CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES.—1. Chronology of the Chapter.—First Part: Jer, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim; written at Jerusalem, immediately before the battle of Charchemish. This section forms a natural addendum to chap. 25. Vide notes there on Chronology, National Affairs, and Contemporaneous History; also on chaps. 7 and 10. Second Part: Jer 46:18-28, is a prophecy uttered in Egypt after the migration of the remnant thither, carrying Jeremiah with them, and should be connected with chap. Jer 43:8-13. It must have preceded chap. 44, which is the final message of abandonment; for here in Jer 46:27-28, a message of comfort is sent, in which the old (and as yet disannulled) covenant-relationship is still recognised and asserted. Vide notes on chaps. 43 and 44. See Historic Facts below.
2. Geographical References.—Jer . "By the river Euphrates in Charchemish." "Charchenish" is usually identified with Cercusium, at the juncture of the Chebar with the Euphrates; but Professor Rawlinson disputes this localisation, and would place it considerably higher up the river.
Jer . "As a food, and his waters are moved like the rivers." Year, "flood," is the Nile; and "his waters" are the branches of the Nile in Lower Egypt.
Jer . "Ethiopians, Libyans, and Lydians: Heb. Cush, Phut, and Ludim. "Cush," the Nubian negro; "Phut," the Libyans of Mauritania; and "Ludim," the Hamite Lydians of North Africa.
Jer . "Migdol, Noph, Tahpanhes." Vide notes on chaps. Jer 2:14-16, and Jer 44:1.
Jer . "Tabor" lifts itself from the plain of Esdraelon 1350 feet; its height above the sea-level being 1805 feet. "Carmel" forms a bold promontory jutting out into the Mediterranean.
Jer . "Multitude of No;" rather Amon of No; called in Nah 3:8 (margin) No-Amon. The sacred city of Thebes, capital of Upper Egypt. Comp. Eze 30:14-16. Jupiter-Ammon had his famous temple there. Ammon was the supreme deity of the triad of Thebes.
3. Personal Allusion.—Jer . "Pharaoh-Necho king of Egypt," son and successor of Psammeticus, and the sixth king of the twenty-sixth dynasty. It was he who, when going against Charchemish, four years earlier, encountered king Josiah at Megiddo, and slew him, but whose defeat by Nebuchadnezzar is here pronounced. In this battle he lost all the territory which had been subject to the Pharaohs west of the Euphrates, and between it and the Nile. He is famed as having equipped a fleet of discovery from the Red Sea along the coast of Africa, which doubled the Cape of Good Hope and returned to Egypt by the Mediterranean.
4. Natural History.—Jer . "Riseth like a flood." The Nile's annual overflow at the approach of the summer solstice.
Jer . "Gilead, and take balm." Vide chap. Jer 8:22.
Jer . "A very fair heifer." Her god was the bull Apis, and she is here called, as his spouse, the fair heifer.
Jer . "Voice shall go like a serpent," hissing as a snake disturbed in its haunts by the woodcutter.
Jer . "Grasshoppers." Rendered "locust" (Exo 10:4; Exo 10:15; Jud 6:5). The gryllus gregarius.
5. Manners and Customs.—Jer . "Order the buckler and shield." "Buckler," a small round target carried on the left arm by the light infantry; "shield," carried by the heavy-armed troops and covering the whole body.
Jer . "Harness the horses," the cavalry and charioteers. "Brigandines," cuirasses or coats of mail.
6. Literary Criticisms.—Jer . "Fear was round about." The prophet's old cry, Magor-Missabib (see on chap. Jer 6:25).
Jer . "Come up, ye horses;" or, "Mount ye the horses."
Jer . "Many medicines," &c. Comp. chap. Jer 30:13, "Healing-plaster hast thou none."
Jer . "Why are thy valiant men swept away?" Lit. "why is (singular) thy valiants." Evidently a corruption of the text. The LXX. read διατί ἔφυγεν από σου ὁ ἄπις; ὁ μὀσχος ὁ εκλεκτος σου οὐκ ἔμεινεν: thus recognising in "the valiant," or strong, Apis the bull. It is a Scripture figure, "strong bulls" (Psa 22:12); and this Apis, the bull-shaped Egyptian idol, to whom might was attributed by its worshippers, would be unable to stand before Jehovah. This original reference to Apis as the strong one became corrupted by transcribers (who did not understand its reference) into a plural noun, as if alluding to horses or heroes. Cambyses, in his invasion of Egypt, destroyed the sacred bull.
