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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 46

Old & New Testament Restoration CommentaryRestoration Commentary

Verses 1-4

Jer 46:1-4

Jeremiah 46:1-2

The word of Jehovah which came to Jeremiah the prophet concerning the nations. Of Egypt: concerning the army of Pharaoh-neco king of Egypt, which was by the river Euphrates in Carchemish, which Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon smote in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah.

There are two superscriptions here, the first pertaining to the subsequent chapters through Jeremiah 51, and the second pertaining to Egypt. We should have expected these prophecies against the Gentile nations, because in God’s call of Jeremiah, God placed him "over the nations" as the official prophet who would declare their fate (Jeremiah 1:10). Several of God’s prophets pronounced doom against the nations, as did Isaiah, Amos, and others.

By the river Euphrates in Carchemish...

(Jeremiah 46:2). The battle fought here about 605 B.C. was one of the decisive battles of history, for it spelled the end of Egyptian domination and heralded the arrival of Babylon as the new world power. It was fought at a strategic location several miles north of the Chebar’s junction with the Euphrates. The word Carchemish means Fort of Chemosh, the god of the Moabites (2 Kings 23:13).

In the fourth year of Jehoiachim...

(Jeremiah 46:2). A number of very significant names and dates cluster around this event.

Jeremiah was contemporary with the five final kings of Judah, from Josiah to the ruin of the nation, and with Nebuchadnezzar the greatest monarch of the neo-Chaldean empire, and with these four kings of Egypt: Psammetik I (664-609B.C.), Pharaoh-necho II (609-594 B.C.), Psammetik II (694-588 B.C.), and Pharaoh-Hophra (588-568 B.C.).

The king of Egypt in this battle of Carchemish was Pharaoh-necho who had killed Josiah at Megiddo in 609 B.C.; and, in a sense, the Jews would have considered this victory over Necho at Carchemish some four years later as a proper vengeance for the death of Josiah.

"The Babylonian Chronicle stated that Nebuchadnezzar marched against Egypt again in 601 B.C., with both sides suffering very heavy losses. This was probably the event that tempted Jehoiachim to revolt against Babylon (2 Kings 24:1)

Jeremiah 46:3-4


Prepare ye the buckler and shield, and draw near to battle. Harness the horses, and get up, ye horsemen, and stand forth with your helmets; furbish the spears, put on the coats of mail.

These words with their sharp, staccato commandments and brilliant descriptive power remind us of the glorying words in the prophecy of Nahum re: the overthrow of Nineveh.

The buckler and shield...

(Jeremiah 46:3). The buckler was used by the lightly armed infantry, and the shield was handled by the heavier ranks of the soldiery who were generally the stronger of the two.

Put on the coats of mail...

(Jeremiah 46:4). Those who are familiar with the KJV cannot fall to be astounded at a switch like this, for the KJV renders this passage, Put on the brigandines! Well, it happened like this. The word brigandines actually means coats of mail, worn by soldiers, and in time came to mean soldiers; and the conduct of many soldiers throughout history gradually changed the meaning of brigandines to rogues or scoundrels. The current word brigand derives from it and means a robber or a bandit, especially, one of a band of plundering outlaws or soldiers. This connection also resulted in such a title as Brigadier General, meaning the commander of a brigade! This appears to this writer as an item of intense interest.


Jeremiah 46:1 to Jeremiah 49:39

With the exception of the Book of Hosea, every prophetic book of the Old Testament contains at least one oracle concerning a foreign nation. Rather large collections of such oracles can be found in the books of Isaiah (chaps. 13–23) and Ezekiel (chaps. 25–32) as well as here in Jeremiah (chaps. 46–51). The prophets of Israel could not avoid bringing heathen nations also with the sphere of their predictions. The vital interests of the theocracy were at stake in the standing and falling of neighboring nations. Furthermore the prophets emphasized the universal sovereignty of the Lord and this necessitated utterances concerning the destiny of the nations.

It is probable that of all parts of the Old Testament the oracles concerning the foreign nations are the least frequently read. Even among Old Testament scholars very little attention has been paid to these passages. One has only to observe in the standard commentaries the disproportionately small amount of space devoted to these oracles to realize that they have not aroused a great deal of scholarly interest. Whatever the reasons for this neglect may be, it is nevertheless a pity if for no other reason than that among these oracles is some of the finest poetry in the prophetic literature. Occasionally beautiful Messianic prophecies are embedded within these messages of doom. Furthermore, sayings of the type found in this section of the Book of Jeremiah represent a characteristic feature of prophetic preaching, and must be taken into account if one is to have a true picture of the prophetic ministry.

That there would be an international dimension to the ministry of Jeremiah is clearly indicated in his call. God had made him a “prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5); he was appointed over the nations “to pull up and tear down, to destroy and to rend, to build and to plant” (Jeremiah 1:1()). In chapter 25 Jeremiah was told to take the cup of God’s wrath and pass it among the nations of his day. They would drink from that cup, stagger and fall to their destruction. Last of all the king of Babylon would drink and perish. The foreign nations in chapters 46–51 are treated roughly in the same order in which they are treated in chapter 25. In chapter 27 Jeremiah confronts the ambassadors of Edom, Moab, Ammon, Tyre and Sidon with the divine demand that they capitulate to the rule of Nebuchadnezzar. These passages prepare the reader for the somewhat more comprehensive treatment of foreign nations in this present section of the book.

