The captive cities of Egypt (Ezek 30:17-30:19)

“The young men

Of On

Shall fall by the sword.

The young men

Of Pi-beseth

Shall fall by the sword.

The cities themselves

Shall go into captivity.

At Tehaphnehes,

The day shall be dark,

When I break

The dominion of Egypt.

Its proud might

Shall come to an end.

The city

Shall be covered

By a cloud.

Its daughters-towns

Shall go into captivity.

Thus I will execute

Acts of judgment

On Egypt.

Then they will know

That I am Yahweh.”

Not only would Yahweh destroy many Egyptian cities, he was also going to take their surviving citizens captive. The young men of On and Pi-beseth would die by the sword. On was Heliopolis and Pi-beseth was Bubastis. Anyone still remaining alive in these cities would be taken into captivity. At Tehaphnehes or Tahpanhes, the day would become dark. Yahweh was going to put an end to the great dominion of Egypt. This powerful city would be covered, as if there was a cloud over it. The daughters-towns or suburbs of Tehaphnehes would also be taken into captivity. Yahweh was going to execute his judgment on Egypt, so that they would know that he was Yahweh, God.

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King Nebuchadnezzar is going to invade Egypt (Jer 46:13-46:14)

“The word

That Yahweh spoke

To the prophet Jeremiah

About the coming

Of King Nebuchadnezzar

Of Babylon

To attack the land of Egypt.

‘Declare in Egypt!

Proclaim in Migdol!

Proclaim in Memphis!

Proclaim in Tahpanhes!

Say!

‘Take your stations!

Be ready!

The sword shall devour

Those around you.’”

Once again, Yahweh speaks an oracle to Jeremiah. This time it is about the coming of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon to attack Egypt. Exactly when this will take place is not clear. Jeremiah was to declare this attack in Egypt, especially in Migdol, Memphis, and Tahpanhes. They should get ready. Migdol was an island in the Nile River, while Memphis was in the heart of the southern Egyptian delta. Tahpanhes was a northeastern border town, where the migrant Judeans had first gone. All these places should man their stations because the powerful sword of Babylon was going to devour all the people around them.

The negative response of the Judean refugees (Jer 44:15-44:16)

“Then all the men

Who were aware

That their wives

Had been making offerings

To other gods,

Stood by

With their women.

This was a great assembly.

All the people

Who lived in Pathros

In the land of Egypt,

Answered Jeremiah.

‘As for the word

That you have spoken

To us

In the name of Yahweh,

We are not going

To listen to you.’”

There is an admission at the beginning of this response to Jeremiah that the wives of these men had been offering sacrifices to other gods. There is no attempt to hide this fact. All the people tried to respond, which is a euphemism for a spokesman, at least. They are quite concise and to the point. They are not going to listen to Jeremiah and his oracles about Yahweh. Perhaps even more interesting is the fact that these are the people who live in Parthos, the southern part of Egypt, near Nubia, not the northern area around Memphis and the upper Nile of Tahpanhes, where the first refugees stopped at. This might indicate that there were other Israelites or Judeans in Egypt.

All the Judeans in Egypt (Jer 44:1-44:1)

“The word came

To Jeremiah

For all the Judeans

Living in the land

Of Egypt,

At Migdol,

At Tahpanhes,

At Memphis,

As well as in the land of Pathros.”

Jeremiah received an oracle that was to be addressed to all the Judeans living in Egypt. No longer was this a small group of the remnant led by Johanan at Tahpanhes, but this was addressed to all the other Judeans living in different cities and places in Egypt. How did these Judeans get there? How big were these Israelite colonies? Were they left over from Exodus times? Were they also recent immigrants? The remnant group with Jeremiah and Baruch at Tahpanhes had just arrived. Were there other Judeans before they arrived in that town? Migdol was an island in the Nile River, east of Tahpanhes. Memphis was the ancient capital of lower Egypt, in the Nile River delta area. Pathros was also in the southern part of Egypt where Judean colonies might have been. As these places are mentioned, the assumption is that there must have been some other Judeans there. At least the author of this work knew something about them. Like the preceding chapter, this section has a different numbered chapter in the Greek translation of the Septuagint, chapters 51, not chapter 44 as here.

The oracle about the stones for King Nebuchadnezzar (Jer 43:8-43:10)

“Then the word of Yahweh

Came to Jeremiah

In Tahpanhes.

‘Take some large stones

In your hands!

Bury them

In the clay pavement

At the entrance

To Pharaoh’s palace

In Tahpanhes!

Let the Judeans

See you do it!

Then say to them.

‘Thus says Yahweh of hosts!

The God of Israel!

I am going to send

King Nebuchadnezzar.

I am going to take

King Nebuchadnezzar

Of Babylon,

My servant.

He will set his throne

Above these stones

That I have buried.

He will spread

His royal canopy

Over them.’”

Yahweh utters an oracle to Jeremiah, even though he is in the Egyptian northeastern border town of Tahpanhes, where the Suez Canal is today. Once again Yahweh wants Jeremiah to do some symbolic action to get a point across. Jeremiah was to take large stones and then bury them in the pavement at the entrance to the palace of the Egyptian Pharaoh. He was to do this in front of all his fellow Judean expatriates. Then he uttered God’s prophetic oracle that King Nebuchadnezzar, his servant like his own servant prophets, would put his throne on top of these stones. He would then spread out his royal canopy over them. In other words, the Babylonian king was going to take over Egypt. It actually happened in 568 BCE, about 20 years after this action.

They all go to Egypt (Jer 43:4-43:7)

“So Johanan,

The son of Kareah,

With all the commanders

Of the forces,

With all the people,

Did not obey

The voice of Yahweh,

To stay in the land of Judah.

But Johanan,

The son of Kareah,

With all the commanders

Of the forces,

Took all the remnant of Judah,

Who had returned

To settle in the land of Judah

From all the nations

To which they had been driven.

This included

The men,

The women,

The children,

The princesses,

As well as everyone

Whom Nebuzaradan,

The captain of the guard,

Had left with Gedaliah,

The son of Ahikam,

The son of Shaphan.

This also included

The prophet Jeremiah

With Baruch,

The son of Neriah.

They came into the land of Egypt.

They did not obey

The voice of Yahweh.

They arrived at Tahpanhes.”

Jeremiah recounts that Johanan with all his commanders did not obey the voice of Yahweh to stay in Judah. They then took all the remnant of those people who had returned to Judah from the other countries to be with the former governor of Judah, Gedaliah. Thus they took the men, women, children, with the royal princesses and all those that the Babylonian captain Nebuzaradan had handed over to Gedaliah to take care of. This group also included Jeremiah and his secretary Baruch. They all ended up at the Egyptian border town of Tahpanhes. Interesting enough, Jeremiah, who loved Babylon, went to Egypt instead. It did not take 40 years to go from Israel to Egypt in this reverse Exodus.

Israel the slave (Jer 2:14-2:16)

“Is Israel a slave?

Is he a home born servant?

Why then has he become plunder?

The lions have roared against him.

They have roared loudly.

They have made his land a waste.

His cities are in ruins.

They are without inhabitants.

Moreover,

The men of Memphis

Have broken the crown of your head.

The men of Tahpanhes

Have broken the crown of your head.”

Jeremiah points out, via the oracle of Yahweh, that the Israelites have become slaves or house servants to Egypt and Assyria. The lions roar loudly against them. People plunder them as the land has been laid waste. The cities are in ruins without anybody living in them. Moreover the Egyptian cities of Memphis, the capital, and Tahpanhes, the border town, have broken the Israelite crowns.