Jer . "They did cry there, Pharaoh king of Egypt is but a noise." The LXX. translate, "Call ye the name of Pharaoh-Necho king of Egypt, Sam Esbir." The Syriac renders the words, "Disturber and passer of times;" and the Vulgate, "Time hath brought tumult." All three regard the last two words as a prophetic name for Necho. But שָׁאוֹן is in the abstract destruction; but in chap. Jer 25:31, it is rendered "a noise;" tumult, therefore, confusion, as associated with destruction. So Pharaoh is to be surnamed "a noise" or tumult.
HISTORIC FACTS REFERRED TO IN CHAPTER 46
I. The Egyptian power broken by Nebuchadnezzar (Jer ).
1. Preliminary incidents. About four years before this decisive campaign, Pharaoh-Necho had marched towards Charchemish. Josiah, king of Judah, has hastened to Megiddo to intercept Pharaoh, and was there slain in battle. Necho thereupon made Judea tributary, carried away to Egypt Josiah's son Jehoahaz (Shallum), and set up his brother Jehoiakim. This defeat of Judah laid Phœnicia and Syria easily open to subjugation by Necho, who soon "established his own dominion over the whole country between Egypt and the Euphrates" (Rawlinson). Meanwhile, two years after Josiah's fall (see note, Contemporaneous History, to chap. 7), and two years before this campaign at Charchemish, the Assyrian power at Nineveh had been defeated by the Babylonians and Medes. Nebuchadnezzar thereupon became the leader of this new Babylonian power, and came at length to confront the proud Egyptian forces at Charchemish.
2. The decisive battle. Taking this prophetic poem literally, we have here described the struggle at Charchemish. First, the flower of Egypt's army advances (Jer ), magnificently equipped (Jer 46:3-4). They are repulsed by Nebuchadnezzar's forces (Jer 46:5); and with graphic and stirring language Jeremiah depicts the sudden terror and amazement of the Egyptian hosts, long used to victory, at finding the battle turning against them; then falling back and betaking themselves to hasty flight (Jer 46:5-6). But from this first repulse they rally; and the whole land of Egypt (Jer 46:8), together with its dependent nations and allies (Jer 46:9), seems to rise up like a flood and rolls into the furious conflict. They march forth now in assurance and pride; but this day of their fury and pomp is the appointed day of Jehovah's vengeance (Jer 46:10). Egypt is smitten with an incurable wound (Jer 46:11), and the cry of the smitten armies resounds through the lands (Jer 46:11).
II. Egypt invaded and vanquished by Babylon (Jer ).
1. Intervening events. The new Babylonish empire (Chaldea) was now supreme. Judah's tributary dependence was now transferred to Nebuchadnezzar (see note, Contemporaneous History, to chap. 1); this was in the fourth year of Jehoiakim (see note, National Affairs, to chap. 25) Until the eleventh year of Zedekiah this vassalage continued (chap. Jer ), when, in consequence of Zedekiah's falsity and the nation's treachery, Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem, carrying the people captive to Babylon. The remnant of the poor who were left on the land afterwards migrated into Egypt (chap. 43), where they lapsed into grossest idolatry (chap. 44) In vain had the prophet Jeremiah there pleaded with his apostate people; therefore Jehovah withdrew His name from them (chap. Jer 44:26), and threatened their extermination when Egypt should be overthrown (chap. Jer 43:9-13), of which the death of Pharaoh-Hophra should be the ominous sign (chap. Jer 44:29-30).
2. The fatal invasion of Egypt. Nebuchadnezzar had been held back by his siege of Tyre, which, though all the nations had been forced into subjection by his irresistible armies, long withstood his attack. At length (585 B.C.), after thirteen years' siege, Tyre fell; Nebuchadnezzar marched his army against Egypt. The Egyptian power was now in its boastful zenith; its cities were like a "forest" (Jer ), numbering a thousand and twenty. Yet the Egyptian army was devoid of patriotism, for they were subjected races (see Jer 46:9) and mercenaries, thirty thousand of whom Hophra hired from Asia Minor—Carians and Ionians (see Herodotus). In this crisis these hirelings, instead of defending the country, resolve to desert the Egyptian cause and return each to his native land (Jer 46:16). Egypt thus sinks into impotent rage, like a serpent hissing in a thicket (Jer 46:19-23); terrified by the force of the Babylonish assault into abject submission (Jer 46:24-26). For forty years Egypt bore the yoke of Babylon, when, in the time of Cyrus, she recovered her freedom, but not her glory; for she has been in servile subjection to foreign powers until this day (see Eze 29:11-15).
III. Egypt preserved from total extinction by the Chaldeans (Jer ). Forty years after the conquest of Egypt by Nebuchadnezzar, in which she was despoiled of all her glory and treasures (Eze 29:19), Cyrus won for Egypt her emancipation. And through these long centuries, though Babylon has ceased to exist, though mighty dynasties have become extinct, Egypt has continued as a monument of God's faithful word. Instead, however, of regaining her old force for aggression and aggrandisement, her power is permanently broken (Eze 29:11-15). But from that time she has been "inhabited;" and to this day, in her humiliation, she testifies to the might and justice of God—a warning to those who harm His people, and an encouragement to those He promises to befriend.
