Jeremiah 46 Commentary


Although Jeremiah’s main ministry was to Judah, he had also been called to proclaim God’s message to the surrounding nations (see 1:5,10). This section of Jeremiah’s book brings together a number of the


messages that the prophet announced to foreign nations during the many years of his ministry (cf. 25:13). By these messages, the prophet shows that as God deals justly with Judah, so he deals justly with Judah’s neighbours.

The order in which the messages have been arranged does not follow the order of the events they announce. The arrangement is more according to the geographic location of the countries, starting with Egypt in the south and moving north and east towards Mesopotamia. The climax of the series deals with the nation that dominated the affairs of most countries in the region, Babylon. (For the nations dealt with here, see map located at Isaiah 13-23, where another group of messages to various nations is recorded.)

A message concerning Egypt (46:1-12)

Egypt’s first defeat by Babylon was in 605 BC at Carchemish. That battle marked the beginning of the end for Egyptian overlordship in the region, and brought Judea for the first time under the control of Babylon (46:1-2). Jeremiah pictures the activity and excitement as the Egyptian soldiers prepare for battle (3-4). They go out confidently but are surprised by the ferocity of the Babylonian attack. The Egyptians turn and flee but are cut off at the Euphrates River (5-6).

In another picture of the same battle, the prophet sees Egypt’s army surging forward like the Nile in flood. Strengthened with skilled soldiers hired from a number of neighbouring countries, the Egyptian forces feel they are so strong they could conquer the whole earth (7-9). But the day is not one of victory for Egypt. It is a day of God’s judgment, and the Egyptians suffer great slaughter (10). All Egypt’s skills in using medicine cannot heal her wounds. News of Egypt’s defeat spreads far and wide (11-12).

A second message concerning Egypt (46:13-28)

Jeremiah now foresees another defeat of Egypt by Babylon, this one not on foreign soil but in the land of Egypt itself (13). Egyptian cities fall as the Babylonian armies advance. Egypt’s gods are not able to hold back the enemy. Hired soldiers flee from the battle-front and look for safety in their own countries (14-16). Pharaoh is accused of being a loud-mouthed boaster who does nothing when the hour for action comes (17).

Babylon towers over Egypt as Mount Tabor towers over its neighbouring territory and as Mount Carmel towers over the sea beside it. The Egyptians cannot overthrow Babylon, and should prepare for captivity (18-19). As cattle flee from the biting gadfly, so the Egyptians flee from the Babylonian attackers (20-21). The Egyptians are (to use another picture) like a snake that wriggles away into its hole in search of safety. In yet another picture, the Babylonians in their attack on Egypt are likened to woodmen cutting down a forest (22-24).

Egypt and its gods will be punished, but the nation will not be completely destroyed. One day it will revive (25-26). As for the Judeans, they will be exiled in foreign countries, but one day they will return to their land. There they will enjoy peace and security again (27-28).

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