The foreign nation oracles in the Book of Jeremiah seem to be organized in a definite pattern. Jeremiah placed first in the collection the oracles against Egypt, the great and ancient archenemy of Israel to the south. Then he places together a number of oracles addressed to smaller nations of his day which, along with Israel, were somewhat like pawns in the struggle between the great powers. The climax of this part of the book is reached in chapters 50–51 when Jeremiah announces the judgment upon Babylon, the greatest power of that time.

The foreign nation oracles come from various periods of Jeremiah’s ministry and it is not possible to assign a precise date to each oracle. Scholars are not entirely agreed as to the general chronological sequence of the oracles. The following chart indicates the approximate chronological placement of the various oracles of this section of the book.


Standing first in the collection of oracles against the nations are two utterances against Egypt. The first of these, found in Jeremiah 46:1-12, is dated in the fourth year of Jehoiakim (605 B.C.). The theme of this oracle is the Egyptian defeat at Carchemish. The author develops his theme in two graphic pictures.

The First Picture of Egyptian Defeat Jeremiah 46:1-6

Jeremiah 46:2 serves as a preface to the first oracle concerning Egypt. The oracle describes the defeat of Pharaoh Necho at Carchemish in the fourth year of Jehoiakim i.e., 60f B.C. It is important to note that Jeremiah 46:2 dates the battle of Carchemish, not the oracle which follows. The poetic oracle in Jeremiah 46:3-12 may have been composed at any time during the early ministry of Jeremiah; but it probably was not written until a few months before the decisive showdown at Carchemish.

The first poetic description of the Egyptian defeat at Carchemish begins with a graphic picture of the preparations in the Egyptian camp on the eve of the great battle (Jeremiah 46:3-4). One can feel the excitement here as the Egyptian officers bark orders to their men. “Prepare the buckler and shield! Draw near to battle!” The buckler was the small round shield carried by the light infantry; the shield covered the entire body and was borne by the heavy-armed. The chariotry and cavalry forces as well are directed to make ready for battle. “Harness the horses” shouts an officer, and the deadly chariots which were such an important part of the ancient army of Egypt are immediately made ready for action. “Mount up,” shouts the officer in charge of the cavalry unit. The weapons are polished; the armor or “coat of mail” (the word translated “brigandines” in KJV) is put on. Finally comes the command, “Stand forth with your helmets.” Since helmets were not worn except when actually in battle this command is equivalent to an order to engage the enemy. Confident of victory the mighty army of Egypt rushes forward. The battle that would decide the fate of the world and the destiny of nations has been launched.

The picture suddenly changes in Jeremiah 46:5-6. The prophet himself is astonished at what he sees and expresses his amazement. How can it be that such a well-trained and disciplined army could be thrown into confusion and flight? It is beyond comprehension that such a magnificent army could be thoroughly defeated and routed. Jeremiah uses his favorite expression “fear was round about” to describe the terror that plunged those hardened soldiers into flight. Even the most swift and mighty among them will not be able to reach their homeland. They will stumble in exhaustion, stumble over the slain, stumble over one another in their haste to flee the scene of battle. They will fall in a foreign land, in the north, by the river Euphrates. Why does this happen, the prophet asked in the opening line of verse five. The answer is found in the “saith the Lord” (lit., oracle of the Lord) in the last line of the same verse. Egypt will meet with the defeat at Carchemish because God has so decreed it. It is His judgment against Egypt.

Verses 5-12

Jer 46:5-12

Jeremiah 46:5-12


Wherefore have I seen it? they are dismayed and are turned backward; and their mighty ones are beaten down, and are fled apace, and look not back: terror is on every side, saith Jehovah. Let not the swift flee away, nor the mighty man escape; in the north by the river Euphrates have they stumbled and fallen. Who is this that riseth up like the Nile, whose waters toss themselves like the rivers? Egypt riseth up like the Nile, and his waters toss themselves like the rivers: and he saith, I will rise up, I will cover the earth; I will destroy cities and the inhabitants thereof. Go up, ye horses; and rage, ye chariots; and let the mighty men go forth: Cush and Put, that handle the shield; and the Ludim, that handle and bend the bow. For that day is [a day] of the Lord, Jehovah of hosts, a day of vengeance, that he may avenge him of his adversaries: and the sword shall devour and be satiate, and shall drink its fill of their blood; for the Lord, Jehovah of hosts, hath a sacrifice in the north country by the river Euphrates. Go up into Gilead, and take balm, O virgin daughter of Egypt: in vain dost thou use many medicines; there is no healing for thee. The nations have heard of thy shame, and the earth is full of thy cry; for the mighty man hath stumbled against the mighty, they are fallen both of them together.

Wherefore have I seen it? ...

(Jeremiah 46:5). These words are the dramatic introduction to a startling change in the scene, from that of the arrogant, advancing army of Egypt, to that of a hopelessly beaten and routed army.

Terror is on every side, saith Jehovah...

(Jeremiah 46:5). Here is the key that demands our understanding of this passage, not as a record of something that has already occurred, but as a divine promise of what is going to happen. Therefore, this prophecy must be dated before the battle of Carchemish.