HOMILIES AND OUTLINES ON CHAPTER 46
Jer . Theme: GOD'S JUDGMENTS UPON THE NATIONS.
I. Jehovah's sway is wide as the universe. Not limited to Israel and Judah. His omniscience surveys the nations. His omnipotence sways the nations. He marks their history; He works their destinies.
II. Jehovah's wrath is against all ungodliness. Angry with His own apostate people. Equally angry against iniquitous Egypt. The fate of Josiah shall be avenged (see above, Historic Facts). All nations who defy God's rule shall feel His rod. If He smite His own people, let not His foes think to escape!
III. Jehovah's justice pursues into all lands. Let not Israel impiously think to defy God by fleeing into Egypt; nor to secure immunity by alliance with the mighty.
Let not Israel despondently imagine that the wicked will retain their proud ascendancy over God's people whom they have subdued.
"AGAINST THE GENTILES." See Homilies on chap. 25, "The Manifold Judgments of God" (p. 469); "The Wine-cup of Wrath" (p. 474).
Jer . Theme: BRILLIANT HOPES BAFFLED. "Order ye the buckler and shield," &c.
The satire of prophecy is very severe. Thus the prophet summons the proud Egyptians to the war against Nebuchadnezzar's hosts. This rallying call is full of bitter irony. Grand preparations only to issue in ignominious defeat.
I. A mighty army well equipped for war. It would almost seem that victory was theirs before they engaged in war.
1. Absorbing attention to our own resources of strength shuts out all heed of God and His designs. We trust in armaments and forces, rest in outward defences; and thus ignore God, and alienate Him.
2. All our resources of strength are but a deception and a snare when God is against us. They delude us; and allure on boastfully in the course of defeat and destruction.
3. External splendour, being greatly impressive and imposing, is often imagined to ensure prosperity. Men believe in display; and
4. Grow confident in the parade of power and skill. But Goliath may fall before a stone and sling. The loftiness of men may be brought low.
II. A baffled army utterly vanquished in war. It was a sight for wonder. "Wherefore have I seen," &c. (Jer ). "Wherefore" is a particle expressive of surprise: "How?" "Why?"
1. Wondrous surprises do occur in human experience, which reverse all our boastings. Often in secular courses men find events occur which shake them from their confidences. Death-scenes have shown the "boastful lips put to silence," &c.
2. Proud and resplendent forces are startlingly overthrown; vanquished contrary to all reckonings; as if a superhuman Hand had to do with the issues of our struggles and efforts. God reverses the plans of the proud, and defeats the hopes of the vainglorious.
3. Strongest forces will find themselves "beaten down" when they oppose the will of Omnipotence. The Divine power strikes down the mighty, and thereby—
(a.) Human arrogance is chastised.
(b.) Divine righteousness is satisfied (Jer ).
Jer . Theme: THE DISMAY OF DEFEAT.
I. Solid guarantees of success. "Mighty" (Jer ); "Swift" (Jer 46:6).
1. Hopes are built on seeming securities.
2. With boastful confidence men attempt their aims.
3. None, however opposed to God's purposes, allows himself to expect defeat; but makes his endeavours amid promises of success.
II. Guarantees of success overthrown.
1. Forces, whose resistance are unreckoned, may thwart our hopes.
2. Human resources of strength are impotent when God is opposed to our success.
3. Pride and prowess will fall in the day of God's resistance.
4. Souls, deluded by vain boasting, will meet an appalling defeat.
III. Success overthrown followed by dismay.
1. What amazement will overwhelm the wicked in their doom!
2. How helpless will the sinner be in the moment of his overthrow.
3. How certain is the failure of all earthly schemes, and especially of all plans of salvation, which God disapproves.
4. Oh, the terror of an eternal defeat!
Jer . Theme: HEALING FOR STRICKEN ONES. For Egypt? Yes; equally as for Israel (chap. Jer 8:22).
It is always right to recognise amongst you, as a congregation, the suffering. Not in physical affliction merely, but spiritual sufferers; sinners, backsliders, Christians who have lost health.
The need of Christ's ministry of healing, and of the Christian ministry of consolation, is still evident; and can never cease while men suffer from the wounds of sin.
I. Healing urgently needed. What has wounded Egypt? Sin and strife. What has wounded souls? The same.
1. Persevering search for remedies. "Use many medicines."
2. Fruitless application of remedies. "In vain use many," &c. The world offers "many medicines." If conscience is distressed, try pleasure, business, ceremonialism. If the heart is wounded, try exciting literature, diverting travels, cheerful society, &c.
