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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible
Jeremiah 46

 

 

Introduction

CHAP. XLVI.

Jeremiah prophesieth the overthrow of Pharaoh's army at Euphrates, and the conquest of Egypt by Nebuchadrezzar: he comforteth Jacob in their chastisement.

Before Christ 606.


Verse 1

Jeremiah 46:1. The word, &c.— This title belongs to the five following chapters, and refers to the general denunciation of God's judgments upon the countries round about Judaea. These prophesies are evidently arranged out of the order of time; but those who collected the writings of Jeremiah judged proper, as it seems, without confining themselves to order of time, to join together those prophesies which were not so immediately connected with the affairs of the Jews. See Calmet, and Grotius.


Verse 2

Jeremiah 46:2. Pharaoh-necho This prince is remarkable for his attempt to join the Nile to the Red Sea, by cutting a canal from one to the other; though they are above one hundred and eighteen English miles asunder; but after the loss of one hundred and twenty thousand workmen, he was obliged to desist. His first military action was against the Medes and Babylonians, who, having by the capture of Nineveh destroyed the Assyrian empire, became formidable to the neighbouring states. Josiah opposed him in his march through his country; but was defeated, and received a wound in the battle, which proved mortal. Necho continued his march after this victory, defeated the Babylonians, took Carchemish, and, securing it with a strong garrison, returned into his own country. Nabopalassar, observing that all Syria and Palestine had revolted on account of the reduction of Carchemish, sent his son Nebuchadrezzar with an army against Necho, whom he vanquished near the river Euphrates, recovered Carchemish, and subdued the revolted provinces, according to this prophesy of Jeremiah, in the year of the world, 3367; before Christ 607. See Rollin's Ancient Hist. vol. 1: book 1 and Calmet.


Verse 6

Jeremiah 46:6. Let not the swift flee away The words imply that it was God's command that none of the Egyptian army should escape. The river Euphrates was northward of Judaea: so Babylon is described as lying northward, being situate upon that river. See Joseph. Antiq. lib. 10: cap. 7.


Verse 7-8

Jeremiah 46:7-8. Who is this, &c.— The prophet speaks of Necho, and represents the grand preparations which he made to go to the succour of Carchemish. He flattered himself that nothing was capable of resisting the force of his arms. Jeremiah compares him to the inundations of the Nile, and this figure is very frequent in Scripture: see Isaiah 8:8; Isaiah 17:12-13. Jeremiah 47:2. Instead of, are moved, Jeremiah 46:7-8 we may read, Gush out, or overflow; and Jeremiah 46:9. Mount ye the horses, pride yourselves in chariots, and let the mighty ones come forth; Cush and Phut handling the shield, and the Ludim expert in the use of the bow.


Verse 10

Jeremiah 46:10. For this is the day of the Lord That is, as it follows, the day of his vengeance; hence the day of the Lord is used in the New Testament to signify the day of judgment: the same phrase of a sacrifice in the north country, (Bozrah) is used by Isaiah, ch. Jeremiah 34:6.


Verse 11

Jeremiah 46:11. Go up into Gilead, &c.— The practice of physic was one of the chief arts in Egypt, wherein every distinct distemper had its peculiar physician, who confined himself to the study and care of that alone; so that every family in the city must needs swarm with the faculty. It was this circumstance for which the Egyptian nation was peculiarly distinguished, not only by the earliest Greek writers, but likewise by the holy prophets. This passage is remarkable; the prophet foretelling the overthrow of Pharaoh's army at the Euphrates, describes Egypt by this characteristic of her skill in medicine; In vain shalt thou use many medicines. Gilead was famous for producing the celebrated balm of that name. In allusion to the practice of going thither for relief in dangerous cases, the prophet ironically advises the Egyptians to have recourse to this sovereign remedy, importing that all their methods of escaping the impending destruction would be in vain. See Div. Legat. vol. 3: and Lowth.


Verse 12

Jeremiah 46:12. Thy shame Thy disgrace.


Verse 14

Jeremiah 46:14. Noph—Tahpanhes That is to say, Memphis —Daphne.


