Matthew Poole's English Annotations
on the Holy Bible
JEREMIAH CHAPTER 46
The overthrow of Pharaoh’s army, Jeremiah 46:1-12. The conquest of Egypt by Nebuchadrezzar, Jeremiah 46:13-26. God’s people comforted, Jeremiah 46:27,28.
This verse contains the title to all the ensuing discourses of this prophet; for though there be some particular verses in these chapters that relate to the Jews, yet they are all concerning their restoration. The prophecies of judgments from the beginning of this chapter to the 52nd chapter are all against foreign nations, which are called Gentiles; as to whom God revealed his will for the punishment of them, for the relief and satisfaction of his people, to whom the most of them had been bitter enemies. The 52nd chapter is by most concluded not to have been wrote by Jeremiah, who it is not probable would have repeated what he had related before, Jer 39, but it was wrote (as it is supposed) by some of the captives in Babylon, as a preface to the Book of Lamentations. This particular chapter containeth the revelation of the will of God concerning Egypt, whither some of the Jews fled for refuge after this time, and which had been a great occasion of sin to the Jews before, not only through the Jews’ too many leagues with them, and confidence in them, but from their communicating in their idolatry with them: Jeremiah 2:16, The children of Noph and Tahpanhes brake the crown of their head.
Pharah-necho was king of Egypt in Josiah’s time; it was by his army that Josiah was killed at Megiddo, 2 Kings 23:29; it was he that made Jehoiakim king of Judah, taking away Jehoahaz, 2 Kings 23:34; but though he prevailed at that time, and that was one time when he came out against Carchemish, 2 Chronicles 35:20, yet he was overthrown by Nebuchadnezzar in a battle with him afterwards, as appears from 2 Kings 24:7, and Jehoiakim was made tributary to Nebuchadnezzar, as we read, 2 Kings 24:1; and the king of Egypt was brought so low by that victory, that he stirred no more out of Egypt, for the king of Babylon had taken from him all from Nilus, the great river of Egypt, to Euphrates; and this, saith this verse, was in the fourth year of Jehoiakim. This prophecy must be before that time.
Carchemish appeareth, from Isaiah 10:9, to have been a place in Syria where the Egyptian army had been in Josiah’s time, and then went away conquerors, as appears from 2 Chronicles 35:20, &c.
Art hath so much improved all things in later ages, that it is very hard to determine of what form the several weapons and pieces of armour, whether offensive or defensive, in use at this time were; the most here mentioned seem to have been defensive, and the whole speech of the prophet directed to the Egyptians seems to be ironical, calling to this army of Pharaoh-necho to get ready to defend themselves, for they were to encounter with an enemy would put them very hard to it, so as they had need to have their helmets, and bucklers, and shields, and brigandines all in a readiness, and know the use of them well; the horses for war had need be harnessed, the spears furbished, and the riders got up.
God had either in a vision showed Jeremiah this army of the Egyptians flying, or else had revealed to him that they should be put to flight, which the prophet here publisheth. God made a fear to fall upon the Egyptians, so as when the king of Babylon came to join battle with them, they were not able at all to stand, but turned their backs, and their greatest commanders were either killed, or fled away as fast as they could.
That is, it is in vain for the swift to flee away, the mighty men shall not escape, but they shall stumble and fall at Carchemish, which was near the river Euphrates, and northward from Egypt.
The next verse expoundeth this.
The prophet compareth the Egyptians, fleshed with their former victory obtained against Josiah at Megiddo, and now preparing to another expedition, to a flood, (with allusion probably to the river Nilus, whose waters used to rise to a great height,) both for the multitude of their soldiers, and for their rage; they were resolved to carry such numbers as should cover the earth, and to take Carchemish, or some other city which their design was against. It should seem both by this text, and that Exodus 15:9,10, that the Egyptians were a people much given to vaunt and boast of the great things they would do, boasting when they were putting on their harness as if they were putting it off, not considering how uncertain the events of war were, nor yet that wherein they talked proudly there was one that could be above them.
Their ancient way of fighting was with chariots and bows; the prophet calls, in the name of the commanders of the Egyptian armies, to the horses and chariots to come on, and engage in the fight. The
Ethiopians were the Cushites, who were neighbours to the Egyptians, so were the Libyans; both of them it should seem were famous for handling the shield: the
Libyans were descended from Phut; both the Cushites and the Phutites or Libyans were descended from Ham, Genesis 10:6. The
Lydians were as famous for the use of the bow in war; they were descended from Mizraim or Shem, Genesis 10:13,22: the Lydians here meant are thought to be those descended from Mizraim, and some think these were Ethiopians. They were all auxiliaries to the Egyptians in this expedition.
