John T. Willis

Monday, July 11, 2011

Yahweh's Concerns for Egypt and Philistia--Jeremiah 46-47

Like Isaiah 13-23; Ezekiel 25-32; Amos 1-2; Obadiah; Nahum; and Habakkuk, the Book of Jeremiah contains several oracles of Yahweh through the prophet Jeremiah concerning foreign nations. Yahweh is concerned for all nations, not only for his choden people Israel. Many of these oracles are doom oracles, like most of the oracles concerning Israel and Judah are doom oracles. Yahweh's message is essentially the same throughout. The oracles concerning foreign nations begin with Egypt in Jeremiah 46 and conclude with Babylon in Jeremiah 50-51, which is the same structural theme as the portrayal of "the cup of Yahweh's wrath" in Jeremiah 25:15-27

As we begin a study of these oracles concerning foreign nations, Jeremiah 46 contains two oracles concerning Egypt and Jeremiah 47 contains one oracle concerning Philistia.

I. The Babylonians defeat Pharaoh-neco and the Egyptians [and the Assyrians] at Carchemish in 605 BCE. Jeremiah 46:1-12.
a. The composer specifically dates Jeremiah 46:1-12 in the fourth year of Jehoiakim king of Judah, thus 605 BCE. One may recall that the year 605 BCE was very important in the career of Jeremiah. See Jeremiah 7:1-26; 26:1-24; 27-28; 36; 45. The historical setting is that Pharaoh-neco and the Egyptians moved northward to ally with the Assyrians to fight against the Babylonians moving westward to Carchemish--see the historical setting in 2 Kings 23:28-35; 2 Chronicles 35:20-25. 46:1-2.
b. Yahweh's oracle in 605 BCE is that the Egyptians will fall to the Babylonians at Carchemish. Yahweh envisions the Egyptian soldiers terrified, fallen back beaten down, fled in haste. "Terror is all around." The Hebrew term "Terror is all around" is Magor-missabib. This term occurs six times throughout the book of Jeremiah, referring to Judah (6:25), Pashhur (20:3, 4), Jeremiah (20:10), Egypt (46:5), and Kedar and the kingdoms of Hazor (49:29). 46:3-5.
c. Egypt had "risen like the Nile," and now will fall like the Nile. 46:6-9.
d. Yahweh through Jeremiah calls the Babylonian overthrow of the Egyptians and Assyrians "the day of the Lord." The expression "the day of the Lord" is any significant time when Yahweh intervenes to defeat or deliver a people. Yahweh declares he will hold a sacrifice at Carchemish to slaughter the Egyptians and their allies. The Egyptians have used many medicines, but there is no healing for them. The book of Jeremiah frequently uses the metaphor of Yahweh as a doctor or physician and people as patients. The medicine is a spiritual remedy. See Jeremiah 8:18-9:1; 30:12-17. 46:10-12.

II. Yahweh will punish Egypt and deliver penitent Judeans. Jeremiah 46:13-28.
a. The specific date of the oracle described in Jeremiah 46:13-28 might refer to the Babylonian invasion of Egypt under Nebuchadrezzar II in 568 BCE, but this is uncertain. 46:13.
b. Yahweh declares that he will "thrust down" Apis, the Egyptian god, and overthrow the cities of Migdol, Memphis, and Tahpanhes. Yahweh gives Pharaoh the term: "Braggart who missed his chance." 46:14-19.
c. Yahweh uses several metaphors of Egypt: a gadfly, a snake gliding away, fallen trees. 46:20-23.
d. Yahweh identifies Egypt's enemy as "a people from the north," hence the Babylonians. "The foe from the north" is a frequently used term for Babylon throughout the Book of Jeremiah--see Jeremiah 1:13-16; 4:6; 6:1, 22; 13:20; 25:8-9. 46:24.
e. Yahweh specifically announces that he will bring punishment on Egypt and hand the Egyptians over to Nebuchadrezzar II and his officers. 49:25-26.
f. At the same time, Yahweh announces that he will deliver his penitent people in Egypt. He declares: "Do not fear, for I am with you." I have punished you, but I will not make an end of you. 46:27-28.

III. Yahweh through Jeremiah announces that He will overthrow the Philistines. Jeremiah 47.
Jeremiah 47 contains a very brief oracle concerning Philistia. Yahweh uses the metaphor of "waters rising out of the north" to overthrow the Philistines. Yahweh is like a warrior carrying a sword. This text specifically mentions the cities of Gaza and Ashkelon, although it does not mention Gath, Ekron, and Ashdod.

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John Willis