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Commentary On Jeremiah And Lamentations Volume 4 by Jean Calvin

Jeremiah 46:11

11. Go up into Gilead, and take balm, O virgin, the daughter of Egypt: in vain shalt thou use many medicines; for thou shalt not be cured.

11. Ascende in Guilead, et sume resinam virgo filia Aegypti; frustra multiplicas medicamina; sanitas nulla tibi.

The Prophet adds here nothing new, but confirms by another metaphor what he had said before. He then says, that the slaughter would be like a fatal plague, as though God would take away from the Egyptians every hope. We indeed know that the kingdom of Egypt did not then perish; for the nation itself remained. But the kingdom was so depressed, that, as it was stated yesterday, they kept themselves as shut up within their own borders, and did not afterwards bring out their forces. And yet it is well known how great was the pride and audacity of that nation; but they saw that they were wholly broken down and weakened. Hence the Prophet says, not without reason, that that would be an incurable wound, by which God would so smite Egypt, that it would no more recover its ancient strength; for after that time the kingdom of Egypt never flourished; and after a few years, as we shall see in another prophecy, it was brought under the power of Babylon.

he now turns his discourse to Egypt: he says, O virgin, the daughter of Egypt, a mode of speaking common in the Prophets. They call Babylon, The daughter of Babylon; they call Judea, The daughter of Judah. But this may be applied to the people or to the kingdom. And he calls Egypt virgin on account of its delicacies, as though he had said, that the Egyptians were tender and delicate, because they had during a long peace gathered strength and all kinds of wealth. As then they were so inebriated with their pleasures, Egypt by way of mockery is called a virgin.

Ascend, he says, into Gilead, and take rosin, or, as some render it, |balm.| Jerome, in another place, rendered it |honey,| but without reason; and it is probable that the word means rosin rather than balm. It may be also concluded from other places that the best rosin was found on Mount Gilead, as we have also stated in the eighth chapter of this book (Jeremiah 8). The rosin was a juice flowing from trees, especially from the terebinth; and hence the best rosin is the terebinthine, which we call terebenthine. There is at the same time a rosin from firs and other trees. But as I have already said, Mount Gilead was fruitful in rosin, and is celebrated not only for the abundance of its rosin but also for its excellency; and its medicinal qualities are found better and more efficacious in some places than in others.

According, then, to the common mode of speaking, he says, O daughter of Egypt, ascend into Gilead, and take to thee rosin; but it will be, he says, in vain; that is, |Wert thou earnestly to seek a remedy for thy evils, thou couldst never find it; for thy stroke is incurable.| Not that the kingdom of Egypt perished or was wholly overthrown, but that its strength would be lost, so that the Chaldean king would take possession of all that part of Asia which the Egyptians had occupied, even as far as Pelusium, to the very borders of the Nile. He at length adds, --

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