But like the sufferer (Mar ) who spent her money on many physicians, yet could be healed of none.
II. Healing offered the stricken.
1. Seek the healing at the right place. "Go up to Gilead." Sinners, go to Calvary.
2. Secure the right remedy. "Take balm." The blood of Christ for cleansing the conscience; the love of Christ for calming the heart; the grace of Christ for clothing the soul.
See homilies on chap. Jer : "Faithless Healers and Vain Remedies;" and "Healing Medicines."
Jer . Theme: VALOUR DEFEATED. "Why are thy valiant men swept away? They stood not, because the Lord did drive them."
(i.) There is AN UNSEEN POWER GREATER than that visible.
(ii.) When the unseen Power is against "the valiants," VALOUR IS OF NO AVAIL.
(iii.) It is GOD WHODECIDES VICTORIES, and weakest armies may, therefore, take the field against the strong.
I. Since "power belongeth unto God," we should attempt no conflict without first gaining Omnipotence on our side. Enter, therefore, upon no enterprise without God.
II. Valour is noble, and merits a better issue than to be defeated.
They who are "valiant for the truth," for rights civil and religious, &c., deserve success.
With "God for them" they shall go on "conquering and to conquer."
Yet reliance on our valour will repel God from our side, and insure that the "valiant men are swept away."
III. The overthrow of the valiant carries its own admonition against Godless confidence.
Mighty armies have fallen, because they trusted in their equipments and strategies. Mighty men have fallen before weaker forces—Samson, Goliath, &c.
God is jealous, and will allow no arrogance and boasting. He has threatened the proud and wicked with overthrow. "Pride goeth before destruction," &c. Victory will therefore be denied to the valiant who ignore God, trusting in their own courage and strength.
IV. Humility blended with valour wins God's mighty help.
1. Humility is better even than valour, for it secures that which is infinitely more important—"God giveth grace to the humble."
2. Valour blended with humility has wrought marvels, making men "mighty through God," so that "one may chase a thousand, and two may put ten thousand to flight."
3. Valour is commanded in those who stand up for Christ and His cause—"Quit ye like men, be strong;" but the uniform to be worn by every soldier of the Cross is this: "Be clothed with humility."
Jer . Theme: EXULTING OVER THE RUIN OF ENEMIES. Jeremiah had reason to loathe Egypt, and it had been well had his people hated the land and its inhabitants. "Come out from the midst of her, My people, and be not partakers of her plagues."
I. The overthrow of sinners contemplated with a natural satisfaction.
1. The Egyptians typify the foes of God's Church.
2. All the miseries and humiliations of life are associated with these spiritual enemies: like "the hard bondage" of Egypt before God redeemed His people.
3. Molestations and oppression had been experienced by Israel at the hands of these enemies.
4. The righteous see with satisfaction that the wrongs they have suffered will be requited.
5. It is with equanimity and a sense of right that the overthrow of our oppressors is contemplated.
II. The overthrow of sinners rejoiced in with righteous gladness.
1. The law of recompense is a gracious law; it vindicates God's justice and power, and assures the righteous who suffer wrongfully that God will in due season reverse the tyranny of evil-doers.
2. The honour of God, as much as the peace of the righteous, necessitates the ultimate overthrow of the enemies of God and His kingdom.
3. A godly soul therefore exults in the merited defeat of evil; for—
(a.) It insures the peace of the godly.
(b.) It vindicates the faithfulness of God.
(c.) It frustrates the purposes of evil.
(d.) It demonstrates the certainty of justice—against the guilty, and to the godly.
Jer . Theme: ISRAEL'S RESTORATION. (See notes and homilies on chap. Jer 30:10-11 : "Recovery of Lost Israel," and "Nations Obliterated; Israel Preserved.") "Egypt's fall and restoration have been foretold; but the prophet closes with a word of exhortation to the many erring Jews who dwelt there. With loving earnestness he—
I. Reminds them of Israel's hope, and of the promise of salvation to mankind bound up with their national existence. Further, he calls back to their remembrance the prediction from which these two verses are taken (chap. 30), and thereby
II. Assures them of Israel's return from exile, and of the certain accomplishment, by their means, of God's purposes of mercy to the whole human race. Why, then, should they flee from their country and trust in a heathen power, instead of endeavouring to live in a manner worthy of
III. The noble destiny which was their true glory and ground of confidence?"—Dr. Payne Smith.
Note.—"When God turns things upside down, and takes care that neither root nor branch remains, His little flock must be preserved. The punishments which redound to the destruction of the ungodly redound to the amelioration of the godly. For from these He takes the eternal punishment, and turns even the temporal punishment to their advantage; but the ungodly drink it to the dregs."—Cramer.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Jeremiah 46". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany