For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2003 James Melough

46:1.  “The word of the Lord which came to Jeremiah the prophet against the Gentiles;”


This begins a new section in which God reveals to His servant that judgments are to be poured out upon the Gentiles.


46:2.  “Against Egypt, against the army of Pharaoh-necho king of Egypt, which was by the river Euphrates in Carchemish, which Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon smote in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah.”


In the fourth year of Jehoiakim, i.e., 605 BC, the Egyptians engaged the Babylonians in battle at Carchemish, a city in the northwest of Babylon, but were completely routed by the Babylonians.


46:3.  “Order ye the buckler (breastplate) and shield, and draw near to battle.”


46:4.  “Harness the horses; and get up, ye horsemen, and stand forth with your helmets; furbish (polish: sharpen) the spears, and put on the brigandines (coats of mail).”


Egypt was to go forth to the battle so fully equipped that success seemed certain.


46:5.  “Wherefore have I seen them dismayed and turned away back? and their mighty ones are beaten down, and are fled apace, and look not back: for fear was round about saith the Lord.


46:6.  “Let not the swift flee away, nor the mighty men escape; they shall stumble, and fall toward the north by the river Euphrates.”


In spite of all their equipment and elaborate preparations, the Egyptians were completely routed by the Babylonians, history having recorded the grim fact that not one soldier returned to Egypt.


46:7.  “Who is this that cometh up as a flood, whose waters are moved as the rivers?”


46:8.  “Egypt riseth up like a flood, and his waters are moved like the rivers; and he saith, I will go up, and will cover the earth; I will destroy the city and the inhabitants thereof.”


It was the expectation of Egypt, that her army, irresistible as the Nile raging in flood, would sweep across the earth, conquering all the nations.


46:9.  “Come up, ye horses; and rage, ye chariots; and let the mighty men come forth; the Ethiopians and the Libyans that handle the shield; and the Lydians, that handle and bend the bow.”


The Egyptian army included mercenaries from Ethiopia, Libya, and Lydia (western Asia Minor).


46:10.  “For this is the day of the Lord God of hosts, a day of vengeance, that he may avenge him of his adversaries: and the sword shall devour, and it shall be satiate and made drunk with their blood: for the Lord God of hosts hath a sacrifice in the north country by the river Euphrates.”


There was much associated with Egypt that had made it an adversary of God, including the enslavement of the Israelites, but that had been avenged long before on the night of the Passover, and in the destruction of Egypt’s army in the Red Sea as they pursued the freed Israelites.  What God was going to avenge “in the north country by the river Euphrates” at Carchemish, isn’t stated, but it may have been Egypt’s idolatry.


46:11.  “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.”


“Virgin” is used here, not as a description of purity, but as a symbol of separation, in the sense that Egypt, by virtue of her might, had been separate from the nations, they being too weak to oppose her will.  But the days of her glory were numbered.  God was about to smite her with an incurable wound: there would be no healing, no recovery of her former glory.


46:12.  “The nations have heard of thy shame, and thy cry hath filled the land: for the mighty man hath stumbled against the mighty, and they are fallen both together.”


The certainty of the pronounced doom is declared here in that God speaks of it as already accomplished; and the fall of Egypt’s soldiers occurred exactly as described here: in their panic- stricken flight they stumbled over one another so that the piled up bodies made escape impossible.


46:13.  “The word that the Lord spake to Jeremiah the prophet, how Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon should come and smite the land of Egypt.”


This refers to Babylon’s incursion into Egypt after the battle at Carchemish, and was what God had warned the Judeans about when He had told them to remain in the land of Judah rather than going down into Egypt as they foolishly did, see chapters 42-43,


46:14.  “Declare ye in Egypt, and publish in Migdol, and publish in Noph and in Tahpanhes: say ye, Stand fast, and prepare thee; for the sword shall devour round about thee.”


These three cities designate the whole land of Egypt.  There would be no place of safety within its borders.


46:15.  “Why are thy valiant men swept away? they stood not, because the Lord did drive them.”


Scholarly opinion is divided as to whether the reference here is to the failure of Apis the bull god of Egypt to save them, or to the failure of their soldiers.  Settlement of that point is of little importance.  The fact remains that it was God who wrought the destruction of Egypt.  It was He Who had swept away their valiant men.


46:16.  “He made many to fall, yea, one fell upon another: and they said, Arise, and let us go again to our own people, and to the land of our nativity, from the oppressing sword.”


The first part of the verse continues the description of the slaughter of the Egyptians at the hand of the Babylonians, but the “Arise, and let us go again to our own people, etc.,” is the expressed decision of the Jews in Egypt to leave that land, and return to the land of Judah.


46:17.  “They did cry there, Pharaoh, king of Egypt is but a noise; he hath passed the time appointed.”


This continues the words of the Jews in Egypt.  They had learned to their sorrow that Pharaoh-Hophra had been an idle boaster; and relative to the words “he hath passed the time appointed,” The Amplified Bible rendering is, “... he has let the appointed time (in which God had him on probation) pass by!”


46:18.  “As I live, saith the King, whose name is the Lord of hosts, Surely as Tabor is among the mountains, and as Carmel by the sea, so shall he come.”


As it is certain that God is eternal, so also was it just as certain that He would bring against Egypt one, who metaphorically speaking, was as great among the nations as were Tabor and Carmel among the mountains, i.e.,  Nebuchadnezzar.


46:19.  “O thou daughter dwelling in Egypt, furnish thyself to go into captivity: for Noph shall be waste and desolate without an inhabitant.”


The term “daughter” applies primarily to the Judeans dwelling in Egypt, but many understand it to include also the Egyptians.  Egypt was about to fall before Babylon, Noph (Memphis) being used here synecdochically (a part is used for a whole, or a whole for a part) of all Egypt.  The whole land was to become a virtual uninhabited desert.


46:20.  “Egypt is like a very fair heifer, but destruction cometh; it cometh out of the north.”


The word “destruction” in the present context is from a root which means gadfly: horsefly, a large insect whose bite draws blood.  Egypt, likened here to a sleek young cow, would be invaded by the Babylonians descending from the north upon the land like swarms of horseflies lighting on a young cow, and biting her till she died.


46:21.  “Also her hired men are in the midst of her like fatted bullocks; for they also are turned back and are fled away together: they did not stand, because the day of their calamity was come upon them, and the time of their visitation.”


There were many mercenaries in Egypt’s army, and at the approach of the Babylonians, they too would flee.  It is unclear whether, in the present context, “the day of their calamity (doom: reckoning)” refers specifically to that of the mercenaries or of the Egyptians, but unquestionably the day of reckoning had come for both.


46:22.  “The voice thereof shall go like a serpent; for they shall march with an army, and come against her with axes, as hewers of wood.”


The first clause is the figurative description of the flight of the Egyptians, and is also translated, “The sound (of Egypt fleeing from the enemy) is like the rustling of an escaping serpent,” The Amplified Bible; another translation being, “She sounds like a retreating reptile,” The New American Bible.


The remainder of the verse describes the advance of the Babylonian army, the mention of axes and hewing of wood indicating that the Egyptians would be like trees in the presence of the lumberjack: they would be utterly helpless to save themselves from being cut down.


46:23.  “They shall cut down her forest, saith the Lord, though it cannot be searched; because they are more than the grasshoppers, and are innumerable.”


It seems that the reference is to the phenomenal number of the Egyptians, though some understand it to be to the hordes of the Babylonians.


46:24.  “The daughter of Egypt shall be confounded (shamed: disgraced); she shall be delivered into the hand of the people of the north (the Babylonians).”


46:25.  “The Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, saith; Behold, I will punish (hurt: execute judgment against) the multitude of No (Thebes), and Pharaoh, and Egypt with their gods, and their kings; even Pharaoh, and all them that trust in him:”


This continues to declare the judgments with which God would visit Egypt; the principal god mentioned here being Amon the god of Thebes.  They were to learn the worthlessness of the so-called gods they had worshiped, and in which they had placed their trust.


46:26.  “And I will deliver them into the hand of those that seek their lives, and into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, and into the hand of his servants: and afterward it shall be inhabited, as in the days of old, saith the Lord.”


The others into whose hand God would deliver them, were those nations who formed the coalition headed up by Babylon; and as noted already, Nebuchadrezzar approximates more closely to the Chaldean spelling than does Nebuchadnezzar.