What brought about the defeat of such a large and impressive force? "It was panic, supernaturally induced, that did it." In this long paragraph, note the words "terror" (Jeremiah 46:5), "they have fled ... look not back" (Jeremiah 46:5), "the mighty man hath stumbled against the mighty" (Jeremiah 46:12), etc.

These verses (Jeremiah 46:3-12) do not contain a triumphal song over a defeat that has already taken place, but a prophecy of a defeat about to take place.

Cush. Put... Ludim, etc. .....

(Jeremiah 46:9). These places were the sources of the mercenary troops upon which the Pharaohs relied to build and replenish their armies. The Ethiopians, or Nubian Negroes, made up a large part of these. Such foreign mercenaries were never very reliable; and a later Pharaoh-Hophra lost his kingship because of a mutiny against him.

A day of the Lord...

(Jeremiah 46:10). It is not the day of the Lord, for there are no eschatological echoes in the place.

A day of Jehovah of hosts, a day of vengeance...

(Jeremiah 46:10). The Egyptians had quite recently slain the good King Josiah, and their defeat was a vengeance against that disaster for Israel. The possible reference here to Egypt’s slaying of Josiah (in 609 B.C.), if this alleged reference is correct, would indicate that the exact date of this prophecy would fall between 609 B.C. and 605 B.C., but well before the fall of Carchemish to Babylon.

The Lord hath a sacrifice in the north country by the river Euphrates...

Contrary to all that the proud Egyptian army anticipated, they were destined to be sacrificial victims in that day at Carchemish when the Lord would provide himself a sacrifice of their entire army!

The Second Picture of Egyptian Defeat Jeremiah 46:7-12

In this stanza of the poem Jeremiah sees the armies of Pharaoh Necho rolling toward Carchemish like the mighty Nile in flood time. The “rivers” mentioned in Jeremiah 46:7-8 are the arms and canals of the Nile in the Delta region. In these vivid lines one can almost hear the roaring, moving and churning of the rampaging river. The pride and confidence of Pharaoh is revealed in his boast “I will go up and cover the earth;; I will destroy the city and the inhabitants thereof” (Jeremiah 46:8). By means of a sarcastic imperative Jeremiah urges the hosts of Egypt to hasten onward to their destination (Jeremiah 46:9). Actually it is impossible to determine here whether the command to the troops is given by Pharaoh or mockingly by the prophet. The KJV by translating the verbs “come up” suggests that it is the prophet who is summoning the troops of Egypt. The ASV translation “go up” is preferable. Cush, Put and Lud (Ethiopians, Libyans and Lydians in KJV) refer to the countries of Pharaoh’s mercenary troops. Exact locations of Put and Lud are not known. It is thought that Put is on the east coast of Africa near Egypt and that Lud was west of Egypt. From the days of Pharaoh Psammetichus (663–610) these African mercenaries formed the major part of the Egyptian army. Who could withstand such a vast and heavily armed host? No wonder Pharaoh makes his boast. But God alone decrees what nation will rule His world, and God has chosen Nebuchadnezzar. Pharaoh will meet his doom at Carchemish!

Jeremiah 46:10 presents a glaring contrast to what has preceded in this stanza. Laetsch proposes that the conjunction Which introduces Jeremiah 46:10 should be rendered “but” or “yet” in English instead of “for” as in KJV and ASV. Jeremiah 46:7-9 pictured the might and confident expectation of the Egyptian forces as they set out for Carchemish. Jeremiah 46:10-12 picture the results of that battle. Instead of victory for Egypt or for Babylon, Carchemish will be a day of victory for the Lord. By describing the defeat at Carchemish as a “sacrifice” Jeremiah indicates the religious significance of the battle. The phrase “the day of the Lord of hosts” designates a day which God has reserved for the punishment of His adversaries and the deliverance of His people. Every day of the Lord throughout history is a preview of that “great and notable day of the Lord” which will be the final decisive and conclusive battle in the age-long struggle between righteousness and evil.

At Carchemish God will take vengeance on “His adversaries.” The Egyptians are not God’s adversaries because of the unmerciful oppression to which they had subjected the Israelites centuries earlier. That debt had long since been settled when God brought the terrific plague-judgments upon the land of Egypt. But the Egyptians had continued to show their hostility toward the people of God in more recent days. Pharaoh had harbored the enemies of God’s anointed king of Israel (1 Kings 11:14 ff); he had warred against Jerusalem (1 Kings 14:25 f.); he had come to the aid of the tottering Assyrian Empire which had for so many years afflicted the people of God; he had slain righteous king Josiah at the pass of Megiddo and deported young Jehoahaz. Even after Carchemish Pharaoh would goad tiny Judah into those suicidal rebellions against Babylon which finally brought about the doom of that country. Thus there is good reason to call Egypt the adversary of God.

Jeremiah 46:11 describes the Egyptian defeat at Carchemish as a wound for which there is no known cure. Medical sciences advanced further in Egypt than in any other country of antiquity. But search as they may they would not be able to find any medicine which would heal Egypt of the mortal wound received at Carchemish. Even the famed balm of Gilead would avail nothing. Gilead lies east of the Jordan between the Arnon and Yarmuk rivers. The delicate virgin daughter of Egypt is doomed to death as a nation. What a sad day that will be for Pharaoh. Defeat and confusion follow the battle. The cry of the retreating soldiers can be heard throughout the land. In their haste to escape from the battlefield the mighty men of the Egyptian army stumble over one another.