Verse 15

Jeremiah 46:15. Why are thy valiant men swept away Why is the valiant one swept away? He could not stand because the Lord drove him. The prophet speaks of Pharaoh-necho. Houbigant.


Verse 16

Jeremiah 46:16. He made many to fall The number of those who fall is increased; lo, each one meets his neighbor, and says, Arise, let us return, &c. Houbigant. See chap. Jeremiah 25:38.


Verse 17

Jeremiah 46:17. They did cry there, &c.— They cried there to Pharaoh, king of Egypt; the storm or shock has already passed the appointed time. Houbigant. See Isaiah 10:3.


Verse 18

Jeremiah 46:18. Surely, &c.— Surely like Tabor among the mountains, and like Carmel by the sea, shall one come. Or, as sure as that Tabor is among the mountains, and as Carmel by the sea, it shall come to pass. The first sense seems preferable: Houbigant explains it thus: "As much as Tabor overtops all other mountains, so much shall the Chaldeans be superior to the Egyptians; and as the waves of the sea roar in vain at the foot of mount Carmel, so shall the Egyptian waves rage in vain." See Jeremiah 46:8.


Verse 20

Jeremiah 46:20. Egypt is like a very fair heifer Egypt is a fair and elegant heifer: the drivers shall come upon her from the north: Jeremiah 46:21. For her hired men, who in the midst of her were like fatted bullocks, have turned back, and fled away. Houbigant. The prophet delights in that kind of imagery which marks out a people by their singularities or pre-eminence. Thus, in the passage before us, he alludes to the peculiar worship of the Egyptians; for the worship of Isis and Osiris under the figure of a cow and a bull, and afterwards by the animals themselves, was the most celebrated in all the Egyptian ritual. See Divine Legation, vol. 2:


Verse 22

Jeremiah 46:22. The voice thereof shall go like a serpent Her voice hisses like a serpent; alluding to a wounded serpent, whence the similitude is taken. The LXX make use of the word συριξοντος sibilantis. The Chaldee, Vulgate, and other versions have it, shall sound like brass; wherein it is thought by some that the prophet alludes to the sistrum used in the worship of Isis; but the former seems to be the best interpretation, and is confirmed by Isaiah 29:4.


Verse 25

Jeremiah 46:25. I will punish the multitude of No I will punish Ammon of No. Ezekiel calls it, Haman No; and Nahum calls it No-Amon. The name is generally thought to be derived from Jupiter Ammon, whose temple was in this city: supposed to be the same which profane authors call Thebes, celebrated in Homer's time for its hundred gates. The LXX render it Diospolis, the Greek name for Thebes, a city famous for the worship of Jupiter Ammon. See Boch. Phaleg. part 1: lib. 1: cap. 6. Heredotus, lib. 3: and Universal History, vol. 2: p. 89.


