first dealt at length with His people. Now it is the turn of the nations. After all, God is the God Who rules over all nations (Romans 3:29) and Jeremiah is also the prophet of the nations (Jeremiah 1:5).

God is sovereign and has the authority to address all nations. He does so by choosing and using Nebuchadnezzar as His disciplinary rod for the nations. What Jeremiah prophesies will be fulfilled in the near and distant future. In the future, all enemies will be judged, while Israel will be the head.

The nations concerning which Jeremiah prophesies are all outside of Israel and are considered by Israel to be the world. Each people represents to us a particular character in which the world may present itself to us. Thus Egypt, which comes before our attention as the first nation, represents the world in its quirky character which does not look up to heaven to expect its help from there.

Egypt expects its salvation from the Nile. The Nile is created by the water of heaven, but Egypt sees only the Nile and expects blessing from the flood and by bringing the water itself to the land (Deuteronomy 11:10). Egypt boasts of its own wisdom (Isaiah 19:11-Ezra :; Acts 7:22). We read of the treasures of Egypt (Hebrews 11:26) and of the garlic and onions of Egypt (Numbers 11:5).

Verses 2-6

The Army of Egypt Defeated

The first message concerns Egypt (Jeremiah 46:2). Egypt has played a major role in the history of God’s people. It holds God’s people in bondage as they begin to become a people (Exodus 1:8-2 Chronicles :; Exodus 2:23). The remnant of God’s people, when the people are no longer people because of God’s judgment, seek refuge in Egypt. We have just seen this in the previous chapters in this book. Therefore, the judgment on Egypt naturally follows directly from that.

This chapter is about the battle of Carchemish, where Pharaoh Neco is defeated by Nebuchadnezzar. That battle changed world history. From that moment on, Babylon is the world power. Before that time, Egypt and Assyria competed for world domination with varying degrees of success. When Babylon grows in power and Egypt feels threatened by it, Egypt moves against Babylon to fight against it. Josiah therefore marches against Egypt, but is killed in the valley of Megiddo (2 Chronicles 35:20-Jeremiah :). Pharaoh advances to the Euphrates, is defeated at Carchemish, and returns to Egypt. A few years later he is utterly defeated by Babylon.

What follows in Jeremiah 46:3-Daniel : is a description and the result of this great battle at Carchemish. As we read this account of the battle, we see man’s hunger for power and what it brings upon him. We hardly see anything of God in the description. What we do see of it shows us that He is in control of the final direction. We see this clearly when all that is happening now has become history. Then we see God’s hand in history.

In Jeremiah 46:3, preparations are made for battle. The foot soldiers prepare the small shield and the large shield. The call sounds to go into battle. The horsemen also make themselves ready (Jeremiah 46:4). It is vividly and – because of the short sentences – powerfully described. We see the activity. The horses are harnessed, the riders mount the horses. They have the helmets on, the sharpened spears in their hands and the armor on. A formidable army stands ready.

Then suddenly we hear the voice of the LORD (Jeremiah 46:5). He Who sits in heaven laughs (Psalms 2:4). When the whole army of Egypt is harnessed and ready for battle, He suddenly sees them shrink back and flee in terror. And running fast they do! They don’t look back and run away as fast as they can, so afraid are they. Their flight will prove to be futile (Jeremiah 46:6). Speed and courage will be of no avail. The fast is not fast enough and the hero is not powerful enough to escape the judgment from the north. They will stumble and fall “beside the river Euphrates”, at Carchemish.

Verses 7-12

The Pride of Egypt Humbled

It is as if the LORD is saying that He will take a good look at who that is that comes up there like the Nile with great violence (Jeremiah 46:7). Oh yes, it’s Egypt coming up like the raging Nile (Jeremiah 46:8). The LORD hears how he snarls, speaking big, saying: “I will rise.” ‘I, the mighty Egypt, am so numerous that I will cover that land, and: “I will surely destroy the city and its inhabitants.”‘

The horses and chariots are shouted at and chased (Jeremiah 46:9). The mighty men appear, assured of victory. There are not only Egyptians. Also “Ethiopia and Put, that handle the shield”, and “the Lydians, that handle [and] bend the bow”, are part of this mighty army.

Then we hear the LORD again in His exaltation above all this puffed-up stuff of puny little people. It is His day, not Egypt’s (Jeremiah 46:10). “The Lord GOD of hosts”, will avenge Himself on His foes. It is He Who ultimately judges Egypt, using the Babylonians to do so. The slaughter wrought by the sword is “before the Lord GOD of hosts”. The place of slaughter is “in the land of the north by the river Euphrates”, at Carchemish.

Mockingly, the LORD addresses the “virgin daughter of Egypt” who lies there as mortally wounded on the banks of the Euphrates (Jeremiah 46:11). Let them go to Gilead to get balm for their wounds. The same was said to Judah (Jeremiah 8:22). But though the Egyptians have so much medical knowledge and though they take so many medicines, there will be no recovery of their former strength. The blows and wounds inflicted upon them are incurable.

The testimony of their ignominious demise reaches the nations (Jeremiah 46:12). In their land itself there is wailing. Their warriors have all fallen from their pedestals. Instead of helping each other, they have stumbled over each other in their fall.