Jeremiah’s prediction of what would take place at Carchemish was marvelously fulfilled. The official Babylonian account of the battle reveals how accurately Jeremiah had foreseen what would transpire there. Concerning Nebuchadnezzar the great prince of Babylon the scribes wrote:

He crossed the river (to go) against the Egyptian army which was situated in Carchemish and . they fought with each other and the Egyptian army withdrew before him. He defeated them in the district of Hamath, so that not a single man escaped to his own country.

Verses 13-19

Jer 46:13-19

Jeremiah 46:13-17


The word that Jehovah spake to Jeremiah the prophet, how that Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon should come and smite the land of Egypt. Declare ye in Egypt, and publish in Migdol, and publish in Memphis and in Tahpanhes: say ye, Stand forth, and prepare thee; for the sword hath devoured round about thee. Why are thy strong ones swept away? they stood not, because Jehovah did drive them. He made many to stumble, yea, they fell one upon another: and they said, Arise, and let us go again to our own people, and to the land of our nativity, from the oppressing sword. They cried there, Pharaoh king of Egypt is but a noise; he hath let the appointed time pass by.

Why are thy strong ones swept away? ...

(Jeremiah 46:15). This statement seems to challenge Egypt to accept the reason for her terrible defeat at Carchemish, namely, the type of troops upon which the Pharaohs depended for their military operations, the mercenaries. Note that the soldiers of Pharaoh are here represented as saying, let us return to the land of our nativity, which was not Egypt at all, but the various places from which the mercenaries had been recruited.

"The punishment (invasion?) of Egypt promised here in Jeremiah 46:13 ff, came after their defeat at Carchemish, but the exact circumstances have not been determined. Some believe it refers to the Babylonian pursuit of the Egyptians after Carchemish (605 B.C.). A second view argues that it occurred in 601 B.C., when, according to the Babylonian Chronicle, Nebuchadnezzar and Necho fought inconclusively at the Egyptian border. A third option favors 568-567 B.C., when Nebuchadnezzar invaded Egypt. It is possible that the statement was not made in connection with any particular historical event."

We fully agree with the last sentence in the above quotation. Did not Nebuchadnezzar "punish" Egypt in all of those instances? Certainly.

Pharaoh. is but a noise; he hath let the appointed time pass by .....

(Jeremiah 46:17) These critical words spoken against Pharaoh were probably by his mercenary soldiers. Whoever used such words, their meaning is variously given: King Bombast (the New English Bible), Much-noise-but-he-lets-the-chance-slip-by, (the Jerusalem Bible), Loudmouth (Harrison).

The meaning of such derogatory names was that: "Pharaoh was a mere empty sound, and that he had allowed the allotted years of prosperity, which, as Herodotus testified, he had enjoyed at the beginning of his reign, to pass by, and having misused them, nothing then remained but his min."

Jeremiah 46:18-19


As I live, saith the King, whose name is Jehovah of hosts, surely like Tabor among the mountains, and like Carmel by the sea, so shall he come. O thou daughter that dwellest in Egypt, furnish thyself to go into captivity; for Memphis shall become a desolation, and shall be burnt up, without inhabitant.

He shall tower above...

(Jeremiah 46:18). This speaks of Nebuchadnezzar. Mount Tabor, though not as high as Mount Hermon, was very prominent by reason of its dramatic elevation above the surrounding area. Carmel was that great coastal mountain that jutted out into the Mediterranean sea and was a noted landmark in Israel.

Memphis shall become a desolation. without inhabitant .....

(Jeremiah 46:19). Here is predictive prophecy at its best. Even if the radical critics could prove that Jeremiah wrote after the event of some of the things he predicted (which, of course, they cannot do), what can they do with a word like this? Memphis indeed became a desolation. By the times of Alexander the Great it was no longer an important place; and to-day, it is known throughout the world as the great cemetery.

The Certainty of Invasion Jeremiah 46:13-19

The poem opens with Jeremiah urging that an alarm be sounded in the border towns of Egypt that they might prepare to meet the foe (Jeremiah 46:14). Noph (Memphis) and Tahpanhes have been previously mentioned in the book (cf. Jeremiah 2:16; Jeremiah 43:7-9), Ezekiel too predicted conflict in Tahpanhes (Ezekiel 30:18). But Ezekiel seems to be speaking of the Egyptian campaign of the Persian king Cambyses II who conquered Egypt in 525 B.C. To these cities the Jews had fled after the death of Gedaliah (Jeremiah 44:1 ff.). Jeremiah had previously warned these Jews of the coming invasion and had predicted that they would perish in the slaughter.

Jeremiah 46:15 as it is translated in the King James Version is somewhat misleading. Instead of “valiant men” (KJV) or “strong ones” (ASV) probably here the translation should be singular: “Why has your strong one been swept away?" The Hebrew noun is actually plural but at least three other grammatical features of the verse point to a singular reading. Sixty-five Hebrew manuscripts, the Septuagint and Vulgate translations also reflect a singular reading of the noun. The reference is to Apis, the sacred bull, one of the high gods of the land of Egypt. Just as the Lord is called “the Mighty One of Jacob” or “the Mighty One of Israel” (Genesis 49:24; Isaiah 1:24; Isaiah 49:26 etc.) so in Egypt Apis was called “the mighty or strong one.” The mighty one of Egypt cannot stand before the armies of the Mighty One of Israel. Apis shall be “thrust down” (ASV margin). men the Lord brings Nebuchadnezzar against Egypt he shall demonstrate His superiority to the gods of Egypt. Not only does the Lord thrust down Apis, He causes many of the soldiers of Egypt to fall in battle. The Egyptian troops are thrown into confusion. They stumble over one another in their haste to flee the scene of battle. Jeremiah hears the mercenaries urging one another: “Arise, let us go again to our own people and the land of our birth” (Jeremiah 46:16). Being devoid of patriotic feeling, it is natural that these hired soldiers should flee from the doomed country. In their respective countries these mercenaries report the ruin of Egypt and heap ridicule upon Pharaoh. “Pharaoh king of Egypt is only a noise,” they say. Pharaoh is nothing but a noisy braggart who makes big boasts and promises but cannot make them good. “He passed the appointed time.” Some take this expression to mean that Pharaoh has let his hour of opportunity go by. That is to say he makes elaborate preparations but never capitalizes upon the opportunity. Another view is that Pharaoh has passed the time appointed in which the Lord commanded him to surrender to Babylon (cf. Jeremiah 25:14-19). Still another view is that Pharaoh had let the time elapse within which he was called upon by God to reform. The grace period was over. While all of these views of the phrase have something to be said in their behalf, in the opinion of this writer the standard commentaries have really missed the point. The idea here is that every nation has its appointed time for glory and power. That appointed time for Egypt was passed. With this interpretation agrees the apostle Paul when he says that God has appointed the times and seasons of the nations (Acts 17:26). Egypt’s appointed time has come to an end. Therefore, the Lord swears by an oath that the coming of Nebuchadnezzar is sure and certain. No one shall be able to withstand him for he is the appointed instrument of the Lord. As surely as Mt. Tabor and Mt. Carmel tower over the surrounding landscape in Palestine, so Nebuchadnezzar will tower over Egypt in overpowering splendor and majesty (Jeremiah 46:18). In view of the certainty of the coming invasion, Jeremiah urges the inhabitants of Egypt to prepare themselves for captivity for their capital city, Noph (Memphis) shall be laid waste (Jeremiah 46:19).

Verses 20-26

Jer 46:20-26

Jeremiah 46:20-24


Egypt is a very fair heifer; [but] destruction out of the north is come, it is come. Also her hired men in the midst of her are like calves of the stall; for they also are turned back, they are fled away together, they did not stand: for the day of their calamity is come upon them, the time of their visitation. The sound thereof shall go like the serpent; for they shall march with an army, and come against her with axes, as hewers of wood. They shall cut down her forest, saith Jehovah, though it cannot be searched; because they are more than the locusts, and are innumerable. The daughter of Egypt shall be put to shame; she shall be delivered into the hand of the people of the north.

A very fair heifer...

(Jeremiah 46:20). Memphis, prominently mentioned in this section, was the shrine of the Sacred Bull of Egypt; and the graves of the many successive animals which served as the living symbol of that God (Apis), each in a private tomb once decorated the ancient city. On this account, the identification of Egypt here as a heifer is thought to be sarcastic.

Hired men. like calves of the stall .....

(Jeremiah 46:21). Egypt’s mercenaries were but as fat calves in the hands of the butcher! They probably ate well, looked good, and made a beautiful parade; but they were worthless as fighting men.

The sound thereof shall go like the serpent...

(Jeremiah 46:22). The serpent was sacred to one of the most prominent Egyptian gods; and this symbol of the whole nation is probably sarcastically referred to in this verse. The woodsmen are represented as clearing the forest, and the serpent slithers away to hide! It is as if one said of the USA, The eagle is trapped and is flapping his wings in vain!

They shall cut down her forest. though it cannot be searched .....

(Jeremiah 46:23). The total loss of their forested land was an incredibly effective punishment that Nebuchadnezzar inflicted upon Egypt.

The daughter of Egypt shall be put to shame...

(Jeremiah 46:24). This refers to the exposure of Egypt as she was delivered into the hands of Babylon, an exposure of which Jeremiah had been an eyewitness during the fall of Jerusalem to the same foe; and he had seen the women and girls become objects to satisfy the lust of the Babylonian troops. Jeremiah had previously warned Jerusalem in similar language (Jeremiah 6:12; Jeremiah 38:23, etc.).

Jeremiah 46:25-26


Jehovah of hosts, the God of Israel, saith: Behold, I will punish Amon of No, and Pharaoh, and Egypt, with her gods, and her kings; even Pharaoh, and them that trust in him: and I will deliver them into the hand of those that seek their lives, and into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, and into the hand of his servants; and afterwards it shall be inhabited, as in the days of old, saith Jehovah.

Unlike the prophecy of Isaiah regarding Babylon, and of Nahum regarding Nineveh, Jeremiah here prophesied that the destruction of Egypt would not be perpetual. Twenty-six centuries afterward, the prophecies still stand as the prophets said, still fulfilled by history. Why? Because the prophecies are God’s words, not the words of men.