In spite of the judgments He would inflict upon Egypt, God here gives the assurance of restoration; and while she has obviously recovered from that past judgment, her ultimate restoration will be in the Millennium.


46:27.  “But fear not thou, O my servant Jacob, and be not dismayed, O Israel: for, behold, I will save thee from afar off, and thy seed from the land of their captivity; and Jacob shall return, and be in rest and at ease, and none shall make him afraid.”


Israel’s ultimate restoration will also be in the Millennium, because even though she was restored to the land from the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities, she was scattered again amongst the nations in AD 70; and apart from the remnant that continues to return since the restoration of Jewish autonomy in 1948, she remains dispersed over the face of the earth. 


We have already discussed the prophetic significance of the restoration of her autonomy in 1948.  That return is the clear evidence that we are living in the closing days of the age, everything now pointing to the imminence, first of the Rapture, and then of the Tribulation, that will be followed by the Millennium, and the regathering of Israel “from afar off” referred to in this verse.


That this regathering will be literal, not spiritual, of living Jews, is certified by the use of the two names by which that nation is best known: Jacob and Israel: Jacob being related to her actual physical state; and Israel, to her spiritual state.

The Jews regathered at the end of the Tribulation will be living believing Jews, their conversion having occurred during, and as a result of, the Tribulation judgments, those judgments having produced repentant faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior Messiah.


It seems necessary to make a comment here relative to the popular so-called gospel that is preached today, and which requires nothing more of the “convert” than verbal assent to the historicity of Christ.  Belief of that “gospel” will take you to hell, not heaven.  One may believe all the historical facts relative to Christ, but unless that belief is held in the context of its relationship to my sin personally, it is worthless.  The belief that saves the soul from hell, and fits it for heaven, is that which is impelled by fear, resulting from the conviction of the Holy Spirit, that in my natural state I am on the way to hell, and can be saved only when I admit that I am a sinner without a shred of righteousness, and then believe that the Lord Jesus Christ loved me enough to die in my stead for my sins, and that in response to that confession and faith, God pardons all my sins, past, present, and future, and will receive me into heaven.


The “conversion” that has not been preceded by at least some measure of fear similar to that which impelled the trembling Philippian jailer to cry out, “Sirs, What must I do to be saved?” Ac 16:30, doesn’t meet the Scriptural criteria, or match the conversions recorded in Scripture, and is therefore suspect.


46:28.  “Fear thou not, O Jacob my servant, saith the Lord: for I am with thee; for I will make a full end of all the nations whither I have driven thee; but I will not make a full end of thee, but correct thee in measure; yet will I not leave thee wholly unpunished.”


Though the nation is addressed here by the name Jacob, which is associated with its earthly character, rather than by the name Israel, which speaks of its spiritual nature, it is assured of God’s presence with it; and accompanying the pledge of His destruction of all the nations amongst which they had been scattered, is the promise that He will not destroy them.  However, because He knows that they will act according to their Jacob nature, He has to warn them also that He will not fail to punish them when they sin; but clearly it will be the punishment administered by a Father to His child for its ultimate blessing. 


History has preserved the sad record of Israel’s rebellion, with its concomitant chastisement, and it might have been expected that she would have learned her lesson, but she hasn’t.  Her school days are not yet ended, for in the impending Tribulation she will worship the Beast, and it will take the terrible chastisement of the Tribulation judgments to end her rebellion, and make her obedience complete.  As a result of those judgments there will finally emerge a chastened, repentant remnant, believing in the Lord Jesus Christ as her Savior Messiah, that remnant being the new converted Israel that will then enter the Millennium to enjoy its phenomenal blessings, before entering into the enjoyment of eternal blessing in the new heaven and earth that will replace those which now exist.


The instruction, however, isn’t limited to Israel, for in her history God bids us see the symbolic prewritten history of the Church.  She is, in fact, the mirror in which He bids us who are the Church, see ourselves; and it is only as we read her history in the light of that knowledge, that it will be of any profit to us.


As has been noted already, Egypt represents the godless world of business and pleasure, as Babylon does the equally godless world of mere religion, and Israel’s bondage in both is to remind us of the folly of permitting ourselves to be brought into the bondage which accompanies dalliance with this world’s business or its religion.

[Jeremiah 47]


     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough