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God’s Word for You

Jeremiah 46:13-17

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, November 8, 2014

Nebuchadnezzar Will Attack Egypt
13 This is the word the LORD spoke to Jeremiah the prophet about the coming of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon to strike the land of Egypt.

The Battle of Carchemish took place in 605 BC, but this passage is a prophecy of a much later event. Late in Nebuchadnezzar’s reign (his 37th year, 568-567 B.C.), he carried out an attack on Egypt while Amasis II was Pharaoh. This attack was mentioned earlier in Jeremiah (Jeremiah 44:11-13) and would again be described later by Ezekiel (Ezekiel 29:17-20).

Some commentators do not see this as a prophecy, but as a reaction about something more contemporary to Jeremiah’s time and some minor skirmish with Pharaoh Hophra (589-570 B.C.). However, I believe that Jeremiah and Ezekiel are referring to the later event prophetically for the comfort of God’s people in exile.

14 Declare this in Egypt. Proclaim it in Migdol.
      Proclaim it is Memphis [1] and Tahpanhes.
Say: “Take your positions and get ready.
  The sword will devour those around you.”

As we have seen earlier in the book (Jeremiah 2:16), three of Egypt’s greatest cities are singled out. The three cities form a line that was more or less the eastern boundary of Egypt on the edge of the Nile Delta. They probably represented some of the largest population centers of northern Egypt.

15 Why are your mighty ones laid low? [2]
      They cannot stand, for the LORD has pushed them down.
16 He made many stumble.
      They fall against each other.
They say, “Get up, let’s go back to our people
  and to the land of our birth,
  away from the sword of our oppressor.”

Pharaoh Amasis employed a large number of Greek mercenary soldiers in his army. The prophecy depicts them as bumping into one another as they stumble away from the battlefield. “Let’s go home,” they say, and hurry away from Nebuchadnezzar’s force coming out of the north.

17 There they will cry:
“Pharaoh king of Egypt is only a loud noise.
   He has missed his opportunity.”

Like children taunting a beaten bully, people shout: “Pharaoh is a windbag! His missed the boat!” We don’t know who “they” were—perhaps the victorious Babylonian army, or possibly the Judean exiles. When this prophecy was made, the captivity was still in the future, but when the battle took place to fulfill these words, the captivity in Babylon was in its twentieth year.

These words were comforting for the Jews in Babylon. They were a reminder that God is the one who knows everything and is in control of the universe for the good of his people. This is the same reason that we have been given scenes of the end of the world by Jesus directly and through his apostles. They comfort us that although things will be difficult for Christians in the Last Day, there will be an end. Jesus gave us this encouragement: “But not a hair of your heal will perish. By standing firm, you will gain life” (Luke 21:17,18).

The victory of heaven isn’t up to us, but a gift from our Savior who won it on the cross. Trust in Jesus, and you will have the victory that will outlast all others. You will have eternal life.

[1] 14 Hebrew Noph, also in verse 19.

[2] 15 The translation follows the Hebrew. Greek has “Why has Apis fled?” Apis was an Egyptian sacred bull.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.