Amon of No...

(Jeremiah 46:25). Amon was the chief god of Upper Egypt, and No (Thebes) was the capital and principal city of the area.


The second poem concerning Egypt points to an invasion of that land by Nebuchadnezzar (Jeremiah 46:13). It is impossible to ascertain the date of this oracle. It could be assigned to almost any period subsequent to Carchemish and prior to the Babylonian invasion of Egypt in 568–567 B.C. The general tone of the prophecy seems to point to a period somewhat later than the preceding oracle describes. This oracle seems to reflect a more intimate acquaintance with the land of Egypt (see Jeremiah 46:14; Jeremiah 46:25). Probably, therefore, this oracle should be assigned to the period of the prophet’s sojourn in Egypt.

This poem also is divided into two stanzas. In Jeremiah 46:16-19 Jeremiah emphasizes the certainty of invasion and in Jeremiah 46:20-26 he emphasizes the consequences of the invasion. To this oracle is appended a promise to the Judean captives (Jeremiah 46:27-28).

The Consequences of Invasion Jeremiah 46:20-26

The second stanza of the poem emphasizes the plight of Egypt by means of several figures. The first picture is of the heifer and the gadfly (Jeremiah 46:20). Egypt had hither-to enjoyed wealth and luxury. She is like a very fair heifer, well-fed, sleek and beautiful. This beautiful animal suddenly finds herself pained and fleeing from the sting of a tiny gadfly from the north. The word rendered in the KJV and ASV “destruction” occurs only here. It comes from a root which means to pinch or sting. Commentators are agreed in suggesting the translation “gadfly.” This translation is found in the margin of the ASV. The picture is intended to describe the weakness of Egypt in the face of her new enemy to the north.

The second picture is of the fleeing fat calves (Jeremiah 46:21). The mercenaries of Egypt are likened to “fatted bullocks” (KJV) or more precisely “calves of the stall” (ASV). These hirelings have no taste for real war. They have gotten all they could out of Egypt and have become fat and prosperous in the process. But now they read the handwriting on the wall and hastily flee to their native lands. It was the day of accountability for Egypt, the time of calamity and divine visitation.

The third picture is that of the advancing woodsmen and the hissing serpent (Jeremiah 46:22-23). The woodsmen are of course the Babylonians who will unmercifully demolish that which belongs to Egypt as the axmen clearing a forest. Egypt can only emit a hiss of defiance as she slithers towards her hole in the face of the advancing woodsmen. Thus the ancient power of Egypt which Ezekiel once compared to a crocodile (Ezekiel 29:3; Ezekiel 32:2) has become nothing but a serpent hissing with impotent rage.

The fourth picture is that of a great swarm of locust (Jeremiah 46:23 b). The phrase “it cannot be searched” could refer to the forest of the preceding figure or could equally well refer to the vast number of the invaders who are compared to a huge swarm of locust. In Joel 1:4 four stages of that insect’s existence are represented by four distinct Hebrew words. The word used here seems to represent the second stage in the development of the locust. One wonders if the famous locust plague of Exodus was in the mind of Jeremiah as he penned this description of the forthcoming Chaldean invasion. Plagues of locust are not at all uncommon in this region of the world.

In the closing verses of the poem the prophet drops his figures of speech and becomes much more precise in his predictions. Egypt will be completely humiliated by being given into the hands of the people from the north (Jeremiah 46:24). God has decreed that He will punish “Amon of No” (ASV). Amon the sun god for centuries was the chief god of Egypt; No is the Biblical name for Thebes, one of the famous cities of the land located in Upper or southern Egypt. Thebes was located some 450 miles south of modern Cairo. Beginning about 2100 B.C. the city served as the seat of the Pharaohs. Thebes reached the height of its power between 1500 and 1000 B.C. when it was the wealthiest and most famous city in the world. The Egyptians called the place No-Amon, “The Town of Amon.” The greatest collection of monuments and ruins in all the world is to be found at ancient Thebes. The ruins are grouped in three major areas. At the modern city of Luxor is the magnificent Temple of Amenhotep III. A mile and a half northeast of Luxor, at Karnak, are the remains of the majestic Temple of Amon and several smaller temples. Across the Nile from Luxor and Karnak lies the Necropolis, or royal cemetery where the temples and tombs of former rulers are located.

Among the greatest achievements of mankind are the temples of Egypt and the greatest of all Egyptian temples is that of Amon at Karnak. It is the largest temple ever erected by man and, until recent times, the largest columned building ever constructed. Some of the columns in this temple rise to a height of 69 feet and are 34 feet in circumference, It is said that 125 men can stand on the top of each capital of these huge columns.

The history of Thebes from the time of Jeremiah up to the third Christian century is a succession of attacks by foreigners and insurrections by local inhabitants. First came Nebuchadnezzar (568–567 B.C.) who surely must have conquered Thebes though the evidence falls short of conclusive proof. Then came Cambyses II (525 B.C.) who plundered Thebes, burned the famous temples, and ravaged the city. Thebes never recovered her former prominence. An insurrection at Thebes was ruthlessly quelled by the Persians in 335 B.C. Alexander the Great next conquered Egypt (332 B.C.). In the first pre-Christian century Ptolemy IX completely destroyed Thebes in order to quell an uprising. The prophecy of Ezekiel 30:16, “Thebes shall be breached and its walls broken down” has been literally fulfilled. No city walls are to be seen at the ancient site. Only gateways and pylons mark the places where walls once stood.

