Jeremiah 46:15 MEANING

Jeremiah 46:15
(15) Why are thy valiant men swept away?--Better, Why is thy strong bull dragged away! The Hebrew verbs are in the singular, and the adjective is given in the same number both in the LXX. and Vulgate. The former gives the rendering "Why did Apis flee from thee, and thy chosen calf abode not" as if referring to the bull Apis as the representative of Osiris, the chief deity of Egypt; and this version receives some support from the use of the Hebrew words for "oxen," "bulls," "beasts," in Isaiah 34:7 and Psalm 22:12; Psalm 68:30, and from the fact that the same word is used in Isaiah 1:24; Isaiah 49:26 as a Divine name "the mighty one of Israel." So understood, the prophet's words contemplate the triumph of the God of Israel over the theriomorphic deity of Egypt. We may find a literal fulfilment of the words in the slaughter of the sacred bull by Cambyses (Herod. iii. 29).

Verse 15. - Why are thy valiant men, etc.? The literal rendering of the received text is, Why is thy strong ones (plural) swept sway (or, cast down)? He stood not, because Jehovah thrust him! It is true that the first half of the verse might, consistently with grammar, be rendered, "Why are thy strong ones swept away?" But the following singulars prove that the subject of the verb in the first verse half must itself be a singular. We must, therefore, follow the reading of the Septuagint, Vulgate, Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion, and many of the extant Hebrew manuscripts, and change the plural "strong ones" into the singular "strong one." The word so rendered is elsewhere in Jeremiah one used (in the plural) of strong horses (Jeremiah 8:16; Jeremiah 47:3; Jeremiah 1:11); but there is no necessity to bind ourselves to this acceptation. Other possible meanings are

(1) strong man, e.g. Judges 5:22 and Lamentations 1:15;

(2) steer, bull, e.g. Psalm 22:13 and Psalm 50:13, and (metaphorically of princes) Psalm 68:31. It is a tenable view that "thy strong one" is to be understood distributively as equivalent to "every strong one of thine." But it is certainly more plausible to regard the phrase as a synonym for Apis, the sacred bull in which the supreme god Osiris was believed by the Egyptians to be incarnate. This was a superstition (strange, no doubt, but not so ignoble as some have thought) as deeply ingrained in the Egyptian mind as any in their complicated religion. "In fact, they believed that the supreme God was with them when they possessed a bull bearing certain hieratic marks, the signs of the incarnation of the divinity" (Pierrot). His death was the signal for a mourning as general as for a Pharaoh, and the funeral ceremonies (accounts of which are given in the inscriptions) were equally splendid. M. Mariette has discovered, in the neighbourhood of Memphis, a necropolis in which the Apis bulls were successively interred from the eighteenth dynasty to the close of the period of the Ptolemies. For the Apis to be "swept away" like ordinary plunder, or "cast down" in the slaughtering trough (comp. Isaiah 34:7), was indeed a token that the glory of Egypt had departed. It is a singular coincidence that the very word here employed by Jeremiah for "bull" (abbir) was adopted (like many other words) into the Egyptian language - it received the slightly modified form aber. The Septuagint, it should be added, is in favour of the general view of the verse thus obtained, and the authority of the Egyptian-Jewish version in a prophecy relative to Egypt is not slight. Its rendering of the first half is, "Why hath Apis, thy chosen calf, fled?" But the probability is that it read the Hebrew differently, "Why hath Khaph ( = Apis), thy chosen one, fled?" This merely involves grouping some letters otherwise, and reading one word a little differently.

46:13-28 Those who encroached on others, shall now be themselves encroached on. Egypt is now like a very fair heifer, not accustomed to the yoke of subjection; but destruction comes out of the north: the Chaldeans shall come. Comfort and peace are spoken to the Israel of God, designed to encourage them when the judgments of God were abroad among the nations. He will be with them, and only correct them in measure; and will not punish them with everlasting destruction from his presence.Why are thy valiant men swept away?.... As with a mighty torrent, or a sweeping rain; so the word is used in Proverbs 28:3; to which the Chaldean army may be compared; which came with such irresistible force as to drive the Egyptians from their posts, so that they could not stand their ground. The Septuagint renders it,

"why does Apis flee from thee? thy choice ox does not continue.''

Which was the god of the Egyptians, they worshipped in the form of an ox; this could not protect them, though thought by them to be very mighty and powerful; so Aelianus (i) says Apis with the Egyptians is believed to be a most powerful deity; yet could not save them; but the word signifies their nobles, their mighty men of war, their generals and officers, at least their valiant soldiers; who yet were not able to stand the tide of power that came against them. The reason was,

because the Lord did drive them; by means of the Chaldeans; he dispirited them; he put them into a panic, and they fled from their posts; there is no standing against the Lord.

(i) De Animal. l. 11. c. 10.

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