But this is the day of the Lord, & c. Pharaoh is mistaken in accounting this day his own, because of the multitude of his forces, this is
the day of the Lord, who as he is the Lord of all the hosts of his creatures, so hath a particular rule and government over hosts of men: this is further explained by the next words, a day of vengeance, which God hath set apart, in it to be avenged upon his enemies.
The sword shall devour, and it shall be satiate and made drunk with their blood: these phrases only metaphorically signify the great slaughter God would make that day amongst the Egyptians. This the prophet declares that God would do for his honour and glory, therefore he calls it a
sacrifice, by which also he declareth his justice in this punishment of the Egyptians; and for the further repute and credit of his prophecy, telleth them to whom he spake of the place it should be in, viz. near the river Euphrates, where Josiah was slain by him, 2 Kings 23:29.
Great states are ordinarily in Scripture called
virgins, for their beauty and pleasant state;
Gilead was a most famous place for balm. The prophet ironically calls to the Egyptians to go to Gilead for balm, but tells them it would be to no purpose, God was about to wound them beyond all help of medicines.
The prophet keepeth to his old prophetic style, speaking of things that were to come to pass some years after as if they were already past, because of the certainty of them; in this sense he saith other nations had seen, because they should see, the shame and confusion of the Egyptians upon their overthrow, and the cry of their slain and wounded men would fill other lands. For the Egyptians should certainly be overthrown, either by the Chaldeans stumbling upon the Babylonians, or the Babylonians on them, or they (fleeing) for haste stumbling one upon another, so as both those that went before, and those who followed after, should both fall together.
A revelation different from the former in this, that the former only foretold the overthrow of the king of Egypt in a particular battle in Carchemish near Euphrates, of which we read that the thing was done, 2 Kings 24:7. This foretells the king of Babylon’s overrunning all the land of Egypt, and was not fulfilled till some years after Zedekiah was carried away captive, but prophesied of Jeremiah 43:10 44:30, to come to pass in the time of Pharaoh-hophra, as we heard before, and more largely foretold by the prophet Ezekiel, Eze 29 Eze 30 Eze 32, to happen after the overthrow of Tyrus, Ezekiel 29:18,19.
Concerning these three cities of Egypt, See Poole "Jeremiah 44:1": the meaning is, Publish this prophecy over all the land of Egypt. Or perhaps these three were the chief places whither the Jews that went with Johanan the son of Kareah, &c. went, and where they fixed themselves: many more places in Egypt are named by Ezekiel, Jeremiah 30:14, &c.
Stand fast, and prepare thee; for the sword shall devour round about thee; look to yourselves, and prepare yourselves for battle, for the nations are destroyed round about you, (so it is in the Hebrew,) and you have reason to expect that the sword should come next into your countries.
The prophet first propoundeth a question, then returneth answer to himself. Egypt was full of valiant men, yet, saith the prophet, they shall be swept away, or broken down, as fruit or grass is beaten down with a violent storm of hail (so the word is used, Proverbs 28:3). How comes this to pass? (saith the prophet). He answereth himself; Because it was of God to destroy Egypt, who worketh, and none can let him; when he strikes, none can stand before him; none can stand up against him.
The prophet had before spoken of Nebuchadnezzar, as an instrument in the hand of God, who being armed with his commission and power, made many to fall, yea, God caused such a fear to fall upon them, that in their flight they fell upon one another. And though they had many soldiers that came to help them from Cush, and Phut, and Libya, yet all was too little; the prophet foretells they should all be glad to go home again, and should speak to one another to that purpose, for the success of the king of Babylon’s sword should be such, as they should quickly see there would be no standing before it.
That is, the Ethiopians and Lubims that should come to help the king of Egypt should cry, or the Chaldeans or the Egyptians themselves should cry, Pharaoh is but a noise, that is, hath made a great noise, but it cometh to nothing: others make the sense, Pharaoh is a man of noise, or tumult. that hath made a great deal of disturbance to himself and us.
He hath passed the time appointed; that is, say the most, he hath passed the time himself fixed whereat he would come and fight the Chaldeans. But these words compared with the next verse incline others to think, that either Pharaoh’s soldiers or his allies are here brought in mocking at Pharaoh, promising himself that the king of Babylon would not come, and laughing at Jeremiah’s prophecy, saying the time appointed was past, that is, the time of his coming mentioned by Jeremiah was past. Jeremiah foretells that Pharaoh’s army and confederates would see reason to cry out, Pharaoh, in saying so, was but a noise.
