Jer 46:1-28. The Prophecies, Forty-sixth through Fifty-second Chapters, Refer to Foreign Peoples.
He begins with Egypt, being the country to which he had been removed. The forty-sixth chapter contains two prophecies concerning it: the discomfiture of Pharaoh-necho at Carchemish by Nebuchadnezzar, and the long subsequent conquest of Egypt by the same king; also the preservation of the Jews (Jer 46:27, 28).
1. General heading of the next six chapters of prophecies concerning the Gentiles; the prophecies are arranged according to nations, not by the dates.
2. Inscription of the first prophecy.
Pharaoh-necho -- He, when going against Carchemish (Cercusium, near the Euphrates), encountered Josiah, king of Judah (the ally of Assyria), at Megiddo, and slew him there (2Ki 23:29; 2Ch 35:20-24); but he was four years subsequently overcome at Carchemish, by Nebuchadnezzar, as is foretold here; and lost all the territory which had been subject to the Pharaohs west of the Euphrates, and between it and the Nile. The prediction would mitigate the Jews' grief for Josiah, and show his death was not to be unavenged (2Ki 24:7). He is famed as having fitted out a fleet of discovery from the Red Sea, which doubled the Cape of Good Hope and returned to Egypt by the Mediterranean.
3. Derisive summons to battle. With all your mighty preparation for the invasion of Nebuchadnezzar, when ye come to the encounter, ye shall be |dismayed| (Jer 46:5). Your mighty threats shall end in nothing.
buckler -- smaller, and carried by the light-armed cavalry.
shield -- of larger size, and carried by the heavily armed infantry.
4. Harness the horses -- namely, to the war chariots, for which Egypt was famed (Ex 14:7; 15:4).
get up, ye horsemen -- get up into the chariots. Maurer, because of the parallel |horses,| translates, |Mount the steeds.| But it is rather describing the successive steps in equipping the war chariots; first harness the horses to them, then let the horsemen mount them.
brigandines -- cuirasses, or coats of mail.
5. (See on Jer 46:3). The language of astonishment, that an army so well equipped should be driven back in |dismay.| The prophet sees this in prophetic vision.
fled apace -- literally, |fled a flight,| that is, flee precipitately.
look not back -- They do not even dare to look back at their pursuers.
6. Let not -- equivalent to the strongest negation. Let not any of the Egyptian warriors think to escape by swiftness or by might.
toward the north -- that is, in respect to Egypt or Judea. In the northward region, by the Euphrates (see Jer 46:2).
7. as a flood -- (Jer 47:2; Isa 8:7, 8; Da 11:22). The figure is appropriate in addressing Egyptians, as the Nile, their great river, yearly overspreads their lands with a turbid, muddy flood. So their army, swelling with arrogance, shall overspread the region south of Euphrates; but it, like the Nile, shall retreat as fast as it advanced.
8. Answer to the question in Jer 46:7.
waters ... moved like the rivers -- The rise of the Nile is gentle; but at the mouth it, unlike most rivers, is much agitated, owing to the sandbanks impeding its course, and so it rushes into the sea like a cataract.
9. Ironical exhortation, as in Jer 46:3. The Egyptians, owing to the heat of their climate and abstinence from animal food, were physically weak, and therefore employed mercenary soldiers.
Ethiopians -- Hebrew, Cush: Abyssinia and Nubia.
Libyans -- Phut, Mauritania, west of Egypt (compare Ge 10:6).
shield -- The Libyans borrowed from Egypt the use of the long shield extending to the feet [Xenophon, Cyropædia, 6 and 7].
Lydians -- not the Lydians west of Asia Minor (Ge 10:22; Eze 30:5), but the Ludim, an African nation descended from Egypt (Mizraim) (Ge 10:13; Eze 30:5; Na 3:9).
handle and bend the bow -- The employment of two verbs expresses the manner of bending the bow, namely, the foot being pressed on the center, and the hands holding the ends of it.
10. vengeance -- for the slaughter of Josiah (2Ki 23:29).
sword shall devour ... be ... drunk -- poetical personification (De 32:42).
a sacrifice -- (Isa 34:6; Eze 39:17). The slaughter of the Egyptians is represented as a sacrifice to satiate His righteous vengeance.
11. Gilead ... balm -- (See on Jer 8:22); namely, for curing the wounds; but no medicine will avail, so desperate shall be the slaughter.
virgin -- Egypt is so called on account of her effeminate luxury, and as having never yet been brought under foreign yoke.
thou shalt not be cured -- literally, |there shall be no cure for thee| (Jer 30:13; Eze 30:21). Not that the kingdom of Egypt should cease to exist, but it should not recover its former strength; the blow should be irretrievable.
12. mighty ... stumbled against ... mighty ... fallen both together -- Their very multitude shall prove an impediment in their confused flight, one treading on the other.
13-26. Prophecy of the invasion of Egypt by Nebuchadnezzar, which took place sixteen years after the taking of Jerusalem. Having spent thirteen years in the siege of Tyre, and having obtained nothing for his pains, he is promised by God Egypt for his reward in humbling Tyre (Eze 29:17-20; 30:1-31:18). The intestine commotions between Amasis and Pharaoh-hophra prepared his way (compare Note, see on Isa 19:1, &c.).
14. Declare ... publish -- as if giving sentence from a tribunal.
Migdol ... Noph ... Tahpanhes -- east, south, and north. He mentions the three other quarters, but omits the west, because the Chaldeans did not advance thither. These cities, too, were the best known to the Jews, as being in their direction.
sword shall devour round about thee -- namely, the Syrians, Jews, Moabites, and Ammonites (see on Jer 48:1). The exhortation is ironical, as in Jer 46:4, 9.
15. thy valiant men -- manuscripts, the Septuagint, and Vulgate read, |thy valiant one,| Apis, the bull-shaped Egyptian idol worshipped at Noph or Memphis. The contrast thus is between the palpable impotence of the idol and the might attributed to it by the worshippers. The Hebrew term, |strong,| or |valiant,| is applied to bulls (Ps 22:12). Cambyses in his invasion of Egypt destroyed the sacred bull.
drive them -- (Compare Jer 46:5). The Hebrew word is used of a sweeping rain (Pr 28:3).
16. He -- Jehovah.
made many to fall -- literally, |multiplied the faller,| that is, fallers.
one fell upon another -- (Jer 46:6, 12): even before the enemy strikes them (Le 26:37).
let us go again to our own people -- the language of the confederates and mercenaries, exhorting one another to desert the Egyptian standard, and return to their respective homes (Jer 46:9, 21).
from the oppressing sword -- from the cruel sword, namely, of the Chaldeans (compare Jer 25:38).
17. there -- in their own country severally, the foreign soldiers (Jer 46:16) cry, |Pharaoh is,| &c.
but a noise -- He threatens great things, but when the need arises, he does nothing. His threats are mere |noise| (compare 1Co 13:1). Maurer translates, |is ruined,| literally (in appropriate abruptness of language), |Pharaoh, king ... ruin.| The context favors English Version. His vauntings of what he would do when the time of battle should come have proved to be empty sounds; he hath passed the time appointed (namely, for battle with the Chaldeans).
18. As the mountains Tabor and Carmel tower high above the other hills of Palestine, so Nebuchadnezzar (Jer 46:26) when he comes shall prove himself superior to all his foes. Carmel forms a bold promontory jutting out into the Mediterranean. Tabor is the higher of the two; therefore it is said to be |among the mountains|; and Carmel |by the sea.|
the King ... Lord of hosts -- (Jer 48:15); in contrast to |Pharaoh king of Egypt ... but a noise| (Jer 46:17). God the true |King ... the Lord of hosts,| shall cause Nebuchadnezzar to come. Whereas Pharaoh shall not come to battle at the time appointed, notwithstanding his boasts, Nebuchadnezzar shall come according to the prediction of the King, who has all hosts in His power, however ye Egyptians may despise the prediction.
19. furnish thyself -- literally, |make for thyself vessels| (namely, to contain food and other necessaries for the journey) for captivity.
daughter -- so in Jer 46:11.
dwelling in Egypt -- that is, the inhabitants of Egypt, the Egyptians, represented as the daughter of Egypt (Jer 48:18; 2Ki 19:21). |Dwelling| implies that they thought themselves to be securely fixed in their habitations beyond the reach of invasion.
20. heifer -- wanton, like a fat, untamed heifer (Ho 10:11). Appropriate to Egypt, where Apis was worshipped under the form of a fair bull marked with spots.
destruction -- that is, a destroyer: Nebuchadnezzar. Vulgate translates, |a goader,| answering to the metaphor, |one who will goad the heifer| and tame her. The Arabic idiom favors this [Rosenmuller].
cometh ... cometh -- The repetition implies, it cometh surely and quickly (Ps 96:13).
out of the north -- (See on Jer 1:14; Jer 47:2).
21. Translate, |Also her hired men (mercenary soldiers, Jer 46:9, 16), who are in the midst of her like fatted bullocks, even they also are turned back,| that is, shall turn their backs to flee. The same image, |heifer ... bullocks| (Jer 46:20, 21), is applied to Egypt's foreign mercenaries, as to herself. Pampered with the luxuries of Egypt, they become as enervated for battle as the natives themselves.
22. The cry of Egypt when invaded shall be like the hissing of a serpent roused by the woodcutters from its lair. No longer shall she loudly roar like a heifer, but with a low murmur of fear, as a serpent hissing.
with axes -- the Scythian mode of armor. The Chaldeans shall come with such confidence as if not about to have to fight with soldiers, but merely to cut down trees offering no resistance.
23. her forest -- (Isa 10:34).
though it cannot be searched -- They cut down her forest, dense and unsearchable (Job 5:9; 9:10; 36:26) as it may seem: referring to the thickly set cities of Egypt, which were at that time a thousand and twenty. The Hebrew particle is properly, |for,| |because.|
because -- the reason why the Chaldeans shall be able to cut down so dense a forest of cities as Egypt: they themselves are countless in numbers.
grasshoppers -- locusts (Jud 6:5).
25. multitude -- Hebrew, |Amon| (Na 3:8, Margin, |No-Ammon|), the same as Thebes or Diospolis in Upper Egypt, where Jupiter Ammon had his famous temple. In English Version, |multitude| answers to |populous No| (Na 3:8; Eze 30:15). The reference to |their gods| which follows, makes the translation more likely, |Ammon of No,| that is, No and her idol Ammon; so the Chaldee Version. So called either from Ham, the son of Noah; or, the |nourisher,| as the word means.
their kings -- the kings of the nations in league with Egypt.
26. afterward ... inhabited -- Under Cyrus forty years after the conquest of Egypt by Nebuchadnezzar, it threw off the Babylonian yoke but has never regained its former prowess (Jer 46:11; Eze 29:11-15).
27, 28. Repeated from Jer 30:10, 11. When the Church (and literal Israel) might seem utterly consumed, there still remains hidden hope, because God, as it were, raises His people from the dead (Ro 11:15). Whereas the godless |nations| are consumed even though they survive, as are the Egyptians after their overthrow; because they are radically accursed and doomed [Calvin].