46 This is the word of the Lord that came to Jeremiah the prophet concerning the nations:
2 Concerning Egypt:
This is the message against the army of Pharaoh Necho king of Egypt, which was defeated at Carchemish on the Euphrates River by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon in the fourth year of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah:
3 “Prepare your shields, both large and small,
and march out for battle!
4 Harness the horses,
mount the steeds!
Take your positions
with helmets on!
Polish your spears,
put on your armor!
5 What do I see?
They are terrified,
they are retreating,
their warriors are defeated.
They flee in haste
without looking back,
and there is terror on every side,”
declares the Lord.
6 “The swift cannot flee
nor the strong escape.
In the north by the River Euphrates
they stumble and fall.
7 “Who is this that rises like the Nile,
like rivers of surging waters?
8 Egypt rises like the Nile,
like rivers of surging waters.
She says, ‘I will rise and cover the earth;
I will destroy cities and their people.’
9 Charge, you horses!
Drive furiously, you charioteers!
March on, you warriors—men of Cush and Put who carry shields,
men of Lydia who draw the bow.
10 But that day belongs to the Lord, the Lord Almighty—
a day of vengeance, for vengeance on his foes.
The sword will devour till it is satisfied,
till it has quenched its thirst with blood.
For the Lord, the Lord Almighty, will offer sacrifice
in the land of the north by the River Euphrates.
11 “Go up to Gilead and get balm,
Virgin Daughter Egypt.
But you try many medicines in vain;
there is no healing for you.
12 The nations will hear of your shame;
your cries will fill the earth.
One warrior will stumble over another;
both will fall down together.”
(Jeremiah 46:1-12 NIV)
Today we begin a new section in the book of Jeremiah – an expanded set of prophecies about the nations. In 1:5 the Lord told Jeremiah that he would be “a prophet to the nations”. We saw the first pass of these prophecies in 25:19-26. In these chapters, the Lord expands on the details regarding each nation-state.
The Lord starts with Egypt and ends with Babylon, just like the historical narrative and context of the surrounding nations’ dominance over Judah. These chapters document God’s supremacy over the nations and His hand in guiding and creating history. The Lord provides justice over all the nations, as the defender of the afflicted, judge of the unrighteous, executioner of the unjust, and deliverer of the downtrodden. All of this ultimately gives God His much-deserved glory.
As we begin today’s passage, we see the Lord reminding Jeremiah that he is the prophet to the nations (v. 1). The first country, as stated in the introduction, is Egypt.
The timeframe for this oracle is around 605 BC, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim’s reign as king of Judah. Remember that Jehoiakim was appointed king of Judah by the Egyptian Pharoah after Josiah, Jehoiakim’s father was mortally wounded in the battle with the Egyptians.
The Lord describes the scene of the battle of Carchemish where the Babylonian army defeats the Egyptian army. Verses 3 – 6 are Egypt’s summary of the fight, and verses 7 – 12 are the Lord’s summary of the battle.
In verses 3 – 6, the Egyptians go into battle proud and confident. Verses 3 and 4 are short military commands no doubt barked out by the Egyptian military commanders many times over. Verses 5 and 6 depict the mayhem and chaos during the battle – fear and retreat, terrified and facing their enemy’s devastation on every side.
Verses 7 – 12 tell the Lord’s view of the military action. In verse 8, the Lord shares the Egyptians’ imperialistic mindset of ruling the world. In the end, however, God says that the “day belongs to the Lord, the Lord Almighty” (v. 10). God still rules the universe. The rest of verse 10 indicates a blood sacrifice. This imagery is likely the Lord avenging the death of His servant Josiah, whom ultimately died at the hands of the Egyptians.
Verses 11 – 12 show the conclusion of the battle of Carchemish. Egypt will look for healing, but will not find any for her wounds (v. 11). Instead, she will be subjected to public shame among the other countries (v. 12).
May we remember that God knits the nations together and tears them apart for justice, repentance, salvation, and His glory, all in His time and His ways. In the process, God shows His grace and mercy while judging evil and sin.
May we remember that God operates at the national and international arena as well as at the individual level. We are held accountable as both individuals and nations.
May we remember to faithfully pray for the leaders of our countries as well as ourselves.