Jeremiah 46:20

20 Egypt is a beautiful young cow, but a horsefly from the north is coming against her.[a]

Jeremiah 46:20 Meaning and Commentary

Jeremiah 46:20

Egypt [is like] a very fair heifer
Like a heifer that has never been under a yoke, it having never been conquered, and brought under the power of another; and like a beautiful, fat, and well fed one, abounding in wealth and riches, in pleasures and delights, in wantonness and luxury, and fit for slaughter, and ready for it. The Targum is,

``Egypt was a beautiful kingdom.''
Some think there is an illusion to the gods of Egypt, Apis and Mnevis, which were heifers or oxen, very beautiful, that had fine spots and marks upon them. Apis was worshipped at Memphis, or Noph, before mentioned, as to be wasted; and Mnevis at Heliopolis, the city of the sun, the same with Bethshemesh, whose destruction is prophesied of; (See Gill on Jeremiah 43:13); and both these were of various colours, as Ovid F26 says, particularly of one of them, and is true of both. Pomponius Mela F1 observes of Apis, the god of all the people of Egypt, that it was a black ox, remarkable for certain spots; and unlike to others in its tongue and tail. And Solinus F2 says, it is famous for a white spot on its right side, in the form of a new moon: with whom Pliny F3 agrees, that it has a white spot on the right side, like the horns of the moon, when it begins to increase; and that it has a knot under the tongue, which they call a beetle. And so Herodotus F4 says, it is very black, and has a white square spot on the forehead; on the back, the effigies of an eagle; two hairs in the tail, and a beetle On the tongue, To which may be added what Strabo F5 reports, that at Memphis, the royal city of Egypt, is the temple of Apis, the same with Osiris; where the ox of Apis is fed in an enclosure, and reckoned to be a god; it is white in its forehead, and in some small parts of the body, and the rest black; by which marks and signs it is always judged what is proper to be put in its place when dead. In the Table of Iris F6, published by Pignorius, it is otherwise painted and described; its head, neck, horns, buttocks, and tail, black, and the rest white; and, on the right side, a corniculated streak. Aelianus

F7 says, these marks were in number twenty nine, and, according to the Egyptians, were symbols of things; some, of the nature of the stars; some, of the overflowing of the Nile; some, of the darkness of the world before the light, and of other things: and all agree, that the ox looked fair and beautiful, to which the allusion is; and there may be in the words an ironical sarcasm, flout, and jeer, at the gods they worshipped, which could not save them from the destruction coming upon them, as follows: [but] destruction cometh, it cometh from the north;
that is, the destruction of Egypt, which should come from Chaldea, which lay north of Egypt; and the coming of it is repeated, to denote the quickness and certainty of it: the word used signifies a cutting off, or a cutting up; in allusion to the cutting off the necks of heifers, which used to be done when slain, ( Deuteronomy 21:4 ) ; or to the cutting of them up, as is done by butchers: and the abstract being put for the concrete, it may be rendered, the "cutter up" F8; or cutter off; men, like butchers, shall come out of Babylon, and slay and cut up, this heifer. So the Targum,
``people, that are slayers shall come out of the north against her, to spoil her F9;''
that is, the Chaldean army, agreeably to the Syriac version,
``an army shall come out of the north against her.''

F26 "------variisque coloribus Apis", Ovid. Metamorph. l. 9. Fab. 12.
F1 De Orbis Situ, l. 1. c. 9.
F2 Polyhistor. c. 45.
F3 Nat. Hist. l. 8. c. 46.
F4 L. 3. sive Thalia, c. 28.
F5 Geograph. l. 17. p. 555. Ed. Casaubon.
F6 Piguorii Mensa Isiaca, tab. 4.
F7 De Animal. l. 11. c. 10.
F8 (Urq) "mactator", Grotius. So Jarchi.
F9 So in T. Bab. Yoma, fol. 32. 2.

Jeremiah 46:20 In-Context

18 As I live- [this is]*The bracketed text has been added for clarity. the King's declaration; the Lord of Hosts is His name. He will come like Tabor among the mountains and like Carmel by the sea.
19 Pack your bags for exile, inhabitant of Daughter Egypt! For Memphis will become a desolation, uninhabited ruins.
20 Egypt is a beautiful young cow, but a horsefly from the north is coming against her.
21 Even her mercenaries among her are like stall-fed calves. They too will turn back; together they will flee; they will not take their stand, for the day of their calamity is coming on them, the time of their punishment.
22 Egypt will hiss like a slithering snake, for [the enemy] will come with an army; with axes they will come against her like those who cut trees.

Footnotes 1

  • [a]. Some Hb mss, LXX, Syr; other Hb mss read is coming, coming
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