Amon and the other gods of Egypt will be punished in the sense of being discredited when the Lord brings His instrument of judgment upon the land. Pharaoh and the “kings” or officials of royal blood will also taste of the wrath of the Lord along with all the foolish people who put their trust in Pharaoh. The Jews who fled to Egypt after the death of Gedaliah would be in the latter category. That there will be no doubt as to who the conqueror of Egypt will be, Jeremiah specifically names him in Jeremiah 46:26. It will be none other than Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon. Liberal critics have tried to discredit the prophecy by arguing that Nebuchadnezzar never actually conquered Egypt. However, history does record a successful Chaldean invasion of that land.

At the conclusion of the Egypt oracle Jeremiah holds out brighter prospects for the Egyptians. “And afterwards it shall be inhabited as in the days of old” (Jeremiah 46:26). Ezekiel predicts that after forty years of desolation Egyptians would be restored to their land; but Egypt would then be “the basest of kingdoms” (Ezekiel 29:12 ff.). The forty years of Ezekiel 29:12 has also been taken to refer to the period of Persian occupation of Egypt (570–530 B.C.). Keil regards the forty years as symbolically “denoting a period appointed by God for punishment and penitence.” Does Jeremiah have in mind here the future political prospects of Egypt as did Ezekiel? This interpretation is possible. But Laetsch has offered a somewhat more spiritual interpretation of this sentence. He points out that “afterwards” here and elsewhere in these oracles against the nations (e.g., Jeremiah 49:6) is equivalent to the phrase “the latter days” found in Jeremiah 48:47 and Jeremiah 49:39. In the latter days God will bring back the captivity (i.e., reverse the fortunes) of Moab and Elam (Jeremiah 48:47, Jeremiah 49:39). Concerning Ammon God declares: “But afterward I will bring back the captivity of the children of Ammon” (Jeremiah 49:6). Thus Laetsch would seem to be justified in equating the term “afterward” and the “latter days.” Now if the term “the latter days” refers to the Messianic age as it most certainly does, then the term “afterward” should also have Messianic implications. This being the case, the reference here to the restoration of Egypt may well point to the conversion of Egypt to the Christian faith. Egypt shall be inhabited “as in days of old.” During the patriarchal and unmilitary days of old, Egypt provided a peaceful and happy home for the teeming masses which settled in the fertile Nile valley. So when Egypt in the future, in the latter days, shall hear the Gospel of Christ the inhabitants will know a peace and tranquility which will exceed even that of the days of old. Students of church history will recall that Egypt for centuries was a stronghold of the Christian faith.

Verses 27-28

Jer 46:27-28

Jeremiah 46:27-28


But fear not thou, O Jacob my servant, neither be dismayed, O Israel: for, lo, I will save thee from afar, and thy seed from the land of their captivity; and Jacob shall return, and shall be quiet and at ease, and none shall make him afraid. Fear not thou, O Jacob my servant, saith Jehovah; for I am with thee: for I will make a full end of all the nations whither I have driven thee; but I will not make a full end of thee, but I will correct thee in measure, and will in no wise leave thee unpunished.

These verses state emphatically that nothing whatever will be able to thwart the eternal purpose of God in providing redemption for all mankind through the posterity of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Despite the fact of the Chosen people having lost their status as God’s wife, and the awful truth that the whole nation had become a degenerate, corrupt vine instead of the noble vine that God had planted, they will not be able to countermand or destroy God’s intention. They indeed failed, but God did not fail.

Furthermore, note the fact here that God promises continued punishment of Israel, as fulfilled repeatedly throughout the long centuries between the Old Testament and the New Testament. God’s marvelous achievement in bringing in at last through the precious Virgin of Nazareth, that Child who was cradled in the manger of Bethlehem, despite the absolute refusal of the Chosen People to fulfill their obligations in the project, must be ranked as the Greatest Miracle of All Time.

"These two verses are a repetition of Jeremiah 30:10-11, with those variations which Jeremiah always made when quoting himself."

Keil noted that, "This promise of salvation for Israel, coming at the close of this prophecy of the judgment on Egypt, is similar to the promise of salvation to Israel inserted in the threat against Babylon (Jeremiah 50:4-7; Jeremiah 51:5-6; Jeremiah 51:10; Jeremiah 51:35-36; Jeremiah 51:45-46; Jeremiah 51:50); and this similarity furnishes proof in behalf of the genuineness of the verse."

This chapter gives an extensive view of the turbulent times for mankind when one world-power, such as Egypt, was supplanted by another like Babylon. Human life was in all such situations considered a very cheap and expendable factor; and the sorrows of the human race appear to have been almost beyond the powers of our imagination fully to comprehend them. The tragic record of Adam’s race in rebellion against their true God is the only thing needed to explain and justify the need of an ultimate Judgment in which the rebellious portion of Adam’s posterity shall indeed be wiped off the face of earth (Zephaniah 1)!