Verse 28

Jeremiah 46:28. Fear not thou, &c.— The preservation of the Jews through so many ages, and the total destruction of their enemies, are wonderful events; and are made still more wonderful by being signified beforehand by the Spirit of prophesy, as particularly in the passage before us. Their preservation is really one of the most illustrious acts of divine providence. They are dispersed among all nations, yet not confounded with any. The drops of rain which fall, nay, the great rivers which flow into the ocean, are soon mingled and lost: in that immense body of waters: and the same, in all human probability, would have been the fate of the Jews; they would have been mingled and lost in the common mass of mankind; but on the contrary, they flow into all parts of the world, mix with all nations, and yet keep separate from all. They still live as a distinct people, and yet they nowhere live according to their own laws, nowhere elect their own magistrates, nowhere enjoy the full exercise of their religion. Their solemn feasts and sacrifices are limited to one certain place, and that hath been now for many ages in the hands of strangers and aliens, who will not suffer them to come thither. No people have continued unmixed so long as they have done, not only of those who have sent colonies into foreign countries, but even of those who have abided in their own country. The northern nations have come in swarms into the more southern parts of Europe; but where are they now to be discerned and distinguished? The Gauls went forth in great bodies to seek their fortune in foreign parts; but what traces or footsteps of them are now remaining any where? In France, who can separate the race of the ancient Gauls from the various other people who from time to time have settled there? In Spain, who can distinguish exactly between the first possessors, the Spaniards, and the Goths and Moors, who conquered and kept possession of the country for some ages? In England, who can pretend to say, with certainty, which families are derived from the ancient Britons, and which from the Romans, Saxons, Danes, or Normans? The most ancient and honourable pedigrees can be traced up only to a certain period, and beyond that there is nothing but conjecture and uncertainty, obscurity and ignorance: but the Jews can go up higher than any nation; they can even deduce their pedigree from the beginning of the world. They may not know from what particular tribe or family they are descended, but they know certainly that they all sprung from the stock of Abraham. And yet the contempt with which they have been treated, and the hardships that they have undergone in almost all other countries, should, one would think, have made them desirous to forget or renounce their original: but they profess it, they glory in it: and after so many wars, massacres, and persecutions, they still subsist, and are still very numerous. And what but a supernatural power could have preserved them in such a manner, as no other nation upon earth hath been preserved? Nor is the providence of God less remarkable in the destruction of their enemies, than in their own preservation. For, from the beginning, who have been the great enemies and oppressors of the Jewish nation, removed them from their own land, and compelled them into captivity and slavery? The Egyptians afflicted them much, and detained them in bondage several years. The Assyrians carried away captive the ten tribes of Israel, and the Babylonians afterwards the two remaining tribes of Judah and Benjamin. The Syro-Macedonians, especially Antiochus Epiphanes, cruelly persecuted them: and the Romans utterly dissolved the Jewish state, and dispersed the people, so as that they have never been able to recover their city and country again. And where are now these great and famous monarchies, which in their turns subdued and oppressed the people of God? Are they not vanished as a dream, and not only their power, but their very names, lost in the earth? The Egyptians, Assyrians, and Babylonians were overthrown, and entirely subjugated by the Persians; and the Persians, it is remarkable, were the restorers of the Jews, as well as the destroyers of their enemies. The Syro-Macedonians were swallowed up by the Romans; and the Roman empire, great and powerful as it was, was broken into pieces by the incursions of the northern nations; while the Jews are subsisting as a distinct people at this day. And what a wonder of providence is it, that the vanquished should so many ages survive the victors, and the former be spread all over the world, while the latter are no more?—Nay, not only nations have been punished for their cruelties to the Jews, but divine vengeance has pursued even single persons, who have been their persecutors and oppressors. The first-born of Pharaoh was destroyed, and he himself with his host drowned in the sea. Most of those who oppressed Israel in the days of the Judges, came to an untimely end. Nebuchadnezzar was stricken with madness, and the crown was transferred from his family to strangers. Antiochus Epiphanes, and Herod, died in great agonies with ulcers, and vermin issuing from them. Flaccus, governor of Egypt, who barbarously plundered and oppressed the Jews of Alexandria, was afterwards banished and slain: and Caligula, who persecuted the Jews for refusing to do divine honours to his statue, was murdered in the flower of his age, after a short and wicked reign. But where are now—since they have absolutely rejected the Gospel, and been no longer the peculiar people of God,—where are now such visible manifestations of a divine interposition in their favour? The Jews would do well to consider this point; for rightly considered, it may be an effectual means of opening their eyes, and of turning them to Christ our Saviour. See Bishop Newton on the Prophesies, dissert. 8: sect. 2.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, The prophesies in this and the following chapters relate to the neighbouring nations of the Gentiles. This describes the defeat of the Egyptians, who had often been the oppressors of God's Israel, and now their unprofitable allies: endeavouring to support them in their rebellion, they bring his arms upon themselves to their destruction.

1. The Lord, ironically deriding their vain confidence and vast preparations, bids them collect their forces, fit on their armour, marshal their host, rush into the battle, vainly concluding the victory secure, and that the armies of Babylon, their cities and empire, would be utterly overwhelmed by their numerous forces, as the lands of Egypt were overflowed by the swellings of the Nile. Note; They who are the most self-confident are usually nearest the precipice of ruin.