That is, he shall as certainly come and encompass you with his armies as Tabor is encompassed with mountains, and as Carmel is by the sea, or as Barak going down from Mount Tabor destroyed Sisera’s army, or as surely as the rain came which Elijah first discovered from Mount Carmel, 1 Kings 18:41,42. There are other guesses at the sense of this comparison, but the sense is undoubtedly no more than that Nebuchadnezzar should certainly come against Egypt, how vainly soever the Egyptians flattered themselves to the contrary, supposing the time past which the prophet spake of.
That is, O you inhabitants in the land of Egypt, make ready to go into another country as prisoners of war; for your cities shall be destroyed; Noph particularly shall be wholly depopulated and laid waste, and have none to dwell in it.
That is, Egypt is now in a thriving, prosperous condition, having not used to be under any yoke, like a heifer that is fair and fat; but she will not be so long, she is but as a beast fatted for the slaughter, and there are slaughtermen coming out of Chaldea that will kill this fair heifer, and make her a sacrifice to the justice of God.
Also her hired men are in the midst of her like fatted bullocks; the mercenary soldiers also, which the Egyptians have hired from Cush and Phut, and other parts, are at present in a flourishing, prosperous state.
For they also are turned back, and are fled away together; they did not stand: we have translated yk here ill, it had been better translated but, for that is manifestly the sense. Though they at present lying in garrisons be fat and flourishing, like bullocks in the stalls, yet when it cometh to it they shall not stand, but turn back, and flee as well as the rest. Because the day of their calamity was come upon them, and the time of their visitation; because the time is come when God resolveth to punish them, and bring calamity upon them. When the time is come which God hath set in his counsels, wherein he will punish persons or nations, no probabilities to the contrary are much considerable.
Egypt is now like a heifer that makes a great bellowing, but the time shall come when she shall make a lesser noise, like the hissing of a serpent when it seeth itself set upon. For the Chaldeans shall come with a great army, armed with battle-axes, as if they came to fell down some wood in a forest or wood.
Egypt is compared to a forest, either for the multitude of cities or of people in that country; and to a thick forest, because as it is a hard thing to make one’s way through a forest, so it was judged as hard for an enemy to make his way into that country: in human probability Egypt could not be searched, yet (saith God) the Chaldeans shall cut down this forest, and it shall be no more to them than for hewers of wood, with tools fitted for the purpose, to make their way through a forest. For the army of the Chaldeans shall be as numerous as the inhabitants of Egypt, more than the grasshoppers, which come in such troops as in a short time they devour every green herb in a place.
That is, into the hand or power of the Chaldeans; it is the same thing which the prophet had before said again and again, and repeats it so often only for the further confirmation of the truth of the prediction, notwithstanding the appearing improbability of any such thing.
The Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, saith: these names are often in conjunction given unto God, the first signifying his power or ability to do what he either promiseth or threateneth, the other speaking his kindness and near relation to the Jews.
Behold, I will punish the multitude of No: there are great critical disputes about this phrase, whether the word translated
multitude signifies so, (as it doth Jeremiah 52:15) and if so, whether it should not be multitude from No; or whether it signifies the nourisher, (as some would have it,) because No (which some think is the same city with that at this time called Alexandria, being a great place of merchandise) nourished all the adjacent parts; but it is no easy thing to resolve the question, nor is the resolution of it of much moment to us. By those that trusted in Pharaoh the Jews are most probably meant, who all along in their prosperity put too much confidence in Egypt, and after that Jerusalem was taken some of them (as we before heard) fled into Egypt for sanctuary.
The former part of this verse is but the same which the prophet hath often before said. The latter part is a promise for the restoration of Egypt to some degrees of its former prosperity and liberty. The determinate time for the fulfilling of this prophecy is told us, Ezekiel 29:13,14, viz. at the end of forty years. This we are told by civil historians fell out in the time of Amasis, a king of Egypt coevous with Cyrus, who was overcome by Cyrus’s son Cambyses, who brought Egypt to be a province belonging to the Medes and Persians; by the fulfilling of which prophecy the truth both of Jeremiah’s and Ezekiel’s prophecies are justified.
See Poole "Jeremiah 30:10", See Poole "Jeremiah 30:11", where is the substance of what is said in these two verses, and almost the very words are repeated. The great thing to be observed by us is the difference which the just and righteous God maketh betwixt his punishments of his church and own people, and his punishments of wicked men, who are their enemies: as there is a great difference in the root of such dispensations, God dealing them out to his people out of love, that they might not be condemned with the wicked; so there is a great deal of difference in the measure and duration of their punishments, the rod of the wicked shall not always lie upon the backs of the righteous, and they are corrected in measure.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Jeremiah 46". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://beta.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24