A Promise to the Judean Captives Jeremiah 46:27-28

Jeremiah cannot think of the defeat of Egypt without at the same time contemplating the salvation of Israel. The prophet here quotes two verses from an earlier passages, Jeremiah 30:10-11. Just as Egypt’s troubles are to be but temporary, so also would be the troubles of Israel. To those Israelites who are in captivity in foreign lands Jeremiah directs this word of encouragement: “Fear not! Do not be dismayed!” God will save Israel from afar, i.e., He will bring them back to the promised land. Once restored to Palestine Jacob will enjoy peace and tranquility and no foreign power shall again make him afraid (Jeremiah 46:27). “Fear not,” the prophet repeats, “for I am with you.” Those nations which were responsible for taking the people of God captive would be utterly destroyed. While the captivity is for Jacob a divine punishment yet it is a measured punishment designed for correction and not destruction. What a comfort it is to know that even in the darkest days God has His hand upon His children. In the most difficult circumstances God’s people can manifest courage and faith because they are fortified by the promises of their God.

Prophecies about Foreign Nations - Jeremiah 46:1 to Jeremiah 51:64

Open It

1. What, in your mind, is a good example of a situation in which justice was served?

2. In what strategic defense or weapon would you have the most confidence during a personal attack?

Explore It

3. Why did Jeremiah say that the mighty warriors of Egypt would cower before Nebuchadnezzar? (Jeremiah 46:13-17)

4. Despite the judgment coming on Egypt, what did God promise them eventually? (Jeremiah 46:25-26)

5. What promises did God make to Israel with honesty, justice, and hope? (Jeremiah 46:27-28)

6. To what terrifying natural disaster did God compare the Egyptian conquest of Philistia? (Jeremiah 47:2-5)

7. Where did the people of Moab misplace their trust, sending themselves and their idols into captivity? (Jeremiah 48:6-9)

8. In the context of judging the nations, what curse did Jeremiah pronounce on the lax or merciful? (Jeremiah 48:10)

9. Why would it be particularly appropriate when Moab became an object of scorn and ridicule? (Jeremiah 48:26-27)

10. What brought about Moab’s destruction as a nation? (Jeremiah 48:42)

11. What was the source of Ammon’s false sense of security? (Jeremiah 49:4)

12. What did God promise to the Ammonites when their punishment was complete? (Jeremiah 49:6)

13. How did God say He would treat the helpless, even within the borders of His enemy, Edom? (Jeremiah 49:11)

14. Why did Edom think its location made it invincible? (Jeremiah 49:15-16)

15. How would Damascus along with Kedar and the kingdoms of Hazor also fall under God’s judgment? (Jeremiah 49:23-33)

16. What would eventually happen to the nation of Elam after it was defeated and taken into exile? (Jeremiah 49:37-39)

17. With their enemies facing God’s wrath, what did Jeremiah predict Israel and Judah would do? (Jeremiah 50:4-5)

18. What attitude of the Babylonians in relation to God’s people convinced God to leave them desolate? (Jeremiah 50:11-13)

19. Since the Babylonians had exiled many of the peoples they conquered from their own land, what would happen when God punished them? (Jeremiah 50:16)

20. When Babylon was made accountable to God, what would become of Israel’s guilt? (Jeremiah 50:20)

21. What did Jeremiah tell us about Israel’s Redeemer? (Jeremiah 50:34)

22. To what historic event did God compare the coming destruction of Babylon? (Jeremiah 50:39-40)

23. What were the Babylonians failing to take into account about God’s relationship to Israel? (Jeremiah 51:5)

24. What nation was to become God’s instrument of justice against Babylon? (Jeremiah 51:11-14)

25. How did Jeremiah contrast the God of Israel with the idols of the other nations? (Jeremiah 51:17-19)

26. What religious disgrace of the people of Israel would be remedied by God Himself? (Jeremiah 51:51-53)

27. What message about Babylon was Seraiah to deliver to the exiles in Babylon? (Jeremiah 51:59-64)

Get It

28. Why was it important for the Jews exiled in Babylon to know that Babylon’s great power would soon fall?

29. Why was it important that each instrument of God’s wrath not be lax?

30. In what ways does modern society practice some of the same evil and rebellious attitudes that brought on God’s punishments for these nations?

31. What will become of those who rejoice when one of God’s servants stumbles morally?

32. How does our worship become acceptable to God?

Apply It

33. In what situation can you demonstrate a new attitude toward a Christian who has stumbled?

34. Through what difficult circumstance will you ask God to give you perspective, patience, and (eventually) freedom?

Questions On Jeremiah Chapter Forty-Six

By Brent Kercheville

1 What is God’s message to Egypt in Jeremiah 46:1-12?

2 What is the false thinking of Egypt (Jeremiah 46:8-9)?

3 Who is going to be victorious (Jeremiah 46:10)?

4 What is God’s message to Egypt in Jeremiah 46:13-26?

5 What is going to happen to the Egyptians?

6 What is God’s message to Israel (Jeremiah 46:27-28)?

7 What is the hope for Israel?


How does this relationship change your relationship with God?

What did you learn about him?

What will you do differently in your life?

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Jeremiah 46". "Old & New Testament Restoration Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/onr/jeremiah-46.html.
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