2. He upbraids their cowardice and inglorious flight when the army of the Chaldeans met them. Where is now their boasted valour, and great swelling words of vanity? See them broken, dispirited, in panic fear; their mightiest warriors turn their backs, and seek their safety in an ignominious flight; but seek it in vain; since God obstructs their way, they cannot escape; their swifter pursuers are at their heels; they stumble near the Euphrates, to which they had advanced, and fall by the sword of the Chaldeans, drunk with the blood of the slain; for this is the day of the Lord God of Hosts, a day of vengeance for all the wrongs that they have done his people, and for the late slaughter of Josiah; and a sacrifice to divine justice for all their abominations. Note; (1.) Sinners may expect a day of recompence. (2.) Flight is vain from the sword of God's vengeance. (3.) One dismaying impression from God can make cowards of the bravest. Let not, therefore, the strong man glory in his strength.

3. He declares their wound incurable. In vain should they attempt to repair their defeat, or to conceal their shame: the nations around shall hear the cries of the wounded, and the groans of the dying; the mighty man hath stumbled against the mighty, heaps on heaps, pierced by the swords of their enemies; and no more shall they be able to make head against their foes, when, like a flood, they shall shortly break in upon them. Note; They whom God consigns to ruin, struggle in vain against their destiny.

2nd, We have another prophesy in this chapter. The former regards the defeat of the Egyptians at Carchemish, this the destruction of their country some years after. In those very cities where the infatuated Jews sought refuge, there must the land of Egypt's utter ruin be proclaimed. We have,

1. The alarm spread through the land. The sword of the Chaldeans was making havoc in the neighbouring countries; it is time for them therefore to prepare for war.

2. Their auxiliaries desert them, on the first defeat, finding themselves unable to defend the frontiers, and not supported by Pharaoh as they expected. God fought against them, destroyed and dispirited them, so that they fled together in the day of their calamity: willing, therefore, to have a pretext for retiring to their own countries, they cry out against Pharaoh, as having deceived and betrayed them: he boasted of certain victory, and the vast armies that he could raise; and now they find it but mere empty noise, and boast without ability. Note; (1.) When God fights, resistance is vain. (2.) They who deceive others with false hopes, deserve themselves to be deceived in their expectations from them.

3. Their ruin is determined by that eternal King whom all the hosts of heaven and earth obey. They are doomed to slaughter by the Chaldean sword, as the trees of the forest fall before the hewer's axe: thick as the locusts which once of old devoured the land, shall the soldiers of the king of Babylon cover the country; Egypt, like a heifer, so called perhaps in allusion to the ox which they worshipped, must bend her fair neck to the yoke, and this daughter, living in ease and affluence, must prepare to go into captivity. The destruction is sure as the mountains Tabor and Carmel; yea, so surely shall Pharaoh, and all them that trust in him, be overwhelmed; or (as some would explain it,) towering in pride as these mighty hills, the Babylonian conqueror shall advance, bear down his enemies, however many or mighty, with the false gods in whom they placed their confidence, and lay the country desolate and waste, depopulate the cities, and enslave the inhabitants: like the serpent wallowing in the dust, and hissing, so low should they be reduced, nor dare, for fear of offending, to make their complaints aloud: though this may also be interpreted of the army of the Chaldeans, hissing as they marched, and breathing out threatenings against their Egyptian foes. Thus complete should be their overthrow; for, though the army employed is Nebuchadnezzar's, the punishment is from God. Note; (1.) Whatever instruments are employed, God's hand should be seen in every visitation. (2.) They who trust in any thing but God alone, may expect disappointment. (3.) When troubles threaten, it is a call to prepare for them.

4. A gleam of hope closes the awful scene. Afterwards it shall be inhabited, as in the days of old, saith the Lord. Though it never after rose to its pristine splendor, it became a great and populous nation after forty years, Ezekiel 29:13-14 for God wounds, and he heals.

5. The people of God have a gracious promise to comfort them amid these desolations, either the few faithful in Egypt, or those in Babylon: if Egypt shall return from its captivity, much more shall they. The same assurance was given them before, chap. Jeremiah 30:11-12 and this was in part fulfilled in their recovery from the Babylonish yoke, but shall be more eminently seen at the latter day; for which purpose, amid all the changes of nations and fall of empires, they are to this day preserved a distinct people, and may expect again to see rest and ease in their own land.

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Jeremiah 46:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/jeremiah-46.html. 1801-1803.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, October 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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