Verses 13-19

The Coming of Nebuchadnezzar

Pharaoh did try to defeat Babylon in his own land, but with poor results, for the LORD supports Nebuchadnezzar. The LORD announces to Jeremiah that He will send Nebuchadnezzar to Egypt to smite the land (Jeremiah 46:13). Jeremiah is to announce what the LORD says to him about Nebuchadnezzar’s coming to Egypt to the great cities of Egypt (Jeremiah 46:14). He is to tell them to get ready for battle. The enemy is coming and has made his way into those cities by killing everything on his way with the sword.

Again Jeremiah lets us hear the result (Jeremiah 46:15). He asks why the mighty were thrust down. At the same time, he himself gives the answer. They have not been able to stand because the true Mighty One, the LORD, has thrust them down. The LORD supports the army of Babylon. Then fighting against it is senseless. He caused the great losses and caused them to fall over each other instead of helping each other (Jeremiah 46:16). The reaction of the soldiers of Egypt is to flee, back to where they came from, away from the sword of the oppressor.

In their land, they rebel against Pharaoh (Jeremiah 46:17). They call him a big talker. He has been telling them with a big mouth that they are unbeatable. But the respect for him has gone. He has misjudged the time and responded too late to the threat of the enemy. Therefore, they are rebelling against him. The Lord Jesus will say to many people, when they stand before His throne, that they are braggers and that they have missed the right time to repent.

Once again the LORD confirms that the scenes He has just described are not fabrications (Jeremiah 46:18). He says this as “the King”, Whose Name is “LORD of hosts”. He is above Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, and all kings, and all the heavenly and earthly army powers are at His disposal. When He speaks, who will turn it?

He points to the stability of the Tabor and Carmel. As firm as those mountains stand, it is certain that Nebuchadnezzar will come. That certainty lies in the fact that the LORD Himself is working the coming of Nebuchadnezzar. On Mount Tabor the LORD gave Barak a great victory over the Canaanites (Judges 4:14-Ezra :) and on Carmel Elijah killed four hundred and fifty false prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:19-Proverbs :; 1 Kings 18:40).

He advises the Egyptians to gather their household goods together and flee (Jeremiah 46:19). Resisting the enemy is futile. He addresses Egypt as “daughter dwelling in Egypt”. These are the women who stayed behind at home. They are warned of the devastation the enemy will wreak on their hometown. There will be no inhabitant left.

Verses 20-26

The Fall of Egypt

The LORD presents Egypt as “a pretty heifer” (Jeremiah 46:20). This is a name of derision. Egypt worships the cow as an idol. One of their gods is called Apis and is depicted as a bull. That idol will not be able to save them. Just as a cow is plagued and driven mad by horseflies, the LORD will send Nebuchadnezzar upon them like a horsefly. He is coming!

Pharaoh’s army also has mercenaries (Jeremiah 46:21). They are well paid and have feasted on themselves so that they look like fattened calves. Whether Egypt is a pretty heifer or fattened calf, it is ready for slaughter. The fattened calves flee. They too are not holding out. They see that the day of their doom has come upon them and that they will receive their deserved reward.

In yet another picture, Jeremiah shows the retreat of the armies of Egypt (Jeremiah 46:22). He now compares Egypt to a serpent shuffling back into the forest. It will be in vain, for the enemies come after him with axes. Then the soldiers also turn out to be lumberjacks. They cut down the forest in which he has withdrawn, even though it is so impenetrable (Jeremiah 46:23). There are so many of them that it is cut down in no time. When all the protection is cut away, the daughter of Egypt stands there embarrassed (Jeremiah 46:24). Her resistance has ended. She can no longer hide and is given into the hand of the Babylonians.

Among the many gods, the Egyptians also have a god Amon, the god of the city of Thebes (Jeremiah 46:25). The LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, the one, true God, will punish that god and all the gods, including Pharaoh who allows himself to be worshiped as a god and all the high-ranking people who allow themselves to be served as gods. He will deliver them all to Nebuchadnezzar (Jeremiah 46:26). Then they will know how worthless those gods are to protect them.

Yet this will not be the final end of Egypt. The LORD promises that in the future Egypt will be inhabited as before (Isaiah 19:23-Lamentations :; Ezekiel 29:9-2 Chronicles :). This will happen in the realm of peace when the Lord Jesus, the Messiah, will reign. Then Egypt will also be restored, which is directly related to the restoration of Israel under the Messiah in the following verses. We will see that such restoration also applies to Moab, Ammon and Elam.

Verses 27-28

Blessing on Jacob

After this judgment on Egypt and the promise of restoration comes another word for God’s people (Jeremiah 46:27). They need not fear that there will be restoration for Egypt, but not for them. The LORD addresses them encouragingly as “Jacob My servant” and “Israel”. He has a relationship with them and He has given them His promises.

He promises them that He will “save” them “from afar” – which refers to the ten tribes realm He will deliver from the scattering – and “from the land of their captivity” – which refers to the two tribe realm He will deliver from Babylon. He will then bring them to safety. In the future, this will find its full fulfillment when all twelve tribes will dwell in the land under the blessed rule of the Messiah.

He repeats that they need not fear, for He is with them (Jeremiah 46:28). To all nations He will bring a destructive end, but not to them. Certainly, He will have to punish them, for they have deserved punishment. However, He will do so in moderation and not in a way that they will be utterly destroyed like the nations.

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Jeremiah 46". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/jeremiah-46.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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